student days… (a quick memoir)

Dear friends

30 years ago I was towards the end of my first year studying architecture. I may have mentioned before, I studied at University of Edinburgh – it had been my long time desire to study there and I was blessed to make it. I absolutely love my Edinburgh days; I made great friends and had great experiences. I loved studying architecture, that had been my long time desire since the age of about 14 years. However it was not a pleasant experience as generally I recall struggling with the large egos of tutors and fellow students, not all, but enough!

30 years later and I am traveling to a local university where I have been tutoring first year architecture students these past six months. How enlightening it has been for me to discuss architecture with these young people. And how difficult!!! And how sad as I see them not working and continually falling short of what I see so clearly in them. We recently did a hand drawing quiz, prepared by one of the full time lecturers, i.e. 1 minute to draw an internal wall with a door at scale 1 to 50. (This may sound technical but remember these students have been drawing and studying the topic since last September so it should not have been a difficult task). Only a few managed to correctly draw this in the minute given to them 😦

I’m now on my way to see the annual school exhibition. In my first year, my hand drawn sketch of a half onion was exhibited 🙂 I’m interested to see what the third years produce at the end of their degree since some of my first years will be there in two years. Hopefully this will also help me to understand the ethos of this school of architecture and current architectural education.

Much can happen in two years… not to mention thirty years…

I’ve been much more reflective about time in recent months as I approach the age of Kylie Minogue! I recently heard a radio journalist who invited two friends to live by a motto for a month, such as, live every day as if it’s your last. I was impressed by the attitude of the individual as they made the effort to contact extended relatives and even organise a simple family gathering.

The recent words of living prophets and apostles – #LDSconf – have also touched my heart. I keenly feel that we are living in the time of the parables specifically concerning the last days, like the parable of the ten virgins. These are wonderful but perilous times – we must prepare and that doesn’t happen overnight… two years?… thirty years?… a lifetime?…

You can judge for yourself 🙂

Advertisements

drafting skills

Dear friends

A few evenings ago, I helped Daur1 complete the first draft of her personal statement for medical school, reducing it from 6000+ characters to less than 4000 (the maximum allowable). At the end, at 2359h, she exclaimed to the rest of the awake household (Son1 and her father):

Mum has a superpower!! A gift!!

I know! replied her father, and they began discussing how I should do proofreading after retirement… in 20 years 🙂 I explained that it’s a bit too plain English for the academic environment!!

It took me a while to discover this skill and I do recognise it is a little unusual. It’s closely related to my other superpower, the ability to quickly assimilate large amounts of information and identify the salient points. I first realised I had these twin skills some years ago when I re-wrote and collated a submission for beacon council status following a rather inadequate draft from a private consultant which my boss was not too happy with. We were shortlisted and went on to win the status.

I’m actually quite a slow reader; with the statement last night (made worse because I was tired but then adrenaline kicked in…) it took me a good 15 mins to read the initial 6000+ words and understand what Daur1 was trying to write.

I’ve learnt that skills and abilities come in many, many ways, some hidden, some more obvious. I know all of us have a super power, probably several, something that makes you uniquely you and something that you can use to help others. Gifts, talents, skills, super powers, are not there for selfish reasons and I think rarely directly benefit the person who possesses them, except in a way that they can serve others. I’ll let scripture explain more eloquently what I’m trying to say, from Doctrine and Covenants section 46:

11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

26 And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.

listening…

Dear friends

I’m here at Son2 piano lesson. His teacher feels he has great finger technique, and he’s definitely more natural than I ever was as a child. But… 

Son2 is 9 years old. And trying to get a nine year old son to practice is tough, unless he’s in the mood, which most of the time he isn’t.  

Son2 struggles with reading the notes or at least remembering them and currently has the attitude that as long as he can play the piece, reading the music is secondary.  Last night I gave him some notes quizzes to encourage him, but it began and ended with tears, Son2’s.   Son1, who was doing Chemistry revision, said did I really need to put Son2 through this?  I took Son1 out of violin lessons when he reached the age of no practice (around 9 years), and my dear husband feels that was a mistake, so I’ve made it quite clear that Son2 will continue unless Son2 declares to his teacher, grandma and father that he wants to give up.  Is that too tough?  

As I recall, at nine years old, one, generally, has little experience but you feel like you can do everything and anything given the chance – be a pilot, be a train driver, be a famous dancer/ singer/ actor.  But you don’t know what it takes to get there, i.e. the self discipline to practice, the humility to learn. 

So I’m listening to the scales, listening to the notes, listening to the teacher, listening to Son2 struggling and achieving!  It may be difficult right now but one day you will appreciate the self discipline that you will develop 🙂

a musical assignment

Dear friends

When I was around 8 or 9 years old, I really wanted to play the piano.  I was already learning the tenor horn at school but I absolutely became desperate to learn piano.  I received a small electronic organ for Christmas but I must have continued to pester my Mother, or my Mum decided that a child playing piano was a great thing, because on my 10th birthday I received piano lessons which my Mother continued to pay for for the next several years… I think until I moved away to university.  Sadly, we could never afford more than my two octave keyboard, and I was never that diligent in practising…
The first opportunity I had to live with a piano came several years later when I served as a missionary.  I was in Lancaster, Lancashire, and our house had a piano, and of course, a church song books.  The hymns were tricky but the children’s song book… So over the following couple of months, I spent time on our free day playing piano and became fairly competent at a few pieces. 
After my mission, I had a flat mate with an old piano who left it when moving out to make room for my dear husband.  We kept the piano for the first flat move but with children and subsequent moves it got left in a large unfurnished two bed with a moisture problem!
Several years and two more children later, we decided to put together some Christmas gift vouchers the children had received and buy a Yamaha keyboard – 5 octaves.  I recall Son1 was not too keen on a family keyboard taking the place of more wooden train tracks.  He still remembers that!
So here we are, Daur2 is learning piano, Son2 will hopefully start piano lessons at school this term, and I often have a nagging feeling that I’m not using my musical talent…
Flash forward to last Sunday and after church meetings the choir director is in the hall getting support and I hear her call out – I need someone to play piano.  In a moment of generosity I admit I can, enough to play the melody, in fact all four parts but not at the same time (I’ve never truly mastered playing more than one key with each hand!).  Then, out of nowhere, my dear mother states – oh yes, Vanessa can play, did piano lessons for years! And I’m thinking – please don’t big it up too much.  Sister Choir Director thrusts some sheet music into my hands and asks:

Can you play this?
With some practice!

I respond. And that’s it! I don’t even recognise the hymn – but it’s not like it’s in C major so that’s a plus, I think.  On telling my dear children on the way to the car, Daur1 asks, and when are you going to find time to practice that!?  Mmm… a good point me thinks!! This post has taken the best part of 3 days to write.

It’s nearly the middle of the weeks, four full days till next Sunday, and I’ve yet to touch the keyboard but I have done some air piano :). Maybe Sister Choir Director is planning on the hymn being sung a capella and only needs the melody played to learn the hymn… doesn’t everyone dream of doing a piano recital… I’ll update you on what happens…