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Chapter Six

Chapter Six

Beginnings

"Life is a winding path through hills and valleys and in the end, the journey is all that matters." Author Unknown

After High School

My life as a postgraduate adult wasn't typical for the era. I didn't run around and party (not much, anyway). I didn't date or have a boyfriend. I was still very tied to my church and our group of older teens although nearly all were dating and not as available as they were previously.

My dad warned me about dating boys from one family at church because they were "trouble-makers"! Turns out that they are really good guys now that they're older. The one who was my age, Keith Shaarda, married shortly after I did and is still with his wife today. They both retired from IBM with a beautiful family and a great pension. (I'm not too jealous!). I met him a few years ago and he told me his mom encouraged him to date me but I was already involved with your dad. Another missed opportunity? Probably not! I wouldn't have the awesome family I do today if I had married Keith.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." - Will Rogers

There was another boy that my parents hoped I would marry. Mark Cook was an auto mechanic by trade. His dad owned a service station in North Olmsted and the family were pillars in our church also. I'll never forget the day Mark called me and asked me out – it was the day after your dad asked me to marry him. Another missed opportunity? Nope! It turned out that Mark was diagnosed with Parkinson's at an early age and spent a good portion of his life totally dependent on his wife, in a wheelchair, and struggling with life in general. While I feel bad for him, I'm also thankful that I was spared a life of limitations that would or could have been imposed on me. God knew Mark wasn't a good match for me and it all worked out well.

Personal Growth

During the years after High School, I began to become "me"! These early years after I graduated were a formative time in my life as much as my early years as an infant. I began to understand what made me tick although harnessing that wasn't always easy. I still clung to my insecurities as if they were my only comfort in life.

I was convinced I would be an "old maid" like my Aunt Ludean. I can remember going to work one day in tears. Andy asked what was wrong and I burst out crying, bemoaning the fact that I had never dated and was destined to be a single odd-ball among my friends and peers. He was consoling, of course, promising that my time would come and I'd fall in love.

Of course, you know how that all went! He was right!

The Piano

The piano was a big thing in my life since I was about seven. My parents had an old upright player piano in the basement and I would come home from church and plunk out a song we sang. Listening to me do that was all the encouragement my parents needed to ditch the old player piano and buy a new piano and begin piano lessons. My first teacher came to our house once a week. She was a big woman who lived down the road from us; she had elephantiasis which fascinated me – her arms and legs were huge but her hands and her feet were so little! I think it became a distraction so we soon switched piano teachers.

My next teacher was Mrs. Basch who lived on Lorain Road not too far from the Turnpike. Mom would drop me off at her house once a week where I began to dig into the basics of playing. She was a stickler for a rounded hand and fingers, touching the keys with my fingertips instead of flat fingers and counting beats to the measures. She taught me well things that I would later teach my own students!

When mom got a part-time job at Burrows Office Supply store at Great Northern Shopping Center, we had to find a new teacher that I could access on my own. Mrs. Mitchell lived on Butternut Ridge within walking and bike-riding distance. Several others from school were taught by her so recitals were like a big party for our parents! I stayed with Mrs. Mitchel until my senior year in high school when life got a bit too busy.

One notable recital I need to share with you. It was held at Mrs. Mitchell's home on a spring afternoon. It was hot and windy that day, her livingroom packed with moms, dads, and friends seated shoulder to shoulder with some standing in the dining room to hear the students perform. The baby grand piano was situated in the room in such a way that the students were sitting in front of the front door. As I took my place at the piano, I put my sheet music on the piano in front of me, adjusted it and curled the page so it could be turned effortlessly, and began playing. Everything was going well until a sudden gust of wind blew in the front door, picked up my music, and scattered it throughout the room. I had to stop in the middle of my performance, retrieve the sheet music, and begin again. Holding back the tears only made me sweat more. By the time I as done, I was drenched from head to toe with the sweat my mom came to despise so much. Regardless of how well I played that afternoon, I had become another embarrassment to her. Ugh!

Mrs. Mitchell helped me with some very difficult music used accompanying other students in competition on the flute, violin, and vocally. I remember always being extremely nervous when it came time for competition knowing that if I messed up, it would cost the student I was accompanying in their scores. But, I pressed on. I did it. I made myself do it. I was determined. I think that same determination has followed me through most of my life, taking on things I didn't feel qualified for but achieving nonetheless.

As my life began to evolve into adulthood, my love of music and the piano continued to grow. I continued piano lessons once I had a full-time job to pay for it. I sought out the teacher that taught Steve Sidorak who was the best of the best in High School. Mrs. Newman was an ornery, scrawny, spindly, old woman who was strict and very detailed in her approach to music. As much as I didn't like her, I loved her for what she instilled in me as a musician.

Walking into her home through the back door, you would enter a room with two baby grand pianos. She would sit and one and I at the other. While I played she would yell out corrections and immediately show me how it was to sound. My keyboard accuracy was great but dynamics was something I struggled with. As I learned to allow my emotions to take the music where it was intended to go, I found that I liked her much better! Understanding music isn't just about reading the score or knowing the scales, intervals, drills, etc. It's about emotionally connecting with the composer and allowing those emotions to flow out through your own heart to your fingers as they danced on the keys. She was an amazing teacher.

While taking piano lessons, I decided to try my hand at guitar lessons. I had my dad's old guitar, put new strings on it and did my best to learn the more modern way of picking and strumming. I did fairly well, but making the transition from a keyboard to a guitar didn't come easy for me. I would try lessons once again through Ehove later after I was married – I excelled in that class though it was for beginners and I really wasn't one. I loved picking rather than strumming as it was closer to how the piano was used to become an extension of the composer. Sadly, although I still remember some basic chords, over the years I pretty much lost most of what I had learned.


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