Thursday, January 8, 2009

Trumpet Lessons

Seve started Middle school this fall, and with that came the opportunity for him to take band. He decided that he wanted to play the trumpet this year. I bought him a trumpet on Ebay and was excited to see him start to learn to play. He tried playing it a lot the first week or so, but was not doing well with it. He came home from school somewhere around the 4th or 5th week of school and said he wanted to quit band. He said he hated the band teacher and wanted out. All sorts of thoughts entered my mind.

I admit that the fact that I had bought the trumpet, and I wanted to get my money's worth out of it was one of the first things I thought of. A second thought, was that he hadn't been playing long enough to decide yet, and the last and best thought I had, was thinking about using this as an opportunity to teach problem-solving. I decided to teach my son how to brainstorm this problem. My hope was that he would learn from this and have a strategy for future issues. He has a history of getting mad and throwing in the towel. It came to me that this would be a good opportunity to help him with that.

I told Seve that we were going to try to solve this problem, and if we weren't able to, he could quit. I told him that quitting is okay after you've truly done your best to figure out the problem. He agreed with me. I think he was sure we wouldn't be able to solve it and he would get out of band. I was ready and prepared to keep my end of the deal on this.

First, I asked him to define the exact problem he was having. We established that he was a bad player and the teacher wanted him to change instruments. I then asked him what he thought about that. He said that he wanted to play that instrument, but agreed with the instructor that he was not a good player.

I told Seve I needed to talk with the teacher so that his teacher knew we were working on this issue. I talked to the teacher, who had no idea how upset he had made Seve. I was very nice, yet let him know that Seve was sensitive to the information he gave him, and that we were prepared to work on his trumpet playing. (Sometimes teachers forget about student's feelings. I think in particular, teachers forget boys have feelings.)

The teacher mentioned Seve switching instruments. His concern was that if a kid isn't picking up how to play an instrument by that point in the year, that to keep them from dropping band, he suggests switching to a new instrument. I agreed with him, but felt that we really hadn't tried enough to justify quitting just yet. I asked him if we could try some things first. He was very nice and suggested I try a few private lessons. He gave me the name of someone he knew. This ended up being a great lead.

After talking with the teacher, I asked Seve to sit with me while we figured out the game plan. I asked him what we could do to solve the problem of him not playing the trumpet well. He said he needed to practice more. I said yes, but how can we make the practices be more fruitful. I played the trumpet when I was a middle school student, so I knew the basics of that instrument and offered to help him. I mentioned that we could try me playing a note, and then hand it to him to try to play it. I also said that we might try a private lesson or two. Maybe a professional trumpet player could tell him what he was doing wrong. This discussion went well.

We made an appointment for a private lesson. A few days later we met Kent. What a gem. He is working on a doctorate in music at ASU and proved to be a fantastic teacher. He was so nice to Seve and recognized anything and everything that Seve did well. I had a private discussion with Kent prior to the lesson and shared my ideas and what I wanted from the lesson. I think this helped set the tone for Seve's lessons, but honestly Kent is so nice, he probably would have been the same regardless. He never criticized Seve, and made him feel very comfortable trying.

He quickly noticed that there were two problems with the trumpet. One of the valves was not screwed in right, and the felt was missing on one of the valves. This made the trumpet very difficult to play. He fixed it on the spot, and Seve was instantly able to make a note that sounded much better. We ended up working once a week with Kent for the next few months.

Seve's trumpet playing has actually gotten to be quite good. He and I have never discussed quitting band again. He is not the best player, but he is holding his own now. It was priceless to see his playing develop and his self-esteem improve.

The biggest thing, of course, is that he also has had practice in problem-solving. I knew Seve would like band if he could get over this hurdle of not being able to play his instrument, which is another reason I wanted him to stick it out for awhile. He now sees that sometimes we aren't really good at something right off the bat. Sometimes it takes some practice. Quitting is okay if you gave it your best. The key is to be able to really create a plan that should move you to where you want to be and to truly put the effort into it. Some people say they "tried" when they really didn't. It feels really good to "try" and see that it works. On the other hand, if "really trying" doesn't work, it's healthy to quit.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Visit to a Buddhist Temple in AZ

I have a good friend named Julie whose late father is Japanese. Her mother attends the local Buddhist temple on a regular basis and Julie and I decided a couple of weeks ago to expose our kids to some different churches around town. I really enjoyed visiting that temple, and I enjoyed New Vision.

The Sunday before Christmas we went to New Vision church, and the message there was a Christmas message. It talked about how Santa could be viewed as a symbol of generosity. The Reverend said that the more spiritually in touch one becomes, the more they have to give, and the more generous they are. She also talked about the elves. Elves are the helpers who do the work. Ideally we have a bit of Santa and elf in us.

Last week we went to the Buddhist Temple. The Buddhist message was "I am you and you are I". This speaks to the oneness of all people. We are all one, and when we harm another we harm ourselves. I sort of get it. This is a difficult concept to wrap yourself around. The natural tendency is to think, "What? How can I be you? I have a separate body, you have traits about you that are not me, etc." I admit that I am still working on this, because I don't completely get what Buddha means by all this. I do understand the concept of loving other people unconditionally. I will continue to work on this one.

There was one thing I did notice about Buddhist people that was related to the service I had heard at New Vision the week before. It was their generosity that I noticed. The potluck dinner that was held after the service to say goodbye to their current priest was phenomenal. I have never seen so much food, and most of it was homemade. Tons of food. People brought more than they needed to. Some people go to potlucks and they don't bring enough really. They have several family members and they just bring one medium-sized item. In other words they bring less than what their group will consume. My observation was that Buddhist people bring more than they will consume, because they want to make sure everyone gets some. There is a sweetness about that. I think this may be one way that demonstrates what it means that "I am you, you are I". I'm still learning.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Monkey Business

When I was in Sri Lanka, I had such a good time with the monkeys. It was so funny to watch them, look at them, etc. After seeing monkeys for years at the zoo, I had no idea just how naughty they could be. It was so fun to see monkeys just running all over the place. They were sitting in trees, on roofs, you name it, they seemed to be everywhere.

My first encounter with them was my second day there. My tour group went to a blessing at a temple. The custom is to buy a fruit platter, have it blessed, and then share the fruit with one another. Sri Lanka has the most beautiful fruit stands. They are truly works of art. Anyway, as is customary, I bought one and started to walk on the path with the others toward the temple. I spotted some monkeys and started watching them. They were really eyeing my fruit platter. Being an uninformed tourist, I decided to give one of those darling monkeys a piece of my fruit. The next thing I knew, monkeys were coming out of the woodwork grabbing my fruit, leaving me standing with an empty platter and a growling male monkey. I handed him the empty platter, and in a very exaggerated motion, he looked at the obviously empty platter and then hit himself on the head with it and tossed it to the side. I had to laugh. I had just been ambushed by monkeys. As I caught up with the group, I shared with them that I guessed I wouldn't be receiving any blessings that day. When they asked why, I pointed back at the monkeys all sitting on the sidewalk eating my fruit. It was hysterical.

Another day we were at a waterfall eating at an outdoor restaurant. A little monkey came up and sat down near me. I thought he was so cute and I gave him some of my food. When I saw him, I had to laugh. The monkeys in that area are Mackok monkeys and have the funniest hair. It was straw-colored and stuck out about one inch radius from the center of the top of his head. He looked like he had cut his own hair. It looked like a bowl cut. I commented to the group that this monkey looked like a little Amish man. My whole group had to laugh, as that is exactly what he looked like. In looking back on it, I am lucky the monkey didn't take my purse and run out into the jungle with it.

My last monkey story involves a monkey getting into my hotel room in Candy, Sri Lanka. Apparently the monkeys methodically go around checking doors to find a way into the hotel. We were on the 3rd or 4th floor and had a veranda. We left the door open for fresh air. I was in the Ayurveda spa getting a massage after a 5-mile (total of 10 miles) hike up Sri Pada Mt. while my roommate, Bibbi, a Swedish woman who roomed with me on the trip was showering. She came out of the bathroom to find a monkey in my make-up bag and he was shaking a bottle of my make-up. She yelled at him to leave, and he just sat there. Bibbi had to resort to calling down the hall for the staff, who snapped a towel in his direction and he ran out. It would have been nice if we knew that monkeys would do that.

I got to thinking about these monkeys and realized that I am actually lucky that they didn't run off with everything I own. As a tourist from a faraway land, I had no idea what pests they were. I started to think about how the locals must feel. Everyone working a fruit stand would need to guard it. These monkeys are everywhere. Also, what about ancient people? They would have needed to have supplies guarded at all times. Those monkeys could quickly steal anything. I also started to think that all countries/cultures have their pests....things that the people who live there know about and have systems in place to handle it. The uneducated tourist needs to be open-minded about these things. We can be such "know it alls". The first day or so I was in Sri Lanka, a local man saw me looking lovingly at the monkeys and he said to me "no good-bad monkeys" I should have listened. I was warned. I just didn't listen. How often does that happen? We think we "know" and we really don't. The monkeys really are cute and look harmless, but don't be fooled. I think this lesson applies to many situations we find ourselves in.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Final Thoughts on 2008-Photos from Sri Lanka

2008 was a rich year full of exciting adventures. It was a year of Travel and Personal Growth. 2009 is going to be a year of Artistic and Creative Living. Before I move on to 2009, I want to briefly cover the highlights from 2008.

What I learned in 2008
In a nutshell, what happened in 2008, is that I was able to shift things that I had read, heard, talked about, thought about, knew were good ideas, etc. and put these ideas into action. In 2009, I plan to continue to implement what I know to be true. Here's some of it:

  • I read a book in 2007 titled Eat, Pray, Love and what I took from that was the significance of travel in the spiritual and self-discovery journey. In 2008 I decided to put this knowledge into action. I needed to do some traveling....somewhere really far away. Somewhere that was so far out of my realm and comfort zone that I would be forced to view the world differently. This lead me to Sri Lanka on a spiritual tour in February of 2008, which then lead me to Sweden in July.

  • A new vantage point helps us see old things in new ways. Through actually physically moving myself to see things in new ways hiking, I was able to see how I could "move" myself figuratively speaking to higher levels of consciousness to view people and situations differently. I play with moving myself to places where I am able to "see" people in their best light with their best intention in mind. No one sets out to see how bad they can be.

  • I took my kids on a cruise to the Bahamas and Key West, FL. This is the second cruise I've taken my kids on alone, and I realized that they are now old enough that I can enjoy traveling with them. Cruises allow people of various ages to travel together in harmony. My personal preference is to find a destination and immerse myself in it. With kids, cruises are best. Something for everyone. We were at sea during a monsoon, and I really loved sitting in a leather chair reading a book looking out the window at the wind and rain. Living in the desert, this is a treat. I also enjoyed the gym on the ship that looked out into the ocean. Key West is awesome. I would love to rent a place there for a few months some day and simply write. The Bahamas was pretty lame, but I have fun everywhere I go.

  • When an individual is rude or misbehaves in any way, don't take it personally. It's all about what is going on with them. Something triggered a weakness. Horns came up. It happens to all of us. Recognizing this is helpful. It's directed at you, but not about you....say a silent prayer for their happiness. They need your understanding. They are lost and/or hurt.

  • When you hurt someone, make sure to sincerely apologize. Make sure you spell out the mistake you made so they know you know what you did. Empty apologies don't count. Make sure you don't hurt anyone on purpose.

  • Don't try to make people jealous. If people like you, they already know your worth and you don't need to show your own value. If a person isn't connected to you, you can't make them jealous anyway.
  • I also learned that travel intended to heal needs to be at the right time. If you are still struggling with depression and the crisis is still alive, the timing isn't ideal. The trips I took this year were timed perfectly.

  • I learned that pushing myself physically is something I can do. I can become as strong and fit as I decide to become.

  • I had never really injured myself until this fall. I was hiking in Sedona on Cathedral Mt. when I slipped on some gravel coming down the mountain and I heard my ankle snap. Because I was in shock I was able to get down the mountain. This lead to pain meds and eventually a week later, surgery. I experienced deep frustration at not being able to move around and exercise. I was humbled by seeing many people who had far worse injuries than myself. Many of their injuries were of a permanent nature. My ankle will fully recover. I am only inconvenienced for a short time. I am grateful for this experience, as it has shown me true friendship, appreciation for a healthy body that works well, and compassion for those who are hurt and may need my help in the future.

  • Friendships are extremely important and should be cared for. When I broke my ankle hiking this November I had to rely heavily on friends to help me. I had ankle surgery on my right ankle and was unable to drive for a total of 7 weeks. I had several friends who took care of me. I am now a better friend because I have received such kindess. I want to be a better friend.

  • I am in charge of my family and home....I can make it or break it for my children. My kids love it when I am nice, playful, and take good care of them. This is a huge responsibility. It's important for the family leader to take really good care of him/herself physically and spiritually.

  • If someone doesn't like the way they are living/existing, they need to make changes. Five years from now, things will look the same if we don't make changes. Changes can be made by writing a list of specific things that one wants five years from now. Word the goals in the present tense, and put them in a place where you can read it each morning. Each morning, set an intention to do something to make this goal begin to actualize. What we do today determines our tomorrow.

  • We are all powerful beyond our wildest imagination. What we do makes a difference. We can be helpful or hurtful. Choose to be helpful. The education and financial status we enjoy are tools that can be used to help others. They are not signs of superiority. Everyone has value. We are all equal.