ode to joy

June 8, 2010

in the key of ?
did you take piano lessons as a kid?

i did. and if i were closer than a 7 hour drive from home, i’d take this opportunity to scan in a ridiculously embarrassing picture of me with coke-bottle glasses at age 6 or 7 hunched over the piano.

instead, you’ll just have to imagine such a thing.


i was particularly interested in yesterday’s happiness project blog entry, which asked the question,

Did Your Parents Make You Take Piano Lessons? If So, Have They Made You Happier?

hmmm. we don’t have kids yet — but are definitely planning on it in the not-too-far future. even as my oocytes for future children numbers 1, 2, and (maybe) 3 lie in wait (in prophase I), i can already imagine myself flummoxed by this particular dilemma.

i took piano lessons from ages 5 to 16 (or thereabouts), and violin from 8 to the end of high school. (i also sang and did competition cheerleading). while — much to my dismay — i had no natural talent in the athletic department, it turned out that music and i got along quite nicely.

i have (had?) perfect pitch and quite a good ear for music, likely due to being incubated in continuously played classical selections from conception to the day i moved out and went to college (interrupted only when i could escape and blast the likes of tiffany/madonna/nirvana/green day on my own personal boom box/CD player, depending on the era).

anyway, so i was pretty good. not ‘live in carnegie hall!’ good, but decent enough so that i got to enjoy several opportunities that came along with being pretty good: trips away for regional, state, and all-eastern orchestras. i LOVED these trips for two reasons: the opportunity to be social, and the opportunity to get to SKIP SCHOOL (yay! each trip was 2-3 days out, and there were several a year).

i loved the friends i made through these activities, both at school (my violin quartet girls!) and outside (at a 5-week hippie arts camp known as governor’s school one summer).

but i did not like to practice, and if i’m honest with myself, did not really get much happiness from the act of playing itself. too much of a perfectionist, i never met my own (high) expectations and it served as a continual source of stress. i enjoyed ‘noodling’, and still have fun playing random songs by ear when i come across a set of ivory and black keys (lady gaga’s just dance translates quite easily to the piano, but poker face not so much). i sang in college, but haven’t really played the other two instruments seriously since graduating from high school.

furthermore, i never came close to meeting my parents’ expectations for the amount i was ‘supposed’ to be practicing (in particular, to justify the high cost of lessons) — and this was the basis for a decade-long power struggle between us as i was growing up, certainly a major source of unhappiness.

in retrospect, i think my very well-meaning mother and father (M+D: you know i love you both!) felt torn between cutting me off (because of the $) and having me continue (because it seemed to be bringing me success). i think they also both had dreams of me becoming some sort of musician — but they have come to terms by now with my disappointing medical career (i kid — sort of).

ANYWAY. so i suppose my answer to gretchen’s thought-provoking question is that my music lessons did not make me happier; however, i do think they are part of what made me who i am today. i am glad i got a musical foundation when i was young. do i wish i had quit earlier? yes.

i also sort of wish i had spent some of that time learning spanish. but that’s worth a whole other post . . .

and so now, i will pass this question on: what lessons were you involved in as a child? did they make you happier? i will be interested in your responses!

and now for something completely different
mark bittman’s muffins!

i made these babies for a board review session i am hosting today . . . hopefully they will not be dismissed as too healthy or weird, since i think they are pretty good! i used leftover sweet potato and added nutmeg and vanilla to the mix; due to the starchiness of the potato, i ended up adding a bunch more buttermilk and a second egg, and wound up with 16 muffins instead of 12. it seemed to work . . .



workout: 4 miles outside (unknown pace – i was trying to calibrate and something went wrong) + 20 minutes yoga for runners

CE cookthrough: much to josh’s delight, it was burger night! or specifically, organic, grass-fed local beef cheddar-stuffed honey-mustard slider night. not to complicate matters too much!

recipe recap: another super-simple one! just mix ground beef (as above) + salt + pepper, stuff with small cubes of cheese (i used reduced fat cheddar as CE suggested), grill (i used a grill pan) and stuff into mini-rolls (i used mini pita pockets) with spinach and a honey-mustard mix. yum!

of note, 3 looks like a lot, but 1.5 patties is still less than a quarter pound of beef and the pita pockets were miniature. josh took care of 5 with no problem.

reading: le sigh. i did 7 PREP questions, but my heart wasn’t in it — nor was my mind, really! i need to get some mindfulness into my studying.