reading round-up (5.15.15)

Both of our Minnesota springs to date have negated the adage “April Showers bring May Flowers” for different reasons. Last year, it was because there was too much snow for too long. This year winter ended at a reasonable time, but we just haven’t had much rain. Now in May, it is finally coming down and our grass is finally coming up. (Aaron far prefers working outside, so he is glad to be done with the new floor and seeing progress in our lawn and garden!) This year we’re just doing tomatoes and green beans.

Both of our Minnesota springs have included excitement about other kinds of growth, too. We’re ecstatic and humbled by another healthy pregnancy! This one means welcoming a baby boy to our family this fall, and by some sweet mercy, the first half of pregnancy has been significantly easier (physically and mentally) than the first half of my pregnancy with Annie. I’m especially grateful for an easier pregnancy while managing an adventurous nine-month-old, and I’m still blown away to think we’ll have two children. I spent a long time wondering if I would ever have any kids, and this
really feels like winning the lottery twice.

I thought there were some great thoughts in 8 Items for Christian Parents to Ponder, especially the encouragement to “Consider that there is no one in the world more likely than you to be instruments of their eternal good. ” It’s easy to get bogged down with the idea that we could possibly be really ruining some aspect of our kids’ lives, and I’m grateful for the reminder that we’re also in the position to be the greatest instrument of goodness and blessing for them, too.

I also really appreciated 9 Things Adult Daughters Want Their Mothers to Know. It resonated with me as a daughter and inspired me as a mother.

On the flipside, Raising Gentle Boys was good encouragement for thinking about the new baby. He’ll be himself in so many ways that are more about just being his own person and not necessarily about his gender, but since I don’t know anything about those other things yet… this is what I’ve got to think about: ultrasound technology reassures us that the baby seems to be developing normally and is, in fact, male.

This post on the benefits of knowing yourself was great. I’ve followed Kristin’s blog for a while and really appreciate so many of her reflections on frugality and family life. I remember the sense of relief that came when I decided I was done with “couponing” and then again in the last few months when I decided borrowing baby clothes was more stressful for me than it was worth, and her advice here resonated deeply for me:

“We don’t all have to be good at the same things, and we don’t all have to love the same things.
(No one can possibly be good at everything and love everything!)
The important thing is to live within your means and manage your money responsibly, and there are a zillion ways to do that well.”

If knowing yourself means identifying with a Myers-Briggs personality type, this Definition of Hell for Each Myers-Briggs Personality Type might extremely accurate. I am an ENFP, but just barely on to the extroverted side; I’m pretty sure Aaron is exactly the opposite, an ISTJ. Hell for an ENFP is essentially the description of the job I held for 3 years when Aaron and I first got married, and it was just nice to (again) be affirmed that I wasn’t being dramatic when I told people it was like a living hell.
For the ENFP:  Every minute of the rest of your life has been scheduled for you – and it’s a long series of arbitrary, solitary tasks.
For the ISTJ: You are expected to complete a highly esteemed project with absolutely no guidance as to what’s expected of you.
In some ways, this describes both of our current occupations as well, which is particularly laughable. (I will say, the monotonous aspects of life as a stay-home mom are much more tolerable after living through some of the truly horrendous -for me- tasks in my old job. and both of these descriptions apply to quite a bit of parenting.)

Aaron has been reviewing different management and productivity materials for companies he is interested in working for… There’s a lot of interesting stuff out there! This Tedx Talk from David Allen (who wrote “Getting Things Done”) is an oldie-but-a-goodie. We were just talking about some of the stuff he says here, and I think it’s very much worth 22 minutes of your time. (Grab a notebook to take some notes and jot down some thoughts afterwards!) We were just saying we might need to review this together every few months… It’s not a bad idea.

Another Ted presentation from Pamela Ronald talks about the intersection of “Organic” farming and GMO crops hits on some good points for lay discussions on agriculture and biotechnology.

This blog from Mandi covers a lot of great topics about recurring loss and pregnancy after miscarriages. In some ways she seems like my Catholic twin in reflecting on those topics and I think this blog is a great resource for interested parties.

I recently rediscovered LibriVox, full of free audio books in the public domain, and I’m enjoying working through the Anne of Green Gables series again. I find that YA literature is just right for listening while I’m working around the house — it’s engaging but not so dense that I can’t get something else done, too.

Annie recently discovered the joys of hitting things with a plastic spoon, so I gave her some tupperware to beat and turned on Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare For the Common Man. So much fun. So much proletariat ire. (Copeland was a phenomenal American composer with strong ties to progressive/socialist  politics. I’m linking to it’s performance at a 9/11 memorial to compensate on the other side, maybe?)
Musician mama side note: I really like showing her videos of musical performances where she can see the instruments!

We’re looking forward to a low-key weekend with a few little house projects, playing outside with Annie and Max, and lots of much-needed relaxing. Have a happy weekend, friends!

reading round up 2.13.15

[What We’re Up To] 
This has been a fairly out-of-control few weeks. My grandmother recently passed away, so Annie and I spent over a week in Michigan for the funeral, and came  home with wicked colds. I’m still not entirely recovered, probably due to her waking up congested/crabby/hungry 4-6x every night for the past several weeks. We’re surviving, but we’re also wearing our pajamas for several days in a row and the house is a complete disaster. (As in, “it’s a good thing no one is calling CPS on us” dirty.) But! The disarray is also here because we’ve got stuff pulled out all over the place to prepare for installing the new floor in the whole upstairs starting this weekend! Then we’ll use a gift card and go out to eat, because making progress on DIY projects and not having to cook speaks love and romance to me in so many ways. Aaron is a good man and he knows this about me.

Annie is now six months old, so in celebration we presented her with an exciting, but not quite age-appropriate, toy. Max understands it better than she does. (And now that enough time has passed and I’m sure my thoughts on the whole thing are not crazy, or at least they haven’t changed with this much perspective, I may get brave/annoyed enough to share some *non-graphic* thoughts on the “birth culture” in America.)

[Valentine’s Reading]
My all-time favorite treatise on love and finding contentment with the simpler life is The Romance of Domesticity, written by the husband-half of one of my all-time favorite couples.
Despite a few nagging theological differences, I think a series on marriage from a while back at Like Mother, Like Daughter really hit the nail on the head for me. I was very encouraged to know we’re building something of spiritual value in marriage, even before we had kids, and even when building up marriage and each other comes at the expense of other “good” things. Now, this can be taken WAY TOO FAR, and I think the book below provides some balance to that, but there were some encouraging thoughts found here. 

I’m reading You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan, which can be purchased on their website or downloaded free in PDF format. (I chose the free PDF.) I really appreciate the focus on the Kingdom of God instead of the glorification of marriage, which is what usually oozes out of stuff I read. If I hear one more thing about how the primary key to Christian life is “Building a Marriage-Centered Family” or something like that without this balance, I might scream. (It’s dangerous and idolatrous.) Instead, I’m finding this very refreshing:

You are more than a spouse. If you have been blessed with kids, you are more than a parent. You have a unique role in the Kingdom of God, and he has great works for you to do… For some of you, it isn’t about the “Christian Bubble,” it’s just the plain old idolatry of the family. I want you to seriously ask yourself: Do I spend more time focusing on being a good spouse and parent, or more time focusing on being a godly person?

This excellent Ted Talk asks, “Can You Feed 9,000,000,000 People?” and goes over much of the truth the “organic” crowd misses when they condemn GMO crops. I’d ask any of my friends to thoroughly examine these claims before condemning genetic engineering in crop science.

Mostly classical and nerdy this week…
The Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky
Toccata and Fugue in D-minor, BMV 565 by Johann Sebastian Bach.

One-Star Book Reviews are just plain fun. As I think about children’s literature, I can’t help but appreciate the kindly reviewer for The Flopsy Bunnies: “The focus on killing baby bunnies and fighting over what to do with their bodies once they were dead, wasn’t very child friendly.” Duly noted.
These New Titles For Children’s Books (Based Entirely On Their Covers) is providing much entertainment here. My favorites? “Whoever Is On That Boat Is About To Be Disemboweled,” and “When The Colorblind Decorate.” Maybe “Midget Girl Adopts Satan’s Puppy,” too.
Unrelated to kids’ reading, Elizabethan Superheros is also worthy of a few chortles.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and happy weekend!

reading round-up (5.30.14)

Happy Friday! This week held a very noteworthy celebration: The first “real” piano student sign up of my Minnesota piano studio! We toasted this occasion with the most despicable-tasting sparkling cider available in the Target clearance aisle. (Seriously. It was awful. We both said something like, “We should have just had champagne. I think pregnant ladies in Europe drink sometimes and their kids are okay…”)
photo 2 (1)

Here are some reading suggestions for the start of a beautiful weekend…

[One] You guys, it’s been legitimately sort of HOT this week. We haven’t turned on the AC yet (we rebel against that sort of thing for a while), but it’s toasty enough to reschedule Max’s mid-afternoon walk so we can go to the basement for downstairs chores and naps instead. I have been really happy with my strategic door-and-window opening plan, which was inspired by this old post about “Living without A/C and Liking It!” from Like Mother, Like Daughter. We actually don’t know if the air conditioning unit works in this house, so we’ll get it cleaned out and hope for the best when it starts getting hotter! (I keep thinking… if you can’t make it until June for a/c when you live in Minnesota, you’re in serious trouble.)

[Two] I’ll probably whack out a whole post about how ridiculous the “mommy wars” are, especially in evangelical Christian subculture, but this post from Jen Wilkinson was particularly encouraging as I gear up for being a part-time working mom.

[Three] This look at the stairway to wisdom from David Brooks includes some great thoughts about the personal stories behind statistics, especially in relation to teen pregnancy.

[Four] I’ve seen this post about homeschooling popping around among friends quite a bit. I’m not going to deny that if I wrote an article about homeschooling (as someone who was homeschooled, has worked closely in tutoring other homeschool families in upper grades, is married to someone who was homeschooled, and will need to make some decisions about educating my own kid in the future) it would say the exact opposite of this one. In general, my opinion is that 85% of homeschool families need a more serious attitude about academics and a lot less restrictions for everything else. But it’s worth reading and reflecting critically whether you agree with it or not!

[Five] I love these thoughts on “scruffy hospitality” and welcoming people into life as you are!  Good, good words from Jack King.

“Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are.’ …Friendship isn’t about always being ‘excellent’ with one another. Friendship is about preparing a space for authentic conversation. And sometimes authenticity happens when everything is a bit scruffy.”

[Six] Two different friends have recommended the “Hillsdale Dialogues” series to me for combating intellectual decay. These lectures on literature have provided some mental stimulation lately, so they are worth checking out even if you’re a little intimidated (or not immediately interested) in hearing about The Illiad or Sir Gawain.

[Seven] Maybe especially because, finally, some things are really coming together —PhDbaby, duckling, puppy… what else could we want?– we’ve been battling a lot of thoughts about hopes, both the ones we felt were dashed so many times in the last few years, and the ones we’re still not sure about for the future. There are questions about calendars and things that don’t look like we thought they should at this point, birthdays that came before all the things we wanted to do by that age were done, and uncertainty about how to redream for some of life. I loved this encouragement from Ann Voskamp:

Time can’t dictate dreams or hijack hope or determine destination. Time may have hands on the clock but it’s arms are too weak to rob anybody of hope, steal anybody’s prayers, destroy anybody’s joy. And so what if time’s got hands on a clock — it’s God who has His Hands on the universe. Every little thing is going to be okay because God is working good through every little thing. All that’s happening is just happening to make miracles. There are miracles always unfolding under the impossibles.
“Joys are always on their way to us,” writes Amy Carmichael. “They are always traveling to us through the darkness of the night. There is never a night when they are not coming.”
Because there is never a night where joys are not coming to us, there is never a road that can’t arrive at Hope.Circumstances can go ahead and run out of time — but the courageous refuse to run out of hope. We can always hope because there is always joy traveling to us down the unexpected roads.

“The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” – Psalm 147:11

The mosquitos are particularly nasty, but we’re hoping for another weekend of bonfires, laughter, Max adventures, and some more painting. (I can tell it’s making a big and beautiful difference in this house that needed a lot of “lipstick and rouge,” but will it ever end? I think “soft flipping” a house and getting a puppy effectively eradicated the possibility of ‘relaxing weekends’ before the baby arrives. )

(You can enjoy more quick reads at Conversion Diary!) 





reading round-up (5.16.14)

red tulip

[One] It’s hard to shake off the joy that creeps up along with the new blades of grass each spring. Did you know one of the oldest notated English songs celebrates this very fact? It’s true. Sumer is Icumen In!

[Two] Earlier this week, my younger sister (also a homeowner and expectant mama) and I chatted about our yards, which feels incredibly grown up. We’re both trying to cultivate beauty and order in houses that were poorly neglected by previous owners with the intention of turning a profit by selling in a few years. I’m not even sure what we used to talk about, but now it’s the merits (and resale value) of investing in grass seed, pavers, mulch, walkways, and firepits. So with that in mind, I really appreciated this article about how the primary work of man — that is, tilling the soil — makes nature more beautiful, and how much benefit there is to subduing the wilderness. My favorite quote? “If farming is the Martha of man’s relationship with nature, gardening is the Mary.” [Get Out of the Wilderness and Into the Garden.]

[Three] Ever wonder what you should really know about American History? Here’s a five-minute clip from David McCullough to assist in your quest for greater knowledge (or just a higher level of cultural literacy.)
[Four] If you’re looking for an hour-long podcast, we thought this interview in defense of genetic modification of plants was extremely interesting. Even if you are skeptical (or disagree) with the practices, this discusses the history of plant breeding AND some other common methods of modern plant breeding that are, in my opinion, infinitely  more concerning than mainstream cis- and trans-genic modifications. (Seriously. Should we be eating plants that came from parent plants blasted by radiation in order to produce the desired mutation? Or should we use precise technology to get the exact mutation we want and avoid the unknown effects of radiation or other changes? If you are lost in this part of the discussion, you need to study further before “taking a stand” on the GMO debate.) Furthermore, I thought his points about how your worldview shapes everything you believe were very insightful, especially in regards to the lack of “inherent virtue” in nature. (Maybe this relates a little bit to the necessity of man tilling the soil after the fall? Nature alone isn’t going to fully sustain anymore and scientific progress is going to have to improve things? Much to think on here.)
[Six] Poor Max has his first ear infection. Dogs have deep, crooked ear canals and those things can get nasty. I won’t link to this, but a cursory glance of Google search offerings about caring for a dog’s ear infection before you can get in to the vet uncovered another world of crazy. Not only are there major “mommy wars” about food, medical care, and vaccinations, but also “doggy wars” about those things, too. I mean, if some tincture of coconut oil, raw unfiltered with-the-mother apple cider vinegar, leftover organic red quinoa water and a splash of sriracha (I don’t know what that is, but I’ve seen it on pinterest too many times for it to not be the next big item in your naturopathic remedies) makes your dog feel better, great… but I kept finding people saying things like, “I tried this natural remedy for four months and his eardrum finally ruptured – now he feels great!” It disturbed me. I hope they aren’t doing that to their kids, too. I’m pretty confident this is the result of some trapped water leftover from his weekend swim and some combination of anti-fungal and antibiotics should solve the problem.
[Seven] I could (and probably will) just write a whole post about how much we have loved (and learned) in having a dog for almost six months. In the meantime, several of the points from this list are really hitting home for me. (Also, there are whole lists of videos on YouTube where military service-members reunite with their dogs. I accidentally watched one of them right before Bible study a few weeks ago and was late because I had to go downstairs and redo all my makeup afterwards. Then I cried when I put Max in the kennel and he looked at me with the sad eyes. It was rough.)
happy max
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! We are hoping to enjoy some time in the sunshine with Max, evening bonfires, and have hopes of getting LOTS of painting done inside and outside the house. (It’s about time!)

reading round-up (1.17.14)

As I’ve alluded to before, it’s pretty cold. People who voluntarily move to Minnesota at Christmas are not really allowed to complain about this, so I am trying to find ways to celebrate the season. Of first importance, we celebrate that Max is pretty confidently adapting to using his doggie door, which makes the most annoying part of puppy-raising require less time out in the cold for us. Secondly, I’m really enjoying Six Classical Music Portraits of Winter from The Imaginative Conservative. Let me know if you have a favorite!

I really appreciated 5 Tips for Loving People through the Loss of a Marriage. It makes my stomach turn when I think of how much pain I’ve watched friends experience in divorce, and when the people who should be able to love them best don’t know what to do, it seems even worse. I especially loved her points about the importance of avoiding assumptions (you do not know all the details, ever), validating a person’s experience without jumping to advice, and being a safe presence for the long grief journey.

Looking around at this new house splattered with stuff I can’t figure out how to organize, and a non-working dishwasher, I’m grateful (and most needful) of the encouragement about keeping a clean home from Emily. I definitely recommend all four parts of her series, and hope to get to a point where they can be implemented here soon!

I can’t decide which of these pictures I like best. The duck? The St. Bernard? The bunnies? Maybe the bunnies. Agh. So cute.

Aaron’s birthday is next week, and I’m very excited to be substituting these wonderful Chocolate Peanut Butter cups in place of his usual request (“Buckeye Peanut Butter Balls”), because they taste the same and are so much easier to make! Also, significantly less messy. The only question is: big or small muffin cups? I could see this going both ways.

USA Today shares their reader’s photos of extreme weather, which recently featured “my” lighthouse in Michigan. I find some comfort knowing it’s really cold there, too.

photo by Ted Swoboda]

Minnesota beginnings

When we decided to move to Minnesota, I didn’t have a lot to go on beyond vague notions of what it might be like. My college room-mate occasionally visited Minneapolis, and she always told me how cold it was. Because she was raised in Alabama and had one of those old-fashioned ear-flap bomber hats lined with real rabbit fur for Michigan weather, I didn’t take that warning very seriously. Ahem. Instead, the biggest frustration was that living in Minnesota would require even more driving to spend time with family in Michigan. The compensating consolation was the excellent water access, which was notably absent in Iowa. We often said, “It doesn’t have much of the Great Lakes, but it has a great number of lakes.”

Other than that, while Aaron got excited about researching Cassava and I started freaking out about moving for a temporary job and feeling so behind in life, I clung to the positive associations I had with Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion (because breaking into bluegrass songs and wry comedic sketches during regular life would be a dream come true for me), and Caribou Coffee. Now I admit I actually enjoy the specialty drinks at Starbucks better, but I appreciate the idea of Caribou’s celebration of pioneering and The Wild over Starbucks’ hip affluent consumer vibe. Folk music and antlers helped me get used to this idea, you could say.

Then, on a beautiful October afternoon, I waited in a coffee shop near St. Paul (neither Caribou nor Starbucks, and not particularly noteworthy either) while Aaron interviewed with his new team, and the sun beat warm through my window. After months of praying, with the “high” of recently selling the house fueling our sense of adventure, I wasn’t really waiting for a text from Aaron telling me how it went or if he had an answer. I knew moving was right even though it didn’t line up with any of the things I had wanted for years. We were doing it.

While I sat at that little coffee shop, God may or may not have spoken to me through an American Idol song. (When we get outside of scripture, I’m not really sure how that works always… It’s safer to avoid taking a firm stance.)

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Please pay no mind to the demons – they fill you with fear
Trouble might drag you down
When you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you’re not alone
I’m gonna make this place your home. – Philip Philips, Home

These are things I want to remember, because if I thought this story started a few weeks ago when we moved here, I’d be wildly disappointed to find I had missed my chance to cash in on the big (only) thought that comes to mind:

(It’s so cold in Minnesota that someone beat me to the punch and already published a book about it!)


{concerning vocation} liberating society

Wrapping up lessons with my piano students is one of the most sentimental parts of this season of endings. I’ve been overwhelmingly blessed with a career that uses my talents and training, and after three years of a job that definitely  wasn’t like that, I have been especially grateful for every single day of this experience.

[image source here]

[image source here]

Maybe the most fulfilling part of this job is that it puts me in control of my success for a day of work. I don’t have to worry about choosing between making a customer or my boss happy. All I have to do is get along with this kid for this half-hour, and I really enjoy that I tailor my lesson plans based on what I know is best for each student because of our established relationship. I love that I am in control of studio members, so I can easily weed out students who don’t want to cooperate and parents who are manipulative or difficult. Most of the time those issues are probably just personality differences, but it’s a huge gift that I decide where I get to draw those lines.

Self-employment is an experience you can’t understand until you’ve done it yourself. I think it’s my best fit, and I’m excited that moving provides a great opportunity to make a few changes for better growth as a business owner… even though it does mean basically starting over with clients, too. This sets me apart a bit from others who don’t understand what it means to work for yourself, and I find the comments from people who don’t “get it” pretty laughable. Most people have been spared the hassle of billing, fees, bookkeeping, paying taxes that aren’t withheld by an employer, saving up for unpaid sick and vacation days, and selecting a single-payer private health-insurance plan for a woman in her mid-twenties, but those are just as much a part of my day-to-day business operations as sitting at the piano. 

I learned a lot of lessons in my season of office work and I think that strengthens my perspective in many aspects of life. I’m still not at the point where I would say I’m glad I went through that. I wish I hadn’t believed the doubts and been brave enough to start moving towards this sooner. On the other hand, self-employment is not for the faint of heart, and I still think we were a little bit crazy to jump forward while Aaron was in grad school and we had a mortgage and wanted to have kids, but it has enriched our lives greatly. In the face of other significant heartbreak and waiting, it has been a special gift to be so fulfilled and delighted in my job.

I’m grateful the days I have worked are leaving more behind than a bunch of pay stubs. I’ve marched around my living room to the beat of a metronome to demonstrate that two eighth-notes fit in the same amount of time as a quarter note, watched hard work and discipline result in beautiful self-expression, and explained how JS Bach’s Crab Canon is like one giant math problem on a Moebius strip. I’ve helped kids prepare songs to play at their grandparents’ funerals, admonished unprepared students to develop a stronger work ethic, and taught them how to fairly evaluate their own improvements. The best part of a day is telling a child, “You worked hard and I am so proud of you!” Piano lessons? Sometimes it feels more like I’m teaching “Life Lessons.” I’m okay with that.

While I’ve been told I earn a “killing” (ha) to “stay home and sit around,” (ha) and have been told charging a fair rate is “greedy” (ha), none of that is true. I’m pretty sure I’ve been wildly blessed in this job and I’m grateful for that. How many people can say the cornerstone of their career is “rocking”? Not many. I’m in a happy minority.

music HA HA

reading round-up (10.04.13)

Too bad it’s controversial to argue that the primary purpose of high school is educating students. Here’s an article I found really interesting about a school that ended their high-school sports programs in favor of a (much cheaper) school-wide fitness initiative. Most of my teacher friends say school sports should be abolished in favor of intramural or club teams, which would take no money from the school and no class time away from the students, and I would love to read about more schools trying this!

This month my piano students and I are celebrating “Bach-tober,” in honor of the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach. I enjoyed reading about the Resurrection themes of his life and music. Anyone interested in a further look at his life might enjoy Evening in the Palace of Reason, by James R Gaines, and anyone just wanting to listen to some cool music should check out the Bach-stiftung YouTube channel.

So, speaking of education and music… Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results explains a lot (to me) about what worked and didn’t work in my academic classes last year, and Peter Lawler’s follow-up Teaching As Shouting is helping me evaluate my philosophy as a music teacher. Private music lessons are still mostly a “bonus” activity for many families, and I’ve always had the impression the kids who most need some straight talk about their work ethic or focus are the ones with parents who would withdraw them from the studio if they ever cried during or after a lesson.
Lawler also had some interesting comments on stress. I found the first sentence alarming and the rest encouraging: “The best way to handle stress is to routinely experience it. [OH NO!] As Aristotle says, the best way to come to possess the moral virtue of courage is actually to be in situations where courage is required to live well. The more the virtue becomes your own, the easier it is to keep your head, choose well, and even be happy in risky situations.” I think instead of saying my life feels stressful right now, I want to start saying it is full of risky situations. That sounds more adventurous.

Debate about GMO crops hits close to home for us because of Aaron’s research in that field and, contrary to some public opinions, actual scientific research about the safety and benefits of crop engineering has been overwhelmingly positive!

friday five: classical music for halloween

One of my goals in life is to get more people listening to classical music. I believe this would be a great weekend to explore some of my spooky favorites, which are shared here in chronological order. (Admittedly, some of these youtube videos are not that exciting.)

1) Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by JS Bach (1685-1750). Such a classic.

2) Erlkonig by Franz Schubert (1797-1828). This sad story is from a poem by Goethe, and you can hear  the child crying “My father, my father!” in terror before being kidnapped.

3) Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz (1803 – 1869). This is just the fifth movement, called “The Witches Sabbath.” This selection depicts the vulgar and grotesque sounds of a pagan gathering. The witches’ dance becomes a diabolical joke as it melds with the tune of a “Dies Irae” chant, which was used in churches to teach about Judgment Day.

4) Danse Macbre by Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921). This gruesome “Death Dance” isn’t quite as exhilarating and terrifying as some of these other songs, but the xylophones are supposed to sound like rattling bones.  Creepy!

5)  Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881). This is another Witches Sabbath scene from a Russian composer.

I hope you can explore some interesting music this weekend!

do what you love what you do

There have been some big changes for us in the works for the last several weeks and I’m really excited to share the news about moving forward into some new life adventures. So here it is: After almost three years of working full-time at a bank, I’m starting a new part-time job so I can focus more time and energy on teaching piano lessons from home. Hooray!

It’s difficult to know what to say about leaving the bank job. I have learned a lot, but it’s hard and sad to think about spending so much time and energy on something I’m not cut out for. I really struggled with many aspects of my duties there. I’m not a “type A, everything in it’s place, just follow the rules, order-without-beauty” person. For most of my time there, there hasn’t been opportunity to exercise my personal strengths and I’ve felt very stifled. Furthermore, the regular full-time job thing means that my employer controls most of my life. Someone else chooses when I have to work, what I can wear, when I can eat lunch,  if I can snack between meals, in some cases even when I can use the bathroom, whether or not I can have time off around the holidays to see family, how I can use e-mail and the internet, and so on. This is just part of life for most people, but it has weighed heavy on me this whole time.

I’ve been teaching piano in the evenings for about a year, and since that started I’ve turned down several families seeking afternoon lessons because I had to be at my regular job during that time. What? I can’t get paid fairly to do what I love because I’m too busy getting paid a lot less to stay at a job I don’t love? Who’s brilliant idea was that? We realized the absurdity of this situation. I would definitely prefer to be working from home doing things that I’m actually good at, so we began thinking about other boring, very grown-up topics that would impact this dream of responsible self-employment: health insurance, taxes, retirement savings, coupons, groceries, mortgage payments. It was clear that I would really need to work about 20 hours a week in some sort of flexible job, because music income would likely be a little shaky with school breaks and the variation of my students’ disposable income.  So a few weeks ago, amid prayers and tears and a big part of me wondering if those lame-o money details would ever come together…

…a really flexible part-time job landed in my lap.

This is truly a gift. It’s so hard to feel like you’re slaving away, that your work-life (and consequently, the rest of your life) is just one giant blob of frustration and deadness, reading countless application rejection letters and wondering if anything will ever get better. Maybe because I have been through a long season like that, I can say pretty confidently that landing this new job was not of my own doing. Even in my gratefulness, it’s easy to wonder “Why now? Why not two years ago?” I don’t know why this came together now. Or why it happened at all, really. But grace opened a door and we’re running through it.

Naturally, I am thrilled – I’ll be working partially from home with quite a bit of control over my schedule, and the flexible part-time hours will give me more chances to market my music business and connect with future students. This means… from here on out, it’s all on me. This is a big change and a new sense responsibility on me. I’m excited, and a little nervous about jumping back into the role of the confident self-starter I was before my current job. Hopefully it will not take long to excel in this re-entry into a life of true self-government. Of course I know I can do this, but I’m not going to pretend there is no anxiety or sense of uncertainty somewhere deep inside me as I prepare for this.

Enough blabbing about these details, though. Plenty of people get through their whole lives not even knowing what they’re good at or what they would do if they could choose anything. The point is, I’m 25, I already know I’m good at some of the things I love, and I get to make a living doing something I’m really passionate about. And be my own boss at least half of the time. That’s pretty awesome.

[photo from kara paslay designs]