St. Patty’s at Cafe Coco.

How does a person live a transformative life, a life in process and development, a growing life? This is something friends of mine and I have been discussing quite a bit over the last week, although we are certainly not alone. The subject is so vast and all encompassing that this space of expression right here cannot answer that question. I don’t have an answer, and I’m not sure anyone else does either. We have attempts at an answer. Sitting here writing this is one such attempt in the form of an activity, a process.

Creating, sharing, interacting on a level of ideas is something that gives me happiness, that gives meaning to this space of time called my life. I’ve done this in so many forms. The forms that stick out in my mind are music, writing, legos, fort building, snow fort building, cooking, playing, tai chi. There are many others…maybe I can explore this further, expand on this tangent. My Music Theory professor Dr. Feldman gave us exhaustive essay projects at the end of each semester. They were both painful and wonderful as I typed and typed and edited and edited until there was nothing left to say about all the material we covered that semester. My fingers hurt right now as I type, and I’m only on the second paragraph – this would explain why I don’t type more than I do, and why I should type more – I need to condition my hands!

Over the last couple years I’ve gotten pretty good at jotting down ideas that sprout up into my mind, but resist like the plague the work of rereading, reworking, developing, expressing, and ultimately integrating these ideas into my life, using them to transform myself, inform myself, grow. All these little spurts of ideas remind me of little spurts of musical ideas that I get really enthusiastic about for a moment, but again don’t take the next step of working with, hold myself back, distract myself, procrastinate, and wonder why I don’t build confidence. How can I have confidence if I don’t put in the time and effort? I used to do this automatically, motivated by school, parents, competitiveness, etc, then my body just broke from my obsessive effort and for the last 5 years I have been trying to put my Humpty Dumpty self back together again. It’s hard to put in time and effort when you only have enough energy to take care of the bare essentials of continuing to exist. This has been changing and is picking up some momentum.

Just sitting here focusing like this, I suddenly find myself happy, recognizing myself again, it’s pleasant….It is a beautiful day outside, the nicest weather I’ve felt so far this year, a light breeze, 70’s and partially cloudy, people laughing and smiling getting ready for St. Patrick’s day carousing pre-gaming at the coffee shop. I’m enjoying the process of relaxing into this place, letting my mind move…..

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Crock-pot weekly! What’s cooking good looking?

Every week I make one or two crock-pots full of a soup that I eat for breakfast and lunch. It is never quite the same. This morning after eating a bowl of this stuff with some raw broccoli, a hard boiled egg, and a cup of green tea, I just got really excited and wanted to share what I threw in the pot this morning. My breakfast was just so delicious and satisfying to my stomach that perhaps others might want to try this!

So here we go! Today’s Crock-pot contents: a couple cups of lentils and split peas, chopped Onion, Fennel, carrots, radishes, and cabbage, a few pieces of chopped up stew beef, Hungarian Paprika, Pepper, Himalayan salt, and finally, doused with the broth I have been cooking in the Crock-pot for the last 24 hours, made from the carcass of the two Cornish hen’s I ate this past week, a chopped onion, water, salt and pepper.

I’ll let this cook until I go to bed tonight. I finished this creation somewhere around 10:15-10:30, so that should give it a whole 11 or 12 hours to cook on low making the house smell even more delicious than the broth by itself made it smell! That’s all for now! Let me know if you want to try it and if you have questions! Post your creations in the comments! I’m always looking for more ideas!

Writing, reading, travel…

Thoughts float through my mind like music once did. I try to grab them like I’d grab a ham sandwich, but can only experience them like floating in an ocean. As wave after wave passes and my tension passes, so do my thoughts…I can only make them concrete by writing them down, but then I create something new from them that also must be carried away by even larger waves, crashing the castles on the sand to make way for a new day.

Traveling for me is like learning a piece of music – it takes prep, takes learning, but still the reality is not the same as the practice room and it takes practice and repetition!

I try to read my words, but like the bits and pieces of music that sound so fantastic in my head as I write them down, they are ultimately a disappointment when I read them, not the same experience….same words, different meaning…but then I work with them a bit and a new warmth can occasionally come, my heart turns towards the words, recognizes them, and is somehow grateful for them, grateful for the work, the life that led to them, and the life that continues after them, colored or cleaned up a bit more by a new self realization.

Education, Paulo Freire

When I started college back in the year 2000, I entered as a double major in music education and violin performance. I dived in, was overwhelmed, but did find college immensely enjoyable. Due to my education major I joined the OCMEA student chapter at school. OCMEA stands for the Ohio collegiate Music Educators Association if I remember correctly. In my second semester I went to the OMEA (the “C” just gave me a discounted rate!) conference and left really enthusiastic about what I was doing and came back to run for vice president of the organization for the following fall and won! However when I came back to school, somehow I was less enthusiastic, my desires to practice violin more conflicted with my education courses and I couldn’t help feeling I was being trained to indoctrinate rather than to teach freedom and artistry. In a previous class I had learned of a school in the U.K. called “The Summerhill school,” a school where students did whatever they wanted and explored! This just seemed fantastic, but also conflicted with the strictness of the program around me. To be fair, I am certain that the strictness of my music education program was due to the limited time we had to study and the vast amount of material to cover, but more and more I seemed to run into dangerous group think, and was uncomfortable with it – heck I am still uncomfortable with it in any group situations, even in classical music situations.

I could go on and on about this experience as it was a turning point in my life. I chose to drop my education major and focus on violin playing and musicianship as a performance major a quarter of the way through my sophomore year.

This morning I picked up a book from my stack of books and read the introduction. The book I picked up was “pedagogy of the oppressed,” by Paulo Freire. As I read the introduction it brought to mind the situation in my own education that I described above, speaking about empowering students and people in general, showing them their own power to create their lives and their world. Something that stuck out was the idea of regaining the power of words, naming your own reality instead of living under the oppression of having to first learn the proper names for things before doing anything with those names. This excited me and reminded me of two interesting things, actually three. First, growing up I played with legos, created with legos. In doing so I created my own consistent language in relation to the legos. When I played with my brothers, I shared that language and they also seemed to pick up on it or share it rather easily, so perhaps it was a group effort rather than just me creating and sharing….I made language, they made language, it moved about, it made sense. In the world of legos we were empowered, we were in charge and I think it had a lot to do with our use of language.

Ok, now the second thing is this, that growing up I also made music, wrote songs, figured out tunes on my violin. I did not expand this as much as legos because I became intimidated by the existing system of music making and its languages and started to believe that I needed to learn that language really well in order to play with others more. The more I focused on learning the language, the society, the tradition of classical music, or jazz, the more I seemed to lose my ability to be creative. I had started out as a singer songwriter as a 5 or 6 year old, but being in Buffalo I didn’t know that that was something special – didn’t even know people developed that much until I finally moved to Nashville for graduate study in classical music and jazz. Living here, it is amazing to see the creativity of folks who have not abandoned their creativity, who have created their own language in music as I did in legos. I wonder then, how helpful formal music education is, how empowering it really is, especially when you look at the cost-benefit analysis…..it would be interesting to do it over again and create my own language…..

Ok, now the third thing is the whole English teacher around the world stuff going on right now. There is demand for and there are organizations that pay native English speakers to teach and share English in countries all over the world in which it is not the dominant language. Yes, it is the language of business, and this is empowering, but I wonder if instead of getting everyone to speak English, we should perhaps just learn to speak their languages and not butt in so much, be more respectful and have boundaries that respect other cultures and populations and don’t interfere and destroy non-English speaking cultures by our profit at all costs mentality….The prime directive of Star Trek comes to mind – don’t interfere in developing cultures, not because we are superior, but because the universe might lose what they could create if left alone and not given all sorts of tech which we hardly know how to use ourselves!