Friday, December 31, 2010

Ain't Down Yet

One more post and I'll get 9 in December--hopefully round out the year a bit.

I try not to be too reflective on New Year's Eve. I like to celebrate jewish & chinese new years anyways, so this is just one of three--mostly for the purpose of buying new calendars and writing 2011 on stuff. After all, who wants to start a new year when everything is frozen for another three months?

I remember, by the way, when I lived in climates where you could put on your flip flops and go to a new year's eve party. (sigh) I'm really missing that. Hubby and I just drove 8 hours home from Michigan in rainstorm after rainstorm to arrive home to 28 degrees. He's in the bedroom recovering. We had planned some romantic NYE times, but that might be from separate rooms.

It's been an amazing year, and I'm not even sure I'm ready to reflect on it yet. It was my first full year without speaking to my sister, and my whole body hurts thinking about it. I'm never going to hear about people being "disowned" by other family members in a way that's removed again. I feel like something's gone...some organ, some limb. I don't miss her. I realize it's not that I ever had some joy being around her. At least, not since childhood. But my soul misses her. That sounds cheezy, but I can't describe it another way. She's part of me, and she's gone. And I looked at her pictures tonight...they all contain lies, I know that. She's all about the appearance. She titles pictures to ensure that we see them the way she wants us to. But none of that matters. It just makes my head hurt. Or my stomach, or something. And there's no answer that involves my outreach. She hates me for doing what I still believe was the only right thing. I have no idea where to go with that. If I were to contact her and say I need to know we're still family, she would relish the possibility of hurting me, of hanging up on me, of making me feel any bit of pain my actions caused her. So I can't do anything. I feel hobbled by her. I believe that's her goal, unfortunately, and she succeeds. Repeatedly.

I have heard about so many divorces this week. I am very happy with my husband, but every time they make me so afraid. After all, at the age of eight I could explain to you exactly why my parents were meant to be together forever. And by eleven they had split. So I don't know how to not fear that unknown. I just don't know.

That being said, we're happy. We're surviving. Our daughter is adorable. Our house is wonderful and warm, and our bellies are full of New Year's Eve chinese food. I used to drink champagne and now I get apple cider. But it's still wonderful and full of joy, even in our exhausted house half full of boxes and suitcases we're too tired to empty.

I am starting rehearsals for a show this week. I have finally gotten back into my 12 step group. We are finding answers for how to "make it" and I don't do any crappy job right now that makes me want to cry when I walk in the building. I just sing. I teach singing, I watch a baby, and everything in my life feels like it has purpose. Wow. How on earth did God lead me here?

I look forward to 2011. I am hoping for a year of reconciliation in some way. And maybe a few less transitions.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ho Ho Holy Night

I am hoping to get some shots of the outside of our house, covered in snow (about a foot and a half) and christmas lights (blue and white) but it is so cold out there that may not happen anytime soon. I am pushing myself to stay awake and work out, not sure if that will happen.

The last few days have been a blur. I have crammed in, amazingly, 7 or 8 students (two of whom had extra long lessons) in hope to have enough money to take the trip to Michigan that we've planned. Were it not for hubby's third paycheck this month, I shudder to think....and none of the checks we expected ever came. I have also crammed in a lot of planning, wrapping, cleaning. That kind of thing.

I heard a bunch of women on tv discussing how gift cards were the "unwanted" of gifts. Unfortunately, they have never apparently needed money--because for someone who can't afford good coffee on an average day (it is, after all, a luxury)gift cards are PARADISE. For me, there is something about gifts that is--at the end--a bit of a downer. I can't really explain this, except for the anticipation always seems to beat the reality. Giving is a different story. Giving is always delightful, and especially to someone who really needed a gift, any gift, it's practically a drug.

We shovelled twice today. Each time for an hour and a half. This is Iowa. I am still accepting it. More than anything, I am anticipating the dreariness of the cold (day after day) being lightened by rehearsals. There's also a lot more variation in my life than there was a year ago...a lot more students, and a much more interesting baby.

Tonight, as we opened presents, she helped us open them. She delighted in the ripping and tossing of things. She kissed the baby doll and yelled "baby" when she took it out. She played the toys like they were magical. I guess this is the beginning of the good stuff.

My husband is killing people on his PS3 right now, and I am packing the suitcase. It feels like something other than the night Santa is supposed to unceremoniously slip into our chimney and drop some shiny stuff. It also doesn't remind me of Jesus at all. But I am keenly aware this moment of my blessings. I have a lot of loving family, a role, and provision. I am provided for. Somehow, a few years ago, I asked God for all of this, or actually, something that looked and sounded nothing like this. I asked Him for my own solution. And He gave me this. And it's nice. Quite nice.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Money and Meaning

Ahhh, how did a whole week pass by without my blogging? It's like exercise. You take a break for a day and then seven pass.

I have so much to talk about, this will be hard to edit. But I tell you, ever since I got this Mrs. Lovett part, I have been on cloud 9. I have not worried about money (which we have none of currently) or my students, or life in general. Of course, I am anxious, overeating sugar, that kind of thing. But I just feel like smiling, whistling and kissing my husband. It's good times over here.

I keep wondering to myself--shouldn't I feel less happy, given the fact that I have been working SO HARD to get PAID gigs in opera for the last 15 years? There is part of me that goes, "ugh. community theater? really?" but there is another part that thinks that part is a jerk. This is what I love--and this rich, interesting role that I have waited my whole life to do does not need a dollar sign in front of it to say that I will rock the house, love it, be happy, and be a real singer. Right? Right?

I have spent the last 20 years fighting the good fight. You can tell me "no". I have thick skin, and a thicker ego, I guess. I expect you to send me a "PFO" (an online term for a rejection letter--basically a "please F*&^ off" letter). I expect you to tell me exactly why you won't be hiring me. And with that, I hold inside me a faith that someday, at some point, I will steadily earn money by opening my loud mouth. And I am not sure if doing free roles is part of the "program". I have secretly held a sense of superiority and disdain for those who give their gifts for free--like a girl who doesn't hold out for the engagement ring, or something.

My good tenor friend in NYC says "there's always someone being paid in a show. Why isn't it you?" and I have quit things for that reason--the second I stop loving it.

But this I love. This, I dream of and wake up happy. And I remember about 10 years someone telling me that English theater (this was, of course, a friend of mine from England) doesn't equate success in the arts as much with money as American thetaer. Is that true? It sounds like us, doesn't it? We call it the ALMIGHTY DOLLAR and we mean it. There's a tv show I've watced in England where the prize is just KNOWING you were the smartest. Isn't that crazy? Who fights for honor anymore without at least a GIFT CERTIFICATE to take home!

This brings me to another thought. I was talking to a woman I know the other day and she told me a story about how her husband searched the house for change and came up with exactly what he needed to buy pancake mix and syrup. She told me how God had provided the change, how ecstatic they were to have pancakes. And it occurred to me that as much as we juggle bills and debt and stress--as much as I am ignoring that my car only starts about 3 out of 5 attempts and I am too scared to fix it--we have more money than that. If we need pancake mix, we can almost always just go get it. We can even buy marjorine. It's the good life over here.

But I'm not sure the good life is not worrying about money. There is something so edifying, so gritty, so faith-building about struggling for every dollar. It's not as bad as we make it out to be. It's actually....a great way to grow. It's the real stuff. Or at least, it makes room for the real stuff to be clear. Like singing a role you've always wanted. Like offering to teach a student in exchange for rehearsal babysitting and hoping that because of your need, some student who needs it will finally get the voice lessons they couldn't afford.

I believe it was Mae West who said "I've been poor and I've been rich. Rich is better." The quote makes me smile. But I'm definitely not sure it's true.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

God I Hope I Get It

This week I auditioned for the role of Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. I saw this show for the first time when I was about 13--it was a community theater show and I remember being stunned by the intensity of the singing and the staging. I had a pad of paper with which I collected signatures after the show. I know my father took me to see it--so I have a feeling he may have been interested in or friends with someone in the orchestra (that would make sense), because he never was a fan of musicals.

I always loved the idea of doing the complex role of Mrs. Lovett. I mean, here you have this dark, gloomy show about murder and cannibalism, and there are only two things that make you not feel depressed after this show--the lightness of the two young lovers who escape, and the fantasy world of Mrs. Lovett. I think I relate to her in this way. She is a bubbly murderer, a likeable psycopath, a humorous liar.

The show doesn't pay. And this goes against all of my "rules" of trying to get a paying career going. I want to keep up this idea of being at a professional level, I want, I want, I want. It's starting to bore me. So I have just decided to allow myself to feel ELATED at singing a role I love. Is that so wrong, Pipes? IS that so wrong?

I contacted the director, who informed me I could sing 16 bars of ANYTHING a capella. Bizarre. I am used to presenting a minimum of two full arias after driving 5 hours in a car. This.....this means I could PICK my key! This means I can stretch the tempo! Amazing.

I discussed with my husband what it meant that auditions "start at 7pm". Does that mean I have to be there at 7? I mean, I'm used to a set time. DEAR PIPES, YOUR AUDIITION IS SCHEDULED FOR 7:23 PM. PLEASE ARRIVE 20 MINUTES EARLY. That kind of thing. We decided promptness was never wrong, so I showed up at 7 on the dot.

I could wear anything I want. Some people at the audition looked like they could have painted a house after the audition. I "dressed down" by wearing a less fancy skirt and less jewelry. I felt quite overdressed. The auditions were so relaxed, so casual. People made jokes, the director was supportive (how odd) and you could watch everyone else audition. Barely anybody sang a high note. I had told my husband to come pick me up in an hour--and I had to run out and tell him I didn't know how long I'd be....everytime the director asked for a volunteer, "I need a Mrs. Lovett to come up and read" I got stuck in the back! I finally read, I felt ok about it, I felt great about the singing (why not, it was 16 bars!) and then I walked past the crowd of people smoking after their audition (again, very odd) and went out to Perkins for Spinach Salad (I love their spinach salad) with the hubby.

The next day I made Callbacks! I haven't EVER been called back for a role. The one show I did years ago that had callbacks actually just hired me, and told me I didn't need to come back. The whole night before I had writhed in pain with chills and hubby had vomited. I woke up with terrible stomach cramps. Every time I got up off of the couch I thought, "I cannot do this". Then I taught 4 students, got (less) dressed up again, and headed out to the callbacks.

The callback audition was a series of readings with different groupings of characters and I loved it. I loved every dramatic exercise, every challenge. I thought, "I just LOVE doing this so much" and never even thought of whether I was getting the role. After the first reading I tripped over my broken boot on the way back to my seat and twisted my ankle--which is still swollen today. The pain was searing, I would say. But even that was a sign at how wonderfully distracted I was.

I met some fun people at that audition. Some people who reminded me of New York, I would say, and that was wonderful. I overheard someone saying they needed the role, and I have spent the last ten years telling myself to never, ever say that. I never need the role (my mantra) I never need the role.

So I got the role! I will be playing Mrs. Lovett in March. I am SO EXCITED. Who doesn't love a little bit of good news?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Where the Baby Is

This is just a report on Baby S at 15 months. I have spent the last few days feeling down about wanting to sing, feeling nervous about money, feeling helpless as i try to deal with her diaper rash, and I just want to think about some happy stuff. So here's a report.

At 15 Months Baby S's words are: Mama, Dada (and Daddy), Ginger, Max, Thank You, Shoe, Down, Hi, Hey, Bottle (or Ba-Ba, really), Nose, Hair, No no nono no no, Ball, Balloon, Happy (she says this ALL the time), Baby, and about 20 other words I can't recognize.

At 15 Months Baby S can run, walk, crawl, climb a step ladder, climb a chair and get on a table, shimmy under something to get a ball out, throw a ball (not great at the aiming part)

At 15 Months Baby S's favorite thing to do is immitate us. She wipes her nose with a tissue, brushes her hair and teeth, washes dishes, sweeps the floor, vaccuums, puts things away and takes them out. She also loves loud noises. She likes to bang things together, she likes dropping things that are loud and she likes turning things on that make a lot of noise. She is starting to really enjoy the Zebra that we bought her that she can ride on and make noise.

At 15 Months Baby S can spontaneously laugh at things. She loves repetition, and she loves anything which makes it appear she has manipulated something with her hands--for example, she laughs hysterically when you pretend like she moves your head with her hands. She gives "high Fives" and waves.

At 15 Months our biggest challenges with her are: Diaper Rash, getting the lead out of her blood, trying to get her to understand "no", getting her out of the dog water (sigh, this one will be the death of me), getting her out of the toilet, and trying to stop her from pulling heavy objects down on top of herself or falling off of things.

At 15 Months Baby S LOVES books. She loves to point at things that you have asked her to point at (like, "Where's the bird?") and she smiles hugely when you praise her for that. She brings me books all day long. Sometimes we read around 10 in a day.

At 15 months Baby S's cutest activities include: Giving you a "kiss", talking loudly to herself in the back seat of the car, talking quietly to herself in words that are incomprehensible as she does a detailed activity--like trying to fit something inside something else. She also runs to the door and yells "daddy" when hubby comes home and hugs his legs. She points at my nose and says "NOSE" and smiles, and giggles at things which make no sense to me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Teens

Ugh Mama Pipes! Do not exercise at 10:30 at night. It will be two hours before I am asleep and poor hubby is trying desperately to sleep next to me while I type and both the tv and lights are on.

But since it's been going through my head, here are some of the most entertaining things I've been asked by students this fall, and my responses.

QUESTION: What do people do with a musical theater major?

WHAT I WISH I COULD HAVE SAID: They get to study what they love but will probably be poor and work a lot of temp jobs.

WHAT I DID SAY: Some people decide to go to college to find a way to earn money. Some people go to find a way to do learn more about what they love. Sometimes they get to do both, those people are really lucky. But a lot of those people will probably wait tables :)

QUESTION: DO I HAVE TO SING LOUD? (isn't this a weird question? I get asked this a lot)

WHAT I WISH I COULD HAVE SAID: Only if you want other people to hear you.

WHAT I DID SAY: If you have 10 people sing in front of your class, no one will walk away going, "you know who was really great? That super super quiet girl you could hardly hear." Let's try to sing as loud as we can and as beautifully as we can for as long as we can.

(I cheated on this one, this was asked of me a few years ago but I'll never forget it).

WHAT I WISH I COULD HAVE SAID: No, You're right. Your small town Missouri choir teacher is also oddly an expert on a language she's never spoken and probably barely studied.

WHAT I DID SAY: I'm not going to argue with your teacher. you're 16. Decide what you want to do and I'll go with it.

QUESTION: If you go off and audition for a company does that mean I'll lose you as a teacher?


WHAT I DID SAY: Sure--if a miracle occurs and my 1 in 25 auditions statistic suddenly changes, I get every audition I sing for and I figure out a way to support my whole family so my husband can quit his job, pack up the baby and follow me around the country on gigs. At that point yes, I will no longer be your teacher.

No I didn't say that. I just told them that opera jobs last 6-8 weeks and at this point come for me about every two years, so barring the best year of my singing life up to this point, they'd be safe. *sigh* But I hold in my heart the possibility that this could be completely wrong.

And just in case any students read this: No, no one ever got famous without practicing.

This morning the baby, lying on her changing table, held up her shoe to me and said (clear as day) "SHOE". I love this stage.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Five Alarm Hanukkah

I have been thinking for the last few days about how I'd like to write a blog on the funniest questions I've been asked by students since teaching in Iowa....but I was just interrupted. Maybe I can do it tomorrow night.

I was interrupted by the sound of the smoke alarm. Hubby and I had a quiet Hanukkah tonight, after the baby fell asleep, and he'd worked out on our treadmill, and I'd fallen semi-conscious in our bed. We held hands and sang the prayer (he does about 2/3 of it, not bad for 3 years of marriage) and gave each other a nice set of 500 thread count sheets and an evergreen-scented candle. The candles glowed beautifully until we each retreated to two areas of the house and the fire apparently ignited the towel on the table. I went running in first, trying to beat out the falmes with a Fredericks of Hollywood catalog that hubby keeps conveniently on the coffee table, and hubby came running in with a bag of flour. Alas, we did not miss getting a big splash of wax on the wall, a burned towel, a menorah in bad need of cleaning and a lot of black stuff. But nothing burned. And you can't discount the blessing of a fire that never became a fire.

This morning started oddly, with me heading out into the car and the baby screaming her head off. I cancelled my whole morning to console her, and within about 40 minutes she was just "normal." Alas, sometimes you are the slave to a baby.

I dropped her off at her Wednesday daycare, (she was still sleeping) and went to teach. Two of my students did not show up, and a third one said she was sick and gave me a check. My gig at the high school leaves me with some unfair preferences for students--some pay for missed lessons, some don't. I have to come up with a list of rules or something.

In the middle of the day I got a call from hubby that Baby S was at the station with him. Apparently the sitter got sick, but the Baby did fine--munched on graham crackers while hubby wrote the 6 o'clock news, and entertained all the 20-somethings in the office.

And then somehow the evening ended here. I have things to do, but I find myself pretty much half-alive with exhaustion today. Maybe the mental strain, maybe the week off of teaching and having 13 students in 2 days has taken its toll.

The baby also learned this week how to climb. First it started with the step ladder. She now gets on the step ladder and washes dishes with me, makes scrambled eggs with me, and I find it's great for doing work in the kitchen. I set a snack on the counter next to me and she loves to stand up there, feeling tall, having her cheese or apple. But it also has its downside. She can climb up the chairs, get on the dining room table and destroy anything within reach. She does it with style, but it's a lot of work.

I suppose the blog is best ended by my husband's quote, as he looked at a half-sleeping baby in his arms, staring at the smoking menorah. "This is why you're not going to be allowed to have a menorah of your own." Enough said.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Not Crying over Spilled Milk

I went to Arizona to see family for a week. That ended on Wednesday night, when I flew back, baby in tow, and saw hubby. We crashed, then I spent all day Thursday teaching, and then Thursday night I got into a (cheap) rental car, left the baby with the hubby, and drove to Indianapolis for an audition. See, here's the deal. These auditions are hard to come by. And I guess I still believe that tenacity is sometimes how you put together a career. I figure people move to Iowa (or another place that's not NYC) they get comfortable, happy, full, stop practicing, and stop auditioning. I do not want to give up. So if you give me an audition, I will get there. And my wonderful husband will shove me out the door and watch the baby.

I arrived in Indianapolis around 11:30pm, at the house of an old acquaintance of my husband, whom I'd never met, and crashed on his couch. My throat was on fire. I was definitely getting sick, and praying that it didn't matter. MIND OVER MATTER. I was so tired, I did silly things. Forgot my resume. Nice. I slept well, (insanely well), although I woke up with my breasts in PAIN and full of milk, and I suffered through the whole day, trying not to leak on everything.

I emailed, listened to the pieces I'd planned, re-vamped my approach, assessed how I felt, and tried to go in "smart".

I drove to the audition, where (unfortunately) the door to the outside of the building opened up into the large audition room where they were sitting, waiting for me (SO UNCOMFORTABLE). I asked if I could warm up. They were delightfully polite. I warmed up, came back in, and started singing probably before I was ready.

My first piece went REALLY well, but I could feel my lack of stamina already. The high note was shorter...I just couldn't do it with the power I normally can. I said to myself, ACT, BABY, ACT. Because I figured it wouldn't be a day of perfect vocal prowess.

A second piece went surprisingly well. The pianist complemented me--that helped. And then the head of the company asked for a "piece" of a third aria. "for contrast" he said. (another Rossini, which I thought was odd for contrast). Anyhoo...I sang some of it, but instantly I could feel pinched notes. I tried to get my feet under me, but I knew it wouldn't happen. I couldn't get the pianist to slow down, and I hadn't given her a tempo. DAMNIT. I made it through a section. I acted. I squawked out notes at the top that weren't great, but at least they were in tune.

I stopped. I said, "is that enough? We're taking it a little too fast, so I thought it might be a good place to stop." I laughed, trying to feel as utterly calm and casual as I could. The pianist profusely apologized and I responded, "oh no, it's me, not you" as much as I could. The company head was friendly, kind. He said, "it just repeats anyway" but I didn't feel great.

The last few auditions had been such victories. I suppose sick, tired, spilling milk, it was a victory in itself. But it's a bit tough in the wake of it.

I remind myself that sometimes I have sung the crap out of an audition, shined, done the perfect thing, and gotten nothing. I remind myself that I got jobs out of average singing. It's too hard to second guess. Just too hard.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Finding my Stocking

My stocking is gone.

My relationship with the holidays has been strange. I grew up with a catholic dad. He was midwestern, and I adored him, and we put up lights outside together (though it was 60-80 degrees in Phoenix) and got an enormous tree. He made the whole thing sparkle. In fact, as a special thing, when he played "santa" he would leave tinsel on the tree and tracks from "santa mouse" and fill the stockings with creative, marvelous modern gifts and candy. My dad was really good at the show. He got you what you wanted. He knew. All year he may have followed through, he may have drunk too much, but he made sure the holidays were good.

I grew up with a Jewish mom. She was not a huge fan of christmas. She said we would blitz out on candy and be obnoxious by 10am. She was probably right. I remember sibling fights on christmas. I also remember my dad, exhausted by a "santa" run that started around 2:30 am, probably passed out by noon. It was never quite it was hyped up to be. Hanukkah, on the other hand--was simple, special. It was a few moments each night of warmth with my family. It was one or two gifts each night, and time to appreciate each one.

So as a single person, I just pretty much abandoned Christmas. I celebrated Hanukkah on the phone with my mom and usually my sisters, but on Christmas I did the following: I avoided crowded churches, went to the movies, ate a hot dog from a stand, and called my dad. Done and done. Nothing was ever missed. In fact, I LOVED the peace of those days! New York City is so quiet on Christmas (if you're up in Harlem). I do remember my first year going down to the upper west side and getting stuck in a revolving door of a movie theater. It was the MOST CROWDED movie theater I've ever seen. And as I got stuck in that door I heard the woman next to me yell "Jeez! Every jew in New York is at this theater!" I'll never forget that. I guess I had picked a team for that holiday.

When dating my husband, I'll never forget the conversation when he told me he (as a single man) had TWO christmas trees. Artificial (we always had real, and the smell of pine still makes me happy) and "themed". He got "wow gifts", and shopped 'till he dropped, and all of the things that made me feel uncomfortable about Christmas. He told me if we got married I'd have to get my own tree (rather than compromise his theme) and I got off the phone and cried. I had just found what made me happiest as a single person on the holidays, and did the opposite. He even ate (gag me) ham!

So . . . here we are. I've got a baby, I married that weirdo, and now I find myself trying to remember the things I most loved about the "trimmings" of Christmas. I loved having my own stocking, and now my dad can't find my childhood stocking! I loved the lights. The bell ringers outside stores are cool, and carols on Christmas Eve. I can't do carols that never stop for the two months way. But my husband decorates for Hanukkah now. He only puts up one tree (I still have to have my own) and we compromise.

All I have to do is find these things in my daughter's eyes. That's why we do it anyway, I capture the thing we lost, the innocence. That kind of thing. I make no pretense about it being about the Bible...the easiest thing to do is just accept it for what it is. Commercial. Shiny. Innocent. That kind of thing.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Little Town Girl

Ok--so November has been my worst month yet in blogging. I wish I could tell you why. I thought, "have I been happier? sadder? busier?" but all I can say is that I haven't written much.

You know you've been living in a small city when you forget about traffic. Isn't that weird? I just forgot about it. So driving around in Phoenix I was incredibly surprised to see traffic backed up at 6pm. I am amazed at the aggressive drivers on the freeway, trying to get home as fast and furious as they can, and so on. Not that Cedar Rapids isn't full of idiots who drive 45 miles an hour through parking lots and cut you off for no reason--but there are about 2 million less of them.

I started my time in Phoenix by "coaching" with a pianist from ASU. He was unbelievably likeable--friendly, and made an effort to get to know me. A little unexpected in appearance, as he was incredibly buff and looked like he had stuffed his tight black t-shirt with balloons. Fortunately, I have found some good new repertoire for auditions. Unfortunately, I have the same old problems. Why is it the same old problems? How can I still appear "shy" in my music at 36? HOW? He said my choices seemed to subtle, that my laid-back personality did not make the opera singing performance easy. All the things he said were right. I needed this coaching so much. It's funny--in New York, I had coachings and lessons every week, usually. At the very least, every other week. And now I get them annually (maybe twice a year if I'm lucky). And yet--I don't feel less prepared for auditions. I wonder how much you really need....especially in terms of how you learn to think for yourself musically!

Right now I am fantasizing about the unpaid role of Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, which I am auditioning for this month. Am I insane? When did unpaid start sounding good?

In the meantime, Baby S is lovin' Arizona. We did the aquarium with my friend's 2 month old son(a stark contrast to the exhausting toddler stage), and she yelled at fish, ran around singing "happy happy happy" (probably the most adorable thing she does) and then had a huge poop, which had to be changed on the floor of the aquarium. Thank you, motherhood, thank you.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mama Was a Rolling Stone

It's Friday, and my back hurts. I have had so many thoughts I wanted to put into this blog, but I'm annoyed by the ache in my back which won't go away. Since the trip to Chicago, I have pain in my very low back, which I can feel through my legs and my stomach as if I've eaten something bad. It makes me feel dizzy, and sick.

So basically 3 big handfuls of Ibuprofen a day and I'm good.

Hubby told me two days ago that he's applying to a job out of state. I wished there had been more discussion about this, though he knew I'd be fine with the area, it just seemed so sudden from "Mr. Settle-Down" himself. I guess more was happening on the job front than I was aware. But I am scared of more moves. I am having trouble thinking of anything besides "what comes next, and how am I going to survive it?" Did I get soft along the way? I used to be able to pack up my Honda and move across the country with just a snap. And now...there's so much more. I find my stomach is definitely not calm.

I sang a few good auditions, and I'm still contacting companies. I'm really ready to sing, and I believe there's something coming for me. It's been too long. We've got to get this ball rolling.

Where that will be, I've got no clue.

This week one of my students asked me, "What do people do with a musical theater degree?"

I paused. I think I understood the nature of the question, so I said, "Well, their plan is probably to do musical theater. But it's a degree that has some risk in it. They're not doing it to get rich."

She looked at me, thinking, and said, "Yeah, it's a big risk, right?" And I wasn't sure whether to defend that or not. It was too reasonable a conversation for someone who has made very few decisions based on what the most secure thing would be. After all, I'm 36, have had years where I made about $15,000 and felt VICTORIOUS that all I did was sing. I smiled at her, and said, "Well, I know plenty of people who've done it...but it's not for everyone. It's not too different from my music degree. It's the kind of thing you sign up for knowing you'll probably hold a few other jobs too." I smiled. I made it light. I figured she wasn't going to go for a musical theater degree.

Chances are, God love her, she's not leaving Iowa.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I haven't blogged in a while, and this article is really just to get some things off my chest.

I have been back from the audition trip for just about a week. I feel good about what's going on with my voice, and I am praying for an opportunity to use it! I hope to knock the pants off the next local audition too, but I feel somewhat disillusioned, and that's hard to get over. I have had so many great auditions that end in disappointment, I find myself wondering what has to occur in order to get a role. A miracle, perhaps, or at least a fair amount of prayer.

I am back in my 12 step program. God, apparently, snuck up behind me and tricked me into getting honest again. And I am excited about doing it! I am disclosing my food--"writing before I bite" as it were! And I am struggling with it, as always, and I am happy. I am not randomly shouting crazy things at my husband about what a failure I am due to weight. I am real with myself, and him. I have a group of people who expect me to be crazy. I am walking a trail of honesty, and it feels fantastic. And weight--well, I'm not weighing myself for a month or so--because I need this first. Peace. I am accepting that this is my life. I need more than a scale or a calorie count. I need a certain amount of peace.

This morning the pastor of our church resigned. We have been going to a church for two years. We joined a small group, I play in the band, I sing there, hubby sometimes makes videos, and I have even been going to another addiction group. Two and a half years. And I have no idea what happened this morning--a "mysterious" exit, a bunch of ambiguous honesties, and then a 45 minute lecture (under the guise of a sermon) about how we all need to jump on board and not leave, just because our church has decided to not really tell us what's going on.

I have no interest in going to a church where after two years, I have no one I trust,not a single friend, whom I could call and yell about this. No one who would call us if we just disappeared one day. The lack of intimacy is second only to the lack of honesty in my sadness over what happened this morning. I have no interest in being told, "hey, I'm not going to tell you what happened or why you should trust us, but you're a christian, so you should trust us." None at all. And the mysterious absence of a lot of key players in this makes me feel even more confident that I'm not looking at anything good here.

I am angry. I am sad. I am feeling abandoned and depressed. I feel like the biggest risk I took in getting to know people here just blew up in my face. And that's being honest.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Restless October

Well, this month has been so nuts I can't even describe it. I now have 25 students. What? Two of my students were two of 4 girls at the schools where I teach to make it into the all state choirs. Though I hesitate to take credit for that, I still feel kind of like I must be awesome, right?

I have two auditions coming this month, unfortunately 3 hours apart (driving) on the same day. But I'll take 'em where I can get 'em. I hope I'm ready. Does that sound confidence-building? I'm singing really well but I feel like everything else is sapping my energy, stealing my mojo, as it were.

The eating is good. Not what I want--but I actually am reporting to someone else, paying attention to doing the next right thing, and not basing my life on the scales. Though that has never brought me skinny, it's often brought me peace and happiness, and hopefully health too.

Now--here's the troubles. I am overwhelmed. How can I get all of this done, the students, the auditions, the baby? Hubby and I wanted to go on a date, but I also just wanted to sit in my room and cry. Not sad. Just freaking tired.

And then two nights ago, the baby was doing her normal "I love to bug the dogs" thing, and Max bit her. On the face. It is not ....a mauling, by any means. But he broke the skin. In two spots. She bled for a bit, with my heart leaping in my chest, and he left tooth marks across her face.

Hubby loves him so much, and I love hubby, and now we have to come up with answers. We are not dumb....we are not thinking the dog is as important as the baby, but we know there must be solutions without sending him away. But now....

now....with all this stuff I have to get done, my heart is also tied up in this disaster. I am reminded every time I look at her sweet little mug with the red marks.

Four days until two auditions. One day until the next time I tell a room full of people I have an eating disorder. About 15 students in between that time. And then of course, the other stuff.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Childhood God

I found the camera today, after its long vacation inside the couch. So baby pictures will probably be forthcoming.

The past 10 days have involved my eating a very restrictive food plan with almost no sugar and no flour. Oh, and no support. Guess what? Tuesday morning I weighed myself and I was up 1.5 pounds. I did not eat flour or sugar and I'm up 1.5 pounds. So i did what any insane person would do. I cried. I told my husband i was going to kill myself for being a fat failure. I told him I was the biggest liar in the world, that I would never stop lying to myself, that I would never be thin, that I could never be a good mom. It continued for a while. That poor loving man searched desperately for help for me. He asked me to go to a nutritionist. He looked at me with such sadness as I described how disgusting I was.

I am not a dieter. I am a person with an eating disorder. And it doesn't matter what weight I am. I am obsessed with food. I am obsessed with thin-ness. I am not in reality when I am not working a program. So Tuesday morning, I got back in.
And tonight, I am filled with joy. Seriously! I am filled with joy.

My first assignment by my sponsor (I am so freaking excited to have a sponsor, it's like I just went on a great first date) is to write about my childhood God. So I'm going to share what I wrote here.

Not just that. I committed my food today. And I ate exactly that. And it was restrictive, but a little less. You see....for me the trigger is not the food. It's the lie that I am somehow free, somehow normal, somehow not who I am. Which, although crazy, is also beautiful.

My husband lovingly told me tonight that I am in a cycle. The high, the good stuff happens person, and the other, the darkness. I fall into something that loves the angry self-talk, the obsession with weight loss. He's right. But I believe There Is A Solution

My Childhood God
My childhood God was gentle. I feel like I'm the only one who says that sometimes. I did not have parents who were religious at the time, but they talked lovingly about God, and sometimes I would imagine I was holding God's hand. God wanted to listen to me, spoke quietly to me, and laughed sometimes. I had a father who was so in love with me for the first few years, but pretty soon after was consumed by alcoholism. I think God took the character of that father of the first few years. I felt like God forgave me, knew me completely, and loved me anyway. God was strong enough to lean on. I know that as an adult, God is other things to me now. But often I feel that "original" God shows up and dusts me off a little. I feel precious to that God--even though as a grown-up I feel that word precious is weird. I long for my daughter to know the magic of my childhood God. Sometimes, God's voice would come into my head, and say simple things. Comment on what I was doing. I miss that voice. I think it's crowded out by me most of the time. Now my voice has so much more worry in it. More control. Less laughter. I fear I'm not supposed to just be happy thinking about the God of my childhood. But I am.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Beginnings

Has it been eight days? It has. Last time I wrote on this blog I spent a whole night sitting up in a recliner with a baby puking on me. First time she puked, I changed her pajamas, second time I took that set off. Third time I changed mine. I don't remember much after that, except the smell of old milk and the feeling of hot baby head on my chest.

That lasted 4 days. Well I should say the next few days baby and I went to sleep up in the attic to allow hubby to have some sleep, and hopefully function for all of us. Two days after that was over we all took an early morning trip to the hospital for hubby's "Throat expansion" as it turns out, he has both an allergic reaction which swells the opening of his throat and acid reflux, doing the same. It's amazing he can swallow at all. On top of that a bunch of other digestion-related issues and things that make me sad for him and our possibility of "saving up" for anything financial.

Just to put the cap on the whole week I woke up at 5am to the sound of our 2 year old dog Ginger having a grand mal seizure. We can't afford the vet visit until the following paycheck, but I am told the seizure meds are cheap. I still feel so sad for her, for know, the whole shabang.

But let's say something positive. I went to a wonderful 12-step-lite meeting tonight where we talked about new beginnings. And it made me think of the title of my blog. In case you don't know, a cadenza (or cadence, in English, much less fun to say) is a musical term for a "transitional flourish". At least that's what I would call it. It signifies the end of a section of music where the performer either ad libs or the composer writes out a beautiful flourish. A certain "so long" to the past and "here comes the next exciting part". And at the meeting tonight a woman two seats away said the exact words: I NEVER IMAGINED MYSELF MOVING TO IOWA, BUT IT LOOKS LIKE WITH EVERYTHING THAT'S HAPPENED IN THE LAST TWO YEARS GOD WANTED US HERE. And I laughed out loud. Oddly, I belong here.

This is my corn cadenza. Here I am--stuck amidst field and farm--I am attempting a flourishing transition into something which connects my past and future. Transition is really hard. It's hard to believe in. Most of us sit in invisible cocoons thinking, "I'll never be an opera singer" "I'll never fall in love" "I'll never get a handle on this addiction" etc etc and sometimes we are already becoming that very thing.

By the way, I got an audition for Des Moines Metro Opera, in Chicago! That's two this month. AND, I've been off flour and sugar for 3 days! New Beginnings.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Girly Stuff

So I am pissed off.

I am pissed off at about 7 people right now. Especially hubby. And I know better than to think something ridiculous like "everyone is awful". Maybe it's something more Maybe I'm tired from teaching? Probably not. Maybe I'm stressed out about money, singing, friends. Maybe the baby is freaking annoying today, whining and trying to get in trouble. Or maybe some new turn of my body has been taken? Maybe a year after nursing a baby (still nursing, but it's been 13 months now) I am going to be moody again? It's been nice to be in this semi-menopausal state, pretty mellow too, but perhaps the angry, passionate, silly person is coming back. Good luck to you hubby! Good luck.

I am also adding--as I think about it--that the voice has been pretty decent in practice this week. Not quite so "husky" as it seems to have been lo these long 13 months. Perhaps things are changing in the throat as well.

Ahhh, normalcy. If only I could get rid of this damned "post pregnancy stomach" too.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Sickness Unto Death

October is probably my favorite month in the midwest. It is crisp, beautiful, and the colors have just started changing. It's pleasant to be outside in the morning (in a little jacket) and in the afternoon in a t-shirt. It's perfect weather for walking, and today I packed up Baby S in a stroller and headed to my new favorite park.

It was the kind of walk that makes my heart feel like the beat has been regulated. After the last two days of teaching and taking my husband to the ER for an emergency issue with his throat (which, sadly, makes me most worry about the pricetag that brings) I needed a nice long walk. I needed a calming wind and a good workout. I headed through the park and into the cemetery, which I have never done. This particular cemetery is well cared-for and green. It's peaceful, quiet and has kick-butt hills which make my legs burn. It's reflective. And I found a lot of it fascinating.

I was fascinated by the number of children buried there. I was fascinated by how young people seemed--dying in your 60s still seems young enough to be tragic to me. I noticed that in our current culture the younger deaths had more ornate gravestones--pictures of the person buried there, quotations, gifts, humorous pictures. Immediately upon seeing some of them I felt a fear. Someday I would lose my mom, my husband, and even my own life.

As a person with a lot of faith, the thought of death is still scary. It is so unknown, so confusing. I waited my whole life for someone to love me like my husband does, and to imagine that we might only get 20, 30, 40 years together is not enough.

I also started thinking about the night before, when I looked up a girl I used to sing with at the Los Angeles Opera. She used to stand behind me and talk about how I was a mezzo and she was a soprano, and someday we would sing at the best opera houses together. And now she does. A simple google found her manager at Columbia, her gigs all over the world, singing roles that every college soprano dreams of. And she does it.

I thought about my husband getting teary when he told me I got offered a role last year by a little company that paid $200. I thought about the joy I felt singing a maid in Wisconsin, which is nothing on that ladder of success, but certainly something in that moment.

And then I thought about a sermon I once heard, entitled "Sickness Unto Death". I don't know how well I remember it, except for the ideas that really--at the end of the day, when faced with death, most of us want to decide what we're worth. We want to say, "ok, I did this...and so perhaps I can leave" The cemetery was filled with family plots, and I thought about the idea of someone being buried under a stone that just said MOTHER. I couldn't imagine that being all of me. I just couldn't. And I wondered what is it that I think I have to have? Do I have to have a family? Do I have to have to have accomplished something amazing? Does it have to be the thing I always wanted to do? Do I have to read the story of that soprano and feel less myself? Is my joy at getting a little role not something I take into the next world? What will they put on my gravestone?

I don't know when it's going to happen. I don't know how. And that leaves me today. If you ask me if I'd like to wake up in the morning to the sound of applause--a standing ovation--would that make me sure of what I'm worth, I don't know what I'd say. Do I have any idea of what I'm supposed to prove to God or to myself? Do I have to turn heads, to be something I always longed to be? I know that if I woke up each day and felt the voice of God say to me, "You're wonderful. I made you that way. And here's another day on earth to give that back to me" it wouldn't be too bad. Would it?

Friday, September 24, 2010

And so it begins again

I stumbled upon an audition this evening, that (if it were granted) I could still make. So I am submitting for it on Monday. And so it begins again--suddenly I find myself searching through records, as it occurs to me that summer is ending and so auditions may be beginning. I am mulling over paying the moola to re-subscribe to some audition listings, which I let lag during my pregnancy and recovery...but now she's one, and I've done a few auditions since her birth, and well--I feel I'm meant to do more.

You know the Indigo Girl lyric "I could go crazy on a night like tonight, summer's beginning to give up her fight. Every thought's a possibility, voices are heard, and nothing is seen...." I love the way that captures my feeling of fall. The wind is blowing leaves around, the yard is green but the air is cool, and things are growing and dying at the same time. This little transition is my very favorite. From summer to fall.

And so it begins again.

I am wanting to sing everything. I am dancing in my head and imagining a thinner me--finally wearing the dress my husband bought me that's never fit. I am the mother of a toddler, talking to her and having fun enjoying my time in a store, not wiping up after a mewling baby. I am back in an active spiritual life. I definitely prefer the timing of the Jewish New Year. After all, does anything feel new in January? But the harvest--that is the time of renewal, I think.

And so it begins again!

I read the first two chapters. I wrote down what I ate today BEFORE I ate it (though I'd probably get a B for accuracy, at least I had a new plan). I feel thinner. I am yelling at my husband due to the lack of sugar's placating effect on me. I am fully me, and fully waiting for a new year. I want a couple of singing jobs. I don't want to be asked what I've been doing for the gap in my resume. I want to inspire some students to really do something artistically valuable.

And so it begins again.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Exhaustion & Depression

As you can see by the title of this blog, this is going to be a real hoot.

Actually, I've learned over the last few years of my life that exhaustion leads to a physical and then emotional depression in me. These are short lived. In fact, one great night of sleep and it's pretty much gone....just....God help me for the night before.

I think the only reason this has stood out to me recently is that my schedule is much more normal than it's ever been, and generally, I'm much more tired.

Baby S is not really sleeping for the past few nights. Actually, I should say that last night, she got a fair amount of sleep (maybe 10:45 pm-7:15am, I think). But the preceding nights, I was up several times, finally to give in and put her in my bed, assuring both hubby and I a terrible night's sleep filled with being kicked in the ribs and a little space heater (the baby) shoved up into your back. My wrists, curled around her, the pillow and God knows what else, are still swollen. My back is moaning as I type. Couple all of those nights with three days of teaching and today, my Super Long day, I feel like crying.

So here's what I've realized....that "feeling like crying" also means I'm depressed. I feel miserable. I'm angry, I'm depressed, I'm hungry (dammit) and I feel nothing has ever or will ever go right in my life.

And so here's the epiphany...THAT'S THE EXHAUSTION TALKING! This doesn't mean it feels any better, but at least I know it's not true.

What's running through my head is a whole lifetime of many of my college depressions were brought on by whole nights of being out with friends or studying until the wee hours? And that opera apprentice program where I wanted to kill myself and maybe take a few others out with me? I was pretty freaking tired there too.

I am in bed. Because I'm exhausted tonight, I can't sleep. After all--it isn't a matter of being sleepy. It's that full body, can't get off the chair, everything hurts (even blinking) tired.

I can't wait for Friday.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Free From the Land of Cable

Posts like this make me feel a little trite, but I have to write them.

Iowa has had some challenges, some things I struggle with, and most of them have been surprising. It has also brought me some really fantastic things that I've waited my whole life to do. One of the worst things about Iowa has been the cable.

Yeah, you heard me right, the cable.

The local cable company (it's really a monopoly--there's another company but they're very small) has been ridiculous to work with. Supplying our phone, internet and tv, they've really had us by the throat every time they ....hmmmm....accidentally disconnected us and couldn't come out to fix this problem for a week, or charged us 40 bucks because we bought a new tv and they had to do about five minutes of reconnecting us, or had the phone work (occasionally), raised our bill by about 70 per cent without any notice, etc etc....

So we finally took the plunge and went satellite. I called to disconnect with the cable company and ended up talking to EIGHT people in one night. It was only fitting that our end with this company involved me screaming (in my most frightening non-operatic I'm going to kill you voice) MANAGER! MANAGER! MANAGER! Before hanging up on the first idiot. He really was an idiot. I actually didn't get the problems all solved until someone transferred me to the WRONG department and I ended up in the United States. Ahhhh, sweet mistakes. For the first time in 6 people, someone actually laughed when I said something funny. A sign that we were off script and speaking the same language. *sigh*

So the dish tv has been good so far, and the old-school phone that plugs into the phone jack is a dream! But we have a non-working remote for the small tv in the bedroom, where I abscond for "football night". (this is monday for anyone in my family who has no idea).

On football night, hubby gets pizza and watches whatever team is playing, and I bake a squash and watch the girliest crap I can in the bedroom. It's really surprising how much I enjoy football night--and honestly, if i could get someone to give me a facial, it would be perfect.

So on this particular night, we could only get the remote to work if we used it from the living room. This means I would yell out a channel preference and hubby would change the tv channel. It was pretty strange. I'd just yell "Is Family Guy on somewhere?" (not that this is girly tv, it's just not football) and he'd change the channel. There was a period of two minutes where i was staring at a picture of the moon with the time in hours, minutes and seconds. I don't know what happened there, but eventually he found Law & Order. Both of those shows seem to be in constant syndication (along with Everybody Loves Raymond) so it's better to just learn to enjoy them. Especially when your remote control is watching a football game.

Baby S is in the "putting stuff in stuff" stage. It's her favorite activity. This week I have pulled the hairbrush out of the toilet, her sippy cup out of the garbage (twice) dog food out of the dog water bowl, a cottage cheese container out of the bathtub (she got it from the recycling) and her out of a small hole in the ground.

As you can tell it was a slow night. We have 18 dollars in the bank until I get payment from a few voice students. (thank God for voice students!) but all in all, not bad. Oh, and the squash was excellent.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Letter to My Friend on the Day Her Son Was Born

It's been a pretty long journey for the two of us, huh?

I have written you a few of these letters over the last 30 years or so, in awe of time going by, but today I am as excited as if I'd had a child myself. I am wishing so much that I could be with you, thousands of miles away, lying in a hospital bed, wishing I could wash my hair and sit up for a meal.

I do remember imagining that someday we would live next door to each other with our husbands and babies, except I always had that caveat of how I would be a famous singer. We never did parallel in the way we expected. Instead most of our journey has been times far apart followed by times close together. We are like the pattern of a double helix--crossing each other at different moments, only to leave, knowing somehow, as always happens, our spiritual paths will cross again. We have struggled to understand each other's beliefs, we have lived on opposite ends of the country mostly. We have played in other parts of the world together. We have fought like cats and dogs, and sent loving cards to each other. We have battled our individual addictions in our own ways, and longed for things that were probably bad for us during times we never talked. We have long outlasted all other relationships.

You found someone to love you before I even knew I wanted that for myself. By the time I was feeling pretty for the first time in my life you were getting married. I sang at your wedding, and flew in like a celebrity to make sure I was the one helping you on with your beautiful dress. And years later, when I got married on the first anniversary of our friend's death, which changed you forever, you quietly flew the other direction and fixed every wrinkle in my dress, holding in your sorrow.

I am so excited at this new crossing of our paths, having babies at the ripe old age of 36 and 37 (because it was never really our goal). It's a new beginning and an expected part of this cycle! I hope to watch our children grow and hopefully, for them to share any part of the love we've had for each other would be so incredible.

But most of all tonight I think I feel lucky, and I feel sad for those who never know this kind of lifelong friendship. All the ups and downs, and at the end of the day I feel like that kid is mine as much as yours. I am so excited for you to know the joys and expectations of the word "mom". I am excited for you to have a baby with a cold lie on your chest and cry because you moved a millimeter away from them (to get your cup of water) because they can't possibly feel better unless they are surrounded by you.

I love you--I love your little son who has no name yet, and I pray God's blessings on him, all over him, making him the most wonderfully gentle man we've ever known.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Annnnd it's Thursday

So, the new schedule has arrived. It goes like this:

Monday: Hubby is off work. We sleep in (ish), I don't teach much(ish--I do teach in the evening) and we try to do things that feel like "a day off" (eating lunch out, random projects, 2 hours in Target wondering why I'm spending two hours in Target, and probably a drive somewhere (even if it's 10 minutes away) that we've never been.

Tuesday: Hubby is still off, but we know I'm working a lot. We do a few things in the first part of the day, and then in the evening I teach about 5 students. We still do things that feel like "a day off" but I'm exhausted, and the house is cleaner.

Wednesday: I am up first, I make lunch for everyone, kiss hubby goodbye, drive myself and the baby (probably late) to my Weds morning Bible study, have a picnic in the park with the baby, drop her off at daycare, and teach 7 students (one after another) in the afternoon. I feel like collapsing when I pick her up at 4:30. Hubby and I both sit in a semi-coma in the living room at the end of the day.

Thursday: I am tired, but I can get up later. I make sure a workout happens, even though it hurts. Drop baby off at daycare midday, teach again all afternoon, come home feeling F-R-I-E-D and sometimes teach an evening student. I make dinner and hide away in the bedroom to watch Project Runway. I consider all the things I really should do, like go to the 12-step meeting I've wanted to try, or rehearse with the band for church, but I'm trying so hard to put an exhausted baby to sleep, I don't get to.

Friday: For the most part, this is my day off. I get up late, do a thousand loads of laundry, do TWO workouts, eat less, and teach one or two students (whose mothers watch the baby during the lessons) in the afternoon. It's nice. Hardly hurts at all. Hubby comes home at a normal time and we might even have a dinner out. Might.

Saturday: Morning free, hubby works at 1:30, usually I teach a student around noon. We try to do a bunch of my favorite things on this day (like farmer's market, or a nice walk) but I usually end the day a little bored and alone.

Sunday: Church, lunch, no students, sending hubby off to work with a nice packed lunch, maybe even visiting him. Finishing up the night alone, and probably falling to sleep before he gets home.

I lost two pounds this week. And tomorrow is Friday

Monday, September 13, 2010

Too Much to Think About, Really

I just entered my calories for today and it's about 1550. I really should be pleased with that number, since I know I can lose weight at that number, but since I was aiming for 12, I'm somewhat disappointed.

I also took today off of working out. I am so sore from exercising that I just wanted one day to rest on my muscles. However, I believe that muscles need to continuously be pushed, so tomorrow I am exercising first thing!!!

Baby S fell down a step today, then off a bed, then over a gate. *sigh* She's got a little red mark on her cheekbone. Amazingly resilient, and tired, I think. She slept a short night last night, is sniffly, and only a one hour nap today (slightly less, I think).

I taught two students today...two very talented students whose problems are easily identifiable. Those are the easiest students to teach--you can build them up with real and authentic compliments, and yet also repair the things that are not going well. Tomorrow I have 6 students between 3:30 and 7:00. I am tired thinking about it.

Then early the next morning I get up and start Wednesday--my longest day. When you're freelance, each day has its own personality. Monday's kind of a big, friendly, but there's always a little work involved.

I haven't begun to read the diet solution book. I can only assume I'm nervous to read it, as when I want to dive into something, I just dive in.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A time in September

Good weekend. I did a rehearsal tonight for my "little singing gig" in Iowa City. This is a paid gig singing a composer's recital in a chorus of about 10 people. The music is jazzy, difficult, and pretty. So I am excited. I am fighting the feelings of this being "lower" somehow than what I've done before. For an hour, I was doing what I feel I do best. On the way home, I sang so much and so loudly in the car that I was hoarse. I sang everything I could think of. So let me just take this as a sign of being happy. I played piano in church, which I always enjoy, had lunch with the hubby and baby, worked out twice, and sang in a rehearsal. THAT is a good day.

The weather is beautiful. Do you remember a time in September when grass was green and grain was yellow? I do.

This week has a lot of teaching voice, (a lot), more lead inspection, my first week of BSF (a bible study where I get to hang out with some young mothers that I really enjoy) my first week of attending our small group in a while, and hopefully the beginning of a nice routine. I teach 24 students this week. Whew. Let's see what that feels like--Starbucks, here I come (I'll have to start putting that into my food plan).

I wrote down what I ate today, but have decided not to list it here. I'm feeling very "clean". Very honest about what I'm eating, exercising a lot, and I got a book from the library called the Beck Diet Solution, about using cognitive therapy in dieting. I'm really eager to see how that goes.

Maybe I will spend the first few hours tomorrow morning reading that :) What a nice thought. Generally, my students are mostly on Tues, Weds and Thurs, so Monday and Friday are easy. Generally.

Nothing too profound in this blog entry, huh?

Baby S has learned to brush her hair. You say..."Where's your brush?" and she goes and finds it and pushes it to her head. It's amazing.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The year of the Ox

Today was a good day. We had a lot of routine: Walk in the morning, lunch together, nap. We had a few "second times": drop off at daycare, teaching at the high school. We also had a fair amount of miraculous events: Baby stayed during a voice lesson at home, house was actually presentable, got through the day and felt pretty darn good.

I am avoiding thinking about the fact that my baby has lead poisoning and it is likely that I do too. I am treating her in every way they're telling me. I am planning out every meal for her so that she eats iron and vitamin c together. I am praying for her. But I know that I, with my anemia and headaches, need to get tested too. I just don't want to hear of anything else about me that isn't healthy. I am strong as an ox, I tell you!! I am.

I am meeting tomorrow night with a composer who is doing a master's recital at UNI. I am going to be singing in a "small schola". I do not actually know how many people that is. Isn't that awesome? It's been so long since I heard a term i didn't know, *sigh*. I am singing in this schola (in a recital) because the director of the local opera company recommended me. And it's paid! So that means that someone (who hasn't hired me) does think of me as means getting involved with some local music. It means spending my Sunday nights singing and learning and growing. Ahhhh....little things mean a lot.

Today is Day 4, I believe. Day 4 of writing it, of owning up to it. That kind of thing. My abs hurt, which is weird because my c section keeps me from feeling certain sections of my stomach.

1 1/2 cups multigrain cheerios (measured in a measuring cup!)

egg salad w/ lowfat mayo
lettuce, whole wheat bun
1 serving baked chips
1 apple

iced coffee, soymilk, no sugar
piece of the coolwhip/jello pie from last night

super long time between lunch and dinner so...
1 apple
1 cookie (rrgh)

4 oz (weighed) lean pork
1 1/2 cups brown rice
a bunch! of grilled veggies (brussel sprouts, mushrooms, onions...)
1 corn on the cobb (after dinner)

1/2 cup measured lowfat ice cream (totally unsatisfying as far as portions go)

then, I made myself not eat a piece of chocolate!

40 minute "hillwalk" up all of the big hills in the area.
7 minutes of biggest loser for wii before baby threw herself on the board and started crying.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First Day at the New Job

Baby S went down a little early for her midday nap, and so I had plenty of time to write down names of students, plan for my first day, clean a bit and pack up her bag. I put off showering a bit, but finally found myself dressed a few minutes early. I went out to move the car closer to the house to load everything up. And it didn't start.

There is always that brief moment where you just close your eyes and wince.

I went next door and no one was home. I knew the battery was dead and I probably just needed a jump. I had no idea how I had let the battery die, but there you go. I ran across the street to the church where there were quite a few cars. A receptionist told me that everyone was in the mirror. There was a moment where I stared at her, trying to silently say: Christians? Here's your chance to serve... and it must have worked. Moments later a man came out of the church (oddly, this is a man I'd never met whom I've been emailing about teaching voice to his choir students. Go figure)

He came over, I found the jumper cables. We started my car. He told me to say hi to the choral director at the high school. I tried to be polite but I was dying to get out of there. I packed the sleeping baby in the car. I took off for daycare. I dropped the baby off in a crazy hurry...would have been nice to chat with daycare.

I drove to the school, late. I called the director and left a (far too frantic) message about my lateness. I arrived at the school about 8 minutes late (amazing) and taught five students back to back. It was enjoyable. I do love teaching. Of five students only one remembered to give me a check, however.

Upon arriving home I was way too tired and way too hungry. But satisfied by the day.

I also haven't mentioned that the local opera director apparently recommended me for a composer to sing in his recital. So I am performing next month! Not exactly a dream job...but paid. And I didn't even have to try out :)

Here's my food for the day.
2 eggs
1/2 piece of toast (Shared w/ baby)

yogurt snack

1 apple
2 slices toast with 1 oz cheese & mustard
1 little debbie cake (ugh)
1/2 cup baked chips
very small glass orange juice

meatloaf--probably 5-6 oz
1 very large baked potato w/ salsa
green beans
(I then ate hubby's potato skin)

after dinner
1 large slice sugar free jello/cool whip pie with strawberries
another small baked potato with salsa. (then forced myself to stop before it got ugly)

WORKOUT: 45 minute brisk walk with baby & dogs

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 2: More Calories, More Exercise, and More Exhaustion

I am so tired.

This morning was the lead inspection. At 11 we rushed an hour north for hubby to do a Toys for Tots meeting. I shopped at Goodwill. We ate lunch out. We rushed back for my lesson, and my student (FOR THE THIRD TIME) cancelled an hour before her lesson. We met up with our new daycare provider where Baby S had the time of her life, so I have a good feeling. I am also praying I have wisdom on this.

I came home and hubby and I had a short argument. Then I worked out so hard I thought my eyeballs would explode. I still kind of have a feeling like I could throw up--3 and a half hours later. And tomorrow I start a new job.

Side note: Baby S was so adorable today. I don't know how to describe it adequately. She walked through the restaurant yelling funny things at people and smiled all day.

I am falling asleep as I type this. So here's food.

1 cup of cereal
1 per cent milk
(1/4 of Baby S's dry pancake)

midday snack:
1 cup baked spicy chips
1 Liter of water

lunch (and I wissssh there were some better choices here):
6 buffalo wings
celery stalks
carrot sticks
about 1/4 cup cole slaw
small shared portion of onion rings

grilled turkey sandwich
green beans
child's portion of black forest ice cream.

Workout: 45 minutes of intense "biggest loser for wii"

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 1

I felt a certain conviction this morning. I know, this is something I've felt so many times before, but I believe that something can happen the 100th time. It can. So I am calling this day 1 of the time I finally got my weight to where I believe it should be.

In order to make this time different, I'm going to do something I've never done. I'm going to "say" my weight (type it) out a bunch of people. I'm going to own it, albeit horrifyingly embarrassing, and I'm going to declare that I'll never hit this high weight again. It's the most I've ever weighed.

So today is September 6, 2010 and my weight is 264.4

At the start of the summer it was 7 pounds less. So this has not been a good summer. I see that weight and I cringe. I want to tell myself a bunch of ugly things. But at the request of my husband, I'm going to remember that I was loved at this weight. Today I am going to write below what I ate (I know, not exactly a gripping blog report) and I'm going to reward myself (internally) for each and every day I came back to do it.

Today was a nice day. It was relaxed, beautiful and full of smiles. I taught a lesson, i got more students, I went on a trip to a small town with hubby and baby in tow. I went to bed early.

1 cup low sugar cereal
1% milk

big grilled chicken salad (at a diner)
coffee with 2% milk, water
1 TBS ranch dressing

frozen strawberries blended with 1 tbs sugar free jam and 1% milk (about 1/2 mug)
1 cup baked bbq chips

1 ear corn (no butter)
cucumber salad (cucumbers, red onions, homemade salsa, 1 tbs lowfat sour cream)
1 cup white rice w/ hot salsa
5 oz (weighed) bbq skinless chicken breast

after dinner:
1 fat free yoplait yogurt
2 tbs diced pineapple

Sunday, September 5, 2010

How Can I Keep from Singing?

My husband has had so many Sundays off this month, I fear I might get used to it. First a vacation, then a make-up day for working a holiday, and then another one??!!! We had a nice day today, pretty much a normal Sunday for most people I guess, but ours is special because weekends are usually me alone with the baby.

I just got a job teaching at a local high school two days a week in the afternoons. I will now have 9 students on Weds & Thurs, and will independently contract (meaning the school will not set rates, collect money or help me collect) and that is fine with me! It's just like what I do now but I didn't have to go find these students and I have a better chance of no last-minute cancellations or crazy rescheduling.

Also *dum dum dummmmm* I have to find daycare for those two days, something which has proved to be just about impossible here. The three reasons are: 1. most people want to do full-time daycare 2. everyone I ask has a friend or family who watches/watched their children and 3. I am made aware again of how few people I know well here. As of tomorrow, I think I will start calling people who are advertising, rather than try to ask for recommendations. So far that has been a dry well.

I watched a bit of a musical on tv tonight, and found myself smiling like an idiot, then doing a search on youtube, trying to figure out if I can sing musical theater. I always want to sing. It's funny, like a constant undercurrent...something undetected in my blood. It's always there. And wanting to sing involves a myriad of other things. I want to sing in front of people, with an orchestra, with a challenge, with partners, with rehearsals, the risk of failure, the promise of success. It's all there. Wanting to sing is not really ever just wanting to sing in the shower, unfortunately. It's always there.

I want to write about another thing...which is the discovery of lead in my daughter's blood. Ugh. Thank God the tests were done. Thank God the nurse is coming again on Tuesday, thank God she's positive about the whole thing and says we can nip this in the bud. Because I feel guilty and dumb. I am so mad that we couldn't keep our work away from her. I am mad that I was so impatient to finish the work on the porch that I risked having her too close to the whole thing, or not showering before I touched her. I am eager to see what our Tuesday inspection reveals. I am also scared, and sad. I am hoping with my whole heart that by next month it is more than half gone. I am praying that nothing comes of it. That we get rid of it and Baby S is perfect again. Praying.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Baby S, now one year old, had a very interesting is interesting to see how FAST the firsts are coming lately. We took her to lunch where she dipped french fries in a little cup of ketchup--delicately and perfectly (she did not eat the french fries, being way too interested in the dipping). She also tried the same thing later with her green beans and my cup of iced coffee, which was much less enjoyable to watch.

After arriving at home with her dad, we took her out of the car and she WALKED to the house! Walked! It was drunken walking, including about 6 falls, and sometimes walked off to the side, laughing, but she seemed like a huge person! A child, not a baby.

She brought the phone over to me, when I asked her to "bring mommy the phone" and gestured to it. She also crawled through her new tunnel, laughing hysterically as we watched.

She can put all of her new blocks back into her bag, and said a perfect "bye bye". She has also gone from 'da da' to something that sounds more like "daddy". Amazing.

I started a new diet today, thank God. Weighing myself, it appears I have gained 6 pounds this summer. Ugh. However, there is a nice feeling to Day 1. I always like that. I worked out hard. I ate salad and skinless chicken. I drank water.

Baby S had her 1 year appointment. She is in the 50th percentile for height and the 20th for weight...tall & skinny, just like I thought! Her head is in the 77th percentile! So she's got quite a noggin', apparently. She also did a finger prick and her blood showed some we were back today, holding her down as she screamed and they took blood from a vein, just to be sure. Hopefully it's nothing, it's a trace, and vitamins will be enough to get rid of it.

I'm choosing not to panic yet.

And I got an email from a local high school saying that they were interested in possibly having me come during the school day and teaching 9 students a day on Weds and Thurs. That would pretty much solve our financial issues. So--praying. This is the first result of my contacting all of the high schools in town a few weeks ago.

So those are our first fruits of fall.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Happy Birthday to My Daughter

One year ago today, at almost exactly this time, I heard the doctor say "it's a girl?" (questioning tone included, due to her thinking I'd said it was a boy) and saying over and over to myself "I have a daughter" in this kind of strange daze. It continues to be the most surreal moment of my life. I knew that I would never be the same person. And you? You were born!

Just now, you fell asleep beside me, after getting really angry with me that I wouldn't let you play with Bubbe's phone. You cried, though it was one of your 2 second angry cries. You walked all night--all around the lawn, up and down the stairs to the porch (your favorite). You ate chinese food with us, and played your coughing game.

I love everything about you. But loving you is actually not what I ever expected. It doesn't really feel like anything. It's more like something that just is. You make me aware of my own mortality--I never want to leave you. You make me more aware of my faith, and my desire for you to have the life-changing moments with God that I've had. I want you to believe in miracles and prayer, and doing the right thing when it's hard, and always trying to know God more. I want you to be wise, and happy, and have every possible opportunity.

You were a special gift--unexpected after 35 years. You were something I never thought I wanted, but now something I can't imagine ever living without. You are really a dream come true. Except of course, I didn't even know I had this dream.

I am surprised by your blue eyes, your dexterity, your love for Baby TV, your thrill with banging things together, taking everything out of the dishwasher, rolling around with the dogs, yelling happy things in your stroller. You play a mean piano (and I do mean mean) and you sing along, and you're not even 1 yet!

You hate hats. You love taking your shoes off. You eat anything, even gross stuff, but you can never seem to get enough ice cream. You make me feel like I'm made out of love, and you can just run to me and get it whenever you want. And that is probably my favorite part.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing you run to your Dad, and how happy that makes him.

Tonight I pray that someday you know God and that we have forever together. I pray that you know empathy, that you feel compassion, that you have the kind of character that makes you walk your extra change back to the store. I pray you don't take yourself seriously too often, that you love people for being different, and that you have years and years and years before you ever have to think of yourself as "hot or not". (Maybe forever? Can I ask that?)

I also pray for a good home for you. I'll do everything I can to be a safe place all the time. And I'll ask God to do the whole thing for me too, since it's the only way I could ever do it.

Every day of my life I have a daughter. Thank God for you, Little Chicha. Your sleeping backside, pajamas dirty with God knows what, makes me feel a whole new purpose.

Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The War on Garbage

Alas, as I eat this I see the dog finishing the baby's breakfast. I am not sure how to stop this if she throws breakfast on the floor. Pretty much--food on the floor is by definition the dogs'.

Our city is very strict on garbage. I know that it can vary throughout the country, and considering just the ideaof landfills and barges of floating garbage in the world's oceans, I'm kind of ok with the strictness. Some things are easy. Recycling? You can have a ton. Also, in the midwest we use yardies (needs to be defined since I didn't hear the word before 35 years old) to get rid of yard waste. And those are unlimited. But garbage...the stuff of better obey the rules.

We have recently done a lot of construction on the house, resulting in a pile of debris the size of a car outside of our side door. It's an eye sore. It smells (due to old cat urine on the carpet), has who knows how many critters in it. This pile has been sitting outside since Spring. *sigh*

So I called the "garbage hauling" folks who came last year. For 60 dollars, they will arrive with a truck, load the truck in about 15 minutes, and leave my driveway clean.

And they got a better job. So much for that.

I called the dump. They charge $15 a pick-up load for trash. If we pack it all up ourselves. AND if we had a pick-up. hmmm. $5 for a carload. And do I want to pack all of that trash into my car? three or four times?

I called a new hauling company who has a $100 minimum.

I called the dump again. Any other options? They said not really.

I went on their website and searched and searched. And then found a thing that said you can buy tickets for $1.50. With those tickets you can put out a bag or can of garbage, provided it weighs 40 pounds or less. Then I called and confirmed. (Mystified they did not mention this before). And then I spent the next 3 hours packing smelly garbage into bags that perpetually broke in the hot sun. (the bags broke due to the garbage, not the sun :)

11 bags later, I was done with the small stuff. Oy. Lots and LOTS of big stuff. So now my new project is "can I get someone to come get the metal?" and how do I get rid of this insane amount of wood that won't fit into a bag?

All said and done, this $60 last year was the best money I've spent. Honestly, if I think of what $60 buys....2 dinners and a movie? Maybe? Two blouses? 5 cases of diet coke? I would GLADLY give up any of those things to not have a disgusting, long, exhausting job like this one.

Wish me luck.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Family Time

No vacation this year...and I've resigned myself to it. Instead we are having "family unit week". We are not really seeing too many other people, taking family naps, living in total squalor (I can barely walk from the kitchen to the living room). I thought today, as I walked through the house, that it appears a bachelor lives here, except that in the background you can hear the strains of "the itsy bitsy spider" coming from the tv most of the day, hubby calmly watching Baby S as she brings him various toys and sets them on his lap, and then goes back to collect more.

We have done some various tooling around--tonight involved bowling, eating ice cream and going to the hobby store (where we made a Fantastic purchase of a screen that was $129 and reduced to $23!!!) I am still thrilled about that. We took a big family nap today, hubby stating afterward that he felt he wasted the day, and me thinking FINALLY, I am allowing myself to waste a day!!!

I exercised today, which may be why I feel so much better about the world. Tomorrow morning is farmer's market, which I have no money for, but we are still going!!! Maybe we'll go hang out somewhere green that's not the house. Maybe we'll get Subway sandwiches and put them on the credit card...the possibilities are endless.

I have thought so many things that I'd like to blog about. I want to talk about the sadness of being fat and what I do to myself in that way. I want to talk about marriage, and its ups and downs. But I was just remembering tonight with my husband (after several vivid dreams about her) my friend who died two years ago. At the end of her life, so much was said about the drama, the "stuff" she was into in various ways. But when I remember how I first became friends with her, I don't remember the "bad girl" part. I remember how she was the only person I think I've ever felt I could call at 2am, because I'd run out of gas on the way home from the drugstore and lost my wallet. I could tell you she'd show up, tease me and accept me fully. She had a way of making me feel like she would love the whole of me. Despite all of our differences, she even made me feel like that the last time I spoke to her. I was just remembering that tonight, and it made me smile more than feel sad. For those who didn't know her, she was drama. For those of us who did, she was something like home. It's been a while. But I remember.

Tomorrow's plan: Sleep in. Walk. Look at green stuff.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mom Burn-Out

I can't figure out what it is, but I have such an immense sense of mom burn-out. I started to feel it when hubby and I decided to start our "vacation" and we found it too difficult (and costly) to get away or even camp for a week (our original plan) so hubby suggested that we do day trips. Mostly, these trips are things I want to do (blueberry picking, hikes, fishing, farmers markets, etc.) but I am really missing my "old vacations". I used to go to other continents. I used to see shows. I used to get dressed up. I used to eat experimental food. I even led a mission to another country. I used to feel un-exhausted. And I am just reallly missing that life.

I feel like there is just this routine. BABY. DOGS. MESS. CLEAN. BABY. DOGS. You get the picture. It doesn't feel fulfilling. Is it supposed to? I just find myself making crazy plans--what else can I do? A one-woman show? More teaching? I am always trying to find something to escape the routine. I'm tired of the whining. I'm tired of the dishes. I'm just over it right now.

This may be in part to the fact that--say what you want--it's harder to have a baby if you travel or have people around, or do anything that changes her simple schedule. It's harder if--say--you've got a great-grandmother telling you, "oooh, watch her, that's dirty. She shouldn't eat that. Does she have something in her hand? I wonder if that's hurting her knees." When I think about it, I want to cry. I am just so tired of the world reminding me, as if I'm about to let my child die. You know what? Occasionally they eat a cheerio off of the floor at Toys-R-Us. And it doesn't kill them! You know what makes you want to just crawl under the bed and cry? Having to take that cheerio out of your screaming child's mouth because everyone thinks you're a bad mother if you don't. Do you know she has rolled off the bed? FOUR TIMES! And there you all have it. Take me away.

So I wish I did have a vacation. I think, however, that this vacation would require me growing different genitals, so I could stop being the "mom" here. And I'm not ready for that.

This feeling of being tired and depressed makes me feel fat. It's my pocket. I feel guilty for this, so instead I focus on feeling fat (and therefore disgusting). I just hate my own skin right now.

And soooo begins our vacation.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Christians don't believe in reincarnation. Actually, if you ask me, it's not something I want too much. I don't think I want to do this all over again, in any form. Not to say that I don't love every minute. It's just that after this--I'm gonna seriously need a rest.

I was thinking of this today because I feel like I have lived a few lives. Sometimes, there are crazy memories of a person I was before. A single person. A New Yorker. A singer. A world traveller. I was looking at pictures of someone's trip to Europe thinking about how I've been there. More than once! I have walked through the mountains of Peru (puking)....and somehow I imagined that when finally I found love, I would still have that life. I would just have a partner. I would drag my baby to those same places.

Somehow, though, everything changed. And this still seems amazing. See, the funny thing about mid-life reincarnation is that it sneaks up on you. And then there you are, leading another life.

I just ran into someone trying for years to have a baby. Apparently she miscarried this week, and without speaking a word, she broke into tears looking at me. She said she was ok physically, and I knew. So did hubby, and we wordlessly looked at her, dumbfounded. Sad. I wanted to say, "I didn't even deserve this one. Why is this so unfair?" Having recently heard about someone I knew who had aborted a baby, I wanted to give her that pregnancy. I wanted to do SOMETHING to make it unfair. But it's all unfair. You don't always get to pick life as you want it. Where's my opera career, you know? Beautiful things are everywhere, but I don't get to write the story. For any of my lives.

Baby S is sleeping and sleeping. Full nights without waking, sleeping after I do in the morning, taking long naps. Today she actually fell asleep on the carpet with four people in the room. Amazing. We were all sitting around when she just checked out.

It's quite a blessing. Of course, in my prior life, I wouldn't have cared.