Tuesday, February 23, 2016

To Build a Home

A few weeks ago in Hawaii, I managed to make chicken stock, something I hadn’t done in months, despite the fact that I didn’t have real stove. At the end of the day, as I was surveying my yield - 12 cups of stock (bone broth, really); a whole chicken in pieces, off the bone; and 3 cups of cooked carrots, onions, and celery - I wanted to share my activites on our Facebook page. But at the same time, I was afraid it would seem like bragging - “I made bone broth on a hot plate today! What did YOU do??” - and nobody likes a braggart.

*I* even questioned my motivation. Why did I do that?? Why did I spend an entire morning in the kitchen, when I am singing a principal role while parenting two children on the road without my husband? Am I such an overacheiver?? It was awkward, strange to be at odds with myself like that.

So I asked Matt, “why did I do this?? Am I such an overacheiver?” And his answer was so obvious I practically slapped my forehead:

“You do it to feel at home.”

Of course. We are homeless this year, and while it is our choice it is still a rather unsettled feeling. I’m constantly unpacking into a new home and rearranging things after a week as I learn how best to use the space. Always navigating a new grocery store. Looking at other people’s choices of art on the walls. Tucking Henry into a different bed every few weeks, sometimes one Matt or I share as well, since it’s weird sleeping alone in a new place. All the daily little things about “home” are absent for us.

And so when I found myself with a whole chicken in the fridge, I thought “I’ll make stock!” It’s what I do when I am home; my freezer is never without a bag of onion skins, carrot peels, and celery ends, awaiting the arrival of a chicken carcass. Then I use the broth to cook our grains and to make soups, other things I do that speak of Home. Yes, it would be easier to buy a box of stock from the store - or easier still to buy premade soups and grains. But when we have so few things right now that make us feel “at home,” it is worth the time and effort to bring them into our life. 

I’m in NYC now, and I made stock again today, and rice with the stock to have with the chicken for dinner. It was delicious, a truly “homemade” meal.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A body at rest

I’ve started half a dozen new posts in the past couple weeks - here’s another - and yet I hadn’t been able to finish anything. I’m feeling very writer’s-block-ish, and I’m starting to think it has something to do with the fact that I haven’t been working for a few weeks now. A little downtime is good for the soul, but after a while things start to stagnate. 

A body at rest tends to stay at rest...

The Flow that comes with creative endeavors bleeds over into the rest of your life, into other creative endeavors, into your activity level, your diet. I’ve pretty much been “on vacation” for the past two weeks, and I’ve reached the point where my “flow” has pretty much trickled out. I’m not really writing, not working on music, not really getting much exercise other than a “walk” with Henry down to the rock pile on the corner. I’m starting to feel static, flat. 

I’ve been working on this post on and off for an hour now, between Facebook checks and coffee breaks, and something just came to me. I’ve been on vacation! Is this what vacation feels like? At first it’s great to do nothing and then after a while you’re dying to have some momentum and get back to work?

Aha! Lightbuld. I’m not stuck in a rut; I’m just coming to the end of vacation. Problem solved.

Although I will still need to figure out how to balance being a “stay at home mom” for the next two months with all the work I need to to prepare for next season. I’ve got two operas to review and three new roles to learn, including one in Russian. Not exactly something I can pick up and be ready for in a day. Some daily armchair work or note learning or practicing will have to be part of my days with Henry. We’re looking at finding a preschool / drop-in day care place for him while we’re there. He has LOVED going to school with my mom every day here in SC, so we’re thinking that a couple mornings a week would be good for him. Plus it would give me some built-in study time. Win-win, as they say. 

As with any vacation, it ends with packing the suitcases and hitting the road, so I need to start sweeping the house for all our things. But maybe after one more cup of coffee...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hello again, Part 1

Remember when I started a blog and then fell off the face of the earth?

I suspected that might happen occasionally, and it’s just going to have to be ok. Blogs that have content five days a week probably come from people with more consistent structure than we have, and it’s foolish of me to hold myself to that same standard. I’ll write when I have time and something to say; forcing it will only make it (yet another) chore.

So, why did we disappear for two weeks? Several reasons, I think, not the least of which was post-show let down! I was so sad to say goodbye to Figaro. It was an amazing experience on so many levels: a great cast full of friends, old and new; a wonderful director who challenged and brought out the best in us; a fantastic and supportive company; and a tour experience, singing 8 shows in 3 cities over 4 weeks. A memorable two months. Thank you, Virginia Opera!

(Have I posted pictures here yet? I don’t think so! I put up quite a few on our Facebook page; I’m so happy with how they turned out.)

But we move on. We have another couple weeks of here-and-there life before B starts his summer work in St. Louis. Henry has been drowning in grandparent love and affection, enjoying tractor rides in Virginia and preschool with “Bambi” in South Carolina. He has also somehow managed to potty train in the middle of all this upheaval. I’m so proud of him - and not at all sad to say goodbye to diapers! 

We’ve also been trying to get back to our preferred diet of Real Food  and not too many sweets; we all feel better and behave better when we can stick to that way of eating. Unfortunately, like so many things worth doing, it takes time and organization, two things I have a hard time finding on the road. It’s just so much easier to grab processed foods! One of my goals for my time as a “stay at home mom” while we’re in St. Louis is to make more of our favorite treats at home. Pinterest is awash with clean eating recipes; I’d like to pick one a week and make it with Henry. Do you have a favorite “make it yourself” recipe, something you make instead of buy? What diet guidelines does your family try to live by?

B & I are in the middle of a little fitness challenge, mostly just competing with each other to get ourselves back in the habit of exercising. I gained a few pounds after the Figaro rehearsal process ended because I kept eating as if I were still rehearsing Susanna six hours a day! It’s been nice to get back into a yoga groove and see my muscles peeking out at me after several years of disuse. B is currently in NYC for a gig and an audition, taking advantage of the NYC Workout Plan, aka walking walking walking! I am desparately waiting for spring to really show up so we can start taking family walks and bike rides and hikes.

So you see, we may be in the middle of regularly scheduled chaos, but we’re trying to keep it together, trying to grow and improve and enjoy this crazy life. One day at a time...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday Miscellany

There are so many things I want to share this week that warrant their own thoughtful post, so I'm hoping to carve our more time for writing this week. Until then...

I gave B a knife skills class for Christmas, and now we're both obsessed with our chef's knife! I love these tutorials; I always wondered how to shred cabbage!

I wish I were in NYC to see this at the NYC Film Festival. Dessay is my kind of singing-actress!

Next winter, imagine battle NYC's dry winter air with this.

A great post on the merits of studying music in college.

Yes, PLEASE. Let's make the conversation about jobs and kids one that involves both sexes.

This article explains why I don't (often) put filters on my crappy iPhone pics. Definitely going to write more about this...

Have a great week!

Order out of Chaos, Part 2

(After I wrote this post, I realized it is a partner to this post. So let’s call it a series, as I have a feeling I’m going to be talking about “the R-word” a lot here on this blog...) 

I don’t know why I always couch discussions of our Routine in terms of Henry’s needs; I crave structure and routine just as much as he does, if not more. And not just routine, but order. That whole “a place for everything yada yada yada” is hard to live by when the place is different every 3-6 weeks. I feel like my life is comprised of nothing but packing, unpacking, organizing, cleaning - and then repacking and starting it all over again. 

For the past week we’ve been staying with B’s folks outside Richmond, which meant we had to commute up to Fairfax for performances over the weekend. We spent the night on Friday, so we packed up a small overnight bag. No big deal, right? But! In order to clear out a suitcase to take, I had to empty all of Henry’s clothes onto the extra bed, and I had to take a few things from this bag and a few from that and where is the phone charger? and don’t forget your music and on and on. Now the weekend - 12 hours of driving and 8 hours of performing - is over... and everything needs to find its way back to Order.

How I wish I were the kind of person who thrived in chaos! As a military “brat,” I had the luxury of reinventing myself every time we moved. I remember distinctly deciding, the summer before 5th grade, that when we moved in the fall I would turn over a new leaf and get organized. Until that point, I had regularly been That Kid, running screaming for the school bus, “wait for me!!” because I was slow and disorganized and dawdled over my breakfast. I was ready to gain some control over my environment, so when we moved to Maine (way, way up north), I became “a neat freak.”

B said he understood this aspect of my personality when he heard an interview with Stephen Sondheim. He likes to do crosswords every day, and when the interviewer asked him why, he said that he likes to “make order out of chaos.” Order out of chaos. My constant desire.

It’s really about control, isn’t it? As a military brat, I had very little control as my environment shifted every few years. Now, as an itinerant musician, it’s the same. I’m not in my own kitchen, bedroom, closet, bathroom for more than a few months out of the year. I feel displaced. So I try as best I create a feeling of order, of Place. Sometimes it works, but...

These days I’ve got three people’s stuff to order. So much stuff!! How I also wish I were the kind of person who could pack three pair of pants and five tops and call it good. We are NOT light packers in this family. Clothes and toys and extra sweaters and books and kitchen supplies and more clothes and toys and books.

Hmm. I might be on to something here. I’m fighting this problem from both sides! Maybe the key to each is in the other. Pack less, have less chaos to control. 

I’ll have to work on that...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Checking in

Remember when I said this month was going to be crazy?

Yeah. Well, it has begun. We relocated to Richmond on Tuesday, "moving in" with B's parents for a couple weeks. Henry made the transition seamlessly; he's thrilled to be spending time with his grandparents. (And if you'll allow me a parenting brag, he didn't have any potty-training regression when we made the move! No more diapers!)

We've had a couple of quiet days, hitting the Science Museum in Richmond, riding bikes and tractors (aka lawn mowers), and running and rolling around the big back yard. We've mostly maintained our preferred family rhythm, just embellished with grandparent time! I haven't quite found my writing rhythm here yet, but I didn't want to let too many days go by without a post.

Packing to leave Norfolk was not too bad; it's so much easier to pack up a "home on the road" than it is to pack up and leave Home. You just take all the stuff that is yours, everything you came with, and pack it up! No need to hem and haw and decide what to take and what to leave. The hardest part was saying goodbye to Beverly, the sweet lady who sits at the apartment front desk and who formed a deep bond with Henry. True, that bond was formed mostly because she gave him treats every time she saw him, but there was a very sweet "mutual admiration society" going on there. Add her to the long list of wonderful people we know so briefly in this lifestyle...

Tomorrow B & I drive up to Fairfax and get back into Figaro-land! We'll spend the night up there, come back home on Saturday, and then drive up again for the Sunday matinee. Lots of driving time for us, but it's worth it for Henry to have a settled place with people he loves. We hope to connect with several friends from our summers at Wolf Trap, hosts and colleagues and friends. And, I'm not going to deny it, I'm really looking forward to sleeping in a hotel bed. Pillows!!

I can't wait to see how our show has grown as it has had time to "simmer" over the past few days. We'll brush-up on the recitatives a few hours before the show; that will help get us back in the game and - hopefully! - prevent any train wrecks on stage. We'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Miscellany

It's tax day! I just dropped off a dozen manila envelopes with the friendly post office worker here in Norfolk, one federal and eleven - yes, eleven! - state returns. I still remember the moment years ago when I realized I had to file a return for every state in which I worked. All of a sudden my traveling gig seemed much less glamorous...

B and I had our monthly finance meeting a few days ago, going over our irregular income and regular bills and seeing how they will line up for the next few months. We're getting used to big windfalls of income (for example, this month we'll make about 30% of our income for the year) followed by stretches of smaller or, as in July this year, no income. Budgeting is not our strong suit, but we are making great progress and I'm really proud of us.

Anyway, now that my big to-do list is ticked off for the day, it's time to start packing up. We'll drive to B's parents' house tomorrow, so we're taking a slow day here in Norfolk to clean and organize and pack. Here's the start of a great week!

We have a balance bike for Henry, and this is why.

Do hard things. They are worth the extra effort.

Alan Held shares his journey to Hans Sachs.

Flower sandwiches!

B and I often talk of "the monkey mind;" smartphones definitely make it harder to control.

I'm loving the weekly themes at All For the Boys; this week: Building!

Have a great week!