Sunday, October 23, 2016

Which Part of the Moment?

Recently I've been pondering the idea of "living in the moment."  The phrase sounds virtuous in its simplicity, but I'm not finding it all that simple.

Parts of it I get.  When I look at each of my children and am occasionally overwhelmed with how fast it's all going by, I try very hard to really look at them.  I want to be present and appreciate who they are at that specific time.  When I'm at a concert I try to clear my mind as best I can of the flutter of mental distractions that vie for my attention so I can truly hear the music as it's happening.  When I practice I know I need to focus in order to be productive.  When I snuggle up against my husband at night, I know not to take such basic comforts for granted.

I've even learned to accept living in the moment when it involves pain.  Occasionally I suffer debilitating headaches, and I've found the best thing to do is not to resist.  When I took birthing classes before having Aden I remember the instructor refusing to use the word pain to talk about labor, preferring to tell her pregnant and nervous pupils that it was merely "an interesting sensation."  That, frankly, is disingenuous at best, but there is something to it.  If you don't have a choice about being in pain, fighting it adds to its intensity.  Better to relax and find it "an interesting sensation" if possible.

So I see the value of "living in the moment."  The problem I'm having is that the phrase seems to imply that there is only one thing in that moment.  What if the moment is multi-faceted?  What if living in the moment is about reflecting on the past or planning for the future?  What about all the choices you might have to make about what living in the moment actually means?

I was having a difficult conversation with my daughter the other night, and at one point I tried to impress upon her that her behavior was negatively impacting my life, and she responded that she didn't believe that because I seemed to be doing just fine.  I was taken aback by this, but then I decided I think I understand what she's saying.

It's one thing to deal with a crisis, it's another to do it over a long span of time.  I remember this clearly from Ian's deployments.  I remember it from when my dad was in hospice.  I know what it's like when an illness goes on and on.  Those things become embedded in every moment.  But you can't focus on them every moment and still function.  There are still errands to run and work to do and also movies to watch and meals to enjoy.  There can be layers of laughter in with the chronic fear or grief or pain.  There can be sadness mixed with the joy, profundity interwoven with boredom, and things of which you are proud happening simultaneously with other things of which you are ashamed.

So when my daughter says I seem fine despite a current problem, it's true depending on which part of a particular moment I've chosen to live in.  I can be happy to observe progress in the work going on in our kitchen, for instance, while at the same time experiencing an undercurrent of distress about something different.  I can be visibly glad that one child is content and doing well while feeling desperate that a different one is struggling.  I can't choose to only live in the part of the moment that is troubling all the time, but I can see how to my daughter that choice to acknowledge other things looks like disrespect to the problem at hand.  Maybe it is.  I'm not sure.

Is stopping to grieve for my father at random intervals "living in the moment" because that's where my emotions are, or is that willfully ignoring the present if what's in front of me is fine?  Is living in the moment the best idea if someone you love is annoying you to tears in that moment, but you are better served by thinking ahead to when they may be gone and how little the current frustrations actually matter?  Am I really wrong to zone out as a distraction from the tedium of certain chores rather than live in a moment that is just more dirty dishes?

Not exactly groundbreaking philosophical musings, but my mind goes many places when I can't sleep, and lately sleep has been hard to come by.  This keeps me more entertained than mental grocery lists, although I make those, too.

Today I plan to choose the most immediate things in front of me to focus on.  Unless I am forced to confront underlying issues, today will be about finishing Halloween costumes, getting everyone to practice violin, and cooking a nice meal for when my husband returns from his weekend at Army drill.  Everything else can wait...for now.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Now and Then

Lots of busy days recently, but oddly many moments in which to reflect on the passage of time.  Between remodeling the kitchen where we're trying to put in something new that reflects the past, and my oldest baby starting high school, I find myself thinking a lot about where we are now and how things used to be.

Last weekend I got to participate in a wonderful event organized through the VSA (Violin Society of America).  They have a large convention every year, and I will be returning to Cleveland next month for this year's gathering.  But lately they've also been doing smaller regional events.  This recent one happened to be in Detroit, so I jumped at the opportunity to go since I would also get to spend time with my mom.

The focus was the collection of instruments owned by Henry Ford.  Apparently he was a fiddler, and since he was also rich he decided to fiddle on incredibly valuable instruments, including two Strads.

We were allotted time to examine eight important violins.  There were armed guards and strict rules about not wearing any necklaces or rings while handing the instruments, and for some reason we couldn't take photographs, so I don't have any to share.  I did get a shot of where the violins are usually displayed, so there's that:
The closest we get to studying with the old masters is to look carefully at what they did and try to emulate it when we can.  It's always exciting to hold a Strad.  There was an Amati in the collection that was stunning, and a Guarneri, and a curious violin played by Maud Powell who was the first American woman to be a successful international violin soloist.  My favorite instrument at this viewing was the 1740 Carlo Bergonzi.  That's not a name people outside of luthier circles usually know, be he was kind of a violin maker's violin maker.  His work is beautiful and precise and rare.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Lighting and Cabinets and Walls, Oh My!

Lots of progress in the kitchen in the past couple of weeks!  We're in the odds and ends phase now, where there is still stuff to build but all the major elements are there.  The back splash can't happen until the counters are installed, there are still holes to plug and a bit of painting to do, and the last steps will be finishing the floors and installing appliances, but at least now it''s all starting to look like a kitchen again.

The last pictures I shared were all of the demolition.  Since then walls went in, and floors.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Things We Can't Say

I think the biggest challenge for any blogger with kids is trying to decide how much is too much to share about their lives.

There is nothing more interesting to me than my children.  My life is intimately wrapped up in theirs.  They are my responsibility and their needs and problems shape my days and direct my thoughts and my moods.

But ultimately they are their own people with their own stories to tell, and as much as I feel as if their problems partially belong to me too, I don't really have a right to broadcast their private worlds out onto the web.  They don't mind my sharing certain events and general stories of trips and basic milestones, but then most of the time those stories are really about my own reactions, and not really about them.  Despite that, it means there are many things I can't say.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Kitchen Demolition

Our kitchen renovation began in the middle of August.  It's exciting!  And messy.  And inconvenient.  But it will be beautiful!  Just not at the moment.  Want to see pictures?  Of course you do.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Toys of Yesteryear

There is a lot to write about lately, but very little time.  I want to tell you about the kitchen renovation, the annoyance of living without a kitchen in a house with five people, how we started Halloween costumes early, school, cool things we've seen, thoughts on life and the world....  But in the small window for blogging I have available this morning I'm going with Tinker Toys.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Health Update: Limbo

Enough people have asked me about my medical situation that I feel I should just post another health update.  Anyone who reads this blog for posts about violin making or parenting or cakes and feels this is too much information, please read this, or this, or this instead, and I'll meet you at the kitchen remodel post soon.

To recap, I've been struggling with granulomatous mastitis for over a year.  It may be gone, but it's hard to tell.  I have been on and off steroids since December.  When I went off them the first time a few months ago I thought we were done, but then my breast started to flare up and hurt again, so back on them I went, and at a higher dosage for longer than the first time.  The steroids weren't pleasant but they did the trick.  I'm off them now and hoping this time it's for good.  Generally people with this condition suffer it for about a year to a year and a half before it burns itself out, and it's been a year and two months, so maybe I can start really healing.