8.30.2006

unconditional love

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In the early hours of the morning, one of my beloved miniature poodles, Chocolate, passed away. He was nearly 14 human years old. Lifetimes, if you think in dog years.

I spent much of the morning in tears. When I found myself alone, I would sink into my own thoughts and my eyes would blur as I recalled the state he was in the last time I saw him two weeks ago - perfectly healthy, endlessly happy. I called my mom in the evening and asked her to retell the past night's events to me, so I could piece together the mysterious puzzle of his passing. He had fallen ill quite suddenly over the weekend. After years and years of suffering no more than playful scratches, it was strange to see him immobilized by pain. My dad took him to emergency, where the veterinarian gave him two options: spend thousands of dollars on surgery to save our dog, procedures which might have only stalled death for a few days or weeks because of his age, or leave him to die peacefully. My dad took Chocolate and brought him home. Upon arriving, he laid him down gingerly next to Precious, his life-long companion. And in the morning, he was gone.

Earlier today, I struggled with the irony of it all. With as many good things that have happened to me this summer, I feel like there are a thousand more bad things that have come my way. In the span of two months, I lost two of my life's sources of pure unconditional love. Great beings who had so much to give, so much to care about. I know that shortly, I will lose another: Precious, who herself is in her last phase of life and who, I am certain, will be wanting to find Choco again soon. I know that I have every reason to feel angry and hateful and bitter. But what I am finding is that I feel more accepting, understanding, and open to love.

I had always joked that it was difficult for him to comprehend things, and I often called him "Chococat," in reference to the Sanrio character and his cat-like, attention-seeking tendencies. But for all the reasons he irked me, he gave me two more to make me adore him. He was such an explorer and had this boundless energy that affected everyone in the room. He was never afraid to stand up for himself despite his tiny size. I remember once, when I was much younger, maybe 10 or 11, I was taking him and Precious out for a walk when he scared off a dog, at least 20 times his own size, who was threatening us. Such a big bite for such a small dog. I loved the relationship he and Precious had: he, always the trouble-making brother; she, always the overprotective, mildly-irritated but wildly-amused sister. I will miss that dynamic incredibly.

The most important lesson I learned from my tiny 10-pound dog was forgiveness. There were so many instances during our time together when I made mistakes, some of which took years for me to forgive myself. Despite all the times that I messed up, he continued to love me, honestly and unconditionally. From him, I came to understand that things happen, intentionally or not. We use the strength from our relationships to get through them and move on. They are one of life's greatest assets.

Now that he is gone, I will try my best to incorporate his qualities into my own life in order to preserve and honor his memory. It is amazing to see how much of an effect my dog had on me. We grew up together, and we learned a lot about life together. And though we never spoke the same language, I am certain we understood each other 100%.

Rest in Paradise, Chococat. And make sure to give Angelina a kiss for me.


My favorite picture of my pups, Chocolate and Precious (circa 2002)

8.28.2006

running, running

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Although it might seem that I have fallen off the face of the earth, I am indeed alive and well. Just very very busy. Too much to explain, too much to understand. So I guess I'll leave it at that.

Today at rehearsal, I was startled by two incidents of self-realization. First was a brief discussion with a fellow cast member, who I don't know too well but is nice enough to say hello every rehearsal. The contents of this discussion are irrelevant, at least to my general reading audience, and the point that needs to be made is about the personal epiphany that resulted from the conclusion of this conversation. Moral of our two-second story: the only person who has a disagreeable opinion about myself is myself.

The second incident of self-realization happened during vocal warm-ups, with me standing by the upright piano, sipping my vanilla latte, and seeing my reflection in the mirrors that line our dance space. The thought that came to my mind: "I've lost weight." YES! For the first time in months! It has been difficult, struggling to shed the pounds I accumulated from the all emotional eating that occurred in the beginning of summer when tragedy so relentlessly struck. But in recent weeks, I've been happier than I've been for most of the year, given everything that I've been through - post-collegiate transition and the inevitable bout of depression that accompanies it, departure from home, streamlining of friends, re-evaluation of various relationships and their status, loss after loss after loss, and the horrifying gain after gain after gain. I was so angry at myself; I worked so hard to shed nearly 20 pounds last summer and kept most of it off throughout my last semester in school. Then, not even six months later, I gained half of it back, citing my life's events as the evil perpetrator but secretly knowing it was my own self-discipline I had to blame. So with my new job came a new start. And after just three weeks, I've slimmed down. Granted, I'm nowhere near where I was in December, and this time around, the weight is ridiculously difficult to lose because I'm not putting my body into a physical state of shock like I did last May when I dramatically changed my eating patterns and lifestyle. But like the tortoise, I am certain that slow and steady progress will help me win this race, for good.

Rehearsals are challenging. I feel like crying all the time. Not because I'm sad, but because that's what I'm supposed to do while in character. And sometimes, I actually do it. It's kind of draining, really, and weird at the same time. I've never really dealt with emotions in this way as a performer: physical, rather than just an inflection of the voice. It's kind of cool, being able to push myself to this new limit. Fun. Effective, yeah.

I've been spending my time outside of work and rehearsal working on a Business Manager handbook for AiR. It's amazing how much stuff I kept inside my head and never told anyone about. Tasks to be completed, contacts for services, tips on how to get around all the red tape. Once I got it all on paper, I realized how much work I actually did each year. Large amounts of work, to be completely honest. Most of it, though, was setting everything up to make managing easier for years to come. Now, I've got all these pages written, detailing all the responsibilities and things that need to be taken care of week by week, month to month. I hope it can be a good resource for the group. It's a nice goodbye present for AiR, I think.

I feel kind of bad about not keeping in contact with my friends. I do that when I get really busy, shut myself off from the world. I don't call my friends who are nearby because I figure they'll still be here and available to hang out when I'm done being busy. I don't call my friends who aren't nearby because I assume they're as busy as I am and will understand, when I actually do call them weeks after I initially intend to, that I myself have been quite busy. I don't respond to emails, voice mails, or text messages. For now, there are more important things to do.

But before I continue to rush through my progression of work-work-work, I feel the need to apologize to all the people I care about. To all my friends in school, best of luck your first day back. Please take pictures and recall stories for me sometime soon because as much as I love the "real world," I do miss college. To all my friends who work, I'm certain that there will come a time when you too will be so overwhelmed by your responsibilities that you will forget that anything else exists in this world. Please provide me with your unconditional understanding because I promise to do so when you are in my shoes at your designated place and time. To my long-distance friends, I think of you often and I'm so sorry that I don't tell you often enough that I do. I hope life is treating you well in your respective corners of the world. When I have more than just a moment to breathe, I will try my best to call you.

Virtual hugs to all of you. Sometime soon, we'll have to do the real thing.

8.18.2006

flash // bam

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Aida is going well. Rehearsals are getting tough; I can expect to spend close to four hours in the studio every night. As tiring as it may seem, it's fun because of the challenge it presents me. The last week has been dedicated to blocking the two huge ensemble numbers and they're quite the emotional roller coasters. We're expected to call upon all these feelings of hopelessness in relation to the extinction of a nation, things I've never experienced myself. Our actions are supposed to be infused with urgency, as our Artistic Director constantly reminds us. To do that, I've been calling upon the memories of my most intense emotional experiences to guide me through the music. For "The Gods Love Nubia," I think of Angelina and the time we spent together learning our parts to that song for Show Choir in high school. I think of our lives in the aftermath of tragedy, and I can slowly feel myself beginning to relate to these fictional characters with a pain that's so real to me. It's like that for everyone in the cast: struggling to find a place deep inside ourselves and flip it all inside out. Draining. Exhausting. By our fourth or fifth run of the song last night, people had tears streaming down their faces because of the emotional exorcism. I ended each run feeling light-headed and empty, but driven by the thought of how incredible the outcome would be. If we could move ourselves to tears, the audience will have no hope for stability.

I'd recommend Kleenex with aloe, personally.

...

The job is going well, as expected. I love everything about it: the work, the people, the environment, the culture. As a bit of an introvert, it can be difficult to deal with a large number of performers, most of whom are extroverts, on a regular basis. But I think of it as a way to improve my communication skills and self-confidence. There is always more to learn.

I begin meeting with teachers next week. I'm excited to see how I present myself as a representative of Kaiser Permanente's Educational Theatre Programs. I really enjoy acting as a representative because of the opportunity it provides to bridge the gap between provider and client, teacher and student, person and person. Plus, it means I get to upgrade my wardrobe.

I learned today that much of the population we serve is Spanish-speaking and requires a translation of our performances. Only two people in our department are fluent in Spanish, and that motivates me to learn the language. Not only to help lessen the work load but to provide myself with incredibly valuable skills as an employee. Learning Spanish will most likely be my next project.

Socially, I am thrilled by the fact that most of my co-workers are from my generation. My biggest fear about leaving school was not being able to make friends as easily because of the lack of association. In this environment, that won't be the case at all. Everyone is friendly and supportive of each other's interests and goals, which are all very similar, given the performance aspect of the work. ETP will be a wonderful place to make my post-collegiate friends.

Words can't even describe how happy I am to be here.

...

On the way home from work, I was staring idly out the bus window when POOF, there he was. Or at least what I thought was him. I did a double take, but by the time turned back for a second glance, the bus was far down the street and he was no longer in my line of vision. Immediately, my heart jumped into my throat, like it always does, and I could feel my breathing shift from regular to shallow. But maybe that wasn't him. Maybe my mind was so distracted by my post-workday thoughts that I had conjured up an imaginary image of him to slow myself down for a minute. It could not have possibly been real.

When I arrived at my bus stop, minutes later, I walked up the street and stumbled because a hummingbird flew right into my line of vision. I thought to myself, when was the last time I saw a hummingbird this close? It was years ago, when my family and I still lived in our old house on the other side of town. Across the span of time and distance, I can remember what that experience felt like: happy, calm, serene.

Here I am, months, and maybe even years, from where we started. And I still feel the same. Though you may have been imaginary, it is clear that what I'm feeling is not.

I don't know why I've been lying to my friends. I guess it's because I initially left so much of the story out. It's easier to fabricate than to unravel it all and reveal the truth. Because the truth, especially this one, hurts. Regardless of what they know, it's pointless to keep on lying to myself. Some part of me wants the rest of me to accept the reality of the situation.

I just wish there were an easier way to let you know about it.

8.10.2006

becoming a workaholic

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So I've decided to quit Rapid Transit. After reflecting a bit on yesterday's rehearsal, I've realized that I'm really very very tired of the a cappella scene. I had auditioned because I wanted to keep singing. What I should have done was find a new medium for singing. When comparing last night's rehearsal to tonight's musical rehearsal for Aida, I had a far better time tonight because I was doing something completely new and exciting. Also, the level of difficulty of the music in Aida is more aligned with my own personal capabilities. Rapid Transit's repertoire... well, not so much. I think they're a fairly good group, especially for only being a year and a half young, but there are a lot of things that are still missing.

The other and more pertinent reason for my decision to quit the group is the fact that I have henceforth committed myself to becoming a workaholic. I can't get enough of my job. The tedious training sessions - which consist of looking at computer screens and being talked at for hours on end - excite me more than they should excite any normal functioning human being. Hearing about all the components of production and performance is enthralling, and I can easily visualize the entire thing coming together. I've woken up every day this week feeling more happy to be a working adult than I ever have. And it's surely going to get better.

Today, I learned a bit about life as a PR representative. I knew from the beginning that I would be spending some of my evenings traveling to school sites to hold parent meetings. What I didn't know was the actual frequency of those events or the fact that some of them would be held so far away that I would be spending a handful of nights in all-expense paid hotels. I was intrigued by the amount of participation I would be having in these performance components and simultaneously excited by the opportunity to be so closely involved with the people we will be serving - something that was definitely missing from my previous job.

As a result of these findings, I realized that my social life will have to be compromised. Hence, quitting Rapid Transit. But this is a sacrifice I am more than willing to make if it means being happy and satisfied with the work that I am doing. Singing will always be there for me, whether it's in my Rav4 or playing around with recording equipment or at a karaoke bar. Summer is also our down time at the office, which gives me the opportunity to do musicals on a regular basis.

I really want this job to work, and to do that, I've got to put 100% of myself into it. I know that I need to take advantage of the opportunities and time I have at Kaiser, especially because I am young and have so many resources available to me. Now's the time to push my way through the metaphorical door, when I don't have to deal with the responsibilities and consequences of mature adulthood.

Yes, I'm turning into one of those 9-to-5-ers. But I'll bet I'm going to be one of the happiest you've ever seen.

8.09.2006

old, new, borrowed, blue

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I had my first rehearsal with Rapid Transit today. We were supposed to be auditioning for a vocal percussionist today, but two auditionees dropped before the audition (one of whom was Miguel, who decided work would be too much of a conflict) and the remaining two did not show or offer any explanation why they were not present. So instead of auditioning, I learned close to half of the group's small repertoire. It was difficult not having accurate sheet music; most of which was on paper was handwritten, hard to read, and nothing like what the group sang in performance. People were not referred to as parts but rather as syllables (for example, "you sing the ja da's" as opposed to "you sing the alto line"), and most parts simply repeated a four-bar phrase for the entirety of an arrangement. Blending didn't seem like a top priority, but perhaps we'll get to that in a later rehearsal.

I found myself biting my tongue a lot. I didn't want to be THAT GIRL, you know: the one who's been singing forever so she thinks she knows everything there is to know about singing and everyone should listen to her because of that simple fact. There were lots of mini organizational crises that could have easily been remedied with some AiR tactics, but I kept my mouth shut. Well, for the most part. This is a new place, and the old me will have to get used to it. I am the newbie, in many senses of the word (I am the youngest group member - though my singing experience, when written on paper, led the Assistant Music Director to believe I had to be at least in my early 30s). I have to keep myself in place.

The cool thing - I hit a high C with supreme ease. Yeah for range expansion!

...

I love love LOVE my new job! I've learned a lot about Educational Theatre Programs in the last two days, and in that short amount of time, I began to see what my role would be as a part of the division. I was assigned my own show - PEACE Signs, which focuses on violence prevention and conflict resolution - and I am responsible for contacting schools, booking performances, and handling all the logistical components in between. In addition to my regular workload, I have been invited to join a the domestic violence task force at Kaiser, a combination of select divisions of the corporation, and help plan for an employee-directed fair. The responsibility is piling up, and I love it.

I got to watch a script analysis today, executed by the actors of my assigned show, and while it was happening, I thought to myself, "I should always feel this happy when I come to work. And if I stay here, I think I will."

It also helps that I have ridiculously amazing employee benefits.

Over the next few weeks, I'll have the opportunity to learn more about my job and attend trainings that will help me become a better public affairs representative. In about a month, I will be giving my first presentation to my acting troupe. So exciting.

The great thing is, as I learn about Kaiser and my co-workers, there are more opportunities for me to ask and answer questions. The more I inquire, the more people want to know about me. Within my first two days, word has gotten around that I really like to play around with graphic design, and it's been suggested that I work with the leadership team to redesign the department newsletter and help update a few things on the website. I also let slip today that I have spent many years in vocal performance training, and one of my co-workers suggested that I see if I can help coach some of the actors in singing, all of whom are required to sing in their performances but many of whom have never sang before. That would be an amazing opportunity for personal growth, and I'm really considering looking into it.

This, friends, is what real life should be like.

...

McRatha is in the process of reading the Harry Potter series. She just borrowed #4 from me and is well on her way to better acquainting herself with the trials and triumphs of the boy who lived.

I borrowed this idea from Star 101.3's nighttime talk show to start a gratitude journal. It's supposed to help me find happiness by documenting the things that make me happy. We'll see how it goes.

...

I really need to wash my car. Lucy's Pacific Blue Metallic is starting to look more like Atlantic Blue Tarnish. Meh.

I am totally going to burn a CD with the "I Love Lucy" theme song and play it anytime I roll up to a friend's house. How awesome would that be?

8.04.2006

blur

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Last weekend was spent at home-home. As much as I used to despise that place, I find myself missing it more and more as my life begins to establish itself away from there. The majority of my time was spent in the company of my parents, which may have been like swallowing gravel years ago, but now it's more enjoyable than anything else. When we laugh together, I realize that they miss me as much as I miss them. And that's nice.

Sunday evening, I ventured to San Francisco, once again, to watch a musical, once again. Rent has found its way to the top of my "Favorite Musical" list. The cast was incredible, and the music was as touching as ever. Cathy and Sheryl had never seen it on stage, and Jessica had never before known what Rent was. I'm happy to have shown them the wonders of Larson's masterpiece.

Monday night, we threw Rafi for a loop with a Pirate-themed surprise party. His shriek - yes, shriek - upon entering was priceless, as was the picture of him covered in silly string and confetti. I ate way too much, but on occasions like those, I don't suppose calories should count.

Tuesday, unbeknownst to many of my friends, I auditioned for Rapid Transit, a Bay Area a cappella group, not because I missed a cappella but because I missed singing on a regular basis. The audition consisted of a brief warm up then listening to and learning their arrangement of George Michael's "Freedom." It was a little eerie, but fun nonetheless. I kept inadvertently incorporating AiR's version into the one I was learning, but by the end of the evening, I had my part down. They asked me to do a demonstration of the menial amount of vocal percussion I know just because I said I could if they wanted me to, and then I sang my sure-fire audition solo, "Over the Rainbow." It scored me my place in AiR, as well as many many other things, so it has become my default go-to song. It was very casual, as I learned the group was (they rehearse once a week and perform only a few times per year), and it was a nice change from the growing professionalism of my former a cappella group.

The following day, I received a phone call from the audition manager who offered me a place in the group. I quickly accepted and referred my fellow a cappellian, and accomplished vocal percussionist, Miguel. He'll be auditioning this coming Tuesday. Who knows? We may just get the chance to sing together once again.

Last night, I got off work a few hours early to make my way to Shoreline Amphitheatre to compete in the final round of Kelly-Oke. I was delayed an hour by an accident on 880, and I arrived on site with 10 minutes to spare. I was told that each of us would be singing one verse and one chorus of the Kelly Clarkson song of our choice and that we would be narrowed down to a final four based on standard methods of judging by two of Star 101.3's radio hosts AND audience response. I felt my heart sink as I thought of my friends, making their way to Shoreline an hour behind me, and realized I had no way of winning this contest because I didn't have a single soul in the audience cheering for me. The sinking feeling only lasted a minute though, as I reminded myself of how much fun it would be to sing on the Glaceau Vitamin Water stage, located right outside the main entrance, regardless of the outcome. Besides, I had just won free tickets to see Kelly Clarkson! That in itself was good enough for me.

After all of the contestants gave it their all, the final four - which clearly did not include me - were invited to come back onstage to perform part of a Kelly Clarkson song at random, chosen by the DJ. Audience response determined the placement of each of the four, and I was happy to see that the best singer of the bunch was awarded the grand prize of front row tickets and backstage passes to meet Kelly. The second and third place winners were surprised with backstage passes as well, and the fourth place winner was awarded special edition Kelly Clarkson merchandise. I won a free case of Vitamin Water - Focus flavored, Kelly's supposed favorite - and an autographed "Breakaway" CD. Upon receipt of my two tickets, I was thrilled to find Ratha and I would be sitting in the lower center section, about 15 rows away from the stage. Yeayuh!


The Addicted Tour


We were so close!


Two fans wanted to come up on stage - so Kelly let them


Singing in a swamp, I think

Today is my last day working as a Program Assistant for Center for Human Development. Overall, my experience was a great one. Though I may have been dissatisfied at times, I've come to learn, in retrospect, that everyone has to start from the bottom. And admittedly, my bottom was much better than it could have been. I spent most of today finishing up various assignments and projects, and I composed a heartfelt goodbye letter to send to the staff and board at CHD. I'm looking forward to keeping in touch and informing my soon-to-be former co-workers, as well as myself, of my progress.

I've got a lot coming my way.