Suddenly Busy

It’s been a while, sorry. I just finished reading a friend’s blog post, and began to feel a little guilty. Last week was a bit insane. I had about 4 hours to myself that were actually mine, and not borrowed from some other event or activity I opted not to join in the interest of my own sanity.

Sunset Whim_0082a
A bit of peace in the chaos.

Thursday, the 18th, we had a rehearsal focused both on our music series Christmas concert on the 21st, and the Christmas Eve service on the 24th at 11 pm. It was about 9:45 before we finished. Had to run through Christmas Eve; there were an awful lot of new people who’ve never done it before. We had to make sure they weren’t going to set everyone on fire. It was the first one for our new minister, too. He had a little trouble with it, but nothing anyone really noticed or cared about. Certainly didn’t negatively impact anything. Thankfully, I didn’t have to get up Friday morning. I didn’t have to be to work until 11, because I was part of the late coverage for the 19th. Originally scheduled for the 10th – which is also the same day I found out I was the late coverage – I switched with someone else on my team. I had that MBA informational meeting to go to, after all. Still thinking about that one.

Friday night, the 19th, I didn’t get off work until 8pm. I did get to work the last few hours from home, so at least there was that. Soon as I clocked out, I headed to Indiana for a party. Not all that far, honestly. I knew not a soul, other than the host. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll understand that that is probably the absolute LAST place I wanted to be after a long day and before a long, full weekend. Still, I went because I said I would – and I enjoyed myself. That, I didn’t quite expect. Figured I’d go for an hour, make an appearance, then head back home, but I stayed for a while. I wasn’t even close to the first one to leave. Amazing what a little time with grown ups can do.

Saturday morning, the 20th, we had our dress rehearsal. Unless it’s a particularly complicated piece, we see the orchestra for one rehearsal before the actual performance. A lot of the instrumentalists are familiar; a number of them specifically request to perform with us, which is a nice bit of an ego boost. Saturday morning. As in before noon. After a party that was about 40 minutes away in the middle of nowhere. Glad I’ve managed to get over my fear of driving unlit narrow country roads in the dark. Nothing like a miserable boyfriend to get over those fears. He lived in the  middle of nowhere Colorado, which is a whole other level of middle-of-nowhere, a completely different class. Whereas middle-of-nowhere Ohio means you might be an hour away from help, middle-of-nowhere Colorado means you could be 100 miles or more from help. Big argument, pissed me off, but I couldn’t leave because it was dark, and there might be rouge cattle on the roads, or angry ranchers, or prairie dogs in gangs riding pronghorn herding mountain lions and bears through the darkness. Just about anything, really. Because of that fight, I got over it. Not overnight, but I did.

Right, busy weekend. Where was I?

Maybe not so hard to imagine, if this is accurate...
22 kids, huh? Not quite so hard to imagine, I suppose…

Sunday the 21st, we had our Christmas concert – three cantatas from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Bach is, of course, Baroque personified, musically speaking, anyway, and I think not so well demonstrated as in this particular piece. This thing is textbook Bach, textbook Baroque. He out-Bached himself. There’s a bit of repetition, out of necessity (writing every week, and he did have 22 kids), and hints of previous pieces throughout, but there’s also just beauty. We performed cantatas I, V, and VI, auf Deutsch, because that’s how we roll. We even had a bit more information going. A lecture a couple weeks prior, during the early service, led by our director and complete with examples (some of us came and performed snippets for the lecture), provided more background on the piece itself, and during the actual performance, he added a bit more. Part of me dreams of having a theory or music history class with our choral director. The knowledge in his head is unreal. Anyway, It went well, I think. Many of the people I’d hoped could attend weren’t able to for various reasons, but then one I didn’t expect did, and we had sushi after. Good stuff. I haven’t had sushi in a while. Not from a restaurant, anyway. Okay, if I’m honest, not even from the grocery store. My store has a sushi chef on staff. I prefer to get it while he’s there. Nice guy. Not much English.

I wanted to write on Saturday. I really did. I was in too much pain to really think. I needed to take a break, and a few things had to fall by the wayside. Things didn’t really slow down all that much until yesterday. I was off work most of Wednesday, so there was a lunch with friends. We went to Price Hill Chili.* I’d never been there before; I’d only ever gone to the large chains. I meant to get to the single-location parlors, I just never got around to it. Now that I’ve tried this one, maybe I will finally go to the others I’ve been wanting to try. Pleasant Ridge, Blue Ash, and Camp Washington are all on the list. After lunch was a couple hours of rest, then off to my father’s for Christmas Eve with the family, and leaving early for the service at 11. I got there about 10:05, just a little late. That went well, too. I think, though, I’m going to alternate on that. Last year I didn’t go because I lost my voice at the Bengals/Vikings game, so I couldn’t sing anyway. I got to see my nieces and nephews open their gifts. Next year I think I’ll skip the service and stay with the family.

I don’t have any photos to share; I haven’t been out with my camera for fun since before Thanksgiving. It’s been cold and I’ve been tired, physically and emotionally. I see things I’d like to do, I just haven’t done them. Tons of weekends with not much to do, and great weather, then suddenly I don’t have a weekend to myself. Until now. So I’m watching the Doctor Who marathon. I mean really, what else would I be doing? Well, editing photos from the wedding I shot on Thanksgiving – haven’t really had time to devote to that, either, and I need to wrap that up soon. But other than those two things, what else would I be doing? I don’t have to leave the house again until tomorrow evening – going to a friend’s house to watch the first half of the Bengals/Steelers game. Important game. Will probably be brutal.

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*Cincinnati chili IS chili, haters! Not spaghetti sauce, chili. Get over it.

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Starting Over. Again

Had some communications issues yesterday. I was online briefly in the morning, but I just couldn’t get back on until this morning. I wasn’t sure how I was going to write this anyway, without sounding like I was whining. Annoying as it is, though, a little whining might do you some good. Key word “little.”

I’ll start off with what helped put me on that track in the first place. Once upon a time, there was a girl from Indiana and a boy from South Carolina. Maybe a little too far back. How about Wednesday, when I was at that informational meeting for an MBA from my alma mater? Better choice, perhaps. Throughout my life, there have been starts and stops, reboots and revivals, and periods of time that were just there. Much like anyone else. They’re getting to me. At my age, I’m supposed to be established. Especially since I’m not having to worry about kids or a spouse. And yet, it seems I’ve gone back to the beginning once more. I haven’t, of course, I already have a bachelor’s degree (in music, but it counts), and years of working experience, but there’s also a matter of for how much those years of working experience count, versus what I believe I can actually do, as well as the thought of going back to school and perhaps doing something to improve that situation.

Garden of the Gods - Canon A590 IS
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado

I found a cost of living calculator; it’s not hard to do, and I had to check something. I wanted to know at what point, adjusting for inflation, I had the highest income. On paper, it’s today. And it’s still not really enough. Really, though, I was making the most in 2001. Full of energy and promise, I threw that away to move to another state, no job, no friends or family, nowhere to live other than an extended-stay hotel. I had savings, more than I’ve ever had at one time even without adjusting for cost of living. I had calculated the best place for me to go, the likeliest spot to find a job, and where I could possibly afford to live for a couple months while I looked. That’s how I wound up in Colorado Springs, with a car I’d purchased just a couple months ago (didn’t miss a payment) and ancient suitcases that had been gathering dust in the basement.

The time before that was a typical period of starting over. I was in college, and I thought I was in love. I knew I couldn’t go back to my mother’s house one more summer, I knew that I had to find a way to avoid it. I knew that this man I was dating would be kind to me, nice, probably a good father if a little light on the discipline. In the back of my mind, I also knew that it probably wasn’t the right time to be making a decision like that, that my reasoning was faulty, and my vision of the future greatly flawed. I won’t say marrying him was a mistake, because I don’t think it was. I got quite a bit out of it. It was poorly thought out, poorly planned, poorly reasoned, and probably not a good idea in general, but it got me moving in the right direction. A fairly selfish result, I know.

I take that back; I’ll reserve judgment on whether it was a mistake, but I don’t regret it. There are precious few decisions I’ve made in my life that I regret, and more often than not, it is as “they” say, the things I didn’t do, usually out of fear, that I regret most.I regret not changing my major to economics while I was in college, in one of the better business schools in the region (now country). Yes, it’s public; always has been. Some people have been confused about that.

The Center for Performing Arts - my second home on campus.
The Center for Performing Arts, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio – my second home on campus.

I regret not using the tuition reimbursement available to me while I was employed at Wells Fargo, in my six years with them. Colorado Springs is carpeted in colleges and universities, with good reputations; there were plenty of options for me. I had the time, and with loans, I’d have had the money, but I didn’t do it, even though I kept saying I was thinking about it, and knew what I wanted to study. I talked myself out of that for years. I regret not practicing piano more. I regret skipping so many voice lessons in college, and not working all that hard when I wasn’t in there. I regret how I behaved while I was married. Nothing like what some of our classmates – people who I thought were my friends – believed; I never strayed, never even thought about it, but I didn’t treat him all that well. I regret not learning to play guitar. I did, briefly, but I didn’t stay with it for long. I can justify every single one of those things, but how honest would that be, really? There were somewhat extenuating circumstances too, things I couldn’t control, but there were things I could, but didn’t. That is the source of my regrets. Might not have worked out better than it did, but I’d know I did all I could.

I haven’t decided whether I’m going back to school – it’s not a matter of academic concern, I believe I can handle that, and given a chance to speak to someone, I think I’d be able to get in. It’s money. Those bills I’m paying? They eat up a lot of my income. Tuition reimbursement doesn’t even cover a third of the total cost, and I’d have to fill up my car way more often (currently only once a month. Seriously.). I don’t want to take out student loans – the private ones are ridiculous and will never be paid off because of the way the interest is compounded. But I also don’t want to stay where I am, wondering if I could have done more.

Once again, I am at a point of change. After my ignominious return home from Colorado, I’ve worked to pay my own bills, and I’m doing just that. I’m tired, though, of being stuck, of having the same cycle repeat once every decade or so. It’s time for something new. Time to make a change that sticks, to do all that I can to make it happen, so that even if things don’t change, or they fall apart, I’ll know I made that effort.

Overthought, Underprepared

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Main staircase at The Phoenix, Cincinnati. I was figuring out what my lighting would allow.

In my post last week, I mentioned the news about my aunt, my father’s oldest sister. It wasn’t the sole topic – there’s rarely only one – but it was an important one. At least, it was to me. I further went on to mention my personal exhaustion. That really hasn’t improved, although it’s more of a world-weariness than anything, which is not at all helpful. With recent events in the news, and the ridiculous stress at work, I’ve spent a fair chunk of this week in pain. My left shoulder has been killing me for months, off and on, and this week was full on. That, of course, made my back hurt, which then gave me a nasty headache. I forgot to do something at work yesterday that *really* needed to be done. I think Monday morning will be one asking for forgiveness rather than permission; the people who did what they were supposed to do shouldn’t be punished for my own failure. That’s just not who I am. Still sore, still tired, had tentative plans for this morning that I think I will pass on. I have something this evening, too, I think; my schedule has been a nebulous thought in the back of my head, things I want to do but keep forgetting I have planned. This week, too, was a bit of a fog. I am having trouble believing that Thanksgiving was just over a week ago; it seems so much further.

The news in the US isn’t good, not really. There are things going on that should have been resolved decades ago, but weren’t. I knew that, much as I didn’t like to admit it, and now other people are finding out. There’s still the backlash of people who’ve always had life work for them, suddenly discovering that when others want the same benefits, their lives change. Not more, not handouts, just the same. I’ve seen both sides. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m fairly pale; I get treated differently based on whether I have a tan and if I wear my hair straight. Really. To be fair, it’s not as bad as it was say 20 years ago, and definitely better than 50, but it’s nowhere near where we should be. People still think everyone has the same opportunity, and that’s just not true. There are all sorts of factors involved, some we can fix, some we can’t. Not looking for fair – life isn’t fair – just at the very least, an acknowledgement that there is yet room for change, for advancement, that we still have a ways to go.

That, among other things, has been weighing on me this week. After being told my aunt had passed back on the 20th, it got me thinking about all sorts of things – mortality, family, the future, MY future, potential, opportunities missed, opportunities yet to be had, opportunities that can be made. As I’ve already mentioned, I will be attending an information session on the 10th at my alma mater. Me being me, I keep finding ways to talk myself out of it, to show just how hard it really will be. I’m good at that, living my life in fear. Not of others so much as of myself, and what I should be able to do, but can’t seem to. I didn’t do too well the first time through college, after all. I passed, with a GPA above 2.5, but I was disappointed. I understood the material quite well – I couldn’t seem to translate that into papers or essay exams. The second time around I did significantly better, but the longest paper I had to write was a whopping 5 pages, and the tests were quite often multiple choice. Well, not completely, but the bits that weren’t were mostly math. See? Talking myself out of my own achievements. I need to stop that. My second time around, I did well. I had a 3.9, and that was with both undergraduate- and graduate-level classes on my way to an accounting Masters degree. I found it easier to finish my assignments on time (I wasn’t batting 1.000 there, but I still had a winning record), I asked questions when I was unclear, I took breaks so that I could continue to focus on the task at hand, instead of getting frustrated when it no longer made sense – I learned from previous experience. And while the school I attended was a for-profit school, it was a respected one; I could get a job with that degree, I already knew that for a fact. Life got in the way there, too, and as expected, it was no single thing. Once I was separated from it, I realized that I also didn’t want to do taxes for a living. I really didn’t want to do taxes. Understand, yes, investigate, certainly, even audit, but do? No.

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Staircase at The Phoenix, Cincinnati. Still figuring out how far my light would reach. Not quite far enough…

This time around, I know what I want; what I don’t know is how I will get it. The informational program on the tenth will cover the degrees available at the regional campuses. The one I want appears to be only on the main campus, and that frustrates me. I know the area; there’s no way I could support myself while taking classes up there. Not to mention I’d have to pay for it myself, and add to the ridiculous loan debt I have. I have one that is going down (Department of Education loans) and one that really hasn’t changed at all (Federal loans), even though I’ve been paying both, and they both have the same interest rate. Why in the world would I want to get a loan for my future when I know that there’s no possible way for me to ever pay it off?

Well. That’s Wednesday evening. Thursday, I have a rehearsal for our Christmas concert. We’re doing a Bach Christmas Oratorio; selections from, anyway, auf deutsch. We wouldn’t do Bach in English, not for a Music Series performance. Handel, on the other hand, well, he was a bit of an anglophile himself, ol’ Georgie Fred. Some time before our director retires, we’ll do his Messiah again. It’s really two concerts, Messiah. Part for Christmas, part for Easter. Last time I was in this choir, years ago when I was young and healthy and still had the lungs of an operatic soprano*, we did the entire Messiah. For the Christmas concert, I think. My last year, before I moved to Colorado, we did Mozart’s requiem in the winter, and Brahms’ in the spring. The contrast was fascinating.

Did I mention I *loved* my music history and theory classes? No? Well, I did.

I’m tired. I have to decide if I will rejoin the world today, or if I will go back and play Civilization IV for a bit. I haven’t been out with my camera for fun in a while, either; maybe I could do that. First though, I think I need to have some breakfast; I’m hungry.

Oh, and happy birthday to my sister! I’d post a picture – I’ve got some good ones – but I think I’ll save those for another time…

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*I still have those lungs; they just don’t have enough room to expand; now I breathe like a mortal! I have to take a breath in The Star Spangled Banner at “Oh, say does that star-spangled” and “banner yet wave.” It’s awful.