Musings on m
y life as a busy opera singer, voice teacher, photographer and mom - not necessarily in that order! I consider myself immensely fortunate to have carved out a way of doing all of these things which mean so much to me - it may sometimes get a little crazy, but it's always worth it. Welcome to the madhouse!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Coming days ...

  • Three auditions.
  • End of semester recitals and exams.
  • Sick kid.
  • Holiday concerts (husband's, child's, students' and my own)
No matter how carefully I prepare for the two weeks after Thanksgiving, they always catch me by surprise. To my delight, two more auditions came in for this period (the third one was scheduled weeks ago); this is historically ALWAYS the busy time, but so many companies have changed their plans for this year I wasn't really expecting much, so these are great news (even if one of them is at 10.30 in the morning!)

The wrench in the works, starting today, is the sick daughter, but - for once! - she played it smart and stayed home, warm and quiet so here's hoping she'll recover quickly and won't need time off school this week. Just crossing all fingers I don't catch it. Every parent hates seeing their kid sick, but because her sniffles so often seem to coincide with my busy times (why IS that?!)when I must do everything in my power to stay healthy and keep my voice in shape, I can't provide as much hands-on comforting and TLC as I'd like. It stinks, to be honest, and is one of the biggest singer-mommy pushmipullyus. One tiny solace is the development of a charming little ritual which even at a grownup 10 years old she still demands when she's sick: she'll blow a kiss from across the room and wait for me to "catch" it and press it to my cheek (and then return it to her to do the same, usually culminating in a "catch the kiss" race). I can't even remember how or when this started, but I do know we began this game when she was very little, and there's something so endearing about seeing her spotaneously continue to do it when prudence demands keeping some physical distance.

I'm happy to say that at least I'm a little more organized than usual. My college students are well prepared and just need a little bit of polishing before their own performances. I'm surprisingly ahead on my gift shopping so, even though I'm not done, there's not much left to do. The house was deep-cleaned for the Halloween party, tidied up for Thanksgiving and (amazingly!) we actually completed our self-imposed task of setting up the music room properly over this holiday weekend (including painting and building much-needed new shelving!) so as soon as I've stowed everything, that will finally be a nice space in which to work at home.

And tomorrow... it's December. When did that happen?!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

In short....

Well fed, well loved and deeply grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

So it snowed for about 10 minutes yesterday....

but I managed to grab this. (Yes, that IS a rosebud. In November.)

I call it "Survivor"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Signs of the times: the good, the bad and... the friendly?

While standing in line today as our local bedding and household store finished its final day of trading before closing down, I had a lot of time to think. Being a devout bargain shopper, I was thrilled to score some seriously cheap goodies, but even as I gloated over the absurd discounts on the items I purchased, it all rang rather hollow; faltering retail is for sure a sign of the tough times ahead, and we would be foolish and naive not to acknowledge it as a worrying marker of what may be ahead.

But among the sobering thoughts, there were some interesting observations to made, as well.

Although the store itself was stripped nearly bare with only the most meagre selection of items remaining, it was packed. Each of the 5 lines had at least 10 people waiting to check out, and most of those people had carts piled high with bedding, curtains, small appliances and furniture, taking advantage of the 90% reductions on everything that was left before they closed their doors for good. Even the fixtures and fittings were for sale.

Point #1: If it's cheap enough, people will buy it.

The lines were long but, despite restless kids, awkward navigating through the strewn merchandise, bits of merchandise and trash everywhere, I didn't hear a single cross word. In fact, people were TALKING to each other - really talking. Watching each other's kids, helping each other manoeuvre the carts through the chicanes of stuff, pointing out items that might interest the person standing next to them, and generally interacting in a way one selom sees.

Point #2: people seem to be trying to connect with each other more, being less insular, more open and more friendly.

Given recent gloominess and insularity, it was nice to see. Here's hoping that's the good sign of the times.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

And onward

It's hard to know how to start writing an entry at the moment. Is it "business as usual", or is the world as we know it in the process of imploding? Probably a bit of both, really.

Normally even-tempered folks are on a short-fuse, stores are all promoting sales, coupons and discounts like their survival depends on it (which it very well may) and it's impossible even to do a quick check of the email without another barrage of panic-stricken headlines (whether media-inflated or genuinely to-be-alarmed-about getting increasingly difficult to judge). There's been plenty of bad news in the opera world this past week as some of the country's largest companies start to face the poor economic outlook, and it's hard not to wonder "what next"?

Yet, at the same time, it's all very much the same - it's audition season (thankfully I still seem to have had opportunities to be heard by companies who are unfamiliar with my work, thus NEW opportunities), the holidays are nearly upon us and there's an almost gritty determination among friends and colleagues to keep things as normal as possible.

And yet.

Despite discouraging news from friends and colleagues, surrounded by a sense of everybody wondering, "what next?", I have decided that the only way forward through this mess is solidarity. We (collective we) ARE all in this together; everybody's probably going to get hurt one way or another, but perhaps a bit of Dunkirk spirit and solidarity will ultimately make it better than getting sucked into an atmosphere of panic and blame, an atmosphere I already seem to sense around us.

As I said previously, this post at the Next 100 Pounds pretty much sums it up for me. Mindfulness. Which is not the same as deprivation. Just as being aware does not have to mean being afraid.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My good friend over at The Next 100 Pounds recently posted some thoughts about the holidays that were a more than timely reminder in these testing times. Check it out.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

This is not a political blog

But, like just about everybody in the US and possibly even around the globe, this week has by necessity been about politics.

It has been a whirl of election mania, activity and emotions, somewhat foreign in a country which in recent years drifted into civic apathy. Strangely, there were fewer lawn signs and stickers than I have ever seen before, but perhaps people were putting their energies into action instead of banners, or perhaps passions were running high enough that nobody wanted to risk causing problems (this community in previous elections has been almost precisely 50/50 on both sides of the party divide, so while good fences make good neighbours, perhaps quieter politics make even better ones!). But lawn propoganda aside, I have never seen this country as committed, as passionate, as attentive as I did this past week; there was nowhere to go and nobody you could speak to where The Election wasn't mentioned or didn't in some way to make its presence felt, and people were EXCITED by the chance to make their opinion official!

Regardless of which side of the political fence you call home, this year has been a historic "moment. To be able to watch it with my family and to know that my daughter will be able to say "I remember the 2008 election!" the same way we talk about watching the night the Berlin Wall came down and our parents remember John Kennedy is an extraordinary thing to have witnessed and of which to have been a part.

Even more extraordinary were the rousing (and moving) election-night speeches from both candidates that not only commented on the obvious results, but also demonstrated a dignity,gravitas and a sense of real commitment to the electorate. I have never been so touched by politicians as I was on Tuesday night.

This week, whoever you voted for and whatever you believe, remember how much it all mattered. Because it did. And it does.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sometimes it all just works out

I have decided that - this week at least- I am a diva-mommy rockstar.

Following the 2008 New York-Every-Two-Days commuting marathon, we managed to host a Halloween party for 10 10-year olds. Granted, the long drives up and down highway 95 gave me lots of quiet time to come up with scavenger hunt clues, but even so - I always question my ability to "do it all" at times like this! (Happily, the auditions all went very well and for once the Travel Gods were on my side as the trains ran on time both into and in the city, which certainly decreased the stress factor!).

Now, kids' parties aren't that hard, but they do take lots of planning. And plenty of space to do it in... which is where it proves tricky in our lives! We love our little house but it is, indeed "little". It is a 1920s cottage bungalow, and the rooms are small. Comfortable but.... small.

So, it was with some trepidation that I anticipated keeping this thing humming along with that many girls.

However, sometimes luck really is on your side.

The biggest stroke of luck was that the weather was GORGEOUS - warm and sunny all afternoon, and even after the light started to fade they could still play outside. This more than doubled the available playing area, and ensured that the games all ran smoothly. My husband had been a hero helping to organise the house and yard (which had been neglected in recent months between weather, schedule commitments and the like and needed serious clearing up!) in the days up to the event, and one of my friends volunteered to stay for the duration of the party, so we had an extra pair of adult hands, eyes and ears on hand too (thanks, H - you're a heroine). We were already ahead of the game!

Luck again resolved one of my other concerns: coming up with a decent batch of prizes and favors without breaking the bank. Success! I lucked out and visited my favorite discount haunt on JUST the right day, and picked up a case of Halloween-themed mugs for 25c each (grand total: $2.97); filled with a pretty cellophane bag containing a few other inexpensive trinkets they became rather nice party favors for the girls to take home. (What would we do without dollar stores?)

The cake was no real problem, excepting that there was no black icing to be had anywhere in our branch of suburbia (one can only assume that lots of other people took advantage of the weekend date to have Halloween parties too!) and I had to figure out a way of making some with on-hand ingredients. Even a professional chef friend of ours couldn't think of anything! Eventually, I decided to live with mucky dark-purple made from supermarket food colorings but at the last minute decided to try adding some cocoa to it - success! Worked perfectly, and enabled the result in the picture.

The rest of the food was simple, drawing on my British upbringing as much as anything: sausage rolls (I made them up ahead of time and froze them), pineapple and cheese chunks on sticks and assorted sandwiches. Nothing fancy, and they ate just about every morsel we provided and came back for more.

After dinner, we walked them through a few circle games then gave them a spooky-sound-effects CD and a flashlight to enhance the Halloween-ness of it all. It must have been a success since we heard nothing but giggles and faux screams for the best part of an hour.

And, once again, it was a refreshing reinforcement of the notion that kids don't need a lot of expensive toys and acoutrements to have a good time - the things they enjoyed the most were the ones which demanded their imaginations and just let them have a good time with each other.

So, all in all October was a pretty terrific month. It started with an inspiring concert, continued through a series of surprisingly satisfying auditions (no, no results yet, they were just auditions that were fun to sing!), and finished up with a chance for us all to remember what it's like to be a kid. Good stuff!