Skill U: 5.4

H. Walker, Von-Windenburg Estate

Week Five, Day Four – Junior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

five-four09

“What do you think you’ll write your speech on?” Dr. Dean asked me when we were taking a break during our lesson.

“Speech?” I felt a sudden fear. Was there a requirement in one of my courses I wasn’t aware of?

“Sure!” she said. “Your valedictorian speech!”

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“Are you nuts?” I asked.

“Not at all,” she replied. “Think about it. You are a mere point and a half from meeting the requirements to be selected as valedictorian for your class. You’ve mastered the violin, you’ve completed the musical master program, and you’ve befriended the world. All that is left is to increase one more level in guitar and half a level in piano. At the rate you’re going, you’ll do that by the end of this term. So unless you plan on dropping out between now and the end of senior year, you are looking at being the valedictorian, like it or not.”

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“So that means I’ll need to give a speech at graduation?”

“That’s the tradition.”

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Fortunately, I’ve got plenty of time to decide what I want to say.

I know that, out of gratitude for Dr. Leslie Dean, I want to talk about the value of finding a good mentor. I could never have made it so far so quickly on any of these instruments without her skilled guidance.

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I want to talk about the importance of enthusiasm and honesty.

“Don’t seek praise,” I’ll say, or something like that. “Seek instead honest feedback, so you know what stinks about your work and how you can make it better.” Only I don’t think I’ll use the word “stinks.”

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I want to say something about how contagious dreams are. Or maybe it’s striving for excellence that’s contagious. At any rate, I’ve noticed that Hugo and Luna have started taking their studies very seriously.

“Maybe I’ll go to college!” Luna said the other day. “I’d love to be a fashion designer, and Honey was telling me how important math is to design. Do you think I’m good at math, Hugo?”

“Well, you’re always earning A’s. And you seem to love it.”

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Then the next day, I overheard Hugo say, “You know, I think I’ll go to culinary institute. I’d like to open my own restaurant some day. So a good solid education in the business management of restaurants would be useful, non?”

Mais oui!” said Luna. “And there’s a lot of math in business management.”

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Then, one afternoon, Wolfie, one of Max’s Renegade buddies, came by after school.

“Is this what the villainous Max Villareal does after school? His homework? With sissy and bubba? I thought you were the leader of our gang, not some nerdbrain doofus head.”

“It’s a club,” said Max. “Not a gang. And homework is cool. Plus, math is fun.”

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“So I’m thinking I should start preparing for college,” Max told his dad that night. “Even if I just take over the family business, I’m still gonna need a good education, right?”

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“I think I know some of the points I want to mention,” I told Dr. Dean.

“Good!” she said. “I’m so excited! I’ve never had a student of mine make valedictorian before!”

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It feels sort of like a hoop to me–and like this big scary burden waiting out there. But I think I can turn my view around. I think if I just relax and focus on everyone else besides me then maybe I’ll be able to discover what’s really important. And if I can share that, maybe inspiration will flow through my words and touch somebody! I’d rather just play my violin and speak that way, but if I need to speak with my voice, I hope that by the end of my senior year, I’ve found the voice of inspiration, so that when I open my mouth sparks from something greater than me will fly out and everybody catches on fire with the light of dreams!

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Skill U: 5.2

H. Walker, Von-Windenburg Estate

Week Five, Day Two – Junior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

five-two05

I had so many feelings that I wanted to express to Dad about my decision to stay in Windenburg. I hoped my letter captured them all. I knew Dad would support whatever I decided, but I also wanted him to understand.

Staying here makes sense academically, especially now that Dr. Dean is here. It’s the best of both worlds: I get the classical tradition and culture that Windenburg offers combined with the attention to modern technique that my old dean insists on.

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I’ve begun composing, and through my compositions, I feel that I can express insights and ideas that I haven’t been able to fit into words.

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Something about the landscape here spurs all sorts of musical creativity. I find inspiration everywhere!

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Windenburg opens me up to life: all my senses become sharper, more keen, more alive to every little distinction.

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I also love being part of a family without being part of it. It’s hard to explain. The Villareals have made me feel that the Von-Windenburg Estate is my home. I’m not a guest or employee–though I do have responsibilities and I work for my room and board. They treat me like I belong. And at the same time, I am free from all the tangled dynamics that family members feel with each other. I can simply enjoy and appreciate being with this family without feeling the burden of family destiny.

I also love to be able to encourage healthy habits and patterns. The other day, when I came upstairs to the room I share with Max, I found his dad helping him with his homework–that was a first! They were both smiling and joking.

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I spend a lot of time reflecting on the ways that Mom used to set limits while also encouraging me to grow. She did this effortlessly–at least it seemed effortless. So with the Villareal kids, I always think, “How would Mom handle this?”

The other day, Luna told me that she’d just joined a club and she wanted to go to an outing with them. It was Saturday, she’d just earned an A in school, she’d finished her homework and extra credit for the weekend–it seemed like the perfect way to celebrate.

“What’s the club?” I asked.

“Partihaus,” she answered.

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Now I’ve heard a lot about Partihaus. I’m friends with one of the members, Marcus. And I’ve met Paolo. I’ve heard that club can get pretty wild. The two women in the club recently had kids, and Marcus and Paolo are the dads. Maybe being parents has settled them down a bit, but I didn’t want to take chances.

“Tell you what,” I suggested. “How about if the club meets over here? We’ve got plenty of room to dance, and I’ll cook up a nice lunch.”

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“I guess that would be ok,” Luna said.

“If she’s having a hang-out, I want one, too,” Max said. He’s in two clubs, the Renegades and the League of Adventurers.

“How about if you invite over the Adventurers?” I suggested. The Renegades are notorious for sabotaging plumbing, and I didn’t want to spend the afternoon fixing things.

“Can we play in the closets?” Max asked.

“Sure.”

“Will you make cookies?”

“Ok.”

“Deal,” said Max.

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Luna slid into a cool chick attitude as soon as Paolo came over.

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But the five of them just hung out in the back bedroom, dancing.

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Elsa, one of the little Adventurers, kept popping out of the closet.

“Turn the music down!” she yelled. “We’re on our way to find Marco Polo and they didn’t have Techno on the Silk Road!”

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“Did you say the Silk Road?” shouted Lucas.

With closet doors banging, kids yelling, and music blaring, it was a funny mashup Saturday afternoon.

“When are all these people leaving?” Hugo grumbled when he got home from his landscaping job. “I just wanted to sit quietly at the table and do my homework.”

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“Things will settle out soon,” I said. “In the meantime, enjoy your spaghetti. Then maybe you could go into the basement and watch cooking shows or head outside and relax by the pool.”

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In my letter to Dad, I tried to express what this is like: how it feels like a fun creative challenge to help these kids get what they need, individually and as a group. I guess the word is fulfilling. My work as an au pair is fulfilling for me: I’m learning and using my creativity, and I’m helping. It feels like, for now, I’ve got a purpose here.

Then there’s Max.

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When I first arrived a year ago, he seemed like the saddest, angriest, most miserable little boy. Now, he’s happy.

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He still yells at his sister sometimes. I asked him what he was feeling when he yelled at her. His answer surprised me.

“I like the face she makes! Her eyebrows go up and her mouth goes down!”

“But do you know that face shows that she feels hurt and surprised?” I asked.

“Yeah!” he laughed. “It’s so funny!”

Still, he doesn’t do it too often. Usually just when he’s bored or feeling tense or hungry.

When I first got here, he was getting a D in school and was close to flunking out. We got calls from the principal every other day about his attitude and poor schoolwork.

It took a lot of effort, but Max is really smart. The other day, he came home with an A.

“Where are your clothes?” I asked him. He was dressed in a robe.

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“It’s the Royal Robe of Honor,” he said. “It’s what dignitaries get after they complete the greatest adventure.”

I still have no idea where that robe came from and what he happened to his regular clothes! But we haven’t gotten a call from the school about it yet, and he was happy, so I’m hoping everything is ok. And that A is something for us all to celebrate.

These are some of the big and little joys that I’d hoped I’d conveyed in my letter to Dad. I just wanted him to understand how rich life is for me here, how everything fits.

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After I put the letter in the mail, I realized I’d forgotten to tell him the most important change that being here brings.

That change is me.

When I think back to who I was a few years ago when I first stepped onto campus–how scared and unsure I was about everything–and then I compare that to who I am now, words just can’t come close.

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I feel like I was a cardboard person back then, just trying to find myself and be brave enough to be me. And now! Now, I feel that I know what “me” means. I’m not sure it’s something I could express in a letter to Dad if I tried. It just might be something that I have to say in music.

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Skill U: 4.6

Journal of H. W. | honey.walker@skillu.edu

Week Four, Day Six – Sophomore Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

four-six04

“When the children earn marks of très bien in school, we will have a big party to celebrate,” M. Villareal said, “and you will bake the cake!”

“But I won’t be here when they bring home their A grades,” I replied. “The term is nearly over, and I’ll be returning to my old school.”

Impossible!” he shouted.

“But it’s impossible to stay, isn’t it?”

I must admit everything was working out so well here, especially now that our old dean was here as a visiting professor, that I really wanted to stay.

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I had earned A’s for this year, and I had a good head start for next year’s A’s, too.

Life was a lot better for me here. I fit in. I’d made so many friends–way more than I had ever made back at my old school, when I’d been too shy to even talk to anybody other than my dorm mates.

And the culture accelerated my learning.

And then there were the Villareals. They were doing great.

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It made a difference to have somebody cook and keep house for them. And the kids had started to do well at school. They got along with each other, too.

I liked to think that all of the good habits and patterns we’d established this year would continue, and that they’d continue to thrive without me next year. Or maybe they’d get another au pair who would do an even better job.

“I don’t like you anymore, Mademoiselle Honey Walker,” M. Villareal said to me at breakfast. “How can I like someone who would abandon us just because the end of her school program has arrived? Non! I detest you! You and your abandoning ways!”

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He has a flair for the dramatic, so I didn’t take his declaration seriously at first.

But while I was practicing, I began to think of how sad he and the children had seemed before I came.

Luna had told me that she had given up trying to fill in the spot that her mom had left. She could never keep up with the cleaning, and no matter how much cooking she did, it seemed they always ran out of food. Nothing was enough. Rather than try to do something she wasn’t equipped to do well, she had simply stopped trying. “That’s why Max was always yelling at me,” she confided. “He wanted me to be somebody that I couldn’t.”

Taking care of the house and the children hasn’t been a burden for me–it’s been fun! I love the way the counters look when they’re clean. I love trying out new meals. I find it rewarding to help the kids with their homework, to encourage them, and to listen to them.

“I’m afraid you can kiss your good grades good-bye!” Jacques said to Luna the next morning. “You will be so busy cleaning and cooking and taking care of your brothers, you will have no time to study. Au revoir, très bien! Bon jour, insuffisant!

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“Oh, Dad, what are you going on about? You know we did just fine before Honey got here, and we’ll do just fine after she leaves, too.”

“Ah, the delusions of youth!” said M. Villareal. “To be young! To be always in denial!”

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If I could choose, I realized while I was cleaning the kitchen, I would stay.

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I like being here. It feels like home.

Maybe I could choose! Maybe I could stay, at least for another year!

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I called Dr. Dean. She’d been offered a two-year position here, with the possibility of extending it.

When I asked if she thought I could stay for another year, she said that it was a bit late–there was so much paperwork that had to be done.

“But I’d sponsor you in a heartbeat,” she said. “Let me do some checking and get back to you.”

I practiced while I waited. Scales are the best thing for helping me sort through what I really want. It became clear: I really wanted to stay, not just for the Villareals, but for myself.

When Dr. Dean called to say that she’d pulled a few strings and it was a done deal–I could finish up my studies there if I wanted–I was delighted!

I ran downstairs to the wine cellar and found M. Villareal.

“What would you say if your kids could earn A’s after all, and if we could have that party, and if I could bake a big fat blanc et noir cake because I’m not leaving, after all?”

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“You would stay?” he asked. “You would do that, for a miserable old man and his rotten brats?”

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“Well,” I replied, “I could say that I would do that for a nice older gentleman and his three remarkable children. But the truth is that I would do this for me! And if you’re willing to have me here for another term or two–or even until I graduate–I would love to stay!”

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Skill U: 4.3

Journal of H. W. | honey.walker@skillu.edu

Week Four, Day Three – Sophomore Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

four-three03

I really thought about what Mom said about Max–about taking care of the important stuff first and making sure that he felt loved. I know I’m just the au pair–an international student here for my year abroad–but I also know that I’ve got a lot to give, and that just being here now, to keep the fridge stocked with healthy meals, to keep the home clean and in good repair, and to be there when the kids get home from school, that makes a big difference.

And the difference is showing in Max’s behavior and attitude.

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He hasn’t acted out in a long time. He reads by choice. He’s always got a joke to share. He’s actually fun to be around now!

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Having Max in a good mood helps everybody feel better–especially his dad. He and his brother and sister are slowly improving their grades, too.

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I’ve got plenty of time for my studies. While Max, Hugo, and Luna are at school, I have all day to focus on music. I was feeling a little stymied by my lack of improvement, especially on piano, while studying with my maestro, when I got a wonderful surprise.

My old dean called! She’s in Windenburg as a visiting professor for the semester, and she wanted to know how I was doing.

“I just feel stuck,” I told her. “It’s like I’m not getting any better.”

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“I’ve got a little extra time,” she replied. “Would you like me to stop by?”

My maestro was over at the time. I’d asked him a question about Haydn’s influence on Beethoven’s third piano sonata, he said he’d need to do some research, and I hadn’t seen him since. I think he may have been using the excuse to check his email.

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“Sure!” I told Dr. Dean. “Come on over!”

I felt so excited to see her walking up the front steps.

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We went right to work.

“This is terrible!” she said, as soon as she heard me play. “What have they been teaching you?”

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“Your phrasing is all off,” she continued. “Try connecting the phrases in that passage.”

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We worked for a few hours. Soon, M. Villareal woke up and came down to listen.

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I’ve gotten used to his casual attitude towards clothing, but Dr. Dean seemed amused.

“That’s much better,” she said, as I focused on building towards the start of each new phrase.

Soon, she was tapping her feet and humming the overtones, and M. Villareal was dancing.

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We worked until the kids came home from school. Max burst into the front parlor.

“I got an A on a test!” he yelled.

What a relief! We’d studied so hard, and this A will raise his overall grade to a C.

I remembered what my mom had told me.

“How would you like to celebrate?” I asked him.

“Let’s have a party!” he said.

We invited a houseload of people over for a spaghetti supper. Max was happy, friendly, and funny the entire evening.

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After the guests left, while Luna was telling me about a boy in one of her classes, Max, all of his own accord, did the dishes.

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I never wanted–or expected–perfect behavior from Max. I mean, he’s a little boy with a mischievous streak! He’s bound to let loose a little bit now and then. But what I did want was for him, his brother, and his sister to be happy, healthy, and doing well in school. And it seems like we’re on our way.

As for me, I’ve got my old music mentor back.

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Skill U: 3.7

Journal of H. W. | honey.walker@skillu.edu

Week Three, Day Seven – Sophomore Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

four-one02

Sometimes, it can feel good to step out on your own.

That’s what I was thinking after I left the cottage on Mom and Dad’s last day here. We’d had a Christmas party at the Villareals. Mom and Dad came, but I hardly even saw them since I was busy cooking and entertaining the guests and making sure the kids were happy.

So we arranged that I’d spend the next day with them at the cottage.

“I’ll make lunch!” I said when I arrived. “I’ll make your famous BLTs, ok, Mom?”

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When I called everyone in for lunch, Darin walked into the kitchen.

“Oh, I invited your friend,” said Dad.

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I’d been expecting that we’d have an old-fashioned family meal at the kitchen table, but Mom took her sandwich into the living room.

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“It’s so much more festive in here!” she said.

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“It’s your last day to spend with your parents,” Darin said. “I’ll just take my meal out back. Give you guys some family time.”

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I tried to think back to the last meal we shared together, just the three of us. It had been before I left for college.

“Ew! What kind of mayonnaise did you use?” Mom asked.

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“It’s not mayo,” I replied. “It’s organic olive oil.”

“Heart healthy,” Dad said. “It’s got that omega stuff, right?”

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“And is this whole-grain bread?” Mom asked.

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“It’s made from sprouted grains and lentils!” I replied.

“Also healthy, right, Honey?” Dad said.

Mom chuckled. “I bet it’s that veggie bacon, too. You’ve become a regular hippie Betty Crocker!”

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“I think healthy is delicious,” I answered.

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Mom cleared the dishes, giving Dad and me a few moments alone together.

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“I loved your sandwiches, Honey,” Dad said. “That was real good food.”

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“I’m proud of you,” he continued. “You took your mom’s recipe and you put your own spin on it. That’s you.”

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Mom joined us.

“I was just telling Honey how proud we are of her!”Dad said. “Why, next time we make it to Windenburg, I bet it will be to hear you play your premier!”

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“Think you’ll remember your old mom and dad when you’re a famous violinist?” Mom asked.

“Mom, it’s just a profession!” I said. “Like any profession! Do doctors and lawyers forget their parents?”

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I headed into the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee, and when I got back, Mom had slid into my place on the couch beside Dad.

“So I thought we’d give the Johnsons a nice potted plant to thank them for taking care of Princess,” she was saying.

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“Well, I think I’ll head outside for a bit,” Dad said. “Let you two catch up on your girl talk.”

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“I’d better go pack,” Mom said.

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I sat alone and drank my coffee.

A while later, Mom and Dad wandered back in, and we opened the presents. Dad gave me Coda bow for my violin. I’d always wanted one–they’re responsive, elegant, and indestructible.

I went to look for Darin, but Dad said he’d taken off shortly after lunch.

Mom was upstairs playing blic-block. I’d been wanting to get her advice on how I could help out better with Max.

“So, right now, he’s getting a D in school,” I told her.

“Don’t worry about school,” she said. “He doesn’t have a mom, does he? No wonder he’s not doing well with school.”

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“Take care of the important stuff first,” she said. “Make sure he feels loved, and then everything else will fall into place.”

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“I’m not really in a position to fill his mom’s place,” I said. “I mean, I’m just the au pair. I’m not even sure how long I’ll be here!”

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“You can do a lot in a short period of time,” Mom said. “And once he starts to show improvements, don’t forget to celebrate. Remember all the celebrations we had for you?”

“Sure!” I said. “You used to celebrate every time my grades improved!”

“Remember the time we made a gingerbread house to celebrate your perfect spelling test?”

“That was so fun!”

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Before I left, Mom wanted a photo of us. “So I can show all my friends,” she said.

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“I’ll miss you, Honey,” Mom said. “And Princess will, too!”

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Dad was alone when I found him to say goodbye. I just wanted to stay forever in his hug.

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“Take care, baby,” he said. His voice was husky. Dad’s got this way of making me feel amazing, just by looking at me. It was hard to say goodbye.

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But as I was walking across the lawn to catch the tram back to the Villareals’, I felt a new kind of feeling.

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I felt strong, and confident, and free. I felt indestructible, like this was my world, and I had a place in it.

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Skill U: 3.6

Journal of H. W. | honey.walker@skillu.edu

Week Three, Day Six – Sophomore Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

three-six27

Mom and Dad are here! They arrived a day early.

“Listen to you play like a virtuoso,” Dad said, when he found me practicing up on the deck.

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“We just couldn’t wait, Honey Bun!” Mom said. “We had to come early!”

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“More time with you!” she continued when we headed downstairs so I could dish up supper. “Plus, it’s like a second honeymoon for us, right, Bear? We’ve always wanted to come to Windenburg!”

I’d forgotten what my parents were like, always hanging on each other like a couple of teenagers!

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Max joined us at the table, and he didn’t seem to mind my parents’ constant flirting. Since his own mom left when he was just a little kid, he’s probably never been around parents like mine, I realized.

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“So look at you,” Dad said. “You look the artist!”

“It’s an easy look,” I said. “It feels right.”

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“But your beautiful hair!” said Mom. “I mean, you look very fashionable, I’m sure, very avant garde, but don’t you want a look that’s a little softer? More feminine?”

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“This is me, Mom!” I replied. “Take it or leave it!”

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“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” Mom giggled. “Before we left, Princess said to tell you, ‘rawr-rar-rar,’ which translates to, ‘Come visit real soon, Honey-paw!'”

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That’s Mom, always deflecting any potential conflict or disagreement with a joke or a reference to Princess! I can’t tell you how many declarations of teenage rebellion she staved off by chanelling Princess, our faithful golden lab!

While I was washing the dishes, Mom and Dad disappeared for a while.

“Where are your parents?” asked Max. “I want to say goodnight to them before you read me a story!”

I followed the sound of banging of closet doors as it echoed through the house, until it led me to Mom and Dad, emerging from the wardrobe like a couple of newlyweds.

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It would be more embarrassing if they hadn’t been like this forever. It was only once I moved out and got to know more people that I learned that this isn’t normal parental behavior!

Next morning, I headed over to see them at their rental cottage across the bay.

“Hey, there’s my girl!” Dad said. “Your mom’s still getting the house up. She wants to surprise you with the decorations. Sit out here with me for a bit, and we’ll give her a little more time to finish up.”

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It felt so good to sit out there with Dad. It was like no time had passed at all–just like we’d been sitting together yesterday.

“Tell me what you’re learning,” Dad said, “only leave out the hard parts.”

“Just recently, I’ve been learning about how music works as a structure–like a container–for something else! Call it energy. Or beauty. Or maybe even spirit.”

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“I don’t quite follow, Honey,” Dad said.

I told Dad about the conversation I’d had the other day with Darin, my new best friend, the gardener.

I saw Dad’s eyes light up when I started talking about what Darin said about the part of the plant that we can’t see–the essence–and how it fills up the structure of the plant and makes it alive.

“I get that,” he said. “That’s what brings me to gardening. That and growing stuff we can pick so your mom can cook  it up for supper! Nothing like an ear of corn right off the stalk! So that’s what music’s like?”

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“It is! It’s this structure of notes and rhythms, but it’s really just a container for what can’t be seen–for essence!”

And Dad understood.

I headed inside so Mom could show me the decorations. There were presents everywhere!

“It’s so beautiful, Mom.”

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“So tell me all about college,” Mom said. “Have you met anyone interesting?”

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I told her about my maestro who wants me to befriend the world and my new friend Darin who finds connection in everything.

“Darin’s so cool, Mom! He’s a gardener! And he’s really smart.”

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“Those sound like really neat people, Honey,” Mom said. “And I’m really glad that you have a chance to meet some diversity. But you know that’s not what I’m asking about. What about boyfriend material?”

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“Mom! Weren’t you the one who told me that college isn’t about meeting boys?”

“Sure,” she said, “but that was just freshman year advice! I just didn’t want you to meet somebody right away, drop out, and disappoint your dad. But he’s so proud of you now that he can’t be beat! So it’s ok if you meet somebody now.”

“How’s breakfast coming?” Dad called, and Mom headed into the kitchen to scramble eggs. I was thankful for a moment to sit, relax, and remember myself.

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“What about that friend of yours?” Dad asked over breakfast. “Think I could meet him?”

“Who’s this?” Mom asked.

“Just nobody-in-particular,” said Dad, “Just like I’m nobody-in-particular to you, Snooks.”

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I called up Darin, and he said he could drop by. He’d done the landscaping for this cottage, and he loved any occasion to see it.

Dad wandered off, leaving me and Mom at the table alone.

“I’m glad your dad brought up that subject,” Mom said. “This is the gardener fellow, right?”

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“Yeah.”

“Uh-huh,” said Mom. “The same one you were telling me about a little while ago? Don’t sell yourself short, Honey Bun. Don’t settle.”

“It’s not like that, Mom,” I replied. “Or if it is, it’s too early for me to know. I like him, ok? He’s a great guy. And besides, a person’s worth isn’t measured by what he does. But anyway, we just met and formed a connection. That’s all.”

When I start defending myself like I’m twelve again, that’s my signal that I’ve had enough Mom-time.

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“Hey,” I said, “I think I’ll just head out and see what Dad’s up to.”

It was my old ploy, and I wasn’t proud of resorting to it. I’d sort of hoped I’d outgrown that trick. I’d hoped this time that Mom and I could just talk, like two people, the way I used to talk with our dean at Casus Dulces. No big drama. No prying. No secret unspoken questions. Just two women, sharing.

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When I got to the front porch, I saw Dad sitting with Darin.

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Dad was launching into some story about when he and Mom first met and what it took to keep a relationship alive for twenty-two years, how to “hot it up,” as he said, and Darin was listening with a big grin on his face.

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They aren’t alike, right? I mean, sure. They’re both romantics, and they both have beards and a little bit of a hippie-beatnik style. But after that, the similarities between my dad and Darin end.

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I mean, Darin is my best friend. And best friends aren’t supposed to be clones of Dad , are they?

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Skill U: 3.5

Journal of H. W. | honey.walker@skillu.edu

Week Three, Day Five – Sophomore Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

three-five02

I have a new best friend! I met the gardener as part of my assignment that my maestro gave me. “Become friend of the world!” he said.

When I asked him why he spent so much time visiting with the Villareals during my first lesson with him, he replied, “A musician cannot play alone. A musician plays for all the world. And to do that, ma cherie, the musician must befriend the world!”

Then, he assigned me to wander through town, meeting and befriending as many as I could.

I must admit, I had to psych myself up for this project. I’m not a very social person; I’m happiest when I’m by myself practicing.

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It’s so beautiful here that I hardly feel the need for people–maybe my maestro is wrong, and I can just play for the beauty of nature, rather than for the people of the world.

But I remembered his words: “The artist is not in isolation. The artist is part of the living fabric of the world! Go! Live! Make Friends! Fall in love! This is life! This is music!”

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So I tucked the songs of nature into my heart, packed my violin in its case, and I headed to the center of town.

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People at the café were friendly, even if it was hard for me to find what we had in common.

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For the next few days, I visited lots of cafés and parks and met so many people.

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I brought my violin with me, so I could sneak in a few hours to play.

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At the end of each day, when I returned to the Villareals’, the solitude and quiet felt as nourishing as supper.

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In addition to befriending the world, caring for the Villareal kids has been keeping me busy.

Max needs a lot of attention.

“Is that what you wore to school?” I asked him one evening. “Your PJs?”

“These are not pajamas!” He insisted. “These are Super Spider Rocket Man secret-power-ranger spider clothes.”

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I’ve decided to use his active imagination to help keep him in line.

“Did you see that?” I asked him when we were playing chess outside. “There in the shadows! It’s Shadow Man. He’s always watching. So just remember that the next time you feel like yelling at your sister. Because if there’s anything Shadow Man hates most of all, it’s when sisters get yelled at!”

three-five05

Fortunately, Hugo doesn’t seem to need much, except someone that he can practice his jokes on.

But Luna seems hungry for the advice of an older woman. And that’s an area that I’m really not equipped to handle!

She asked me about love the other day. I didn’t know what to say. I’ve never been in love with anything except music!

But I remembered what my mom told me when I asked her about dating.

“School comes first,” I told Luna. “Wait until you have an A before you start to date. My mom always said that love and romance really complicate things, so get your own life in order first, and then you’ll be in good shape to start thinking about dating.”

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“But that will be forever!” Luna said. “I only have a C now.”

Later, when I checked the household’s phone messages, I learned that she was right! The school principal had called. None of the kids were doing well academically. Hugo and Luna had low C’s, and their grades were dropping. And Max, the Super Spider Rocket Man, had a D.

“When do you kids do your homework?” I asked Hugo.

“We don’t,” he replied.

“You don’t? Well, that changes right now!”

Surprisingly, they didn’t put up a fuss. They all three pulled out their homework, sat at the kitchen table, and with jokes and smiles, completed their work by the time I got out of my shower! I didn’t even have a chance to help them!

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It was as if they’d just been waiting for a grown up to tell them to do their homework all along.

I realized then that their dad never really tells them to do anything.

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He seems off in his own world. He’s affectionate enough with his family, and he enjoys telling them stories of his youth, but I’ve never seen him cook for them, or make suggestions about what they might do next, or offer any guidance at all.

Frankly, I feel a little nervous around him.

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I’m a little less nervous when he’s properly dressed. But even then, I don’t really know what to say to him. He seems to appreciate having me there. Whenever I feel a little unsure about being there, I just remind myself that my focus as an au pair is the welfare of the kids.

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I’m lucky that being an au pair doesn’t take a lot of time and I get so many hours a day to devote to my music.

three-five09

 

I’m also never-endingly grateful to live in such a beautiful place. Every day, the vistas take my breath away.

I love to stand in the meadow outside the Villareals’ and feel the snow-chilled air that slides down from the mountains and across the sea.

three-five12

The beauty of nature feels as integral to music as the notes I play. I know that my maestro insists that a musician should be a friend of the world, but I think that maybe a true musician needs to be part of nature–like a wood nymph or a fairy.

I decided to see if I could combine both my predilection for nature and my maestro’s order of making friends by going to a park.

And that’s where I met the gardener.

I asked him about his plants, he asked me about my violin, and before we knew it, we were deep into a conversation about miracles!

“What draws you to gardening?” I had asked him.

“What draws you to music?” he asked in return, and I started to explain about how when I play music, I reach a point where I feel the vibrations through me, inside my body, and then it’s like a door opens up, and I escape, and all that’s left it music! That’s what I play for.

“A plant is like that,” he replied.

three-five03

“There’s the part we see–the leaves. The stalk. The flowers or fruit. There’s the part we know about. The roots. The cells. The veins that carry fluid and nutrients. But what else is there? There is something indescribable.”

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“Call it essence,” he said. “It is what fills the form and makes it alive.”

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“And isn’t that the same as music? It is a structure filled with essence, and it is that essence that makes it alive.”

I think maybe my maestro was right! In befriending the world, I have met one true friend of the soul! And what I learn from him can only make me a better musician.

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Skill U: 3.1

Journal of H. W. | honey.walker@skillu.edu

Week Three, Day One – Sophomore Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

three-one02

Today I played on a piano whose keys have been touched by the fingers of some of the greatest musicians ever. When I played it, it didn’t feel strange to me–it felt like home. Every note came out like honey–sweet and smooth and rounded. As I played this instrument that’s been part of the history of music, I felt how it will shape me to be part of the future of music.

three-one04

I am in Windenburg!

To help with finances, I took an au pair position available through the year-abroad program. I’m staying with one of the oldest and most established families, the Villareals.

Luna, Hugo and little Max live with their dad, who’s older and who, according to the au pair placement service, isn’t the most stable influence. Without a mom at home, it seems like this family can, at least, make good use of someone who can cook, repair appliances, and clean. That would be me!

In exchange, I get to live on a huge, beautiful estate and to play on one of the best pianos ever crafted.

three-one07

The youngest son, Max, is a handful. I’ve got a feeling I’ll be emailing Mom and Dad a lot to get some tips for dealing with a kid who takes mischief into mean.

three-one08

So far, I just tried diversion and shifting the conversation to more positive things.

“Beautiful place you’ve got here!” I said to Luna, hoping to diffuse some of Max’s aggression.

three-one09

I realized that maybe the family was hungry! I know I always get cranky when I need to eat.

I made a dish from home: breakfast scramble. Nothing like good old home-cooking to put a smile on everybody’s face, and it seemed to work.

three-one06

I had all of Sunday afternoon free, so I called my maestro to see if he could come over for my first lesson. I’m so excited! Maestro Fernando has been assigned personally by the program to work with me! I grew up listening to recordings of him playing Brahms piano intermezzos. He’s one of my idols. And now! I get to study with him.

three-one05

“Play for us, ma cherie,” he said.

As I played, he and the family gathered in the music room and filled it with conversation and laughter. Jacques seemed happy and calm, Luna soaked in the music, and even Max relaxed and joked.

three-one03

Later, as the family went about their activities, the maestro and I played the Brahms violin sonata  in G together. He was patient while I hit wrong notes, and when I played with good intonation he purred like a big gray cat.

three-one01

It felt so natural to be playing with him, here in this grand estate on the top of the ridge, with the snow-topped mountains lining the horizon out the window.

The landscape, the scents, the sounds, even the air is all so different from what I’ve experienced before. The funny thing is: even though it’s different, I don’t feel far from home. In fact, I feel like I have finally found my home. I feel like here, I truly can be me.

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Skill U: 2.7

Honey Walker’s journal–don’t read it; return it. Casus Dulces

Week Two, Day Seven – Freshman Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

two-seven04

I got accepted to Windenburg! I found out on our last day of term. Our first year of college is complete, and I’ll be leaving for my new adventure soon.

We decided we’d celebrate the end of freshman year, my acceptance to the year-abroad program, and our last day together with a house party.

Everyone always talks about how college is all about party, party, party, but this was our first one we’d ever thrown!

I spent the whole time just soaking it in–I want to take every feeling with me when I go off to Windenburg, so that even though I’m far away from all my college friends, I’ve still got them with me, in feeling.

two-seven11

Dr. Leslie Dean was so proud.

“All my students made it through their first year! No drop outs, no disasters, no melt downs. We rock!”

two-seven08

She took me off to the side of the main casita and gave me a huge hug.

“I’m so proud of you, Honey,” she said. “You’ve come so far. I knew the moment I first saw you that you have what it takes. You’re gonna make it, Honey, and I’ll be there for your premier.”

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Then, when while we were enjoying our meal, Dr. Dean made a toast to all of us.

“You’ve each got your own genius,” she said. “Don’t let anybody tell you any different. Remember what Thelonious Monk says, ‘A genius is the one most like himself.’ So, those of you who will be here for your second year of college, you just do it your way. You know what works. And Honey, when you go out into that big world, you be you.”

two-seven06

I guess I’m still trying to figure out what that means, to be me. But that’s what growing up is all about.

As the party was winding down, Brandon ran up to me.

“You got to check out this video!” he said.

And I had a flashback to our first day here, when Brandon came racing over to show me a questionable video of our dean. We’d grown to love Dr. Dean through the year, so there’s no way we’d even look at any video that didn’t show her in her true best light. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t get a kick out of watching bloopers from the graduation ceremony at the rival university!

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I’m going to miss all these guys, I realized while I was cleaning up after the party, and Nathan and Brandon maybe most of all.

two-seven05

It’s hard to think of Casus Dulces continuing without me–there’s so much these guys will learn and go through and discover, and I won’t be here to be part of it.

I tossed and turned when I went to bed that night. I’d be leaving early the next morning, before anyone was awake. I was excited and nervous and sad all at once.

I thought back to what my dad wrote back after I told him and Mom that I’d been accepted to Windenburg:

We learn when we push ourselfs, Honey.  Step out of that comfirt zone–thats my girl. Grow and learn and discovr. We’ll be hear when you com back we’ll be here when your gone we’ll always be here. So yu got that rock underneath you. With a rock like that, you can soar.

two-seven03

I slept so well, just like I was sleeping on the rock of love and support that my mom and dad provide. They said they’d come and spend the holidays with me, in the break between semesters. They’ve always wanted to see Windenburg!

And I’ll always remember my first year–my friends and Dr. Dean will always be a part of me. When I return, I’ll be different and they’ll be different, too–but maybe, through my adventures, I’ll be more me! And maybe they’ll be more them. Maybe this is part of our individual transformations into being most like our true selves.

two-seven02

What is it about life that moving towards every new adventure means saying goodbye to homes and people and places we love? I hope I never forget no matter how much I change.

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Skill U: 2.6

Honey Walker’s journal–don’t read it; return it. Casus Dulces

Week Two, Day Six – Freshman Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

 

two-six09

I found something on the college website the other day that just about sent me to the moon!

Are you going to be a sophomore or junior music student in good standing next year? 

If so, apply now for the year abroad program. 

You can study in beautiful Windenburg, living with a family or renting a room in a townhouse near the university. 

Work with world’s best musicians as you gain the cultural experience you need to become a top performer. 

two-six10

Yes! It sounds so ideal! I’ve really wanted to have a chance to work with world-class musicians. And Windenburg!

two-six06

The only thing was, the application was due that night. At midnight. Which was only twenty minutes away.

There’s no way I could get in touch with Mom and Dad before the application was due.

two-six08

They were already asleep. And if I emailed them, they wouldn’t get the email until tomorrow.

Not only that, but I just realized that I hadn’t even emailed them once yet this entire semester. And now here it was, almost over. And it would seem kind of weird if I was just emailing them to ask them if I could go for the year abroad.

two-six07

I thought about what my dad would say if I were to ask him. He’d probably say something like, “Honey, you’ll be a young adult in a day or two. It’s time for you to make your own decisions.”

Or maybe he’d say, “You know, I’ve always wanted you to travel, Honey. That’s the best way to gain experience.”

And Mom would say, “Honey. We trust you. Do what you feel is best.”

I remembered Dad’s email that he sent to me at the end of last term, when he said that the time would come when I’d have to make a decision that might not be what he’d decide. But he would respect me for making it. So, I realized that even if Mom and Dad weren’t behind this one hundred percent, it would be ok. If I felt it was the best thing, they’d back me.

two-six03

It wasn’t like I’d need their financial support–my scholarship would cover it. And I’d live with a family, not in a room in a townhouse, so they’d know I was safe.

I decided to apply.

two-six05

I poured my heart our in the personal statement.

Ever since I was a little girl, music has been my lifeline. Whenever I feel like there’s quicksand under my feet, it’s music that makes me feel firm ground again.

I play the violin because I need to. I play the piano because I love to. And I play the guitar to think in chords.

Music’s more than a way of life–it is life.

I hope to study with the best musicians in the world, not so that I can be the best, but so that I can learn from the best.

I know that just by listening to them, watching them, and hearing what they have to say will bring me to a new level, where music becomes more than something that I do for myself: it becomes something that I can give to others.

Please help this dream come true.

two-six04

They asked for a list of my skills. It looks pretty modest when I put it out there: I’m no Wonder Child. But I felt really happy to see that I had already achieved the requirements for next year in violin and piano, and I had a good start on guitar. Plus, I had the general studies year 2 requirement of Charisma already met.

two-six01

 

I felt pretty confident when I hit “Submit.” Just think! Sophomore year in Windenburg!

two-six02

Oh! I hope I get accepted! I can’t wait to write Mom and Dad and say, “Come visit me in Windenburg!”

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