Finish Line

Ok, so the fall is always a rough time for me to stick to a plan. Work is intense, there's travel, yadayadayada. But this fall, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month. (Again. Last year I made it about halfway, 24,000 words.)

This year? I met the quota. 50,000 words.
(Hot. Damn.)

Fifty thousand words. Fiction. All while running around the country, listening to opera and seeing opera and researching and casting.

At the very least? I have learned, without a doubt, that I spend too much time vegging...and that I can actually do some cool things when I stay focused. After writing online for so long, the longer format was a real challenge, as was the dictum to not go back and reread, but to just continue to write. I've named the same character Greta, Deirdre, and Marla, just because I couldn't remember from day to day which name I had decided on the day prior.

But I've also found an interesting hobby. An artistic, creative outlet. A way to daydream on paper. And in this medium? It's ok that it's not perfect...heck, that it's likely not any good at all. But unlike performing, no one sees it while it's actually happening. It's like a fantastic secret! A superpower! It indulges my love of the process, of imagining, of the impossible.

I'll admit that I'm happy to walk away from the chaos of that story for a few days...but I'm also looking forward to re-reading it, seeing if there's anything worth salvaging, and reworking it extensively. (That, my friends? Is masochism, pure and simple.)

So, if I've surprised myself in this way, what other ways might I surprise myself? Next year is a big year for me - big round birthday and all of the baggage that sadly goes with it. I'm doing a lot of self-examining, and meeting this particular milestone makes me wonder what I actually might be able to do if I concentrated.

Heady stuff, and good mental fodder for a cold winter night.

Thankful for:

  1. Steaming cups of spiced tea.
  2. Knit caps. (My neighbors are less traumatized, now that the ferocious bedhead is under wraps.)
  3. Good books. Reading this one now, and in the market for suggestions!
  4. More holidays invitations than this introvert could possibly hope to attend. (granted, 60% of them revolve around our outgoing CEO, but I'll take what I can get.)
  5. Candlelight. 
And here's a song that's been making me smile. 


Thankful for...

so, so very much.

We have a Thanksgiving tradition that started about 6 years ago, when I first started at WT, and was on the audition tour right up until Turkey Day. (It's a great tradition - why mess with it now that we end the tour early, amiright?) I do some kind of exercise in the AM: gym or a run around the neighborhood. (Justification for second helpings of stuffing. Obviously.) A dog walk, a needed shower, and then it's Game On in the kitchen. Always a turkey breast (because there are just 2 of us, don't want to be eating turkey for a whole month!), always stuffing, always mashed taters, always gravy. Veggies rotate between squash and beans and, sometimes, both. I turn the music up and chop/stir/emulsify/whisk/taste/dance for several hours, while the animals watch on with curiosity/befuddlement/abject horror. (Elaine Bennis has nothing on my dance moves!) We eat between 2 and 3pm, often in our pajamas, and then spend the rest of the afternoon reading, watching football, taking leisurely walks around the neighborhood.

Today's meal was heavy on the butter (YES.), and I still have more stuffing leftover than braincells in my head. (Which is actually OK...I'm all for leftover stuffing, and now that I'm blonde I don't really need those extra brain cells anyway.) But it was a success: nothing burnt, nothing undercooked, an embarrassment of culinary riches to tuck away in the fridge for the week ahead and a perfect excuse to make turkey stock.

I have a comfortable life. It's not perfect, but I'm safe and sheltered and have more than sufficient. There are things that I worry about simply because I have the *luxury* to worry about the big picture, rather than trying to figure out how to feed myself or my family, where or how to live. I have a house that keeps me warm in the winter and cool in the summer. My hubs is a good man, my pets are adorable (or, in the case of the cat, an adorable douchebag.), my family is wonderfully weird, my friends are warm and generous - often to a fault.

I am one lucky, lucky girl.

It's difficult to pin down gratitude. I find that, when things are good I don't take time to be really present and count my blessings. When things are bad it seems like the blessings are so scarce. The reality is in between somewhere, skating the line between Pollyanna and Eeyore.

But were I able to only count one blessing, over and over again? Maybe it would be my health, my job, something intrinsic to my being. I think, however, my biggest blessing is the wealth of people that surround me:

Old friends (many of whom I've been able to spend serious time with this year) who are deeply known to me, even after decades apart, after a simple hug.
New friends who have changed the way that I see the world and myself.

These wonderful folks? Have become an intrinsic part of who I am. And I am better, so very much better, for knowing them.

I am loved. And for that? I am immensely grateful.



Phew! What a Sunday!

So, someone had the fantastic idea to share some spicy Mexican chicken tacos with the dog last night...Sunday started at 4:45am with a dangerously rumbly-stomached dog and a number of trips outside. Because Yours Truly is totally, 100% lame and had fallen asleep at 9:30pm on a Saturday night? (Don't judge.) It wasn't so much of a big deal. I got my full 3 morning pages done, longhand, in my journal and made a pot of coffee. It was good to be awake early because at 8:15am?

At 8:15am I was running a super-hilly (OK, for me.) 5k. In 34-degree air (which, truth be told, is preferable to warmer weather. I love warming up mid-run!), which I totally overdressed for, if that's possible. But the Smartwool socks and the new playlist kept me chugging right along. (It's yours for the taking - send me an email if you're interested!)

Hubby & the pup met me at the finish line and we walked home together in the sunshine...and hubs ordered breakfast burritos, the arrival of which was perfectly timed with my exit from a ridiculously long shower and my subsequent ensconsing on the couch. 

In fact, I spent most of the day on the couch, writing and watching HGTV and The Food Network's Thanksgiving Live. (Oh, Giada...you were awfully handsy with Alton....and he just didn't seem that into you. Maybe next time a smaller hit of that Lemon Whisky drink that Sunny made? Just sayin'...) 

I also added 2k to my NaNoWriMo word count, and even though it's a total hot mess as far as characters and plot (I've named the same character at least 3 different names. It's going to be a problem.), at least it's an ongoing hot mess...you can't create and edit at the same time, and I'm honoring that and just creating. There'll be LOTS of editing to come, fo' sho'...but I'm committed to making it to 50k.

Now? Guilty pleasure time: glass of wine and the new(ish) Avengers movie, rewatching the last 30 minutes (the cheap shot the Hulk takes at Thor? One of my favorite parts. Lawdy that never gets old!) over and over again. Getting ready to walk the dog before the Steeler game, which I will likely only make it through a quarter, maybe two. Getting a few more chapters into Zadie Smith's NW before falling asleep. 

My five, for a late-autumn Sunday evening:
  1. Ridiculous media. Hulk, you're totally the bomb. SMASH!
  2. Toasted walnuts. I'm always amazed at the transformation just a little bit of heat can make.
  3. Going for a leisurely jog with 1,400 of your closest pals. Race days are so fun, even if you don't actually 'race.'
  4. Writing. Heaven forbid when I actually have to/want to show this stuff to people. (Ugh.) But the writing? Is super fun.
  5. Unstructured time. So very grateful to have nothing on the formal to-do-list today. 



We're back!

Almost 10,000 miles.
Close to (maybe more than, actually) 1,000 arias.
Six operas (including 2 different casts of Bohéme) in four cities: Fidelio in Seattle; Moby Dick in San Francisco; Carmen in New York; Bohéme (x2), Italiana and Volpone in Houston.

It was a big tour.

For this first time in years, though, I'm not 100% wrecked upon return. It's nice to not be completely exhausted! But I will say that the return to a visually-oriented life is more difficult than usual. I've been so accustomed to relying on my ears - critical listening in the audition room, listening to traffic cues walking around the various cities, depending on my iPhone alarm to get my fanny out of bed - that it's taking me longer to react to visual stimulus. (I know, it totally sounds like hooey. Had I not seen but still almost run three different red lights yesterday while running errands, I would totally agree with you. But the tracks of rubber my brakes laid down speak for themselves... And thankfully so.)

So, I'm taking this opportunity, feeling a bit like a fish-out-of-water, to rewire some of the old connections that aren't working anymore, or that have become defaults. I'm looking for stories, songs, images that comfort, that challenge, that inspire. Suggestions needed and welcomed!

I've also hit a bit of a sticking point: I signed up for National Novel Writing Month, but have hit a rough spot. I don't know what's going to happen next... and moreso, I'm suddenly concerned that what I've written is just bunk, and it'd be ok if I just ditched it.

(Would the world stop turning if I shelved it? Nope. Do I need to finish it? MOST DEFINiTELY.)

I realize that I'm wanting to step away from it because there's a part of me that wants it to be Good, and it's not. Now, my rational brain knows that the first time you do ANYTHING you're likely going to totally suck. But my cowardly heart would rather not take the path than take it and fail. And my desire to be more creative is all the more terrifying having tried and failed to make a living at performing.

(I have family members who are living various aspects of this...I do not want to add my name to the list.)

But, the final word is that its something i need to do, to be able to look at myself in the mirror. So, if you have any words of encouragement? Pep talks? Hell tough love is appreciated. Send it my way - I could use any and all of it.

And, because I'm so amazingly needy? If you reply I will happily return the favor...pep talks, homemade pierogi, voice lessons, a curated playlist or book-of-the-month club. Name. It.

Feeling pretty thankful this evening. Here are five things, in no particular order.

1. Ridiculous glossy magazines.
2. Wool insoles. I had toasty feet, even in my basement office!
3. Laughter with colleagues. It's nice to be back.
4. Good friends. I'm so fortunate to have so many, scattered all over. Y'all rock.
5. Creative dinners. Nothing as funas throwing a bunch of disparate ingredients together, adding heat and drinking a glass of wine. (Come to think of it, maybe that's why summers are such fun!)


Mes amis, je suis tres fatigué.
(I can't remember if that's actual French or my own pidgin hybrid. Anyhoo, it serves as an example of my current level of brain cells, at the least.)

We're leaving Houston this morning, and it's not a moment too soon. I mean that in the very best way: usually the town in which I light the candle at both ends is NYC. But this year H-ton is giving the Big Apple a run for its money. There are people whom I know and love all over this town -at both HGO and Rice, and living in the city or nearby. The number of alums of our program in this town is just amazing - it always feels like the best kind of Old Home Week when familiar faces start popping into the rehearsal room between auditionees.

We've seen 4 operas (2 fantastic casts in Boheme, the most adorable Italiana I've ever seen, and the first non-WT production of Volpone!)

(I can - and practically did - sing along during the entire rehearsal of Volpone. I have missed that piece!)

Tuesday - which was a 2-opera day (boheme student production in the AM, auditions in the afternoon, Volpone at Rice University in the evening) was also Election Day. Which, this year, would've been my dad's 70th birthday.

So, yeah. A big, amazing day on many levels.

I have to say that today I might not listen to a single operatic note. I've hit saturation, and the construction noise outside my window is sounding more entertaining than any music that I could summon.

I'm having breakfast with a pal this morning, and then we're hitting the road for Chicago. Back in Virginia for Monday and Tuesday.

Home stretch.

My five:
1. Reconnecting with friends. This tour makes it easy, but it's something I should do more of outside of this annual trip.
2. Shaking off the 'jaded administrator' cloak and finding myself truly delighted in the opera house. (more than once in a week seems absolutely decadent)
3. Flat shoes. My body kinda hates me.
4. Having a good short list for next summer. It's going to be exciting!
5. Laughter. In Houston, it abounds!