Monthly Archives: July 2012

Blogging counts as exercise, right?

At this time last year, I was on my way to gettin’ ripped. I was slathering myself with baby oil and doing dead lifts on a daily basis. Okay, that last part may have been an exaggeration, but I was working out with a trainer once a week and eating healthy foods.

Pro female bodybuilder Nikki Fuller performs a...

Not me. You know, in case you were confused. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last summer, I would go to restaurants with Husband and ask them to substitute cottage cheese for the fries. I paid twice the price of normal bread for fancy whole wheat bread. About three times a week, I went to the gym and worked out until my muscles trembled. For the first time in my life, I was able to run for more than 30 seconds without feeling nauseous. When people started talking about exercising, I actually had something to contribute, rather than listening awkwardly, as I had previously always done.

I wasn’t exactly looking different, but I felt stronger. Husband was amazed that I could push his new snowblower and that I could help him lift an engine without struggling.

Then school started again. And with that, came the time commitment of marching band.

At first, I was convinced I would continue my new lifestyle. I knew it wouldn’t be as easy as when I was on summer break, but I tried. I packed my workout bag the night before and brought it with me in the mornings. After school, I went to the gym instead of driving past the exit toward my house, and my beloved bed. I took the extra 10 minutes to change clothes, take off my jewelry, and put my hair up before working out.

Finally, I would get home, about 12 hours after leaving in the morning.

“What’s for dinner?” Husband would ask. “I’m starving.”

I would like to say that I whipped up a healthy dinner full of vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat, but by this point, I was beyond exhausted. So, the processed foods started creeping back into my diet. Gradually, the evenings at the gym became further apart. I told myself it was because my life was consumed with teaching band, and once marching season was over, I’d be back with a vengeance.

November came, and I hit the gym every day abandoned it completely. By March of this year, I hadn’t been there in five months. Husband finally started to demand that I cancel the membership because it was a waste of money. I put it off because canceling seemed like conceding that I was giving up. I told myself that once summer began, I would have the time and energy to restart.

Last week, I decided to see how out of shape I was. When I was working with the trainer, I could do about 20 consecutive push-ups. So, I got on the floor and braced myself.

Urrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhhh!

I could barely lift my 100 pound frame one time. Apparently, I’m 20 times weaker than I was last July. And what did I have to eat yesterday? Pizza for lunch and Madagascar-shaped mac and cheese for dinner.

When school started last year, I finally had something interesting to say for What I Did Over The Summer. Somehow, I don’t think “I blogged and drank a lot of overly sugared coffee” will have the same effect this year.

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The tale of my avatar

My sister’s cat (who henceforth shall be known as Cat) hates me. Actually, hate probably isn’t a strong enough word. Loathe, perhaps. Or detest. Regardless of the verb one uses, it doesn’t change the fact that Cat thinks the world would be a better place if I weren’t in it. I would even safely bet that she would give up treats for the rest of her feline life if she never had to see me again.

The Cat that I speak of is the real life version of my avatar. And the reason she’s making such a horrifying face? I was trying to pet her when I took that picture. Turns out, that pose works perfectly when you want to use MS Paint to draw fire coming from a cat’s open mouth. She was only six months old when the avatar picture was taken. Now she’s over two years and is becoming crueler with age.

Here’s a recent picture of Cat.

 

I’ve never had an issue with cats before this one. In fact, I consider myself to be a “cat person.” In elementary school, I was always on the “Cats Rule, Dogs Drool” side of the argument. By the way, dogs do drool. My friend’s dog foams at the mouth every time he eats. Gross. You’ll never see a cat doing that. Well, you might, but you should probably run very far away.

Cat hates loathes me because we had a little misunderstanding about a year ago. You know how sometimes you’re teasing a friend and you think that they think it’s funny, then find out afterward that they were completely offended? It was kind of like that. Cat and I were playing a game called Make the Kitty Angry. Basically, it goes like this: You poke the cat on the back until they try to bite you. While they’re biting to the left, you poke from the right. Repeat. I used to play this game with my family’s cat when I was growing up. He would get pissed off, hiss a few times, then about an hour later he’d jump onto the couch, chirping the whole time, and sit on my lap. No hard feelings. He could take a joke.

No, really, guys. I swear he forgave me. Mom, on the other hand, isn’t so lucky.

Cat, however, does not take jokes. Only pieces of flesh.

Ever since that fateful night of teasing Cat, she’s held a grudge against me. At first, Sister and I thought it was a coincidence. Cats can’t hold grudges. After a few months, though, we had to finally admit that she hates me. Here’s a typical visit to Sister’s house:

Cat is sprawled on the table, purring. Sister pets Cat.

Cat: Meeeeeeeeeow. Rubs against Sister’s hand.

Sister’s fiance picks up Cat. Cat fluffs up her tail with glee, chirping. 

Cat: Puuurrrrrrrrreow.

Husband talks to Cat. 

Cat: Blank stare. No anger, though.

I approach Cat slowly. Hold out my hand to let her sniff. There is no danger. I only want to pet her.

Cat: HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

So I leave Cat alone for an hour. Later, I walk past her on my way to the kitchen.

Cat: HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

I’ve been trying to make amends with Cat gradually. I offered her a treat one day. Cat walked away; Sister’s dog was happy to oblige. I rubbed Cat under her chin. She bit my hand. Sometimes I see her in her Fortress of Doom cardboard box, glaring at me from afar, surely plotting the next way to sink her fangs into my flesh.

Husband asked me today during lunch if I practice sorcery, as part of his habit of asking random questions with no meaning.

“No,” I replied, “because if I did, Sister’s Cat wouldn’t hate me.”

“You know the Egyptians worshiped cats,” he added.

“Exactly,” I said. “Because cats are cooler than dogs.”

“No, it’s because dogs weren’t invented yet,” he quipped.

He was serious.

WHAT.

 

This morning, I found Foghorn Unicorn through a comment on Logy Express. This voicemail recording made me giggle out loud, which I don’t normally do. Go subscribe to this blog. Now.

"THESE ARE MY STREETS!"

As many of my friends (or my station wagon full of blog followers – up top! *high fives*) know, earlier this week I posted an actual voicemail left on my work’s answering machine. I will cherish it all of the days of my life. Leaving it as just audio on YouTube didn’t seem to do it justice, even though it still makes me laugh 3 days later. SO, my Lovah (his brains are way huge) has helped me to make it Sundance-worthy! I have reenacted it at the link above using Reba, Live! and Reba, Country Superstar-featured in a Forever Lazy.

Enjoy and go balls out sharing it with whomever you please!

Peace, Love & Reba

~Nic

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Three hours of stray cat stories and a tragic trip down a slide

This post is two months overdue and the main reason I haven’t written it is because I truly don’t know how to put it into words. Hopefully, the title grabbed your attention because if you read this entire story, I promise not to disappoint. The best way to start is for you to read this story about Mom’s birthday at Golden Corral, which was almost exactly a year ago. There’s a lot of back story on her that you need to know to fully understand her personality.

Today’s story is the adventure of Mother’s Day 2012 and it’s 100% true. Gather closely, dear readers. Top off your coffee and make sure you have a comfortable chair. Ok – here we go.

Sister graciously offered to have Mom and Grandma over for this year’s annual festivities. If Mom had her way, this would include the following activities:

  • The showering of a multitude of gifts from her registry (each gift must be at least a $50 value)
  • A skit put on by Sister and myself reenacting all of the times she was the World’s Best Mother (must include the word “sacrifice” a minimum of 25 times)
  • A feast of filet mignon, crab legs, oysters, and caviar
  • Unlimited and uninterrupted story time regarding her current crises (may include the words “agony” and “hopeless” in every sentence)
  • A minimum of five sappy cards from each daughter. Funny cards will be returned to sender and will result in an additional $50 gift.

What you need to understand is first of all, this isn’t much of an exaggeration. And secondly, I’m not being a horrible daughter. It would take me more words than you care to read in order to explain why my mother does not deserve a single one of those festivities. Just take my word for it. I love my mom. I really do. But, she’s never been supportive of anyone except herself, and she does a poor job of that.

So anyway, Husband and I made the drive to Sister’s house in May for the Extravaganza. Upon our entrance, we heard hysterical laughter from the door to the back patio. Mom stumbled in the patio door.

“I pissed myself!” she announced between cackles and pants. “I went down the slide in the backyard, and I peed when I landed!”

I kid you not. There was no “Hi, daughter! How are you? Good to see you.” This was her legitimate introduction after not seeing me since February.

Sister pointed to Mom’s white short-shorts. “Mom, your shorts are covered in mud.”

Sister’s Fiance, D, walked in. “Yeah, that’s because your mom went down the slide and when she landed, she flipped forward and faceplanted right in the ground.”

Mom announced that she needed to go to the bathroom and wash her underwear.

D started snickering once Mom was out of earshot. “You guys missed it. She went down that slide so fast and when she hit the ground, she landed on her knees and fell forward. Then she was all, ‘I peed myself!'”

All this time, my poor grandma was sitting in a chair, waiting for this ridiculous scene to end so she could say hello. Grandma is the bee’s knees, to put it mildly. She’s a Rosie the Riveter, a survivor of domestic violence in the 1940s, a mother of four, and the strongest person I know. Grandma holds this dysfunctional family together with her love and generosity. That undying generosity is the only reason Mom is able to feed herself lately. Mom’s been unemployed due to unwillingness to work  unfortunate circumstances since I was in high school.

At this point, Grandma and I showered each other with kisses and greetings. I gave her one of the two bouquets of flowers that I brought and waited for Mom to return so I could give the other one to her.

After a few minutes, Mom walked in, holding her newly clean underwear like a banner. D appeared astonished that anyone would be proud to be holding their underwear at a family gathering. My only thought was, She’s wearing white short-shorts and she’s going commando.

We ate a delicious lunch thanks to Sister’s prowess in the kitchen, as usual, and decided to sit at the patio table to talk. Before she sat down, Mom hung her underwear about 10 feet from the table to dry. We were forced to have it in our view for the rest of the afternoon. Mom dominated the conversation before anyone else could begin. Apparently, she’s taken in a stray mother cat and its newborn kitten. She’s taken them to the vet, purchased food and a litter box for them, and keeps them locked in her bathroom because she says she’s not keeping them. Except she’s had them in there for months. But she’s not keeping them.

“How are you paying for all this? Aren’t you unemployed?” Sister asked. It’s well known that Mom can barely afford food. After all, she makes it well known to us at every visit.

“My neighbor across the street said he’d make sure I had money to keep them fed. I’ll find the money somewhere.” Sister and I shared glances and took another sip of wine. I don’t really drink, except at family gatherings. Mom thinks we’re alcoholics because of it.

For the next three hours, we listened to stories about Precious, the mother cat, and Wiggles, the baby kitten. There were exciting tales, such as the time that Wiggles meowed. And the time that Precious ate food.

English: Stray female cat.

OMG!! This one time, the cat was lying on the porch. And it was all, lying in the sun because cats love to do that. Isn’t that hilarious?? *snort* (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By the time we heard the 57th story about the time Precious walked around the bathroom, I had opened a second bottle of wine for Sister and me. Grandma had tried to tell a story here and there. In her 89 years, she has experienced some good ones to share. However, trying to speak at this occasion was rude, unless you were Mom, or unless you were commenting about the feral cats.

Around 8:00, the Extravaganza had been going strong for eight hours. Sister and I had to work the next morning and she had laundry to do. We’d been trying to drop hints that it was time to call it a night for the past hour, but Precious and Wiggles would not have it.

Finally, Sister decided it was time for action.

“Mom, you have to go. It’s late. We have to get up at 5:30 and you don’t because you have nowhere to be tomorrow.”

We kissed them goodbye and Grandma said how much she had enjoyed her visit, how wonderful the food was, and how beautiful Sister’s new house is. Mom commented that it must be nice not to live in a trailer park and to be so rich. (Sister barely qualifies as middle class, though she works her butt off in a professional field.)

Alas, it’s about that time again. Mom’s birthday is at the end of July and it will once again be time to dust off the tiara for her.

And the wine for me.

Gloating is definitely worth $79 plus installation

Husband is an excellent driver. He can back a trailer with the greatest of maneuverability skills and has never been in an accident. Actually, he taught me to drive and I’d like to think I’m a decent driver, as well. Still, I’m a woman and sexism is alive and well when it comes to driving.

Last night, we went bowling with Sister and Sister’s Fiance, who will be known as D in this post. In order to sit in the back and watch some ridiculous video about farting, they wanted me to drive. On a side note, this video involved women sniffing each other’s farts and they used my auxiliary port to connect the phone to my car’s speakers. It made for an amusing drive, especially since I only had the audio side of it. Sorry to those of you who have a maturity level higher than that of a 10-year-old.

Anyway, I get stupidly self-conscious when I’m the driver and the boys are in the car. Both of them are critical of Sister’s and my driving skills and I always feel like they’re analyzing every move I make. This isn’t in my head. When we went over a set of railroad tracks a little faster than I meant, I saw the look they shared in my rearview mirror. You know, the one that says, “Only penises should be behind the wheel.” Sometimes they even make comments out loud. “Yeah, that’s why I installed the premium brake pads,” Husband remarked to D when I made a turn. Sister and I just roll our eyes and ignore the comments. There is some truth to what they’re saying and we know it. After all, I may never have caused a wreck, but I did pull the bumper off my old car by backing into a friend’s flower pot in their driveway.

This morning, Husband was driving and started to make a right turn to park on the side of the street. As he turned, I thought, He’s turning awfully sharp. But I didn’t say anything. A few seconds later, there was a loud thump as the right side of the car lurched onto the curb and back down. We pulled over to park and I stared at him in disbelief. He NEVER does anything like that.

“What the hell? Did you really just drive on the curb?”

“Whoops…” was all he said in reply.

“I never want to hear you mock my driving again,” I retorted.

“Oh, well. I’m sure it’s fine. I hit it on the flat part. There’s no way it did anything.”

I opened the passenger door and heard an unmistakable sound.

Pssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh……..

The look of horror and embarrassment on his face was completely worth any trouble the flat tire would cause. We got out and inspected the damage. Somehow, the curb had put a hole in the side wall.

Fortunately, Husband is extremely handy (he’s actually a mechanic) and was able to change the tire with no issues. When we got home, he looked up the price of a new tire and told me, “Well, I guess tomorrow when I get off work, I’ll take your car in to get two new tires.”

“Damn right you will,” I said. “You’re the one who broke it, after all.”

When we had those crazy windy storms a couple weeks ago, we lost our trash can. It was my fault because I left it outside and forgot it was out there until I saw it flying away as I watched through the window. Husband has been teasing me mercilessly since then, insisting that I owe him a trash can and I need to save my pennies until I can replace it.

He now says that we’re even. An eye for an eye, a trash can for a tire.

 

Why My Freshly Pressed Experience Has Deceived You

I fear that most of you who are reading this don’t know what you’ve gotten into.

You see, most of you – I’m speaking to my dear subscribers – joined me this week in response to the post “What Every Music Teacher Wants You To Know.” And you see, that’s not a great representation of what this blog is. The featured post was tagged under “Education” and I’m sure you all expect this to be a teacher blog. It’s not.

“Well then, what is it?” you ask. Shhh. *strokes your hair* I will make it all clear in time, dear reader.

For some yet to be discovered reason, the WordPress gods smiled upon me on Monday and bestowed my very first blogging honor: Freshly Pressed. Of course, that’s what brought most of you here. Let me tell you what life on this blog was like before this week. It was lonely. Sometimes I would have conversations with my echoes. Even they didn’t care enough to read it. I abandoned the blog for many months, after accepting that no one besides my close friends would ever read it. When I came crawling back last month, there were cobwebs on my Stats page. I was down to about 12 hits per day.

I was feeling inspired and ready to write again. I had an idea about ranting about the sorry stereotypes of music teachers, so I clicked “New Post.” The website coughed up a tumbleweed and asked me if I was sure.

Me: Yes, I’m sure. Now give me the damn text box so I can write it.

WordPress: Ooh. Looks like someone’s feeling spunky today. Like anyone is going to actually read this drivel? It went really well for you the last 15 times.

Me: Ok, so it’s not going to become an international phenomenon. I get it. But my 25 or so music teacher friends will probably read it, and maybe even Like it on Facebook.

WordPress: Whatever. It’s not like you have anything else exciting going on here. Give it a shot. Your perseverance is adorable.

And so I published the post. I woke up Monday morning and opened my laptop. My email indicated 160 new emails. Wtf? I usually have about 6. They were all from WordPress. What the hell? I was even more baffled when I logged on here and saw about 43 new comments – more than I had received in all of my previous posts combined. I started to read them and responded to every one. About 10 comments down, I got my answer.

They were congratulating me on being Freshly Pressed.

For a second, I was convinced they were playing a cruel joke on me. My blog is a needle in the haystack of the blogging world. How could anyone think to find mine? After heading to wordpress.com, I realized it was true. There I was, front and center.

Naturally, this has been a glorious week (and for my stats) and I’ve been blown away by all of the kind comments and generous reblogs. I can’t thank everyone enough for reading and taking the time to click “follow.”

But, I feel that I have to come clean.

I’ve deceived you on our blind date. I’m not who I pretended to be. I write about potty humor. After all, my most recent post had the word “poop” in the title. I make fun of people – usually, myself. I tell stories about my family that no one should have to experience, but I do, so I feel that the least I can do is share them with you.

I hope that you all stick around and read anyway. Judging from my stats page, that’s not going to be the case.

Yeah, I know the number on top looks nice, but check out the views on all the other posts. I’m such a one-hit-wonder, I make “MmmBop” look good.

So, whaddya say? Can I have a second date?

How To Get Rich Quickly Using Rubber Poop

Husband has recently decided he’s a minimalist. Of course, he didn’t use that word for it, and I had to explain what “minimalist” meant when I told him that was what he was going for.

Coincidentally, I had discovered The Everyday Minimalist on Pinterest the day before. My typically anti-reading husband read about five posts before diving in head first and declaring that he wanted to purge all the junk from our home.

Awesome. Anyone who knows me knows that I love the trash can. I love to throw away useless crap, and even sometimes, crap that really isn’t crap and that I wish I still had. On the flip side, Husband is one of those people who owns more stuff than many people three times his age. It’s baffling, really. Probably about 10% of the stuff in this house is actually mine.

Junk Tower

Honey, I think it’s time to go through the bedroom closet. (Photo credit: sigma.)

Thus began our quest to go through the contents of the house and sell it all. Husband was convinced that we had a personal gold mine of possessions and that the eBay community would be tripping over themselves to get to the computer before it was all gone.

A competitor collapses just prior to the finis...

NOOOO!! Must…buy…before…gone….(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We started in the game room. Neither of us could bear to part with our vintage game systems, which include the Intellivision, Atari 2600, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Nintendo64, and original XBox. However, we did realize that we had about 30 games that we never play. Husband and I are not sports fans, so all of the sports-themed games went into the sell pile. Eventually, we put most of our CDs, records and a few VHS tapes in there, too. (Except for the signed copy of a George Jones LP. Husband couldn’t bear to part with it.)

For years, I have been begging Husband to part with The Silly Shelf. The Silly Shelf is – you guessed it – a shelf. It contains the most ridiculous of trinkets and toys from Husband’s lifetime. It has made its ugly home in our bedroom and makes one think that a 12-year-old boy lives there, rather than a married couple. Here is a breakdown of the type of items on this shelf:

  • A radio in the shape of an orange
  • A rubber pile of poop
  • A “Fart Fan”
  • A plastic cat that dances when you squeeze the buttons on the side
  • Numerous Bart Simpson trinkets
  • A Homer Simpson watch that says “Mmmm…burger” when you press it
  • The Taco Bell chihuahua
  • A block of soap with a Troll suspended inside
  • About 25 similar treasures

Unfortunately, when Husband’s father heard that we were parting with The Silly Shelf, he couldn’t bear to see it go away. He asked to keep the treasures, which means they’re still around. Le sigh. Anyway, they’re out of my bedroom.

So, we continued our quest into the office closet. This is another area where Husband and I have disagreed upon what should be there. His software, which consists of mostly floppy disks for DOS games, has taken up an entire shelf in our closet for years. Thankfully, he kept about 5 of his favorites to play on the 486 computer that’s in our bedroom and put the rest in the pile.

Since Husband works during the day and I’m on summer break, he put me in charge of the Sales Department. I began to scour eBay for the worth of our beloved treasures. Honestly, I was kind of excited. Yes, I thought. We’re going to get rid of all this junk and get a ton of money in return!

In the words of Dwight Schrute…

FALSE.

It’s all worthless. The completed listings were filled with red (non-selling) prices, such as $1.99 with free shipping. In other words, we’d have to pay someone to take this crap from us. So, does anyone want a copy of Madden ’94 for Super Nintendo?

I’ll even throw in a fake rock made of foam.

Playing piano will make you popular, unless you do what I did.

When I was about eight years old, I started piano lessons. I really have no idea why I started taking them. There isn’t a conversation in which I remember discussing this with my mom. Honestly, my first memories of piano lessons are of simply being in a room the size of a closet with a 30-something prude who would put check marks and smiley faces next to the exercises that I had mastered in the book.

I still shudder at the thought of those check marks.

Every week, she would assign something as homework for the next lesson, the same way I do now with my band students. For some reason, that check mark was really intimidating to my third grade brain. It was as if she were standing behind me as I practiced, scolding me for bad hand position and missing accidentals.

My main memory of piano lessons actually has nothing to do with the piano. The adult in me says that my audience might not find it as funny as I do, but the child in me says keep typing, so here I go. My family was always very open in our home. We never felt the need to stifle our enjoyment of potty humor and thus, we never apologized for rude noises at home. During one particular lesson, my worst nightmare came true. It turns out that a piano bench, with its flat wood structure and hollow middle for storing music, is a wonderful amplifier for noise. Yes, I farted during a piano lesson.

My teacher looked as shocked as I felt. I’m sure she thought about ignoring it for my sake, but instead she asked, “What do you say?”

I didn’t know.

Normally at home, the response would simply have been to laugh. Now I realized, all too late, that there was some sort of protocol in civilized society for this situation, and I had never been taught.

“I’m sorry?” The look on my teacher’s face indicated I had guessed the wrong response.

“Say excuse me.” And I did.

Anyway, I digress. The point of this little foray into my two year stint in piano lessons is that I never really learned to play the piano. Our piano ended up being repossessed and I had to stop lessons. My piano lessons were a great primer for the instrument I ended up playing for life, which is the flute. Don’t ask me why I chose the flute. I’m pretty sure that I only chose it because it didn’t require reeds and I was trying to save my mom money. (Our family’s financial situation was bleak, to put it mildly.)

So here I am, 16 years later, and it has occurred to me that I should have learned a cooler instrument. I mean, seriously, how often is the flute featured in popular music?

Anyone says Jethro Tull, I’ll cut you. My mom bought me a couple CDs when I was in middle school and I couldn’t stomach it. Now, the Marshall Tucker Band is a whole different story. Badass.

Overall, you never hear the flute used in a cool way. Piano, though, is used all the time. It’s versatile. It’s…just cool.

Allow me to cite some examples of why I probably should have stuck with the piano lessons.

First of all, Matt Bellamy of Muse’s Rachmaninov-inspired piano intro to “Space Dementia”:

 

 
Regina Spektor’s ballad “Samson”:

 

 
Amy Lee of Evanescence begins gently, but turns “Your Star” into a collage of crunching guitar and arpeggiated piano:

 

 
One of the greatest piano rockers needs no introduction for “Crocodile Rock”:

 

 
Ben Folds is one of my inspirations for improving my piano skills. Here’s “Zac and Sara”:

 

 
And yes, it’s cliche, but I have to include the original piano rocker, Ludvig van Beethoven. “Moonlight Sonata” is one of the pieces that inspired me to teach music.
 

 
Had I not stopped piano lessons about 17 years ago, I could have been pretty good by now. And much cooler. I guess I need to start practicing again.

Just don’t expect to see any check marks on my music any time soon.

What Every Music Teacher Wants You To Know

There are some stereotypes about music teachers in this country and for some reason, they’ve been getting to me lately. Generally, I avoid discussing my career on here because honestly, I have a great job. I get to play games, teach kids how to create music, and I get most of the summers off. You won’t hear me complaining about the pay (except in jest) and frankly, there aren’t many music jobs out there. My district has brand new, state of the art buildings with SMART boards in every room. I am NOT intending to write this post about my specific job, just the general problems that any music teacher can appreciate. Now, with that being said, here I go….

1. We get really tired of people thinking that our job is nothing but fun and games.

English: Young Children (Suzuki students) Play...

Nope. No work was required to get to this point. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was once asked, “Are you a real teacher or just a music teacher?” Questions like that make my blood boil. Obviously, I can’t get the entire world to see it my way, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m a teacher. My subject happens to be music. I say that in the same way that someone would say they teach high school biology. Music is defined as a core academic subject in No Child Left Behind. Music has National and State Academic Content Standards, just as any other subject. It is my job to make sure that my students master the material. I just have about 22 hours of instruction time per school year to make that happen.

2. The general public thinks that they know everything about what I do, and that anyone can do it.

I played guitar in a band in high school! What do you mean I can’t teach band better than you?

Every nincompoop who has ever touched a drum tells me they can “play” the drums. Now, some of these people actually can. I am totally not a music snob and I understand there’s a huge difference between being a talented amateur musician and someone who just beats on things. However, unless you have a music degree, don’t pretend like you could do my job. It’s not common knowledge and there’s way more to it than you think. Unless you have had to be tested on everything from music history, educational psychology, your performance of a concerto for an audience of highly trained professionals, memorization of fingerings for the bassoon (and every other instrument), etc., don’t tell me you could do my job.

3. We have to constantly remind people why what we do is important, for fear of losing our programs.

This is what happened to the last guy who threatened to cut music.

 I’d say most music teachers live in constant fear that we’re going to lose our jobs. We fear it not just for ourselves, but for our students. After all, who do you think inspired us to teach music? That’s right – our music teachers. Without music programs in schools, we risk losing part of our culture for the future. When we examine past cultures, what do we use to judge how civilized they were? Paintings, musical compositions, architecture, tools, language, and clothing. In other words – ART. In fact, we use the fine arts of past cultures to judge how much they knew about our current so-called “core subjects.”

Do you think people in the future are going to look at our standardized test scores to see how well we lived? Of course not. They’re going to study our ability to create ART.

And along the same lines….

4. We really hate using other subject areas to justify our subject.

If one more person mentions the “Mozart Effect” I’ll scream!

Yes, it’s totally true that instruction in music helps people to understand math and science better. It raises college entrance test scores. It forms new synapses in the brain, connecting the two hemispheres better than any other subject can. In fact, stroke patients who are no longer able to speak can sometimes still sing songs and use that for speech therapy. So yeah, I guess you should learn music because it makes you smarter.

But…

Music teachers are so tired of using that spiel in order to defend what we do. We didn’t go into teaching music because we wanted to get better at math. We want what we do to be valued for its own purpose. We want people to think it’s important to have music in schools, well, just because it is! Imagine your life without music.

Silent commercials and movies, with the exception of dialogue. Awkward silences while shopping. Silent car rides. All in all, pretty boring. We teach music because it’s like painting for your ears. It expresses emotions. It can even change your emotions.

5. People think that you can’t test what we teach, and that every student should be given an A.

Brian was devastated that his daughter didn’t pass choir. After all, she sang during at least half of the days she was there.

Music teachers are data-driven teachers who use research and self-reflection to constantly assess the effectiveness of their instruction and to improve their teaching methods, just as any other teacher does. Yes, you can give a test on how well little Johnny plays the trumpet. The notes are either right or wrong, in tune or not, played for the correct duration or not, and so on. Using a rubric, it is possible to assign fair grades to students based upon performances and written tests that are based upon facts taught during class. No, your child should not be given an automatic A in a performance-based class. Grades are earned based on your child’s demonstration that he or she has mastered the skills taught in class, which are based upon the academic content standards in music.

6. We really do love our jobs – and our students!

We mean it. We are some of the only teachers who literally get to watch our students grow up. Music teachers usually have their students for multiple consecutive years and form great bonds with them. Our jobs are super fun and best of all, we get to do what we love every day – make music.