Who took my F#?

The mother of all hammer dulcimers

The mother of all hammer dulcimers

Above we see the mother – make that the ueber grandmother – of all hammer dulcimers, to which I aspire someday. This is a big ol’ honkin piece of fabulous equipment that virtually needs its own forklift. For now, I am on the training-wheels model. Look at all those pretty, shiny (I’m supposed to tune a gazillion strings every time?) work of art.

Unlike the various notes on a flute, one string on an HD does not feel differently nor is it hammered differently than another string. To make it even more challenging, there are 3 areas, on the baby model, in which strings may be struck. Their location is confusing though because the pitch of a note does not correspond to its placement on the soundboard. In other words, there’s an F# on a lower location on the far left set of strings that is higher in pitch than the D, that is lower in pitch, that is located on a higher location on the middle set of strings. Confused yet? I was. I emailed my teacher tonight because I could not find my F#. Vanna – I’d like to buy an F#! But it was hiding in plain sight all along. Who knew?

The age old joke amongst those of us who play these beasties is:

Let’s Get Hammered!!

 

 

 

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Good Day

Yesterday, I got a bit of sunburn on my face. In Oregon!!! In October!!! The weather here has been glorious. Sure wish it could always be like that. I can live just fine without rain.

I also played music at one of the Children’s Hospitals and had great interactions with the staff. One PT knew that I was playing an alto flute. A nurse asked if I was a professional player. The facilities man said my playing was very soothing. I have to chuckle at the undeserved last 2 comments because I was “jamming” – essentially playing glorified scales while watching the happenings around me.

One thing I am proud of is that I can play through anything – patients doing PT exercises right in front of me, facilities people moving equipment up close, children screaming and crying down the hallway (ok, that’s a bit tough but I figure I can help them the most with soothing music) and loud noises such as alarms or espresso machines (from the hospital lobby snack bar).

BUT – I finally met my match!! A very cute, bald from chemo, sweet little boy was completely mesmerized with my flute. He walked up and stuck his finger in the end of the flute while I was playing. He then proceeded to mash keys and pry the flute out of my hand and attempt to play it. There is something about these kids that I just hand over my $2,000 flute and think nothing of it. I finally blew air through the mouthpiece and let him mash keys. And throughout this whole time, neither of us said a word. I’m not even sure he spoke English – or spoke at all. But it was as if we had had a meaningful, heartfelt conversation.

Ahhh – I always receive so much more than what I give at the hospital.

Alto flute with curved head piece.

Alto flute with curved head piece.

 

Alto flute with, what I believe to be, saxophone keys

Alto flute with, what I believe to be, saxophone keys

Perspective

Today, I played music at the children’s hospital where I am on the floor – unit, technically speaking – with the sick kids. I love when I am tuning up and some bystanders say they like the sound. Easy audience! I hadn’t even played anything yet; so sweet. The ad-lib numbers on the alto flute and therapy harp went well. Had some boo boos and one really bad song on the concert flute along the way.  Oh well. The most interesting thing was struggling to get notes out of my alto flute because I was sliding off of it from sweating. Wheeeee.

Some of the kids I play for are literally fighting for their lives because of cancer. I couldn’t believe, while driving home and listening to the radio, that a blurb came on about “how to survive a bad haircut”. Survive? Seriously??

Once home, I opened a letter from our sponsored child in Guatemala.

Ahhh. Fabulous day.

(If I could get paid to crochet and play therapeutic music, that would be the ultimate!!)

Reverie Therapy Harp. LOVE it!!!

Reverie Therapy Harp. LOVE it!!!

Hardware galore - and a wooden imposter!

Hardware galore – and a wooden imposter!

 

Bliss

Since last October, I have been playing flute music in the lobby of one of the children’s hospitals in town. It has certainly been a great experience so far, and I look forward to continuing there.

Today, though, I got to play on the unit with the children at the “other” hospital. I LOVED it. A few people told me, in passing, that the music was soothing. A staff member told me that 2 patients down the hall wanted their doors open so they could hear me. YAY! (I marvel at that because I was told repeatedly, before arriving, that I should play very quietly). My dream job would be to get paid to play therapeutic music to folks who need it. And I think we all need it!

The best moment today was when a young boy (a patient) came by on a scooter and asked me about my alto flute. I told him it was really heavy and just handed it over for him to hold. He told me it was not heavy and that it looked like a walking cane (because of the curved head piece). 🙂

I can’t wait till I get to play again!!!

Flutetastic

Flutetastic

 

The “Challenging Years”

As a late bloomer, I am finally joining the world of Facebook. Several folks, with whom I have not chatted in ages, have asked me what I’ve been up to in the last few years. Here’s a (hopefully) quick synopsis. It is also meant as an outreach to anyone who is at the end of their rope. I’m not in that space anymore, but I’d like to tell you – I understand!!! If you need words of encouragement, let me know.

I worked as a sign language interpreter from June, 1999 until April, 2010. One year prior to my leaving my career, I had a life-altering car accident in April, 2009. From April, 2009 until April, 2010, I had massive, chronic pain, nerve tingling, vertigo, language processing problems, balance problems and memory problems. And those were on the good days. I finally was no longer able to do my work and had to leave the field altogether. Months of despair and feeling lost ensued until June – when things got worse.

June, 2010, I was in another car accident – with my daughter this time. (In both of my accidents, it was the other driver’s fault). The June accident totalled my van. We were hit with such an impact, from the rear, that the CDs in the front of the van were thrown all the way to the back. That’s a long way! The back fold-down seat, which is quite a ways in from the rear trunk lid, was so damaged it had to be replaced.

The very lowest point came when the totalled van was in the shop for 6 weeks, being rebuilt (yes, rebuilt!!). My husband was away on business travel often. On some days, my only social contact was watching the mailman drive up and down our street. I know that folks say “let me know if there’s anything I can do” but realistically, they have busy lives. This was the lowest point of hell where the daily pain, fear and isolation were so great that I often didn’t think I would make it through that.

I finally had a disc replacement surgery in October, 2010. The surgeon said that nerves are normally gray but mine were bright RED from having been smashed between vertebrae for 18 months. The surgery gave me instant relief from all the pain and tingling. I was on the road to recovery until…

The disc “failed”. One out of 100 of these surgeries fail and I was the lucky winner. My vertabrae had had keel channels drilled into them and the disc replacement had been literally hammered into place. When the prostethic fell out, it was stabbing me in the esophagus. It could have punctured that. It also theoretically could have gone backwards and sliced into my spinal cord. (So in other words, this metal prosthetic was not anchored between vertebrae anymore. It was “hanging loose” in my neck and could have caused huge damage.)

I was shocked and terrified to have to return to emergency surgery 6 weeks after the first one. Fortunately, I didn’t know what danger I was in by having that loose prosthetic in my neck for 3 days (over a weekend, of course). So, the surgeon once again cut all the way through my neck, from the front, to operate on the spine. There’s too much bone in the way to go in through the back. Do you have any idea how thick a neck is? That’s alot of territory to slice through.

Fast forward through a full year of what felt like very slow recovery. I was a marathoner in the past, so working my way up to 5 minute walks and then having to rest for the afternoon was excruciating on the patience front. On December 7th, 2011, Pete, Teresa and I (now very recovered) hiked a 4 hour, strenuous, muddy trail on the Napali coast in Kauai. I thought I had finally made it!!! Five days later, on December 12th, 2011, my oldest brother unexpectedly died (of natural causes).

Pete was out of town when Chris died. I was on the phone for 14 hours with family and friends all over the planet. I flew to Alabama solo, stifling crying between 2 strangers for the 10 hour trip home, and finally keeled over after having been up for 36 hours straight. My niece and I pulled the whole funeral together in 2 days and I was even crazy enough to play the flute at my brother’s funeral.

That Christmas and many months after were a total blur. I think I took on my first job, as an assistant to students with disabilities at the community college, 3 or 4 weeks after Chris died, but that too was a blur. I was finally so seized up in pain again that I had to once again leave THAT job, as a disabled person, in April, 2012.

More discouragement and restlessness and wondering if I would ever be well and a productive employee again ensued. I was also 50 at the time so I wasn’t holding out hope to even be a barista. Fast forward to the summer when my ENT doc said my tonsils looked “suspicious” (for possible cancer) and needed to come out. Holy cow. Never get your tonsils taken out if you are over the age of 10! That surgery was MUCH worse than the 2 neck surgeries. I was on Vicodin every 4 hours for 9 days straight.

The good news is that I finally, after many decades, am getting some sense of smell back. Apparently, those inflammed tonsils (and other sinus issues) blocked my sense of smell.

Since September, 2012, I *finally* have started getting my life back. Because of my age, occasional pain, and the sheer lack of use of my ASL/interpreting skills for 3 years, I had to make the difficult decision to not return to my work as a sign language interpreter. I am in the final stages of training now to become a Kindermusik teacher. (Update as of 04/2014 – this plan fell through because of some nasty dealings on the part of the company. Enough said. After a year of training, I had let go of this dream as well. As of October, 2013, my chronic pain finally came to an end. I still have flare-ups but the horrific 24/7 stuff is over – alleluia!!)

I am currently pursuing many different, mostly folk, instruments. I am a hallway musician at the local children’s hospitals. I play soothing flute music in the hospital lobby and then I am placed on one of the units with the sick children and their families. If my music brightens even one person’s day, that makes my heart sing.

Finally, I am crocheting for charity, attempting to write in my spare time, promoting my mom’s TWO books, and training for a half marathon that will take place on Oct. 5th, 2014.

Life is good. Recovery is (still) happening. Being once again engaged with the world in meaningful activities is absolutely priceless.

Leap of Faith

Today was the first day of my Kindermusik practicum. It was FUN! It was wild! It was – downright inspiring. As an empty-nester, I realized (again) how much I miss the little guys. Young children are so authentic, creative, imaginative and in the moment! I also realized how much I miss teaching. My Special Ed degree was eons ago, but I have, in one way or another, been involved in teaching/tutoring/mentoring most of my life.

The adults and kids in my practicum are so wonderful, I’d like to take them all home. That might be hard to explain to Pete when he’s back from his business trip. Talk about not leaving my work at the office! 🙂

10 pounds of materials for 30 minutes of class. That’s an average of .33 pounds per minute. (I’ve been with an engineer too long) 🙂

Now for my “Leap of Faith” story. I had a Divine Inspiration of sorts recently to offer my Kindermusik business, once it is up and running, on a donation basis in order to level the playing field in the greater Portland area. However, I’m finding that I will be swallowed up in debt so fast that this model won’t work yet. Hopefully down the road, I can offer scholarships or have a nonprofit, 501c3 portion to my business. That remains to be seen but the good intentions are definintely there!

There is also a music specialist position open at the hospital where I am already volunteering as a hallway musician for sick kids. If I didn’t need it for flute playing, I would (virtually) give my right arm to have that job, especially if it’s on a part-time basis.

Big leaps, stretching the faith portion accordingly.

 

Fun with PT!

Now the physical therapy sessions are getting to be fun and interesting since I’m, and this is a direct quote, on “the VERGE of NORMAL”. I’m not sure I’ve ever been quite that close so that is a reason to run and jump with joy. However, since my ever fabulous PT taped up my feet so my ankles would work mo’ betta, running isn’t going to happen. Right now, I’m happy to just walk without falling all over myself. I think he should have taped my mouth instead since I can chatter so much 🙂

Dan, TEFPT (The Ever Fabulous PT), gave me a new title in regard to the instruments I play or want to play. He called me a harpelele flutist. How cool is that? If you take the 5 instruments I have going (and don’t add the others that are yet to join me), I would actually be a hammer harpomandobanjo flutist of the dulcimer variety. Or, an octave harpoflutist hammer banjodulci mandolinist. Or…the list goes on! 🙂

This tape color is SO last week! I should have asked for the purple. 🙂