Posted in Health and Fitness, Parenting, Practicing, Working Parent

Busy, busy!

The last few months have brought so much work for me that I’ve neglected my site for a bit. Apologies! It’s been exciting, though! I served as the Chair of the 2015 Indianapolis Flute Fest, where we hosted the fabulous Jasmine Choi (www.jasminechoi.com). I even played for her the week before Flute Fest!!! She’s such a wonderful coach! Then, I had the honor of playing in the Hilbert Circle Theatre for a wonderful woman, Susan Kitterman, who is retiring in May as the director of the New World Youth Symphony Orchestra, where I played piccolo in 1995-1996. I also got the opportunity to be a part of the Butler University Arts Fest, playing the music of Rogers and Hammerstein and sharing the stage with the Butler Ballet (second only to Julliard!). Of course, I had my regular orchestral work in-and-amongst the other work. It was hard work and a little overwhelming at times, while juggling three small children, but it was worth every effort!

My toddler decided just before the Flute Fest that he was ready to potty-train. Yikes! I wasn’t ready, but if he was ready, then I had to be. It was a little frustrating at times, but once I took a breath and got comfortable with stopping every 20 minutes or so to put him on the toilet, it got easier. Once he developed awareness of actually urinating, then it got significantly easier. I think that that is a large part of the process: creating awareness. Toddlers are busy and want to go, go, go. They are so busy playing that they likely don’t even realize that they are urinating (pooping is another story — they are quite aware of that!). Once we both could recognize the signs of needing to go, then it’s just a matter of making it to the toilet. Sometimes he would fight it quite a bit. In the early stages of potty training, you really can’t push it too much, or you’ll turn your child off of it. However, once they are quite accustomed to using the toilet, you really do need to insist that they go and use it. As my husband, who has a Ph.D. in mathematics, likes to tell me, “potty-training is not a linear progression,” meaning, it’s often two steps forward and one step back. Keeping that in mind helps significantly, too.

I learned so much about self-discipline, patience, and the importance of exercise and relaxation techniques during this incredible time. Because I had 3-to-4 shows worth of music at any given time, I really did have to pace myself and stagger learning each show. I had to trust myself that I could still play successfully without playing every single note every day, which is completely impossible when children are involved. I learned to be patient with the learning process of my own work and with a potty-training toddler. This is where the exercise and relaxation techniques really come into play and help out. (see previous posts). It has been a learning process for me on so many levels, and that is what makes being a musician and a mommy so rewarding and enriching for me! Now I’m on to preparing for another possible recital. The excitement just never stops!

Posted in Health and Fitness, Practicing

Run (or maybe any cardio), then Practice. Immediately.

This post is really a supplement to two previous posts, and I’m excited to share some more discoveries!

I tried my experiment, again, of running then practicing to give myself another go at learning from it. I ran 1.5 miles (2.4km) — not a lot, but enough — then picked my flute up. I didn’t get quite the massive sound that I remember from the first time (or maybe it has grown in my imagination!), but I learned something a little new: while the intake of air did improve from my everyday practice, it was the out-breath that was affected the most by the running. It was fluid, uninhibited, uninterrupted, everything that an out-breath should be. You get your lungs working hard, yet efficiently with running, then blowing through a flute is much easier work because your lungs are really working for you. They take in more air deeply and fluidly as your body is desperate for the oxygen, they then release that air in the same manner. Perfect. Obviously, we probably can’t do this exercise every single time we practice, but even just learning from the experience once or twice can have huge implications for how we proceed with our practicing thereafter.

Happy jogging, readers!

Posted in Health and Fitness, Keeping your sanity, Parenting

Forgetting to Have Fun

Yesterday I felt miserable. I woke up feeling bad and had little energy. Having a recital coming up, however, I had to practice. My practice was unfocused and hardly goal-driven. I took several tiny breaks to pop online and view Facebook and the News, which didn’t help my lack of concentration. And while I scored nearly 4 hours of practice, it was practically unproductive (except for a few shining moments), and I ended up injuring my right hand in two places: my thumb and pinky. What a dumb thing. That night it was clear that I had succumbed to my children’s cold they so graciously shared with me and the rest of their school. Yuck.

After a great night’s sleep, surprisingly, I woke up with a sore throat, aching ears, and even less energy. Great. Well, at least I’ve been taking Zicam (zinc), so, I thought, maybe after I get the older two kids off to school and I get a nice, hot cup of coffee and another dose of Zicam, I’ll feel better. Thankfully, that was the case. I started practicing with my happy toddler watching Super Why (a fun learn-to-read 25-minute series [he’s known his alphabet for months] http://pbskids.org/video/ ), but everything felt, well, not right, like I was working too hard. I did get some productive time in, but knowing that I needed to take it easy on my right hand, I took a very long break after about 1 1/2 hours of practice. What a great decision! I had eaten a good snack, took my recital dress to get altered, had a filling, delicious lunch, and with some renewed energy (and even more Zicam), I sounded great and playing felt easy again. Then it suddenly dawned on me, I was forgetting to have fun and that practicing and the recital itself should be fun — musically satisfying, of course, but fun. With my newly enlightened mindset, practicing was once again enjoyable. I didn’t stress out about missed notes, and even though I had to stop and run an emergency second pair of eyeglasses to my husband, I could pick right up where I left off and happily continue my work. I had a great practice session. Gotta remember to have fun! What a difference!

“With every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find that fun and, snap, the job’s a game!” — Mary Poppins

Posted in Health and Fitness, Keeping your sanity, Parenting

Oh, That Wonderful “Me” Time!

I probably don’t need to go into the importance of having a specified day or time for some “me” time each week, but I’m going to do it, anyway. I didn’t use to have a set day or time set aside for just me; I let it happen when it happens. Well, after weeks of not having any time for myself I would explode and desperately cry to my husband about how I need a time-out NOW and would just take one, leaving him behind, unexpectedly, to handle the chaos that has amassed in our wake. After feeling relieved from my few hours’ break, the cycle would start all over again. Rinse, repeat. This is not only unfair to my husband and children, it’s really unfair to me, as well.

Over the last few months I have set aside Saturday mornings for myself. I run a few miles, go to the farmers market, run any other errands, and come home feeling free and light, ready to take on the next 6 1/2 days. Because we know this is going to happen each week, my husband is a little more prepared for it (at least, I don’t get that exasperated look anymore!), and I feel better about leaving and returning. I am so much more relaxed and comfortable knowing I have a time just for me, and this, of course, affects how I am as a mother: happy mommy translates to better parenting.

Date night is another type of “me” time that is equally important. I wish this was something we could do every week, personally, but we at least get one to two times per month just to ourselves. I mentioned in a previous post about how vital it is to one’s happiness to build and strengthen relationships, and this is one way of doing just that. It’s time set aside for you and your significant other to focus on your relationship and build that special bond we all need.

So, do take the time to find a relative or a friend you trust and can count on to help you with your children each week, and find some time for just yourself. I know how stressful it can be to leave your children with someone else, but it really is better for everyone for you to focus on you. It can help make you a more relaxed and focused person which in turn will make you a better parent. Take the time to do it!

Posted in Health and Fitness, Practicing

A Little Experiment

I love to run. I try to run 2-3 miles at least 2-4 times per week. It helps me maintain my energy level, my optimism, my weight, and it even keeps my body’s chemistry in balance. Musically speaking, running improves my stamina, my phrase lengths, and my confidence. Running makes me a better person and a better flutist. I love it!

A few weeks ago, I took a break from practicing, tied up my running shoes, and told my husband I’ll be back in 25 minutes. I had a fantastic run! The air was just right. The temperature was just right. The birds were singing. And when I returned home, my “runner’s high” (endorphins, etc.) was about as high as it could get. After some nice stretches and a glass of water, a thought occurred to me: let’s try to practice right away. So, I ran upstairs, picked my flute back up and, BAM!, biggest sound of my life, amazing full-of-life phrases, and an almost aggressive (but still beautiful) style. I was on top of the world.

After only about a half hour, when I thought I was going to pass out, I put my flute away and starting thinking about what just happened. Well, for starters, I had all of that positive energy still surging through me from my “runner’s high” (it’s a real thing). Second, my heart was still working a little harder than normal, but my lungs were still feeling uninhibited and huge, and sucking in every last bit of air in the room with every breath. Lastly, after pounding pavement for nearly 30 minutes, I was still feeling quite athletic and applied (transferred?) that bit of power and motivation toward my flute. So, combine those three elements, and you become a pretty amazing, powerful flutist.

My goal is to remember how all of this felt and put it to work every time I put my flute to my mouth. I mean, what a sound!!! I want to play like that all the time (musically appropriate, of course). I will probably run this experiment a few more times to help remind myself. Not only did it give me unlimited confidence and a huge golden tone, but it was thrilling for me. I loved what I was doing beyond all measure. I want that every time I play!