Thursday, September 29, 2011

Snapshots of a Day

Number One:

I spent the morning at Cara's house working on a craft project. She had the day off from school because of the Jewish new year, and I had the morning free, so we had made plans to get together. We decided to use the time to make tile coasters following this tutorial. It was a nice, relaxing morning... so good to do something home-y and domestic.

I selected my color scheme to go with our new couch and pillows in the living room:

A view of the little pads on the back:

Now we just need a coffee table to put them on!

{I think these coasters would make a nice gift idea. So, my dear family members, if you happen to receive a set of coasters for Christmas this year, just pretend to be surprised. An appropriate response might be: "Oh, how ever did you think of this... I've never seen anything like it... coasters, fancy that!"}

Number Two:

I had a half hour to practice in between Tierra's lesson and Elaine's lesson. Elaine and her father walked into the room and heard a few measures of Biber, and her dad, who has quite the dry sense of humor, said, "Okay, that sounds very good... I don't think you even need to have a lesson today, Sarah, but you can stay here for Elaine's lesson if you want to." Funny guy... but the best part was seeing nine-year-old Elaine, usually so quiet, smile and laugh about it.

Number Three:

For some reason, this conversation struck me as very sweet... perhaps because Elaine is usually so reserved.

Sarah: Do you think you can listen to Lightly Row ten times this week? It will make it so much easier to remember where the long bows are.
Elaine: Yes, I think I can do that...
Sarah: Our brains have a way of remembering music we listen to. I still remember all the songs I listened to when I was your age... it kind of amazes me.
Elaine: My mom says that about music, too. She remembers musicals really well, all the words.
Sarah: Oh, musicals are the best... I still remember all the words to the ones I used to listen to, too. Do you watch or listen to musicals with your mom?
Elaine: Yes, like... is Annie a musical?
Sarah: Definitely... that's a good one. Except I used the think the part on the bridge was scary. You're probably braver than I was, though.
Elaine: Well, I can never tell what's really going on in that part. Is it a bridge?
Sarah: Yes, I think it's a drawbridge... and I just remember thinking Annie would fall.
Elaine: Yes, it's kind of scary, but I'm usually okay.
Elaine: Whoah, I just thought I saw a horse trot by in the hallway out of the corner of my eye.
Sarah: Wow, that would really be unexpected.
Elaine: I like horses. And I rode on an elephant once, when I was three. I kind of remember sitting on it, but I can't remember how I felt about it.

{Aren't kids fun to talk with? I love having little windows into the things they think about.}

Number Four:

This is what the practice chart of a very frustrated seven-year-old violin student looks like.

Poor Teaghan... I took one look at her crumpled chart and asked her, "Were you angry at your violin? Or having a bad practice day? What happened?" She replied, "I was angry at Allegretto!"

Number Five:

I had a rather disturbing encounter with a squirrel in our house yesterday, scampering about the T.V. room faster than my eyes could track him. This encounter ended with me attempting to barricade the squirrel into the T.V. room, despite the fact that said room does not have a door, and leaving a Havahart trap with peanut butter in the middle of the room to entice him. My attempts failed, resulting in a very small squirrel roaming freely about the house and evading all our diligent attempts at detection.

This evening Nathan had his own encounter with the squirrel, who had apparently taken refuge in the attic but finally reemerged. After a few sprints up and down the stairs after the little guy, we both managed to get him into a bedroom upstairs and shut the door.

At this point, Nathan may have said, "As long as we have him isolated in one room, I suppose we could just leave him in there for a few days..."

And I may have answered, "Sure, as long as we feed him!"

And he may have looked at me like, "My dear woman, you are missing the point..."

So instead of leaving the squirrel alone in the room, we entered the bedroom, where I guarded the space beneath the door and Nathan chased the squirrel in circles around the room (right across my feet at least a dozen times... eeep!) and finally, chased him right into the Havahart trap and closed it quite swiftly, with the squirrel inside.

Look how cute he is!

We thought about keeping him for a pet, but decided to set him free outside.

So that was an adventure.

{Please don't think of us as the most disgusting people you've ever known, just because we had a fugitive squirrel in our house.}

And that was my Thursday. How was yours?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Yesterday after youth orchestra rehearsal ended, a young violinist named Cordelia approached me with her father. He introduced himself, and I asked Cordelia if she was enjoying the orchestra. She smiled and nodded, and we chatted about how nice it is that violin is a "social" instrument that lets you play in orchestras and chamber ensembles with other musicians. Her dad said, "She really likes sitting in the middle of all the music," and I couldn't agree with that sentiment more.

Then I told Cordelia my little secret: "Sometimes I feel sorry for pianists. Except for a few pianists who do a lot of collaborative playing, I think lots of them have lonely musical lives, because they play by themselves so much."

Then her dad told me: "Thanks for working with these kids. You're very brave, and very patient."

And I thought to myself that it does indeed take bravery to walk into the mayhem of a room full of children with instruments capable of making a great deal of noise, and try to bring them into harmony with one another.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Moved In

Our tenants moved into our rental house on Saturday. Even though there are still things we need to make sure happen -- things like hiring a painting crew to paint the exterior of the house, and making sure utility bills are in the right names now, and opening an escrow account for the security deposit -- it's a big weight off of both of us to have the place really, finally rented out.

{I was at the rental until 3:30 am Friday night cleaning... and poor Nathan was there all night! He was so kind to me and sent me home to sleep because I wasn't feeling well.}

We emailed the tenants and told them to hire a cleaning person if things weren't clean to their satisfaction, and send us the bill.

We really want them to be happy with the place.

But they wrote back and said they were quite pleased with everything.

So, yay. Yay us!

And if I never see a bucket of joint compound, a sanding screen, or a putty knife again, it will be too soon.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Yesterday morning found the two of us at our friend Evangelyna's funeral.

Vangie died on September 11 after a two-year battle with cancer, just a few days after her 21st birthday.

Such things ought not to be.

We will always remember her vivaciousness, her fun-loving spirit, and her beautiful voice.

Over the past three years, Vangie often joined us at our house for get-togethers and special occasions, from casual cookouts to Easter dinners to Christmas cookie-decorating parties.

She loved cooking and baking, and sometimes shared her recipes with me. She would create stunningly frosted Christmas cookies that could have rivaled those at any bakery, putting the rest of our creations to shame. And as I recall, she joined in my annual Easter egg hunt with great enthusiasm.

While she had many interests and gifts, most of all, Vangie loved to sing. Nathan knew her better than I did through his work at Gordon College, where she was a student. They shared an inclination towards busting out gospel music at pretty much any time they felt like it, which was quite frequently.

Shortly after Vangie died, Nathan and I sat on the couch together and he told me one of many things he appreciated about the kind of person she was.

You just couldn't stop Vangie from singing. She might have a cold, or her voice teacher might tell her to take a few days 'vocal rest' to prepare for a performance, but nonetheless, if there was music to be sung, Vangie wanted to sing it. If Nathan asked her to come sing at the church where he worked for the past five years, she was there, every time. Classical, gospel, choral, solo... no matter the genre, she'd sing it, and she'd sing it so well. If she ran into Nathan in the hallways at school, they'd probably burst into song together, whether it was him on the keys while she sang some gospel song they both loved, or the two of them singing silly McDonald's commercial jingles together and dissolving into laughter.

During Lent one year, Vangie and I did Bach's Erbarme Dich from the St. Matthew Passion in church together, with Nathan on organ. She was fantastic, and I'm glad I have a recording to remember that Sunday morning by.

Last December, Nathan accompanied a Christmas concert that included a solo (O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen) sung by Vangie. I've watched this video several times in the past two weeks, and it was showed it at her funeral, as well.

I suppose it was fitting that, after collaborating with Vangie in so many ways, both formal and informal, Nathan had offered to be involved with the music for her funeral in any way that might be helpful. He accompanied two choirs and played two hymns, including a spine-tingling rendition of For All The Saints. As a recessional, he played an instrumental version of the gospel song Total Praise with a few other musicians (a song he had done with Vangie and her sisters in church last summer). The diverse styles he played, from classical choral accompaniments to hymns to gospel, reflected Vangie's diverse love of music, and I think she would have been proud. I sure was - proud to see my guy celebrating Vangie and giving glory to God for her life in the best way he knows how, through music.

Evangelyna Etienne. She sang lead roles in musicals at Gordon, she sang in Boston with the Handel and Haydn Society, she sang in New York City with Eric Whitacre, and sometimes, she sang in our living room with informal gatherings of friends.

If there's a heavenly chorus, and I believe there is, I know she's in it now.

{P.S. Michael, a Gordon professor, remembers Vangie here, and Keith, a friend, even started a blog, with his first post about Vangie.}

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Troy Davis Executed

There are times when I'm really not altogether proud to be an American.

Tonight ended up being one of those times.

This capital punishment stuff should not be happening.


More Troy Davis

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Troy Davis

From the Washington Post article States in a race to be No. 1 in death:

With time ticking away on the death-watch clock, the state of Georgia on Tuesday steamrolled all reasonable doubt about the guilt of Troy Davis. He’s now cleared to die by lethal injection, an impressive win for the Peach State’s killing machine, which has racked up 51 executions since the United States reinstated the death penalty in 1976.


Back in 1991, Davis got the death penalty after being convicted of killing an off-duty police officer in Savannah two years earlier. But with no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and with seven of nine witnesses later recanting their testimony and others coming forth to say someone else had confessed to the crime, Davis managed to hold off three attempted executions on appeal.

On further review in November, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. let the original call stand. “While the State’s case may not be ironclad, most reasonable jurors would again vote to convict,” Moore wrote.

Unfortunately for Mr. Davis, the American public is largely still in favor of the death penalty:

According to a recent Gallup poll, about 64 percent of Americans support capital punishment, and about one-third say that killing innocent people is a “natural cost of an important punishment.”

Sigh. This stuff makes me so sad.

{previously on this topic}

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Officially Landlords

I have deemed it worth mentioning that as of yesterday, we have a signed lease {and a big fat check} from tenants for our rental house!

They move in next Saturday, which gives us an oh-so-short week to get the last few things in order over there.

What a project this has been...

What a summer it was...

I could seriously sleep for a week straight if given the opportunity.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Group Lessons and Orchestra

While last week was the start of my grad school courses, it's this week that things really get underway with all my teaching and freelancing: rehearsals with both the L-- Symphony and the C-- A-- Symphony, private teaching on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, and the beginning of rehearsals with the children's string orchestra I conduct as well as the first group lesson at the Montessori school where I've started teaching this year.

The first youth orchestra rehearsal went better than expected and I'm feeling optimistic that this year will be better than last year, which was in many ways a rough year for my group (and thus for me). At the end of the rehearsal two new students came up and hugged me, and I found myself surprised. Then I started thinking about how sad it is that when kids hug a teacher today our first thoughts are about whether it's appropriate, whether the child has attachment issues, and whether we might find ourselves with a lawsuit on our hands, instead of just able to appreciate what's probably a simple show of joy and affection from a six-year old.

I'm feeling positive about the Montessori group class, too. This Tuesday we sat on the floor in a circle and introduced ourselves, and then I gave each child a kleenex-box-and-paint-stirrer "violin." we learned which hand is the violin hand and which hand is the bow hand, we made foot charts, we learned rest position and playing position, we listened to the first Twinkle variation, we held the "violins" with nicely rounded "cupcake fingers" on the edge of the kleenex box, and of course, we learned to bow as a sign of respect, as a way of saying "thank you" to audience, teacher, and student alike. At the end of the class one student, Lucy, declared, "This was the strangest violin lesson I ever heard of!" as she tucked her kleenex box under her arm and prepared to leave.

{But she smiled all through the class, so I'm not taking it personally!}

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Yesterday my Mendelssohn seminar professor was wearing the same shirt he wore to class last week... except this time it was buttoned correctly instead of being offset by one button all the way up.

One wonders if he thought to himself, "I'll give this shirt another go this week, and just button it properly this time... it'll be like a completely different look!"

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Bringer of Jollity

I'm playing Gustav Holst's The Planets for an upcoming concert with the L-- Symphony. I have to admit that aside from the obligatory study of Mars in a music history class at some point, I wasn't very familiar with most of the movements... except, of course, Jupiter. Everyone knows the beautiful themes from Jupiter! After playing all of the movements in rehearsals last week, I've decided that Jupiter is my favorite.

I can't play the infamous theme without thinking not only of "I Vow to Thee My Country," but also of the hymn tune Thaxted, and in particular, the last verse of a text to that tune that I love:

Then hear, O gracious Savior, accept the love we bring,
that we who know your favor may serve you as our king;
and whether our tomorrows be filled with good or ill,
we'll triumph through our sorrows and rise to bless you still:
to marvel at your beauty and glory in your ways,
and make a joyful duty our sacrifice of praise.

Do you love it, too?

Friday, September 9, 2011

And So It Begins...

Wednesday marked my first day of classes. I think I am going to love my Mendelssohn seminar. It's taught by a brilliant Australian harpsichordist who's in the process of recording the complete keyboard works of Bach... no small undertaking. He said, with a smile, "It will probably take me from now until I die to finish." His enthusiasm for music, knowledge, and life was inspiring.

Also, his shirt was off by one button all the way up, so one side of his collar stuck up an inch higher than the other side.

So you know he's a real intellectual scholarly type.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Oh Labor Day

Labor Day Weekend:

~ We had the music room plastered. {This is different from getting plastered in the music room, fyi, which we did not do.} Now there are walls there where before there were none. This is a good thing. ~

~ I had my ensemble audition which was the official beginning of my second {and final} year of my master's degree. I got nervous and messed some things up of course. But then apparently I kicked some serious you-know-what on the sight-reading. One of the faculty exclaimed, "You're the first person all day to play that perfectly!" {They had been hearing auditions since 9 am and mine was at 5 pm so... hmm.} So apparently I mess up on the stuff I actually practice and I do best winging it? ~

~ Our friends Cara and Gregg had a Labor Day/Housewarming party at their beautiful new digs. Everybody stayed for like seven hours, no joke. Obviously, it was a good party. A very good party. ~

I'm kind of excited for fall {tights! sweaters! boots! changing leaves! tea! warm soups! pumpkin oatmeal!} but stressed about too many things right now to be wholeheartedly excited I guess. Like, I have orchestra rehearsals or concerts on 9 out of the next 12 evenings, the kids' orchestra I conduct is starting up, I'm starting a violin class at a Montessori school in the area and I need to get organized for that, I have a student's mom giving me scheduling nightmares, grad school classes start tomorrow, I've had insomnia for the past four nights and I'm really tired, we still have to finish up a few projects at House #1, we need to get tenants in there, oh, and House #2 is a perpetual disaster zone.

On that note...

Have a beautiful day.

All shall be well, no doubt.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

From Mama Pea

I enjoyed this post from Mama Pea: Going Veg: The Why and The How. (I really want to get her new book!) It's a short and simple post about her family's reasons for being vegetarian, and some of the benefits they've seen.

I'm not one to preach about my dietary choices being better than somebody else's; for one thing, I don't necessarily think that's true. I have family members that have benefitted tremendously from different dietary lifestyles than mine.

But I do hope that people can respect my choices as I respect theirs. I have a few tiny pet peeves about the things people say to me about being vegetarian when this mutual respect doesn't seem to be happening. Here are two I've heard recently:

1) "Well, you think animals are cute when they're little, but those piglets grow up into big ugly fat pigs who just need to be eaten!" (I actually heard this within the past week.)

This is all kinds of weird... where do I begin? For one thing, I never said "I'm a vegetarian because animals are just too cute to be eaten." (I never give people any explanations unless they ask.) So this person presupposed my reason, and came up with a ridiculous one, at that. Does this person think that cute things shouldn't be eaten but big things should? Should we cannibalize large unattractive adults but not cute babies? Whatever my stance on animal rights and the quality of life they deserve, it stems from my belief in the value of life, not in cuteness.

2) "Well, I just can't worry about animals when there's ______ going on in the world." (Fill in the blank: human suffering, slavery, abortion... I've heard 'em all.)

Here's the thing: it doesn't take me more time or effort to be a vegetarian than it would to eat meat. In fact, I'd venture that my meals are less time-consuming and labor-intensive to prepare, and certainly they're cheaper than eating meat, but that's beside the point. The point is, it's not an either/or situation. It's not like I have to stop volunteering for Amnesty International (I don't, but you get the point) to go eat some lentils, or lay aside my pro-life picketing signs (I don't do that either, but you know) so I can have time to not eat meat.

Just a few thoughts. I'm not trying to argue with people who eat meat; just with people who say ridiculous things. And again... no judgement here.