Sunday, September 27, 2009

New House!

I've moved into my new house and I really love it! I'm still getting settled, but I just succeeded in getting my computer set up, hence this update.

The worst thing that has gone wrong was that I realized that the room that I want to use as a study did not have a phone plug installed (hence no internet access), but I solved this problem by buying a 50-ft. phone cable. It meanders across the room and across the hall to the one room upstairs that does have a phone plug. Next step: figuring out how to string it across the ceiling so that I don't have to keep unplugging it between uses to make sure no one trips over it. Anyway, if that's the worst problem I've had, it's not so bad, eh? What's fun is that I keep discovering unexpected nice things about this house that I hadn't noticed before!

I'm only a few blocks from where I was before, but suddenly my life feels dramatically different. My walk to my office is now across campus -- and a beautiful part of campus. The house and the gardens are beautiful. The neighborhood is very friendly -- I know most of the people on my street. And I'm now living in a house I own -- this is the first time in my life I finally feel that I'm not living in someone else's space. This is the first move in my life that doesn't feel transitional. This is a place I could (and probably will) remain the rest of my life -- happily.

I counted up the moves I've made in life: 25 major moves (requiring changes of address). That's a lot!

So the move itself wasn't bad. I realized as I got into it, "I know this all too well." I have a system. I am well-experienced. I know how to pack things. I know how to break down boxes again after unpacking.

It's still amazingly chaotic and disruptive. Once I got into it enough that it hit me that my life was seriously going to change, I did hit a moment of weariness and despair. This was about this time last week. My life felt turned inside-out. There was still a lot to do. Physically it is hard work. And moving is also emotional.

I just told myself to keep going, one step at a time. Moving day was Monday. The actual shifting of stuff did not take long (under three hours). Then I went to campus, and after attending to the bare essentials at work, I returned to clean up my old place. As I left to come to my new house, I appreciated the moment. "Here I am at last, arriving at my new life."

I put a folding chair out on my new deck and poured myself a glass of orange-mango juice and went out to sit on the deck to celebrate my arrival in my new life. I had long envisioned this moment, and had had periods of doubting that it ever could or would happen. Now here I was. It was not exactly like I expected: for one thing, it was dark (I had envisioned the moment in the daylight, looking out over the beautiful garden). But it was a nice warm evening. As I relaxed to enjoy the peaceful evening and the sense of arrival, I suddenly started crying. It was happy tears, plus exhaustion.

I didn't linger long, because there was still much to do so that I could be functional enough to resume work the next morning!

I am liking my new life very much. It feels full of potential and promise.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

New Updates

New Semester

My semester is getting off to a pretty good start. The students in my classes are very engaged. One class goes galloping off full speed in all directions -- I love their energy but it is a struggle to channel this energy productively. It's early enough in the semester that I am not worried -- I have confidence that we can connect this energy to more forward motion.

I am even feeling reasonably caught up with grading! So, even though I started off the semester already feeling a little behind (see earlier posting), to my surprise, I caught up again. How did this happen? There are two important factors at play. One is that I am no longer department chair. The other is that I have a course release this semester and so am only teaching two courses.

Not being department chair makes a huge difference in my life! There is a lot that no longer comes to me. A few things still do, but I can just pass them off to the new chair. I have been keenly aware of how much this simplifies my life and opens up time.

I do still offer advice and support to the new chair. And she is taking all of this on with cheerfulness, even saying, "I think I do better when I am very busy!" And, although I wonder how long her good cheer will last (it might last!), I am content for both of us to ride our respective cheerfulness as long as we can! Right now it's working. I will let it work! And I really do have confidence that she can handle this well over the long-term.

My life is still not simple, as such. I still coordinate our new Peace Studies program, and there is a lot to be done to continue to develop this. But last year I was doing both. It's nice to be able to focus my energies a bit more.


Also, music is returning to my life, which makes me very happy. I have four performances coming up: one on recorders, two on modern silver flute again, and one on Irish flute.

It's been an amazing experience coming back to the modern flute, after a long time of not touching it because I shifted my attention to the historical flutes. Modern flute really is a much easier instrument. But I'm not all the way back. I regained a lot of where I had been very fast -- I'd say that 75% came back in just a few days of serious practice. Then I plateaued. With a lot more hard work, I can reach 80% on a good day. I hope to reach 90% by concert day, but I might not make it. Still, my fellow performers seem pleased with where I am. One said, "it is such a joy to play with someone who is so musical," and I nearly fell over. When I confessed that I had not seriously worked with this flute for 18 years and I felt I was really struggling, she was surprised.

Embouchure comes and goes. The mark of 90% will be when I feel more consistently in control of tone quality. The high notes are really easy to hit in comparison to wooden flutes, but hard to play well, with fullness and richness of tone. They still sound thin and weak. The fingering patterns are much easier on this flute (one of the major reasons for the total re-design), and so once they came back, that part has been joyously easy.

Then there is playing style. On historical flutes, you use less vibrato. You work hard to get a rich, interesting, beautiful sound without vibrato. But the expectation with modern flute is to use vibrato more. And since I'm playing music written with this expectation, I have to go back to that style of playing. At first I felt resistant, not wanting to undo all the years of work of learning a different style. Finally I just told myself I have to trust myself now to be able to switch back and forth as appropriate. And as I leaped back into the way I used to play, I felt a mixture of amazement and joy that it was all still there and I could let it come back.

But everyone is noticing that I'm playing a little too carefully, and they tell me, "trust your instincts." They even add, "you do have good musical instincts!" What's hard at the moment is playing so many different styles on so many different instruments. But I want to be able to do this: switch back and forth. So, ironically enough, I have to work hard at letting go!

In the recorder concert, I will be playing three recorders. Some professional musicians will coach us tomorrow during a rehearsal.

Recently someone saw me with my flute case, and asked, "Is that a flute?" "Yes," I replied. "So, you are really a musician at heart, but took up philosophy in order to make a living?" I laughed and said, "Something like that!"

What struck me as really funny about that was the image of taking up philosophy as a pragmatic way to earn a living! Philosophy as a fall-back plan. Philosophy as a "day job."

Yet, this is kind of how my life is! The only real correction I need to make to that person's analysis is that I really do love philosophy too. In fact, I cannot honestly say which I love better. I just feel lucky that I get to do both.


I do finally have a closing date on my house. It's starting to feel real again. I am hoping to move soon. Then my life will look and feel very different. I am looking forward to it. I am even actually looking forward to the move itself as a creative opportunity! I will have to enter chaos for a bit, but that chaos is a necessary stage to create the opportunity for establishing a new order to my life.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Health Care Reform

I've been wanting to share thoughts on the health care debates in the U.S., but thought I should read H.R. 3200 first. It's very long. There is a nice summary, though, on the Library of Congress legislative information pages.

I am bewildered about why anyone is opposed to this.

To those who are, what specifically do you object to? And, how do you think health care should be paid for?

Should we just each pay for our own health care out of pocket? What about those who cannot afford to do so?

Should our employers pay for our health care? Why them? What if they cannot afford it? What if this is what makes it hard for many employers to stay in business? (Note that this really means that we all pay for each other's health care. Every time you pay money to a business that covers health care or health insurance for its employees, you are helping to pay for their health care.)

Should all health care be paid through health insurance? Who should pay the health insurance premiums? And, why pay for health care via health insurance companies? These are companies that are trying to make a profit, so they deny some claims. And they want to make money above and beyond covering their costs (profits) -- why do we want to pay extra money, above and beyond actual costs, for our health care? And why do we trust health insurance companies (who, again, are trying to make money) to make the decisions about whether to cover our health care costs or not?

Those lucky enough to have health insurance through their employers tend to assume that they will be well-covered if they should need expensive health care. But have you checked the details of your policy lately? You might be surprised at what is not covered, and at how much you would actually have to pay if you developed major health issues.

Have you tallied how much you and your employer have paid into the health insurance company, and compared that to how much your health care has actually cost? If you haven't cost as much money as you have paid in, are you glad that some of that money you and your employer have paid in has covered the health care costs of others? If so, why not support a government-run health care system, or a public option? At least a government system would not be trying to earn profits above and beyond covering costs, and so the extra money you have paid in would go farther than it currently does. If you have health insurance and have paid in more than your health care has cost, some of that extra money has paid for your health insurance company's profits. So, in addition to helping cover other people's health care costs, that extra money you and your employer have paid has also gone into giving shareholders some extra money.

If you have cost a lot of money, do you realize that the extra money above and beyond what you and your employer have paid in has come out of the payments of those who have not required as much health care? Have you thanked your healthy work colleagues, and those who pay for the goods or services your place of employment provides, for their contributions to your health care?

Have you ever thought you were covered for something that it turned out that you were not covered for? Have you ever refrained from seeking adequate medical attention because of concern for how much it will cost? Do you know someone who has been in this position?

I really do want to understand the point of view of those who are opposed to reforming our system. It seems so obvious to me that there are serious problems with how we have structured health care in the U.S., that I honestly do not understand why there is resistance to change.