Thursday, July 24, 2014

Published 1:49 PM by with 0 comment

Thoughtful Thursday: Being an Artist Means...

Therefore, my dear sir, I know no advice for you save this: to go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you MUST create. Accept it, just as it sounds, without inquiring into it. Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what recompense might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and find everything in himself and in Nature to whom he has attached himself.


Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide. I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: PATIENCE is everything!


If you will cling to Nature, to the simple in Nature, to the little things that hardly anyone sees, and that can so unexpectedly become big and beyond measuring; if you have this love of inconsiderable things and seek quite simply, as one who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier, more coherent and somehow more conciliatory for you, not in your intellect, perhaps, which lags marveling behind, but in your inmost consciousness, waking and cognizance.

You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the QUESTIONS THEMSELVES like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. LIVE the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.


And this more human love (that will fulfill itself, infinitely considerate and gentle, and kind and clear in binding and releasing) will resemble that which we are preparing with struggle and toil, the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.

~ Excerpts from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

A thoughtful quote can be the bridge that leads us farther
along the path of understanding each other and ourselves.

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Published 1:26 PM by with 0 comment

You Think We're Eccentric?

I've seen the way people look at us, strangers in the grocery store or drivers going by on the street. Our friends are more okay with rolling their eyes at us. Or they join in, if they're cool enough ; )

We're going to be known as "that" family. At least to some folks. 

The family that pulls from their grocery budget to pay for a banjo that suddenly came up for grabs (at an extremely low price, if I may say so), adding to our growing collection of instruments. Who can master the forward and alternating rolls first, guys?! 

The family that sits on their porch playing music in the evening while letting their two year old pick flowers in the twilight.

The family that makes up their own lyrics to popular songs and tries to see whose version is more hilarious.

The family who shouts "pose!" when you least expect it and then everyone freezes into a ridiculous position. Points for looking the most dramatic!

The family who doesn't operate under any kind of current or modern fashion sense, but just wear the colors and style and feel of clothes they like. 

The family that turns up its nose at each other's drinks of choice (tea, Mountain Dew, and coffee*) yet goes out of their way to help each other obtain said drink as if it were a vital part of the day's functioning. Which, for some of us, it probably is.

The family that constantly has a visitor sleeping on their couch for a night, or a weekend, or eleven days, or more. Guests are welcome here : )

The family that might break into an opera or musical scene in the kitchen. Yes, with terrible pronunciation of Italian (me) and the possibility of a tap solo (Chris).

Yes. We are "that" family. 

And we love it. 

*My sister = tea, Chris = Mountain Dew, me = coffee (once or twice a week now), and I do like tea, actually. Heh.

Weaving words along with everyone else inspired by Write Alm's July Prompt-a-Day.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Published 8:13 AM by with 0 comment


It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.


The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.

Every once in a while I feel that life, for one moment, is so sweet that I could not wish for anything more. Then in the next second the delight loses its edge as "but" and "what if" creep in.

Life is bittersweet at best.

Right now, even as I enjoy the blessings of a home and beautiful family and food in my belly and air conditioning and no persecution and quiet neighborhood and classical music playing and more Things than I could ask for, I still have desires.

I desire to be a far better mandolin player than I am. This is a really big desire right now, as I struggle with feeling like a completely inadequate musician: I can't improvise to save my life, have a hard time strumming, and can still barely use a pick. Yet the intense desire to become a better mandolinist is there because I love bluegrass, folk, and Irish music so much that I want to actually be able to play them myself instead of just listen to others play them. So I desire both the ability to play a secondary instrument and more enjoyment in fully immersing myself in the music, despite the fact that I can already find pleasure in listening to the mandolin. Partial fulfillment is not enough. There is more to desire.

I desire to be more passionate about God.

I desire to have patience with myself and my daughter.

I desire the presence of those I love who are far away.

I desire to not worry about our finances constantly.

What is the solution to desire?

Contentedness. Gratitude as well. Fulfillment, in some cases. Perspective. And maybe a healthy dose of living in the moment, savoring the drops of sweetness as they come.

Weaving words along with everyone else inspired by Write Alm's July Prompt-a-Day.

Quotes by C.S. Lewis.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Published 7:13 PM by with 0 comment

Weekending: VII

Date night!
Much anticipated,
Saturday night to ourselves,
contra dancing until late planned.

The reality: long work weeks
for both left us breathless
after only three dances
(they were full of spinning
to the left, in our defense)
so instead we bought a bottle of wine
and tiny containers of ice cream for one dollar
and went home to lounge on the couch
Still a good time,
just not the time we had anticipated.

Thank goodness we're happy
simply having time to spend
with each other.

We had such a lovely
time together
that we spent Sunday
as a family at home,
eating donuts from the local bakery,
listening to a sermon online,
reading books out loud,
and going on a walk.

The rest of the weekend
was blessedly quiet.
I am almost caught up
with all the paperwork and housework
and cleaning and laundry.
There is home-made chicken noodle soup
simmering on the stove,
a new pair of knitted socks finally completed,
and a new week of life
to plan and dream ahead.

"Weekending. My favorite part of the week. A time to relax, live, love, just be. ~ Amanda" 

Linking up with Karen at Pumpkin Sunrise
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Friday, July 18, 2014

Published 9:17 AM by with 0 comment

Taking Care

Someone told me several years ago that the best way for a woman to take care of others was to make sure that she took care of herself. That seemed selfish to me. Now that I'm a mother, though, I see more and more the wisdom of this.

If I am rested, not hungry, spiritually fed, mentally alert, emotionally supported, then I can be a better mother, friend, wife, daughter, sister, and teacher. Of course, most of the time I am not able to check off all these boxes at once! Life is about sacrifices. Just because I didn't get enough sleep, or missed a meal, or haven't had alone time in several days, doesn't mean that I am allowed to take it out on my family.

But if I want to be the person I strive for, then I need to know under what conditions I best function.

I can wake up earlier so that I get quiet time in the morning to read, write, think.

I can make sure to spend time with Chris at night so that we can chat or hang out together.

I can only keep clothes that I absolutely love in my closet so that no matter what I go to wear, I can always like it. (Yes, 99% of them are from thrift stores or hand-me-downs, and I'm totally happy with it!)

I can make time for myself to play real music on my instruments rather then spend that extra half hour surfing the web, because music balances and restores my soul, while the internet definitely does not.

I can cook healthy food for my family, which takes more work, but helps us all feel better when we eat less processed food and less sugar.

I can play outside with Harmony in the fresh air, rather than stay stuck indoors. Sometimes you need to just drop everything and go out! We have two lovely porches in the front and back, and at least one of them is always shaded during the day.

I can practice prayer and meditation so that when I feel myself losing my temper I will be more capable of regaining peace.

I can live in the moment, loving and feeling and breathing, instead of rushing rushing rushing through life.

After crazy weeks like the one I've just had, I realize again that I have dropped the ball in taking care of myself. Yesterday I felt dehydrated, insecure, worried, tense, achy, and stressed. So I deliberately made choices to avoid things that would exasperate these qualities, and decided to do what would help bring me back into balance. No television. Reading aloud a good book with Chris. Big pot of chamomile tea. Write a postcard to a friend. Make sure that the house was semi-clean so that when I woke up this morning I wouldn't be greeted by a mess. Write out a list of exactly what needs to be done this weekend around the house so we can be organized. Early to bed. All little choices, really, in the grand scheme, but isn't that what makes life beautiful? The little things.

Now, this morning, I am present again.

My mind is not racing. I feel rested and awake. Ready to greet the day. Early morning sun shining through the windows, arabic coffee at hand, gratitude journal out after a (should-not-have-occurred) hiatus, teaching schedule for the morning ready to go, beans soaking for burritos later on. A day which will be busy, of course, as most of our days are, but a day that has a much better chance of being a good one.

Weaving words along with everyone else inspired by Write Alm's July Prompt-a-Day.
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Published 9:04 AM by with 0 comment

Thoughtful Thursday: Human Reaction to the Beautiful

"Well, why has this... why has this happened?"

Domenica sighed. "It's happened for a very simple reason," she said. "It's a matter of human reaction to the beautiful. It's a matter of aesthetics."

"I feel this way about Bruce because he's..." It was difficult for her to say it, but the word was there in the air between them.

"Precisely," said Domenica. "And that's nothing new, is it? That's how people react to beauty, in a person or an object. We become intoxicated with it. We want to be with it. We want to possess it. And when that happens, we shouldn't be the least bit surprised, although we often are.

It's an age old issue," she went on. "Our reaction to the beautiful occurs in the face of every single one of our intellectual pretensions. We may be very well aware that the call of beauty is a siren-call, but that doesn't stop it from arresting us, seizing us, rendering us helpless. A soul-beguiling face will make anybody stop in their tracks, in spite of themselves."


Pat looked at him, and noticed the way that the hairs lay flat against the skin of his wrist, and the way that one of his eyebrows was slightly shorter than the other, as if it had been shaved off. And she noticed, too, his eyes, which she had never really looked at before, and the way the irises were flecked with gray. 

And Matthew, for his part, suddenly noticed that Pat had small ears, and that one of them had two piercings. For a few moments neither spoke, as each felt sympathy for the other, as the same conclusion - quite remarkably- occurred to each: here is a person, another, who is so important to himself, to herself, and so weak, and ordinary, and human as we all are.


Those regularly-featured Hollywood males made her feel slightly nauseous; and the same could be said for their females equivalents, hardly intellectuals they. These peole had regular features but were actually ugly because they tended to be so completely vacuous. Regularity without some metaphysical value behind it, some beauty of soul or character, was more disappointing- and indeed repulsive- than the honestly haphazard, the humanly messy. 

It was more disappointing because it promised something that was not there: it should engage the soul, but did not. It was shallow and meretricious. So Mother Teresa of Calcutta, with her weepy eyes and her lined face, was infinitely more beautiful than...? Than the current icons of feminine beauty? Than that woman who called herself Madonna (whoever she was)? Of course Mother Teresa was more beautiful- infinitely so. Only a culture with a thoroughly upside-down sense of values could think otherwise. 

And that, mused Domenica ruefully, is precisely the sort of culture we have become.

~ Excerpts from 44 Scotland Street, by Alexander McCall Smith

A thoughtful quote can be the bridge that leads us farther
along the path of understanding ourselves and the world.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Published 8:17 AM by with 0 comment

Weekending: VI

"Weekending. My favorite part of the week. A time to relax, live, love, just be. ~ Amanda" 

Linking up with Karen at Pumpkin Sunrise

My view at night.

Snapped by grandma!

Over ten hours worth of guitar music
played for gigs. My calluses
are back!
Better yet, met someone awesome,
a new friend.
A trip to the World Bird Sanctuary
with more friends, a lovely morning.
Then rushing, rushing, rushing
to accomplish the million errands
that obviously need to

Writing, cleaning, cooking, playing
with ponies,
listening, learning, reading
aloud books again and again,
knitting, walking, talking, watching
Doctor Who late at night,
sharing my thoughts honestly,
our family together,
the week ahead.

Oh, and taking time
to splash in puddles.
All the important stuff.

Picture taken by grandma
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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Published 8:47 AM by with 2 comments

Illusion. Or, How the Internet Makes Everything Look Better.

This is what my stove top looks like right now. Right at this very minute. 

Yes, that pot was used to cook spaghetti last night for dinner. I was the only one here because Chris was at work, Harmony was at grandma's house, and my sister was out of town, but I was still hungry after running ten errands (I counted, there were ten), so I cooked and ate spaghetti then rushed out immediately afterwards because I had a gig to play guitar at across town.

This is my floor. Those are dead roly-poly bugs. And a (hopefully) dead spider. Thankfully the cream color of the tiles masks the rest of the dirt. My kitchen floor is gross. I promise, though, that as soon as I finish writing this, I'm going to get the broom and sweep everything, because the levels of grossness can only go so far. That spider is right where my toes go when I stand at the counter!

Sometimes our lives can look quite pretty, online where you get to pick and choose what people see. 

Like this beautiful rose. I had a hard week, due to lots of craziness with my job as a guitar teacher, and by Thursday night I was ready to scream. But fortunately I have a loving husband who gave me a rose and a drink of ginger ale and whiskey, then sat me down to watch Doctor Who with him all snuggled on the couch, so I did not scream. That rose is gorgeous. So is my husband ; D

This is what you normally wouldn't see.

Yep, those are unwashed dishes. They kind of spill over onto the tiny counter and crowd away the clean dishes up there in the corner. At least I can look at my rose while washing them!

There are only two piles of un-unpacked boxes in our house now, finally! So we're almost officially settled in completely. 

But just because we're settled in doesn't mean that I'm completely organized. Here is where I've put all my bills and paperwork and stuff that I CANNOT LOSE OR ELSE THE WORLD WILL END but I haven't had the bravery to sit down and fix it all yet. Their time is coming. Probably tomorrow night. Because tonight I have to play another guitar gig, and drag all the stuff you see below to where I'm going to perform.

Hooray for making money as a guitarist!

So anyway, if you think that my life is a bed of roses (ha ha, at least I have one rose!), it really isn't : ) 

I realized something very important this summer. At this point in life, three big things take up my time and energy: being a house-keeper, being a mother, and being a musician/teacher. 

I definitely fill other roles, like being a wife (obviously! but Chris doesn't zap my energy, he renews it, and we often work side by side, so he is awesome), being a friend, being a daughter, being a sister, being a writer, etc. Yet these can fit themselves in at different points during the week. Except for Chris; he's an all the time thing, but I've already explained that he's different in an awesome way.

It is a relief to honestly admit that on any given day I can fulfill only two of those three major roles. If I am an attentive, patient mother, then I can also be a dedicated house-keeper that gets the laundry done and cooks dinner and makes sure the bathroom is clean, but I am a waaaay less effective teacher because I'm exhausted by the time I head to the studio. Or I can be a good house-keeper and let Harmony watch "My Little Pony" all morning while I take care of stuff, letting her brain rot into mush, and then go be an energetic, (hopefully) inspiring teacher for my music students. You see how it goes. Something's gotta give. 

And most of the time it's the house. 

Sorry, house. 

I love my daughter and music more. 


Don't worry. My house does not look like an episode of "Hoarders", nor is my family subjected to freezer pizzas for days at a time, nor are we wading knee-deep in dirty socks. Come over unannounced and you can see for yourself. But I may ask you to wash the dishes while you're here. 

Weaving words along with everyone else inspired by Write Alm's July Prompt-a-Day.
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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Published 6:46 AM by with 0 comment

Vulnerable, Take Two, with a Side of Ambition

Self-portraits are strange.
It's best just to point and shoot
without any fussing,
get it over quickly.
It's not often that I see myself.
If I look clearly,
will I like
where I am going
or who I am?
Thankfully this moment is 
not the end
of the road yet,
so there is still time
to take another turn,
to keep on becoming
who I hope to be.


From the time I was a toddler (yes really, I was four) my goal in life was to be the best female classical guitarist that I could. That was tempered as I aged; I would settle for being ONE of the best. Then in college I discovered that the best use of my time and energy was to teach classical guitar to children. Within the past few years, this has narrowed to just be "teach children", including any and all subjects such as music, the Bible, how to write, how to read, how to love literature, dancing, music theory, and most of all, how to love. 

This doesn't mean I've got it all down pat for myself. Far from it.

But these areas are so important to me that I can't help but want to share them with others. 

And in the process of teaching them to children, I am teaching myself the same basic principles over and over and over. It is a continuous process of taming my heart, which is much more complex than training my fingers.

Now my greatest ambition is to simply love others, in whatever ways I can.

Weaving words along with everyone else inspired by Write Alm's July Prompt-a-Day.

Here is the link to the previous "Vulnerable" post, almost exactly one year ago.

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Monday, July 07, 2014

Published 10:49 PM by with 0 comment

Weekending: V

"Weekending. My favorite part of the week. A time to relax, live, love, just be. ~ Amanda" 

Linking up with Karen at Pumpkin Sunrise

Parade, candy, red white and blue.
"Look, all da horsies!"
She surprises us by making friends with five year olds,
pretend pony conversations
and stickers and bubbles for hours.
A rough morning afterwards
with a tired mama trying
to care for an exhausted toddler.
Encouraging words help restart
the day, despite a first (almost failed) attempt
at baking a tres leches cake,
ending on a good note with a going-away party
for a European friend,
complete with freshly made, to-die-for fajitas.
Church, special lunch with family,
the usual on Sunday.
Then a friend from far-away visits,
an unusual occurrence,
which necessitates a trip to Ted Drewes!
All good occasions are marked
with food in this household, it seems.
To top off the weekend, "little brother"
visits one last time before leaving for more
summer rambles, and we sing
songs from Pirates of Penzance
while cooking in the kitchen.
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Thursday, July 03, 2014

Published 2:00 PM by with 0 comment

Weekending, Disgracefully Late Edition: IV

House so full that there aren't any empty rooms,
home overflowing with smiles and chatter.
My student wins first place
in a difficult guitar competition,
I hear ten of my students perform
a fantastic concert,
I have two long gigs myself
on a guitar that is happy to be played again.
Dear visiting friends keep this place 
filled with music all week long:
guitars on the porch, in the den, 
on the couch, 
in the dining room,
in the grass.
Late night glasses of wine
sipped over conversations
of life, living now, love;
early morning walks 
to the local bakery right down the street
for coffee and donuts.
Harmony skipping along
the sidewalk singing 
Twinkle twinkle, little star.

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