Sometimes it's hard to remember how lucky I am. When the baby is crying at 3a.m. I am generally not in a place of gratitude for all the blessings I have. Yet I am incredibly blessed. I have generally good health, a career I love and an incredibly supportive network of family and friends. It is the latter that is the most crucial element. We all need support systems, life is challenging and complicated and the people I've met along the way have been amazing. If I have the chance to return the favor and support those who have helped me, I try to do what I can for them. Hence my blatant request for donations today. In June, I'm running my first half marathon. 13.1 miles is a long distance to commit to, but I've been chipping away at my training week after week and I think I may actually make it to the finish line. When I signed up for the race, I decided I wanted to run for a charity, preferable one that I really care about where my humble efforts could make a real difference. I chose the Asociacion Mexicana de la Enfermedad de Huntington, iap. In English, The Mexican Association for Huntington's Disease or Huntington Mexico for short. Huntington's Disease is a degenerative neurological disorder. It affects the mind then the body and it is genetic. It is devastating and there is no cure.About ten years ago, I spent my summers performing in Mexico City. I stayed with an incredible American ex-pat named Margaret. Her family had been afflicted by Huntington's and it was heartbreaking. Margaret realized there was no support system in Mexico for people impacted by the disease so she took action and formed Huntington Mexico. The organization provides support to patients and their families, including distribution of medicine, transportation to medical appointments and counseling services Many of the services they provide are free of charge.
Every penny they are able to raise goes to services and research. It is an incredible organization, and I really want to help them continue the work they do.Long story short, if you have even a little bit to spare I would greatly appreciate your help in my fundraising efforts. I have a modest goal, just $800 US dollars. That amount doesn't seem so large by US standards, but in Mexico it'll stretch a lot further and could do a great of good. The Rotary Club of Essex has generously agreed to help me collect the donations. I appreciate their willingness to partner with me in this venture. If you are able, please donate. Thanks!To Make a Donation Visit my Crowdrise Page:www.crowdrise.com/runningforhuntington
How can I forget? Long tones are like oxygen, you need them. Somehow they slip out of my practice routine. I don't notice their immediate departure, but soon I start noticing that my scale is a little wonky, or I can't sustain a line the way I want to, or my tone is thinning out in strange ways. Then I get all agitated and annoyed with myself for a day or two before it occurs to me that I haven't been doing my long tones. This usually occurs when I'm trying to pack a lot of practicing into a short amount of time. Now that I have Elizabeth to take care of, luxurious practice sessions are few and far between. She's pretty good about hanging out and listening to me play, but sometimes she gets bored easily. She gets cranky when things are too repetitive or stay too long in a minor key. It really is a balancing act between staying on top of my playing and keeping her from screaming in protest. The poor long tones get pushed aside in favor of flashier passage work that keeps her entertained and keeps me prepared for upcoming performances. I've got to figure out a better system because the long tones really do make a tremendous difference in my ability to control the oboe. Mostly I need to remember that a little bit goes a long way so long as you're doing something consistently. She can put up with five minutes of long tones a day, especially if I can distract her with her favorite toy or a pacie. I know my playing will thank me.
There's been a lot on my plate lately, we moved recently, I've been working when I can and I'm recovering from a rather nasty pulled muscle in my back. So I've been a tad serious. Roo (my nickname for Elizabeth) has been hearing about it all. I talk to her constantly; when I'm cleaning, when I'm cooking, even when I practice with her in the room. I don't know how much she really understands, but I know it's a bit more every day. Last night I was walking around the apt. with her on my hip and I decided we needed to tango together. I grabbed her hand, stuck it out in front of us and danced around the room, singing every Piazolla piece I could remember the melody to. She smiled and laughed and seemed genuinely delighted. After each melody I stopped for a brief rest. Soon, as I put my hand up and asked "tango" she'd put up her little hand to meet mine. Honestly, I was a tad surprised that she figured out my intentions so quickly, she's only five months old after all. Still, her sheer joy when she hears and interacts with music is inspiring to me. It reminds me how much I love the art, and that learning through it can be an incredibly joyful experience. Sometimes people have the perception that what we do as Classical performers is all about being serious. Music allows us to explore all elements of the human emotional experience, but sometimes we forget to revel in the fun stuff, the joys of hearing a melody that makes us smile or feel a bit lighter in our bodies. I'm so lucky I have a little girl around to remind me "if you're happy and you know it, clap your hands" or take a tango across the apt. It helps.
i am a type A personality. I like organization and schedules and feeling like i have control of my time. Having a newborn throws all of my best laid plans into chaos. I'm on her schedule now. It's challenging to find practice time. Reedmaking is nearly impossible. The early stages, processing and gouging cane, have gone right out the window. It's a big adjustment. My entire life has been oboe centered, and now i need to shift focus. I need to keep playing, it's part of who I am, but i'm making adjustments where i can. I've ordered some gouged cane from a source i trust and leave my oboe assembled so i can grab a few minutes of playing time here and there. It's not my ideal way to work, but it's the best way for me to work now. The amazing part is how appreciative i am of playing time. I'm enjoying my practice time immensly, particularly when my little audience member gives me a big smile. I hope i'm able to set a good example for her, even if it is only ten minutes at a time.
I just had to turn down a gig. I despise having to turn down gigs. It makes me feel itchy and uncomfortable like some kind of spiritual rash. I just couldn't accept it in good conscious. The dates are over the next week and a half, precisely when I'm due to give birth. Of course in my brain I'm thinking, she could be late, maybe I could work it out with the contractor. Then I realized that was completely illogical and silly. I'm giving birth, it's a good reason not to accept work. If I were to go into labor next weekend, I would be forcing the contractor to find a last minute replacement for me, and that's not fair to the contractor or the person who would have to come in to play on incredibly short notice. Not to mention the fact that I'm huge and playing has become incredibly taxing on me.
This mom thing is going to take a lot for me to get the hang of. I'm old enough that I'm kind of set in my ways and I'm used to taking on whatever work comes my way. I like playing and performing, it keeps me happy (and sane). Now, I'm going to have this amazing little girl that needs my love and attention far more than my oboe does. The oboe is going to have to be patient for a bit. I think it'll wait for me. It's always been there for me in the past, even when I've had to take breaks because I was getting surgery or getting married. Thankfully, I do have some work set up for later in the fall. That should keep the fear (the oh-my-gosh-I'm-never-going-to-get-asked-to-play-another-gig-again-and-all-these-years-of-practicing-are-for-naught fear) at bay. In the meantime, I'm sure a lot of this will just dissolve the minute she's born and I have this amazing little thing in my hands. Somehow, I think my priorities will shift. I'm looking forward to that because right now not accepting work still feels a bit like saying "no thanks, I don't really need any oxygen today." It's just unnatural.
I've been thinking a lot about motivation lately. Mostly because mine has gone out the window. That's OK for the moment, I have good reason to be distracted. For those of you who don't know, I'm due to give birth in just a few weeks. Over the last eight months my body has been in a constant state of flux as this amazing creature has grown and taken shape. It's a bizarre life experience, but one I'm incredibly thankful to be having. In a few weeks, she'll be born and my life will change drastically, but for now, I'm still able to focus on playing and perfecting my skills as an oboist. That is, when I can get up the gumption to practice. It's difficult because I don't have any concerts scheduled in the immediate future, and it's feeling progressively more difficult to play. She's big enough now that every time I play, it feels like someone is pulling a giant elastic band as tightly as they can around my waist and rib cage.Since she's gotten larger, I've also stopped running. I miss feeling so free physically and lately I've been really looking forward to starting again in a few months. To fill the void, I've actually been reading magazines and books about the sport. It gives me hope that I'll get back in shape again after the baby is born. Luckily, getting yourself out for a run and getting yourself to practice share some mental attributes.
For both, the mechanics of motivation are the same. In my reading, I've found several excellent bits of advice. Here's some of the information that's been helping me the most.This month's "Runner's World" magazine ran a nice little one page blurb on the subject called "Think Ahead." The four principals it presented were; 1) Practice no Excuses2) Eliminate Negativity3) Log your state of mind4)
Get creativeThese are quick mental strategies to help you align your thinking and emotions towards your goal. I particularly like the emphasis on building up the mental resources to tackle difficult practice days. Another runner I found helpful was Jeff Galloway. In his book "The Half Marathon; You Can Do It" he has some excellent information about maintaining motivation
. I was particularly interested in what he had to say about the left brain/right brain connection. He mentioned that stress activates the left side of our brain which then tries to steer us away from any emotional of physical discomfort we may be experiencing. I've certainly found this to be true. Sometimes it's hardest to get myself to work just before a big audition or concert. His suggestions for side-stepping the left brain are as follows:1) State your desired outcome2) Detail challenges3) Break these challenges into a series of actions4) Use power wordsHere's what that meant for me yesterday while I was gearing
up to practice:1) Desired outcome- Practice extremes, pp low register, attacks in top of upper register2) Challenges-
I'm really tired today. My air feels restricted (6 lbs. of baby has that effect). I don't feel like playing.3) Actions: Just play 5 minutes to start (often getting started is half the battle). Remember that playing will relieve the asthmaish feeling. Don't worry about "working", just focus on one step at a time.4) Power words- begin, relax, enjoyTaking the time to think through these steps before I got the oboe out really helped. Of course, there are entire books written on this subject, but sometimes all you need is a few tools to jump-start the process.
That's been my situation lately. I don't need to slog through an entire book, I just need a little nudge to get me moving in the right direction. I hope these little tips are helpful and I would definitely recommend reading the complete articles. Happy practicing!