Saturday, December 31, 2011

Washington Park - Denver, CO

Bare trees in winter have a special kind of beauty.



Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mt. Tamalpais

One of my favorite places in the world is the top of Mt. Tamalpais. It's a pretty short drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, just a few exits north on Route 1 in Mill Valley. You can drive all the way to the top and then walk around the perimeter on a paved path, or stop and hike at any other place along the way. And, it's just a short hop over from Muir Woods and Stinson Beach, so you could conceivably spend one day exploring the city, the beach, the woods, and the top of a mountain. Because I don't have a good camera and am taking photos with my phone, you can't see a lot of detail, but the top of Mt. Tam gives you an amazing bird's eye view of the whole Bay Area. It's amazing.






Friday, December 23, 2011

A Wise Man's Guidance

"If you follow your heart's desire, you will bring your best self with you wherever you go."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Quiz Friday

subject: Christmas

1. Will you be celebrating Christmas this year? If so, where and how?
2. What is your favorite hymn or Christmas melody?
3. What is the first Christmas present you remember asking for and getting really excited about?
4. Are you performing Christmas music on any concerts or other programs this year?
5. Will you celebrate any other holidays this December?

(me: 1. yes. at church on the day and then in denver with my family. 2. "on this day earth shall ring". 3. the sheet music book for the musical "annie". 4. yes. i'll be singing some traditional solos on a concert tomorrow and then will be singing a few times at church over the next week. 5. nope. i don't think so.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

December in San Francisco

The sight of flowers and greenery thriving in wintertime here never gets old to this child of the snow belt.

A green hillside in the south bay:


Flowers for sale at the Civic Center Farmer's Market:


A tree in Golden Gate Park:


A flowering tree on a city sidewalk in the Inner Richmond:


A sidewalk succulent garden in NOPA:


In the Rose Garden at Golden Gate Park:

Bright Sun

Sometimes the light is just right.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Fortune Cookie

Today I got a fortune cookie that said:

"Be prepared to modify your plan. It'll be good for you."

Ah... yes.

"If you follow your heart, you're going to find that it is often extremely inconvenient."
- Pema Chodron

Simply...

"Since all things are naked, clear from obscurations, there is nothing to attain or realize. The everyday practice is simply to develop complete acceptance and openness to all situations, emotions, and people."

- Trungpa Rinpoche (via Pema Chodron)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Patience

One of my favorite quotes is this one by Rainer Maria Rilke:

"...I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."

I heard it first in the homily of a very literate Episcopalian priest and was immediately struck by it. I am a person who, unlike my brother and some other more clear-headed people I have known, has not always felt certain of the answers to life's questions. This quote has always helped me to feel that uncertainty is okay.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Fog Lifts

It's amazing what a few hours of sun can do.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Pacific Ocean

San Francisco


Carmel-by-the-Sea

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Impromptu Trip to Adirondack Park

This morning my mother and I drove up to Adirondack Park. We stopped in Old Forge to look in the shops and then went on to Nick's Lake. It was a lovely trip.




Saturday, November 12, 2011

Morning

First thing in the morning, I stumble downstairs half-awake with my mind on making a cup of coffee. Once I have accomplished that, I need to see what's going on outside in the backyard. Through the big picture window I can see a little brown bunny rabbit nibbling grass by the green bushes lining the house. Four mourning doves blend in with the ground under the big house-shaped bird feeder where they savor dropped seed hulls. A grey junco pecks his yellow beak into the grass near the far corner of the yard. Then along come two robins with the same mission: looking for worms to eat. They work on a patch of ground in a nearer corner. A bright downy woodpecker works his way up and down the maple tree. His bright red head and checkered black and white body are striking next to the nuthatch, who blends into the tree. A cardinal, then a chickadee, then another cardinal, then a house finch, and later a blue jay fly to the feeder, land on it for a matter of seconds while taking up a few seeds, and then fly off to a nearby branch of maple, birch, pine, or cherry. The goldfinches prefer the long tubular Nyjer seed feeder and sometimes four will peck at it simultaneously for as long as an hour. Then, from under a stone near the house, comes the chipmunk, who scurries towards the sunflower seed feeder and up its pole without regard to the birds in his path who, startled, fly swiftly out of his way. He fills up his cheeks until they are just about to burst and then flies off the feeder in one bounding leap and runs back to his hole. Meanwhile, the black and grey squirrels chase each other into the yard from the neighbour's tree. The whole group, upset by the newcomers, fly off at once.

On a typical morning it is not unusual to witness dozens of creatures pass through the yard. Their busy activity, which mostly involves eating and drinking water from a large metal bowl by the main feeder, but also includes competing for space and mating, fascinates me. I watch them with as much curiosity as I do a good movie. I am curious when any one visitor is absent for several days. I would even say I worry when I think they might be in trouble. For example, there are about four female goldfinches who visit the back yard regularly, but there hasn't been any sign of a male goldfinch for months. What am I to think but that he died and left his family alone? But, of course, I know living in the wild is not easy. And, we are lucky to have such a healthy variety of species in this neighbourhood.

Some Poems from 2000-06

The path underfoot
is full of fallen
branches and stones,

cracked
images of love
cutting the soles
of my feet,

cold,
leaf-covered mud,
smelling of decay,
failing to cleanse them.

There is a place up ahead
where the water
is clear and healing,
where the sun’s light
is brilliant,

where her reflection
in a new set of eyes
reveals many uncharted paths.

The womb of comfort
needed to give birth
to this.

+++

Just when I thought the world was bleak,
you took my hand and led me
through dark, muddy woods
to a place that could have been
mistaken for the moon
for its luminous clarity.
You sat with me and held me
while the aching beast of my heart
bled across the lunar landscape.
I could see the sun, the blue sky,
my dreams reflected in your eyes,
and your gracious humanity,
emanating from your soul
into the world.

+++

our bodies move toward each other,
sometimes one body sinks under the other
causing a very slow collision
creating curving trenches
thousands of kilometers long

sometimes when our two bodies meet head-on,
neither is subducted,
like two colliding icebergs,
we both resist downward motion
instead, our crusts buckle
we are pushed upward or sideways.

sometimes my body pushes into and is
subducted under your body.
in turn i am lifted up,
like the towering andes mountains.
but even though as a whole I am sinking
smoothly and continuously into your trench,
the deepest parts of me break into smaller pieces
locked in place for long periods of time
then suddenly moving to generate large eruptions
often accompanied by uplift of as much as a few meters

+++

My heart is a Magnolia tree
that blooms one week in spring.
The blossoms fall to the ground
to make a pink blanket
and then scatter in the wind.

+++

When I think of you
I remember
your mouth open
fast asleep
in front of the television

and in the morning
frying bacon
in your boxer shorts

your coffee
with cinnamon and vanilla extract
pancakes laced
with cream of wheat

playing cards
and singing songs
for hours

you singing the first act of la traviata
in the shower
me standing outside the door
listening

Friday, November 11, 2011

Still Writing After All These Years

As a young child, I wrote lots of fantastical and optimistic stories that involved ordinary people having extraordinary experiences with magical creatures. My writing demonstrated a charming disregard for natural order that is sometimes simply hilarious.

At some point, probably coinciding with puberty and/or my parents' divorce, the stories became a bit dark and my childhood optimism gave way to the more extreme emotions of adolescence. And then, in High School, I stopped writing stories entirely and I started writing poetry. Poetry allowed me to express my tender emotions cryptically and artistically. It helped heal the wounds of heartache in a way that nothing else ever could.

I know that I continued to write poetry into college and even took a creative writing class there, but until I recently discovered an old computer file of poems, I had forgotten that I continued to write poetry until sometime in the year 2006, just before I started this blog. I do seem to gravitate towards writing and even reading non-fiction these days, but I sometimes wonder if taking another class or just getting out the watering can would reveal that I have more fiction in me to write.

Some Old Poems from College (c. 1991-95)

CONTENT
To sit and watch -
To flow and ebb -
To blend -
To melt -
To dissolve
Unnecessary boundaries
Between
You and I...
To risk the comfort
Of Intimacy...

+++

She walks like the tide
She hangs on and goes with the flow
Moving in and out
Rushing to a high, and then
Dropping to a low of
Uncontrollable madness.

He guides her thought
He stifles her emotions and tells her
You don't need this, You need that
And then walks out without
A warm hand or a tender heart.

+++

Rooted before me
your life, like a tree
stretches its rough limbs
to meet my scaly, cracking fingers
which somehow begin to moisten
with the fruit of your touch.
Your lips, watered by the
juice of pomegranates
bleed upon my cheek
and your wide, bulbous
eyes blossom and compel.

+++

I remember the stars
before daybreak and
the full moon that
polished the charcoal
sky with your wide,
lingering eyes and
the thunder that
preceded the rain
that you drank
from my face while
your hands picked
me wildflowers
from our grassy bed.

+++

we could stand in this
tomb of gold slumber
and stare in awe
at the many rubies
and sapphires but
instead we whisper
about crablegs and
cupboards and there
isn't a single second
that goes by without
bats in the air knocking
fragile carpets hung by
hooks in eggplants so
we fondle dusty cement
blocks instead of each
other and feed on
violet stares and
moments of uneasiness

Thursday, November 10, 2011

California

I am flying to San Francisco on Monday and I'm so excited. It was fifteen weeks ago that my good friend Lara and I started our drive from the corner of Jones and Bush streets in lower Nob Hill and continued on through Sacramento, across the gorgeous Sierras,



through the Nevada desert, into Salt Lake City, onto a stretch of breathtakingly beautiful highway near Aspen, through Denver, and then discovered the bright, peaceful plains of Nebraska,


and drove on through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and finally New York. It was a long trip, but not nearly as arduous as the journey I was to begin when I arrived at my destination.

And now, fifteen weeks later, it's time to go back and visit the place I loved and left behind. But first, I need to pack.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Sleep

It's been nine weeks since Nashira died and of course I still miss her. Last night while sleeping I had an episode of sleep paralysis in which I felt/heard her jump up on my chest and settle down for a nap with me. It was either sleep paralysis or just a very vivid, lifelike dream. Or, I suppose there is a chance that her spirit is something I can feel and hear. I don't know, but it was very comforting.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Blog

I decided to start a new blog. You can find it here:

My Kid Stories

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bear Bear

Sadly, my mom lost her dear old Bear Bear today. He was her companion for the last ten years and was such a sweet and gentle kitty cat. I will miss him very much.

Here's a LINK to a post about Bear from a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.


I lost my best little kitty friend suddenly and unexpectedly two weeks ago to a genetic heart defect I never knew she had. She was only four years old and as far as I knew, as far as her vet could tell, she was perfectly healthy. I loved her like a child. I would have done anything at all in the world for her. As a childless woman in my thirties living alone far from my family, my kitty was everything to me. I have been completely devastated by this. I miss her terribly.

Some things that happen in this life make you so sad that you don't ever want to get out of bed. You don't ever want to even acknowledge what happened because then you would have to acknowledge the truth. When you think of it, you can't stop crying. But, somehow, weeks later, you know you have to move on eventually. Life goes on, even when it's terribly unfair.

I can't even talk about how traumatic it was to bury her. But, my mother was with me and we planted a garden of pansies and petunias above her. I placed an engraved stone with her name, dates, and a paw print by the flowers. I put a bird feeder in the tree above the garden because Nashira loved to watch birds.

The sad truth is that she had a heart condition that could have taken her at any time and there probably isn't much at all I could have done for her even if I had known about it, but it's hard not let the wheels of my brain spin and spin thinking "if only I had...". I have spent time talking to more than one veterinarian, reading article after article after article about the disease, and even talking to others like me, who suddenly lost a cat to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Animals are such amazing companions. They love us unconditionally in a way we never experience from anyone else in our lives. They don't care if we are fat or thin, tall or short, white or brown, if we're having a bad hair day or if we screwed up at work. My little Nashira curled up in my arms every night in bed and I patted her little head before I went to sleep. Her company made me so happy. She was so affectionate and she loved to be brushed more than any other cat I have ever known. She made me laugh. She was the epitome of joy. I kissed her and hugged her about ten times a day and for that I am so grateful. I could not save her, but I did love her with all of my heart and she will always be part of me.






One regret, dear world,
That I am determined not to have
When I am lying on my deathbed
Is that
I did not kiss you enough.

Hafiz

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hey!


I have hundreds of photos of Nashira in just about every single place and posture imaginable, but this is probably my favorite. :-) I think it had been about 1 minute since I had last brushed her and she was ready for some more.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nebraska

On the drive to California, Nebraska was stormy and dark. Today was my first time seeing Nebraska in the light. It was beautiful!









Thursday, July 14, 2011

Packing and Shipping

I spent the morning shipping thirteen heavy boxes of books to Syracuse. I had to take them in three separate trips with my small and somewhat awkward rolling cart down a very steep hill and along streets laced with potholes. My post office is only four blocks away, but it wasn't fun and I'm very glad it's over. But wait... it's not over. There's more! I actually have a lot more to pack and send. But, luckily I think the heaviest part is over.

In other news, I really enjoyed an article I read this morning about creativity. It's called Why It's Better To Be Better Than Different and I highly recommend it.

Have a lovely!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Songwriting

I've written a song every day for the last six days and find that when I'm in the groove like this, it's actually not difficult at all to come up with material. What is difficult for me, though, is knowing how to refine and improve my product (and having the patience to do so). Since I've never had private lessons in this area and don't really know what I'm doing, I try to learn by listening to songs I like, teaching myself to play/sing those songs, and analyzing the details of what I think makes them good. But, that only goes so far and there is a lot I haven't figured out yet. I have never had this much time to devote to songwriting. Now that I do, I see how much work and time it takes to do it well. I can't even imagine how much work it would take to write a symphony. It seems like it would totally take over your life. You'd probably never go out of the house or ever talk to anyone.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Heart New York

People always misunderstand when I say I am from my home state. It is as though if you told someone you were from Mexico they would just assume you were from Mexico City without considering the entire country with that name. When I tell people I am moving back to New York, of course they imagine New York City, a place I have much affection for, but have never lived. They would have a hard time imagining the rolling hills and farms of Onondaga County, the mountains of Lake Placid, the still lakes near Old Forge, the picturesque valley of Binghamton, the ferry ride across Lake Champlain, the gorges of Ithaca. For much of my life this has bothered me. I recall especially a time as a teenager attending a summer program in the midwest the difficulty I had explaining to some classmates that my hometown was not a dangerous place. I tried to explain that New York City is to New York State as Chicago is to Illinois, but they just couldn't make the leap. Now, having spent most of the last four years in California, I can understand better how easy it is to misunderstand a place you've never been that is far from home. When people think of California, they think of the stereotypical Barbies and Kens running along the beach and the hippies playing guitar in their tie dyed shirts. They are less likely to think of the myriad farmers in the vast Central Valley, the slow, quiet lives of regular working folk in California's numerous small towns. So, now when I think of home and the things about it I love: the trees, the parks, the wildlife, its quiet beauty, I appreciate also that it is mine to enjoy without millions of tourists vying to take a picture of it.

Google+ vs Facebook

Last week I was invited to join Google+, the new social networking tool from Google that looks to pose a pretty decent threat to the giant Facebook. It's been interesting to see what the differences are between the two sites, what might be incentives for switching over completely to Google+, and what reasons might keep some users from discovering it at all*.

At this point, there is not much going on in my Google+ stream yet. I am seeing less than five new posts a day from others. That could be because not all of the people who have added me are posting in a place that is visible to me. With Google+ it is much easier to post something so that just one person or only a certain group (circle) of people can see it. Some of the people who are my "Friends" on Facebook might only consider me an "Acquaintance" on Google+, for example. It might also be because most people who have joined Google+ are still on Facebook and don't want to bother posting the same things twice, knowing that most of their friends are still on Facebook. [Though the most obvious reason is because I only have 20 friends on Google+ vs 540 on Facebook. Duh...]

Posting pictures and videos is actually much easier on Google+. I am unfortunately not able to post any images from the internet on Facebook at this point, probably because they have such a problem with spam and have needed to tighten controls. Also, Google+ could almost get rid of my need to blog, since you are allowed to post there with seemingly no character limit. Facebook limits your post length to 420 characters, which I guess is better than Twitter's 140 character limit. I am less interested in the fact that I can chat with people on Google+, since I usually have G-Chat open when I'm on the internet anyway, but the "Hangout" group video chatting sounds kind of cool.

Most of the people I know who have joined Google+ at this point are people who have some connection to the Bay Area tech community, are people who have major gripes against Facebook, or who like the idea of getting invited to an exclusive club (or all three). In time, my guess is that most people will only slowly move over to Google+ as their friends do, but probably feel no major inclination to leave Facebook. For many of those who are not tech savvy, it is a big deal that they have managed to figure out Facebook at all (and some actually haven't even done that). They probably won't like the idea of learning to navigate a new site.

It will be interesting to see how things unfold. It does seem like the users who have tried Google+ are very happy with it, so it could completely replace Facebook in the way that Facebook replaced Friendster (what's Friendster, you ask?!) not that long ago. But, you never know what might happen. Google is aggressively monopolizing many areas of the cloud. Can they keep it up?

*The hover text is very important in this link.

UPDATE: I just discovered another cool thing about Google+. You can EDIT posts instead of having to delete and re-post if you discover a typo. That is awesome.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Perfectionism vs Creativity

Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity. I mean, it's good to have high standards and be able to criticize your work, but it's no use being critical when you're in the midst of writing. I wonder if it makes sense to have two hats. The blue hat is the one you wear while being creative. While wearing it, you are free to express whatever you want, however silly, crazy, or useless it may end up being to your project's end goal. The red hat is the one you wear while editing. While wearing it, you are a grammar dictator, a counterpoint fiend, an expert surveyor of the latest market trends, and the harshest devil's advocate. The catch is, you can't wear both hats at the same time. In fact, the other hat can't even be in the same room.

Red Exes

I had lunch with an old friend yesterday who told me about a new motivational technique he's using. He's always been big into goals and strategic planning and has been very successful in his efforts, so I'm always interested to hear what he has to say, since that is something that also interests me.

So, here it goes:

1. Pick something you want to accomplish (ex.: to write a good song)
2. Designate a plan for what you'll need to do every day to accomplish your goal
(ex.: write a song = [Q])
3. Get a calendar and post it on the wall. On every day that you [Q], mark that date with a big red X.
4. Don't break the chain.

I like it. It's a very minimalistic and straightforward system and seems like it would work well.

Update:

Day One: Complete!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Internets

Yesterday I was informed that Facebook is not cool anymore. I had a feeling I was getting a little too big headed by thinking that having 541 Facebook friends all over the world who I regularly engage in witty banter with was a sign of social success. But, here I am in the center of the high tech universe where trends come and go. And, I'm always curious to try new things, so while I have no intention of quitting Facebook anytime soon, yesterday I joined Google+ and Twitter. Ha! Look at me! I'm getting all up to speed on my social networking.

But, that was really just an act of procrastination. Yesterday I managed to successfully divide all of my books into either boxes for shipping or bags for selling/giving away. Then, last night I spent quite a while organizing my CDs, as many of them were in loose piles. I considered importing all of them into my computer, which would be the ultimate act of space saving, but in the end only imported a handful (for complex reasons). This morning I had hoped that going through my sheet music would result in a smaller amount that needs to be shipped, but instead, I find that I really don't want to part with much of any of it. There are maybe 2 or 3 folios I would consider ditching.


There are, however, a lot of old opera scores and a couple of hymnals that I might need to part with.


:-( Or not... I guess I need more boxes.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Instructional

How to Roll on the Floor Laughing:

Lots and Lots of Books

For the last couple of days I have been sorting through books. When I came to California, I had very few with me, but over the almost four years I have been living here, my mom and dad have both sent me a number of boxes of them, and I have purchased piles of them herein. I am awfully sentimental about printed words. Over the years I have forced myself to get rid of novels and nonfiction texts on many occasions, but I still always end up with my bookcases full. I'm a book magnet, a book fetishist, a book collector... whatever you want to call it. There are books I actually need and use regularly (language dictionaries, pedagogy textbooks, other reference texts), novels I have read and loved and can't seem to part with or think I might want to lend to someone else some day, volumes other people have given me that I feel guilty getting rid of even though I haven't read them and they aren't high on my reading list, editions I feel like I should read, paperbacks I am part way through but haven't finished, and books I would really like to read sometime soon (when I get the chance). Additionally, I have tons of sheet music, some that I regularly use with students, some that I have sung and loved and might like to sing again, some that I have never sung but might like to sing someday, some that was written for me or given to me by a composer friend, and some that just feels hard to get rid of since it is classic repertoire, even though neither I nor any of my students will probably ever sing it. I have filled three very large Whole Foods reusable bags with items to take/sell to Green Apple Books. And, I fear at some point I will feel sad at the loss of some of them. Most of what I'm getting rid of are things newly purchased and most of what I think I should keep are the things I have the deepest sentimental attachment to. But, maybe it's time to get rid of more old books. Why hang on so tightly to the past? Sigh...

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Limbo Land

So, Saturday morning, after my landlord showed about a dozen eager people my apartment, I had coffee with a visiting singer friend from Boston and then taught voice lessons for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. Sunday morning I sang the 8:30 mass bright and early and then took a leisurely walk and ended up at my favorite San Franciscan bookstore, Green Apple Books, where I purchased two DVDs, *Les Parapluies de Cherbourg* and *Take the Money and Run*, with a gift card my father gave me for my birthday. While I was there, I ran into two friends of a friend who were headed to Golden Gate Park and asked if I would like to join them. For the first time in a really long time, I couldn't think of a single reason why not (yay!), so I did. We road a surrey with a fringe on top (no lie), loafed on a blanket in the sun for a long while, and then made and ate southwestern pumpkin veggie burgers (which were delicious) and watched *Mad Men*. It was a really relaxing and fun day. Monday morning I felt like I should start packing, but I felt really, really tired and very lightheaded (probably because of the sun and alcohol from the day before) and wasn't able to generate enough energy to do anything but watch about a dozen episodes of *30 Rock*.

This morning I feel acutely aware that this is the first official work day on which I will not be going to my old office, nor need any excuse as to why I'm not going to the office, in over three and a half years. I have found myself several times this past weekend wondering things like, "Did I remember to tell them about X?" or "Did I remember to put Y back in the right folder?". I suppose in time I'll be able to let go of my connection to the job and feelings of responsibility and worry, but it hasn't happened yet.

This transition time is proving to be a little more challenging than I had expected it to be. My plan right now is to move to Syracuse for a while, check in on how things are going with my mom and see if I can help out in any way, and in a matter of one month or two make the decision to stay in Syracuse or move to Boston or New York City so I can live close enough to home to visit with some regularity. But, instead of packing, I've found myself burning for more certainty about what I'm going to actually do exactly. Shouldn't I maybe just put my belongings into a storage unit in San Francisco until I figure out what I'm doing? No. Shouldn't I start looking for an office job in Boston and at least rent out a sublet for the month of August? No. Shouldn't I make appointments with some choral contractors in New York City? Maybe... No. Not yet. Shouldn't I start thinking about going back to school to finish my DMA? I don't know... I am feeling very uncertain about everything, but why should that stop me from packing up my things?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Cleaning

I'm taking a little break from cleaning my apartment. My landlord is showing the place in a couple of hours and I'm trying to make it look as nice as I can. This is a beautiful studio apartment. Not only do I have a really lovely southern view of the city and beyond, but I have shiny hardwood floors, a high moulded ceiling, a small extra room between the main room and the kitchen, two big closets, a murphy bed hidden by a french door with a glass doorknob, and built in bookshelves with glass doors. It's been perfect for teaching, since I can easily hide my bed, and is in a really great location, close to great restaurants, bars, cafes, historic sites, public transportation, and the office where I've been working is only a fifteen minute walk away. I have never in my life paid so much money in rent, but I don't regret having had the opportunity to enjoy this absolutely charming and delightful living space. I feel blessed to have lived here.

Yesterday I had my last day at the office. My co-workers took me out for a really nice lunch and gave me some really nice presents and cards. It was really sweet. We did a lot of hugging and saying mushy things. :-) So now, until I leave town, I will just be teaching voice lessons and have about eight services (rehearsals/performances) combined for a church and professional choir. I have a lot of work to do in the area of cleaning, packing, and still some more planning to do to get ready for the move, too. I expect to be pretty busy.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Good-byes

I am feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the good-byes. When I decided to move, not only did I not fully realize just how much I love San Francisco, but I also didn't realize just how many people I would need to say good-bye to, just how many people would tell me they are sad I'm leaving. I have already said good-bye to many choir friends and students. Today I start training the person who will replace me in my office job. The group of twenty people I work with by day, who I assist in multiple and various ways, has become like a family to me. I have spent forty hours a week with most of them for more than three and a half years. My last day working there will be Friday. I am looking forward to moving on, but I really have come to love these people very much as individuals each in their own idiosyncratic ways. It's going to be sad to leave them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Unfinished Business

The other day as I was going through the books on my shelf to decide which I should keep and which to give away, I came across five excellent novels I started but never finished. It's quite possible I have blogged about this before, but I'm not sure, so... maybe I'm doing this again.

1. The Idiot - Fyodor Dostoevsky (on p. 372 of 615)
2. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami - (on page 88 of 607)
3. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke (on p. 466 of 866)
4. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry (on p. 102 of 603)
5. Bel Canto - Ann Patchett (on p. 131 of 318)

The first question I have to ask myself is, if these novels are so excellent, why didn't I ever finish them? The second question I have to ask myself is, if I hate leaving things unfinished, why did I start another book when the last one was unfinished? The answer is that for the last couple of years, I have had a really short attention span for fiction. I have plowed through numerous non-fiction books, but when it comes to fiction, I can't seem to finish anything that is more than one-hundred pages. It's not that I don't value the worth of fictional accounts, it's just that for some reason I have attention deficit disorder when I am reading them. And, I feel like I need to find a way to get over it. Would ritalin help?

Calm

Of all the things that happened today, the most interesting was when, this evening, in the middle of singing my third mass of the day, I suddenly stopped feeling tired and anxious. I'm not sure how to account for it. I realized that it would be my last time singing for this particular group of people and with this particular pianist. I was enjoying the music and feeling good about how my voice sounded, but that had been true for the other masses, too. Only, until then I had been feeling incredibly tired. If you had asked me what I wanted most in life just an hour earlier, I would have said to take about a week long nap. But, something happened. After my second mass of the day, I went to brunch with a couple of ladies in the choir and then we ended up going on a very long scenic drive. By the time we were back near the church, it was only about two hours before I had to be back for the next mass, so I opted to stay in the neighborhood instead of going home. I went into a record store and browsed around and then I did the same at a book store. And, then I went to an art supply store and bought a journal and a nice pen and went to a coffee shop. I ordered a bagel and coffee and sat there and wrote for a while until it was time for the next mass. I was still pretty tired when the mass began, but at some point in the middle I felt some relief, and when the mass ended I felt a sort of ease and confidence that was very unexpected. And, afterwards and even on the bus ride home, I felt unusually relaxed.

I expect the week ahead to be somewhat hectic. It's my last week at my office. I'll be finishing up loose ends and training my replacement. I will have my last teaching day at one school branch on Monday evening and my last teaching day at another school branch on Thursday evening. My landlord will be showing my apartment for the first time on Saturday, so I will also need to find some time to make things clean and presentable before then.

I really have no reason to feel calm. But, I'll take it when it comes.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pioneering

The comedian Louis CK does a hilarious bit about people getting impatient with technology. He makes fun of people who can't wait fifteen seconds for their computer to get a signal from space (!!) when in the "old days" we used to get by just fine with rotary phones and typewriters. My favorite part is when he talks about airplane travel:

"New York to California in five hours? That used to take thirty years. A bunch of you would die on the way there. People would have babies. You'd be a totally different group of people by the time you got there!"

As I was thinking about the details of my upcoming car trip from San Francisco to Syracuse, I was reminded of Louis CK's bit and then started thinking about some of the first American pioneers and what inspired them to risk so much. I thought of some of the pioneers who came to California during the Gold Rush. The cross country journey didn't take thirty years, but it did take many months and people faced much hardship along the way. I can't even imagine setting off in a covered wagon for parts unknown, knowing that I literally might never return again to the place I set off from. I wonder how many of them thought they were in for an amazingly wonderful adventure at the offset only to later realize how difficult the journey was becoming on their bodies and souls. I wonder how many of them turned back. And, I wonder how many of them with doubts kept going out of stubbornness only to discover how difficult it was to make a new home and how difficult the process of panning for gold really was and how much less of a fortune they were really able to make than they had hoped for. I wonder how many of them were filled with regret when they realized they would never again see some of their beloved family members and friends*.

These days we have detailed terrain maps that are accessible in seconds via the internet. If traveling by car, we can plug our cellular phones into USB ports on the dashboard and receive satellite updates to indicate our precise location. If we get lost, we can adjust our coordinates into Google maps and immediately a new route suggestion will appear. We have air conditioning in the car to regulate our body temperature and containers that can keep food and water cooled and preserved for weeks. We have radio to keep us company or we can listen to music or audio books on CD or mp3. Traveling by day only, the trip from California to New York will take about six days. But, if a person was young and energetic enough, s/he could probably do it in less. You probably wouldn't want to make the trip in a car more than a few times in your lifetime, but it is definitely possible. Alternatively, you could fly in only a matter of hours or take a bus or train if you didn't want to be the one at the wheel.

Still, I feel a bit like a pioneer. In a strange way I'm kind of proud of myself for deciding to move to the other side of the country and figuring out a way to earn a living. And, for figuring out a way to make things work when things didn't go exactly as I had planned. This journey has been much more difficult in some ways than I had ever imagined. I admit I'm pretty exhausted, but I have no regrets. And, when I look at what some of the early pioneers risked and lost, I realize just how lucky I am.

*Poor Clementine...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pomp and Circumstance

When I leave California next month, I will have lived here just six weeks short of four years. The therapist I used to see told me San Francisco is full of transients. People come here to find themselves and I think I, too, have learned a great deal about myself since I have lived here. In a way it feels sort of like I'm graduating. Maybe it's just because of the four year mark, but I feel like I've been granted with some sort of cosmic blessing to go on to the next phase of my life.

Over the last week I spent a fair amount of time feeling scared about leaving because I love this place and the people here so much. But, then I started recounting the year and the events that led up to my decision to leave. And, now I am back to feeling like I'm doing the right thing.

And, I'm still enjoying every minute that I'm here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bearsy

Back in 2001, I took in a kitty cat who was living under my house at the time. But, the next Fall I decided to go to grad school in Boston and there was just no way I could take three cats to live in a tiny room in a new city. I asked my Mom, who had never had a cat, if she would consider looking after him for a while. She agreed and since then they have become the best of friends, and she has been such a wonderful caregiver for him. In the last couple of months he has become quite ill. He had to have one of his kidneys removed and now the other is not working so well. You may remember another time two years ago when he was ill and pulled through. His veterinarian says he is unlike any cat she has ever seen. He has fought his way through the greatest obstacles and come through miraculously. He is nothing less than a superhero cat in my eyes. And, he's the sweetest little brown kitty you've ever seen. We don't know how much longer he's got, but we love him.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Fog Lifts

This morning when I left my apartment I noticed it was about thirty degrees cooler than it had been when I last was out yesterday. The wind was blowing little droplets into my face. Looking up I could see that fog was obscuring the top ten stories of a high rise three blocks away. As I rounded the corner and walked down the hill towards the coffee shop, I couldn't help thinking that today was going to be a very different day than yesterday had been. Yesterday was so warm and sunny. But, in the last hour and a half, the fog has totally lifted and as I sip my coffee I can see a blue sky and plenty of sunshine out the window.

I'm still feeling like I don't want to leave. But, I will be living here for thirty-three more days. I think the only true remedy for my predicament is to make the absolute most I can of these last thirty-three days.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

California

So, since I wrote last I have fallen in love with California even more and now I don't ever want to leave. I've been taking pictures every day, seeing new parts of town, spending time with people who I don't normally get to spend time with, and saying goodbye to students, co-workers, and other friends left and right. On Sunday, My friend LKA invited me to hang out with her in Oakland. I have had a number of people tell me that Oakland is awesome and I have considered moving there before for financial reasons, but every time I have been there before this time, it seemed really commercial and dirty. I didn't really see what the appeal was. It turns out, I just hadn't been to the right part. We took a walk around Lake Merritt, which was beautiful. It was a gorgeous day, we walked on a really nice dirt path, there were lots of people out walking, biking, and jogging, there were lots of geese and every other person had a cute dog, a man was commandeering a gondola on the water, there was a neat children's play area, and there were some really lovely buildings to see all around on the outside. After walking, we grabbed some food from Trader Joe's, ate it outside by some palm trees, and then went to a beautiful old theatre to watch the movie *Bridesmaids*, which was really funny. And, this morning, I don't know if it's just the coffee mingling with my brain cells, but I love this coffee shop I'm sitting in. It's right around the corner from my apartment and I'm sitting in a far corner so I can see everything going on outside on the street and inside the cafe. There is so much activity: people on their way to work, students off to summer school, mechanics from the local garage, retirees, waste management guys taking a break, etc. Haha... and the song playing on the radio is "Boston" by Augustana. That's really funny! In case you don't know it, the lyrics to the chorus are:

She said I think I'll go to Boston
Think I'll start a new life
I think I'll start it over
Where no one knows my name
I'll get out of California
I'm tired of the weather
Think I'll get a lover
And fly him out to Spain
I think I'll go to Boston
I think that I'm just tired
I think I need a new town
To leave this all behind
I think I need a sunrise
I'm tired of Sunset
I hear it's nice in the summer
Some snow would be nice
Oh yeah

We've had real summer weather for the last 3 days, so I can't say I'm tired of the weather at all right at the moment, but I do relate to the song in the sense that it has been very cold for most of the last month and I do miss the seasons, especially in the Fall. But, today is perfect and I have really been appreciating everything about where I am for the last couple of weeks. Sometimes it takes leaving to realize how wonderful things are just where you are. But, of course, the reason things are so wonderful is because I'm leaving, isn't it?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Route!

I'm happy to say I've finally decided on a route for my trip across the country. I want to see as much of the west as I can while I'm out here, but it's definitely not possible to see everything on one trip. So, I'm going to do a short trip to see the Grand Canyon on my own and then for the cross country trip with my friend LP on board, we will be going via Portland, Seattle, Billings, and Minneapolis! I have always wanted to see Oregon and Washington and so has LP, and it's been ages since I've been to Minneapolis, so we thought, why not?! That means we will also be driving through Madison! It's going to be a short stop, but I'm hoping to at least have coffee with a certain SG! As each detail solidifies, I am feeling more and more relieved.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Random Stuff

So, I'm trying to blog more regularly to help me through this next transition phase of my life, but I don't feel like I have much of anything interesting to say. Still, here's what's going on...

I've been helping my boss at my office job find a replacement for me. We've interviewed four candidates so far out of ~135 applicants. Holy crap.

One of my San Franciscan students moved to New Zealand and I have continued to give her voice lessons via Skype at her request because she will be auditioning for music school in mid-July. At this point we are doing two lessons a week. It has taken a lot of experimentation to improve the Skype connection and it's still not ideal. I'm feeling pretty stressed out about that. I hope I am able to help her get to the place she needs to be.

The professional choir I've been singing with regularly is singing for a national choir conference here this afternoon. I have a crazy solo in one of the pieces we're singing. I hope I sing it well.

I am doing a benefit concert for the same choir tomorrow afternoon for a bunch of our donors and will be singing three of Copland's Emily Dickinson songs.

Also, tomorrow, I've been advised to wear red to church for Pentecost. Honestly, I have never understood what Pentecost was all about.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Quote of the Day

“It's not knowing what to do, it's doing what you know.”
- Anthony Robbins

SF in June

It's a typical June morning in San Francisco, cloudy and 54 degrees. We're expecting a high of 63. I'm sitting here in my neighborhood's local coffee house in jeans and a cable knit sweater. I have to admit there is something sort of romantic about living in a place where it is eternally Fall. Of course, it is also never Fall... I mean, the leaves don't really turn color in my neighborhood and there are flowers outside all year round. I'm in another world than the one I grew up in and I'm going to enjoy it as long as I'm here. For some reason I'm feeling really optimistic this morning. I think I'll go with it. It's Friday!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Can't Take the Heat

This morning in San Francisco, it is 51 degrees. The high temperature today is supposed to be 65. Tomorrow the high temperature is expected to be 61. Year round, the temperature is normally in the 50s and 60s. In the winter, it does sometimes dip into the 40s, and at isolated other times in the year, it does sometimes get up into the 70s. But, the norm is the weather we are currently experiencing. I have just read about the heat spell on the east coast resulting in temperatures of 90/100 degrees. It's not like I haven't been through that kind of heat before, but I didn't like it. I am miserable in severe heat. Right now I am really, really glad to be where I am.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Time

I'm having one of those weeks that has been fairly typical in my life lately in which I am pretty much working all of the time and not doing anything to relax. Let me be more specific. I had one day off recently on which I didn't have any obligations (Memorial Day). I spent the entire day (14 hours of it) sorting through bags of papers that have accumulated in my life over the last several years. I'm really glad that I finally took the time to do that, because I really need to be sorting through and getting rid of things before I move, but obviously it wasn't very relaxing... The last whole day off I had before that was January 19th (MLK day). I've been working my full-time office job every week day, teaching students on Monday and Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoon (and extra make-up lessons when I have rehearsals that conflict with regularly scheduled lessons), in choir rehearsal on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, cantoring on Sundays, and singing concerts, like this past weekend's two concert set in Palo Alto on Saturday and Sunday evening. I enjoy the work I'm doing, but it's not really possible for me to be working this schedule, having multiple deep conversations a day about why I'm leaving town, keeping up with my laundry and other personal needs, and also doing major planning for the move and thinking about the future and not feel like I'm going totally bonkers. I don't have any immediate plans to go hiking or out for drinks with friends or see a movie or anything else relaxing or fun. I think I need to work on that. And yet, I really need to do my laundry... And, sort through my music books... And, ...

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Identity

I've been reading an interesting book called *Switch* on and off over the last year, part of which was required reading for my office job. It's written for business people, but the concepts in it can easily be applied to all aspects of life. I picked it up the other day after a long hiatus from reading and read a chapter about changing how workers see their identity (by changing their job title, for example) in order to change how productive and effective they are in their jobs. The thought is that if a person is an inventor and trying to make a decision, part of the subconscious decision process involves asking oneself, "What would inventor do in this situation?" One example in the book describes a steel manufacturing company that wanted to become more innovative and decided to change all of its employees' job titles to "inventor" (from some generic title, I guess) and the positive results that followed.

As an individual, to take this one step further, if you are trying to decide if the identity you are operating out of is the right one for you, you might ask yourself, "Do I aspire to be someone who...?" Here's a random example. You're at the store and you are trying to decide whether you should spend your money on fresh fruits and vegetables or ice cream and candy bars. If you identify as a person who is very health conscious, this is most likely a no-brainer. Because you identify as a health nut, you probably aspire to be someone who spends your money on fruits and vegetables and not candy bars. If you are someone who identifies as a person who lives in the moment for pleasure, you might choose the ice cream and candy bars. But, if you identify as someone who feels like having a healthy body is pleasurable and allows you to have more fun in the moment, you might choose the fresh fruits and vegetables. There are many ways to spin this.

I think this could be particularly helpful in trying to make difficult decisions. Let's say you were offered a gig performing in Spain for six months, but you know that you won't be able to afford to travel back to the US and visit family at all during that time period. Thinking about different ways to see your identity, you could theoretically put on different hats that represent different aspects of your personality (similar to the *Six Thinking Hats* decision making tool). For example, "What would a daughter do in this situation?", "What would a budding professional musician do in this situation?", "What would a person who longs to be well-traveled do in this situation?", etc.

Another interesting, but unrelated, exercise could be to make a list that describes a number of people you know:

- works 40 hours a week sitting at a desk
- can never drink coffee or alcohol or stay out late to protect her voice
- wakes up every morning to her loving husband and two beautiful children
- has to be at school at 7:00am every week day
- travels to Europe every year
- can see a mountain range from her bedroom window

Then, precede each entry with, "I aspire to be a person who..." and see if you agree or disagree.

**ADDENDUM: After looking at Susan's blog, I have a new idea for how I could use this identity idea. I have *always* thought of myself as someone who does not have a green thumb, and yet, I love plants! Perhaps I need to start thinking of myself as someone who has a green thumb! If I were to think to myself, "What would someone with a green thumb do in this situation?" I might have better luck with plants! :-) I am always in awe of Susan's garden!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

News

A couple of weeks ago I made the official decision to move back east. I had been thinking about it for quite a long while, but since it's not like any ordinary move, the logistics required some intense thought. Also, there is SO much I love about California, the landscape, the climate, my friends here, my work here, that I wasn't able to justify moving until life seemed to require it.

Things are gradually falling into place. I've given notice to my office, the church where I sing, the music school and students I teach, and my singing colleagues. My dearest friend from college has offered to fly out here and drive with me across the country. For that, I am so grateful. I have purchased her plane ticket and am currently working out the logistics for car travel the week of July 25th.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning with an intense feeling of dread, like "What have I done?" Other times, I feel excited at the thought of reconnecting with old friends on the east coast and being closer to my parents. The reality of the cost of this trip and of the volume of personal items that I will need to get rid of is a bit overwhelming. The main difference between this trip and the trip I took out here is that I had a car on the way out. That car has since bit the dust. So, I will be renting a car. Also, I didn't have any cats in the car on my way. Otherwise, I only took here what I could fit in one car load, so I expect that after selling off my furniture and shipping boxes of books via mail, I should be able to pare down my belongings quite a bit. That's what I'm hoping anyway.

I've always been a person who thought life should be lived for the experience. When I was younger, as long as I could afford to do something, I would have done it if that's what I wanted to do. As I get older, I realize that I don't have as much energy as I used to, and I am more set in my ways than ever. Sometimes it's good to think of how I might feel different if I were 20. There is still much more life to experience. There are many more places to go. And, when I come back to visit California, I won't be working all day, so I can spend my time visiting the people I love and going to the places that fill me with joy.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bach

Next weekend I am singing Bach's *Jesu, Meine Freude* with a solo quintet and choir in Palo Alto, CA. Whenever I sing Bach, I am reminded how much I love doing it. On Tuesday during the dress rehearsal, I couldn't help thinking to myself, "How can I sing more Bach?!" Then, yesterday, I got an email asking me to do another more extensive gig singing Bach in July! How about that for a dream come true? :-)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gratitude

I am so lucky. I feel like I need to be more thankful for all of the blessings in my life. I am going to start by posting some photos of the beautiful place where I teach on Thursday evenings.