Leave it to the experts

The laundry ritual in our apartment in Houston always begins with an epic search for quarters. It takes 9 quarters to wash and dry one load (13 when the dryer's being finicky), and no matter how devoutly we save coins, we never seem to have enough. I go digging through every purse of mine and every backpack of CM's, and on a lucky day I can scrape together enough without a trip to the bank or a change machine. Then it's a gamble whether the machines are empty, and clean, and functioning properly. If it's raining, the dry clothes (and I) get wet walking the short distance home from the laundry room, and even though I actually LIKE folding laundry, the whole process generally makes me grumpy.

Here's my laundry ritual in New York: I pull the drawstring tight on my laundry bag, tote it around the corner to the laundromat, drop it off with the nice ladies there, and pick it up in the evening and take it home. Is there anything better than wash and fold service? They use fragrant detergent and fabric softener and they fold everything so perfectly. The first time I got back a fitted sheet I wanted to cry. For 70 cents a pound (and I don't have to pay in quarters), this small luxury is so worth it to me.

There are some things I would rather leave to the experts (and trust me, those laundry ladies are experts). I don't highlight my own hair. I don't wash my own car. For me, the relief of putting these tasks in someone else's hands makes up for the expense. I know people who routinely cut their own bangs and change their own oil, but that's just not me.

And this year, I've added an item to the list of things I hire an expert to do for me: taxes. My 2009 taxes are a mess—4 companies, 3 states, a mix of W-2s and 1009s. TurboTax and I were not up to the challenge, so I asked around for recommendations and hired an accountant in NYC who specializes in dealing with my strange field. I met with him last week for about 10 minutes, handed over my documents, and he just took the whole thing off my hands. I went back today to sign a few pieces of paper, and it's all over! Easiest taxes ever.

Long live the experts, I say!

Reinventing the wheel

Recently I've become fascinated by stories of personal reinvention, by people who make a clean (usually messy) break with their previous life and dare to make a new one, out of will or out of necessity. I've always had a thing for travel writing, especially books and essays about expats finding their way through cultural and language barriers. Of course that's partly due to my longing to BE one of those expats, but I think those stories also fall into the other category, too, of people making a fresh start, wherever they are. Did you read this article in the Times Sunday magazine? You should—it's beautiful, heartfelt writing. It's not a travel essay, but I think it would fit very well alongside Under the Tuscan Sun or Eat, Pray, Love.

As adults, we have so few opportunities for real reinvention. There's nothing like that first day of college, where absolutely nobody knows you, and you make a choice: who am I going to be here? I'm always feeling like it's the first day of school when I start each new job, but it never is, not really. Even in a new company, I always know somebody I'm working with, and the job is mostly the same wherever I do it.

A couple weeks ago I was out with My Gay Husband, and he asked me what I would do if I didn't work in opera. My answer: I would write. But as soon as the words came out of my mouth I was attaching qualifiers—I don't know if I could make a living, it's a solitary life that I might not enjoy, I don't know if I could be a great writer or if I have anything to say, I don't know what I would write about, etc. We moved on to talking about other things, but I haven't been able to get the conversation out of my mind.

The move to Vienna is causing something of a dilemma for me, because I am SO excited to move to and live in another country with CameraMan, and for the first year I'm not really going to be able to, not completely, because of the amount of work I have in the States. Work is great, and I'm so fortunate to have it, but the reality of next year is that I'll be away working September-January and February-April. There was a large part of me that wanted to turn down all the work and just go to be with CM, but all of the jobs next year are projects I really want to do for one reason or another, so of course I've taken them and I know that was the right decision. But I'm thinking about the following year, and I want it to look different.

I've been making a big effort to ask for what I want in my personal life and in my career, so after much soul-searching I am putting this out into the Universe—here's what I want:

I want to write about my experiences living in Vienna and about my travels around Europe. I want someone to pay me to do that. I would like to earn enough writing to allow me to take less assisting work (although not stop altogether) and be in Vienna on a more full-time basis. Not forever, but for a while.

I am a generally happy person, with an incredible boyfriend, a career that I love that's going very well, a supportive loving family of relatives and friends, and lots of excitement coming up in the future. But I still could use some reinvention.

What do you think, Universe?

Happy weekend!

It's funny how, even though in my job weekends don't really mean much, I still feel different on a Friday—the weekend always feels filled with possibilities. I guess that's what 18 years of school weeks will do to you.

What are you up to this weekend, dear readers? Any fun plans? Tonight I'm seeing L'Etoile across the plaza at New York City Opera. I'm excited for a night of frothy fun, and to hear the acoustics in the newly restored theater. Tomorrow I'll be at work for most of the day working the Hamlet HD broadcast (Have you bought your tickets yet?), and then I'm fairly certain I will want a nice cocktail afterward. On Sunday I'm getting together with My Gay Husband to see Un prophete at the Angelika, and then we're having a mini college reunion with another friend, who has the enviable position of playing viola in the Honolulu Symphony. Sounds beachy and divine, doesn't it?

I'll be back to blogging on Monday, but I leave you with some linky goodness for your weekend:

Read The Happiness Project. First, because it's a great and interesting book. Second, because I'll be blogging about it next week, and you don't want to feel left out, do you? I, of course, read it on my Kindle.

Guess which city ranked #1 IN THE WORLD for Quality of Living?

John Caird, whom I've assisted twice in the past year, has written a book on directing. He's also written an article on his top 10 survival tips for being a director. I couldn't agree more with #5 especially (just replace the word "actors" with "singers").

And while we're on tips for directors, I also love this (even if I don't agree with every single rule).

The WienerLover shared this video on Facebook. I can't get enough of it. I think The Bossy Cat would love an orangutan friend, don't you?

And, just because they make me happy, a couple new pictures:

The Bossy Cat under the covers in bed. Wish I could see it in person.

This was supposed to be a picture of our sunburns,
but it turned out so well that now it's one of my favorite pictures of us.
That's our crappy apartment building in the background, if you're wondering.

Food, glorious food

My body appears to be going through withdrawal. All the signs are there: lack of energy, headaches, mood swings, trouble concentrating, and a whole lot of night sweats and heart palpitations (okay, maybe I made up those last two). It's obvious what's going on; I'm just not sure what specifically is causing the withdrawal. See, I haven't had any of the following since last weekend: processed sugar, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, caffeine, red meat, fried foods, pasta, bread, or (and this is the one that really hurts—EMOTIONALLY, I mean) cheese. And surveying that list, I'm realizing it pretty much encompasses EVERYTHING I was eating up until that point.

I'm trying this cleanse thingy that I read about in Women's Health. I did it primarily (full disclosure) not for lofty reasons of health and well being, but because I would like to be skinnier (bathing suit season in Houston already began a month ago). But now that I feel my body reacting so strongly to it, I'm starting to think I needed it. You know, for health and well being.

And despite needing a nap in the afternoon (which I totally have time for at the moment), I'm actually kind of enjoying it. I'm eating things I generally never make for myself, like vegetables and lean meats and quinoa (isn't that the best word ever?). I'm preparing all my meals at home, which means that buying up tons of fresh organic veggies is actually HELPING my bank account. And the one thing I was sure I would feel: the dreaded CRAVINGS, I actually haven't at all. Call me crazy, but I so look forward to my "healthy" snacks: a crunchy apple with natural peanut butter (the kind with only one ingredient), or my new favorite—half a sweet potato mashed up with cinnamon and a few chopped pecans, topped with nonfat Greek yogurt.

This isn't going to last forever. There are some aspects of it that will not always be compatible with my life (ahem, no alcohol consumption). But for the moment I'm giving healthy living a try.

And just waiting for the uncontrollable tremors to stop.


Recently I've been playing around a bit with my Ultimate To-Do List. It's been almost 2 years since I started the list, and it needs some tweaking. I'm replacing some items that no longer hold great interest for me, that are unquantifiably vague, or that are simply never going to happen (94. Learn to be content in a moment without thinking so much about what comes next. Ha, and while we're at it, how about Become a princess and Be reincarnated as a house cat. That'll be the day).

It seems I haven't crossed off a list item since the beginning of January, but I've actually crossed one off and not written about it!

You may recall that CameraMan gave me salsa dancing lessons for Christmas. Well, during the time I was home for Tosca, we took 7 lessons. And not just in salsa, either—we learned fox trot, tango, cha cha, swing, samba, and rumba as well. And it turned out salsa wasn't my favorite. If I had to choose, I would say tango and cha cha were the best.

I realize I'm opening myself up to some mocking by saying this, but I honestly think that taking dance lessons improved our relationship. We had to depend on each other in a totally new way, and I think the way we handled it bodes well for the future—we didn't get defensive, we didn't place blame, we didn't ever let it stop being fun. Until the end, that is, when they aggressively tried to upsell us with more lessons. We actually thought about it a lot; regardless of how prohibitively expensive it would be to keep going, we both were enjoying ourselves so much, and we had made some visible progress in our dancing. But the thing is, it's not really an applicable skill in many situations, you know? It's not often that I'm called upon to break out my best cha cha. So we stopped, but it's given us a new love for learning things together. Maybe next we'll take tennis lessons. Or a cooking class.

And then, of course, we decided to move to Vienna, so we're wishing we had learned how to waltz. You know, for all the balls we'll be attending.

Sorry, I don't have a picture of us dancing, but it pretty much looked like this:

30. Learn to salsa dance, or at least to fake it.

I like to move it, move it

We've created this epic to-do list for the big move, a Google document that we can both edit and update. It's daunting, and though I suppose it helps to write it all down, all the millions of things we have to do and pack and sell and arrange, it's also freaking me out. So far, we've bought plane tickets (August 4 is the big day), reserved a spot under the seat in front of me for The Bossy Cat (yes, of course she's coming), and given notice at our apartment, all of which are huge but definitely only scratching the surface of all we have to do. Most of it in the next 2 months. Ack!

Sometimes when faced with an overwhelming number of tasks, the only thing we can do is focus on/obsess over something really small. For CM, that's creating the "Muller-Melear Media Library," an external hard drive with all our favorite movies and music so that we don't have to bring the actual DVDs and CDs with us. My minutia of choice is trying to figure out how best to document the move. Of course I'll be blogging, and you probably know us well enough to assume that there will be plenty of pictures, but that doesn't seem like enough, not for the biggest adventure either of us has ever been on. I'm so not a scrapbooker, so what do y'all think? Any ideas?

I fell down a blog rabbit hole the other day, and ended up at this video. I'm not nearly ambitious enough to try anything like this, but it is amazing. Especially knowing that it was created by an 11-year-old girl.

Home sweet home and back again

Three blissful days in Houston, and I had to be dragged kicking and screaming onto the plane back to New York. Chalk it up to "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" if you want, but our little visits are always incredible.

This time we took a trip to Brazos Bend State Park, a beautiful and completely bizarre place where dozens of alligators lounge in the water, by the water, and ON THE PATHS. I attempted to keep my cool. I failed. Alligators are scary, especially when they "sleep" with their mouths wide open. Check out CM's latest photos on his Flickr stream and you will see what I'm talking about. Yikes. We also got together for drinks with friends, spent relaxing mornings chatting over breakfast, and cuddled on the couch in the evenings. I petted and brushed and generally spoiled the cat (and bought her some diet food—I think she must be stress eating because she misses me). I cleaned the apartment, baked cookies, and cooked the most amazing and EASIEST pasta sauce ever. Seriously. Ridiculously easy and ridiculously good. Try it! All in all, it made me want to just blow off the rest of my job and stay put.

But I didn't. I got on the plane and I came back to New York and I went to work last night for show #2. The thing is, I shouldn't be complaining, because these few weeks after the show has opened, these are the weeks I live for. Sure, I love being in rehearsal (most of the time), but it sure is luxurious to own my days and stop in at work only a few times a week to watch the show and pick up my paycheck. It won't all be quite that easy, of course. This week we're preparing for Saturday's HD Broadcast (Get thee to the movies), and the week after we're rehearsing another Ophelia (yes, another one) for the last two performances. But mostly, I have TIME, time all my own, to do with as I please.

Too often these so-called easy weeks slip by in a blur of sleeping in, gorging on carbs, and zoning out in front of the TV. That is most likely what will happen this time too, but in an attempt to stave off the show week ennui, I have some plans. Studying German (in a 4-pronged approach, I'm using Rosetta Stone, Michel Thomas, vocab flashcards, and a grammar workbook), trying a cleanse (but not one of those freaky ones involving maple syrup), doing my taxes (with help from an accountant this year), worshiping at the Jillian Michaels altar (shred me, Jillian, shred me), and reading many many books on my Kindle...I think that's enough for a while, don't you?


Our bedroom. The middle of the night.

All of a sudden, LMB wakes up with a gasp and shakes CM awake.

LMB: I had a bad dream that there was a snake in the bed and it bit you.

CM: It was just a dream. There's no snake in the bed.

LMB: What if there WAS a snake in the bed? And it bit you?

CM: There's no snake in the bed. I'm fine. Nothing bit me.

2 minutes go by, during which LMB wakes up all the way.

LMB: Wow. That was ridiculous. How would a snake even get into our bed?

CM: I think they made a movie about that, actually: Snakes in the Bed.

LMB: "Too many mothaf***ing snakes in this mothaf***ing bed!"

Fade out on CM and LMB giggling.

This, in a nutshell, is why we are perfect for each other.

Craving the cute

It's opening night tonight (yay!), which means I get a few days off to go to Houston (double yay!!) where the weather forecast says it's going to be gloriously warm and sunny for my whole visit (triple yay!!!). After a rough week of rain and umbrella-destroying wind gusts (seriously, if it hadn't been so windy I would have taken pictures of the streets littered with dozens of sad umbrella carcasses), I am more than ready for the sun.

And for the cuteness that goes with it. I'm itching for a shopping spree. I want to wallow in floral sundresses with cotton cardigans in shades of pink and yellow, ballet flats and a-line skirts, subtly embellished t-shirts with straight-leg jeans. My orange bag is feeling too big and all wrong; I need something in a pale metallic just big enough for my Kindle and a wallet. And wispy hand-dyed scarves to go with everything.

And if it must MUST rain, I would like to be wearing this coat.

Pretty please?

Love from a distance

CameraMan and I are still fairly new at the whole long-distance thing. We were lucky enough to spend the entire first glorious year of our relationship in the same geographical location. With a couple trips apart thrown in there, we were together about 48 weeks. The second year we spent about 17 weeks together. This year, I'm predicting 21 weeks.

In our business, that's not bad. We're fortunate that only one of us is a freelancer (me)—CM stays in one place most of the time, and that helps enormously. We know 2-singer couples who are lucky to both be at home every few months for a week or so. It could be a lot worse. And sometimes the distance seems completely workable—our iPhones and our laptops help us stay in touch and feel like we're together when we're not. Other days it's really hard, and no amount of phone calls or text messages or video chats can change the fact that he's not actually here with me.

Because we're long-distance newbies, whenever we meet couples who have been doing this for a while, I always ask for their advice. Most of them have the same thing to say: communication is the most important thing. Make sure you talk every day, don't stop sharing the minutiae of your daily life just because you're not together, stay aware so you don't end up drifting apart gradually without noticing it. And most long-distance couples we've talked to have a time limit, a quantifiable number of days they can go before one of them has to fly in for a visit, even if it's just overnight. Whether it's a month, 2 months, 2 weeks—they've found the magic number that maintains the equilibrium of their relationship.

We haven't figured out our number yet, but it seems to be about 4 weeks. It's been 3 weeks since I saw CM in the flesh, and I can feel the clock ticking.

Which is why I bought a plane ticket to go see him 1 week from tomorrow. For 3 days. I am so excited I can hardly stand it. Because I love my iPhone and all, but it is a sorry substitute for a boyfriend.

It's a helluva town

Lately work has been all-consuming in a way I'm not used to, all hushed conversations and last-minute changes and stress headaches. This sounds like complaining, I know, but it isn't really. I'm fine. For some reason in this city I'm able to compartmentalize in a way I haven't figured out how to do anywhere else—my work life and my social life are completely separate, and at the end of a long day I can fairly reliably leave work behind the minute I walk across the plaza. One of my favorite things about working at the Big House is that while we're in rehearsals, even my longest days are over by 7pm, giving me plenty of free evenings to take advantage of this amazing city. And take advantage I have.

The range of cultural opportunities on any given night in NYC is incredible…and incredibly intimidating. When I'm not here, I drool over the "Goings On About Town" section of The New Yorker, cataloging everything I'm missing and yearning to be at each and every concert, gallery opening, and Broadway preview. When I am in town, I try to cram a lot into my short visits. So far, in the month that I've been here, I've been to 2 recitals, 2 operas, 2 movies, 1 dance performance, 1 symphony concert, and 1 burlesque cabaret. And that's while rehearsing 6 days a week. Next week we open our show(!) and my schedule will lighten considerably. Then maybe I'll hit some museums, or a Broadway matinee, or a jazz club.

Lest you worry that I won't have enough culture Kultur when we move to Vienna, have no fear! After all, it's the city of Mozart. And, if you go in for something a bit more…erm…modern, the Airstream Diva recently sent us this link.

I can't wait.


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