Friday, January 28, 2011

A Book That Changed My Life

For those of you who know me pretty well, you know that I am always busy with something--some kind of project, practicing a certain talent, or working on making myself look and feel better.

For those of you who know me really well, you know that I am an extremely passionate person who does not settle for anything less than greatness once I put my mind to something.

Unfortunately, time is not unlimited, and I have come to the harsh reality that one does not become perfect at everything all at once.  This knowledge, as I came to believe in it more and more, started making me depressed.  I thought that what they used to tell me when I was in kindergarten was true; that I could do anything.

Well, turns out they were right.  They were precisely right about me being able to do anything.  But nobody told me exactly how.

Sure I could just try out new things, work hard, believe in myself, and see if it "clicked."  But now I truly believe that if that mentality is ALL that people have when they approach something, they will fail, or at least not make as much progress as they would hope.

Working hard and believing in yourself are very essential elements, but they are not the core elements of achieving greatness.  Even the word "practice" was defined in my mind slightly inaccurately, and I practice all day every day!

But when I read this book

My life, my perspective, my habits, my rate of progress at MANY different things, changed FOREVER.

I won't spoil it for you, but this is a must read if you ever want to be great at anything.  It will get you there faster than you could have gotten there yourself.  This book defines many misconceptions and mental barriers that we all have, and it will open your eyes to a whole new world.

Before I read this book:
  • I couldn't run more than a mile at a time, and I would die afterward, swearing that I'll never be good a good athlete.
  • I was OK at ballroom dancing, but not spectacular.
  • I practiced my flute 4-6 hours a day, making very little progress per day.
  • I was afraid of math, computer science, and anything that I thought I would never be able to understand.
After I read this book (I didn't read it too long ago, mind you):
  • I can run over 3 miles without dying, and I feel like I could go much longer.
  • I have developed very defined abdominal muscles.
  • I have been inspired to locate a very good ballroom dance instructor, and my progress has been more than I ever imagined would happen in 3 weeks!
  • I practice my flute 3 hours a day, making the same progress as I would in 12 hours.
  • I am inspired and fascinated with math, computer science, genetics, and everything that I thought would be scary.
  • I am a much more confident and happy person deep down inside.

I can't say that many books have really changed me.  I have read plenty of books that have inspired me to be better, and even books that have piqued my interest in many different fields, but not one that has completely changed me from the moment that I picked it up.

I hope that at some point in your lives (hopefully sooner rather than later) you will make room in your schedule to read this wonderful book.  If it does for you what it did for me, you will become superhuman as far as your capabilities to tackle just about any project.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Frustrations on an Air of a Music Stand

Here is my music stand.  His name is Pet Peeve.  I like to call him Peevie for short.

Peevie was born prematurely, so he doesn't have as much stability as a young music stand should.

Sometimes, to be funny, Peevie likes to play the game that he likes to call, "Fall-down-while-Amber-is-trying-to-practice."

I'm thinking about giving Peevie up for adoption.  He can't even do his job!  I mean, how hard is it to hold music up straight?

I guess I'm not being entirely fair.  After all, I AM trying to get him to hold up a 7-page solo all at once.

*sigh* I guess I'll have to resort to my good friend Courageous Couch to sub in for Peevie.

I think its time for me to invest in a better music stand.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Shakin' a Tail Feathah

For those of you who don't know, my husband Matt was on the BYU Ballroom Dance team.  He was and is very good at ballroom dancing.  What kind of girl in her right mind wouldn't want to take advantage of that?  So, after budgeting in some time and money, Matt and I have signed up for ballroom dance lessons!

Some of the things I LOVE about this experience so far:

  • I'm not good at it yet, so nobody expects anything out of me.
  • I'm not reporting my practice hours or progress for any kind of grade.
  • I get to feel sexy and feminine with my husband.
  • I'm becoming more flexible.
  • We have a darn good teacher.
  • In the words of Niecy Nash on her season of Dancing with the Stars, I get to "Shake a Tail Feathah."
My mom even helped me invest in some upper-end dance shoes.  I'm not sure that they're what the pros use, but they are very good dance shoes and I love them!

Now...I still need to figure out how to cut the straps and burn the ends so they won't fray.  I'm terribly afraid of setting my beautiful shoes on fire.

I'm excited to improve, but also excited that I don't HAVE to be amazing at this.  I mean, as a performer, I know what kind of time, money, and energy it takes to become great.  And it's just so refreshing that I can approach this without feeling like I absolutely have to commit to that just yet.

And...I don't mean to be cocky at ALL when I say this, but as a hard working, constantly-improving performing-musician, I feel like I have learned a lot about how to improve on something that might be innately difficult.  Good practice is not supposed to be fun.  It's supposed to be difficult.  Lots of people don't realize that.  And since I know a lot about principles of good, deliberate practice, and I have the help of a wonderful teacher, I feel like I have improved a lot already!

I also think it is so healthy to have a hobby--something that you do just because it makes you happy.  I also believe that a hobby should be something that pushes you and you can get better at it, otherwise you'll get bored and burn out.  I want to be able to dance with my husband when we go out, and not just step on each other's feet.  Another plus: My husband is already really good at it!  So he's not like, "I'm a dude.  I don't dance."  He pushes ME to be better!  It's really neat to be working toward something together in a physical sense; something literal and non-abstract.  I mean, investments and educational dreams are amazing to have as well, but its so refreshing to be able to polish something beautiful together that you can see and do here and now.

Monday, January 17, 2011


This is a story about the Liebermann Sonata; namely, MY Liebermann Sonata.  For those of you who aren't flutists or musicians, let me explain.  The Liebermann Sonata is among the more difficult pieces in the flute repertoire.  It has very slow passages that are hard to control, and also very fast passages that are kind of all over the place.  When you take out this particular piece of music in front of fellow flutists, it's kind of a call for respect in a way.


if your Liebermann Sonata looks like this.

You may not see it very well.  Take a closer look.

If you see what resembles an animal stain, then you get my point.  First off, let me explain that this is NOT an animal stain.  This is an orange stain.  Last year I carried around this green backpack with many pockets and zippers.  At one point I had an orange in my backpack in a pocket that I didn't open very much.  I kept my Liebermann Sonata in my bag so that it would taunt me into practicing it.  Well, after so many weeks months...I noticed a weird sweet smell coming from my backpack. I didn't think anything of it for a while.  The smell got stronger, except it turned a little more sour smelling.  Gross, I know, but its the truth.  I finally figured out what it was.  The orange that I had forgotten about had smOOshed over my Liebermann Sonata, leaving it with irreplaceable yellow splotches.  Great.

So now as I pull out my Liebermann Sonata, I am ashamed instead of prideful.  Perhaps this was a lesson on pride from the Lord.

So now, as I practice my Liebermann Sonata, I try to hide it from others so they won't be like, "Did your cat think that was a litter box?"  It has helped me think of why I put such difficult music on my recital programs.  Am I masochistic?  Do I just like to show off?  Am I wanting to prove something to myself?  Maybe.  But this experience has helped me narrow down my reasons and refine them into better ones.  I don't need to play difficult music for the sake of it being difficult.  Psh, ain't NOBODY gonna be impressed with icky yellow stains all over my music.  I play the music to refine my repertoire.  I play the music because its challenging.  I play the music because it makes me a better performer.  Who knows how much longer I will be doing this?

I leave this with you as my experience teaching me not to be so shallow with my choice in repertoire.

Yours truly,

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How Embarrassing

Blonde moment #1 for 2011. 

As many of you know, I am a Teaching Assistant for Physical Science 100.  I absolutely LOVE my job.  I get to socialize for pay, help people, and act like I know everything about science.  As a TA, you are the person that EVERYONE wants to be friends with.  Motives?  Doesn't matter to me!  :)  I make about 2,000 new friends each semester!

PS100 TAs 2010
AND our boss throws us a pizza party at the end of each semester.  After every flute jury, I go straight to work for a party! embarrassing moment.  Yes, well, I was in the lab yesterday, and a student was chatting with me about time constraints in certain majors.  I went on to explain how the music school, especially if you are in the top performing groups, likes to sometimes volunteer your services--which is completely fine with me, if I have a good amount of notice. 

The BYU Animation program (wonderful program) has been working on a short film for a couple of years now that they plan on submitting to the Academy Awards.  They asked Kory, our director, if the Philharmonic Orchestra could record the soundtrack.  They told him the week before school let out in December.  Well Kory doesn't tell us until a few days before the recording date, which was a little bit of a surprise. 

It was fun, so I got over it.  But as I was discussing this with my student, I hear a timid, "sorry" behind me.  I turn around and there is this guy who looks quite sheepish.  I asked him if he was in the animation program and he said yes.  I felt SO BAD.  I didn't mean to say that it was a bad experience or I didn't enjoy doing it!  I was mainly complaining about how I never have any time, even if I think I do!  I tried to explain this, but I'm sure it sounded like backpedaling.  I'm hopeless!  I totally made a very talented student feel bad for asking the orchestra for a favor.  FAIL!!!

I usually average a blonde moment once every couple of weeks.  This year, it took me a grand total of 8 days to accomplish this.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Just Because I Want To

How many times can we say that we do something "Just because I want to"?  If you're anything like me, you're probably that overly obsessive, time managing, constantly productive eager beaver that can't stand not doing something for school, work, or housekeeping.  After reflecting on my past 2010 achievements, I'm very happy with myself with how much I accomplished.  But I wish I could have done more about developing my hobbies.

Granted, this last year I started working out consistently, something that I have never done before.  I used to be that girl who enters the gym, gazes over the strange looking machines that remind me of what I always thought a torture chamber would look like, meet eyes with giant, intimidating meat mosters that look like they have been 'roiding for centuries, and on top of that, worry what kind of injuries I might inflict on my delicate, flute playing hands. I guess I can't take all the credit for conquering my fears on my own, since my darling husband was already exercising regularly and graciously invited me along.  He even trained (and still trains) me how to properly lift weights.  I never realized how much fun it could be!  All my life, I had imagined lifting weights to be a painful and unpleasant experience.  I was also afraid of losing my femine stature.  Contrary to what I had originally expected, weight lifting isn't painful, at least not in the way that makes you hate it.  Also, as far as cosmetics go, I look and feel more feminine than ever!  I have more energy, I eat better, and I tend to drink more water.  I also feel better about myself, which is always a good thing.

My goal this year is simply this.  Since this adventure was so unexpectedly rewarding, I want to do more things just because I want to.  I started going to the gym because I wanted to try it out, and I keep going just because I want to.  Nobody is making me, and I don't have to report my progress to anyone besides myself.  I go just because I want to.

Such a Bad Thing

Is it such a bad thing to have many interests?  Is it such a bad thing to be a little queasy about locking myself into a career that I'm not even sure I will really like?  Is it such a bad thing to want to try something new?  Is it such a bad thing to assume that I would be just as good at something else as I am at what I do now?  Is it such a bad thing to want to learn about Math and Science when I pledged hatred toward it 4 years ago?


The world is a beautiful place, but one funny thing about it is that at age 21, somehow, we are deemed "old."  Too old.  WHAT?!  In a day and age where the average life span is a lot older than it was even 50 years'd THINK that that would buy you more time.  But no.  You go to college as a 17-18 year old, when you are obviously SO MATURE and know EXACTLY what you will want to do for the rest of your life, and then the powers that be force you to choose a major if you are seeming "indecisive."  You have to cram as many classes (not to even mention the classes you might want to try out for interest's sake--psh, why would ANYONE want to do that?) as you possibly can in 4 years. 

If you are a music major, you have a very limited time to study because of all your practicing that you must do.  Thus, your GPA tends to suffer if you're the type that has to study a lot for good grades, therefore, locking you in even more to stay with music for the rest of your life.  Lawschool?  Out of the question.  Change majors?  Who would want you?  Take some other classes just for fun?  Where can you find enough time?  Social life?  If you mingle with anyone outside the music school, good luck being consistent with it.

I loved music all growing up.  I never imagined wanting to do anything else.  I was so lucky; I had my answer!  Right?  Right?!  Well, turns out that when I figured out that I'm actually smarter than I thought I could be, my interests started to travel to other fields.  The more impossible those interests seemed to be available to me, the more I wanted them.  I felt like a prisoner, looking out on a beautiful world of opportunity.  I would go back and forth, all the time feeling like I was choosing between right and wrong.  I still love music, but I feel like a kid growing up on just vanilla ice cream.  Vanilla is a great flavor, probably one of the best, but how could I ever know that without trying out other flavors?  But I'm being told that I'm too old. 

My main point is, I feel smothered.  I love the flute, really.  But I feel like if I do it much more (study it in school) I will grow to hate it.  And I don't want to hate something that is so beautiful.  I don't want to stop learning, but I would really like to learn about something else, so that I can broaden my scope on the world. 

Is that such a bad thing?  To want to be happy?  Especially while I still have a long life before me (hopefully) and I still have time?

Venting by yours truly,