Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Then vs. Now

All I can say is it's lucky I don't use my fingers for a living. With the recent drop in temperature here in Moscow, I may never feel them again. I had this amazing conversation with my dad the other day, in which I shared my secret love of the cold. I grew up with snow, definitely saw my fair share of freezing days in Logan, UT and waited many a cold morning at the bus stop in Ann Arbor. And there's something about feeling frosty. A chill means holidays, hot chocolate, snow ball fights, Christmas Sweater parties---gearing up for this year's!!!---ski bus, cuddling, ELF, and lots of other fabulous things. I don't mind being bundled up and cozy and occasionally venturing into the wintry cold.

But that was then. I believe "then" was about 1 degree Celsius. Overnight we left the blissful days of cool behind and are now around a comfortable -19. And bundling's got nothing on that. I can now empathize with plastic surgery victims as my face freezes in one position on direct contact with the cold. But, hey, it's Russia right?!? Might as well experience the real deal.

Other ventures in Russian authenticity this week:

My first caviar. Served directly from a giant plastic tub fresh off the plane from Vladivostok. Amazing!

This is the inside of the bus I rode home the other day. You haven't experienced real until you've been in this.

My brilliant Russian family: Svetlana, Sasha, Dasha, and Katya.

My first visit to a Russian lavra on our daytrip to Sergiev-Passad. Sasha was kind enough to purchase a children's book explaining the history of the saint whose remains are interred here. Don't judge. It's an intense children's book!!!
And as it turns out, the onset of frigid cold has its perks. I watched a sunrise for about as long as it took to snap this picture and then ran while I still had feeling in my feet. Nothing like a dose of sunshine!!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

On the Colorful Side

Red Square

GUM: The Galleria's Moscow counterpart (Pronounced GOOM)

St. Basil's. Look familiar?

My flashed-out face in front of the Bolshoi Theater!

Another Day at School

While I imagine there's a learning curve with most jobs, it would seem that it's ever-constant in my profession of choice. Once again I've landed myself back in school. Perhaps a bit shorter than in days past: M/W 9-1 and T/Th 9-3. Factor in the fact that every second I'm getting schooled in Russian and the hours do seem to add up a bit. Luckily it's paying off, and even more luckily (if that's incorrect grammar, consider it as me just coining an expression) I love it! While school/life here can be exhausting it's also unbelievably rewarding.

So what does school look like in Moscow?

Well, first there's the commute...

A lovely store that cleverly disguises my metro stop.

We're pretty festive around the metro in these parts.

And that's my building. It's actually home to the Moscow State University dorms, in addition to the language program for foreigners. I mean...the authentic Russian university experience is a must, and 20 year olds will show you how it's done!

To inspire work ethic, I climb this set of stairs to class---not foreboding in the least---and at the top there is an all-seeing eye which through the marvels of technology, sees you, screens you, and buzzes you in. A bit of an intimidating process, I must say, though after adjusting to the system I will say that I don't think any actual screening goes on. I have yet to show ID on entrance. As a sidenote, I have seen more guards in Russia than I think I have in my entire life. Although perhaps ours are just kept a bit more undercover.

The view...

And the hall of learning itself...

Complete with the grammar charts which wreak havoc on my brain. CASES, People...CASES!!! And don't get me started on verbs of motion. Thanks.

One of the great joys of this school setup is the coffee/HOT CHOCOLATE!!! dispenser. I have the choice between Milk Chocolate, Hot Chocolate (haven't quite figured out the distinction between the two) and a DOUBLE chocolate. I go for the double typically. Hard core like that.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture. Happy Imagining of the machine which dispenses liquid joy!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

день благодарения

Happy Thanksgiving!

Despite the slight distance from the native land, celebrations were had. Wednesday evening was spent making a pumpkin pie with a recipe from that well-known cooking newspaper---The Financial Times. Despite a few ingredients whose Russian counterparts left me slightly concerned, it turned out quite lovely! When I made it to the kitchen for breakfast this morning, it was sliced and waiting on the table. Can't say I've done pumpkin pie for breakfast before, but why not?!? I've had many a stranger thing.

After six hours of Russian class in which I was clinging to my American identity (translation: ROUGH day of Russian), the celebration continued with a stop at the Starlight Diner.

Svetlana, host extraordinaire and now dear friend, took a break from work for our Thanksgiving feast, which was entirely executed in Russian! Mom, it was weak in comparison, just for the record. Perhaps not foremost, but ever present amongst today's thoughts of gratitude is that we celebrated on Halloween in H-town. Bingo and ALL!

Forgive the poor photography, but through this you can see my standard Russian look. LAYERS! So much for a figure---right in line with Thanksgiving!

Tonight I'm especially grateful for family. For friends around the world. For love. For life. For opportunities. For religion. For laughter. For mistakes. For education. And for Moscow.

Monday, November 22, 2010


It’s amazing how quickly a place can begin to feel like home. One week in Moscow and already things are beginning to feel comfortable, even routine. Yes, there’s that minor detail of speaking Russian which doesn’t exactly fall into the comfort category, but that aside…I’m home. Albeit a makeshift monthly home. Which carries undertones of “squatter.” But I digress…

I love Moscow. At first glance it seems grey and bleak, especially given a week of 0 degrees Celsius with no snow---warm for this time of year apparently, though my currently soft Texan self would claim otherwise. Conversations are direct, straightforward, blunt, and a slew of similar adjectives. Fighting your way through the crowds in the metro you begin to understand how the Nazi offense was stopped on the Eastern Front. And don't get me started on the drivers...

But a closer look and you start seeing in color. On nearly every street corner you can find a flower shop, brimming over with beautiful roses and arrangements that seem magical given the winter surroundings. And flowers are in high demand. It’s a generous city, concerned with gifting and gratitude. I have never been more warmly welcomed into people’s lives and homes. They skip the formalities (hence the seemingly abrupt and direct behaviors) and immediately want to feed and look after you. And the warring throngs of the metro are filled with secret courtesy. I’ve never seen gentleman quicker to give up their seats to an elderly or pregnant woman. And every hand reaches for change if an invalid is walking through the car. History is mingled with modern innovation, beautiful churches and cozy cafes amidst run-down Soviet housing structures. It’s cold but warm, harsh but friendly, and bleak but colorful. I love it.

I’ll be the first to admit I fall in love easily when it comes to places. I find people and their surroundings fascinating, and while I absolutely absorb the beauties and awe at the standard sights, I love the quirks. And quirks are plentiful in this city. While the occasional day as a tourist is completely necessary and certainly enjoyable, I find my daily commute on the metro, walks around the university, and stops at the market even more interesting. And true joy is trying to fit into it all, trying to understand, trying to speak, and learning something every second.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mommy WOW...

I'm a big kid now!

Yes that classic jingle came to mind today. It's amazing how functioning in a different language can take 15 year off your life while simultaneously adding 50. The stress of asking directions in Russian, figuring out how to get a metro pass which requires direct human contact in this country, purchasing a phone/SIM card, attempting to understand said plan you purchased, ordering in a cafe---the 50 years adds up easily.

And the 15? Well, maybe it should be 20. At one point tying your shoe was a HUGE accomplishment. As it should be---the majority of my current shoe selections no longer require it, in part given the complicated nature of laces. WELL, I think I've reverted to Age 6. Or somewhere in that vicinity. I have to say, successfully finding my way about the metro (luckily I had a lot of stops: by the time I got off I actually understood the announcement repeated at each statsia) and transferring to a bus might be one of the most rewarding accomplishments of my adult life.

And I'm pretty sure the 8-year old I'm staying with manages that for her weekly Spanish lessons. But since her Russian is far better than mine, I'll stick with 6. Thank you very much.

And just for the record, if you try and do a literal translation for "hot chocolate" you will not be served the American equivalent. Though the warmed chocolate pudding I was served as a substitute was nothing to complain about.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

To Whom It May Concern

I've found myself wanting to pen a letter over the past few hours that would go something like this:

Dear Singapore Airlines,

Having now been served Bluebell ice cream while aboard one of your aircraft, I no longer feel a need to frequent any other airline. Please amply reward the individual whose brilliance changed my life on 11/13/10 or 11/14/10, as I'm unsure of our whereabouts at the time of service.

Yours Truly.

I'd probably leave it unsigned. If they don't recognize me by the passion jumping off the page, I haven't expressed myself adequately.

Not only did S.A. serve me Bluebell and a slew of other airplane delicacies, they safely transported me to Moscow. And they did so WHILE helping me learn the Russian language! Cheers for the linguistic genius that created the video games which lead me to believe I now ROCK the Russian days of the week! A seven-word vocabulary can get you further than you may think...

So here I am. Basking in post-flight bliss---I've now been to Red Square, seen the Kremlin and St. Basil's cathedral, and am currently snacking on T.J's Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzels. And perhaps there's some post-flight confusion. Wasn't I in Houston 5 minutes ago?! Not sure what time it is now---but I'm REALLY REALLY REALLY excited to sleep, what time my body thinks it should be, what actually happened during the drugged bits of the flight (Zoolander-esque), and that small thing of...what the HECK are they saying?!?!

Obviously not a day of the week...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Art of Practicing

I believe in Practice. With a Capital "P." Just ask Jason at Golf Galaxy. The day he tried to dissuade me from purchasing golf clubs will forever live in infamy. There's something about golf that's apparently a bit complicated for women, and really most people give it up after 6 months anyway---it's just that difficult.

Welcome to Life Lessons 101: DIFFICULTY. It happens. Suck it up. Deal with it. And PRACTICE. Someday it won't be as difficult. But no guarantees that it will be alleviated entirely. Ever. Welcome to my Life as a Musician. And the love I have developed for The Art of Practicing. (This is a book in actuality that I quite enjoyed once upon a time.)

Jason managed to work into the conversation that he didn't work on commission. Shocker. All I can say is that he's lucky he didn't get a golf club to the head. Or elsewhere. I left infuriated and wouldn't have purchased golf clubs in my rage had it not been for my kind and patient cohort (NOTE: when I am excited do NOT mess with me. It's like canceling Christmas for a 5-year-old. Or a 26-year-old. Whatev.) Livid. Thankfully I did purchase clubs. And took some golf lessons. And practiced. And will continue to practice. Like I said, I believe in it.

As of late, I have been practicing for my upcoming trip to Moscow.

I flew here last Wednesday:

Dallas: Approximately 45 minutes of flight time.

I didn't feel that sufficiently prepared me for my 12+ hour flight, so Sunday I flew here:

Seattle: Hmmm...wonder which picture was taken with my phone? Go ahead and guess. 4.5 hours---same numbers, but that little dot in the middle made a big difference. It was decided that I will next be practicing the effects of various sleep medications. 12 hours...suggestions on how to pass the time are more than welcome.

As language must be practiced as well, I spoke random bits of Russian to my co-passengers to further my art. And maybe for my personal entertainment.

I hope Jason reads this.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Lists: 4-13-06

I decided to clean tonight. MISTAKE!!! I should know better. It's one thing to decide to fold laundry, or dust and vacuum (am I the only one who always questions that spelling?), even just committing to the bathroom would be manageable. But no, I decide to clean which translates to me making a bigger mess. Cleaning means filing music, sorting through every stray paper imaginable, finding a more effective method of color-coding my closet, and so on.

So here I sit, on my bed amidst a pile of clean laundry. Blogging. Because that's related to cleaning....???

I won't attempt to justify my extraneous projecting, but I will tell you that I happened across my lists from 4-13-06. Yes, I'm a compulsive list maker. CLMD? Not the best abbreviation for a disorder---looks far too similar to "calmed." Moving on... Finding old lists is quite entertaining when examining how they compare with current tabulations. I found "Places to Go," "New Things to Try," "Professional Options," "Music to Learn," "Career Goals," "Books to Read" and "Lists to Make." Yup. Disorder. But it's SOOOO fun!!!

"Places to Go"
Hawaii, Thailand, Italy: Rome Florence, Milan, Venice, Paris, England: London + Countryside, Chicago, South America: Argentina or Chile, Mexico, Hike Grand Canyon, Cruise: ISLANDS - Bahamas, Carribean, Germany + Austria: fluent German. (How does a language stipulation make it on the "Places to Go" list?!? Seriously...)

ACCOMPLISHED: Rather weak on this one, but made it to Italy, Paris, and England, though not the countryside and not Milano. Chicago, Germany, and Austria--check. Fluent German? Nein. Hawaii and Thailand are still near the top, just for the record.

"New Things to Try"
Salsa Dancing, Surfing, Kayaking + River Rafting, Yoga, Being Organized, Learn Italian, Horseback Riding, Parasailing, Financial Investments, Waitressing (Seriously SR?), Long Hair, Consistently Smooth Legs, Run a 1/2 marathon

YET TO TRY: Being Organized, Horseback Riding, Parasailing, Waitressing (This has not been ruled an impossibility, despite it's oddity on the "New Things to Try" list), Consistently Smooth Legs---no judgement allowed 'til you have a 36" inseam to deal with! That's a lot 'o lengthy limbs...Run a 1/2 marathon (I did train for this at one point but alas, knee injury. I did just find my new half marathon target this past week though!)

"What I Want to Be"
Stable, Consistent, Respected, Loved, Friend to All, Beautiful, Confident, Poised, Soft, Refined, Articulate, Gentle, Wise, Trustworthy, Well-Spoken, Organized, Spontaneous, Efficient, Successful, Focused, Physically fit, Happy, Educated, Virtuous, Motivated, Youthful, Healthy, Innocent, Experienced, Aware of Others, Polylingual, Comforting, Kind, A Confidant, Valued, Free, Thoughtful, Influential, Non-judgmental, Teacher, Teachable, Admired, Humble

No comment on a lifetime list. Except that it's longer now.

I'll spare you the rest, but needless to say "Career Goals" and "Professional Options" have experienced an entertaining amount of revision in 4 years.

How's that for effective cleaning??? If only you could see my room...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Introducing: The M&M Series

Dear Reader(s),

Let us pause for a moment and consider a topic which warrants far more attention than it frequently receives: alliteration. Your mind is probably instantaneously summoning up all the life lessons learned through this grammatical gift. Obviously mine is.

Rhodes' Rituals and Routines:
My dad would tuck me in every night growing up. Every night came the question "What was your best thing?" I wish I had record of some of my answers, as I imagine they'd provide a fair amount of laughter now. Life Lesson---Positivity. Unrelated to alliteration, I realize, so moving on. I'm not quite sure how Part 2 of our routine came into existence, but in a tender act of daddy-daughter bonding, we started a tradition of name-calling. But we wouldn't insult each other in just any fashion; we're all about class. A letter would be selected for the evening and all name-calling had to be done in alliterative form. "S" was always the best letter, in case you were wondering. Life Lesson(s)---Vocabulary is Vital. Optimism is not always Optimal. (Mom got upset that we were calling each other mean names, so we had to try the kindly route for a bit. FAIL!) And "S" rocks.

Alliteration has carried into my adulthood. I love M&M's. They're my favorite candy, and I'm not really a person of favorites. CLARIFICATION: PB M&M's are my favorite. Just in case the casual reader felt a confectionary contribution was in order. And I've been thinking a lot about M&M's recently, because there seems to be a series of alliterative M's coming up in my life:

Month in Moscow. Musician in Moscow. Moscow = Mistake. Misgivings about Moscow. Mental Meltdown over Moscow. This is seeming to be a negative spiral, but there are of course positives as well. Magical Moments in Moscow, Making Memories in Moscow, Meeting the Mafia in Moscow and so on. The negative just tend to have more dramatic flair. Which everyone knows is absolutely crucial.

COMMON THEME: MOSCOW. Just in case you missed it. 27 days to departure. That's not even enough time for a full shredding circuit. As it creeps closer, the to-do list seems to get magically longer. Item #1: Learn Russian.
This was my evening project:

I'm convinced my roommates will be prying my index cards from me soon enough, pleading with me to quit labeling everything in cyrillic. But I'll put up a good fight, fear not. I love those index cards. At this moment, I won't bore you by going through the rest of the to-do list. I do, however, intend to document my moments in Moscow (and pre-moments if you will) and will officially dub all future entries relating to my upcoming adventure as: The M&M Series. If my Russian rantings aren't your thing, be wary of this label. You have been warned. You sinister, sordid, slimy, scary, scandalous, sleazy, shocking, scornful, sly, snobby, superfluous, snotty, sap-sucking snake.

Now what was your best thing? Night!

Yours Truly.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Ever get songs stuck in your head? No? Well here's a little ditty for you.
"Love me, love me, say that you love me, fool me, fool me..."
Take that. Now you should remember what I'm talking about. (Thank you Jim.) WHAT IF you listened to "Lovefool"---yes that's the official title---3 times a day for two months??? It might start affecting you. It's just what music does.

I'm sure the music stuck in my head at the moment is equally recognizable. Those hit opera tunes "Grimes is at his exercise", "Him who despises us we'll destroy" and the ever popular "Old Joe has gone fishing." What? Never heard of them?!? Well, I highly suggest you give them a listen. Maybe some cosmic power can transfer them from my mind to yours so that I can sleep again. Lest you think I complain, let me be clear: insomnia is a small price to play for such a glorious score.

But I do have to redouble my efforts when it comes to making myself sleep after finishing a late night rehearsal. Tonight that involved watching UP and eating brownies while chatting on the phone. Multi-tasking. Cures everything right? Except that I'm still awake. UP is quite a lovely little film though, and there's one particular bit in which Russell reminisces about being home, sitting on the curb with his dad and counting cars that go by, so on and so forth. To which he says "That might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is what I remember the most." Yes, I'm waxing slightly profound in a post that began with "Lovefool." Deal with it.


It made me think of all the boring stuff that's made me happy this week. Which I will now share with you.

1. Bringing The Office back into my life. I love the theme song so much that I once tried for hours to figure out how to make my own ringtone without buying it. I may have failed, but my roommate Kara managed to get it. And set it as my caller ID. Few things made my day like our Thursday night Office parties in Michigan. And yes, I tried to put a stapler in jello for the big season opener. I've now been rewatching Season 5 and 6 to develop more effective quotation skills.

Michael: "I would like your undivided attention please."
Dwight: "You couldn't handle my undivided attention."

2. I never paint my nails. Ever. Except maybe a coat of clear. And then I chip at it until it's off. I'm some type of crazy pianist that has always felt a bit disoriented when I see color flashing back at me from amidst the black and white. But don't worry, my boring bit of joy for the week has been painting my nails. It's been done twice already since I reach breaking point and have to take it off. Only to repeat the process. We'll see how long this one lasts...

3. Beginning my compilation of Houston's Top 10 Water Fixtures. Fixtures doesn't seem quite the right word, but it is 1:30 am.

4. HIGH HEELS!!! I go through phases, but at the moment these seem to be a daily necessity. Guess there's something to be said for being 6'2"+

5. In my attempt to be more budget conscious/domestic I have been cooking on occasion and packing my lunch. And I decided I might actually really enjoy packing my lunch. It's made me remember all the times growing up when I'd open my little brown paper bag with eager anticipation to see what Mom had packed. Except now I pack my own. But that's ALMOST equally enjoyable. I get to pick my own treat.

6. Last the best of all the "boring" game. Plane ticket purchases (albeit one pending) from IAH-->>SEA, IAH-->>SLC and PHX-->>HOU. I repeat, last the best: MOM'S COMING!!! A phone call, a few tears (contrived of COURSE) and she's on her way to take care of me. Proof, yet again, that I'm the favorite child.

So...Here's to the delightfully dull tidbits of the week, which have accompanied the "exciting" ones quite nicely. And here's to THE WEEKEND! Which, against my UP philosophy, I hope for all of us is anything but boring. Good night!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Grief Counseling

It is often in the moments of great tragedy that we truly come to know ourselves. Loss leaves us slightly broken and left figuring out how to pick up the pieces. That process of recovery will be unique to every individual, and analyzing how we best cope with these times of hardship is crucial in understanding ourselves.

I experienced such tragedy this weekend. After being in a heart-breaking 3-year relationship, I started to hope again. All the broken promises, crushed hopes and disappointments began to vanish as promised change and altered behaviors became manifest. I finally felt like I was in a relationship of trust and understanding. One of open communication and commitment to excellence. Every relationship has its weaknesses, and I knew early on this was no exception. But faults and all, I found it in myself to hope again.

Meet the man primarily responsible for my newfound dreams---Denard Robinson. With a more experienced offensive line and a favored Heisman hopeful, how could I be anything but optimistic? This weekend, though, we hit our first truly low point. Moments which made me remember the years of hardship. Seeing the Paul Bunyan Trophy once again snatched from our grasp hurt. Badly.

While pangs of anguish tormented my soul for a time, I luckily have done a bit of soul searching in the past. And I immediately turned to Grief Counseling. Michael Scott can always relate.
I lost Ed Truck, and it feels like somebody took my heart and dropped it into a bucket of boiling tears. And at the same time, somebody else is hitting my soul in the crotch, with a frozen sledge hammer. And then a third guy walks in and starts punching me in the grief bone, and I'm crying , and nobody can hear me, because I'm terribly terribly, terribly alone.

Knowing someone understands your feelings is crucial to recovery. Lest you think I've lost my optimism entirely, savor this next thought:
There's such a thing as good grief. Just ask Charlie Brown.

I am confident this grief will ultimately be for my good. Good grief. I would never be one to up and end a relationship simply because we've happened across a rough patch. Those come to all alike, and I am confident that come Week 7, we'll see a resurgence of all the victorious traits previously extolled. And so I go forward. Hoping for healing, optimistic in my offense and daring to dream for the defense.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Circles of Life

There's a long tunnel that leads from the Theater District parking garage into the Wortham Center. And as strange as this may sound, it's one of my favorite places in the building---the passageway into a musical world that is flat-out magical. My daily walk through its tiled halls accounts for approximately half of my commute to work. And since it's empty 90% of the time I'm in it, it's a first-hand witness to my eccentricities. Skipping, running, singing bits of opera, talking to myself...maybe these are things best not confessed, but so it is. Through my comings and goings it's seen me in just about every mood: eager anticipation, nervous excitement, pure bliss, frustration and inadequacy, utter exhaustion, and so on. Basically, it's been watching me grow up.

Monday morning I entered that hallway and as I started my commute through the building, I laughed aloud. Yes, I was THAT excited to go to work. Crazy, right?!? Why? We started production on the project I've been looking forward to since spring, Peter Grimes. As an opera coach, so much of what we do is about preparation. First there are the hours of personal preparation: studying the orchestration, adjusting the piano reduction to be accurate and orchestral, learning to play it, translating the text (bless Grimes for only have bits of bizarre English), learning the vocal lines, and basically stamping your soul with the specific piece of music. And then there's the coaching and preparation that's done with the singers themselves.

Then production begins and preparation is put into practice.

On Day 1, I played for the first staging session we had and it was completely surreal. I sat at the piano in RR1 and played the Prologue for a conductor whose brilliance never ceases to amaze me and for a cast of world-renowned, talented singers. And it was all I could do to keep from grinning the entire time. Because almost two years ago I was in that exact room, sitting at a piano almost identically positioned and playing the Prologue to Peter Grimes while singing all the parts. Auditioning for the HGO Studio.

Needless to say, when I left Monday evening I was still completely ecstatic. Amazed at the talent that converges in a rehearsal room, awed by the genius of a masterful composer, and 100% overwhelmed because I'm blessed enough to be a part of it. And while I didn't laugh on my commute out, I walked through the tunnel that night profoundly satisfied and so happy I thought I might burst. At which point a quick skip seemed perfectly appropriate.

Monday, September 27, 2010

California Girl

Greetings loved ones. Let's take a journey.

If 72 hours on the Golden Coast can actually be called a journey. I'd normally term it a quick trip, maybe even a jaunt. But that would lend far less drama to this post, so we'll go with journey. And not to take away from my earlier invitation, but I actually already took the trip. So you can feel like we're journeying along though, here's how it went:

DAY 1:

Hello Peter Grimes!!! Let's practice. We just flew to California, so we should really make ourselves feel at home. At a piano. Makes you feel adventurous, huh? Well let's go crazy and go to...the OPERA HOUSE! I mean, way to switch it up! This opera house does have a certain appeal though, given it currently houses two of my favorite colleagues ever!!! The most obviously exciting way to pass the day is with them. First in the orchestra pit for a lighting tech...gives you chills, right?!?...of Il Postino. That gets your heart racing, but follow it up with a 3-hour session of recital programming with one of the cheeriest sopranos in existence, and this journey is clearly none to be taken for granted!

Just when you think the day couldn't get any better....In-n-Out. Yup. Double double. ANIMAL STYLE! Yes, you ARE an animal!!! Feeling edgy? Let's go for an evening walk on Venice Beach. It's nice and deserted, except for the homeless population of LA. The moonlight and waves make it ridiculously peaceful. And only occasionally do you wonder if you're going to step on a needle while barefoot. And maybe it crosses your mind what might be the best method of defense for you and your companion---hooray for U of M reunions! But really, what you're mostly thinking about is life. How small the world actually is. But how scary it actually is. And really how exciting that actually is. Stroll through the Venice canals, catching glimpses of another realm through people's glass walls and you're about ready to call it a day. I mean, a journey doesn't ALL have to take place in the first 24 hours.

DAY 2:

Wake up!!! Let's practice! And go to the opera house! Maybe we'll go wild and network, chat with colleagues about the future, and try and make sense of this whole career thing. Which can be slightly exhausting so lunch is in order. And you have earned THIS:

WHAT?!? A BACON-COVERED MAPLE DONUT??? Who even knew life could ever be THIS good?!? I will forever praise Jeremy and the nickel diner for this moment. As if a quality chat over peach Fresca---also a new and delightful discovery---wasn't enough, this mind-blowing goodness came along. Tribute to the greatest colleague known to man:

Because you experienced such glory, you must in exchange be caused pain. Otherwise known as LA traffic. Which you will sit in for approximately 2 hours. Your only bonus? The Getty Center and some of the most fascinating architecture around. An amazing water fixture. Beautiful view of LA. AND most excitingly...a taste of Fall. The ONLY taste you'll get if you live in Houston, TX.

Maybe traffic was a small price to pay. Maybe.
Another productive programming session and you're on your way to being prepared for spring recitals in NYC, Chicago, H-town, and hopefully Utah! Run to the first two acts of Le nozze di figaro and you're probably about ready to call it a day. Funny sitting in the audience of an opera house where your only other experience was an audition from the stage. Perspectives people. They're entertaining.

DAY 3:

Remember that bit about the Golden Coast? Well, since you've been overly adventurous, you're probably due for that time at the beach. Unfortunately you woke up earlier than you wanted to. And commuted, despite your now realized fears of LA traffic, longer than you intended to. RESULT: You're in Cali and kinda crabby! SOLUTION: Target. Mindless magazines. Breakfast. And last but not least, BEACH!

Never underestimate the power of water to soothe one's soul. Serious sunshine doesn't hurt either. People watching and Trader Joe's chocolate-covered peanut butter pretzels are just an added bonus.

Should probably think about catching a flight. This journey's ready for a wrap up. Not really ready to head back? Prefer the carefree life on the beach? Maybe you should leave the beach without really rinsing your feet off. Keep some of that sand in between your toes. Take it through airport security. Bring it on your flight. And smile as you find yourself in a diner at midnight, downing onion rings and milkshakes with friends good enough to chauffeur you about. Because you're a California Girl and have sandy feet to prove it!

That's what I did.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ode to Costco

In a fit of inspiration following my first voyage to Costco as an ACTUAL member, I penned the following:

Oh beautiful, for spacious aisles,
For shelves of processed grain,
For purple grapes and chocolate cakes,
Your joys I can't explain!

Oh Costco! Oh Costco!
Thou shedst thou grace on me.
Bestow thy good, as none else could,
With all thy samples free!

Don't worry, that's only the first verse.

Oh beautiful, for dog and drink***,
Which leave me so well-fed.
Your dollar-fifty fantasy,
My heart could truly wed!

***"Dog" is actually short for hotdog in this scenario.

Oh Costco! Oh Costco!
I scarce can see a flaw.
Your fee, it seems, doth make me free,
Such love I ne'er foresaw

I've decided to abstain on Verse 3 and 4 until further inspiration strikes. If you feel like you have text equal to the occasion, by all means contribute.

Now I just need to find a tune to put it with...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Paris, je t'aime

Et puis, quelquechose est arrivé, quelquechose difficile de décrire. Assise là et être seule dans un pays étrangé, loins de mon travail, et de tous les gens que je connais, un sentiment est venue a moi. C'était comme si je me souvenais de quelquechose que je n'ai jamais connu ou que j'avais attendu toujours. Mais je n'ai savais pas quoi. Peut-être c'était quelquechose que j'avais oublié ou quelquechose qui ma manquais tout ma vie. Seulement je peux vous dire que j'ai senti à même temps la joie et la tristesse. Mais pas trop tristesse. Parce que je me sentais vivante. Oui, vivante. ça c'était le moment que j'ai commencé à aimer Paris et le moment que j'ai senti que Paris m'aimais aussi.

"And then something happened, something that is hard to describe. Sitting there alone in a foreign country, far from my job and all the people I knew, a feeling came over me. As if I recalled something, something that I had never known and for which I had been waiting. But I didn't know what it was. Maybe it was something I had forgotten. Or something I had missed my whole life. I can only tell you that at the same time I felt joy and sadness. But not a great sadness. Because I felt alive. Yes. Alive. That was the moment I fell in love with Paris and the moment that I felt that Paris had fallen in love with me."

Occasionally there's a film that sticks with you, and this is my most recent. Scenes of Paris, strung together by the unifying theme of love, and not just the typical romance. The quote above was one of my favorites. There's such a beauty and truth in the simultaneous expression of joy and sadness. Life. Opposition. Complexity. Beauty. Hurt. Hope. Experience. Love.

What a beautiful thing it is to actually live. To feel.

~La vie, je t'aime~

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Heaven on Earth

This Place

+ These People

= 5 Days of PERFECTION. Shopping with mom, sisters, and a supportive but perhaps scarred 17-year old brother. Trying to count the number of times my 11-year old brother said "MOM!!! She's being SO childish!" And doing everything possible to make him say it again. Picking out my sister's outfit for her first day of high school. Holding my new, almost-6-month-old nephew for the first time. Daddy. Getting my daily hug ration. Organizing a family yoga session for some of the tightest hamstrings ever created and enjoying the hilarity that ensued. Catching up with old friends. Seeing tears of pride roll down Grandma's cheeks after giving a synopsis and sampling of Peter Grimes--I blame her for my love of literature. Playing in church. Waking up early for family scriptures. Wishing I could stay longer. And praying for safety and strength for all until I see them again.

My heaven on earth.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I was born to play football. And people tell me that all the time. I mean, my stocky build, speed of lightening, and just overall toughness seem to make it pretty obvious.

So, I guess I just missed my calling in life. As is: I. Love. Football. Period. (emphasis added) Mostly in person---I attended every home game possible at the Big House during my two years at the University of Michigan, even braving the wrath of my teacher and skipping studio class to attend the Ohio State game. WHO in their right mind is going to miss that kind of rivalry...for piano?!?! (Despite said statement, I. Also. Love. Piano. Period.)

Friday night I found myself here:

That's right. Back at a high school football game. Baking in the sun on the bleachers, the crisp feel of autumn setting in as the sun went down, the speculation about the upcoming season. And I loved it. Especially when I heard my little brother's name called over the loudspeaker, vicariously fulfilling my lifetime calling. I saw his first two receptions of the season, the two resulting first downs, some fantastic blocking, and VICTORY! I still find it a bit mind-boggling that my "little" brother was a participant---when I left home he was 9 and I could still take him. Now he clocks in at 6'4" and 185. And obviously I could still take him. If I wanted to.

It's possible you won't see me out on a field in a football helmet and pads anytime soon. So the fates have willed it. But as football season is upon us, I'm training as if I'm a starter. First, I'm altering my Netflix lineup to include every football classic film: Rudy, Remember the Titans, The Blind Side...feel free to add your recommendations to the list. I'm already shredding, thanks to Jillian, so no worries there. And I caught AND threw a football today! SO maybe I actually don't need to train. Like I said, I was born to play football.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I Hate Goodbyes


Occasionally moments arise when I'm convinced I picked the wrong profession. And I can predict those moments down to the day, or at least the week (I'm only leaving off minute to avoid sounding pretentious---but I could). Add that to the "Special Skills" system of my resume. Along with my recorder playing. SO, when do such questions of doubt pervade my being? The End. It might be the end of a season. Maybe the end of summer. The end of a program. The end of a production. Time's measured differently in the opera world, so there are endless possibilities for The End. Regardless, in The End one thing is inevitable: Goodbyes.

I HATE GOODBYES!!! Consider Exhibit A, carefully labeled for your convenience. I love the travel, I love the new places, I love the new friends, I love the variety and change, I love being employed, and I love my actual work. There's a lot of love going on here. And then there's that bit of hate; capitalized, italicized, and bolded(?), also for your convenience.

I started this summer off in full-out tears when I had to say goodbye to Houston at the airport. I found myself blurry-eyed at our post-rehearsal hangout Clyde's when The End of American sojourn came and my peeps moved to Vienna. "But you don't cry!!" Exclamation of my roommate CM when I teared up with pride post-her rocking recital performance. Which may have been true (excepting of course in that well-known tear jerker film "Blow").

But what are you supposed to do when you have to say goodbye to this???

What happens when you have to split sisters and souls, yet again???

How do you just leave colleagues that in 3 short months have managed to become lifelong friends???

It's not that you'll never see them again. And it's not that your life won't go on perfectly smoothly without seeing them every day. "The End" in the opera world isn't actually permanent, after all---can't even begin to count how many times Tosca or Butterfly will resurrect just to kill themselves again. But life spent with the people you love is just better.

Hence, the occasional hatred of my job. Which really only stems from my love of my job. And of people. Dear Dr. Suess said "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." Which is a nice thought. But as it turns out, I'm a multi-tasker.

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