Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Past Dreams and People Who Need Me

Well, it's so cold here that it feels like it will never be warm again.
It's just poetry isn't it?  It snows AGAIN (for the zillionth time) and we are honestly running out of craft projects, and taking out the garbage feels like a battle of wills because the pain of the wind against your face is SO devastating, and then you come inside and find out your husband got a rejection letter from the last job we'd prayed for.

It is relentless--both the feeling of injustice with his last job, the hoping for a new one, and the friggin' winter.  Relentless, can't think of a better word.

I am using my time inside for organizing, when possible with little children, and I came across a book of songs I'd written between ages 16 and 23.  This is because between the ages of 16-23 I was not planning on singing classical music.  I was going to be the world's greatest songwriter.  I was amazingly prolific, writing literally hundreds of songs, playing them on the piano and singing them.  I think most of my friends know the story of how, during senior year, I got up in the middle of the night and pushed my family piano down the hall into my room so I could write without waking people up.

It stayed there for a while, bless my family for that, and I wrote a lot that year.  Some things I remember, some I don't.  I came across the words to those songs the other night (most songs I didn't notate) and tried to remember melodies.  And couldn't.  Because something about that dream just faded.  It was wonderful, it was mine, and then it just kind of got covered up by time.  I don't mourn it too much, but if I sit down at a piano, for a while, by myself, I can write a song again, sing, and be transported to the way it felt to do that 20 years ago.

20 years ago is the point at which I started working toward becoming an opera singer.  I don't think I was good at it at the beginning.  I teach a lot of high schoolers who could sing circles around me.  But at some point during my Master's studies in it, everyone's tune began to change, and I got told I was a world class singer.  My voice grew, and I started developing a new dream.  The problem with the second dream was watching so many people become successful at it, I think.  It started becoming "unfair" that I wasn't on that track, working as hard as I was.  So the second dream hasn't faded the way the first one did.  It's not a gentle sleep, more of a series of nightmares, honestly.   Ones that start with me singing professionally and end with me realizing I'm sitting in front of the tv with baby vomit on me.

That last part sounded bitter.  I suppose part of the reason why I am hashing dreams out in my head is that I realize, or am realizing, that new dreams can materialize all the time.  I do think of composing operas, I think of writing books, I think of all sorts of things that are beautiful creative outlets that could become dreams.  I think of cabaret shows or going back to the first dream again.  THe future is wide open.  It's just the wide open part that seems unbearable, and makes me want to just--go to a movie.

I feel like adding in this blessing of "the girls next door".  Our neighbor, a man in his early 30s who is on the whole fairly friendly, has had three women live with him since he moved in 4 years ago.  I call him a serial monogamist, though that sounds judgmental as I write it.  The newest of these women moved in two weeks ago and brought with her two girls a little older than my daughter.  The three of them have played, and played and played.  They have slept at each others' houses and played in the snow and done all sorts of things.  And the blessing is incredible.  It is incredible to just put in the time to have 3 girls sleep in our living room (beyond exhausting, and much more screaming than you're imaginng) and then do a nice trade of having a quiet house the next night--with our big empty bed and some time to watch a grown up movie or have a romantic evening.

Yesterday, the girlfriend had a miscarriage.  They were excited about having a baby (this all seems insanely fast to me) and devastated to lose it.  And we were able to help by taking the girls.  It was exhausting and I didn't get all my stuff done.  But at the same time, it is so nice to be needed when here everything feels like it's falling apart.

We are rarely needed in Iowa.  Mostly, there's a bunch of self-sufficient people with big families who seem to mildly enjoy us and are kind of helpful in time of need.  So just being truly needed by someone makes us feel a little less pitiful, a little more important.  And I am so grateful for that.  Even if it does come with resolving lots of discussions of who gets to be the teacher when they play school and who gets to play with the doll who has the best hair.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

trials, tribulations and tunes

This Tuesday I participated in the faculty recital done every year at the college where I teach part,-time.  As I prepared, it occurred to me that it had been two years since I'd sung on stage in front of anyone, really, which explained how much I needed to  throw up beforehand!  The rule of performing and nerves is pretty simple:  more performing, less nerves.  I noticed years ago how the first audition of the season was horrifying for me, but 15 auditions later it was as easy as taking a walk.  So....Tuesday night I sang a set of Bolcom's cabaret songs, including a cheeseball mostly spoken laugh-a-minute number I often like to pull out.

The recital, generally, was more serious.  It was "smart people" music, performed well, and sometimes beautifully.  And if anyone brought a date that night who doesn't really love smart people music, then I was  probably their favorite :)  I was also approached by a woman who wanted me to sing at her Unitarian church.  They love funny songs, I've noticed.  I also sang some of Brahms Liebeslieder waltzes, in an octet, so I could be more than just a funny gal.

My mom came, and sat with my husband.  Mom took notes and told me I was the best.  Hubby just smiled and made random comments.  But I don't go home from anything lonely anymore.  I have noticeably chosen a life of love, and I have that.  And I have an amazing marriage, and adorable kids and a mom who takes notes when I sing.

However, singing almost almost always reminds me of wanting to sing more....like Chinese food I guess, where you feel like it almost makes you hungrier.  Now I am lost in thoughts of how I will reinvent myself God help me.

We are awaiting the results of my husband's trial against "the man" (ironically with all women on the phone) and praying that his second job interview from yesterday results in a job...with money.  But we are also just hoping for a few weeks of even,-keel, calming, happy times.

I am less than 10 days from 40,  oy veywould like some good news,  you know?  And maybe a haircut.  Oh, and some sort of promise that it won't be 2 years before my next performance.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Night Before

Tomorrow morning my husband and I do a phone hearing to fight for the unemployment that he paid into for 5 years.  We are fighting a large corporation and the person on the phone will likely be a well-paid attorney who has never met or heard of him, but just wants to save their billion dollar company a little cash.  Tonight, my job is to attempt to forgive the people who cruelly mocked him, made up weird, false accusations about him, overworked him, came in to work hung over and did nothing to help while he  had to work more and more, longer hours, more crap, more lying from coworkers who thought nothing of assisting in the firing of an ethical, loving father of two a month before Christmas.  Tonight we pour over a file that is so hard to look through I feel like throwing up.  It's like watching what they put him through all over again, and I wish the next 12 hours would pass in an instant so we could just get this over with. 

I want to say that one of the things he's accused of is sexual harassment.  The laws that put sexual harassment in place are pretty sacred to me.  SO many women struggled to be taken seriously for years and fought for those laws.  Now, the idea that my husband would be punished for advising someone not to wear a skirt when being a field photographer...it's such a blasphemy.  I want to sue the people who insisted she file so that they could "hurt" my husband in some way.  I want to slash the tires of the girl who claims that my husband telling her to stop yelling about sports bras says that he made her feel uncomfortable (she was the one doing the yelling). 

I don't know what else to say, except that my body is full of violent thoughts right now.  I want to bring down, attack, drown, and beat up these people. I find no love inside me for them, and yet I believe in that kind of love.  Radical forgiveness, right?  Either I believe in it or I don't.

Pray for us, please.  Pray for justice, pray for money.  But most of all pray that my heart grows in the way Jesus wants it to.  Pray that I find forgiveness for these people, and not harden myself instead.  Pray my husband and I remember those who helped us, those who gave us money, those who called him to say he didn't deserve it, and be grateful that we have the possibility of a life of forgiveness rather than the alternative.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

What We Choose to Remember

We are back in our current "day to day" which feels strange and easy.  It is amazingly, bitterly cold outside.  Your boogers freeze in your nose, you are in danger of frostbite, and the dog runs out, pees, and runs back in immediately.  Even those that we call "cold snobs" here...the people you see in below zero weather wearing short sleeves or capri pants, even they are huddled in their coats.

We are surviving largely because so many people stepped up to help us this Christmas that I am profoundly humbled and grateful.  We have grocery store gift certificates, wal mart gift certficates, and money from parents and even anonymous friends.  It actually feels....almost like normal.  We are waiting for info on Medicaid, which makes me feel poor.  And even better, we are waiting for our unemployment appeal next week, where hopefully the lawyer we hired will win our case and we will not be forced into some ridiculous repayment of the unemployment we received for just one month.  Right now, we have only teaching money to live off of, and none of my students want lessons until next week.

In 2 1/2 weeks I am singing in a faculty recital.  I am excited, and happy that it pays a few hundred dollars.  I am also insanely nervous to prepare for this...it has been a while, and though it is all music I could sing in my sleep, it is the stuff nightmares are made from!

I have noticed in the world of "unwarranted advice" that people generally forget two things about their own lives (or choose to remember it differently).  One, having children.  I do not know why advice about having children (and raising young children) is so bad.  I have spent a while trying to figure that out.  I can only think that people put a happy wash over that period in their lives.  Either that, or they had so much help that their experience was a polar opposite of mine.  I only know that it is extremely rare to get advice that doesn't belittle your experience or make it seem like you're "just not grateful" to have kids.

I read things about how it's wrong to have them watch tv or have screen time.  But I can't describe the feeling of spending 7-8 hours coming up with meals, activities, learning situations, physical play, and being yelled at by the child about ALL of it.  You know what feels great about 4 hours into that?  A freaking Barbie movie.  2 hours of peace while she munches popcorn is worth my sanity, I can tell you that.

I have been very vocal here as well about the "cherish every moment" comments.  Does that include the moment when my daughter writes on the music I saved up for months to buy?  Does that include the moment when she tells me that I'm one of the "fat moms" thinking that it won't hurt me?  Or does it just include the moments that I'm going to treasure anyways?  Because those I don't actually need advice for.  Most moms of 4 year olds, I'd imagine, simply love those little toddler hands pretending to give you a medical checkup, or singing a funny made-up song.  But realizing that she just drew a picture of something on your hardwood floor with a sharpee?  Not cherishing that.

Number two is struggling financially.  People seem to forget what that feels like so easily, and so therefore the advice is strange....it feels like there's an odd amount of shame in it (which I DO NOT believe in) and it's just so hard to feel like your life is still a normal life (even though many people go through this exact thing).  I find people describing how they struggled when it simply doesn't appear they've gone through anything like this.  It is an odd bit of perspective that certainly doesn't transfer--either in advice or words.  It's only empathy that matters now, and that which you desire almost more than money.