Wednesday, October 31, 2007

There haven't been posts, not because I haven't practiced, but because I haven't been near a computer that I could comfortably use.

We took a weekend trip to Idaho to visit family and to see a little-visited part of Yellowstone Park called Bechler (pronounced beck-ler) Falls, down in the southwest corner. It was very entertaining. A stellar jay followed us back to our car. Handsome Husband found a Spiderman mask on the trail. We saw waterfalls and squirrels and we thought we saw a bear track, but it was only two horseshoe prints, one on top and a little to one side of the other, so that was all right. Small Son and Daughter #3 enjoyed spending time with their cousins. Handsome Husband got to spend time with his brother. And I? I practiced!!!

Yes, I did! The first day (Sunday) I went out to the middle of a field and practiced in the cold morning air. Did terribly, but I did practice. The second day (Monday), I went into their garage (it was empty) and practiced. I did very well, but the acoustics . . . I forgot my earplugs and there was nothing in that garage to stop the sound. Tuesday we drove home early and I slept and comforted (I thought) Daughter #1 instead of practicing. (Turns out I just made things worse for her, but at least I got her a cup of tea and some tissue and some of the time listened to her.) Then I went to Band Tryouts.

If you remember, this was #1 on The List. I had to wait for awhile for my turn to come, and mostly everybody talked about other things, or how nervous they were and how they couldn't remember how this or that tune went. Nobody said how their tryout went, or if they were still in the band or not. Then it was My Turn.

I walked into the back room, already scary because it is full of powerful electric tools and skeletons of pipes. There was the PM, behind a partition, rather like the Wizard of Oz the first time Dorothy went to see him. I expected green flames! But he was calm and smiling. I advised him that I get nervous at the least possible thing. He said soothing things but I figured he was lying. I got out my pipes and he shaved my reed and then tuned them up while I played a couple of tunes from our medley. I tried to play them on beat and correctly, in case that was part of the test. Of course he asked me to play the Smith's Set, of which I always have trouble remembering the beginning. Thankfully, all that Idaho practice time on that particular set helped me out, and I played right through until he told me to stop. "Very well done," was his comment. Then he asked me to play Farewell to Nigg, and I thought it out in my head a little bit and got through half of that before he asked me to stop. I got an "excellent" on that. Then we got out PC's and did some of the medley tunes, and I got "exactly on" and "you're even getting the nuances" comments, so I felt calmer. He also said I needed to work on:
playing less tense (then I'll fall into my style and really have fun)
Blowing is still not quite steady

Other good comments:
I've improved amazingly since the end of August when I put down the bass drum
My fingers were right on
I'm getting the -- what did he call it?--phrasing or something.
And . . . I'm still in the band, I get to keep my kilt and play gigs, and
I am NOT the worse piper in the band any more.


And The List is now decreased by one.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fridays, for us, usually involve 10 hours of working for me, starting at 0330, followed by (hopefully) a nap. Then I drive the 40-60 minutes to Park City with Daughter #3 so she can partake of her hippotherapy for an hour. Then I go home and prepare for work the next day and crash into bed.

This Friday also involved Daughter #3 going to church at the same time as her hippotherapy session to help the other young women set up for the ward Spaghetti Dinner and Cake Auction. Technology today being good, but not THAT good, we still have not figured out how to be in 2 places at once, so Handsome Husband went to church on his bum foot and laid tableclothes and centerpieces and cooked spaghetti while I took Daughter #3 to her hippotherapy and did about 15 minutes of practicing at 5000 feet above sea level. While I was up there struggling with the high altitude, a pickup truck full of people pulled up and waved to me. I walked over and we talked about bagpipes, they not knowing what those things were I was playing. The elderly lady in the passenger seat told me a story of when she was a campground somewhere and there was a Japanese guy who was a piper. The people of the campground would not let him practice at the campground, so he walked down to the beach ( I guess it wasn't far away) wearing his shorts and cowboy boots and walked on the beach and practiced. She laughed at the picture he had made: Japanese features, Scottish bagpipes, American cowboy boots. I asked if they wanted me to play a tune for them, and they were very excited about it, so I played Scotland The Brave (STB for short) and got my cut-off pretty good but my grace notes were terrible but they didn't seem to notice. They were tickled and took my picture and then drove off.

We got back at nearly 7, having had to negotiate a traffic jam, but there was lots of sauce left and they were cooking more spaghetti, and they hadn't started the auction yet. There were about 20 cakes. Daughter #3's Mickey Mouse cake went for $55 (we bid up to $50) which we were very happy about, and total take for the auction (to benefit the Young Men and Young Women programs throughout the year, including camp next summer) came to $2190!!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

I had every intention of going to my lesson today. I put Angus in the car, watched the clock, and made appropriate logistical calculations. At the last minute, Handsome Husband decided his foot was too sore to take Small Son to the Halloween Party, for which Small Son had planned his Dr. Who costume down to the last button. Small Son did not feel comfortable going alone, as Dad wanted him to. Daughter #1 was not back from work yet. Small Daughter-- I'm going to change her title to Daughter #3, because she's NOT small -- could not be prevailed upon to go with her brother. Logistical Plan A, of Daughter #1 taking me to my lesson then going back and taking Small Son to the party, would mean that both Small Son and I missed half of our activity. My lip was bruised and swollen, and I was already exhausted, so I walked around the motley collection of pirates, southern belles, spidermen, supermen, ghouls, Disney characters, and pumpkins with Small Son while he collected enough tickets to pay for the pumpkin game, and then we walked home. Once home, it was necessary to go get milk for breakfast next morning, and finish the washing-up.

I did NOT practice. T-minus 5 days and counting.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Yesterday was the 2nd day in a row that I practiced! And even that's cheating a little, because Tuesday's band practice I'm counting as practice. Hey! It has the word "practice" in the title and I did it, so it counts!

Yesterday I went out in the back yard and worked on cut-offs and Smith's Set and I don't remember what else because it is 0347 and I'm not awake yet but I'm working. First I had to clean up the leavings of our two dogs because I refuse to pace in that!! So I paced and practiced and serenaded the neighborhood and nobody has complained. Yet.

Today my upper lip is swollen and sore. I dunno if I will be able to make a seal around the blowpipe today. Even yesterday I was having trouble, and the spit was flying . . . OK, Too Much Information. Sorry. Maybe I will just take a nap . . . Well, no, I can't do that today either. Tomorrow is the church Spaghetti Dinner and Cake Auction. Here's a logistical secret: if you have a cake auction, the cakes have to come from somewhere. Somewhere cheap. For our church, that 'somewhere' is the local young men and young women. Daughter #3 is one of those young women. So yesterday we baked 3 cakes, one big round one and two little round ones, to make a Mickey Mouse. They are cooling, etc, on the dryer, and today we have to frost them to look like Mickey. This is going to require more artistic skill than she has, so Yours Truly will be called in to draw the lines and supervise. That's all well and good, as The Cause is Just and all that, but that means no nap, and I have a lesson this evening which is great, but that means no early night, either.


I think I'm going to count tonight's lesson as practicing, too. I don't think it matters under what setting you play, as long as you play.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I was not prepared, and so I was very afraid.

By the way, the scripture reference is Doctrine and Covenants 38:30, " . . . if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear."

I had practiced one time -- well, OK, 2 times, counting my lesson -- in the past week. Despite The List.The fingers definitely had a hard time flying to the right notes. If PM Sean noticed, he said nothing. He seemed very pleased with everybody's piping. Until . . .

Working on the second part of the jig (that's Farewell to the Tay, in case you've forgotten), PM Sean told us to play the first line over and over together. We seemed to have a tough time getting that started all together, but I followed his fingers and played what he played, and I seemed to be getting it right, but somebody to my right was playing ... um . . . what sounded like random notes. Finally PM Sean did the "cut" sign and we all droned to a stop. Immediately Jack piped up politely that we were supposed to be playing the first measure over and over and that I was doing it wrong. I argued in my defense that I was matching my fingers to PM Sean's. PM Sean stated we were supposed to be playing the first line, and Jack apologized politely.

We had played through the set for about the 3rd time, and at the end, where everybody is supposed to cut off nice and crisply, I did. Gareth, to my right, did not; instead letting his drones . . . "drone on" (dang, all these piping phrases! What's with me today?) for almost a whole measure. PM gave me "The Look" for a long moment. Then another "Look" for another long moment. Finally I said, "What'd I do?"

"What kind of a cut-off was THAT?" he demanded in an insulted tone.

Before I could put 2 and 3 together and realize what -- and who -- he was talking about, Jack jumped (literally) to my rescue and said it had been Gareth's drones going on, not mine. PM Sean apologized (even profusely), which surprised me, but indicated that he had been more angry than I had originally guessed. So Jack redeemed himself.

Then PM Sean dropped the Bomb.

-This shouldn't have come as such a surprise to me, as it is on The List and he has been threatening us with it for 6 weeks. However, I'm a Space Cadet and forgot. Forgot even to read The List often enough to keep it in my memory.

Tryouts are next Tuesday. T-minus 6 days and counting.

That, in itself, is bad enough, but what adds to the disaster of next week is that it is UEA weekend, where all Utah teachers do 2 days of conferences on Monday and Tuesday and the kids get off. We were planning on going to Idaho Falls to visit Todd's brother Barney (if we can get in contact with them) and would be coming home that day. So I signed up for the last time available, and I really do have to practice every day: cut-offs and Smith's set (because I can never remember how it starts) and Heights of Dargay and Bluebonnets. It's only going to be PM Sean judging us, individually, not a panel of, say, Jason and Dennis and Sean and BJ. So that's better.

Why do I procrastinate the day of my practicing??

The other thing that struck me, outside of band practice, is my dear friend Cat W heard a rumor that my religion prevents me from drinking alcohol, what religion am I. So I dropped the "Mormon" bombshell and explained a little bit about the Word of Wisdom and Plural Marriage (which Mormon's are forbidden to practice anymore). I'm waiting for her reply. She said it wouldn't matter, as she already knows my heart. But I wonder . . .

Stay tuned for more updates.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Our cat, Tybault Capulet, a 3-year-old chocolate-and-cream-colored siamese, was acting 'funny'. Instead of sleeping snuggled into the crook of my neck, he was sleeping in the bathtub or the shower. He stopped eating, and he hung poised over the water bowl, as if contemplating getting a drink, then walking away. Even tuna didn't tempt him. He yow'd continually, in a "this hurts and please please do something about it" kind of voice, instead of his usual "Hi, how're you, busy, bye" tone. He stopped cleaning himself.

So I took him into the vet Monday, the 19th, crack-o-dawn. He was diagnosed with a congenital kidney disease. You can try treating it, but it takes a long time and has the same result: more pain and more money and he just dies early anyway. The blood work along cost $189! The vet rehydrated him so that he would be more comfortable, and I took him home (both of us crying) to await Daughter #1's return from work. He is, technically, her cat, received as a birthday present almost exactly 3 years ago.When she arrived we had a talk and (I cried) decided neither of us wanted him to continue going through this pain and that euthenisia would be the kindest thing to do. Then she went to spend a few last hours with Tyb and I cleaned, the random kind of cleaning that you can't look back on afterwards and say, "Check." It just looks a little bit less messy all over.

When Small Son arrived home, I explained the situation and asked him what would be the best thing for Tyb. He agreed that of the choices available, a teensy shot and a nap would be best, but his first choice would always be having Tyb get better and be our cat for another 15 years or so. He cried, and I cried again. Then we went to the vet.

They were very nice. We paid in advance so we wouldn't have to do that while crying. But I was already crying. He let us all be in the room and he gave Tyb the shot and we all stroked him and scratched his ears the way he likes so much and the vet went away. He came back about 5 minutes later, and Tyb was lying absolutely still but we were all still stroking him. A careful listen to his heart and the vet announced he was still with us, but only just. He rearranged Tyb so he was lying on his side more comfortably, and went away again. We continued to talk to Tyb and stroke him, and 5 minutes later still, the vet was back and listened again and just nodded to Daughter #1 and me.

We put his body in a box lined with his towel and cushion and took him home to a grave that I had already dug. It was a really nice grave, perfectly rectangular, square corners. I couldn't play even Amazing Grace for him, I was crying so much. We usually have pipes for animal funerals -- even for lizards. But I couldn't do it. The next day, when I practiced, I played Amazing Grace for him a few times, even though he never cared for pipe music, being a cat.

So I didn't practice on Sunday or Monday because of Tyb, God bless his little heart.

Friday, October 19, 2007

My group lesson was last night. It was a subdued group. Pete, Sande, Lee, Garth, Drew and myself attended. It had been 2 weeks since our last group lesson, and 3 weeks since I had been there. I know that I had trouble getting in practice time on a regular basis, and we did seem to have improved in playing - most of us - but we all struggled.

Somebody - not mentioning any names or anything - seemed to think it was a race to get to the end of the tune and played as fast as they could. This threw me off, too. I'm not sure I played in time or not, cuz all I could hear was the rushing notes. I tried to keep my fingers going in time with Jason's but I'm not sure I succeeded. Very frustrating. I feel for the people who had to play with me in the group when I did things like that -- when I do things like that!!

We were advised to work on the reel and jig (Brown Haired Maiden and Farewell to the Tay, in case you've forgotten. I can never remember which is the reel and which is the jig, I just know BHM comes first in the set) on pipes only. "Forget the PC this week", he said. "Pipes only."

On the plus side, Pete looked much less stressed out. Looked like he'd gotten about 10 years younger. I had heard that he was in a dead-end job under a lot of stress and that he had finally quit, but I don't know what he is doing now.

Also, Grant (another Grade IV member) has gotten himself engaged.

Getting to the lesson didn't help to relieve my stress and guilt at all. In stopping to fill up for gas at the station a few hours earlier, the car would not respond when we tried to restart it. My dear and amazing husband, Todd "McGyver" discovered that one battery cable connection had been completely eaten away. Using some tools he had in his backpack from bicycle trips, he loosened the clamp, pulled out the old (fossilized) bit of battery cable which looks now like a trilobite and does not conduct electricity, cleaned off the remaining end of good cable and clamped it back in. Sort of. All he had was a knife and an adjustable wrench, so the connection wasn't very good, but the car started and we got him to work. I was supposed to take a ratchet to the bolts when I got back home, and I forgot in the flurry of getting dinner ready and getting ready to go. So when I went to start the car again, I did get lights and dials and things, but as soon as I turned the key, . . . . everything went dark. Hurriedly remembering my task, I fetched the ratchet wrench set and electrical tape and a couple of other wrenches and tightened up all the bolts connecting cable to battery. I put the tools in the back seat, seeing how my luck was going that day. Then the car started right up. But all that fetching and tightening took up the extra time I had planned on for driving to my lesson on surface streets instead of the freeway.

See, I forgot to mention that Tall Daughters #1 and #2 (21 and 18) have taken my little trusty Hyundai (Salazar Verde: Salazar because he's a standard transmission and a royal pain to learn to drive if you're not used to standard transmissions, and Verde because he's green) to California for a road trip to visit Disneyland and friends and relatives in that area. They left Thursday morning, so we have the Speedy Grey car from 1997 to drive, and it has a terrible shimmy in the front end when you try to accelerate anywhere. We've poured $$ into this problem, replacing tires and motor mounts and tie-rods and getting the brakes fixed and wheels alligned. But it still shimmies. So surface streets are better. Safer

So I had to take the freeway anyway. I thought the car was going to come apart on I-215, bolts and springs and wheelie-things rolling away into oblivion. It did not, and for that I am grateful. But after that I stuck to surface roads as I wasn't in such a hurry. The stress of that launch did nothing for my nervousness in going to a lesson for which I had not practiced. Here's another thing I can add to The List of Reasons to Practice: Nerves are much less if you know what you are doing and have prepared. If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear. That's a scripture from somewhere. I'll have to look it up later when I'm not at work.

OK, Epilogue of yesterday: The girls arrived safely in LA (if you can do anything safely in LA) last night, the car started right up after my lesson, I got to read to Small Son before going to bed myself, but I did not get enough sleep and am groggy today as a result. Daughter #3 has to be taken to Park City this afternoon, so no naps, and Park City can only be reached by freeway going uphill steadily, which the Speedy Grey car does not do. We may op out for this week; that trip just doesn't feel good.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My name is Scar, and I am a Social Piper.

All this solo practicing does not interest me, even though I have created The List and want to achieve and do well for the things on The List.. I'm much happier in a group with blather and banter and group dynamics, working together. Or better still, doing better than the others, or at least the top 10.

I wonder what the 12 steps are for Social Pipers?

Maybe this is a result of my home life with 2 Aspberger's Syndrome people who don't have or want friends or contacts at all. Piping (and church) is pretty much the only time I can get out and see people on a regular basis.

Or maybe I'm trying to blame my problem on somebody else.

I'll look up the 12 steps and see if I can adapt them.For the record, here is The List again, of reasons why I should practice every day:

* band tryouts at the end of October
* competition the end of November
* my doctor has prescribed practicing every day for my health
* I have a very important gig to play in August 2010
* practicing every day keeps my pipes in tune, my stamina up, and breaks in my new reed.
* Daily practice improves my skills

I wonder if I could practice with somebody else.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I have not practiced - even on PC.

My excuse? I'm lazy.

I'd much rather lay around reading good books than get out Angus and work up a sweat. Even after all those good reasons.

Well, I'm not going to bore you with the details. I'm going to go out there and try to talk myself into practicing -- something. Hopefully, better news next time.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My lesson was cancelled on Thursday, possibly because the instructor and all the Grade III's went to Ventura, Califorania for a competition. I was counting on that lesson for my practice on Thursday. That was a 19 hour day, with 5 hours of sleep (do the math, it works out), as was Wednesday. I did get a nap of sorts, which partially caught me up, but used up my practice time. Friday was another one, and no nap as I had to take Bethe to her hippotherapy in Park City where she did NOT fall off the horse, but didn't do much in the way of exciting riding, either. She said her hip was still sore. That used up my practice time for Friday. I am so sleep-deprived today I can't even think straight, and I have a 10 hour shift today, and a 16 mile bike ride after that to keep my marriage intact. - I may or may not be conscious tomorrow - or even later tonight

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I think I may have figured it out.

I practiced again last night even though I was veeeery tired. I walked past Angus and thought, "I'll just play a couple of the tunes I need to work on most . . ." and picked him up and started to play. I got about 15-20 minutes in, which is better than nothing. Right?

Previous mindset went something like this: OK, practice. First of all, I'll warm up with a competition tune. Then I'll play around with tuning for 10 minutes or so. Then, since I need to work on endurance, I'll play all 40+ tunes that I know off by heart back-to-back in a set. Then, I have a few tunes that I'm especially concentrating on, so I'll play those about 6 times in a row each, without stopping in between . . . Looking at that lineup from before starting, it looks way too much like work so I never start at all. - Kind of like gardening. I see that garden filled with a bounteous harvest of weeds and I think, "Well, I have a couple minutes, I'll go pull some." But when I think of all the spiders hiding in those weeds, and I see I don't have my gloves and I can't remember where I put them last, I just go find something else to do.

Now, if I can just remember to put that attitude in my head every day when I head for the pipes . . . Just a couple of tunes, that's all . . . I'll do much better.

Lesson tonight.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Band Practice last night.

Only 3 other pipers showed. Even Sean wasn't there. Our substitute was 6'8" Aaron from Grade III.

For some reason, piping with drones corked was extremely difficult, whereas piping with drones during warm-up was cake. I really struggled to get the tunes out correctly. At all, at some points. Maybe next time I won't use corks and will just shut off my drones. I wonder if it's easier. I'll have to try it at home.

Things to work on:
Bluebonnets - the first part
Green Hils/Battle's O'er - the beginning
Heights of DargayFarewell to Nigg

Everybody had to rehemp things due to weather change and central heating coming on. Me, too. My blowpipe came right out. Put some more hemp on my drones, too, as they were wobbly.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Yesterday, Sunday, I just casually went downstairs, put my blowpipe on ol' Angus, and practiced. Did about half an hour, no stress, just worked on tunes. How come it was so easy yesterday and other days I have to push myself across the room?? I think it's all attitude, but I'm not sure exactly what I have to tweak on my attitude to make this happen every day.

Today, Monday, I was dragged around town on errands not my own and didn't get home til well after Quiet Time. Just got a little PC in this morning.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

I really did try yesterday. I got Angus out, connected the chanter and put him through a few tunes. Then I had to take somebody somewhere. I didn't even bother taking him to Park City because it was raining cats and dogs, so I just planned to work on PC. Then Bethe fell off her horse. She was pretty shaken up. We made her get back on and ride once more around the ring, but her back was hurting and she was trying very hard not to cry (something she NEVER does) so we left early and PC didn't happen, either. I keep lugging my PC around with me everywhere, and occassionally I get some tunes in.

Did you know: kids with Aspberger's can't even handle the sound of a fairly quiet PC, some of them.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Despite my lists of the other day, I did not practice yesterday.-Face it, I'm just bad. That, or tired. Or lazy. -
I was also very upset about my bearchild, Beag. He's in Northern Ireland staying with a friend named Steve. Steve is supposed to PM me once a week and tell me what Beag's been up to so I can post a story by Beag on the PBF website (see links). That was 2 months ago.

Beag arrives in Wales--------->

Suddenly I get a PM from Steve saying he has something very important to tell me, he needs a ph# and a time he can call me. IMMEDIATELY my mind jumped to such conclusions as: Beag has been sold at a garage sale; Beag was run over by a truck; Beag was washed in the washer and now has no hair . . . Nobody called. I was frantic. My dear daughter said, "He's only a stuffed bear; what's the problem? You can just replace him."

<---Beag gets arrested.

"Well, the fact is, he is NOT "just a bear"; he is an ambassador for a children's home for terminally ill children in Wales called Ty Hafan (tee haven)(sounds like a golfer's paradise). He goes from forum member's home to forum member's home drumming up funds for these children. He's been to England, Scotland, Wales, and now Ireland, raised 700 pounds, been arrested, helped a dance troupe; talked to a dragon, some ghosts and a dead poet (albeit the poet didn't say much in return); and gotten lots of hugs, along with that 700 pounds. Finally, I got an email from Steve saying Beag is fine, another Forum problem was the subject of his email.-I feel much better. But it was too late to practice when I finally got the info.

<--Beag and the Dragon
Stronger endeavor today.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sometimes in life you wish you had a video on you. Last night was one of those nights.

It was band practice, for which I had not practiced much. You know. I actually did fairly well during the first (piping) part which, on the one hand, is not a good thing because it lulls me into a (false) sense of security and an "I don't have to practice because I'm so good anyway" kind of attitude. Never good. On the other hand, I'm not the one messing up and getting "yelled" at by Pipey, which is a good thing. (For the record, he never actually yells, but he speaks to you.)Then, at PC time, we did so horribly on the jig, Farewell to the Tay, that each of us had to do it individually. There was a lot of rushing in the second part on the runs. I watched the drummer and matched her.

I did it absolutely perfectly!!!I didn't even have to do it over again. He asked me if I wanted to, and I said, "I don't want to ruin a good thing." Got a laugh..

For the record, my incentives to practice are:
* band tryouts at the end of October
* competition the end of November
* my doctor has prescribed practicing every day for my health
* I have a very important gig to play in August 2010
* practicing every day keeps my pipes in tune, my stamina up, and breaks in my new reed.
* I improve my skills-

I need to make a poster of those.