A journey begins…

Historically, I’ve found the end of a year to be very depressing. I look back and realize how little I’ve accomplished when compared to what I planned to get done. I didn’t hit my goal weight. I didn’t pay off that debt. I didn’t read all the books or knit all the projects. I didn’t PR that lift. Another year and I didn’t magically become happy.

This year is different. I am looking forward to 2018. I have a renewed sense of purpose. I even have a theme for the year, a concept I’ve always found rather silly. I have a lot of changes planned for the coming year. Big changes. Scary changes. The kind of changes that would normally have me coming up with myriad excuses to avoid them. My theme, though, is going to help me conquer the fear and make the changes that need to happen.

This year, I am going to focus on simplicity.

I work six days a week. Right now, it’s necessary for a few reasons. One is that I don’t make enough money at my full time job to pay for the lifestyle I’ve created for myself (translation: debt). Another reason is that I love teaching. I would miss my students and the fulfillment I get from them. I’m tired. I hate dragging myself out of bed on Saturday morning to get to the studio, but once I’m there, everything changes. The day usually goes by quickly and I end up having a good time with my kiddos (and adults).

But then I come home and realize I have one day to clean my apartment, prep my meals for the week, do laundry, get to the gym, and do something I enjoy like knitting or reading. What usually ends up suffering are the chores. The laundry and cleaning don’t get done. Then I spend the next week stressed about how messy my apartment is and how I don’t have enough clean clothes to last the week.

A couple of weeks ago, I made the decision to change that. I am going to get rid of “stuff.” I didn’t know exactly what that meant. I just didn’t want to look around at the pile of bills on the desk, the pile of dishes in the sink, and the piles of laundry on the closet floor.

Enter Kay and The Minimalists. My friend Kay introduced me to The Minimalists. I read a few of their essays online. A lightbulb went off. This is what I want. I only want what I truly need and what adds value to my life. I planned to start small. I have all year, after all.

But then I started. I started with the linen closet. I got rid of excess towels. (Why does a single woman who lives alone need so many towels?!) Those sheets that were faded and stained from when the cat was sick? Gone. Yes, they were cute as hell, but cute flannel sheets will be on sale at the end of winter and I can replace them. (As a pet owner, I feel that two sets of flannel sheets and two sets of summer sheets are a necessity, at least until I have my own washer and dryer.) The nail polish. The 50+ bottles of nail polish. Mostly gone. I kept about 20 bottles of colors that I absolutely love. If they are not used over the next year, they are gone as well. The broken humidifier is gone. A new, smaller one has replaced it. The hair and cosmetic products I didn’t use are gone as are the expired medications.

A monster has been unleashed. “Start small” has morphed into “go big or go home.”

Stay tuned. It’s going to be a great year.


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Gimme Some Sugar

Sugar detox day 18 of 30.

I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with food and with myself for as long as I can remember. I managed to stay thin throughout high school, but I heard very frequently that I had a big butt and “thunder thighs.” My mother reminded me often that she only weighed 105 lbs. when she was my age. (It never seemed to matter that I am a full 4″ taller than she is.) Additionally, neither of my parents were particularly strong role models when it came to how to eat healthy and how to stop eating when one is satisfied.

In college, I started gaining weight. There was one summer where I ate nothing but yogurt and Lean Cuisine meals in order to lose the weight. I also did aerobics videos almost every day. It worked. I lost weight. I also gained it back almost immediately after returning to school in the fall.

After college, I gained even more weight. I joined Weight Watchers and lost it again. Then I gained it again. I joined Weight Watchers again after graduate school. I never did hit my goal weight again. I got married. I got pregnant. I got hugely fat during my pregnancy.

I was the person that ate when she was depressed, lonely, overwhelmed, angry, or bored. I ate to have some control over my life. I was also the person who would eat in her car because she was so ashamed of the fact that she was eating anything at all. I was the person that snuck food because she didn’t want to be judged. I was the person who felt guilty for putting anything in her mouth.

In March of 2012, I decided I had had enough. I hated myself. I hated how I looked. I hated that I couldn’t get pregnant. I hated that my marriage was falling apart and that my life had no direction. I decided that I needed to stop hating myself before I could deal with anything else.

That’s when everything changed. I started working with a personal trainer. I went back to Weight Watchers. I began cutting processed foods from my diet. Eventually I decided to become a vegetarian as well. The weight started coming off.

In August of 2014, I joined Broad Ripple Fit Club. The experience changed my life. I stopped focusing on the scale. I stopped thinking about my weight loss journey in terms of how I look. Most importantly, I stopped being ashamed of how I was eating. I began to think of food as fuel and my workouts as comfort. The gym became my happy place. The weight didn’t come off as quickly, but my body composition changed. I looked better than I have in years, possibly ever. I was more confident than I ever have been.

This is why I’m quitting the sugar challenge. Over the last two and half weeks, I’ve been waiting for some miraculous change in how I feel. There has been a change in how I feel, but it’s not the one I was promised. Instead of feeling more energetic, etc., I feel guilty. I feel ashamed. I feel like I have to hide in my car when I want to eat foods that I like. These days, those foods are rarely the highly processed, fat filled bags of unpronounceable chemicals that I used to eat. I’m talking about foods like apples, bananas, strawberries, and tomatoes. I shouldn’t feel like I’m eating “bad” foods when I want to enjoy my favorite things. I shouldn’t have to have a “cheat” meal. I shouldn’t have to say, “I can’t eat that.” That’s not how I want to live my life.

I’ve realized that by joining this challenge, I was allowing someone else to decide what my goals are. I was letting someone else tell me what is best for me. I understand the math and science behind the challenge. I understand why some may want to live this way. I also understand that it simply doesn’t line up with what I want for myself. I’m not going to “win” this detox, but I’m not a quitter or a loser. I don’t “suck at life.” I’m walking away with greater self awareness and a clearer sense of what I want my life to look like. Those are pretty great prizes.

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Operation Badass

The day after my 38th birthday, I took my first Crossfit 101 class. If you had asked me then, I would have said that I was doing it because I still had weight to lose. I was no longer able to afford a personal trainer, but found that I wouldn’t workout on my own. I wanted a place to go where someone would tell me what I needed to do and show me how to do it. Crossfit was affordable for me so I was willing to give it a shot.

Yesterday, I completed the fifth and final workout of the 2015 Crossfit Open.  When I originally signed up for Crossfit, you couldn’t have convinced me that I would participate in such a thing. I had zero interest in competing. I just wanted to lose weight and get healthy. After hearing my coaches talk about the Open and recommend it as a great way to test your current fitness level, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. My goals were simple:

1. Don’t disqualify myself by not being able to complete a workout or, worse, not showing up to try.

2. Don’t die.

3. Don’t puke.

4. Don’t pass out.

5. Don’t be dead last in the world.

As of right now, none of those things have happened. (The jury is still out on #5 because scores won’t be validated until next week. I’m pretty sure I’m safe, though.) Even better than that, though, I’m proud of what I accomplished. I did so much more than I ever thought I could.

It’s hard to describe what I get out of Crossfit. It’s so much more than just a great workout. It’s the part of my life in Indianapolis that has been missing since I moved here. It’s the support system I’ve needed. When I walk into the gym, it doesn’t matter how much I can lift, how much I weigh, or how fast I am. It doesn’t matter that I’m a bit awkward, don’t understand the latest pop culture reference, or know who played in last night’s game, let alone who won.

Never in my life have I felt stronger and more empowered that I have since starting Crossfit. The workouts have been part of that, of course, but it’s the people I workout with that have made the biggest difference. When someone who can bench press four times as you tells you you’ve done a great job and means it, well, that’s pretty cool. When every baby step is celebrated, it can boost you higher than setting a new PR (personal record). I’m not someone who generally enjoys being the center of attention, but being surrounded by people cheering you on, reminding you how strong you really are, and coaching you through the worst of it when you think you’re going to die….. That’s pretty special.

I’ve jokingly called my Crossfit journey Operation Badass. When I started, that meant being physically strong and fearless. What I know now is that I’m already a badass. I show up. I do the work no matter how badly I don’t want to. (Believe me, I’ve never wanted to bail on a workout more than I wanted to yesterday.) Being a badass means being who you are wherever you are, facing your fears, and simply trying.  Lifting 10#? Badass. Lifting 100#? Badass. Jumping onto one bumper plate? Badass. Jumping onto a 24″ box? Badass. The people at my gym, especially the women, have taught me that. I look forward to going to the gym every day now to see what I can do and to support those who have supported me.

In my usual awkward fashion, I have failed to really express what this journey has meant to me. To really understand it, you’ve just got to be a badass yourself. Show up. You’ll never look back.

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Fear of forgetting

Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It’s a day to light a candle in honor and memory of the 1 in 4 pregnancies that end in loss. It’s hard day for a lot of people.

It was pointed out to me recently that I treat Schuyler as a child that needs to be protected. The remark was coming from a place of love and the desire to help me.  I can’t lie, though. It made me really angry. Why shouldn’t I protect her? I’m her mother and it’s my duty. I can’t protect her physically, but I can protect the idea of her, the fact that she existed and was a whole person. I don’t want to deny her existence to anyone, ever.

I’ve been thinking about it since then. What I’ve come to realize is that I’m not trying to protect her. I’m trying to protect myself. I have a phobia that I’ve really not been able to admit even to myself until now:

I am scared of forgetting my daughter.

This fear started almost immediately after I left her at the funeral home. She was flown from Indiana to Massachusetts. I knew when I walked out of that building that I would never see her again. Leaving the hospital without her, leaving her behind in the funeral home. Those are the hardest things I’ve ever done. When she was lying in her casket, she had a pout on her face. My mother told me later that she was pouting because she didn’t want to leave. Gods know I didn’t want to leave her. I can’t even begin to describe the anguish I felt walking away from her.

And then she was buried. It was over. There was no chance of seeing her again. Yes, I have two pictures. They are beautiful and I treasure them more than anything, but they’re not enough. I will never really have that feeling of holding her in my arms again. The first time I looked at her took my breath away. Even though she was already gone, it was magical. I’ll never experience that feeling again and it’s already faded.

Not long after Schuyler was buried, I was talking to my mother about a headstone. I wanted one, but we just didn’t have the money at the time. I was near hysterics because I was afraid the cemetery would lose her, would forget where she had been buried. I don’t know that there is a scientific name for this fear, but I know it would end with “-phobia” because it was completely irrational. She was buried next to my father. My father’s grave has a headstone. I know where his grave is. I’ve never forgotten, never had to wander around looking for it. So why should I forget where she is? (She have a marker now, so this bit of the phobia has been relieved.)

I know I have treated people unfairly when it comes to Schuyler’s memory and I want to apologize for that. It isn’t anyone’s place to remember her. If you do, thank you from the bottom of my heart. If you don’t, that’s okay. I will remember. In my heart of hearts, I know that I will never really forget her. She is as much a part of me as my own soul. This is just a normal part of the grieving process and I will accept it, work through it, and come out the other side a little stronger.

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A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me if choosing music as my vocation has changed the art for me. The answer is absolutely yes. Since he asked, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about why it’s different. The answer to that question is a lot more complicated. I’m not sure I’ve got all my thoughts about it together, but I’m going to give it a go.

I didn’t start playing the piano until I was 13. I didn’t even know I wasn’t tone deaf until I was 14. I was shocked the day my high school choir director asked me to sing in the women’s choir without even making me do an audition. My mother had spent most of my life telling me that I couldn’t sing. (To this day, she still likes to tell people how awful I was as a kid. Thanks, Mom. I’ll be sending you the bill for my therapist.) As it turns out, I was one of those kids that just needed a visual to go along with what I heard. Piano lessons and learning to read music is what did it for me. I think I had decided I wanted to major in music by the time I was a sophomore or junior in high school.

Of course I didn’t take my own music so seriously then. I was a teenager. I didn’t practice enough, I didn’t go see enough, and I didn’t listen to enough. Practicing was tough because I didn’t really know how to practice. Going to shows was tough because I’m not sure my parents would have been able to spare the time or money to take me. Additionally, I don’t think I knew I needed to go see things. I wanted to be a high school choir director and it didn’t occur to me that I needed to be listening to anything I could. I just had to teach the songs I wanted my choir to learn, right? (WRONG, but that’s an entirely different issue.) I didn’t listen to things that were unfamiliar. If I heard something I liked in a movie or something, I found that piece. Otherwise, I mostly listened to things my parents liked. Carmina Burana and the soundtrack from Amadeus were frequently heard blasting from my bedroom.

So then I went to college. I went to the University of Maine and majored in music education. Not a lot changed. I still didn’t practice enough. I still didn’t know how. I did go see things more frequently, but still not enough. In my defense, I didn’t have any money and the number of free tickets I could receive as a student were limited. I did start listening to more because I was exposed to more through my music history and literature classes. I still didn’t listen enough, though.

Before I graduated, I knew I didn’t really want to be a high school choir director. I wanted to perform. Of course, I had no real understanding of what it meant to be a full time singer or even what it took to get to that point. So, I taught. I taught middle school music for a year. I hated it. I worked in a group home for teens for a year. I hated that too, but because of my coworkers. I worked in a day treatment school for three years. That was better, but there were elements that I really hated. (Again, mostly my colleagues.) So, I decided I needed to start singing again.

Graduate school. Finishing graduate school. Listening more, but still no enough. Practicing more, but still not enough. Still broke, so still not going to enough stuff. Continuing lessons. Having a vocal breakthrough, then taking three steps backwards. Crying in a lot of voice lessons. A *lot* of voice lessons. Starting pieces and abandoning them. Deciding to do auditions and abandoning those ideas too. Then there was the year Schuyler died and I didn’t think I’d ever sing again. Of course, I did, but badly. I could not sing in tune for about a year. I decided to quit in the middle of a concert because I just couldn’t sing anymore. That concert was going to be my last. I was absolutely not ever going to sing another note. (Of course, I had to finish the concert because I had a huge solo. That I sang completely flat. I still haven’t listened to the recording.) Eventually I decided that having a baby, but not being a mother was enough of an identity crisis and that I shouldn’t give up singing just yet.

What I’ve come to understand in the last few years is that being a musician (or really an artist of any sort) is complete and utter madness. I can’t count the number of times I wanted to give it up because what’s the point? I’m not going to have an international career as an opera singer. I’m not even going to be a member of a professional opera chorus. Most of the singing I do now is gratis. I occasionally get paid to sing, but those opportunities are very few and far between. Yet I keep going to lessons, I keep learning repertoire, I keep trying. Why? I. Don’t. Know.

There is something in me that keeps me working for this intangible thing. I keep trying to be better. I keep wanting to learn new things. A secret part of me keeps hoping that I’ll “be discovered.” I’m not satisfied with things the way they are, but I have no direction, no goal. I keep working my ass off for some nebulous, abstract thing that I can’t even define. It’s completely mental.

This weekend, I’ll be performing the Verdi Requiem with the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. (Volunteer, of course.) We’ve been working on this piece since mid August. We have rehearsal every night this week. I’ve had to rearrange my schedule so that I can be at all of these rehearsals. We’re giving two performances and then it will be done. We won’t be able to get it back. As soon as the first notes are played or sung, they are gone. Even a recording, if there is one, won’t truly capture the moment. Recordings are wonderful, but they rarely capture the true energy of a live performance. (Sometimes you don’t want the moments captured. Because you get one shot. If you screw it up, too bad. There are no rewrites.) After the performance on Saturday night, this thing will be over. All our hard work will have come to fruition and we will move on. There will be nothing to take away except the memory and (hopefully) the satisfaction of having conquered this challenge. It’s not like a sculpture or a painting or a book. There might be a review in the newspaper. People might talk about it for a few days, but then it will be gone. It will have been dispersed into the cosmos. Will it have made a difference? I have no idea.

But I keep doing it. I don’t know why. I just know I have to.


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So, yeah. About this blog that I want

So, yeah. About this blog that I want to start writing on again. It’s still here. I haven’t been.

What’s up?

I’m getting divorced. I don’t want to, but it seems to be the only solution. Losing a child sucks. A lot. And it can either bring a couple closer together or drive them apart. Unfortunately, the latter happened to Mike and I. We tried We went to therapy together and separately. I changed my work schedule. I cried a lot. I yelled a lot. The fact is that while I was moving forward, Mike was not. It’s pretty shitty when the person who was meant to spend the rest of your life with you stops living his life. The fact is that I cannot drag him into the future if he’s not ready to go there. So, I am headed out on my own again. I don’t know what that means exactly, but I’ll do what I’ve always done and figure it out along the way.

I am moving into my own apartment in a week and a half. I am not even close to being ready, but I’ll get there. My books and scores are packed. Most of my yarn is packed. I don’t really need anything else. Well, maybe clothes and a bed, but whatever. The funny thing is that I am moving back to the apartment complex where I was living when I met Mike. I’m moving into an apartment with the same floor plan, in the building right across from my old one. I hope it feels more like coming home and not like taking a step backward.


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Oh, hai!

Oh, yeah! I have a blog! Whoops.

Okay, so I don’t even know where to start. Life is crazy and complicated. I’m learning a lot. I have a broken heart. I do not have children. I still have lots of yarn, but I’m learning so much music these days that I haven’t knit in about a week. I still have three jobs. I like them most of the time. My hair is long. I’ve lost weight. I actually like to work out now.

I think that about sums it up for now. I know it’s cryptic, but I’m not quite ready to delve into more detail yet. I do promise to try to remember that I have a blog, though, and come back before next year.

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