I’m off to see my parents tomorrow. I don’t think I ‘ll be posting then, but I take the laptop with me. I wish you all the best and see you back next year.
I had wanted to write about this a month ago, but then I had NaNoWriMo, and so I’m more than a month late. I know that I always complain how I don’t make enough music. And you can see it. Every time something comes along the first thing to go is sleeping enough and the next the music. But this is not what I want to focus on today. Last year on the ninth of November I started a music journal. Before I had had piano lessons for the first time in ages. Even though I am teaching piano myself I have had only six years of training and then got better by not stopping to play. (It’s weird, my husband found the same. When you are a teenager there are lots of better musicians than you. Then they get a job, they get children and they stop playing. Then you’re middle-aged and suddenly you’re playing better than them.)
Back to the music journal. I took lessons from a fabulous jazz player because I wanted to learn to accompany myself and my students better. And I had just realized that my music depended on strong singing and a weak piano tagging along. So I wanted to improve my piano playing. Before that I had spent ages to find the right pianist. Without luck. And then I found that I had one already in the house. I would like her to play better, but at least she play whenever I want.
So, I took piano lessons and opened every single lesson with the traditional call of the adult student, “I feel so bad because I didn’t practice since last time.” As a teacher I know this from the other side too. Take any mother who wants to learn an instrument and all of them have the feeling that they don’t practice enough. Even if they do. Guilt. I think this is a mother thing.
After a couple of months I decided to stop taking lessons and start applying what I had learned. I opened up a fresh notebook and after a few preliminary sentences wrote down my goal to practice and make music in earnest. I didn’t want to continue to just play a couple of songs through twice a week, I wanted to work on my piano skills, or better, on my music skills. I made a plan and a list as always. I wrote down my goals.
I want to make the music that only I can make.
For this I want to improve my technical skills until I don’t have to think about the how anymore.
I want to become able to play what I hear in my head.
I want to feel at home in music.
The basis for my music should be voice and piano.
I want to become a better piano player.
And then I made a plan what I had to do to reach these goals. Improvise on a regular basis, transcribe songs from CD, and so on. I wrote that on Tuesdays and Thursdays I’d practice while my son was in play group, at least two times per week I would practice in the morning while my son played in the same room, and I’d practice on weekends once. And then I started right away.
Each time I played I wrote down when, what, how I felt, and what I wanted to do next. One other thing that I did in the beginning was to give myself stickers for every time I played. And I put the stickers on a calendar that I had in my room where all my students could see them and I told them what they were for. That was motivating! Imagine being a piano teacher and having to tell your students that you didn’t practice the whole week. That never happened.
All the time I was – of course – not content with what I achieved. It never seemed enough. And in a way it is, but in a way that’s how art works. It never is enough. Even if you spend all your waking moments on you art it won’t be enough. And this is what I have kept telling people again and again, “I don’t play enough, I don’t write songs.”
But if I were my own student I would be quite proud of myself. Making music has become a habit again. Only very rarely do three days go by without an entry in my journal. And one has to keep in mind that even if there is no “practice” I usually play some music every workday because I teach. When I teach singing or guitar I play all the time. When I teach piano I often sit and listen for long times but even then I get to play about ten minutes of every thirty.
And my playing has changed. I really feel better as a pianist. My tone has changed. It sounds better. when I started a year ago I was desperate because my piano is bad. And if I had 10,000 € to spare I’d buy another one in a minute, but I’m not desperate about my piano’s sound anymore. Because now I can make it sound better than before.
So during the past year I have been gone from playing one or two songs about twice a week to real practice sessions complete with improvisation, scales and concentration about three to five times a week. Sometimes more. That’s good. I don’t need to put stickers on a chart where my students can see them. And through playing guitar I found a way to make my music portable.
So my next goal is to to even more and not only improvise but make songs again.
yesterday you turned four years old. As you told me on our way to kindergarten this morning that means that you’re now much bigger and can do everything better than before. I hope you won’t be disappointed on this. You have been waiting for this birthday the whole year. After you turned three you said that you wanted to have a birthday party and we promised you’d have one with your friends when turning four. So yesterday was a little overwhelming. Only two days before you had the kindergarten’s Christmas party, where you played one of the Christmas trees. (And how proud I was when you lead all the little trees on stage and said your surprisingly many lines even though you were hoarse, and then when you went to the buffet as one of the firsts and got yourself food and drink even before your parents entered the room. You really are your mother’s son.)
Yesterday you received a huge amount of presents even though we had tried to keep it small. Of course you kept asking for more the whole day long. Just wait a little, next week it will all start over again.
In the last year a lot has happened. At your last birthday we told you that you’d get a drum set and lessons this year, when you still would be as interested as then, but though you practiced “stick technique” every day for weeks your interested has paled a little. Instead you have been building fantastic Lego-structures, and then, a couple of weeks ago, you started drawing and crafting every day for hours.
You started kindergarten in February. At first you went only afternoons and since the beginning of the month you stay there from morning ’til afternoon. Your kindergarten teacher told me that you are a fantastic child, very good with language and intelligent, you like to play with the other children and when you have enough you go off and play by yourself. When we were at your medical checkup two weeks ago the doctor beamed at me and told me what a joy it was to examine you. How great your language skills, how intelligent you are, how well behaved and smart, how good you can hold a pen when you draw, she was full of praise.
I’m a little envious when I see how easily you draw people to you. Even as a baby you charmed everyone. Your less charming sides you keep strictly for family. Especially we two have been desperate and sad because we couldn’t stop fighting so much. No day went by without you and me screaming at each other. But it is getting better at last. We are both becoming more reasonable and patient and your long day in kindergarten makes you less restless.
When you turned three you still took a nap, although reluctantly. And now you don’t need any diapers any more. You have grown a lot, 5 cm (about 2 inches) taller and 2 kg (a little less than 4 pounds) heavier than last year. In spring you had middle ear infection after middle ear infection, but I’m glad that you didn’t need antibiotics. At the end of May you learned to ride your – and here you see me speechless because I didn’t find an equivalent for “Laufrad“; imagine a kid’s bike without pedals pushed by his feet as if he were running. – Next spring we will be having the pedals put on your bike and you’ll learn to ride it for real. At the end of last spring you gave up your pacifiers. Your interest in reading and writing grew and you found out that when one is able to write O, A and M, one can write “OMA” (granny).
You’re still loving books and are slowly enjoying also stories and not only non-fiction. You were especially interested in astronauts and space travel. For weeks you wanted to watch only the video with pictures of the moon landing and the Gemini missions. This video has a soundtrack of sixties hits and you’re still singing songs like, “She’s got a ticket to wear.” In fact you started learning English in Kindergarten this fall, but so far you only have learned things like “What is your name?” and the names of some colors and animals there.
My beloved son, I’m enjoying you every day and miss you every time I haven’t seen you for an hour. You so eloquent, intelligent, charming and self-confident. You have a vivid imagination that I took for granted, because I thought everyone’s like that. But then I learned that there are boys out there who spend their days pushing toy cars and making car noises. Boys who don’t wake up saying, “I’m an astronaut, I have to fly to the moon today.” or “I am a penguin. This is water. Teddy is a polar bear. Now I’m stuck under a rock. Teddy, save me!”
Every time somebody tells me I should live in the moment like a child and stop thinking I have to think of you. Even when you were only a few days old one could see your mind working. One day before your birthday you told me, “This will be my second birthday.” Me, “No, your fourth.” You were right in a way since this was the second that you were conscious of. You thought for a while, counted on your fingers and said, “No, it is my third.” Me, “No, your fourth.” We started fighting about this again, and then I told you, ” When you were born you were not a year old. Only after one year a child turns one year old. that’s the first birthday. then the second, the third and the fourth.” You still insisted on it being your third birthday, then you turned on your brain, counted on your fingers again and said, “No, tomorrow is my fourth birthday.”
Your teddy bear is still your best friend, but in the meantime there are dozens of stuffed animals sharing the bed with you. Every time I have the feeling that I’m maybe not a good mother, I look at you and see that I can’t have been doing much wrong. I’m curious what the next year will bring,
your loving mother.
That’s how I feel these days. Ms. “I do all the organizing around here single-handed.”. Blah. You know I actually don’t like organizing, tidying and having huge to-do-lists, though one can’t tell when looking at my life. For the past few years I have been trying to trim down Christmas. But that’s been real hard. And with a child in the mix it is even harder. He loves Christmas. Even I like some Christmas traditions.
But I don’t like to have that much to remember and to do. I already have almost all the gifts for Christmas, I don’t do Christmas cards, but still I have to remember dozens of things to bring to the kindergarten’s Christmas party. On Friday at 5. Again I had to ask two students to come in on Thursday so I could go to that kindergarten thing. I thought I was smart when I signed up to bring only juice and water for the buffet. I have to remember to dress my son in a beige t-shirt and beige leggings to go with his tree costume for the Christmas play. We’ll bring the guitars. For this I will have to actually practice Christmas songs because I’m not that good a guitar player. But at least I refused to bring my keyboard. I was very proud of me when I told the other parents that not only I refuse to act in a CHRISTMAS PLAY THAT THE PARENTS ARE DOING FOR THE KIDS, I also told them that I couldn’t attend the rehearsal. Because that’s the time when I will be teaching the students I can’t teach on Friday.
What I’m really pissed about is not the fact that obviously other parents have either far more time (which I doubt) or far more Christmas spirit (for sure), no, what I’m really pissed about is that every single parent that I spoke with didn’t want to act in the play. None. So I was real clever and suggested just singing a few songs and be done with it. Then I didn’t go to the meeting the parents had in the bar and the next thing I hear is, “We’re doing a little something so that the kindergarten’s owner won’t be angry at us.” WHAT? I’m not a kindergardener anymore. So let her get pissed at me. She won’t kick out my son for that. And the very next thing I heard was, “Oh, we thought you could just be the (I don’t even remember what role they had in mind for me) and we’ll be meeting on Thursday at five.” Well, you might, but I won’t.
What I don’t get especially is that both the PTA women organizing this whole thing are single mothers with jobs. – Maybe they don’t need to sleep. Or they are just very bad at saying no. For which I’m quite grateful, because otherwise maybe I would have had to be a member of the PTA. Just when I was about to foolishly volunteer for it the queen of the kindergarten picked another mother by saying “You look like you want to volunteer!” with a big fat fake smile on her face.
But the frelling kindergarten Christmas party is not the only thing on my mind. First I have wisely picked this time of year to start eliminating my energy drains. I have asked De of sober briquette to be my partner in crime and have been working on my anti-procrastination list since last weekend. Then my son happens to have the very convenient birthday of the 17th of December. This year there will be a children’s birthday party in the mix. This will be my first. The past few years we kept it simple. I bought a cake, defrosted it the night before, there were birthday candles, cake breakfast and the unwrapping of presents. Later my MIL would come down, refuse a piece of cake with shouts of “How can you eat something sweet for breakfast! I could never eat cake in the morning!” (Never mind that about 75 percent of the nation eats something sweet for breakfast.) Then comes the ritual “But only one piece! Well, if you insist I’ll have one in the afternoon.” complete with more unwrapping of presents. That was it.
This year there will be five other preschoolers in the mix. I bought paper napkins and some decorations. I will have to bake a cake this time. My son wanted chocolate muffins with m&ms and that’s what he’ll get. Then, on Monday there’s the cake to bake to share with all his kindergarten friends. And then on Tuesday I will have to have the big suitcase packed so that hopefully a nice man can bring it to my parents. Because we’re going by train and this time I’d like to travel without all my son’s Christmas presents on my back.
So this is my timeframe:
- tomorrow we’ll borrow my MIL’s car and got to the big city to try and get the audio mixer repaired on warranty (bought back in February, wish me luck)
- I also will have to look up muffins recipes and to make a grocery list for everything we’ll be needing until our departure in ten days
- the rest of the day I’ll teach (blissful structure)
- on Thursday I’ll teach from morning until evening and in between I’m going to do the big grocery shopping
- also I’ll practice playing that frelling christmas songs on the guitar (Oh, and transpose a couple of them, they are way too high.)
- on Friday I’ll completely panic, think about what to wear for two days and then decide that it’s too much of an effort to change
- then I’ll teach,
- afterwards the frantic struggle to get to the party on time with everything we’ll need
- on Friday evening collapse with drink after putting over-excited child to bed while screaming (child, me or both – we’ll see)
- on Saturday start panicking wildly and bake cakes
- decorate house at midnight
- on Sunday have usual birthday celebrations
- then totally freak out
- have lunch with overexcited son
- between 2 and 5.30 have five other over-excited preschoolers in the house (I think time will be passing quite fast at this point. Just getting all of them to wash their hands and got to the toilet before having cake and juice might take up to 20 minutes. Of course I’ll see to it that they got to the toilet first and wash their hands afterwards – with soap.)
- after cleanup and putting now really over-excited kid to bed I’ll
- decorate yet another set of chocolate muffins
- on Monday morning find a way to transport said muffins to kindergarten (again juice and water, maybe I’ll take the bike trailer)
- then go home and try to find clean clothes to pack
- teach students
- on Tuesday: spend whole day waiting for the guy who’s supposed to fetch my suitcase
- Wednesday: don’t forget to bring 2 € to kindergarten for puppet play the children are watching that day
- Thursday: start packing for Christmas travel
- Friday: teach endlessly
- Saturday: get up at dawn, pack rest of things, catch train (This includes the traditional fight between my husband and me on our way to the train station. A nice tradition we shouldn’t miss.)
- Then sit down in train. Change trains at big city, relax, eat lunch on train, change trains again, and again (special holiday connection)
- arrive at parent’s home
- mixture of mild panic and boredom until we return a week later(which reminds me to put my groceries for our traditional New Year’s eve meal on my grocery list for this week)
- begin New Year,
- make a vow never to stress that much during Christmas season again.
Repeat again next year.
But you know what I’m grateful for? That this year I’m not the one who has to organize the actual Christmas stuff. No tree, no decorating, no grocery shopping, no wrapping of Christmas presents, no cooking – nothing. Because for the first time in years we won’t be spending Christmas at home. That might be a good thing. And even though my son thought different, we won’t even have to pack the Christmas tree.
For a couple of weeks now I have been trying to find a way to have audio on my blog. Without paying extra. And here it is. It is not pretty, you don’t have a nice little player right here, but if you click on the link you can hear me sing the song that I sang at my sister’s wedding. It is not a wedding song as such. It was written by Abbey Lincoln.
Throw it away[audio:throwitaway.mp3]
For more music go to “Finally music for you“, a post with all the links to my husband’s songs.
Well, sort of. I have a huge to-do-list sitting on top of my desk, I’m a little hungry and there are a million things I “should” be doing right now, but I have been called by my friend De and of course I have to show up.
What wedding do you ask? Well, it’s about making a commitment to change the world. Which I already have done. So I don’t think, my husband will mind my polygamy in this case. Since we’re both already married to each other and the music, well, I wouldn’t mind if he was about to do this either.
The wedding gift should be a post about whichever social cause we feel passionate about. You know that I never write about things social or political. That doesn’t mean that I’m not passionate about them. And gay marriage is not even in the picture anymore, since it finally is legal in Germany. (And I was wrong about gay marriage not being possible in Bavaria. It is. And the couple in question is now expecting a child. I’m so excited!)
The social causes that I believe in are quite abstract. I believe that every person should be able to have choices. That every human being should be fed and sheltered and loved. That we all should strive to become more spiritual and kind. That the only way to change the world is to change me and become a better person. I believe in non-violence. I’m a feminist.
What really hit home with me was the Margaret Mead quote. Jen wrote:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Yeah. Among other things I have studied cultural anthropology, and that gave me the hope that social systems are not just set, they are created by people through mutual agreement. This means that people have the power to change them. As a German it has been very important to me to believe that people can make a difference. You know, I come from a long line of people who didn’t stand up for anything. The people who maybe didn’t agree with the Nazis but they didn’t do anything against it either. I can understand their fear, and I don’t know if I would stand up or not. I even hope that I never have to find out, but I pray for the courage not to shut up and look away. The most courageous things my one grandfather did was not joining the NSDAP. That was a courageous thing to do. Just imaging. He was a communist, but he never talked about it. My other grandfather was a baker and he gave bread to people who didn’t have the coupons for it. Nobody left the country, nobody was thrown in prison, they all just ducked and hoped it would be over soon. And it is. Fortunately.
But I feel that this is one of my biggest obligations towards the world. As a German I have to see to it that something like that can never happen again. I belong to a nation that caused World War II. Teenagers today don’t think about that at all. I don’t think they know much about the time of their great-grandparents. Or the war. And I’m glad that they don’t. I really am relieved that I can travel abroad and don’t have to meet people telling me they hate Germans in general, because they fought my grandparents. But I think it is important not to forget. To speak up.
Wow, who would have thought. I don’t know if this is a social course but peace is a very precious thing and worth living for.
So count me in at the wedding, as I said. We’ll drink champagne, we’ll dance and sing and change the world for the better.