universe 10, rahree 0

So, after writing and publishing two non-negative posts this morning, I walk to the car dealership, where my little roller skate of an auto is getting a tune-up and de-padiddled. [they're replacing a burnt-out headlamp] I'm fully expecting to pay $500 or so for what needs to be done.


Ok, enough.

While I've tried to be positive here, for the most part, here's a post for those of you who think I have it too good. In the last four months the following things have gone wrong.
  • My father died unexpectedly and much too soon.
  • My sister-in-law walked away from my brother, without having the guts to even try to work on their relationship.
  • My soon-to-be-ex-sister-in-law abandoned us all the week after my father passed away.
  • I hurt my back seriously enough to see an orthopedist.
  • Puppy exploded. Again.
  • Speeding ticket for 39 in a 35 mph zone. Seriously?!
  • A colleague from a previous job proved to be less a friend than an opportunist.
  • All of the hay I tried to make professionally turned into chaff.
  • It started to rain in my kitchen. Again.
  • My vacation fund has become my car repair fund.

Add to all of that an upcoming birthday that places me closer to 40 than 30, and color me extremely malcontent. I am officially ready for the Spring of Suck to be finished. Not just because I want good things to start happening - I do, and to be honest my hubby and my friends have totally been bright spots in all of this - but because I don't like the woman that all of this suck is bringing out.

My birthday is the first day of summer...Universe, you've been warned.

Skip to my lou

I'm sitting in a sunny spot at a local Starbucks (don't judge), using my multi-tasking skills to catch up on work email, skim the NYT, and eavesdrop. (Watching a cougar put the moves on a much younger man...fascinating...)There are sales guys, students, young mothers and babes-in-arms and/or strollers...a nice cross-section of non-9 to 5ers. I'm more than a little jealous. There's a man outside smoking a pipe, and when the door opens I can catch just a bit of the smell of good tobacco. I have a vat of coffee next to me, and despite an early start to the morning, I'm pretty darn content.

I've been thinking about blogging more than doing it lately... while I've labeled myself as a Pollyanna in the past, I'm not feeling so much like one lately, and I'm having a hard time translating this new mind set into my writing. I'm sure my perkier self will return, and I hope wherever she's gone she's having a good time! (I know that she'll be back in a few weeks when the singers are back in the building - she wouldn't miss that for anything!) This time of year is challenging... lots of things to take care of prior to the artists' arrivals, but every fiber of my being wants to skip out of work while it's still quiet and recharge my batteries.

When I was in college in Pittsburgh, gloriously sunny days were hard to come by. And, every once in a while the day was so beautiful that it warranted a Skip Day. Call the main office, cough, cough, sniffle, not coming to class, please let the professors know [there were only 12 of us in my specific year and program, and we were missed when we were absent...some days I would've welcomed the anonymity of a group lecture class!], yes, I'm sure I'll be feeling better tomorrow... And then? A trip to the Strip District for cheese and fresh bread or a walk to Bagelland for bagels and schmear, a good book, and a blanket in the park. Sometimes I was really brash, and would sit in the park next to campus, just waiting to be caught. It never happened.

I'm feeling a Skip Day coming on soon...


X chromosomes only, please

Way, way back, when I was young and single and skinny, I taught for an all-girls' school in Pittsburgh PA. I remember taking the assignment, initially a part-time voice class and general music gig, with some trepidation. My dad was a Union guy, and here I was, hitching my wagon to a school that paid less than a public school gig, had no union protection, and did I mention no boys (well, other than a few faculty members)?

Who would've known that teaching at a girls school would've made me a better person?

I was there for five years. Found my teaching chops, taught a lot of Italian art song ("Lasciatemi morire", anyone?), sang a lot of Italian art song, conducted my first professional orchestra, watched the towers fall, skipped as many faculty meetings as I possibly could (that particular irony is not lost on me in my present incarnation, where I languish in meetings several times weekly), played in the pit for several musicals, dated a colleague or two, lived with a colleague or two, and made some great friends and great music. It was a great place, committed to nurturing young thinkers and artists who just happened to be women.

That particular school took me from an insecure college graduate to a self-possessed teacher with the courage to give the "singing thing" one more try. It watched me make a bevy of mistakes, professional and personal, and supported me while forcing me to deal with the consequences of my actions. In short, it helped me to grow up, to make the transition to responsible, silly, gratifying adulthood.

In recent months, several of my favorite students from my days at that school have found me [yay Facebook!]. The professional paths they've followed are all interesting: jazz singer, private school development officer, cantor, future prosecutor, pop singer. But they are still the same open, inquisitive, kind young women I remember from my classroom. I am thrilled at their integrity, creativity and thoughtfulness. They are fabulous women, and I look forward to forging some adult friendships with them.

Adult friendships of the responsible, silly, highly gratifying kind.

Brava ladies! I have no right to be, but I am so proud of all of you.



One of the most wonderful things that has come out of this Spring-Filled-With-Suck is that I have been reconnected with some great people. Friends who have been through similar situations have offered support, open ears and arms, and copious adult beverages. My colleagues have stepped up in ways that have taken them out of the "work friends" column and placed them firmly in the "rockin' friend-for-life" column. My good friends have carried me and my family on their shoulders, even when they were dealing with losses of their own. And, thanks to the wonder that is Facebook, all kinds of buddies, classmates, and former students (the sheer quality of the former students that have surfaced lately demand an entry of their own...coming soon) have poked their heads into my virtual front door to say hello and sometimes borrow a cup of virtual sugar. It's nice.

Other miscellany:
  • On our morning constitutional, Pup and I walked the hilly trail in the park. We crossed paths with several deer - now, we're pretty accustomed to seeing deer on our morning walks...there are a gazillion in the park, and Boo thinks of them as really big dogs who don't like to play with him. It's their loss, as far as he's concerned. But one of them this morning actually took a few steps towards us, tail swishing. Maybe we can add Bambi to our house menagerie!
  • I'm a rock star. I went to the gym twice in two days. I can't move my arms, but hubby tells me that'll get better if I go back. (Wait, I have to go BACK?) The great thing? I can feel my muscles. The bad thing? I can feel the non-muscley jiggle even more... Damned if you do...
  • Saw a great production of Cosi fan tutte yesterday here. Fun, well-sung, and led musicially by one of my favorite people. Throw in a picnic lunch and an illicit bottle of rose, and you have a lovely Sunday afternoon!
  • First rehearsal this evening for City of Angels here...LOVE this show, and am excited to get back into a show pit.
Happ Monday, all!


A toast...

...to impromptu gatherings that are easy, fun, and satisfying on a variety of levels.

It's nice, in my 2008 spring-o'-hard-knocks, to have a lovely, low-key evening with a different mix of people, some that I know well, some not-so-much. A long walk in the park (with a very bad - very cute! - but very willful and bossy puppy), followed by a glass of wine and grill food was just the antidote I needed for a week that was feeling more difficult than it needed to be.

...and to finding camaraderie and friendship when I didn't know I needed it. I needed it this evening, and I'm so grateful to the lovely ladies who spent some time with me. They may not technically be therapists (although SingleGirl is coming close!), but just having them around to walk with, talk to, and cook for, made this evening such fun. It's technically the first evening that I've been alone since my dad passed away. My dad loved to entertain...holidays begin [began, I suppose] with my dad puttering in the kitchen, creating a (mostly...the bundt pan meatloaf with the googly hard-boiled eggs notwithstanding) tasty meal to show the folks around the table how much he appreciated and loved them. This evening it felt good to have a group of smart, fun, interesting women over, to share a beautiful walk, and to hopefully nourish them afterward with some good food and good conversation. My dad would've totally approved...

I'm grateful that these fabulous women gave me support, opportunity and some precious time this evening...Thanks ladies! The pleasure was all mine...


Lessons from Boo part three: the hair-raising sequel!

Here's what we learned between 3:00am and 6:00am this morning

  • Sometimes we do things that we know are bad for us {like eating mulch}, and hope that the consequences will skip us. They rarely do.
  • The main event is often not the hardest part...the hardest part happens afterward, when everyone decides the problem has passed. That's when things get really nasty.
  • You can never have too many paper towels.
  • People who work the early shift at the grocery store are really friendly and helpful, even when you're not awake enough to appreciate them. Thanks, Safeway folks...I would've walked around for hours before finding the paper towel aisle.
  • Perspective is everything...when the puppy exploded several months ago, it was mid-winter, freezing cold and miserable. This time there was a full moon, temperate weather (enough to open the windows), and it seemed less daunting. (And he didn't hit me with it, for which I'm terribly grateful.)
So it's now 8am, and I've been awake for five hours. In that time I've cleaned, napped, cleaned some more, gone grocery shopping, cleaned again, made coffee, and am getting ready to steam clean the carpet.

And surprisingly? I'm not grumpy at all. Concerned about Boo, sure, but I'm pretty sure that he just ate something that didn't agree with him. Sleepy? Oh, yes. But I'm looking forward to a nap on the patio in the sun this afternoon. And with a second cup of java, new paint on the toes, and the Sunday crossword a day early, this Saturday is just fine.


Lessons from Boo part deux

So Boo and I have been working with a trainer.

Personal trainer? Of sorts. Not the kind that should be chasing me on a treadmill until my heart pops (although it would take shamefully little for that pop, I'm afraid) but the kind that helps us tune in to one another. When pup goes outside, it's really hard for him to filter all the information coming towards him...squirrels, blowing leaves, and don't even get me started with all of the smells! And while I'm all for him enjoying his walk, I get terribly irritated when he drags me across a road to chase one of the aforementioned squirrels, or decides to jump into the canal and take me along. [Well, I suppose if I let go of the leash I would've stayed dry... maybe I am the one who needs more training.]

So part one: tuning in. It's hard to do at this time of year...work is ramping up big time, and folks are tense and distracted - excited and hopeful, yes, but there's a lot of nervous, easily-misdirected energy. All of the tasks that seemed light years away are suddenly right around the corner - AUGH! It's hard to take a deep breath, and look at things from someone else's perspective at this time of year. But it's a goal. And, when the pup is tuned in, we have a much better time together.

Part two: on a particularly good afternoon walk, pup was totally tuned in...listening to my commands, walking without jerking me to hell and back, being a total charmer. We walk around a bend, and there are - count 'em - five deer. Standing stock still.

...and pup is waiting obediently for a treat. He totally misses the deer. Totally - doesn't even smell 'em.

So it seems that the larger challenge is to stay tuned in AND to be aware of what's going on around me, while in the midst of the maelstrom that is our summer season. I think.

Anyhoo. On the docket for this week?
  • contracts for our Studio guest lecturers
  • travel arrangements for artists
  • orientation & access materials for summer folks
  • send a final cut list and script to this guy. Awesome!
  • set up payroll, housing, and such for summer employees
And more! {Yep, we've been proofing a lot of marketing materials lately. How did you know?}
On the personal side?
  • Oil change for the Rahreemobile
  • Start swapping out wool trousers for linen pants - Yay!
  • Groceries. Seriously. What did I do this weekend, anyway?
  • More practice with the pup. Let's see if we can get an A on this week's report card!


Let the puttering continue!

Yesterday we continued the puttering trend, and trekked to Home Depot for outdoor plants and mulch and fertilizer. The lovely thing about only having a postage-stamp-sized yard is that you can spend 3-4 hours outside and get everything done! We also rearranged the living room furniture [and vacuumed all of the dog hair from under the couch... did I mention that someone is getting a bath today?], so we were feeling mighty productive!

The only casualty? The new hostas I planted under the oak tree... seems like the deer like them as much as they like pansies... but now that I am a PRO with a shovel and mulch, I'm not too worried. Googling: deer-resistant plants...

We were all up at 4:30am today - which is waaaaay too early - and I have continued the productive trend by turning the last 3 nasty bananas into lovely muffins. But to be honest, I'm currently thinking about going back to bed.

Update: It's 4pm. The hostas have been replaced by tiny pachysandra plants, and new mulch has been liberally strewn around the beds. Our early wake-up time, the gray chill of the day, and the lovely lull of the announcer's voice (side note - where does the Golf Channel find their announcers? One of those guys reading the phone book = drug-free Ambien. I love them...) means that it's naptime for Rahree. The to-do list will have to wait for another day...


Calendar, schmalendar

It's been a long time coming, but the world is starting to transform into a kinder, more hospitable place.

I've written often about the park serving as a more reliable calendar than the appointment-filled Outlook appointment book on my computer, and this spring is no exception. This winter's difficulties were echoed by cold, gray, weepy weather...certainly appropriate, but unrelenting. It's easy to feel abandoned in a global sense when the surrounding environment is bare.

But spring has arrived! And I'm feeling lighter of heart, and more aware of the wealth of possibilities that lie ahead. Still grieving, certainly, but spring was my dad's favorite season - starting heirloom tomato plants from seeds, sprucing up the flower beds, cutting back the rose bushes, mowing the lawn on his prized John Deere tractor, baseball cap on his head, cigar in his mouth...he'd putter around the house, working on any number of projects. (Sometimes, he'd even finish some of those projects!) I channelled my inner putterer yesterday... after puppy class, I cleaned and oiled my patio furniture. It was an excuse to spend some time outside, to see a small project through from start to finish, and to see some real, tangible results from my time. And it made me feel a little closer to him.


toNIIIIIIGHT, TOniiiiight


Ok, so my West Side Story excerpt leaves a little to be desired this morning. Sorry.

But I'm excited for this evening, when these guys play at The Barns. We commissioned a work for them, which is one of the most exciting things that an organization like mine can do. In the grand scheme of our commissioning history, this is fairly small - a three movement work for string quartet. (I'm guessing, however, that the composer would take exception to my description! Blood, sweat and tears!), but the premiere of anything that's never been heard before is groundbreaking.

This composer in particular was in many ways a dream to work with - responsive, creative, and friendly. And did I mention based in Russia? It was my first time working with a foreign artist who wasn't doing a residency in the US as part of his project. No visa to worry about - which was a relief, as they take big financial and time resources for a company of our size. (But there's some good news on that front here. Fingers crossed!) But you can't just send an American check to Russia for payment...again, we had a bit of a learning curve (and by "we" I mean "me"...er, "I") but everything turned out well. I'm eager to hear his piece, but a little sad that he won't be here to join us.

Today we have a lazy morning on the docket, which is lovely. I'll take little hike with the hound, meet these folks for Dog School [and by "Dog School" I mean "Rahree School"], and run a few errands before heading into the office. The weather has been a little less cloudy and quite a bit warmer, making for better moods, but also driving home the realization that our folks arrive in four weeks - less than, in some cases - for the summer season. I'm ready! Well, almost...


Can't wait!

I'm an impatient person. I come by it honestly, as my mom has admittedly never been one to sit back and wait for things to happen. Heck, an unnamed co-worker has office paraphernalia that reads "Instant gratification isn't fast enough!"

At work we're in this strange no-man's-land of preparation...getting ready for everyone to arrive, to start making music and friends.

But no one's here yet...

...and we're stuck with spreadsheets and billing changes and bio edits and pre-scheduling (i.e. how many projects can rehearse simultaneously on any given day...looking at not just how many spaces we have, but also how many chairs and music stands we can use in each space, noise bleed, previous reservations, etc...). It's all vital, and the more we get done now, the easier time we'll have this summer. But every week or so we get a new tease, promising an excellent summer...a beautifully rendered set design, captivating research for choristers' costumes, a box (or three) of orchestral parts... you get the idea.

Did I mention no one's here yet?

The energy in the building (well, maybe just down in OperaLand) changes drastically once the singers and musicians and staff arrive...we're more energetic (at least at first...), more keyed in to what's happening, and generally in a better mood. Life is just more fun when there's art-making in the building!

And I'm ready...ready to see friends, to sit in on rehearsal, to run around like a crazy lady. But it's not time yet. And I find myself anxious and impatient to begin. It's manifesting itself in the wrong ways, like outbursts of "aaaiiiiggggghhhhh....", more speeding tickets than I care to admit, and an irritability that's dangerously close to the surface.

I'm not sure if there's a way to speed up the clock so that May arrives more quickly. In fact, I'm not sure I'd even want such a thing... but on a dreary, grumpy Wednesday afternoon, for an hour or so, I most certainly do.



Just received this photo today - it's one of my favorite pictures. My dad took it when we met for dinner in Annapolis a few years ago. Being the sage cigar-smoker he was, he knew I was in for a world of hurt if I smoked the whole thing.

Did I mention I smoked the whole thing?

He had just bought a fancy new cell phone, one with a camera, and loved taking pictures. [He had actually been a photographer in a former life... we have Spielburg-esque shots of my brother and I as The Babies Who Drowned New York...we were pretty drooly.]

But it was a perfect evening, and we had great, father-daughter conversation. And I realized how much I liked my dad - I mean, I love my parents, but it was a wonderful realization that I could have a great adult conversation with my dad, without awkwardness and with a lot of laughter. Heck, I could've hung out with him at a bar or an opera, maybe even taken him shoe-shopping.

Ok, so the shopping would've been a bit much.

Regardless, I knew that he really was proud of who I had become. And he also knew what a huge role he played in my life.

I am so glad, so thankful to have had that evening!

Hubby and I head to Annapolis for some sailing lessons later this month, and I am looking forward to walking the square with another fabulous guy.

But no cigars this time...


Funny ha ha?

Well, judging by Guy Smiley over there, I'm not the only one who is happy that spring is here! Longer walks after work, more lingering over the best (read: nastiest) sticks, and somehow finding a little more energy are all good things. The trees are pink and white and green, and I am white and pasty and more than a little puffy, but I have high hopes for the month ahead.

Work is gearing up (if you haven't decided when you're coming to visit me click here for a list of who's playing in our yard this summer - there's nothing like an evening on the lawn, I promise!), and while there's lots to do I'm not quite in the groove yet. Note to self: get movin', girl!

In the spring of 1988, my family packed up the ol' homestead and moved west. Well, west to Western Pennsylvania. I was a freshman in high school in a small school district in Bradford County, moving several hundred miles away from my friends, and was dealing with the situation by rolling out a generous helping of teen angst. I know, quel suprise!

Moving Day?

April 1st.

April Fool's Day.

No joke!

It went off without a hitch, and we started unpacking that night in Slippery Rock. The house had originally been servants' quarters for the manor house on the hill, and was located a mile outside of the university that formed the center of the town. That evening, we walked the dog to the top of the hill (which would later be strip-mined...another cosmic April Fool's joke! There's nothing like dealing with so much dust that you're forced to keep your dishes in the oven!), and the stars were so thick and bright that they took my breath away. The stars and I, well, we shared a lot of secrets the three years I lived there.

Again, (stop me if you've heard this one before) I'm still sorting through the events of this winter, and find my breath taken away alternately by the warmth of friends and colleagues and the difficulties that normal life presents. I'm definitely fragile, but am infinitely grateful for those kindnesses I've been shown. Thanks, all - the next pick-up [not hit-on pick-up, please] is totally on me.