The $100 Bill

What would you do if I handed you a $100 bill?  

I once had a student who started cello lessons with me when he was 5 years old, and he LOVED the cello.  He loved playing the cello, he loved practicing the cello (as soon as he woke up-at 5am! Much to his parents’ dismay).  But he had this weird thing he did–He only used about 3 inches of bow–ever (probably due to the fact that he was trying not to wake his parents up!).  And every week he would come into his lesson, sad about his lack of tone, and I would say “Use your whole bow!  Use more arm weight! Yes!!!! Just like that! Do it again!  Terrific!  Okay.  Practice this piece like that, with big bows, and you’ll always sound like that”.  And he would leave his lesson super excited about knowing exactly what to do to get that great big cello sound he was after.  And then he would come in a week later, using only 3 inches of bow, and sad that he sounded so wimpy.  And we would repeat the cycle.

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Finally, one day I used this story to highlight my point:

“Let’s say you came to me and were upset because you needed some money.  There was something that you really, really wanted, but it cost $100, and you didn’t have $100.  And I said to you ‘well, there is a $100 bill on that piano over there–right by the door.  You can have it.  Just take it with you on your way out.’ And you were so excited.  ‘thank you, thank you, Kate!  I can finally have this thing that I want so badly!’  And then you finish your lesson, you pack up, and I say, ‘don’t forget to take that $100 bill with you’, and you say ‘okay!’ and then you walk out of the room, leaving the $100 bill on the piano.  And then the next week, you come to me with the same problem.  There is this thing that you want soooo badly, and you need $100 to get it.  And I ask you why you didn’t take the $100 bill that was there waiting for you, and you can’t answer me.  You’re not sure.  You wanted it, and you knew it was there, and that it was yours for the taking.  You knew it would solve your problem and allow you to have what you wanted, but you couldn’t seem to take it.  You just kept leaving it there.”

“So, you want to play with a bigger sound, and you know exactly what you need to do to get that bigger sound, and you have demonstrated time and time again that you are more than capable of doing exactly what you need to do to get that bigger sound, and yet, you simply do not do it.  I could grab both you and that $100 bill and force you into the store to buy that thing you want, and I could stand next to you every time you play and forcibly move your arm for you, but I am not going to do either.  You have to do it on your own.”

I have never seen eyes that big. 

He did eventually “take the $100” and ended up developing a most epic, gorgeous, lush sound.  Which is good, because after my $100 bill story, I was out of ideas!

This happens so often in our lives, doesn’t it?  As musicians, certainly. This boy was not the only student I have had to use the $100 bill story on.  But it’s true in other areas as well.  Maybe we want to lose a few pounds.  we know that in order to do that, we need to exercise a few days a week, and eat foods from list A and avoid foods from list B.  It’s really not that difficult.  And yet…here we are, snacking on list B foods, while List A foods rot in the fridge.  We’re staring at our running shoes collecting dust in the corner, complaining about how we (still) need to lose some weight.  Or the person who wants to save some money.  They know that they should automatically put some of their paycheck into a savings account and then use what is left to pay their bills and budget their food and entertainment for the month.  And yet…they go to the movie instead, they buy a new sweater because it’s on sale, and the savings account remains empty.

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I can’t think of a single area in my life that I could improve upon, where I don’t already know EXACTLY what I should do to fix it (or at least know exactly which resources to use to find out).  We are capable of doing anything as long as we have the right information, and we are certainly not lacking for that-it is EVERYWHERE.  Facebook, Podcasts, Blogs, Magazines.  Every. Where.  Of course, it is not that information that improves a situation, but acting on that information. Which leads me to the question, what is keeping us from taking proper action?

For my students, this is the all-important question.  I have students that practice, and students that don’t.  Some who practice well, and some who don’t.  But if you asked them all how one should practice if they wanted to improve, they would give you the right answer.  100% of them. They could tell you in great detail how they should listen to their pieces, break them down into small sections and then practice them slowly without any mistakes and slowly build them into larger pieces, how to work on intonation, phrasing, rhythm, color, vibrato, etc. etc.  but do they do it?

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What would it look like if we all took the $100 bills that were being presented to us?  What if we grabbed them and did what we needed to do.  We’d all be financial wizards and super fit and healthy and we’d all be incredible at what we did.  Businesses would be more productive and creative, artists more prolific, musicians would be playing at a higher level, and we’d all be saving the world.

Where are you resisting proper action? What could you do with that $100 bill?

 

 

Happy October!

Happy October! Month of fall foliage, Halloween costumes, apple picking and pumpkin spice lattes.  I will have none of those things in Bermuda; here, October means hurricanes, getting the garden planted (and then losing it all to the afore-mentioned hurricanes) and finding lightweight clothing in fall colors.  Bermudians love their Fall Fashion, even though it’s 85 degrees and sunny!  Bless them.  But don’t worry, I’ll be spending a lovely 9 days in Chicago playing concerts and working with various student groups.  I’m so excited for all of that, but I’m also excited to take a few walks around Lake Michigan, oohi-ng and ahh-ing over the changing leaves, and I will probably bribe my nephews to hit-up starbucks with me once or twice a day for a PSL fix.

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After an awesomely productive and enlightening September, I’m excited to move onto my next 30-Day Project.  September was “Health” and if you are curious, you can read about it here and here.  October is going to be…….drumroll, please….. “Career”.  Specifically, my performance career.  (Spoiler alert: the “Teaching” and “Youth Orchestra” aspects of my career will each have their own month).  I’m looking forward to booking some more concerts for this year and next (and the next—I’m already booking concerts for the 2019-2020 season!) cleaning up and updating my website, maybe getting some new headshots done, and learning how to write and send a good press-release, amongother things. I’m looking forward to ending the month with new kinds of content and a lot more of it to choose from.  Obviously I’ll be practicing a ton gearing up for my week of concerts in Chicago, and I’m curious to see how playing so many recitals in 1 week will feel.  I’m starting things off with my brand new business cards that the mother of one of my students designed.  Didn’t she do an incredible job?

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designed by @mercedesigns

business cards

designed by @mercedesigns

Again, the name of the game here is to make a little bit of progress in this area each day.  Make necessary investments and read whatever I can find on the subject.  If you have any ideas, please send them along in the comments.  And in the meantime, Enjoy a caramel apple and a cider doughnut for me, please.

 

My Healthy September Post-Mortem

Boy ,this month got busy!  I started out letting you know about my Month-long Focus Project on my Health and had every intention of posting a couple of times each week about various things.  Somehow, it is September 28th and I have posted not one lousy update.  So, here we are,  4 weeks into the month, and 2 days away from a glass of wine!  Here’s how it all went.

“Sober September”.  Paul and I managed to go an entire month without drinking alcohol.  To be fair, we each had 2 cheat days.  For him, it was after the last fitted dinghy race of the season.  Tradition holds that the trophy gets filled with rum and everyone passes it around and drinks from it (I know, gross, but they LIVE for this shit) and I sort of felt like it was an important moment for him since it was also (possibly?) marking his early retirement from fitted dinghy racing.  My cheat day was when I was out having dinner with some dear friends.   Our 2nd one was after I returned home from a couple of intense weeks in Boston, and we went out for a romantic dinner.  We each had a glass.  All told, we both had the equivalent of 1 day’s worth of wine over an entire month.  Not too shabby.  Lessons learned?  Well, it was a very boring month, to be sure. We didn’t go out as often and spent most of our evenings at home working.  A couple of times it felt silly not to be enjoying a nice glass of wine (when we were out for tapas, after a long tough day at work, etc).  But I think we both realized that most of the time we are sipping away, it’s mostly out of habit.  I was just as happy drinking a glass of Pellegrino while cooking dinner.  It didn’t have to be wine.  And Paul was just as happy with a cold glass of ginger beer as he would have been with a dark and stormy.  What we needed was the ritual of stopping our work days, pouring a glass of SOMETHING and hitting pause.   I don’t think that drinking wine is going to be a part of our daily routine anymore, and I also think I will appreciate having a nice glass of wine with a nice meal, or to celebrate a happy occasion–once in a while. Also?  I lost 7 lbs, so there’s that.

Eating healthy:  This one I wasn’t so strict about, though I did do a massive food shop and meal-prep when I got to Boston for two weeks of teaching and rehearsals.  I cooked up tons of vegetables, some salmon, chicken breasts, wild rice, and salad fixings and was happy as a clam for those two weeks.  I had options (chicken or fish? Broccoli or asparagus) but my choices were limited enough that I never had decision fatigue about my meals.  I would make a jar of chia pudding or overnight oats for breakfast and mix them up with some fresh berries and a little coconut yogurt.  Lunch would be a salad from my pre-cut veggies, and dinner would be equally easy.  I felt great, slept great, was hungry at mealtime, but not starving for snacks.  I brought mini packs of almonds and dried cranberries to rehearsals and that was basically it.  Unfortunately, when I got back to Bermuda, that plan went down the tubes.  Paul and I just like very different kinds of food. He likes to throw things together into a kind of stew/chili/casserole type of situation (served over starch) and I prefer my food to be cooked separately (but unlike a three year-old, it’s okay if they are touching on my plate).  I can’t deny how much worse I feel for how I’ve eaten the past two weeks vs. how great I felt the first two weeks, so I might need to put my foot down and make it happen (sorry, babe!)  We watched the documentary “What the Health” which everyone and their brother seems to be talking about.  Honestly, It made me question both the validity of their accusations (it all seemed a bit too much) and how much animal product I’m willing to have in my diet.  Since I have trouble being any kind of an extremist (I couldn’t even go 30 days without a glass of wine!) I hesitate to say I’m never going to eat meat or cheese again.  I have been using Almond milk and I switched to coconut yogurt, and I’m trying to be more mindful of meat and dairy choices.  Voilá.

Exercise: I did manage to get back into a running routine.  I maybe didn’t run as often as I wanted, but I managed a consistent 3-4 times a week.  I learned two things.  1) it’s a lot easier to run when your body is lighter.  Seriously, I always wondered how women who had never run before could throw on a pair of sneakers, and go out and run a 10K that first weekend, when, after months of running, I wouldn’t have even made it through a 10K without huffing and puffing.  Now I get it. They are tiny to begin with, and aren’t lugging as much weight around.  Even just dropping 7 lbs, I can run faster and farther and it feels easier.  So, here’s to the next 7 lbs, and the next.  2) having great music really helps.  I downloaded Kayla Itsines’s SWEAT playlist from itunes and it is amazing.  Love it.  I want more.  Need more.  Please send playlist suggestions ASAP!

Small habits and check-ups:  I took care of the two big one (or two)-offs: My annual “wellness exam” and mammogram with my Dr. and seeing my dentist for a cleaning and updated x-rays, and I tried to tweak little daily habits: flossing more regularly, drinking a tall glass of hot water with lemon before I have my coffee (and drinking more water in general) and doing more sit ups and squats and things like that around the house at random times.

So overall, I think my first Focus month was a pretty big success.  Aside from the weight loss, I definitely have more energy, my skin looks better, and I just feel like I am living a healthier life.  I feel good about setting up good habits that I can continue through the rest of the year, am in a good groove with my running routine and am excited to continue to tweak my (our) eating habits.

New post next week to announce my October Focus Project! I’m excited.

The Transition Week

I believe that summer begins on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day, and I strongly adhere to that schedule each year.  This year, however, I have realized the importance of the “transition week” in getting myself from pre-Labor Day, when my life revolves around lakes and sailboats and sleeping until 9am if I want to,  to Post-Labor Day (when people actually expect me to do some work).  Maybe it’s because I have had such a whirlwind summer; The America’s Cup started Memorial Day weekend, lasted 5 weeks and brought 4 sets of houseguests.  In the middle of that I played a full recital with an entirely new program.  Then Paul and I finished teaching and we had our three-week staycation filled with beach picnics, snorkeling, swimming, sailing and a plethora of fun social events on the island, followed by Chicago to see my family (there were definitely s’mores–YES!)  A week of camp in Boston, 2 weeks of camp in Maine, and then our road-trip to Baltimore, Charleston and DC.  I have spent the last 3 days at our condo in Boston basically comatose. I am ready for the new concert season to begin, and yet my brain has turned to mush.  I know that I have been practicing, but the lack of routine always throws me off and makes me feel like a total slacker.  But as desperate as I am to get back to that routine, if you told me the season started tomorrow, I think I would fall to the floor, curl up in the fetal position and start crying, because I’m not READY!!!

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Thus, ladies and gentlemen, “The Transition Week”. Continue reading

Eclipse or Bust

When Paul heard that we were going to be at a friend’s wedding in Baltimore two days before a total eclipse was due to occur in Charleston, SC, he informed me that we would, in fact, be heading south to witness this incredible feat of sun and moon.  I tried to explain to to my dear Englishman that, although they might LOOK super close on a (small) map of the US, Charleston, South Carolina, was in an entirely different part of the USA than Baltimore, but there was no changing his mind. He was determined.  He pulled the “But I’m a SCIENCE teacher” card, and I had no choice.  He booked what might have been the very last hotel room in Charleston, ordered us some of the very last over-priced eclipse glasses and that was that.  And so I found myself in our trusty CR-V last Sunday morning, slightly hung-over and too tired to argue, being driven 600 miles south from Baltimore, to see this spectacle of nature with my very own eyes. Continue reading

We’re going to Mexico!

Guys, this year has been a whirlwind of activity over at Sundeck.  A new home, new website, cd release, new blog, and a whole lotta flights and concerts.   P has also been working like a dog-teaching an overloaded schedule, designing the sets over at the community theater, sanding and repainting his boat and building/refinishing various pieces of furniture at home.  We are both ready for a reboot, and are pretty psyched that our spring breaks actually coincide this year.  In past years when we were doing the long-distance relationship thing, we were grateful that, because our breaks DIDN’T line up, we got to spend about 4 weeks in a row together–I spent my two weeks in Bermuda, and he spent his 2 weeks in Boston. But because of that, we could never “go on vacation”together; one of us was always working.

So THIS year, we are going on a real live vacation to Oaxaca and Huatulco Mexico.  We often travel during the summer months because as a musician and a teacher, we are “off” the month of July, and I have always traveled for work, but to take a week in the middle of the “work year” and get away from it all feels like the ultimate luxury to me.  It feels like we are going to be playing hooky for 8 days!

We are planning on staying at a bnb in the center of Oaxaca city and exploring Monte Alban, the markets and the amazing restaurants that I have been reading about.  And then we are going to fly down to Huatulco for a couple of days of sand, surf and utter relaxation.  Have any of you been to either place?  Any recommendations?  What are the “not-to-be-missed” spots?