Saturday, August 22, 2009

Never Too Old

This is kind of cool. We are a semi-musical family. My husband plays piano and is teaching himself guitar. He's also trying to teach second son, Alec, guitar but Alec is not known for being consistent. There's still hope. Chad took piano for five years then switched to euphonium until his braces prevented him from playing. He switched back to piano on his own but I hadn't heard him play in months.

The cool thing is that I decided I would try to learn how to play piano on my own. After several months of sporadic playing here and there, I finally learned two small pieces (I especially like "Scarborough Fair") and am currently working on "Memories" from the Cats musical. I have observed a resurgence of interest in Chad since I have been working on these pieces. I have asked for his help several times since I only read music up to a point. My formal (school) training is in clarinet and choir, which only helps so much but at least I can figure out the notes. And it's fun! When I was 20, I rented a piano for $21 a month and tried to teach myself from a book of music that included Elton John and Steely Dan, not exactly beginner's material. I got discouraged after 6 months and turned in the piano.

Now, at least, I have two trained pianists for help and I'm much more patient with myself. Owning the piano helps. I also have an audience, including the dogs next door who hear me through the window. Playing for an audience makes one sit up straighter, etc. My family also encourages me which is nice, even when I hit the wrong notes.

But the best thing is seeing Chad tackling a hard piece. He's been listening to a CD of the music he's playing and then goes to the piano to work on it. It's wonderful to watch. He really has potential, this young one. I try to be encouraging to him without pushing. I hope, hope, hope, he pursues it.

Anyone out there remember Steely Dan? (I loved the "Aja" album but I was in Jr. High, I think, so I'm probably the only one who remembers!)

Monday, August 10, 2009

O.K., About The Llamas ...

Funny you should ask. When Todd and I were young, idealistic, and newly married to boot, we began working on a dream to move to a small piece of land in the country and raise something. An animal something, that is. We were living in Southern California at the time, where we grew up, and had no idea how to raise any kind of live stock but we started researching. We first heard about a woman raising muskoxen in Montana. But after learning more about the injuries she received from her precious herd, we began looking for less dangerous beasts. Enter the alpaca. Smaller than its cousin, the llama, producing better wool to sell or spin, and darn cute to walk among (especially the babies) we thoroughly researched this kind of venture. We visited several alpaca farms in California, meeting owners and learning how it's done. We were hooked. The downside was that alpacas were very expensive at the time (this was 20 years ago, before the market became glutted and then declined in popularity). So we began looking at llamas more seriously. They were less expensive and could be trained to carry a pack and used for hiking. We made the big move to OR in our 3rd year of marriage, after several trips north and a lot of prayer. God's guidance was so evident that it would take another post to tell. Anyway, we ended up on nearly an acre in a rural setting which allowed us to have perhaps 2 llamas. We figured it was a start and hoped to get more land someday and grow more animals. We found our first llama, which we named Abraham, in a cramped little stall on a makeshift petting zoo/farm. The eccentric owner sold him to us for a price we could afford and we took our 6 mo old babe home. He was so cute. We fell in love. I got so used to watching him out the kitchen window, grazing and walking around within the electric New Zealand style fencing that Todd labored to put up. The electric wire was to keep out the vicious dog next door that had tried to attack Abraham the day we brought him home. I was so glad when that dog disappeared, along with it's weird owners.

After 6 months, we visited a veterinarian on whose farm Abraham was born. Abraham's older brother was still there and we decided to purchase him as well. Bad move. We loved Abraham's gentle demeanor and sweetness. Big brother was a nasty animal. Hard to train, stubborn. Abraham trained to a halter and pack with no problems, really. Isaac was always difficult. We named him Isaac because it means something like laughter but he was no laughing matter. He kicked Abraham in the face right after we brought him home. I was in tears. They resolved their difficulties, however, and learned to live together. Every evening, they would begin chasing each other, then stop and pose, chase again, then would begin galloping around and around. It was hysterical. I have observed this kind of behavior in my own kids when they were very small. What is it about the evening?

To sum things up, after we had our second child, we were forced to move from our dinky house in the country and into a larger home in town. Shortly thereafter, we auctioned our llamas off to a couple who had a place for them down the coast, south of here. We've not seen them since. It was an experience I'm glad we had and there are times I wish my kids could have grown up with them. We will never forget them.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Todd & Kate
August 6, 1988

3 - kids
2 - states
3 - homes
4 - moves
2 - businesses
3 - episodes of melanoma
1 - heart surgery
2 - llamas
1 - God
21 years of happy marriage

Thanks Todd!
You have been and always will be the only one for me!