Not as in a Steeler touchdown [although those are usually followed by an exclamation point, too], but as in touching down at home for 36 hours before hitting the road again. After the multiple Christmas dinners [and boy, were they good! A little too good...the pants are WAY snug.], I'm heading to the left coast for some r&r. My hopes for the trip are:
  • easy flights
  • some good vino from here and here
  • a nice dinner here
  • ringing in the New Year with these guys ...I reeeeaaaalllllyyyy hope they play "opera singer" [hmmm...I'm sensing a theme for the trip...CakeTour2007?]
  • remembering my camera. and not the phone camera, but the real camera so's I can actually take some decent pictures. (and continue the Tall Building Tour in EM's honor!)
Off to run some errands and do a mountain of laundry before a crack-of-dawn flight tomorrow. If there's something I shouldn't miss seeing in San Fran, drop me a line!

To all 5 of you who read this [hi Mom!], I hope that 2008 brings you joy, good health, and busloads of laughter. And I hope that the one thing that you really really want, (even if your head doesn't know you want it yet, and your heart can't quite say exactly what it is), is given to you this year.



'tis the season

I love that the holidays give us both time for indulging and time for reflecting... two of my favorite things! The indulging part I'm heavily entrenched in at this time...a little too entrenched, as my body is begging me to lay off the chocolate, butter and nuts (but they're just soooo much better than vegetables and water! i can't help it!) and get my fanny out of my chair in favor of some movement. I'm working on it. No really, I am. Really...

The reflecting part is more difficult for me, not because I don't like to do it, but because I'm often not terribly honest in my reflections. Or I'm too mean. Or I just gloss over the hard parts. This year I'm hoping to get a more honest read on where I am and where I'd like to be. Not quite sure how to do it, but I'll give it a shot.


I'm going to bring back the list of 5 things I'm thankful for... I found that my day was really positively impacted by having to name specific good things before I got out of bed in the morning. And while I'm now out of bed a little bit before I'd like, it's still totally doable.

On my list of things-I'm-grateful-for today?
  1. Catching up with friends. I had the great good fortune to see JB and MB [no relation!] on Wednesday. They are both fabulous ladies, former work colleagues who I now count as friends. (And MB makes some MAD treats - I wish I could say that they weren't already gone, but good sweets are at a premium at Chez Rahree!)
  2. Stories. Another friend, BW, is a fabulous writer who sends around a heartwarming Christmas story each year. It's one of my favorite gifts for a number of reasons: it always captures the true spirit of the season, rather than the commercialism or the stress that I'm usually feeling at that point: his writing is totally inspiring: it's a lovely way to check back in with him and get a status check of his life and family: he lets me share it with my family and friends, which is the best regift ever.
  3. Community. Since our pup came home, our neighbors have welcomed us into a community of dog-and-kid-lovers that we didn't know about. I know more of my neighbors by name now than I did in September of this year, and they have graciously offered support in so many ways. It was so unexpected, and really so lovely.
  4. Family. Looking forward to heading to the 'rents and in-laws' homes to catch up with folks and siblings and cousins...
  5. A little bit of time out of the office. I love my job and my coworkers, but I'm getting very little done...it'll be nice to take a little time away and come back refreshed in the New Year.
Posting will be light over the next week or two with the travel to the Great White North (aka Pennsylvania) and then to San Francisco for New Year's. (Any recommendations? I've never been!)

To you and yours, happy holidays!


Playing hooky

So I've been out of the office for several days, eating bon bons and being pampered with pedicures and massages and the like. I love "work."

Just kidding!

I have been out of the office, but have simply traded my woodland digs for a temporary office in Shirlington. We're in the home stretch of the last day of recording final programs for our radio show, Center Stage from Wolf Trap. The hosts, BMc and RK, have listened to hours of music and are able to spontaneously weave together interesting banter that's as fun to listen to as the "hot tunes" themselves. Because they're pros, they're able to remember and correct their phrases on the fly...I find it amazing, as thoughts drop out of my mind as soon as I voice them. (Sometimes sooner. ) The music is really eclectic, ranging from ethereal Japanese wind music from Michio Miyagi to Kurt Weill's sexy cabaret tunes and including fine chamber music chestnuts from Brahms, Beethoven and Mozart. It's a great mix, and the aural satiety I'm feeling is amplified by the tasty lunch from Shirlington Thai...I'm fat and happy in my chair, researching various tiny tidbits for inclusion on air and checking email. Watching these programs pull themselves together is a wonderful way to spend a few cold winter days! I'm back in the office tomorrow, doing some interviews and catching up on some end-of-the-year paperwork before the holidays.

And in other news? The pierogi are made. All 13 dozen of 'em. Whew! I would've taken pictures of my flour-caked kitchen, but my hands were so gooped up that I didn't dare touch the camera. It's an involved process: making the potato & cheese filling one day, making the dough [it's a soft, sticky dough, hence the goopy hands], rolling it out, cutting, filling and sealing each one and then boiling them. It's not difficult, but it is time consuming. But, and I say this with all sincerity, each one was made with love. So they should taste pretty good!

Step aside Mrs. T. There's a new Polish lady in town.


Ph. D. in procrastination

So I'm happy to say that I am TOTALLY in the holiday spirit. It took a while, but I am happily listening to carols and feeling generally jolly.

But I haven't done a single thing.

Baking? Nope.
Pierogi? Nope.
Decorating? Nope.
Gift-shopping? Nope.

Wait! I did send half of my Christmas cards! But only half...

So this weekend is aaaaaallllll about me getting my proverbial backside in gear. If it was a perfect weekend, here's what I'd do:

After work today?
  • pierogi filling
  • Christmas cards, part deux
  • make the big list for presents

  • long walk/playtime with pup
  • gym [please? you know it's bad when I want to go...]
  • pierogi construction
  • hit the mall with hubby and totally knock out the shopping list[this is a recipe for total disaster, but in my perfect world it'll totally work out. Deny yourself nothing in a dream, right?]
  • leisurely morning, with Sunday paper and boatloads of coffee
  • baking?
  • more shopping?
  • yoga
Sounds lovely, right?

And, in true procrastination fashion, in writing this tiny post I am now totally running late for work! Eeeek! 'Bye, all!



Played a tiny bit of piano and sang a tiny bit at the office holiday party this evening. Having a project to prepare for was such fun! And I feel strongly that it's important to continue to perform [even in these tiny ways] so that I really remember, as I'm comfy behind my desk, the courage and guts it takes to get up in front of people and sing.

So, what did I learn/remember?
  • That the self-critical singer never goes away, no matter how casual the gig. It's never quite good enough, and it's one of the few aspects of my life that I feel that kind of insecurity. It may have very little to do with the actual reality...I mean, they're not going to book me as a solo act, but I don't think that they'll fire me either.
  • That the nerves don't go away either. Holy cow was I shaking!
  • That preparation is way more fun for me than the performance.
  • That the "Don't suck!" mantra does still kinda work. :)
  • That I sounded like a MILLION BUCKS in the car ride home! I could've driven around and sang in the car all night... in fact, I was seriously tempted. I could've charged money for it, I totally sounded that good.
  • My colleagues are pretty darn awesome. Lots of talent, and they play well with others... the pianists, flautists, violinist and singers were fab...I was in good company! And my non-performing colleagues? Generous and supportive.
So, to my performing friends of all stripes, I salute you!

Today goes solidly into the "Good Day" category. I mean, I made my Barns debut! How cool is that?!


Pushing the envelope

I've gone on record as being non-confrontational to the extreme. My pets, on the other hand, have no such hang-ups. For example: most of my neighbors are reasonable people and think that exuberant, small puppies are totally adorable and must be cuddled. The pup gets all kinds of lovin' from my neighbors. But there's one neighbor in particular who could totally do without out the pup. He's from another country, and often places business calls on his front stoop at odd hours, as cell phone signals are notoriously absent from the 'hood. He's a busy guy with a really deep voice.

The pup thinks he is the coolest human EVER.

Puppy has practically sniffed all of the smell out of this man's lawn. If he's outside on a call? Must be waiting for the pup! If he's inside? Well, the pup will wait outside his door, patiently, for him to emerge. And me? Well, imagine the above scene with a soundtrack of, "C'mon, puppy! C'mere! Let's go. Pup. Come ON. NOW." as a kind of ostinato, and you've got it.

This poor dude is probably ultra-tired of his two stalkers. Especially the one who walks upright and should know better.


delicious lethargy

There are a million gajillion things I should be doing. Cleaning, grocery shopping, buying holiday gifts, baking...you name it, and there's a good chance that I should be doing it.

But I'm not.


I've been spending the last few days catching up with friends, reading back issues of newspapers and magazines [ostensibly for gift ideas...], shaking off the funk I've been rolling around in, going to bed either unreasonably early or late, watching silly movies, and generally getting myself back in tune. And I'm almost there! (Whew!)

Took the puppy to the riverfront this morning - it was a mud-covered funfest! Good times, watching the pup running around, greeting kayakers at the landing, dipping his (huge!) paws into the river... good times, indeed!

On the docket today? Gladly, not much. A grocery store/hardware store run, maybe some chili or stew in the crockpot, a crossword puzzle and early pjs. Maybe even a little football or Jack Sparrow on the telly. Sounds perfect to me! Hope you can carve out a little time today to relax during this busy, hectic season.


my own personal soundtrack

I'm outside at 9:43 pm with the pup. It's pitch-black with beautiful stars.

I'm scuffing through the snow...black boots, black velour jammie pants, black hooded sweatshirt [hood up - it's cold out!] and a long black coat. And a small black dog.

And I realize that the chorus running through my head is Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper."


Snow Day!

Wow, a beautiful day today! There was a dusting on the ground when I left the house this morning, and by the time I got home after work the grass was totally covered. And the puppy totally redeemed himself and his piddling tendencies by being so amazingly cute in the snow. Chasing snowballs, burrowing, making snow angels...it was a very exciting day for the little guy. At right is the view from my office. While I live and work very close to Washington DC, my days are spent overlooking parkland. Deer, hawks...it's nice work amidst beauty.
The view of my office, however, is a little scary. I've never quite learned how to purge [ask anyone who knows me, and they'll tell you it's true!], and the piles are wearing me down. I think tomorrow will be all about getting organized, with a few meetings thrown in to keep me on my toes. I live in constant fear that I'll toss something that I'll need later on...time to address that fear.

But I was also reminded today that I do, in fact, live in the South. These people cannot drive in weather! I passed several accidents on my way into work, and was released early to get a jump on the home commute before the roads froze. In Pittsburgh? This would barely get a mention on the news... but here in DC, it was a biiiiig deal. One of my colleagues , who lives two or three towns over, had a 3-hour commute this morning. Wow, does that bite or what?

On the docket for this evening? Some creative writing, some for work and some for pleasure. A little professional reflection. A cup of tea and a kitty curled up on my lap. And outside my window, a winter wonderland. Life is good indeed.


Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk

Ok, I'm totally jumping on the bandwagon and posting my version of the Meme that's been going around.

Here are the rules:

1. Put your iTunes/ music player on Shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

After you’ve answered all of the questions, tag 5 other people and then let them know they’ve been tagged to do the meme themselves!

OK, let's see how well my iTunes library knows me!

1. If someone says ‘Is this OK?’ you say

"Going through the motions" by Aimee Mann

"Something isn't right, I don't know how I know..." Good one, iTunes!

2. What would best describe your personality?

"You're not the only one I know" by the Sundays

"So I say I'm in love with the world
and what is so wrong with voicing a doubt when I'm on my own
it's perfectly fine to sleep in a chair
from Monday 'til Saturday
and what is so wrong with talking out loud when I'm all alone."

3. What do you like in a guy?

"You've got to hide your love away" by Eddie Vedder.
Yep, I like 'em tortured and distant.

4. How do you feel today?

"Rubberband Girl" by Kate Bush

This one fits like a glove...bouncing from task to task, not often getting as deeply involved as I'd like.

5. What is your life’s purpose?

"Change Partners" by Fred Astaire
I'm not sure about this one...ballroom dancing?

6. What is your motto?

"Iowa" by Dar Williams
"But way back where I come from, we never mean to bother,
We dont like to make our passions other peoples concern,
And we walk in the world of safe people, and at night we walk into our houses and burn."

7. What do your friends think of you?

"Sparks" by Coldplay
"But I promise you this,
I’ll always look out for you,
That’s what I’ll do. "

8. What do you think of your parents?

"Penny on the Floor" by The Clarks
"I know it's gonna take some time
Before I look at you without looking at my own face." Yup, I'm turning into my mother...

9. What do you think about very often?

"Edge of the World" by Josh Ritter

A twangy instrumental...again, my dear iTunes, you're doing pretty well!

10. What is 2+2=

"Heart of Stone" by Griffin House

"when i offered you my hand & your face told me somethin' so wrong"...maybe the equation should read 2-1=?

11. What do you think of your best friend?

"Il finto Stanislao" overture, Verdi

Colorful, epic. Relatively short. Yup, that works!

12. What do you think of the person you like?

"No Better Place" by Fountains of Wayne
"And here is your reflection
In a building uptown
A ghost inside some Madison Avenue display
Like water under bridges
You're slowly passing by
As you sail between the rooftops and the sky"

13. What is your life story?

"Love Keep Us Together" by Martin Sexton
"It's been a long night tomorrow's another day
Call me when you find out the answer
And I'll hope and I'll pray
To a power that will keep me from goin' insane in the meantime"

14. What do you want to be when you grow up?

"Into the light" by Alice Peacock

She's fairly new to me, Alice Peacock, but this is a perfect tune.

15. What do you think when you see the person you like?

"Closing Time" by Lyle Lovett
"The night's all that's left behind
You take your part and I'll take mine"
Wow, iTunes, way to totally depress me...

16. What do your parents think of you?

"Shoot the Moon" by Norah Jones

"The summer days are gone too soon
You shoot the moon
And miss completely
And now you're left to face the gloom"

Wow, really? I don't think I'm a terrible disappointment... better see if good Santa is to me...

17.What will you dance to at your wedding?

"Australia" by The Shins
I would've totally enjoyed this one!

18. What will they play at your funeral?

"Juicebox" by The Strokes
Who's so cold? Oh, yeah. I'm so cold. Whoops.

19. What is your hobby/interest?

"Tomorrow Morning" by The Blue Nile

Hmmm... not sure what this one means...

20. What is your biggest secret?

"Black Wave" by The Shins
that my goose is cooked is, unfortunately, no big secret...

21. What do you think of your friends?

"Fool to Cry" by Rolling Stones

"Even my friends say to me sometimes
And make out like I don't understand them
You know what they say
They say, daddy you're a fool to cry"
(OK, it doesn't quite work, but...)

22. What should you post this as?

"Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" by Rufus Wainwright

"everything it seems i like's a little bit stronger, a little bit thicker, a little bit harmful for me"

Amen, Brother Rufus!

So, there are some old favorites and some newer tunes on this list, and more than 2 that i hardly listen to anymore.... i may have to redo this one with my favorites, although my iPod seems to know me pretty darn well!

Anyone care to join in?


An elf at work, the Grinch at home

Today was Holiday Sing, the new way that I kick off my holiday season. It's a free event at the big theater, where the Marine Band - conducted elegantly by a friend from grad school (a pleasant and welcome surprise!) and two of my esteemed colleagues lead 7000 people in holiday songs. Trees and poinsettias, beautiful music, a legion of local choristers, and some special appearances by Frosty & Santa and some particularly mischievous elves add up to quite a show! And this year's was particularly dramatic, with the power cutting out a la the Renee Fleming concert in 2006! (Kudos to the Marine Band for playing so well - and following a rallentando - in pitch blackness! Amazing!) I sang and danced [backstage, thank you!], ate my weight in fabulous iced chocolate brownies, and totally coveted Biff's (the Stage Manager Elf) hat. 'Twas the coolest. The evening ends with "Silent Night," with the lights turned out and all of the participants, on stage and in the audience, with lights/electric candles lighting their way. It's one of the most beautiful moments in my year.

One of my favorite things about the holidays (and also one of the reasons that I love my job so much), is that there's a real sense of camaraderie...I love showing up without knowing what'll be asked of me, and just fitting into whatever shaped slot they need a peg for. Trimming greenery? Sure. Wrangling a choir? No problem. Moving cars? (You really trust me with your keys? Oooookkkkaayyyy) Flexibility, a sense of humor, and comfortable shoes...all I really need on those days. And many of my colleagues are similarly flexible and good-humored...and those who choose to wear uncomfortable shoes make them look pretty comfy.

The issues happen immediately after the show...it's 6:00pm once everyone has left the building, and I'm panicky because Boo (aka Piddles McWhizzerson) doesn't do so well after 6:00pm. I have a tree to take home from the show (yay! free tree from the office raffle! I already have the lights and ornaments unpacked and ready!), but it's getting so late that I forego it until tomorrow and run home. Fighting the rain and the traffic, it takes me about 30 minutes to make it to Chez Rahree. I let the dog out of the crate, get him to the door, put the leash on....and am too late. Four hours worth, all over the floor. (And I know it's not totally his fault...he's just a baby, and I was gone past my usual time. But I'm already tired of cleaning up after this pup, no matter how cute he is.) Add to that a crushing headache, crappy wet weather pup's constant desire to use me as a huge teething toy, and another night sleeping next to the crate on the couch and well, I wish I was back at work.

Tonight? Sinus medicine. Steeler football, finally on network TV in the DC area - huzzah! Pajamas early, a nap on the couch next to Piddles, and a little bit of writing. I'm trying to make myself do an exercise every few days, whether it's a character sketch, free-writing to a prompt, journaling or blogging. (Breaking myself of the blogging habit, which is essentially freewriting about my daily life, is going to be hard. But I keep promising more content, and I think the only way to get more interesting content is going to be to think harder and practice more. Bummer, eh?) It's really the only thing that's popped to the forefront for my next 30-day project...I'm not sure it counts, as it's a bit of a continuation of last month's missive. But it'll have to do...at least until I grab onto something better.

Here's hoping that this week is kind and sweet to you, and that whatever gets you in the holiday frame of mind happens in a lovely, unexpected manner.



It turned out that today was not meant for pierogi-making.

Sure, I have ten gajillion pounds of potatoes and 2 gajillion pounds of cheddar cheese, but my heart was not in it. My heart, evidently, was very much into playing with the puppy in the frigid air, watching good-bad movies [as opposed to really bad movies or good movies that i should like but that leave me totally cold...] like the first REAL Star Wars [with a hunky young Harrison Ford...i miss him] and the Mummy, catching up on this season's Project Runway, and making a big pot of stew in the crock pot. But don't fret, my pierogi-lusting amici... for pierogi made without love are not real pierogi. Loveless pierogi are lead weights encased in dough, and they make you grumpy and irritable and fat. Whereas the real, lovey-dovey ones make the eater happier, slimmer, cheerier, better looking and richer.

It's the truth.

So I'm postponing until next weekend, so's I can spread the love, rather than the grump.

Otherwise today?
  • Still trying to figure out a new 30-day project.
  • Most years my time outside is limited to a walk to the car...more time outside in the chill with Mr. Piddles is making me 1.) acknowledge how lucky I am that my basic needs are met and 2.) making me look around for ways to help those whose are not. I know it's a big time of year for grass-roots philanthropy, but I still want to do something.
  • Sleeping on the couch with puppy, as he's totally asleep, and I tend to sleep through any middle-of-the-night crying.
C'est tout.