12.21.2013

identity crisis

What the what is going on?

It's close to 70 degrees here, outside of DC, on this winter solstice. I'm not complaining - it's my half-birthday, and I will self-centeredly take this lovely, balmy, shoulder-relaxing Saturday as a princely gift. I spent the day running errands with every window open, with crazy-lady wind-tossed hair, wrapping gifts and doing laundry between bouts of porch-sitting. Just having the house open to the breeze has felt like an amazing luxury.

We're heading back to Pennsylvania two days early this holiday season, for less-than-festive reasons. Hubby's grandfather - he of the eternally sunny disposition and bionic hips - took a spill that did him in. He was 98, a miner, a father of three wonderful guys. His positivity seemed to be a guarantee for longevity, yet it was one very small misstep that turned out to be catastrophic. I'm torn between being sad for the loss, and celebrating a life well-lived.

Two of my neighbors are dealing with rough runs of luck. Several friends have welcomed new additions to their families. There's good stuff and bad stuff, and somehow none of it is falling in a moderate ranges. (It's like election season, but with life events instead of politics...nothing skewing towards the dang middle!) I can't quite wrap my head around the ups and downs. But I'm happy to be here, surfing towards the end of the year.

I hope that, no matter what this holiday season brings to you (or out in you), you find a moment of true, giddy joy.

Love to you and yours.


12.10.2013

Tangentially.

I love radio station days, especially the fall/winter dates.

After being immersed in opera for weeks, digging into chamber music with four really knowledgeable people is enlightening, refreshing, and quite frequently hilarious. These guys are lovely, and it's a treat to spend two days (in two very small rooms) with them!

I think my favorite moment from today was talking with Bill McGlaughlin about Rosetti's poetry, Ligeti's music, and Arcade Fire.

(The only thing linear about the whole day is the format - everything else is up for grabs!)

One more day, this time without the threat of snowmageddon - looking forward!


12.08.2013

Lazy Sunday

I typed "Lazy Sunday" but I didn't really mean it. I've been one productive bee-yatch today.

Got up and made breakfast (well, got up and threw some awesome Black Forest bacon in the oven, and then made eggs and toast once the coffee hit the bloodstream...heaven!) which was an unusual and welcome diversion from the normal Sunday morning rush to spinning class. Took the dogger for a long walk, and then ran some errands on foot, doing Christmas shopping for the niece and nephew in the neighborhood without having to deal with finding a parking space. Came home, made a vat of chili and did two metric tons of laundry. Filled birdfeeders! Chatted with a neighbor as his dog chased mine happily around the yard! Spent the day barefaced and slipper-shod!

It was lovely.

And made even lovelier for the snow that's fallen around the area. I have to say that I'll take snow over cold rain, even over frigid sunshine. Using it as an excuse to eschew the car, and spend time outside and puttering inside was perhaps the best holiday gift I could give myself. Too many of these days in a row, and yeah, I'd probably go stir-crazy.
(But really, I'd love the challenge of three or four in a row... C'mon Mother Nature, help a girl out!)

The holidays are rough and for musicians; it's usually non-stop, with performances and church services and rehearsals right up until Christmas Day. I'm grateful that I had those experiences, but am even more grateful to be able to choose whether to participate or not. Sending stamina and virtual Vitamin C to everyone who's singing their faces off this month!
(someone is unimpressed with my crafting skillz.)




12.07.2013

It's the Most! Wonderful tiiiiiiime....

Yesterday was weird and awesome:

  • It rained buckets and buckets of icy cold rain. (neither weird or awesome, but notable.)
  • I saw studies by Van Gogh, the real things. And a drawing by Gaugin that he painted - I love the visual collaboration. (Musical collaborations can be so fleeting! It's lovely to see two artists who play well together.)
  • We had lunch with our 2012 intern, who is thriving at WNO. There's little better than seeing someone come into their own!
  • Dinner with the cousins - my hubby's family is wonderful, and we get together far too seldom given how much we enjoy each other's company.
Today was also weird and awesome:
  • Did a headstand in yoga class! Did it, without falling over onto any other class members! (Double bonus points for that, right?)
  • Spent several hours at the Filene Center for Holiday Sing! Marine Band, hundreds of carolers, and impromptu dancing (video below).
I'll welcome the weird and awesome to banish this week's horrible Wednesday.

I'm currently thawing out on the couch, looking forward to the ice that's supposed to hit tomorrow, and hoping that it'll be just enough to keep me in the house but not enough to really impact the area. Here's hoping that you're curled up in the most lovely way, 

video

12.04.2013

Ouff.

Well, that was a day.
As in, a rough day. 

I'm grateful that I don't have them so often.
I'm a little embarrassed at the way I handled almost all of it.
I'm thankful for the people that made the day lighter, easier, more fun.

Mostly? I'm grateful for mom's (and shakespeare's) saying "and this too shall pass." Because I'm going to bed. 

And tomorrow will be a new day.

11.30.2013

How about just indulging?

I'm basking in post-Thanksgiving gratitude.

There's a whole crapload (not a great descriptor, I realize.) of good things, wonderful people, comfort and challenge around me. And I realize that, while it's simply part of my general makeup to be slightly dissatisfied, it doesn't reflect my circumstance: life is, in fact, exceedingly good.

In fact, sometimes it's that exceedingly good stuff that sabotages my holiday season...because I want to stuff everything as full of goodness as is possible. Events, gifts, people, food, drink - the season is the perfect excuse to overindulge in almost every single way.

I'm thinking that's maybe not going to be my style this year.

I overindulged (for me - my compadres were relatively unscathed, but I just couldn't keep up.) on Thursday. Not epically, but enough to make Friday wholly unproductive. (Bonus: hard to go to Wal-Mart on Black Friday when you're napping on the couch. I'll call it a win.) I ate very little, and had a fitful night of sleep. (The animals overindulged, too - but we all were keeping each other company on the couch in front of BBC America reruns of Sherlock Holmes at 4am.)

The side effects of an unintentional day of aseptic living, however, are quite lovely. I'm feeling lighter, less anxious. I was actually able to forget that the yoga class I was taking was really crowded (and the poor 20-something next to me was struggling something fierce - I've so been there!), and actually get to a decent mental spot to work through some of the poses I find most difficult without flipping out/immediately giving up.

The big question: can I sustain it? Can I underindulge until the moments when I'd really like to indulge? And can I find a way to skip the whole overindulging thing for just this one month? (January, with its new beginnings and the mass push towards diet and exercise, is traditionally an easy time for me to get on the bandwagon.) It's only 30 days. Will consuming and buying less give me more room to be kind to friends and colleagues, more brain cells to use towards giving thanks as opposed to stressing out?

Maybe?

I'm going to spend some time this afternoon making a 30-day plan for December. Regular exercise. Enough sleep. Less alcohol/butter/candy than I will want. More nourishing food. Time to reflect and journal as this year comes to a close. I realize that there is a large chance that I won't make it: some of you are wishing me a hearty hasta-la-vista already, I'd guess, and you'd be justified! But it's a marathon, not a sprint...even so, it's time to put toes on the starting line.

If anyone has tips or tricks for making it through the holiday season with more good feelings that stressed feelings, please hit me up - I'm all ears!




11.23.2013

Time Out.

I have had my fanny handed to me.

My body is trying to secede from the union. My tongue is craving only things with questionable nutritional content. My eyelids weigh 2 metric tons. 

Not to whine too much: I had a lovely lunch with a pal who lives on the other side of the beltway (and who I see far too seldom, given our proximity) and an interesting phone call. And my adorable neighbors stopped by at the end of their afternoon festivities to bring us nibbles and tell us that they missed seeing us. (feeling SO loved!)But I've opted out of everything else today - the only things that I seem to be able to willingly handle are one-on-one conversation and movie-watching. 

Two things that I think you should see (for the sheer AWWwwwww factor):
Aside from spending tomorrow recuperating from whatever it is that I've done that's making me feel like an old woman, I'm looking forward to spending turkey day cooking with one of my nearest and dearest: to working only 2.5 measly days this week (HUZZAH): to spending tomorrow sitting and reading and doing laundry and cooking and little else. If I've learned anything (and granted, I'm a slow learner), it's to listen when my body tells me to recharge. 


11.21.2013

Stretching.

You know that moment when you realize you've not been practicing what you preach?

I had one a few months ago...was in the process of telling someone that getting out of their comfort zone might provide them with some of the insight/inspiration that they were looking for. And then I went home and grumped in my journal about feeling stagnant and self-absorbed.

(Physician, heal thyself.)

So I applied for a program that I had heard good things about, but didn't really get. Didn't get largely because it wasn't music/arts focused, or education-centered - my two primary professional areas.

Today I woke up (much too) early, and spent the day with a group of folks as we were walked through some of the big point of local government. We met and talked with several members of the Board of Supervisors. We ate lunch with members of Fire Station 40, and learned about the primary concerns of the police chief, fire chief and sheriff's office. We saw both the primary 911 crisis response center and the secondary center. (In case of large-scale emergency, redundancy is a very good thing!)

I'll be honest: as someone wholly, blissfully unfamiliar with all of these things on a daily basis, I'm feeling both grateful and completely overwhelmed by the amount of information and the generosity of the people who run these places, these offices. Because - regardless of whether I agree with their policies or politics - they've all set out to make a difference, and to serve their community. Some of these folks are in my class, and on my content team. I'll be honest - knowing that one of them could be the person on the truck coming to my aid if I was injured or in crisis is a HUGE relief - they're great people.

Noble stuff. 

(And a serious perspective check for Little Miss Navel Gazer.)

Feeling grateful for the exposure to people and places that I wouldn't have access to, for information that changes my worldview, and for a glass of wine and some quiet time to process it all. 

11.17.2013

Lessons in flexibility. Inflexibility.

I took a yoga class yesterday. One that I knew would likely be a little outside of my comfort zone - mostly because my comfort zone is currently in a dark theater where, at 10-minute intervals, strangers sing loudly, in foreign languages, in my general direction.

So. Yoga. Stretching and chatarangas and using muscles that I haven't used in months. It was not, as you could guess, a walk in the park. 

But the thing that stopped me in my tracks, both during the class and upon reflection? The teacher.

Full disclosure: I thought I was running late. I followed her into the gym, not knowing she was the teacher... In fact, not even convinced I would take a class: thinking that a few miles on the dreadmill would be sufficient. I was wholly irritated that she couldn't sense me behind her at the entrance, didn't even pretend to hold the door. 

But I walked into the class, found a mat at the back of the room, and started to take stock of what hurt and what really hurt. And in walked the teacher. She surveyed the room, realized that she hadn't seen me before, and came over to talk to me. She crouched down; met me at eye level, and introduced herself. Asked some basic questions about my practice and injuries. Encouraged me to modify as I saw fit. Asked my name, and repeated it to herself, as if she was trying to remember it.

The conversation was short, but it felt like it took a long, long time. Open, gentle eye contact. Space in which I could answer.

There was no rush.

And I realized how stinking fast my internal clock runs, how little patience I have for slow thinkers and talkers, even knowing that I'm one of them on my most thoughtful, least knee-jerk days.

How often does the detritus of my day and messed -up head blind me to people seeking a small moment of real connection? How often do I direct my gaze downward so as to not engage?

(Far too often, I'd guess.)

Goal for the time being: more eye contact, more listening. Less jabbering. 

11.13.2013

Best. Day. Ever.

I know, I know. It's Wednesday. A random, run-of-the-mill November Wednesday, only distinguished in that it's the coldest Wednesday in recent memory.

But, even for the chill, it's been pretty damn awesome. 

(In a very low-key way.)

After being on the road for the biggest part of six weeks (and officially completing NaNoWriMo, if team submissions were allowed - our comments added up to 89k words! Plot is ancillary, right?), Little Miss World Traveler turns into Little Miss Homebody. The clock strikes 7am, and upon waking I'm filled with a strong disinclination to leave my home for more than 30-minutes at a shot. It happens like clockwork, every fall, and I'm so lucky to have a day at home to indulge my nesty tendencies.

I've spend the day listening to music that is decidedly non-operatic in scope. 90s singer-songwriters (Shawn Colvin, Jonatha Brooke, Wilco, Ryan Adams in his druggie days) and mellow modern-ish guys (Band of Horses, Grizzly Bear, Rogue Wave, Sufjan Stevens, Local Natives) have spent equal time on queue, with me bellowing along. I've touched work email briefly, but only glancingly. 

Mom sent me not one but TWO scarves that I'm going to live in the next few months (between the purply one she sent earlier this fall and the cobalt one from last fall? I'm toasty AND chic!), reminding me that non-bill mail is, indeed, fantastic. I bought holiday cards (I've learned that the writing of them is easy, but if I actually want to send them I need to spend some leisurely time writing them, rather than just signing my name...otherwise they languish in the back seat of my car until March, when I throw them away in an ashamed fit of pique.) and colored ink for my fountain pen. I daydreamed about France. I cleaned out the fridge and restocked it with things that won't give me botulism. I started doing the cubic ton of dirty laundry in the basement...and actually finished a load. (Which is significant because if I am wholly unproductive for the rest of the day? I've still done something. WIN.)

I grocery shopped my pudgy butt off. (HA. Wishful thinking.) I put a chuck roast and onions and garlic and tomatoes and red wine in the oven to cook for hours and hours. (You should be wishing for smell-o-blogger, the fragrance at chez moi is that good.) I might've had a little bit of that red wine to wash down a decadent snack-lunch of popcorn popped in coconut oil. (A director this summer made it on several occasions, and it might be my new favorite thing. So happy to have the time to try it today!) I've written and daydreamed and napped and researched and checked pesky things off of the to-do-list. 

So, really? It's been a bang-up wonderful day. 

And (here's where the lame comes in), I only wish that GL and KaPoW were around to join me. It always feels a little like withdrawal to leave the crazy audition structure behind, to have to figure out what to do on my own rather than having someone new walk through the door every 10 minutes to sing. What has become the new normal is no longer, well, normal. (Ok, let's be real. Never was it actually normal.) I don't have any reason to call them - but part of me wants to, just to say hi.

(Why yes, the administration is revoking my HardAss Card as we speak. Why do you ask?)


It's November, so in the spirit of thankfulness, I'm bringing back the Five: 5 things for which I'm grateful.

1. Colleagues in whose presence I take genuine delight. They're some awesome peeps.
2. Stove-popped popcorn. Reminding me of childhood, while simultaneously allowing me to put wonderful things (maple sugar & sea-salt: truffle oil and parmesan cheese; coconut oil!) ontop without giving me cancer from the microwave.
3. Band-aids. (My hands are a mess between the dry air and raking leaves and klutzy tendencies.)
4. Rewards. Stopped into BR to get some base layers, and they gave me an extra 10% off of the day's 30% discount because I was there early. Catchin' the worm, beeyatches!
5. Heat. I'm still amazed at the way heat can transform food. Low heat for a big ol' roast and carmelized onions: watching popcorn kernels turn themselves inside out. While the burn on my pinky (see #3) stings, I'm happy to have a day putzing in the kitchen.




11.10.2013

Sunday evening.



I'm home. Even though there are two days of auditions remaining, I'm home. (It makes some things more difficult, and some easier, professionally speaking.)

Yesterday I raked leaves for close to 3 hours. (You would barely have been able to tell had you walked past...although my sides and forearms are secure in the knowledge that they were overworked yesterday.) The neighbor boys have a new lawn-vacuum thing, and they practiced their skillz by catching the large piles of leaves that I missed. The yard looks goooooood!

Today I jogged around the golf course (slowly. oh so slowly.), and in doing so donated 75 cents to the ASPCA via Charity Miles.  (There's an incentive to run more, right?) I moved the French lavender and rosemary pots inside. I switched my summer and winter clothes out, and then totally mucked up the kitchen by freestyling dinner and dessert. (Acorn squash with maple butter and chicken apple sausage, and honey roasted figs with almond pecan shortbreads and ice cream.) I did about 15 minutes worth of work, but for the most part was totally, blissfully divorced from all things operatic. 

Reset: achieved. 



11.02.2013

Houston


Houston, is traditionally really good to us. And I'm going to sound a little ungrateful when I say that it was a little off its game this time. The travel karma abandoned us, the weather totally punked out (for the first time since I started traveling here in 2007), and my attitude needed a serious adjustment.

And then. We saw people. People who we adore. 

Folks at HGO - colleagues and former Trappers. A sweet alumni night at a charity bar (Okra, if you're ever in Houston - what a fantastic premise!). A great dinner with a close friend (whose wife is also a close friend, but we saw her in Chicago. How do they do it??), and a night at my first Aida - loud in volume and visuals. (To our favorite designer Bradon McDonald: if you were looking for fortuny-pleated gold lamé for any challenge, I can guarantee that this show has the country's entire stock.) 
I finally met a pint-sized, cast-sporting young man, who totally charmed me by wrapping his arms around my knees and then stating "I like grills." Now, I'm not a groupie or anything, but I've been hoping to meet this guy for a few years, so it was pretty exciting. And while his comment coulda been a non sequitur, I'll choose to think that he likes me. (And barbecue.)

After the news from LAX, I'm a little jumpy about another travel day (with another connection). Jumpiness + Imminent Thanksgiving celebration = the return of thankfulness lists. 
Thankful for:
1. For wonderful, inspiring friends, all over the country.
2. For the honest conversations that time and distance allow.
3. For non-operatic music. (I know it exists, even if I can't remember what it sounds like.)
4. For the guileless greetings of sweet kids.
5. For homecomings. 

Thanks for reading my occassional drivel. I am thankful for you, too!

10.25.2013

Return to L.A.

We're back in Los Angeles today, hearing auditions in this fair city for the first time in a few years. We have lots of pals on the docket, and the potential to hear some really great singing. I met a pal last night near the opera, and the walk towards Disney Hall and through the pavilion always takes my breath away a little bit. 

(The fact that I got a little schvitzy on my walk just further illustrated how far we are from Washington D.C. and its freeze warnings! #FTW.)

I went to bed ridiculously early last night (late for east-coast me, but too embarrassing to post here), and forced myself back to sleep after the inevitable 3am wake up. So I'm feeling REALLY well-rested! Time for some yoga to stretch out the ol' back, and then onward!

10.22.2013

Navel Gazing.

What a day, my lovelies. What. A. Day.

And I mean that in a mostly positive way - I have three pals/relatives/mentors (and some are combinations - don't read into this too specifically if you know me IRL) who have been making some plans, and have taken some BIG steps. Life for all three of them is going to be radically different! And - I'm guessing, but it's an educated guess - it's going to be most radically awesome.

Now, I am pretty much in love with my situation - great job, great hubby (just passed 10 years married in the rearview!), great community of family and friends and neighbors. I should just be revelling in their good news right?

So, why am I feeling a little left behind? Stagnant? The good girl in me is so full of "Shoulds" that I'm wondering if I only am feeling unsettled because I feel like I should be feeling unsettled.

Blergh. 
 

10.12.2013

An evening at home.

The chariot leaves tomorrow morning for Philadelphia, at o-dark-thirty for more auditions.

I had a whole, long list of things that I needed to do to be prepared for the next leg of the tour. And the critical things got done. But the recommended things? The 'shoulda's?

Wholly, blissfully undone. 

Today's list of things accomplished is pretty short.

I ate a cubic ton of pizza. My laundry is tumbling in the basement, in anticipation of the next flight. My Spotify account has been upgraded (and unlinked from my Facebook page), and stocked with some key repertoire choices. My anniversary present for the hubs has been purchased. I hit the mall and walked out without buying any of the things that I thought "Well, kinda.." (HUGE win for Little Miss Impulse.)

It's 6:15 on a Saturday night. And I'm going to spend the evening doing relatively nothing. (#lame #oldladyandlovingit)
-walk the dog around the neighborhood before dark, to better admire the changing leaves and the sweet smell of autumn.
- take a bath. (one hazard of travelling with a JanSport backpack - which is sturdy as all get out and suits an old woman not-at-all - is that you can load it up. Heavy pack = muscle spasm. The bath is medicinal! (As is the glass of wine!)
- pack for Philly and Chicago. Here's to hacking this short trip to crazy levels of efficiency! 

I'm always amazed by the generosity of people, of the diligence and resilience of singers, and at this time of year moreso than almost any other. I think an early bedtime will allow me to be the most open to receive, encourage, discern when the first singer opens his/her throat tomorrow morning. I struggle with saying "no" and that sadly hasn't gotten any easier. But maybe I appreciate that difficulty more now.

10.10.2013

opera and extra-curriculars

We're in New York City, hearing auditions at the lovely National Opera Center in the Fashion District, where the women are uniformly 20 and impossibly thin with manes like horses. (It's enough to make a girl order another glass of wine in which to drown her flabby sorrows.)

I have a double-pronged agenda for NYC: as much opera as I can stand, and as much time with pals as I can manage. Using that measuring stick, this week has been awesomesauce. I didn't get to see everyone I wanted to, but I got some good quality time with Jason, Noelle, Manu, Justin, and Erin & Liam. 
Cutest. Baby. Ever. 

(I spent a good chunk of the afternoon making out with this little man in a hotel room. Making out = fish kisses to the forehead. I'm hoping he'll still be cool with being my boyfriend when he's 30 and I'm 106.)

I also got to see 2 shows at the Metropolitan Opera in the last 2 nights. Last night was Shostakovich's The Nose (aka Schnozzstakovich.); thorny music, a crazy/awesome production concept and great execution, and an absurdist theme that was pretty awesome. It was 2 hours - no intermission - straight through. 

Tonight was Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. I've wanted to see it for forever, as mom's a big fan of Russian orchestral music and I grew up listening to Tchaik for kicks.  I'd never seen Netrebko, or Beczala, so when the option was to see the (almost 4-hour-long) production from standing room or not at all? Well, the choice was easy. And folks, it. was. FANTASTIC. I would totally, right this red-hot-minute, see the whole thing again FROM STANDING ROOM. That good. 

So, yeah. Good trip. One more day of auditions here (please, y'all, a note o'caution: tomorrow is NOT the day to start with Lensky or Onegin or Tatiana. Leave it on the list, but pick another starter...because you'll end of competing in a game that, for the time being, you can't win.)

10.02.2013

A Gentle Call.

Since I wrote last the government has imploded, NYCO has filed for bankruptcy, and the conductor for the Minnesota Orchestra has resigned. 

(It feels a little strange to be making packing lists for an operatic audition tour. And yet that's exactly what I'm doing.) 

I'm taking a community leadership course this fall (stay with me - not a total non sequitur, I promise), and one of the ideas that came up was that of shared values. We assume that we all have them, until it's obvious that we really don't.  

When I was teaching, it used to drive me bonkers that I was supposed to be both a content expert and also convey strong values to my students...mostly because I was in my 20s, and was trying so damn hard to master the content that I couldn't possibly imagine teaching values other than "Killing is bad. Well, almost all of the time. Yeah, I guess you'd have to look at the context. <deep breath> So, shall we start at measure 52?" (I was glad to have curious, slightly argumentative students, but when we waded into deep moral turf I was SUPER happy to turn them over to the Philosophy or Religion teachers.) 

Building consensus is difficult. We - as a nation; hell, even just taking my little suburban neighborhood as an example - are woven from a complex tapestry, and to assume that we all want the same things (ok, outside of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs) in the same way is to be slightly myopic, or maybe a little naïve.

I'm not a my-way-or-the-highway type. I believe for every bit of sensationalism wrung out of the news today there are good - nay, wonderful - people doing good work. Listening. Collaborating. Making beautiful art. Being responsible, being flexible, being supportive.

I would challenge us - myself first, and all of us - to seek substance over sparkle. (My husband is guffawing at that sentence, as I am a lover of all things shiny. When I walk past a jewelry display he caws at me like a crow, I love shiny so much.)

It won't be easy; we'll have to dig deeper for it. We'll have to listen a little harder to that quiet voice inside us that says "Wow. Was that amazing? I think that was amazing..." instead of asking for confirmation from friends and strangers. We'll have to buy in, show up, put our money where our mouths are and a host of other clichés that have been bastardized by business to get us to buy things.

(And when I say "we," I mean "me." But I'd love it if you joined me.)

Find something special. Enjoy the hell out of it. And then get behind it, in any way you can. 

Let's grow some good stuff from the ground up. 

9.26.2013

and, to counter my last post?

A day chock-full of cool people. 

An interview with a pal who has carved out an interesting, expansive career in arts and education. 

Skyping with a smart, enthusiastic young woman who is trying to figure out her path. 

HH with new colleagues who have varied backgrounds and amazing backstories (complicated families, big choices, huge cultural events in their past.), with whom I'll be working over the next year on a big project. 

Plus, a full house back at Casa Rahree. 

Well played, Thursday. Well. Played.

p.s. this song has been in my head all day. I don't know why. But I'm sharing.




9.25.2013

a post in which i whine and bitch. (and also, evidently, rhyme.)

Ya'll, I'm tired.

And the audition tour hasn't happened yet.

Granted, I'm tired because there are a million awesome things going on...I was given the very heady opportunity to speak at my alma mater (cross that one off the bucket list!), and I started a program that will challenge me and get me more involved in my community. (Best thing? It's all new to me - people, concepts, all of it. It's a little opportunity for reinvention without having to move/switch jobs/create an alias.) I saw this last night (I have a bit of a conflicted relationship with the composer, but thought the performance was faboo.) and finally, after a nine-day-hiatus, got my flabby ass back to the gym.

(Wasn't pretty.)

I'm reminded that, when things get busy, it's so easy to lose discipline. (I don't think it's just me.)

And I'm also reminded that, when I lose discipline for longer periods of time, I feel like crapola.  Like a tub full of lukewarm crapola.

So today. We had a soft start to our audition season with colleagues at a local company. I had a decent lunch, and then I got a cookie the size of my face. And I ate it. And, obviously, I enjoyed the hell out of it.

My colleague is pursuing structure, discipline this fall. She eschewed the cookie. She went to the gym after work. After she left the office. To bike. To the gym. Because she is hardcore.

I clicked through to some photos of this past weekend, and realized that my chins have multiplied. Without me noticing, somehow.

(Now, this is not about size. It's about me not being happy about where I am, and not realizing how far off the mark I was until I saw proof...uncomposed, spontaneous photographic proof.)

So. New 30-day project will commence. No more eating trash that makes me feel like poo. Exercise. And - here's the kicker - planning for those things EVEN WHEN TRAVELING. I won't be able to do it 100%, but damn, I'm gonna try.

And yes. Leading by example works, even if you don't intend to lead. Many thanks to Ethel for getting Lucy's butt back to the gym.


9.02.2013

a tribute.

With very little notice, we headed to Pennsylvania. My husband's uncle had passed away. My mother-in-law's only living brother, the patriarch of a branch of the family that specialized in strong, savvy girls and quietly smart, sweet men.

Joe's high school nickname was "Giggles."
Joe told his wife daily that she beautiful as any movie star.
Joe worked for GM for thirty years.
Joe served in the Army in World War II.

His family laid him to rest on a sunny Monday, Labor Day, and one of the celebrated dates of V-J Day. (The day the surrender document was signed.) As the procession wound its way from the funeral home, through the neighborhood where he lived, to the cemetary, his fellow vets stood - on their porches, their stoops, in their driveways - at attention as the cars drove by. The respect conveyed by that gesture? I'm not sure I've seen its equal, and I have no words to describe.

In our selfish, self-centered age, to see a thoroughly selfless man celebrated? To see family-- duty-- small daily acts of love valued in such a profound way?  Humbling is only the very tip of the iceberg. And there could never be celebration enough.

My heart goes out to his wife of 65 years, his daughters and their families. I'm so amazed at the eloquence with which his granddaughter and grandson spoke. And I'll be thinking of them - and of him - for a long time.

Rest in peace, Joseph Wolk. It was a real honor to know you and to be welcomed into your family.

8.31.2013

wrench.

2013-08-29-MitchDobrowner_VaporCloud.jpg

We had a lovely, low-key, totally-lame Labor Day weekend mapped out. Writing, reading, working out, watching movies. It was going to be wonderfully slothful.

And then a sweet family member passed away, While his health had been up and down for a while, the last time I had seen him he seemed re-energized. We had a great conversation, and I was reminded what a gentle, loving man he was. 

We're headed to Pennsylvania tomorrow, to honor his memory, to surround his wife and sisters and children and grandchildren with love and support. 

Here's a toast to changes of plan, to supporting loved ones, to remembering friends when they're gone and making time for them while we're all here.

(photo by Mitch Dobrowner. you should check out his work.)

8.25.2013

(re)growing pains

brain cells. i'm trying to regrow brain cells.

and, in order to do it, i'm trying to write.

(suddenly i hear Yoda's voice in my head: "there is no try. there is only do." no idea how he got in there...)

ok, Yoda. i'm writing.

i'm writing timed exercises.
i'm writing postcards.
i'm writing blog posts over at the other spot.

i'm trying to write a speech. i'd really like for said speech to not suck. actually, i'd like it to be a whole lot better than that. but it's not ready; i keep starting it, and it's like kudzu, the thoughts and examples and stories and maxims too thick and jumbled and tangential to cut through.

which just means that it's not ready to be written yet. that i don't have quite enough info to share that's not personal anecdote. (and really, i don't need to tell the story about blowing a lesson because the night before i stayed up too late at a mezz party learning of the evil beauty of grain punch.)

two more timed exercises. and then a forced march through some research in the hopes of finding a through line for this lil' talk.

(on the plus side? it is a gorgeous day to sit on the porch and read and write. mama is happy as a clam!)

8.18.2013

Annual, semi-sappy season wrap-up.

I am one lucky beeyotch.

I spent most of the summer around extremely talented - AND extremely generous people. Smart people. Creative people. Hard-working people. Singer-people, admin-people, singer-instrumentalist-dancer-admin-add-a-descriptor-people. Funny people. Caring, sweet, ridiculous people. 

(In other words, my favorite kinds of people.)

Granted, it wasn't all sunshine and roses: Schedules were difficult. Standards were high. Priorities were many and conflicting. Personalities were large. Tensions ran high once or twice. (or maybe a million times...they were too cool and/or I was too clueless to notice.)

But by and large they rose above the petty concerns and the fatigue and the nomadic lifestyle and the outside pressures. And, because they did, I tried to, too.

They made me better, this summer. 
A better person than I was in May, when we started. 
And for that, I am exceedingly grateful.

***
I'll be spending the next two days with my family. Two days without needing to be at work. It will feel luxurious, and I'm guessing that I'll spend a good amount of time reading, sitting on the porch, writing, and hitting the gym in the hopes of fitting back into my pants sometime this year. But I know that I will struggle with the impulse to constantly monitor FB and email, just because I want to check in with the folks that summered with us. I feel so privileged to have these exhausting jewel-boxes of summers: my introverted self struggles with them when they're happening, but I value them so very, very much.

Travel safely, friends. And please, for realz, stay in touch.




8.14.2013

Perfection.

It's the middle of August. In the greater DC area, that means that by all rights it should be a literal steam bath...high 80's with ridiculous, hair-frizzing, lethargy-inducing humidity.

Instead?

Low 70's. Low humidity. The most gorgeous sunshine, making the trees shimmer like crazy green trip toys. A breeze that somehow manages to make hauling my fat ass around Northern Virginia seem more like a pleasure than a necessary evil. Holocene on Pandora, yoga on the porch, time to write, and a cup of blonde roast from Starbucks that survived the lengthy and meandering morning dog walk. 

Today is full of auditions, old friends and visiting colleagues, a dress rehearsal and a performance. (Those last 2 things are 2 different projects.) Our season is winding down, and there's a mad rush to not only DO ALL THE THINGS but to also spend quality time with all of these wonderful people before they scatter. 

Bittersweet, to be sure. But it's certainly shaping up to be a most excellent day.


7.29.2013

Disconnect


  • I've lost track of days. Today is Monday, by the calendar. By my body clock it's more like the second Tuesday of the week, or Wednesday-and-a-half. Time in late July gets weird - both sticky and slippery all at once.
  • Speaking of days of the week, I started re-reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy last night. I learned two things - first that Neil Gaiman (!) wrote Don't Panic, which makes me adore him even more, if it were at all possible. And secondly, that Thursdays are difficult across the galaxy, and not just for me. 
  • Usually in late July I'm super touchy - overextended, feeling uncared for, watching balls and spinning plates drop all over creation, and wholly overtired. I'm there this year - don't get me wrong - but somehow slightly less-so. The weather has been positively autumnal, and I've been able to get out for two good runs in the last four days, which always helps with my mental neighborhood. 
  • The weather is taunting me a little bit, though...I'm starting to collate lists of things that I want to do once my time is more my own. Writing, exercising, cooking, less computer time, more face-to-face time.
  • I've been dreaming of road trips...a sign that my brain is tired of only driving to and from the office, with stops at the grocery store and 'bux. Sunny day, good playlist, time to stop at farmers markets and visit with friends before hitting my destination...sounds like a wonderful thing, doesn't it? I'm almost (almost) jealous of the singers and their road trips and caravans to their next project.
  • My house is a total pig sty. It's epic. So don't ask to visit, because no one's allowed inside for several weeks, until I can de-crust it. So. Gross. 
  • My bathroom is pristine, however, because I scoured it and then took a bath with one of these. And then slept like it was my JOB. (Waking up rested at 3am? Irritating, but also a little amazing. Especially when you can get back to sleep for several hours.)
  • In a few weeks I'll be needing epic amounts of inspiration. What books/websites/thoughts/ projects have you energized? Help me challenge my brain!
I'm loving that there's still summer left, and that I have time to hang with the wonderful singers and music staff and admin folks before they scatter. And I'm a little bit proud that I'm finding a way to claim a little bit of balance back into the summer routine. 

Hoping that your Monday feels a little more like Saturday eve or Wednesday afternoon than a traditional Monday.



7.23.2013

turning point

There's a push, every summer, towards....something. The whole summer has its own direction - projects, personnel, critical mass.

But every summer I notice this very subtle point. The summer isn't over - there's still loads to do - but somehow things seem less breathless.

(It's a dangerous point, because we all seem to hit it at the same time...and that means that small things that we'd usually be on top of go skittering under the couch, to be found when they're least convenient.)

We're there. 

Somehow, the gauntlet of the last several weeks has been crossed. completed. conquered.

I can finally get out of my head enough to notice the amazing color of the sky when I walk the dog in the evenings. I spent a luxurious half-hour in the rehearsal room, listening to an aria that I've heard a MILLION times take on a new, shimmery glow. 

(Granted, I spent half the day apologizing for snapping at people and spilling diet cokes and unsnarling stupid last-minute issues.)

I'm a big fan of gray areas, and somehow I think this qualifies...cheers to late summer, to heavy humid evenings, to aha moments in rehearsals, to the cementing of young relationships. Yay for summer camp - regardless of age!


7.21.2013

Sunday afternoon: Studio edition.

We've had a run of awesome performances at work over the last two weeks: performances at Walter Reed; an ethereal Carmina with the NSO; improv opera at Theater-in-the-Woods; a recital that was all about the number 13; and a huge, stupidly-hot, but transcendent Traviata with the NSO.

But today? Was the Studio Scenes program, and it's one of my favorite projects. This year we had 11 scenes ranging from Baroque (Serse) to Contemporary (Grapes of Wrath), and all kinds of fabulousness in between. The singers had a million other duties to see too during the rehearsal period, as well; it's a testament to their work ethic, creativity and good will that the afternoon was not just a success but a triumph.

Suffice it to say that these folks are some of my favorite people.
Bravi tutti.
(And y'all should sleep in tomorrow.)

7.20.2013

Aftermath

When I lived and taught in Pittsburgh,I had a close pal who was a math teacher. We would start conversations talking about beautiful music, and would end them with him talking about beautiful math. Now, I struggled with the concept in the same way that I struggled with imaginary numbers: the mere string of words creates an oxymoron! But tonight, I daresay that I'd have to cede to his belief.

Starting with simple -math:
- 3 Filene Young Artists.
- 7 Studio Artists.
- 80 Choristers.
- 82 members of the National Symphony Orchestra.
- 1 talented mensch of a conductor.
- 3 preshow events.
- 2 postshow events.
- Several THOUSAND audience members.
- 3 stage managers
- 97 soul-sucking degrees (not to mention the humidity which I SWEAR hovered around 110%. 
       (I might be exaggerating, but only a bit...it was equal to Sweaty Todd conditions in 2011.)
- 4 cookies (no self-control. stress eating is alive and well in Virginia, my friends.).
- 4 piano moves.
- A gajillion stagehands.
- a metric shit-ton of sweat. Seriously, y'all, if you coulda measured it you would've been totally disgusted by the volume of water we all displaced during this week. I swear, I lost at least 5 pounds (was aiming for 17, but I'll talk what I can get!

And the after -math:
- 3 administrator wardrobe changes
- 4 pairs of shoes (2 that were even remotely appropriate)
- 7 glasses of ice water
- 5 trips to the plaza
- 1 rapturous crowd
- 10 sweet, buzzy singers
....and somehow, the rest doesn't translate into numbers.

The aftermath is, happily, not so easily summed up. We work for weeks - MONTHS - to put together a show that plays for just one night: there's only one opportunity to get things right. There's a lot of pressure on everyone when you've got just one shot, and the big and little things take on equal importance whether it's 1am and the work call for the overnight has just started or it's time to take your place for the first - and last - time in the run.

I won't lie: it's a pressure cooker. BUT I mean that in, really, the best way. I have colleagues who, when placed under pressure, shine up like new diamonds. They find time, they ask questions, they connect, they clarify. They do stupid things like move pianos and re-enact conversations and wonderful things like bringing cupcakes and telling personal stories in quiet moments backstage. They tell jokes, they're not above doling out parking justice when the occasion warrants, they share sandwiches and say "yes" when you ask them to do ridiculous things.

I am reminded, in epic fashion, how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who aspire to great art and strong collaboration. The next time I talk about playing the lottery, friends, please remind me that I've already won.

So. It's somewhere between 1 and 2am. I'm sitting here, in my air-conditioned house, a glass of wine on one side, a dog snoring with his schnozz stuck between two couch cushions. Bed is imminent, but I think I might stay up and bask in this glow for a while longer.

If you were involved in any way with this evening? I am grateful. Thank you. 


7.01.2013

So, Monday.

Today was so weird. Good, but weird.

1. Went to a meeting in which I had nothing at all to contribute. (But that's ok - I like listening, and I'm happy to be the dumbest girl in the room because I learn a lot.)
2. Found that a potential big problem was actually no problem at all. Bonus: it was numbers/money related. (That's a big ol' win in my book!)
3. Celebrated a colleague's birthday with cake and singing. Because THAT is the Wolf Trap Way.
4. Came home to a care package from a pal on the West Coast!  Books on Paris and a laminated card  extolling my ninja skills. (nonexistent, but evidently still awesome.)
5. Sat & chatted with a pianist pal who I haven't seen in much too long. Good times!
6. Found out that I made it into a local professional development program. 
7. Successfully avoided all things soy and cake, while still eating/drinking deliciously.
8. Wore a necklace. (I do it maybe 4-6 times a year. They're just not my thing.)
9. Ate vegetables at all three meals. I might actually be a grown up! 
10. Sadly got a glimpse of a colleague's bare ass. Unintentionally. (Wow, do I really even need to add that qualifier?!?) Cover those bits & pieces, ladies and gents...because sometimes your colleagues can't unsee that shit, no matter how much they might wish they could.
11. Tried to solidify my reputation as a Candy Pusher. (C'mon man...you know these bon bons aren't gonna eat themselves...everybody's doing it. Just try one, that's all I'm asking...) I think it's going pretty well.

I'm on the porch, moments away from walking the dog around the block. There's a tornado watch to our east. I mistook a very large Japanese beetle for a cicada earlier today. A lovely breeze is wafting through the neighborhood. The cat is, generally, doing the opposite of what I hope he'll do (puking on the carpet, running away from me and then trying to get my attention by clawing on the window behind my head), but I've not been able to get reverse psychology to work on the little bastard. Both he and the dog are giddy that I've broken the ban on dairy products - more specifically, sharp cheddar cheese.  

Ok, so maybe the day was actually good and I'm the one who's weird. 

(Totally OK with that.)

6.27.2013

Day off status check.

3:52pm EDT.

Hair: air-dried.
Body: showered.
Feet: flip-flopped.
Stomach: full of sushi and pinot.
Ears: splitting the difference between pandora (iron & wine), leaves rustling in the breeze, and distant traffic noise.
Eyes: reacting poorly to the computer screen. 
Lips: Dry. Where is my chapstick?
Shoulders: fatigued from a good yoga practice, but pretty relaxed.
Knees: sore. Why are heels so cute, and yet so difficult?
Mind: spinning happily between observation and daydreaming.

Chores: undone.
House: messy.
Dog: restful.
Cat: evil, but sleeping. so, momentarily benign.
Nap: imminent.

I get a day off weekly in the summer, today is the day. I have damned the to-do list, and am frittering the day away in a most splendid manner. Journaling and doodling on the porch with the radio playing and a vat of iced coffee; a long dog walk with swimming, fetch and new friends thrown in; books about bookbinders and Paris and my own chicken-scratch writing; digging (slowly and poorly, if enthusiastically) into some Handel and Scriabin on the piano; a new pen and notebook (the possibilities are truly endless and so very exciting!); lunch with a friend; skype with another this evening; sweet conversations with clerks and waiters and random passersby. 

I love my job. But equally I love the solitude, the unstructured time, the time to just observe. It's nice to be able to be, rather than only do.

(do be do be dooooooo.)

Hoping you find some idle time today.

(Oh, and if you have suggestions on must-sees in Paris? You should let me know. September!!)

6.16.2013

A shift in routine.

I'm a creature of habit. I have a morning routine that is leisurely to say the least: wake up, 45 minutes with coffee and a journal. Dog walk. Yoga. Shower. Dress & spackle & to work. It's a lovely way to start the day off on the right foot.

We started technical rehearsals for Viaggio last night. The run was smooth, especially for first tech. But maybe more importantly for yours truly (because our team is so good that I don't ever worry about technical issues), it started to unfurl as a show, and as a really sparkly, adorable one at that.

I was home by midnight, which was quite luxurious. Due to a large, post-nap iced coffee, I was also wide-awake for a few hours post-rehearsal.

I was still pretty surprised when I woke up at 10am (! HORRORS!), precisely 1 hour before needing to be at work. So, no morning ritual this morning: shower, dres & spackle, drive to the office.

As I sit at the front desk, listening to a lone harpist warm up before this morning's rehearsal, I'm thinking that shaking up my morning routine might in fact be a really good thing.

Barbie Dream Spa, or the set of Viaggio

6.08.2013

It's summer, isn't it?

So many things happening, so few brain cells. It's always like this, and yet every year I'm caught totally off guard. 

The short story version? Things are good. The singers are all incredibly talented and incredibly warm and generous. The show is frothy and interesting, and the team is shaping it into a really great piece. (Which coming from me is saying a lot, because I'm not a huge fan of light dramas and millions of notes... but this might actually make me a fan.) A colleague said "Wow. Usually when you hear this piece, you hear a lot of character voices (because there are a million-and-one parts. It's a huge ensemble piece and pretty difficult to cast), but this is really phenominal - to have such great singers in ALL of the parts. It's amazing!" After sneaking in to listen to some of the Grand Pezzo, I'd agree 100%.

I spent most of today in Excel hell, trying to find some quiet to wrap my head around figures and such. It was a bit of a challenge - I second-guess myself quite a bit, and have all kinds of ancillary documents about how I came up with those numbers. Numbers aren't really my thing, but it makes me proud when everything lines up into neat rows - like sudoku, but with ledger lines. So, even though I'm not done, I made some good progress. And, since it was technically Monday, it was a good day to delve into a big project. 

We have an event tomorrow, and some rehearsals around it, but it'll actually be a pretty low-key day. (Well, aside from moving walls and grand pianos while wearing skirts and heels, but that's kinda how we roll.) 

This morning's wake up was at 5:30am with a sick dog. And while I'm almost over the remnants of allergy-induced sinusitis (honeysuckle? I love that you're all over my neighborhood and that you smell so good, but why you gotta do me like that?), I'm not quite over it. So after this little rest on the porch I'm headed in for an early night and a bit of reading &/or writing. I just finished The Interestings (loved), Maya's Notebook (liked quite a bit), and I watched a web series called Submissions Only that I am Obsessed (capital O) with. It's the audition tour, but from a theater perspective...and ohmystinkinheck is it funny! And sweet. And awkward. I think that finding that funny/sweet/awkward trifecta must be one of the most difficult things to do, and I always fall in love when it's done well. (Moonrise Kingdom. Even that movie with Gwyneth Paltrow being a little bit goth and that guy with the tennis headband/wristband  - that one too.)

Enjoy your evening, chickadees!

6.01.2013

Off to the Races, opera style

My pal Justin was in the Broadway revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. He snuck me and a friend in to see it during previews last October, and I could sing along with almost everything - thanks to a stint music directing it in a small community theater in the 'burgh in the early 90s.

Fast forward to this summer. One of our pianists for the Rossini just happened to be the guy who played in the pit for that very same Drood-stravaganza! We went to the same school in Pittsburgh. (He just had a birthday yesterday, too! But he's younger than I am, lucky devil.)

Two fun small-world connections to a work that I think is adorable.

But now? I'm channelling a specific excerpt from that show: "Off to the Races."

Because we are. 

Lordy.

With twice as many people as last year, and without a key staffer (She'll be with us soon, but we're missing her like woah!) we have already hit that breathless, mid-summer pace. Add onto that new payroll and hiring instructions, and the first summer of our brilliant new CEO (and the tweaks and explorations that are part of any regime change), and you've got a girl who comes home and can't talk for 2 hours for the sheer amount of stuff running through her head. 

Put succinctly? I'm swamped. Mid-July swamped, and the Studio hasn't even arrived!

I'm spending today trying to recharge: had a kick-ass workout this morning, and walked into town to run errands. The kitchen is clean and a mountain of laundry has been tackled. I'm planning to do some reading (and yes, some dozing) on the porch. (Hog-riders, go ahead and use Berry Street instead of mine...cuz imma need you to keep it down.)


Hoping you all have just the right amount of relaxation and stimulation in your weekend.

5.20.2013

Day One.

Monday.

Woke up at 5:30am as the cat used hubs' face as a pommel horse to attack the bird singing outside the window. Luckily, the bird survived, and hubs still has both eyes. (win-win?)

Wore a dress that I was contemplating giving away. And a necklace - I never wear necklaces. And flats. FLATS. And even though I was dressed as a total impostor? Managed to eke out compliments from a slew of folks, including a random police officer at Whole Foods and several colleagues. What's up with that? (Needless to say, I'm keeping the dress.)

Drove to Arlington to pick up our awesome company manager, who started work today. Forwarded at least 40 emails and to-do items to him. Aaaahhhh...life is SO much better now!

Met two of our interns (who are both adorable and supah smaht) and the rock star stage management team for Viaggio. We're in good hands.

Brain dumped all day. Really, I can't remember the last time I talked so much. Hoping I wasn't super annoying, but guessing that I might've been at least a bit.

Made it home with energy to spare. Thought I'd try to make something new for dinner. Total. Fiasco. One the likes of which I haven't seen in months. I'm either a kitchen goddess or I need to get out of my comfort zone more often. (likely a little of both.) 

Finally. 8pm. Sitting (aaaah) on the porch with 2 animals, a spritzer, an imperfect pedicure and a streak of self-tanner across my instep. On the docket for the rest of the evening? Dishes. A walk with the dog. Some yoga, hopefully without the cat staking claim mid-sequence to the very center of my mat. 

There's a slight breeze, making the trees' movement look somehow choreographed, like they're Follies girls practicing their routines. 

Keep dancing, ladies. You're lovely. 

My five:
1. Days that fly.
2. Good people.
3. Quiet evenings. 
4. Flip flops with little nubs on the insoles.
5. Beginnings.


5.14.2013

I went to Canada!

(waiting for the Air Canada desk to open @ BWI)
And made it back! What are the chances??

The last time I was in Canada, I had taken the train up with my family and a group of my dad's high school French students for some cultural immersion.

We caught the train in Syracuse, took it to Montreal, and then took a smaller train to the Old City in Quebec. (On at least one occasion, the conductor let my brother and I press our noses against the windshield to watch the tracks disappear beneath the train and blow the whistle.)

I didn't need a passport.

I wore jeans and a navy blazer over my favorite Smurf t-shirt. My haircut was half Twiggy wanna-be, half little boy. (Mom called it a pixie to make me feel better, but my brother and I rocked the same 'do for several years.) I tried to watch the big kids playing cards on the overnight ride, and wondered why my parents wouldn't let me stay up with them.

We stayed in the Château Frontenac, on the St. Lawrence. I remember an alleyway where artists sold drawings and jewelry. There was a yellow house that was a restaurant, and we ate on the top floor, even my dad bowing under the short ceilings. I tried escargot and frog legs for the first time, and liked them both.

(the Bellevue Hotel is pretty close to adult candy. lovely)
It was springtime, and we visited a maple farm and ate maple sugar candy. I was happily adventuring with my family, and my dad was in his element, surrounded by kids and a beautiful language.

***
My return to the Great White North was less carefree. I needed a passport this time around. I almost missed my connection in Toronto, but the sunset in Vancouver totally made up for it. I hadn't seen geography like that ever, like giants had heaved huge boulders into the oceans during some crazy game of catch with their gargantuan labradors.  I was part of an exhilarating, busy, bustling conference, and while I made it out of the hotel a handful of times to sightsee, it was all within the city limits.

But, at a small store, there were tiny billets of maple sugar candy...as sweet as the candy I had tried as a 10 year old.  I snagged a handful - for my niece and nephew and a colleague.

And one for me. I may greedily finish it this evening. It conjures such good, good memories.

My five:

  1. Sensory memories.
  2. Travel.
  3. Sunshine.
  4. Occasional overindulgence.
  5. Sugar.
Thanks for the lovely respite from pre-season madness, Vancouver. I'll be back, promise.





5.02.2013

ramping up.



Not enough brain cells for narrative. So, bullets.
  • Hubs and I spent a few days on a lake in Western Maryland. No interwebs, no phone (although we coulda had both, just opted out): instead? Books and hiking and lots of remembering what it feels like to disconnect. Verdict: I have to unplug more often. Sheesh.
  • Spent a few days in the radio station with some alarmingly productive talent. We got seven (!) shows recorded, and it felt like buttah, it was so easy. While we were there I futzed around with video for hours...I wish I were better at it, but boy, it's fun to do!
  • In less than a week I'm going to Vancouver! Unreasonably excited. Any recommendations on things I must do/see?
  • I played two songs in front of people tonight. The first I got too nervous...false start, and then stopped half-way through so I could get to the good part without messing it up. I got there, finished it ok... The second tune, because I was playing in support of someone else, was easier, but still glitchy (new instrument, + a technology glitch. That was my fault. Ouff.) and not great. I'm amazed at how rusty that performance muscle has become, and also at how unconcerned I am about it. Because the reality is that I can play piano, and do so pretty well when no one's listening. And it seems that playing well for myself is more valuable than playing pretty for others. I'm happy about that, but I'm going to force myself to get out there a little more musically - it's going to suck, but I think I need to strengthen that performance muscle. 
  • (I work with fun musical people. It's cool.)
  • I'm reminded of how strongly I'm drawn to project work. I'm so happy to be thrown bum-over-kiester into a project for a finite period of time, and then tie up the loose ends and walk away. I'm always really excited about the summer - I need to find and pursue those things in my personal life. (She says, as she's about to give up all of her free time for months...)
It's the Introvert's Last Hurrah - a few weeks to store up energy before the summer. And yet, my schedule - professional and social - is busting at the seams. If you have rituals/traditions that make you feel relaxed, that help you to recharge, won't you please share them?

I'll be putting this little number on a loop, I think...


4.24.2013

unstructured time.

I'm out of the office this week, and it's been lovely.

When I was in my 20's, my first teaching job brought me uncommitted summers...I had large plans for superhuman fitness, for artistic adventures and a focused march through the canon of unread Western literature.

I lasted 2 weeks.
Two. Weeks.

At the end of those 2 weeks? I was hitting the gym with fanatical devotion, had reverted to an almost nocturnal state, and was totally, 100% miserable. I got the first retail job I could, just to have a place to go, a schedule to keep...crazy only begins to describe me without a routine.

(Life lesson: the beauty of vacation is in leaving those comfortable patterns and schedules. But sometimes it's hard to leave them behind when you're not really sure what they are...)

But here, almost 20 (LAWDY) years away from that first shot at unstructured time? I think I might be getting the hang of it... today consisted of:
- coffee/journal/dog walk, same as every day.
- email/writing/editing while waiting for the refrigerator repairman.
- 90 minutes in the gym, playing on all of the machines because they weren't being monopolized by large, gruff, sweaty dudes.
- A massage, in which I learned that I not only have knots under my shoulder blades (Freddie and Stevie...they've been with me a long time), but also in my butt muscles. What the WHAT?!?
- Browsing at a bookstore.
- Erranding.
- Grilling shrimp, and then using them as an excuse to eat a whole tomato and a whole avocado alongside for dinner. (My love for avocados runs deep.)
- Reading magazines on the porch. Surfing a little bit, polling facebook for good stories.

I didn't get everything done on my wish list, for sure. But I'm feeling pretty rejuvenated here at the end of it, ready for an early bedtime and a good night's sleep.

A storm is about to blow in - there's a fantastic breeze in the air, and the flowers are trembling in the breeze. The motion of the leaves are making the streetlights and storefronts dance like club lights. There's one stripe of sky that is light grey, as the clouds and nighttime sock us into dark. If I were that 20-something on a night like tonight, I would be almost buzzing with possibility, looking for meaning in every conversation, every twist of circumstance. But I'm pretty happy to be sitting on my porch, feeling that same sense of possibility and excitement, without having to get all gussied up and talk to strangers. "Floating on the Lehigh" by Grizzly Bear is playing, and indeed, this floating feeling with the breeze and the night is quite lovely.

I'm planning to unplug almost totally for the next few days - to really make some space, to notice more small things, to leave behind the digital treadmill for a little more presence. (Case in point - I just noticed that this crazy tropical plant that I've somehow kept alive for several years curls its leaves up at night! They were unfurled earlier today, but now they're rolled like cigar leaves. Wow. Gotta work on those observation skills.) I'm guessing it'll let me hit the office -and the upcoming season - with a little more generosity and room if I can unplug.

Starting to rain. Time to head inside. Good night, chickadees.



4.21.2013

priorities.

My house is a mess.

This is actually the usual state of affairs. I'm not a fan of dirt, but I have a high threshold for clutter. A scarf is tucked into the leather recliner, ostensibly forgotten when I was folding laundry last night. The blanket on the couch next to me is trying to ooze onto the carpet. There's a magazine or journal on the back of the couch that, when I look out the window, pokes me at the base of my skull.

Even with the clutter? I'm feeling pretty organized. Mostly because I spent 45 minutes this morning at the piano - my honky-tonk, have-I-tuned-it-in-the-last-year? piano that my folks bought for me when I was in 6th grade, and that I've carried with me ever since. It's bright, and a little worse for wear, but it's mine, and when I press the buttons it makes music. I made an appointment with the piano tuner for tomorrow, and sat down to see how bad it really was.

I won't lie - it's pretty gross. But I've played worse. (And let's be honest, with the lack of playing in my life, I've played better than I'm playing now.

But how I'm playing doesn't detract at all from the fact that I am, in fact, playing. Bach 2-part inventions (while keeping my foot on the floor - I'm a bit of a lead foot, gas pedals and damper pedals both), Mozart sonatas. Trying to get the fingerwork right on a Chopin waltz. Revisiting Debussy's "Fille aux cheveux de lin" and not only remembering all of the c-flats and f-naturals, but actually getting that shimmery inversion correct and in time. Aaaahhhhh... Notes on pages and fingers and ears and eyes all working together have a way of making me feel calmer, more organized, more capable. Dunno how, but it's the truth. And, since I've been doing it in one form or another for almost 37 years (oh sweet jeebus, that's a long time), it shouldn't surprise me that it's integral to my well-being.

I think that I walked away from a big part of my musical self when I decided that I wasn't going to perform anymore. I must've forgotten that the performing wasn't the thing I enjoyed, not really. I enjoyed the playing, the figuring things out, gaining speed and facility, speaking without words. And - no surprise - I still enjoy those things. I'm no pianist, and I wouldn't wish my practice sessions on any unwitting ears (the animals will just have to deal, I suppose), but I do love to play.

So what if the house is a mess? The mess will still be there after the next piece. And I just need to play one more...

4.17.2013

Heinz 57.

Where to start? It feels like I haven't written in ages.

So, I finished 30 days of Paleo eating. I may have tripped once or twice and a glass of wine might've fallen into my mouth, but I mostly did pretty well. I found it interesting in that I couldn't write for CRAP while I was on the plan - too many synapses devoted to figuring out what I could cram into my maw, I suppose. I'm struggling with re-entry a little bit: I'm finding that my body hates things that it used to love (goodbye brie...I'll see you in my dreams. Or maybe in reality with a Lactaid chaser.), which is disappointing. And, in the effort to sort out those things, I'm wishing that I could stick to the plan, because I just felt so much better. Having all of these choices back is sapping my willpower. (I seriously ate 11 malted milk eggs last night. They tasted so über-sweet and wonderful! But I still feel gross today, and I had some of the weirdest, most disturbing dreams in recent memory. Malted milk eggs, meet brie. I miss you guys already.)

I've been drinking iced coffee like it's going out of style, and made my first big batch of cold-brewed coffee. I can't wait to try it tomorrow morning! I also made a pitcher of iced mint tea. I might make it my go-to beverage for the summer.

I had a totally happy accident happen today. I went to DSW to pick up new sneakers and browse, when someone called my name. It was a girl that I hadn't ever met. BUT we have a close pal in common, and that pal had connected us on the ol' FB. And while we talked about getting together, we hadn't...ever. But she recognized me from my photo, and we had a ridiculous blast chatting in the aisles of the shoe store. It very much felt like being at the right place at the right time.

How can we all not think of Boston? As my own way of saying FU to the cowardly F'ers who did such a horrible thing, I'm starting to run again. I signed up for this with some friends because there's no way I'd be able to run a marathon. But this will be fun and challenging, and I'm proud to be a part of the running community.

We're in the weeds at work, trying to do ALL THE THINGS before people start arriving. Lots to do, but it'll be WAY more fun once the singers and staff arrive. Before that happens, though, I'm heading to Vancouver for the Opera America conference, and am even sitting on several panels for their Artist Intensive. Gah. I guess this is the year I get over that whole Public Speaking thing...or else it's likely the last time I'll have to do it. (unintentional win-win!)

And, in fantastic news, I am nowhere NEAR as freaked out about my upcoming birthday as I was. The perspective shift is welcome and new, and it's a huge relief to be appreciative that I didn't kill myself in my twenties, rather than mourning the fact that I am solidly and irrevocably in Ma'am territory. (And believe me, I tried some crazy stuff in my 20s.)

Feeling grateful for:

  1. Breezes through open windows.
  2. Sandals.
  3. Dogwood blossoms.
  4. Pomodoro timers. (productivity is my new super power! well, almost.)
  5. Chats and emails with good friends.

4.06.2013

Serendipity.

Sometimes things happen in just the right way.

Yesterday was gorgeous - brilliant blue skies, mild temperatures - it felt finally like Spring might be sticking around.

A group from my alma mater was performing in town, to celebrate the retirement of Robert Page - a guy who was a mentor to me, took risks on me and most importantly stayed involved in my musical life even when I didn't rise to the opportunities he offered. (He gave me my only academic F. Ever. I totally deserved it. AND afterwards he wrote me the most wonderful, brilliant recommendation letter. I still have a copy of it, more than 10 years later.) I sang for him in the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and taught for the Junior Mendelssohn, and used his techniques in every class that I taught. (I still use DWWR every summer in my current job.) And there's a secret fraternity of sorts that can be discovered if you use one of his stock phrases, the most iconic being "MY CONSCIENCE TIS OF THEE."

So, imagine my surprise when I drive to a Maryland hotel to meet KT - a pal from undergrad that I hadn't seen in years, but had kept in touch with on the ol' FB - for lunch. (She was in town to sing the solos in the aforementioned concert.) I move my car to unblock the hotel's circle, because there was a car behind me, and I see KT walk over to the other car.

And then I hear, through my open sun roof, that voice.

"LEEEEEE AAAAANNNNNNNE."

And I'm ready immediately to admit that I hadn't practiced the alto excerpts for today's rehearsal mea culpa mea culpa mea culpa.

It was Bob Page. Looking great after a 4 hour drive from Pittsburgh, still witty and charming and loud and Texan.

To have that short moment with him, and some time to pick up with KT (seriously, someone must've studied the phenomenon that makes chatting with college pals super easy...something about getting to know each other in one's Ur-state that makes subsequent meetings - no matter how far removed - so easy and pleasant! If you know of anything, point it my way; I find the whole thing fascinating.)? Well, it was a lovely, lovely day. And even though I had to miss the concert (I had one of my own, here, which was CRAZY good. I know, you're skeptical, but it really was wonderful!), I was certainly there in spirit.

So thanks, Universe. I'll smile thinking about that voice sliding into my sunroof on a pretty spring day for a long time.


4.03.2013

Holding patterns.


So. It’s April.

In the environs of Washington, D.C., it still very much feels like March. Early March. I’m still layering tights and socks, still wearing stocking caps when I jog and walk the dog. But the sky is bright blue, and the trees are budding red...spring is coming, regardless of what the mercury says. On Tuesday I saw a blue heron, a pair of squabbling bluebirds, and a ring-tailed hawk, all in my little suburban neighborhood...they're all ready for spring, methinks. Hoping Mother Nature cooperates!

The cold is insulating me a little bit from the imminent seasonal demands of my job. We joke, around the office, of the widows and widowers that we leave behind on Memorial Day, and try to reconnect with after Labor  Day. Things are ramping up in a big, intense way, but with the chill in the air it’s easy to dismiss those time-sensitive concerns...plenty of time to deal with them, right?

Aaaahhh... if only.

Contributing to the radio silence? (And the dearth of exuberance here, no doubt.) I’ve been doing Whole30 (a 30-day Paleo introduction: meat, veggies, fruit, some nuts and oils)  for the last 18 days. 12 more to go. It’s been a serious adjustment: there’s not a usual dish in my kitchen repertoire that fits in this particular program. My mid-afternoon candy breaks and morning yogurt and sushi lunches? All things of the past. (Now, full disclosure, I’m doing this partially to self-diagnose some food sensitivities. And I’m a fan of committing 100% - I’m not a halfway kind of girl. The positive is that it’s been really helpful - I’m feeling really good! But I’m sad at the thought that wine and cheese might not make it back into my repertoire.) So it’s taken big brain cells to figure out what I can eat, and what I feel for, and what I can substitute for Girl Scout cookies to make the cravings go away. (Hint: ain’t nothing takes the place of Samoas.) I am finding that, thinking so much about food makes me better able to edit, but less able to create new content. Crazy, right? But the structure in this one area of my life is trying to fit the rest of my life into boxes...I’m being rewired in a way.

(I’m hoping against hope that it’ll become second nature soon, and I can get back to serious daydreaming. I miss it!)

So, I’m paddling. Treading water before the work sh*t hits the fan, trying to take some time off before it’s impossible to get away. Not writing very much. Dreaming of warmer weather and summer dresses and pedicures and sandals. They’re coming soon, and I’ll be tired of them soon after that...but I’m ready. 

Some linky-links.
  • Almost paleo. 
  • Sophie shares the most wonderful things. Like this.
  • Stuck on frame 5. 
  • You know I have a big, round birthday coming up, right? (Also? Definitely NOT paleo.) (Also? Drool-tastic.)
  • I totally want that in my kitchen. And bathroom. And maybe on a big wall in the living room. (Too much?)
  • I also want my obit to read like this one. RIP, sir. Find my dad, he'll get you a drink and a cigar once you sign in with St. Peter.
  • Photographic pontilism.
  • Ladies, if you've found that Vickie's secret is not worth keeping, I can vouch for these broads. New fav, srsly.
  • GoT (which is my FAV), reset in the 90's. You're welcome. (between that and JTimb's 90's metal intro to Mirror? I'm in my own personal time machine.)
  • April Fool's indeed - I though this was an ocean picture until I read the caption.

  Wishing you all some unexpected good news in the coming days.