I have very good days and very hard days. Just like you. On the very hard days, I try a number of things to get back in tune. Different things work on different days. Social media never works. Dogs are a pretty reliable win. Poetry has never let me down.
Naomi Shihab Nye wrote this in one of my favorites of her poems: “I want to be famous in the same way a pulley is famous, or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular but because it never forgot what it could do.”
This is me being the very best buttonhole I can be:
I remember this day. It was a terribly sad day for me because it was the last performance of a band I had played with for almost fifteen years.
Here I am happy though because I am useful. I love these three dancers and their joy gives me joy. Dance needs music and music needs dance.
Thank you, Tréa Champagne and the Champagne Academy of Irish Dance for being my buttons.
The international Irish dance community has suffered a tremendous loss in the death of beloved young dance champion Ian Luebbers.
Today is an important day to reflect on the truth that we all belong to each other and what’s most important is how we can love each other best in this world.
Without my buttons, I’m just a hole.
There are some professional opportunities that only present themselves every once in a blue moon. I find myself in the midst of one right now as we wrap up what has been a pretty terrible year overall.
Please don’t misunderstand. Personally, all is well. My family is delightful. My work is diverse and fulfilling. I have a wonderful set of students who I am fortunate enough to spend time with every week. Taking a broader view though, our nation has voted itself into the idiomatic handbasket. We are in peril.
Living with anxiety offers valuable lessons and tools to me every day. One of the most essential tools has been adopting a terrier-like commitment to releasing all that which I cannot control, which is to say, nearly everything.
From where I’m sitting, art is the only satisfactory channel for processing my human experience.
Fun Home by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron (based on Alison Bechdel‘s award-winning graphic novel) is one of the most powerfully honest and beautiful musicals ever created. From my perch in the onstage six-piece band, I get to experience it repeatedly with new lessons revealing themselves every time.
I took on this project because of how much I have loved my previous work with director John Cameron and musical director Janelle Lauer but I wasn’t overly familiar with Alison Bechdel when I came on board other than as the inspiration for the Bechdel test. This is actually my favorite way to approach a project; total immersion from a previous place of ignorance. There is so much potential for growth when one has so much yet to understand.
There are still four more opportunities to see Fun Home at the UI Theatre Building. The cast and crew are so talented, so consistent in their portrayal of this beautiful and heartbreaking story, and such kind and invested people. And the band? Well, I don’t mind telling you that the band rocks. No other possibility exists under the music direction of the inimitable Janelle Lauer.
I know this production will change you. What other reason do we have to be here?
I have a very smart and compassionate friend who shared with me this mini-comic that Alison wrote as a coda to Fun Home opening on Broadway. I really hope you click through to Vulture to read the whole thing.
Slide 1 of 9. View the rest of the mini-comic over at Vulture.
Dannye is as gifted an interviewer as she is a writer and we had a lot of fun discussing creativity and parenting along with many other things we have in common.
Stop on over to read my interview and check out her other interviews and stories as well. Dannye is a wonderful person to know, especially if you are inspired by looking on the bright side of life.
Song of a Man Who Has Come Through
by D.H. Lawrence
Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!
If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine wind that takes its course through the chaos of the world
Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted;
If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge
Driven by invisible blows,
The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall find the Hesperides.
Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul,
I would be a good fountain, a good well-head,
Would blur no whisper, spoil no expression.
What is the knocking?
What is the knocking at the door in the night?
It is somebody wants to do us harm.
No, no, it is the three strange angels.
Admit them, admit them
But then what? The morning after you stumble upon the garden when the light is good and you can’t help but see that it’s not a place where a person can actually live?
My students, both the ones I gave birth to and the ones who come to me for a musical education, are used to me using sports analogies to illustrate ideas about technique and practice. We all have a good laugh about this instructional tendency of mine because I am the last person you would find doing any sort of sportsing.
By Mike Rosenthal at VectorBelly
Now that we’re several years into this homeschooling adventure, the one area in which I feel like I have wasted the most energy is trying to convince other people that our parenting choices are not negative reflections of any other parenting choices.
Homeschooling is my wheelhouse. Public and private schooling , for separate and entirely personal reasons, are not. If I wasn’t a professional musician with a strange and varied work schedule; if my son wasn’t autistic; if my financial situation were different; if if if… who knows what my wheelhouse would be.
Sarah Mackenzie‘s guest post at Simple Homeschool (excerpted from Sarah‘s book Homeschooling From Rest; A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace) has inspired me to consider how I am loading my metaphorical pack as we begin our homeschooling journey this fall. The thing that weighs me down the most, that makes each step leaden instead of light, is making excuses for my wheelhouse.
I know that it will take some vigilance on my part to make sure that this habit of mine doesn’t sneak back in with each well meaning question from a stranger (or often, from a friend) but I dedicate this post to my desire to hold that precious vacated space open for what truly nourishes us on this journey.
Oh, how I love lists!
In actual fact, lists are how I maintain sanity. I don’t throw that idea around lightly and I know that I’m in good company. At least 40 million Americans and I have a problem with anxiety. There are just so many things so utterly out of our individual control. So. Many. Things.
My newest list was actually prescribed to me recently by my therapist and I think I now know precisely how Harriet felt when Dr. Wagner gave her the notebook. I had previously been operating under the impression that the lists are a crutch and that I shouldn’t need them as much as I do. My therapist disagrees with this notion. Her feeling is that the lists are a tool like any other tool and they only has as much power as I give them.
I now have this little notepad that has a little pen attached and the only thing I use it for is when a worry floats into my mind. I just jot it down, not a huge description or anything, just a note. The idea is that I don’t need to fuss over the worry right then and there. I’ve just recorded it and I don’t have to pass judgment on it, I’m just noticing it. Then I also have a designated time of the day when I read through the list.
Yes, I have a regularly scheduled time to worry. Yay?
It took a few days but I now see what an awesome brain emptying technique it is. I read through the list when I’m having my second cup of coffee and half of the time, I can just cross a worry right off the list because it’s no longer relevant in the light of day. The other half of the time, I can assign an action to it. The more I’ve done it, the more successful I’ve become at letting the thought go once I write it down because I know that I’ll cover it during my list review time.
It’s not a sparkly magic solution but it doesn’t really have to be in order to be valuable, does it?
Atticus had his Irish step dance debut a few weeks ago for a hooley put on by the Champagne Academy of Irish Dance.
We were in the ceili band playing for the dance and I was really proud to be joined by a few of my students who really held their own playing for the dancers.
Playing for a ceili is a meditative experience because we repeat one tune many more times than we might normally if we were playing for a session or a performance. The familiarity of the tunes and the repetition lulls me into an altered state of mind.
The caller teaches the dance and then, when the dancers are ready to bring the tempo up to dance to the live music, calls out instructions to keep them on track.
I recall sitting there fiddling, watching the bouncing and twirling dancers, communicating with my band mates and students by means of winks and smiles, catching glimpses of my sons partying with their beloved babysitter.
All this set to the background sound of the music of my heart played on the pipes, the fiddle, and the drum along with the caller’s reminders to “advance, advance, retire, retire. Advance, advance, retire, retire”.
I had a rare moment of perfect clarity about the cycle of seasons, the bittersweet truth of ends and beginnings, of children growing and changing. Advance, advance, retire, retire.
Between the hooley and this moment, there has been the crush of holidays (Christmas and Liam’s birthday), the peace of retreat (our cabin in the woods New Year’s tradition), and the resumption of Regular Life. Through all this, I still hear the refrain in my mind (advance, advance, retire, retire) when I’m washing the dishes, walking the dog, anytime that my mind goes still for a moment.
It’s not a bad soundtrack to a day.
Shy. Bashful. Awkward. Introverted. I’ve been puzzling over these designations lately, particularly in regard to myself and to my oldest child.
I have a long background in social services so I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test many times and have always ended up with the INFP label. Whenever the test has been described to me, the concept of introversion seems more layered than how it’s widely understood. Here, let’s let wikipedia take over for a moment:
In Western popular usage, Extraverts (also spelled extroverts) are thought to be gregarious, assertive, and interested in seeking out external stimulus. Introverts, in contrast, are seen as introspective, quiet and less sociable. They are not necessarily loners but they tend to have a smaller number of friends. Introversion does not describe social discomfort but rather social preference: an introvert may not be shy but may merely prefer fewer social activities.
The last sentence is what I find myself hung up on. I identify strongly with all descriptions of introversion except that I feel like what I experience does actually include social discomfort along with social preference. Perhaps I have some social anxiety along with simply being an introverted person? Another possibility is that the wikipedia definition means that social discomfort is not present in all situations and that social preference is what dictates whether the discomfort is present or absent.
We just had a flurry of really fun performances for St. Patrick’s Day and I enjoyed almost every minute of it but it is taking me a lot longer than usual to bounce back and I’m puzzling over how performing saps me emotionally at least as much as it does physically. I don’t mean this in a negative way. I absolutely love performing with the band. It’s very fulfilling for me and I don’t think I would be as happy a person without at least this amount of performing in my life. As enjoyable as it is, it is very hard. Not so much in the moment, but for the days following.
Luckily for me, I have some people in my life who are restorative to my soul.
Edited to add an update that is probably only interesting to me. I now test as an INFJ. *shrug*
Liam had some sort of virus a little over a week ago and I think he shared it with me. Generous child, that one. I’ve been knocked flat in bed all day.
In many ways, I’m really lucky this unpleasantness landed on a rare day off for me when Joe is home taking care of the lads and the only thing I had to cancel is my guitar lesson.
But I love my guitar lessons. And we also weren’t able to make it to a birthday party for our sweet little pal who’s turning two nor meet his brand new baby sister.
Did I mention that it was supposed to rain all weekend but it turned out instead that it is actually perfect weather for doing all the things that I really need and want to do outside in the yard?
I also missed the rapture completely because I was watching the season finale of Bones on hulu. I’m just off today.
Joe is a really good parent. I’ve been up here in the bedroom all day listening to the three of them knocking around together.
Does this seem a little disjointed and even more meaningless than usual? Yeah, it wasn’t really supposed to be a blog post. I wanted to write in my notebook but I can’t find a pen and I’ve already summoned Joe a meeellion times today in need of toast, soup, water, and sympathy.
I miss people today. I really miss my friend who I can always count on to be as interested in all the everyday details of my life as I am in hers. I miss my parents and my sister and Joe’s parents and his brother and all those good people in our extended family. I miss our Iowa City friends who have moved to Oregon (yes, I miss you twice!), to Milwaukee, to Chicago, to Boston, to Cleveland, to San Francisco, to Botswana. I miss my little goddaughter in South Dakota and her whole amazing family. I miss my beautiful cousins in Ireland.
I miss the feeling of being on top of things which really hasn’t returned in the two months that I’ve been home from my trip. At the rate we’re going, we’ll be lucky if we finish our spring curriculum before the school year starts in the fall.
I don’t really have a hold on things right now. It’s not the worst feeling but it’s unsettling for me. There are more changes on the horizon too, just enough so that I am left wondering if I will ever again feel like I’ve got it under control.
I just set the laptop down for a moment because two little boys clad in Ben 10 pajamas, one holding a hot pink recorder and the other holding a slightly bent slide whistle, came up to my bedroom so we could do what has become our evening ritual of “The Family Song” which is loosely based on the Phish song “Simple” (nod to my friend and fellow music therapist Blythe LaGasse who taught this to me during internship) followed by the theme song to “Spectacular Spiderman“, me on guitar and Joe on on mandolin.
So you know what? Scratch all that. It’s all good. It’s grand.