Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Last Post in June

This blog is dedicated to my lifelong friend. I went shopping for her, but I did not get anything. Then I thought of a brilliant other idea, and got lost on the way to the store. Then an unexpected bill went through (my husband neglected to mention setting the insurance up on autopay) and I had 35 dollars in the account, and so I waited, and now that there's enough money, there's no time to send it. So HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my friend who in 7 minutes will be 38 here in Iowa. Though she's not in Iowa. We have gone through some amazing times together--we have fought and laughed and grown in both different and the same directions. This is one birthday I could never forget.

Here's a phrase I hate "the pounds melted off of me". I mean, I don't hate it, because every time I hear it it sounds as good as "I won the lottery". But I have never once in my life experienced something where weight melted off of me. On my best, most restrictive diet, the pounds slowly & ploddingly came off. Once, I fasted for two days and then did 7 days of the cabbage soup diet. I did lose- I think - 6 pounds that week. That felt like melting. But I also wanted to eat my own leg off.

I suppose there was a time where I would have felt a little bit of "poor me" from this, but at this point, I figure it's just my thing. Everyone has a thing that's hard, so that's mine. But I am tempted tonight to beat myself up that my calories have not been great the past few days.

I started a new medication that makes me feel pretty ill. But I have read that it can result in some weight loss at the beginning, and that would be awesome. I can't help but think insulin is really working against my weight loss--I have NEVER worked this hard, this consistently, and seen so few results.

Anyhoo, on a brighter note, hubby's parents brought out TUBS AND TUBS of his toys from childhood. They kept -what looks like-ALL of them! Amazing. I don't have a single toy from my childhood. At first I thought it was a bummer, and then hubby gave me permission to sell them on ebay *rubbing hands together*. You know what he has? Diecast vintage tractors! Do you know what those sell for? Some of them sell for almost 100 bucks a piece on ebay! It's like I won the lottery, though it will be a lot of work to list all of these, many sell for 20-30 bucks, and that's 20-30 bucks we would not have had. Maybe we will finally make a significant dent in these medical bills. FINGERS CROSSED.

Baby S wore a pair of underpants around the house tonight. UNDERPANTS! When did she become a kid? She still peed in them, but we're moving, we're getting there. One morning the sun will rise and she'll be potty trained. She asks me questions, and walks through the store calling out the names of everything: "yogurt, milk, crackers, that!, snack, chocolate"'s a very different way of experiencing the supermarket.

I have more to say...must blog again tomorrow. But if you receive a text from me that doesn't make sense, please note it's from the baby. She's figured out where the "send" button is.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Soft and Destructive
and Faintly smelling of sweat
I am not sure how to hold your ever-ganglier legs
which willingly kick with no thought of safety
You say "OK"
and stroke my face
and hit me, though you know you shouldn't
Nothing is more frightening and exciting
than you becoming you
demanding Elmo
requesting chocolate milk
and laughing as you point to your belly
I am not who I was two years ago
I am me, reflected in your questioning eyes
that can't look at me when I've scolded you
but sometimes look at me with a type of love
I thought I'd never feel and
I highly recommend it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

There is Beauty in the Bellow of the Blast

Tonight was probably my favorite way to spend the night. I drove down to Iowa City, sang in a rehearsal of the Mikado, listened to beautiful voices and felt really complimented by their reactions to me, doing a role I've always thought I'd love to do. The rehearsal was smooth, well-scheduled, and I can't wait for the staging to begin.

Then I came home and cuddled up into bed with an exhausted 2 year old, who likes to look up at me and stroke my face before falling asleep. (Then of course she screams for a few minutes and tries to kick me, and then falls unconscious, it's all part of the routine).

The last week we've been ripping out the attic piece by piece with my husband's parents. I suppose I feel quite a bit of guilt about the fact that every time they visit, they spend the whole time doing babysitting and difficult home improvement projects. At one point during the visit hubby said something to this effect to me, and then of course when I asked him if we could just not have them do the project he looked at me as if I were insane. Maybe we just don't talk about this? It's so much easier over-hashing everything with my mother, perhaps we overcommunicate, but it's the thing i know better.

Baby S looks more like "little girl S" lately. I have printed out instructions on "3 day potty training". Sounds like fun, no? Through this trip she has asked me whole questions like "Nana go?" when she can't find her grandmother. I looked forward to this stage from the time she was in my womb....when we would play make-believe and have four word conversations and she would still want me to tickle her. I don't miss the baby part too much, but this I will miss.

My husband just commented on the Lifetime TV commercials playing in the background. I have gotten into a habit of absconding to the bedroom where I watch only girly television programs and movies. It's like taking back my womanhood. I haven't seen a movie without an explosion in it (in the theater) for about a year. In my list of "things husbands are good for" I would definitely leave out "getting to see the movies you want". During previews on our last date night hubby leaned over to me during the "cowboys and aliens" preview and said, "somehow I'm seeing that." And I openly sighed, knowing I would be seeing it too.

He bought me a dress today, and it's pretty and fits, but I need to lose 25 pounds before I will show my arms in a dress. I'm working, I'm losing, I can feel it. A pair of pants now fits me again. I'm going to see the dr. tomorrow to beg for another medication so I won't have to fight medicine to lose weight. But I feel so terrible telling him I wouldn't wear it until I was thinner. He shrugged. He knew I would say that, and he hoped otherwise.

Sometimes I miss the excitement of NYC. Sometimes I see people with pictures of themselves at the Tony awards or in Chinatown or living that "something new every day" life, and I miss it. But I waited 6 years of living there to sing in shows like this, to feel like a real singer, doing full roles with an orchestra, knowing it would probably sell out...and then I get it in Iowa? I thought I'd work through the loneliness, and then I find Mr. Right and he drags me out here.

I don't think I can tie this one together, this blog. I am just as confused tonight by the good stuff as the trials right now. But I am seriously happy. Ha-ha-ha-happy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Probably Never

In moments that I'm not usually proud of, I start making lists of "probably never". Like, I'll probably never wear a bikini (outside the confines of my house), or I'll probably never be on the Met stage at this point, or maybe even I'll probably never live in a big city again. Those kinds of things. It's awfully strange, to feel like I need to put a finger on what I don't think is possible to accomplish. But I guess, as someone who dreams big (and I do--trust me--the list of "maybes" is much longer) there is going to be a downside.

I've been questioning, as someone who feels a little disillusioned by the pursuit of a music career that has had more surprises than satisfying moments, how to pass this stuff on to students. I mean, how do you bridge encouragement and practical advice? When Martin Katz told me all I had was green lights, did he know about the heartbreak I would go through? Did he know I would see a counselor in NYC because I couldn't stop trying to seek validation in negative places, after opera company on top of opera company told me I was good but not quite what they wanted?

so today I gave a hard lecture to an undisciplined student. But I found myself saying as I talked to her that she had the magic, that she had something special in her voice, something unusual, but she was nowhere near keeping up with the big girls. I tried, I put my fears aside, and I tried.

I hate being told by students that their parents want them to audition for American Idol (if you don't know this--it's very common in a talented kid now). Because American idol is like the posterchild for People Who Don't Think They Need to Work for It. It reminded me of a statistic from the movie "Waiting for Superman" (which, by the way, I have not seen, it sounds depressing) where they talk about how Americans rank low in everything education-related except for confidence. We have a bizarre amount of confidence that a little talent is all it takes for a life in music. Eek. If only people knew...

But there's an upturn to this stupid blog this evening. I just saw a movie, a fictional movie, a sappy, fictional movie where everybody's hair looks perfect all the time, and I always find myself believing that there is just a moment coming. . . a moment when things can change and that whole "probably never" thing will suddenly be a "you won't believe this..." because I used to say I would probably never find someone who wanted to marry me or I would "probably never" have my own apartment in NYC.

Years ago, for no reason at all, a judge at the Met Competition pulled me aside and said someday I would be rolling in piles of money. And then he didn't pick me as a winner. And the director I'm about to work with next month doesn't even remember that 3 years ago I auditioned for him and he said he was honored to hear a voice like mine (one of the best compliments of my life) and then didn't hire me. In fact, he's been hired to work on my show, and has never hired me at all.

So somewhere in there, probably never is just a reason not to keep going. I'm tired of giving myself reasons.

Possibly. Someday. Those are way better reasons.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Next week the in-laws come...gearing up for a snug house, a new room upstairs, and looking for a new place to teach for a day or two....the summer continues!

I just realized I have 9 days to memorize the role of Katisha, which I haven't touched in some time. Ummm...better get on that now. NOW!

I was thinking today of the obvious genders of our DVR Lists today.

American Chopper
"Halloween" the movie: a History
Any game Michigan is playing that he's not home for
Sports Talk with Norm McDonald

Project Runway
Top Chef (when we had Bravo, sigh)
Drop Dead Diva (so embarrassed to admit that)
Sesame Street (so I can clean the house at any time)
Parks & Recreation

I also DVR "The Voice". I can't decide if I like it. It's definitely better than American idol, but partially I record it because all of the self-promotional stuff makes the show twice as long as it neeeds to be.

On a totally unrelated note, I am trying to figure out whether to give a student some "tough talk" tomorrow. After a year of studying, my most "naturally" talented student is the least improved, and I think it's because she has a false idea of what's really out there. Or maybe she's just undisciplined? I don't know what my responsibility I wait for students to come up with a little bit of strength and desire on their own or do I keep pushing them and letting their mothers and I do the work? I'm so confused on this part.

8 students tomorrow. Long day. Good thing I have some DVR'd stuff to watch when I get home!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Must the Show Go On

The last three days have been so exhausting that I feel like falling into a heap, hiding under my bed, never coming out again.

TOnight was my students' recital. These are the students I feel the most invested in--the very first students in Iowa, who babysit my daughter, come to my home, whose mothers I have chatted on with endlessly, and whose voices I feel incredibly invested in. There was so much more work than I thought involved with this recital.

I hired a pianist, a pianist with good chops who knows singers and works mostly in opera. I wanted them to taste that kind of rehearsal. Some described him as "mean", but watching the rehearsals I found him incredibly kind and patient (good luck to those kids when they finally meet a "mean" pianist). While reliable, he also had a tendency to not answer emails, get overwhelmed with his "other" job, and had to cancel and reschedule 3 rehearsals starting on Monday night. I used the text message function on my phone FOUR MILLION TIMES, it seemed, trying to set everyone up.

Needing the money, I taught 5 lessons today, printed and copied programs, baked 4 dozen cookies with my husband (he did most of it, but I did some AND washed all those freaking dishes), prepared students, text messaged anxious parents, bought bags of ice, bottles of water, watched the piano rehearsals so I could tell each and every student when to be there, then went home and realized the baby and I had ONE hour to get dressed, eat dinner, and get back to the church.

During that hour the baby tossed a 1 liter bottle of cranberry juice (open) on the floor, tore off her diaper, filled cups with a mysterious liquid, ruined my strawberry plants, threw pots and pans on the floor, and destroyed my summer student contact list.

There are moments when you really don't like your own child. Trust me. There are moments when you think, "how can I get rid of you?" and if you're sane, you ignore them for a few minutes and you let it pass, I guess. So I loaded up the car, put her in a fancy dress, and never finished dressing myself. I left for the recital with the wrong shoes, no makeup and my hair undone, since I lost too much time cleaning up cranberry juice.

oh, I should get to the recital.

My students were all there waiting, they looked lovely, they smiled big smiles and I felt such a strong affection for all of them. The church was beautiful, parents helped me unpack the car, the baby was whisked away by various people, and before I knew it the whole thing was set up. I took the students into a small room and warmed them up without a piano, just my voice. I gave them the following pep talk:

Ok guys, you're all ready for this. And I'll tell you a secret. Four of you approached me and told me you thought you were the worst singer in the group. So if you're thinking that now, statistically, it's unlikely, and probably something your fear is telling you. The truth is you are walking into a room full of people who love you, and you are going to knock their socks off. I can't wait to be entertained by you, and that's how everyone else feels. Thank you for being my students, I am proud of each and every one of you.

And then we walked out, and I took the mic, and said a bunch of random crap I don't remember. I do remember making a VERY funny joke and getting no laughter! Crickets! It was a rough crowd.

There were some miracles. The guy with no rhythm got all his entrances correctly. The duet the girls didn't know came off like a dream. The shy girl acted. The first girl stood in silence for about 20 seconds not sure if she wanted to sing. It was amazing. I breathed every breath with them, and now I am pooped.

I made each kid translate or explain each of their songs, write out a brief introduction to it, and then we traded, so that kids introduced each other and their songs. This proved to be a brilliant way of keeping the recital moving AND provided for such gems as one girl introducing a song from the musical ANESTHESIA (which should have been ANASTASIA) and another explaining that Oklahoma! was a musical about a love story between Larry and Curly. (That was my fave of the night).

There were smiles all around, and cookies, and I felt so proud. It really is quite a feeling, but I am not doing that again until I can forget the insanity. I shared with one mother, as I watched Hubby and Baby S drive off from the church, that I wished I could just get in my car and drive and drive.

Monday, June 6, 2011

See Me See Me

I've had a good week, although I have indulged a little in jealousy. I now see this as an indulgence--I am tempted to walk down the road, I walk it, and then I roll around in it like a pig in mud....rolling from website of successful singer to successful singer...noticing how thin other people's like drinking cream right out of the bottle.

So I don't think I want to go on about it. It's pointless, and never gets me anywhere. Anyone who has studied voice has had the one sad, bitter teacher who needs to remind you how glorious they once were, if only someone had notice. It's like sweatpants, it really doesn't make anyone look good. Instead, I am trying to live in the moment. Today I sat in a kiddy pool in the backyard with my toddler screaming for joy and hubby watering his beautiful garden. I got a new student, prayed with hubby and I recorded what I ate. I had a good day.

Hubby is so miserable at work, and I found myself screaming and cursing last night after hearing yet another backstabbing coworker trying to ask if he could work an extra 3 hours a week (he currently works around 55, I never see him, and yet we are not even rich to compensate! It's just wrong. And if you don't know that asking a father of a two year old to work 60 hours a week is wrong, you are not a thoughtful person. It doesn't take much to be better than that, no?)

But where are we going next? Will i get students there? Will there be any singing there at all? ugh. It's all I can do to try and shove that anxiety somewhere. No wonder I'm eating more sugar than I want to.

A few months ago I blocked an old friend on facebook. I finally decided a majority of her statuses were offensive. It's the first time I've done that, but it has made me so much happier not to see her daily bashing of fat people, old people, ugly people, the "uncool", republicans, christians, and occasionally the poor. In between that were lots of postings about how we need to be kinder to animals and pro-gay marriage posts. I waited for a while for her to mature--did she see that the pain of someone asking for rights, feeling forgotten, is certainly within an old republican, a fat poor person, a christian? I don't get that. There is no majority free of needing respect. And so I gave up.

See me. Isn't that what everyone is saying? Even me! See me.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Those Who Can't, Teach

Last week one of my student's mothers mentioned that while her daughter would love to study music, she definitely doesn't want to teach, so they weren't sure what her future would hold.

Pretty much everyone I knew growing up said the same thing. Music-yes. Teaching-no. I think there is some sort of idea that if you have failed, if you couldn't cut it, well then teaching was an option.

I don't know if I ever felt strongly one way or the other. I didn't plan on being anything but the world's greatest singer, so I'm not sure WHAT I thought. THe possibility of living in Iowa with a family and teaching students was really not on my list of goals (and I did have a damn good list). This week has felt pretty different.

Sometimes I can't believe that all I do is music. It seems like such a far cry from mind-numbing (60K a year) office work. Soul-crushing, but I did have all my debts paid. Sometimes I randomly thank my husband, "thank you for going to work every day so that I can take care of Baby S and teach and sing all I want". He smiles, I think he loves that. Of course, I married someone who was following his dreams, and chooses the dream job over the money job, so who knows how much blood we'll have to sell to pay for debts. But at the end of the day, I wasn't able to do this as a single person. Back then, the bills said that teaching and singing wasn't enough.

I am in between two recitals. One, for my students at the high school. What an experience--watching how my students had grown, delighting in the way they surprised me, and how well they performed. Feeling a warm sense of gratitude I don't get from performance. At the same time, now with my "teacher mind" all perked up, I picked out students I wanted to work with. Even better was having the choir teachers approach me afterward and tell me that my work was noticeable, and impressive. And offering me the possibility of teaching lessons at another high school was pretty nice too.

Now I am preparing for a second--for my home students with whom I feel a better connection. I am proud of them, nervous for them, and occasionally frustrated by their teenager-ness. Today a new student sighed and said, "ugh! THe time goes by so quickly!" and my heart swelled. Another student sobbed in front of me, afraid of the recital, and I played that secondary role as counselor.

I guess this role straddles my two current loves--the joy of music all day, and the fun of nurturing someone and watching them grow.

It's pretty awesome. I've also become a damn better piano player!