Thursday, December 31, 2015

Of Joy and Grief and Art

This holiday season has been wonderful.  I got everything finished on time (including a gift for Mona that I will share pictures of soon), our health is all relatively good, I got to perform some music with friends on Christmas Eve which is always nice, and despite the unseasonable nature of the balmy weather at least it's made all the driving easy.

Even work went unusually well.  I get people every year who want to buy a violin for someone to put under the tree as a surprise, and every year I talk people out of it saying that the player really needs to be able to choose a violin for him or herself.  (There are exceptions, but most of the time I can convince people that a smaller gift or card announcing that the player can go violin shopping is a better idea.)

A man came in last year whose young son was just starting violin and I pointed him in the direction of renting from the school to begin with to make sure his child actually liked playing and they weren't potentially stuck with a violin they didn't need (and I suspect couldn't easily afford).  This year he returned saying his son was working hard and loved playing and now they were ready to buy.  I suggested he bring the boy in on Christmas Eve where I let him try several student outfits.  It was lovely to watch him try different instruments and then light up when he came across the one that was a match.  The mom was beaming as her son didn't want to stop playing Christmas tunes on his new violin.  I assured them based on his age and situation that they wouldn't have to worry about an upgrade for several years, but explained what sort of maintenance they could expect when owning a violin, and told them to please pop in for checkups anytime.  I thanked the dad for his patience in trusting my advice, because I really do think it worked out for the best all around.  He agreed, and it was really satisfying.  It was not a big sale, but it was easily my favorite one this season.

We enjoyed a quiet Christmas morning at home.  I love watching my kids open gifts.  They never ask for anything, but they always like everything.  The big present this year was a new laptop for Aden, which is really a necessity for school and we found something good on sale that should last her for the next few years.  Before I left for my Christmas Eve gig I watched Aden struggling with her old laptop in the living room.  It has random issues and overheats and the kids have developed quirky habits for using it so that it doesn't lose all their homework at an inconvenient moment.  Aden smiled at me and said something along the lines of, "I think if I just remember to put it on its side when I get to this point it should be fine!"  She was completely willing work with the wonky laptop without complaint.  Made my night knowing that a new computer was waiting for her under the tree, and that she would truly appreciate it.

We made it to Detroit in time for Christmas dinner with my mom.  My kids are excellent travelers and were perfectly happy spending most of Christmas in the car.  My mom made us a beautiful meal and I loved having us gathered happily around the dining room table of my childhood.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Box of Violin Making

My latest project!  Behold my new toy!
closed cello box with neck for handle

box open for display
I have a lot of broken things at the violin store that I save for projects.  I've made a bow-quet, a cello lamp, a crayon box, a toy box, various sparkle instruments, ....  I have lots of other ideas that will be fun and interesting if I ever find the time to tackle them, but ever since I opened my store I have wanted to make a display inside a cello about how violins are made.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Sports Thing

Aden joined the eighth grade girls' volleyball team at school this year.  She was interested in getting more exercise (which can be harder to do when the weather is cold) and I suggested she might like a more social outlet for that, so why not give volleyball a try?  She was hesitant, but she signed up, and she's really been enjoying it.

It's been interesting for us.  Earlier this month we went to our first sports thing as a family when we watched Aden's team play.  We've never been to see any kind of organized sporting event together.  I know Aden has been to baseball games with other people.  Mona was briefly on a swim team at the Y, but that was as low key as you could get, and we never all went to a meet.  I think the closest Quinn has been to sports is the Gaga Pit at school.  Sports has not been part of their education, so they know "of" sports.

Sports holds little to no interest for me.  I am glad to be married to a man with equal non-interest in sports, but it's definitely an area where my kids have not had a lot of exposure due to our lack of involvement.  However, Aden is among the very top of the list of things that do interest us, so we are all happy to go watch her play volleyball.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Busy Time (and one more birthday cake)

Whew.  We just finished birthday season, we hosted Thanksgiving, and we just started focusing in on the Christmas stuff.  I'm always amazed with how little room there is in our regular weekly schedule of rehearsals and lessons and appointments that we can cram in any more at this time of year, but somehow we do.  Here's a whirlwind recap mostly for my own record:

My mom, brother Arno, and niece were at our house for Thanksgiving this year.  The next day my brother Barrett joined us while his wife and baby continued their visit down in Illinois with her family.  It was a great Thanksgiving, despite it being the first one without my dad.  Thanksgiving is also my parents' wedding anniversary, so a certain amount of sadness was unavoidable, but overall we mostly had fun.  My mom did most of the cooking and everything was delicious, we played telephone-pictionary which is always hilarious, and we mostly just enjoyed being together.  I love having everyone in my house.

Mona made beautiful turkeys out of duct tape and paper for every person at the table.  Each one was different and I loved them all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


I finally found doctors willing to help me.  Today is the first day in a long time that I feel more like a normal person.  It's wonderful.

I have given up on Columbia St Mary's hospital system here in Milwaukee, and am switching our whole family's medical care to Froedtert.  I have always liked our primary doctor at CSM, and we've gone to her since before we had children, but she's moving her practice to suburbs farther north in the new year anyway.  Keeping a relationship with her might have been our only incentive to stay, but with that ending I had no reservations about starting over somewhere else.

The pain in my breast that began back in July started getting so bad over Thanksgiving weekend that it was destroying my ability to function.  I tried swimming without using my right arm for a couple of days, but finally had to admit swimming was out.  I had to set aside a bushing job at work because I couldn't brace the instrument against my body in order to get at it properly with my tools.  (Thankfully that job is on a long timeline, so it will still get done.)  I couldn't walk at a normal speed.  I couldn't lift many things.  I was constantly elbowing away my children when they'd try to hug me.  Sleeping was hard because I'd have to find one position and not deviate from it all night or suffer excruciating pain.

I spent all of last Monday trying to get any doctor at CSM to listen to me.  The nurse at the breast center that did the biopsies and the ultrasounds and the mammograms were sympathetic, but said that since I did not have cancer there was nothing more they could do for me.  They couldn't even prescribe anything for the pain.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Turtle Cake!

I only really had one evening to plan and create Mona's surprise cake, so I settled on a turtle because turtles are cute, Mona loves them, and turtles are sort of flat and round like a cake already anyway.  Turtle cake!

Mona's only request was that it be chocolate.  Easy enough.  Ian was kind enough to bake me a couple of round chocolate layers while I was at work so they'd be cool enough to assemble when I got home.  I built myself a turtle shape, put on a crumb coat, and let it all sit in the freezer while I mixed up a batch of fondant.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Accepting the Fat Pants

It's not been an easy go since summer.  There are many good things to be grateful for, but a combination of grief and chronic pain has undermined my world in a way that some things have had to give.  The main thing is I don't have the mental energy to be disciplined about what I'm eating.  It makes me sad, but I don't know what else to do.

It seems wrong that you can undo a lot of work so quickly.  It took a year to get my weight down to where it should be, and a matter of weeks to go back.  Not that I'm all the way back, but enough that I can't fit into what I was using as my regular clothes for a while.  I saved out one pair of bigger pants when I lost weight and now they are they only pants that fit.  I will try to get myself under control enough that I don't outgrow those.