Hide It Under a Bushel, No! continued

Faithful readers will remember that last week we left a young but determined Janet searching for talent and thinking she might find it at the piano.



Mom agreed I could take piano lessons. She enrolled me with Mrs. Rowe, a patient lady with an imposing bosom, who shed talcum powder as she sat beside me on the piano bench and did her best.

I pounded away at the keyboard for a couple of years, earning saliva-smudged, gold stars when I mastered a piece, and then decided I should debut. I began to badger my mother about playing in church. With what I considered unseemly reluctance, she secured an invitation for me to perform during evening services.

Mrs. Rowe recommended I play March of the Wooden Soldiers because I thumped it out quite nicely. I tortured my family for two weeks with its four-page arrangement, practicing it over and over, demanding a critique after each repetition.

Finally, I had it — except for the last five measures, which contained a scale quickly rippling down three octaves, followed by a series of resounding chords. I usually bumbled the opening notes of the scale and had to start over.

I ran out of practice time before I could correct this unfortunate glitch.

On Sunday evening, I donned a pink, dotted-Swiss dress Mom made for my performance and wriggled nervously in a pew until my solo was announced. Face fiery red, I walked forever through somber silence to the piano sitting near the podium.

I plopped down, peered at unrecognizable notes, and sounded the opening chords, my heart leaping so high it clogged my sinuses.

As I played, my situation worsened. The strange surroundings closed in, narrowing my vision, causing me to pant with claustrophobia and drip with sweat. But I didn’t falter. The wooden soldiers and I marched on and on and on and on toward the final measures.

At last, I began the scale. Five notes later, my little finger failed to bridge over my thumb. Silence reigned. I started over. Again, I tripped on my thumb. Sinking so low my chin rested on middle C, I tried once more. And finished.

Mom assured me no one would hold that minor mistake against me. My younger sister said she thought the music was supposed to stumble around at the end, like maybe one soldier was drunk. I said nothing, just crawled back under my bushel.

A few years later, a fire, which burned our home and possessions, consumed my talent as well: no piano, no lessons. I don’t remember minding.

Still, on occasion, I sit at our piano and hammer out basic tunes to the accompaniment of a CD that came with a recent purchase, “Piano for Dummies.” These efforts build neither talent nor skill, but a quiet sense of enjoyment.

Please share any thoughts you have
about this post
by commenting below.


Hide It Under a Bushel, No!

I listened to my father’s voice soar when he sang solos in church.

I saw the first, faltering, ice-skating attempts of my brother, and a year later watched him swoop around a frozen pond, skating backward with a smile on his face.

My mother, who could create anything, took up the art of tole painting in her sixties. I witnessed her absorption and contentment as she studied, practiced, and progressed.

So when I started blogging, “Utilizing Talents and Skills” became one of my categories for living and aging well. This post and the next will detail my first experience with talent development.

 As a young child, I believed I should share my special abilities whenever and wherever possible. I formed this philosophy from two unrelated experiences in church: hearing a parable about buried talents and singing a song about a little light: “Hide it under a bushel, no! I’m gonna let it shine!”

I assumed the light I should shine was the talent I shouldn’t bury. I knew about talents. We had assemblies at school where the older students tap-danced, played the accordion, and attempted to yodel.

I wondered what my talent could be.

It definitely wasn’t singing. As Aunt Beulah said, I couldn’t carry a tune and shouldn’t try. While other family members received compliments for their soaring voices, my tuneless chirping caused merriment in some, fear I wouldn’t stop in others.

Convinced my voice was better off under a bushel, I looked for a different talent to share. Many of my third-grade friends studied piano. While I envied the important-looking satchels filled with music they carried on lesson day, I’d never thought of learning to play myself.

Then one Sunday I watched teenage perfection, Mavis Beck, with queenly posture and slender fingers, execute a dizzying rendition of Flight of the Bumblebee.

images-1As the last notes faded, she inclined her head graciously, holding the pose for several seconds. Chapel light gleamed on her honey-blonde curls; her cheeks glowed a beguiling pink.

I wanted that talent.

Will little Janet’s pursuit of a talent be realized?
Does she understand what talent is?
Does it matter?
Tune in next week to find out!

Have some thoughts
about today’s post?
Please  comment.

A Late Discovery

Pencil-Clip-Art After I published a post chronicling my decision to compile a book, a few readers asked how I discovered my passion for writing. Did I write all my life, astounding or dismaying others with my prose? Or did writing come to me more reluctantly, like convincing a toddler to open his mouth for pureed spinach?

The spinach analogy works.

I always felt I could write, and my teachers seemed to agree—with varying degrees of enthusiasm. But writing required work; I found it easier and more fun to spend my time reading the words of others and trying to peel the foil from gum wrappers.

Besides, my lifelong ambition was to teach, not write, so why bother?

As a teacher, I most enjoyed teaching literacy: reading, writing, and speaking. The individual writing conferences I had with students of all ages rank among my happiest teaching memories.

During these conversations, I frequently tried to help my students understand the necessity of deleting words, sentences, or paragraphs that divert a reader’s attention from the writer’s story or purpose — like a fly buzzing around a bride’s head as she’s reciting her wedding vows.

girl-face-cartoon-clip-art_416713Nose-to-nose with an uninhibited second-grader, after a detailed discussion of the strengths we’d found in her story, I gently wondered if two sentences describing her pretty birthday cake, in the middle of a story about trick-or-treating, might confuse her readers.

Could those sentences be taken out of this story and saved for another about her birthday?

“Oh no, Mrs. Bohart, I WROTE them in THIS story. I CAN’T take them out. They’re too GOOD!”

How well she summarized the agony of all writers.

After I retired, buoyed by my enjoyment of a class for beginning bowlers where I had fun and managed to break 100, I took a memoir class. In it, I wrote the memories of my heart, which I read to positive classmates, who laughed at the right times and never looked puzzled or appalled.

I haven’t quit writing since. I had discovered late in life that I could lose myself in writing, allowing my hair to go uncombed and pot roasts to burn.

Choosing the perfect descriptor or thinking of a clever comparison pleased me inordinately; I wrote with a contented smile and emptied the dishwasher with a tumult of ideas swirling in my head. Finally, at age 65, I had begun practicing the skills I preached to students.

It’s never too late to find, or develop, a passion.

Today’s Question:
What talent or skill
would you like to develop?

What You Said About “Words Matter”
A theme emerged in last week’s comments: parents and teachers need to model the language they want their children to use. Sue kept a quote in her classroom “Children are a mirror,” to remind her to choose her words carefully. Becca, a mom, admitted she sometimes forgets the impact of her words until they come out of her child’s mouth. Kathleen, Becca’s cousin, also stated she wasn’t a perfect mother when her children were young, but she never called them names or berated them; she knew they already had enough to battle out in the world. She also shared a hilarious story about her decision to name her son Tucker. If you haven’t seen it, you’ll want to take a look.

Dubious Skills

As a child, I pushed myself to color inside the lines, climb to the tops of trees, and jump until the rope-turners quit. I believed my fan base would increase each time I made a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

Now I’m easier on myself when I’m developing new proficiencies or abilities. Rather than trying to outshine others, my goal is to be engaged and content—especially when utilizing my more dubious skills.
For example, I enjoy arranging flowers from our garden in decorative vases for display around the house. I feel energized and creative as I snip branches, trim leaves, and position blossoms.

However, when I step back to admire my handiwork, I often find I’ve created a lop-sided bouquet littered with bald spots. And why did I think a single lilac blossom and fourteen yellow tulips would be an attractive combination?

But I’m not discouraged. As soon as the daisies droop and roses wilt, I happily create new eyesores.

When alone in the house, I sing with volume and drama. I belt out ballads, pop tunes, cowboy laments, and church hymns. Song fragments burst from me. I wail, yodel, and growl like Janis Joplin—all off key.

Singing with others, I hum along demurely, not wishing to offend the sensitive or startle dogs.

woman_driving_2I like to drive. I snack, sing, and comment on the driving of others: “Well, hoity-toity lady, aren’t you something as you drive your little red car very, very fast and pass on a curve. Tut, tut!”

But when I have passengers, my enjoyment falters as I’m made edgy by their white knuckled terror.

On Saturdays, I enthusiastically assemble my cookbooks and make a weekly menu and shopping list. I scan coupons, check the refrigerator and cupboards for ingredients, and badger Joel for ideas. I then prowl supermarket aisles, anticipating the fine cuisine I’ll prepare for our dinners.

Then, as the week unfolds, I discover I planned three pasta meals, forgot to buy the chicken for the fricassee, and picked up a can of corn instead of pineapple bits for the fancy dessert.

Vonnegut Saying www.ArtProMotivate.comBut neither questionable skills nor challenged talents dissuade me from pursuing activities I enjoy. Excellence is no longer required.

Have some thoughts
about questionable skills you enjoy?
I’d be interested.

Summary of Comments on “Family Economics”
Three wise ladies, all sharing the same philosophy, agreed with Aunt Beulah that developing financial sense in children matters. mrs1500 mentioned that it is up to parents to teach their children how to “take care of their financial house.”  Janice added that living within one’s financial means allows for independence in many other ways; and Becca explains to her children that sometimes its less about what we like and more about what works.  Wise words all.