Clean Eating

A healthy diet is super important to me. I’m of the opinion that what you eat affects your thinking, your emotional well-being, and energy levels. I’ve been vegetarian for about 3 years already and haven’t had a craving for meat since, and I feel great and haven’t had a stomach bug in years. I haven’t had a cold, fever, or virus either. I plunged into the vegan lifestyle until I lived in India where I wanted to try their dairy-dense cuisine. Since then it’s been hard to cut down the dairy products and be vegan again.

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I follow a few raw vegan advocates on Youtube such as FullyRaw Kristina, Tannyraw, the Fruitarian (an ultrarunner who wins 100+ mile races on a diet of fruits and veggies) for a few years. They say that a diet of raw fruits and vegetables is the diet for optimal health. No cooked foods, no animal products, just raw fruits and veggies. This is a bit extreme lifestyle, but I understand from how they look and their wellness that a diet of nutrient-rich living fruits and vegetables can rejuvinate the body and give the body enough nutrients to heal itself.

I’ve incorporated some of their recipes in my diet. I drink a huge green fruit smoothie  for breakfast with pineapples, bananas, spinach, parsley, and lime juice.  I’ve tried some of their delicious raw dressings for salads, and even stuffed bell peppers. They were all tasty, but don’t don’t really keep me full so I have to eat some bread to fill my stomach. Nevertheless, this lifestyle is intriguing to me and I’ve been thinking about trying out more recipes that are raw vegan. Believe it or not, there are so many different meals that can be created from just fruits and veggies.

This is a move away form the Standard American Diet (the SAD diet). Here are some SAD statistics:

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It’s no wonder that we have an obesity epidemic. The foods commonly accepted in our culture are detrimental to our health. Pizzas, fried foods, and sodas. I’ve been a part of this too, I love chocolate birthday cake, fries, and donuts. It’s all delicious but I feel bad and heavy after eating them. I’ve made a few efforts to cut the junk food.. I cut out my daily Starbucks mocha latte habit and reduced my craving for sugary pastries that I picked up in college. It’s all about eliminating one thing at a time.

I’ll update later on how I feel after I add more fruits and veggies into my diet. It might be difficut mentally and physically, but my body will be so happy that it’s getting whole nutrient-rich foods.

 

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Journaling

A blog about journaling… isn’t that surprising?

Jokes aside, I haven’t been a big journaler until recently. A small journal helped get me through the very difficult and stressful months before graduation. Journaling my goals focused my mind on what I really wanted in life, and how to get there. I don’t think I’d be where I am without writing out my big ambitions and inner thoughts.

I want to dedicate this post to journaling. A classic and simple way to stay in tune with yourself, be self-aware, and have a record of how your life is progressing.

Apart from my daily blog, I keep a personal journal. I don’t want to write all my worries and frustrations here, they are too personal and trivial. A few things in my journal are lists (I love lists), a two-page bucket list, groceries, blog ideas, small victories, and thoughts of frustration.

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Keeping a small pocket journal heleped me get through the last part of college. I went to Barnes and Noble once a week, and saw a display of tiny pocket notebooks. They came in all colors of the rainbow. I bought a thin white journal with the intention of keeping track of my final assignments and of my piano practice. But when I began to write in it, words just spilled out onto the pages like water escaping a dam. It turned into a journal of deep thoughts sprinkled with pages of to-do lists. It was so cute, it was small and not intimidating like large journals can be. While waiting for class to start I wrote whatever I was thinking in it. It was easy to carry around and convenient to put ideas in.

I still have the little white journal. Inside it I wrote that I was worried about getting a job after graduation. I didn’t want to join the workforce and do a job I didn’t like.. and now when I read it, I say to worried Elisa: “I gotchu”

Now when I write my worries in my journal, I remember that future me has got present me. Future me is always looking back at the small worries in past Elisa’a journal saying, ahh yeah, that was a small worry, I got you girl.

 

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Elisa, amateur church pianist.

When I created this blog I wanted to record some mini life “milestones” such as “first time I played a recital” or “first time I wrote a book” (hey, one day it will happen!). Today was the first time I was a professional pianist for a church congregation. AND, I got over a fear of playing for a large audience! Well, at least I got a start on conquering this fear.

I am currently learning about twenty different hymns for seven days of church services for a church pianist job.The sheer volume of hymns was a lot to learn, so I put together a binder of hymn copies in the order of each day, so I can play through them sequentially.

Before this, I haven’t had experience in learning hymns. What really helped with learning them is a solid year of sightreading. Reading music builds confidence in a musician. Without the ability to read music, learning all these hymns would take many weeks to months. Reading hymns can be difficult because there usually are four notes per beat. The layout is vertical:

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This what a typical hymn looks like. It may look intimidating because 1. there is so much space between the two staffs, and 2. how do you keep track of all the notes?? haha. The good thing is, once you get used to the choral structure, and recognize the shapes/geography of the notes, the other songs are easier to learn! And at this point I can read the hymns pretty accurately the first time, which comes with (years?) of sightreading practice. I’m very thankful for those hours a day I spent playing through songs for fun.

Now, about today’s service.. I got home at 9pm from Arkansas last night so I was late-night practicing, and kinda nervous. This morning I was reviewing everything, being a perfectionist to keep me from embarassing myself in front of an audience.

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When I walked into the chapel I approached the beautiful baby grand piano to warm up. But I ended up talking with the welcoming service leader who was there, and we went through one of the comtemporary songs together. She asked me to add a fermata (a fancy pretty roll of a chord up the keyboard), and to repeat the last section. “Okay! Sure!” I said, thinking a pianist must be flexible. Then she asked me to play background music for 8 minutes for a meditative section of the service. People would come up to the altar, light, candles, and pray. The thing is, being an amateur pianist, I didn’t prepare anything. Yikes. When she asked for the background music I said “Okay! Sure!” (freaking out on the inside). I mentally got myself together, people were already coming in the chapel at this point, and I looked through the other hymns I’ve been practicing. I chose a few hymns I hadn’t practiced enough to feel completely comfortable to play. This is where reading music is my Jesus in the religion that is music.

Oh, one more thing every pianist should be prepared for…

Even though the service program may call for “enter in silence”, you should have a prelude prepared. A prelude is pretty music while people are entering the sanctuary. For this service, it said to “enter in silence” and I assumed that I wouldn’t play a prelude. So I didn’t prepare a prelude. Wrong thinking!! When she asked me to play music as people were coming in, I also freaked out a little on the inside. So I decided to play the songs I was more confident in in my trusty hymn binder. Remember, these songs are for next week and I just learned them a few days ago. I missed a couple of notes here and there. My focus was to make it sound good and get through the prelude alive. I think I narrowly succeeded.

For the 8 minutes of meditative background music, I played a hymn a few times over and over adding different dynamics, and played an octave higher. Then I played two other pretty hymns slowly over and over. I think it was good considering I had zero preparation, it was meditative, and it was actually fun!

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Getting over the stage fright

I just realized something about this experience that helped me get over my stage fright. Worrying about being unprepared diverted my attention from being scared of playing in front of people. I was more scared that I didn’t have anything to play perfectly!! That’s a blessing in disguise. Most of the time I was unaware there were people in the congregation. I was focusing too much on playing as accurately as I could. My eyes were glued to the sheet music.

Overall, I think it was a success. I dodged a few potential failures with the ability to read music. And I learned that, as an amateur professional pianist, you need to have backup music prepared, even if the service program doesn’t say you need one. I learned to be flexible, keep calm if there are last minute changes, and remember that you are sharing your gift of music with many people to help them spiritually. That’s the best part about this job!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time, Technology, and Self-Control

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There’s no that denying technology has become an integral part of our daily lives. You’re reading this right now on either an iphone, tablet, or laptop. Technology is monopolizing our ways of communicating, and it is an incredible tool for accessing knowledge, getting help, or looking at memes. I have a love-hate relationship with the internet and social media.

Some days I decide “I’ve had enough of technology!!” and imagine putting away my laptop deep in my drawer. I’ve always want to go an entire day without a laptop… But that never ends up happening.

I have a love-hate relationship with my laptop and iphone. I hate that I spend too much time on them watching shows, but at the same time I love the the amount of information the internet can give me. The internet is a time vortex, it sucks away my time. But it also satisfies my mind’s hunger for information. If I wanted to know how to learn new piano pieces, I can look them up on YouTube. If I wanted to know the benefits of a raw vegan diet, I can hear advice from raw vegan diet experts. However,  my “research” takes me down a rabbit hole, and I end up watching prank videos thinking “how did I get here?”

I learned that Technology the ultumate test of self-discipline. Every possibility is there in front of you on the screen, and it’s up to you to decide where to spend your time.

In college when I needed to write a paper, I put on an app called “Self-Control” which disables the website you enter into it for a certain amount of hours. This helped me really focus. I couldn’t distract myself by going onto social media.

The Pros of technology are immense. The benefits of technology are why I can’t put away my laptop for a day. And here are a few examples why:

1. My emails and communication are monopolized by technology

2. My daily blogs are on this platform, of course.

3. I use the internet to listen to music while I write, while I drive, etc.

4. I use YouTube for yoga in the mornings.

 

Going a day without technology sounds appealing to me. In the 70s people didn’t have the internet or cellphones, and I always wanted to know what it was like to not look at a screen for a large portion of the day. I’m imagining all that I could get done: the paintings I could paint, the books I could have written when I was wasting time on social media. Now I’m realizing the internet is a tool, and it’s up to the user to have control over the tool, or else it will control you.

Am I the only person who thinks about this?

I might go back to using the Self-Control app.

Upward Spiral

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My life is going so well this summer. I can’t comprehend how quickly and beautifully my life has gone in an upward spiral in June/July. It’s finally my time to get what I have been working towards after a rocky 2016-2017.

The bottom of the spiral

“To go up, you must start at the bottom.”

In 2016 I was struggling with school, I had so much on my plate. I was hanging out with people who didn’t value me as a person. That went on until 2017 until I quit the club I put my heart and soul into, it was hard to leave. After leaving, a weight was lifted off my shoulders, but I went into isolation mode. The last few months of Senior year I decided not to make new friends because I thought it was too late. Students had already established their close circles. I was a drifter going off campus, to class, hiding in my room listening to records. It was a lonely, but also a liberating time to rediscover what I truly wanted in life. I lost a few good friends, and felt forgotten by people who I was close with in the past. While seniors were hanging out at senior events, I was in the practice rooms playing piano. I was consistently writing out my plans for after graduation, so I can start fresh. I did have a couple of close friends here and there who meant a lot to me, but I didn’t have a close-knit group that I so desired.

I graduated with a “get me out of here fast” mentality. I left all the people who kinda knew me behind. It felt good and I’m so glad I experienced that turmoil and loneliness. It was the bottom of the upward spiral.

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Momentum Begins Upward!

THE day after graduation when I came home I was very hopeful. I decided to start my own business teaching piano and distributed flyers as fast as I could.  I thought:

“I am living in a new populated city, no one knows me, I am going to study the main thing I want in the Fall. AND, I’m going to make friends in the community.” I elaborated on these hopeful thoughts in my journal.

Things picked up when I got two adorable students. And I enjoyed teaching them about something I am obviously passionate about. To meet like-minded people in the area I started going to meetup events like meditations and art events. Then at a meditation I met three really cool, caring, adventurous people, two were a few years older than me, and another one was closer to my age. We went to Frida fest together, took a hiking trip near Austin, and we’re going to hike in Arkansas this weekend. They are the people I was hoping to find and I am very grateful for their positivity and friendship.

My piano teaching business wasn’t picking up because people weren’t repsonding to my flyers. So I applied to a music studio where I teach in people’s homes. And I got the job! Now I don’t need to actively search for students, and I can teach students on my own time while I study at SMU.

A week ago I also got another opportunity to play hymns at SMU’s chapel for Course of Study, my first church playing gig for $50 a day. I am playing seven days of worship services. My Mom is currently showing me the ropes for music leading, because she did this job for decades.

Right now I am so grateful for this upward spiral. I have good friendship, a flexible part time job that I like to do, I get to write in this blog everyday, and I get to continue to study my favorite thing to do in the Fall: music!
I feel blessed to have time to be creative, to write, paint, make videos, and of course play piano. That all started when I took the plunge to trust in myself and in my musicianship. I trusted there are friends out there to travel with, and bam here they are! Life spirals up and down, and we need to experience the downs to experience the joy of spiraling upward. I hope this beautiful upward spiral will keep gaining momentum, because I feel things are just starting.

Two State Parks, One Day!

This morning I’m very excited because I’m going hiking with a few friends to

Gorman Falls at Colorado State Park:

Gorman Falls

and Dinosaur State Park.

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We’re going to drive south 3 hours to Colorado State park in Bend, Texas, and hike for 4 miles. Then we’ll head back up towards Dallas to Dinosaur State Park. Over there we’re doing a full Moon hike, which means we’ll be hiking at night! Full moons are magical to me and I’m excited to see it when I’m completely surrounded by nature. I’m not writing a lot today because I have to leave soon. But tomorrow I’ll write about it and post pictures. I’m bringing my good camera so I can take photos, and maybe make a short movie. 🙂

 

Frida Fest 2017

Last weekend I went to the Dallas Museum of Art. I wrote a blog post about it here, and there were flyers about a Frida Fest next Thursday. Frida, as in the famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. I thought I would love to go to that.. But I didn’t think I would get to go.

Then, my friends wanted to hang out Thursday night, the same day as Frida Fest. And I said yoo let’s go to the Frida fest!! And Bayamm we went!

What is Frida Fest, you ask?

Good question. It’s an evening to celebrate her 110th birthday, and people can dress up like the famous Mexican artist and Frida Kahlo to celebrate her life. The Dallas Museum of Art displayed her paintings, and there was birthday cake. AND we could break a guiness world record for the most people dressed as Frida!
Requirements for the world record:

  • Unibrow (signature Kahlo look)
  • at least three flowers on the head
  • A long floral dress
  • A pink or red shawl

Here she is for reference:

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To make sure we fit the requirements, I made four headbands of different colored flowers. They were pretty fast and easy to make! The flowers popped right off the stems (no scissors needed) and I used hot glue to attach them to inexpensive headbands.

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Here we are wearing the headbands:

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When we got to the museum there were Fridas. EVERYWHERE. SO Many! I read that there were thousands in total. There’s not doubt we broke the world record.

It was hot waiting outside in the line of Fridas. I’ll never say that line again. Even though it was sticky and hot outside, I enjoyed looking at all the beautiful versions of Frida. There were men dressed as Frida, and women weaved their dark brown hair neatly into braids on the back of their head. When I lived up north, I really missed the exposure to Mexican culture, and yesterday I appreciated seeing hundreds of colorful traditional Mexican dresses.

Here’s a YouTube video I made of the event to put it into perspective:

 

If you saw the video, you can see that we were organized in a certain pattern for the picture. I don’t know what shape we were making exactly, but we just stood there and often people would cheer “Frida! Frida!!”. Since we got there kind of late we didn’t have to stand as long, in fact, we stood there for ten minutes. Then it was over!

Afterwards we got some water (it was so hot). There was no birthday cake left, obviously because there were sooo many people! I loved that there were a lot of us, because it shows how much respect we have for Mexican art and for this iconic woman.

 

 

Life depending on a magical box

It’s weird to think that my entire life will be dependent on a magical box.


 

My life has made a turnaround this past year.

A year ago I decided to try to apply to a music school.

A few months ago I got in.

A month ago I decided to be a piano teacher.

Two weeks ago I got the job as a freelancing piano instructor.

Last week I got the job to play hymns for a week of worship services.

I don’t aim to flaunt about this, but I’m making a realization that..

My entire earnings will be dependent on this magical box.

I look at the instrument, and if it didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have a job. Simple as that.

It’s a row of tuned strings inside a wooden box. I teach people how to push certain keys to vibrate the strings. And it makes a gorgeous sound! What a magical box. What a magical life to create sound, and teach people how to create sounds that can change the atmosphere of a room.

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Boots in summer

These black boots are walking reminder of how unwilling I am to buy new shoes.
These boots guided me through snow of a
brown, or pure white color that would leave a unique tie dye pattern.
The toes of my socks soaked of water.
Nevertheless, they served me well.
They continue to serve me well.

I don’t own sandals for the summer.
Women sporting their painted toenails.
Free of clostrophobia, sunkissed.

Looking down is a reminder that I still have last Fall’s style, that of Rochester. So in.

No flip flops falling off my feet accidentally.
No weaving my feet through intricate straps of leather.

They embrace feet and hug my calves. It’s the type of closeness I need.

I don’t care what I am wearing on my feet as long as they help me get where I want to go.

My Piano Inspiration

This morning I was lost for a subject to write about. But I finally found one! The way I chose today’s topic was different. Normally before I start writing, I put on some type of instrumental music for writing. I was thinking “okay, once I have the music maybe it can give me some idea”. So today I searched “Martha Argerich Chopin” and I was like, what the heck. Let’s write about my favorite pianist ever!!

Martha Argerich, from Argentina was a piano prodigy, and studied under Glenn Gould. Now at the age of 70-something, she continues to hash out energetic performances in Europe and Japan. She is main person who has influenced me to be a better piano player since I heared her performance of Chopin’s Polonaise Heroic. Her recording of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No.1 has stuck with me for years. Last year she got a Kennedy Center Honor for being a badass pianist. And now she is one of the judges for the Chopin International Piano Competition.

To summarize her style, her playing is fiery, fluid, dynamic, fearless, and colorful. I’ve attached a video of her Polonaise Heroic performance that won her the International Chopin competition in 1967.

 

I think Martha paved the way for female concert pianists, because she started in the 60s and I don’t think there were many famous female concert pianists in that era.

Her youngest daughter did a documentary about her life, and it shows how exhausting and mentally draining it is to be a concert pianist. It’s not a glamourous job because you travel from country to country, tired, straight to rehearsal and play at a concert the next day. She always had stage fright before performances, and would make up excuses to not go on stage. She has a reputation for cancelling concerts last minute. In the piano world Martha is kind of a diva, but because of her mastery over the piano, she can be a diva. Nevertheless, I would love to go to one of her concerts one day. Sadly they are all in Europe and she doesn’t come to the US.

I’ve listed a few of Martha’s impeccable performances here:

 

 

I think it’s important to have a musical influence to look up to and to aim to be as good as. I know I’ll never be an amazing of a musician as Martha, but still her music has brought me bliss, enjoyment, and so much emotion. Even listening to great musicians makes you a better musician. Listening to the greats improves your playing more than you are aware. Once I started listening to more of her music, and other great pianists, I became more sensitive to sounds. I developed more of a classical music taste. The ability to listen is key, no pun intended. And why not listen to the best!