Time For Me

Lately, I have been running out of time. Not just losing track of time -I am doing that, but actually finding that there are not enough hours to get everything done. It all came to a head this week, when I found that I wasn’t able to complete some projects that had a deadline. This is unusual for me.  No matter how tired I am – or how busy I get, I always manage to complete things on time. Turns out I can’t do that anymore. I’ve also noticed that I have started cancelling appointments, and sighing with relief when other people cancel on me. I find myself falling into bed completely exhausted and actually sleeping for a few hours – this is the one positive thing that has come from all this over-scheduling.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine about this- and she had a brilliant idea via Michelle Obama (not that they are friends or anything – she went to an event/lecture by her). Mrs. Obama talked about how when she is constructing her calendar, she schedules in her must do things (for herself or for her children) first, before scheduling other meetings/events/appearances.

I was listening to this, thinking I have a very different kind of life than the former First Lady, but I definitely have a scheduling problem. So, while I have a completely insane schedule for the rest of February and March (which includes working 7 days a week), I can try this out for April and the subsequent months.  Now, I already have a proposed calendar – but I have managed to do a bit of moving things around and I think I have come up with a plan. It feels like I work 80+ hrs a week. What makes it seem like I am always working, is that I don’t ever schedule in things like billing, or scheduling, or lesson prep. I do those on my own time.  And so I am often sending out invoices from my phone, while I am waiting for a movie to start on a Sunday night. This is unacceptable.  But if I take a careful look at my calendar, I notice that I have a 2.5 hr block between lessons on a tuesday, where I can do my invoicing and follow ups (and so Im going to schedule in some admin time – DONE!). I shouldn’t have to look at that every week – which gives me a few extra hours a week for practicing, and checking in with parents, and maybe even do a bit of marketing.  So instead of using that time- for scarfing down dinner or madly preparing for the next lesson, I can invest that time back into my own business.

The one aspect that my calendar is missing is time for me.  I have already made lunch hours a time to get a bit of exercise (me).  I have an entire freezer full of already prepared dinners, so I don’t have to worry about cooking for the next 3 weeks, but I rarely schedule fun.  Mostly because by the time I get around to it – Im fast asleep.

Here is what my average week looks like:

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Work = 40 hrs
Ensemble Rehearsal = 7.5 hrs
Lessons = 15.5hrs
Admin = 2.5 – 5 hrs
Practice= 10 hrs

And if you add in the volunteer hours I work, you can add in an average of 2 hrs a week. That brings me up to almost 80 (hah! so I was right).  But there is definitely time for me.  In fact, I am quite surprised at how much white space is in my calendar.  I don’t feel the need to schedule every single minute of my life – but I like knowing that there is room for almost everything I want to be doing.  And now that I have realized that I can reschedule things, in order for me to have a  more balanced life, I feel like I won’t be missing deadlines, or forgetting things. In fact, I feel like I have quite a lot of room to breathe. Maybe so much room, that I should take on another project. Or maybe just schedule in some fun things, until I start feeling like me again.

*I purposely don’t put my practice hours into my calendar because right now, I am feeling the need to be flexible with my playing.  Also did you notice – no therapy sessions for March! Time for a bit of a rest.

Singers, Sausages, and Schnapps

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When you think of Vienna what do you think of?  For me its 3 things:

  1. Opera
  2. Sausages
  3. Schnapps

I crossed all 3 off my list today.  And this was after swearing off eating all meat for the rest of my trip. This is how my day played out.

After doing a bit of work (I know – work doesn’t belong on vacation), we spent the afternoon on the grounds of the Schonbrunn Palace (see the above photo), we toured a tiny corner of the zoo, where we saw exotic chickens, and a rhinoceros. I am not really a believer of zoos-  but the animals were visible from our walk, so we just peeked over the fence.  This is what the chickens look like:

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Popping into the cafe at the Palace, I warmed up with some Irish coffee (Ireland has been a bit of a weird theme on this trip – a bit of a story, that I will share on another day). But after the coffee, I was invited to have a taste of schnapps, on the house. And while I kind of choked it down, it was delicious.  Thank you gentlemen for giving me my first taste of schnapps (of the non-peppermint variety).

Post schnapps, we went to the opera, where we saw Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda at the Theatre an der Wien.  I am sad to say, that we left at intermission.  While I am familiar of the story of Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart, having the opera sung in italian with german subtitles proved slightly difficult for me.  I managed to follow along for the most part- but struggled with what the chorus was doing on stage.  To me, it felt like they lacked stage direction, they were just standing around – looking at the leads like they were fuzzy russian chickens in a zoo.  They didn’t look like they had any idea of what they were doing – and not only was it distracting, but it was infuriating to watch. Paired with, what I interpreted to be a gang rape of Mary Stuart, I couldn’t escape fast enough.  Its too bad though, because the leads were fantastic, and the orchestra sounded really tight.

Although the opera was a bust, like all opera goers of Vienna, we treated ourselves to an aprés opera sausage. It is the weirdest tradition. But I like weird – and so this was dinner.

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Heartbroken

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I found a zither. I said hello. And then I said goodbye. It broke my heart.
The zither was in such a state, that my heart actually broke shattered. There was mold all over it, the strings were broken, and those that were still intact were rotting, the action was terrible (though not certain what appropriate action is for a zither), the fret board was warping, and some tuning pegs were broken. The only good thing was that the wood isn’t soft (yet). I wanted so much to take him home (yes, its a him), but I don’t know what I can do for him. I have never restored an instrument before – and I am unaware of any zither fixers in Vancouver.

His soul and his body are so broken. It kills me to see something so neglected. If I can figure out a way to restore him I might go and buy him anyway – because his life is just going to get worse, without me.

Can you even bring diseased instruments into Canada. Is mold considered to be a disease.  So many questions.  I don’t even know what this instrument is worth, since I couldn’t find a manufactures tag. It would be an interesting project.

*Photo Source (this is *not* the zither I saw in the store) – Thomas Quine via flickr

From the Cheap Seats

IMG_E0180Can you guess where I wasn’t sitting?  If you guessed in any of the seats in the photo, you would be right. I was in the standing room only section – where tickets cost 3€ each. For the most part you could see everything (except for stage right) – my view looked directly into the orchestra pit, with a focus on the oboist.

At the Staatsoper tonight, I saw Faust by Charles Gounod. What an incredible experience. Even from high up,  looking over the minimalistic set design, I marvelled at the costumes, and the staging, and the incredible voices of the cast and chorus. I was charmed by Mephistopheles and Valentine, pitied Faust, and completely related to Marguerite *spoiler alert – with the exception of her jail time (since I have never been incarcerated – nor have I ever had to plead to God for my soul…at least not yet).

The leads weren’t the only exceptional part of the production – the chorus was wonderful, that at one point I started crying. It may have been when Marguerite was dying  (again spoiler alert), but I believe that the tears happened because the chorus was flawless, and not because she perished on stage, although that probably helped.

Faust ends its run on January 28,2018. So if you aren’t already in Vienna or have plans to be here in the next couple of days – you will probably miss it. And that would be a shame.

My next and last opera in Vienna, will be Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, on Sunday. Maybe by then, I will be better at writing opera reviews.

*Not sure why I offered spoiler alerts – since the opera is almost 160 years old, and the story of Faust and Mephistopheles goes back much further.  I’ve decided to not feel guilty about spoiling the story for those of you who haven’t seen it. It’s your own fault, for waiting this long.

Now go forth, and see an opera.

Call Me Maestra

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Today, I conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
Before you start calling me a liar, or asking me for great seats to the next concert, let me fill you in on the story.

I was the virtual conductor for the Vienna Philharmonic and got a chance to conduct Strauss’ Radetzky March, at the Haus der Music. Think of it as Guitar Hero with a baton and a world class orchestra. You get to pretend you are Zubin Mehta for about 3 minutes.

Interested in knowing how I did? I mostly kept up (its a workout). But I lack the passion for Strauss, to do it any real justice. I am not a conductor. I don’t have any interest in conducting. Though at one time, I longed to be on that podium. That position has too much power for me to be comfortable. I can lead the occasional guitar quartet – and group lessons. But it’s easy (or not depending on your perspective) conducting 11 year old boys, because they don’t pay any attention. The focus that professional musicians have is intense and its intimidating, and I have no desire to lead an orchestra down a musical path. I much prefer being the conductor of one (one instrument- one player – only one person gets the boos or the applause). There is much less pressure to being a classical guitarist.

And just so you know, I am a golden goddess when it comes to Guitar Hero.

Now, as for calling me “maestra”, it’s completely unnecessary. And I would prefer that you didn’t.

**Photo Source – Logofag via flickr

 

 

 

Post-it Psychology

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I am really hard on myself. I would say that I am my worst critic -though not my most imaginative one (saving that story for another day). I didn’t even know how bad I was to myself until some people I didn’t know well, pointed it out to me. So I decided to do something about it. I started taking notes about what I liked about myself, what I wanted to change, and what things I could live with. It’s been a considerable journey – I filled up a fairly large notebook with my findings.

Once the notebook was filled, I kind of forgot everything I put in there – so I started condensing the notes and writing the good stuff onto post-it notes. Then glued them to where I would see them. You know that I already have a thing about lipstick mantras – if you don’t know, I write mantras and words of wisdom in lipstick on mirrors. Sometimes they stay up for months at a time, sometimes they last for about 10 minutes.  They serve the purpose of a quick reminder to check my attitude. But the post it notes – they are reminders that I’m fairly awesome, or need a little work to get to awesome depending on where the note is located.  For instance the note in the bathroom reminds me to compliment my nose – because  someone once told me my nose was globular – and Ive kept that with me, and now I’m a tad insecure about it. But enough about my nose.

On my music stand is a reminder of how far I have come in a year.  It has a date on it only. Next to it is another note that tells me I can accomplish whatever I want as long as I go slow.  And behind my chair, plastered to the wall is another post-it that says “communist”. Its not about my political leanings. Rather, its to remind me of time when I was a fierce performer, and that I could steamroll any challenge that came my way.  It’s there to tell me that I am on my way back.

I have post-its in every room.  I change them according to what I need to hear. They are not to do lists (those are for the phone),  They are simply a nudge to remind myself that I am pretty great – and that it takes a little work to be come truly excellent.

Do you do anything like this to give your mental health a boost, or a kick in the pants – depending on what you need in the moment?

*Photo by Andreanna Moya Photography via Flickr