Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Texas 'Bonnets

About 10 minutes from our house there is a lovely field of Texas finest spring flowers--the Bluebonnet. On Sunday afternoon Muffin and I took a drive over there and found about twenty other cars stopped by the side of the road, people all spilled out with children, wee toddlers, and puppy dogs.  And LOTS of cameras.  In one corner of the field is an old tractor--the perfect prop for kids photos. Another area had a tiny picnic table, barely taller than the resplendent bluebonnets themselves. Toddlers and puppies looked very cute indeed on that table.  It was a beautiful day for photos. 

Muffin and Marmee
Close up.                                                 Closer.

Watching the other families.
We offered to take their photos so they could all get in the view finder.

Beautiful lake of blue. 

So pretty we even took photos of each other taking photos.  Cheesy, but fun. 
Thank you Lord, for your wondrous works that proclaim your glory!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Blind Side

Muffin and I finally Netflixed The Blind Side, which I had been wanting to see since before it was released in theaters.  After all the reviews, interviews, awards, articles, and other news coverage of the actors and the real Tuohy family I thought there would be nothing left to say. However,  ahem, I shall write some comments.

I found no evidence of Hollywood exploitation of either the Tuohys or of Michael Oher. That in itself is surprising and refreshing. Implications of his difficult early life were made without actually divulging his most hurtful circumstances.  Evidence of the Tuohys kindness, love, and tenderness toward Michael was obvious without that becoming the focus of the film. It was, in a word, balanced. My understanding is that if all parties are correctly quoted they would give God more glory than He received in the film version of this story, but He is getting glory.  Each member of the family, and Michael, grew and matured as a result of those relationships.  Thank you cast, writers, producers and directors for balance in telling a worthy story.  APPLAUSE!

Monday, April 26, 2010

April Concert 2010

The final classical concert of the season was last Saturday night. It was difficult. Titled "From Tragedy to Triumph" we began with Brahms. Our guests artists were my neighbors who played Vaughn-Williams rarely performed Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra. It was magnificent! 

On to Mozart's 40th Symphony--very famous!
This is my new friend, Orda, originally from Kazakhstan but now living in Dallas. He has a beautiful European violin. 

My neighbor and her beautiful daughter celebrating at Java City after the concert and their out-of-focus husband/Dad.  It's a bad photo, but he is one half of the performing duo.  Couldn't leave him out!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In memory & in Honor

In memory of Luigi Sorabella and in honor of his beautiful daughter, Candy, my sister in the Lord. May Lou rest in the presence of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.

Art and the Nickel

Saturday night Muffin and I participated in an event that is unique to our hometown.  Several years ago our mayor at that time had a brilliant idea to establish a museum for children's illustrated literature.  After some temporary homes and many years of raising funds the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature, NCCIL (pronounced Nickel) found a home inside a building that was reclaimed and restored by the Preservation League.  It is the ideal size and has a gallery, a shop with reading room, a foyer and combination craft room, and a caterer's kitchen.  The NCCIL organizes exhibits which travel to other museums and libraries throughout the nation.  Open for tours to teachers, children, workshops with artists and lectures for adults the NCCIL is a fascinating place for youngsters and oldsters.  The artists who visit are unfailingly grateful for a place to display their original artwork, because after it is printed in books the works are almost always stored away.  The museum is the only place of its kind where original illustrations are shown in collections by the artists who created them. 

Last Friday night the NCCIL celebrated the opening of a show by celebrated artist, Etienne Delessert, Swiss born illustrator and author of many award winning children's books.  My favorite is Full Color, a whimsical, imaginative approach to teaching a color wheel. 

Before the guest of honor spoke on behalf of his show we were entertained by the Hardin-Simmons University Cowboy Band. They entered with their signature "cowboy shuffle", performed for about thirty minutes, then tossed their hats in the air and shuffled out.  Then dinner was served buffet style by Harold's BBQ, featured in Texas Monthly Magazine as one of the best BBQ places in Texas. I agree!  The chicken was so tender you could cut it with a plastic fork. Delicious brisket and sides of beans and potato salad. Dessert was either peach or blackberry cobbler.  Of course there was iced tea. And Mr. Harold Christian was there to assist serving the BBQ himself.  He's such a nice man.

Dinner music was by Lori Sims, a lovely red haired fiddler who strolled among the tables and played classics: Cotton Eyed Joe, Old Joe Clark, Orange Blossom Special, and Faded Love, among other titles.

When all is said and done however, it is the art that made a very rainy Friday night glow with entertaining warmth and imaginative spirit. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Teaching and Playing: Three generations

This is what I do. I don't remember learning to read music, because I read music before I read words.  I played the piano before I went to school.  The violin dropped in to the mix when I was seven. It was a ploy to slow my progress on the piano because I couldn't reach the notes I needed to play nor would my feet touch the pedals.  After a few years I decided the violin, not the piano, was my voice, my language, my soul, and keenly connected to my spirit.  After I met Muffin, while in college as I was majoring in music, I began to think seriously about teaching music.  At first I thought about teaching general music on the elementary level.  Then I gravitated toward beginning strings classes after learning to play viola and cello and bass myself.  My student teaching assignment was with a sixth grade strings class and a junior high school orchestra.  I enjoyed both. By that time I had three years private teaching experience with violin students and a couple of summers as orchestra camp theory teacher, as well as seven weeks as a music counselor at an exclusive girls' summer camp where I taught classes, wrote a musical production, taught the music to the girls, and accompanied them during the performances.  Long story shortened, after college and marriage no school music positions were open either in west Texas or in northern California where we lived, so I began to take more and more private students. 

We moved back to Texas and had four daughters and more students. Not that I gave birth to the students, but I saw some of them weekly for thirteen consecutive years, and I taught our daughters to play violin as well and saw them every day for eighteen years or more.  So, it's a generational thing for me. A way of life. A skill I pass on. Hopefully a blessing to my children and to their children.

Now Boo is playing professionally and teaching twenty-something students herself.  Looks like one of them is going to be our Gracie!  She is delighted to play her "my-lin".  And because she has watched her mommy teach and re-position violins so many times she thinks she can position them for her grandparents.  This makes me very happy!  She is learning my language.


Irises in two colors and pink rosebuds in my garden

On a routine shopping trip for groceries I found hanging baskets full of petunias and begonias for $6.98 each.  Hard to beat when the four inch pots are often $1-2.00 each, add a pot, the hanger, and potting soil, not to mention the planting time.  My Mom gave me a beautiful fancy purplish geranium for my birthday. And another trip to the nursery netted 3 big red geraniums for the mailbox planter along with some herbs and a celosia and  alyssum for another planter.  Wal Mart garden department had these big pots of Crodyline. When I dug them up to transplant there were 3-4 plants per pot. Google sites pictured fields of them growing like corn in bright, hot sunlight.  Hoping mine will do as well as the spring warms to summer.

alyssum |əˈlisəm|
noun ( pl. -sums)herbaceous Eurasian plant that bears small flowers in a range of colors, typically white or yellow. Several kinds are widely cultivated ingardens• Genera Alyssum and Lobularia, family Brassicaceae:many speciesincluding sweet alyssum ( L. maritima), with fragrant white flowers.

Not long after Muffin and I returned from the nursery I receive a text message from a recent college graduate who wanted to come over for some comfort and advice.  She experienced a very difficult rehearsal earlier in the day and was struggling with shame and guilt as a direct result of the director's words.  Ugh!  I know that feeling.  We talked and prayed and loved on her and I trust that we planted some life to replace the hurt. 

Teacher Gifts: For and From the Violin Teacher

Kelly's Korner today is a commentary on gifts to teachers.  Throughout the past 40 years of teaching violin students I have received some awesome gifts from students and their families. The gifts range in monetary value from very little to quite expensive. Here is a list of some of my faves.

1. More music--CD's of classical music or scripture songs or Christmas music. Itunes gift cards or Amazon gift cards also buy more music.  You can never have too much.
2. A ream of hole punched paper, ready to go from the printer to my students' notebooks.
3. A hand-crocheted angel for my Christmas tree
4. Gift cards to bookstores, Starbucks, Chili's, and movie theaters
5. Violin ornaments--my Christmas tree and garlands are loaded with them
6. Big coffee mugs with scriptures printed on them
7. Homemade cookie dough, ready to bake
8. Homemade bread.
9. Hand made tea towels with seasonal themes
10.  Soft ornaments for the lower branches on the trees that my children, and now my grandchildren, can touch safely.
11. Mechanical pencils--orchestra musicians never have too many.
12. A big bowl  filled with everything for a night "in" with my Muffin
13. Framed photos of my students posing with their best "violin posture"
14. One red rose
15. A handwritten note explaining why you love to make music

Gifts I love to give to my students
1. Gift of musical interpretation
2. CD's with my favorite music in a sampler
3. Ornaments with musical themes--miniature instruments or music symbols
4. Pencils
5. Mini rosin
6. Picture frames with photos of special moments we have shared
7. A harmony--the second, more difficult part to a song for which they have already learned the melody
8. Silly putty--It strengthens the fingers, and who can resist it?
9. Small silly objects they can use to learn a new skill--sticky frogs to hold under their "frog fingers"; small balls to balance on the strings to improve posture; stickers or objects they can use as a focal point
10. Games to improve memory skills
11. Hugs and praise

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Last few weeks

The last weeks of Spring semester in my studio are always challenging.  Students are tired. They are over committed to extra curricular activities. They are weary of school and their least favorite teachers. Parents are tired of the routine, the endless car trips, the whining and complaining and any lack of cooperation that goes with it.  So when the discouraged parents and weary students show up at the studio with baseball or soccer or basketball or flying kites on the mind it is my job to inspire them to think for half an hour, or for a whole hour. Then, just perhaps, they might also be inspired to practice the following week.  Today I did drills, played games, sang, tried impersonating a British teacher, went along with music chosen by the student, challenged some to play "10 times perfect", did my best to play along with everyone who came for six hours, and ended with performance techniques for recitals.

The best compliment I had all day was from one the the last students.  He said, "Is that all?  How long have we been here, because it just feels like a couple of minutes."  I love that boy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wedding Music

Yesterday 75 % of my quartet rode in our Toyota chariot, driven by my warrior, Muffin, to a small town about 75 miles southeast  of here to play for a wedding.  It was a beautiful day--about 80 degrees, clear blue sky and gorgeous wildflowers blooming in the bucolic fields with cows and horses and sheep grazing and lazing along the way.  We all chatted about musical experiences and teaching and ministry, new apps for making all of those easier.  Arriving about 50 minutes before the beginning of the wedding we sat up our ensemble in the brand new chapel (stained glass windows installed just days before), rehearsed briefly with the violist, who was from that town, and double checked all the details of the ceremony with the officiate and the harpist.  The bride is beautiful, the groom is handsome and has a voice like James Earl Jones, and the attendants were the adult children of the couple.  The flowers were gorgeous and al the toddler children in the audience were well behaved.  We fumbled a little finding the music because the folders are too full--even though we had sticky flags marking the pages. Note to self: must reorganize the folders for future events.  The only hitch was that there was a wasp chasing me and which almost landed in the bride's hair and bouquet during the photo session after the ceremony.  These things happen where there is perfume in the air!
We played Spring and Concerto in Dm for Two violins by Vivaldi, Air on the G String, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by Bach, Air from Water Music by Handel, Canon in D by Pachelbel, the Trumpet Tune and Voluntary by Clark and Purcell, The Prayer by Bayer/Sager, Rondo by Mouret, and the traditional Wedding March by Mendelssohn.  A harpist played a very nice arrangement of Be Thou my Vision for the communion service.  All instrumental music in a brand new chapel, packed with friends and family for a brand new life.  Beautiful!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It's Official!

Do you see those tiny little leaves sparkling in the sun against today's lake-blue sky? Those are the official sign of spring's arrival in West Texas. Leaves on the Mesquite trees.

We see some signs of returning spring —

The redbird’s back and the fie’ larks sing,

The ground’s plowed up and the creeks run clear,

The onions sprout and the rosebud’s near;

And yet they’s a point worth thinkin’ about —

We note that the old mesquites ain’t out!

The fancier trees are in full bloom,

The grass is green and the willows bloom,

The colts kick up and the calves bend down,

And spring’s a-pear-ently come to town;

And yet they’s a point worth thinkin’ about —

We note that the old mesquites ain’t out!

Well, it may be spring for all we know —

There ain’t no ice and there ain’t no snow,

It looks like spring and it smells so, too,

The calendar says it’s plenty true —

And still they’s a point worth thinkin’ about —

We note that the old mesquites ain’t out!

— Frank Grimes

My Life Today

So, last night, rather late, I learned that:
1. My 1:45 student, who comes from out of town for a one hour lesson every other week, had a family conflict today and wanted to "re-arrange" her lesson.
2. My Mom, my Muffin, and my Son-in-love, JB, all went to see their doctors yesterday. Muffin has a low fever and infection and feels sluggish. He was told to drink cranberry juice. JB is on the end of a possible gall bladder attack and has a standing order for a scan for the GB if it flares again.
3. Nannie has severe nerve compression pain and an MRI is ordered for tomorrow morning at 6:45 a.m.

Much later after learning those three news items I also got email that my friend got a very bad report from her doctor yesterday and went home with oxygen. Doctor's opinion is that tumors are causing all her breathing problems and she will be bedridden within a couple of weeks.

Today I filled the car with gasoline and went to Bible study. My friend was not at the study this morning and my thoughts and prayers were directed toward her so much that I was very distracted from other subjects. I also stayed awake late praying for her and prayed more before starting my afternoon teaching. In between praying and lunch I called another student who came in the time slot vacated by the out of town student. Then I got email from the out of town student wanting a make up day and time. I explained the policy: one make up day a semester for all missed lessons and the make-ups are in master classes. (This is on my web site.) I taught nine students between 1:45-6:30. Maybe two of them had actually practiced this week. I ate a very quick supper and went to the gym until it closed, then called my Mom to ask about taking her to her appointment in the morning.

By 11:00 pm I had also written seven thank you notes, received an email in SHOUTING CAPITAL LETTERS to get an article and calendar information to three publications ASAP, two of which have been submitted for over a week, but that person who is no longer the president or chairman of the event, is not copied on the emails. I had an email informing me of an 80th birthday tomorrow--keep those prayers and cards coming, folks! I reached my Mom on the second phone call and was berated for not calling her cell phone when I couldn't reach her on her house phone. By the time I reached her she had also made other arrangements for transportation in the morning, reminding me that I had not called her or checked back with her about the appointment. I guess I should have done that first thing this morning from the gas station or the church parking lot. And I learned that one family member thinks another family member has lied to us "quite a lot" and doesn't give us an accurate picture of the lifestyle. Oh, I also worked out at the gym for an hour.

Muffin gave me two nice CD's for my birthday. One is titled The Overshadowing and the other is The Oil of Heaven. I am ready for a big dose of that oil right now!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter Sunday: Texas & India

A tradition that I love at our church is that we bring fresh flowers to cover an empty cross on Easter Sunday. New Life!

Our sponsored child singing hymns (front left). Her first Easter Sunday at the girls home.

Rather than hunting eggs the girls searched for treat bags filled with pink M&M's and Easter stickers.

Our girl and her sister--post service, excitement, treat hunt, and feast.
Maybe a little sugar shock?

Still backtracking

Our family was invited to a Good Friday Service on a ranch about 60 miles Southwest of town on top of a hill. Muffin and I, CB, JB and Em and Roo drove there Friday afternoon, taking flashlight, jacket, blanket and chair as instructed in the invitation and directions to the ranch.

After a delicious catered dinner we sat in the Safe Place, constructed of native stones, watching the sunset as we sang and worshipped the Lord Jesus.

After sunset we heard a sermon by Cowboy Preacher, prayed and walked to our cars under the stars (rhyme!) and drove home. It was a lovely way to remember all that He did on that old rugged cross on another hill named Golgotha.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Spring has sprung.
The grass is riz,
I wonder where the flowers iz?

Well, they are outside, that's where! We had such a cold, long, snowy winter that the wildflowers in Texas are later than usual but beautiful and abundant. And my front porch is blooming too. For my birthday, which was Saturday, my Mom, the Nannie, gave me a lovely double geranium in purple. I bought a hanging basket of petunias, also purple, and two gallon pots of Cordyline. The Sam's club sold hybiscus plants a couple of weeks ago, so we added one of those also.

So, my point is that since my last post, Spring has happened. Daylight Savings Time is here, and baseball and spring soccer are stealing violin practice time from my students. Yesterday was Easter, my favorite day of the year. We celebrated Jesus at church and at home. We sang worship songs and prayed for friends and with friends, then had lunch at home with Nannie and Abigail, CB, JB, Em and Roo, Kaki, Muffin and me. The Easter egg hunt was quite a success and the Sunday afternoon nap was best of all.