Friday, October 29, 2010

Off-blog in November


Just a notice that I may take a break from my blog for the entire month of November. I will be trying to write 2000 words a day for my novel, hoping to reach 50,000 words by November 30! Maylin's goal is 5000, and she's nearly there already from sheer inspiration. Amazing.

So don't worry about me if it seems like I've disappeared off the face of the planet. I'm just holed up somewhere with my laptop, fingers flying.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hey, everything's okay now!

Yes, life for me was out of whack, but that's always a temporary situation. Sure, the house is a wreck right now, but at least I feel more in balance now. My choir concerts went wonderfully, my handling of book orders has become second nature, and my t-shirt design is done, but just needs to be formatted correctly for printing. Homeschooling Maylin should resume normal pace shortly (we slowed down quite a bit for most subjects except math and writing), and Stefan will be read to more regularly now. By the way, John says that Stefan can read some words! I'm terribly excited, but Stefan denies knowing how to read. I can give you more of a confirmation later.

Maylin's already written about 2600 words for her novel which will be finished on November 30th. I haven't started mine yet -- the rule is to start on November 1st, according to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) organizers, but I cannot stop Maylin's inspirational flow! No way.

She absolutely loves writing. It helps a lot that she knows how to type. Otherwise, her output would be a lot less. Recently, she's typed up 4-5 one-page "newsletters" (they're really great -- with exciting articles, fictional, of course) on the computer, and a page of secret information, which she won't let me read, on Grandma's electric typewriter.

So here's a revelation. Music is still a big part of my life. I absolutely cannot live without it -- the process of making it and sharing it with others. From 1998-2000, it was the most important thing in my life (aside from John and my family). My dream was to become an early music singer. So I went back to school and got my bachelor's equivalency (almost like the degree, but the university wouldn't waive the general education requirements even though I already had a degree from Cal). I was intending on applying to masters programs in early music, but realized that I had to make a choice between that and my husband-to-be (who would had have a much tougher time finding satisfying work if we ended up in the boonies). At the time, my self-confidence was at an all-time low, and I was mildly depressed. I enrolled in a local masters program in music education, did enjoy it, and applied what I learned to my music teaching jobs, but it wasn't as satisfying as performing as a singer regularly, which I did in the bachelor's program.

After I gave birth to Maylin, I stopped studying and working (four part-time jobs, at the minimum) and devoted myself whole-heartedly to motherhood. Some time after our move to Paris, I was itching to sing again. I thought I would audition for a Baroque choir directed by the famous Jean Sourrisse, but I chickened out. Instead, I somehow landed myself in a small opera ensemble and sang the role of Papagena and the First Lady (one of three ladies, NOT the wife of a president) in Mozart's The Magic Flute. Through the group, I found a wonderful voice teacher and some wonderful friends who, eventually dissatisfied as I was with the direction of the group, started our own opera ensemble. The four of us, plus a soprano who auditioned for us, formed a fun, dedicated group that rehearsed opera duets and trios once a week, with me functioning as accompanist, director, and singer. Sadly, the group was unable to continue after I withdrew due to a pregnancy complication.

Four years later, in Berkeley, one of my friendly neighbors invited me to join her a cappella group, which sang an eclectic mix of pop, jazz, Renaissance, and world music. It was a wonderful group of dedicated moms, which welcomed me with open arms. They re-instilled my confidence as a singer. I even got to arrange a folk song for them, which was a great experience.

Then, I had my breakdown this past summer. I convinced myself that I didn't need music. I told myself I'd be perfectly happy just enrolling in a one-week early music program each summer to satisfy my urge to sing (solos, in particular). I was going to dedicate myself to writing and jazz dance, which, at the time, was pulling me out of my misery. I sadly resigned from the a cappella group to make the time for my new activities (I did it in a poor way, but that's another blog entry).

Unfortunately, I've found that the dancing options for me are pretty slim. I found the most amazing jazz dance teacher, but she teaches only one class a week that's available to the general public (her other classes are for serious college dancers and professionals). Hip hop classes have been more difficult for me to get to. I was taking them mostly for the cardio exercise (and they're really fun, too). I might be able to work it back in by December. The writing I can still do. I'm happy I'm getting back into it now. It should be regular now. I need to be disciplined about it.

But my creative focus is now back in music. I've joined a wonderful choir which focuses on Baroque music in particular, and I've found it to be an experience that's transcended all my expectations -- due to a fantastic director, the most beautiful repertoire, a friendly group of people, and a very special friend-singer (she's like a long-lost sister). Hey, this is a life-changing experience for me. It's like I've finally come home. I'm singing again -- singing music I love, singing with people I love. What more could I ask for? (Leaving the a cappella group was really tough because I loved the people, but I didn't totally love the music).

So my musical adventure is beginning again. I hope to take voice lessons again to get my voice back on track. There are so many things to work on. My breathing technique is not as good as it was in Paris, I think. My upper range has shrunk. My placement comes and goes. What would be fun is to get into a master's vocal program, but that's a pretty silly idea considering my family responsibilities. And, I don't think I could bear spending less and less time with my dear ones. Right now, the time away from them is just about right. I guess, when the kids get older, I'll be able to carve more time for myself. As they become more independent, I'll become more independent. I like how that works out.

It seems that this blog, at least for now, has turned into a "who am I?" exploration. I admire those who seem to have found their calling and are working hard to reach their fullest potential. I am way at the bottom of the totem pole, still just trying to figure out where to focus my energy. Am I just one of those people who will never focus? John calls me the greatest generalist. I may have reached a certain proficiency at several things, but will I ever be a master of something? Is that something to strive for? Or should I be content with being a dilettante?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Out of balance again

My life is out of whack again, unfortunately. How do I know? Well, my feeling of being overwhelmed was growing, and growing, and growing until my body physically couldn't take all the activity anymore. Then I got sick (last week). I wouldn't be able to diagnose it as a full-on cold or flu, but I had hardly any energy, I wasn't jumping out of bed in the morning like I usually do (I'm a morning person, what can I say?), and had off-and-on chills and low-grade fevers. I was pretty useless as a homeschooling teacher (did Maylin learn anything last week? not much from Mom, that's for sure), and have left the house in an abhorrent situation. Hey, at least the kitchen's semi-clean (sink is full of dirty pans, but other than that, kitchen is spic and span!) and I did pick up all the gnarly remnants of toys destroyed by our dog (goodbye, Mr. Plastic Whale, empty yogurt container, and Thomas the Train track piece).

I'm only feeling a little bit better. It doesn't help when I'm plagued with sleep deprivation caused by events like what happened last night, which was basically my playing a game of family musical beds (but pretty much by myself). I started off in my bed with Maylin (John and Stefan on Stefan's full-size bed). Then, when Stefan cried in the middle of the night for Mommy, John and I swapped spots, putting me in Stefan's bed. I couldn't go back to sleep, as usual. I tried to make it back to my own bed, but realized that it was occupied by two bodies already. I attempted to sleep in Maylin's bunk without hitting my head on the ceiling. As I was finally drifting off with a pile of chapter books as my bed buddy, I was awakened again by Stefan's crying. I made it safely down the bunk back into Stefan's bed -- and did I go back to sleep? Fortunately, I did. But I couldn't make myself get to my beloved jazz dance class in the morning. Mama was running on very low, economy power. I knew I needed to rest. I knew I had few chances to lay in bed and rest my heavy head, so I took it -- gladly.

So, sleep deprivation and overextending myself. I'm paying for it. I volunteered to do a couple things for two different organizations, but they're taking more time than I anticipated. It's all still fun, though. It's stuff I like to do, and one of the jobs I actually suggested myself. So I'm handling the Scholastic book orders for our homeschooling charter school (I love books and working with people), and designing a t-shirt for the choir I'm singing in now. Fortunately, I've given myself a deadline for the t-shirt design, so that's pretty short-term. The book job is fun and only takes a lot of time because I end up being addicted to shopping for books myself. I did something smart and deleted most of the orders I had saved the night before. Hours of my time wasted, but lots of money saved!