Thursday, November 30, 2023

Updates, Fall 2023

Does anyone else feel like everything has been in crazy crunch mode this fall? More than usual? Because I am honestly getting a bit overwhelmed and not seeing a lot of relief ahead.

My Aunt Lila went into hospice and died last month. Both my uncles had surgery this month. I played a funeral for the mother of a friend. All of those events have left me to ponder a bit about which relationships we tend to and which we don't and why.

My only Halloween update is that Mona made a costume that she wore while handing out candy at the tattoo shop, and it made one child cry! Apparently several small kids were scared, which made her feel both bad and good at the same time.

And there is only one cake to share this birthday season. Quinn wanted to be surprised, and I wasn't going to be around in time to make her cake, so I came up with a concept, bought all the supplies, then turned it over to Mona. Quinn turned 17 on the 17th, so since it was her golden birthday, we wanted the most golden cake possible. My original concept was to make two cakes in the shape of a one and a seven, and just go crazy with the decorations. Mona had a different idea, and it was amazing to behold, but not wildly edible.

The reason I couldn't make Quinn's cake myself this year was that I was in Baltimore to give a joint presentation at the Violin Society of America convention. I teamed up with my friend Robyn Sullivan and we did a talk called "Interpersonal Mistake Management." It essentially boiled down to the fact that luthiers are famously sort of rude in their shops, so I made suggestions about how we can do better when working with customers, and Robyn addressed how luthiers can do better working with one another in a shared space. I didn't think I'd be able to attend in person because I had a scheduling conflict with a rehearsal and a concert, but Robyn was kind enough to do all the airport pick-up and drop-off driving, as well as put me up in her hotel room down the street from the convention.

The whole thing was so much fun! When I think back to my first couple of VSA conventions, and how intimidating I found all of it and how alone I felt, this was a whole different experience. I got to meet--in person!--many people from my Women In Lutherie group whom I've only interacted with online before. There were people excited to meet me! And I was excited to meet them! My book (My Violin Needs Help!) was for sale in the vendor room at the International Violin table, and I got to sign copies. I bought so many good tools (including a small saw that doomed my carry-on bag to checked status when I got back to the airport), and met people from suppliers I buy from. I got fed lunch both days I was there (one was for the annual Women's Luncheon, and one was a lunch for vendors and speakers). I caught up with old friends and made new ones. Not to mention the fun of playing pick up ensembles in the new instrument room. We had enough violists to do the third Brandenburg Concerto with all three viola parts! What a great time. Plus hanging out in a hotel with Robyn was good, because with her it's always the perfect combination of quiet chill time and talk too much time.

Getting ready for our talk as people start filing in!
On top of it all, our talk went really well. People really enjoyed the whole presentation, and thought the topic was long overdue. We've been invited by Strad magazine to turn it into a pair of articles, so if you read luthier trade magazines, keep an eye out for that!

I left not only feeling like I belonged, but that I could have an impact. I'm confident that if I applied to do another talk in the future that they would welcome it. That's not a place I expected to reach. How cool is that?

The Pumpkin Pavilion was fun as usual. Carving day was cold and rainy, so I didn't contribute as much as usual, but I loved going to the park with Mona.

Work in the store has been insanely busy. So much so that I haven't had any time to work on my own instruments at home. I can't rehair bows until midnight and then hope to carve scrolls, so I need to make time somewhere and get back in my home shop. People are waiting for those instruments! Which is wonderful, but a lot of pressure sometimes when my schedule is packed.

At least one thing is getting accomplished that I don't actually have to do myself. We've been having some landscaping work done. Finally. When we bought our house about 13 years ago, we did make a few weak attempts to occasionally plant flowers here and there, but for the most part, we were lucky to simply keep up with getting the lawn mowed. (And about half the time our next door neighbor went and did chunks of it for us when she was done with hers. Because Julie is the best neighbor ever.) We only have so many resources, and it's made sense to fix things inside the house first, which left the outside sadly neglected. But this was the year to do something!

After replacing the deteriorating deck last summer, we needed to finish the back yard with paving stones and grass to pull it all together into a usable space. This summer we did that, and then decided to extend the paving stones around the rest of the house. We had lots of yard that was always just mud and weeds, and now we have clear paths that are a big improvement. We have a new extended retaining wall that I love! Far better than the blocks that were starting to fall into the driveway and sidewalk. The last bit (that should be done in the next week or so) is to have stairs installed on a bit of hill that everyone insists on walking up. No one who parks in front of the house wants to walk down to the corner to use the steps there, they want to make a straight line to the door, and that slope is usually a muddy mess. Steps! Very excited to have steps. And the landscaper promises to come back in the spring and plant things that I shouldn't have to do much with. So all of that has been nice, because even as I'm behind on everything, every once in a while I glance out the window and see work happening and can feel happy there is progress somewhere.

The music for Festival City Symphony has been challenging lately. The last concert was all Russian composers, and that's a lot of notes. There's also been some tricky things to learn for the mandolin orchestra, but it had to wait until I was done with the Russians, and now I'm buckling down on those parts.

The most jarring thing to happen recently is my mom had a fall. (At what age does it change from someone "fell" to someone "had a fall"? Because I know I am now in the "had a fall" demographic, but did that switch when I turned 50? 40? What a weird milestone.) My mom--on her birthday at the end of October no less--fell down her front steps and broke her heel, busted her glasses, and bruised up her face. Not pretty. But damn my mom is tough. She crawled back into the house and found a phone and called a friend. She had to stay a night in the hospital but is home now. I drove out and spent a few days, and tried to troubleshoot how she could manage on her own without being able to put any weight on the bad foot. Her house is all stairs, but on the second floor she's able to get from a guest room to the bathroom, closet, and her work studio using a walker. I set her up with water and snacks so she wouldn't have to venture to the first floor more than once a day to eat. My brother went out next to stay a week and help. She's doing okay, but it's frustrating for her to not be able to do everything she'd like on her own, and it's frustrating for me to be so far away.

Because of my mom's injury, we decided to take Thanksgiving to her, since she couldn't come to us and we certainly didn't want her to be alone. We bought food, made plans, and then I got Covid. It wasn't terrible. I mostly felt too hot and too cold at the same time one night, and really sniffly and tired. I went on Paxlovid right away and it cleared up my symptoms almost immediately, but I didn't test negative in time to join the group road trip. Aden came down from college and stayed a night in her sister's apartment, and my brother and nephew came over and stayed in the teaching studio, which we figured would keep them all a safe distance from me. Then everyone in my house took a Covid test the day of the drive to Detroit. I was the only one who tested positive, so Ian chose to stay home with me, and everyone else went to visit Mom. What a weird holiday, though, not knowing who was going to be where until the last minute!

It was an odd holiday, but nice. On the kids' end, I think it was good for them to do a road trip with their uncle, and spend time with relatives without us there. Aden got to make a whole Thanksgiving meal (with a little help on the side), and by all reports did a great job! My brother got to check in on Mom, but also got see how my kids interact with one another and was impressed with all of them in new ways. I know my mom loved having her son and grandkids around.

Ian's and my quiet turkey day was a throwback to before we had children, because I think it's the first time we've been alone together in our house for a couple of days in a row in over twenty years. Isn't that crazy? There's been a lot going on for a very long time. But with just Quinn living at home now, we're heading toward empty nester status soon, and it does get you looking at your partner and wondering how that will go. The rhythm of a house with kids is very different from one without. Thankfully, Ian and I had a lovely time. We grocery shopped the day before the holiday (since we'd sent all the food out of state), and that could have been awful, but we had a good time. We only picked out stuff the two of us liked, and did wacky things like buy pie instead of making it. Thanksgiving day was low key and nice and I finally tested negative. Cooking that meal is low stress when you only make it for two. We cooked everything early so we could eat it for lunch, and then again hours later for dinner. We ate off good china in front of the TV and watched a bunch of odd numbered Star Trek movies, which were terrible, and it was a blast. We walked the dog, chatted with the bird, and took a nap in the middle of the day. I loved it.

When everyone returned from Detroit, they were able to stay at the house and hang out for a morning of board games and crepes. Aden even decided to ditch her one Monday class and stay an extra night, so we got to curl up on the couch and watch the season finale to Lower Decks twice and just enjoy having her be part of our home again. 

Quinn has her first college tour coming up this weekend. That's almost too much for me to comprehend, so I will share what I think about that later once I've figured it out myself.

Domino is still cute. We've had her a bit over a year now, but it's hard to remember life without her. I love that dog. She's even a good companion on a long car trip. She traveled with me to the cottage in mid-October when I met my friends there for a girls' weekend before I shut the place down for the winter. And she was with me when I had to unexpectedly go help my mom and was good company there, too.

Domino in Detroit

I have four concerts left to play before the year is up, and I need to start thinking about Christmas, but just thinking about thinking about Christmas makes me tired.

But despite feeling like there has been a bit too much happening this fall, I've recently found myself increasingly appreciative of many mundane things. When I drove Quinn to school the other day, the traffic didn't bother me because I was really enjoying the basic act of operating a car. I love our little Nissan Leaf, and now that we have a car that I'm not scared is going to break down any minute, driving is really enjoyable. Any time after being sick, I'm aware of how amazing it is to breathe easily. I like moving without pain. I never used to bother with scarves, but I have one now that makes all the difference in walking in the cold. I enjoy the way the sunlight slants at this time of year.

And I never tire of beautiful leaves.