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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Music to my ears...not yours ;)

Guess what...I'M PRACTICING AGAIN!!!!!  Yes, I'm screaming about practicing, but it's with joy this time.  I love practicing.  It's some of the most constructive work I've ever done in my life.  That being said, I'd like to talk about real practice and what it sounds like-and how much it takes.

I play the violin/viola (okay, mostly the viola) and I practice a lot.  Lately I've been doing 2-3 hours a day.  Normally during the summer I'd insist on a minimum of 4, but I'm not in shape yet.  And I never do it all at once.  Right now I'm up to an hour at a time if I want to ice my arm afterwards, or a half hour if I'm going light on it.  This means that I'm practicing 2-6 times a day!! (my poor family.)

Here's the kicker.  Most people think when I say I need to practice, that I need to make beautiful music for a few hours.  Nope, that's not what it means.  Imagine high, screechy, out of tune scales.  Then imagine someone playing the worst of them for an hour non-stop.  The point of practice is to take the parts that sound bad and do them over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over (you still reading?) correcting a little each time until they sound good.  And once it sounds good, what do I do?  Find the next icky sounding spot and  start all over again.

Lets say I'm almost finished with a piece so it sounds pretty good.  Let the music begin, right?  Wrong.  Then I will choose a single phrase (usually about 4 bars) and play it non-stop until ever note rings the way I want it to. So I could literally play the same passage over 50 times in a single practice session.

Okay, okay, it's not all like this.  I do practice putting the piece together and getting all the louds and softs (dynamics).  I try to see the big picture and work on that too.  I don't put emotion into my music every single time I play.  It's exhausting and if the technique isn't there the emotion can interfere.  However, there are some practices where I just work on the emotion of the piece, the message if you will.  But if you were in the habit of listening to me practice, you would see the working kind of practice is far more common.  I practice my scales every single day and I spend time on technique every single day.

When I've told roommates that I need to practice, they say they love listening to the violin/viola and they would be happy to have me practice.  Poor souls had no idea what they were in for.  My mom shuts the door and doesn't listen.  And that's fine.  Performance is supposed to sound good.  Practice is supposed to sound bad.  Good.  Bad.  See the difference?  If you want the good, go to the performance.  If someone says they want to practice, don't expect the good.  We clear?
That's not me, but let's pretend, okay?

Now, while I'm here do you mind if I practice for about an hour?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Graduation Day

So the big day finally came.  I'm graduated!  I'll confess, the night before, I stayed up late dreading it.  Graduations don't generally float my boat too much (hey, you try playing Pomp and Circumstance every single year for 10 years!) but they don't usually fill me with dread either.  I was angry that I was getting the wrong degree.  I still feel strongly that I earned my elementary education degree, not the educational studies one I got.  I was dreading seeing my cohort because I just didn't fit in with them anymore.  I was dismissed from the program, I was not celebrating my teaching certificate the way they were.  I was afraid it was just going to hurt too much to be surrounded by everyone else.

That morning I got up and got ready.  I got two graduation gifts.  1) the title to my car.  In all honesty I wasn't that excited at the revelation that I now have to pay the car insurance, but I was happy at the symbol of me being an adult.  The other was a gorgeous necklace that I'm excited to have (even if I can't put it on ;)  Next, Mom, Dad, Trevor, and I got in the car and drove up to Phoenix.  We were all tired, so we kept to ourselves and just enjoyed the view.  We finally got out of the car and went to lunch at Oregano's

So whose bright idea was it to have food slathered in red sauce right before going to a formal-ish event?  Seriously, did that person know I can't eat food without getting some on me?  Jeez.  Wait, I got to pick the restaurant.  Okay, it wasn't my smartest idea, but I love Oregano's.  I love that they have good food and such a laid back atmosphere.  When I picked it, I forgot that no one else in my family likes jazz.  Oops.  They bravely put up with it for me and enjoyed the black and white tv show being shown in the corner.  I did drip some spaghetti sauce on my dress, but graduation robes were made to cover that, right?

When I got there I took some pictures with my family, then we parted ways.  I went down to get my registration card and saw my cohort.  They were taking group picture.  Tears pricked my eyes, but I asked if I could join in.  They all said "of course" a little like it was an obvious question.  Every last one of them was happy to see me and many came and specifically asked me how I was doing or express their support.  I felt a little silly for thinking I didn't fit in with them any more.  We've been through Hell (ummm....I mean iTeach) together.  We've laughed and cried over pretty much the same things.  I feel incredibly blessed to be part of this group.

I'd just like to take a quick paragraph to thank the people in my cohort for being amazing people and true friends.  A special shoutout to each of you: Kazmere, Stephen, Kristina, Liz, Elizabeth, Mellissa, Huy, Derrick, Janette, Liliana, Yesi, Becky, Leah, Cami, Hayley B, Hayley L, Anthony, Kayla, Nada, Ashley, Dulce, Caitlyn, Hannah, Evelyn,

There was just one part of this I never factored in: stairs.  I feel whoever invented stairs should climb and descend them for the rest of eternity.  I can go up them semi-okay, but going down is scary.  I still never quite know when my right knee is going to collapse, so I try to avoid them.  The solution: conga line!  Okay, maybe it was just me and one other person, but it worked.  Going down the stadium stairs I took Hayley's shoulder and we made it down.  Actually, I tripped on the last step (yep, I called that one) but because I had ahold of someone I stayed upright.  Thanks Hayley!  We went up a ramp to get our degrees, but we had to go down the stairs after to get off the stage.  We had to do it in front of everyone too!  Thank goodness for handrails, that's all I have to say.  When I got to the bottom my teacher Lessita told me good job.  I was so grateful for the recognition and the encouragement.

We sat together and took in the solemnity of the occasion, enthusiastically (but politely) giving our love and support to each person as they came across the stage.  Who believes me?  Really we talked and laughed quietly among ourselves the whole time.  Hey, I don't expect the grad students to be paying attention when I get my degree.  There were 1,100 people graduating.  Yes, that many.  Kinda boring, but who goes to graduation for the entertainment?

Afterwards I went out with everyone and got a hug from my teacher Ashleigh.  She told me "you are going to do amazing things!"  Man, I am grateful for all the mentors in my life who have given me the confidence to try.  I'd be lost without them.

So how do you improve on a day like that?  What kind of celebration can make it all that much better?  I'll tell you...SLEEP!  Yes, there was sleeping on the way home.  I was content with that and happy to call it a day!

Seriously though, it's been a long, hard six years to get this degree.  To say I went through hell is almost too literal for my taste.  I don't quite know yet where I'm going from here, but I think it's gonna be pretty good.  I'm off to have some more fun, meet some new people, and laugh along the way!

ps pictures will be added as soon as I can get  the camera

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Making a Case for Fantasy

Hi there!  Confession....(remember this is a secret, so don't tell anyone!) What's that you say? This is a public blog?  Oh, so I guess the secret's out...wait for still there?...I'm a NERD!!!  There, I said it.  Boy do I feel better now.  Well now that I've got that off my chest, there are some more things I'd like to say.  I'm sick of people dissing on science fiction/fantasy nerds.

Certain people (coughcouch*sara*coughcough) have bugged me my whole life about my deep abiding love of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I say what's not to love?  One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from the last season of Star Trek: TNG.  Speaking of hatred Picard says to a colleague, "at first it is hard and rough, uncomfortable to us.  Soon it becomes warn and soft like old leather.  Before we know it, we reach a point where we can't imagine being without it."  Can you handle that amount of sci-fi technical nonsense?  Wait, there was nothing about science fiction in that quote.  If we put it back in context, you will see that it's about an interspecies conflict, but the episode was about two separate groups that had made war for so long, they did not know how to live together in peace.  Do any nations come to mind?  How about people?

Another favorite episode features an unpopular engineer.  He is unpopular because he spends all his time playing virtual reality games.  Facebook anyone?  Or how about a holographic version of Second Life?  While the episode delves a little into what causes someone to withdraw into a make-believe world, it also shows how true friends can help.  It reminded me of this talk by a religious leader about what's real.  The difference between loosing oneself in cyberspace and using the internet as a tool.  Have you ever been lost in a fantasy world?  Honestly, I personally know some amateur authors that have chosen fictional relationships in place of true ones.

Confession: This is not my family, just a picture from the same time period
My favorite Star Trek episode is near the end of the series where Picard gets to live out an entire lifetime among an alien race.  In the end he finds it was all a technologically induced dream, but because of the technology, he remembers a race of people that is now extinct.  He gets to be the carrier of their memory. Sometimes I feel similar as I do my family history.  Johanne and Anders Kristensen lost 3 of their children in infancy.  When was the last time someone cared about their legacy?  Who remembers my great great grandparents, and all they suffered to bring my family  to the United States?  History is about celebrating the value of each person as much as it is about learning the events.  And all this from a sci-fi show?  Yes.

Now on to fantasy.  I personally slightly prefer it over science fiction-especially the young adult variety.  For the sake of argument let's go with Lord of the Rings.  It's not my favorite, but it's worth exploring.  I love it because of all the relationships.  The hero that Samwise becomes through service, it's incredible to me.  I hope I can be as strong and as kind as Sam one day.  What would it be like to give that selfless service in the cause of something so worthwhile?

I have to say I'm a little jealous of Eowyn, because I want to marry Faramir.  I love someone who can stand for the right in times of peace or war, and yet still see both sides.   More than marrying Faramir, I want to be Faramir.  I want to see evil for what it truly is and stand against it with everything I have.  But what makes Faramir so great is that he never once becomes cruel from being in the right.  Even the hero of the story, Aragorn, gets carried away from time to time, but Faramir never looses sight of the human equation.  In the world there is so much evil.  The family is being attacked right and left.  Everything that is good and sacred is being made a mockery of in "enlightened" circles.  Like Faramir I want to see evil for what it is and stay as far away as I can.  But like Faramir, I want to look at those attacking all I hold dear and see them with compassion, even love.  I want to fight against evil to save the opposing side as well as my own.  Faramir found even the life of Gollum, a decrepit traitor to be of value.  Can I do even half as much?

Intellectually I think the key to understanding The Lord of the Rings is understanding that the Ring is power.  Is power a bad thing?  No.  Is wanting power for it's own sake a bad thing?  Yes!!!  When someone desires power, it will corrupt.  When someone desires the means to help others, they can be on shaky ground.  Frodo did not want the power, and for that reason he was able to hold it.  Gandalf craved power.  Gandalf was wise and good, so he knew better than to allow himself to be tempted by the ring.  Aragorn was held captive by his fear of power.  There came a point when the people needed Aragorn bad enough that he overcame his fears and embraced power to help his people, against the ring.  To see the heart of each person and the journey they take because of the siren call of absolute power is the whole point of the story.  I doubt I will ever have absolute power, but I insisted on absolute obedience from my students.  I caught myself demanding they hold still at times just because I wanted to feel my own authority.  I stopped that right away, but my point is that I think power tempts everyone in some way or other, and if we aren't aware of it, power can corrupt us as easily as is did the mighty and noble Boromir in LOTR.

Now that I've shown you the light, I'm sure you're all anxious to give the sci-fi/fantasy genre another look.  Maybe one or two of you are still thinking wait, I remember watching some really dumb Star Trek.  Well, yes.  Some of it is dumb.  It's called escapist reading (watching).  I'm not saying that every story that takes place in a slightly unrecognizable setting is something with deep insight into human nature.  I'm asking that people who love science fiction and/or fantasy be seen as normal people who like the same things other people do, for the most part.  The fantasy elements are fun and captivating to me, but really they are window dressing to what's really important: the human story.