Friday, September 28, 2007


Just a little experience I had with a student this week...

Johnny's* mother came in early before his lesson alone, frantically gesticulating and pacing, exclaiming that Johnny wanted to quit violin, that he hated it and every practice session was a session of tears and temper tantrums. She herself is a music teacher, so she understood that there's only so much a music teacher can say to parents, especially considering that although I have over 30 students I don't have any children of my own. I asked her, "What do you usually say to parents of your students who are going through the same thing?" She gave the usual reply, that all of us have gone through this, there are phases where children, especially preteens, don't want to do what their parents want them to, etc.; things I would say as well. I did my best to encourage her, but that was all I could tell her, too. I assured her that her son was doing very well, and was just at the point where he needed the encouragement to take it to the next level. I'd hate to see him quit, because he's a very good player and I enjoy teaching him.

After a few minutes Johnny came from class into the studio for his lesson. We did not mention what his mother and I had talked about; I thought I'd save it for the end. Johnny proceeded to play a few scales, review pieces, and a Vivaldi concerto. Everything he played had a feeling of tension and anger in it. It was truly amazing to me how much this little boy could express with his violin. I kept reminding him to slow down his shifts, relax his left hand for vibrato, and loosen his right elbow to smooth the sound. Toward the end of the lesson, I gave Johnny a little talk. I pretty much just told him, "Johnny, no matter what you feel, you have to be obedient to your mother, and practice just the way she asks you to. No temper tantrums are allowed; crying does NOT count as part of your practice time!" Then I told him: "I can tell simply by the way you are playing that you are angry. You have to understand how much your violin expresses the way you feel. It's great to express your feelings through your music, but you must control your anger."

As Johnny was putting his violin in its case at the end of the lesson, he listened intently to me as I told him and his mother, "You always hear about controversies involving musicians' unions and various theater companies and films wanting to save money by using 'canned' music, synthesizers, multi-track recordings and so on, as opposed to hiring live musicians. Sometimes people have even theorized that with so much technology that can produce computer-generated music, real, live musicians will become a thing of the past. But we can see that this is why there are musicians in the world. It's truly amazing how much you can express with your instrument. I get this all the time--parents tell me something about how practice is going at home, and immediately I can see what they mean from the first piece a student plays in the lesson." Believe it or not, this applies to Twinkle as well as Vivaldi concerti.

*not his real name; names changed to comply with HIPAA policy

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Praise du jour

Apart from insect infestations (the conclusion of the story to be revealed shortly--keep checking back), and an occasional computer crash (thanks go out to Ben M., for his kind work on my computer), my life is fairly uneventful, and my praises to God are for personal day-to-day things that may not make sense to other people in a blog. But once in a while I have to share certain experiences that were truly God's workings.

The last week Joelle and I have been frantically stuffing endless boxes and envelopes for GYC promo materials, which needed to go out this week. I think we've spent an average of 4 hours a day since Sunday on this, and along the way, have encountered numerous technical problems--computers, printers, ink, moving boxes between our houses numerous times, etc. (I've been reading a book about early Adventist history, where a quite a few of the Advent camp meetings in 1843-1844 drew 6,000+ people daily to hear William Miller preach about the soon return on Christ--and none of the organizers of these events even had cars, let alone Internet, mail merge programs, or Endicia pre-paid postage systems. But that's another blog.)

Yesterday evening Joelle, Norman and I loaded my Jetta to the brim with yet another shipment of envelopes to go out to all the SDA conferences on earth, I think, and my assignment for the day is to take them to the post office.

This morning at exactly 3 AM my car alarm went off. For a bit of background, there have been quite a few car break-ins in our neighborhood recently (the apartments in the area have carports with no garage doors). Also for clarification, although you hear endless car alarms all night and day from the kind of cars whose alarms go off at the slightest vibration or possibly affront to their feelings, my car alarm has never gone off before. I just knew that this meant someone was trying to break into my car. Granted, 500 brochures advertising "Be" are probably not the mother lode for car thieves, but I couldn't help thinking how disastrous it would be if someone decided to vandalize them for fun, or take them (or my car) away just to check if there was something more valuable in all of those boxes.

All of this was going through my head, in those odd intersomnious 3 AM moments, when everything is scarier than reality. I certainly didn't want to go out and try to chase anyone off all alone in the dark at that time, so there was nothing to do but pray. So I prayed and prayed, "Dear Jesus, this is your work and your ministry; please keep these brochures safe so they can get to the people who need them!" While I was praying, my favorite part of a hymn came to mind, "I Sing The Mighty Power of God:"

There's not a plant or flower below but makes Thy glories known;
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne.
Creatures that borrow life from Thee are subject to Thy care;
There's not a place where we can flee but God is present there.

I figured if God could do all of this, He could certainly protect some brochures.

Eventually I fell asleep, and first thing in the morning I went out to see what became of my car. There it was, completely intact, nothing missing and no damage to my car.

A postscript to the story: I was so excited that I called Joelle at 7:45 and told her the story so she could thank God with me, because I didn't think I could thank Him enough. Maybe that's what praise really is.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What's new, second edition

There are so many exciting things happening in my life right now, I can't help but share some of them with my friends on the blogosphere. Here are a few of the highlights:

1. My landlord kindly left me an extra bag of potting soil the other day. The front of the bag proudly boasts of its contents in large letters as such: "All Natural with Added Organic Ingredients: Worm Castings, Kelp Meal, Bat Guano, and Chicken Manure." I wonder if I'll plan on wearing gloves when I'm gardening from now on.

2. The critical phase of Operation Stupid Little Mothlike Flies in the Kitchen is in full effect. I killed about 10 of them the other night. The turning point occurred, however, when I found larvae in my bag of Cheerios, which I have not had in the cupboard for more than a week. Yesterday I spent a large part of the morning taking everything out of the pantry cupboard, throwing away large amounts of suspect food, inspecting every angle of everything else, and scrubbing. Now I realize that all I have left in the cupboard is a few cans of beans, an extra veal baby food jar for the cat, cereal (well locked up in tupperware), a can of powdered "wassail" which was a gift from a student last Christmas, and an unopened very large bottle of Vietnamese spring roll dipping sauce from when Monica lived here, I think (do you have any recollection of this, Monica?).

3. In other insect news, a black widow spider was found in my teaching studio at the school the other day--on the ceiling, precariously dangling above where my students usually stand. Needless to say, I moved to another room for the day and called maintenance. I know they did come the following morning looking for it, and there is now no spider in the place where it was; however, nobody told me whether or not they actually found it or not. I have an awful lot of bookcases in my studio.

4. I think it rained last night.

More exciting updates to come, I'm sure.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Annual Birthday Blog

This past week, I celebrated another year of life God has so graciously granted me. It's easy to take time, people, and events for granted, so a birthday is an excellent time to reflect on how God has led each of us in our lives. I was assigned by a friend the task of blogging the answer to the question, "How do I feel God has led me and blessed me in the past year?" Yesterday this same friend helped me define exactly what the answer is.

If I could sum everything up in a small statement, it would be this: Praise God that there are things in our life that we absolutely cannot control on our own. It just makes us realize how much we have to depend on God for constant guidance.

"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:6, 7.