The Nuttiest Season of All

This week I’m in the pit orchestra for a preview of the Joffrey Ballet’s new production of the Nutcracker. We have rehearsals all week, with the first performance of five tonight. All eyes will be on the Joffrey Ballet as they premiere this new version of an old classic, newly set by the world famous Christopher Wheeldon.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/theater/dance/ct-nutcracker-joffrey-preview-20161201-story.html

https://hancher.uiowa.edu/2016-17/nutcracker

Last night I wracked my brain to think when the Nutcracker had become a “thing” in our family. The Brewmaster is in the pit with me tonight as he has been for several years at this time of year, while Ballet Boy already started performances last weekend as a rat, a court attendant and a polar bear in the Houston Ballet’s brand new production. Next week the Brewmaster and I perform a more traditional version with a regional ballet company, the Quad City Ballet in collaboration with Orchestra Iowa.

It’s a completely nutty time of the year for all of us, as we try to pack our normal teaching and class schedules around all of these extra rehearsals and performances. In order to remain sane, I remind myself how magical the Nutcracker is for families all over the USA.

Growing up, the Nutcracker was not a part of our family traditions. We attended Cocoa and Carols, performances of the Messiah and other chorale concerts, but I have no recollection of the Nutcracker. After college I lived in France for 11 years, where the Nutcracker is not quite so important to ballet companies that do not rely on it as their “bread and butter.” In Europe, the arts are more heavily subsidized by government funding and selling out houses becomes secondary to creating new art.

I have seen very few Nutcrackers, in fact, as I’m often in the pit. My first experience was with the old Joffrey production when they brought it to Iowa City in 2003. Although the music was all familiar since songs like “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Nutcracker March” are on the radio a lot, but I hadn’t realized quite how difficult the score was. Almost four year old Ballet Boy was sick and I remember is being in the ER with him because he was having a massive croup attack and was very low oxygen. They gave him steroids and he was up all night, as well as his mama. Playing two shows the next day seemed heroic.

Ballet Boy grew to be a more accomplished dancer, and his home studio, Nolte Academy, put on a wonderfully popular local production. The cast was all kids; teen stars filling very difficult roles that many seasoned pros struggle to perform. Ballet Boy was lucky to be cast as the Nutcracker prince, and then later the cavalier. I was able to play in the orchestra, which was set up in front (not below) the stage, so I could watch. His last performance there was very emotional for me; I cried buckets knowing he was leaving soon for Houston, and this would probably be our last collaboration ever. I was so proud!

Last year in spite of playing many shows on our own, we went to watch the Nolte production (which has delightful and humorous story-telling) and then went down to Houston to watch the last year of the Ben Stevenson production there. They were very different scales–obviously the Houston Ballet is one of the world’s best companies and has a huge budget–but what I took away was the power of dance to transform and transport an audience through the magic of Christmas. Good triumphs over evil, and we are left wondering if the whole thing was a dream or true, just like the after-daze of Christmas.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/entertainment/arts-theater/article/Review-Houston-Ballet-s-new-Nutracker-worth-10639899.php#photo-11872826

So, in spite of playing so many shows ourselves, the Brewmaster, my mom, my sister, my nephew and I are all hoofing it down to Houston to see their new production right before Christmas. We can’t wait to see the magic the new Stanton Welch production will bring. If you look closely at this photo, you’ll see Ballet Boy as a court attendant in his funny cone hat of brightly colored macaroons stacked on his head.

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Now, let’s go crack some Nuts, folks! Go support your local productions and find some nutty cheer.15272027_10157874623130584_8553592219936805149_o

MOTIVATE ME

My first running race of 2016 is finally in the books. Race day was exceptionally humid and warm for Iowa, and I struggled with asthma on the run. Considering my lack of consistent training, it went as expected. I jogged about a 12 minute mile, way slower than I’ve run in the past, but slightly faster than I’ve been jogging in my hilly neighborhood. The race and course are all too familiar: it is a fundraiser for our school district and I’ve run it for over a decade.

The first time, when my son was in kindergarten, I tried to run the 1-miler with him. That is when I realized I needed to get in shape, as it was not easy for me. He was in difficulty and whining at the turn around, so I finally told him just to Riverdance to the finish (he was a big Irish dance fan.) He took off and smoked me to the finish line.

Later he got 3rd place in the half mile on a day when they cancelled everything else due to rain, and one time he ran the 5k with me. He had a big lull in the second mile, so I walked with him and encouraged him to not give up. He had a second wind and smoked me again at the finish.

I had my own PR on that course, finishing in 29:20 when I was 44. That was right before my ankle surgery and some setbacks that have made it tricky to run consistently again.

I ran my first 10k and my first half-marathons on that course several years ago.

And then nothing last year. I can only explain this by a complete sense of exhaustion and need to heal in different ways: yoga, ballet and sleep.

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However slow I was compared to the past at the finish yesterday, I realized that I felt equally, if not more proud, to finish even in 37 minutes. I knew that it took a lot to get out and run on a Sunday morning when I’d played a concert the night before, and I had little time to train the week leading up to the race. But the race itself motivated me…not out of a desire to win, but out of a desire to accomplish something. I’ve never been a fast runner, but I have gotten better with perseverance.

Some people are motivated by a desire to lose weight. I can’t say I’m happy with my weight right now, but it is less about how people perceive me and more about how hard it is on my body. Trying to run with 30 extra pounds on my frame is like trying to run carrying a bag of Morton salt. It sucks.

Some people are motivated by competition. Sometimes I feel competitive in a race, and I did indeed sprint at the finish yesterday. I noted about 6 people ahead of me that I decided to pick off, even if they were only about 10 years old. (No more nice mom now that my kid is far from home.) However, I can quickly feel bad about myself if I’m comparing myself to others.

What motivates me is the sense of accomplishment I feel when I put my mind to something and then try and do it. I feel like I’m being a good mom, because I’m showing Ballet Boy that I empathize with his hard work. Whenever I feel like I don’t have time to run, I think about the fact that he gets up every day, no matter how sore, and dances about 6-8 hour a day, excluding pilates and other weight training. If he can do it, I can certainly get my butt out on the road for 40 minutes.

I feel like I’m a better partner and wife, because running makes me less grumpy. The endorphins make me a much more pleasant person to be around, and the Brewmaster was very cool and hung out by the finish line yesterday. He missed my grand finale, which was not only a sprint to the end, but a beeline to the port-a-potties that had been plagued by a long line at the beginning.

Finally, I’m motivated by myself. Who else is going to get me out the door? I’m too slow to run with Candy Ass or others, but I know I will get faster if I work at it.

So, I just signed up for another race. This Friday! A very flat 5k that benefits United Way. This time it should be 60 degrees and cool. No more excuses…gotta run!

motivation

 

 

 

Autumn Leaves are Turning

As the election day grows closer and our national political scene becomes absurdly outrageous, I find myself turning to what I know is real and worth fighting for. I know that the love and respect I have in my marriage, the way I’ve raised Ballet Boy to be a caring, sensitive young man and spending time with friends and family make the world a better place. I know my vote will count, and more importantly, I trust America to select a leader that will represent our core values of respect, tolerance and freedom for all. And if we don’t elect that person, winter will be hard and long, but will eventually come to an end.

The seasons are very prominent in the midwest, reminding us that all things come to an end, but are part of a bigger cycle of life. Fall is here in Iowa; the leaves are turning to gorgeous red and orange hues, nights are cool and all my squash is ripe. According to my weather app, it is perfect running weather…

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The last pick from my garden; butternut and spaghetti squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers

So why haven’t I been out there running? A memory came up on Facebook today that reminded me that a few years ago I had run ten miles this day in training for my first half marathon. Where did that woman go?

Sometimes I feel that since my Hashimoto’s diagnosis I’ve become lazy. I’ve wallowed in exhaustion and self-pity, and my drive to run, swim and bike is just disappearing altogether. But then I remind myself that I went through a necessary period of destressing; focusing on yoga, getting more sleep and meditation.

There has to be a balance of the two. I know that running gives me a high and that I feel much better about myself when I’m running several times a week. Right now I feel sluggish and out of shape, and that is never a good feeling. In spite of avoiding sugar, rarely eating grains and walking my dog almost two miles every day, I am gaining weight and feeling down.

So today I came out of ballet and told myself to seize the moment; my legs were warmed up and we had stretched out our feet by rolling them on golf balls. I came home, downed a glass of water, and told myself that I just had to run one mile. I ended up jogging two miles. I let myself walk up two hills, and just congratulated myself for getting out and trying.

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Oops, I did it again!

After my jog I went straight to my computer and signed up for a 5k that is only one week away. Will I be able to run 3 miles by then? Probably not. Signing up for a race took a great amount of self-humility today, as I know that I will be far from my 5k PR that I set on this same course. I will be lucky to run 11 minute miles, and I don’t really care. I know that in order to motivate myself to train more regularly, I need a goal. This race is for a great cause–our local schools–and is a fairly flat course. The weather should be great. I promise to let you all know how that goes.

Here’s to a great fall! Last night the Brewmaster and I made spaghetti squash from our own garden with tomato sauce and goat’s cheese. We’ve been enjoying drinking hard cider and cooking things from our garden. Tonight I will stuff one of the huge zucchinis that grew to gigantic proportions when I forgot to check on my garden for a whole week; I’m thinking organic sausage and grass-fed hamburger would pair well with it. In the meantime, this pumpkin-chia-almond milk smoothie is the best post-run concoction to come out of my Vitamix yet! Think liquid pumpkin pie with a lot of protein.img_6496

And I will use this lovely weather to get back out there, and feel thankful for all the love and respect I have on the homefront. Winter is coming, and it may not be a gentle one.

 

 

 

Brain Drain

Have you ever walked into a room to get something and immediately forgotten what you were going to retrieve? Imagine feeling like that all of the time. Some authors call it “Brain Fog.” I am calling it “Brain Drain.” Sometimes I sit in front of my computer for minutes, trying to recall what I was going to Google or if I had an important email to write. It’s really frustrating.Teenage-brain-1920x1080

Hashimoto’s disease attacks brain cells, in a degenerative process that can be the early onset of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. At 48, I feel like I’m slowly losing my mind, one day at a time. Thanks for nothing, Hashimoto’s.

There are ways to reverse the process, including getting more sleep, avoiding gluten, sugar and dairy, and exercising (but not overdoing it). Some blogs even promote dry brushing, or gently massaging to promote lymphatic drainage. Dr. Kharrazian has the best advice on Hashimoto’s that I’ve found, including one book linking thyroid disease to brain degeneration, and another purely focusing on the brain. https://drknews.com/

Ever since my diagnosis of Hashimoto’s, I’ve been consciously trying to apply some of the measures both Dr. K and my own functional doctor suggested to my daily routine.

Get more sleep? Check. I’ve been getting minimum 7.5 hours a night with a goal of 8-10. When I started having insomnia between 3-5 a.m., I began taking melatonin before bedtime. It’s really helped.

Reduce stress? I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation on my own. I still worry a lot, but I try to be mindful of that and tell myself that it will be okay, that Ballet Boy will be fine, that the dog will heal and the Brewmaster will always be at my side.

Get my butt in gear? Candy ass has motivated me to bike, run and lift weights at the gym again. I have lacked drive and motivation, which once again can come from the fatigue of Hashimoto’s. My old “oomph” to do brick workouts and really push my limits is gone. Poof. Thank goodness for friends who help you get to the gym when your gumption is gone.

Ballet is definitely good exercise and helps my balance and coordination. When I showed the Brewmaster the waltz we had learned in class, he looked genuinely surprise and told me I looked graceful. That is the first time someone has ever said that to me minus a sarcastic tone. Woot!

So what am I doing wrong? I’ve avoided gluten and even most grains except an occasional side of rice or quinoa. I’ve been taking my thyroid medicine and asthma meds. But I’ve failed in some ways.

I haven’t seen my functional doctor in a while as she had a baby and took some time off. I finally dragged myself for a physical this week. The doctor checked my thyroid levels and both my T3 and my Hashimoto’s antibodies levels were abnormally high again. I’ve stopped taking all the vitamins my doctor had prescribed because, well, it’s a heck of a lot to swallow in the morning, and I felt better for a while. So I’m back to taking high levels of Vitamin C, a multi, Vitamin B6, Vitamin D, fish oil, and an adrenal fatigue compound. So. Many. Pills. But Hashimoto’s depletes your body and makes it difficult to absorb vitamins the way the rest of you folks do.

And then there is coffee. And alcohol. My little addictions have crept slowly back in. I had done so well off caffeine for a year! I started finishing the Brewmaster’s french press…whatever little amount there was. Then I started having a Starbuck’s when we had long days of rehearsals followed by an evening concert. Then I started making half caffeine and half chicory at home. Then I ran out of chicory (which is not cheap) and started just making a full pot of coffee. And voila, the addiction won.

Wine, too, is an easier way to unwind after a stressful day, than getting out the yoga mat.

But it all has to stop. I’ve watched my mother fight Parkinson’s like a trooper in her 70s. She’s winning, because she does everything she can, like walking and exercising, taking her medicine, and eating healthily. But I know she’d love to be medicine free and more flexible.

So it’s time to put my own boxing gloves on and knock this disease out of the park. I slept 10 hours last night, and I just feel “normal.” I’ve gone back to being super picky about labels and whether there is sugar or other additives in food. I’m drinking some chicory/decaf that I bought at Whole Foods with the intention of going to straight chicory when that is gone.

Right now my garden is exploding with kale, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers. I’m going to make my own sugar-free pickles this year, and I enjoyed adding fresh kale to my egg scramble this morning. Since I’m so out of it I did not notice a gigantic zucchini growing, which I stuffed with organic turkey, mushrooms and tomato tonight for our dinner. The one that looks delish is the Brewmaster’s, as he has real cheese. Mine is topped with Daiya cheese, a non-dairy cheese-like substance that doesn’t come even close to the real thing.

Here’s to the rest of summer break, when I can sleep and heal. Here’s to my wonderful home, my great friends and my amazing family that always fill me with love and admiration. And here’s to all the folks that keep amazing Autoimmune Protocol blogs with great recipe ideas to keep me on track. Happy summer!

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Cellist Who Tries Ballet

This summer, I’m trying something new. Ballet. I know, mom envy. Right? Wrong. Although I admire Ballet Boy enormously, I don’t want to be him.

So why ballet?

Simply because it was free. The small liberal arts college I teach cello at is offering a free intermediate class for any staff who have had at least one year of ballet. Which I have; forty years ago. The clincher was we don’t have to wear leotards and tights. Just ballet shoes.

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The first ballet shoes that have come to our house for me; I’m used to sewing my son’s elastics on his black or white shoes.

You’d think I’d have watched enough ballet classes to learn by osmosis. It doesn’t work that way, just as someone can’t learn cello by watching a bunch of videos.

I’m so horribly out of shape and lacking motivation to train for a race or triathlon that I decided I need to get off my duff and try something new. Ballet could bring me core strength, grace (ha!), or at the least, good posture. All of these things are true.

After two classes, I’m feeling truly humbled. The teacher is in her 70’s and seems to have some sort of early Alzheimer’s (no joke), so she often forgets where she is a combination mid-stream. A few of the ladies are middle-aged and pretty novice like me, and a few have definitely had quite a bit of ballet in the past and still look the part. I find it hard to keep my head up and not look down at what my feet are doing, a big no-no in ballet. I often have a strange sensation of deja-vu, but not because I have done this before. It is truly deja-vu (“vu” means viewed): I have seen Ballet Boy do these steps over and over again, yet I have no clue how to execute them physically.

There are several merits to this less-than-skinny (I believe the PC thing to say is curvy), middle-aged Mom doing ballet:

  1. The Suzuki Parent factor: In the musical method of learning founded by Dr. Suzuki, parents attend classes and learn how some basics of the instrument alongside their children. This is partially so they can help the children practice at home, but also so that they know it is NOT easy. It is important to have a kinesthetic sense of how to play, as well as aural/visual. I feel like taking ballet deepens my understanding of what my son does. I have a better sense of how steps and movements can build into a more complicated jump or combination.
  2. To become a better cello teacher: As a pedagogue, it is important to put yourself in the learner’s shoes again. I said this about my swimming lessons in this blog, and I will say it again here. Being on the other side of the teacher/student model is a reminder of how hard it is to set aside pride and self-deprecation in order to learn. It also makes me remember that it is important to break down steps and relay information in manageable steps so that the student can process the idea you are trying to teach.
  3. To learn to love myself: It is hard to stand in front of a mirror in close-fitting clothing for an hour. I’ve put on more weight this year than is healthy, and most of the time that manifests itself in “clothing crisis” where nothing fits that I’d actually like to wear. I just decluttered my closet, and it felt good to get rid of ill-fitting clothes or things that I had held onto for sentimental reasons. This summer I’m trying to also declutter my brain and make time to grow stronger again. Instead of focusing on my weight or wrinkles around my eyes, I’m turning my attention towards exercise that makes me stronger, more flexible and releases endorphins that make me happier. Last week I returned to the gym with Candy Ass and did biking, run/walking and weight training. With the addition of ballet, I’m trying to get into a groove of cardio/strength and movement. Ballet is has an artistic aspect that gives it a certain discipline and flair; anyone can go out and run with good or bad form, but ballet demands precision and flow. I have to forgive myself when it’s not quite right and keep trying, which takes a lot of humility.
  4. To present myself with confidence: Ballet creates better posture. The head looks up and out, not down, the back is straight and your shoulders don’t slouch. There is not tension in the neck or shoulders. Today I learned that trying to point my toes I was actually scrunching them up. Much of my tension in cello playing goes to my feet, and my back and shoulders sometimes get very sore. Ballet will help strengthen my core and make me more aware of tension.

There are different types of dancing that require less rigor, and might feel like more “fun” or more of a release, but I’m really enjoying my class, even if a beginning ballet class would have been more appropriate than intermediate.

Never pass up a chance to try something new! You won’t regret it.Right now I’m lying on the couch, feeling my quads and glutes and every part of my feet hurt, and savoring a homemade almond-milk and berry protein shake. Bring on the pain…

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Ballet Boy shows us where it’s at. My leg will never be that high.

 

Work of Art

As a professional cellist, there is always a moment when I’m talking to someone when they say, “That is SO amazing that you can make a living as a musician.”They mean well.

Inevitably this comes at a time when I am having ends meet, or feel completely worked to the bone. I used to mutter something to that effect under my breath, but I’ve learned in middle age to be more gracious and respond, “You’re right. I’ve very lucky.”

Sometimes it is very easy to lose track of why we are putting a lot of effort into something that isn’t easy. Often it’s not fun to spend hours at my instrument trying to learn a difficult passage, or sitting in a rehearsal with a conductor who is stopping us every two notes to tweak something until we get it exactly the way they want it. My back hurts, my wrist hurts and even my fingers hurt sometimes after 5 hours of orchestra rehearsals in one day.

There is always a point in the  year that many musicians feel “burnout.” Right now, for instance, the Brewmaster and I have no free weekends looming on our calendar for two months. There are three folders of music in my cello case that I need to learn for the next sets, and I feel like I have no time to practice. My students don’t seem to be at all ready for their end of semester juries and are not actually implementing the changes we discuss every lesson.

When I was in college, I went to one of the top music schools, Oberlin Conservatory. It took lots of practicing and time with my cello away from other social activities in high school to get in to Oberlin. I didn’t mind too much at the time as I found a lot of things like school dances, sporting events and going to the mall mundane and boring. But when I got to Oberlin, it felt like I had already made a career choice. Although I was double-majoring because my father and I to some degree had doubts about whether I could make a decent living in just music alone, my heart was in music.

But all of a sudden I found myself among lots of other really fine musicians. The self-doubts became stronger, especially when I realized that I couldn’t physically put the same amount of time in that they were because of my double-major. So I switched my college major from pre-med to French, which came easily.

In spite of French being kind of fun (especially when I finally got to travel to France during a semester abroad in London), I couldn’t imagine making a career around teaching or translating. It was less work, but soon I realized that I had no satisfaction from doing something that wasn’t rewarding in any way.

And that is simply because art changes us. You can walk into a concert in one mood and walk out completely transformed because you were moved by one musical passage. I can’t say that about many other professions outside of music, art and dance. Perhaps literature and poetry; other professions that make people shake their heads and say, “Wow, that is really cool that you can make a living as a writer.”

Ballet Boy is facing some serious challenges as a dancer and justifiably questioning why he is getting up every day and beating up his body from 9-4 or later. It’s hard to see the carrot when you are in a daily grind, and mom-bias aside, he is a bright young man who could do anything he wants in life. When he entered Houston Ballet Academy’s pre-professional program last fall, he had to leave any sense of normalcy for a teen ager and start work, at a very young age.

And work is not fun. Recently I accepted to do some temporary work at a scheduling job I did ten years ago. There is nothing fun about sitting in front of a computer entering data, or feeling like the messenger who is being shot when you follow protocol. There is really nothing meaningful about being a secretary for me, and I thank the people who can do it graciously.

I don’t think the POTUS gets up every morning, looks at his agenda, and says, “Let’s see how I can make this more fun.” But I do know that he probably cherishes those family trips to Hawaii or shooting hoops with his Secret Service men. We all need an outlet for stress.

At one point, I found exercise as an outlet. In middle age, running remains very hard work and not a lot of fun for me. But the satisfaction that I get from feeling stronger and better mentally after running makes it worth it. We all need to find balance in life, which is even harder for athletes because they can’t just go out and exercise more to relieve their stress. This is where finding something else, like cooking, gardening, singing, walking a dog or volunteering at a shelter brings balance.

The little things in life that bring us peace like laughing with friends, doing yoga or meditation, having a great meal with loved ones are not work, but they lighten the load so that I can face my workload again.

Last night I was fortunate to play Gustav Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. It is a very long and complex work that puts musicians through their paces technically and endurance-wise, as it lasts almost two hours with no break. After 5 rehearsals and a concert in 3 days, I’m wondering if I have the energy to go play with as much passion as I did last night at today’s matinee. But I know that not only the collective desire of my colleagues to do well will carry me today, it’s the knowledge that I’m truly blessed to be able to share this music with a live audience. Many people listening today will be moved by Mahler’s incredibly haunting melodies for the first time, and I know that everyone in the hall will leave transformed in some way.

So this morning I will sit in the sun a while, look at my beautiful hyacinths and daffodils which are bursting into bloom, and be thankful that today work is art.

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Flowers with Cello and Canaries, 5/18/10, 4:35 PM, 16C, 4174×8000 (885+0), 100%, Repro 2.2 v2, 1/8 s, R93.5, G69.3, B88.8

 

 

 

 

Crock Psychology

Today my therapy is tagine. Beef tagine with prunes by Jamie Oliver, precisely. In a crock pot. Mr. Oliver didn’t prescribe this. The real meaning of tagine is an actual clay pot the Berbers cook the food in over in North Africa. My slow cooker is just more appropriate for my day, which has gone in all directions. The beauty of the crock pot is that you throw everything in together instead of properly cooking things in stages so the flavors have time to mingle.

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Paprika, cinnamon, ginger and Ras-el-hanout spices for tajine

Does it replace real cooking? No. Is it a lifesaver? You bet. Like pop psychology, crock pots are not a substitute for the real thing, yet I don’t know how I’ve lived without one. I had to turn 48 to buy one.

Lately life has been stressful and hectic. If you live in Iowa around caucus time, it’s hard to ignore political discourse. And you shouldn’t. I’ve had lively conversations with friends about which candidate can actually get the job done, about voting on issues or principals, and about what might happen if it doesn’t go as planned.

That hype has moved on. In the middle of it all, an uninsured driver backed into me at an intersection. Chevy Tahoe vs. Honda Fit. Guess who won? Not me. Fortunately my insurance paid for the repairs, but a hefty deductible came out of my bank account. Will they get her to pay up? Who knows. My insurance company wants their money and has a whole subrogation department working on that.

So today the Brewmaster and I had massages. It felt so good to have someone rub out all the pain and tension from so many orchestra rehearsals, the accident, the tension of a mama with her teenage Ballet Boy living miles away.

And tonight we will eat stew. Moroccan tagine made from Iowa grass-fed beef purchased from an Amish farmer.

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Grass-fed arm roast. Almost time to order another quarter cow.

The smells wafting out of the crock pot remind me of another time, some twenty some years ago in France. There was an Arab grocer below our apartment in downtown Marseille that had gorgeous burlap bags full of colorful spices, bins of olives and feta cheese, exotic sausages and pickled lemons. Even though I felt shamefully white and Iowan every time I entered, I exited that store feeling brave and excited about trying out new recipes.

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My dog waiting for that hunk of meat to fall on her head. She is not discerning about grass-fed or junky meat. Meat is meat to her.

Tomorrow I start training for a temporary scheduling job with the local university music department. Ten years ago, during the year of my divorce (otherwise known as the Year of Great Unpleasantness) I worked in the same office in a similar position. This time it is temporary until they create a full-time position, but it will be very helpful to supplement my adjunct professor/part-time musician income. I’m afraid of having no time for myself, and losing my new drive that I’ve found to exercise and get back in shape.

Maybe I’m afraid of taking a step backwards.

But we all know that sometimes you have to do that to move forwards. This weekend I’m sad that I have free time and yet can’t afford a trip to see Ballet Boy perform in Houston. It’s beginning to feel like a long time since I hugged my 15 year-old and put him on a plane January 6. It’s time to up the ante and make enough money to be able to choose some extras in life.

And in the meantime, the crock pot bubbles on. There will be delicious stew to share with the Brewmaster as we catch up on Downton Abbey after I teach cello lessons to middle-schoolers tonight. As I look back on that terribly stressful time of my life, I know I have it good now. The Brewmaster and I are getting married in June and I couldn’t be happier. And for right now, that is enough.

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The meat marinated in the spices all morning. Now it is simmering with butternut squash, prunes, tomatoes and cilantro.

http://www.jamieoliver.com/us/recipes/beef-recipes/beef-tagine/#lXgK1hWDdCQsakYV.97