I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Posts tagged ‘Leadership’

Battle: Part 2 of 3

I have been 35 for nearly a month, and it has not looked like anything I imagined.

I am part of a large cohort of humans whose 2020 looks much, much different than they had planned. I was supposed to have lost more weight instead of gain back what I lost at the end of 2019. I had scheduled to race in Austin and Philadelphia and remove them from my bucket list of running in America’s 50 largest metropolises, rather than rehabbing a knee injury via Zoom physical therapy. For the first time in my professional life, I am unsure of my job security as an educator, as I suspect that any job cutting may come at the expense of specialists. My family has had biennial reunions since 1992, and now only God knows when we will reconvene with our matching shirts and high decibels in a hotel lobby. I lost an Uncle to Covid 19 whom I typically only saw at those reunions and have yet to be able to properly memorialize him because of stinking Covid 19.

What do I care about? How do I honor God from my couch? I hate to say that I want to be true to myself because my best self honors God, but He made me with certain strengths and weaknesses; if He made me a square I’m not supposed to mess with circle business, you know?

Yes, I care about being healthy, especially given the pandemic and my proximity to my parents and grandmother, but I do not have the emotional energy that I had last August to go ovaries to the wall with a disciplined eating regimen. I am volunteering to do some data entry with a campaign I support, but you know what? Sometimes I just want to take a nap. I was asked to step into leadership with a professional organization, and listen to this – while I am the first to advocate why my existence as a music teacher is essential, for some reason when I think about doing the work that facilitates student experiences, I think to myself – how important is this right now? There are people calling for the military to be in the streets; maybe the concerto competition can wait?

As I read my own words, I see a common thread. I’m not trying to tickle my own ivories, but come on – apparently God has blessed me with the spirit of a helper. Isn’t my moral responsibility to my family first? Can I really serve them if I am not my healthiest self, which means I gotta be right with God and perhaps not ordering baklava and pralines and eating with little restraint? Or am I being too hard on myself? Life has come at me pretty freaking fast in the past year, and I cannot fight every single battle that comes my way! I think part of adulting is accepting that my arsenal does have limits – but isn’t part of growth increasing my arsenal?

I WILL help – after I get a cookie.

cookie monster

Too Young For This Kind of Memory Loss: On Performance

I’d like to start this post by saying that I have a long history of kicking ass and taking names. I’ve been an overachiever for quite some time. Academically, musically, and hey, just look at me.


So why is that I am so afraid of failure when I all I do is win.

This is no little thing, y’all. Every time I have a race. Every time I speak in front of adults. Every time I have a performance of my own. Multiply that exponentially when my babies have a performance. I flip the hell out like the sky is going to bloody fall if anything goes wrong. It doesn’t even have to be in the context of a performance – for instance, let’s say I am in the middle of teaching a lesson and I am demonstrating a piece for a student and I make a mistake. You know what my first thought is? “Omg the parent is going to think I am a horrible teacher because I Missed. A. Note.”

Crazy Lady J. You’re forgetting who is in charge. And it ain’t you.

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalms 46:1-11 NASB)

This God you serve, Joan. He does Big Things. You’re worried about notes, a fall, a misspoken word. None of this is even trouble as David describes. But He still cares. Why else would my life be so blessed?

I hope and pray that as I grow, I will learn to stop striving and finally KNOW that God is God. I am a champ only in Him.


‘Murka – Land of the Free, Home of the Ig’nant

Welp. It happened. I saw something politically related on Facebook that moved me to the blog. It was a post that appealed to me as musician, athlete, and citizen. Juicy.


National Anthem Question

I’ll go ahead and share my own opinion – yes, of course. Few things unite people in the way that music and sports do. We may be playing/cheering for different interests, but we’re doing it in a country that we all support in one way or another. I have to quiet the music teacher in me whenever I see or hear someone not showing respect for both country AND performer. Our anthem is quite difficult to sing well and the effort should be appreciated and applauded with exemplary performance etiquette. Each time I hear it performed at a sporting event, I feel proud of both my country and my self-control for not punching some rude jackass in the face.

So I made a poor decision. I clicked on the comments.

I was not surprised to see people say that if you don’t want it performed at sporting events, you should leave America. Love it or leave it, blah blah blah. However, this particular comment offended me because of its implications and attempt to connect things that are unrelated:

Americans are being asked to give up too much because our way offends people who have come to our land. America accepts all who come and want to be free. If our laws and ways are not what you want then leave. America was good enough for you to leave where you came from so stop asking us to change what our country was founded on. If you had chosen any other country to go to would you ask them to change and not sing their National Anthem? No because they would kick your butts out of their country. So leave us alone to sing our National Anthem and observe our religious freedoms to pray when and where we want to.”

Sigh. I’m going to hit the parts that bother me in ascending level of personal offense.

1. If you had chosen any other country to go to would you ask them to change and not sing their National Anthem? No because they would kick your butts out of their country.

Any other country? So if you went to the United Kingdom, France, Russia – and you said you didn’t like that the national anthem was performed before a sporting event, they would revoke your citizenship/visa. That’s how that works. Okay. Sure, you might get some looks,  but you can get those same looks here. Hell, I might give that look to someone who said that to me. When you or I expresses an opinion, it does not infringe upon the rights of others. You can safely express your opinion in several other countries aside from the United States without fear of deportation.

2.  Stop asking us to change what our country was founded on.

Let me make sure that I understand you, ma’am – our country was founded on the right to listen to the National Anthem at Sunday’s game? Is that what you’re saying? I hope you will allow me to assume that what you are actually talking about is what you see as the erosion of open displays of patriotism. This is the same line of thinking that if you say anything is wrong with America that you hate it. You threw in a line about religious freedom (which I will address in just a moment), so I am sure you will appreciate this:

For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives. (Hebrews 12:6 NKJV)

That’s right. If someone who claims to love you is not calling you out when you’re screwing up, s(he) doesn’t love you. Full stop. If you are in the type of relationship with your country where you love it blindly, you don’t know your country. There are many fantastic things about America, and there is nowhere I would rather be. That doesn’t mean I can’t see what needs improvement and I hope to be able to work with others to do so. Indeed, those who founded our country had many an argument about what was best for America. Does that mean they didn’t love it? I doubt you would say so.

 3. So leave us alone to sing our National Anthem and observe our religious freedoms to pray when and where we want to.

You know what’s great about the National Anthem? Well – real talk – at least the first verse of it, anyhow. It unites people who love America and different sports teams and different gods or maybe no god at all. I have my babies dissect the lyrics of the song as soon as we start learning how to sing it – no mention of God, religion, or faith. Just pretty lights and bravery. Did you only want to be united in the United States with people who believe the same things as you do? I have to wonder what you see the point of singing the anthem is. I am a practicing Christian and if someone told me he thought singing the National Anthem before sporting events was inappropriate, I would just think he was stupid. I feel my right to practice Christianity is perfectly safe from an idiot like that. Come on, people. Not every discussion is DEFCON 1. I would guess that the bottom line for you would be tradition, and there is nothing wrong with tradition unless it is unquestioned tradition for tradition’s sake.



4. Americans are being asked to give up too much because our way offends people who have come to our land.

Jesus take the wheel keyboard. Please.

The implication here is hardly subtle, folks. If you don’t want the National Anthem sung, it’s because you’re not a real American. You know what fake Americans tend to have a lot of? Melanin. I am a daughter of an immigrant whom I got to watch happily stand among others, equally elated, to sing the National Anthem and wave the American flag as a naturalized citizen. I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing many naturalization ceremonies and I have not seen ONE person who wasn’t amped to embrace his/her new country and its traditions. Not. One. In fact, you know the only people I know of that don’t want to sing the National Anthem? People whose faith prevents them from doing so. They come in many colors, and I haven’ t even heard of an instance where they’ve advocated for no one singing the anthem simply because they don’t do it. They simply choose not to participate and respectfully sit out. Sounds like a well-functioning country to me.

I’m going to go ahead and call it how I see it. This isn’t REALLY a problem about the right to enjoy/perform the National Anthem. This is a problem about people having different opinions/beliefs. If you want to be a racist xenophobe, you’re free to do so. You can even wrap it up in patriotism and pretend you “just love America.” Please, enjoy your right to be a jackass with little consequence.


So, uh. Why am I here? Redefining Winning: Part II

You’ve got to admit, it’s a damn good question. Any self-respecting, introspective person who half cares about what they are doing should have asked this. After all, who doesn’t want to be sure that they are having a positive impact upon whatever it is they are working? I frequently find myself having meta-conversations with myself as I am teaching. “Am I doing the most effective thing for the person I am working to help?” I strongly believe that type of questioning is very helpful and conducive to growth.

However, I also catch myself engaging in a more dangerous meta-talk. “I could throw a rock and hit a better teacher than I. Why am I bothering? All students whose journey led them to my classroom/piano studio are to be pitied.” Sadly, I have had thoughts bleaker than these. While I understand that it is quite an exaggeration regarding the rock throwing, the fact remains that there are teachers/pianists better than I. A lot of them. Many of them are probably more experienced and older, but I am sure there are several who are younger and simply more gifted than I. Better to let someone who is good at this teaching business handle these impressionable students, right?

Surely this line of thinking is applicable to one’s personal life if it applies to one’s professional life. There are definitely better athletes than I. I guess that paycheck that I’m getting from being a mediocre teacher is helping race organizers, so my presence is good for the economy? Yessss, I’ve found my purpose – I’m great for capitalism!

If I were a nihilist, the conversation would end there. Thankfully, the hope and faith that I have in Someone larger than I will not allow that. I believe in the uniqueness of people. I once said with great sarcasm that I am special, just like everyone else – but now I mean it! Everyone has something that is theirs alone to bring to the table. Just as our fingerprints identify us, my style is all my own in all that I do.

Still, there are people doing it – everything – better than I! My ego doesn’t like it. I know I am not alone in thinking this – we want to feel like we are doing something good. Not just good, but better than someone else. I’ve frequently seen this meme and frankly, I think it is a sad attempt to disguise feelings of inadequacy for what they are:


“Yeah, I may not run a 10 minute mile but at least I’m not like that fat chick over there!” *flips hair* Really? Just as a few paychecks separate the average American from personal financial disaster, only good decisions and perhaps genetics/circumstance – things over which you have little control –  separate you from a body that you find undesirable. Is our need to be better than that other guy so deep that we must stoop to this type of comparison?

I know I still haven’t answered the question. How do I know if I am winning? What am I doing here? Is it true that I have lost every race that I have entered because I didn’t cross the finish line first? Have I failed every student that has come across my path because there could be someone better teaching  them?

My colleague alerted me to this brilliant article on motivation from Women’s Running. 🙂 I was shocked to see my finish line picture from the Women’s Running 5k in St. Petersburg gracing the top of the article. I loved that finish, and evidently, photographers and editors did as well. Off the top of my head, at least 150 faster women finished before I did. Sorry readers, no matter how hard I may try, I can’t look at that picture and see a loser. To endure, to progress, to inspire others – that is how races are won. Dammit, I do that.

I must admit that the competitor in me once thought people said things like that because they didn’t want to feel bad about not coming in first. “Only losers have to comfort themselves with BS like that! If you ever WON something in your life you wouldn’t spew that mess!” Now I believe that the real merit is in lining yourself up at that start and giving it all you have, regardless of the outcome. To feel bad because you didn’t come in first seems frighteningly short-sighted.

Indeed, our place is to be found via exceptionalism. There’s only one Lady J, y’all. I’mma keep doing me and I hope you do the same.


My Narrative

I attended a Leadership Training yesterday where we were asked to write our personal narrative. Here it is!

I come from a place of privilege. My parents worked hard so that I could have the best of everything, and indeed I did. They wanted to ensure that I had a skill that I could not just employ but enjoy, so they had me begin piano lessons when I was 4, and enjoy it I did. I was the weird kid who danced to Beethoven and said her favorite piece was Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. Music was where I found my place, and when the time came to decide what to pursue in college, I didn’t want to let it go. I decided to major in Piano Performance for my undergraduate work, where I met my first real adversity. I had a professor who seemed to constantly undermine me and discourage me from my goal. It was as though s(he) was trying to take a part of me away. It was then I realized that I had been blessed to have amazing teachers all of my life and I had taken them for granted. This prompted me to choose a different path – one less performance based and one toward teaching.

Several years later, I find myself in the music classroom and in the piano studio, blessed to be doing what I said I would do. I’ve learned since then that music education is really a big freaking deal. When I share my love for music and see my students light up as they experience new things, it brings me a unique joy that I am positive the life I had envisioned as performer never could have. They share their fears with me and I am so thankful that I’m able to tell them from personal experience that they can do anything they want to if they are willing to put in the time. While there is nothing magical about practice helping people grow (not perfection!!), there is magic in feeling the power that comes with doing what you weren’t sure you could do.

And yet – there are people who don’t believe that everyone should have this magical experience. That it is, indeed, one of privilege. I consider myself lucky that I didn’t face any real challenge to it until I reached college. If education is about opportunity, how is it logically consistent to remove any part of the opportunity, especially at a young age? Why shouldn’t joy and growth through education in the arts be available to all?  I cannot imagine my life without it. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that my students of varying backgrounds would say the same.

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