Tuesday, September 30, 2014

the weather will not break.

A stationary front hanging around the past week has brought all the summer we didn't have this summer. Running in the pitch black humid warm close dark, I feel like I'm in someone else's body. Not inhabiting someone else's body, but actually running around inside a giant body. I run very slowly, finish before it gets light, get home dripping wet.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

another week gone.

Long run today - what I would have called "medium-long" a year ago, but in the heat and humidity of late summer + stationary front, 14.25 miles was all I had, and that was enough to influence the rest of my day, despite a nap. What day is it? It is the 11th day of the Ops 2 sprint and the 7th day of the New 2 sprint. But what day is it? Is it spring, fall? From the the other room I heard baseball and football on TV. I read on facebook about a teacher doing some grading and for a moment thought it was springtime-getting-close-to-summer-vacation. But no - it is the 11th day of the Ops 2 sprint and the 7th day of the New 2 sprint. That is what today is.

Still, it wasn't a total wash.I got silly and invited a bunch of people to a birthday party for Charles Ives. I did some laundry. I caught up with email (what email? hardly anyone emails anymore. it's practically a dead medium). I practiced viola until I could not stand up any longer. I will be in bed by a reasonable hour.

Friday, September 26, 2014

the unknown knowns

Back to ye olde imaging center for more imaging today.

The breast stuff was read onsite and results communicated to me at the end of the visit: "we see stuff, we don't know what the stuff is, we need to biopsy the stuff." I go back next Thursday for a day-long round of this (2 different kinds of biopsy). It is apparently less painful. less invasive, and less debilitating than surgical biopsies were 11 years ago, but still takes a while. As soon as I got home I emailed my boss and requested that whole day off rather than try to work before and after.

The abdominal/pelvic stuff remains an unknown unknown. Today they had students observing, so the ultrasound tech delivered a running narrative while doing the study. Talking about observations and findings in front of patients is generally a no-no, and the tech kept lowering her voice to talk about certain things, or she'd use nonspecific  words "let's make sure we get a measurement of this..." God only knows what this was. I guess I will find out soon enough.

I kept telling myself that it has all already happened, that knowing about it won't make any difference. There is no point in worrying about it.

Still, there is xanax.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

special thoughts for mr kayser on the occasion of the anniversary of his birth

Those who can't play, write.

Those who can't write, write etudes.

Those who can't write etudes, change clefs all the god damn time for no reason at all.

Happy birthday, Mr Kayser. May you rot.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

tiny little ray

Long day, hurrying from one thing to the next. Because it's orchestra rehearsal day I didn't get much time to practice, but I did get a chance to get together with my cellist friend before rehearsal, and murder some duets we haven't touched in months. It was like sight-reading pieces you know by ear, if that makes any sense. Even after two lousy days, my viola still sounds terrible - hell, I still sound terrible - but while we were reading through these pieces, and goofing up and laughing about it, I had these little flashes of, well, I don;t know what to call it. It was something like having ideas about what a line (or even a note) should sound like, and being able to try it right then and there (even as I was "trying" bowings and fingerings right then and there, i.e., sight reading), and have it sound like something. I know I am not explaining it right, and I know that probably no one could hear my intentions, but I could, a tiny bit. And that was just huge.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I am having a panic attack

About nothing consequential, but

2 days in a row the viola sounds terrible, or rather I sound terrible, can't play, tone is awful, can't read. It's embarrassing, really. I cast about for something that might sound good when I play it. Nothing does. I have rehearsal tomorrow and a lesson Saturday and, oh brother.

Maybe things will seem better in the morning.

Monday, September 22, 2014

today was a piece of work

Not a good day.

Gray soggy rainy not-very-cold front settled in for the week, making everything sticky, making my dog upset, making my joints ache. I'm still not able to eat much, don't feel well. Running? Ha.

A friend's elderly dog was put down today, and I felt so sad for her, and her dog, and my dog, and me.

My job has become all about helping newbie project managers tick off little boxes in their report-generating software. And I have to work a couple of nights this week.

Tonight was the only night I had no other commitments, so I was hoping to get some good practicing done. And practice Absolutely Sucked. It was like I'd never picked up a viola in my life. Maybe the weather is making the viola sound bad, but my god, it was awful.

Every other thing is getting on my very last nerve.

Not a good day at all.

Friday, September 19, 2014

un de esos dias

Yesterday's "one of those days" has carried over into today, so I guess it's "some of those days." I feel clumsy and uncoordinated, and achy for no reason. Can't concentrate on much. I did get some work done today (at work) that's about it. Running sucked, viola-playing sucked, I have a lesson tomorrow and my playing is totally unpresentable.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

in other news

crappy lousy mood. Crabby, short-tempered, afraid I am going to say something nasty to anyone who gets in the way.

dr visit: about the only thing anyone knows is that I have osteoporosis. I agreed to start taking fosamax but the pharmacy is getting all confused trying to contact my old insurance company (why?) so I guess I won't be starting right away. However, no one knows:

  • why I have a lot of swollen lymph nodes
  • whether the nodule on my thyroid is anything to worry about for another 4-6 months
  • what the mass in my breast might be (mass? what mass? what?)

So I have to go back to the imaging center for more imaging, joy. Really don't want to have to tell my boss (again) I have to do this (again). And of course this round of imaging will have another followup, and probably a biopsy, or more than one.

In other news, running is not going well. It's dark when I run, and the streets are ripped up and hard to run on, and I'm tired, and my watch is broken. Did I leave anything out?

work: ugh, no further comment.

Music: lesson's in a couple of days and the piece I'm working on is still just, well, blah, terrible. It's like there is something preventing me from making it sound like music. Even my scales are more musical. I'm not looking forward to playing it at the lesson. Even if I were to say something like "look, this just doesn't sound good no matter what I try, can you help?" I think he'd just say something like "if you don't get it, you don't get it." Which is not helpful at all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I am apprehensive

I was doing pretty well not worrying about tomorrow's doctor appointment, but when they called today to remind me, I asked whether there was anything they could tell me. The person hemmed and hawed, then finally said all she could do was read me the doctor's instructions, which were something like "please have joe positive come in within a week to discuss abnormal imaging results." I asked if they could give me a hint as to which of the four imagings were abnormal; they said no, but offered me an appointment earlier in the day so I could find out a little sooner. Well, that did it; I started to worry.

This all happened toward the end of my workday. I worried, worked a little more, had a nice conversation about nothing in particular with a coworker, drove to school and had a nice time practicing with my cellist and violinist friends, had a nice orchestra rehearsal. I really enjoy playing with my stand partner. She helps keep me on track, and I think we sound good together. So, apparently, did one of the cellists, who tolds us so, out of the blue.

Came home, had a drink and some food. feel better but I'm still apprehensive. Guess I'll find out tomorrow.

Everything that will happen has already happened.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

comme ci comme ca

I am in a holding pattern for the next few days: waiting to hear what the doctor has to say, waiting to see what will happen at work (nobody is very happy). I run poorly most of the time, and practice viola poorly some of the time. Not eating well at all, but it might just be stress. On the other hand, I have more opportunities to play music with people than I can shake a stick at, and if only I had enough time, I'd do nothing else.

Monday, September 15, 2014

today could have been horrendous

1. Slow run, slower than it felt.

2. Just before I left for work, my doctor's office called to request that I come in to discuss the results of some imaging I had done last week. No, they wouldn't tell me anything over the phone.

3. Spent the workday trying not to google myself into a panic.

4. Got volunteered to work 5 nights this week in addition to the regular 5 days.

5. Stayed late.

6. Got home late, which meant started practice late. And practice ranged from "ok" to "perfunctory" while I worried about the day*.

7. could not eat much, which made me worry even more.

Whatever is going to happen has already happened. No point in worrying any more. And there's this:


*Postscript to #6: looking back on it, even though the etude is still a mess, I "got" the dynamics a little more. So there's something.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

wow, 3 posts in a day

Sometimes I think that the most important part of practicing is deciding what, specifically, I want to practice, and how, specifically, I should go about practicing it.

For example, take my current piece, as ripe a romantic cheese as you will ever hear in your life. My teacher picks it apart bit by bit and I try fixing each thing, but in the end he just declares "it doesn't sing." And he's right, it doesn't. So I need to work on it, but how? How do you practice making something sing? 

I could play the piece over and over, kind of the million monkeys/million typewriters/million years approach. But something tells me that's neither efficient nor guaranteed to work. So what, then? What is singing? Is it intonation? Maybe, some, but my intonation is pretty ok on this piece already. How about dynamics? What is the purpose of dynamics? To help give the sense of a line. Ok, lines - what else really makes a line a line? In this piece, it's the use of the bow, and especially a bow that moves. Smoothly. At all times. Ok, then: smooth bow; the bow must never stop (except at rests) and it must be smooth through changes in speed and direction. 

And there you go, there's the practice: play through the first few phrases, a bit under tempo, with the focus being "smooth, moving bow at all times." Out of tune,  undynamic - don't worry about that now. You want that bow to be smooth, and moving, that's all that matters now. Do it 5 times, or 10 times. Something will happen, hopefully something good :-)

sunday bizarre

Most of the week I mourn my lack of practice time. Here it's a free day and I actually don't feel like practicing.

Not that I haven't been. I just haven't been doing it well. I'm to the point of misreading simple things (for example, I see a D and play an E), and I'm tense and sore from playing a scale that starts in 7th position. There is stuff I am supposed to practice and within that, things I'm supposed to be aiming for (speed, facility, tone, musicality), but I don't think I'm up to it.

I need to remind myself that there are times to look at the big picture and times not to, because it's too overwhelming. Sometimes I just need to do the work (in this case, play through an etude using various rhythmic patterns) and trust it will do me good, in ways I can't even imagine.


Parties are ok, but they're really not.

I am so self-conscious at parties that I drink more than I should, not to get drunk per se but to be able to speak, listen, joke, laugh, whatever. At parties I drink a lot to lose any sense of myself and then I get exactly what I bargained for - no sense of myself. Not so with small groups, just with parties. Then I am ruined for the next day - I have to stop what I'm doing, cancel what I've planned, and recover physically and mentally with rest and quiet. 

As an experiment, the next time I go to a party I will drink only very little (if at all), and if I can't get or remain comfortable, I'll leave.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

this week is over.

Running: 52.6 miles this week. Not fast, but totally manageable. The mornings are just a touch cooler. Planning 58 miles next week, whoopee.

Work: well, we've talked that to death, haven't we? Despite it all, I thought of something during today's run that I just had to try before I forgot it, so I ended up working about 2.5 hours today.

Viola (pedagogy): 2nd lesson with Mr Regular Teacher since he returned...he gave me a lot to work on last week, 3 scales, an etude, and a piece. Oh, how I worked on it! Especially helpful (or so I thought) was Mr Summer Teacher's don't-be-afraid-to-fail attitude. Well, I failed :-) Today my teacher picked apart everything, and I have to admit he was right, none of it sounded beautiful. But I question my ability to ever sound beautiful - I just don't know if it will happen. In the end, I did not pass GO, did not collect $200 - have been made to stay with the same piece and the same etude (even the same part of the etude) another week, at least. He did say "well, it *is* starting to sound nicer..." right at the end of the lesson, though he'd already pointed out so many flaws that I wonder what he could possibly hear that was nicer-sounding. Don't get me wrong - I am not devastated by this, just trying to be a good sport about it. I will keep plugging along, I guess.

General: a longtime acquaintance died suddenly. We were never close friends, but some of my close friends were his close friends, and they are unpleasantly shocked by this. There's an informal gathering tonight at someone's house, and my husband and I will go, mainly for the sake of our friends who are grieving. It's always nice to be around friends when someone dies.

Friday, September 12, 2014

it can actually get weirder

I didn't mention this in my last post, but I got this job at Company E via a recruiting firm, and it has turned out to be one of the weirdest firms I've ever dealt with.

This was a direct-placement position, meaning the recruiter basically pimped me, and now I belong to Company E and the recruiter gets some cash, and in my experience that's the end of the relationship between me and the recruiter. Not so this time. They walked me into the interview. They walked me in on my first day, and brought Chik Fil-A breakfast crap for everyone. They (the recruiter and the account manager, the tag-team) insisted on taking me to lunch after 2 weeks. And all along they've been tag-teaming, bombarding me with calls and texts any time - day, night, weekend..."How's it going? How's viola camp? How's running?" (I made the mistake of telling them a little about myself). "Oh, and we'd like to do a 'service touchpoint'..." (what the hell is that?) "Can I call you? Can I come by your work and we can get coffee? Will you just answer this list of questions about how great things are?"

I really saw no reason to keep up a pseudo-friendship with these people, so I ignored them as best I could. As things got stranger at work (see last post) I finally sent a brief email: "Sorry, the job is not really what was presented at the interview, I can't really respond to your questions." Flurries of concern: "can I come by? Can I help? Can I buy you coffee" I said no, there's nothing you can do, it's not really your problem. "oh, but we're going to do a 'service touchpoint' with your boss soon to do a performance review on you." Oh, shit, now I really want nothing to do with these people. I repeated "thanks but there's nothing you can do, no point in discussing further" and crossed my fingers that they wouldn't repeat my brief bare-bones statement to my boss.

Which they did, as the account manager emailed me the very next day (my boss said nothing about it). And the conversation (as reported by the recruiter) on both sides seemed totally whack, both sides talking about something different and neither side talking about what I actually meant, since what I told the recruiter was very brief and bare bones.

I told the recruiter as politely as I could that I was not happy she'd gone to my boss with anything I'd said. She tried to make it my fault ("you didn't tell me not to") but I wasn't having any. It has taken me all of this Friday evening to quit seething. My viola playing was very, very loud.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

out of the frying pan, into another frying pan

Any company fool enough to hire me has something terribly wrong with it.

Last year I went to work at Company H. I'd interviewed with them the year prior and was offered a job, which I declined. But soon enough they were hiring again and I was delighted to get the job. The company impressed me quite a bit and seemed like the perfect place for a SQL geek like me. And it was, for about 2 weeks, and then the company reorganized, which had a direct effect on my job. And then 7 months later they reorganized again, with another effect (again not a good one) on my job. So I started looking around for other work, and was offered a contract position by Company W.

The folks at Company W told me I'd be doing a certain type of work, and were very anxious for me to start, so I left Company H on a Friday and started at Company W the next Monday. When I got there, nobody knew who I was or why I was there, and even once that was straightened out, there was very little work to do, and none of it was the type of work we'd discussed at the interview. And then the company reorganized, and I decided I would not stay any longer than the length of my contract, if that long.

I was not actively looking for work, but I saw an ad from yet another company I'd interviewed with last year. They had also previously offered me a job, and I liked them well enough, but declined in order to go work for Company H, my first choice. So anyway, Company E was hiring again, and I interviewed and was offered a job. So I jumped: only 6 weeks after starting at Company W, and my third job this year. I felt like a loser for having three jobs in a year, but I hoped this would be a permanent home.

Once again, the reality was not what was advertised. Instead of developing SSIS packages (as we discussed in the interview), my job was to run those packages, manually, after hours. This kind of work has not been done manually for about 20 years, but Company E is not organized enough to use newfangled things like batch job schedulers. Company E is not organized enough to have reorgs either, but there have been several on-the-spot terminations, the walk-you-out-the-door type. The most recent of these was a project manager who was not my boss but had more of an impact on my work life than my real boss does. He reminded me of the manager at the first job I ever had, at Arbys, when I was in high school. It might be appropriate to say to high school students "you look bored, you must need something to do!" but it's definitely not cool to say this to 50-year-old people with a fully-developed work ethic, thanks very much. He wasn't terribly organized either, and under his reign things were very chaotic. Anyway, I have to admit to a bit of relief when he was summarily dismissed this morning, and I hoped that we could finally automate the make-work and get to doing fun SQL geek stuff. Not to be, not to be...we'll now be expected to do the make-work at least 5 nights each week (on top of our normal business-hours work week), and if we finish that make-work, we'll get assigned more.

How do I manage to pick 'em?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

serendipity, ain't it

Yesterday I mentioned that my teacher really tends to pile on the directions and instructions when it comes to bowing. Trying to get some sort of sound out of me, he'd ask for different soundpoint, then weight, then speed, then distribution, sometimes more than once. This would fluster me, and sometimes frustrate me to the point of shutting down. Yesterday, though, I was somehow able to (mentally) say "oh, whatever" and just do as many things as I could remember. It wasn't all of them, and it wasn't perfect, but it was something, and generally something good. Better than shutting down, anyway.

Later that night I picked up The Inner Game of Music, which I started reading a few weeks ago, and read about something called "letting go to overload", which specifically mentioned getting too many instructions during a lesson and what to do when that happens. I was surprised that this was a subject at all - it never occurred to me that other people might have teachers who give them a whole lot to do at once, maybe too much to process at one time. I was also happily surprised that what the book prescribed was pretty much what I did - listen to the instructions, let go of them, and just play.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

the viola lesson

My regular viola teacher is back from his summer job, and I had a lesson today. Despite all my misgivings, doubts, and catastrophizing, it was not bad, maybe even good. I am going to note all I remember, so maybe I can keep from freaking out in the future. Ha.

Much talking about camp. Then much discussion about what I did over the summer, with Mr Summer Teacher and on my own. Finally we got down to playing, as always starting with a scale. Back to Flesch, Bb major, 1 octave on one string. He noticed I'm more at ease shifting and getting around, asked for more bow weight, slower bow. Assigned 2 1-octave Bb major scales, in a consistent tempo all the way through (yikes! consistent tempo? moi?), plus octaves. 

On to etudes: he still wants me to stay in Kayser. Will I never see the end of that book? Had me sight read some of 24 and I was not as bad at reading as I was last year, but not as good as I was yesterday.  The tempo is allegro assai, but I will be happy to get it andante. 

Then pieces: I told him I'd worked a lot on the Bach and kind of memorized the first 2 movements, but I didn't offer to play it and he didn't ask. So I played Sitt's Album Leaves, 1st mvt, which I haven't really touched in a few weeks. He wants it to sing, and it does not sing. We worked on one passage for a while. He gives a lot of bow instructions at one time: speed, weight, soundpoint, distribution. It's hard to get everything right. I was more able to remain unflustered and follow instructions, and completely unfazed about my mistakes, just tried again. 

I hope I can use all my nifty new problem-solving tricks to help get this stuff playable by the next lesson. If I stick to my old plodding ways, it will take me 4 hours a day at least, and I'll stress constantly about it and feel slighted if my efforts garner nothing more than "eh..." at the next lesson :-)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

playing music can be fun

yeah, right, it will be fun, if I can lift myself out of this funk. Last lesson with Mr Summer Teacher this evening, and I was surprised that it felt so bittersweet. He's really helped me to feel better about my playing. He made me feel like the work I put in is worthwhile, like more progress was possible, if not now or soon, then maybe later. By contrast, last night at rehearsal my teacher (who also conducts string orchestra) remarked, a propos of nothing, that "kids like lots of notes because it keeps them busy, but adults don't like to see a lot of notes on the page because that means they have to play fast." Way to fucking stereotype, Mister. Do you have any idea of what comes out of your mouth?

On the other hand, I should really not take all this so hard, especially a snarky comment directed to a room full of adults he was teaching. If he says something like that directly to me, well, that will be a test of my temper.

But meanwhile, we'll forget all about that, because lessons with Regular Teacher start again this Saturday and it will be as fun as I can make it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

when I was ok over the summer

Over this weekend I've found myself getting more and more tense about starting orchestra again and starting lessons with my regular teacher again. We had some run-ins over the past year, he and I; I felt I could never play well enough or progress quickly enough to please him, and took everything he said (every criticism, anyway) to heart. 

Over the summer I had a lot of fun playing and learning and messing up and doing all of this again and again, so I was really dismayed to see that mood dissipate and be replaced by dread. So despite my loathing of all things New Age, I thought I'd make a list of things that were cool when I was ok over the summer:

  • playing was fun!
  • mistakes were just mistakes, not evidence of character flaws.
  • Sometimes my mistakes were really funny.
  • I learned a whole bunch of new ways to go at mistakes and try to correct them.
  • I was much more in control over the sound I made, and comfortable enough to fool around with different sounds
  • I was totally able to accept that I was a beginner, not accomplished at all, just doing the best I could and trying to get better. This was a no-brainer; I didn't even have to think it consciously.
  • The whole impostor-syndrome thing was absent
  • As corny as it sounds: I realized it's a journey, not (just) a destination.

There, I feel better. Really, I do. Sometimes this New Age stuff does work.