Procrastination (But I Digress)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Piano Time Part Deux

So I'm not going to buy a piano in a vacuum. I went to the local college webcite to sign up for piano classes. After a little floundering around, I found the classes and decided that I know enough to sign up for Piano II or even Piano III. It was offered on a night that I am free and the classes are open (where most other classes are closed), yippee.

You can register on line, but it wasn't clear how long a process it was. In an abundance of caution, I called. The lady in registration said, oh, you should bring your application in--classes start next week--you are applying very late. I'm thinking--how lucky is that that I happened to want to take a piano class, right as a new semester is about to start in February of all times of the year. So I took a morning to go to the college to the registration office. I had Caitlyn with me so I was just going to drop off the filled out application off the computer. They took my form and said, you are not in the computer. I said, I know--I'm handing it in since I have to come in person. We can't take this form, you have to fill out this other form. It was exactly the same information, but now I'm filling it out with an ansy four year old pulling on me. Lovely. Done, turned in. What's next. Now you go online and sign up for the class. Can't I just sign up in person. No, you have to go online. Fine.

I'm pretty confident, so while we are at the college, we go to the bookstore and I find the music books and the instructors name and I find the book for the class. There are some empty piles so I'm a little concerned that there is more than one book for the class, but I'll start with this one.

So when I get back to the office (after I drop Caitlyn back to her mom), I go online to sign up for Piano II. It's closed. The computer won't let me do anything to get on a waitlist. Now I am a veteran of community college. I know darn well that many people drop out the first day of class, so I will attend the first class and add it.

The class started at 7:30, but I was determined to be there plenty early to speak with the instructor to make sure I would get into the class. It is dark at 7:00 p.m. and there were no lights in the parking lot. It had parking meters, so I took out my cell phone and used it as a flashlight. 2:53 was left on the meter. The class was only two hours, so there's no way I would go over 2:53. This is my lucky day I thought.

Of course I had forgotten to bring the book. I was about 15 minutes early for the class--it is a long, long walk from the car, but hey--good exercise. Anyway, the class is full of people. There was one empty piano next to the instructor, so I asked if there were any spaces in Piano II. The instructor said, just have a seat at this open piano. So I did. More people came in, some people left and by 7:30 there were two people with no pianos and the class started with them just standing. There are five pianos for independent workshops and the class had Piano II, Piano III and workshop sections all in the same room. I breathed a sigh of relief that there were enough pianos. Then a guy came in late and asked if there was room to join the class. The instructor said, no the class is full. Oh, oh.

So there I am feeling unsure that I might not be able to stay in the class and I don't have the books (there were two more required books that it felt like everyone else in the class had and assured the instructor were in the bookstore). The instructor is really good. She was able to describe orally what she wanted us to work on for those of us with no book. Since I was up front, I borrowed her book while she set up those students in the independent workshop and the people standing in class filled into the pianos. I know that she took five people out, but when I looked around--even after they were gone, every piano was filled.

At the end of the class, the instructor asked those of us who wanted to add to bring our add sheets. What the heck is that?? I was the only person who didn't have one. The instructor is only at the college before class on Wednesday and until 9 a.m. on Thursday, but I had court on Thursday, so I asked her if I could add it next week. She hesitated, but said she would try.

The great part (or horrible part if I can't add the class) is that I loved the class. The instructor is really good at explaining what we were doing. I thought I would have a problem picking up sight reading again after so many years, but I'm picking it up pretty well. The exercises are fun. I'm picking it up really quickly and I'm loving playing the piano. The only small drawback is that the next song we are doing in class is "Old Suzanna"--kind of corny. Give me esoteric Bach any day.

So I am supposed to practice an hour a day. Doing that and loving it. The piano place came out on my warranty call and tuned the piano (for 2 and a half hours--sweet). Then I played a few keys and I complained that it still had a long resonance that doesn't sound right. The guy barely spoke english, but he said "carpet, carpet, carpet". My room is tiled--sounds like bathroom echos. That makes a lot of sense. I guess I need carpeting now.

Back to Wednesday night, after class I walked the long hike back to my car and I had a ticket. It had only been two hours and forty minutes, but the meter was in fact flashing expired. I either didn't read it correctly (in the miserably unreliable cell phone light) or the meter went too fast OR the meter person has a special key to turn it to expired--that last one sounds right. Anyway, $41. On Friday, I went back to the college to buy a parking pass, $65 and get the add sheet (big pile of add/drop sheets at the information desk--call me crazy, but I think the person at registration should have clued me into that one). I went to the bookstore--big pile of the books needed for piano II right there where they hadn't been the previous week.

So now I am all set. At one of my luncheon meetings this week, I got a free canvas bag that is exactly the right size to carry my piano books. And I am even learning "Old Suzanna"--it is kind of peppy. I looked ahead in the book and some of the minuets are very similar to ones I learned years ago. To paraphrase "I'm feeling very Olympic today"--I'm feeling quite the musician.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Piano Time

When Adrienne and the kids moved in with me some 18 years ago, I had a piano. It was a beautiful upright--black, shiny, really very pretty. The sound was very good (for as much as I know about that stuff--all the keys worked). The warranty required that I have it tuned once a year and I religiously did. When the kids put their grimmie hands on my piano, I pulled out the windex and cleaned it. I never played it, because I needed to keep the cover on the keys so that they wouldn't get dirty. When I did play it, I was soon pretty much distracted into other things and the impulse never lasted too long. When Adam (then about three or so) hit his head on the side of the piano, that was the last straw and I sold it. It was a solid, reasonable and logical decision. I did not get a very good price (the first person who called scupped it right up), but I was determined to cut my loses and get rid of the large dangerous piece of furniture that was an uncharacteristic impulse buy after graduating from college. [Diamond earings (really--who can tell the difference from fake), a camero (talk about poor gas mileage) and a piano that I spent hundreds moving, twice and barely ever played.]

I must have been really mopey about it, because the next birthday or Christmas, my dad got me an electric keyboard. I hated the sound, I hated the key action, I hated that some pieces required more keys and the stand never put it at the right level for me to play properly AND I loved that keyboard immensely. Over the years I pulled it out sporatically and it was easy to play, easy to put away when I no longer played and easy to store and easy, easy, easy to take out again whenever I felt the urge to play the piano. It has headphones. It plays animal sounds and beats and is the perfect entertainment for young children (Adam when he was little and Caitlyn now). And yet... You always miss the one that got away. I've always wanted a piano.

I inherited some money over the past few years. When you inherit money, you need to be smart. It would be so easy to go out and spend, spend, spend and then it is all gone. Also, when you inherit money and other people know this, you start to become the answer to their problems. So my first thought was to be smart--pay down my debt. I wanted to put money into a retirement fund. I wanted to fix my house. I wanted to travel a little. But most of all, I wanted a piano. Be smart, I told myself, be smart. You don't need a piano, you need a new roof. Be smart, there are a lot of people depending on that roof. So I tried to make smart decisions. A friend had a crisis. A nephew went to college. A niece needed her own place. A different niece really needed some cash. A different niece really needed cash to maybe get a car. I gave out bonuses at my firm--I didn't realize how momentus that was until one staff person insisted on giving me a very hard hug. It is difficult to spend money on something that is completely illogical when someone else is hugging you so hard for sharing a little of what you have. So I do my best to make smart decisions--no piano--and unfortuneately no roof. Money reserves get smaller and smaller. Debt gets bigger and bigger and pretty soon, you are near the end. I have six things planned for the little bit that is left, but my firm is going through a weak period (there's a recession or something) and I cannot allow myself to spend any money. It is raining and we all know what that means--we better still have that rainy day fund.

So the realization hit me that I was not going to get a piano. I have illogically wanted one for so long, that I put on a big mope in my head. How does someone inherit money and end up with no piano. It just doesn't make any sense in that inner child (is that the id?) part of my brain that can't understand the word "no." Oh, and I joined weight watchers. I've lost 9 pounds--woo hoo, but I have to say no to myself A LOT. A LOT. No chocolate milkshake. No cookies. No cake. No potato chips. So the realization that the final answer on the piano (which in the back of my mind I always thought was coming right after the roof), was no, I put my proverbial foot in my head down. Oh no, I thought darkly--nobody puts Baby in the corner.

Fortuitously, I received a letter from Pasadena City College. They are having a piano sale of their used pianos and I have been specially selected to preview their selection. Special preview, by appointment only. How did I get on the mailing list--I don't know. Is it a good deal--I don't know. Do I have any idea how to buy a piano or even know how much they are supposed to cost--Nope. But I want one. There's no time left. In another minute, there will be no funds in my account. I have to act fast. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go to the piano sale right now. So I made an appointment. I put the address in my map app on my cell phone. I left early to get there in plenty of time. I worried over parking. I turned too early and got lost. I found it anyway and the parking lots were completely empty (it was between semesters). I was taken to a very large room with hundreds of pianos.

The first upright that I saw was gorgeous. It had a shine finish that was a gleeming color between brown and burgundy--gorgeous. I played a few keys--kind of stiff action--just like my piano because I purchased it new. I had rented a piano years ago that had a nice loose action and that is my preference. Still it was so gorgeous. So how much is this lovely used piano that I am going to get such a deal on? $4,000. NOpe. Can you show me the pianos at the bottem of the price range. Thank you. So I was shown the back of the room. There were four pitiful, sad looking pianos. They were short--I guess they are called spinets. After I got over my initial pity for these sad looking pianos, one kind of called me. It was actually kind of pretty. Cherry walnut. Solid. I didn't recognize the make--something with a G--long word. It had an ugly bench, but the bench lifted up so that my music could go in the bench. Storage is an important element (I am the stupidest person on the planet). I played a few keys--wonderful loose action. Oh, oh, I'm falling in love. I sit down and play a few more keys. I play every single key (yes, one at a time--I don't really know how to play the piano) to make sure it is tuned and none are broken. Then the sales person sits down and really plays--it sounds beautiful. Very smart sales technique, because now I must have this piano. My life depends on it. It is not cheap. It costs more than I paid for a new piano some 20 plus years ago. I must have it. Delivery is extra. I must have it. I was told there was a one year warranty (didn't really matter--I was sold at hello). After I paid my money and signed the receipt a different person came over and said the warranty was only for 90 days. The lawyer in me protested and the id in me said "shut up--you must have that piano." I shut up. Buyers remorse was immediate. What if I move? I already have too much furniture. I don't even know how to play the piano. Ugh.

The piano was delivered and there is a resonance that shouldn't be there. It is already broken. I called about the warranty--some one will call me back. I called again--someone will call me back. I called about five times. They are coming next week. The g key sticks. It is practically broken. The f sharp sounds funny the first time it is played. After a few stricks it is ok (for all I know). The bench has already become the favorite dumping spot in my room. This morning Caitlyn saw the piano for the first time. She really enjoys hitting the keys and was only slightly off her stride when I insisted that she could not eat at the piano.

P.S. My other big personal indulgence from the inheritance--a toyota prius that I am noticing electrical problems with--I am a fool--you know the rest.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Dentist

I've been going to the same dentist for about 12 years or more--twice a year for a cleaning and every couple of years he takes some x-rays. Once he popped a crown off near the beginning of the time I started going to him. That was such a tramatic experience that when he gets close to the crowns, I tense up, bracing myself for the pop. And it was not that it hurt so much as it was like having an old dirty sock (Karl's old dirty sock) in my mouth.

Anyway, the crown didn't pop off today, but I do have a tooth ache. I almost never have a tooth ache. I flossed in honor of having a dentist appointment and Howard (my dentist) said I probably flossed too hard. I'm still mulling that one over--how do you floss too hard? I mean I could understand if I cut myself flossing--a particularly daunting fear--the equivilent of a paper cut in between your teeth--ouch. But too hard?

So I know Howard from Kiwanis, but he left our club and so now I only see him twice a year for my check up. There is less and less to shoot the breeze about, but he still asks about my family as soon as he puts his hands in my mouth. You would think that a dentist--a guy that does this every day would learn that I can't answer a question with his hand in my mouth. Howard is a pretty nice guy, so I can't believe that he does it deliberately to be mean. My theory is that he is trying to remember stuff about me, because he too feels the slimness of our repartee. It takes him a little time to remember my favorite subject (my nieces and nephew and all the babies in my house).

Howard and I have this cleaning business down to a science. We have figured out the right amount of time in between spitting and swooshing. Still, he does all the work and I have a lot of time on my hands.

He has tiles on the ceiling that have random patterns of holes in them. The pattern is so random that they are not simply installed at different sides. I have a theory that there are only four patterns to the tiles and that they are randomly arranged, but one hour is too short a time to confirm that theory. But still I spend the hour trying to pick out patterns and find similarities. In the past I have tried to count the holes in each tile, but there are a lot. Some lines have 12 and others have 15 holes. This time I went with getting an estimate. There are twenty two lines and between 12 and 15 holes per line. It took me a little while to average 12 and 15 and then to multiply that by 22.

The other thing that I do to pass the time is to divide Howard's job into fractions and percentages. My mouth is divided into 12 parts, 6 on the bottem (three in front, three in back) and 6 on the top. Unfortuneately, Howard gets a little frustrated on the top teeth and he abandons his routine once in a while, but on the bottem teeth, he is a creature of habit. So I measure in 12ths. 1/12th, 2/12ths--hey that equals 1/6th, yippee. 3/12ths--that is 1/4th--we are 25% done, hurray! 4/12ths, wow, did you know that 4/12ths is 1/3rd? We have gone from 1/4th to 1/3rd really quickly--woo hoo. It is about this time that I remember that after he scrapes my teeth he goes through this awful routine of brushing the teeth (in the same quadrants) with his mechanical brush and rather unpleasant toothpaste (although I usually like cherry or orange flavor--put it on toothpaste and it is really disgusting). So 1/3rd must be converted into 1/3rd of 2/3rds if I estimate that the toothbrush part is 1/3rd of the dental visit. Wait. Yes, I went back to counting the holes in the ceiling tiles.

I am all done until August, but my tooth still hurts. I told Howard that usually I would go to see a dentist if my tooth hurt. He got a good laugh out of that one.

Monday, February 08, 2010

"Super" bowl weekend (sarcasm font)

I had a pretty open weekend with hardly no plans, so I developed a great plan of attack for my house. My house is a mess--a really and disgusting mess. I wrote down twelve things I needed to do to clean it up. Then I wrote the list by room and then by logical order of tasks. I thought about writing it in alphabetical order, but... That's right, I was procrastinating big time. I hate to clean. I keep buying those yellow gloves so that I can trick myself into thinking that I am not really cleaning, because my hands are not getting wet. But then I let Caitlyn play with the yellow gloves and she put dirt in them. That's right, she didn't wear the gloves, she used them as a pail to shovel dirt into. Those gloves are garbage.

Well I am nothing if not a slave to my lists. It took me an hour, but I finished the first thing on my list. It took me another hour, but I finished the second thing on my list. Then it took a looooong time to make myself do the third thing on my list. A long time. Late in the day as it was beginning to get dark (an event that would cut off some of the things near the end of my list) I finally got to and finished the third thing on my list. I spent another hour crossing these three things off my list and reviewing my list again and again for motivation. There was no getting around it. The next thing on my list required a broom. I don't have a broom handy. There are some muddy ones outside. I have my sweeper vacuum, but I don't think it will work. I should sweep under the sofa. I should vacuum the rug before I sweep, because I'm never going to finish this whole list and that's more important. I did nothing. It got later and later. Oh well there was always tomorrow.

On tomorrow, I got up late. I did not do what I wanted to do in the morning. I did not even look at my list. I looked at the area that needed to be swept. I knew that was next on my list and it loomed darkly preventing me from doing anything at all. I had to be somewhere in the afternoon and getting in the car and getting there took no effort. I was leaving my list and my chores behind me.

Still wishing to escape my awful house, I got take out for dinner and put my plate on top of my list, so that I would not see it. Then I had the babies. I pulled all the toys out from the carefully organized shelves (number three on my list), littered them out all over the carpet and then watched the babies like a hawk so that they would not pick some lint or dog hair up off the carpet that I hadn't vacuumed and eat it. Matthew was cranky and wanted to be held, but if Madilyn saw me holding Matthew then she wanted to be held. I spent about an hour picking one kid up to calm them down and then putting them down to be distracted by a toy and picking the other one up to calm them down and then putting them down to be distracted by a toy and then picking the other one up .... Anyway at some point Madilyn's sippy cup went under the chair. You know how you are always impressed by how smart babies can be? Well it is also sometimes surpising how stupid babies can be. The poor kid kept hitting her head on the bottem of the chair every time she went for her sippy cup. She'd start crying, Matthew was getting increasingly difficult to put down, so I was trying to hold both of them. Holding both of them, I could not reach the sippy cup. Madilyn would calm down, I'd put her down with a toy that I edged over with my foot and darn it if she didn't go right for the sippy cup and hit her head again. This happened three times. Finally I left them both crying and went for my phone to call in the cavalry.

When the room finally cleared and I put away my dishes, my list was intigrated into the mess that is my house, benign and invisible, yet lurking on the edge of my consciousness, nagging me. I failed to clean. I had a whole weekend with little or nothing to do and I failed.

The capper--the icing--the cherry on top is the ants. Oh yes, it rained on Friday night big time. On Saturday night I saw an ant on the bathroom floor. No worries I thought--cleaning the bathroom is on my list. Then I happened to glance inside the tub. It had lots and lots of dead ants in the bottem. No worries--cleaning the tub is on my list. Then I looked to the sides of the tub to find the source of the ants--YUCK. I got out the ant killer and did me a little big game ant hunting--well it was more of a global ant massacre. It was horrible. No worries I thought from the other room--cleaning the bathroom is on my list. Unfortuneatly it was way down the line from sweeping and vacuuming and I don't have any yellow gloves.

Now it is Monday. I did get up early this morning. I skipped the gym. My whole adgenda was to clean the tub--now at the top of the eternal list in my head. Failure. Gross and utter failure.

New list: Buy yellow gloves. And maybe a broom.

P.S. Happy Birthday Adrienne--sorry but you are probably NOT getting a clean kitchen for your birthday.