About Me

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In this blog I have created a haven, a place I allow my deepest emotions to go and sit. I can write easily about what I’ve accomplished. This biography I can recite in my sleep. But I’ve always written poetry and in diaries since I was a teenager. I continued to write poetry in my journals, and not until 2006 did I show them to anyone. I generally write every day, at the present in memoir form. I haven’t written poetry since my mother died in January, 2007. I didn’t write at all between her death and the death of my father three years later in January, 2010. On my father’s birthday in March, 2010, I began this blog, to honor my father and to help me grieve. But I also desperately needed to write, and this stream of conscious style emerged. I needed to find my organic voice.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

MN to CT

How to begin. This day, the beginning of my trip to spend Halloween with my peepsters, and then sashay down to NYC, began last night. I did laundry, packed my layers of clothes (where my sister lives is in a damp valley), packed my chargers, phone, meds, and beauteous –creating items.
This morning I heard the alarm at 8am, and hit the snooze; something I never do. Hopped in the shower, and got ready—somehow more slowly than usual. After I got my Americano, a light in my car came on: icon for low air in a tire. (Which one? Who knows?) Stopped at two gas stations to see if they or I could put air in my tires. No can do. I breathed, looked at the beautiful blue day, and said, “What the hell. It’ll be fine.” And it was fine. I reached the Park N Fly, hopped right on a shuttle and got to the airport.  When I checked in at a kiosk, an innocuous question appeared: would you like to update to first class for $? I laughed out loud, and said out loud, “Hell, yes!” And so I did.
Getting on to the plane in seat 1A ---how many of you do THAT, huh? I was immediately asked if I wanted a beverage and a snack. Meanwhile, the great unwashed (whose masses usually contain me) shuffled by. I wasn’t the typical first class person, I guess. The shufflers gawped at me, my jeans, my clogs, and multi layered tops. I smiled as I sipped my coffee, enjoying the seat being sizable enough that I could sit in an open lotus position (“Indian style”) . This is going to be one sweet flight. Ah, sweetness went by all too quickly. Do you know that you can drink all the alcohol you want and eat all the snacks you want FOR FREE? While I didn’t have the alcohol, I did have a can of the Bloody Mary mix. 62% of the day’s sodium. I don’t care.  It was damn good. She gave me two bottles of vodka with one can of tomato juice. Whoa.  I gave them back, and then asked for more snacks. Sure!

OH! And this is after we had an irate passenger –who was close to getting thrown off the plane. He was irate that a person ‘threw’ his bag onto the planeside check in area. I didn’t know such fury could surge over such an innocent action.  Well anyway, he was pissed and calling people stupid. Apparently if he had sworn, he’d have been thrown off. People who could potentially cause a problem generally use language with a little more punch. Yeah.  So the rest of the flight was fine.

I call my sister while waiting for the next flight that will take me to her in Connecticut. I ask her how the weather is—first snow, a duzy—her husband says it’s fine, and he’ll meet me at the baggage claim at the airport. Okay, cool. I turned off my phone, and took a nap on the next flight.
BOOM! We land on a snowy runway, white, cotton candy like snow flying by us as we are slowing down. Turn on my phone. A missed call. I don’t want to know who called me. There was a text. Aw, god. Here we go. My sister and family were not coming to get me, and could they come tomorrow? Tomorrow? I immediately used my Crackberry to get the number of the hotel AT the airport. No rooms. Hmm. Went down stairs to the bank of hotels you can reach by speed-dialing them. No room; no vacancy; I’m sorry we’re full.
AND THEN MY FATHER’S ENERGY WENT RIGHT THROUGH ME. I heard the woman next to me successfully getting a room! I smiled and gently touched her elbow: “Would you get one for me, too?” She smiled and said, sure!  Power in numbers. It never hurts to ask. Now we had to get to the hotel. I’d forgotten to ask which one, so we kept waiting and waiting outside in the chilly snowstorm. 15, 20, 30, 45 minutes. No shuttle from the hotel. We made a group decision to call the hotel back to double check when the shuttle was coming. They were NOT coming, due to weather. Okay. Taxis were not running. Public transport was very limited. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh HA! MY DAD COMES TO ME AGAIN—he showed me the waiting Limo, which had been sitting as long as we’d been waiting. I grabbed my new friend, and said, “Come on!” Maybe my First Class Trip would end with a limo drive! The limo driver’s seat was empty. Bummer. However, Dad struck again, and showed me to a van. I was not afraid, which is unusual. It was an unmarked van, no company name. We looked in the passenger’s side window, and the man rolled it down. I said, “Are you waiting for someone?” Yes, he was waiting, but the clients were stuck on the tarmac. I smiled my dad’s smile, happy and optimistic, and asked if he could drive me and my friend to the hotel about 10 minutes from the airport. The window rolled up. I looked at my friend and told her “Why not ask? He could always say no.” Not once did I have any nerves or indicators of danger, as I have had in the past. The window rolled back down.
“I’ll take you for $30.”   My god, a bargain from where we stood. I asked if that was $30 each, and he said, “No, for the both of you.” My dad led us right to someone who could help. I’m not saying that either one of us women couldn’t have figured it out, but we were flabbergasted and tired, out of sorts,…but I am saying that women generally don’t look at a limo, ready to ask for a ride, and then find a white van, and ask its driver. My father pumped calm courage into me. I felt it with certainty. This delightful older gentleman drove us, carefully, to our hotel. I love his accent. Now that I’ve been in Minnesota for 10 years, I finally recognize Connecticut Salt has an accent. He was so lovely. He got our bags, we gave him twice what he’d asked, and gave him the Italian mille baci that scratched my cheek a little. My new friend gave him a hug. Cheekily he said, “Ladies, maybe I’ll come back tomorrow to get more of that!” Sly, cheeky man. He was heading back to the airport to pick up the people that were hopefully off the tarmac. It was 7.30pm. He was going to drive them to New York City, about 3 hours away, and then drive himself home.  I had a little crush on him. I also know my dad guided me to him. Someone to help me who was kind and trustworthy. Someone he could trust to help his daughter. I am as certain of this as I am my own name.

So here I am ensconced in my hotel room, toasty, watching National Geographic on TV, and full from a free dinner of instant macaroni and cheese, provided by the hotel. Restaurant was closed, many places around the area are without power.
Life is good. I am not alone. It’s easy to ask . I find it easier to do this kind of thing in CT and New England (New York, too) because these are my people. We can approach each other casually, with excitement or nerves, and we’re on the same level. Everyone was stressed out. But some of us worked together to achieve our goals. This is what I find so heartwarming. From the lady scoring us both hotel rooms, to our hero who got us to the hotel, and then the hotel staff allowing customers to pillage their little “market” of instant mac and cheese, chips, candy, cookies, beer, wine, and soda—for no cost.

I have no idea when my sister will pick me up tomorrow. She says nine. I’m thinking closer to 10. She’s not of this circle of incredible events. She backed out when she had the chance. But, since she did, I got to meet these interesting people, characters in a wintery blizzard.

The power has now gone out in our hotel. The light of the computer is all there is. Our refuge has finally succumbed to the storm.  I am getting tired, and with earplugs I should sleep just fine.  What’s hitting me over and over is the strong positive energy I felt within me throughout all of this day, especially when things got messy. If that limo driver had been in the car, I would have walked over, shaken his hand, and ask him if wasn’t busy could he take me and my friend to our hotel. In a million years I couldn’t have imagined I’d have the guts to do that, or approach the driver of the van.  It was my father, gently pushing me from behind (and beyond) to let people show me their best. Or at least, show MY best in a tough situation.  Ironically, the hotel at which I am staying is less than a mile from where my father worked.  I also do not feel angry at my sister.  Part of me would like to, but I’m just not there. I’ll be happy to see the kids, of course, say hello to my brother in law, and try to spend some real time with my sister at her bakery. I hope it is going to be a success. I want to hear all about it. I want to catch up on as much of her life as I can squeeze into these few days. I don’t know when I’ll hear from her again.
People say a lot of stupid things.  In the end it’s up to me.  That is really stupid.  The person who says that doesn’t trust people to complete tasks correctly or even have a history of fucking up. The person who feels it’s all up to me is not looking around, seeing all the good help to be found. In Minnesota, the culture is as frigid as the temperatures. I can’t imagine any of this happening there. Not a lot of genuine warmth.  But in my home state, where we speak the same language, it’s okay to ask, to joke with someone we don’t know, to make transportation plans with a stranger. To have a stranger make an extra hotel reservation for a stranger.  My body language is understood here, my mannerism is not considered brash or bossy; it’s how everyone is here, and people get along just fine. Better than fine. It’s okay to be weak here, or at least in need of assistance. Now I know I’m talking about something relatively minor, but I believe this culture would react the same in a more dire circumstance. Real people helping other real people. How blessed and comforted I feel by coming home. My father is with me, he wants me here with my sister, niece and nephew for Halloween. He helped me the whole way to get here. As far as was safe. I love you, Dad.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hey it's not like I am unhappy in my marriage. It's just that as things change,  I need my environment to change to reflect it. Karl's nightly snoring/waking me up has got to stop. I may have to make the choice to head back to the shabby chic retreat of my bedroom. No snoring there. Man, I sound like a bitch tonight; it's been a stressful week of insults and anxiety, reminding me the part of academia I despise.  Crab, crab, crab.

I finally picked up the ring that was designed with the stones my father left me, Karl's engagement diamond, and the topaz my parents gave me on my 18th birthday. It's a very special piece. With the rest of the stones earrings will be made to complement the ring. To wear at Carnegie Hall.

My sister's bakery is opening this weekend, and I am taking some personal time (away from school) to fly out there to support and celebrate her. My parents would be beside themselves with pride: the little girl who never wanted to leave home, who called for hours each night just to talk to them...Here she is with her own bakery. Her own dream. And she's left everybody in the dust. Rejects all offers of assistance. It has taken me two weeks to get her to call me back and confirm that someone can come and get me at the airport. My friends who live in the area will be out of town. I was about to reserve a limo at about $200 to get myself to their place. Ah, now, don't question me: Due to the nature of the trip, I couldn't get a rental car, which I've always done.

This trip has more than one item to achieve. I wanted FOR SURE to be with K and TJ on Halloween. My dad loved it so much, and they loved having him,  that I've taken it up for as long as they'll let me. I even have a costume. Pictures will be posted. I am also looking forward to sitting at the bakery (I hope she has coffee), watching the world spin, and grading 300 assignments. Or, maybe I'll blow that of and play with the kids!

On all Saints Day, my wonderful friend Lori will be driving down from VT, picking me up and tooling down to Brooklyn. A girls' night in a nice hotel, good food, probably laughing, and crying--she and I lost our dads only a few months apart--and then she'll come with me to a very special appointment.

I am having a dress designed and built for me by designer Garo Sparo. This is the gown I will wear at Carnegie Hall. I don't feel intimidated or unworthy or anything like that. This has surprised people. My friends are veerrrrrry unsure about this, and they are not taking advantage of Mr. Sparo LOANING them garments for our concert.  Whatever! I don't know if it speaks more to my sense of adventure returning or their midwestern distrust of the edgy east coast.  Would my parents be as proud of this as my sister's bakery? Honestly, no. My grandfather was a butcher, and so my sister having a bakery is a natural-ish evolution for our family. I, however, and despite of a doctorate, am the creative willy-nilly. Not really doing anything for anyone else...that's old stuff creeping up. I know my mom would LOVE to see me have a dress custom made! In good times, she was a fashion plate.  I think my parents would have come to Carnegie Hall, perhaps out of duty, not excitement. The music I sing bored them both silly; especially foreign languages and avant -garde music: ALL of which are represented on this exciting program. In the past, I got lots of eye-rolling after the concert and digs about the "music" I was singing. I won't have that now, because I doubt my sister will be at the concert. Other extended family will be there, and though they may not understand some of the music, they would never speak ill of it, or brush it aside. Or downgrade the importance of a gig at Carnegie Hall.  I remembered my debut at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC in 1986. My aunt and uncle had to strong arm my parents to come. And my sister wasn't there. I am blessed to know many people who'll be attending and I will embrace them all. And send a big thank you up in to the ether---for their indifference helped me really take ownership of this craft and dig in to be the best possible singer. Long time coming.

How have I changed throughout all the years of my parents calling me snob, an intellectual, suggested I was "loose" because I was singing on the opera stage?

 I know the discipline it has taken me to get to this place, and I have done nothing about which I have been ashamed. I also know that it is OKAY that musicians perform as much for themselves as the audience. My parents thought that was the most selfish statement I'd ever made. I know if the performers don't love it, the audience will know it, and that would suck. It's not bad to love what one does, to acknowledge one is good at it. Again, their attitudes made me think for myself and form my own, and be firm in that belief, because I wasn't really getting it from them. Looking back, I 'm glad I got that lesson early, I got right on that train to self-discipline, self-soothing after a hard audition, and learning to bounce  back after a mediocre performance. My sister has never had to gain these skills. I feel bad for her. I think she is beginning to own herself now, although how she sustains slow business, the risks of a new business, I don't know.

I hope we both reach our new normal and somewhere, in the middle we have some common ground.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Romantic? It's a type of decor.

The past several days have opened a new chapter in my life. Is it new or newly re-discovered? Don't know, and don't really care. Through force of her spirit, my friend D drew me into this group of women for a fundraising project. One and done, I thought. I don't go out, not anymore, and need cave time to save up energy for a week of teaching. LOOOOOONG photo shoot for a terrific cause. Ups and downs, it comes to fruition. A preview party; (I missed it, had grading); launch party, big deal. Missed it; on vacation. These women somehow value me and I 'm confused. All I did was show up at this shoot and help out. They called me tonight after the event, and each one wanted to talk to me, they missed me. And I them.

What is this? People I normally wouldn't hang out with in my previous life--musicians, professors. I am finding personal comfort with these women after meeting them once. There's a dynamic that creates happy, positive, energy. LIFE. What I've been missing for so long. All busy professionals in their fields, all with complicated personal lives...making time for each other. It's beautiful. And they want me to be part of it, too. Again, I ask myself, why?

I missed the big launch party because my husband had planned a long weekend up north at a resort on Lake Superior. Planned it long before I'd gotten involved with this group of happymakers.  And so we're here. First we were in one bedroom, together: Karl watching sports (gah) talking to the television , humming to himself, and generally providing a one man show while I was trying to read. I left into the other bedroom where I could read in peace. The other room became quiet. The women called from the event, and I was suddenly energized and happy--my annoyance instantly abated.  Since our original bedroom seemed quieter, I came in with my book, and then the channel surfing started again, baseball, baseball, college football I, college football II...then some random old movie with awful 1940 american screen accents, and he was back to the filterless drivel he with which he has driven me crazy for 20 years. "Oh I have a cramp. Damn I should go back to the gym. Oh! Go Brewers! Hey did you konw michigan state is playing Michigan tomorrow? And on and on. And the television was on this dreadful old movie. The channel we agreed we wouldn't watch if I also had to watch sports.

So now we have switched bedrooms again; he is in the room without the television, but he is watching stuff on his computer.

This all speaks to the changes in how I see life, what "means" life.  I am too tired by life to do it all the time. I don't want a "romantic weekend that involves Karl watching sports or old movies all weekend. There is nothing else to do here. We're in a little tiny box of  two bedrooms. This is not romantic. I don't know what romantic means to me anymore. Thank god for that second bedroom. Life doesn't include romance for me any more, or at least not now. Not interested. I need alone time more than I ever knew. Trapped in a hotel room does not count. I don't want constant humming, filterless yammering, sports on television, whistling.  STOP. Be quiet. If this is supposed to be relaxing for me, let me relax! See what that looks like NOW, after everything we've experienced. I have changed. And it's not a phase, it is the new normal writers talk about in their books on grief. This idea of romantic weekend, at the moment, sounds like a 24-7 entanglement with very little silence. Romance to me is personal --giving myself the time I need to feel rested, enough solitude to spend time in my head, or with my journals, or on a bike ride. I am much, much quieter than I ever knew.  Drivel exhausts me. Annoys me. Repels me. It does not serve me. In my new normal, I cut out things that no longer serve the highest good. Unfettered sleep. A bed to myself. Romantic means a style of decoration, colors that soothe me, or make me happy.

Hope tomorrow's a more peaceful day. And flows as we each decide. Not stuck together at the hip. It's not like that anymore for me. I'm too busy in my head, making sure my root chakra needs are being met. I feel like only I can do that.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A string of good days

My week has been a succession of good days. I have given up trying to solve the fatigue issue. I think it is with me to stay; it's either the last part of depression that meds can't fix, or it's the fibromyalgia that always saps my energy. The week, though, has been relatively stress-free, and in fact, somewhat exciting. I will share more plans later as they become concrete, but I am making the trip to CT to see my sister's bakery open, and then spend Halloween with my niece and nephew. I've no idea if they are, at 10 and 8, even still INTO Halloween; for me it is a sacred holiday: my mother was first found, near death, on Oct 31st. My grandparents were married in Italy October 31st. The last three Halloween's of my dad's life I was there, and we took the Peepsters trick or treating. That was a big deal for Poppi, who was much sicker than we knew. I feel like I want to take that mantel and wrap it around me. A super Auntie that can try to fill Poppi's shoes....at least a little, as well as I can. If it's an annual trip to spend Halloween with them, I'll do it.  Their lives will grow up so fast, and I 'd like to try and be there for them as much as I can. They have neither their Mimi nor Poppi but they do have Auntie Catherine. Maybe I need a superhero cape or something like that. I write them letters, about what I am doing in school, asking them questions about how their sports are going, or their friendships, and what their favorite classes are. My Kassie writes me often; TJ never does, but that's okay. It's that *I* do it that makes me so happy.

I recently self-published this blog to send to my aunt, the one who gets me and I her. I wonder if it will drag her back to the moments of our greatest pain. I wanted to see it in book form--what could a book of mine look like? It is pretty cool. I recently showed some of my introduction to another writer friend. She said to me, "Oh, you're a memoirist." This never occurred to me. I never write about the history of aprons in County B, or about the history of a building. While I like reading about these things, I could never conjure a scrap of writing to do the subject justice. I need to write for me. About me in the world, and how the world effects me. Some would call that "indulgent' (someone already has); I think of it as writing about something I know. I can't claim to know much, and really, researching the history of a church clock does not move me to write. 

What I have experienced this week is a feeling of calm; it's unusual, but I know I have been taking very good care of myself. No extra nonsense; no things that don't involve me; no interactions with people who aren't good for me. And then the excitement of rehearsing toward a big concert in New York in March. On a whim, I contacted a designer whose work I admire, and asked about an appointment; I'm interested in having a concert dress designed for me for this big concert coming up. Garo Sparo, the designer I contacted (via Facebook, mind you!) he was lovely and excitedly accepted. I've spent the week in email conversations with one of his assistants who gathers information and sets up appointments,  I am beyond words. It is a price I can afford, and it will be made FOR ME. My pianist friend, also joining the Trio in concert, is considering the same thing. Hope she does it.  These good days string out, and I find myself asking to visit my sister on the opening of her bakery and to hang with the kids on Halloween. All of this is wonderful.And then I told a friend my plan, and asked her if she was interested in taking  a girly road trip. She said YES! and she as hotel points for a very nice hotel in NY. Suddenly this trip has taken shape, all through kindness, friendship, and love. I will be wearing a couture gown in March. And my friend will be there at the beginning with me. No one I'd rather be with for this experience.  

This trip has one foot in nostalgia and the other in the future.  I think it's okay. I hope it will be okay. It seems like things feel into place Veeeeeeeeery easily. but I haven't yet made the flight reservations!!!
Wish me well as I take another step forward into My Life.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

We are Slowly Approaching the Holidays, and I want them GONE.

Been a while, or at least it feels like it. Today would have been my mother's birthday. Today is also the birthday of a close friend, which brings present happiness in to the equation of past sadness. I can't imagine what my mother would be like, look like, if she had lived....probably not good. It is well she has passed on to peace, contentment, and health. She deserves that after such a hard life.

I went to my first writer's group meeting last week. It was interesting, and sadly, was exactly what I thought it would be like. I hope the dynamic changes at the next meeting and the next. Otherwise it won't be for me. Very nice people that write in a variety of styles, but I don't know how much criticism they'll offer. I want to be better, to entice a publisher.

I've recently went through one of the worst bouts of depression: two weeks of it. Called my doctor, my therapist, and they told me to ride it out unless I felt suicidal, which I did not.

Karl and I are thinking about our fathers a lot lately. This brings him down. His dad's birthday was early in September, and has gotten Karl thinking, and then me thinking about my dad. Let's just say it's been a little sombre around here of late.

My sister is moving like crazy to get her bakery opened, and I am so impressed with her--her spirit, her stick-to-it-iveness, her skill. I hope Karl and I can fly out for the opening. I also have another trip to New Work coming up that should be very exciting; I contacted a clothing designer I really admire and may go out to discuss him creating something for me for the Carnegie Hall gig.  I am hearing my father saying: what the hell do you need that for? Too extravagant! I feel like, after looking at the past seven years of my life, that this may represent the new normal; and what better way than through clothes? God knows the cost...figure it out.

I am so melancholy at the change of seasons. When my dad was alive, I was out there for three Halloweens with him, my sister, and the kidlets. i made shirts for everyone with puffy paint.  POPPI was over his chest.  That was his connection to the holiday. The real connection was with the little ones running around, yelling, 'trick or treat!' Seeing us all there, wrapped in the swaddle of love, to pull out every bit of happiness there was to find. Living through those Halloweens has ruined them for me, for now. I don't want to deal with Halloween anymore. Thanksgiving either. The story of my father, one handed, trying to lift a 20lb turkey into the oven (because his other arm had a huge tumor on it, and he couldn't use it). He put the whole dinner together, with my sister bringing some of the side dishes. I wanted to be there. How could I known? Maybe I was in denial. And then there was Christmas. We all tried to focus our energies on the kids showering them with love, especially my father, because HE KNEW how close he was. After Christmas Day, the kids left, but my sister stayed, I think because she knew, too. So we all kept watch, trying to be humorous but tip-toeing around the breakthrough pain, trying to manage it, and seeing how carefully he kept records. He made the decision to go to the hospital, and as you know, we made the silent drive, thirty minutes to the hospital, where he ended up in the hospice wing. The rest of this is all documented at the beginning of this blog in March 2010. But what I say is that Christmas means only painful memories right now, and I've no interest in it. I don't know if I'll always be like this, needing to let holidays flow by me, without me, but still wanting to see my remaining family. I need to get a sense of what my sister is doing; with the bakery she may not be going anywhere; in that case, we'd go to CT, against my husband's wishes. I'd love to have Christmas with my RoRo. And Karl wants to spend it with his family; his mom recently widowed. How thin can we spread our sadness to "celebrate" the holidays? I just run to run off again, where Christmas isn't so important. Starting with Halloween, until my dad's death on January 13, is the darkest time of the year for me. Decline, pain, oxygen tanks, pain meds that don't help, visible bone tumors with no pain relief, his fear that things are coming to an end. It gives a preciousness to everything we did, and more worthy of remembering. But today, the sadness is overwhelming, and just want to run away. I am not ready to join the holidays yet.