I Am Wonder Woman (In My Head)

I get the most amazing amount of work done before I get out of bed every morning.

My clock radio is set to the classical music station, so I wake up every day to the dulcet strains of a string quartet, the cheerful tinkle of a harpsichord, or (if they’re having their annual fund drive) a sleep-shattering blast of the 1812 Overture.  My alarm goes off nine minutes before I actually have to get up, since I love the quiet interlude between my first awakening and the second alarm, which is when I really have to get out of bed.  (The second alarm always seems to involve the announcer saying, “–one of my favorite songs for unaccompanied cello – such a breathtakingly beautiful arrangement.  Next up, Seventeen Trumpets Playing Very Loud Notes!”)

I have vast reservoirs of creative energy and organizational motivation at 6:51 a.m.  I will do EVERYTHING today!  The laundry shouldn’t take long, it’s just seven or eight loads.  I can keep that going while I clean the house really quick, and I have lots of energy so I can get that all done by 10, no problem.  That’ll burn off my nice healthy breakfast in a flash!

After that, let’s see – I think I’ll sort through all the paper on the kitchen counter!  Easy peasy – turn on an episode of something fun on Netflix, and zip zip zoom, I’ll have that overflowing inbox dealt with in no time flat.  While I’m at it, I’ll scrub down the counter and water all the plants.

Noon – time to get a sandwich and review a favorite blog or two.  Ooo, good idea – I have a GREAT idea for a blog post, I’ll just do that while I eat!  Multi-tasking, yay!

After that, I’ll do some of my editing work – an hour for the next chapter?  Sure!  It’s only 1:30 now, so I have the whole afternoon free until the kids get home!  I am Wonder Woman!

Next … oh, I know!  I’ve been dying to get back to that quilt I’ve been cutting out for the last three years – why haven’t I gotten more done on that?!  I’ll do some work on that, and if my creative energy holds out I’ll finish up those pajamas I started sewing for my daughter in 2010.  They’re kind of baggy, she probably won’t have grown out of them.

And now it’s time for dinner – I love to cook, what shall I cook?  Something delicious and homemade with ingredients I already have on hand, of course, and I’ll talk to my kids about their days while we eat our delicious dinner, we’ll tidy up the kitchen, and settle down on the couch and watch a little bit of Star Wars before bed.  Then I’ll have at least a couple of hours before bed, and I can –

“–was lovely, just exquisite.  Next on today’s program, Several Trombones Playing Too Many Notes!”

No wonder I’m flat exhausted when I haul myself out of bed at 7.  I’ve already put in a full day’s work!

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Walk a Mile

They say you can’t truly understand a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.  Last week, I’d have been happy to let somebody walk a mile in my shoes, even if it meant I never got the shoes back.

This was the first full week of my new job, which I will endeavor to explain without too many technical details.  Every year, without fail, kids go off to college and think, “Instead of doing something lucrative like construction work or garbage collection, I wish to pursue a liberal arts degree, and I am in a whimsically impractical mood today so I shall major in music.”  They must choose a primary instrument, and most schools will make them learn a secondary instrument as well, so that they graduate with marginally more marketable skills than just being able to play the oboe really well.  They take lessons in both of these instruments.  While some of their music can be played unaccompanied, most of it has a piano part (or in many cases, an orchestra part that has been reduced down to a piano score since symphony orchestras are so impractical to fit into most practice rooms).

That’s where I come in.  I’m filling in this semester for a staff accompanist who is on sabbatical, and my job is to play for 25 students at their lessons, rehearse with them as needed, and perform with them for their recitals and juries (the performance equivalent of a final exam at the end of the term).  Practicing for all of this is done on my own time, as is the inevitable paperwork and email that comes with any job which is affected by 25 complicated student schedules.

As it turns out, getting started with a job like this is rather more complicated than I thought.  There is a vast mountain of paperwork that must be filled out, and every department which urgently requires my signature seems to be in a different building.  Things came to a head last Tuesday when I marched onto campus in high dudgeon over a parking ticket I’d received the day before.  Unless they were deliberately making their maps unclear to mess with the freshmen (including secretly calling the parallel parking on one side of the main parking lot by a different name and then not posting a sign labeling it as such), I had gotten a parking ticket in error, and I wasn’t about to pay 15 bucks for it.  It was the Principle of the Thing.

So I decided to use just a few minutes (foreshadowing here, don’t miss it) of my first practice session of the day for paperwork.  Drop off new contract – check!  See, that was fast!  I was pretty close to my car, which I’d parked in a metered spot on the street since I’d been in a hurry that morning, so I decided to move it to a campus parking lot and avoid a ticket from the city police.  Found a spot – no problem!  Now to walk back across campus to check in with campus security and figure out what the heck this ticket was all about.

I walked into their office, head held high and skirt swishing indignantly, and explained that of course I did not need to pay this since I had in fact been parked in a legal spot.  (And quietly hoped very hard that this was true.)  Much confusion ensued.  I had a Music department permit – well, yes, shouldn’t I, since I’m in the music department?  They can only park in certain spaces – yes, but there are only two of them and they’re reserved for out-of-town professors, which is why I paid for a general parking permit (I did not say, “Duhhh”, but I thought it).  It eventually turned out that I had been given a music parking permit in error, completely independently of my online application for a general parking permit, which they could not locate in their files.  I did not swear at them.  I am proud of this.

The eventual result of the mass confusion was that I had to walk back across campus and see if I still had my temporary permit – I did not, since I had very responsibly pitched it into the nearest recycle bin as soon as I got my REAL parking permit (which was, of course, the wrong one).  So I had to move my car again, and found a spot in the free 2-hour parking on the street.  This would have been fine, except that I was going to be on campus for five more hours.

Walked back.  Played for student lessons.  Walked to the music workroom to get my music prepped for my binder.  Walked to another building for more lessons.  Walked back to the music workroom to get music out of my mailbox.  Walked to the HR department for more paperwork.  Walked across campus to move my car yet again.  Drove it back to the metered parking, gave it my last dime, and walked back to my office, upstairs, downstairs, to the next building, upstairs again, downstairs again, took the shortcut across the darkened stage and did not fall off into the orchestra pit – hurrah!

By the end of the day, I was officially hired, made it on time to all my rehearsals, had all my music prepped and in my binder, did not get any parking tickets, and kept all my cussing safely in the privacy of my own head.  But honey, I was tired.

So if anyone ever wants to truly understand me and walk a mile in my shoes, I will give this bit of advice:  Pick a day when I’m not wearing ballet flats.

Posted in Me Being Very Slightly Cranky | 4 Comments

Well, I Can Think Of A Few …

Television.  An ad for a yeast infection medication.  A woman is being fitted for her wedding dress.  The voiceover says,

“Isn’t this the worst time for intense feminine itch?!”

And all I can think is, “This chick is twenty-three years old, hasn’t had kids yet, and has never had to do her own grocery shopping while keeping a toddler from filling the cart with enough Rice-a-Roni to feed the entire Peace Corps for a week.  She’s in a room with her mother (who gave birth to her) and a seamstress (who sees women in their underpants on a daily basis), and she’s stressed about an itch.  Honey, you have NO IDEA.”

For starters:  “Do you, Jane, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?” – “Hang on, hang on, HELLA itch down there … ahhh, got it.  I do!”

Enjoying a nice dinner on the honeymoon:  “Yes, I’d like the filet mignon with a side … with a side of … with … AUUGHHHHHH!  Berightbackjustorderwithoutme!”

Enjoying other activities on the honeymoon:  “No, I always hop around scratching myself like a monkey when I’m aroused.  You’ll get used to it, dear.”

The inevitable first grown-up speeding ticket:  “Gahhh!  No!  I’m not reaching for a weapon!”

Job interview:  “I feel that I am uniquely … er … uniquely suited … [squirm] … uniquely suited [crosses legs] to this company because … [squirm] … actually I just remembered I have a hair appointment I have to go now ‘k thanks bye!”

Hair appointment – well, actually that one wouldn’t be too bad as long as she had one of those nice big plastic capes to hide under.

Parent-teacher conference:  “No, as far as I [wiggle] know, our family doesn’t have any history of [squirm] attention [shift] deficit [scratch] issues.”

Ladies’ Bible study at church:  “Jane, would you like to lead us in a word of prayer?”  “Of course!  Everybody close your eyes, and KEEP THEM CLOSED.  Our Father…”

Poor Jane.  I hope her medicine helps.  Some day this will just be one more funny story to tell her grandchildren (although only the girls, and only when they’re grown up).  In the meantime, the only cure for naivete is life.

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… and Cookies.

It has come to my attention lately that the name of this blog very nearly amounts to false advertising.  (I will give you a moment to catch your breath at the sudden realization that this is, in fact, completely true.)  There is snark, yes.  But there have been no cookies.  I shall remedy this immediately.


1/2 c. shortening

1/2 c. margarine or butter, softened

2 eggs

2 t. cream of tartar

1 1/2 c. sugar

1 t. baking soda

1/4 t. salt

2 3/4 c. flour

2 T. sugar + 2 t. cinnamon


In large bowl, mix shortening, butter, sugar and eggs until smooth.  Stir in cream of tartar, 1 1/2 c. sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Blend in the flour 1/2 cup at a time.  (And yes, I know the last one will be a quarter cup.  You can deal with it, I’m quite sure.)  If it’s kind of gooey still, pour in a little more flour.  You should be able to roll it into balls without it sticking all over your fingers.

Have a bite.  Yum!  Isn’t that good?  (We are going to pretend we don’t know about raw eggs and salmonella and that what we don’t know really won’t hurt us.)  It’s the butter, of course, but the cream of tartar is what makes you want to have another bite.  Go on, we won’t tell.

Now mix the 2 T. sugar with the 2 t. cinnamon in a little bowl.  Roll a piece of dough into about a 1″ ball and either dip it in the cinnamon sugar (if you like having bits of plain dough around the edges of the finished cookie) or roll it around until it’s covered (if you like having extra cinnamon sugar baked into the bottom of the cookie).  Eat it.

Try one the other way (rolled around or just dipped, whichever one you didn’t just do).  Eat it too.  See which you like better.

Make the rest of them that way, and place on an ungreased baking sheet far enough apart that when they get all melty and squishy they still have room to spread without becoming one giant puddle of cookie.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

If there is leftover dough that isn’t QUITE enough to make a cookie, roll it in cinnamon sugar.  Eat it.  It is acceptable to carefully plan the last few cookies to make sure that the dough left in the bowl would make about 95% of a decent cookie, but really not quite enough for one now that you look at it.  Feel free to lick the spoon and use it to scrape out the extra bits in the bowl.

Bake the cookies at 400° for … oh, I don’t know, ten minutes or so?  Depends on whether you like them crunchy on the edges, squishy in the middle, or somewhere in between.  They’ll keep baking a little when they come out of the oven, so if they’re in there long enough to get brown, you’ll have little cinnamon sugar hockey pucks once they cool.

Move to a cooling rack as soon as you can take them off without them falling all to pieces.  Eat the one that fell all to pieces.  When cool, look at all the cookies and think, “… Ugh.  I should not have had so much cookie dough.”  Go for a long walk.  Come home …

… and have a cookie.

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Bee’s Very Helpful Travel Tips

1. Maps are important.  Plans are not.

2.  It is very, very important to check the battery life of your new camera BEFORE taking a zillion pictures of a less-than-spectacular river and then going to Crater Lake and having it die five minutes into the driving tour.

3.  You cannot swim in Crater Lake.  Not if you are nine years old and inclined to be cranky about strenuous exercise in general, steep hikes in particular (1.1 mile long and 700 feet of elevation gain, so you can do the math there), and freezing your little toesies off.  So please don’t ask that question, fourteen times in a row.

4.  Toilet paper is not a luxury item if you are accustomed to having it.  Small, cheap hotels may not fully grasp this concept.  Bring your own.

5.  Laughing is important.  Bedtime is not.

6.  If you see five deer, two of which are alive, DO NOT mention the other three to your daughter.

7.  Vultures are just as ugly in person as they are in pictures.

8.  If you can only finish half of the single best hamburger you’ve ever eaten and you take the rest back to your hotel in a to-go box, and you have a little bit of a funny tummy around 10 p.m. due to what you will later determine was a little too much heat and driving, you will be much happier if you do not absentmindedly look up from your novel and think, “My tummy feels odd, I must be hungry” and eat the other half of your burger.  It is far better to eat only half of the single best hamburger you’ve ever eaten, than to have to sadly watch all of it come back up.

9.  Fueling your car is important.  Really.  I mean it.

10.  Good news – it is not physically possible for a child to indefinitely refuse to poop.

11.  Bad news – it is not physically possible for a child to indefinitely refuse to poop.

12.  See Item #4.

13.  If you are going to sing your newly composed song “Welcome to Mosquito Land” in high, tiny mosquito voices and laugh yourself silly, think carefully about how long your throat can maintain that pitch.  Sustained periods of singing nearly two octaves above middle C is not good for your health.

14.  Bathrooms are important.  Your timetable is not.  (What are you doing with a timetable anyway?  Throw it out!)

15.  Don’t forget your pillow at the hotel.

16.  Use bug spray downwind.  Whenever possible, fart downwind too.

17.  Even National Geographic specials on Our Amazing Solar System have questionable commercials after 11 p.m.  Some of these questionable commercials cannot be muted.  Pay attention, or it will be slightly more educational TV than you had in mind.

18.  I’ll just tell you right now – there is NOTHING between Sisters and Detroit.  Better to know this now than to find it out while you’re driving with your legs crossed at 10:45 p.m.

19.  If you really, really, REALLY have to go, pick a nice private spot by the river bank that is for SURE wide enough to stand on, because if you are currently engaged in bodily functions, you do not want to make the gradual and cold discovery that the little rocks you’re standing on are closer to the water than you thought and now you are going to have to either pull up cold wet jeans or figure out how to get back to the car in your altogether without mooning Highway 22.

20.  Some days you’re going to spend a little more than you expected.  That’s OK.

21.  Peanut butter sandwiches and blueberries make a good lunch.  Also dinner.  And breakfast, if necessary.  Eating them outdoors while you listen to a waterfall crashing into an emerald green pool below makes them taste a lot better than they do at home.

22.  Take only pictures, leave only footprints.  (Repeat this until your children are ready to throw their peanut butter sandwiches and blueberries at you.)

23.  Say it all together now:  It’s OK If Mommy Doesn’t Go Swimming.

24.  If you think there is even the slightest chance that 45 minutes from now you may be four-tenths of a mile from home and about to blow up into a thousand tiny angry pieces from your dire need to use a restroom when your children get into a squabble and start knocking things around the back seat until things start spilling into the plastic fittings for the seatbelts and there is truly no option but to stop and clean it up, DO NOT STOP FOR DRINKS.  They can have a cherry smoothie another day.

25.  590 miles is a long way.  But if you laugh and sing and eat M&Ms in bed at midnight, it goes by amazingly fast.

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Oh Look, a Goldfish!

I used to be your standard, everyday, garden-variety procrastinator.  I’d start folding laundry, and get distracted by the movie I was watching at the time, and keep watching the movie instead of getting the next load of laundry.  I’d play computer games instead of paying the bills, cut flowers out of my rose garden instead of pulling weeds, and read novels instead of washing the dishes.

Now, though, my brain has ascended to a whole new level of procrastinatory subterfuge.  Instead of finding myself suddenly in the mood for online Scrabble and British chick lit (which are easily identifiable time-wasters), my brain has a new strategy:  USEFUL procrastination.

Oh, it’s devious.  I have gradually gained the self-discipline to say to myself, “Self, NO.  You do not need to knit a scarf for the homeless right now.  Yes, that is a worthy activity, but you know perfectly well that you do it for fun, and that as soon as you put that scarf in the Salvation Army basket, you’ll start another one with that lovely fuzzy brown yarn you’ve had your eye on.  Go do your work.”  But when my brain tells me to clean out the fishbowl, I’m completely derailed.

The fishbowl?  Really?  I hate cleaning the fishbowl!  It smells funny, and I always end up spilling stinky water on myself.  Fishfish (official name: Leif Erikson, in honor of our Norwegian heritage and my daughter’s recent school project on our Viking friend) freaks out every time he’s moved.  Since I bought a bowl that’s round on the front and flat on the back so that I can tuck it neatly up in front of my box of imported teas, it’s a royal pain to get my hand into the odd little corners and scrub out the algae.  The little rocks fall into the sink, and they’re hard to gather back up when they’re wet.  And then there was that heart-stopping moment when Fishfish made a break for it and came within a wiggle of going down the garbage disposal.

There is no earthly reason why I should suddenly be overwhelmed with the conscientious urge to clean out Fishfish’s bowl, but such was the case today when I sat down to the computer to work.  I do occasional freelance editing for a local publishing company, and I just started work on a new manuscript.  This afternoon I had a clean desk, a nice block of time, minimal interruptions from family, and a goal to get through Chapter 1.  Perfect!  Of course, I would need a cup of tea.  (pause for ominous music)

Now this is where my old brain would have gone on vacation.  “Oo, a cup of tea!  Yum.  Black tea or herbal?  British Breakfast,  Earl Grey, PG Tips, or Sainsbury’s Red Label?  In a bag or loose leaf?  Wonder Woman mug or bone china with hand-painted violets?  This water is taking forever to boil, I’ll just lean on the counter and read a book while I wait. [Two hours pass.]  Mmm, good tea, good book, I love a quiet afternoon!”  But no.  My new-and-improved brain, now in Stealth Mode, said instead, “It would be a good day to pull hundreds of dandelions out of the front yard!”

I was a little startled, needless to say.  Some days I really like going at the dandelions, but it hadn’t crossed my mind for a while.  My brain continued, “Or sort out the toys in the family room that have been half-sorted into bins for a year!  Empty the dishwasher!  Organize your scrapbook materials like you’ve been meaning to do for the last several weeks!  Go do some laundry!”  But then my brain, high on self-righteousness and reckless optimism, made its fatal blunder:  “You want to clean the fishbowl!”

“Ahhh,” I thought.  “I’m not THAT desperate to avoid my editing.”  It wasn’t about motivation at all!  I wasn’t really in the mood to pull weeds, and if I’d given myself permission to do so, I’m quite sure I would have gotten distracted and ended up reading a novel on the front porch instead.  It was all about procrastination, and my clever subconscious had simply devised a more oblique route to its usual destination (tea and good books, and possibly knitting).  I was onto myself.  I wasn’t about to lose this one!

Sadly, I was smarter than I thought.  Today, in a desperate attempt to avoid the red pen and thesaurus, I reorganized the kids’ toys, cleared a bunch of space in the family room, vacuumed, cleaned off the knick-knack shelves and dusted all of the precious items on display before carefully replacing them, did a load of laundry, drank a pot of tea (British Breakfast, loose leaf, Wonder Woman mug), read three chapters of my novel, and, I am embarrassed to admit, cleaned out the fishbowl.  I didn’t mean to, but I couldn’t just leave that basket of toys sitting out, and … well, you see how that ended.

This evening I have a block of time, the kids are about to go to bed, and I even have a mug of tea right here.  There is no reason in the world that I shouldn’t finish editing that chapter, now that I’ve figured out my brain’s insidious new technique of suggesting useful activities to avoid real work.  I will completely ignore it if, for example, it comes up with a ludicrous time-wasting suggestion such as “You should post on your blog!”

Posted in Me Being Very Slightly Airheaded | 15 Comments

This Is Irksome.

For the last several weeks, I have been up to my eyeballs in musical rehearsals.  And when I say “up to my eyeballs”, that is a euphemism for “If one more person thinks they have primary rights to my time and energy, I am going to lose my cell phone and make my Hotmail account crash my computer every time I try to open it.”  (I did those things anyway, just not on purpose.)  I may or may not have inadvertently laughed out loud when a student asked me to learn and rehearse his college-level piece with him six days before performing it at his competition.  It has been a busy, busy time.

How busy, you ask?  Why, thank you for asking – I will tell you!

This week I will help a professional soprano rehearse Verdi for an hour on Wednesday, and take my daughter to her orchestra rehearsal tonight and tomorrow night.  I will be playing for the Wizard of Oz from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. (not counting the 40-minute drive each way) on Thursday night.  Friday is my daughter’s orchestra concert.  Saturday is the musical again from 1:00 to 4:30.  This is the calmest week I’ve had in a very long time.

I have put somewhere around 1000 miles on my car in the last month, the vast majority of it to local rehearsals in trips of 5 miles or less.

At the height of the madness, I played for seven student performances (all college-level literature) at State Solo Contest, drove over an hour back to the university, and spent what was left of the evening playing for student juries (also, obviously, college-level literature).  That was kind of a long day.

I updated my CV and repertoire list for a job interview.  I got hired.  Twice, actually.  No stress there.

Since the beginning of March, I have played for sixteen wear-a-black-dress-and-do-my-hair musical events.  I have played for an additional fifteen students at three separate competitive events.  I have accompanied three choirs, one musical theater group, sixteen solo singers, and solo instrumentalists playing the violin, viola, cello, oboe, clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, trumpet, French horn, trombone, tuba, piano, and pipe organ.  I have played on thirty-three different pianos, not counting my own beloved little Yamaha.  From April 20 to May 15, I had a total of two (2) days when I was not playing something somewhere for someone.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job – but it does tend to hinder my blogging from time to time.  Priorities, you know.

Finally, this afternoon I realized I had the perfect combination of blogging elements.  I have the afternoon to myself, since my job is winding down for the school year but my kids are still in school.  I have finally gotten enough sleep to think in coherent sentences.  (A string of late nights, where you come home after 10 p.m. and your only thought is to get out of your black clothes into pajamas and try to get “We’re Off to See the Wizard” out of your head, is not conducive to restful sleep.)  I even have snark – I kept leaving little zingers on people’s Facebook walls without even thinking about it.  Not AT them, don’t worry, just supportive snark about whatever they were griping about.

The problem now is that I have nothing to be snarky about.  Snark cannot exist in a vacuum.

I just got my carpet replaced in the basement.  They did a fabulous job, in the time they said they’d do it, and cleaned up beautifully.

My daughter worked her butt off and pulled her grades up this semester, right to the point of asking a teacher to recheck a test answer (which was indeed marked wrong when it was right) since that percentage point was what she needed to bring that class grade up to an A.

I got my dream job, for a semester, which is perfect because it will give me a good idea of whether or not I want to do that bad enough to go back to school and get the degree I’ll need to do it as a long-term career.

The book I edited earlier in the year is slowly but steadily selling copies, and I got hired to edit another book by the same publishing company.

What, I ask you, am I supposed to do with all this good news?!

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