12.11.2014

Taking Stock

It's the 11th of December. (which, according to TimeHop, means that I should have my annual sinus infection/cough/bout of laryngitis. AND LO AND BEHOLD IT WAS SO.)

It's the 11th of December. And life is pretty good, and also pretty lame. I'm not whooping it up much (see paragraph #1), but even without the sequins, life is pretty ok.


  • The pup is rabble-rousing like a non-surgically-violated puppy, so I'm guessing that he's feeling better. Which is awesome.
  • As far as work, I've got a truly kick-ass group of young singers on the docket for next summer. We are going to have some ridiculous fun!
  • Also as far as work, I've got this new classical music project that I'm super stoked for. SUPER. STOKED. And, in my nefarious plan to conquer the world and learn many things while I do it, I'm not only getting to know a very cool artist, but am learning to listen in a different way. It's über-nerdy, and I'm loving the whole process.
  • Two more work things: 
    • We have decorated the basement with lights and trees and such, and it is A Holiday FESTIVAL. 
    • KPW is going to be a grandma in a week! And Tim the Builder is expecting child #2 shortly thereafter! We're going to have Trap babies next summer, which is the Christmas gift that will keep on giving. 
I have a metric shit-ton of Pierogi to make in the next few days...and the part of my brain that likes to avoid hard work is throwing me distracting messages, like "you need to go buy more supplies JUST IN CASE" and "What if you can't find cute containers to pack them in? They'll be ghetto pierogies and no one will ever eat them." Which makes me think I'll likely wake up tomorrow, drink some coffee, brush my teeth and start the first batch of dough, before I have time to consider alternatives.

It's pazzo. Had you asked me 20, 15, 10, even 5 years ago I would've not have expected being here, in this place, now.  Life is nothing - really, nothing  like I would've ever expected it to be. 

And yet, it's still a wonderful fit. 

My five:
  1. Codeine cough syrup. (#betterlivingthroughchemistry)
  2. West Wing reruns.
  3. Flour. Damn you, low carb everything.
  4. Slippers with fleecy insoles.
  5. Hats. Life is better with my hair hidden under a toasty cap.

11.28.2014

bullet points.


  • I found a dog in the park yesterday as I was walking Boo. He was skinny, but friendly and adorable in a pet-fox kind of way. He had three leashes attached to his halter, and was dragging them through the park. I tried to walk him with Boo, to see if I could find where he might live, but his energy (and desire to constantly hump my dog, who was a good 40 lbs heavier and having NONE OF IT) meant that we didn't get very far. Some nice neighbors held him while I called Hubs to pick Boo up, and then I walked our Mystery Guest around the neighborhood, seeing if he'd drag me somewhere or if I would hear someone calling for him. No dice. He refused kibble (also brought by Hubs on another drive-by), and  I finally turned him over to the police after about 2 hours walking. They took him to see if he'd been chipped, and then he was going to the shelter. At least he'll get some food and maybe a checkup...it's all I can do to not call and check in, even though with the gimpy puppy at our house there's no way we can take him. But if you're in the market for a skinny sweet Akita, check with the Vienna pound. He'd be great with a family!
  • After the whole dog thing, I came home to start cooking. Because, even though we don't go anywhere for Turkey Day, it doesn't mean that mama doesn't cook! A small turkey, dressing, taters, cranberry jelly and an apple crisp with salted caramel sauce...and green beans and brussels sprouts that never made it into the oven when I saw exactly how much food I had made for only 2 of us. (The sad thing? The leftovers are almost gone. HOW CAN THAT BEEEEE???)
  • Had an x-ray of my knees done last week, because they were hurting almost constantly. The x-ray came back showing some damage, but not as much as would explain the pain...which means (to me, anyways) that I need to take some weight off and that all the bitching I was doing about not being able to run is 100% null and void. Ran through the cold rain on Wednesday, went again this morning. I'm starting all over again with a couch to 5k program, but it feels pretty easy physically - which is great, because it's a HUGE lesson in humility. Hoping to get back into the mindset by signing up for some short race sometime soon, just to get back into it. I forgot how running in the cold makes me feel doubly like a badass, even when I'm super slow.
  • Made an appointment to give blood tomorrow. Early workout, donate some red stuff, and then start making pierogi guts. Fair warning: if we usually exchange gifts, I can all but guarantee that this year, mine to you will not be gluten or lactose free. Sorry.
Hoping you enjoyed your stuffing/turkey/pie breakfast as much as I did. Happy weekending!

11.23.2014

Thankful.


I'm either a little early or quite late in jumping on the Gratitude train, but either way I'm solidly on board today.

The audition tour is over, and we're on our way to populating a season that, in any one of the possible iterations, is going to be fan-flipping-TAStic. We heard some really wonderful singing, some delightful/compelling monologues, and hear from a number of auditioners who had positive experiences singing for us, irrespective of casting decisions.

It's enough to give an old grump the warm fuzzies. Feeling grateful to have carved a career that allows me to intersect often with people of artistry and generosity, and to have lovely colleagues that make even the most intense times fun and interesting.

On a personal note, we've been putting off having a fairly invasive surgical procedure done on Henry, our lab puppy. It's been worrisome, because the problem was becoming more consistent, the scheduling was tough due to our summer season and the audition tour, and partially because he's just a baby! But we finally bit the bullet, and he went in yesterday to have both elbows cleaned out and get fixed. He's traumatized at both ends, poor guy, but he's now home, snoring happily in his crate. I was a dummy to think that it wasn't going to be a big deal for the other creatures in the house - Hubs and myself, and the other dog & cat. But everyone was really off their game yesterday (I think I slept for a total of 13 hours. Avoidance, thy name is Lethe. Or 'napping.'), and even the critters seem to be relieved that Lil' Nibs is back home.



Feeling grateful for his safe return, and to be able to (eventually...) improve his quality of life through the procedure. (Wish us luck on keeping a labrador puppy fairly still for 8 weeks...)

Hoping to advance several things this week from the home office, including 2015 Opera Studio matters and 15-16 Chamber Music matters. Lots to do, but it's all fun stuff. My pantry is stocked for both Thanksgiving and the Great Pierogi Fest slated for the weekend after turkey day. The house is toasty warm, I've got a cup of tea and a book and a pair of wooly socks.

Life is good. And I am, indeed grateful.




11.14.2014

Is this real life?

The Audition Tour for the 2015 season is over. GLORY, HALLELUJAH.

Seems like life should be easy now, right? But my mind and ears are so full that I'm not actually really able to carry on a conversation that isn't about opera or casting.  I am officially the worst dinner guest ever. Good thing I'm staying in tonight, right?

To counteract the ear fatigue (and the brain fatigue, obvs), I spent most of the day writing my documents for my annual review (GAH), and nesting in a big way. My house? SPOTLESS. Stem to stern. Dusted, vacuumed, mopped, organized. I should throw a dinner party tonight, it looks so good! (Trouble is, I'm in my yoga pants and a knit cap, and I will not be putting on a lady face for any reason. Also, I made meatloaf and ate enough of it that I may never eat again.)

But the day wasn't without excitement.

  • A shelf in my pantry broke. Dishes everywhere, and one of my favorite pieces of cookery sustained a broken lid.
    • Superglue to the rescue! Lid saved!
    • But wait...lid stuck to the kitchen counter? LID STUCK TO THE KITCHEN COUNTER. #fixitfail
    • Acetone to the rescue! (I could just imagine the convo with the hubby, and the mix of amusement and frustration that would likely roll across his face.)
  • Our pup Henry found a new favorite spot - on the bed in the guest room!
    • Henry is afraid of the bed in the guest room, and won't get down. (Terrifying, all that carpet...)
    • Henry sang the song of his people for 10-15 minutes (because I couldn't believe he was stuck) before I hoisted the little tub off the bed. 
    • Henry immediately ran downstairs and peed on the (newly vacuumed) living room carpet. (BAD PUPPY.)
    • an hour later, Henry treed himself on the same guest room bed. Again. A Rhodes scholar, he is not. I, however, can be taught...the door to the guest room is now closed. 
None of the "excitement" was musical or operatic or, in truth, particularly exciting. But it provided just enough adrenalin to get all of the items on the 'to do' list checked off. And, with the cold weather finally hitting the DC area, I'm looking forward to spending the weekend writing, reading, and getting reacquainted with my piano while Old Man Winter breezes into town.   

Grateful for:
  1. Candlelight.
  2. The return of hat weather. (I should blow off the salon until May...)
  3. Meatloaf. Comfort food is a wonderful thing!
  4. A clean house. 
  5. Almond milk lattes. Peet's rocks my world.

10.19.2014

It's the fatigue talking.

(I'm tired, and I should likely not be typing: please indulge me if you're reading this, and know that I'm a little more sensitive than I might be with more rest.)

It's a little before midnight on an autumn Sunday night. My day started when the alarm went off at 5am. A road trip to and from Philadelphia was on the schedule for today, with 8 hours of auditions sandwiched in the middle. It was a long day, don't get me wrong. I was very happy at the end of it to pull into my own driveway, & walk into a house with my hubby and pets and bathrobe and cup of tea.

But it was a good day. Art was made, and some of it was really fantastic! I was pleasantly surprised by repertoire - both spoken and sung - performances, and personalities. There were bold choices being made; they didn't always pan out, but when they did it was amazing.

But I'm feeling discouraged, at the very time in our highly individualized casting process where I should be getting excited. After all, we're about halfway through our auditions, and while there are still a million scenarios that could play out for our summer season there are several that are starting to rise to the top...the "what-if" game is never more fun to play than right now!

I'm struggling, every time I get on social media, with the grumpier, louder voices who seem to dominate the conversation: on one hand the singers are upset about audition fees, and suggest solutions that show very little understanding of the financial workings of our program and I'd guess many others. On the other, discussions from admins about the obvious shortcomings of the current crop of singers: intonation issues, singing rep that's two sizes to big & doing so poorly. It's a lot of negativity being tossed around. And it resembles, in some fledgling way, the struggles at the big house that we've all been talking about, and at a number of smaller houses across the country

I realize that it's a huge privilege to do what I do, to sit on the silent side of the table. It's not come without sacrifices. I've been through the audition season on the other side of the table, and I know it's a struggle. I paid for auditions that I didn't get with beer money that I very much wanted to drink, especially after getting the PFO, believe me. I also in the past have had my salary frozen to allow my company to keep their artistic programs viable. But here's the thing: it's an investment. Everyone - regardless of which side of the table - who gets into the business is doing so for the love of it, and not to get rich off the backs of others. We all pay for the privilege.

My inner Pollyanna hatehatehates these clashes. I realize that behind each side are folks who want to be understood, to have someone acknowledge the struggles that they are facing. And the struggles are very real. But no one is feeling as if they're being heard.

I'd submit that there aren't two sides to this debate: there's only one. And if we've learned nothing from the current state of classical music and opera, I'd hope that it would at least be apparent that we are stronger when we collaborate.

Going to bed. Sunnier outlook promised for the morning.

10.05.2014

Monologues: Friend or Foe?

I know you’re thinking about it. You’re a Studio applicant, and you’ve received an audition for Wolf Trap. And you scan the audition requirements and see that there’s a required contemporary monologue.

Dang. (You may choose stronger expletives, but we’ll keep it family-friendly here.)

“Why in heavens name do they make us memorize monologues?” you think, knowing that memorizing text without a tune is so much more difficult than memorizing arias and song.

We all know that we’re not auditioning you as a straight actor. So what could our motive be, and how can you hack the situation to your advantage? Here’s the rationale, and what we’re really looking for from your monologue. Demystified!

1.     We’re trying to get to know you. Your 1st selection in an audition is fraught with all kinds of noise: stress from getting to the site, nerves from the whole audition process; technical issues and dramatic issues and musical issues. Most folks surf two out of the last three items pretty well, but the dramatic piece is usually the part thatis subsumed by technical and musical concerns. (Rightly so; please concentrate on singing beautifully and in tune!) So, with a monologue, we get to explore the dramatic piece of the pie.
2.     We want to hear you express yourself in contemporary language. This is why monologues from Chekhov and Wilde – while wonderful pieces – are not our preference. I don’t want to hear you imitate a Downton accent, I want to see you wrestle with your own language, and more importantly to really communicate with me. The accents and affectations just make it more difficult to learn who you are. So sit down with your favorite movie or TV show and memorize a favorite character’s speech – it’ll be more fun for you, and I promise we’ll enjoy it more than Mabel lamenting Tommy’s proposal styles.
3.     We want to learn as much as we can about you. Let’s be frank: we see you for a song, maybe two if time allows. The monologue allows us to see your body language, your personal aesthetic; it gives us a different window into who you are as an artist and performer.
4.     I want to see how your artistry transcends genres. Play around in another genre. You are an artist; I want to see as many of your artistic faces as time allows.

We’ve been lucky so far: some wonderful monologues have come through the doors here in New York. My notes are incomplete, but here are some of my favorites:

For the guys:
From Laughing Wild by Christopher Durang, about seeing one’s father in a restaurant baked potato. Weird, but wonderful!

David from The Four of Us by Itamar Moses, about looking (and finding) love.

 by Eric Berlin – about being a nice guy.

Eating Up Profits by Milstein, about an overzealous bakery employee.

This is our Youth by Lonergan, a pot dealer having a come-to-Jesus moment with some of his clients.

For the ladies:
Well by Lisa Kron – about choosing a Halloween costume on criteria other than being “pretty.”


Harper from Tony Kushner's Angels in America – a beautiful contemplation of the ozone layer and death. 

Sylvia by A.R. Guerney –   this falls into the “Know your audience” bin, as it’s from a dog’s perspective. Having two large mutts at home, I found this wholly entertaining!

Georgie from Spike Heels by Theresa Rebeck.  The scales fall from a woman’s eyes.

“I cannot love a weak man” from Patter for the Floating Lady by Steve Martin. (Yes, he’s a comedian, but this piece is a heartbreaker.)

Pieces I could do without hearing again. (Ever. I might have these memorized quite frankly.)
·      Mabel from An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. C’mon y’all – he’s been dead for over 100 years. It would be like me swapping out Pitbull for Irving Berlin.  Choose a playwright writing during your lifetime!
·     Luisa from The Fantasticks,   only because its much harder to do than you think. And the whole “I love to taste my tears” thing always comes across as indulgent and soporific.
·      Chekhov, Dostoyevsky. They’re AWESOME. But let’s refer to the Wilde rule: 100 years since death = not the kind of language we’re looking for. I’m looking for something less removed from your own experience.




9.29.2014

Audition Recap

We leave for auditions in a week! My pal Kim has posted an awful lot about auditions, and really, if you're auditioning this fall you owe it to yourself to read her thoughts and those great aria lists.

I've written a little bit about the auditions in the past, mostly from a less-reverent POV.  They're not wholly recent (something I'll try to remedy this fall), but for what they're worth, they're here:


9.28.2014

Gaaaaah.

We're about ready to start hearing auditions. Which means I am nesting like an m-er f-er. Cooking, cleaning, swapping summer and winter clothes out (on a sunny, 80-degree day. #fail), eschewing my car for my feet; chatting with neighbors, taking long walks, doing yoga. All that good stuff.

Hubs has a big week at work, until October starts(end of the gov't fiscal year). So his job eases up on October 1, and I leave on October 2. Not great timing, although he'll likely be pretty OK watching ESPN nonstop and ordering takeout for the next several weeks.

We start the audition tour in New York, which is by far the easiest in terms of logistics: a three-hour train ride, a familiar hotel, a neighborhood we know and a facility that's easy to listen in. The only difficult thing is to find time to fit in visits with folks that I love who are there - there's simply never enough time. 

Applications to screen tomorrow morning. (note: Oscar Wilde died 114 years ago, and therefore I would not consider his writings to be contemporary English, as far as monologues are concerned...something from Scandal or hell, even Captain America would likely be a better monologue choice for us than "Tommy has proposed to me again." Heck, even song lyrics are better. Please break up with Tommy.) 

I've been inspired by MB, my new colleague, who is a light packer. (I am not a light packer...I pack ALL THE THINGS FOR ALL THE TRIPS.) Spending some time with the list this evening to see if I can really pare things down to necessities... thinking that streamlining the duds might streamline the trip. (We'll see if the hypothesis holds up...and if I can be disciplined enough to really pare things down.)

Heading to bed early. Hope y'all have a lovely week! Next update from Gotham.


9.12.2014

TGIF

I'm writing this at 8:51pm on a Friday night. Things should just be getting started, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong.

After a 4:30am wake up from the boys (they wake up WAY too early. Good thing they're cute.)

I've walked. Taken photos. Written in my journal. Crunched numbers. Screened applications. Walked the hounds. Made dinner.

DONE ALL THE THINGS.

I'm tired.

Tomorrow is the Wolf Trap Ball, which is a lovely evening out with the hubs and some of my favorite colleagues. But, in order to sparkle tomorrow, mama's going to need some serious shut-eye tomorrow.

(How long do I have to sleep before I look like the 29-year-old me? Hell, I'd even settle for the 35-year-old me. She was pretty foxy, right?)

Three weeks until the audition tour starts. A few precious weekends before the road beckons. When I'm not gussied up in my fancy clothes, I'll be in my yoga pants, hanging with my boys, reading and writing and cooking and ignoring the monsters in the back of the fridge and the dust bunnies in the corners.

Hope you'll be spending the weekend doing the things you love to do. (If you need permission? Consider it granted.)

9.05.2014

It's as easy as riding a bike.

Which, sometimes isn't all that easy.

I used to love riding. Many of my favorite childhood memories are accompanied by my trusty bike: at first, a pink one-speed with hot-rod handlebars and a polka-dotted banana seat, and when I hit middle school a red Huffy ten-speed. Riding around the neighborhood in gangs, to the pool, Covey's (the corner candy store), it was my favorite mode of transportation.

I liked to ride FAST.

But I took a nasty spill...one that landed me in the hospital twice. It was traumatic, and I turned my back on any kind of biking. Just temporarily, I thought...but weeks turned into months turned into years.

Like, over 20 years.

In the meantime, I married a bike guy - someone who loves to ride, and really, really wanted me to ride with him. He bought me a bike - a nice one, but not too expensive so I wouldn't feel guilty for ignoring it. (which I did. constantly.) He put cages on the pedals, but then I got stuck in them and fell over on my one attempt, so he took them off. He got it serviced every year, just in case I wanted to ride sometime. Once or twice we took them to the beach so i could noodle around.

It was too much pressure.

I avoided the damn bike.

But then several things happened:

  • I stopped going to the gym.
  • My knees started to hurt every time I tried to run.
  • I started walking every morning.
The walking made me realize that I really love to be outside, rather than in a class. I loved seeing other parts of the neighborhood, watching the small changes in the scenery. 
But, unless I dedicate hours every day, my walks take me in a fairly small radius; I want to see more. 

And, I still dream of going FAST.

So today, when hubs was at work, I took the bike out. Just for a short ride, to see how I'd do.
After five miles, I learned some things:
  • Boy, a lot does come back really quickly!
  • Some things don't. I still can't balance without both hands on the bars. It made signaling really tough.
  • My turning radius sucks. 
  • My seat (both bicycle and personal, if I'm being truthful) are a little low.
  • I still like to go FAST.
I didn't realize that I had something to conquer, but it seems like I indeed did. 
Looking forward very much to getting back on the bike tomorrow. 

9.02.2014

Article: One is Not Enough

Have you all read this article?

It's all about creative people needing to have more than one outlet for their creativity. And the joy that comes from creating something that exists outside of one's primary discipline.

I totally get it.

I want to be really good - no, excellent - in the creative areas in which I work. The standards are high. But it doesn't mean that I don't like to work in other mediums. Au contraire, mon frere! I have at least three different projects on burners during the months I'm not in season at work...anything from writing fiction to preparing a Beethoven sonata to drawing every day, or instagramming the bejeezus out of my fairly mundane existance. I'm currently on staycation, but I'm also editing a story I started over a year ago, doing a little bit of songwriting, and playing around with some images for an album cover. I've signed up for a course to make a stained glass window later this month, and am SO excited about it!

These projects energize me - much more so than just watching tv or zoning out. Whether they have value to anyone other than me is secondary; the primary purpose - for me -  is simply to make.

I'm not alone.

My pal Paolo, who started life as a visual artist, is also an amateur shoemaker. Kat plays cello in her spare time - she's a scenic designer and painter by trade. Writers, visual artists, musicians...almost everyone I know has a primary arts field and a secondary one in which they dabble.

Today, I got a delivery from another one of the tribe: soprano Tracy Cox, who is a gifted, award-winning soprano and one of the coolest ladies on the planet. She also makes AMAZING jewelry. I had been struggling to find a statement necklace: necklaces aren't really my thing, but I would like them to become my thing. When Tracy offered to help, I was really excited.

And I was even moreso today, when she delivered the finished products:




I am super thrilled with what she made, and feel pretty fortunate to have such wonderful, custom pieces from a multi-talented artist. 

(You can check out more of her work here, or email her at neonbeautiful@gmail.com for inquiries.) 

Do you have your hands full with artistic pursuits? Tell me all about them!

Edited to add the link to Neon Beautiful Designs instagram page. Check it out!

8.30.2014

Introverts Unite!

I have lots to say about the season and it's awesomeness. (Awesominity?) But instead, let me tell you about my Saturday.

I'm kicking off a week staycation, and after being sparkly and on for most of the summer, I took a full day (unintentionally) to appease my inner introvert. The day went like this:

  • 5am. Wake up to a dog nose-whistling. Fed the hounds, and then we all fell back to sleep (hallelujah!) until 6am
  • Gave said hounds chewie toys at 6am; Napped for another 45 minutes on the couch as they chewed.
  • Woke up for realz. Coffee. Journal. Porch time with the critters. A chat with the neighbor.
  • 8:30-9:30am Start & finish a beginner Code Academy class on CSS.
  • 9:30-noon. Red up (clean) the house. Laundry, vacuum all the dog hair. (A larger job than one might assume.)
  • Noon-1pm. Walk around the neighborhood, with my new favorite playlist from my colleague Kevin. Stare at a snapping turtle who was just chilling under the water.
  • 1pm. Shower and clean up. Lunch!
  • 3pm. Start to read. Nap instead. For two hours.
  • 6pm. Pick up sushi for dinner. 
  • 8pm. Transcribe botanical and watchmaker journal pages for The Smithsonian. Such awesome geeky fun!

Other notes.
Phone: dead. Didn't notice until I couldn't order sushi at 6. If you've tried to find me, I'll be back online by tomorrow am. (well, later tonight, but I'm going to bed.)
Number of people I spoke to today: 2, including my husband.
Time I'm going to bed: sometime within the next 2 hours. 

It's been a wonderful, antisocial, rejuvenating kind of day. Looking forward to a week of getting my geek on - outside of the office!

The return of My Five - 5 things I'm grateful for:
  1. Naps. 
  2. Avocado.
  3. Quiet. (There's still so much to listen to.)
  4. Cobalt blue.
  5. Good music.


7.12.2014

It seems that I can only post once a month, and when I post the entry needs must be full of typos and grammatical errors. I'm apologizing in advance.

We're at the halfway point of the season. So far we've:

  • Opened and closed Giulio Cesare in the Barns.
  • Produced a concert at The Phillips Collection.
  • Had 2 performances of the Beethoven with 4 of our singers, once in Philadelphia, one at Wolf Trap, both with the amazing Philadelphia Orchestra and the wonderful Bramwell Tovey
  • Opened and closed Instant Opera, which has added the zurtlecorn (part zebra/part turtle/part unicorn) to my list of Animals I Want To Meet, and which also kicked serious patootie both at the Childrens Theater-in-the-Woods and at the blue show for our young professionals group.
  • Started rehearsals for Carmen.
  • Started rehearsals for the Double Bill.
  • Started rehearsals for Steve Blier's recital.
  • Started rehearsals for Les Six.
  • Hosted a Welcome Reception for stakeholders.
  • Worked 4 National Symphony Shows. (Met Ben Folds (!!!) and Matthew Morrison and Laura Benanti.)
  • Hosted an artist panel with Eric Owens, Eric Einhorn, Will Berger, Josh Winograde and Michelle DeYoung and streamed it live over the interwebs.
It's a lot. 
And it's all pretty dang awesome. 

But I will say that my favorite parts have been when I've had time to hang with the singers and staff. It's less than I'd like, but I love every minute - these are some fantastic folks, spending their summers with us.

Trying to get some rest today before tomorrow's Aria Jukebox. If you're in the area, come by at 2 and vote for your favorite arias for the 3pm performance!

6.07.2014

Where is my head?

Seriously, if it wasn't bolted on I'd be in serious trouble. 

The season started last week - rehearsals, snags galore. It's all fine, but it was a week. And it was just the beginning of the season.

I've been trying to write every morning, since Henry wakes up with the birds at 5am (a habit that needs must stop pronto). I feel like I'm writing the same things every day. Most damning is that I stumbled across my journals and writings from 2012, when I was doing NaNoWriMo and had somehow beautiful language at my fingertips. I miss that place. 

There's a wren's nest next to my left shoulder, in the end table that my neighbor Jen gave me. The mama wren co-opted the slot where a drawer might go, and had at least three babies. They're quiet now but they were chirping to beat the band a few minutes ago...I think I'll move to another seat on the porch to give mama some room to feed them. 

The sun is conveniently hidden behind one of the mammoth ferns hanging on the porch for another 10-15 minutes. When I start to go blind I'll walk the dogs around the neighborhood, and bless my hubby for not forcing me to go to a graduation party on the other side of the world, where I know no one. (He's there, doing the right thing. His wife is not as good as he with that whole thing...) 

Gabriel Kahane on Pandora. He's playing a show literally down the street from me on Monday. I'll be there - I'm a little obsessed. His writing is so great.

Had lunch with a punk rocker/actor (actor/punk rocker? does the order matter?) on Friday, and I realize how I love my opera people, but I seem to only traffic in opera people. Leadership Fairfax was an eye opener in that regard: I am craving different points of view, to have my narrow worldview shaken. 

Mama wren is ready to shake my worldview. And Mr. Sun is giving me a very bright warning. Time to walk.  Hoping to have a blissful evening - full or quiet, but either way just the way you like it.


5.15.2014

Big day.

What a day, chickadees.

I spent the majority of the day in this program, learning about the invisible people in our community. Families who are struggling with eldercare. Undocumented immigrants. The incarcerated who are trying to rejoin the community. The homeless. Those who have suffered - or been killed - as the result of domestic violence.

Not a day full of laughs, to be sure. But an important day.

I was reminded, over and over again, of how protected I am. (And I am grateful for that, in a renewed fashion.) I know people struggling with these issues. Heck, some of them are in my field, community, neighborhood.

You can earn a great education and still not be able to feed your family. You can struggle with homelessness, and cloak it in a highly transitory lifestyle. You can have a job function that seems so specialized that you can't figure out how to parlay it into an actual, rent-paying position. Art and poverty are obviously not exclusionary. (hello, bohéme.)

The problems that face our communities - both my local one and our artistic one - aren't all that dissimilar. And I'd be lying if I didn't say that I was overwhelmed by both the existing need and the correlating goodwill.

It's a lot to process.

(Even more to process on scant sleep - I'm not sure how new moms do it, but I'm seriously considering slipping the four-legged babies a benadryl cocktail before bedtime to avoid the new 5am canine alarm clock. Haven't these guys heard of beauty sleep? 'Cause mama could use a double-dose, at least.)

The day wrapped with a HH with two colleagues who I adore. We all have birthdays within 2 months of each other, and we try to get together monthly to chat and catch up. They're SUCH fun, and relaxing with them was a perfect foil to the very intense day.

Our first seasonal staff member arrives on Monday.
We've been talking about new projects, and San Diego Opera, and Google Glass, and all kinds of other things. And, in the meantime, we're getting ready to welcome singers and patrons and some serious art-making into our (currently) very quiet world.

I'm ready. And nervous. But mostly ready.

The challenge will be to remember these feelings about the community, about these unseen populations, and find a way to interface with them once the hubub dies down.

If you'd like to join me - in the artistic endeavors or the community ones - I'd love the company.


5.05.2014

Heinz 57

I MADE IT.

I had a big project this spring that came to fruition at the end of April. It wasn't music/art related, which was one of the things that made it difficult. And it was also amazingly enlightening - not just in terms of subject matter, which provided in and of itself a huge learning curve. Turns out that I'm not as laid-back as I had hoped to be (some of you - hi mom - are laughing inappropriately hard at that last comment.), and that I am a good consensus builder up to a point and then "Get'erdone" takes over and I'm less likely to suffer fools.

There were many fun moments, some that were more interesting, some contentious moments, too:  but the biggest wake-up-call came when I realized that, as an arts administrator/ performer, I don't automatically have fewer skills or less know-how than my peers in other industries. Again, maybe that's not news to many folks, but it certainly seemed like it to me.

The project is done, and was done successfully. My teammates are great people - I was really lucky to have a great group. (We're collectively looking forward to the next time that we can hang out together without having work to complete while doing so!)

And, during that? We got this little guy:


His name is Henry, and he has turned our household upside down, in the best ways. Three months old on Cinco de Mayo, and already 30 pounds. (In related events, the big dog is down 5 pounds, and so is mama!) 

The big project is done, and there are several other projects that have wrapped (warped?) over the last few weeks, which felt good. I took last week off, and spent some great days in Pittsburgh hanging with Mom & some good friends that I adore & don't see often enough. And then, this weekend, I ended up with an epic, stupid sore throat that kept me out of the office today. (Truth: I wanted to make sure it wasn't strep. When I found out it likely wasn't, instead of going into the office I took a three-hour nap. I'm pretty sure I made the right choice.)  

Work starts picking up soon - lots of details to settle in the next three weeks. Stage management arrives after Memorial Day, and then we're off to the races. SO many things to do before then! If you're inclined to come to Virginia for some music this summer, you'll let me know, won't you?

3.21.2014

Fall back, troops.



I'm retreating.

I've said yes to a few too many things. All good, and good for me, but different and unrelated and brain-stretching. 

So, as I try to wrap my mind around them, I'm instead drawn to a book on Les Six, another on creativity, a pandora radio station populated by good friends from high school and college (Harriet fro the Sundays, Edie, Morrissey, Robert from the Cure...wonderfully mopey stuff), and a ridiculous bottle of neon orange nail polish. There's a large snuggly lab sleeping again my calf, and I have a lined notebook full of story ideas that I'm going to tackle as a celebration once all this crazy stuff is finished. 

Planning to spend half the day tomorrow working, and the other half at a farm, eating goat cheese and drinking beer. Thinking that the ends will likely justify the means.

I always panic a bit in the spring... So much to do, so few hours. I forget, every year. Will one of you kind folks remind me next year that things will be more intense than I remember? Thanks in advance. 

And if you have platitudes or inspirations or daydreams that help you get through, will you please share them? I could stand to lengthen my perspective a bit.


3.09.2014

Sunday. Taking stock.

I've been reading this book. Among others...I'm a polygamous reader, but I'm faithful to all of the books I start. (Except for this one...couldn't finish it, because I just despise Ignatius. I'm sure that, in a different stage of life, I'll pick it back up again and enjoy it. But that won't likely be happening soon.)

Anyway. I started that book. It's all about finding ways to structure your work so that you do your best stuff when you're most suited to it. And it talks about slow incremental progress. And it talks about the reactivity of work and the loud voice of email. And it talks about the power of habit.

It's hitting me at a vulnerable time. Or, rather, at an impressionable time. I took an office job to have a regular (well, -ish) schedule and paycheck. But sometimes I dream about freelancing and restructuring my days accordingly. There are things that I want to do - play more piano; compose; write. I only allow myself to indulge in those things when I've "done my chores." When I've run out of other things to do - running errands, cleaning, gym, cooking (ok, this falls into both the Must category and the Enjoy category), working.

It seems backwards, right? Putting off the things you love for the things you must do? Sometimes it's ok - necessary even. But as a habit, it's a pretty shitty one.

In the off-season, there's no good reason for me to check my work email on the weekends. My boss has my cell # and uses it when she needs. Outside of that, everything can wait until office hours. And yet, every weekend I log on several times just to see... It's a distracting waste. (Granted, in the summer my phone is on and my email checking is constant. But that's different, and finite.)

So, I'm trying to re-prioritize. To make some new habits that allow me to create. To cut down on the amount of purely reactive action that I take. We'll see how it works out. I'll likely be grumpy as all get out as I figure this stuff out...please know that if I'm snippy it's me, not you. And that I'm sorry. It's for a good cause, I promise!

3.04.2014

And the point was?

I started following Humans of New York today because of a post they shared on Facebook that hit home. It's a photo of a pretty girl, a big knit stocking cap on head, a coat and a shearling vest, but flat and oh-so-bare ankles. She's sitting on her suitcase, somewhere at Penn Station if I had to guess. Her quote is:

"I wish I'd partied a little less. People always say 'be true to yourself.' But that's misleading, because there are two selves. There's your short term self, and there's your long term self. And if you're only true to your short term self, your long term self slowly decays."
I'm more than a little terrified that the above quote sums up my life. That I've done thirty-day projects and tried things, but haven't kept that long-term vision in my sights... and now I've forgotten what it is.

(How's that for a Tuesday crisis of confidence? Go big or go home, I suppose.)

It's Mardi Gras, and I've celebrated by ditching any semblance of healthy eating for cake and cookies and homemade bread FROM MY NEW COLLEAGUE (we've been calling this position "The Unicorn" for months, because we really didn't think we'd ever get another staff person. But we did! And she's awesome!) WHO JUST STARTED TODAY AND I REALLY HOPE COMES BACK TOMORROW. (Oh, add wine and cream-cheese frosting to that list of things that have leapt into my mouth unbidden.)And the day was pretty good until I decided to grill burgers and my back stoop was a sheer sheet of ice and my grill was covered in ice and it took forever to chip everything out (because there wasn't really a good Plan B and I really wanted a bleu cheese burger) and I almost started a grease fire BUT at the last minute resisted the urge to just throw a metric ton of snow onto the grill to subdue the flames and so we're all ok and plus burgers for dinner!

So I guess it's not all bad, even now, right?

My street wasn't plowed, and evidently doesn't get a lot of afternoon sun, so my impending dog walk would be scary except I have these things, which are nerdy but so awesome that you can judge away and it bothers me not at all. Not falling on one's butt when one has a large labrador in tow (or maybe he's the one doing the towing...anyway) is a very good thing!

Lent starts tomorrow. As always, looking forward to the structure, and to living with less excess for a while. I know I'm not here often anymore (although this will be my 1138th post. Crazy, right, that someone could write so much and say so very little.) If you're looking for more regular updates from me, you can find them over here.

Here's hoping that, in the next 40 days, we find what we need by giving up what we don't.


2.22.2014

TGIF

I was going to write about this doozy of a week....all of the great things and the good things and the total drags that happened. (Cliffs Notes Version: Long days, horrible nightmares, wonderful music, interesting people. The scales are even.)

But some stuff has come up.


I talked with Lara St. John today about her campaign for live musicians. She's talking specifically about HBO's Game of Thrones, a show that I love and that I'm pretty sure she would too. And it struck me in that conversation that there is a generation of young people who can't differentiate between a live cellist and a sampled cellist. Or - maybe more tragic - prefers the cleaner sampled version to the real thing...because there's too much emotion, too much imperfection, too much - something - in the sound of the live player.

Imagine Stevie Nicks' voice cleaned of "imperfection" or Jeff Buckley...pallid, limp, clinical. As humans, I'd say that our very best parts are our imperfections.

Tonight these folks played a KICK ASS concert in my hall. Really, so good - the Shostakovich in the second half was crazy good. And part of me is a little sad...there were empty seats, and we just couldn't fill them. And they were SO GOOD. It wasn't a question of talent, for sure. But it hurts my heart that I couldn't give them a full house.

I listened to the trio play this evening. 
Thought about the empty seats. 
And felt completely defeated. 

Y'all, there is so much good art out there. So many good players, so many ensembles looking for opportunities. (And when I say looking for opportunities, I mean paid opportunities - these same artists have been training and rehearsing and perfecting their craft for years. For me a debut artist is a quartet who has been playing together for 5-7 years. YEARS.You'd pay your plumber,  please pay your pianist.) 

How do I convince people that washing the day's troubles away with music is worth it? That, regardless of genre, a chance to step away from the idiot box and focus on the aural world is not just a luxury but is a necessity? How do I give people the permission to daydream, to let their mind wander, to reject their to-do list for two short hours in exchange for a masterful tour of a sonic landscape that they might not find by themselves?

(Not expecting answers, though if you have some I'll gladly listen. Just venting quite late on a Friday night.)

2.17.2014

Thanks, George and Abe. You're the best.

The light was crazy beautiful this morning.
Oh, today was a beautiful day. And I'm not solely talking about the weather.

First off? I got All-The-Things done.
Dog? Walked!
House? Clean!
Laundry? Laundered!
Groceries? Purchased AND put away!
I even snuck in a shower amid all that busyness! (You're welcome, neighbors.)

And when I was finishing up, this great tune came onto Pandora. So I sang along. And then I bought the song on iTunes. And then I looked up the chords.

And then I sat down and did this. (First take. The piano is horrendous, yes, I know. Trying not to overthink it, but for a first take not terribly bad, right?) (If your answer is more negative than "yah...sure." please tell someone other than me.)

And then? I sat down with Garage Band, and played around with the tune and loops and my little midi keyboard until the tune sounded more like a techno version of a Pat Benatar song. I know...not everyone's cup of tea. Hell, if you'd have asked, I'd likely say it wasn't my cup of tea either! But I have to say that I really enjoyed putting it together. I find that technology makes me both musically smarter and more stupid. (It's difficult to chunk a song into sections when all you want to do is SANGit!)

And maybe I'll post that link here too...maybe. Someday.

I am so grateful to have had a free day to both get my (literal) house in order, and to be able to get a little creative. Days when I have that option are really the best days there are.

(Maybe I should make more time for that option? Maybe...)

Here's the source material. They're playing at The Barns, but they're sold out! (I know, I waited too long to get tickets and I can't get in. Le sigh.)

2.16.2014

A brilliant Sunday.

It's barely 5pm on Sunday evening, and yet I'm still proclaiming it a success.

It didn't start that way.

I was feeling pretty virtuous just for getting my heinie out of the house at 8:30 for a class at the gym. I had rewarded myself with a pair of cycling shoes, and was using them as impetus for getting to the studio and getting a decent workout in.

I walked in early, hoping to figure out the whole clipping-in thing without an audience. And I was alone, indeed... in an 88-degree room. Seems the heater is stuck on, and the room was TOASTY. And I was grumpy, and passively-aggressively tweeted my displeasure.

The heat created a bit of camaraderie, though...and the instructor created room for each person to adjust to their comfort level. And, let's face it, a little Billy Idol on a workout playlist is never a bad thing.

Fast forward to the end of class; over 1000 calories torched (likely way less, but I've NEVER had a four-digit output before). Mood: euphoric - both for the great stats AND for just staying in the room, in the heat.

I realize that I should be prouder of those moments when I push myself.
And that I should push myself more often.

The birds have been fed. The boys have been fed. I'm contemplating a walk with the dog, a soak in the tub, some time with a sketchbook and Oprah magazine and a good book ,and an early bedtime.

Brilliant, indeed.

p.s. I'm spending this month creating lazy journals - one-sentence journal entries that allow me time to doodle. i'm cataloguing the results over at instagram.

2.13.2014

Remembering.

I had been trucking along on my latest cockamamie self-improvement scheme...eating pretty well, exercising, journaling (well, kinda...#lazyjournaling. better than nothing, right?)

And then a foul mood descended on Tuesday and I couldn't get it to leave. Snappy. Anxious. Blue.

I had a glass of wine last night, and then another, trying to feel a little less...well, a little less everything. And then it hit me.

It's been six years to the day since my dad died.

No wonder my mind had been roaming around a sketchy neighborhood!
I'm equal parts relieved that I figured out what it was, and mortified that it took so long to figure it out.

I miss him.

But today he seems pretty close...this wonderful snowfall (and day home from work), a kitchen experiment gone (mostly) right this morning, and finally holding crow pose for two breaths (instead of my usual one...baby steps!) during my yoga practice seem to be signs that he's checking in. Or, at least, that's how I'm choosing to read them.

I'm grateful to him for so much. He had the ability to see both sides of an issue, and to treat both sides with compassion and humor. He was constantly learning- not only did he teach French and coach the football team, he was the yearbook advisor; he gardened; he made stained glass windows and lampshades and a little jewel box for me; he photographed weddings; he taught himself how to cook (after some spectacular failures, admittedly). He was a strong, constant source of love and acceptance.

To my dear friends who have recently lost family, I can only hope that they've met my dad in heaven; because if they have, they're all having one hell of a good time. :)

2.12.2014

once a teacher, always a teacher.

and sadly, i am not talking about educating and inspiring tomorrow's leaders.

i am talking about snow days.

when i taught, the most beautiful moment was that phone call at 6:30am from the person right above me on the phone tree.

"Classes are cancelled."

(full disclosure: oftentimes my roomie and i had banked on the possibility, and i was more than happy to have a few extra hours of sleep and no prospect of having to entertain bouncy teens.)

we're on track to get a good batch of the white stuff overnight, and i'm already counting on staying home tomorrow. (if the office is open, i might seriously bawl.) i have some work to do, and some projects to play around with, a new recipe to try, and a labrador who treats snow as a gift from the heavens.

(in this instance, i think he's right.)




2.07.2014

I heart sleep. A lot.

I don't know about you all, but I feel like this winter has been all about TRYING TO DO ALL THE THINGS while dodging bitter cold and trying to keep the norovirus away. It's a pretty complicated little two-step, and I'm not doing all that great a great job.

But my perspective has shifted significantly this morning. (The result is most likely due to having fallen stone cold asleep on the couch last night before NBC even had a chance to air the Olympic figure skating semis.) Sleep is awesome - it's free, and enough of it makes most problems seem totally conquerable.

My friends who have kids will talk about their sleep getting heavier right before they take a big developmental jump. And honestly, with the amount of change happening at work (good stuff, to be sure), I guess that my brain just needs some extra rewiring time.

Big weekend coming up: Today, a site visit with one of our artistic teams, some prep for a weekend event, and a saxophone quartet concert at The Barns. Saturday I'll likely spend cleaning my pigsty of a house (Labrador + rain = MUD. Sweet heavens.) And Sunday we have some singers coming in, and have a chance to meet with a group of our people to give them a sneak peek of the summer season. (It's gonna be AWESOME, for the record.)

In the middle of all this, I'm trying to restructure some programs, and we're interviewing for a third staff member. After 14+ years of being 2.5, the addition of another person isn't something we're taking lightly, and it's something that will be helpful, but is forcing this kind of rewiring. Lots of big decisions to be made.

But today? I'm ready for it.
(if you're interested, I'm keeping a one-sentence #lazyjournal over on instagram)
(In other news, we're welcoming one of these little squiggles home at the end of March. Wheeeeee!)

2.02.2014

Lazy Journal, Day 2

Today was all about warm temperatures, a trip through Michael's (yay for markers!), and springlike temperatures. (Oh, and also about sloth and shirking duties.)


(If you don't read Fluid Pudding, she's over here. And you should.)

2.01.2014

Blurb Journal

I'm tagging along with Fluid Pudding (but can't link to her...damn you, Blogger iPad app!)  this month, and instead of writing pages and pages for my morning journal (or, more recently, ignoring the writing completely) I'm going to write a sentence. With some doodles. And some unintentionally ambiguous sketches. Like today's!

Join us, if you're inclined. 
Three cheers for fountain pens and single sentences!


1.25.2014

Reset.

I tried something new today. Namely, a Baptiste yoga class at a lovely Falls Church studio. The people were warm and friendly, the class was fun and challenging, and I won't lie - sweating my heinie off when it was frigid outside felt absolutely luxurious.

It made me realize how seldom I try new things. And how rewarding I find the process, when I do.

(Likely not a coincidence that a profile of this CEO in the NYT totally piqued my interest...)

Here's to shaking things up, to trying something new, even when it's on the smallest scale. 
(I don't know about you, but I'm living on the edge and brushing my teeth left-handed tonight. CRAZY!)


1.24.2014

Teh sad.

Oh, y'all. It's Friday. And I'm a hot mess.

(Actually, a cold mess. And that's likely part of the problem.)

I've been on the brink of (non-hormonally-induced) tears almost all day. It's likely a sign that I'm fighting something off, but it's made the day and its small inconveniences pretty tough. And the Sad has been exacerbated by the cold, by a stopped up sink, by a filthy house... by too many projects and not enough giving-a-shit.

I know these days happen to everybody, but I feel like I'm having a bit of a run of them. I miss my inner Pollyanna. If you've seen her, let me know? And if you have a good way for getting out of a funk, I'm all ears for that, too.

1.03.2014

2014.

Well, if these few days are any indication, I'm going to spend 2014 going to the gym, eschewing tv and most conversation, baking ridiculous amounts of horrible (read: delish) things, reading whole books in days, spending hours dancing in the kitchen, chatting with the neighbors, ignoring the office, and going to bed ridiculously early.

I'm totally ok with all of it.

We got a beautiful snowstorm last night, and while it was as cold as all-get-out this morning, my usual walk with the dog took us to a creekbed transformed by snow and sunlight. It was so beautiful, and for a moment I wished that I had my camera. And, just as suddenly, I was quite happy to not have it, and focused on the beauty of the moment rather than trying to share it with people.

It was a fundamental shift, I won't lie. Probably an overdue one, too.

The holidays were stressful this year - tragedy, anxiety, all mixed together in a nasty stew. There were wonderful parts, to be sure - but I'm grateful to have this time at home to clear my head, my heart, my home.

I'll be spending the rest of the weekend listening to music, reading, going to the gym. And distributing more of those horrible things to neighbors, because momma's pants aren't so much fitting. (And I'm ok with that too...I likely shouldn't be, but I am.)

Hoping your 2014 is off to exactly the kind of start you need.