Friday, December 29, 2006

Why did I think I was actually going to get anything done this week?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Last night I saw three old friends from high school. Two of them are people I haven't seen in fifteen years and wasn't at all expecting to see. It was a lot of fun to reminisce about the old times, the pain, the silliness, etc. It was really good to be together at a time in all of our lives when we can really appreciate each other. All of them are such funny people. The stories they were telling about their respective teaching experiences were f**king hilarious! Holy #*^%&! Some of the things we were talking about from the old days were things I had completely forgotten about... like my family's vicious dog. I was laughing so hard I was crying at their descriptions of coming to my house. "Ok, I've got her, now RUN!!"

I wonder sometimes how my life would be different if I had been brought up going to St. Joseph's with the rest of the lot -- if that was the reason I sometimes felt out of the loop -- but maybe not. We had Mr. Goetcheus and Mr. Weidman, Drama Club, Chorus, Orchestra, various musicals, parties at Steve Johnson's... what more was there to high school? If we had it all to do again... Crystal says she would have told more people where to go and what to do when they got there. I'm just glad we don't have to do it again. :-)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Festivus, everybody! Also, happy Winter Solstice! I am SO excited that the days are FINALLY going to start getting longer. This dark at 4:30 crap is wearing very thin!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

You can't touch this, baby!

I'm the poker queen!

Monday, December 18, 2006

This is the gorgeous Christmas tree in my house. It's so big and festive!

If only the picture weren't blurry... Oh well!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What is mindfulness? (a re*mind*er for myself)

I knew Susan and I were destined to be good friends when we talked one day about how we both had tried "washing the dishes to wash the dishes". Both of us had read Thich Nhat Hanh's *The Miracle of Mindfulness* and were inspired to try this exercise. It is not hard to master the concept of practicing mindfulness, but it is unbelievably hard to do. Mindfulness requires living in the moment -- allowing oneself to experience the sensations of the physical body in each moment, in each movement, to observe what is around oneself, to experience what is happening "now". I feel pretty confident in speaking not just for myself when I say that most of our time is spent in our heads thinking about 1)the past or 2)the future. Because of this habitual practice of not being in the moment, we miss all sorts of opportunities for joy. [One might also say we miss the opportunity to hear God talking to us -- or whatever is there when our own thoughts are quieted.] What causes pain? If you ask me, it is mostly caused by negative, habitual thought patterns. Even physical pain is made much worse in the resisting [fear] of it. Taking care of physical comfort can be the most important tool in alleviating pain. Sometimes pain is caused by trying to make something happen faster than is possible, like in the case of thinking so much about a future event that we think is going to be difficult that we hold our bodies in a constant state of tension in anticipation of the event. We think only of how we want this pain to be over with, but in holding our muscles and holding our breath, we end up in enormous physical discomfort. In choosing to live in the moment, one can, if even for a couple of minutes, breathe deeply, relax one's muscles, and choose to abandon all worrisome thoughts. One can choose to observe one's immediate surroundings -- the blue sky and sunshine, the crispness of the air, a pleasant fragrance, the feel of soft fabric, a cute animal, a beautiful person walking by, or an exquisite building. This change in state of mind serves to change one's perspective from a state of feeling overwhelmed to a state of greater calm, which helps one to deal better with stress. Thich Nhat Hahn would say it is possible to live most (or maybe all) of one's life in a state of mindfulness. I personally find it difficult to break the habit of thinking too much about the past and future. To really live this way, it seems one would need to surround oneself with like-minded people. One great lesson I learned from *The Miracle of Mindfulness* was the idea that one doesn't need to separate oneself from others in order to have time to oneself. By thinking that all time is one's own time, one is free to experience fully every moment one spends alone or with others. Washing the dishes to wash the dishes is demanding because the point is to truly experience the sensations involved in the process of washing the dishes (how the water feels running against your hands, its temperature, the soap suds, the experience of making something clean, fresh, new...) and not concentrate solely on trying to complete the task as quickly as possible. This change in state of mind revolutionizes eating, walking, breathing, singing, being with another person, etc.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

So I took about a bazillion pictures while I was in Cleveland, but all with my camera phone, so not very many came out too well. The beautiful church where we performed was actually converted into an art gallery (a detail I failed to grasp before my arrival). The woman who owns it and runs the gallery lives in the rectory. Here is the view from the back loft:

And here is the view of the back loft from the floor:

These were taken during the afternoon before our rehearsal. They were still working to put together the opening for that night. Here are some more pictures:

I wish I could remember the artist's name. His stuff was pretty cool. Here are two of the pieces:

The top piece is set on strips of film with words typed on them. If I remember correctly, the bottom piece is oil on canvas with gold inlay. I wish I got better pictures!

The acoustics in the church were awesome. There was a 3 second delay, which sounded so pretty, especially during rehearsal when we rehearsed the round for 3 sopranos with 2 of us in the back loft and one in the front loft! Unfortunately, the acoustics amplified more than just the music, which was really disappointing during the performance, as the conversation pretty much killed the musical effects we were going for. Hopefully the recording came out well and hopefully we'll do it again. It's a great piece! I wish I could play it for you!

Dana's kids are SO cute and bright! I am so sad that I wasn't able to stay longer and hang out with them. I got one picture, of Seamus, who is 3, but regret that I didn't get pictures of John (8) or Peter (6). Seamus, Peter, and I played Santa and reindeer for a while. That was fun. We delivered a ton of fake toys.

Christmas survey

Susan didn't *make* me do this, but I got the idea from her blog.

1. Eggnog or Hot Chocolate?
I definitely drink more hot chocolate than eggnog, but the holidays wouldn't be the same without a little eggnog.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa who?

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
If I had a treehouse, I would definitely put colored lights on it.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Ooh, good idea.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
My mom puts decorations up pretty soon after Thanksgiving. It has been so long since I had a home of my own where I could have a tree or any significant decorations that I don't think I can say what I usually do about any of this. If I had the space and it made any sense, I would get a tree now.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
I love the veg filo casserole my mom and I make, but I also love mashed potatoes.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
My family did almost exactly the same thing every year for Christmas from the time I was born until my Grandpa died in 1991 or so. I'm not going to go into a huge amount of detail, but the gist is as follows: My family and my mom's sister's family all drove to Galesburg, IL to 1343 N. Kellogg St. (the grandparents' house). Christmas eve we all went to church (where we sang silent night with candles, of course and I probably sang "I Wonder as I Wander" or "O Holy Night" and my cousin Julia probably played something pretty on the violin) and then the kids were all instructed to go to bed while our moms and dads wrapped presents and drank eggnog with rum in it. When we went to bed our stockings were all lined up on the banister (all 11 of them), but when we woke up the next morning, they were all spread out around the living room with a heap of presents under the tree. We were allowed to open our stockings before breakfast, but had to wait patiently and eat coffee cake and drink orange juice until the adults decided it was time to open the presents. For the next 8 or so years while my Grandma was still alive, we tried to maintain the same traditions in upstate NY between my mom's house and my aunt and uncle's place, but after she died, our tradition fell apart for the most part. It's pretty sad for the little kid in me, but I think in time we'll have all new traditions to keep up with.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I don't know what you're talking about.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Usually one or two.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
We have a lot of worn out old ornaments that have been around forever that we put up for sentimental reasons and we usually use colored lights. We go back and forth between an angel and a star at the top.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Snow is great as long as I'm not driving. I'm pretty good at driving in snow (having grown up in the "snow belt") but I still would rather drive on a dry road.

12. Can you ice skate?
I used to take figure skating lessons when I was young, but I haven't skated for years.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I remember vividly one year when I really wanted the sheet music to "Annie", the musical. I was SO excited to get it.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Being with my family and being reminded of what is really important in life.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
My mom makes awesome ginger cut-out cookies. I love those. I also love her mincemeat cookies and her pumpkin cookies. I also love pumpkin pie.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Singing carols!

17. What tops your tree?
Nothing at the moment.

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?
I have a lot of anxiety about giving gifts, so when I find something that I really think someone will like, I get really excited about it. Like that year I bought everyone the book, *Walter the Farting Dog*. What a great year : )

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
*On this Day Earth Shall Ring* (with a good chime ringer and a big, loud organ and choir)

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
I'm not really that crazy about them.

21. Favorite Christmas movie?
Charlie Brown

22. What do you leave for Santa?
Who is this Santa person you keep talking about?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Flying to Cleveland

So, this afternoon I'm flying to Cleveland to sing a concert for my friend, Dana, a composer who was in my class at Eastman. I'm excited to finally actually be singing a concert instead of just listening to one (though I'm sad to miss Ian's choir concert -- they're singing the Magnificat and it sounds really good). I'm excited because the concept of her piece is really neat and the music is very pretty. The piece is going to be performed in a church with the performers spread out, making the ensemble very loosely connected. She is hoping the audience members will experience the music from many different locations, sort of like they would with art in a gallery. It should be a really interesting performance and hopefully very fun.

I'm trying not to focus on the fact that I often get very anxious about flying. Hopefully I won't have to resort to drinking lots of alcohol before boarding the plane, which has been the case in the past. (the concert isn't until tomorrow...) Fortunately, I am ridiculously tired, so I should probably be ok.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

I'm taking the lead here from Suze, the "list floozy":

5 Things I Want But Don't Have:

1. A plan (and the equipment) for developing and marketing myself as a singer. I think this probably includes the following things: renewing my subscription to "Classical Singer" magazine (which just expired), weekly voice lessons &/or coachings, a really good headshot and lots and lots of copies of it, lots and lots of copies of my resume, a really good demo CD and lots and lots of copies of it, the organization and will to actually send in my materials for opportunities (auditions) that come up and to potential employers, a great system/package for sending materials out.

2. A laptop that works. Ideally it would have MS Word and some sort of musical recording software, like "Garage Band", so I can keep writing songs.

3. Health insurance.

4. A financial cushion to help me out during times like now.

5. Physical fitness (mostly cardiovascular fitness, arm muscles, and flexibility).

5 Things I Have But Don't Want:

1. A nasty varicose vein on my left thigh and calf (or are there 2?).

2. Lots of excess body hair.

3. 6 outdated GRE study guides.

4. 5 books by Jan Karon. (Has anyone read them? Are they actually any good?)

5. CDs by LeAnn Rimes, Trisha Yearwood, Shaggy, Limp Bizkit, Mazzy Star, Lush...

5 Things I Don't Want and Don't Have:

1. Fake boobs.

2. Cancer, AIDS, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, HPV, Parkinson's, Malaria, etc. etc. (you get the picture).

3. A pierced tongue.

4. An evil twin.

5. A 30 minute deadline to stop a team of mad scientists from spreading a virus that makes people sing or whistle Abba songs whenever they are within a 2 foot radius of concrete or asphalt.
So... I'm trying to figure out why there is a stack of hay in the driveway.

Any ideas?