My Son’s Piano Class Adventure

20130223-093811.jpgConvinced that I had given birth to a musical prodigy, this first-time mom decided to enroll son Joshua in a piano class when he was four. The world needs to meet this genius-in-making, I figured. I found the local studio of an internationally-acclaimed music education program and attended their informational meeting.

“You only have a small window of time to develop musicality in a child,” the owner of the studio explained. “Even smaller window to gain perfect pitch.” Oh no–it might already be too late! “Every study shows that musicianship and high intelligence go hand in hand. Almost all highly accomplished pianist is also a genius.” She failed to add that many of them are also crazy, but the scare tactic worked. I forked over a big chunk of money to sign my son up for the first semester.

On the first day of class, I marched in with my son and took my place in the chair next to the keyboard. At least one parent had to attend with the student and sit through the 30-minute class. “Thus, the parents also get some music education,” the instructor cheerfully said as we opened the instructional book which came with the colorful bag with the CD of all the songs we’d be learning. We paid for the whole package, as per the contract.

The kids sat at the keyboard which was basically a synthesizer shaped like an organ. The bench was quite high, and my son’s feet dangled midair.

“Kids, sing with me: do, re, mi, fa, so!” The instructor urged the class as she played the scale. I took a deep breath and sang, “Do, re, mi, fa, so!”

“That was good, parents. Now, let’s hear you, kids.” Evidently, this teacher has done this a few times. I changed my voice to sound like a little child and leaned over to my son whose mouth hung open in puzzlement and tried again.

“Do, re, mi, fa, so!”

I made a good ventriloquist.

The semester continued on, and we faithfully attended our lessons each week. I diligently did our weekly homework with Josh, singing or playing along with the CD of the songs.

One day in class, we had a special guest come in to play a piece. She was probably 7 or 8, and she was enrolled in the special class for highly advanced young musicians. “This class is by invitation only. We observe your children and, after two years, decide whether your child continues in the regular or advanced track,” the teacher explained. I knew right away that my son would be joining this girl someday.

She sat at the regular piano in the front of the classroom. Her feet did not touch the floor, so they outfitted the pedals with wooden blocks for her. She took a deep breath then began to play.

I was expecting her to start with Chopsticks. Instead she launched into Chopin, her little fingers dancing up and down the scale, moving her body with each measure. She closed her eyes at some point as if to truly feel the music. I couldn’t believe my eyes nor ears. Her little body was inhabited by a 20-year old concert pianist. It was almost creepy.

I was just getting into this grand piece when suddenly I was jarred back into reality by a big “thud” next to me.

“Waaaaaaah!” my son cried on the floor, wedged between the keyboard and the bench. He had fallen off the tall seat.

Great. This little girl is playing a grand piano piece, and my son can’t even stay seated.

Josh continued on with this music education system for many years until he graduated about 6 years later. He never did make it to the advanced track, but he did become an okay piano player. Today, he is marching in the band at his high school, playing the trumpet. He never developed perfect pitch, but he has great appreciation for music, especially jazz.

I, on the other hand, learned to sing my do-re-mi’s perfectly well. I also learned to humble myself and to let our kids be who God made them to be.

And that was well worth the tuition we paid!

Murder, Manhunt, and Manifesto

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(KABC photo)

My hometown of Irvine has been all over the news today due to a rare murder and the manhunt for the suspect, Christopher Dorner.  Irvine is consistently rated one of the safest cities in the nation, which makes this crime so alarming.  But what is most alarming of all is that this man, a fired ex-LAPD police officer, wrote a vitriolic manifesto describing his rage and what he planned to do about it.

He is angry that he has been wronged, and he is out for revenge.  He is out to kill.

We don’t know the full story, so I can’t be the judge here.  I’ve read reports that he was depressed.  Maybe by serving in the military, he suffers from PTSD.  Maybe he has a history of mental illness.  Nevertheless, from all the reports I’ve heard on the news so far, there is no doubt that he is very, very angry.  Angry enough to murder a young engaged couple in Irvine and a police officer…so far.

Coincidentally (or not), we were studying anger in our Bible study just yesterday.  This comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5;21-22).  Our study leader pointed out that in almost all cases of murder, anger is at the root of it.

I was also reminded of the verse in Ephesians 4:26, “In your anger, do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”  Well, I’m pretty certain that Chris Dorner let many, many suns go down on his anger while simmering and raging about the wrongs he suffered, perhaps over decades.  I wouldn’t doubt it if he was rightfully angry about some of these things.  But instead of letting go, he let them fester and fester until…

Although I have not experienced the level of anger Mr. Dorner was evidently harboring, I am convicted today about my own issues with holding onto anger.  There were work-related conflicts that happened over 10 years ago that I’m still smarting over.  I can think of friends who betrayed me when I was in high school.  How I need to let go of them!  I know exactly what the Scriptures is talking about when it says, “do not give the devil a foothold.”  Anger can open the heart to much ugliness.

Sometimes, all attempts to work something out between me and the other party fails.  Then, it’s up to me to forgive, let go, and move on.  Although it’s not easy, it helps to keep in mind a couple of things:

1.  People are people, and they are imperfect.

Give them grace when they slip up and transgress against us, because someday we will be transgressing against them, too.  Maybe we should all lower our expectations on our boss, friend, spouse, parent, etc., because they are just as fallen and deprived as we are.  One time, I was sharing about something hurtful which someone I (used to) respect said to me.  Then someone casually said, “Maybe he didn’t really mean to hurt you.”  Most of the time, I would have dismissed her comment as platitude, but somehow it dawned on me that day that my friend, thoughtless as he might have been, wasn’t out to purposely hurt my feelings.  How liberating it was to realize that and how much easier it was to then forgive!

2.  The easiest way to let go of our past anger is to stop thinking about it.

The brain has a wonderful way of disconnecting the synapses when you stop making that connection.  I’ve actually completely forgotten about things I stopped remembering.  Praise God that we have this wonderful ability!  Sometimes, this ability pops up at the most inopportune moments, but let’s use it to our advantage!

I don’t know how this manhunt for Chris Dorner is going to end.  But for now, I’m going to do my part to try to make my world a better place.  And you?

Advice to Dads: Do Not Buy a Tux When Your Kids Are Young!

20130202-081410.jpgI was recently with some parents of two very young children — one infant and one toddler — and was reminded of how physically taxing those early years were with our two little kids. We’re far enough away from that season now that we can dispense a few pointers to moms and dads who are still in the thick of early parenting. Here’s a parenting advice you will definitely want to heed:

Do NOT purchase a tuxedo during this time in life.

My husband doesn’t often go to fancy events, but on occasion he has to attend work-related dinners and banquets. If it’s formal enough, he would go rent a tux. Eventually, he calculated the cost and realized that he should just buy the tux instead of renting one each time, because it would pay for itself within 2 or 3 events. After all, he figured, he’s an adult now and fully grown. So, he got measured and got one made to fit his slim size.

Bad timing: thanks to the physical demands of being a young parent, he was at his lowest weight of his adult life.

He would often be carrying our infant daughter in a Baby Bjorn while pushing our 2-year old son in a stroller. From the moment he woke up till he went to bed at night (and beyond), he was non-stop in motion either at work or at home, burning calories almost as much as running on a treadmill all day long — which is what life mostly felt like back then!

The tuxedo he purchased fit him perfectly on that day. He went to a retirement party for his former boss. He looked great.

A few years later, David pulled out the tuxedo for another occasion. Our kids were sleeping through the night and starting to attend school by then. Life was getting a little easier each day.

David dusted the pants off of the hanger and pulled them on.

“Uh-oh,” he moaned, as he attempted to button the pants.

“Man, this is tight.”

He then took the jacket and pulled his arm through the sleeve.

“Whoa,” he said. He wished that the tux was made of stretchy material like polyester.

Honestly, can our bodies be a little more thoughtful towards us parents? Why can’t we keep metabolizing at the same rate as before, even if our waking hours are no longer 22 per day?

This serves as a reminder of the pitfalls of thinking that this stage in life is permanent. Early parenting years seem to last forever, but the next time you come up for air, our kids are already teenagers. I paid a lot of money to have our home professionally child-proofed, thinking that our house will forever need to be protected against suicidal children. Soon, our kids were unlocking the stairway gates and uncovering the electrical outlets themselves…and showing me how. David and I spent a whole weekend undoing all that child proofing (and we didn’t even get paid for the work!).

I had always intended to do my son’s nursery, but when I finally had time to work on it, Josh was already eleven. Oops–too late. Good thing the changing table doubled as a book case for several more years.

We had our daughter’s room painted princess pink. Now a preteen, she despises the color. We also got her an expensive bunk bed when she was in first grade for “all the sleepovers” which she rarely does anymore due to her homework load and demands of other activities.

Oh well, I guess that’s life. We’ve learned to hold on loosely to each stage in life, enjoying our kids at whatever age, as much as we can during that moment. We’re reminded each day how fleeting our lives are. Good thing we have this promise in Mathew 24:35:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Meanwhile, David is still trying to lose that “last 10 pounds” so he could fit into that tux again. He will someday attend his son’s wedding in that thing, even if it kills him.