I Choked

When is it that you just throw in the towel, admit defeat, decide that you truly suck at something?  A lot of cliche’s, they best describe how I’m feeling about my piano.

Every month I get together with some women, who could care less how I play, it’s just that I’d like them to not have to suffer through my piece either.  They’re really good, I won’t go unless I’ve had sufficient time to practice.  I can sight read, it’s not fluent like they’re able to do.  There’s no way I could just pick a piece of music up and play it in front of people.  The hardest part for me is to play in front of people, the first time I did it my fingers were shaking.

It just reminds me of my extreme stage fright as a kid and somehow powering through a recital.  My other stage fright was choir, I worked so hard one time to get the solo then choked during it.  It’s not just a matter of stage fright, no matter how much I practice someone else enters my body to render me frozen with a blank mind.  Even surfing, once that camera is on I can barely stand up!  The girls who run the camps told me that happens with the pro’s too during competition.  Some people come alive in the spotlight, I freak out.  Probably why I’m such a good friend to people who demand a spotlight?

My piece yesterday was Jazzy Jingle Bells, more advanced than my actual ability piece.  My new piano teacher thought I could pull it off.  I’ve been working on it all month, practicing every day.  Then when I played it in front of the group yesterday I really struggled.  At one point I almost got up and quit right there, the paper I printed out for the first page fell off the gorgeous Steinway (a piano made for a better player than I).  I sat down afterward to dig into the cookies.  I never eat the snacks before I play to avoid crumbs on the keys.

Afterwards we all chat about music, or anything that comes to mind.  The subject of how she got the Steinway grand came up.  Her husband’s friend is a Dr. who at one point decided to take up piano, bought the best, then got too frustrated and wanted to sell it.  Somehow that story made me feel a little better, the cookies didn’t hurt either.

Since I’ve experienced choking quite a few times in my life at this point, I’ve come to a few personal conclusions about it.

  1. No one cares
  2. Pick something that’s within my ability
  3. Give up on my dreams of being a senior rock star
  4. Keep playing, it’s supposed to be “fun.”

I tried to look up a youtube on someone playing this with no luck.  For copyright purposes, I can’t even put my pdf up of what I ordered.  The link to the sheet music site is here.  What I chose was the advanced version, part of my frustration even if I was playing it semi-decent at home.

My competitiveness is waning, the old Heller would just get pissed and become better.  This new version is ready to sell my piano.  Ahhh, but it’s raining and the only thing to do at home is either clean, play, or write?


Lots of parent soul searching while I’m out here, do I live for my kids or start living for me?  I’ve never been good at discipline with the kids, he really needs someone strict to just get him going and not have a meltdown (like I already did).  I want to help him, I’m just not sure I’m the person for the job?  He doesn’t listen to me at all.

I did make a decision about going back to school for a music degree, not going to happen.  I’ve been practicing every day down at this music store for the same price an hour I pay for parking in Walnut Creek.  Yesterday I headed towards the music department practice room at NMSU to hear some of the students…I’m in between.  The person playing was a definite beginner, the person playing at the music store was incredible.  What’s a music degree going to get me?

That said, I wouldn’t mind setting my keyboard up here to practice in the garage or something.

I had a dream I was asked to be the co-pilot on a charter flight in a jet.  At first I got on with the passengers, then I remembered I was supposed to fly the plane about 5 minutes before take off.  I grabbed my headset to go into the cockpit where there were other female pilots and we all had our own “stations.”  It wasn’t a normal cockpit, it was more like an auditorium with people, food, a stage, the male captain, and even a band playing.  There were 3 or 4 of us women co-pilots.  I was trying to find the landing speed – in case there was a remote chance I would land the plane – when I opened my headset case to see my kids had swapped it out for a headset that didn’t work.

There were some other things in the dream that came up, somehow I was recommended to be a pilot on that crew randomly.

In real life, my first attempt to get a pilots license was a disaster.  My written was timing out, the plane I was flying had exhaust problems so I was trying to get used to another plane for my check ride and another instructor.  I set the two weeks aside to have the kids at my mom’s house so I could just focus on finishing up with no distractions and the whole thing fell apart.  The kids got sick, I couldn’t send them to my mom’s.

The “Good ‘ol Boy” pre-check didn’t know it was a pre-check and gave me a lecture at the end about the levels he needed to sign off on before I got to the unicorn level.  I paid about $50 for the bullshit lecture that didn’t apply to me.  The last blow was going to lunch with my mom’s best childhood friend to find out she had stage 4 lung cancer.  It wasn’t time, I shelved it for a few years and let me written time out.

When I did re-take the written a few years later, it went by very fast.  My CFI told me it took him years to get his initial license, a few months to get the higher ratings.

What does any of this mean?  I don’t know, if I had it figured out I’d be the first to write about it.

I do know I have a few options:
-Captains license where I could charge people to sail
-Continue getting IFR/commercial with my pilots license & possibly get a few years of work in before the mandatory retirement.


-Get IFR just to cut through the fog and commute back & forth to my mom’s house so she can stay at home?  Fly out here, fly my son to his tournaments when he does start to compete again.

All I know is that I don’t have a future in music, people are REALLY talented and I have no desire to practice hours every day to catch up, if that’s even possible?  An hour a day is perfect.

In search of a latte & piano…

The trip to Las Cruces, New Mexico was a long one yesterday.  We timed it really well with the cars, my husband flew into Oakland and took my car.  On this end, he left his car in the lot in El Paso.  We met when his flight came in at Oakland for breakfast then I had to wait for several hours for my flight at 12:30p.

I wish I could just assume the position at the airport and know that it’s going to be a day of rude, lame people.  When I get on a plane, the first thing I do is pop on the headphones and not talk to anyone (maybe I’m the rude one too?).  When I travel with my mom, she insists on talking to the person next to her the whole time.

The day started out with trying to have breakfast at Chili’s in the airport.  The hostess rudely stared at us a few times and I told my husband I bet she’s going to come up to us and tell us it’s a 20 min. wait.  That’s been my experience with hostesses lately, empty restaurants with 20 min. wait because the hostess hates everyone.  She said there was no food, it was 10a so the breakfast menu was done and the lunch menu hadn’t started yet.  There won’t be any food for about a half hour.  Really??  I’ve never heard of that before.

Instead we went to Starbucks for a yogurt before my husband left.  I just charged my gear and read, not really paying attention until boarding when it was noon and I really hadn’t eaten much.  I shrugged it off, Phoenix is a short flight and I’d deal when I got there to transfer planes…only our plane was late!

There was still a little time in Phoenix, they were pre-boarding when I got there so I found the bathroom and another Starbucks to wait for food and now my afternoon latte.  I wish Sienfeld was around in the times of Starbucks, it is true insanity.  The Starbucks customer is the true pain in the ass connoisseur of coffee.  They know the lingo, want to make sure they get half- low caf/med blend/1.5 percent breast milk.  The employees have to acquiesce to the demands of the high maintenance customer.

What all this means in Heller terms is that I was going to miss my flight if I wanted my med latte, it wasn’t going to happen.  When the next customer started in on his very specific drink, I left the line to be the last person to board the plane.

When I got to El Paso, the airport Starbucks was closed upstairs.  There was one more chance, the one downstairs Starbucks was open!!  No line, I splurged for a pumpkin spice latte, still no food.  At least I had my latte for the drive to Las Cruces, where I knew food would be waiting at Andele’s

Yes it was!!  Food and actual service!!  The hostess said, “Just a few minutes” in a crowded wait area.  I’m not a picky person normally, but when it comes to that Chili’s hostess saying there’s no food I get pissed and call BS.  Because of her rudeness, I ended up not eating the rest of the day.  Some of that was my fault, it just turned into a chain of events that led to me collapsing at Andele’s.

One thing about Las Cruces I’ve noticed is how nice everyone is here.  This visit is a relaxing one, nothing to do all week but hot springs and finding a practice piano place.  Maybe I’ll go back to music school here?  It would be an interesting change up for me.


Got to be a tourist this past week while my husband had an engineering conference up there.  I’ve been there a few times for work related things, have never really checked it out.  It’s booming!  That’s either good or bad, depending on the companies that are creating that boom with rising housing prices.  Here in San Francisco, low income has been literally kicked to the curb.  We have all the top tech with Monopoly money, no sense of reality of what anything actually costs.  It looks like all that tech has gone to Seattle, after destroying San Francisco.

We stayed downtown at a very small condo AirB&B.  It was a super modern place, really convenient and close to everything including the convention center.  The first night of the conference they had a dinner at the Space Needle.  I’d been in it before for dinner almost 20 years ago, it’s nothing like that now.  The surrounding buildings are so tall, it almost dwarfs the Space Needle, including the roof of the place we were staying.  It’s still cool to go on the rotating floor, plus construction started on my husband’s birthday and finished in my year, I’m the same age as the Space Needle – probably in need of renovation too??

The roof of our AirB&B

Other than that, I walked A TON!!  Going on little tours, the Duck Boat was a fun one.  I did one in Boston and loved it, this was a good way to see parts of the city I would never see otherwise and get a few laughs in.  We spent a few lunches at Pike’s Market, if I could cook I would have bought some fish to fry up in the condo.  We’re on the go so much this week that I couldn’t even send it home.


I brought my keyboard, the forecast was for rain the whole time so I thought I’d be stuck indoors.  It didn’t rain at all, one of the things I got to do was go sailing for a little over an hour.  That was really nice, always like to see a town from the water.  The keyboard limited what I could bring home, another reason I didn’t pack a cooler from Pike’s.


From the “Let’s Go Sailing” boat pier 55


Just a heads up about our AirB&B, this seems to be a booming industry as well everywhere.  On the upside, it really was an amazing location and a cool place WAY too small to live.  Not to hip on the hospitality, it sucked.  We paid high rates, got a 10 page instruction sheet on how we have to tip-toe through the concierge so as not to let anyone know it’s an AirB&B, no noise, no nothing.  Our first morning we woke up to find the coffee left for us was decaf, poor form but not a major infraction.  I have headphones for my keyboard, we didn’t make a peep.

All went well, until we asked for either a late check out or baggage storage.  We weren’t supposed to be there, the concierge scowled at us every time we walked by, we knew from our instruction booklet not to bother them for anything.  The answer from our “hosts” was “We cannot accommodate your request.”  They suggested we leave our bags at Nordstrom??  Really??  You buy a place right next to a convention center and no clue on where we can leave our bags until the conference is over?  I panicked, thinking I might have to lug my keyboard around all day.

It turns out there are Bag B&B’s, a separate entity start up requiring it’s own app…genius.   My husband ended up putting our luggage behind the check in curtain at the conference, all but my 50 lb backpack.  Off I went to the water to get on it.

I loved it there, it was clean and safe.  If the Winter weather wasn’t miserable, it would be a place I could see myself.  The times I’ve been there I’ve hit some decent weather.  Seems the time to go is during the summer before that kicks in.  Lots of building going on, lots of tech is already there.

I have to bring up an incident in the airport as just an aside.  After carrying 50lbs around with hours before our flight, I splurged for a 15min neck and shoulders massage.  This woman sat down in the area, very disoriented.  At first I thought she was cutting in front of me in line waiting.  The guy asked if she was waiting for a massage and she said “no.”  He said it was the waiting area, that’s when I noticed she was completely out of it.

I sat next to her and then noticed a smell, she lost her bowels as well as looked totally lost.  She started trying to pick up her backpack and I said, “Do you need some help?  Are you here with someone?”  She said “yes” she was there with someone (she wasn’t) and that she didn’t need help.  She stood up, then collapsed hitting her head right out of my reach.  People rushed over, a Dr. & nurse traveling (separately) were first on the scene.  I saw a motorcycle in Santa Fe, thank God these professionals are first to pull over.  I know CPR, that’s about it.  The only input from me, besides saying what happened before the fall, was that she needs to go to the hospital.

The medics came, they figured out who she was by getting her cell & ID.  An Alaska airlines rep was there for info on where she was traveling from…Palm Springs to San Jose??  How did she get re-routed through Seattle for a 9pm flight making an hour flight into an all day nightmare??  Even I might be disoriented and shit my pants after that!!

My mom is 81, I haven’t let her travel alone for years.  I suck it up, get on her flight through L.A. and make sure she gets home OK.  Sometimes I just stay at her house on either end of the flights so I’m with her the whole time.  We were stuck in a 3 hour TSA line in Newark once, I’ve slept in airports and zig-zagged across the US to get home due to weather.  Anything can happen when you travel, apparently winding up in a hospital in Seattle is on that list.  I hope she’s OK 😦

I just write this as a warning to myself that there will be a time when I’m too old to travel, coming in at midnight with a keyboard and 50 lb backpack at 55 years old is no cake walk either.  Speaking of, if I ever did move to Seattle you will find me at Royal Cupcake with my latte and fig/honey cupcake every afternoon.

Horoscope for Today

9.4.18: Let your mind wander, and make sure to write down the peaks and valleys of your journey. You are exploring new mental territories, and they demand being recorded and shared. Take heart if you experience writer’s block. Slow down and pace yourself through your cerebral landscape. The words may not come quickly, but they will be worth their weight in gold when they finally arrive. You are crafting a powerful message that the entire world needs to hear.

It’s right about one thing, the peaks and valleys!  Every day has been a “what now?” since the kids graduated from high school about four years ago.  You really never think they’ll grow up when you’re in the middle of it, or that you’ll grow up.  Never picture getting out of that sleepless baby time, grade school, the sports, the milestones, the awards that are all now a blur in time.  It’s like someone played 52 pick up with your life and the cards are all supposed to stack back up when it’s over (and you end up being 52 somewhere along the way).

That’s where I’ve been, finding some footing.  In the meantime, I’m still a “mom,” as well as a wife and daughter.  The first thing I did when I was close to 50 was to quit my job at the golf course to reinvent myself, I did not want to age in front of everyone.  I worked in the pro shop, it was the perfect job for my schedule, my hobby, my co-workers were great.  We did get a new GM that made my work life hell.  He was the wrong kind of good ol’ boy, never stepping in to help only to criticize.  That made my decision a lot easier.

When my youngest graduated from high school I thought I could find my dream job which was going to be flying for a regional airline.  Mandatory retirement is 62 for pilots, I still had ten years in me.  My husband wanted me to start the drone company for his business with my pilot’s license instead, so that’s the direction I headed with it.  Now we have 2, 25 year olds replacing me.  The drones were fun, it’s just that the physical part of the job sites were getting hard for me (think bathrooms).  I also lost a drone in Costa Rica following my friend surfing while my spotter wasn’t spotting.  It was kind of a humiliating experience all the way around, they all treated me like I didn’t know what I was doing after that.  I left with broken ribs and no Hal 3, my purpose for being there was nil.

Now it’s time for new goals I guess.  Scratch the regional pilot, now I’m too old.  The one goal I did achieve was to get all my sailing certifications and buy a boat, so it’s not like I’ve been doing nothing in the meantime.  Really, it’s time to re-group for sunset goals (gulp).

  1. Where do I eventually want to live?
  2. Logistically, where do I need to be for my mom?
  3. Do I even have anymore “hopes & dreams” in me?

Those are the top 3 right now…not to say I’ve been sitting around either, last week I had my 1st piano lesson in about 15 years hoping for my musical breakthrough.  There still might be time for me to be a rock star?  Haha.   I skipped a Half Moon Bay sailing trip for a relaxing day on Angel Island hiking instead and was glad I did, it looked foggy and hectic.  One of the things that’s for sure not on my bucket list is living on a boat to sail around the world and 5 knots.  Love the boat, love sailing, love my bathtub when I’m done.


Piano Lessons

Next stop, Bingo.  Really though, I’m totally unmotivated and stuck with piano let alone not getting any better.  It could be the pieces I’m playing are just way too hard for me?  Lately I’ve been hacking away at Phantom of the Opera.  When I was at my mom’s house I thought I’d bring my book and practice on her small piano with broken keys.  That wasn’t working at all, I went to go get a keyboard for her house and she wanted to come along.

What a disaster!  She thought I was better than I am 😦  While I was checking the weight of the keyboards with my Phantom music, I could tell how dissapointed she was in my playing ability after playing for so frigg’in long.  Taking my family to a store with me has always been taking the spending police along, saves me a bunch of money but it’s totally annoying when I’m on a mission to actually get something.

In this case, my ability made my mom question why I pick such hard pieces?  OK, so I suck, but the whole purpose is to keep my brain working and be able to focus for an hour.  I’m in a piano group that meets every few months, just the fact I can get through a piece without my fingers shaking is a miracle.

I took piano lessons as a kid for several years, my parents rented a piano for me.  The highlight of my career was accompanying the choir at my 8th grade graduation.  What people don’t understand is that when you’re practicing, it doesn’t sound like anything yet.  You’re just trying to get the fingers working, I’m always screwing up what key I’m actually in the first couple go arounds.

My piano went back to the shop after my dad heard me practicing one day and told me I sucked after years of playing.  As an adult, I realize the $15 a month was taking from the beer money.  Adulthood also brings with it the fact that you can enjoy things without having to be a concert pianist, not all roads lead to fame and fortune.

My great aunt Maggie (Grandma’s sister) gave my brother and I her coin collection about 20 years ago.  She had gone to UC Santa Barbara music school, most likely one of the first to graduate in the 1940’s?  She played the violin, then became a teacher.  One of the coins was worth the price of my piano, almost to the sales tax…I went for it.  It’s below a mirror in my living room that had been in my grandparents house my whole life.  Although I didn’t inherit any music ability, it’s kind of my time with my aunt and grandma when I sit down at the piano.

If I were to live by the rule of not doing something because I’m not good at it, I’d never do anything.

I’ll have to see how this goes with the lessons, it’s been about 15 years since I’ve had one. Life happens, getting in the way of practice time.  The years I missed my piano group was from not having any time to practice and not wanting to torture the group without it.  I’m one who has to practice, it’s not natural at all for me.

The little ditty above is from Midnight Cowboy, a piece I played for a recital as a kid.  Leave it to me to play that as a kid, not knowing that movie was about a gigalo who caters to women my age now…haha.