Monday, February 28, 2011

Who Do I Think I Am?

I watched the NBC show "Who Do You Think You Are?" yesterday.
Kim Catrall was the celebrity who was searching for her ancestors. I found her story compelling. Her maternal grandfather disappeared and left behind three daughters and a wife to live in poverty. Her interest in tracking him down was to relieve the hurt her mother and aunties felt by this abandonment. Ms. Catrall was bitterly disappointed to find that her grandfather remarried a year later and set up another family just three hours away. Her ending statement stayed in my mind. To paraphrase, she was sorry to find such negative news about the ancestor she sought to find but the search brought her closer to the family she did have.
I thought of my own family.
This week is significant to me in regards to my brother.

Yesterday was his birthday and this coming Saturday his death date. I only have brothers, no sisters. They are all three much older than I am. My middle brother is 14 years older than I; he would have been 72.
Since my brothers were all grown and out of the house by the time I was 8, my connection to them was one of  good examples. They provided  me with men to look up to, although our bonding was weak
Their wives connected to me which kept our relationship alive.
My gratitude goes out to all three brothers who impressed me with the importance of a good education.
A formal education was valued in my family but not to be discounted was the life-long pursuit of knowledge in all subjects.
My oldest brother may have been a postman but we all knew he was brilliant in what he remembered from reading and thinking. Thank-you dear brothers for staying with your families, for fighting the good fight, for your Fidelity and perseverance. 

There is only one brother left alive today. He is my last living witness to my birth. We joke around together when we call but we understand how important it is to know "who we really are."

Saturday, February 26, 2011


This week has been a winter break for the school district here so my Early Morning Guests, piano students, and Swingset kids have been on break as well. On Monday I thought to myself, I will write a song while I have uninterrupted time. Can I write a song and publish it by the end of the week? Hmm... Nothing Tues, nothing Wed, but yesterday lyrics my friend Sharie shared came back to me. Hope I did them credit, Sharie.


Ever since happiness heard your name
It has been running through all of the streets.
Trying to find you,
Trying to claim you,
Trying to give you your due.

Happiness is knocking,
Are you ready to hear?
Happiness is knocking,
Will you open your door?

And several times God himself has come,
 to my door asking me for your address.
Trying to find you, Trying to claim you,
Trying to give you your due.

God I thought you knew everything.
Why are you asking me where your precious one lives?
I do, indeed,
I do know everything.

Happiness is knocking,
Are you ready to hear?
Happiness is knocking,
Will you open your door and let it in?

This is my happiness.

Friday, February 25, 2011

An Unlikely Yogini

I have only two more weeks before my yoga buddy is ready to get back on the mat next to me. Hurray! I have been practicing alone, upstairs in my room. I feel some pressure to practice, these days, as a certain group of ladies may have passed on information to other ladies that I do yoga and like to talk about it. So, yours truly will be doing a class on yoga for Super Saturday. This is a stretch for me, pun intended. I am not a typical body doing yoga, in fact, I am usually the roundest body in my classes. I could have used this as a reason for quiting but I needed yoga and I fought back the feelings of  "unworthiness" to go after something that seemed the key to physical and spiritual progression.
My Mama Daughter introduced me to yoga back when she was single. I was so nervous and shy to be in a class and have someone watch my body. In that first class Mama Daughter went right to the front row and I stayed back, hoping no one would notice me. When I was siting cross-legged on the floor my knees felt like they would break under pressure. Why was I there? Because I was teaching music and movement to toddlers and they were up off the floor before me. My choice was to quit that endeavor or find a way to become more limber.
So I became a warrior for myself and found some good teachers whose voices I still hear in my head.
Lynelle Sjoberg was very supportive and she laid the groundwork for my understanding what yoga is. 
This is Lynelle, on the bottom. Haven't tried her Aeriel classes, I need a new and perfected body for that.
What is yoga? It is the yoking together of the mind and spirit with the body. I realized how unconnected my spirit was to my body when I could not answer the question, "What does your body need, right now?" When Paul says our bodies are temples the underlying teaching is that we must care for them. Not to care for them is like going to a run down shack and claiming that the spirit of God resides within, just push aside the garbage and clutter and wait for him to show up. He can show up there, I know, but He will begin the renovations as soon as he is invited to stay. A temple of God reflects who He is and what He can do.
A temple is not a perfect, worldly body but a responsive body; a body which allows light energy to flow through it, unrestricted. Speaking of restrictions, I have many to overcome, but I am amazed how willing my joints are to move if I respect and honor the body I have. 
I shall get off my soapbox and get back to doing the real work. I need to show up on the mat this morning.
Feel free to join me at Super Saturday, April 16th. If nothing else you can chortle at the little tubby woman bearing her soul about one of her passions.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter Is Still Here

"When I woke up this morning
Snow was on my mind, yeh.
Snow was on my mind.
I saw white, whoa,
I saw ice, whoa,
I went back inside....."
Really now, mother nature, you are outdoing yourself giving us variety.
Here is my early Roddy bush 2 days ago, and this is what it looks like today.

Hang on sweet blossoms, the temp will be back to 45 degrees by Sunday.
I still have evidence of the recent winds in my front yard. A branch from a pine tree came hurtling through the air and impaled itself in my front yard. I thought the branch was entangled with the branches from the tree above. After yanking over and over again I saw to my horror that nothing was holding this branch from above, it was planted a foot into the ground.
I am glad that it did not come through my front window. 

    I was so proud of myself this week because both Monday and Tuesday I went into the garden to do clean-up and pruning. The sun was shining and I found several leafy greens coming back for a new start.

Hello, swiss chard, I shall plan on eating you in a couple of weeks, unless, winter comes through again.
Well, I shall keep the fire going today and enjoy the few days I have left of winter break. I have been without students this week and I have enjoyed happiness in other forms.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

At the Tea Shop

Not indulging in caffeine has not stopped me from having "a spot of tea" at the Tea Shop.
The shop is right next to the Bookshop so you can pick up a used copy of Maisie Dobbs and settle in for some refreshing peppermint tea,
This is the caffeine free section. I love Evening in Missoula and I like to take home a few ounces.
There are lovely gifts to peruse along the shelves.

While you are there you might meet Steve.

He is a photographer by passion but you can find him brewing behind the counter some days of the week. 
Last month he had a show at the shop. Here are two favorites.
This isn't like seeing the real thing, of course. Here I am photographing a photograph, sorry.
This is a senior picture from someone I do not know. I like the composition.
When you come in for tea you may be tempted by the scones, tea cakes, crumpets, and..........just clutch your book and breathe in the aroma of your "cuppa".

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Letter to my Daughter

Dear Daughter,
I can't get you out of my mind. I heard once that a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child. You may not actually be my unhappiest child but I feel the burden of your situation. It stinks! There are others in a similar place but that knowledge is of little comfort. I can't help but reflect that my mother was in a equally difficult spot. 
Here she is visiting my father in the hospital when he got injured in the war. They are holding it together but she looks less relieved than he does. So I wonder how she coped? I look at what she did so well until the end of her days. She was physically active, not in an exercise regimen but in her daily walks and her joy in work.
Here she is on the back of a motorbike. Her spirit was much more connected to her body than mine is. She loved to move and knew where she was in space. She also found joy in the natural world. I think her father taught her that.
Today she would be outside looking for spring. Here is what I found yesterday by the driveway. The crocus is so fragile looking but fights to come up even in the cold. They don't last long but being a sign seeker I see it as a gift from God, a down payment on the promise of new life.
Stay in the moment and enjoy those babies. Look! These guys were babies during war and time went on and the sadness turned to joy again and they grew into men whose families love them and honor them.
And you will learn to pray. I pray for angels to visit you and tend to your care.
Love, Mom

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Moonbeam

Yesterday was the birthday of our moonbeam. What joy she has given us this year.
She started out small and helpless.
But, she is no longer helpless. As the youngest of five children she manages to get exactly what she wants.
She insists on doing the things everyone else is doing, even doodling on the i-pad is not too much for this child.
Grandpa and Grandma decided she should have her own means of communication.
The hordes of siblings could hardly contain themselves when it came to opening the presents.
The new cell phone was a big hit. Now she can call Grandma, too.
Little Moonbeam we are so glad you came to be in our family!!!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My First Piano Adventures 5

This week J. finished Book 1. Congratulations! You are a wonderful student and thanks to you I decided to launch my teaching into Faber and Faber My First Piano Adventures.

The one teaching idea I wish I had started earlier with J. is the introduction of the staff. So this week I pulled out my ropes and we created a home for the notes.

Reading notes on the staff is like learning a mysterious code. This code has it's origins in 1028 when an Italian monk first came up with a 4 line staff. He began notating music with syllables "Do Re Mi" and used his hand to show all the pitch positions.
Today my students grapple with two staffs.  The treble, ruled over by Queen Treble Clef,  handles notes mostly above middle C.
She once looked liked an upper case G, and her belly circles the treble G line. And the King Bass staff which houses the notes lower than middle C, usually.
The bass clef used to be an upper case F and his round knob is right on the bass F line. 
So, our quest to break the code has officially begun. It may take a long time for your child to recognize the relationship of a note on the staff to the key on the piano. However, the day will come when reading notes on the staff will be as easy as reading letters on a page, and if that has not happened yet, don't worry it will. We all start from the ground up.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Transition Song

Take a breath, through your nose,
Let is out down to your toes.
Then just float in your body boat,
Take a breath.
When it comes to having a tune up your sleeve to smooth the transitions your toddler is expected to make in his day, there is one that is a gem. Take a breath, for goodness sake. She is playing with her dad and they are rough housing on the floor, then the joy turns to unpleasantness and she starts to scream, what do you do? Take a breath.
Music is more powerful than words because it eludes the filter of the right side of the brain and is felt before it is understood. So, put your words into a song and communicate faster. In Swingset Music and Movement classes we use the song "Take a Breath" after our large motor activity when everyone is fired up and we need a smooth transition to quiet activity. It works well for us in class so try it at home.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Week of Group Piano Lessons

A couple of times a year I meet with my older piano students in small groups. I try to maximize the positive aspects of peer involvement (feelings of inclusiveness in the quest to make music) and minimize the negative (the fits of silliness peer groups exhibit).
I found a three part arrangement of Yankee Doodle for my boy group.
We did practice individually the week before. I found the music at They write nice pieces on many levels. The lesson was a great success. All three parts held together and all the benefits of ensemble playing were realized.
I did some drumming in all the groups. I had a chart with lines of different rhythms. We did them together and then each person was assigned their own line. As you can see in the video, my Four Queens, girls in PA3A and PA3B, were successful.

Another fun activity was Play a Story. I used the Spanish story of Don Gato the cat. As I told the story I stopped to ask for piano sounds to complement the story. Don Gato's sound was a minor broken chord followed by a block chord. The Lady Cat had fifiths in the treble clef. The joyful sounds were major arpeggios, the sounds of the sadness over his death, or supposed death were a minor arpeggio.
His broken body parts were half steps in different octaves. I enjoyed their scramble to get to the piano to play their sound trying to remember what the musical term meant.
We ended the lesson with some notation dictation. I asked them to notate 4 measures of Yankee Doodle. This was very instructive to me to see how observant they are about the components of written music. We did not get all 4 measures written before it was time to perform for each other. This always ends my groups lessons. They like showing what they are learning.
Music was enjoyed by all!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Eye Candy

We have a quilting store here in town. I am amazed that we have as many quilters here as we do. Those who love to create with cotton fabric, wool yarns, and other luscious textiles adore this store. I adore it for a second reason; the sheer power of eye candy.
If you want to give your eyes a treat come gaze at the rainbow of colors organized with an artist's perspective.
 I wander through the rooms thinking blue is my favorite, then red grabs me and I am emboldened by it's passion, only to be entreated by yellow, to be mellowed by the warmth of the warm light it sends forth.
Being a pianist I really think black and white are classy. I found a collection of music fabric which makes me want to sew again. I could do music bags for all my students. But, wait, I'd have to raise my prices to offer that value-added product.
I so admire the showcase of handmade quilts displayed as works of art, which they are, of course.
The Knitting Queen and I go into the store for the yarn which has appeal to the eyes but also to the touch. I seem to choose the soft silk yarns every time.
I don't know how many scarves I really need but I crochet them for the sensory experience more than the final product.
Here is the ball of yarn that captured me last time. While I crochet I watch it change from lime green, to spring green, to forest green, to tan, to taupe, to brown, and then back again.
Well, suffice it to say, the Island Quilter is a gallery for the most discriminating eye and the owners are full of enthusiasm and good will.
I will leave you with some humour.

Why did the hog farmer give up knitting?

He didn't want to cast his purls before swine!

A piece of yarn walks into a bar and orders a beer, but the bartender snarls, "We don't serve your kind here!". The yarn is forced to leave.

While sitting on the curb feeling sorry for himself, the yarn is suddenly hit with a brilliant idea. Working quickly, he ties himself into a knot and unravels his ends. Taking a deep breath, the yarn marches back into the bar and orders a beer.

"Hey!" says the bartender. "Ain't you that piece of yarn I just threw outta here?"

"Nope," replies the yarn, "I'm a frayed knot."