To Boldly Give

I’ll admit it. I’m not the best musician (or writer, or photographer, or painter. . .you name it) in the world. Not even close. But even though I’m not the best at any of those things, I am still an artist.

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I used to worry, to focus only on how I compared to others, how I didn’t measure up. Or else I would feel proud that I was better at playing violin than other people were. It was all about the competition–was I going to be the next Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?

Sadly, I never practiced enough as a child to make THAT dream come true. And really, even with all the wonderful benefits of playing a musical instrument, who wants to sacrifice their childhood to playing seven hours a day? Only the most dedicated, and I’ve never joined their ranks.

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Random violin picture because what’s prettier than a well-made violin?

So now I’ve given up my dream (if you can call it that) of being the next Itzhak Perlman or Hilary Hahn, standing on stage to thunderous applause after I just finished playing the hardest piece of music ever written for violin. It’s far more practical to stand on stage to thunderous applause for playing something simple, like Silent Night. Fewer heart attacks for all involved.

But even though I’m not the world’s greatest, I’ve learned so much from playing the violin. I’ve always been a quiet, private person, unsure of what or how much to say. Playing the violin, though, has made me aware of what I want to say–and it provides the perfect way to say it.

The most important thing about being given a gift is not whether you’re at the top of the list, the most practiced, the most coherent, the most put-together. The most important thing is to use that gift, to share it with others. You don’t play the piano (or cello, or violin, or saxophone, or clarinet, etc) perfectly? That’s ok. You didn’t write the world’s best-selling novel? That’s ok. You don’t keep your house perfectly clean all the time? That’s ok.

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You can still play your instrument for people: I assure you, they’ll love it! You can still take pride in your writing–it can still bless others. You can still invite people over to your slightly messy house–they’ll still feel welcomed. Having a gift isn’t about having the perfect environment to show it off in, or even the perfect gift to show off. Having a gift is about giving, sharing yourself with others. Don’t let fear stop you–take pride in your gift. Give boldly. You never know who you’ll be blessing.

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7 Things I’m Missing in China

Life in China so far has been wonderful. It’s amazing how nice having a place of your own, even when it’s up four flights of bare concrete stairs, can be. And Jared’s really loving his desk (as different from MY desk–generally covered with papers). We’re both beginning to feel at home. We have great friends, a wonderful church, and a lot of great food close by. That said, there are still some comforts of home that I, at least, miss.

1. A piano.

And preferably, a pianist to go with it. (Just kidding–though a live-in accompanist would be nice.)

Can you say “essential for sanity?” There’s something about having an instrument out in the open, waiting to be played on. I don’t know how I’m surviving right now without a piano. Jared says that surely the school has one–but it’s just not the same.  One of these days, I will have my own piano, I promise!

2. Real hot (drinkable!) water in the kitchen sink

It’s gotten to the point where when I watch videos of people drinking water straight from the tap or doing dishes in warm water, I’m shocked. I want to tell them it’s dangerous to drink the water, and then I remember–in America, it’s okay to do things like that. You’d think 20 years of drinking straight from the sink would stick with me far more than two months of not being able to, but hey. I’m weird that way, apparently.

And just for the record, dishes do not get as clean in cold water as they do in hot. Ask me how I know.

3. A dishwasher

I know, I know–who needs a dishwasher if you actually have hot water in the kitchen sink? But it’s so much easier to put silverware and stuff into the dishwasher and run it. You guys who have these things are so spoiled.

4.  A bathtub

There’s something so relaxing about being able to sit in a tub of warm water. For now, we’ll have to be content with our “shower bathroom,” but one of these days I’m actually going to live in a house with a bathtub in it.

At least I don’t have to SCRUB the bathtub right now–there’s a bright side to everything, right?

5. Books. Actual, physical books.

Kindles are nice–they allow you to read practically anything, most of it for very little money–but they don’t have the same feel as a real book that you can turn the pages of and see sitting on the shelf and feel the weight of it. It’s just not the same.

6. A full-sized oven.

There are so many things you can cook  in a toaster oven; sadly, all of them are small things. Cookies, squash, pizza–all bake fine. But roast beef? Not a chance. I’m not sure how we’re going to get anything even approximating a roast turkey cooked for Thanksgiving (besides the fact that turkey is not a Chinese bird).  Any suggestions?

7. A study for Jared

What Jared wants more than anything is a room all to himself, with books, a window, and a desk for him to write at. Perfect lighting too, of course.

 

What are all you cushy readers back in America wishing for?

 

Joining 7 Quick Takes at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

The Dangers of Dishes

I own one of the world’s worst superpowers. And by “worst” I don’t mean that it’s ineffectual,  like it only takes care of half the bad guys at a time. No, this superpower is one that doesn’t solve problems–it makes them. Dishes, to be exact.  I’m extremely good at making dirty dishes. Put me in the kitchen with some food to cook,  and I’ll have it covered in dishes before you can say “Don’t forget the baking powder!” I can make more dishes that practically anyone else I know–except for my mother. She has me beaten by a long shot. (Sorry mom, but it probably has something to do with having around 5 times more people in the house to cook for than I do.) It must be something hereditary.

Sadly, this superpower is not accompanied by actually wanting to WASH said dishes, especially when our apartment (still unheated for now) has only cold water and no dishwasher in the kitchen. I’m just as happy not getting my hands frozen and greasy in icy tap water, thank-you-very-much. Add that to our limited (around two square feet–that’s a generous estimate) counter space, and you find me getting very creative with new ways to stack dishes.

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Don’t worry–these are all clean. It’s the best way to dry them, I’ve found.

So it’s probably a good thing for my sanity that I only possess a few dishes to get dirty as it forces me to wash them more than once a week (not that I would ever go that long without doing dishes–I’m far too holy for that. But don’t ask about the laundry.).

Now, before you start hyperventilating and thinking what a sad life my poor husband leads to be married to a woman who keeps their apartment looking like a pigsty (yes, mud and smells and all!), let me say that even I have some standards of living. Our floors are clean, our bed is made, and yes, even the piles of papers get graded eventually and returned to their respective students. Clutter doesn’t exist (unless you count piles of papers).  It’s just, when there are more exciting things to do like play the violin or write blog posts or even catch up on my long-neglected email inbox (if I haven’t written you back, it’s nothing personal, I promise!), the reward for doing my stack of dishes looks low in comparison.

I suppose it’s time to face it–as much as I was warned, when I was younger and going to all sorts of music lessons every week, of the messiness inherent in the musical personality, I am that person. Apparently it’s because musicians are so highly organized in their brains that they don’t need to be organized elsewhere–I always know exactly where everything is, so it’s a waste of time to label it neatly or spend time putting it back, right? Except, as happened twice this week, when something falls out of my purse and gets lost in the couch cushions. Then I tend to worry about whether I’m organized enough or if my brain is falling to pieces. But I digress.

I saw this video on Facebook today and was intensely gratified that science seems to be coming to the same conclusions that I came to long ago: musicians really are wonderful. Especially if they’re me.

I may not clean like I should (instant dish-doing? Yes please!), but I guess I have enough musician-related good points that they should offset my one superpower. What do you think? Should having a well-organized brain make you more or less organized in real life? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go practice my violin–because I’ve already done the dishes.