Saturday, December 29, 2012

Change Is Always Possible

Huh.....I guess Christmas vacation means almost a blog a day.

This is a short one--but I need to express something.

I sometimes forget how capable we are of change, and how capable God is of changing us.

Then just today, I ran across something I wrote a few years ago, when my life was colder, loneliner, and I was so desperately trying to find my way.

I suddenly realized how amazingly content I am, how much I value peace--even if it's not perfect peace, even if it's not a fruition of my every talent, even if it's not the peak of some goal I imagined.

This week on TV I have seen two very touching moments (I'll admit, they're in sitcoms) where characters described what they thought they needed to be complete--as children, as adolescents.  That each of these characters thought they couldn't be who they were meant to be without some single thing--money?  success?  feeling like they themselves were "great" in some way?  But along the way they found themselves happy and whole.  They struggle to find this thing that they were so meant to be, or to have, but then one day look up and realize that life was something different than that.

I'll admit, reading through that "thing" I wrote a few years ago made me a little sick to my stomach.  I felt sorry for that girl--reaching out desperately for someone to say she was worth something.  I felt silly for being upset that my daughter came out of the bedroom for the 12th time to steal chocolate out of the cookie jar tonight.  I felt like I needed a lot more gratitude for this journey.

I remember the saying that change is the one thing we can really count on.  I mean, I believe in something a lot more than that--but I would say that it's true about who we are.  We try so hard to hold on to the dreams that took hold when we were 15--but we were meant to change even those and find the new places our heart could go.

I found this picture of my daughter today which I don't remember ever seeing, and I love it.  It made me remember a wonderful day (when I was probably depressed I hadn't sung professionally in a while, and sad about being fat), and wish I'd cherished more of it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Swan Song

I am like everyone else that I look forward to vacations.  I am a few days into a vacation now, the classic "Christmas break" we've all had since we were 5.  I wish hubby were on it with me...he's working until the 31st, another fact of the job which I just hate.  I am pregnant and full of nightmares and headaches and all of those other wonderful things that make someone "glow" when pregnant.  Last night people I hadn't thought of made bizarre appearances in my dreams, as angels or monsters or, in one instance, as part of a production of "Winnie the Pooh" where I played Eeyore and the director screamed at me for not bringing joy to the role.
Yeah, I kind of hate dreaming right now.
Within a few days, however, i feel stir crazy.  I like purpose, I like business.  This is why I loved NYC, I think.  Never stopping means you get to keep your mind occupied from worries and craziness.
I am teaching two students today and cleaning.  I am alternating days with Baby S:  entertaining/boring/entertaining  etc.....I have no intention of driving anywhere today but the gym, so she's stuck inside with movies and chips for breakfast.  She seems to do find with that.  I love having the time with her, until she gets tired, cranky and unbearable--but we've got a good 5 hours until that happens.  I'm sure hubby would say that about me if he didn't fear what would happen if I heard it.
I am consistently worried that I'll never sing again--that I should have cherished my last two roles as my "swan song" because maybe they were.  I really, really want to sing.  I am starting to do little "vocal therapeutic" exercises in hopes of brining it back.  Sometimes I think it won't come back until after Baby X is born...I just don't know.  Either way, I'm nervous.   This is not who I am but it's a pretty big part of who I am.  I am never more myself than when I sing.  Never.
In other thoughts, I'm almost half way through, and really happy about that.  I do not mind this being my last time experiencing nostalgia about that.  I look forward to change and new things, but I just think again how much I love my life now--my loving spouse, my funny and sweet daughter.  Baby S sings the song "Old MacDonald had a farm" as "Hell MacDonald had a farm".  I don't know when that happened....but now we all say it.  Sometimes, as a treat, I take Baby S for chicken nuggets at Hell MacDonald's.  I like it.  Without children you never get a Hell MacDonald.  I worry often if I'm doing everything possible to help her be a great person, but deep inside I just want her to be a loving person.
Christmas came and went, and she was a dream--gracious, filled with that "magic" that we all love at this age.  Every gift was met with ooos and ahhhs and she wanted to help me open mine.  We spaced out the sugar and she wasn't too crazy, and then in the afternoon took a blessed 4 hour nap.  It's not getting any better than that.
In a few days we drive to Michigan where I get a little break from constant Mommy calls....that will be nice.  Hubby and I are desperate for quality time together.  Basically right now we hug, kiss and argue.  That's what time apart seems to do.  He also got new video games for Christmas, so that makes us a little more distant too....

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snow Covers All

I am inside as inches of snow pile over the city.  I decided to coin the analogy that snow is like one's menstrual period.  It is a total pain when it's here, but without it, things just don't seem normal.  I like the snow--I know it's insuring my tulips will come up, that the ground will be wet enough for farmers not to have another devastating year, and will probably mean a not-unbearable summer.

All of those things seem worth the shovelling.  I will, of course, change my tune if I end up trapped in the house with a 3 year old and no power.  Then I will not be so philosophical.  (You wouldn't know of course, as I couldn't blog either).

For now, the fire's going, the daughter's watching a bizarre wordless italian cartoon about cats, and I am blogging in my pajamas, praying for hubby to make it safely to work, which of course never lets him take a day off for weather.

Did you realize the people who report the weather are all driving in it?  It's not something one thinks about before being a news wife.

My 2nd cousin died yesterday.  Doesn't that sound distant?  My father's cousin, Tony, is more than 10 years younger than my father.  His mother, my favorite great aunt Helen, died years ago, afraid to see a doctor.  She was in her early 70s, not a spring chicken, but there's a sense in the family she could have lived longer had she sought a little more help from the folks at the doctor's office.  Because the family is close-knit, I don't feel distant from Tony Jr.  I grew up with stories of his miracle birth--yes, we have a real-life "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" story in my family, where my aunt Helen, who had "shrivelled ovaries" as she put it, was told it wouldn't happen.  In her mid 40s, she fell in the yard, playing with kids, and had to go to the doctor, where she realized she was late in a pregnancy with Tony.  She treated him as a prince, (he was to her after all).  He grew up successful, with his  own architetural firm and a vast collection of expensive cars.  He married later, to a woman that was also my cousin, but not his (confused yet?)  The wedding was huge, and catholic.

Tony was not the easiest socially.  He tended to be quiet, and very specific about what cars, what women, what food he liked.  He was very unlike my incredibly warm aunt Helen, who embraced us even if we were Jewish, and lived in Arizona, and didn't speak any Hungarian.  She found things between us that were common all the time.  Tony Jr. was more likely to take you for a fun ride in his fast car, and not say that much.  He was very adept with his hands, and drew beautiful pictures that were more representational than artistic.  But he could make exactly what appeared in his head appear on paper.  One of his many impressive skills.

Tony married Doreen, warm like his mom, quirky, bordering on goofy, with her own set of specific unusual tendencies that seemed to make them a very odd fit.  But as a couple, even with a few public fights, they were at best very happy and at least quite functional.  THey enjoyed their two enormous boundary-less dogs together, even if no one else did.  Three years ago, they spent a lot of time and money on the project of their in-vitro baby, Alexandra, who is now a cute toddler. They were a family.

Last Sunday Tony Jr. chased the dogs.  THey got out, and it was probably the most he'd run in a year.  He didn't see doctors, and didn't eat with the idea of staying healthy.  He came back in, not looking good, and Doreen sent him upstairs to rest.  He collapsed, an embollism in his brain, a "stroke", as I know it.  And after a short time on life support was gone.  He was 52.

He died the same week as the Connecticut tragedy-- I wonder if we'll remember that in years to come.  THe worst thing about sad things at Christmas is the complete unavoidability of it.  Every year, the smells and sights and sounds will be the same as the week you lost your loved one.  I guess I'll hope anyone I love dies in September or August or of those months that seems a little different every year, when no one expects you to be joyful.

I guess after all this, I am finally starting to feel the gratitude rather than just the pain.  I am so grateful for the presence of my hubby, for the pregnancy that seems to still be going strong, and the curly blonde 3 year old who drives me nuts.  I am grateful for my roof, and my last blood sugar read, under such tight control it's almost non-diabetic.  I am grateful to hold everyone close and see hubby when he walks in the door at the end of the day.  Here on earth, it's all a little fleeting.  I'll take it while I can get it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Two nights ago I lost count and gave myself a little too much insulin.  I woke up with low blood sugar.  All day, I just took smaller doses than normal and ate more frequently.  I am attempting not to gain weight while being pregnant, so I tried to make those frequent eatings things like fruit, and low calorie yogurt.  I didn't do too badly.

But low blood sugar makes you shaky, sweaty, on edge.  You feel weirdly warm, and tired.  At least I do.  So I spent my last day teaching at the college before the break feeling like that.  Several students basically listened to me chatting rather than having a real last lesson.  They didn't seem to care.  And I wanted to go home.

Near the end of the day, I contacted hubby about something and he told me his whole day had been spent dealing with the Connecticut shooting.  Of course I did not know about this, I think a war could erupt in the US and I wouldn't know during a teaching day.  I  have few breaks and a nice little isolated room.  I just listen to the instruments next door.  It's not a bad way to spend the day, actually.

But unfortunately, news like yesterday's shooting, when you're pregnant and running low on blood sugar, seems to have no filter.  I spent hours crying.  I turned on Moody bible radio in the car and cried and cried as people prayed for everyone involved.  Callers called in to pray, and they allowed that, and I was so happy.....because listening to NPR rehash it, listening to the hopelessness of an event like that is too much.

I woke up in the hours before sun this morning.  I am in a stage of pregnancy where I can't sleep through long nights.  I'm not sure why--I literally passed out at 5pm with baby S playing nearby and woke up in a strange stupor, but I can't stay asleep.  I am awake enough to walk a mile right now.

I wonder how this will come across--but I am feeling so torn culturally.  I don't actually care how non-christians feel about a lot of stuff.  I don't want to hear politics from people who don't think the bible is the final answer, because it's too foreign. I don't want peace, or blessing as much as I want God himself to approve of my decisions.  That's the bottom, end line.

But here's the torn part.  When it comes to the culture of christianity in America--I just don't feel like I agree with anyone.  I don't understand fighting for the rights of people to own automatic weapons.  I mean--I understand the theories behind it.  What I don't understand is--why is "freedom" more important than the lives of these people that keep dying because of someone else's "freedom".  I think Marijuana and Guns are kind of ends of the same game--they are things that inherently are not bad, but used by people for bad things.  So let's restrict them all we can.  People are lazy.  THey will usually give up something they know is wrong if there's a few barriers.  Not EVERY time, sure, but....most of the time?

I don't know how I feel about abortion.  And there, I've said it.  I couldn't have one.  But I'm not sure I need to stop everyone else.  I am much more concerned with kids shot accidentally by guns that parents left unlocked in their homes accidentally (something I've heard about 3 times this month alone) than I am about unborn babies.

I don't think people should go without if someone has.  I don't think marriage should be owned by anyone but God.  I don't think I believe in gay marriage, I guess, not that I haven't cried over that issue.  But I don't think it matters!  Why am I telling people who are not generally following what I believe what to do ?  Marriage is his, not America's. And it seems stupid to discuss it between conflicting religions (or non-religions).  It's like asking the muslim world and the Jewish world to compromise. 

I don't think it was right for our country to talk about other things while my mom couldn't get healthcare, even when she was willing to pay for it.

I don't know where my people are.  The liberal camp is distasteful to me.  There are so many things about the "face" of that group that I don't like.  The conservative camp is scary.  I think their concept if my Lord is often really warped.  God doesn't help those who help themselves, people.  He never said that.  He also never said, "don't worry, I'm not challenging, I just approve of love".

And all I want at the end of the day is to live in God's country.   The bible says:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  But I feel like each party picks two or three of those and runs with them. 

I would pray that God come right here now, and tell me what to do, where to go, etc.  But I would rather He go to Connecticut and give them a miracle that brings their kids back.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

I am in between teaching right now, pondering life in a room that's the same temperature as the inside of my refrigerator.

My student who is a no-show this moment never missed a lesson last term.  She has now missed 3 out of 4 lessons.  I am not sure what to do about that.   SHe confirmed this one yesterday. *sigh*

After today I get a "break".  This means I won't go to Augustana, won't make the 3 hour drive (total per day) and won't have to spend money on gas.  It doesn't mean I won't be teaching though, I take few real breaks when it comes to that.  I don't mind it....a week when I am teaching 4 students total might as well be a vacation.  I love the teaching enough to enjoy that kind of week.  I just don't love it enough to not be excited at the idea of taking a break from these 23 college students for 3 weeks :)  Boy the construction of those sentences was awful.

Hubby has now found a new source for job searching, and this one feels like it will work.  If they get him the job he wants, he has to pay them a lot.  Nothing, however, if they don't.  Since this company has been doing business for a while--there's a pretty good chance they get people good jobs.  So now I'm terrified at what's to come next.  Where will we live?  What will I do?  We would stay local if we could right now, for the ease of it, but we're tired of the financial crunches, and I'm tired of the toll that this has taken on hubby--being at a job where no one ever appreciates what you do, which is about 50 hours a week, including long weekends, and pays about the smallest amount you CAN be paid for 50 hours a week, I'd say.  It's a lot more than many people make I realize, but I'm guessing they're not doing these hours or this level of stress....or this level of skill.

Ok, enough with that.  We have a family date tonight.  Chinese food and tree trimming (which sounds weird when the trees are plastic).  Hanukkah somewhere in there, and then wrestling the 3 year old into bed.  I'm looking forward to it.  We don't have a lot of family dates.

I believe the next step for me is to get a doctorate.  God himself has not told me this, so I can't tell you why I think its the next step for me....except there's no other way for me to continue what I'm doing and not feel like I want to cry at the end of every week from the insane hours.  I am also tired of depending on every 20 dollar check to sustain us for a day.  Home students should be more for "fun", I am feeling, and not out of a need to fill every financial crack.  Not in my 40s, if possible.

40s.  ouch.

This is one of my "rambling blogs".  I want prayer, if you do that.  I want prayer that I can have peace about hubby's possible jobs, my doctorate, the baby coming in the spring, who I really have to give up wanting to be a boy, and my cold fingers.   Amen.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

24 Students

Being almost 16 weeks pregnant I have been somehow inducted as a member of a facebook group of women who are due in May as well.

I have decided after some thinking that I hate all of these women.  I think to myself, can I hate them all?  And I've decided yes I can.  First of all, OFTEN they seem to post about how they haven't gained any weight.  Good for them.  Stop talking about it.

Some of them have an insane amount of children.  I don't understand that and I don't like it.  I don't need to judge anyone for that choice, but I don't like to be reminded of it.  Many of them seem to want to be stay-at-home moms. And although I massively respect the WORK it takes to take care of children (especially if you've chosen to have 6) the thought of this has no appeal to me.  I haven't been more depressed in my life, I think, than the 6 months or so when I stayed home with Baby S.  I don't like free time.  I like witty, adult conversations, I like going out, dressing up, intellectual challenges, live music, and occasionally a good rated R movie. 

I do.

And as I've said before, few things make me feel more alive than singing, teaching singing, and being surrounded by the fascinating and elusive work of music.  I really do get a lot from it, though I can never figure out why.

I teach 24 students at the college.  So here's a list of 24 things you find in 24 students:

1.  In 24 students, someone misses their lesson every week (not the same person--just someone).

2.  In 24 students, one person is a way better singer without any training than you were.

3.  In 24 students, someone's name is confusing and/or hard to pronounce.

4.  In 24 students, someone will cry this term in their lesson.

5.  In 24 students, someone will make you feel like you can't teach anything.

6.  In 24 students, one student will probably make you feel like a teaching goddess.

7.  In 24 students, someone will probably spend their whole lesson talking and chatting about fun stuff, and you'll want to just do that, but then you'll feel bad they paid you and you didn't teach them anything.

8.  In 24 students, one student will have pretty much no audible vocal problems.

9.  In 24 students, one student will have so many issues you have no idea where to start so you never feel like you get anywhere.  Eventually this student will probably tell you that you helped them immensely and you'll have no idea what they're taling about.

10.  In 24 students, someone's voice type will change.

11.  In 24 students, one student will have an EPIPHANY about practicing, go home and do it, and suddenly improve more than all of the other 23.

12.  In 24 students, at least one will show no improvement, and you'll know it's because they kind of chose not to improve.

13.  In 24 students, about 17 will manage to surprise you at some point.

14.  In 24 students, one student will get a boyfriend/girlfriend and lose interest in their lesson.

15.  In 24 sutdents, one student will probably get a medical issue tht seems to change their singing for a while.

16.  In 24 students, most will get As.  You'll feel bad about the lower grades.

17.  In 24 students, one will always smell VERY strongly of perfume and you'll sneeze in their lesson.

18.  In 24 students, you'll always like one enough that you think of them as a friend.

19.  In 24 students, you'll be relieved to see some leave.

20.  (whew, I should have picked a smaller number!)

21.  In 24 students, one will have an incredibly high or low range that will never cease to be a novelty to you.

22.  In 24 students, one will seem to understand and apply everything you say.

23.  In 24 students, one will not understand a damn thing you try to express and will look at you like you're insane.

24.  In 24 students, all will care more about how well they sang in a lesson than how you taught them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Spring and the Supermom

I grew up in an area where there is no Spring.  This seemed like nothing to me growing up--"Spring" was what we called this period between maybe late February and mid April when it rained more and the weather was lovely, but it wasn't Spring.  The whole world didn't change, like it has everywhere else I've lived.  In Phoenix, we all grew up discussing whether we would move somewhere "with seasons," not that we all wanted to.  Some of us dreaded the idea of snow and coats, and ice and all that stuff, and others had their hearts won over by the idea of changing leaves.

I have always had a connection with Spring.  In NYC, Spring lasts for about 4 minutes.  It is the day you walk outside when it seems that winter is gone.  And then before you notice, you're pretty warm.  Too warm.  And it's summer. 

I complain about Iowa a lot.  Sometimes I feel like a stranger in a strange land.  Right now, studying Abraham and how God called him to a place he wouldn't belong, where he would die before he ever could feel a connection to that place--that must've been so insanely hard.  I search for connection to places, and complain when I can't find it.  So I must add that I LOOOOVE spring in Iowa.  My husband and I revel in Spring.  We love that season, we love greenhouses, and little chutes of green coming up from the dirt.  We love the smell of dirt.  I love the switch to little jackets from big ones.  I love turning off the furnace for the first time.  Watching white snow recede off of the ground, revealing Jade Green grass.  Ahhhh, I love all of that.  I could go on.  Some trees here turn purple!  And it lasts here.  Months of Spring.  I never knew what I was missing, and I love it.

Recently I sat on the cold ground, 12 weeks pregnant, sick with whooping cough, and planted tulip bulbs for two hours.  THe anticipation of seeing those brilliant colors makes me smile.  Even when my hands are cold as hell.

So why write about Spring in late November?  Because I am having a baby in the Spring!  And I can't wait to experience new life in the time of new life.  Hmmmm....being depressed lately it is my favorite thought.  My green baby.

I just want to address something that annoys me in this glorious little blogette about my favorite season.  I don't understand why being a mother makes everyone assume this kind of "holiness" about themselves.  It drives me INSANE. what do I mean?  If you've ever been in church on a mother's day, they tend to hand out flowers--or say nice things about you, or give you something at the door.  They "honor" you.  But it feels like we're all still children idealizing motherhood.  I would so much rather the world saw it as an important and difficult job.  I went to a church years ago that had a mother preach the sermon every mother's day.  Ahhh, I loved that.  I got to hear all sorts of different perspectives, and through this woman speaking, I got to see a mother as a human.  Not a superhero, not a saint, and not a failure either.  A person to be respected, who could do other great things and not be completely defined by being a mother.

Before I had a child, I had a wonderful conversation with a friend who was not a mother.  She said, and I agreed, that nothing would ever redefine you like parenthood.  No one ever "leaves out" the part that they have children.  We are people and then parents first.  And sure, mothers.  Sometimes when Baby S says my name it melts my heart, and sometimes when she calls "mom" I want to run the other direction.  Maybe if we could just strip this "holy mom" or "superhero" thing out of it, we could be free to forgive ourselves for the things we do wrong....for allowing our 3 year old to eat a fiber one bar for diner.....or realizing she's been watching the Backyardigans for 2 hours straight.  Maybe if we stripped that we could just feel happy about the good things that they are and do, and not feel like those things have to reference our self-worth.  Maybe. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It Only Goes So Long

I want to sing.  In the last few days, I have finally been able to "phonate" sounds, to do a small demonstration (with no real tone) for sing through a hymn in church, though not enough you'd hear me if you stood in front of me.  I suppose it would be like a runner breaking their foot?  I can hardly remember the joy of singing, loudly, with an orchestra, with a thousand people, with a character running through my blood.

It is hard to string together a lot of days without missing that feeling.  I guess the biggest change in me is that it's not a pressing need.  It doesn't define me as much as it once did.  I don't pull my husband aside and cry over why I didn't get the opportunity to ever do what I truly dreamed of--maintaining a life as a singer.  But the phantom remains, the longing remains.  Here, not being able to sing for weeks, makes me feel like I never could.  It's strange and a bit awful.

Motherhood has been rough lately.  I want to puke a lot, and my 3 year old seems to act as if I am a weakened gazelle, pulled from the pack, fresh for the killing. She takes advantage of the weakness, tries to get closer to what she really wants.  She is a wonderful child, except that children are not really born with an awareness that they themselves should be compassionate.

I watched a science program the other day about babies and morality.  The babies, almost from beginning, understood some forms of morality and that was fascinating.  The knew the helper was better,they identified "naughty"  they even identified who deserved to be helped and who might not. 

At the end, they said some stupid stuff about "why?  it's evolution" which answered nothing.  I didn't understand why evolution would create children with an innate sense of right and wrong, and they did nothing to explain to me why they felt that.  Annoying.

I get more pleasure lately from watching the development of my students--I am involved with them, I love their devotion, their work, I love how much they enjoy their lessons, and I am constantly surprised at the new students walking in, and the new challenges they bring me.

How can I miss singing so much and feel so fortunate for what I do get to do?

I can't believe I will have a 2nd child in the Spring.  Here in the midwest, I count everything by seasons....I am so happy to know when the tulips come up, the baby will be here.  I may still long to sing, but time will go by.  It only goes so long :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Life at 13 Weeks

Ok, so I must be busy, because I have not been blogging at all.  14 days?  I have had so much to talk about--thoughts since the wedding, pregnancy stuff, teaching stuff, complaining endlessly about being sick.  But when I finally get Baby S (who is starting to seem like Young Child S) to sleep I hardly have the energy to think, much less write. 

We went to a 12 week appointment last week, and finally heard a heartbeat.  It was not easy to hear the heartbeat with the doppler, and the doctor had to try for a good 5 minutes while Baby S cried, made crazy noises, laid on the floor and tried to go visit the office fish tank.  After 5 minutes, he found it, and we heard a steady 165.  After the experience of the miscarriage, it was fantastic.  I underestimated how good that would feel, like a wave of security. The appointment seemed long, but positive, and I now have an official due date of May 28.  I look forward to a baby, with all the anxiety I have about pregnancy, I like to really fixate on the "after" part :) 

I am nervous about what to do with a baby, affording day care, commuting the distance I do with two children.  I think "I don't need two children, why would I choose that?" but I look forward to another child.  It's really a mixed bag of thoughts.  Hubby and I both have a pretty solid agreement that people who have a ton of children are insane, but when it comes to one, or two, or three, I guess we disagree.  I feel a little jealous of those totally satisfied with one child.  One child is more like an accessory to marriage.  Two children becomes a community.

I have been sick for four weeks, and am just starting to be able to phonate a simple song.  I still don't sound like a singer when I sing, and I am freaked out by that.  I think I must have developed some hard surfaces on my vocal chords from coughing.  I realize how much and how little of my identity is based on that voice, and part of me is afraid (illogically) that I'll never be able to sing again.  And part of me is afraid that I'm going to develop one of those insane psycho-somatic complexes that other singers get where illness takes away their voice, even though what they feel like is a need to release themselves from singing.

I don't want that release.  Deep inside me, I still long pretty intensely to sing on stage all the time.  When I think of the best of it, I miss it like a best friend.  When I think of the rejection I felt on the other end, I want to hide from that world altogether.  I am not sure when I'm supposed to dive back in, but I hope to do so--to dive back in to the world of singing and emerge with a new path.  I want to reinvent, but I guess at 13 weeks pregnant and teaching 50 students this may not be the best time.

In the meantime, I love teaching.  I hope to keep teaching more and more talented students, and watch them succeed, and comfort their failures, and encourage them.  I hope to keep missing the singing myself, honestly.

I feel like the smart thing to do would be to keep that on a back burner for at least another 36 weeks or so.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Almost a Real Person

There are times in the past 3 years that I have not felt like a real person.  I needed so much to be following a path, setting goals, and unfortunately, feeding one of my ambitions.  Unfortunately parenting and marriage, while good, doesn't seem to meet that desire.  There were times when almost my whole day involved being with a baby and speaking no "real" speech.  There was no smart arguing, no spiritual pursuit.  In those times I wished someone would just stop by my house and talk to me.

I have always heard you should avoid bothering a person with a new baby, and for me nothing could be further from the truth!  Three years ago, I felt stir crazy.  As my daughter gets older, this goes away more and more.  But sometimes I have half hour conversations about whether I like pink or yellow better.  And this does not make me feel any more engaged in the real world.

Last weekend I decided I should make a "teachery" move.  I joined the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) and took 3 of my best students to compete in Des Moines (a 2 hour drive from here).  I judged the competition, which was about 140 students split into about 10 divisions (more or less).  It was fun to judge--fun to make comments, to discuss with other teachers and feel llike my opinion was kind of important.  It was fun to listen to talented singers, and experience the "other side of the table."  From that side, it's easy to feel like nothing's personal.  Not the case from the singer's perspective, let me tell you!  Everything over there is personal.

Only one of my students went on to the semi-finals.  Her voice is special, and I believe she could really do something with it.  Surprisingly (disappointingly) she didn't go any further.  And I felt so--well, I guess too invested in that.  I wanted to find answers, to understand why she (and of course I) didn't win.  I questioned, was it me?  Could another teacher have made her win?  At the end of that long, and somewhat disappointing day, she got out of my car and said, "You rock."  I think this is why I forgive the flightiness of this student.  She makes me feel like she loves me. 

I suffered through the day, and have slept through the two days since then.  I am sick, still desperately bronchially challenged....coughing up hell.  I am still pregnant, as far as I know, exhausted and unfortunately nauseous.  And I want chocolate all the time. 

Today I was in a coffee shop near my home, playing Memory and drinking coffee with my 3 year old.  I was served coffee by a former student, spotted another student working on her laptop in the corner.  I found a private spot for us, and as we played, a woman approached me.  She recognized me, and introduced herself as a student's mother.  She gave me a check, and then a criticizing comment.  She told me that I talked about other students during her daughter's lesson and made her feel bad.  And I was crushed by the criticism.  I couldn't tell how much of it was my guilt over making a kid feel bad, or how much was that the mother's tone seemed harsh, as if I was doing inappropriate things and she was scolding me. 

It altered the rest of my day, making me feel like crap, basically.  And all I could think of was how much I'd rather just be "mommy" at moments like that.  I guess you can't have your cake and eat it too--either I have to be real, or be a mommy, or just accept the two lives at once.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Self Care

So apparently I took a whole month off of blogging without realizing it.

Ironically, this overwhelming busy schedule is the subject of this blog. I am sick. Hacking cough, throat killing me from the coughing, ears plugged up, exhausted, and of course, 10 weeks pregnant. I feel like a zombie, and struggled all last night to figure out if I could push myself to do the social things I wanted to do today or to rest.

On Friday, we leave for my sister's wedding. I am so excited about the trip, hiking with my husband, getting a few days of Baby S being entertained by other people. I'm looking forward to a wedding which I think will be gorgeous. I find it very interesting how different our 3 weddings have been. Sister #2 got married first, on the beach in Mexico. Sister #1 (me) got married second, on farmland in Michigan, and sister #3 is getting married this week, in the desert-landscaped backyard of her beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright-esque home. All outdoors (except my ceremony was done in a church), that's true. But we'll be married by three very different officiators, and three very different sized weddings. Even our food was remarkably different! Chinese for mine, Mexican for Sister #2, and gourmet for sister #3. She'll be the only one with TWO live bands, I understand, for just 70 people! Amazing.

So I have to get well for that.

In addition, I am of course still in a lot of pain at the idea of seeing Sister #2, whom I haven't seen for over 3 years. Or spoken to. I don't know how much she hates me, but I assume a lot. And regardless, either I disregard the person I spent my whole childhood with, or I allow her to have a power which she doesn't deserve or need over my happiness.

So I have to get over that for the trip. God help me.

I have a schedule right now that is so tight it's hard to find time to do what I need to. Weds mornings I have reserved for the most spiritual thing I do all week, but lately it's been taken up with doctor's appointments and/or a 3 year old who needs to sleep in one day a week. I have such a level of guilt, but I know this time must be used for whatever it needs to be.

After the wedding, the schedule changes and I am hoping for something a little different. I will be doing two 12 hour days---on Thurs & Fri, so I'm hoping it'll feel like "once a week" all together. RIght? Hopefully. And Mon-Weds will be (technically) half days of teaching. And I have a weekend! That sounds so easy until you add in the kid.

Still overwhelmed, still happy. Praying for health.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Blessings and Burdens

Well, today I prayed, out of my utter exhaustion, that I would have one student not show up (at the college, I still get paid for that!) and that my paycheck would be enough to get our bills taken care of (we have a LOT built up from a month of earning less).

And both things were delivered, exactly as requested. That never happens, and seems to me like a sympathetic nod from God. I'll take it. I then realized that I had overbilled the college by quite a bit--putting all of the mileage from the whole term on one paycheck! But I will remedy that at the next paycheck.

My big crusty oozy rash is still burning. I am not sure if I've ever felt this disgusting.

Oh yeah, the blog. Ok, well I've been amazed lately at the blessings of my life. I guess I am in a wave of "this is amazing!" "How did I not realize how happy I am?" and other such things. So much so that when I saw three posts on facebook of my peers singing in various operas, I did not feel a twinge of failure. I just thought about my own joys. I feel like what I do is important, and people need me, and I love my husband and daughter so much, and I BETTER notice how marvelous all those things feel together.

My A1C (basically my blood sugar average) is 6.1. It's the lowest it's EVER been. SO I guess I have even more to feel thankful for.

I love when a student makes, for the first time, an incredible sound, and you realize that what you've believed they are capable of IS actually possible. You might not hear it again, for a while, but you knew it was there. And maybe you can coax it out again. They are vulnerable to you--and hopeful. And if you're scolding they will feel it, and if you say (as I did today) "Good God, I almost jumped out of my seat that was so beautiful" they feel it. I can't tell you how good it feels to make my living doing that. How lucky I am!

But when I said it, I was exhausted. I was praying for cancellation. The rash on my arms was like a rug burn it hurt so bad, and we had $1.25 in our bank account before we got paid. I don't think blessings come without burdens. The world is full of them. We live here. We have them.

I have decided to drive 4 students to the NATS competition to compete. I am not singing in this competition--weird!!! I am a teacher, an old lady, a judge! But I read once that if you cannot alter your 18 year old life dreams, you are not in store for a ton of happiness. And the older I get, the more I think that's God's honest truth. Ideology is Awesome. So is ambition. But neither one will ever bring me peace.

The house is a mess. I feel incredibly fat and itchy. The dogs smell. I have only enough moola to pay bills. But I have all of that. Thank you God. Thank you, thank you thank you.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Itchy Lady

I have the rash again. Contact Dermatitis? Meaning I've touched, whatever this damn thing is, again? It always affects my face first, and this time my arms, my wrists. It seems that I stuck my hands in I grabbed a big pile of poison ivy? WHAAA?

In the second week of August I did a round of prednisone. That helped. Of course, my blood sugars went wonky and my mood did too.

I'm pausing occasionally as I write this to rip at my arms with my nails. I'm avoiding my face....the skin which I consider to be an "attribute" is dry (partially from the cotton swabs of rubbing alcohol I have let burn on my skin to kill the itching), of course, inexplicably without anything it has been so dry that the skin is peeling. My face is's red, and subtly bumpy, and my eyes look sunken.

And I am so so so miserable.

And SHHHHHHHH, I'm pregnant. 4 1/2 weeks. So I can't take any more prednisone. And I'm kind of afraid of the stuff they say it's OK to take.

I am not telling students, coworkers, friends, or the facebook world. Just my little quiet blogland and close family. I am looking forward to a baby this time. A summer baby. I'm ready to finish this family before I hit the big 40. My symptoms are O-V-E-R-W-H-E-L-M-I-N-G, and I tested positive about a week before women normally do. Very positive! So I'm feeling good about this one, too. Last time the first few weeeks were easy. This time I'm sick as a dog, wanting to vomit all day, weirdly sleepy, weepy, achey, I have to pee all the's all constant. And my blood sugars are a runaway train going 50 miles an hour towards a bigger insulin dose.

And I'm itchy.

But symptoms of pregnancy are the only good symptoms. You know? You WANT to have symptoms of a good thing. I think :)

Today Baby S and I went to a local apple orchard. AHHH, what a gorgeous time! Fall weather, apple picking, GOATS! We shared an apple and an apple cider donut sitting on a porch, and walked for a while, and barely fought, until the end when she randomly asked me why I do mean things to her. A question I occasionally ask her when she's being a jerk. Perhaps I should lay off that question.

I am hoping that two children I can still have those beautiful days. I fear the special relationship between the two of us somehow being diluted. But I also look forward to more love. It's addicting really.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Change is Good, Yes?

I was thinking today about how I used to get my hair done. In NYC, I went to a very stylish, fit, gay man from Jamaica whose business was in a very hip area of Brooklyn. I paid $120 and the cut and highlights included his delightful personality and usually a cappuccino.

Now, I really enjoy getting my hair cuts done by an older white woman named Peggy who lives in the country. Her hours are unpredictable, sometimes her dad (who is struggling with dementia) or her grandchildren are hanging around in her no-frills barber shop. She only takes cash ($17) and she has a great haircut, but smells like cigarette smoke when she leans over you.

I enjoy both experiences. I felt I looked better after the Brooklyn hairdo--but that included a lot more work...colors, cuts, styles, etc.

I believe in change. I find after a life of a lot of gypsy living, I can adjust. I can go anywhere, I can eat whatever insane or boring foods you want me to, and I can spend .75 or $5.00 on a cup of coffee and blame it on the area.

I find something different now. As my priorities change, I don't want to be without the people I love anymore. Now, each place is defined (or redefined) by who comes with me. And I welcome the expansion of this love. I have just realized this week that I am happier than I've ever been. Not richer, not prettier, not singing more, and certainly not getting any younger. But I have companionship, and a child who is exciting to be around. I understand these nests that everyone seemed so afraid to leave for all of my gypsy life, when I (inside my head) called that boring.

I think everyone thinks the life they choose is ....somehow empirically the best. THe gypsies among us look upon the family life as boring and unchallenging, but occasionally feel jealous of the sense of belonging. Those who become couples earlier, who have families and choose a life that is all about that side, think the other side is constantly lonely, and crazy for running around. And all of that is true, ha! But I wouldn't give my gypsy life any fewer days if I had the option, and my little loving nook here in Iowa is exactly where i feel I belong.

I just heard the 3 year old yelling for me, so loudly that it sounded like her vocal chords were splitting. I walked in to her telling me that her Dr. Seuss DVD had stopped, and she needed more milk. I said, "can you say please for all of that stuff?" and she replied, "please for all of that stuff, mom".

See? Perfect.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Things That Break My Heart

I guess when I think of Jesus, I often think of how his heart was broken. Pretty much all of the gospels, the things he said, the things he did, involve this beautiful, open form of empathy. He saw brokenness, he felt it himself, he healed, changed, challenged, touched people with the intent to bridge the broken.

And so when I think of being Christ-like, this is what I picture. You simply cannot look at something like, let's say, abortion (this is not a blog about abortion) and not see the broken girl, the way that decision must suck, must hurt, must be a sign of how broken we are. You must feel the pain of their walk through the door to have "that" procedure. You cannot look at divorce without feeling, intensely, that two people are about to lose their right arm forever. That they will have to go through the tough road of single parenthood. You cannot be Christ-like, in my opinion, without this growing in you. And I'm not sure it has anything to do with YOU trying to feel it. I think the more you look at Jesus, whether you want to or not, you start becoming more of that person.

This is one hard thing about elections. Lately it seems these terms are bandied about...marriage, abortion, unemployment, etc. And no one has the blood of it. Everyone is trying to say that politics can somehow take that blood off of our hands, but these issues are bigger to me. THey are signs of a broken world. Everyone expected Jesus to become a powerful lawmaker, to overthrow an unfair government, to lead to battle, to kill, to capture, to change. But the way he changes is so different from that.

WHen I read something oversimplified, or cruel, or a statement that hurts, I have such trouble getting to sleep. I have to manually turn off the faucet, and decide that these problems will somehow resolve without me. That things will keep turning, and battles must be chosen.

And somehow as I write this, I miss my broken friend Dari, who died a few years ago. She was pouring out with love, but always running. She wanted to go to the ocean, or live on a farm, or run up a mountain. It was wonderful, but it wasn't adventure, it was a chase. When I held her, when I hugged her, I could always feel her brokenness. I begged her at times, to leave the things that held her down. But mostly I felt the pain of the results of those things. I knew we were drawn to each other in that way, but partly because I couldn't help but love that part of her.

I ask that God somehow continue to make me a bleeding heart.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ballerinas and NPR

I'm enjoying the commute. I have made the joke a few times that the commute is actually pretty nice when you have a 3 year old. This joke KILLS in rooms full of moms, but in a mixed crowd, I think they're confused. The truth is, for 90 minutes I just drive and look at farmland and dream of all the things I still want to do with life, and then think of how sad it is that some people get food poisoning from eating a bad melon, or cheese, and die. And then I get depressed. But it's still easier than the 3 year old!

Last week Baby S started ballet and tap. This sounds much more formal than six 3-4 year olds walking in a line and pretending to be a butterfly to the tune of "zippity do da". I am not sure I've ever seen her so excited to do something. When she gave me a hard time before the class, I could threaten her with not going and she would burst into tears! I couldn't believe the investment. Before class, she stood in the waiting room whispering to me, "I'm so excited!" and then once in the class, she hung on the teacher's every word. She did everything asked.

THe waiting room started filling with students from the next class, their moms, their siblings, etc, and soon it felt like an airport in a developing country. It was horrible, hot and I wanted to badly to go sit in my car. But instead I pressed my nose up against the glass and watched her try to alternate legs and smile ear to ear.

I have mixed feelings about my daily listening to NPR. My favorite part of it is the personal interest stories. I get to hear amazingly beautiful stories about people overcoming things, about heroicism that you never get to hear about! I really do like the tones, the interviews, the stuff I learn. RIght now, there's a lot of talk about politics from a non-partisan perspective. My favorite part about this is that it's finally politics I agree with. It says sometimes this side is right, sometimes the other, and it makes so much more sense to me than hearing the ridiculous war of the two sides!

But NPR is also depressing right now. Economics in the US (and internationally) right now is a lot of depressing stories, and stories which no change in the government would actually help. I hear stories of families failing, and of no hope in those who didn't get a great start....those who are rich are back to doing well (we knew that would happen) but those who have never worn a white collar, ouch. I heard a story today that no matter what changes we made, even if EVERYTHING went perfectly, mathematically our country will not be able to get unemployment back where it was. In this story they said there is no possibility, because after what happened, there have been new limits set in our economy. And I wanted to just hang my head and cry a little for the million families still out of work.

I suppose the only comforting thought is that this state is everywhere (this state of downturn). But I don't know if that gives any hope. I turn the knob until I hear the story of an autistic guy who writes with his mouth and just graduated from Harvard. And then I feel better.

Now I just want to think about ballerinas again!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Lie of Small Town America

Toddlers are tough. But one thing I really find always helps with dealing with my toddler is a little walk. So we take them often. After all, a nice little walk with the dogs, the fresh air, etc, is a good thing in many ways.

I used to walk all the time in NYC. Walking was, in fact, both a necessity and pastime. I walked in other cities, too. I am a walker. I can evaluate cities by their sidewalks and their walkability. My new home, Cedar Rapids, does not rank high. In order to really walk you have to go to "designated walking areas". Walking is more about something that city taxes go to, not part of the culture. When I take Baby S for a walk, I usually don't see anyone else. Occasionally, in my suburban neighborhood, I see other people walking dogs, but that's about it.

TOday, for the third time since I started taking local walks, my toddler lost her steam. She started crying, and I desperately tried to find a way home faster as she cried and tried to lay down on the ground. And for the third time, someone yelled at me for trying to cut through their private property. (i.e., in between two houses).

So I'm pretty angry. Because all 3 times I made a plea --"I have an exhausted 2 year old, and I just live a block from here" apparently falls on heartless ears when it comes to protecting one's grass? Yup. My favorite answer to this is, "but if we let you we'd have to let everyone"....when I haven't seen ANYONE on a walk in 30 minutes. Or in 2 months. What is this crowd you're expecting?

In fact, what makes me especially angry is that since I've moved to middle America, I keep encountering this "me, mine, mine" attitude. Everywhere. This area which is supposed to be neighborly? is an area I'm afraid to take a walk in.

People drive in a way that endangers me, and when I walk on their grass, they yell. Mostly older women, if that matters. But I think it's the area. I'm tired of giving any credence to this idea that if we allow people to make more choices they will take care of each other. I've never seen it. What I miss is NYC, and the strangely selfless help I got often....the person who crossed boundaries of personal space to help me on the subway, and the kids who came to deliver my keys when I dropped them outside of my apartment. I miss that. I don't find it here. I don't find people who let me go in front of them in line. I don't get doors held open. I just don't know when I'll be in an area again where personal (and property) space isn't foremost in the attitude of my neighbors.

I would easily trade the stuff of NYC...throwing trash on the street, or men trying to flash me, or even the long lines, for knowing that someone who has probably no knowledge of the world thinks they should shove me off of their lawn and vote not to have sidewalks.

Right now I want to egg their houses. I'll be honest. All I can think about is the satisfaction I'd feel by destroying their property if they had to make me feel like a criminal for walking my daughter home. I want to distribute fliers. But I know that at the end they feel like they did the "right thing."

And that is the lie of small town America.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Human Voice

What a wonderful week. I'm happy to say my first blog in September is after a week of enjoying the teaching of 43 voice students (way way too many, and yes, I will burn out if I try to keep that up), the birthday of my beautiful 3 year old, and a lot of days of enjoying my life here in Iowa. Life just feels pretty sweet right now.

I am a bit thinner (I'll take it for now, after all of these visitors) but wish I were more so. And I am getting over a rash that has been all over my face, hips, legs, feet and one elbow. It's awful--itchy, red, swollen, blotchy. Today is the last day of the prednizone dose I was given and it is still bad. B L E C H. I get it every August. It's contact related, so I touch SOMETHING every August. WHAT? It's driving me crazy. But I know in a week or two it'll be gone. At least, judging by other years.

As 3 year old birthdays go, it was not too bad. Baby S was the only one to sustain an injury, when she fell off a chair. We ended up getting a pool for $50 that was perfect for a group of under 7 year old children, and though it was as freezing as pools get, kids continued to climb in with blue lips and shivering limbs. It was, after all, 85-90 degrees out, so why not?

I have found my favorite part of teaching new students is the curiosity in hearing what someone's voice will sound like. I miss that about watching more auditions, and doing master classes and such. You kind of play a silent game of guessing what voice will come out of a person. Sometimes it is insanely shocking. I teach a 15 year old girl, tall and skinny with big blue eyes and a shy expression. When she opens her mouth it is the loudest voice I've ever heard on a high schooler. I have no idea how she is creating that much sound. This week I met an 18 year old woman, short, with a round face, who has competed as a tenor. She gave me her range as TOPPING OUT at a middle C--the note I usually start female vocal exercises on. And sometimes it's exactly what I think it's going to be. The guy with a huge angular head and low speaking voice? Bass. At least I can occasionally guess.

I am still amazed at the growth in my students. I probably shouldn't say that. I should probably just be confident. But the truth is, voice teaching involves making students imagine things, giving them confidence, redefining things, and then when those don't work....trying to do all that a different way. So when a student changes, I am amazed. It rarely happens overnight. It's as slow as counselling. But there are results, and I cherish those.

A year ago I started teaching a 17 year old who seemed socially unusual. He couldn't start the lesson 5 minutes early. He got mad at me (a lot) in lessons, and his pitch was so bad that we would spend whole lessons just desperately trying to match pitches. I was just told by a choir teacher that he is now the leader of his choir. It is not a hugely advanced choir--but he is a LEADER! His pitch is fantastic...and that makes me want to cry.

You know, when you are 18, you use terms like "Broadway Star". You say things like, "Someday I'll be famous, someday I'll sing at the MET" and those things feel like destinations. But they are moments. THe older you get, the more you realize that all these things are wonderful, fleeting MOMENTS in your life. You become a broadway star for 20 minutes, and no one hires you for two years. You become a broadway star and then spend the rest of your life trying to be a bigger one! You try to recapture the first feeling of success over and over. I've watched this so many times.

At some point, you realize this is a whole lifetime, without a moment to be wasted. Life is short. 3rd birthdays fly by. I am still good with goals--I think it's important. But I believe if I don't see all these little things as successes I will completely miss the point.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Love Me More

I stopped for a moment today and put my head on hubby's shoulder. I am basking in the glow of the new job. It's a nice moment. Students wrote me today, requesting lesson times, excited to meet me, wanting to work with me. It felt like dating or something....the nervousness, the newness, ahhh. And the extra money, that is also awesome.

Of course, that comes much later. Patience.

I wish that blessings like this somehow erased my desire to sing EVERYONE ELSE'S GIG. I mean seriously--I cannot look at a good singer's resume, or hear about someone else's future gig, or past gig, or WHATEVER, and not really actually want to take it from them.

Is that what ambition is? Because I feel terribly guilty about it. I wonder if I could feel fully satisfied with singing if I were wildly successful, or if there would always be somewhat of a desire to get MOOORRRREEE.

I have such a hard time picking and choosing students, now that I have to let some go. Who do you keep? The ones who work the hardest? The ones who are the most talented? The ones who never miss lessons? These are rarely the same people. But whoever you choose, the other ones will wish they were loved more, right? Or is that just me, who needs to steal every scene?

I went in and sang for someone, and he complimented me, and then he hired another person who sang the same day....and has hired her several times. And I feel like I was SO CLOSE to that opportunity. And why did he love her more? After years in NYC, I had completely suppressed that feeling. Rejection. But now that I'm all happy and crap, and having a good life, and have a little more time to dwell on it....I wish some opera chief would love me to pieces.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why People Have Kids

I have an old acquaintance who likes to often post on facebook why he doesn't have children (he and his wife of like 15 years). I figure he must feel judged by others. I don't care honestly, I am very happy for people who chose not to have kids, and I feel like I almost was one. I still occasionally have longings for the good old days of having time to groom myself better and dinners that lasted 2 hours.

This week we went to the Iowa State Fair. State fairs are a little bit gross, I guess. I feel dirty when I get home. People are surprisingly unattractive--and I don't really understand why. I am always a little creeped out by those big plastic cups of beer, and the smell of fried food (fried all day long) is, um, eww.

Last year we took Baby S to the fair and she was interested but just a little too small for everything. My clearest memory is thinking she would like to see the dog training competition and instead trying desperately to keep her from climbing on to the laps of everyone around us.

This year was very different. We promised her rides, and somehow she translated that to the term "games". I started calling it "big games" and from there, a whole experience happened. She screamed with excitement when we got there, she went looking for big games. We went to a "baby farming experience" which was really not that exciting, but at the end, she was given some fake money to buy REAL chocolate milk at a store! It was so exciting for her that she started skipping. And I think that's why you have kids. Because over time, no matter how amazingly youthful you think you are, magic loses a little bit of its "luster." You have to look for something amazing to feel that magic.

With Baby S, it's like she finds a $20 bill on the street every day. You know that "found money" feeling? She has it constantly. And it feels great for me too.

She went on a helicopter ride that was a slow hydraulic lift about 25 feet in the air. I thought I was going to have a heart attack seeing my baby up there, but afterwards she started running in a circle, it was so delightful!

There was a disappointing moment for my husband--his cousin was playing in a band--a very popular band that does a tribute to 80s hairband music. Loud, smoky, light shows, and a bunch of people yelling and singing (a very very full house). Of course, a 3 year old, sitting on his shoulders, begging to go home. So we left after the 4th song. It's the kind of stuff you just give up when you have children, sometimes gladly, sometimes with regret.

Our last moment at the fair was discovering a whole exhibit of baby farm animals. They had goats that were born in the last two days, tiny, fuzzy, babies that she was allowed to pet. My shy child pushed herself through a crowd of adults to give herself first crack at that kid, and held its little black face in both of her hands, petting the top of its head. The exhibit included baby chicks to pet, baby ducks, baby pigs and cows, and as she started making her rounds, she did her "happy walk" swivelling her hips in this crazy pattern as she walked through people like they didn't exist to get at the next fuzzy baby animal. People around me smiled at her. It was impossible not to see her level of joy.

Since then she's asked if we can go back to the Big Games and get a baby goat. She tries to convince me it can sleep with her and when it gets big she'll buy a fence. She's got a plan. Now, how the hell do I raise a goat?

And I'm pretty sure that's why I had a baby.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Divine Timing

I sometimes think that God has this crazy sense of humor. It seems like every time in my life that I throw in the towel, that I feel completely and totally run over, busted, flat down depressed, things change.

THey never seem to change before this point. Right before meeting my husband I had really given up--written a scathing letter to a random online dating site out of utter despair. I was just about ready to crawl up and be lonely, because no man I met seemed to be anything close, just a huge waste of time. And then, out of nowhere, this little light. And four years later, a happy marriage.

Before I got into the Santa Fe Opera apprentice program, I cried to my pianist. I literally broke into tears and said, "i give up, I am opening a bookstore, because I obviously have no talent as a singer." I still remember her laughing and saying, "maybe you should put off those bookstore plans".

THe timing is not long. He seems to jump in immediately after the pain subsides. It's not more than 48 hours later, usually. And yet I feel like one of the first questions I would ask God if I met Him would be, "why couldn't you have just let me work for something, pray, ask you for it, and get it? Why did it always have to involve a breaking of my spirit first?" Seems like an easy answer, but at the same time, breaking ones spirit means losing faith, and over time, it's damaged me. It's made me less hopeful, less sure that good will win out. At least on earth. I see the worst case scenario and I think, "been there, done that".

I wrote that blog of utter despair last week. That was a WEEK ago! WHAT? And then a sudden response back from a college about a job that looked old, did they want me? Then a request for an interview. Only this wasn't an interview, it was an HOUR LONG TEST. I was to bring 3 pieces to sing (when was my last audition? MARCH?) Thank God I'd been practicing. I was to teach a lesson in front of 5 faculty members (bullets of sweat).

I went in to this audition scared witless, but confident. I kept telling myself, "they want me." THe singing went SO well. Weirdly well. They laughed at my funny bits, they seemed impressed. The teaching went better. The pianist shook my hand before walking out of the room and whispered, "congratulations." I knew I had it. And the offer came hours later.

Three years into teaching and I'm at a college. A real, gosh darn college. The day after, hubby got an email for a job across the country. Probably not one that would work out financially, but we waited for hope for SOOOO LONNNGG! and then hope came right after we needed it. So confusing.

So life's about to change again, and I'm nervous, but excited, and still losing weight.

Take me now, December.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Drama Queen

Well, I have an interview for Friday.

I swear--why does the timing work out that I have to have an IMMENSE breakdown moments before the light shines in? You should have seen the one I had before I met hubby.

Darkest, dawn, all that stuff. Not that I have a job, but my whole body is lighter with hope.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

I give up

I want so badly to give up. I don't even know what that means anymore. I worked for so hard for 20 years for a performing career and watched everyone around me fly through success. Conductors mentioned to me my "hard work" but certainly never wanted to help me later. Opera companies wanted to hear 5 arias but not hire me. And lately, as I soar through practicing pieces that don't even pose a difficult note...pieces I tried my whole life to learn that are now easy, I think I'm just torturing myself.

I will never understand why my voice failed so miserably in Chicago last spring. I just don't know what happened to me. I've never sung like that, before or since.

I am now getting off facebook for a week. I am seeing one singer after another, less qualified, who have worked less than I have, who haven't struggled the way I have, get university teaching jobs. Helping each other--when no one ever seems to think of me. I can't figure that out. And it feels the same. Again. Work doesn't equal success, I mean, I've learned that. I know that that is true. But I keep hoping for grace. I keep hoping God will just make something easy. Just one thing.

My leaps of faith seem to usually end up with breaking my legs. And I am a complete and total failure. And there is no other way to see this. 37 average, ungrateful students who rarely bring payment and lying on my taxes because if not, I can't possibly pay medical bills.

I can't do it anymore. I can't feel anymore this strange mix of loving my God and not understanding why there is no blessing for me. There is nothing. There is nothing. There is nothing.

Edited to add that after writing this I submitted 2 more resumes. It's hard not to root for me, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August, Ahoy!


Let's get a jump on August. Baby S came back from her two week trip to Michigan using the phrase "if you say so." It sounds funny and is mildly annoying. She's going to be 3! I can't believe it.

Hubby and I lost a combined 13 pounds this month! WOO HOO! I only lost 5 of that, so I prefer to write the number as one big one. I feel downhearted that I am only 10 pounds less than I was a year ago today. But I guess that is is progress, and I have to learn to lose progress, and not be so disappointed in my lack of perfection.

My voice is so good lately! Practicing is like fulfilling every goal I have, and there are no auditions. WHY WHY WHY?

I can't wait to get into the next season of teaching. I feel so frustrated with irresponsible teenagers and their cancellations, their late payments, and their lack of any work or discipline when they leave my studio. I really hope for a future in which I teach students who are inspired, whose dreams I can encourage. I was meant to do that, not try to figure out if a some kid whom I haven't seen in 4 weeks and who has not improved in any way and who is practically non-audible is having a voice change. SNORE.

I can't wait to have a baby again. WHAT am I thinking? But they are so life-enriching. And lately, I seem to meet so many wonderful teenagers and young adults, who have goals I respect, who are kind to their parents....and I have high hopes of maybe eeking my way into that group, by exercising a few spiritual fruits and loving them like crazy.

I am incredibly hurt and angry by the many posts about "that chicken place". Here's what I hate. I love the Bible, I believe it, and I love a LOT of gay people. I don't think that anyone goes to heaven by being heterosexual, but I know, I understand the passion behind wanting to feel like you live in a world you understand. And I feel so sad over the whole thing. So I wish I didn't have facebook right now.

And I get so tired of people trading in love for competition. God help me.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Well

I have written a few blogs and decided not to post them. I have a tendency to do that. I review, decide I've gone too far, or it's too personal, or something like that. And then I don't post them.

So I really need to get a last one in while it's still July. I have so many things swirling around in my head lately that make it impossible to enjoy the here and now. So here's a blog post, now.

I haven't really changed my mind about this--my favorite story from the bible is the "Woman at the Well". I don't know exactly what it is, since most themes from the bible are repeated over and over, you can find them anywhere, and this one is pretty standard for messages, but it hits me every time.

It's hot, it's miserable, like this summer is, and a woman that he really shouldn't be talking to is getting water too, in the middle of the day. She's the only one there, because lots of people disapprove of her "lifestyle". She's alone. Maybe she just wanted to avoid people. I bet her head, like mine, was full of a thousand worries, and doubts about herself. She was probably a mess.

He asks her for water, which is weird. Just drinking water from her cup would have made him unclean, but he doesn't care (because clean is bigger than unclean) and he has some more important things to worry about. She says something like, "um, are you crazy?" and He tells her he has living water. He says, if you knew who I was, you would have asked me for living water, and I would have given it to you.

When I was a T.A. for a music class I read a review of a choral piece someone had seen. I'd never seen was written by a young woman, and told this story. At the part where Jesus mentions "living water", the writer described that one person said "living water" and then another, and more, adding sound until suddenly all the voices met, and said "living water" in this big wall of sound harmony. This is what I picture happening in her head, as she realized that the guy she's talking to is not just a normal guy. Living Water, she's thinking, I need that, I don't know what it is. I need it.

So she says, "ok, I want the living water." and he says, "ok, go get your husband". And she says, "i don't have one". I think she usually lies about this, but she decided to be honest. He says, "it's true, you've had 5 husbands, and now you're just playing house with a guy." And I picture him telling me, "it's true, you've had 5 doughnuts, and there's one in your pocket now." And at that moment, I'd feel known. Not convicted, or pardoned, just known.

And she says, "ok, I see you know stuff. You must be a prophet." she asks him a religious question, because that's where we always go....where are we supposed to worship?" She wonders. "Some guys say over here, some guys say over there." Probably they fight about it often. She wishes she had a good answer.

He says, you know, a time is coming when you will worship in spirit and truth, and the location isn't going to matter.

She says, "huh, you mean when Jesus comes?"

And he says, "yeah. That's who I am." And I bet she breathed out for the first time in the whole conversation.

This is who I want to meet every day. A God who knows me fully. Who calls me out, and who doesn't want to have a discussion with me about which church is better. Someone who offers living water. Because I'm not positive what it is, but it sounds fantastic.

Friday, July 20, 2012


A New Song about loss....I thought after hearing about the shooting I wanted to post the words (though I did not write it for this).

Little Boy Blue
COme Blow Your Horn
The Sheep's in the Meadow
The Cow's in the corn
My Little Girl plays with her ball across the street
And the river is five miles deep
The river is five miles deep

You left that morning
Without a word
With barely an image
Nothing to be heard
You slipped from my hands, and my heart skipped a beat
But there are some things you just can't keep
And the river is five miles deep
The river is five miles deep

I talk to him about you
You imagine I do
And his words predictably are few
It's noticeably heartbreaking
And somewhat sweet
But the river is five miles deep
The river is five miles deep

I pray I recover, I walk in these shoes
I sing everything set to somebody's blues
I wonder if I'll ever stop missing the beat
And I wish I could forget how to weep

But the river is five miles deep
Your river is five miles deep.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Distance Between Us

Today was a hard day, but I just read the blog I wrote on July 8th and I can't believe how MUCH better I feel! I guess, maybe, the miscarriage took a while, physically? No more headaches. I am taking an insane amount of iron, and still not testing in a normal range. I TELL YOU, I have trouble absorbing it. That, or somewhere in my body I am bleeding. I am really hoping it's the former.

I swam today during my break of teaching 12 students. It was really nice. Probably the best part of my day. In my swimming, I feel like the water washes away the day. I feel like nothing is going wrong. I feel grateful, hungry, happy, thin.

This summer has been so overwhelming. Financially, it's been so tough. We are now swamped with miscarriage bills. We just paid $500 to fix our air conditioner in the middle of a record-hot drought. When I say "paid" I mean we piled it on to a credit card. Hubby told me, "let me worry about it. It's mine this time" knowing how sick it makes me that we are still piling on debt. But I am not sure I have let it go.

I have been teaching students who feel they "have" to take lessons to make their teachers happy. They are often untalented, uninterested, and not working on anything I tell them to. They are not planning on continuing, and their parents send me stupid messages, trying to make sure that their student's failure to to their lesson, get better, or become someone DIFFERENT is somehow the voice teacher's fault. THIS IS NOT MY CALLING. There is a part of voice teaching that I adore. It is not this.

The loss of Baby Blue. That was another part. I decided to name the baby I lost. But I don't want a real name...just a color. Just the way I felt. Baby Blue. And the physical problems. And the heat! Boy I can complain, can't I?

So I sent Baby S away. I thought it would help us bond, give us time to get things done. And it did, it does. But I am MISSING HER SO BADLY! It's killing me!

Now all I want is a new fall. I want the students I love back! I want to sing.

Today I started reading my favorite book again. Well, I put it in the car, with the intent to read it. But that's a Start :) What's So Amazing About Grace I am hoping to fall in love with Jesus again. Because honestly, everything's pretty good when you're in love with Jesus. Ain't no religion gives you that, I promise. I feel like I can barely live without hubby now. But I definitely know who my great love story is. It's kind of all I know.

That being said, I listened to a lot of talk radio on the way to and from Michigan last week. TOO MUCH. Enough to get mad and get happy and laugh and cry. I learned the following things: 1. I love shows where people read excerpts from their own books. 2. I wish there were more stories on the radio (like the pre-tv show era) and 3. I think I'm getting more liberal politically now that I don't live in NYC. Ironic, huh?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Baby Blessing

I have spent a while now asking myself when recovery will come. When will I stop feeling this strange mix of overly-emotional, somewhat reclusive, insanely tired, sleeping all the time, terrible headaches, crazy attachment to my husband, and a short fuse?

I am starting to realize that some of these must be physical. I think perhaps I am severely anemic, experiencing the symptoms of extreme fatigue, headaches, irritability and dizziness. These symptoms are going on all the time, and I feel like I can't get to be myself again. I take my daughter to the park but I immediately feel a terrible headache and a desire to nap. I just want to lay down. I sleep for 9 hours and wake up "ok". When I first moved to Iowa I sprung out of bed. Where is THAT me?

So I am seeing a doctor on Tuesday. The man who last I saw was telling me that a miscarriage would be tough emotionally, and that hubby and I should "communicate" a lot. I still don't exactly know what that meant. I do know that hubby has been in extra-care mode lately, really stepping up and being very loving. I feel like I wish I could be with him all the time. We haven't had an argument, and I haven't felt negatively about him in a while. Unfortunately, I think some of this "ease" of marriage is brought on by my tiredness and sense of loss. I am too fatigued to argue and too grateful for what I do have to rock the boat.

I am submitting for an audition next month, because I still feel like I have failed if I don't go and do it. I need to just step up and do it unless I have peace about not doing it. I think. Or something like that. That means I have to practice. Ahem. Hopefully that will come.

I wanted to write that when a 3 year old is bad, they are very very bad. But when they are good, they are miracles. Blessings. My quiet time with Baby S, my days out with her, are just so wonderful. She wants me to lay down with her while she goes to sleep at night. When I do she just wants to hug me a thousand times. She laughs and gives me these huge, healing, insanely wonderful hugs. Then she says she loves me. Then eventually I get frustrated and say she HAS to go to sleep. But secrety I just adore the hugs too.

Everything is exciting to her, everything makes her gasp with excitement. She is in love with me in a way I've never experienced before. And she is a massive, massive blessing.

RIght now she is torturing me with Baby TV. It's really awful. Every few minutes she turns around and tells me "I LOVE this part mom. THis is my favorite." It's doesn't really matter which part it is.

And later she'll scream at me and throw herself on the ground because I didn't let her puncture the juice box with the straw (because I forgot), but she'll woo me back pretty shortly after. It's not so different from Opera, when I think about it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Heat, Storms, Figurines, Death

I am writing! It feels like a miracle.

For the last few weeks I have imagined writing on this blog over and over. I have imagined talking about the miscarriage with PROFOUND observations. I sometimes write it in my own head as I walk along the street, or in my car. I write and write, and then I get on the computer and I do something else.

It's so amazingly hot and miserable here. It's worse than winter, in my opinion. I am trapped inside, not wanting to do anything outdoors. My child is insane and bouncing off the walls. I go to the gym, at least. She gets nothing. If I take her out for a bit, she asks to be held. I am panicking--does she need more nutrition, have I not trained her to be active? Am I the horrible mom I imagine I must be?

But it's just damn hot. So that's why she wants me to hold her. NO ONE wants to walk out there. Hubby reassures me that it will be cooler next week. I am praying earnestly, fervently, for weather I can take her out in. A walk....a wagon ride. Maybe a ride on our bikes!! It all sounds delicious.

About 5 days ago we had a raging (but short) storm. 80mph winds knocked out power for about 20,000 people in our city, amazing. Over here, thank God, we kept power. But the storm managed to pick up our daughter's "play house" and throw it across the lawn, into our satellite dish. And so we are halfway through a week with no tv. I thought I would miss it less...*sigh*.

Last week hubby we decided we should sell some things at craft fairs this fall. He brought home 20 figurines to paint. On a random week, this might not have been so appealing, but this's a dream. I am painting, painting, painting. I find myself, in every small moment, painting animal figurines. I don't know if I'm obsessed, or if it's therapy. But I am hoping to sell them in the fall and pay for some medical bills. Good plan, right?

Another nice thing about the painting is that hubby and I do it together. So late at night, without tv, we sit around the table and chat while we paint our little ceramic animals. It feels nice. It might be what I need right now.

Summer brings about a lot of reminders of death. Our neighbor lost her father. He was 91. He died of a completely natural cause. He had a long, fruitful life, and died with people around him who loved him. She still cries when she talks about it. A few recent deaths in this area came way too young. Someone I know recently wrote about the death of a 29 year old man, after suffering with cancer, leaving behind his children who will barely remember him.

And right now, I feel the loss of a child I never knew.

Sometimes my faith is wonky. Sometimes I struggle with what I really believe. But one thing that stays with me...something I really believe which I think many people don't, is that death is wrong. It's unnatural. I don't think we were made to die. I think this is some natural part of life's experience that we should accept or embrace. And I don't really want to do that. I don't ever want to lose anyone I love. I want only to see them again in another world, made perfect, dancing around with God, throwing off the shackles of a pretty mean world they left behind.

Weirdly, with all the things I have trouble embracing, that has a pretty big hold on my heart.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Don't Know What You've Got 'Til Its Gone

I have had blog words swirling in my head lately, but I haven't wanted to bring myself to type.

Seems I can't possibly avoid it as I listen to Baby S snoring on the couch, and hubby is still gone. I don't even know what I'm watching on tv, as I eat a bowl of cereal to make myself feel better. After all...I can, since there's no baby coming.

I don't want to type the details of finding out there was no heartbeat. I don't want to relive seeing the figure of a child I had just decided I was excited about having, curled up on an ultrasound, essentially gone. I figure everyone has a similar foggy experience walking through their OB's office, as they are "given time" to stand there with the hubby, staring at each other, and then the floor. And in our case, watching the 3 year old bounce off the walls.

I don't want to see anyone. Not really. My students seem like irresponsible, annoying teenagers. I mean--they probably are, all the time, but right this moment, it's unbearable. I have tried everything to hold back and write nice things to mothers, as they defend their children's irresponsibility. That's a norm in teaching. But today, it's anything but.

It was 9 days ago. And part of me thinks, "ok, you've had 9 days. You vacationed. You cried a lot. You're fine." But it's not true. I'm still mad. I'm mad at all that hard work I was doing while I didn't know the baby was already dead. I'm mad at the guy who told me I couldn't walk my tired toddler through his apartment complex to get home faster, because I felt myself bleeding again.

I'm mad at the dogs. I'm either mad...or crying. Or teaching voice. I have taught 23 lessons in 2 days.

I have had such a strange year. I had that terrible audition, which launched me into sadness, and then a pregnancy, which launched me into hormonal and insulin insanity, and then a miscarriage, which launched me into this. I don't know what this is. But it totally blows.

All I want to do is have my husband comfort me. I want a few weekends of romantic alone time, which I would probably use to cry. SO I can't imagine that being fun for him. He is dealing with this by being more productive than I've ever seen him. I can't believe how much he's got done. He's gardening every day, he is building someone a new house on Monday, he's agreed to diet. He's the opposite of lazy, and all I want to do is lie on the couch and cry and read about miscarriages online.

But I don't feel any sense of "why won't he?" at all. I am just glad he's here. Just glad someone loves me when I feel bizarrely empty.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Annual Student Recital

ooooh Lordy.

It is no surprise that it's been a full week since I last posted something here. This week seemed kind of "normal" when I thought--"ok, reduced teaching schedule, end of school, this won't be bad...." but actually launching into it, with the stress of watching all of my students perform, preparing them, and of course the running, the cookie baking, napkin gathering, program printing, piano prepping, and general running....I am exhausted. If you add the pregnant, with toddler and high heels, I am a wreck today.

It is a very gratifying experience to work with students and see them grow from year to year. I have had to see them recently have their hearts broken with unsatisfying auditions....this is "drama time" for high schools as they pick next year's choirs. As a teacher, it's hard not to take it personally. WHY can't I make them succeed? Why can't I grow them enough that they can clobber the competition? But the truth is, there is always more to it than that.

Last year, I had more frustration in the development of some of my students. This year, I was floored to see new performers in them. Some seemed almost unrecognizable in how much they'd grown. And I flew around the recital like a proud parent. I ended up having to sing in the recital this year. I had scheduled 3 students to do a trio from Cosi Fan Tutte, and one of them (thankfully the mezzo) had to cancel. So I sang the trio--and that was a fair amount of nerves and wanting to throw up. You think singing for your peers is hard? Try singing in front of all the people who pay you to teach their children! The pressure to be perfect was pretty awful. I had found myself getting vocally "tight" in one measure (not a good thing) when I practiced it the day before....I never quite fixed that, but I guess we sang it fast enough to not notice!

So now the summer begins, and a whole new batch of students arrive. In fact, this year, strangely, my "summer cast" of students is completely different from my "spring cast", with only a few exceptions. The fun part is that you see more growth in the first 10 lessons (I think doing anything, honestly) than you ever it's fun to see that beginning part.

This year my recital had a lot more guys in it....almost one for every 3 girls, which is pretty impressive in a vocal studio. It gave a new energy to the recital which I hope continues! Guys have a certain...irreverance? which is fun in a situtation as tense as a recital. There were a few more hoots and hollers, and general casualness. I enjoyed that a lot.

I definitely do better in life if I stop trying to define myself. Someone called me a "born teacher" this week, and I found myself trying to figure it I a born teacher? am I a born performer? a born mother? I suppose the best thing is to just allow myself to enjoy all of these things....and go on with it.

11 weeks pregnant...almost 12! I can't believe it. And my weight hasn't gone up since week 8. whew. Trying hard for that.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Finally Admitting that Diet Soda Helps

Ahhh, what a day! I am noticing Saturday is my Day Most LIkely to Blog. Who knew? Today was nice. I worked out, I enjoyed time with hubby, earned a little moola, watched a WHOLE MOVIE (thank you GOD!) while I laid on my back and blurred my eyes on the couch, thanks to a long, luxurious nap from Baby S. I did not take advantage of the beautiful day, I did not get 10 things done, and I did not do any exciting projects with Baby S besides coloring and playing a little "Memory". Amazingly, it was still a darn good day.

I don't remember being this sick last time. I am nauseous and exhausted so much. I am waiting for people to ask me how I feel so I can load them with complaints!! I realize this is wrong, but at least I admit it. I would like to make a list of my current pregnancy symptoms.

1. Nausea. THis occurs at the following times: first thing in the morning, after each time I eat, at night. It does not involve vomiting. I PRAY FOR VOMIT! Really, if you've ever been seasick you know vomitting is a relief. If only.

2. Headaches. I get headaches when I'm pregnant. It's the 2nd time, and I realize it's not blood sugars. It's pregnancy.

3. Fatigue. I'm sorry....what was I writing?

4. Peeing....lots and lots of peeing. I don't mind this one.

5. Tingling hands. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is coming. It is starting to manifest itself in that my hands tingle when I hold a cell phone to my ear or sleep with my wrists bent. Not bad yet. But not thrilled it's coming.

6. I'm hungry a lot. And afraid to eat because I'm not supposed to gain any weight. I am also gaining weight. I feel like this part of pregnancy is similar to being trapped in a burning house but told I need to make sure that the furniture does not catch fire.

7. I'm anxious and depressed. Usually at the same time. My husband has no idea who I will be when he gets home. I cry at everything. Tonight I cried during a Disney cartoon, and while watching someone talk about something that they loved. I also feel like crying when sports teams win.

8. Gas. This was way worse last time. Whew

9. All of my hair is growing faster. My eyebrows have a plot to take over the world. Watch yourself.

10.My boobs hurt. This also falls under "my bras don't fit"

um.....I think that's it. Looking forward to the few that fall off during the 2nd trimester. There is also the wild and amazing amount of insulin resistance I have, but I have lately had them under amazing control. And despite everything I've ever read, the thing I find that really does help with nausea, is diet soda.

If I have never written this in a blog, let it be known, my daughter is wonderful. I love her to pieces. Almost every day with her now is delightful....and I recommend if you're going to have children, start them around 3 years old.

Unfortunately, I have to get this next one as an infant. Oh goes quickly :)

A student came in to my studio this week. She's going to be a senior next year, and she did not make show choir. Not even the "lower" shower choir. The school is incredibly competitive. Show choir here is no joke, as I've written before, but how painful it I know the feeling of being rejected, over and over and over and over again. I know rejection. And I believe the best thing to do is show them I've lived through it and not argue that it totally sucks. There's nothing else. The hope has to come later....the joy has to be found despite it. THe way you feel about yourself has to get a teflon coating against it.

Seems like God put me in this spot. I have been well prepared to hold an ambitious person in my stare and tell them that I know every rejection, and yet I know that in a few more days, weeks, month.....soon.....I'll actually choose to do it again.