Saturday, November 23, 2013

Lazy? Not so much, just overwhelmed!

I debated changing the name of this blog to: Confessions of an overwhelmed Mommy/Violinist/Teacher/Housekeeper/Wife/Runner/Yoga Enthusiast/Fair-Weather Vegan/Sister/Daughter/Friend.  But you know, it just didn't have the right ring to it.  I would no longer describe myself as a lazy violinist.  I am anything but lazy.  I am running running running all the time.  Changing diapers, wiping noses, nursing, cleaning, dishes, cooking dinner, teaching my students, spending a few spare minutes with my husband, or practicing, or exercising, I have no time to be lazy!  If I have a chance to practice, it better be good practice, because I don't have time to mess around!  Today, I took advantage of a few happy-baby minutes to do some metronome work.  I recently started looking at Paganini's 16th Caprice.  Today I worked it up from quarter=60-76.  As you can hear, it is far from perfect.  It gets dicey especially near the end.  Here are some happy baby moments.

My Nursing Story

I wrote this months ago...I feel like I can post it now.  I was anxious someone would look at this and think, she didn't try hard enough.  She didn't nurse enough.  She should have eaten more oatmeal, drank more water, tried this other prescription.  Oh well, I want everyone else out there who struggled to breast-feed their babies to know that they are still good mothers.  Just because my body can't make enough milk for my child, does not mean that I am a bad mother.  So, without further ado, here is our nursing story.

Being a parent is harder than I ever could have imagined.  I mean, I knew it would be hard, but nothing could prepare me for the 24/7 constant hardness of it all.  Every second of my day is consumed by worry, doubt, frustration, exhaustion, and a love I never could have imagined.  The lows are oh so low.  The highs are so incredibly high.  The last 15 weeks have changed me forever.  I have spent them agonizing over breastfeeding.  My baby just doesn't suck.  I have agonized over weigh-ins, sucking therapy, lactation consults, bottles, and supplemental nursing systems.  For a while, my sweet baby got a little too skinny, and it broke my heart.  Because he couldn't suck effectively, my milk production went way down, in spite of pumping.  Anyone heard of power pumping?  It's the worst.  Ten minutes of pumping, ten minutes resting.  For three hours.  I don't want to get into the details of the seven weeks of pumping, fenugreek chugging, or the milk-making prescriptions that caused me horrible depression.  It is best just to move on, I think.  Finally, as my baby cannot survive on nursing alone, we are supplementing with formula, either in an SNS (a flask with a little tube that goes in their mouth to give them extra formula while they nurse.)
I could write a book on trying to increase milk supply, and suck training.  Breastfeeding broke my heart.  I was desperate for that sweet nursing relationship, but my baby flailed with frustration while we nursed.  He wasn't getting enough.  Nursing was like mixed martial arts for him.  It wasn't the sweet bonding that I saw for other mothers with babies.  It broke my heart.
Now, I have resigned myself that I won't have the nursing experience I hoped for, but we are close.  I sit here nestled close with my sweet baby.  He is calm, content.  The SNS has made a semi-normal feeding experience possible for us.  I love my SNS.  I also hate my SNS.  The little tube gets turned the wrong way in his mouth, and he doesn't get any formula for a few minutes until I realize what is happening.  Or worse, it comes out of his mouth and drips formula all over me.  Formula smells.  But I do it.  I do it because I can't give up on nursing.  I do it because I can't give up on the few oz of milk I actually make.  I do it because I can't give up on these precious moments with my son.  For anyone out there who has struggled with breastfeeding or low milk supply, I know your heartache, your inexplicable guilt, and your pain.
I finally feel at peace with our situation.

We have been nursing with the SNS (Supplemental Nursing System) for the past fifteen weeks.  Baby still pulls on the tubes, we still have spills, but we nurse.  We snuggle.  He loves me, and I love him.  I'm his Mommy.  Giving him formula through a tube does nothing to change that.  It was a hard lesson to learn, but now I know, being a Mommy is so much more than being his only food source.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sick Leave

So I realize this has been a pretty shameful absence, but I think I have the best excuse ever.  Maybe not the best, but I am going to milk it while I can.  Not long after I decided not to take the audition I found out that I'm pregnant!  My husband and I are excited (and terrified) for this new addition to our family.  My happiness was soon dimmed by a dreadful bout of "morning" sickness that lasted from week 6 until week 20.  I say "morning" sickness, because my nausea knew no bounds, it struck at all times of day and night.  Needless to say, my constant vomiting turned me off of practicing a little bit.  It actually turned me off of pretty much everything for the last three months.  I basically laid on my bed, or couch, or bathroom floor and felt sorry for myself until the past week.  

Well, now I feel better!  Naturally, the first thing I wanted to do was get back into a routine of practicing.  (I really missed it, I get depressed when I am not progressing or being productive.  Granted, making a baby is pretty darn productive...)  What could be better for my baby to hear than some unaccompanied Bach?

The past few days I have been studying the fugue from the A Minor Sonata by Bach.  I played it before, a few years ago, but it is one of my very favorites and I just couldn't stay away.  While much of it feels familiar in my hands, there are some NASTY chords in that thing.  Nasty.  I haven't practiced to rigorously, I don't want to risk carpal tunnel or tendonitis by pushing too hard too soon.  I am excited to press on, and refine my skills.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Talent? No sir!

One of my very favorite books about practicing and about musicianship, is a book called The Musician's Way by Gerald Klickstein.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to be a good musician, or who wants to make their practice more effective and fun.  In fact, I would recommend this book to EVERYONE.  It is a wonderful book, and it has helped me immensely.

One of the most important concepts covered by the book is that "musical progress depends more on practice than on talent."  This idea is incredibly important to me.  While many people apply the label "talented" to musicians, or athletes, or whoever, it seems like this is an excuse for mediocrity in myself.  "I can't play like that, I'm not as talented."  "I can't perfect this piece, I don't have the talent."  And so on, and so forth.  A discouraging cycle.

However, if talent isn't so important, and work is then why not do my best to become my best?  If work is more important, there is NO REASON why I cannot become a world-class violinist, or cook, or teacher, or whatever I choose to be.  The only thing stopping me is myself.  I am choosing to either limit myself, or push myself to the moon.
Another great book on this subject is The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.  In this book, Coyle discusses the qualities that seem to be inherent in truly successful people.

Those who we consider to be "talented," it seems have merely worked harder and smarter than everyone else.

I don't know about anyone else, but I am very encouraged by the fact that my genes don't prohibit me from becoming someone great.  My actions can turn me into the person of my choosing, and I can control my actions.  My genes?  Not so much.
So get to work everybody!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tossed off the bandwagon

I realize it is pretty shameful that I fell off the bandwagon so soon after my blogging efforts began, but I have a good excuse!  Remember, that audition I was preparing for?  I have been doing some soul-searching and I realized it just wasn't the right thing for me.  My pride really liked the idea of a major symphony audition, and a major symphony spot.  But that was all it was, just a little stroke for my ego.  I remembered how much I disliked having a boss, having to rehearse on someone else's schedule, and how much I hate playing the violin while sitting in a chair.  (I really prefer standing up while I play.)

Also, if I beat impossible odds, and happened to actually win a spot, would that make me happy?  I would have to give up a lot of my students, and commute...I just couldn't bring myself to say goodbye to my students.  Although, being a member of a professional symphony is the ultimate goal for a professional violinist, I honestly don't think I would enjoy it.  So, if it wouldn't make me happy, why am I putting so much effort into it?  If it isn't what I really want, why am I investing so much time, money, and stress in it?

So, I decided to withdraw.  And I feel GREAT.  I'm playing some pieces I have wanted to play for a while, but haven't had the time.  I am eating healthy, I am spending time with my husband, and things are great.  But best of all, my stress level has gone down about 100%, and my practicing is revitalized.  I am starting fresh and working on some very specific technique goals.  I am starting from scratch, and relearning how to play.

More to come on tackling Ravel's Tzigane!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The timer--my new best friend!

Hello all,
As I mentioned in my last post, sometimes I have a hard time concentrating when I practice.  It's the truth!  There are a number of things that distract me from focused, efficient practice, such as:

My grocery list (food is very important to me)
Calls from my students
Thinking about my students
My outfit (clothes are ALSO very important to me)
Clothes I wish I had (see above)
The mess in my apartment
An itch on my nose
The spider crawling across the carpet
The ticking of the clock
Bills to pay
Wanting to talk with my husband
The inviting sunshine outside
Wondering what is going to happen in the next episode of Castle
and the list goes on and on...
You name it, it's a distraction.

So, what do I do to get myself back on task?  I've heard many times of using a timer to help your children practice, but I never considered it as a technique that would be applicable to me.  HOWEVER,
I've started using the TimeTag app (available from the app store) on my iPad, and it has changed the way I practice.  I can keep track of how much time I spend on each piece, write notes on what I did, and color-code everything.  It makes my little OCD heart so happy.  When the timer is running, I know it is time to practice, and therefore not time for ANYTHING ELSE.  It is not time for getting a drink, going to the bathroom, or sending a quick email.  It is practice time.  If one of those things absolutely must be done, I stop the timer, get it done, and come back.  It surprised me at first how slow the time went before I had reached an hour of actual practice time, but then I realized how much of what I considered my "practice hours" must have been filled with puttering.  Shameful, really.

As I mentioned, another perk of using the timer, is how I can keep track of how much I practiced each piece.  I have a TON of music to learn for my upcoming audition, and it is overwhelming!  I created a "tag" for each piece on my TimeTag app, and can keep track of how much I have practiced each one over the past months.  It is important not to get too bogged down in one piece, I want to get through every piece every two days.  I have an allotted twenty minutes for each piece, and the timer keeps me aware of how much time has passed.  Because I know I only have a limited number of minutes for each piece, I am more likely to focus and really get things done.

The timer is proving to be incredibly helpful as I prepare for my audition.  I highly suggest the use of a timer as a practice tool for students and professionals alike!!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Getting Started!

Hello everyone!
I have never been much of a blogger, but I never really had much to write about so why bother, right?  Well, now I'm trying to make some serious changes in my life, and regardless of whether anyone would want to read about it, I would like to document my journey.
I am an aspiring classical violinist and am working on furthering my career, and as most people know musicians have to PRACTICE.  A lot.  Unfortunately, although I love violin and it is my passion, practicing isn't.  I would love to tell you that I have this inner drive that pushes me into the practice room for days at a time, but I don't.  Honestly, I would rather snuggle up in front of the television with a carton of ice cream and an entire season of Criminal Minds than turn on my metronome and get to work.  I would love to say that once I get my fiddle out, I am so in the zone that I lose track of time and become absorbed in the work ahead of me.  That is not the case.
This being said, I want to practice.  I want to improve myself, and I want to play beautifully.  But how to do it?
One obstacle is the time required.  I have thirty-five violin students.  THIRTY-FIVE.  This translates to about thirty hours of actual teaching time every week, which doesn't include lengthy phone calls with parents about their child's progress, scheduling, concerns, etc.  Don't get me wrong, I love teaching, and I adore all of my students, but it is exhausting.  When I finish teaching for the day, I don't have a lot of time or energy to devote to practicing.  This means I need to be completely efficient and focused during the limited hours I have.

I have fallen off the practicing bandwagon a little bit due to these busy circumstances, but I need to get my rear in gear to get ready for an audition for a professional symphony in September.  I want to be as prepared and confident as I can.

In this blog, I am going to discuss my techniques for practice, how I inspire myself, and how I make the most of my time.
I am so excited to share my musical progress with you all!