Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mama musings

Remember those days when I used to blog about whatever was on my mind rather than a specific topic? Me either. Today is one of those days where I have a lot on my mind, and I need to just get it out of my head.

I don't even know where to begin. I suppose I could start back when I was in high school and I was preparing to go to college. I knew as soon as I started high school I wanted to go to LSU, I wanted to be in Tiger Band, and I wanted to major in music. I did not want to be a band director; I wanted to be a performer! I just knew that I wanted to make a career out of playing flute in a symphony orchestra somewhere, and I just knew that money issues would take care of themselves. My father used to fill my head full of nonsense about playing in the New York Philharmonic one day. What kid hasn't heard that from a parent once or twice since the first moment they mustered the first squeaks and toots on his chose instrument? My father did what any supportive parent would do. He enrolled me in lessons with the best teacher he could find. At that time she was the principal flutist with the local symphony orchestra. Another one of my future teachers was also playing in that orchestra, though I couldn't know it at the time.

I spent an entire year working hard and improving. I learned tons. After that year, I moved to another part of the state to live with my mom and her husband at the time. I begged and begged for flute lessons, knowing that I needed them in order to be good enough. Good enough for what? I wasn't sure, but I knew they were important. I begged to no avail. My mother, but more specifically her current a-hole of a husband at the time, did not see the value in continued study. "Isn't that the band director's job?" he would say. Private lesson teachers and band directors alike HATE that mentality.

I used what I learned in my one year of lessons to help me through most of my high school auditions. Finally through a stoke of luck, I attended a summer chamber music camp at LSU the summer before my senior year. While there, I met the flute professor at LSU. She was astounded at my playing ability and equally shocked that I had not taken lessons since middle school. I was on top of the world! She asked about my plans and I said that I wanted to go to LSU. Really, even then, I wanted to go to LSU simply to be in the Tiger Marching Band. I could care less about being in that flute studio. At my private lesson with her, she told me that she was very impressed with me, that she really wanted me in her studio, and that she would pay for private lessons for me. I would take with her doctoral student. Oh neat! What kid wouldn't be super excited about that opportunity?

I ended up taking lessons that year. My mom would drive me 30 minutes away to my lessons and wait in the car. I didn't get to take my lessons every week, but I took several that year. And. I. Learned. Nothing.

She just didn't seem to understand how to teach someone at my level. I was talented, but I was so behind on some of the basics. She seemed fixated on certain concepts that I just was not ready to tackle. How could she not have been able to tell that? Time went on and I practiced like I never practiced before. I worked so diligently towards my audition.

I signed up for auditions at LSU and one just-in-case school. My mom and I drove to the Just-in-case school for my audition. The flute teacher wasn't even there. I auditioned for the band directors, who loved me. I didn't love them back. Then we drove to LSU to audition for my dream school. The flute teacher and director of bands were in attendance. I played the best audition of my life up to that point and I had my sight-reading audition. The director of bands whispered in my ear, "Well, you sound great, but it's really up to her (meaning the flute teacher) whether or not you make the studio." When I was done she commented on the way I had been standing during my audition and asked how my lessons with her student were going. She also asked me if I was auditioning anywhere else. I told her I was and she replied, "Good, because you don't want to put all your eggs in one basket."

My heart sank. I knew that my audition wasn't good enough even before I left the room. I was furious and as soon as I got home I filled out my application to audition at McNeese. Still, I held out hope that by some miracle I would still get in.

That miracle never came. Two long and grueling months later, I received my rejection letter. It was devastating and heart-breaking for me. I cried and cried and stayed bitter for a very long time. I still have my twinges of bitterness from time to time, especially when someone says that LSU is the BEST in the country at something-especially music-related issues.

All of my friends were very shocked that I did not get into LSU and I remember the assistant band director at my high school getting really angry about it. What made me more upset was the fact that my friends who played other instruments, who didn't work nearly as hard as I did, were accepted. I was the only one who didn't get in. My friends who applied to LSU for other degree programs started to shun me. I don't think they did it on purpose, but I had nothing in common with them anymore. I was "the one not going to LSU." From our little town outside of Baton Rouge, that was nearly unheard of.

So I went to McNeese and insisted on majoring in music anyway. My little scheme was that I would study there for a few years, work hard, and audition for LSU again. I never got around to that. I pretty much fell in love with my flute teacher at McNeese and decided to just stay there.

Even at McNeese, I couldn't escape what I like to call my first failure. Those LSU flutists won everything. I entered tons of competitions in vain. If an LSU flutist decided to enter, that was the end of that. I just didn't understand what it was about their playing that was so much better than mine. I had asked the LSU flute teacher why I didn't get in and she told me that I had competed with students that had taken lessons for years and that I just did not have a good enough flute to be really competitive. What? My instrument wasn't good enough? Well, I fixed that as soon as I entered McNeese but I still lost all the time. As much as it hurt to fail, it probably would have been more of a favor if someone would have said, "Kristi, you really don't have what it takes to be a successful flutist. Band director, yes, but performer, no." Because, honestly, I don't have what it takes. I never had what it took.

It's okay that I lack the talent to be a successful flutist. What is not okay is that I wasted four years of my free education paid for by the state of Louisiana on getting a music degree. I regret regret regret that now. I should have used four years of my free education to get a degree in something that I could get a decent job and pay bills later in my life. Now that I am an aspiring doula, which I wish I would have known back then, I probably should have studied to become a midwife. Funny how life works though. Back in college I had no interest in birth and babies. None at all. I didn't care for babies. They annoyed me. In fact, I just didn't see how I would ever become a mother one day. I was also convinced that if I did become a mother, I would hate every minute of it. Sometimes I would secretly wish that maybe I wouldn't be able to have children. Then I would try to squash that thought quickly because isn't that just plain evil? Especially as a Latter-day Saint woman? A part of me also knew that I would regret thinking that if it actually came true.

So I wasted my time thinking that I had this great love for the flute and that I could still be successful somehow even though all the evidence showed that no, I could not be successful. Losing auditions and competitions all the time does not really equate to being a successful flutist.

I persisted. I auditioned for graduate schools and did not make any of the "good ones." I started at one school and finished at another. I took out huge student loans. And this is a major regret. I should have never gone to a school if I had to pay for it. Yes, I have a Master of Music degree. Whoop-de-doo. I also have massive debt that I get to pay off instead of paying for something like, um, a house. Why didn't someone, anyone, tell me, "Hey Kristi! What are you truly planning to do to pay the bills?" I teach private flute lessons and I play in a semi-professional orchestra a few times a year.

My family comes first, and I have tried to help supplement our family's income while most being a stay at home mom to my little girl. We have decided that's how we want our family to be run. I will say that it is very difficult to run a family on mostly a single income. We have to make tons of sacrifices in order for us to have this type of lifestyle, and we have decided that we would rather sacrifice nice cars, clothes, homes and other nice things rather than sacrificing time spent with our children.

Seems like our biggest struggle is money. Neither of us came from families with money. We both came from families that struggled to make ends meet, and now we are in the same situation. However, Robbie has told me that he never really knew how much his parents struggled with money. I did know. I don't know how many times I heard, "We can't afford it. We don't have the money." I got to the point where I just didn't ask for anything anymore and I survived without plenty of those things I thought I had to have.

I asked my mom why she didn't set me straight when I insisted on majoring in music. She told me she did not want to squash my dreams. Sigh. I suppose that was sweet of her, but here we are, ten years later, and my decision to major in music is my biggest regret in life. It was a stupid decision, and one for which my entire family and I will pay for the rest of my life. It is a decision that will cause me to feel that little twinge of jealousy every time I see someone talk about their vacation to Hawaii, or their mani-pedi or their hair appointment they made just because they were feeling stressed, or their appointment with a massage therapist, or their nice new car and house, or all the little things they get to buy in preparation for their baby, or their ability to just drop $200 on a whole bunch of Fuzzi Bunz without even thinking twice about it or to be able to go to lunch with a friend at the spur of the moment and not have to wonder if that $5 sandwich is actually going to cost $37 in overdraft fees, or who can go anywhere at any time without worrying how much it will cost in gas to get there and if that will leave enough in the tank to go teach flute lessons the next day.

I know there are probably some out there who would really want to put things in perspective for me. Yes, I understand things could be worse. They can always be worse. Honestly, I wouldn't be bothered so much if I wasn't surrounded by people with a whole bunch of nice STUFF! Those things I mentioned up there? I see that every day! We go to church and are friends with people who live in a pretty affluent part of town, and it is impossible for us to keep up. It is not only impossible, but it is pretty embarrassing to my poor husband. Because he is the provider, this effects him in ways that I could never understand. I suppose it doesn't help any when I feel sad about it. I try not to complain, but I do get pretty down in the dumps about it. For example, I am the primary secretary for our ward. On occasion we have Presidency meetings. When we get together, we talk about the needs of the children. At one particular meeting, we were planning an event in which it was decided we all needed to bake four dozen cookies. I nearly cried. First, I do not have one of those fancy $200 mixers that make baking four dozen cookies a breeze and second, I do not have the money for the ingredients to make four dozen cookies. It didn't even cross my mind to buy some Chips Ahoy cookies or something because of the company I was in. THOSE ladies have probably never even heard of Chips Ahoy cookies. I had to decline helping with that assignment because of money. How silly! At the time it really got me down. All I wanted was to fit in and to be helpful, and I couldn't do it. It is hard for me to come home and explain to my husband these things because it depresses him. So I suppose I should just suck it up and never complain about money.

Oh only those wonderful and perfect women can do that, of which I am NOT one. Nope. I am not, nor have I EVER been perfect. So I need to vent, complain, share my feelings, blow of steam, etc. It seems like it is pretty evident anyway so why not shout it from the roof tops? We do not have enough money! We have to accept financial help from our parents and other sources, which is pretty embarrassing to two  almost 30 year olds.

So then, I think about Heavenly Father. He is the one who is actually providing the help to us, although He uses other people to carry it out. He is the one on whom we are relying and on whom we need to rely. He is the only one whose opinion and judgements matter. And then all that other stuff that I just wrote about seems to disappear. It melts away. And I think of Lily. Robbie and I? Well, we're just her heroes! We're the best things that have even happened to her and she just loves us to pieces just like we love her to pieces. She doesn't care that I can't make four dozen cookies and neither does Heavenly Father. What she does care about is that her mommy is here for her when she needs her. She cares about her daddy's hugs and kisses and rocking to sleep at night. She cares about being warm and safe and loved to bits by her two silly parents.

Isn't funny how there are so many thoughts that really have nothing to do with each other but that my brain can force them to have something to do with each other? We have a very modest income and as such, we have a very modest home and we do not have tons of stuff. Somehow my brain can say, "Well, that's because you didn't make it to LSU!" or "That's because you majored in music," or "You should have gotten a USEFUL degree!" Sigh. Oh brain!

Sometimes I think about how I wish things would have gone. So what would have happened if I made LSU? What then? What about if I would have majored in something else. What then? I have to ask myself, "Would I still be married to Robbie and would I still have Lily?" Then I think, "If I am not still married to Robbie and if I don't have Lily, then I wouldn't change anything. If I have to experience all those things in that particular order in order to be married to Robbie and have Lily, then I am just going to leave it alone." I wouldn't want to change anything if it meant that I didn't have Robbie and Lily anymore. I sure to love my Robbie and my Lily.

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