Thursday, May 16, 2013

If the Lord loves a cheerful giver I’m in serious trouble.

I have referred from time to time to my gig as elementary school choir accompanist.  My girls joined the 5/6th grade choir at the beginning of the school year and I was thrilled about it.  The things they came home singing were exactly the kind of music I wanted them to experience.  It was great. 

Then in November an emergency email came from the choir teacher.  (Who is the music teacher at this elementary school and two other schools nearby.)  Her regular choir accompanist, an 85 year old woman, was having emergency surgery and would surely not be back for any of the Christmas performances.  Was there anyone available who could play the piano for the choirs???

I thought about it.  I can play the piano, some.  I’m not particularly good and I have bad stage fright, but I decided that because I was so happy for my girls to have this opportunity I could offer my services in case no one else with better qualifications showed up.  I was fairly certain I would not need to make good on my offer.

I was wrong.

And so I started my new career as a volunteer at the elementary school, a thing I have not done in almost 19 years.  For the two months that were left of fall semester I went to the school three times a week—for an hour after school on Monday, and for a half hour during lunch on Wednesday and Thursday.  I joked with the women in the office each day as I signed in that for a homeschooler, I was spending an awfully lot of time at the public school.

The first performance was grueling.  I’d only had the music for a week and a half at that point, I found out when I arrived that I would be playing a rickety keyboard, and I thought I would die of fear.  Afterwards I wanted to walk into the small audience and assure everyone that I did indeed know how terribly I’d played—it was just short of humiliating.

They had several more Christmas-time performances, and each time I did a little better.  Except perhaps for the performance at the zoo when it was 32 degrees—I played with fingerless gloves and still had a hard time playing the fast parts because I was so cold.


When the new semester started I was thrilled to find out that because of a schedule change at one of the other schools, there was no more Monday afternoon choir and my girls’ choir was now meeting at lunch on Wednesdays.  This means that since January I’ve spent an hour every Wednesday and 1/2 hour every Thursday at the school. 

Two days a week is so much better than three, but I have to tell you it’s still killing me.  I’m not equally effective at all points throughout my day, and my prime time (and therefore best homeschool time) is between 9 or 10 and lunchtime.  That’s normally plenty of time for us to do the things we do together.  But on Wednesday and Thursday I have to leave a few minutes after 11.  This means that if we don’t get started until 10, we have just an hour to get through all of our stuff or something remains undone.  Now I am a really flexible relaxed homeschooler.  So not getting through everything every once in a while isn’t that big of a deal.  But losing this time out of my day twice a week has made things significantly more difficult, and that has been frustrating to me.

Over & over I have told myself to have a better attitude about it but it’s been hard.

Complicating the situation is the choir teacher herself.  This woman is really amazing.  She is super energetic, a bit bigger than life, and goes way above and beyond.  The choirs for the elementary schools are all voluntary—she does them during her lunch hour.  This semester she also staged a play with kids in the 6th grade (maybe I’ll blog more about that later) which was a huge undertaking.  But.  She really wastes a lot of time.  And I get it—this is her program, and it’s her time to waste.  Except that she’s wasting my time too, and as a homeschooling mother my time is really precious to me.

Yesterday morning was certainly the worst yet.  I was already in a cranky mood, I’m not even sure why.  (No protein maybe?) The weather was bad and the kids were all fractious and she spent a great deal of time fussing and even occasionally yelling at them.  We have a performance tonight and both groups had songs that were really not ready to perform, and I certainly (CERTAINLY) needed practice going through the songs with the kids singing.  The choirs practice for only 20-25 minutes each, so in my mind every minute is precious.  But both times she spent almost half of her time talking to the kids, and them crammed the practicing into the little bit of time that was left.  When they were done singing I couldn’t get out of the room or the school fast enough. 


I hate feeling this way.  This is not who I want to be.  In my mind I practice being gracious and giving and patient.  But in my head & life I can’t reconcile all of it and I just end up cranky and frustrated.

I keep telling myself that it will all be over soon.  After tonight’s concert the 3rd and 4th grade choirs will be done and it will just be one practice a week for the next few weeks until the big choir trip to an amusement park in Washington.  (Something else I’m not looking forward to but that my girls are excited about.)  And then I’ll be done, and hopefully I’ll be able to look back and appreciate the good parts.  That I got to experience this with my girls.  That my piano playing improved.  That occasionally I had less stage fright. 

And maybe next time around I’ll do better at the cheerful part.


  1. I am exhausted just hearing about it! I'm curious to know if it's made you feel more "at home" in Oregon. I have been really frustrated this year that volunteering at the school, etc. has been a lot harder than it was for me in Atlanta. There, I could sneak over to the school during nap time if I needed to, since we were right across the street, within monitor range, and it was just never a big deal to be there. I felt totally at home at the school, and I feel like that was really a good thing for my kids.

    Now we're too far for me to walk, and the parking situation is TERRIBLE. Like you end up walking a quarter of a mile anyway- it's seriously horrible and my blood pressure is going up just thinking about it. Marley and Eric will go to a different school next year and I think that will be better- at least I'm hoping. Anyway, that's been one of the hardest things for me here...

  2. I should clarify that the reason I hate the long walk from the car to the school is because Ellie is such a slow walker/ so heavy/ easily distracted, so I almost always end up trying to carry her, screaming and kicking, up the steep hill that the school is on. I seriously hate this school because of the parking!!