Category Archives: Uncategorized

Roll on

I’ve had a lot of opportunity to think about why I’m a teacher this summer. One of the classes I’m taking (for the month of June) is mostly responsible for that introspection, and the other part is the realization that this entire change of pace is completely amazing. I’m an introvert who recharges best alone, and I’ve had great opportunity to do that, as well as go out and enjoy life during business hours. What a treat it is to go rollerblading at 2:00 in the afternoon (like I did yesterday) and not have any traffic at the roadway crossings, nor early morning runners and bikers to contend with. My company on bikes were the lucky few who are retired and can bike at any time or the few whose schedules resemble mine in the summer.

I’m not cut out to live the unemployed life forever, of course, and I’ve already begun looking forward to school starting again and setting up my classroom with everything already ordered and in storage! What a difference from last summer when I emptied one classroom, packed myself up and moved, and found myself in a new, empty classroom with nothing in it except what I brought from my own belongings. This year I can ponder where I want instruments to be staged, where my desk should be, and the piano, how I want the cupboards and (hopefully soon) shelves to be organized. I can’t wait!

But I will because I’m enjoying this season, too. Monday is the beginning of a new term with extra work in it. I’ll be glad to be finished with the classes, don’t get me wrong, but I’m kind of dreading the work of one of those classes especially. It goes with the territory…it’s music theory. I’m good at music theory in a “I used to be good at music theory” sort of way, which is to say I recall being good at it more than I recall the skills and knowledge about it. But I’m teachable…right?

For now I’ll head out to enjoy what looks like a hazy evening with a friend. I’m so glad for the peace this summer has compared to last! God is good!

Comps, round two

I’ve got to pack myself up to drive to my History comp in an hour or so (with enough time to allow for a bathroom stop, a little leg stretch and quick look at my notes and essays to calm down), but I just finished reading the post I wrote before the last round of comps in November. I passed those (passing is somewhere around 60%, I think? I can’t remember if it’s 60 or 69%, but regardless, not A-quality scores). The difficulty in walking into a big test like this (and this one is 2 hours instead of one like last time) is that the confidence is absent. Studying for tests throughout my life has been about shooting for the A, the “100% – Awesome!” marking, the evidence of my mastery. So going into a test that covers so much, knowing that I won’t get 100%, it’s hard to gauge where 60% falls. I’ve never studied for 60% before. It feels risky to admit it. There’s a good chance I’ll pass at least most of today’s test (I think that there’s a possibility of retaking the part that doesn’t go well, if it comes down to it, rather than taking the whole thing again), so that gives me some confidence, but it’s banking on a lot. I’ve listened to SO much classical music in the last few weeks, even into the month-plus range (yeah, didn’t really get started early like I hoped I would). My brain is fried with classical music, but I am recognizing some of the big works and remembering things about them and their time period. It’s enhanced my public radio listening a lot…I think about what time period it sounds like, who might have written it, and what the ensemble would have been. I’m wrong just about every time in that regard (with the exception of a broadcast of La traviata I caught one day) because they tend to play the obscure solo and ensemble works I don’t study, but I can detect baroque versus classical (mostly instrumentation and orchestration), classical versus romantic, and there’s even a slight amount of discrimination in my ear for 20th century and beyond. But that era is mostly painful to listen to, so I don’t enjoy as much of it (i.e. Berg’s Wozzeck and Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire…wow).

I’ve worn the burden of this comp externally. I think I did for the last one as well. I only have two more if I pass today’s and think that I will be VERY glad to put the test-taking behind me. I don’t enjoy the stress of writing papers and finishing projects, but I have confidence in my performance when it comes to generated work (I can look up the answers, I can invest more time!). Tests…so much unknown stuff and such a limited amount of time…what essay questions or terms will I have to recall, what 20 music examples from all of western music will be chosen for a drop-the-needle test (with 30 seconds for each track. ack!).

If it’s any consolation, after a week of car trouble and rain and wind and cold, today appears to be the sunniest, prettiest day we’ve had in a week or two, and the birds woke me up this morning with their singing-sweet music indeed. I hate to wish away days and parts of my life, so I try not to look forward to the future too much, but I will be glad to walk out of that room and perhaps take a turn around campus for some spring afternoon enjoyment! And then maybe a run. I haven’t gotten out since last Sunday.

Walls for hitting.

I had a beautiful gift of a day off yesterday for Good Friday and a day (today) without obligations. I used the day mostly to study, but the evening hasn’t been very fruitful in that regard. I’m ready to move beyond the test, when I start looking for a home to buy (which is exhausting to consider, but I’m just not in love with renting this apartment enough to stay and I told myself I wouldn’t move to another apartment just for the sake of moving)…and do all the things I feel like I shouldn’t do now (mostly watching TV or hanging out with friends without feeling nervous about the time).

I don’t do very well with stress. I think I’ve known this about myself for a while. I wear it on the outside, majorly. I’ve been hopping from one stressful event to another for a couple months now and I believe I’m continually hopeful that “this will be it,” but the next one comes along. The pat Christian answer is to admit that I’m supposed to surrender that stress and rest in God’s steadfast care and faithful provision, but that yielding isn’t a one-and-done process for me. I get that my value and eternal significance aren’t at at stake in stressful circumstances…on a bigger scale I can yield stress, but the details are all up in my face.

And so I’ll chip away at what I’ve got and try to be patient through the hard things rather than wish they were over.

Also, as if I didn’t have enough on my mind, I’m afraid that I’ve killed (or am in the process of killing) one of the heartiest plants I’ve ever had. It’s survived six years of my care, but I replanted it last week and it’s not liking the new digs too well. I’ve probably watered it more than ever before, so maybe it’s just drowning. Or maybe I’m really bad at repotting and I severed it’s main root or something. Eep. Come on little plant – grow!. It makes me want to take a cutting just in case the stem dies. I might go do that now.

Happy Easter to you all 🙂

Spring cleaning

I’ve got the restless bug. Recently I acquired a reason to clean out the spare bedroom so I took a whole bunch of things set aside for goodwill to goodwill. And that felt especially great because it wasn’t the usual stuff-I-haven’t-used-in-a-while pile, but some things that I’d been weirdly attached to that were serving no purpose. Like a stack of plastic cups from various events…I still have a few more in my cupboard for the rare visiting child’s koolaid (or myself…not beneath me to drink out of a plastic cup), but I had the whole dorm room collection shoved in my cupboard. And some clothes that probably would still fit, but I was just done with them. My thought in January, when the pile was made for the January Cure (via apartment therapy’s blog), was that those items set aside weren’t really all that great.

I also had to move some boxes to the garage, which has been a task I’ve put off since about October or November when I first tackled the second bedroom. Granted, I hope to move again before too long, but seeing collapsed boxes doesn’t really motivate me to move any faster. And since I was in the garage and it was a nice day I repotted some plants that have long since overgrown their containers. I probably did that wrong, so I’m hoping they are hearty enough to withstand some poor planting skills.

The knitting progress has been pretty widely spread over many wips. I really should whittle them down, but I’ve had a lot of stress with two spring programs, a comprehensive exam, a class with lots of homework all of a sudden, and some other stuff. Which has led to a few really listless nights of not knitting at all, not studying much, and not feeling very good about the progress. My brain is pretty tired these days, so I don’t feel up to much.

I’ve discovered a small like for running this spring. Break provided an opportunity to go a little further than I would normally push myself because I was with my sister. Since then I’ve had a couple really good runs, including an all time high of 5 miles (with a little walking in the middle, I’ll admit). I know I’m prone to injury if I go too far too soon, but what amazes me is that my will to carry on increases dramatically after about the 2 mile mark. Up until that point I want to quit every step between 1 mile and 2 (rough estimation, I’m not 100% where the miles fall in my course yet). Of course, the cooler temperatures probably have a lot to do with my motivation to carry on…I hate running when I’m hot. Maybe I’ll have to start carrying some water with me when it warms up.

Speaking of programs, they went fairly well. On the one hand it was really nice to put both of them off to about the same time because it gave me a couple months of program mindset. On the other hand, I get a little stressed for every program, so it rather compiled this time. I had a jazz program for the older students and a wild west program for the younger students, the replicate of my 2012-2013 school year (year #3 for me) in my first school. It was nice to do something I’d already done because we didn’t yet have a sound system or instruments or much in the way of materials. I’ll hopefully do some good thinking this summer and plan for some new programs (including speaking parts – someone hold me to this…no more last minute speaking parts!). But those missing things have finally been ordered and delivered, and after Monday (when my colleagues and I bust into the packing materials and assemble instruments) they will all be in glorious use!!

The agenda for the rest of tonight is not cleaning or reorganizing furniture and food/bathroom shelves, but knitting and music history listening. I have to resist listening to Porgy and Bess, Brahms, and Schumann the whole night. They won’t be the only examples on the test if they are chosen, and the test writer never called to ask what my listening preference might be :).

Good night!


Living in the midwest we don’t get a lot of the same weather systems that the east coast does…the ones that drop feet of snow in one debilitating punch. We typically get a few whoppers that cancel school and require shoveling out and the like, but never more than about 12″ at a time (at least where I live). Today we’re getting one of those whoppers, and though it’s timing on a Sunday probably won’t affect school tomorrow, it’s so exciting to wake up with a whole day ahead of me knowing it’s an inside day (I will get out to drop off a rent check, but I don’t have to shovel because I rent…a perk I’ll enjoy when the wind kicks up later today). Church services have been canceled, and the super bowl party I was planning to go to is probably still on, but since it’s a 20 minute drive on a good day I’ll probably skip it.

The timing on a Sunday interfered with the knitting retreat here this weekend with my sister and our friend. They left before the storm and made it back without seeing any snow, and I’m really grateful that they did. If they’d stayed overnight they might have been stuck here till Monday, and that wouldn’t have been good at all! We took a mini tour-de-fleece around this part of the state and fell to the allure of Regia Fluoromania yarn, a few notions, and some colorwork alpaca/merino. I was too generously gifted some Noro and some sock yarn, and I think I might cast on the mittens with my pot of coffee to relish the snowday.

My WIPs at the moment are:
– Tubularity – sport weight yarn (Wonderland Yarns – Mad Hatter; Malabrigo – Arroyo)
– Opal sock
– Yarn Love sock (Asymmetrical Cables pattern with some modifications)
– Twin Leaf Shawl (needs some loving…)
– Cozy Memories Sock Blanket (a PLOP, or long term project with sock scraps)
– Atlantis Socks (2nd sock, languishing for months)

There are a couple other projects cast on but not getting love. I’d like to get some FOs out this week, if possible, but time during the week always seems to run short.
On to coffee, knitting, reading, and snow day enjoyment!

New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve not really committed any time to thinking of New Year’s resolutions because I’m not that much of a follower-through…perhaps 2 years ago I resolved to read 20 books in a year, and I did, but that’s about the extent of my successful attempts. I can’t resist the desire to become better, though. It’s all around with the new year feel. Perhaps a better housekeeper or a better pen pal, or a more “un-plugged” person (detached from electronic devices, particularly). I aspire to grow in a lot of areas, but my history with these aspirations leads me to conclude it’s not going to happen, so that’s discouraging.

Last year I made some knitting goals for 2014 and I actually met some of them:
1. Work on a long-term WIP (done!)
2. Participate in 3 KALs (Ravellenics, Ornament KAL, Self-striping…ish).
3. Knit a hitchhiker shawl. (didn’t happen)
4. Pick and plan a sweater: over-achiever planned and knit a sweater!
5. Establish local knitting community…sort of happened. then I moved.
6. Sock yarn stash busting. Really wimpy attempt.

This year I have similar aspirations of improving my knitting. I am admittedly going to add a resolution I already accomplished with a continuation (colorwork).

1. Knit down the stash.
I began a yarn-buying fast right after Thanksgiving and have fallen off the wagon a couple times (thanks to LYSs that make it so hard to leave empty handed), but the stash has grown to almost a SABLE status (something like stash acquired beyond life expectancy)…granted, if my full time job were knitting it’d be no issue because it’s all project-bound yarn, but with life the way it is, it’s going to be a while. So I think I’ll hold off all online purchases and make LYS trips very special and purposeful (which they already are since there aren’t any in my direct work-to-home-to-groceries path).

2. Knit another sweater.
I’ve got 2 sweater quantities ready to go, so that’ll be not out of the realm of possibility. I have some decisions to make about the type of sweater, but it should be ok.

3. Build up a stash of FOs for next Christmas.
We’re talking not as much last-minute knitting. It’ll still be a lot, undoubtedly, as some gifts need to be customized, but I’d love to have the freedom to give more gifts by working ahead.

4. Knit colorwork stockings.
I learned colorwork on January 3rd, so that can’t by itself be a resolution (stranded, or fair isle), but my sister and I are aspiring to actually knit family stockings for next year. And it’s here and public, so maybe I’ll be reminded periodically to actually do it.

5. Knit more.
Vague resolutions are the easiest to meet…but I want to make an effort to knit when I might otherwise cruise on the Internet or waste time. The electronic hand-held devices are kind of the problem I think. This resolution may also see some intentional efforts for knitting community establishment. I have some interested friends (in knitting, generally speaking), so it might be a good idea to organize some “regular” knitting nights, even if it’s lowkey and not well attended. We’ll see.

My other beginning of the year resolutions apart from yarny goodness include getting outside more (including taking walks when it’s bitter cold like this), participating in apartment therapy’s “January Cure” (de-cluttering, I believe), and tracking online accounts more vigilantly.  I am also hoping to muster up the energy and courage to start planting some roots in this community and getting to know people well. That comes across a little strangely in writing, but it’s sincere…I want to care more about the lives around me by virtue of knowing the people around me. And I think a lot of that will extend from re-establishing some of the discipline that’s waned in the last six weeks or so with a busy schedule and illness and holidays in regard to quiet time (reading the Bible, journalling, praying, memorizing, etc.), so that’d be an area to hit as well.

For today I’ve got some things to prepare for the next week (possibly my first full week of straight up teaching since early November? I can’t even remember my last 5-day week…) and the evening. Also I need (yes, NEED) to figure out a way to get the TV antenna to pick up PBS for Downton Abbey in just a few short hours. It’s not going to be easy, as my last three apartments have been been the TV-reception equivalent to the Bermuda Triangle (as in nothing comes in), but I’ve got to make it work. 🙂

Happy Sunday, and Happy New Year!

The Evening before Comps, round 1.

I am not a model student any more. I fully admit that. I began “studying” for comps about two weeks ago. That was not the plan. I was going to at least get a couple months in, but motivation and moving across the state directly canceled each other out. It was not a good situation.

It’s the crunch time. I’ve got about two hours left of coherent studying ability left in me tonight and just discovered that my responses to all the unit tests for the one class I’m being tested over are available on our class website for me to peruse and review. Glad to have discovered that with so much time to spare…

We have multiple opportunities to take this test, but my push to review everything has been enough to make me sick of the book and the material again. I want to be done with it (and drop kick a three-volume set of course packs). But there’s a good chance I won’t. Because I waited so long. The study guide for the test says: this may seem like a daunting task, but a thorough and careful study of all the musical examples used in the class…yeah. I stopped reading. Somewhere around daunting.

I want to finish this degree neat and tidy, but life is so full and my brain is so maxed out with full-time and classes and being a good teacher (reflective, etc.) that I am just not making good use of my time. I better step it up for next semester and this post is to bring the fear for the next round in april.

I’m going to go back to reviewing, but if you could find my neighbor (not sure which one) and have them shut off the alarm that is pulsing at about the G below 440 A, that would be great for concentration.

Portion control

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Oh, sage wisdom. Advice like this makes sense in my head, and yet I can point to examples of my actions not demonstrating the learning. In relation to food I’ve figured out how to take reasonably sized bites so that I can taste, swallow, and maintain civility in eating (and let us be thankful for that), but my habits in the many other areas of life are something like the hot-dog eating contests you see on T.V. around July 4th–cramming in as much as I can in a short amount of time.

I’m encouraged even by assigned reading in a writing style book to set manageable goals that aid accountability and progress, but my focus slips and widens to the bigger picture and before I know it I am overcome with the weight of the entire task. I’m specifically referring to a writing assignment this week that deserves more attention before Friday but is being pushed out of the way by a combination of music theory assignments piling up, a barrier in resource-gathering, and close to no motivation to sit and be productive. It probably doesn’t help that my living room is filling up with boxes that are beginning to become resting places for piles of work for school. And there’s a fly that has plagued me for three days. He’s actually sitting on my leg in sort of a friendly, pet-like manner at the moment. So far Sir Fly has avoided the fly-swatter pretty deftly, so perhaps he deserves to stay alive to keep me company. As long as he stops landing on my forehead and hands we can sort of be friends.

I have this great longing to create in the midst of this brain-power-turmoil. I want to practice lettering (not a new thing, just embellished letters and doodles…they’re all over my school notes), write letters to people, knit things, sew, play guitar. It’s impractical with the amount of time in a day that I actually have available to work (which is limited by things besides school as well, mostly good things). For now I relish the first cup of coffee as do-not-disturb time, a little bit of exercise (less than I’d like) to scrape up endorphins, and the intentional “sleep-in” planned for Saturday.

I know things aren’t really that bad, that I’ve had busier schedules and harder emotional seasons, but it feels like a lot right now. I have to keep in mind that it’s almost over (10 theory lectures and 8 writing lectures remain) and that the end result will be worth the trouble.

For now I’ll toast to a rocked music theory test (granted, by my lowered standard of “rocking” tests for this class…B is passing…and I’m thankful for that) with a glass of orange juice.

I can’t complain…but then I go and complain (again)

I might be an attention-starved adult. 

I’ve noticed that my tone, my topics of conversation, my time alone reflecting looks a lot like grumbling and complaining. What is it for? I think it’s attention.

School and moving have overlapped. It’s not wise timing and I wouldn’t recommend it based on the stress each of those tend to carry on their own (at least for me)…but my complaints don’t really ease up the burden. It might evoke a little pity or some extra help, but it’s not the type of character I would hope to be building. And I think it makes each respective aspect of life right now feel worse. I keep thinking…oh, I wish it were August 1st…and then I remember, as sweet as it would be to have that behind me, with the stress comes sweet pockets of relationships that I have right here around me.

I wake up ready to complain…too early, not enough coffee, not enough motivation, etc. That complaining isn’t good for anything at all…there’s no one to tell me how it’s going to be, let alone sympathize. I just fight with the alarm until I feel guilty enough for being lazy that I get up and drink as much coffee as I think to make for the day. Motivation doesn’t come easily…not until 5 or 6 in the evening when I feel like I have a blank slate. I spend hours every day wishing the hours were over because my heart is grumbly. I contemplate social media venting once in a while, but usually resist because I consider the audience that will see it (my sister said once, would you stand up on a chair in a crowded room and shout that status update?…uh, nope. probably not). I also rationalize that graduate school and moving were never advertised as being easy, and how do I expect social media to respond…”uh, yeah, moron! join the club and move on!”

When I think back to common conversations with people, friends or strangers, my tendency is to paint a bad picture. Not quite to the extreme of “I have it worse than you” one-up-man-ship parodied on Saturday Night Live skits, but stories spun and manipulated in such a way that I look better for having lived through them. I’ve noticed that in other people and thought it was obvious, but forgot to see it happening in my own conversations. Am I doing it here even now? It’s deeply ingrained, apparently.

My box-checking nearly-perfectionist tendency would be to scrub out that spot (make a plan to keep those words from coming out) and start over, but I have a feeling this isn’t a one and done eradication effort. Knowing that the mouth speaks out of the overflow of the heart, I have got to check what’s been filling my heart. I think it’s the things that deprive me from craving and devouring the richness of God’s Word…comparison, discontent, idolatry, jealousy, anger, worry. I could go on. I am encouraged by the promise in Jeremiah that God is found when we seek Him, that He is with us (from Joshua), that His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3). When I consider His grace is ongoing even where my repentance stops, I am relieved and grateful. He’s right there…maybe in my tiredness tomorrow I’ll remember the grace He has shown me in growing me out of an ungrateful and attention-seeking attitude…even if just a little bit overnight.

Fluffy Yarn Ball of Grandeur for Music Teaching

This fluffy ball is about the size of a dodgeball...with fur.

This fluffy ball is about the size of a dodgeball…with fur.

One of my favorite elementary music classroom elements is the “Fluffy Ball”. I use this yarn ball for passing games like El Florón or echo practice games, and it’s heartily enjoyed by students. Because they are really soft, they are really easy to catch for most students (and if a student is not paying attention, it doesn’t hurt to get hit by an underhand toss…even an overhead toss, though I discourage that for multiple reasons in most settings).

I took this idea from Kris Versteegt, former president of Kodály Educators of Iowa (and bought one of hers through KEI’s store available at their workshops). The PVC niddy-noddy I already had from my sister made the wrapping of bundles a lot easier, but isn’t necessary, as you can wrap the yarn around a board or a book.

You’ll need:

  • a pound of yarn.
    I have made this with the Red Heart Super Saver (three 6 oz) skeins, but the Caron pound skeins are handy and there’s often a coupon off one regular priced item at JoAnn’s or Hobby Lobby.
  • an object with about a 12″ perimeter/circumference
    (a hard cover book that is 5″ wide and 1″ thick would do it) or you can make bigger loops and tie them off into 12″ sections before cutting.


1. Wrap small bundles
I started out with the book and wrapped 75 times around. Carefully slide it off the book and use another piece of yarn to tie it tightly. Cut the secured loop opposite of the knot you tied to yield a 12″ bundle with a tie in the middle.

With the niddy noddy I wrapped 2 yard loops (still 75 times) and tied in six equally spaced places. I then slid it off the niddy-noddy and cut halfway between ties.

2. Wrap bundles together.
I like to lay a long strand of the same yarn on the floor and stack the smaller bundles like a pile of logs perpendicular to the long strand (or you can line up the ties with the long strand…same thing…you want to tie them in the middle of their 12″ length so your ball isn’t lopsided).

Once I have a few I tie around them tightly, flip it over, tie it again, and flip it once more so that the long strand is on the bottom. Do this every so often, using another long strand if you need to, as it will make it secure and is a lot easier than only at the end.

It doesn’t need to be neat. If you get it to be neat you’re spending too much time on it. If you see some loops that didn’t get cut, no big deal, as you’ll be giving it a shaping next.

3. Cut it up
I have always thought learning how to cut hair would be awesome. This is as close as I’ll probably ever get. Rotate it a lot and look for parts that don’t look even. Shake it out every now and then as well.

By the way, this makes a mess. I recommend doing this on a surface you can sweep, swiffer, or vaccuum immediately because even held over the garbage can, there are fuzzy bits everywhere. I made the mistake of doing this in my classroom over the grabby industrialized carpet once…and I had students picking up fuzz all day long.