Music To My Ears

It has been a long-standing plan of mine to learn the piano at some point before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

To that end, I have been requesting a keyboard for every gift-worthy event for about two years now … Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day and so on.  But, apparently my husband feels that I don’t need or deserve a piano and so it hasn’t been forthcoming.

Resorting to the only possible solution to the problem, I have bought my own.

I got a beginner’s piano book, and sat down with great excitement to figure out the notes and work out where to put my fingers.  Imagine my excitement when, within a few short hours, I was already banging out ‘Merrily We Roll Along’, and with more than one finger!

Unfortunately my sense of achievement was cut short when my youngest son, having never had a piano lesson in his life, sat down and played ‘The Entertainer’.  I gather he just picked it up somewhere.

Eventually I would like to take proper lessons, but what with one child doing competitive gymnastics and the other doing every lesson her pushy stage mum can book her into, I guess that expense will have to wait.

Nonetheless, it’s fun to mess around with, and I am delighted to report that I am now playing chords and even sharps and flats, all with two hands at the same time.  My triumphs may be small and humble, but we all have to have something to keep us going.


In Search of Mrs Von Trapp

My choir is having a talent show, and much as I quietly dream of wowing everyone with a brilliant rendition of some musical treat, it is a sad truth that I would never actually have the nerve to get up and sing on my own.

However, it just so happened that I was invited to be part of an ensemble of about 9 singers that someone was trying to put together.  After automatically rejecting the idea, I did an about turn and thought to myself ‘yes, I should jolly well step outside my comfort zone and give this a go’.  After all, there’s safety in numbers.

Well, the number turned out to be 3, which wasn’t quite what we were hoping for, but we soldiered on, chose a song and acquired the sheet music.

We had fun getting together at each others’ houses and practicing, but sadly, it all ended in tragedy.  The song we had chosen was so fast that we could only get the words out in a garbled mess, and … there’s no really good way to say this … we sucked.  We recorded ourselves, and it did indeed sound truly awful.  The melody was fine, but we managed to make the harmony sound like a bobcat caught in a bandsaw.

And so there ends my dream of stardom.  Back to mumbling along at the back of the section and trying not to draw attention to the noise I’m making.

I’m Still Hot – But Now It Just Comes In Flashes

OK – I admit I borrowed that headline from a fridge magnet, but it pretty much sums up my life for the last few months.

I’ve gone from being the pansy who wears sweaters all summer to standing on the deck in -30 degree weather, desperately fanning a breeze down my shirt front.

But, I can’t even claim to be overheated all the time; if only it were that simple.  No, one minute I’ll be shivering and  blue with cold, but even as I struggle to stem the chattering of my teeth I know it will only be moments before I am engulfed in a wave of nauseating heat.

And as for sleeping at night – forget about it!  I swing between winter and summer, pulling the duvet on and kicking it off again in an endless dance of the seasons.  I’ve taken to sleeping with a fan poised by the bed so that I can switch it on as I feel the heat rising.  Oh how I miss my flannel pyjamas!

I have to say the Christmas party season was tough.  For a start I had to stick to the barest make-up because, let’s face it, it’s not staying on for long.  Secondly I could only wear the flimsiest of clothes, bowing to the need to layer and allow for a draft.  And, of course conversation was a problem – one minute I would be standing around engaging in sparkling banter, and the next I would be red in the face and ‘glowing’ profusely.

You know those overweight, middle-aged men who lollop around wiping sweat off their pudgy faces with a hanky?  Well that is me, and I have to tell you, it’s not the image I’m going for.

All in all, I’m not thrilled with this particular phase.  And to make matters worse, every time I moan to hubby he smirks the self-satisfied smile of someone who has spent his whole life overheated, and says “welcome to my life”.  Honestly, if he has spent his whole life with hot flashes then I think it might be time for a specialist.

I’m assured by some that this will pass, and informed by others that it could last for years.  Well, let me tell you, I’m menopausal and moody, and it’ll be a jolly good thing for everyone when it’s over.


Dealing With a Weighty Issue

Apparently if you eat constantly and stop exercising all your clothes shrink.

This time last year I lost about 20lb and built up some serious muscle mass in the swimming pool and the hot yoga studio.  Then mid-year, a shoulder injury stopped me swimming and hot flashes kept me from hot yoga.  Wow, being old sucks.

Anyway, banned from my favourite exercise pursuits, I medicated my frustration with chocolate.  The trip to England didn’t help either, with fish and chips, cream teas and proper chocolate beckoning from every corner.  It was awesomely yummy, but the memories are fresh on my waist.

With my 50th birthday fast approaching I figure I can choose between entering this new phase of my life as a frumpy, dumpy housefrau, or skipping in fit, slim and gloriously stylish.  Clearly I have a lot of work to do.

So, the point here is that I took the plunge and joined the gym.  I started off with a session with a personal trainer who told me I am massively fat – or she may not have actually phrased it that way, but I’m sure that’s what she was thinking from over there in her size zero Lulu Lemons.

She also told me to give up eating chocolate which seems a little extreme.  What’s the point of exercise if it doesn’t give you a bit of leeway with your sugar intake?

The first class I tried was called Fit ABSolution.  Lying on the floor we were instructed to engage our abdominals and pull up to a seated position, which the others achieved with varying degrees of groaning and grunting.  I, on the other hand, completely lacking abdominal muscles of any description, flailed around with my legs in the air, desperately trying to build up enough momentum to propel my earth-bound torso skyward.    Walrusses are more graceful.

I’ve put learning to do a sit-up right at the top of my personal training goals.

I gather that exercising should give you more energy and help control food cravings, but so far it’s just making me exhausted and starving hungry.  And I’m supposed to satisfy that will celery and whole grains.  As if!

The Maternal Urge to Fix Everything

Being a pushy stage mum is far more time consuming than I expected, and a lot more stressful.

There really was a lot to be said for casually enquiring, from time to time, whether my daughter was ready for the next audition and how her singing, or her monologue, was coming along.

Now, suddenly I’m stressing about who is the best teacher; dragging around to consultations and rehearsals; and imposing a practice schedule that I seem to be more committed to than her.

In my humble position as supportive, but unassuming fanclub type mum, I had always held my tongue and bowed to the greater knowledge of … well, everyone.  After the England audition debacle I decided to own my power (and take responsibility for where my money is going) and speak out.

Specifically, I’ve never been a big fan of her vocal coach –  I always felt as though she was failing to access my daughter’s inner superstar.  Under the tutelage of her high school teachers, with the right song and the right direction, she would shine; but this particular coach never seemed to bring out that sparkle.  She also let her pick songs that just didn’t suit her voice (and even worse, she didn’t seem to notice.)

Long story short – we have divested ourselves of this particular coach.  During the process of selecting a replacement, we also received some very good news – specifically that I was right.

The  coach we picked, with whom she made an instant connection, and who came highly recommended, immediately said that she is not actually an alto, and that the songs she was singing were completely wrong for her voice.  (Yay Mum!)

Now she has brand new songs and auditions looming.  Between that and boy troubles it’s like living in the middle of a soap opera.

If I’m going to survive this, I’m going to have to learn to observe and empathize without making myself personally responsible for fixing everything.  And if I work out how to do that, I’ll write a bestseller about it.