Author Archives: Sharolyn

breathing room

“It was a beautiful song, but it ran too long. If you’re gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit. So they cut it down to 3:05.”  -Billy Joel, “The Entertainer”

I have been watching Thirtysomething on DVD.  There are selections that include comments from the actors and directors, and I thought, “Do I really want to hear that?”  Sometimes is nice to simply enjoy something great and not overanalyze it.  But curiosity won me over, and I’m glad it did.  Rather than pull back the curtain and ruin the facade, as in The Wizard of Oz, it only made me appreciate the episodes more.  Like if a great jazz musician says, “See how I used that scale?  Then I used this alternate fingering”, etc. and all the more you say, “Brilliant.”

Currently I am pondering how one writer compared writing in the 80s to writing now.  He said dramas in the 1980s were written in four acts, now they are written in six (gotta sell some commercials).  He said he wished he could write again for Thirtysomething because he was given seven more minutes to tell the story.  Seven more minutes.

Why are we in a rush to tell a story?  Oh, yeah, to sell commercials.  He even knew the seven minutes that were cut in that episode’s re-runs.  One example is a man noticing a woman, and his wife noticing him noticing her.  He said it was cut because there was no dialogue, therefore there must not be a story.  Hello, can THAT be more of a story?!

So I am pondering the importance of breathing room in the context of the creative process.

Another comment from that writer: his outline from the producers, he says, was 1.5 pages long.  Today outlines are 14 pages long (for seven minutes less).  He said episodes kind of write themselves now, because there’s no time to cover anything that’s not in the outline, or, for example, have a character reflect on the plot twist.

The same circumstance resonates to me with teaching.  I work on a phenomenal staff who have proactively decided to set aside minutes at staff meetings to reflect on certain topics.  We have found it powerful.  And we bring it to the classroom.  “The role of reflection has been described repeatedly in studies of teacher effectiveness. (-James Stronge)”  Here’s a catch 22: We are given fewer instructional minutes and more standards to cover than ever (think “an inch deep and a mile wide”).  Reflection time has shown to increase aptitude of those requirements, and yet reflection itself is not a requirement.  Hmm.  Just like life, we resist the urge to race from one task to another, and the need for each one to happen faster and more efficiently.

Recently Jason shared with me that a conductor at his gig asked the string players to start their vibrato before they bowed.  I loved that.  Literally and figuratively.  The instrument is already vibrating.  You are just inviting the sound to come out.  Likewise, and to bring this full circle, two of the Thirtysomething characters were cast to walk into the room in the middle of a conversation.  The actors said they took the liberty of writing what might have been the start of the conversation so they could begin down the hall and walk into the scene ACTUALLY in the middle of a converstion.  What a concept!  They got it right.

As usual, I have no idea if my thoughts will traslate into anything meaningful for Addison Road.  My thinking is pretty open-ended.  Do you have or make time in your life for reflection?  Spritually?  Musically, or whatever your craft may be?  Do you ever take time to sit in a room and listen to silence, or to enjoy the process (rather than outcome) of your task at hand?  I crave more of this in my life.

random reflections after my first cruise

1. Lighting is imperative to ambiance.  Upon entering and exiting the boat, people were generally friendly, but in a manner of business.  “Passport, please.”   “The life vest goes over your head (duh)” etc.  Once logistics were settled, the door closed the and ship took off, Hollywood lights dazzled and the disco started pumping.  Clearly this was crowd manipulation, and after a moment of cynicism, I was delighted to be on the receiving end.  The next three days were like a trance.

This brings me to number 2.

2. Music is imperative to ambiance.  There was music everywhere of all styles.  I love live music.  I even brought my infrequently used iPod in case I got homesick for my own tunes, but never even considered taking it out.  One morning I sat listening to a guy and his guitar covering the likes of Sting, the Beatles, Jack Johnson.  I am convinced I was the first passenger awake each morning and it was truly a vacation to sit there in my Carnival robe and pretend he wasn’t getting paid, he just wanted me to enjoy some acoustic melodies.  Also, we saw a Vegas-style show covering styles from many decades… heard subwoofers booming from dance clubs… relived the sounds of high school and college around the pool… passed a jazz club bopping on the boat… there was something for everyone (and this girl was loving it all).  Someone puts a lot of energy into the music on cruise ships, and I appreciated every note.

3. Nurses are among the most important and strongest decision-making members of our society.  They don’t take crap, nor should they.

4. Money.  I was wondering if the economy had hit this industry so hard to sell $199 three-day cruises.  That’s including all meals, free room service, on and on.  (Marle ordered a Reuben while getting ready for dinner.) Over the trip I learned that that figure is the tip of the iceberg for the undisciplined.  The internet cost money.  Pricey drinks also included gratuity (they declared what percent).  The cheapest spa treatment was almost as much as the ticket to get on the boat.  But instead of presenting your credit card, you present your room key.  That must mean we’re not spending actual dollars, right?!  What I learned is that the cruise makes more money once everyone is on than they did from selling the tickets.

5. Chocolate melting cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a cup of coffee is really, really good.

6. I can read 70 pages at one sitting when no one is interrupting me and there is nothing else I have to do.

7. Guys, if you’re ever invited to take part in a hairy-chest competition, don’t do it.  It’s kind of funny, but you look ridiculous and are the butt of the joke.

8. No one reads the Gideon’s Bible on the “Booze Cruise”.  Mine creacked open.

9. Dancing cures motion sickness, and is also beneficial to one’s health in general.

10. I can investment energy into the girlfriends around me, but I can’t always choose THE GIRLS.  If you have great ones, there is no better return than knowing and being known.  (And laughing your butt off.)

Here’s some music and ethics for ya.

This morning a mom came up to me at school.  She said, “I’m sorry I have been unable to volunteer to help for the school musical.  We are grateful for everything you do.”  Then she handed me a $25 check made out to Sharolyn Borris.

Surprised, I said, “Oh, this is help with the budget for costumes,” or some teacherly thing similar to that.  She said, “It’s for you, do with it what you want.”

Although it is not a large sum of money, what I do with it reveals my character.  What would you do?

1) Spend it on yourself.  She said it was for me.

2) Cash the check and buy something for school.

3) Shred it, as the tax payers and P.T.A. have already paid me.

a reflection on playing music

Today I got two calls to play piano.  The first was from an unfamiliar source, wanting me to play at a “Shakespeare audition thing” from 6-9 tonight, and they didn’t mention money.  Jason and I were laughing about how much money it was take for me to do it.  $500?  In other words, I was particularly uninterested.

Then I got another call.  A man in our church has died.  He has been ill for quite some time.  His wife, for this long duration of his illness, has spent one of her few hours away from his bedside each week teaching my son’s three year-old Sunday School class.  I’m not sure how long she’s been teaching, but she was also the teacher two years ago under the same circumstance when my daughter was there.  Can I play at his funeral Friday night?

Instantly I became grateful for the ability to play, because I can’t find the words to say Thank You.

Obedience

A couple of Saturdays ago I was in our church kitchen.  A man I didn’t recognize popped his head in from outside.  “I can’t make it to church tomorrow,” he quickly explained, “so I stopped by to drop off my tithe.”

Caught off guard, I said, “No one is in the office right now, but if you trust me enough what would be easiest for our treasurer is if I just put it in the basket for you tomorrow.”  “Sure,” he said, handed it to me, and just as quickly as he arrived he was gone.

It turns out I couldn’t have run away with it even if I had bad intentions.  It was a credit union check typed out to the church with a modest amount that included cents.  I am guessing it was exactly 10% of a paycheck.

In the midst of the ups and downs of church life, I was stopped in my tracks by his pure obedience.  He is not an active church member, but was somehow led to worship in this sacrificial way.  I had never before tithed on behalf of someone else.  It was an honor.

in appreciation of music pastors

My church has been without a music pastor for two years now.  We have a lot of musical talent within the congregation and over time have figured out our lay roles to keep the program healthy and even growing.

Some weeks I am not at church between Sundays.  This week, I’ll be there about 10 hours, which for me is a lot, since I work three days per week and raising my children is the highest priority.

With that in mind, today I felt one with music pastors.  I didn’t spend hours rehearsing with the band, then the next night teaching the new tunes to the choir just so middle aged man could stare back at us.  You came to church, dude, worship!  On the other side of that coin, how humbling and awesome it was to see others worshipping to the fruits of our labor.  One last reflection: As second service came to a close, I felt, “That’s it?  Now we put these tunes away and choose a new set for next Sunday.”

However, since I am not a music pastor, I am off next Sunday.  I will likely be sleeping in and walking to church with my family.