Thursday, January 30, 2014
This week: Tara Stiles' Yoga Videos
I've been sticking to my New Year's yoga resolution! So far (well since getting back to school), I've been morning yoga-ing it up three times a week. It makes for a centering start to the day. Depending on how fast I'm moving in the morning, I pick a 5-10 minute video, roll out my mat, and get going. It's nice because I've learned enough about yoga to be able to function on my own but I still need guidance in terms of a routine. Of course, it's not the same as going to a class, but it's definitely cheaper and I can pick my focus for the day (strength, flexibility, energy, etc.)
Tara's channel has a large variety of videos, ranging from small 3-4 minute clips to entire 50 minute work outs. I have yet to do one of those, but I'm looking forward to trying once I settle into my new place. Her pace is steady, but not too slow and she always gives a range of options for making poses more challenging (as most good yoga teachers do, in my experience). If you're A) Reading this and B) Looking for a Youtube yoga channel, I recommend Tara Stiles! And thanks to my BFF Haley for the original recommendation.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
What can you not not do?
What would make life incomplete if you couldn't do it?
What is your passion?
Have you found it yet?
What will you do with your one wild and precious life? (Mary Oliver)
I will sing my song.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
I was all ready to blog last night when I got home but I was suddenly sidetracked by a beautiful, regular old envelope at my bedroom door. The beautiful part was the return address: Megan A.
Letters from friends and loved ones are something special. In a time when sitting down to compose an e-mail starts to feel like too much work for some folks, knowing that someone took the time to hand write and mail a letter is really special. Like I've said before, it's like getting a hug in the mail. :). I keep written correspondence with a couple old friends from home and it brightens my day to hear from them. Even if the stories have already been shared on social media. And sometimes we even save stories solely for letters. I hope my far-future kiddos will get to experience this same sort of joy. (One of many reasons the post office is important!!)
Sunday, January 26, 2014
The result was both expected and liberating - I let go of the sound, the technique came on its own and everything felt more free. I'm not sure if this makes sense exactly, but it's like the truth of the song started to come from within me and was expressed in my completely letting go. Like, crawling on the floor letting go, hands in my hair, on my face... you get the idea. And the expression of truth came from every part of me, not just my face, my eyes, my voice, etc.
This is the kind of holistic training this summer program offers. It was definitely a non-traditional audition for me and I have no idea whether it was really "good" or "bad." But I am certainly intrigued and hopeful about getting in now.
My broader point, though, is what holds us back from full freedom of expression when performing (in any capacity) and why do we let it? It wasn't scary to go that far with it (really, it was quite fun!); more like it felt strange because it's not something I would have ever considered appropriate in an audition setting. And maybe crawling on the floor is a bit much for a more traditional audition. However, it certainly beat singing as passionately as I could while feeling awkward about what to do with my hands. Regardless of the outcome from today, I've learned even just a little bit about escaping the audition/performance boundaries we make in our heads.
The best compliment I get after singing in church is that it helped enhance the mass for at least one person. That is how I know that I am truly serving. Just reflecting about that after mass tonight.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
I think I found my "big girl voice" today, or at least the way to finding it. My highest notes had vibrato and no strain, my middle notes felt full and velvety. And nothing has ever felt so easy. Like the voice was bursting from me, with such an exciting feeling of having something to say and express. And it all came back to breath, the balance of breath and pressure (support), the "placement" of each, and the bodily understanding that they are both related but not simultaneous or directly connected with each other. Breath drives all and the muscles/support follow almost instantaneously. But the breath isn't controlled -it is inhale; the intake of breath must be a natural extension of the exhale/presence of support.
Sorry if this doesn't make much sense. I'm mostly working through my teacher's philosophy and self-application. It's been a singing revelation kind of day. Post-lesson, I've never had a better practice room session in my life.
Here's to finally leading to sing (and hoping the lesson sticks!)
P.S. I realized also that my boyfriend and roommates are essentially weird music conservatory versions of the guys in New Girl. I think I'm dating Nick. Weird and hilarious and weird.
Woohoo I finally watched it! Plenty of angsty, nail-biting suspense, just like I like it. The only thing that really got to me was the first 30ish minutes. I get and even liked the way they reintroduce Sherlock to Watson's life and his reaction was perfectly natural. But all of the quick "cool" shots - it certainly felt like more than normal - ended up feeling slightly gimmicky. Does anyone agree with me?
Looking forward to next week!
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
First day of spring semester of my Masters degree... A blast of reality in the face. It was fine; I didn't have anything particularly difficult today. But jumping in to classes combined with the excitement/overstimulation of seeing everyone again had me worn out by halfway through the day.
The biggest plus sides were morning yoga and making brownies with the boyfriend tonight for decompression.
Here's to spring semester!
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
I loved this quote from Mr. Carson this week:
"The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end, that's all there is." What a beautiful thought.
YAY EDNA IS GONE! Although, is it really that easy, Tom?? I'm a tad skeptical...
Edith, your aunt said it, but girl I hope you're not pregnant. It would just be the luck of your cards for Mr. Gregson to be stuck in Germany and you stuck with an out-of-wedlock child. Ooh boy.
Mary, I hope you don't regret it. But maybe it's not over!
My heart is breaking for Anna and Mr. Bates. Everyone knows something is wrong with Anna -- when will two and two come together?
Next up -- Sherlock!
Sunday, January 19, 2014
The joy of exploration is exponentially expounded when enjoyed with a friend. :)
Said goodbye to Anna today. It was such a great week getting to know this place I have been living in for 4-5 months already. Plus it was nice to have a roommate to talk and laugh with for a change. :)
We made it an early morning to catch a ride on the iconic cable cars and made our way out to the wharfs again. We ended up near Hyde Pier (I think?) and checked out the old boats out there. Pre-Golden Gate Bridge the bay used a ferry system. Which makes sense, but I'd never seen anything about it. The sun and water and marina were all really lovely. We meandered closer to Fisherman's Wharf for lunch and a little souvenir shopping before heading back to my place. Then it was hi-ho to the airport we go!
It was a great week and I am so appreciative that I was able to spend quality time with a really wonderful and caring friend. Our adventures opened my eyes a little more to the better parts of the city and have given me a friendlier outlook on it.
Here's to friend-venturing!
Anna and I slept in today, given our late night hanging at Matt's house and our early rising throughout the week. We got into town about noon for me to take care of a couple things at school and then headed to afternoon tea at Dartealing Lounge. Anna found a pretty great deal on travelzoo.com for a $30 voucher for tea for two.
Dartealing Lounge is located in SOMA (South of Market) and is absolutely amazing. We walked in and our jaws dropped from the Pintrest-worthy perfection. We tried a Mint Lavender tea, as well as a blend called Purple Gems, which was essentially blueberry and absolutely scrumptious. The finger sandwiches and teacakes were also so yummy and very filling for how petite they were. The tea service we ended up ordering might be a little pricey for some, but with the online deal it was very worth it. The ambiance and decor are delightfully pretty and relaxing. And our waitress was very friendly. I highly recommend a visit to Dartealing and I will certainly be back!
At about 3pm, Anna and I bussed over to the Mission District. We rested in Mission Dolores Park for a bit, then wandered where our feet took us. We admired the murals adorning the walls of the Womens' Building, which were stunning. We also found Clarion Alley, which is a prime example of the mural art that the Mission is famous for. The entire alley is covered in murals - some with a revolutionary feel, others serving as memorials to recently-passed community members, as well as some simply beautiful artwork (though I'm sure there is some meaning I don't know about.)
We were able to meet up with Matt and a couple of Anna's friends for dinner and a bit of bar hopping. At the rainbow-flag Latino bar Esta Noche, I played my most decent round of pool (well the second game at least...) when I sank 4 balls on a row. It was very exciting! It was a good time meeting Anna's friends who live in/near the city and of course spending some quality time with Matt, whom I hadn't really seen for a month.
And that was our Mission adventure!
Friday, January 17, 2014
Thursday, January 16, 2014
We got to the California Academy of Sciences just around 11am (after a bit of a sleep-in). We probably could have spent all day there, though we did get a majority of the exhibits in. One of the coolest parts was probably the dome-screen planetarium. We also enjoyed seeing the penguins and the sunshine on the living roof.
After exploring the depths of their aquarium (and meeting Claude, the Academy's albino alligator), we took a brief sunshiny moment on a bench near one of the fountains between the museums. Then we headed over to the de Young Museum. A bit weary of looking at all sort of things, we sped through some of the general admission exhibits before making our way up the observation tower. It's an amazing view of the Richmond and Inner Sunset districts, as well as the Presidio. Definitely a highlight of the day.
Then, a late afternoon coffee stop and we were headed home for a nap! After a spot of dinner and some hanging out at home, we headed out on a whim to Ocean Beach to check out the stars. Under the full moon, we probably weren't able to see as many as normal, but it was pretty cool to walk on the beach lit up under the moonlight. If we were dating, it would be very romantic... hahaha.
A great day, again, of course! Tomorrow is more of an on-foot trek -- excitement abounds. :)
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
New word, new word! (Maybe... haven't double checked).
Anna and I have been busy, so this post is a little late.
Tuesday was spent out at Fisherman's Wharf. We caught a 10am boat cruise around the bay/under the Golden Gate Bridge. Then headed to In&Out for lunch (it was Anna's first time there)! Post lunch was the Ripley's Believe it or Not and then the Aquarium of the Bay. As evening fell we watched the sea lions and sun set and had clam chowder in a bread bowl on Pier 39. We then bussed over to Ghiradelli Square, but it was mostly closed for the day -- still managed a free sample though!
A long but fulfilling day!
Monday, January 13, 2014
My room has never been cleaner -- haha. There's something that feels grown up about playing serious hostess to a good friend. We've planned out some tourist stops, are leaving others up to wanderlust. Planned out a couple meals. I'm excited to have a friend around and to go play tourist in this city I've been living in for about 5 months (give or take).
Here's to wanderlust!
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Ah, Downton. This week you are back to breaking our hearts. Well, actually, who am I kidding. You just can't stop. I recommend some therapy - of course, then what would the fans have to talk about?!
While the generally lighter atmosphere of the (3-day?) house party was welcome, I suffered sympathy heart palpitations when Mrs. Pattermore had her heart attack. And then Anna being attacked and raped?! Multiplied by the fact that she is afraid to tell Mr. Bates for his own good, it's absolutely heart wrenching. (Also, having the scene occur while Dame Kiri te Kawana was singing was a bit strange for me personally...) He knows something is wrong and he's going to find out. The question that remains is what will he do about it? Also -- will this result in a pregnancy? The show's history has taught me to expect just about anything.
I still don't like Edna, though she was slightly less vile until the very end. No good will come of whatever happens there, I think. Is Tom really going to try and leave? Never the less, when she's not scheming to get into bed with him, she does seem to be a welcome relief to him - someone who understands.
It was happy to see Mary actually smile and laugh! And then immediately saddening when the moment is juxtaposed with Isabelle's pain and loneliness. Maybe the Dr. hasn't quite given up hope there, yet though. Perhaps she isn't so alone as she feels?
BARROW you are SUCH a pompous ass. That is all.
As a singer, the singer bits of this episode were absolutely hilarious. All of that crisis over someone who sings for a living! Was it really so scandalous for her to be upstairs, Carson? :) And I am a fan of Dame Kiri. Of course, she's retired and there were some audible moments as to why, especially if you compare to her career years. But it was still exciting to have opera on such a hit show. Of course, that meant "O mio babbino caro" would be heard (since that's the aria everybody knows)! Still, it was exciting.
Then there's Edith and the editor. (I still don't know what he's called by heart and don't feel like looking it up... oops.) Finally getting a decent opinion out of Lord Grantham! I still am uncertain of what I think will happen. The Germany thing will somehow blow up in their faces; maybe not drastically, but it can't be a smart move. However, I've got hopes for this relationship to work out, even if it's against the odds in Edith's case. If it doesn't, I still say she should go to America and meet a man while staying with her mother's mother!
Well, that about sums it up. Looking forward to next week for both Downton AND SHERLOCK!!! So much Masterpiece Theater and I love it! Haha.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
I definitely took a break over the holidays, but after about 5 days it was time to kick my butt into gear (especially because all of these arias weren't quite memorized...). So, I practiced - words, meaning, notes, rhythms, breath -- I mean, inhale!, singing vowel without "placing" anything. Everything that I had been working on this semester. Sometimes it clicked, sometimes not so much. This begs the question, if I had been practicing more in school, would it be more consistent? I can't say (who could?). I didn't practice as much as humanly possible, but I worked on making practice count.
One of my coaches in fall semester challenged our class to make the most of each practice session. Rather than working for hours on end, which is not that healthy for singing to begin with, focus on the true trouble spots and work til they are right. Meaning, don't let a vowel that wasn't so great slip past you. For me personally (and I think most of my teacher's studio), it starts with making sure each breath is right. Eventually, you have to put everything together and run the song -- keep going despite something not being quite right. Hopefully enough diligence in practice results in auto-pilot technique, especially when audition nerves start kicking in!
Asking for Help
The thing is, we can't be successful on our own. Maybe this works in some fields, but in almost all of music and performance we rely on other people to help make it truly great. Three of my four arias had not been performed publicly performed and one of them I started on 1.5 to 2 months ago, never mind just memorizing it over break. I needed to run them with accompaniment; heaven bless Amy, an accompanist (and friend!) from home, whom I called on relatively short notice and was willing to run through the audition rep with me. This also extends to my wonderful teacher, who gave me one last lesson before the break to make sure I got back on the breathing right horse, which I fell off of the week before juries... There's also all of my coaches and their gold nuggets of advice for musicality and preparation; same with directors. Of course, the support of friends and peers makes a difference too. Basically, as far as I'm concerned, the success of one person cannot be attributed to just one person. Behind them are the experiences with, advice from, and encouragement of all those who believe in them to help along the way.
Anyway... just a few overarching thoughts about things that lead to success. What's also important is upkeep (which could fall under diligence). One success has to be followed by many more to make a successful career. Quality upkeep comes from these same ideas, for if one success can be achieved, imagine the others are out there waiting. :)
Friday, January 10, 2014
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Cold marble countertops.
Crossword puzzle collaborations.
Singing with the church band on Sundays.
Doggie cuddles and kisses.
Downton Abbey season premieres.
Going to the library.
Going to the movies.
Helping with chores.
Hugging with back cracking.
Dog hair on everything.
Going to the park.
Visiting friends and "old" haunts (PLU).
Christmas Eve and Christmas morning traditions.
Snuggles on the couch.
Reading the comics.
Doing the car shuffle.
Getting the mail.
Tripping over dog toys.
Eating dinner together.
It's hard to leave this place. Especially when mom starts getting teary. Little things are different each time I come back from being gone a while, but the important little things are constant -- the things that make home truly feel like home. The warmth and love of my family will always be here, so I'm always happy to come back. And I can go on knowing it will be here when I get back. :)
And now for some not-so-great phone pics that help sum up home/Christmas break 2013/14.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Nothing's ruined and my friends are completely reasonable and rational people. It's a situation that requires rationality. It's going to be fine. But as much as I try to tell myself that, until I hear back my mind is going to worry. Worry worry worry. Ugh.
Does this happen to other people??
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Sunday, January 5, 2014
So, season 4, episode 1. It was a relief not to be dragged through some sort of devastating heartbreak (the season 3 finale was quite enough, thank you!) though it was certainly re-lived via Lady "Zombie" Mary. Michelle Dockery has certainly mastered the stone-cold statue look. However, it was easy to suffer some emotional whiplash with all of the new beginnings of scandal - especially in the downstairs of all places!
I'm not going to go crazy into detail in case anyone reading (...anyone?) cares about spoilers. But I will say that my bad inklings about the lady's maid Edna are absolutely right. There's a new O'Brian in town -- that didn't take long at all. (Really, Lady Cora, are you so naive?!) I'm curious about Cousin Rose. She always seems up to something, but she seemed to have just the right amount of romantic adventure and close it out before the end of the two hours. Nothing is ever that simple though, so we'll see. I hope that Edith is finally getting some happy days, but her romantic stars seem forever crossed. I have a bad feeling that Germany is not going to to over well and that a bad decision may have been made that will lead to some complicated -what else?! - happenings. I think I'm not alone in feeling that Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson are probably my favorite characters and Mrs. Hughes is the particular heroine in this week's episode. All she ever wants is the best for everyone around her, even when they aren't sure of what that is themselves. Of course, cue the teary eyes when Lady Mary finally breaks through her hardened exterior in Mr. Carson's arms. And I will always, always, always want to punch Mr. Barrow in the face. I swear that man has just one good bone in his body and it's his pinky toe.
Whew, ok! I think this is going to be the theme of Sunday posts until the season is out - it's a good decompression method. :) Woohoo Downton!! And Sherlock on the 19th!!
Here's to the best month for PBS ratings!
Friday, January 3, 2014
- By Suzanne Collins; from the gigantically successful YA series The Hunger Games. If you haven't heard of it -- have you been living under a rock, or someplace where books are censored? Those are your only excuses. Personally, this is a re-read for me. Just saw the film today... re-reading to catch all those details!
XO Orpheus, Fifty New Myths
- A short story collection edited by Kate Bernheimer; modern takes on myths from many different cultures. For some reason, I really enjoy short stories (probably ever since taking that short stories English class with Dr. Seal at PLU.) Collections of them are like an appetizing plate of bite-size morsels at a holiday party where you really only know a couple people. The plate becomes your new best friend and that's okay because its offerings are delicious and leave you wanting more. But the short stories are better because they stay off the waist-line -- guilt free!!
The newspaper comics in the Seattle Times
- This is a daily thing whenever I am home; I just like them. And my mom and I do the crossword puzzle together.
Coming Soon: Things I've Read Over Break
Oops - missed yesterday. Off to a great start. But sometimes family time is more important. Played Bananagrams with mom, watched Foyle's War with dad and then we all caught an episode of Bones! :) Good times. Gotta get 'em while they're here because I won't be back til March (I think).
Here's to being on track and letting the good things distract us.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Seeing as it's been 2014 for almost 24 hours, and I have been ruminating on my resolutions all day -- it's time to get to it.
1 - Write every day on this blog. Even if it's just a sentence.
2 - Focus on health. Not losing weight (although that would be a pleasant result), but being healthy.
Meaning: Less sugar. Little to no soda. Going out to eat no more than 2-3 times a week, and only as time crunches necessitate. Find something active and enjoyable and get moving.
3 - Spend less, save more. (The limit on going out to eat will help this immensely.)
4 - Quality music practicing 5-6 days a week.
5 - Make time for yoga 3+ days a week.
I also really hope to find some quality time to pick up that dang guitar and learn to play it!
To go along with the most of the rest of my FB newsfeed, a bit of reflection on 2013...
Senior year of PLU finished out on many high notes (no pun intended). Choir of the West was one of the biggest highlights and I will treasure my memories of our tour in Canada and of course of ACDA in Dallas. I so immensely enjoyed being able to serve the choir as student president, even in the times when I felt really stressed out it was seriously the greatest. Because at the end of it all I knew I was helping people have a better experience. It took me until recently, but I realized that I just really love helping people and I feel successful when I know that I could contribute to others' happiness. Serving as choir president was a big part of figuring that out.
I took a leap of faith and learned to trust in God's plans when it came to the whole graduate school thing. It was quite a journey to go from relative confidence down to the humbling realization of "it just probably won't happen." After accepting the fact that I would most likely be living at home for the next year, SFCM came through. Since finishing out fall semester down in San Francisco, the moment of that acceptance phone call feels forever and a moment ago all at once. I still struggle with the insecurity of what is in store, but it's all about learning from that moment of accepting what I didn't plan on (both times!). It's about stepping out onto stormy waters and knowing I'm not going to drown; rather, it's a new adventure ahead, and there is Someone who will be holding my hands all the way.
Moving to San Francisco has been a giant mixed bag. So much of it is wonderful - especially related to the school side. I feel that I have grown immensely in the last three months in my understanding of vocal technique that works for me, what being a professional musician means, and especially coming away with a stronger sense of self. "Starting again" with school at this point means stretching myself to discover new parts of who I am (or develop existing bits) but also having a much firmer foundation to build from. And of course the people!! We're all in similar sailing vessels when it comes to this sense of starting fresh and that seems to translate to everyone generally being nice and supportive of each other. That, and/or I just lucked out by getting into a program of excellent individuals. I'm lucky to be able to say "I love you" to one particular person. :)
At the same time, this move away from everything comfortable exposed me to big fears and doubts about what I'm doing. Part of getting stronger is confronting those. At times it has been difficult missing home, family, friends, my dog, PLU, the rain... SF has many of those things in different versions, but of course it's not the same. It's been good to be home for break and I've got some change to look forward to when I get back, and I think those will help settle my heart.
That turned into something much more long-winded than I intended, but there we go. In short, 2013 was a big one for change and trusting that those changes are going to turn out. Somehow, they always do, even if it's not the way we expect them to. What's that line from The Sound of Music? When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.
So, with resolutions and reflections written and posted to the internet for some semblance of accountability -- Here's to 2014!