How long does grief last?

Healing from a life changing incident takes time. Everybody says that. Social conventions have different approaches depending on culture, history and traditions. Whether it’s death, divorce, or job loss, we all know when the beginning of grief happens, but never the end. We don’t even know the middle until we’re near the end of the grief.

And those stages of grief? (shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) There are subdivisions of each of the five stages. Denial can include disbelief. Grief can also materialize in physical health issues. So I would add “anxiety” to the six stages of grief. A good therapist has given me tools to process the emotions so that they don’t keep impacting my physical health. Six months of insufferable stress became a cancer scare. Fifteen months of sustained stress have complicated aging eyes and migraines.

I still struggle with anxiety. Friends, family (especially my amazing husband), and a great community are worth fighting the daily battle of physical and emotional issues to get through the day. I’ve had to adjust my expectations of what I can do. And re-prioritize what I want to do. I’m still looking for a daily affirmation which has less foundations in guilt and sadness. If I reach for smaller victories, am I less than I should be?

Understanding grief and the process I’ve had to go through to find myself again has had many turns and retreats. Lately, I’ve realized my anger had split into bitterness and jealousy. I occasionally have day dreams about confronting wrong doers. But these imaginings have become more a comical fantasy than a wish for resolution. Do I have choice words for them? You bet. I have a speech ready for the perfect moment. And it’s never going to be said in real life.

Because I know that the reality was an institutional economic condition. My position was collateral damage. It’s just the cowardly way in which the decision was executed. That’s on them. I don’t need to carry that any longer. Doing so only hurts myself.

I’m nearly back. My reset is at 85% of ambition capacity. 10% is lack of confidence and 5% is self doubt. Realizing that 15% is still needing a change, I must cleanse through mediation, music making, and a lot of sweat. My fighting spirit isn’t about looking back to correct past wrongs. It’s about making sure I keep my head looking at now and moving forward.


Material Possessions

Whenever I tell my friend a story about the latest annoying thing my cats have done, he usually says, “Cats are dicks.”

This latest little incident makes me say the same thing.

I started off the day after a rough night. I learned the hard way; I’m really too old for greasy burgers, no matter how good they taste. So let’s just say I was running late to a meeting. After the meeting, I was to go straight to a 9 hour tech day with the band. I threw my bassoon and gig bag into the back of the car and started the day.

After the meeting, I got back into the car and wondered why my car smelled like cat pee.

When I got to the rehearsal, I placed my instrument and bag down to help with the sound set up. About an hour later, I got back to my bag to start pulling out reeds and put the bassoon together. That’s when I realized one of the cats had left me a present.

Last week we discovered that the dehumidifier we recently turned on was disturbing their bathroom routine. The motor was too loud and on too much because of the humidity. Their routine was disturbed. A couple of days ago I noticed one of the cats was acting a little more psycho than usual. She was actually panting. I thought she was chasing down a housefly.

I went to work early. Got a text from my husband that he stepped on some cat poop on the way out the door. That’s when we figured out the dehumidifier issue. That was Thursday.

The cats found a way to tell me that they were still upset.

Thankfully, the gig bag rests on top of the bassoon, so nothing seeped through to my instrument. I also have a towel in my bag that caught most of it; but not the heavy duty straps I use for standing. Luckily, I had a second strap for the rehearsal. I put my bag somewhere away from the rest of the cast on concrete, so the smell wouldn’t seep into any other fabrics.

When I got home, I started to pull things out of the bag, thankful to have only put in things I needed for this gig. Things that got hit besides the heavy straps – my reed tool bag full of tools, a pair of black socks I forgot were there, and the towel from the Heidelberg tour in 1995. I took out all the tools. They each passed the sniff test; even the wooden handles – thank God! These tools are expensive. I even saved the memory of a deposit check I wrote to my first symphony audition that I won. This memory was tucked away in a side pocket – just like a memory tucked away in my brain.

I put the bag, the heavy straps, the socks, and the towel in a volcano bath (white vinegar and baking soda, diluted with water) to soak for 30 minutes. After rinsing, I put them in a load of laundry (don’t tell my daughter). Transferred the load to the dryer and went to bed, hoping I didn’t ruin the whole load.

The soak worked. I’m happy to say that the tool bag, the straps and the towel survived. It’s little like Linus’ blanket.

They are just material possessions. But when one starts to age, these things have more memories when you face the possibility of losing them. I felt the pinch of what these things meant; a former life of a professional musician. Not that I regret the decision I made to leave that life when I became a mother. But that these were tangible things that proved that life happened. I feel better knowing that towel is in my bag.

And yes, cats are dicks.


I Have Reached the Next Level (2) – June 29

On March 22, 2017, I set a goal to write one blog post a day for 100 days. It was the day after my birthday. The point of the challenge was to produce work; to encourage me back into the creative space in which I thrive.

Scanning through the posts, I’m glad to see that I experimented with technology, teased a few beta ideas for the next project, and kept within a framework of categories, while leaving room for new ideas to emerge throughout the challenge. There were a few short posts on days I wasn’t feeling well. But even then, I posted something to stay true to myself. It was my own prescribed therapy to help get past a painful job loss, and embrace the new opportunities that come from being open. So how am I doing now? Very well, thank you very much.

There are some pretty incredible people in my safety circle. The folks in Jakopa Punch, Ice House, Bel Canto/Bach Choir, Godfreys, ArtsQuest, Fine Arts Commission were all there, waiting for me to come back to functionality. Great friends To–, Pa-, Do—-, Ea–, S&M Ri—–, G&C Wa—-, Je—-, Du—-, Ge—-, Ja—-, Do—, … were there when I needed to talk it out. My kids were oh so patient with my sad days, and nursed me back when my spirit and body were bedridden. Steve, as always, was my champion: patient, encouraging, loving, supportive, did I mention patient?

Near the end of the 100 blog post challenge, I made friends with two (new to this process) people who turned up the heat for me in these last couple of weeks. They listened to my ideas, and are now encouraging me to take the next leap into a much bigger commitment of creativity. Ri– & Er–… I can’t thank you enough for being the sounding board that brought a year’s worth of conversations with my husband and close friends into focus.

So what’s next?

(deep breath)

Ladies and gentlemen, may I please make an announcement? On Saturday, July 1, 2017 I will be [soft] launching The Audience Guide. It’s a multi-channel resource for arts loving audiences to learn more about the lively and performing arts created in the Lehigh Valley.

The Audience Guide will be a web based resource that includes original content for exploring arts venues, insights into arts and cultural organizations, interviews with the “magic fairies” that make the moments possible, supplemental material to help audiences enrich their experience, and planning ideas to make the most of the arts and cultural scene for visitors and people who live like a tourist in their own community. Content will be available in audio podcast, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I will be directing traffic that comes to this website directly to the venues and artists, and also sharing inspirational content from other creatives in the Lehigh Valley.

The intention for the blog is to help readers connect to what’s here and to know more about what makes this place special. But it’s also to help audiences connect to the experiences on their own terms; and to be present in these moments to perhaps forget about the day’s troubles, or suspend time if only for a breath.

I hope you keep an eye out for the soft launch, and watch it build over the next two months. The goal is to have enough content ready for a robust arts season by Labor Day weekend. For those who watch it grow, I hope you’ll share your opinions and ideas. The Audience Guide will be for you after all.

And now…. a little celebration:

100 in 100

What do audiences want? – June 28

What do audiences want? – June 28

Artists and arts organization struggle daily with the question, “What do audiences want?” Some artists might boldly declare a detached nonchalant response to this question. Their artistic genius matters not on commercial success, but on meeting their own muse’s standards. Other arts organizations may change their signature completely to meet a budgetary goal by programming more popular art, rather than artists with more quality of the discipline. Otherwise termed, “the sell-out.”

Every artistic genre has stories of artists who choose to align their work on one side of this balance or the other. Many arts organizations work toward inviting people into understanding what their work is about through various means of outreach and educational initiatives. M asterworks will stand the test of time. But how do audiences develop an interest in being part of the new art, the live art, or participating in the process instead of merely observing its existence?

As an artist, I was pulled into these questions during the culture wars of the 1990s. Intrigued, worried, and somewhat befuddled by conversations I heard from established artists in the professional orchestra I was lucky enough to perform with, I started a quest to understand the barriers to the first problem:

Our audiences are graying. What are we doing to reach out to younger audiences?

That was 25 years ago. Babies born in that decade are having babies now. There have been changes in technology, changes in art, changes in the cultural economy, but the problem of audience building is ever present. There have been studies on audience segmentation, white papers on low barriers to entry, theories, symposiums, cross-disciplinary studies, foundations willing to support good ideas, and on and on.

There is no one solution. There are many creative ideas, innovative technologies, and people willing to take risks changing how they promote their art. But it can’t just be the artists who change. What about us, the audience? How can we change?

I’m about to take a risk in putting something into the world that might help audiences know more about the arts scene in The Lehigh Valley. It’s a mix of behind the scenes stories, interviews with “magic fairies,” information about the works, supplementary content, suggestions for complimentary activities, a blend of concierge/maitre’d assistance to help readers discover artistic experiences produced in the Lehigh Valley.

I’ve been building this project for a while.

This post is not meant to be a tease. It’s an invitation to readers to share what they look for when they’re looking for an artistic adventure. There are so many brilliant artistic voices in our community. So many ways to participate in the process.

What would you want to be able to access that would help you learn more about what’s happening in our arts community?

Asking…. for a friend.

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Morning Routine update – June 26

According to my phone apps, it’s been over a week that I’ve been getting out for a dog walk at 6am. Thanks to an accountability partner, and an eager dog, I only skipped Tuesday to account for a late rehearsal. I’m thinking that maybe I should get out at 6am anyway, and work in a nap on Tuesday afternoons. The action gets me moving to the point of not crawling back into bed.

I’m still writing morning pages, and limiting digital surfing. Still riding my bike to work when weather cooperates. Still getting to my projects and feeling ready to take on more productivity.

One could say the daily routine is normalizing, and I’m getting more done.

I’m feeling quite settled. Which is a good thing before the work goes from second gear to third gear this Saturday.

While I’m nearing the end of the 100 posts in 100 days, I also have a count down to launch in 6 days. I’m so excited.

And I’m going to leave it at that for now. Cryptic for a reason.

97 of 100

Albums & Ice Cream, edition 5

Earlier this week, two things happened to inspire the 5th issue/edition of Albums & Ice Cream. The weekly CSA (farm share) offered second pint of sweet cherries and I had a day trip with my son to the Jersey shore.

The first quart of cherries were pitted and set out on the table last week, eaten within a couple of days. The second quart was pitted, but after listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in the car with my son explaining to me all of the musical details, it only made sense to put these together on this post.

I had a job as a teen at the Kenosha Spot Drive In; serving ice cream sundaes and making shakes, malts and root beer whirls. We had four flavors; vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and one rotating “other” flavor, either butter pecan, or New York Cherry. I loved that ice cream with hot fudge. I don’t see this flavor very often in our regular ice cream parlors, so I wonder if it’s a “vintage” flavor, or one that was more regional to the mid-west. Which would be weird since it was “New York” cherry.

Oddly, the only recipes I found were Philly style base.  I prefer the French style. I’m getting better at making my own custard base, with a bit of consideration toward sensibility. I’m not religiously following the instruction to use 6 egg yolks. I use three whole eggs, and temper them more carefully. The strainer takes care of the tiny bits of white that cook. I also add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to keep it from freezing into a solid block of ice. This batch was a basic vanilla ice cream with an added splash of almond extract, then fresh local cherries cut in half and stirred into the custard by the machine.

While my son’s insights into the Pink Floyd album were more focused on the drums and lyrics, I was listening with a flush of memories of recording a Tribute Band of the album name in Rochester for my doctoral studies. I was applying anthropological theory and research practice to understand the attraction of a then new phenomenon in the local music scene; the tribute band. I saw a connection to audience building for the symphony orchestra, and made the case in my work, much to the dismay of the conservative music history department at Eastman. This was 1995, the height of the culture wars, and before the term” audience building” was a thing in the arts. I was onto something then, and I still am today.

96 of 100