October Goals Wrap-Up and November Goals

It’s hard to believe October is already over. Here’s how I did on my goals for the month.

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1. Have at least two voice lessons.

Accomplished! In light of my career decision I’m going to try to continue having them, but probably more like once a month.

2. Go to barre class at least twice.

I went zero times. Womp womp. I suck at motivating myself to work out… anyone have any tips for me?

3. Learn all my recitatives in Don Giovanni.

I managed to get most of them learned (and some memorized), but I didn’t quite finish by the end of the month. I’m okay with that though. There’s still plenty of time.

4. Save at least $300.

Accomplished! I picked up a sub gig at a church on a Sunday afternoon, so I was able to use part of that paycheck to meet this goal.

5. Finish That Hideous Strength and read another book in its entirety.

As you know from my mid-month check-in, I actually already accomplished this. So I went ahead and read ANOTHER book in its entirety: Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford. I’ll be posting a review of it soon.

And as for my November goals…

1. Clean my house thoroughly, one room at a time.

It looks like T and I will be hosting at least one Christmas this year (we participate in about five Christmases over two days), so I want to get our place to a party-presentable state.

2. Get cast from one of my auditions this month.

I’m auditioning for five different shows (seriously) over the course of November and the first week of December, and I’m really hoping to get cast in at least one of them. I would have to choose just one anyway because they all perform at the same time, but I would really like to do a show this spring.

3. Save another $300.

Pretty straightforward. We need to get on this whole saving-for-a-house-and-kids thing, so the more I can contribute, the better.

4. Finish learning music for Don Giovanni.

I probably won’t quite make this one, but I can try. The good news is, I already know most of Act 1 and my Act 2 aria, so really it’s just the big ensembles.

 5. Plan a January retreat for my church choir.

Now that I’m taking over church choir starting this week and I can run things my way (mua-ha-ha!), I really want to take them on a one-day mini-retreat on a Saturday in January to start working on music for the spring, particularly Holy Week and Easter. I would love to get this on the calendar and planned by the end of November, before things get absolutely insane during Advent.

How did you end up doing on your October goals? And what’s on your short list for November?

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Moving Forward: A Public (and Private) Service Announcement

I’m sure many of you have noticed by now that I’ve been struggling with whether I should continue pursuing a career in singing. It’s been an emotional road over the past several years, to say the least. There are highs and lows to everything in life, and as I’ve gone deeper into the business, the highs have gotten higher and the lows have gotten lower. Of course, the occasional highs are what keep me coming back and facing the much more frequent lows.

Receiving one rejection after another is pretty demoralizing, and the incredibly competitive atmosphere of this business has a lot of negative psychological effects. It has affected my marriage and some of my friendships, and not for the better. I often feel like I’m going in circles, making progress and achieving something new, only to get knocked down hard at my next audition (or twelve). Trying to make time for serious practice every day gets stressful when I’m trying to juggle two jobs, lots of volunteer work, and relationships with my husband, family, and friends.

At the same time, having a successful audition and getting cast in a show is a huge boost of confidence. It’s like someone is telling me, “You’re worth something in the singing world! The time, money, and effort you have put in over the last seven years have not gone to waste!” What singer, what person really, doesn’t need to hear that? Even the physical act of singing just feels right to me. It’s something I know I can do well, that I have control over and that always brightens my mood and relaxes me on the worst days. Singing is a part of me, and I wouldn’t be myself without it.

When I went to Germany this summer, I was hoping for a major revelation about whether or not I should keep doing this. In the weeks leading up to leaving for the program, I kept saying to T, “I don’t want to go. Why am I even going? I regret spending the exorbitant amount of money to do this.” He encouraged me, like the supporter that he is, to use it as a way to figure out if it’s something I really wanted to keep pursuing. I would take a deep breath, nod, and say, “Okay. You’re right. I can do that.” I never had that revelation moment while I was there, but I think the experience helped me along in the process of deciding where to go from here. The program was tough, there were attitudes that I had a very hard time dealing with, and the prognosis of the state of the business was very dark, especially for sopranos like me. I spent the entire time missing T and home and counting down the days until I could go home and resume my “normal” life, whatever that would mean.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve halfheartedly been to a few auditions because I felt I should, and none of them turned out to be encouraging. My YAP Tracker account has been filling up with programs to apply for, but instead of being excited about potential opportunities, I have avoided the website altogether and dreaded having to submit applications and videos that I knew weren’t going to be as good as someone else’s were. The thought of actively trying to leave home for another summer program or out-of-town auditions for companies makes me feel depressed, guilty, and confused. I miss so much every time I leave that there are times when I feel I’m not really living the life I was meant to live. Instead I’m alone at an airport or on a train or in a practice room, wondering what’s going on at home with the people I love more than anything in the world.

This past weekend, T and I were able to be at the hospital for the birth of our nephew. He’s the first of the new generation in our family and there will definitely be more after him. I had originally planned to be at an audition in LA over the weekend, but I decided not to go because of some other weekend commitments and because the thought of traveling that far for almost certain rejection was, to say the least, unappealing. If I had gone, I may not have made it back in time, and once again I would have put my own pursuits, however unlikely or ultimately unsuccessful they might be, ahead of our family and the things that really matter to me. I’m tired of being a person who makes that choice.

What I’m trying to say is, I can’t do this anymore.

I can’t spend the rest of my life facing rejection. I can’t continue trying to make it in a field that’s designed for 99% of people to fail. I can’t keep letting my desire to sing come between me and my singer friends when they are more successful than me. I can’t put up with the mental games and the psychological warfare. I can’t pretend that it’s my career when I’m always going to lose more money than I make. I can’t put my selfishness and pride ahead of my husband, my family, my friends, my students, my God.

It’s not that I will never sing again. Like I said, I wouldn’t be myself without singing. I’ll audition for local productions and companies, community and professional, without worrying about whether or not I’ll be paid for it or whether it’s the right thing for my resume. I’ll continue to try to achieve the highest level of musicianship and performance skill that I can, and I’ll do my best to communicate through music, because that’s what music is for. But I won’t be applying for summer programs anymore, even the professional opportunities. I won’t be auditioning for companies that would take me away from my real life in the Bay Area, no matter how enticing they might seem. I won’t spend crazy amounts of money on application or audition fees or traveling to auditions. I won’t surround myself with people who play mind games just because I think they will somehow advance my career. I won’t worry about my degrees and training going to waste, because they won’t. I will still use them. But this is never going to be my career, and to be honest, I don’t want it anymore.

I have no idea what direction I will go from here career-wise. Right now I’m happy working my dental office job and my church choir job without always trying to advance to bigger things. Those jobs allow me to live the life I really love, where T and I spend our evenings together, volunteering with our youth group or spending time with our friends and family, and where me missing those things for rehearsals or shows is the exception rather than the rule.

I think I’m pretty safe in assuming that most of you don’t care what I do or won’t be affected at all by my decision here. Even for those of you who are singers, one less soprano in the competitive pool isn’t going to make a difference. I don’t expect to be judged negatively for this, since I’m confident that you either love me independent of what career path I follow, or you simply couldn’t care less about my life (in which case, why are you reading my blog?). But as I said to T last night as I revealed these thoughts to him amid tears of relief, verbalizing it just makes it real, and that’s why I’m sharing it with you. This is what I choose, and now I’m going to move forward with my life, singing and otherwise.

It’s been fun, Singing Business. But I won’t miss you.

Good News

I don’t have a ton of time today to write a long post, but that’s because I’m trying to catch up on all the things I had originally planned to do yesterday. Why, you ask? Because instead of doing laundry and cleaning the house yesterday, we were with T’s family welcoming this little guy into the world.

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Meet TG, whose name I won’t disclose for his and his parents’ privacy (unless you’re already friends with me personally on Facebook). Our sweet little nephew was born at 6:20 PM. E, my sister-in-law, was a total champion, and everyone is recovering well. T and I are so excited to take on our new roles as auntie and uncle!

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Me and N, my other brother-in-law’s girlfriend and TG’s other auntie. If I have to share him, she’s the person I would want to share with!

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Now who has some good tips on how to become the favorite aunt (and uncle)?

Friday Favorites: Cafe Legato

Ah, Cafe Legato. With a name like that, how could I not love it?

Shockingly enough, this place was discovered by my non-musician brother. His hipster soul was drawn by its relative obscurity, while I of course come back time after time for the classical music theme. Located only a few freeway exits south of my house, it has quickly evolved into my favorite work spot.

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Not just coffee. It’s the experience. But the coffee is great too.

You notice the classical music theme as soon as you walk in the door. The walls are decorated with paintings of composers and performers, framed bits of sheet music, and posters. There’s even a piano along one wall. They also have some cute branded merchandise, and one of these days I will bite the bullet and get myself a Cafe Legato mug.

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When you go to order, you can choose from a whole list of “normal” cafe beverages, as well as speciality drinks like the Vivaldi’s Winter, Staccato Freeze, Amaretto Overture, Symphony Delight, and Chai Quartet. They also have a small selection of pastries, and patrons benefit from free, no-log-in-required wifi. The best part is, you can use your FiveStars membership card here and earn points towards a free drink. (I earned mine today!)

My vanilla chai latte helping me get through a morning of church choir organizing, blog writing, and opera planning.

My vanilla chai latte helping me get through a morning of church choir organizing, blog writing, and opera planning.

I don’t have many complaints about Legato, but if I had to give one critique, it would be the staff. They tend to come across a bit unfriendly and unsociable. This is exactly the kind of place where I could see myself being a “regular” and making friends with the owners, but they never seem interested in making even the smallest of talk over the register. I’ve tried more than once, so I don’t think it’s me. (They were also giving me weird, suspicious looks while I was snapping the few photos in this post, so I apologize for the less-than-stellar quality of them.)

The good news is, the coffee is delicious and it’s a quiet place where I can come to work and feel surrounded by the music that inspires me. I just wish more people knew about it!

Bay Areans, have you ever been to Cafe Legato? Let’s go sometime!

Top Five Things I’ve Learned From Working in a Dental Office

Working at a dental office isn’t something I ever thought I’d be doing. I’m not an assistant or anything, I just work at the front desk, but in the six or so months I’ve been working there, I’ve learned a lot of things and picked up a lot of good life skills. From complex scheduling to clinical terms to the ins and outs of insurance, there’s a lot that goes into figuring out how to manage the office. Here are the top five things I have learned on the job and would like to pass on to you, my friends.

5. Going to the dentist is nothing to be afraid of.

The dentist, assistants, and hygienists aren’t there to torture you (usually). They just want to clean and/or fix your teeth for your own health and comfort. If you’re worried about it being painful, let them know and they will try to make your experience as non-traumatizing as possible.

4. Paper trails are good things.

At our office, and probably at any other dental or medical practice, we keep good, thorough clinical notes on every patient. We try to document every time we contact a patient over the phone or via email when it regards their dental health. It’s partially because it’s helpful for us to all stay on the same page, and partially for legal reasons. Either way, it’s a good life principle too. If you need to discuss something important with someone, taking notes or communicating over email is a good idea.

3. If you make an appointment, keep it.

This doesn’t just apply to dentist appointments, it’s true for any kind of appointment… or meeting, or date, or anything you schedule in advance that involves other people. At the dentist, you can make your next cleaning appointment for six months out, which I know seems far away, but it’s not that hard to write it down in your calendar/type it into iCal and then avoid scheduling anything else at that same time. It bugs people when you break appointments with them, so please don’t do it.

2. Dental insurance is worth having.

If you only go to the dentist for your two cleanings per year and never have cavities (good job!), your bank account won’t suffer too much if you don’t have dental insurance. However, if you ever do need major treatment sometime, you’ll be very grateful for insurance. Remember that dental insurance isn’t included in a standard medical insurance plan; it costs a little extra to add it on, but it’s probably worth it.

1. Brush. Your. Teeth.

Twice a day. Every day. Do it thoroughly. And floss sometimes too. You will prevent so many EXPENSIVE dental problems in your future if you brush now. It’s well worth the two minutes of inconvenience in your morning and evening routines. Plus, keeping your teeth clean and plaque-free helps prevent bacteria in your mouth from entering your bloodstream, which can cause heart disease. Seriously guys, always brush your teeth.

What are your biggest issues with going to the dentist (or do you love it)?

Corn Maze: The Perfect Fall Activity

Hope you all had a great weekend! T and I, along with three of our friends and fellow youth leaders, spent our Saturday taking twelve high school students to a corn maze and fall festival at Dell’Osso Family Farm in Lathrop, CA, about an hour and a half away from our hometown.

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Our friend M and T, getting ready to venture into the maze.

Our friend M and T, getting ready to venture into the maze.

And away they (we) go!

And away they (we) go!

That is a lot of corn.

That is a lot of corn.

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Some of our students (and one responsible leader in the corner).

Some of our students (and one responsible leader in the corner). Photo courtesy of that leader.

A few more students. Photo courtesy of the kid in the black shirt.

A few more students. Photo courtesy of the kid in the black shirt.

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Me and T, without any students.

Never mind the fact that we probably should have been supervising twelve teenagers in a giant maze of corn.

Never mind the fact that we probably should have been supervising twelve teenagers in a giant maze of corn.

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Those stalks were probably eight feet high.

There were lots of other things to do at the festival as well. You could paint pumpkins or try blasting them out of giant cannons as far as possible, go on a train ride or hay ride (which apparently was really lame, according to all of our students), go zip lining, try out a ropes course. There were tons of families hanging out in the kids’ area, which had activities like go-carting, panning for gold (or something that looked like it), a pirate show, and lots more. And of course, there was the haunted house, in which, I’m told, some of our high school girls only lasted about five seconds before they ran out screaming.

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A few of our students enjoying the pumpkin patch.

A few of our students enjoying the pumpkin patch.

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Oh, and did I mention the fact that there was a mechanical pumpkin? That’s right, not a mechanical bull. A pumpkin.

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There was a wide variety of food options, mostly things you would expect to find at a festival like this. It did take T 45 minutes to get one plate of funnel cake, which turned out to be good but not quite worth waiting that long. The bathroom situation consisted of two long rows of outhouses and portable hand-washing stations, which wasn’t ideal, but I guess there aren’t many other good options for accommodating that many people. Overall, we had a great time and will definitely be taking our students back next year!

Do you have anything like this near you? What’s your favorite thing to do at a fall festival?

Cats on Things

If you follow me on Instagram (and you should! @kellyeshoffwalker), you probably know that I post tons of pictures of my cats, Nigel and Nora. I can’t help it, they’re just so cute and funny! Like most cats (I assume), they have an obsession with perching on odd things and in odd places… laundry baskets, bookshelves, kitchen cabinets, printers, you name it. See for yourself.

They like to see the world from as high as possible.

They like to see the world from as high as possible.

Nigel thinks a good place to sleep is in T's arms when he's playing video games.

Nigel thinks a good place to sleep is in T’s arms when he’s playing video games.

Nora fits right inside T's baseball glove.

Nora fits right inside T’s baseball glove.

Nigel barely fits in that little space, but he makes it work.

Nigel barely fits in that little space on top of my opera scores, but he makes it work.

This takes some serious skill.

This takes some serious skill.

Nigel refusing to let me write lesson plans.

Nigel refusing to let me write lesson plans.

Nora refusing to let me study a score.

Nora refusing to let me study a score.

Copycat.

Copycat.

Clean laundry, not so clean anymore.

Clean laundry, not so clean anymore.

Nigel helping T and me move in to our new apartment (almost two years ago, that is).

Nigel helping T and me move in to our new apartment (almost two years ago, that is).

Nora doesn't like it when I pack to go on a trip.

Nora doesn’t like it when I pack to go on a trip.

Both cats have this weird thing about laying on our stuff.

Both cats have this weird thing about laying on our stuff.

Nora making a nest in T's jeans.

Nora making a nest in T’s jeans.

And finally, their favorite place to settle on hot days: the cool porcelain sink.

And finally, their favorite place to settle on hot days: the nice cool porcelain sink.

Do you have cats? Do they like to lay, perch, or wedge themselves in weird places?