December 31, 2008

farewell, 2008

ring in the new, everyone. I have so many things on the list already.

December 23, 2008

christmas eve eve

I'm home now; it was a treacherous, long, epic journey from Portland, one that I accepted gratefully in order to be home. Many people were not so lucky and are stranded in the wrong town for Christmas.

My sister has shot up another few inches since I saw her this summer; she is nearly as tall as me now, and she's only eleven. My brother still tells long rambling stories that lose me in the middle: stories about comic books, things friends said in school, funny youtube videos he watched. They decided to get my mom a Nintendo DS for Christmas; I had to spot them about $50. Soon they will be teenagers, and then adults. It's fascinating to watch their developing self-hood, to see their inner sacred hearts.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve; we will watch a movie and clean the house in anticipation of visiting family. We will make cookies and go to church. I can't believe it's upon us -- the last few weeks have been so challenging that I'd nearly put the holiday out of my mind completely.

The new year also looms large upon us, and I am at work cultivating next year's resolution, more of a general M.O. about how I want to live my life than a specific goal to reach.

It's been a year since I was here last, the longest I've been away from Maryland in my life. I continue to be awed at the concept of home. It's as though no time has passed. When I stuck my hand in the silverware drawer I still pulled out my favorite butter knife without looking.

December 22, 2008

kindred spirits everywhere

1. A conversation with Tyler, one of the guys who works for the CD retailer selling music at our shows. We ride the elevator and he says the attic of the church reminds him of the attic in Neverending Story. "That's the second time today something has reminded me of that movie," he says. "Was the first time when you heard somebody call 'Atreyu'?" I asked. "No, it was when I found a luck dragon parked on my street," he replied, straight-faced.

2. My horn player crush came to the show tonight, and when he saw me walking through the lobby he gave me a big hug. He told me he was going to his parents' for the holidays, but not until after Christmas; for this week, he said, he was planning on laying low and maybe going to some Blazers games. "I'm afraid I'm going to spend Christmas in the airport," I said. "If you are stuck, you should come with me to a game," he said. I'm happy to believe he has officially asked me on a date.


it's the middle of the night and I'm sitting in the airport. with any luck I'll be rewarded for having braved the elements every day this week by having my flight leave on-time, as scheduled. COME ON, KARMA. in the meantime I'm watching the battery life ebb quickly from my laptop, and I probably should get some sleep. this place is full of stranded travelers. I want nothing more right now than to be in my mom's house, in my pajamas, on the sofa, with one arm thrown off the cushion and resting on the dog.

December 18, 2008

coffee date

all my time, energy, and ambition -- what little of those were left, anyhow -- have been taken up by Messiah rehearsals, but let me at least tell you about how two nights ago I walked down to Starbucks in between rehearsals to grab a coffee, and how the guy working the counter (cute, with glasses) flirted with me, but in that standard, customer service sort of way -- asked me how my night was going, asked where I worked, etc -- but then how when he'd finished making my latte he noticed that the last centimeter of the cup was empty, and offered to make me another one. Let me tell you how I wondered if this was a clever excuse to keep me a little longer, and so I accepted; and how, when my second latte was finished, he drew a heart in the foam!

Last night I returned and we discussed our glasses, which spiralled into a discussion of prisms, and how it's a word you don't hear often, "unless you're a scientist," one of the other guys said, and I added, "or a rainbow maker."

For now this mostly fabricated romance is the mental fodder carrying me to the moment I step on the plane. How sad is it that I am eagerly anticipating being on the flight home? As much as I hate the all-day headache of flying west to east, I can't wait to sit somewhere for an entire day without anyone needing anything more from me than my drink order.

December 15, 2008

girl scout

I had another small pity party for myself early this morning, when I was up hours earlier than usual in order to catch the bus. Watching the newscasters spout off the dozens and dozens of businesses and schools that were closed made me pretty glum.

My day at rehearsal was dull and chilly, mostly full of knitting arm warmers and half-listening to the music. It wasn't good or bad or much of anything -- just a day. I was graciously allowed to leave early during our last rehearsal because there wasn't anything for me to do. So I walked a few blocks down to Safeway to pick up bread, milk, and a couple other lunch items.

As I left the store, I stood at the intersection, waiting to cross, when I heard a small voice say, "Lady! Lady!" in an Asian accent. It took me a minute to register that the lady in question was me. I mostly expected to find a panhandler, but instead a tiny woman, no taller than 4'10", peered up at me. She was probably in her sixties, wearing a red coat and sneakers.

"Could you help me cross?" she asked. "It's so scary! So much ice!" I was so delighted! She took my arm and we inched our way across the pavement to the next curb. She apologized over and over: "You know, you hear old ladies fall on ice and break their head!" She explained she didn't want to go out but her dog needed food. "So scary!" she kept repeating. I assured her that it wasn't any trouble at all and I wasn't in a hurry. After we hit the next curb I figured she was through with me, but instead she held my arm for another block. "Where are you going?" she asked, and when I told her -- my suburb is about 10 miles from downtown -- she gasped and said, "So far!"

"Where you walk to?" she wanted to know. I told her I was walking to the train station, and then would catch a bus. I asked her where she was going. "Just up here," she said, and pointed. Half a block later, she began to turn. She put a roll of bills in my hand at the end of the arm she was holding. "Here, for you," she said, and although I protested she wouldn't take it back. 'Thank you!" she called. "Go home now!" I told her it was my pleasure, and no trouble.

It was my pleasure! It was the best thing to happen to me in ages. Such a moment of simple trust, vulnerability, kindness, and appreciation. She had put $3 in my hand. I hope she was somebody's grandmother.

December 14, 2008


today turned out to be as harrowing as I expected, though in the end I managed to unlock some zen place of acceptance about how cold I was and how long it was taking me to travel the ten mile distance between home and work. which, for the record, was five hours, round trip. even in my zen place, I don't want to talk about it.

instead, I present: Thanksgiving!

the table awaits

table before

It might have been a couple weeks ago but I only unloaded my camera today -- probably for the last time, since its freezing problem hasn't gone away. I only took a handful of photos, but on a day where I have spent most of my time shivering, grouchy, damp, tired, and intensely frustrated, perhaps it's a meaningful exercise to revisit a better moment.

This was hardly my first Thanksgiving away from home; nor was it my first time preparing the meal. But it was my first time preparing the meal at my own place, and also my first time making it by myself. I was not terribly stressed -- I have been involved in meal preparations for everyone's favorite Thursday for at least a decade, since we started hosting at my mother's house -- but I was hoping not to have any major mishaps. I was hosting only three friends, but cooking for closer to 10, because I realized I couldn't part with any of the dishes I had grown accustomed to cooking.

yummiest cranberry sauce in the world

We had all the staples: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, green bean casserole, broccoli rice bake (brought in by a friend), salad, rolls, and two different kinds of cranberry sauce (jellied, plus my homemade kind, pictured above). Not to mention mulled wine, cinnamon cranberry chevre, brie, coffee, baked apples, and egg nog ice cream. As required, all stomachs hurt at the end of the meal.

thanksgiving spread

Afterwards, we sat around playing Mario Kart and watching youtube videos. It was a very next-generation Thanksgiving, but cozy and full of friends. Everybody got to take home lots of leftovers. Personally, I had enough food to cover dinner for over a week.


We don't really get snow in Portland. we've had snow twice since I moved here in 2005 -- a big change from Syracuse, NY, where I came from. I don't miss snow, except before Christmas, when it's so cozy and perfect. This year I have been thinking of it a lot, and hoping that when I go home to Maryland we will get some. In fact, I would go so far as to say I wanted snow for Christmas.

But I didn't want it today!

snowy sunday

Wouldn't it be lovely to sit on the couch and watch it come down? Because boy, it's coming down. It's windy and blowing in all directions, great big flakes hitting the window. But I can't just relax and enjoy it, because I have to go to work today, setting up our performance space for Handel's Messiah, which starts rehearsal tomorrow. Most other businesses would cancel work, because our city is not equipped for snow and driving is dangerous. Unfortunately, canceling this setup is probably not an option, since the stage extension has to be up in order to fit all the musicians. (Never mind the question of what we'll do for tomorrow's rehearsal, given that the storm watch lasts through tomorrow afternoon). Oh, snow. Why couldn't you have come yesterday? How I wish I could curl into a blanket nest with a cup of coffee and just enjoy you.

In the meantime, I'll say a collective prayer that all services for today and tomorrow will be canceled. :-)


it was the kind of morning where you might need to manually peel your eyeballs open, manually scrape yourself from the warm nest of blankets. outside it was cold and drippy, rain turning to sleet, and the wind making it all blow sharp and sideways. I dreamed there were 6 inches of perfect, crunchy, snowball-fight snow on the ground. my legs were so sore from thursday's impromptu six-mile run up to council crest that I almost couldn't walk from my bed to the bathroom. the living room was grey.

at the barn I wore six shirts to stay warm. the other stall cleaners were either sick or laid off, and the barn owner had pneumonia. I thought it would be awful, long and tiring, but in the end everyone who was there pulled together to chip in and work. I hauled bags of grain and pellets, drove the truck, mucked stalls. it was also the first day of feeling a glimmer of excitement underneath my terror at owning a horse. it helps that everyone at the barn already knows the news, and no one hesitates to congratulate me or express their excitement. it also helps that everybody loves my horse.

now you will have to imagine my lovely little christmas tree, and the jars of homemade cinnamon candy, frosted in powdered sugar, that adorn my table, and the balls of hand-wound yarn, and the scarf I just finished knitting. I would show them to you, but my camera fried itself last week.

December 12, 2008

slate grey skies, damp leaves on pavement; tiny rivers flowing inside the tracks of the MAX train; peppermint in my coffee; long earrings, wool coat, gloves, scarf; noses pressed to library glass, looking for flakes amidst the raindrops. cold wet dark in the barn, listening to rain hitting the metal roof; squelching of mud at the arena gate. Cookie's warm withers, head bent to graze for hay in the mud. warm shower, warm blankets, christmas tree.

tonight I found myself in the 'missed connections.' but it wasn't what I had wanted to find at all.

December 10, 2008

pre-dawn alarm; coffee with whipped cream, cold cloudy sky, cardboard boxes and dust, chocolate almond toffee stomachache. cold hands fumbling with cold leather, a horse who would rather eat dinner than work. my horse, my horse, my horse.

December 9, 2008

thundering over a hazel hedge

This morning, when I woke up, I was not a horse owner. Now, as I get ready to go to bed, I am a horse owner. This remarkable turn of events is so unfathomable and enormous that I'm having a hard time even being affected by it. As though surely it cannot be true. 


Someday, maybe one year from now -- or five, or ten -- I will look back on this day as monumental and huge. After all, I have wanted to own my own horse my entire life. And now I have one. Now I have my own horse! Sorry, but I don't actually believe that last sentence. I could repeat it fifty times and it would not seem any more real. 

This opportunity first presented itself early in the fall, when I got to ride Cookie after helping her owner make a sale video to send to a potential buyer. (She rode her through all her gaits to show off her movement to a woman potentially coming in from Idaho). I liked her so much that the owner invited me to use her in lessons. In those first lessons, my instructor commented how pretty we were as a pair, and we began to talk -- jokingly -- of my buying her. After awhile, most people at the barn -- including the owner -- took to calling Cookie "my horse." 

Knowing my precarious financial situation -- my once full-time job had just been reduced to half, and I was still scrambling to find other work -- the owner let me use her for free, figuring it was one less horse she had to worry about riding. I secretly began to wonder if buying her was a possibility, but her price -- which had just been reduced to $5000 -- was way too steep. I lived in fear of the day someone else expressed interest in purchasing her from under me.

Because of the dire economic climate, I had been lucky all autumn not to have any other interested riders. But four days ago, on Saturday, my luck ran out. A woman from Seattle had asked for more information and wanted to come down and take a look. 

The owner and I sat down in her kitchen and she made her proposal: a sharply reduced price, and the offer to continue to work for free in exchange for free board. Plus the opportunity to pay only 10% down and make payments -- interest free -- for as long as it takes to pay off. Although I agonized about it all weekend, my mind was already made up in that kitchen. And now I have a horse. 

My horse. MY horse!



(That last one strikes me as the horse equivalent of the drunken celebrity paparazzi photo. As if Cookie would like to shove a hand in the camera lens, or maybe give the photographer the finger.)



101 in 1001

At the beginning of 2008, I compiled my 101 in 1001 list. It's funny to look back on it now -- at the time I wanted to be specific, and I didn't want to set 101 high-flying, nearly impossible to achieve goals. But now, after nearly a year, they just seem boring. Half of them don't seem important to me at all anymore. I think the idea is good in theory, but for those of us whose hopes and dreams are so mercurial, so occasionally large or small and so fleeting, 1001 days is too long. The list needs constant modification, which misses the point. 

I like Andrea's idea of setting a list before one's next birthday so much more. Maybe I will substitute a "27 goals before I turn 28" list in the near future.

At any rate, I feel compelled to pay homage to the things I longed to have under control when this list was composed, in March. One thousand and one days after that would have been September 28, 2010.  And I might as well update the thing while I'm at it. 

financial (15/101)
1. Pay off credit card debt (card 1)
2. Pay off credit card debt (card 2)
3. Open Roth IRA I did this but put one payment into it and haven't touched it since.
4. Automate IRA payments
5. Fund IRA at least $2000 (2008)
6. Fully fund IRA (2009)
7. Open high-yield savings account 
8. Open account at credit union
9. Save $1000
10. Get credit card interest rate reduced by at least 8 points, or transfer balance to new card
11. Reduce credit card balance by 1/2 I did this -- and then undid it. Oh well.
12. Meticulously track spending for two months another goal completed which serves no purpose to me now
13. Create detailed monthly budget and another!
14. Try envelope budgeting
15. Pay down student loan by 1/2 ($9000)

physical health/exercise (36/101)
1. Get physical
2. Get cholesterol checked
3. Get knee injury correctly diagnosed
4. Do prescribed knee exercises diligently for 30 days I didn't do this but my knee healed in due time anyway
5. Run without pain 
6. Run a marathon (2008) FAILED
7. Run a marathon (2009)
8. Run a marathon (2010)
9. Compete in a triathlon
10. Do a split
11. Get fitness level tested at the gym canceled my gym membership instead
12. Run a sub-7 minute mile
13. Take another trapeze class
14. Switch to a new barn I decided against this for many good reasons
15. Begin horseback riding again
16. Run a sub-4:00 marathon
17. Go to the gym regularly for three months, or cancel membership
18. Switch to Dan Kern's skin regimen I hated it
19. Mentor a Team in Training team I was a mentor but I bailed and I am still embarrassed for how I handled being on the team this year
20. Have all dental work done: crowns and fillings whatever, I'm working on it, and switched to a better dental plan
21. Have regularly scheduled dental cleanings

eating/nutrition/yum yum yum (46/101)
1. Join a CSA and believe it or not, I still have potatoes, onions, and squash
2. Eat 5 servings of fruits/veggies a day for 1 month
3. Drink only water for one week
4. Eat vegetarian for one month
5. Eat locally for one week
6. Eat raw food diet for one week
7. Cook two new recipes a week for one month
8. Swear off coffee for 30 days
9. Regularly take calcium/vitamins
10. Get a cappuccino maker instead of buying drinks all the time I got one but I still buy too much fancy coffee

literary/artistic (59/101)
1. Read all Pulitzer prize winners (9/54 complete)
2. Read at least 52 books (2008) epic, epic fail: I only read 19 books this year, my lowest count in at least 5 years
3. Read at least 52 books (2009)
4. Participate in Nanowrimo (2008) nope
5. Participate in Nanowrimo (2009)
6. Finish tarot card project
7. Write every day for one month
8. Write one letter a day for one month
9. Read James Joyce's Ulysses
10. Practice clarinet once a week or more for three months
11. Join a book club
12. Watch all Academy Award winners (Best Picture)
13. Begin testing clarinets for Kennedy Violins

around the house (72/101)
1. Get a pet fail: I got a cat but we were a terrible match for one another and she has a new home now
2. Create balcony garden which I loved passionately all summer
3. Get 1 GB memory for laptop
4. Get large flat-panel TV
5. Frame photos
6. Get rid of compost and bin I still have it and only wanted to get rid of it because I thought I was moving
7. Replace compost with vermicompost not interested anymore
8. Create organization system for cut-out recipes
9. Make balcony garden lush enough for full privacy
10. Move into cheaper apartment close-in
11. Get a Wii
12. Harness-train Sophia so we can go on walks turns out it's easy to harness train an imaginary cat
13. Create kitchen herb garden I used rosemary and parsley from my garden for Thanksgiving

horizon broadening (84/101)
1. Learn fundamentals in all opera languages: German
2. Italian
3. French (return to previous level of fluency)
4. Visit a country outside North America
5. Take a backpacking trip
6. Hike Oregon PCT
7. Go skiing on Mt. Hood
8. Visit Central/Eastern Oregon
9. See at least 4 states I haven't seen yet
10. Go sandboarding in Oregon Dunes
11. Go snowshoeing
12. See northern lights

work (94/101)
1. Get accepted into MOLA
2. Digitize library
3. Sort through, reorganize personnel files
4. Be recognized by General Director during opening night speech
5. Open 403(b)
6. Get foot in the door at symphony
7. Attend MOLA conference
8. Watch & listen to all operas (2008-2009 season) didn't study up on these and it no longer matters
9. See above (2009-2010 season)
10. Campaign to get Finale

crafty (97/101)
1. Knit colorful blanket for bed/couch in progress
2. Write & publish another zine
3. String paper cranes

miscellaneous (101/101)
1. Get custom-made perfume
2. Cut hair very short and I don't miss my long hair at all
3. Donate hair to Locks of Love
4. Celebrate -- send cards or presents -- all family and friends' birthdays for one year

alas, goals, I knew you.