Saturday, January 23, 2010

Parents: instruments: listen! Part 1.

If you're over me ranting, go away now. If your child learns an instrument or you know someone who does, read this.

Let me give you a little analogy:
You're learning to drive.
You have a bomb of a car.
It doesn't always start.

Sometimes the brakes don't work, and the accelerator doesn't always depress reliably. The steering can't work out whether or not it's power or manual, and the gears just sound weird. Like the car's about to die any second.
This is what playing a cheap (insert instrument of your choice here) is like.

Now imagine that you see your instructor once each week, for half an hour. When they get out of the car they remind you of the things you have to improve on.

In five minutes on Thursday you try to remember what they said on Tuesday. By Friday you've completely forgotten, but you drive up to the shops and, in doing so, practice all your bad habits again, because this car is hell to drive.

On the weekend it's just too busy to practice, so on Monday it's panic stations as you cram for Tuesday. Surprise, surprise. Tuesday rolls around and you're still a crap driver.

Your instructor is sad? Shocked? Resigned and disappointed? Angry? None of these are productive. You feel bad, you might promise to try and do better, but somehow, it all goes wrong again.

I'm going to bet that in the future, you will drive as little as possible, because it doesn't make anyone happy.

This is where the analogy falls down, as so few people in our society can function without their car. But bear with me. I'm trying to say that motivation is everything.

If you had a brand-new car that WORKED and was comfortable to drive, you'd learn.  If you could have a lesson every day (and therefore minimise the insidious bad habits) you'd learn. With progress and positive reinforcement a positive feedback loop is created, and referred to in the future when presented with a new skill to be acquired.
Conversely, a poor experience can easily create a mindset of incompetence and futility.

Oh, and you know how you service your car? Pay insurance, put fuel in, change the oil, buy new tyres, etc? Think of the instruments in your family like a car.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And on it goes...

Hubs is sitting at his laptop patiently scanning defunct cds. This is part of the Great Clearing Out of Crap.

I would probably look at said spindle of cds and go "Gee! Haven't listened to THESE for four years, didn't bother to label them at the time, mustn't be important!" CHUCK.

The love of my life is instead loading each one, listening to it and then deciding where to file it.

Sample commentary:
"The Romantic Sax album!"
Is there such a thing? Oh god, it's tinkly-tinkly music. You know, the tinkly function you get on really crap electronic keyboards.
 "Hey, this isn't the Romantic Sax album!" ...and then the sax cuts in.

"Are you feeling the romance? Are you? Somone must. Where's the sax? (tinkle, tinkle) Where's the sax? SOME people must get romantic to this. Oh. Hey, there it is! Saxaphone Healing...
Oh yeah, play it for me, baby. Listen to this one! You are the saxophone beneath my wings.
(sings) I never told you I'm your hero. I'm going to put this on your computer." (evil glinty eyes)

"NO!" I am a little terrified by this prospect. For all I know of our network, he could be doing it right now. And lest you think I'm making this up, I TRANSCRIBED all this dialogue. Yeah. Take that.

"Oh yeah. Right now."
Fortunately for me, distraction arrives in the form of a particularly, humorously crap cd.
"Should I save this one and give it to someone? Yep. Ok. I'm going to write on it right now. Sax for Max. Good one. (sings) Did I ever say I thought you were gay?"

...and so on.

Five minutes later:
"Do you want to hear Miss Piggy and Ozzie Osbourne sing Born to be wild?"
"Um, okay."

It's everything I dreamed it would be. And husband? Well, I can't decide whether he's ADD, autistic or I'm just so OCD I don't notice his brand. I'm pretty sure this is not entirely normal.

Up next: Kermit playing "Wild Thing" on ukele, gatecrashed by Pink Floyd and Animal on Drums. I kid you not, I couldn't make this up if I tried.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Crazy dog lady.

Feeling depressed? At odds with it all, deranged by grief, or just blue?
Come on over. I'll make you a coffee and pull up a ringside seat to feed the pug.

Yep. Feed the pug.

First there's the dance of "Here is my bowl - you didn't see my bowl? It's just here. I helpfully check it eight or nine times a day just to make sure that you haven't left me any love gifts. See how it's all shiny and silver and empty? That's because you haven't fed me. Did I mention I'm a little hungry? Gee, why don't you just drop a tasty morsel in this handy dog-feed-receptacle at floor height, aka MY EMPTY BOWL..." and so on.

If accompanied by the right verbal cues from anyone capable of putting food in the bowl, can go on for ten minutes. Well, that's usually when I lose interest.

Once food is in bowl but bowl has not yet landed on floor, the sit-negotiations can begin. I want Lucy (yes, the pug's name is Lucy) to sit over THERE and wait while I put her bowl down over HERE. That level of obedience is like pug rocket science.

Point A: pug location. Usually where bowl last touched ground.
Point B: where I want her to sit. Maybe three feet away.
Point C: where I'm standing.

"Sit!" (with pointing to point B gesture).
Pug: runs to B, jumps up and down, circles, runs around C and back to A ... and sits.
"Sit over HERE!"(B)
Pug: runs to B, jumps up and down, circles, runs around C and back to A ... and sits, licking her lips and grumbling in that way only a pug can manage.
Repeat. (with additional vocal effects over time)

One of us gives up and sits. Usually me.

Bowl lands and pug strains from sitting position with every fibre of her being without actually lifting her haunches from the ground (because then the whole "Sit!" palaver begins afresh). She has been known to fall over while attempting this manoeuvre.

Grand finale: Pug loses traction and runs in place for a second scrambling for bowl.
Don't even start with the faceplanting, gobbling, slurping, stopping to breathe and general grandstanding that takes place during the act of consumption. Just walk away content in the knowledge that in this sublime world is a being more ridiculous than you.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Whinge moan whinghity whinge.

It's taken me a couple of weeks to timetable all my students into some kind of order and I'm actually not sure that I'm there yet.

This is a little frustrating.

If one more person tells me "Oh, we can ONLY come at 4.15 on Mondays," (this is an EXAMPLE, not an actual quote, day and time have been substituted for your amusement) I'm going to tell them to ring all the other Suzuki violin teachers on the peninsula and run that line by them.

And then I will laugh, because there ARE no other Suzuki violin teachers for a thirty-kilometre radius (at least) and any of the Suzuki teachers in MELBOURNE will hang up on you unless your child is two and you've been listening for two years. Practically.

And sure, you could TOTALLY ring a random strings teacher anywhere else in our corner of the world, and... good luck with that. I get calls from parents trying to get AWAY from those teachers. Seriously.

I'm whinging. At least I'm embracing it.

In other news, we went dancing on Saturday night. Great fun. About ten minutes in, some random woman approaches and asks to take my photo, because she's an artist who paints rock'n'roll - hot rods in the background, hot girls in the foreground. I hope the person who came up with that line is heartily ashamed. So she'd like to paint me. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but it was fun at the time. I'm certainly relieved she took her photos BEFORE we got all hot and sweaty dancing.

I know I've said it before, but if I ever think about participating in line dancing, shoot me. Don't wait till I get the boots, the flashy earrings, the four-inch-wide elastabelt with rhinestone buckle and a  blond rat-tail wig, just shoot me.

I'm going back to my scribbled-on-A3 with time annotations and cryptic notes masquerading as a timetable now. And then I'm going to build my wardrobe organiser from Bunnings. Yeah. Feel the excitement.

Actually, first I'm going to google the woman who took my photo. Just in case.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The trauma of Bunnings.

I went to Bunnings on Friday. Yeah, I know it's MONDAY, but the whole experience was so traumatic I needed time to reintegrate my schismed personality.

So. Friday. Bunnings.  I needed some system of wardrobe organisation. The chair beside our bed has long since disappeared, the laundry basket of shoes is simply not cutting it, and there's something demoralising about moving shoes from under the bed, vacuuming, then putting them all back in (if not conspicuous) poorly concealed disarray.

Bunnings will save me.

(Quick digression: outfit of the day: black singlet, black skirt, red belt, red shoes with five-inch cork heels. They're very comfortable.)

In I go.

"Welcome to Bunnings! Would you like a trolley?"
"Do you need someone to - " (ineffectual gesture indicating I am incapable of pushing my own trolley and need someone to do it for me. Clearly I'm screaming "Excuse me, helpless female, can't BREATHE on my own, miracle I'm walking!")
"I'm all good, thanks."

Trolley and I make our way toward the outdoor furniture and lawn care. OOH, lawn matting. For someone who regards weeding as an extravagance, this looks like a great idea.

Speak to me of this deterring-weeds-business! There's some stuff purporting to be on special, but natural suspicion leads me to investigate futher and carry out a quick cost/metre/benefit analysis in the adjacent aisle...Where again, I must need help. THIS guy pulls out a calculator to help me work out what my mental arithmetic has already discovered.

The special isn't actually the best buy.
Thanks, random guy, because I'm a girl.
Counting is a bit beyond me.
I must have faked my way through Specialist. All those math trophies I stubled across unpacking boxes from my parents' place? Freak accidents. Must have been.

Next: wire drawers in frames (which I think of as storage). Uh, no. Apparently they're homewares. I can deal with that (even though the MANUFACTURERS think that they're "4 Drawer Storage Unit"... those crazy people. Why would you listen to them. All that do is MAKE the damn things!

Being a genius and all, I have the measurements of the space I can fill on my iphone, so I do a little checking against the options and work out the best permutation of space-filler. Fine. The guy wandering past who tries to help me? I cut him dead. Watch me add like an ... adding machine. Yeah.

Putting the three boxes on the trolley is a little cumbersome, but Bunnings (well, I guess it should be expected) maintain their trolleys well. Good bearings, supple wheel mounts, it's all happy. Right. Let's go outdoors and get some mulch.

HOLY CRAP. Judging by the responses of the storepeople watching me I am a delicate flower and cannot push a loaded trolley. I'd say "Give me strength!" but seems a little ironic, given the circumstances: I don't NEED strength, I need random storespeople to get out of my fricking way and let me get my own goddamn mulch.

No, I don't need a separate trolley for the mulch.

No, I don't need you to push my current trolley becasue it looks a little precariously balanced.

I have undertaken a complex feasibility study and computed the most efficient way for me to purchase this stuff and it does not involve you. Or you. Or any of the other elves in their cheery red teeshirts, holly-green aprons and authentic "we handle heavy sh*t" Blundstone boots.

What DO I need? Some stain for our outdoor furniture. I explain that it's in full sunlight, four chairs and a table, I really only want to do this once and then forget about it for five years.
Paint guy listens, leads me to appropriate aisle, hands me appropriate quantity of outdoor furniture oil and tells me why it's better than a stain. He checks that I have all the other things I need fo rthe job (like the all-important paintbrush) and then looks at my trolley.

Contents: three storage units
two underbed drawers
four 50L bags of mulch
one roll of weed prevention matting
one can outdoor furniture oil.

"Hey, do you want a hand to the registers with that?"
The registers that are all of thirty feet away? When I've just successfully traversed the WHOLE STORE?

"I'll be fine. Thanks."

The only person to NOT offer me help is the girl who checks out my purchases. She just tells me how many hundreds of dollars to hand over. I like her.

The coup de grace:
I leave with my overloaded trolley and wave off the barrage of assistance from the store greeter. I return ten minutes later with an empty trolley and he darts forward, with a quick "Let me get that!"

Omigod. It's EMPTY. Perhaps, just perhaps, you should drive me home. I'm so absolutely incapable of independent thought.