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

Posts tagged ‘Music’

Over the Humps: Race Report

By humps, I mean bridges. Literal and metaphorical. 

Fewer things make me happier than a family field trip to a new racing destination. EXCEPT! This time Adonis is running too! Whee! The night before the race, I asked if anyone objected to us driving over the bridge I knew would be part of the course. “Bridge?!” exclaimed Adonis. “You NEVER said there was going to a bridge.” Lies. “Well, then you get the bridge!” Both legs have a bridge, dear. “You should have told me.” I did, sweetheart. 

On race day, we carefully navigated our way to the relay point, where I would be dropped off. Adonis was going to run the first leg – the one with the cooler weather, and I got to be the one to cross the finish line. Fair enough. I kissed everyone goodbye and waited with a set of second leg runners for the shuttle. 

I looked out of the windows of the bus in vain for Adonis as we drove the first leg of the course. Over his bridge we went before we had to get out to walk to the exchange. As we waited, I checked and double checked my perfect playlist. “Personal Record.” That’s right, y’all. That’s the level of confidence I was feeling that day. I’ve only run one other quarter marathon and I had a feeling that based on my race from 2 weeks ago, I could beat my time. 

Cold air, warm feelings about running.


After 70 minutes, I started looking over the bridge for Adonis. I saw him 10 minutes later, still looking very strong, handsome, even. I hopped over to the timing mat, where we exchanged his relay chip for my sweater. “Hey!” I shouted as he turned to get his medal. We hugged and kissed, I turned on my music, and I was off. 

Aretha Franklin accompanied my first steps. My steady feet were rocking to her steady beat. I looked to my right, where I saw the bridge that was waiting for me. “I’m coming!” I smiled. I felt strong. There were some really fun musicians along the course supporting us. May I say that music has helped me through many a race but not ONCE has an athlete helped me once I am on stage! Just saying…

11:03. 11:01. 10:58. Ridiculously evenly paced. Until…


11:55, lol. I was running and running and running – and then I wasn’t. But when that downhill came I started running like a champ for the finish. The best Mom ever was waiting for me. Seeing her made me go even faster. I sprinted and felt like I was going to vomit. Perfect, especially since I didn’t. 

Lil One and Adonis started cheering as I went through the chute. I felt great. Team Salt and Pepper was a great success! Adonis was strutting around looking for snacks, so I know he was pleased with himself. He has even committed to doing a half-marathon with me in June!!!!

Three minute PR!!!!!! 

!!!!!!! 

“I wanna be Pepper,” says Adonis.

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God, Garmin, and Good Judgment. Race Report

Perfume. 

Lipstick. 

Earrings. 

Go to the bathroom as much as possible. 

Thank God for all He has provided me, also think of sins for which I need forgiveness so earthly payment doesn’t come due during the race. 

The last one in that checklist (perhaps the last two, tee hee) especially should indicate my level of anxiety. I try, imperfectly of course, to be thankful regularly, and I don’t think of God as my “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of partner, but if there’s any day that I need a solid from the Lord, it’s today. The fabulous 3M had just texted me an excerpt from Hebrews 12, something I had reminded myself before my 70.3 and was trying to keep in mind –

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

Yes, Joan. While there is joy at the finish line set before me, the marathon is not the cross. Remember this today. Any pain I experience, while important to God, likely won’t approach crucifixion levels. 

I found the 5:45 pacer and asked him what his plan was. Murray said he was going to run for 2 minutes at about 12 min mile pace and do a brisk walk for 1 minute. He said that while he’s not an official Galloway pacer, running steadily at a 13:10 pace seemed too slow. Fair enough! I figured I wouldn’t get in trouble and go out too fast if I chilled with Murray, so I lined up with him in the corral after hugging my amazing family and saying a prayer with them. 


The horn for which I’ve trained for months finally sounded. I wiped away tears of excitement and awe that this day is really here and walked toward the timing mat. The French horn opening of the first movement of Brahms 1st piano concerto set the mood in my ears for this part of my journey – grand, expansive, RUBATO! Not. Too. Fast. I stayed close to Murray* at the very beginning, but something didn’t feel right about it. I let him go and just paid attention to my Garmin. Mile 1 passes and I look down at my watch. 12:43. And Mr. 5:45 is AHEAD of me. Nope. 

A lady sidled up to me and asked what my plan was. “2/1, stay alive, finish under 6!” I replied. “Me too!” she answered. 

I need you to understand this. I had imagined that I might make a friend or two on the way to the finish line. It had been immensely helpful to me during my 70.3 to do the run with someone, and I will never forget her. So when I say that I was open to running the race with someone else despite preferring to train alone, you must know that I really meant it. 

This was not that someone. 

Roz* from New Jersey was running this marathon on her journey to join the 50 states marathon club. This marked marathon number 15 for this running coach who would NOT. STOP. TALKING. She asked me about my training, and I judged her as I answered her stupid questions politely. I say her questions were stupid because they were questions for which I could presumably have wrong answers. If I did something wrong in my training, what the hell am I supposed to do about it now in mile 2 of the marathon? Turn around? Heffa, please. Performance day is just that. Make it work now, ask questions later. 

Still, I thought the Christian thing to do was to deal with her neediness. Some people need people to boss around to feel useful. I turned up my music and nodded and smiled as she went on about herself. I asked cogent questions. Everyone runs differently and if I can help someone run the best race she can, I can handle a bit of annoyance. 

Jim* rolled up on us around the 5k point. He was talking with Roz and it turned out he was already in the 50 states club. I was thankful for Jim because he took some of the pressure off of me. He wasn’t with us for very long, to which Roz said, “some people just need to show off and talk about themselves to new people!” I burst out laughing at the irony of her observation. “Don’t laugh too hard, Joan. 23.1 to go – save your breath!” I thought. 

At mile 5, I decided to use the toilet. JUST in case. I wasn’t feeling a pressing need to go, but my colleague at work who just completed her first marathon said that it’s better to go in the beginning rather than later. What could it hurt? Plus, I was hoping Roz would go ahead of me. Well, she did, but not for long. A mile or so later, she stopped to refill her water and said she would be behind me. “Okay!” It took a LOT of willpower to stay at my current pace and not purposely speed up to put distance between us. I suppose I have more faith in my patience than I do my legs. 

The marathon and half-marathon courses were concurrent for about the first 7 miles. Then it got REAL lonely out there, man. It looked like I was going into the wilderness. I was actually thankful for Roz’s yelling behind me because I didn’t see a single soul ahead of me. Disconcerting, y’all. It wasn’t too long before I saw some more cones, cops, and the winner headed in the opposite direction toward the finish line. Confirmation of the correct path was comforting, indeed. 

As the race continued, I felt pains that worried me. My left hamstring in mile 8. My right calf in mile 13. I prayed for them and pressed forward. I stayed focused on my 2/1 intervals and the miles just came to me, one by one. I smiled as I enjoyed the music of the clearly brilliant person who created this playlist. I shrugged and sighed as I caught up to and passed Murray, who told me he didn’t think he was going to make it in 5:45. 

Speaking of the aforementioned brilliance, I had tried to time the gospel music around mile 19 – when I projected I might be questioning my life choices most. “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” “My Tribute.” “How Great Thou Art.” Naturally, I chose really powerful arrangements that evoked great emotion. Too much emotion. I started to think about how amazing God is and tears came to my eyes. I felt tingles all over. I glanced down to look at my heart rate. 

TWO.

O.

BLOODY.

FIVE. 

OKAY GOD PLEASE HELP MY HEART RATE COME DOWN BECAUSE I HAVE NEARLY TWO HOURS OF RACE LEFT IN JESUS’ NAME AMEN

Not the most artful prayer, admittedly. I slowed my walking and that helped. I drank more water from my trusty CamelBak. Every sip tasted heavenly, so I can assume by this point I was likely dehydrated. I didn’t want to have my stomach sloshing around with water and honey stingers, but I suppose my trying not to drink too much didn’t help my tingly euphoria. 

By mile 22, my heart rate was still sky high on my run intervals. I didn’t like it. I am confident God brought me Roz for this one piece of advice – “if you get tired, switch your run time to your walk time. That way you don’t lose hope or momentum.” I went from 2/1 to 1:30/1:30. I checked the clock. I had an hour to meet my time goal. I could do that with a speedy walk if I needed to. I stayed in the shade as much as possible. 

I saw some volunteers by the stadium where the race had begun. “This way to glory?” I asked. “Yes ma’am!” 

Then the most beautiful thing happened. 

As I caught sight of the finish line, the recap of the Brahms concerto with which I had begun the race was starting. I don’t know that I can properly describe how fitting this was – to hear that moment in the music at just that time, but it brought the biggest smile to my face. To be back where I started but in a completely different way – just like the music! was nothing short of perfection. I turned on to the track and saw my awesome Mommy. “Hi Mom!” “Hey Jo!” as she whipped out her camera. “You’re almost there!” The clock read 5:55:26 as I crossed the timing mat. I. Win. 

I serve a God that allows for so much more than finishing the race. I finished the marathon with BOTH arms in the air, a bright smile, and Brahms in my ears. He is a cherry on top kind of God. My prayer is that I can keep this moment close to me forever as I continue running with Him and toward Him. 


*- I don’t change names to protect anyone who annoys me. 

The Show Must Go On.


Can’t what, you ask? Stay in the bed, as I wanted to do. There was a Veterans’ Day Assembly at work and naturally, the music teacher was on call. On the program today: a 1st grade class singing America and This Land is Your Land, and a Kindergarten class matching with flags to The Stars and Stripes Forever. 

I first went into the first grade classroom to do a quick run through with them. I smiled as they stood up and faced the American flag, excited to represent their school in front of the entire student body and the guest veterans. I kept it together as they sang America, but as soon as they started bouncing cheerily for This Land is Your Land, tears came to my eyes. The simple lyrics of the first verse: 

This land is your land

This land is my land 

From California

To the New York island

From the redwood forest 

To the gulf stream waters 

This land was made for you and me 

You. And. Me. 

I love that I teach an ethnically diverse group of students, each of whom sings enthusiastically and believes in that America. Each time they come to my classroom, they stand and face the flag giddily, prepared to start, sing, and end together prior to the beginning of that day’s lesson. Whenever I teach them their patriotic song in the beginning of the year, I ask, “Why do you like singing these songs in particular?” 

I love America.

It is fun living here. 

America has lots of stuff to do. 

I am humbled to have a job where I help children express their positive feelings about our country. I ask them to think about the people who have served America in the military prior to singing, the ones whom have helped make America a lovable, fun place with lots of stuff to do. I demand that they sing their best because so many have given their best so our children may sing freely. I strive each day to give them my best so they have as many opportunities as possible; to think, to grow, to challenge themselves. 

I brought my Kindergarteners into my room to rehearse the flag march, and let me tell you something – you have not seen excitement until you’ve handed 20 5-6 year olds each two miniature American flags to wave.  I reminded them to hold the flags still and respectfully, just as we should respect our country. As I heard the introduction of our national march, I started to tear up again. I stepped outside myself to ensure that my students were moving correctly, marching steadily, facing their conductor. “If you are not paying attention, you don’t get to celebrate veterans with us today -” was indeed an effective warning for them. They were eager to do their best, for me, for their school, for their families and country. 

As we filed outside for the assembly, I saw the veterans to be honored on the stage. After making sure my performers were seated and knew what to do, I stood to attention, as the color guard was about to enter. 

I lost it. 

Tears were streaming down my face. 

I wiped them away, not wanting to cause anyone concern, but all I could think was, 

“There are people who don’t want me here.”

There are people who see the many colors of my American classroom as a bad thing. There are people who see others as enemies solely because they appear different, worship another deity, or were not born in the United States. I know this is hardly news, but these people are elated that America’s president-elect has helped them express their views more comfortably. 

I understand that there are many people who voted for Mr. Trump that have no interest in discriminating against that which is different. I understand that there are people that I love – and that love me – who did so. I am saddened that this was the man who excited the conservative base in our country, because there were 16 other candidates with the same agenda who didn’t have an interest in overtly provoking the racist dragons that have existed in America from its beginning. I don’t expect them to feel how I do, but if you are truly my friend, I do expect you to consider my feelings. Consider that you probably have never had to question whether people viewed you as American enough. Consider that people likely don’t approach you with pre-judgment. Consider that I am wondering if my uterus should remain vacant until 2020 because I am not sure if this is the America I want my child(ren) introduced to. 

I truly believe the biggest lie told during the presidential campaign was that America is not already great. I could not stay in bed and reflect today because I had a show to do. I have rehearsal every day until Christ comes back (maybe between December 20 and January 20; I am kinda curious to see how my marathon goes – relax! I kid), and my mission in America’s practice room is to make her better by engaging with people who think differently than I do in a respectful manner. Helping others achieve their dreams. Serving my community. 

We’ve got a show to do. 

Never Silent – Noise v. Music: Race Report 

I have a confession to make. 

While I can honestly say I was proud of my performance in last week’s 5k, I wasn’t “satisfied,” and thus my quest for my next 5k before marathon training began hours after last week’s finish. I shared this with 3M, and naturally, she responded with suggestions. Though I was unsure if I could really make any gains in a week, I thought, ‘what the hell. I like to race. Let’s see what happens!’ 

I didn’t run at all this past week, as I was unusually tired and feeling in limbo before my marathon training is to start. I just tried to eat cleanly and show up rested. Last night, I was setting out my clothes/equipment for today and realized I did not see my wireless headphones. “Meh,” I thought. My phone on my arm felt heavy last week anyhow. “I’ll run without music!” 

Mind you, I have never run a running race without music. The last time I raced without music was at the end of my 70.3 almost 2 years ago. “Whatever. It’s ‘just’ a 5k. The silence won’t be a big deal.”  At the horn, I realized something quickly. 

There. 

Is.

No. 

Silence.

I mean this both literally and figuratively. Of course, there were plenty of things to hear as I struggled in the heat and humidity. Parents encouraging their kids. The occasional cowbell. My feet. My clearing my throat. My feet. The ducks. My feet. 

My feet. They’re loud. Seriously. 

Soon after I began mile 2, I felt very tempted to slow down. “You can slow down. You’ll still probably beat your time from last week.” Then, “It’s hot. Why am I doing this.” This was followed by the inevitable, “I am whining about 3.1 miles. Am I really strong enough to complete 23.1 more?” 

Oh, dear. I wish that no music meant silence. Quite the opposite. The inside of my head is incredibly noisy. I often tell my classroom students that we are in a music room and not a noise room. Our music is intentional, our noise is scattered and rarely pleasant. The music that I play during races helps to distract me from the noise in my head. I became thankful for my loud, musical feet – the organized, steady beat of my progress toward the finish line. Keep making music. Keep moving forward. 

I crossed the finish line in 33:27 – 1:05 faster than the previous week. Music triumphed over noise once again. I know now that if I am to complete a marathon, I must become a better musician. 

Always multitasking.

Get Me To The Greek! Pre-Nuptial Report, Part II

Hey. Don’t say too much. You write well. I don’t want you to make me look bad.” 

-Adonis 

My college roommate and long time friend recently had her wedding and sang at her reception. Her voice is to be envied, for sure. I wasn’t thinking of her voice, though – my mind was on her ovaries. The chutzpah she had to share her feelings in song was what I was really envying. Could I do that? 

Then I remembered. 

I’m getting married. My ovaries are crazy huge. 

Why else would I sign up for a race where the only God-ordained finish is someone’s death? I don’t get to write a post-nuptial report unless I am mourning the loss of my best friend! Pretty sure WordPress doesn’t work from heaven if I go first. I shall do updates from the course, of course, of this ultra in which speed is not of the essence. 

This is one of those things that I have to do because I only have one chance to do it and I do not want regret being a punk. My singing is my preface to the words I will say to Adonis tomorrow. 

I knew I had to sing to you today. I knew I had to do it because of the promises I am making to you. I am promising to take risks with you and for you. I am promising to give you my absolute best, however imperfect. I am promising to find and focus on the beauty in our now collaborative effort. 

How remarkable is it that I am standing before you, the one whom my soul loves. I am so thankful that God has brought you to me. You help me to be strong and courageous. I know you are the one for me because I understand how God loves me better than I did before. You reflect His love and my life is now warmer than I ever could have imagined. 

I sang that I was lost, now I’m free. Because of you, I feel free to trust in God more than I have. I am free to love in ways I did not know I could. I am free to share myself and become one with you. Thank you for pointing me to the true source of that freedom. May I love, honor and cherish you for all my life. 

  
Here we go! 

   
 

The Good Fight

My two previous posts notwithstanding, I don’t tend to dwell on this element of our relationship: 

 

I must confess that there is one time I am given a stark reminder of our cultural differences. Any guess? I’ll wait while you think. 
Would you care for a hint? 

  
Our radio presets, naturally. 

I feel it’s important to note before I proceed that I do not believe in “white music” or “black music” in the stereotypical sense of music belonging to certain listeners. Of course music originates from different cultures, and even subsets of American culture, but all cultures share a need to express feelings through music. I do not think it is inherently bad that people like what they know. Problems occur when we are judged for listening to music that is not “ours.” That’s stupid. Know that when I write “his music,” I am referring to his preferences, not his culture.

I am happy to report that I really dig Adonis’ music. He loves Greek music, classic rock, and soft rock. He enjoys my music as well – soul, funk, Caribbean, classical. We share our music with one another, give our honest thoughts, and have fun taking turns. I’m thankful that our presets will likely never be something to fight over. I do wonder, however, about what our presets represent and how we will handle it as a family. 

Now, I can hear your palm slapping your forehead. “Joan. Maybe music is JUST music,” you think to yourself. But all of us come with all kinds of presets, and most of us think that they are good and worth keeping. Adonis can listen to greek music in my car all day but I’ll be damned if he changes one of my presets. I have a feeling he feels similarly. We are proud of who we are. Thankfully, as American ethnic minorities, there’s not the pretense of thinking that either one of us is “normal,” which, of course, does not exist.

I want my offspring to not just embrace both of our cultures but to be as we are, enjoying exploring outside of their box. I ask myself how I would feel if they rejected my presets. Would that mean they didn’t appreciate that part of their heritage? Am I okay with indifference? Would I be okay if it were the reverse, that they were not into anything Greek at all? All of those potential things perturb me, but not as much as the idea of them feeling like they have so many presets they aren’t comfortable anywhere. I am ‘just’ ethnically mixed (as opposed to racially, at least for the most part) and sometimes it is a fight to feel like I belong anywhere. I think one of the reasons Adonis and I work is because as an immigrant, he has had to fight for the same thing. We’ve found belonging with each other and it is beautiful. I will always fight for my family to be at peace within ourselves and to help foster environments where others are made to feel at peace with us.

Hurt 

It’s hardly news that Lady J does not handle her imperfections well. However, there is one type of mistake I make that bothers me more than any other by a long shot. I would venture to say that this is because it is one, at least from my point of view (which may indicate this is an area in which I need more work), that I do not make very often. 

I believe that I hurt someone who was already hurting. This hurts me not only because I try to love the way Jesus loves me but because of how I couldn’t see that it was happening. I think of myself as sensitive to the needs of others and fairly emotionally intelligent but right now I feel like a complete idiot. 

I am fighting back tears as I type these words. This is the first time in my 4+ years as a classroom teacher that I have felt legitimate remorse over how I’ve dealt with a student. 

Here is what’s been happening: 

I see my students who meet for one of my after school ensembles once a week. I also see these same students in class. I have one, new to our school, with whom I’ve found myself particularly frustrated. Not only does it take several redirects of his attention to get him to be on task, but when he tries something new, he complains about it. As I work to manage 15 other students whose fine motor skills have, uh, equal room to grow, one who will NOT quit complaining just grates my nerves. It’s the end of the day, I want to be home, I feel like I’m asking something simple, blah, blah, blah. I am not a teacher who raises her voice often; I believe in economy of dynamic. If you live a Fortissimo life it won’t be effective very long. Turn it up from my usual mezzo forte and there is no mistaking that Ms. Lady J is serious. Yet I’ve found myself turning it up quite a bit toward this young man, because I thought it was what he needed. 

Our concert is coming up and I thought he could use some additional help, so I reached out to his mother to see if I could spend 30 extra minutes with him on his own after school. As the day came closer, I was dreading dealing with his complaining. I contemplated canceling and making some excuse. I hoped he or his mother would forget. Wouldn’t you know, as soon as carline ended and I walked back to my classroom, he bounded toward me. 

Let me tell you something – I needed that 30 minutes of extra time INFINITELY more than he did. 

We reviewed chords. We had some spontaneous music battles with one another. I saw quickly that his musical struggles were indeed minimal. He smiled a lot and when he missed something, he would sigh, look up, and try again. Then he would get it. By the end of our time together, I was asking him some questions. He wouldn’t look at me as he answered. I asked if he was okay and he said he was just shy. He told me he was excited that his Grandma is coming from New York to live with his family and that he likes his new school. I walked him out, met his mom, who thanked me, and drove home, pensive. I had invited him for extra help but God knew that I was the one who needed the time after school to correct my attitude, not some sweet kid’s chords. 

I have been trying not to beat myself up about being overly firm with this student. He just needs a gentle touch and I was too wrapped up in my agenda to see that. It is humbling to be reminded that despite not being a beginning teacher any longer, I can miss the forest for the trees. I am praying that he continues to adjust to school and that I can bring him as many smiles as possible. 

I hope that in time, music can be something that gives him the confidence to look people in the eye and share what he has to offer. For me, though it hurts and I am scared to make a mistake like this (and I am sure I will again), I have to keep sharing what I have to offer, too. May my best continue to get better. 

  

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