Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Yesterday was a tough day. In the morning we took Baby S for her monthly lead test--it continues to go down (we won't know the results for a few days)--but it's hard to watch. She has to be held down by 3 people while we take enough blood from her arm to fill the vial. Then we had breakfast as a family at the local grocery store. We sat next to a table of older men, obviously retired, having a wonderful time. They were laughing and telling stories and I asked hubby, "you think they come here once a week! It's such an advertisement for the fun of retiring." He said, "I bet they come here every day." and then it looked even better.

After Baby S's appointment, we rushed to Lowe's to get more cement for our walkway, a project which I hate spending money on but love getting done (story of my life). We couldn't do what we wanted (brick) but it still looks nice, and is a good, wide path. Good for walking. We ended up spending too long there, thanks mostly to chasing Baby S, and ended up running to my doc's appointment. When we got there, 10 minutes late, they said that since it was so close to lunch, they needed to move me to after lunch.

Ok--so I came back after "lunch" (which really meant wandering through stores) and got the news...all tests negative, no problems, just this lifelong desperation of trying to lose weight and feeling like a failure, beating myself up, going to groups, appointments, clubs, paying dues, exercising, cutting b ack, and still having diabetes. And pretty much every other problem that comes along with excess weight. When I think about it, I hardly want to go on, I just want to .....give up, to hide under my bed. The doctor says, "look at the good news here! Weight is complex and difficult, but you could be battling something even worse." I hardly hear him, but I keep going. I had a bizarre weight gain this week. I had been steadily losing a pound a week for about 7 weeks. And then suddenly a 3 1/2 pound gain....which means my work meant so little....I still feel like an enormous failure, and the worst is that for the life of me, i can't even imagine how this could have happened.

I taught a few lessons, had a few no-shows, and generally hubby and I had a fairly nice afternoon. I tried to shake off my worries, I promised myself we just had to keep going. I prayed for more faith, which lately feels completely gone. I feel tired of praying for the same thing. After a lifetime, I feel like there's no one listening.

I had my low carb dinner, put Baby S to sleep, and hubby and I laid down together (which we hardly ever do) for the night. We talked about happy stuff, and I felt happy to be there with him. But in the quiet, I reviewed the day, i felt anxious, I mourned times of better faith. I felt him breathe heavily next to me in the middle of all of my swirling, worried thoughts. And asked him, "is something wrong?" and he said, "you know those moments where you realize everything is just....perfect?" and I closed my eyes and said, "I guess so. yes."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Letter to the Student who cancels last-minute

Here's a real letter I sent today. I like it, and think I should create a template. This is like the singing-teacher's doesn't feel good to charge a non-rich person for not showing up, but it seems respect is so hard to get without the consequence of money.

Dear XXXX,
Please try to let me know a day in advance if you cannot make a lesson! My whole day is scheduled around the students for that day--that means Baby S's daycare, her nap, my errands, housekeeping, anything social I want to do, etc, not to mention other students who want last minute lessons. It is SOOO much more considerate to give me a day to prepare for a change like that (especially in a situation like this week, where you probably could have anticipated this being too hard). You are the first lesson on Friday, and you can't imagine what a difference that half hour makes.

I completely understand you changing and cancelling and you don't have a commitment to come every week, but I just wanted to let you know that I already have a really loose cancellation policy--the danger of that--as we see--is that students will take advantage of me. If I had to miss a lesson with my voice teacher and called her that day I would have owed $120 for the hour, and if I missed it, she would make me pay. I am trying to use the deterrent of personal responsibility instead of money in this case. Please try to respect that..


Singing Teacher

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cafe Ole!

Well, so much for my "I'm going to write 8 posts in September" deal with myself. I often, as I've said before, "write" these in my head and then don't lay them down on the laptop, but this one deserves writing.

This morning after the gym I noted that I had more cash than usual in my wallet ($28) and decided to use that as an excuse to get a pricier coffee. I almost always get a nonfat cafe au lait with 1/2 a packet of Splenda. I only get it twice a week, on my hardest days. All of that is to avoid overspending on coffee. It works. I would prefer a nonfat latte, but the rule of coffee is that espresso costs more than coffee. So I do the "poor man's" version of the latte. The cafe "au lait".

My favorite part of this might be when the people who work there write "CAFE OLE" on the cup, as if it is somehow spanish and festive.

Wow. TMI. It has just occurred to me that this is going to be a snobby blog post. So WARNING: THIS IS SNOBBY. I'm going to live with that.

I went to my favorite place to get the coffee. We like this place because it is small enough that the owners are occasionally there, though it is definitely part of a chain. Perhaps it is a franchise? It's not Starbucks, so the champion of small business in me likes to go there. The people who work the counter make GOOD coffee, they know about coffee, and they have, to me, often a better product than Starbucks. Though not always.

Today I broke the mold, spent $3 (I never spend $3, that sounds insane to me) and ordered a small cappuccino. THe woman said to me, "do you want it wet or dry?" And I said to her, "I have no idea what that means". (What the hell is a dry coffee?) So she explained that "wet" meant that there was a small amount of espresso with steamed milk and the rest of the cup was filled with foam. Since this is the only way I've ever heard of a cappuccino being made, I said that would be fine and skipped the explanation of "dry."

Then she said to me, "This has a strong coffee taste. Just want to make sure you're ok with that."

And I said, "what other kind of taste would it have?"

And she said, "well, some people are used to gas station cappuccinos, and then this kind of freaks them out a little."

And I said, "oh, well that's syrup," And the conversation ended.

I drove away thinking of how I grew to love cappuccinos. I lived in Italy for a year, and for the first time in my life, I started drinking coffee. I think I had waited before then because the bulk of my coffee exposure was mom's 2 day old folger's instant coffee reheated in the microwave, stirred with a pen, and then sweetened with the "sugar free" equivalent of 18 packets of sugar. I grew to love them in Italy, where we would eat coffee and cookies for breakfast, made in that little silver pot I loved so much. We would put in plenty of rich milk and the taste didn't need an ounce of sweetening. I still miss those coffees. When out in Italy, I would stop in little cafes and have a cappuccino or macchiato, in a little tiny porcelain cup. I don't think there was ever a size option, or an option of any other sort.

I am still not a caramel macchiato with whipped cream and syrup on the top kind of girl. Coffee is supposed to have an edge of bitterness. You should be able to taste that it was made with cold water. It's an adult drink, and shouldn't be sweet. The milk is better when steamed, or at least warmed, before added to the coffee. The milk is what cuts the bitterness. It should be a breakfast unto itself, held in both hands to start the ritual of day, and not served in a tumbler. Coffee is designed to be small and drunk slowly. And just to review the italian for anyone who cares to have it reviewed here you go:

Cappuccino: If you see the "cap" beginning to an italian word it means Head. Da Capo is the beginning of the piece, Capellini is pasta that looks like hair on your head, and CAPuccino has a head of foam. Don't like foam? Don't order a "dry cappuccino". Really, that makes me wince a little.

Latte: Milk. Way more milk than coffee. The milk should be heated or steamed.

Macchiato: Spotted. More coffee than milk.

See how simple that is?

And yes, I like the strong coffee taste. Heaven forbid someone as cheap as I am spend $3 on a drink with a taste they don't like. Bite your tongue!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ask and Receive?

I am totally overloaded with students. I mean, at this point, I don't know how to turn them away, but i need to. I take Sun & Monday off, and then between Tues and Saturday I teach approximately 29-34 lessons a week. I thought I could go more than this, but I am learning that physically, I just don't have it in me. Today was 9 students, and that is doable, but exhausting. Tomorrow is 12. Yowza. Friday, the day I used to "take it a little easy" will be spent entertaining Baby S all morning, and then teaching for the rest of the day, probably about 5 students.

Don't get me wrong...firstly, if you add up how much moola this is, it's incredibly nice. I am only doing what I love! Dreamy!! We are actually paying medical bills, rather than just hiding when the phone rings. I also love it. I love my students. But it would also be nice to pick and choose a little--to earn as a salary instead of getting used to this big number and then suddenly earn half in December, when kids are sick or school is out and no one takes lessons.

Baby S is a little miracle. She is happy to go to daycare, and happy to come home, and always seems to have fun, as long as she's going somewhere. She talks up a storm, and sometimes it's delightfully funny (today she turned around to a classful of preschoolers and yelled "Bye kids!" much to my entertainment. It is hard, though, to manage this teaching schedule and being her mother, and honestly, it's impossible to have someone watch her for all lessons, so she's present for at least 7 or 8 lessons a week....way too many.

Something I'v noticed about myself which is incredibly lame and embarassing is that I cry at sporting events. I CRY at sporting events. Here's what happens (and it happens sometimes while watching tv at home too). Tonight, for example, we went to a hockey game. I like's fast. Like basketball with ice, which is kind of awesome. And then the home team scores, and everybody screams, and the lights flash, and the music, and I'm hit with this enormous well of emotion--like I can't believe how unified the whole room is. And then suddenly, my chest gets tight, and I find my eyes well up with tears, while a lot of semi-drunk people stand up and sing some sort of "Goal" song. And I try to hide it from hubby. I am somehow "touched" by team spirit, so much that I want to sob out loud.

Ridiculous. But at least it makes the game more interesting.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Jesus in a tie-dye shirt

I did a rare thing tonight. I got a babysitter and went out by myself. It would have to be something special to do it, and it was. I went to a David Wilcox concert. For the past 3 years, I have checked his "dates" as he travels around the country, longing to see him perform. The last time I saw him I believe was in the mid 1990s, which is about a hundred years ago, in California.

Every year, it's been the same thing....he's kinda close, but not close enough. Other states, bigger cities. It's been disappointing. But this year, at the last minute, a tour date was added, here! Blocks away, actually, and I had to do it.

It is a strange thing to go out by yourself after a few years of marriage. I dressed up, I wore makeup, and it reminded me of NYC, the single years. THe timing was nicely mine, and I knew I'd get a ticket, since usually it's easy to find one. The concert was in an art space--with a beautiful ceramics show. What a beautiful find in a still-recovering part of Cedar Rapids!

I watched people file in, and there was definitely a "hippy" vibe. David Wilcox is an insightful, warm folk singer, who performs with just his guitar. His writing is complex (both in terms of text and music) and yet personal, funny and touching. He reads poems that are rhythmic and fun during performance, and all of this seems to attract a specific crowd here in CR. Let's see....I was a little on the younger side, I'd say. A majority of the women seemed to be letting their hair naturally grey. I saw at least one in their sixties with that tell-tale former hippy braid down her back. The jewelry and clothes seemed bought on trips to other countries...Peru, Thailand, and I figured just about everyone in there will try a foreign food without batting an eyelid. In my time alone I thought about hubby, and how he would much rather be watching the Lions play football.

I thought, "am I a hippy?" I mean, I don't see myself as one, but I guess at this point, hippies don't exist too much, they earn too much money to be hippies anymore, right? And just then, Jesus walked in, wearing a pink tie-dye shirt, Kahki shorts with a belt and a pair of sandals, proving that they do exist. So maybe I'm on my way, but not quite there yet.

This concert, like every single time I've seen David Wilcox, involved my tearing up, my renewed faith in a God who shows up when least expected, a little giggling, and a lot of reflection on how I define my life. The first time I saw him perform I felt so grateful he existed. He tells stories the way I long to. I suppose if I hadn't been an opera singer, I would have loved this type of person, one instrument, and a lifetime of music. I love that his music seems to get happier as he gets older, just like my life does.

Tonight being 9/11 had an incredible introduction by a man who had worked at the WIndows on the World restaurant the first year it existed. He said as an intro that each one of us has their own complex connection to 9/11. And who better to sing about complex connections than David Wilcox, and man he was right.

Here's lyrics to my favorite song of his, which he performed tonight, and the first time I cried.

You say you see no hope,
you say you see no reason we should dream,
that the world would ever change.
You’re saying love is foolish to believe
‘cause there’ll always be some crazy
with an army or a knife
to wake you from your day dream,
put the fear back in your life…

Look, if someone wrote a play
just to glorify what’s stronger than hate,
would they not arrange the stage
to look as if the hero came too late?
He’s almost in defeat,
it’s looking like the evil side will win,
so on the edge of every seat,
from the moment that the whole thing begins,

It is Love who mixed the mortar
and it’s Love who stacked these stones
and it’s Love who made the stage here
although it looks like we’re alone
in this scene set in shadows
like the night is here to stay
there is evil cast around us
but it’s love that wrote the play…
For in this darkness Love can show the way

So now the stage is set.
You feel you own heart beating in your chest.
This life’s not over yet.
And so we get up on our feet and do our best.
We play against the fear.
We play against the reasons not to try
We’re playing for the tears burning in the happy angel’s eyes

I just read this to my husband, crying a little as I read it. I finished and I said, "do not make fun of me for crying." And he said, "hippy!" And we laughed a little.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Ball

I wish I knew quite where to start lately. It is an incredibly difficult thing to watch your spouse go through something painful at work. People we trusted seem to now betray for no reason at all. Drama, yelling. And worst of all, this gnawing feeling that he's somehow stayed too long at the ball.

I wholeheartedly believe that who hubby is, and why I love him, has largely to do with this career. I suppose that makes it harder. I would never have met him, never have loved him, if what he did wasn't challenging, creative, and probably ruthless. I don't believe for a second in giving up and living "simply" in that way--if you have the heart to keep going. I never have. and as a person who has had my own rounds with career, the entire thing is even harder.

We've both said if I could somehow find a job that paid well and that I could love, he could certainly take some time off and hopefully watch the baby along with the video games I'm sure he'd love to wrap himself up in.

Everywhere you go, there are goods and bads. I guess we know that. And if you've never been anywhere, you probably suspect it. But some places are better than others. I think about how much I loved NYC sometimes, I miss the good parts. But there were definitely bad parts. Here, I got to sing two roles I dreamed of for years. I would never have thought that. We love the home we've built here (and I mean that somewhat literally--there's been a lot of building here). Daycare, reliable. Help when we needed it.

But I miss the intimate relationships of other places I miss. And it seems Iowa, oddly, has had more than it's share of lies and scandals, of people not being who you thought they 'd be. We are disappointed in churches, and never made a single intimate relationship worth mentioning. And I feel sad about that. I am not a "family beats all" person. Not by any means--I want other types of relationships in my life, and I am so afraid of this being so much the attitude in the midwest that I won't be able to choose friends.

I like the idea of moving closer to hubby's family. But I have a lot of fear about that...sometimes I wonder if hubby's lack of trying for intimate relationships has to do with the cushion of family, and I want Baby S to learn how to form real bonds to people she's not related to. Just as I have been changed and happy in that way. Until I find some real relationships outside of this "Family" world, I am going to feel isolated. And I'm just tired of that. I can't figure out if part of that is me--after all, I wasn't nearly the most social person in either show I was in. Maybe that was my chance?

I've had students drop me recently, reminding me that students and teachers come and go. I've done it, they might love me and still do it. Nothing earthly is forever.

And in the meantime, the idea that this time is ending...the house getting packed up and sold, and our married life starting again, is so daunting I just want to bury my head in my hands. I have fantasies about going into hubby's office and yelling, throwing things, exacting revenge. Because I'd hoped we'd settle a bit here. But the truth is that we've stayed too long at the ball. Too long.