Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Let the good times roll!

Every spring, my life becomes a flurry of activity.

My piano students participate in several events between the months of February and June: NFMC Federated Festival, GMTA local auditions, the GCMTA Ensemble Concert, and the Asberry School of Music Spring Recital, to name a few. It's not just the events themselves; it's also the preparation that goes into them.

Take NFMC Federated Festival, for example. This year, I personally registered 37 students; that was 37 comment sheets that had to be filled out and 74 piano solos that had to be selected/music that had to be ordered. (I also had three students play piano concerti and two students play piano duets). In addition, I do the scheduling for my local chapter, which involves over 200 students and six judges. This task consumes the better part of a weekend. On Festival Day, I am required to work from about 8:30 in the morning until five o'clock or later at night. And afterwards, there are trophy plaques to order and certificates to complete and distribute.

These are hours spent working on behalf of students that I am not always sure parents consider when they are calculating my worth as a piano teacher.

Regardless, this past Saturday was the GCMTA Ensemble Concert. This is a grand gala event involving five pianos onstage with duet partners at each piano playing under the direction of a conductor. It's like being in a piano orchestra.

I am a co-chair of the ensemble concert committee; preparation for the following year's event begins about two weeks post-concert with a organizational meeting and continues with a music selection meeting in August, a presentation of the music to colleagues at our October meeting, three all-day Saturday rehearsals, a final rehearsals the morning of the concert and the performance itself. My responsibilities include helping choose music for all levels, managing the registrations for 170-plus students, ordering their music, determining rehearsal schedules, and making sure all the teachers have everything they need to help their students begin preparation by the end of January. Traditionally, a colleague and I prepare the advanced level pieces and the teacher piece for performance at the October meeting.

It is a lot of work. But it is also a lot of fun.

Saturday was bittersweet because I had five graduating seniors performing. FIVE seniors! I have been working with most of these kids since they were knee high to grasshoppers and am not quite sure how they got to be young adults, or why they feel they have the right to leave me and go away to college next year. But there they were, being recognized onstage along with five other graduating seniors.

It was all I could do not to dissolve into tears. I am so proud of my seniors.

I am so proud of ALL my piano students. And I am blessed to have a job in which people drive to my house and pay me to make music with their children.

There are just a few weeks left in this academic year, but they will go by in a blur. This weekend I am accompanying a group of students at a senior celebration; next weekend I am performing a duet with another student at his senior graduation. And in my studio we are selecting and preparing repertoire for the spring recital on June 19th.

Ah, springtime!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Missing Greg

I am in a really dark place this morning. My brother Greg died two years ago today. He was only 44. I miss him so much.

I told Brian I wasn't sure how I would make it through this day alone.

He said, "Be strong. Greg does not want you to suffer. Celebrate his life."

That's good advice. I *do* celebrate his life. Greg was smart and funny, gentle and generous, simple and complex, sweet and good and kind. The world is a better place because he was in it.

Then it occurs to me: Greg would have really liked Brian. And I feel sad all over again.

I've been looking through old pictures today. Like the one above. They make me smile. Just before they make me cry. I had no idea that would be the last picture of us together.

So many memories. So little time.

I love you, little brother. I always will.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Break Into Fiction Power Workshop

"A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."
~ Thomas Mann

* * *

Saturday I attended a workshop created especially for George Romance Writers by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love, authors of a wonderful book on novel writing called Break Into Fiction. Prior to class, we were to prepare the following from our manuscripts:

1. 10 pages to analyze for hooks.
2. A copy of the opening to analyze for power.
3. Any scene to analyze for strength.
4. One passage of setting to analyze for action.

Over the course of the day, I learned a lot. As a matter of fact, I was downright slapped in the face with the fact that I have tons of work left to do on my novel. And that's AFTER I finish getting the story on paper.

It was a tough coming to the realization that I am basically going to have to rewrite my entire manuscript. But I will do whatever it takes to end up with the best book I am capable of. Because that's the whole point of writing it in the first place.

In the short run, I am renewing my commitment to writing 1000 words a day. I need to finish telling my story as soon as possible. So that I can go back to the beginning and make it great.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Georgia Renaissance Festival

"Bill" I went to the Georgia Renaissance Festival on Sunday.

We saw many lovely items for sale.

"Bill" looking quite pirate-ish. In a good way.

We saw some amazing acts.

This woman could juggle fire.

And do crazy things with purple scarves.

These women convinced grown men stand in front of a large crowd wearing brassieres in strange ways.

I was envious of these women and their power. Over everyone. But especially over men.

I had so much fun that I was ready to quit my day job and sell my house and all my personal possessions and put my children up for adoption (okay, two of them are legal adults - sorry, Nathan) and travel with the Renaissance Festival.

I guess this was akin to the traditional run-away-and-join-the-circus fantasy.

For now, I have decided against it. But someday, when my children are grown, I just might quit my day job and sell my house and all my personal possessions and play piano on a cruise ship.

Why not?

Monday, April 19, 2010

60-Day Workout Challenge

On Easter Sunday, my brother Eric and my sister-in-law SeDonna joined Nathan, Casey and me for dinner - ham and all the trimmings.
Everything was wonderful; naturally, we all ate too much. Afterwards, miserable as we felt, and to help alleviate our guilt, we made a solemn pact. Inspired by a cousin of Donna's who has worked out for an amazing 120-plus days straight - and has the abs to prove it - Donna, Eric and I challenged each other to a 60-Day Workout Challenge. Starting the very next day.

We set individual goals as to what constituted a workout. For me, it was a minimum of 30 minutes of walking, or an equivalent activity. Today marks Day 15. So far, so good. Most days, I go to the gym and I have spend 60 minutes on the elliptical machine. A couple of times, though, I have had to be creative. Last Sunday, I counted two hours of dancing in the wee hours at Johnny's Hideaway as my workout. Yesterday, I did several hours of walking at the Georgia Renaissance Festival. My intention was to go to the gym, too, after I got home. Instead, I wound up at the emergency room with Nathan, who had sliced his finger on a rock. (The things that boy will do to get out of mowing the yard. By the way, he is fine.)

I think the point of the challenge was to encourage each other to get our bodies moving every single day, no matter what. And there have definitely been times when I would have found a good excuse not to exercise if not for the knowledge that I would be letting Eric and Donna down. So this has been a very good thing.

And now, I'm off to the gym!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spring Break Adventures

My long lost friend Pat came all the way from Madison, Wisconsin to Atlanta, Georgia to spend spring break with me. I picked her up at the airport last Tuesday night and we barely stopped to sleep until I took her back to the airport before dawn on Sunday morning.

On Wednesday, we went to Athens, GA. One of her brothers attended school there, so she was happy to make its acquaintance.

We had tofu reuben sandwiches at The Grit

and poked around in some of the little shops downtown. I bought an amazing pair of amber earrings Native American Gallery. I love Athens.

Since this was Pat's first time in Atlanta, it seemed appropriate to do a bit of sightseeing. So on Thursday, we went downtown and toured the World of Coke

and the Georgia Aquarium.

Nathan thought she should see Little Five Points, too. So we stopped by on the way home and had dinner at the Little Five Points Corner Tavern.

Friday, we headed north. We went to Montaluce Vineyards' La Vigne restaurant and celebrated our birthdays belatedly.

Then we hiked to the base of Amicalola Falls, one of my favorite places on the planet.

Saturday, we packed our bags and headed to midtown. We had dinner at Shout

and heard pianist Barry Douglas perform Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto with the Atlanta Symhony Orchestra. It was stupendous.

There was more. There were beers and hot wings at Taco Mac and margaritas and Mexican food at On the Border, both in Buford, and dancing Friday night at The Dam Bar in Buford and dancing Saturday night at Johnny's Hideaway in Roswell. Honestly, I don't think we could have packed one more moment of activity into our time together.

Despite this, we managed to find time to catch up on the events of the past twenty or so years and, in the process of sharing, discover things about ourselves and each other. So, in addition to being a lot of fun, our experience was really quite profound. We are already planning our next rendezvous.

***

A lot of other stuff has happened, too. Most of that will have to wait for another day.

But I finished my taxes. (I am getting a refund. Well, not exactly. I am applying my refund to my estimated taxes due tomorrow.)

And I am no longer playing the dating game. I am "in a relationship." With "Bill." (Whose real name I just might reveal in the not-too-distant future.) The conversation went something like this.

Pam: "So, I want to be your girlfriend. Is that okay with you?"

Bill: Silence.

Pam: "The answer is yes."

Bill: "Yes."

Pam: "So that means you are my boyfriend, right?"

Bill: Silence.

Pam: "The answer is yes."

Bill: "Yes."

Pam: "So now it's official. We are girlfriend and boyfriend, yes?"

Bill: (chuckling) "Yes."

***

Also, a good friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend of several years. Here is an excerpt from the note she sent me:

I broke up with X earlier this evening. In a weird way, you inspired me to get off my butt and do something about a relationship that was going nowhere and had no chance of going anywhere.

I guess reading your blog, including your dating stories as well as your bucket list made me think that life is too short to be in a relationship that has been over for awhile as far as I'm concerned.

There was nothing really bad about it, but nothing really inspiring or that great about it either.

This really made me think.

Far too many people settle for far less than they deserve. Myself included. It is so easy to get comfortable. And complacent.

I feel like I have been saved from the fiery pits of hell by the breakups of the past few years. In the moment, I was sad and depressed. But, looking back, I can see that it was all for my own good. I know the outcome will be the same for my friend.

I don't know what the future holds. Maybe I have become a little bit cynical. Because I don't expect I will stay with "Bill" throughout eternity. But being with him is nice for now.

If our situation changes, you will be the first to know.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Dreaded Tax Man

Today is the official beginning of my spring break, ten glorious days with no job-related responsibilities whatsoever. Ahh! It is beautiful outside here in north Georgia, with a high of 83 degrees in the forecast. For the first time in months, I am warm. Mmm! I am longing to get reacquainted with my deck chair and soak up some sun, then don a strappy dress and a pair of flip flops and go sit on a patio somewhere and enjoy a margarita. Or two.

Instead with April 15th less than two weeks away, I have to get started on my income taxes.

"It's tax time. I know this because I'm staring at documents that make no sense to me, no matter how many beers I drink."
~Dave Barry

My friend Pat is flying in from Madison, Wisconsin late Tuesday night to spend the second half of spring break with me, and I am determined to get this dreaded job done before she gets here. Since I am self-employed, the task is unnecessarily complicated. It doesn't help that, although I keep thorough records throughout the year, I don't keep them in a very organized fashion. So I am facing a mountain of receipts and paperwork that must be sorted through and summed up before I can even go to my tax preparation software. It isn't that it's difficult; it's tedious and time-consuming. I would rather be doing something else. Enjoying this beautiful spring weather. Reading. Writing. Beading.

Having a root canal.

So here I go. If you don't hear from me for a few days, you will know why.

Happy Easter! Happy Spring!