A Chinese friend came over today and showed us how to make homemade dumplings. They turned out great – just like the ones you buy. (This has nothing to do with today’s post- it was just a fun thing for today and I didn’t have a picture readily available to go along with today’s post! 🙂

Years ago, in college, I made a very detailed list of new year’s resolutions. I was going through a discipleship program at the time, and had divided up my life in 4-5 categories (spiritual, social, etc.) and selected a theme verse and listed out my goals, or resolutions, or areas of improvement, in each of those categories, and let me tell you, the list was long. Way too long! I certainly did not achieve everything that I had written down. It was too much and too detailed.

While I think it’s a good idea to think about each aspect of our lives, It doesn’t have to be in that kind of detail. I no longer “officially” make resolutions, but I used to, though they were much simpler than that detailed list I made in college.

A few years ago, a good friend and I were talking about this, not necessarily about making resolutions, but recounting the many items on our lists that we wanted to learn, improve, or do. Sort of like a bucket list. At the time, we were both immersed in the world of caring for very young children and feeling hungry for more, and talked about how we could practically add more reading, learning and intellectual and creative refreshment into our lives, and to hold one another accountable for doing so.

One idea we landed on was to pick just 1 item (or 2 at the most) each year from our “bucket list” and do that one thing. It’s doable to do one thing per year, and not several. Of course, we were not saying that spiritual growth was not a priority for us, but that maybe we picked one thing from that list and one thing from another area.

So this year? 

For me, it’s two things, one major and one minor (musical pun on purpose). 🙂

A few months ago I sat down to play the piano, songs I used to be able to play well, and I was appalled at how stiff my fingers were and how much I had lost. So, at that time, I began playing piano regularly to get the rust out and to at least gain back what I lost. I can easily spend an hour at a time, though it’s tempting to spend more time, and it will take many of those hours to regain some proficiency. I’m not that good; just intermediate level, but certainly don’t want to lose what I’ve learned, and I’ve got plenty of books with songs I don’t know how to play yet. This year I am making an intentional effort to play the piano regularly. This is the minor of the two, since it involves practicing and not necessarily learning something new.

Now for the “major” one. When I was in college, I was a member of a creative ministry team. We mostly acted out skits, but also sang worship songs and shared testimonies. We traveled to churches in the area. One of the gals played guitar, she was self-taught, and I was inspired to learn it as well. I wanted to be able to play worship and praise songs and to take that guitar along also, or wherever needed. I even spent all of the $250 in my savings account into purchasing a guitar.

I ended up with a classical guitar, because for some reason that I can’t explain, I had decided I was going to learn that. I used one of my electives and enrolled in beginning classical guitar. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I loved classical guitar, had been to Spain and had been introduced to Andres Segovia’s music. Somehow that won over the steel string. 

Guitar was going beautifully; I enjoyed it and the instructor said the sound was a good one.

But then, in the middle of the semester, I had a minor freak accident. While exiting a car, I somehow slammed the car door on my right thumb. Ouch. No fun. The thumb was swollen, the nail was going to fall off, and I had to keep the injury all wrapped up for a number of weeks. It was not pretty.

And I was out of guitar for the rest of the semester.

Well, that was the end of that. After that, I ended up teaching myself a few simple chords, and even learned to play one song that my guitar playing friend had written. 

But since then, the guitar has been sitting and waiting….

Also a few years back, some friends were moving overseas and wanted to sell their piano and guitar. And since we didn’t have a piano, and my kids were starting lessons, it was a package deal of both for $400. This was a steel-string guitar. So now, I have that one also. I don’t think it’s a great quality guitar, but it’s something.

I thought perhaps one of my kids would learn guitar, which is one reason I kept them. None of my kids have taken up guitar, but I require them to take piano lessons (at the minimum). In order to graduate from my house (home school), they must learn music; it’s a non-negotiable requirement. My older son is fighting against it this year; we’re having a hard time fitting it in, and though he isn’t proficient enough to stop here, we haven’t figured out how we are going to get him to lessons. He has a lot going on, but I’m not ready to give up on this yet. My younger son is doing well with piano, and my older daughter took both piano and cello; I miss listening to her play. 

At this age, I do no think they can fully understand and appreciate what a life-long gift it is to be able to play an instrument. In my view, there is absolutely no reason why they should not be learning this if we have access to it. (Does that sound harsh?) I do understand some kids may struggle more, and I can see it’s harder for some, but with my kids, though they may have to work harder, it’s not impossible. Practice is painful and not fun, but the results are worth it. And if piano turns out not to be their thing, it’s fine with me if they try something else after a few years of piano.

My parents gave me that opportunity: I took music and art lessons after school for years. I am immensely grateful. They even let me try other things, too. Here in the U.S., so many young people do have access to these things, even in the schools (many in the rest of the world do not). I think it’s such a gift. I say: take advantage of it. Learn it! Use it!

I think about pulling out the guitar every single year- it is one of the things on my own list I consistently regret not doing. That will be remedied starting today: someone is coming to look at the guitars and tell me what strings I should get, as the strings are loose and broken and need replacing. Then, I need advice on whether either of these are worth keeping, or should be sold (or traded??) for something else that fits me better. I am so much looking forward to all of this. I know it will take some time to start all over again and learn (and there will be pain involved from learning how to play), but I’m just taking one small half-step at a time. 🙂