Wednesday, September 29, 2010

If You Can't Say Anything Nice... There's Always Facebook

Sometimes we just need to vent. Whether we're exhausted Mommies, or frustrated spouses, or fed-up coworkers, or hurt sons and daughters, we just need to get things off our collective chest. So, we turn to our collective facebook page. And we update our collective status.

And inevitably, someone tries to Polyanna the crap out of the situation. "I know you're really frustrated that your iron burned a hole through your shirt, but at least you have an iron!" At least you have a job. Or a spouse. Or a son or a daughter or a parent or a place to live. 

It is inevitable. And. 

It. Is. So. Annoying.

Ladies and gentlemen, no matter what Monty Python tries to tell you, it is not helpful when we always look on the bright side of life. When someone posts a venting facebook status, they are, on some level, hurting. Maybe not time-to-call-the-hotline hurting, but hurting. And when you make these accentuate the positive comments, do you know what you're saying? You're telling your friend that their hurt is not valid. 

Now before you get all riled up, let me anticipate two of your arguments and then we can just shut this down before it starts. 

1. But it's not healthy to have all that negative energy!

Is it healthy to focus only on the negative? No. It is not. And I'm not talking about those people we all know who complain about everything. I'm talking about the majority of the healthy folk who occassionally admit to feeling something other than walking on sunshine. Because we all get frustrated and sad and angry and hurt and sometimes we need to let it out. And I would argue- with the approval of any psychiatrist worth anything- that it is pretending everything is always ok all the time that is really the unhealthy choice.

2. But you don't understand. That person is complaining about something I want and don't have! Of all the nerve!

Yeah, I'd feel bad for you if I hadn't, for three years, been a woman struggling with infertility reading facebook complaints from tired mommies. And I thought "man. I really want a baby. And she's complaining about having a baby. That seems unfair." And I felt sad. And jealous. And  angry.

Hypocritical of me to admit? Here's the difference. I THOUGHT those things. And I FELT them. I did not, however, say them. Or, maybe I did. Maybe I posted my very own facebook status, or texted a friend, or booked an extra therapy session. But I did not and I would not comment on the status of the person who said the thing that hurt me in the first place. Because honestly. How does telling another person they have no right to hurt, or making them feel guilty over hurting make me hurt any less?

It doesn't.

So seriously. Please think before you facebook. Otherwise, us ivy-leaguers-and-near-ivy-leaguers are taking it back. *

(* I have no authority to make this threat. But it sounded cool, no?) 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just Another Manic Monday

I've had a fairly hectic couple'a weeks, what with all the teaching and the traveling and the planning. I knew yesterday was going to be busy. So Sunday night I went to bed around midnight. This is early-ish for me. And at 3:30, I was still awake, thinking about all the things I had to do. But still, when the alarm went off at 7:00, I was ready. I had my clothes all laid out, and I got in the shower. And at 7:45, I got a text from the babysitter saying she was stuck in insane traffic. I needed to be on the 8:10 train. She arrived at 8:20. It wasn't her fault. It was raining pretty hard, traffic was unusually bad, she was stuck. I sent a text to the lead teacher of the class that started at 9:30, and told her that I would be on the 9:02 train which put me in Larchmont at 9:25. I might make it, but just barely.

And then. The train was late. Maybe it was because of the rain. But it was ten minutes late. I arrived in Larchmont at 9:31, and was about an 8 minute walk from class. And I had no umbrella. No umbrella, no coat, and very little sleep. I walked into class fifteen minutes late and stood, soaking wet, behind my keyboard which had been set up for me. Of course, there were a few songs I hadn't had a chance to review. I was going to go over them when I got there. Because the 8:10 train gets me there at 8:35. But. We know how that worked out.

It was a series of silly, unimportant things that made me a little late for a class for which I have never been late. I seriously doubt that anyone where I teach looks at me as the girl who is late and unprepared. But.

For a really long time- a REALLY long time- all through high school and college and well into my early career- I was the girl who was always late and unprepared. Smart, if she shows up. Talented, if she's even looked at what she's doing.

This is something I've really worked to improve. It's taken some adjusted life skills- laying out my clothes the night before, for example, and keeping a to do list that actually works for me- as well as years of therapy. Because what I really needed to fix was WHY was I always late and unprepared?

And one morning of rain set me back. I was beating myself up the whole way to class. I should have known somehow. I should have looked at all of this music yesterday. I should always carry an umbrella. I should have paid better attention to the weather report. I should have the babysitter arrive an hour earlier so I can be sure to be there on time, no matter what, even though this would be really expensive.

I was eventually able to talk myself out of all the nonsense- largely because I spent the rest of the day working in a productive fashion. But my goodness. We are hard on ourselves, aren't we?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What Color is my Effing Parachute?

Last week I was talking to a friend of mine about her boyfriend, who was in a bit of a career crisis. He had decided to turn down a job opportunity that wasn't shaping up as promised, and he was deciding what he wanted to be when he grew up. As we talked about it, I realized out-loud that I had never really been through that. I decided at 16 years old that I wanted to be a music teacher. Since then, I have earned a bachelors degree and two masters degrees in vocal music education. I have taught in public schools, private schools, colleges, theatre companies, preschool programs, youth choirs... I have taught music and theatre in nearly every capacity possible. I planned, as we talked, to blog about my career choice. About how it is one element of my life that seems constant and secure. Not the specific jobs- I can go months without knowing where I'll teach next. But the field. Performing arts education. That has always seemed to be the right choice for me.

And then. The very next day.

It was just one of those rough days. A series of unrelated events left me feeling unappreciated, and misunderstood, and very alone. And I was reminded how thankless it can be to work in the arts. Thankless, and not very lucrative. When I'm paid at all. And I started to wonder why I did what I did. And I cried. Because that's what I do.

Then I reached out to a couple friends, who talked me through it a little, and made me feel better. A little. Then, I actually taught a couple classes. And suddenly, I remembered. I am really really good at my job.

This week alone, I taught someone what a repeat sign means so she could better follow her church choir music. I played the keyboard at a one-year-old's birthday party. I accompanied six classes for babies and toddlers. I gave a young adult her very first piano lesson. I led a meeting which determined fundraising plans for a theatre group that means a whole lot to a whole lot of people, and I wrote a residency proposal for that group. I led a music class for six moms with babies who are less than a year old. I started a glee club for elementary school girls, and in one hour I had those nine little girls improvising a scene from the Sound of Music and performing "Do, Re, Mi" with Kodaly hand signals. And in the past three days, I have taught 26 voice lessons to women really passionate about singing barbershop.

It might not be a typical week, (OK, I don't think I have ever had a week like this before...) but it does make me realize. My job is pretty cool. And, now that I think about it, it's probably important.

This feels like one of the most egocentric posts I have ever written. "Look at me and all the cool stuff I do!" But quite frankly, I needed to see it all spelled out in front of me. Because it can be really, really hard. I was gently reminded the other day by a friend that most things worth doing are hard. 

So. What are you doing with your life that's hard? It's probably really important to someone.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's Not Easy Bleeding Green

Hey there, college sports fans. As most of you in Ohio know (and none of you in NYC know. Because seriously. You don't care.) Ohio State and Ohio University are matched up for some football this Saturday. It's not like the Ohio State/ Michigan game or anything. It's not even a fair match-up. I mean really. I'm guessing that Ohio State fans aren't even paying much attention to the game.

But. If you are a Bobcat.

Well, let's just say when you're a cat, you're a cat all the way. (that was for my New York friends.) And this game is a big deal to us. And this week is really... irritating. It turns out that I'm going to be in Ohio this weekend. Not at the game. I probably won't even be able to watch the game. But I'll be in Ohio, surrounded by Buckeyes. And I will still stand up and cheer. I will cheer loud and long for old Ohio. (which, come to think of it, probably won't be specific enough...)

For those of you who aren't fortunate enough to be Bobcats, and who don't understand why we get so... irritated... let me break it down for you in three parts. 1- Why we're awesome. 2- Why we get so... irritated... and 3- Why it probably doesn't matter anyway.

1. Why we're so awesome
I could write about what it means to be a Bobcat for days and never really say it all. (Check out "Wearin' O' the Green" parts one and two that I wrote during March Madness.)Special people go to Ohio University. (no, not that kind of special.) We like each other. That's why we were yet again the Number 2 Party School in the Nation this year. We genuinely enjoy each other's company. And. It's a really good school. A REALLY good school. And I know schools- they're what I do. Some of our programs are tops in the nation. I got my music degree at OU, (and my masters degree in education) and later got a masters degree in music from NYU. Newsflash- the School of Music at NYU is not as strong as the one at OU. And I'm an alum of both programs, so I'm hardly even biased. The journalism school is amazing. Modern dance? Amazing. Ohio University has an outstanding reputation- most of my friends have careers in their field of study, and for most of them, Ohio University played a large role in that. I'll talk about it more as Homecoming approaches. But for now, we're awesome. (Yes, that made my argument largely end up being "we're awesome because we're awesome." But I can't say that I've heard much stronger arguments from Buckeye fans...)

2. Why we get so... irritated...
Here's the thing. It's the way Buckeye fans react. Truly. My sister posted a silly video about why she hates Ohio State, and someone attacked her as a mother. No, really. Get a grip, Buckeyes. It's called wit. I wouldn't have anything against Ohio State if it wasn't for the whole state feeling that my being born there mandates my Buckeye status. I haven't even lived in Ohio for seven years. And even if I did root for the scarlet and gray- do you seriously think I would still want them to beat my own team? I am allowed to root for my own school! Contrary to what Buckeye fans would like us to believe, being an Ohio State fan is not required. It's a school. One school. One state school. Do you know how many state schools there are in Ohio? Just because it happens to be big, that does not mean it represents the entire state.

Of course, for those of us who moved away from Ohio, we have to admit that it does get... irritating... to explain where we went to school. No, not the Buckeyes. The Bobcats. It's in Athens. No, green and white. And then they look disappointed. It's ok, I know it's a better school, (I am certain OSU has many lovely programs. But when it comes to my field- music education- sorry, but no. OU has a stronger program. If you would like to discuss this in detail, buy me a drink and we'll discuss. But I promise you I'll win.) it doesn't make me feel bad, it's not like I wanted to go to Ohio State and had to settle for Ohio U. But you get that disappointed face from people enough, and you start to dislike that other school just a little.

So are we a little red-headheaded-step-childish about the whole thing? Yeah, we probably are. But you would be too. We try to root for our own team, and we get attacked. We trash talk a little (not that the Buckeyes would ever do that... no, they just riot and turn over cars. Anyone want to talk about the Dailight Savings Riots in Athens? Were you there? If you were, great, lets talk. Because I was too. Otherwise, I'm sorry you were so mislead. It was not not not a riot. It was a giant game of Red Rover.) and we are attacked. Buckeye fans are so presumptuous about the situation that it's maddening.

3. Why it probably doesn't matter anyway.
Ohio State is a Big Ten school. Ohio University is in the MAC. Athletics are a different priority. When I say I love Ohio University, I mean I love the school. And the people. And the campus. And the teachers. And the classes. And the memories I made there. I was an athlete for two years- I was a cheerleader. And the Ohio University Marching 110 shaped a decent part of my adult life. So I am a fan of Bobcat athletics. And I want them to win, sure. That's always fun.

But when people are Buckeye fans, most of them are talking about sports. Just sports. Are Buckeye sports better than Bobcat sports? Hell yeah they are. Of course they are. They should be. It's a bigger school, with a different emphasis on athletics. (although, overly confident Buckeye fans might want to talk to Georgetown fans before they get too cocky...) The Bobcats and the Buckeyes probably should not even play each other.

But they do. And when they do, it leaves us Bobcats feeling... irritated. But standing up and cheering loud and long anyway.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

You've Got To Know When to Hold 'Em...

According to my Mommy calendar, today is Grandparents Day. Who knew? So in honor of this holiday, a story about Miss Lily, who is apparently being influenced by Grandpa.

Last night around midnight, Lily started to fuss. We were on the balcony enjoying a glass of wine, so we assumed we woke her, and just let her fuss. But after an hour, she was still awake, and the fussing had grown to hysteria. We went in to check on her. She didn't want to be held, she didn't want a bottle, she most certainly did not want to be in her crib. So, in hopes that she would show me what the problem was, I put her down. She toddled in her little footy pajamas- down the hall, through the kitchen, into the living room- found the remote, and pointed it at the television. I laughed, told her we were not going to watch television at 1 AM, and took the remote. She walked up to the tv, pushed the button to turn it on, and sat on Ryan's lap to watch...

The World Series of Poker. Two men in, pocket aces versus pocket Queens. Bets were placed, and eventually the man with the pocket Queens was all in. We watched each card get dealt, and when it came to the river, pocket aces was the winner.

"Yay!" Lily squealed in delight, clapping her hands.

And we put her to bed, and she slept until morning.

I guess she just really needed to see how that hand was going to go...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why Matt Lauer Should Have Beat the Sh*t Out of Tom Cruise

...and other really strong opinions.

I was hoping not to write this one, but here it is. I make no secret about the fact that I'm a person who lives with depression. I'm also a person who lives with hypothyroidism, but that's not as interesting. Recently, I've found myself struggling with it again for no reasons I can explain. And then I realized. I haven't taken any medication since February. Intentionally. I didn't just forget, I was "better" and wanted to try without for a while. But that's about the time I started to struggle, which once again brings me to the same conclusion. It's a stupid, stupid disease. But, it's a disease nonetheless, and it's a disease that I have, and pretending I don't have it is probably not going to help.

One of the problems we all face in living with depression is the stigma attached, and the fact that nut jobs like Tom Cruise are jumping on couches talking about how we can just think it through and wish it away. I wish very very often that this was true. But it's not true. It's just not.

So. In order to shed a little light on the situation, I'm going to walk you through it a little. Not so much just what it feels like. I do that in my book. And when it's finished and published, you can buy a copy and read it for yourself. Instead, I want to try to explain what goes through my head when my thoughts and feelings don't match. I'm going to explain it all in the first person, but I'm sure I could safely say "we" regarding all of it, as I am not alone in this.

When I'm having trouble with depression, I notice the feeling first. My heart races, and I feel tired, and I feel like I'm going to cry. Naturally, I then go on a mission to try to figure out what's wrong. On a good day, I'm able to explain to my body that nothing is wrong. Things are good. My life is good. It doesn't make the physical symptoms go away. Not at all. But I can tell myself that the physical symptoms I'm having, while real, are NOT connected to anything that's happening in my life.

However. I can only do this for so long. Eventually, my brain insists that we address these feelings. Sometimes it will remind me of past pain, etc. But more often, it will just start to make stuff up. My therapist once told me that depression is a liar. Since I'm aware of this, I can sometimes have the healthy side of my brain inform the less healthy side of my brain that those thoughts it's having are probably not true. For example. Yes. I'm going to be specific.

Ways in which depression has lied to me in the past week:

1- I must be a burden to my friends and family, as this is a stupid, possibly made-up disease, and it makes me a total bummer to be around, and that's why I spend so much time by myself.

2- I'm starting to look really old and maybe even putting on weight.

Now. Before you panic. I chose these two examples for their obvious absurdity. I have been to enough therapy sessions to know how to reason with these thoughts. I know, I promise, that they are not true.

But I guess that's my point. EVEN WITH all those years of therapy. And EVEN THOUGH I have totally supportive friends and family. And EVEN AS a person of relative intelligence who most often serves as a leader. Still. At 95 pounds I can decide I am gaining weight, (people who may not know me, I'm really short. 95 pounds, while thin, is an acceptably healthy weight for me.) and as someone who onstage plays characters at least fifteen years younger than my real age I can decide I am looking old, and as someone so lucky to have so many friends I can decide that these friendships are a facade and I'm actually alone.

Why? Because it's a real disease, and those are its symptoms. It's not about understanding. I understand. It's about chemistry.

So if you happen to see Tom Cruise, do what Matt Lauer should have done that morning on The Today Show. Punch him square in the face. You can tell him it's from me.

Friday, September 3, 2010


OR... This one time, at band camp...

My theatre friends tease me. Even the ones who read comic books and played Magic the Gathering in high school. (I have a startling number of friends who have this in common...) I was in my college marching band. And it was a really big deal. We were really cool. Shut up. We were. And as homecoming approaches, (the countdown and preparation for which are AT LEAST equal to those for Christmas. Just ask Scott Coffey.) my blogs about band will become more frequent.

But this blog is about this ONE TIME at band camp. This one particular time.

It was my senior year. And this kid- this sophomore named Ryan- just kept hanging around. Did I want a ride to practice? Uh, I guess. I mean, I'm a senior and I have a car. But sure. I'll take a ride to practice. Of course, now I'll need a ride home...

And when we thought we were having people over to our apartment to watch a movie and then everyone canceled, Ryan came over anyway.

And the night of percussion auditions when we were sitting in the grass outside of Memorial Auditorium and Ryan was laying there with his head in my lap and Travis gave me this look like "what in the world is going on here?" all I could do was shrug. Because I had no idea.

And then the next night, at posting of the block, when I made the band but not the percussion section (long story) and I was crying in the bathroom and Brandi came in to check on me, I said the strangest thing. "Tell Ryan Smith not to leave without me."

Wait, what? Why in the world would I care if Ryan Smith left without me?

Even stranger, when I came out of the bathroom, was his response.

"I wouldn't have left without you," he said.

Really? Why not?

We went to the party together, met with more raised eyebrows from Travis. Seriously, dude. Still no idea. And when I was too sad to stay at the party, (yes, that quickly with the drama...) Ryan brought me home. And made me macaroni and cheese. And stayed with me while I cried. And kissed me for the first time. He was nineteen years old.

We were dating exclusively within days. Yes, days. And we talked about getting married after a month. And in April of 1999 we went back to that spot in the grass outside of Memorial Auditorium, and he proposed to me. And we've been married almost ten years.

But it all started, for me, on September 6, 1996. The Friday before Labor Day. Posting of the block. Ryan tells me it's not a real anniversary. And he's probably right. But I still felt like remembering it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sweet Toddler Girl Seeks Same

This week on "The Real Toddler of Fairfield County"...

I've been spending a lot of time at the parks lately. Now that I can walk, I need room to stretch my very-long-for-fifteen-months-old legs. So we go to the big park with all the toys that's far away, and the smaller park that has fewer toys but is closer, and the open area in front of our building. Sometimes I meet friends. I am very friendly. But sometimes when I try to make friends it ends badly.

About ten days ago, for example, I was at the smaller park with Mommy and Daddy. I saw another little girl who looked like she was about my age. So I rushed up to her, threw my arms around her, and gave her a big kiss on the mouth, which is- I think- the most appropriate way to make friends. She put her mouth on the side of my face, and I thought, "Hooray! A new friend!"

And she bit me! Really hard! I cried and cried and had teeth marks in my face, and I don't know if I'll ever trust little girls my age again. It was the toddler equivalent of stealing my boyfriend, and I am certain I will be in therapy over it all one day. Fortunately Mommy and Daddy rushed me to my favorite Thai restaurant, as this was the only thing that could console me.

And then yesterday. I was playing outside with my purple ball. I am working on my soccer skills as I plan to be a star someday, and I was dribbling the ball through the grass with my feet. I saw two little girls playing on a balcony above. So naturally, I waved. And I said "Hah-ee." Because my Mommy is a voice teacher, and I have excellent diction. They came down to play with me!

Their Mommy talked to my Mommy while I chased them around. They're older than me, but I'll go to the school where they go someday. Then it was time to go. I was very sleepy. And the younger one- who consistently called me Millie, by the way- took my ball! I kept trying to get it back, but she was bigger than me! Finally Mommy told the little girl that it was time for me to go home, and I was going to take my ball back to my home. The little girl said that it was HER ball, and that she paid $50 for it! Her Mommy laughed and said that it was not hers, and that she had one like it but did not pay $50 for it. But my Daddy said that he would sell it to her for $30, and it would be a bargain. I am learning about music from my Mommy. And I am learning about sarcasm from my Daddy.

I got my ball back. And the bruises on my cheek have faded and are nearly gone. But is it too much to ask to find another nice little girl? One who likes to play tea party (I have a really fabulous tea set. It sings) AND likes to play soccer?

Nice little toddler girls of Fairfield County, where are you?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Life is Not a Sitcom- The Carol Brady Experiment Conlcuded

This conclusion is admittedly late. I've been thinking about it. A lot. And I wanted to go back to living my "regular" life (whatever that might possibly mean) in order to compare. And I've done that. I've thought, and I've lived, and I've compared, and here it is. My big conclusion.

My life is not a sitcom. And I don't want to be any of those women.

I can't not work. I have a whole week off this week, and it's making me crazy. Not just crazy. Depressed. I'm really struggling. My work- my music, and my theatre and my writing, OK I'll say it, my art- is just too important to me. Too big a part of who I am.

I can't JUST work. This weekend I had the good fortune to spend an entire weekend visiting a friend who was doing a show in DC. And for three days I got to see the show and talk about theatre and go to parties and hang out with the cast and I wrote an entire chapter. And while I didn't time it with a stopwatch, I'm guessing the longest I went without talking about my husband or my daughter was about ninety seconds. And when I got delayed on the bus going home I missed them so much it hurt. My life is very much about my art. But it's not just about my art.

I can't wear heels and chase a toddler. It's insanity.

I can't just wear whatever I grab first, and I can't just order pizza for dinner. Not on a regular basis, anyway. This, too, would be a one-way ticket to depression.

I can't get much work done when Lily is awake. I've tried. It is not effective.

So if I'm not any of those women, where does that leave me? It leaves me, as anticipated, with moderation. A woman who needs to find some self-worth and artistic fulfillment in work, and who needs to spend time with her family and provide a safe, healthy, happy home. A woman who often finds the balance between these two needs allusive. I'm a woman who cares what she wears and how she looks. But I'm also a woman who spends most of her time with a little person who is learning to run.

I am my own woman, finding my own way.

So then, why watch any of it? Why compare ourselves at all? I suppose we need to understand who we are not in order to understand who we are. And, quite frankly, they are sometimes all we have in the way of company. (See: On behalf of stay at home parents who get really really lonely.) And while we might not be exactly like any of these characters who find easy solutions in two short commercial breaks, they do represent a lot of truth. Maybe not universal truth, but truth for a lot of us. Like fighting over bills and burnt dinners and that darn Jones account. And that's gonna make us laugh. And sometimes, that's all you can do.