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Live Like Bananas

30 Jul

 

The other day as I was tidying up the kitchen, I happened to notice the back of the Post Selects Banana Nut Crunch cereal box. “We should all aspire to live like bananas,” it said. “They are on a permanent vacation, living in lush, tropical rainforests. From high above, a canopy of trees provides the perfect balance of sun and shade.”

“Live like bananas”–what a concept! My mind certainly feels like it has been on a permanent vacation this summer. As soon as my last Philosophy paper was turned in and my final Psychology exam was over at the beginning of May, my brain has pretty much been on a leave of absence. Since then, I haven’t done anything remotely intellectual.

For the past two months, I’ve fought against my lack of ambition and pummeled myself with guilt. Now that I apparently have more free time to write, the desire is lacking. Why can’t I seem to pull myself out of this ennui? Stacks of unread books sit on my bookshelf and bedside table while my writing output has been a dismal nil.

I think Anne Morrow Lindbergh knew about this kind of lethargy when she said, “The beach is not the place to work; to read, write or think. I should have remembered that from other years. Too warm…for any real mental discipline or sharp flights of spirit. One never learns. Hopefully, one carries…the faded straw bag, lumpy with books, clean paper, long over-due unanswered letters, freshly sharpened pencils, lists, and good intentions. The books remain unread, the pencils break their points, and the pads rest smooth and unblemished as the cloudless sky. No reading, no writing, no thoughs even…the tired body takes over completely. As on shipboard, one descends into a deck-chair apathy. One is forced against one’s mind, against all tidy resolutions, back into the primeval rhythms of the sea-shore…One becomes…bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today’s tides of all yesterday’s scribblings.”

Yes, I feel the particular beguilement of that deck-chair apathy. In my search for the “perfect balance of sun and shade,” the primeval rhythms of summer have erased all resolution, all hopeless straining, all the good intentions and all mental discipline. I know in two short weeks, that will all change. The empty hours will become all too full again. For now, I’ll live in the moment–like a banana.

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Phi Theta Kappa Honors Institute

26 Jun

The Bridge looms mountain high;
Its titan piers grip ocean floor,
Its great steel arms link shore with shore,
Its towers pierce the sky…

(From “The Mighty Task is Done” by Joseph P. Strauss, Chief Engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge)

I’m back from my fantabulous, 6-day, all-expense paid trip to San Francisco with the Sigma Phi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa and I have so much to blog about that I will probably have to break this up over several posts.

The Golden Gate bridge was lovely shrouded in wispy layers of fog the day we arrived. Here I am with our new chapter president, Roxanne and a former chapter officer, Derek on the coldest June 16th ever in the history of San Francisco. Seriously!!! I wished I had brought my winter coat instead of that thin jacket I’m wearing. Rox and Derek walked part way across the Golden Gate bridge that day, but I was a total wimp and enjoyed views of it from the car instead. With the humidity, I just couldn’t get warm! Thank goodness the sun came out the next day and the rest of the week was probably the warmest weather in San Francisco’s history.

Rox was my roomy at San Francisco State University and we got the “Penthouse suite” in the Towers on the 15th floor. Since I lived at home when I attended the University of Colorado as a young student, the experience of living in a dorm was fun–for a week! I slept surprisingly well considering we had to sleep on what we ended up calling “crib mattresses” (probably because I was so exhausted at the end of each day!) And although the cafeteria food was pretty lame, it was rather nice not to have to plan, prepare, or clean up any meals. For six days, my life was reduced to the simplicity of taking care of “numero uno” instead of me times 7. I did a lot of walking, socializing, learning, eating, and sleeping (and I savored every moment of it!)

In the lecture hall, I got to sit in the middle of a row–a simple pleasure that only mothers of toddlers can truly appreciate. Normally quite reserved, I even learned to voice my opinion, make comments in small group settings and take part in discussions relating to our Honors Study Topic, The Paradox of Affluence: Choices, Challenges, and Consequences. I enjoyed participating in courteous debate with my peers, wrestling with personal agendas and biases and grappling with the complexity of political issues–something I rarely have the opportunity to do in my everyday “mommy” existence.

In six days, I learned that a positive attitude goes a long way, that Ghirardelli chocolate hazelnut ice cream in a chocolate-coated waffle cone is just about the closest thing to heaven on earth, and that it’s not a good idea to laugh at homeless people…(more about that in my next post!)

Discovering Jim Brickman

6 Apr

 

Okay, where have I been all these years? I’m a pianist and have just discovered Jim Brickman for the first time. Usually, I stick to classical music, but about a month and a half ago, I discovered two pieces of his entitled “Where Are You Now?” and “Valentine” among the sheet music I inherited from my Aunt. I wanted to hear more Jim Brickman so I checked out his CD “Picture This” from the library and instantly fell in love with his restful renditions. Even though this particular album is over ten years old, Brickman’s New Age music is absolutely timeless.

Then of course, I had to do my “Lisa” thing and ordered the sheet music so I could learn to play these pieces for myself on my own Baldwin 6’3 grand piano. I have been working my way through the book and have found that listening to and playing Brickman’s compositions has been a great antidote for when I’m feeling strained, dejected, or melancholy.

My particular favorite is a wistful and tender piece entitled “Sound of Your Voice.”  It’s so comforting to my soul–like the feel of a warm blanket around my shoulders, or the gentle sound of rain pattering on the roof, or the loving reassurances of a good friend who believes in me.

I find that I turn to my piano for solace a lot these days. I think I could play all day long if I had that luxury. Instead I have to settle for playing whenever I can, which is usually in random moments and snatches throughout the day.

As soon as my toddler is strapped in his highchair and engaged in eating a meal, I slip into the next room and make a dash for the piano. Many times though, my piano playing most resembles a three-ring circus as I try to tinkle the ivories, juggle a toddler climbing up on my lap, keep my five-year-old from pounding on the keys alongside me, and answer my nine-year-old’s question about her homework. When I’m in this position, I often think of runners who train by running on the beach. The resistance of the sand makes their muscles stronger and when they switch to running on pavement, they can run faster and with less effort. I don’t know exactly what I’m training for, but I know that motherhood has made me a better musician–more intuitive to the subtle nuances of musical shading and interpretation that I certainly didn’t have when I was a young Music Performance Major without any life experience to draw upon.

In fact, I often get so immersed in what I’m playing that only the sound of a crash or a child crying in the next room can bring me out of my reverie. These days, I play as if my inner life and sanity depended on it–because it does. It breaks up the monotony of my days and gives me an outlet for positive self-expression. In fact, I’m having a yearning to play right now. Like a magnet, my piano pulls me toward it and I’m finding it hard to resist.

No Holds Barred: Lifelong Learning, the Library, and Me

30 Jul

highlands-ranch-library.jpgAs a weekly patron at the Highlands Ranch library for the past twelve years, I find myself circling back through its doors again and again like a homing pigeon returning to its loft. Searching the stacks for solutions is a hobby of mine—my approach to navigating through life’s particular challenges and changing situations.

 

From the days when the library was modestly housed in a small strip mall to its current location in its splendid and spacious structure, the Highlands Ranch library has provided a home for my inquiring spirit. To me, a lifelong learner and a busy stay-at-home mother of five, the library is more than a brick-and-mortar building. Its services and materials provide a mental lifeline, an intellectual retreat, and a continual source of knowledge that nourishes my rich, inner life and keeps my mind active, engaged, and invigorated.

 

Over the years, I have turned to the library when I have needed advice or help in various undertakings. For example, before deciding to home school my children, I read extensively on the subject, weighing all the pros and cons. For the next six years, the resources I borrowed from the library provided me with the support group, rich curriculum, and teacher training I needed to succeed.

 

When I started an adult ballet class several years ago at the age of 36, borrowing “The New York City Ballet Workout” DVDs and The Joffrey Ballet School’s Ballet-Fit book helped me become a better dancer.

 

While studying drama in a college literature class last semester, I checked out several video productions of “Hamlet” and the audio CDs of “The Cherry Orchard” to enhance my understanding of the plays we were studying.

 

Months ago, while working on a Beethoven piano concerto, I found a recording that helped me figure out how a particularly difficult passage in the piece should be played.

 

While struggling to find a way to connect with my older daughter, I encountered the book The Mother-Daughter Book Club: How Ten Busy Mothers and Daughters Came Together to Talk, Laugh, and Learn. Together, my daughter and I formed our own mother-daughter book club and four years later, it is still going strong.

 

And within the past year, reading books such as Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within, Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined, and Writing Motherhood: Tapping into Your Creativity as a Mother and a Writer, have helped me see that my dream of being a writer is not only possible but even compatible with my current circumstances.

Of course, these are only a few of the ways the Douglas County Library System has improved the quality of my life over the years. With access to millions of items, my education never has to end and can always be customized to my continually fluctuating whims and ever-changing mind. Always accessible, portable, and free, the library accommodates every season of life. Every time I leave the library hefting my oversize tote bag filled to the brim with books, CDs, and DVDs, I feel a deep sense of satisfaction, expectation, and gratitude. I am the richest woman on earth because I live in a county where I have ready access to information that enriches, empowers, encourages and shapes me, granting me the limitless freedom to grow and soar. To quote our library director, Jamie LaRue, from two past Douglas County News-Press columns, cultivating a rich, inner life is about “storing up treasures that endure.” It’s about “a series of experiments and explorations. And the public library is the laboratory. Literacy is more than a life skill. It’s a life.” What would I do without the excellent resources available through the Douglas County library system? A better question might be, “What can’t I do without the library?” The realm of inexhaustible possibilities keeps me coming back for more, week after week. My holds await and with them, the immeasurable impetus of ideas.

Note: This piece appeared in the Colorado Community Newspapers on September 27, 2007.