Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Daniel has informed me that he wants to be more like a grown-up. This is equally hilarious and endearing, though it has on occasion led to some arguments. For example, the other day he was really bossing his little sister around, and when I told him to back off, he put up his hand and said, "Mom, we can discuss this in my office." I would have cracked up if I hadn't been so irritated with him at that moment.

But this is only the beginning. The other night, he announced that he wanted to be "more like a grown-up," which meant 1) wearing socks to bed, 2) brushing his teeth without being told (win!) and 3) working on a sudoku puzzle in the evening. He has also requested that I not ask him how his day at school was, because, as he said, "Grown-ups go to work, mom, so ask me how my day at work was." I oblige, "OK, how was your day at work?" I say. "Pretty good," he answers, before tossing his shoes and snow pants in the middle of the floor and heading to the kitchen where he roots in the snack cupboard for cheddar bunny crackers and fruit leather. Good thing he hasn't grown up completely yet, eh?

I don't have the heart to tell my little boy, who will be all of six years old in just a couple of weeks, that being all grown up isn't all it's cracked up to be. I know that from his vantage point, it's so hard to wait to be tall enough to reach the highest shelves and use permanent markers without asking permission and stay up late, he can hardly stand it. I feel like I was a kid a long, long time ago, but I remember fantasizing about the mystical world of adulthood. If someone had told me it was mostly about being disappointed in other grown-ups (like the ones elected to public office, for example) and cleaning up after your family, I wouldn't have listened anyway. I had big dreams, you know. They were pretty unrealistic, but I didn't know any better, and of course, that is the magic of childhood.

A little over a year ago, when I was in Kansas for a performance, I had a conversation with someone I knew in college. We were barely acquaintances back then as now, but something about our conversation stuck with me. He's roughly my age, married, father of three young children, and was in the middle of a career change, living in the smallish town he'd grown up in, and he said, "You reach a point where you're like, 'Is this it? Really? Is this where I've settled, and my best years are behind me already?' But then of course you have a family to take care of, so what choice do you have?"

I didn't really mean for this post to get so sad and cynical. Believe it or not, I'm not sad and cynical. Well, I'm not sad. (I've always been a touch cynical.) In fact, the last few weeks I have made peace with where I am, career-wise. As much noise as I've made about starting over and trying something new (like accounting or education or something totally wild and out there like computer programming, which I would probably suck mightily at), the fact is, there is a damn good reason I spent almost the whole of my 20s studying music performance and teaching. It's what I love best. It's what I'm best at. Not THE best at, but whatever. I get by, and it turns out there are a few people out there who believe in me.

I may never be famous. I may never get an academic job. I may never feel completely and totally confident about my work. But at least I'm doing what I always loved best. I suppose there are some grown-ups out there still figuring that out.

Friday, January 20, 2012

opening night

It is opening night for Wired For Love! We had another run-through last night, for which I finally had a decent light and was able to see both my music AND the conductor, which was a big relief. It's a good show. I know the weather out there is pretty shitty, but if you can make to Music Hall on the UW campus at 8pm, please come enjoy the show and support your local artists. It's only about an hour long and will be worth your while!

Now I need to go find a black shirt to wear in the orchestra pit...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

1 million plus, wired for love

I've got two big, whopping news items this week. Item the first: more than ONE MILLION signatures have been collected and turned in to the GAB (Government Accountability Board) to trigger an election to recall Gov. Scott Walker. That's more than 1,000,000 for Walker alone, nearly twice as many as we needed! More than 800,000 were collected to recall Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and there were enough to trigger recall elections for 4 Republican state senators as well.

This is a significant first step to undoing at least some of the wrongs that have been committed against the people of Wisconsin in the past year. This is huge. And though we have reason to celebrate, this is where it gets [more] complicated. We need strong candidates to defeat these Repubs in the months ahead, and they are raking in the monies from here, there and everywhere (Walker has raised millions of dollars already, half from out of state) and starting now they will be blitzing the media with negative ads. This is why we're fighting the good fight, though.

I've been preoccupied this week with another project, though; all week I've been in rehearsals for an opera premiere happening this weekend. The show is Wired For Love, by the fabulous Jerry Hui, and I'm honored to be participating. I'm playing piano in the orchestra, and it is anything but a glamorous gig, though, let me tell you. The orchestra pit is pretty small to begin with, and the upright piano I'm playing doesn't fit on the platform, so I'm a couple feet lower down and farther away from the conductor than everyone else. There isn't a proper light for the piano, so the set guy rigged up a couple of small spotlights on a 2x4 piece of wood. This works okay for illuminating my music, but the lights put out a LOT of heat, and they glare so badly that every time I look up at the conductor, I see spots. So...I can't see or hear particularly well, given my location and the poor light, and on top of that, I'm placed about six feet away from a giant, ancient furnace that sounds like its own percussion section whenever it kicks on. In fact, a couple of times during last night's rehearsal, I thought the actual percussionist was screwing up, but it turned out to be the heat coming on. Good thing we have another run-through tonight so I can get used to all that.

In all seriousness, I don't mean to complain. Believe it or not, I'm having a ball. Jerry writes really good music, the show is very funny, and all the musicians involved are very good. Like I said, it's an honor. Playing new music really is one of my favorite things to do. (In case anyone local here wants to see the show, it's Friday Jan 20 and Saturday Jan 21 at Music Hall on the UW campus, 8:00pm. I recommend it!)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

the art of snow removal

It's a little late getting here, but winter has finally arrived. Anya is trying out the outerwear portion of her wardrobe:

There is an art to snow removal. Our little family has collected quite the array of shovels and scrapers, each essential and useful in its own way. There is the short-handled emergency shovel that folds up and fits neatly into the back of the car, and is also a convenient size for children who like to help out. There is the long-handled aptly-named "Snow Plow" with a wide blade to scoop snow off the deck and porch steps. There is a long-handled brush for clearing the car, an ice pick for when things get really packed down, a roof rake, and - my personal favorite - the bent-handled snow shovel most comfortable for clearing the narrow gravel driveway.

We have pretty much everything but a snow blower. God, I hate snow blowers. Those things are a scourge on the environment and they make SO MUCH NOISE.

I'd say we got about 6" of snow today, certainly not enough to cancel school, but enough to make the roads a slippery mess. I was grateful I didn't have to drive anywhere (though after 3 rounds of Chutes and Ladders and multiple readings of Anya's favorite Berenstain Bears books, I was just about ready to try it). At 1:00, when the snowstorm was about halfway done, we went outside to tromp around and get a head start clearing the driveway and try out my new snow boots (thanks to generous gift cards and clearance at REI!):

After 15 minutes, my dear little daughter was ready to go inside, but I was on a roll swiping snow off the car and scooping it into the yard, so I helped her get inside and came back out, trusting her to look at books and build with legos while I finished up. This evening, after a few more inches had fallen, as meatballs were baking and noodles were boiling on the stove and we were waiting for Stuart to get home from work, I sneaked outside to do it all over again.

The snow hadn't stopped falling from the sky, but it had slowed down a little. There is something really cool about shoveling snow by porch light. I cleared off the car again, starting with the roof and working my way down. Then I scraped snow off the steps off the front porch and back deck. And last, my favorite part, clearing the driveway with the bent-handled shovel. It probably sounds crazy that I like this so much, and if this were the 3rd or 4th or 5th major snow of the season, I probably would be complaining right now instead of waxing poetic about it. But the truth is, there is satisfaction in the physicality of shoveling snow, and when you're working in the half-dark, it's all the more magical.

I get a rhythm going, you see. 1-2-3-4: step, scoop, toss, step-back Start in the middle, scrape diagonally toward the street, toss in the yard. When you get to the bottom, go back and do the other side. Husband comes home. "Hello," I say. "Can you check on the noodles? I'm having too much fun to quit." He shakes his head and goes inside. 15 minutes later, covered in powdery snow, my hair coming loose out of the ponytail (I didn't bother with a hat, and it's still kind of windy), I walk in the door, breathless, and call the kids for dinner.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

out of season

It's been unseasonably warm here. Feels a lot like we skipped over winter and went right into spring. Anya certainly thinks so!