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 ├╝ber-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.