Free Soul Comfort Class Drawing

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SOUL-COMFORT-LOGO-no-date-640-copy-450x404

In a slight change from my usual posts, I’d like to offer you the chance to win a video course through the Brave Girls Club. I took my first course from these ladies in January 2011, the month I learned my dad had pancreatic cancer. Soul Restoration held me together through that time and the year that followed after his death. Something about gluing things on paper kept me glued together.

Since then I’ve shared truth cards with my church and writing group, trying to spread the joy and comfort of gluing and creating beautiful words.

The Brave Girls Club is offering a new course and giving bloggers the chance to hold drawings for free classes. I’m pasting a few of their blurbs and a video below so you can decide if it intrigues you. I hope it does. Soul comfort for the holidays might be just the thing we all need.

Melody (course creator and teacher) says, “I want to teach you some new habits of creativity mixed with simplicity that I have learned over the years. Being a recovering hoarder of supplies and techniques, this is really a new way to give yourself permission to do things simply but beautifully.

One of the most wonderful things about this course is that everything fits into one fabric tote bag . . . I wanted to create a whole course where all of the supplies fit into a tiny space so that you could take it everywhere you go…so that you could do it sitting on your bed, on your couch, with your family, do it with your children, in the car, wherever your day takes you. It’s incredible. This has changed my life. This has been something that I have used on my own and I can’t wait to share it with you.”

And here is Melody Ross with her delightfully wacky hat to tell you more in a video:

As I look at this course and create this post, I’m impressed with how connected it feels to my last post about finding balance and resisting the urge to do it all. I did not plan to do this drawing until after I’d written about the Dallas Brass.

If you’d like a enter the drawing, post a comment here, answering the question:

“What do you think of when you hear the words ‘Soul Comfort’?”

I’ll do a random drawing from the comments on Monday, September 23rd at 9:00 pm PST.

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A Brass Band Tempts the Do-It-All in Me

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Last night I watched the Dallas Brass perform and it threw me back to my high school band days. My teenage trumpet player forced me out on a Friday night because his junior high band was performing with this group.

I sat in the Puyallup High School auditorium thinking I had robbed someone by paying only 10 dollars to see these gentlemen perform. They rarely sat down, cracked jokes, had fabulous solos and, by the time they finished playing, the stiff group of parents who turned up just to support our kids were clapping, hooting, hollering and some were even swing dancing in the aisles. Midway through their program the junior high bands and then the high school went up to play with them. The brass had composed music especially for the young musicians and are promoting a program where the local school bands play in nursing homes. Afterwards I heard one mom talk of how she wanted to start singing again. My friend and I are going to  see if we can connect her with the Jet City Chorus, a local women’s a Capella group.

The Dallas Brass also played the William Tell Overture — a song I still have memorized from the days of marching around a stadium at night with frozen cold fingers in gloves with the fingers cut out so the pads of my fingers would cover the clarinet’s holes.

When I was in high school I thought I could do everything, and I frequently did. I went to school, took challenging classes, went to springboard diving practice afterwards, squeezed in some homework and dinner on the school grounds because I didn’t have the time to go home, and then did marching band practice. I know at one point I also held a part time job in an optometrist’s office, calling to remind people they needed their eyes examined. I can’t remember if I did this on the same nights as the swimming and band. That time of my life is (not surprisingly) a bit of a blur.

A part of me felt accomplished for doing all of this. A much larger chunk of me felt exhausted. I’m not sure I would let my own son keep this schedule, but I don’ t remember my parents saying anything except: “Wow. You must be tired.”

Eventually I figured out that this was nuts all on my own. I did nothing well — my schoolwork, diving, and music sputtered. I started to say no. I said no to others when they asked me to do things but mostly no to myself when I wanted to do it all. Life got better.

I won’t say I don’ t still suffer from do-it-all-ism. But I have recovered and watch carefully for symptoms.

The summer of 2013 was the opposite of those high school years. I had time to putter around.

This summer I got an extra stretch of time off from my teaching job. Our college is moving from an early September start date to an end of September start date to get in line with the rest of the community/technical college system which meant I had from the end of July to September 10th off.

I filled those hours with writing, potty training, camping, day trips, house projects, getting kiddos ready for school in September and even a short sabbatical I wrote about earlier. But none of it had structure. For the most part no one expected me anywhere and my activities were what I wanted when I wanted to do them.

My writing output increased at the beginning of August with the oodles of free time, but then the words dwindled as my days of free form made me feel listless. Some of this may be because I wasn’t completely off. Some of it is because I have a 3 year old to run me ragged. We both needed to get back into a solid groove that I know stay at home mothers must be able to create on their own.

After my loosely formed days of summer, I spent this past week in teacher in-service training. For the most part I liked it though I’m feeling nervous about getting myself together for next week with increased teaching hours and paper grading. Already I’ve struggled to keep my words going with the shorter morning hours for punching at the keyboard or scribbling across the page.

I’m now teetering on the brink of the swamped high school days and hoping to keep grounded. And wouldn’t you know it — those Dallas Brass guys made me want to start playing in the community band again or at least in church. Much of my life seems a swing between too busy and not enough structure. I can’t imagine anyone else has it all figured out, and I’m betting others can relate.  It seems no magic number of hours for work and rest exists. So much depends on what kind of person you are and, even if you figure it out for one period of time in your life, it is likely to change as your days move along. I monitor myself to keep focused on the joys that matter most to me. That sometimes means I need to leave some of my passions in order to dial into the most meaningful activities. Often music has moved to the seat behind.

But Lordy. That guy playing the opening clarinet solo to Rhapsody in Blue on his piccolo trumpet was enough to tempt me to crack open my case and put the licorice stick back together again. I’ll not sound anything like him, but I’d have a bit of fun trying. Sign me up with the other mom who was inspired to squeeze a bit of music into our days.

Clarinet - Exhibition Feb 1989

Solo contest in 1989 (nothing at all like Rhapsody in Blue!)

Marching Band

We may well have been playing the William Tell Overture here. I’m in that formation with white pants and hard plastic shoes.

Driver’s License Guy of Awesome

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bowling pins

The Driver’s Licence Guy at the Department of Motor Vehicles where I live has an impossible job. He sits at the front of a snaking line of people in unhappy moods because they must stand in his line. He tells them they have to pay money to have a picture taken that they will invariably hate, or they can’t take their test today, or some other thing they don’t want to hear. He says the same things an unimaginable number of times. And then he gives them a number to sit down with for the next stretch of waiting.

It’s an impossible job, but when I went to the office of doom to renew my license this birthday year, I saw the man who made it look possible. He talked to each of us individually, taking the time to answer our questions and make us feel like he cared. He smiled. He told us how many people waited in front of us for our particular numbered problem. At one point I heard him talking with a young lady and her mother about taking the driving test instead of paying 25 dollars for an ID card. He thought it would save her money.

The Driver’s License Guy felt unreal. And, yet, he was also the most real person in that stifling waiting area. People smiled at him and he lifted the mood of the place with uncomfortable plastic seats and bells ringing while numbers flashed on the boards.

My favorite scene with Driver’s License Guy happened when he gave the picture taking lady a break. He called those of us waiting for the digital camera over toward the counter. He read our names, took our papers and then stood the first lady in front of the camera. While he waited for her photo to process, he set up the next guy, laughing and joking, keeping the grouchy mumbling people fascinated by what he was doing against our wills. I enjoyed watching him move us around and juggle one part of the process with another like a guy flipping bowling pins through the air.

At one point, he called a lady back when her picture popped up.

“Oh, we need to do it again. You’re not going to like that one.”

It wasn’t even irritating that he held me up a bit longer with the retake. I loved that he cared enough about the face on her card to let her have a do over.

As the regular picture lady came back from break, he left us happier than before.

I’ll be starting classes again on the 23rd. I am hoping to channel some of the Driver’s License Guy’s energy to see me through and work some of his magic into my days this quarter.

“You owe me,” he said, smiling and pointing to the lady with the retake. And I do believe he’s right. What I’d like to do to repay him is pass that joy forward this school year. Please wish me luck. Testing and registering with school paperwork can feel like tossing bowling pins, too.

Getting Older While Turning Somersaults

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yin and yang

When I was in my 20’s and had scads of time, I belonged to the YMCA in Tacoma where I practiced Aikido. I remember l how incredibly stupid and awkward I felt for the first 6 months in our small dojo. I am not sure why I kept at it, but I am glad that I did.

In Aikido the first move to get down is a roll. This roll is not at all like a gymnastics somersault where I tucked my head and flopped my feet straight over my head. In an Aikido roll, I put my arm out almost like blocking a punch. I tucked my head and followed the curve of my arm in a sideways motion that still pulled me in a straight line. The idea was to then gracefully move onto my feet and back up to standing.

In my first 500 rolls, I flopped every single time. A soft-spoken black belt spent the hour of class doing nothing but positioning my arms and guiding me to help me get it right. I can’t remember his name, but I do remember his patience with me and the other newbies. I ever so slowly got better.

One day about a year later I realized the rolls were no problem. I flew around the mat in warm ups with the rest of the dojo. I rolled on my right arm, I rolled on my left arm and then I rolled backwards, by golly. My left backwards felt the most awkward, but it shocked my to realize how strong my muscle memory had become. I’d also gotten reasonably good at joint locks with long Japanese names and the kata with the long stick called a jo that frightened people as I walked into the Y.

After I had my first son, I could not keep up the hours needed to practice. But I’ve retained something (aside from a longing to find another dojo like that and squeeze in a few hours of practice again).

I’ve retained the memory of plugging away at something day after day and getting better even though I was so awful I didn’t know how awful I was. It’s helped me with innumerable things, especially physical activities where I feel so horribly uncoordinated, but also with mental activities like teaching and writing. I started where I was and plugged along. I found a teacher or a few who knew what they were about and who had unreasonable amounts of patience. And ever so slowly, though it feels stuck up to admit it, I realize I’ve gotten better.

Getting older isn’t always as joyful as turning somersaults at the park, and this past week I gained another year.  But it’s true that a few blessings come with age. One of my favorite is this ability to look back, see that I’ve made progress and then continue rolling forward with years of experience telling me that things are bound to get better if I keep sticking my arms up, tucking my head and rolling onto the mat.