The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Rounding Corners February 4, 2017

It’s my hope that this blog doesn’t end up languishing in the virtual ether. Some weeks it seems there’s hardly time enough to take a shower let alone upload pics and cobble together some content…. I asked Elihu why it was that years ago, when my mother duties were non-stop, when I taught far more students than I do today, when farm chores and household repairs were mine alone – why in the face of all that, was I able to write more frequent posts, and to be more reflective about them too? These days it seems a month goes by and I find myself all of a sudden in a cold panic that I’ve let so much time pass; by one week’s time so much has happened I don’t know where to start, by three weeks’ time it seems as if a whole year has passed and the temptation exists to just forget the whole silly thing altogether.

I recently heard Fran Lebowitz say that just because everyone could write a book doesn’t mean everyone should write a book. I felt guilty when I heard this. Man. Was I one of those lame-ass, self-aggrandizing folks who thought their story was so compelling and insightful that I just knew everyone would want to read it if given the chance? A Facebook post of a high school friend recently asked friends for advice regarding the fate of her angst-ridden journals from years ago… Most advocated a toss into the fire, as Ms. Lebowitz would likely have endorsed. Me, I told her not to toss them, but to read them from her current perspective. To read them with compassion and curiosity. But that’s just me. I want to hear everyone’s story. (Maybe that’s why deep down I think that everyone secretly wants to read mine…)

Ms. Lebowitz also chides those who would write for the sake of writing alone.  She posits that one needs ‘something to say’ in order to write. That a person who would write must have a thorough knowledge on her subject. Those things, I might argue with some degree of confidence, I do have. Ms. Lebowitz also stresses the quality of writing, as well as its uniqueness. Hm. Do I possess a unique voice? A distinct style? Do I write prose of certain quality? Not so much, I’m thinking. There are times when I read my old writing and I think “Man, how naive this person is. This writing is so generic! And man, how self-involved (and likely young) this person is!” And I’ll say this not even realizing it’s my own writing. Proof positive that I don’t have a handle on any of that shit. Alternately, I might read some of my past material (again, not realizing at first that it’s me doing the talking) and think, “Damn, that’s exactly it! This person has nailed it… Why doesn’t anyone else make these observations?” But then again, it’s content alone that I’m responding to. Not style. Cuz really, I’m not sure that I actually have one. The only telltale sign that it’s me might be the reflective use of “but still”…

Indeed I digress, as I don’t intend to delve into literary criticism here but rather get to the action that’s been going on in our lives since the last post. Proof that this blogging effort is really about content, content, content! Quality be damned. Let’s get caught up, shall we?

Between The Studio, The Hillhouse, the aviation endeavors, the performances and the critters, there’s been enough to keep us super swinging busy. As Elihu comforted me the other day, after I’d asked him one too many times why it was so hard to get things done these days, “The Studio is a real thing now. Things are the way they are supposed to be. You’re busy with real things now.” Real indeed. An electric bill that exceeds my take by four times, a property that needs constant plowing and attention, insurance bills that don’t stop, and a roster of piano students that has dwindled to the lowest number since I moved here eight and a half years ago. Some things promise growth, but many others are still in flux – and the next era, while showing some signs of being just around the next corner, is not quite upon us. Not quite. But still…It’s getting closer…

country-roadsThe Studio sign is on the right, at the bend in the road.

scrambledSynclaire is a pro host, rapper and producer. Thanks to her, Express Yourself has become a scene.

img_3829Charlotte’s a favorite.

img_3895Ava (a Waldorf School kid) moved the crowd deeply, reading from her journals. Truly awesome.

express-1Rapping is more a part of this culture than I would have guessed. And let me tell you, it takes real talent to rap “off the dome” as the kids say.

sound-checkFrom Open Mic night to a full-on rock show. Things change a lot in 24 hours!

sangerGirl’s feelin it.

young-crowdNow it’s a younger crowd.

m-and-mdNext week it’s a chill evening for an older demographic.

blwLight shows play nicely on the angled ceiling. This was a really enjoyable event.

light-showA whole new look for The Studio. I think my dad digs this from wherever he is now. Yeah. He’s smiling.

close-upBleak Little World sounded great. A fun night.

self-portrait-hpschdLate night self portrait in the office. John Cage fans: note the HPSCHD poster in the back left. !

morning-at-the-studioJust six hours later after I left, cars arrive for the next day’s event.

yoga-classI had to have the floor mopped and dried in time for yoga at 9 am the next morning. Phew!

smiling-kKristin is a wonderful yoga teacher. Kind, gentle and in-tune with what her class needs.

chaosBack home our house is fairly chaotic. I do NOT enjoy this state of being.

e-makes-bfastBut thankfully, Elihu is learning how to take over some domestic duties. It makes us both feel good.

miss-e-at-the-pianoNow it’s time for Jesus Christ Superstar. Last time I played this challenging score it was with a band. And, I was 9 months pregnant with lil man. It came back fairly easily, but still, playing this book for an hour and a half straight (sans band) had me a little wiped afterward. Plus I had to keep a couple bags of frozen peas around to ice down my aching and arthritic fingers during rehearsals.

elihu-and-eThe kid still comes along with me most of the time. He’s pretty good about it, and always I tell him how much I appreciate it.

ms-carp-and-coThese kids worked their butts off. Gina, at left, is the most inspiring teacher and director. !!!

last-supperThe Last Supper.

ambulanceSadly, our friend – the light/soundman – fell from a ladder and needed attention ASAP. As of this writing he’s doing well – which is nothing short of a friggin miracle. We all loved our time with Chuck. He’s what you’d call a Really Good Human Being. Hard to imagine, but he returned the next two days to see us through our shows.

jsc-holding-handsChecking in before the night’s performance.

jsc-ready-to-goYeah, I’m pretending I’m a rock star. In case you were wondering.

friendsAfter the last show we went to Compton’s, the local diner on Broadway. These kids are all so comfortable with each other, so kind and generous. I’m so thrilled for their incredible performances.

waldorf-rocksLook! I got in the paper twice on the same page! For Express Yourself and our most rockin performance of Jesus Christ Superstar by the Waldorf School Seniors! (At the equally rockin venue Universal Preservation Hall.)

goodbye-sg-on-westEnd of an era. Saratoga Guitar closes its West Ave shop. For every chapter there has always been a certain guitar store that acted as a hub for my life. This location was that central hub for my life here in New York. Saratoga Guitar has now moved to Weibel Avenue. As I like to say: ‘Weibel is the new West’.

packing-upSad to see this room of so many memories now almost packed up.

field-house

Ah, but there are more changes afoot too. The house in the field is built and ready. There is still no light, but any day now that will change. And that will be the most profound and saddest change yet in a very long time.

tree-sky-1On a walk to the field I looked up and had a hard time comprehending the size and mass of the trees.

tree-sky-2Then I saw the tiny fingerlings of seedpods, so small, so close-up. From this contrast I gleaned the idea:    Incremental becomes monumental. (Let this notion inspire me as I contemplate yet another diet in my life. !)

awesome-lunchA perfect lunch followed the perfect walk in the woods.

img_6972Which was then followed by a quiet evening at home.

later-nightIt’s been a very busy month. We’re not depressed here, just kinda run down. Bedtime is always welcome!

penny-plane-3The result of a quiet night at home is this “Penny Plane”, so named because it weighs less than a penny.

May many more pennies find their way to us in the future!! Financially things are still pretty rough these days, but with the help of friends and family, we’ve made it this far, and to all of you who’ve helped us to stay afloat, we thank you with our love and deep gratitude. Honestly, I do think the hardest days are past. It really does feel like we’re about to turn a huge corner on our way to the future.

But still, there are a few challenging hurdles ahead. The photos we post here don’t always tell the whole story. Even so, they do reflect the lovely variety of happy events that we’ve been lucky enough to experience over the past few weeks. Both Elihu and I feel very fortunate to be living this varied and interesting life, right here and right now. And we hope that all of you reading, all of you, the friends we have yet to meet, will also come to meet your own bright futures very soon. Thanks for joining us on our continuing adventure, and we’ll see you around the next corner.

 

All That Jazz March 8, 2016

There are a few things my son will likely remember me for long after I’m gone; a handful of annoying habits, some exaggerated facial expressions and hopefully, a couple of unique and insightful locutions.

Starting when he was teeny, I have always strived to condense matters, facts and various life lessons into concise, easy-to-remember phrases that when spoken will instantly conjure the matter at hand and remind one of the lesson to be learned. One of these such sayings is “Everything is a thing.” While its meaning may not be instantly gleaned by the reader, I think you’ll understand it easily enough if I expand a bit: I offer that within every seemingly commonplace thing or event, there exists a huge back story belonging to that thing; an industry, the thought and careful consideration of many human beings, and certainly the investment of time and money. To some certain folk, the mundane things we so easily take for granted may be the very cornerstones of their lives and careers.

You can take just about anything that is fashioned by the hand of man and find this to be so. The upshot of this idea? That one should take nothing for granted; the toil and thoughtful consideration of many of our fellow human beings are represented in every imaginable thing we enjoy or use. It’s easy to overlook how much was involved in the making of the chewed-up pencil which lies long-forgotten in the detritus of your junk drawer. But someone owns the factory which makes the little metal band which holds the eraser in place. Someone had to buy the materials to make the eraser, someone had to insure the trucks which drove the materials to the factory, and so on. One can take this tack with virtually everything on this earth which is not naturally existing, without the influence of man.

Years ago, when I was in the barfly chapter of my life, there was a charming neighborhood tavern I frequented in which a handsome young man with long, gently-curling, red-blonde hair tended bar. (He himself was not a drinker, and I often wondered how ridiculous we hard-drinking, hard-smoking patrons must have appeared to him as the night progressed.) It was a small thrill to watch him at his work, and as he was a kind and intelligent fellow, I wished I’d had a better opportunity to speak with him outside of the bar environment. One night I got my wish, and the young man agreed to join a small gang of friends whom I’d rallied to meet up after hours at the Green Mill Lounge. With live and top-drawer music every night of the week, there was almost never a bad night to stop in.

The bartender looked quizzically at me. He wanted a bit more information about the proposed destination, so I tried to explain. “It’s a jazz club. There’s live music.” He looked at me, appearing unsure of my meaning. “You know, jazz.” A light of some sort went on in his head and he responded, almost incredulously; “Is that the place where they do all that improvising?”  Yes, yes, that was it! I agreed with great excitement by shaking my head; yes, that was it precisely! He looked almost pained at my confirmation. He shook his head to decline the invitation. “No, I’m not going. Nooo. I don’t like all that improvising“. I didn’t press the matter, the crowd was moving, and he couldn’t be talked into it. There was so much I wanted to add – I wanted to explain the context, the framework of the music so it might have made more sense to him, so he might’ve taken interest. In that moment I realized something: even though people may have some things in common – perhaps even a lot in common, culturally speaking – they can live in radically different private worlds. Jazz was a foreign country to him, but it felt like my home town. Something that acted as a cornerstone and primary identifier for my life was nothing but an annoyance to this guy. There wasn’t any point to trying to sway him, so I took my new lesson as a consolation.

From that point on, I have never taken any of my experiences or values for granted. And even though I may overlook things, or never truly demystify them for myself (case in point: I still have no idea how the game of football works; to me it just looks like a laborious, injury-prone and war-like game of chess which takes way too long), I still give these other worlds their due. When someone tells me they’re into something, or they collect something or play some game I know nothing about, I have a certain amount of respect for all that that might represent. It’s easy to take for granted all the time and energy that things take. Hobbies and careers alike require a lot of behind-the-scenes investment. And I try to make sure that Elihu recognizes that too. Thankfully I think I’ve been successful imparting that to him. (I myself have a lot of my life invested in that kid for sure, and lest anyone toss off the role of mother as a sidebar to a ‘real job’ – my child would certainly prove otherwise on that account!)

But not everyone does fully appreciate the value of another’s skills or accomplishments. The other day I had an adult piano student with whom I had the most unusual experience… He arrived at his lesson with an amp, a guitar, a huge boom box and a bag full of CDs. That much wasn’t so crazy; he was primarily a guitar player and wanted a chance to learn how to play on piano what he did on guitar. I got that. Seemed like a lot of work just for an hour’s lesson, but I’ve moved more gear for shorter jobs. But then the ‘lesson’ began to drag on, and almost three hours later I’d hardly given him any instruction, but rather we’d spent the time playing small parts of songs along with the CDs on the boom box (I had my own boom box, but it wasn’t substantial enough in his estimation). We’d essentially just been jamming on half-bits of songs, piddling around, getting nowhere with neither one of us learning much in the process. (I did learn that one of these country artists he liked chose to play a lot in Db, which I found curious.) He’d wanted me to have the boom box – on which great rings of red light flashed like an annoying karaoke machine in a bar – and he’d been most enthusiastic about giving it to me. I said politely that it was “too generous”, at which he agreed and said that we could just call it a trade. My heart sank to my feet. Food stamps were two weeks out, my ex’s payment was late, and I had a $50 tuba lesson in a few days’ time. What the fuck was I going to do? And how could I politely refuse this horrible machine that made it look as if a small spaceship had landed in my living room? I smiled my way to the end of my wasted afternoon and saw him out.

When you play an instrument – and you play well enough to join in pretty much any situation – but you don’t play like a virtuoso – I find it’s easy for people to take your skill for granted. They might think “you’re talented”, or “you’re lucky cuz it comes easy to you”, so therefore it’s no big deal. Something like that. As if you hadn’t spent hundreds of hours supporting that talent or skill. As if somehow, since what you did was “fun”, it wasn’t worth as much. It wasn’t in the same category of the necessary services like litigating, filing taxes or cleaning teeth. Here was a guy who’d somehow thought that because he was having such a good time, and because I was playing along so effortlessly – that somehow my time no longer had as much value. I don’t quite know how a person can come to such a conclusion, but how else to account for his oversight? He even left me with the request that I learn some of the songs on the pile of CDs he gave me. I lightheartedly suggested that he get a gig for us, and then I’d gladly learn them. He reasoned that you need to ‘work up the material’ before you book the gig. He was a nice guy, but he was missing something here. Everything is a thing. And this was my thing.

After stewing over it for a while, I ended up sending him an email. Cuz I honestly feed my son with my teaching income. I couldn’t overlook it. Happily, the fellow had had some similar thoughts in hindsight of our lesson, and he was more than gracious enough to not only pay me for the lesson, but to also tip me $10. That was very kind of him, and I told him how much I appreciated it. I got a little lesson about my self-worth through this experience, and I think he did too. Yup, sometimes there really is more to the story than one thinks at first.

I’d like to get myself a piano single gig this upcoming tourist season, but there’s a pretty good chance it won’t be happening. I’ll give it a try, but I have a good idea of what I’m up against now, and I’m still unconvinced I’ll land a job. Last year I’d made a pretty good effort, but in hitting the streets after so many years, I learned all over again how involved the whole process was. Again, there’s so much more to getting a job as a pianist and singer than you’d think; you must have dozens, if not hundreds of tunes ready to go. That means charts in your key (or charts on a tablet – that’s light years beyond my capabilities and budget at this point), it means gear, sometimes it means childcare (thankfully I’m out of those woods now!) and it means chutzpah, tenacity and salesmanship, not to mention the hours of playing and learning technique and theory. And these days, it usually means you need a nicely produced video of your performance too. Videos from over a decade ago won’t cut it, nor will your story about ‘taking time out to have a baby’. Nope, none of this will buy you an easier entree into this elusive world of the single, working musician. I suppose eventually one breaks down the barrier through sheer tenacity and a relentless drive – that seems to be the missing element in my method – but as of yet, I have not.

Nothing is every as easy as it seems upon closer inspection. Me, I’ve only ever been just good enough to play; I’ve admittedly used my ears and natural talent to cover me when hard work may have been lacking. And while I can sing and play, albeit in a rudimentary fashion, what we often call ‘jazz standards’ (which are really just pop tunes from the 20s thru the 60s which jazz instrumentalists have improvised over) I am not a jazz pianist. I can fake my way through some 2-5-1s (the chord progression upon which much of popular music is written), enough to get myself through a hotel lobby gig, but to hold that post all night at a singalong piano bar – I’m not so sure I could do that with unyielding vigor for a full three or four sets. Yeah, I could get there, and I suppose in a pinch I could possibly sub – but again, there’s a lot of infrastructure and time involved. Right now, my time’s needed in other places; I don’t have the time to make the proper investment.

There’s a joke about musicians that goes like this: How many musicians does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: 100. One to do it, and 99 to say ‘I could have done that.’ ! Next time you hear a musician, stop and try to imagine yourself doing the same thing. Hell, next time you see anyone doing anything that you don’t currently do yourself, and ask yourself how you’d fare at the task. How comfortable would you be? How long would it take you to do the same thing with moderate proficiency? It’s easy to say you’d do it better than the other guy – but honestly, would you? Everything is definitely a thing. You can play guitar in your living room, but try doing it in front of a room full of people. Completely different. It takes skill to do anything well, no matter whether it’s cutting a lawn or writing a computer program. Everything is a thing – including all that other, unfamiliar jazz.

Here’s a link to Elihu’s performance of Ghost from Hamlet, which he performed last week at school, and again over the weekend at the Greenfield Talent Show, where he won third place for the same monologue. This too represents a good deal of unseen work. I myself don’t have a clue how or when he learned his lines. But I know they didn’t learn themselves! Proud Mama am I…

 

Coasting January 24, 2014

What comfort can I take from life right now? I have woken up in a bit of a sad mood. I visited some photos of my father on the blog (it’s served us personally as our only real photographic record of the past two years) and now I sit, vaguely depressed, putting off the starting of my day. I don’t want to go into the dark, cold kitchen and find it rank with the smell of a convalescing bird. I don’t want to make breakfast, lunches. I don’t want to get dressed, to drive into town again. I just want to sit here in my bad mood and work my way out of it on my own time. I do need to check on my son however; just minutes ago I was fully present in a dream in which I’d let him go flying in a small plane and they needed assistance coasting to the ground as they’d had a fuel line problem. The dream was as vivid as is my now-real bedroom, and I can’t help but want to see my young son for myself just to make sure that the other time line has come to a close.

Strange moments, those upon waking. Dreams – whether anxious or hopeful – disintegrate like steam in the sky and all of a sudden you’re here again, in the middle of a just-so sort of life with many just-so sorts of details before you. Ich. Fuck the daily crap. Just fuck it. I feel a little bipolar here; just yesterday I was in a pretty good mood I suppose. I’d even had a couple of really good moments. “Bubbles of happiness” my son and I call them. Every now and then, when a tiny bit of joy springs up – for no apparent reason other than it’s just a very delightful moment – he or I will announce to the other out loud “I’m having a bubble of happiness right now”. The other will acknowledge it and we’ll continue on our way. Think we each had several last night. It was a nice night – complete with a phone call from a ninety-four year German woman whom I’d known in Evanston years ago – through Alice Angermann, the Vienna-schooled piano teacher of my high school and college years. Our conversation was an unexpected treat and it added even more magic to our day.

But magic and bubbles of happiness don’t last – in fact they’re very short, which is why we take the care to announce them – they need all the witness and appreciation they can get! In my same-old, same-old chair, in the dark of morning with the day’s events all just around the corner, waiting for my attention, I am not feeling very close to the mood of last night. Yeah, somehow I’ll come around. Just being with my beloved son usually does that on its own. But still, I’m looking off more towards the horizon of my existence this morning, and I’m not sure what it is that I have to look forward to there. I need more for sure. A quest, a purpose. I try to bring joy to everyone I see during my day, I try to be kind, cheerful when I can. All that sort of stuff. And that helps the world, I’m sure. And it helps me too. But today I feel like I could use a little extra bit of something. Not sure what. Just something. It’s probably the time of year that’s making me feel like this. Smack in the middle of the calendar year, the relentless cold, and tired, matted-down snow don’t do much to enliven the spirit. But isolated as I might feel here in my tiny country house in the middle of a sky-wide winter, I’m pretty sure that I am by no means the only person feeling mid-winter doldrums. Certainly not. So… breath in, chest out, foot forward. Buck we up, and on we go…

Lest I forget, tonight is the Waldorf School’s open mic night (in support of the 11th grades’ upcoming annual trip to Ethiopia) and I’ll bet you can guess who’s playing piano for a bunch of folks. ! And it’ll be a hoot, I know. Right now it’s got me grousing about having to leave the house again and drive back into town – but I know once we get there it’ll be fun. Plus Elihu will play drums with me too. Not sure folks at school are aware of how good he is. They will be soon. So he’ll have a little moment to shine too. Guess I gotta just take these little moments and count em as precious. Cuz it’s those little gems that keep me coasting through life until the next big adventure comes along….

Post Script: My father died four weeks ago tonight. I recently added the story of his final moments as an addendum to the post entitled “Vigil” (12/27/13). It was written a few hours before he passed, and it seemed to me that the post was incomplete without the full story. Dad left us crying… and laughing too. If you’re gonna go, this is the best way I could ever imagine….

 

Abundance Invisible May 3, 2013

I suppose one might say Elihu and I are as poor as church mice. On a purely practical level I guess we are. But lately – or more specifically, yesterday – with the sudden and dramatic influx of readers here, I am made aware of the subtle and often unseen nature of abundance. Nothing feels much different today, as I sit in the chair in my bedroom, bed still unmade, morning dishes still unwashed, writing on my ancient little Mac. But of course, things are different. Had no idea how the freshly pressed thing worked, how on earth anyone’s blog got mentioned on it (if it had to do with pure stats alone I was never going to see myself featured) but overnight I’ve become rather acutely aware of what it is and how it serves. Once again, my life is full full full, albeit in ways that aren’t always apparent in everyday life. I feel so much less alone this morning – Elihu too (he couldn’t stop giggling to learn about our sudden spike in readers) and I feel less like a woman muttering to herself, and more like a person with an offering to make. And that’s certainly got value; we as humans all know what it is to feel unimportant or unseen. It feels good to know that we’ve got new friends, and that we might be offering a little joy here on this sometimes incredibly difficult and tedious planet. But that’s enough on that, I don’t want to start taking myself too seriously. ! The challenge now becomes to continue to do what I’ve been doing for the past two years without censorship; without letting my voice or content be influenced by anything other than what’s going on right here and now. With that said, on to more thoughts on abundance…

The other day, after coming home from the grocery store and laying out all of our goods on the table, I sat back in awe as I tried to fully understand the bounty. “Abbondanza!” I said, over and over again, as much for myself as for making the point to my son that what we saw before us what truly a manifestation of abundance and good fortune. “Imagine one hundred years ago” Elihu mused, “this would be impossible – to them this would be unbelievable!” Yeah, my kid gets it. And how happy I am to have a kid that does. It is pretty spectacular, this bonanza before us, although we’ve become virtually desensitized to such things in our modern, Western world. (If you’re reading this it probably goes without saying you’re likely a member of this privileged club.) Products from all over the world sit on our tiny kitchen table. The lettuce we think virtually nothing of comes from California, some three thousand miles away. Our grapes come from another hemisphere even! I pause to try and imagine the labor involved… it’s not possible. From growers to pickers to drivers of machinery to the designers of said machinery to the folks who unboxed it and placed it on the shelves here in our town… it boggles the mind. It’s why we say grace, why our prayers of thanks in this household are not so much to a creator God as they are offerings of thanks to all our fellow human beings who have toiled – probably without thanks or appreciation for their toil – in order to make our lifestyle possible.

While I may never see the day when I get fully caught up on my electric bill, nor know an era in which I make it through a winter without running out of heating oil, by the grace of some amazing power I have never known what it is go hungry (I suppose if I did pay those other bills I might know it!). I don’t take that lightly. Sometimes, when I claim the income from a new piano student on the Food Stamps re-certification form and they reduce our monthly assistance to little more than $100 a month, sometimes when I find myself enraged that I must choose either food or heat – I have to make an effort to stop myself, and to remember that things aren’t so bad as they might appear on paper. I have to take a breath and step back. Self pity is a demon to fight, and sometimes it’s a challenge to shake myself out of its seduction. A quick look around, a short inventory of the things I do have, and I can quiet the upset… Yes, things are tight, but what do I have? I have a gorgeous baby grand piano in my home – I have a harpsichord too! I live on a stunning piece of property, my son miraculously goes to the most nurturing, supportive school and is joyful every day of his life, my parents are both still alive and live just next door. And let’s not forget, I’m down two dress sizes now, too. ! Things really aren’t so bad. Ok, so I might not make a solid living teaching and playing piano, and I may never get fully caught up on our bills, but our overall quality of life is rather good all things considered, and my son is a very happy and thriving child. Really now, what could be ultimately more important than those two things?

Honestly, we’re able to survive because of my mother. When we run out of cash on hand, when our larder is empty, when I haven’t the gas to drive into town, she always gives us a little something to help us get by. (She quit her job recently, so that sort of help might not be so easy for her going forward. One more thing that lingers in the back of my mind as I assess our future.) Lately, she’s been keen on helping us with some infrastructure fixes. Like replacing the porch roof or insulating the attic. These things will make a huge difference in the liveability of the place, and they’re projects I could never ever take on myself. Yet they are unseen. The new porch is not an upgrade, it’s the same porch. Only now it has a ceiling that doesn’t leak. The attic will just hold in the heat a bit better (which ought to put an end to the oil running out too soon! A major plus.) Nothing in these improvements shows to the eye – but they’re things that must be done at some point. Guess mom wants to know it’s been taken care of before she’s ‘gone’. (Too blunt? Mech, it’s getting that way these days. !) They’re important projects, but as there’s no appearance of an upgrade it doesn’t look like anything’s been done. Although our house is still a tiny little ranch with thin windows and ancient fixtures, at least the roof doesn’t leak, and next winter we’ll be toasty. Abundance here too.

I also am a believer of a sort of ‘like with like’ phenomenon that seems to occur in life. Some folks really live by this law of attraction, and while it does resonate with me, I am still hard-pressed to live by its rules as the true LOA followers endeavor to do. I just haven’t mustered the discipline to shush the constant poverty chatter in my brain. I sometimes wonder if it’s why I can’t seem to just get up and over this hump… then my reality meter kicks in and I consider the idea that folks just plain don’t need piano teachers like they do plumbers or insurance salesmen. I guess. Yet still I can’t help but wonder, if I threw caution and known reality out the window and simply envisioned a truly abundant life – as in thought about it day in and day out, lived as if it already was so, what might happen? I try to imagine not only becoming caught up on my electric bill, but not even concerned about future such bills. I have heard it said that possibilities are limited only by our beliefs. Again, sounds good. Sounds like we might have some control over our lives, it gives one hope. Yet I struggle to integrate it into my life. Am I settling? Am I convincing myself that what I have is good enough? Sometimes I’m fairly sure that I’m settling. That I haven’t invested enough energy into imagining things as I’d like them to be. It seems I might be holding myself back with the ‘poor-me’, ‘if only’ talk. But then other times I have a truly perfect day, and I think I’m way ahead and none of that stuff matters at all…

Today was such a day. A full-on sunshiney Spring day in the one of the most beautiful city parks I know, the whole Waldorf school in attendance at their annual May day celebration in which the fourth grade (of which Elihu is a part) experiences a rite of passage and dances around the May pole weaving intricate patterns with the ribbons in the style of schoolchildren from a bygone era. We were able to get grandma and grandpa out in the fresh air too. Such good fortune; it was an important day for Elihu and they were there to share in it. After the festivities Elihu and I remained in the park where he chased ducks (as he always does) and he caught two right off the bat – with no bait, just his swiftness and cunning! We stayed there for hours, and after a bit took a walk up to Broadway, where we visited a very high-end chocolate shop. After a rare treat there, we returned to the car by way of the local hippie shop. We passed nearly an hour there admiring rocks and crystals and chatting with the dredlocked girls who worked there. We made some egg deliveries, then returned to the park. We realized that we hadn’t eaten in hours, and so as a final chapter in our grand day, we decided we’d eat out. Had the best chicken in the world at Hattie’s, grooved to some classic R&B as we ate, then made our way home (organ trio for the ride back.) When we got to the train tracks the gates were going down – and wouldn’t ya know, it was our good friend Mike at the wheel! We honked, and he leaned way out the window, smiling and waving. (He really did look like something from a children’s storybook, his elbow out the window, that striped engineer’s cap on his head.) That was a hoot. We rode home with the sun and warm wind streaming through the open windows, and we were happy.

We got home and Elihu, although he’d said he was getting tired, found a burst of energy and took off running after the birds. So far, a good chase hasn’t lost its appeal. Good thing. It buys me a minute to sit and catch up on my thoughts. As I begin to wrap up the post, he calls me. He wants me to watch him climb the apple tree. So I join him. We pick violets which we’re happy to discover now carpet our lawn. We inspect the garden and find some perennials returning. Things feel so good. Simple, but so very good. We’ve even got leftovers for another fine dinner tomorrow, too. Seriously, what else do we need? Our lives are full and we are happy.

So for now I’ll settle for the idea that when we’re happy and grateful, even more things that make us happy and grateful will find their way to us. We’ll walk that fine line, falling off every now and then, throwing little temper tantrums and feeling sorry when things aren’t as we think they should be, but then we’ll shake it off. We’ll get up, look around us, take another inventory of our lives and begin again. The evidence of an abundant life might not always appear as we think it should, but we have everything we need to live. Some times not as much as we’d like of one thing, sometimes a true abundance of another, yet always just enough.

 

Sleepy Saturday April 6, 2013

The house is clean, right angles have been restored and things are all put away. (We won’t mention the ‘to file’ boxes that sit on my office floor, taunting me…) I’ve reached that seldom-visited place where nothing urgent needs to be tended to, nothing needs to be washed, folded or put away, no one needs to be fed, nothing needs fixing. Elihu is in Chicago and the house is quiet. This is not a place I visit often, and although I spend much of my regular waking life wishing I could get to it, now that I’m actually here, I’m at a loss. What to do? Don’t get me wrong – there is always something to do – to declare otherwise would not be accurate – but the point I think I’m going for here is that without urgency driving me, I feel rather untethered. Aimless, sort of. And while I know I need not feel this way, I do: I feel guilty. I know it’s crazy, it’s a waste of energy. I know, but yet…

I can’t feel all that pointless, for I’ve just spend an hour proofreading a friend’s teaching method book, and inspired by that spent another hour tweaking my own. So it’s not as if I’m sitting entirely idle. I await a call from an old friend who may stop by later today with her granddaughter. It is a sunny, almost mild Saturday afternoon. All should seem well with the world. And all is well. It’s just that in all this space and freedom, I’m feeling like I’m not doing something I should be. Where on earth does this come from? Do you feel this way too when faced with a commitment-free day? Ah, but perhaps you never do have such a day! So. There it is. I have free time, something very few have. This might be why I feel guilty.

My family never once in all my life took a vacation. My ex husband and I never did for that matter. Perhaps this is at the root of my discomfort. Not sure. I’m feeling just so ambivalent about my free afternoon. And for some reason I have a mild headache too… I feel the need for a nap. But again, how can I justify a nap? I’ve waited months for this oasis of personal time in which to do nothing – shall I now sleep through it?

Yes. I think I shall. I’ll take one more walk through the tidy rooms of my house, turn the heat up just a teensy bit, and I’ll lie down. One more day of quiet before I’m needed again. I’ve contemplated enough. May as well sink into a sleepy Saturday…

 

Resuming the Resume August 30, 2012

Have an informal audition of sorts tomorrow at Elihu’s school. They need another accompanist for the Eurythmy classes. It actually sounds right up my alley. Music, kids, some improvisation, a sense of play about the task at hand… but I need to remember it is a job, and I have to nail some things just so. Gotta listen, gotta be flexible and need to wait on instruction. Lots of stops and starts to the job. It’s tricky to get twenty little bodies all to move in a certain way. And the music keeps it all goin. Never done anything quite like this with little ones, and truthfully I’m just a bit nervous that I won’t be a fit. But I’m turning out to be a bit more excited about it than I realized at first. It sounds like fun. Is that ok that a job appeals primarily because it sounds like ‘fun‘? Yes, I think so. At least here, at Waldorf, it’s certainly an environment that would welcome that kind of thinking.

Then of course, I might be just a little jacked about it because I just threw a rather impromtu resume together and I got a kick out of seeing it all on paper. Well then. Seems I’d forgotten how impressive my life can appear in list form. We all know the resume game – and yes, somehow it always reads better and sounds more impressive than it usually was in real life, but as I read my list of jobs through the years and think back on them, I can say with some pride that they’re represented truthfully. And they were all fun, challenging, and each one in its own way helped to create the person I’ve become today. Maybe I pushed the envelope a bit when I added some of my interests, including flying, homesteading and being a good mother. Does anyone really care? Maybe it sounds a little pretentious. But it’s the truth. And these days, that’s how I want to represent myself. The days of super-slick strategizing are behind me.

But hopefully, more working days lay yet ahead and may resume again soon…