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Q&A | piano questions, plus a painful memory question

As I read the comments after I shared the video of me playing with an orchestra, I realized that a lot of you have never seen me play the piano. I have posted quite a few videos of me playing on my Instagram, but I forget that not all of you are there!

The keys on a black Weinbach piano.

If you click here, you will be taken to my Instagram Reels page, and if you scroll through there, you’ll find a fair number of piano videos. I have no idea if this works without an Instagram account, though!

A few piano questions to start us out; first off, someone was surprised I didn’t major in music. I did plan to do that, but I developed some pretty bad overuse syndrome problems in my hands, wrists, and arms as a teen (too much practicing), so that kinda put a music major out of the question.

However, I did teach piano for 20 years, and I also spent 10 years being the primary church musician.

Sooo, despite not getting a degree in music, I feel like I have spent plenty of time in my life putting my musical training to good use.

Do your kids like to play?


I did teach all of them the basics of playing the piano, and some of them have run with it more than others. None of them are as into the piano as I am, though! 🙂

A little girl in a pink shirt practicing piano.

A small Zoe

Do you play by ear?


Not generally; I mean, I’m sure there is some connection between my ears and my fingers, but I am not a person who can typically just hear something and then play it.

I am a very visual learner, so once I have seen a piece of music printed out, it’s much more likely to stick in my head after that.

Brahms sheet music.

A Brahms intermezzo that I love

It’s just like how when I see someone’s name written down, I will almost always remember it. But if I just hear someone’s name, I am much less likely to be able to recall it.

1. DID YOU MEMORIZE THAT?? I saw no music on the piano (blurry video)
2. Were you aware of the conductor? I am so impressed that you just were perfect with the orchestra.
3. Speaking of perfection, how in the world did you manage that with zero mistakes? Don’t you get nervous??

-Central California Artist

These questions made me smile; you are so kind.


Yes, I memorized that. I memorized scads of piano pieces over the years because every time I played for a judge or in a competition or for a grade, the music had to be memorized.

Luckily for me, once I have played a piece enough times, I usually end up memorizing it without a lot of extra effort.

The piece I played with the orchestra was a fairly simple one, but once you get into complicated music with tons of notes, you really do have to kind of memorize it in order to play it.

Human brains can’t really read that many notes that fast, and by the time you’re fluently playing a hard piece, the printed music is more of a memory jog than it is something you’re actually reading.

Still, it is very stressful to have to perform something from memory; there is always a worry that you will have a brain cramp and completely forget what you are playing.

Once when I was a teenager, I was performing a Bach piece for some judges and as I looked down at my hands, the keys suddenly looked like a confusing sea of black and white and I completely stopped playing. I could not remember anything! Sigh.

The next time I played a Bach piece for a judge, I shut my eyes the whole time. I think they probably thought I was really into the music, but I really was just trying not to lose my memory again. Ha.


Yes, I could see the conductor; even though I wasn’t looking at him, I could see his hands moving.

Also, by the time the performance happened, I had been practicing that piece for months, and I’d listened to the recording a zillion times. So it’s not like I needed tons of guidance for where my parts came in.


Yes! I did get nervous. And as I said above, sometimes my nerves have gotten the best of me. But I am grateful that this time was not one of those times.

In my adult years, I played for church every week for ten years straight, and that did mostly take care of my nerves. After you are playing in front of people week in and week out, you do lose some of the nervousness (or at least, I did!).

I’m curious, is it hard continuing to use items from your many years of marriage? I’m such a sentimental person about items. I would think that with some things I would be fine, but others would have too painful or too lovely (and therefore painful) memories attached.

-Molly (she asked this after seeing the Christmas tree stand I rehabbed)

1997 Christmas tree stand box.

My noncommital answer: it depends.

I think when it comes to the spectrum of “sentimental about items” I am probably slightly toward the non-sentimental side of things, so that helps.

Also, in my mind, there’s a difference between a baking sheet and something more personal or something that was more co-owned.

Christmas tree stand.

For instance, I am the one who cooked and baked, so the baking sheets feel like mine and I have no issue using them.

On the other hand, I didn’t take a single thing from the bedroom at my old house besides my clothes. In my bedroom here, I have entirely new furniture, decor, and a new bed, and I am very happy about that.

Kristen's bedroom.

(by “new”, I mean “new to me”. Almost nothing in there is new, and almost all of it was free!)

I do have a lot of painful marital memories, but these memories are rarely triggered by items. I think I am more triggered by places.

For instance (and I think I might have written about this, so forgive me if I’m repeating myself), a little while back I was driving home from Aldi, and I saw a building that made a memory from 2014 pop up to the surface.

Tears sprang to my eyes (always the combo of sad/angry tears), and I cried the whole way home. This was a few months ago, though, and now that I have cried and processed that memory, I can drive by that building without feeling all those feelings.

I also have done some reclaiming of places by going there by myself or with someone else, and basically trying to overwrite the bad associations I have there (like at a restaurant or an amusement park).

Once I’ve done that, the place usually feels better to me.

Hershey park roller coaster.

I wonder if that kind of thing could be done with possessions too; I’m imagining that a person could sit with the item’s memories, cry over them, feel angry, and then perhaps the item could feel ok in the future.

Also, I think items could be reclaimed in a similar way to how I have reclaimed places; I now think of this Christmas tree stand as mine. I fixed it up, gave it a fresh lease on life, and I feel like it belongs here with me now.

painted tree stand.

On the other hand, there are definitely some possessions that I could not manage to disentangle from marital memories (imagine keeping wedding rings!!) and I think it’s just fine to sell/donate stuff that you can’t see a way to peacefully keep.

Honestly, I think there’s a whole range of ways to handle this, and most of them are just fine. Every person has to figure out their own way of navigating in a way that feels comfortable and healthy for them.


And that’s it for this round of questions! Usually at the end of these posts, I ask for reader input, but the piano questions are sorta hard to do that with.

However, I’d love to chat about the last question!

Let’s talk about items, memories, and sentimentalism; I’d love to hear your perspective.

P.S. Got a question for me to answer in a future Q&A? You can leave it in a comment here, or you can email me (

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Thursday 27th of April 2023

little trinkets long forgot piled into a weathered box making people think of things that now seem worth remembering colored pictures, ink designs gentle filter through my mind time can only leave behind the happy times that once were mine

Lisa K.

Thursday 27th of April 2023

@Tiana, This is beautiful!


Thursday 27th of April 2023

I can play piano, guitar, and mando by memory but not the clarinet, I need sheet music. I payed the clarinet in a marching band so maybe I just need to march around to jog my memory. I lost my wedding rings while swimming across a lake and never replaced them so no memories there. I was awarded house and contents and personal effects in my divorce and never got them. I think my ex had no problem but his new wife my ex friend was dead set to take everything for some reason. She would even wear my jewelry when they would come to pick up the kids. The only things I ever missed was a hand made silver and turquoise necklace with inscription given to me to commemorate the birth of one child. Also a handmade walnut cradle. In hindsight the education I got about crappy scum people was far more useful than either of those objects.


Thursday 27th of April 2023

During my divorce as I was lamenting all the “things,” and my friend made the comment that it is just “stuff,” and can be replaced. “It’s just stuff,” became my mantra and it worked for me.


Thursday 27th of April 2023

Your playing is just lovely. Thank you so much for sharing that.


Thursday 27th of April 2023

It was years ago, but I had to get new pillows and new towels when I divorced. The things I kept were things I thought either my children needed to remain in our home or things I had used and felt good about. I had my grandmother’s engagement ring from her first marriage and traded my wedding set for a sapphire to put in it. That provided me with closure and the ability to move forward while still being sentimental. I think it’s different for everyone. Moving forward and making decisions for me was very therapeutic!

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