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Friday Fragments…Five? Yeah, I think that’s right.

It must be right, because I’ve had painfully cutesy nicknames for this entry in my head for weeks — things like “Five For Fighting”, “Five Easy Pieces”, or “Golden Rings Edition”. If you like, you can imagine Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” as a soundtrack while you read this post. Unless that particular piece of music drives you crazy, in which case it’s probably already too late, and I’m really sorry.

The nice thing about the Fragments posts, for me, is that I’ve successfully convinced myself that they don’t need to be about anything in particular. If I hit a wall on one topic, I can just bounce over to another, without preamble or fanfare. No big.

The heat this week has been miserable, and makes me wonder why I’m not swimming every day. My home has air conditioning, my car has air conditioning, but the place where I work three days a week is a historic (read: old) building, and only partially air conditioned. To make up for this, and to help everyone keep cool, free snow cones are served daily, available to everyone. Very festive, and certainly comforting.

We went swimming in the Potomac yesterday — not in Harper’s Ferry, where the current is stronger and the water is deeper, but in Shepherdstown. I’d never been to the river access area there before. There were a few people fishing, a few people cooling off in the water, and one or two just relaxing by the water in their lawn chairs. It was very peaceful, and the water felt good, but I was reminded what a tenderfoot I’ve become. I did not like walking on the rocks. I’ve just about decided to get myself some of those waterproof shoes that are made for outdoor water sports. Any recommendations?

I really do want to spend more time in the water. We took a trip to the Outer Banks a couple of weeks ago, and it was just too short. I wish we could have turned the long weekend into a week or two, or even a month. A month! That would have been long enough to really have adventures.

I’m trying to remember that I’m having adventures right here, right now, day by day.

I am dreaming…

…of recording and selling my own CDs.

…of being finished with my PhD program. One way or the other. Done.

…of working from home, writing and composing and performing and seeing a few clients in my studio, maybe with a few gigs away from home, but not as much as now.

…of having enough money to not feel afraid.

…of spontaneity. Of grooves, but not ruts. As Christine Lavin once said, there’s a very fine line between a groove and a rut.

What are you dreaming of today?

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The day I believed that cats could paint.

I’ve been wanting to tell this story for a while now. Some of you may have already heard it, but perhaps you haven’t heard the whole thing.

It was, oh, let’s see, about fifteen years ago. I had spent the morning immersed in rehearsal, and now I was having an artist date: lunch and shopping at a mall in the city. I had some money to spend, and I was enjoying myself. I’d had sushi for lunch, and had just bought a gorgeous pottery mug, earthy purple and brown, adorned with figures dancing by the fire. (I still have that mug.)

Then I went into the bookstore next door, and began poking around.

I was having a wonderful time. I was in total artist date mode: blissfully solitary, delighting in my own company, following my nose and open to everything. Wide open. That’s the best explanation I can offer for what happened next.

I saw a book. Maybe you’ve seen it yourself. It became fairly popular, but at the time I believe it was still quite new, and certainly I’d never seen it before: Why Cats Paint.

I picked it up, and began flipping through the pages. I was enchanted. Wow! There are people who believe that cats paint? Cool! Hey, maybe they do! Why not, after all? Yeah, why not? This is fabulous!

I bought the book, of course. It was that kind of day. Besides, I was eager to know more. I flipped through the pages on the train ride home, splashing joyfully rather than drinking deeply. I was so happy.

Then I got home to my partner, and excitedly showed him the book. “Look at this!”

He looked at it. Smirked. “Cute. It’s a joke, of course.”

“What? No, it’s not a joke! I know it looks like one, but they’re serious! The authors have — wait, let me show you…”

And I looked.

But something had changed.

Suddenly, it was a joke.

Satire. Rich, detailed satire. Tongue firmly in cheek. Sly, witty, droll.

How could I have missed it?

I was so embarrassed, I couldn’t even bear to keep the book. I ended up giving it as a birthday gift to a friend who loved cats. I think she liked it. She certainly seemed to appreciate the humor.

Before I gave it to her, though, I showed the book to a number of other people. Most of them chuckled: very cute, a good joke. Only a very few people lit up inside, eyes widening, and said, “Wow! Is this true?”

(They were my siblings. Coincidence? I’m guessing not.)

The whole thing is still a bit of a mystery to me. I mean, I’m not an idiot, and I’m usually not a fool. I understand satire; I love satire. And no, there were no pharmaceuticals or other foreign substances involved — nothing tangible, anyway.

For a few hours, I lived in a world where cats might paint.

And it was beautiful.

Perhaps I’ll find my way back there someday.

Things that bring me back to myself…

…the sight of my pale pink, heart-shaped, rose quartz pendant nestled against my inky-blue shirt.

…rubbing my palms together lightly.

…humming.

…closing my eyes, breathing in, holding the breath, letting it go.

…watching my hands, stretching my fingers.

…talking to you. Yes, you. Thank you.

Minimum daily requirements

I used to have a fairly lengthy list of core values, life categories, and goals pertaining to each value and category. Over the past few years, I have simplified.

Now, there are only two things, two actions, that I require of myself every day:

Do something creative.
Do something loving.

If I take care of just those two imperatives, then the day has been a success. If I can just continue to be creative and loving, then I am not a failure.

Amazingly, this does not feel like lowering the bar — because how can I possibly feel that way, when I am giving first priority to the things that matter most to me?

Friday Fragments IV: late and lightning-quick

I need to get better at protecting my voice — and I mean that quite literally, although I’m sure there are metaphorical implications as well. I just push my voice too hard, both speaking and singing, when I’m at work. Why? Some of it’s just a matter of hard, sustained use, but I think some of the reasons it happens are rooted in control-freakishness and anxiety.

After weeks of wanting a beautiful soap dish, I finally got myself one, just in time for spring, in the color and shape of a newly-grown leaf. It makes me smile. I am a firm believer in having beautiful things for everyday use; they’re a constant source of joy and affirmation. Why, then, did it take me so long to get that soap dish?

I am standing in the shadow of what feels like a very challenging month ahead. I’m reflecting a lot on the idea that, even in the midst of turmoil and turbulence, I can still have a lot of power in how I choose to respond. I can decide how to be. I can be calm. I can be playful. I can be kind.

I can’t change the past, and I can’t control the future, but I can take hold of the present with both hands, and let it unfold. Here and now, I can be as loving and creative as I choose to be.

Friday Fragments 3D: now with extra depth!

So, part of the point of this “Friday Fragments” structure is that (a) I don’t have to have any notion of what I’m going to say until I start saying it, and (b) I can jump from thought to thought without necessarily resolving anything. We’re clear on that? Good.

To dream the possible dream…

When I’m under stress, I often find myself daydreaming about alternate lives, lives that would somehow be simpler and in which I’d be more at peace. In these visions, I generally have a lot less stuff — less physical clutter, less mental clutter, less emotional clutter. There are so many versions of this fantasy: there’s Kat traveling around the country in her Airstream, Kat living in a cottage by the sea, Kat living in a major coastal city with no need to own a car, Kat living off the grid in a mountain cabin, even Kat living in a retirement community with gentle support from kind-hearted professionals…

None of this stuff is likely to become a reality any time soon. Deep down, if I’m honest, I don’t even want any of this stuff to become a reality any time soon.

I just want a better life. No. Wait. I don’t. I just want my life to be better. That is not the same thing at all.

I love my two partners, and I love my daughter, and I love the family that the four of us have created. I love our home — I’d like it to be more finished and better maintained, but it has lovely bones. I love my mind, my body, my spirit. I love my creative passions. I love — this may sound insipid, but I’m going to say it anyway, because in my head it has significance — I love the things I love.

Honestly, I just want to clear out the crap. And while it’s very easy and very soothing to imagine that if only my life were completely different, there wouldn’t be any crap, I suspect it may be a lot more useful for me to start dreaming of how I can make this life better.

And one impossible-seeming wish…

I would love it if I could somehow arrange to be home to greet my daughter when she comes home from school. If I could do my out-of-house work during her school hours — or even if I had to go back out for a brief appointment in the late afternoon or early evening, that wouldn’t be so bad, but I want that daily re-connection.

And it’s so hard to imagine any realistic way to make that happen right now.

But hey, it’s been a pretty good week!

The weather’s been nice, I’ve had a number of pleasant outings, and I am slowly and steadily climbing out of my ruts. Spring is in the air.

So, how’s the weather — external or internal — where you are?

Friday Fragments II: Electric Boogaloo

Just a few quick thoughts today.

Blog weekly. Tweet daily.

I think I’m going to treat that as my minimum social media RDA. More is just fine, but if I do less than that, I start to feel very isolated and bereft. (My tweets cross-post to Facebook, too.)

Down with the funk. And not in a good way.

Let’s just say that not all the dark clouds are in the sky. Some of them have come home to roost.

So very proud of my Mercurial Maiden!

She wanted the part of Miss Hannigan in her school’s production of Annie, and she got it!

Itty bitty baby steps.

I’m trying to just keep doing the next thing. I’m trying to stay in the here and now. I’m trying to be kind to myself.

I need my crown.

I’ll have to post about this in more depth one of these days, but I’ve been thinking a lot about sovereignty, personal sovereignty. It’s really important. I need to nurture it.

Argh. Sorry, folks, that’s all I’ve got.

Better luck next week. Thanks for reading.

Friday Fragments

Because it’s Friday, and I don’t have to make sense.

This may become a weekly Thing, but I reserve the right to change my mind.

See, the thing is, I have all these fragments of ideas for posts, but then the thought of allowing myself the luxury of sitting still and spinning one of them out into a complete and polished post is daunting. So, I give you: Fragments! A whole collage of them! Or a mosaic, perhaps. Oooh, pretty! Fragments!

Tangles.

I have had long hair for most of my life. (It isn’t so long now, but that’s another story. Or is it?) As a kid, I would get terrible tangles in the hair on the back of my head. Trying to de-tangle them felt so difficult and painful. My mother would try to help me, but I would scream and fuss. Sometimes, she’d have to give up and reach for the scissors. Other times, I’d try to hide them by smoothing a layer of hair over the mess, but I knew they were there, and so did everyone else. I couldn’t see them, but they were a presence.

(One of my dirty little secrets is that there have been times when this has happened to me as an adult, too. ‘Nuff said about that.)

The whole concept of tangles has become a powerful metaphor for me. I have a lot of tangles in my life. They just get bigger and bigger, harder and harder to imagine taming. I may not always have to look at them, I may try to layer something prettier on top of them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Chiaroscuro.

Chiaroscuro. That’s a word I first encountered in a slender classic voice-training manual — Vocal Wisdom, I think it was called. As I recall, chiaroscuro referred to a vocal quality that was both bright and dark at the same time. This was supposed to be especially beautiful and electrifying, something to strive for as a singer.

I remembered this. It’s really the only thing I remember at all clearly from that book. Chiaroscuro.

I think it’s a word that comes up in discussions of photography, too. That would make sense. Light and shadow.

Well, yesterday I was thinking about the negative thoughts that keep cropping up in my head (tangles?) and about my desire to replace them with positive thinking, affirmations. (I almost wrote “aspirations.” Yeah, those too.) Optimism. Hope. Self-love.

Then, in a flash of despondence, I thought to myself, “But it will never stick. The dark thoughts will never go away completely.”

Then — eureka! Epiphany! Dark thoughts! Chiaroscuro!

So, my head will be forever filled with both bright thoughts and dark thoughts. Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing after all. It may be beautiful and electrifying — even, perhaps, something to strive for.

“You can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in.” — Arlo Guthrie

…Why this?

You want to know something that I’ve been obsessing about for over a year now?

Sometimes I don’t carry a handbag at all. I keep my wallet (with attached keyring) in one pocket, and my cell phone in the other. I carry my journal (which I nearly always want with me, to the point where my family calls it my “security blanket”) in my hand, like a clutch.

Sometimes I do carry a handbag. When I do, it seldom contains anything other than those three items: wallet, phone, journal (with pen attached).

You wouldn’t think that any of this would be such a big deal. The thing is, I keep trying to make this into a decision. I am a person who never carries a handbag! I want pockets in all my clothing, because I always need them! No, wait, I like handbags. I am a person who carries a handbag! No, wait, I’m not. No, I am! I am, and that’s final! No, wait…

Please, please tell me I’m not the only one who obsesses over trivial stuff like this.

And I think that just about wraps it up.

See you next Friday. Or not. Or maybe even sooner! Hey, that’d be cool!

A dash of update

I think I may have figured out one of the reasons my blog has been so quiet lately. I keep trying to hibernate.

Still, spring is in the air this week, and I think Punxatawny Phil may turn out to be right.

I am so glad I did the Candide performances. That was a very special experience — and, as a member of the seated chorus (we had a few stage moves, but were mostly there to create a fuller overall sound, to augment the smaller, more interactive chorus), I was in the unusual position of getting to sit onstage and watch the entire performance, start to finish. Six times, not counting rehearsals. And the show was so good — well-sung, well-acted, wickedly funny — that I could have happily done another half-dozen performances, at least. The seated chorus was a mix of students (some of whom gave every indication of having been “conscripted” into service) and community members pulled from the university’s town-and-gown choral ensemble. So, while many of the students didn’t seem to want to be there (or if they did, they kept quiet about it), the community members were all volunteers who wouldn’t have been there in the first place if they hadn’t wanted to be.

I hope there will be other opportunities to be a part of opera and musical theater productions at Shepherd. It was always part of my life plan that I would get involved in community theater, but as it turns out, this is the first show I’ve done in years. There was Love for Three Oranges at Temple in — 1991?! — and before that, I was Smitty in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying in — 1983??!! Okay, I’m going to stop calculating now.

The point is, I love doing this, and I need to do more of this.

I got a new smart phone this week; I was eligible for an upgrade, and finally got sick of the limitations and foibles of my Treo 800. The new phone is a Samsung Intercept, nothing too fancy or state-of-the-art, but a whole new world of coolness for me. Plus, it’s pink. 🙂 (For those of you who don’t care for pink — it’s a nice pink. Think Caribbean sunset, not Hello Kitty.)

And how are you?

Adjusting my sights.

Someone very dear to me has a habit of responding to my saying “I missed you” by saying, “Well, adjust your sights, and try again.”

So, that’s what I’m doing — because I have missed you. Too many days have passed in which I’ve wanted to post, and haven’t. Why? All manner of reasons. For one thing, I suspect I’m making it into too much of a Big Deal.

So-o-o-o-o…I’m adjusting my sights, and I’m trying again.

This is me, waving to you, and wondering how you are.

Are you wondering how I am?