Monday, February 27, 2006

O For a Thousand Tongues

My friend Rachel posted her results to this fun quiz on her blog, and I thought I would share mine. Interested in learning what kind of English you speak? Follow the link at the bottom of this entry to find out.

Your Linguistic Profile:

65% General American English

20% Dixie

10% Yankee

5% Midwestern

0% Upper Midwestern

Friday, February 24, 2006

And Then There Was None

I decided to email my physical therapist about my recently-discovered vocal issues and heard back from him today. Though this kind of issue does technically fall under the umbrella of physical therapy, he thought I would be better served by a speech therapist. "The good ones actually do more than just teach you how to talk again and will work on strengthening the chestwall musculature to help you with singing and speech."

Just so happens, I have a very dear friend who is a speech pathologist at Children's Hospital in Dallas. She and I talked about the problem. She said I should call my ENT (Ear-Nose-Throat dr) immediately and schedule an appointment. He can run tests to determine the root of the issue. The problem may or may not require speech therapy, but she gave me a name in case it did. She also strongly suggested I go on vocal rest until there is a firm diagnosis in order to avoid permanent damage to the vocal cords. Since she has not seen an adult patient in more than four years, she did not feel comfortable giving me any more advice than this.

So I have an appointment with my ENT (in this case, my allergist) scheduled for March 2nd. In the meantime, the only singing I will be doing will be at home to keep the cords flexible, while all other rehearsing will have to wait until the outcome of the appt.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Interesting Development

So yesterday I went to my bi-weekly voice lesson. It was the first lesson where I really dug into my NATS pieces since I'd had two weeks to sink my teeth into them. I felt like I had done really good work on my own. About halfway through my lesson, and as we were working one of the more difficult sections of Bester Jüngling for the hundredth time, my voice teacher commented on how tense I seemed--that I was carrying my shoulders much higher than usual and my breathing seemed shallow (from the chest & not from the diaphragm). As usually happens when I'm having support issues, she examined my breathing (by feeling how the rib cage grows and expands as a line is sung).

She was stunned to discover a significant weakness on my left side. Basically, I was drawing in all my air on the right side of my lungs. There was little, if any, expansion of the left side. This really unnerved her, which startled me. She explained that it can spell disaster for me if I cannot resolve the problem. It undermines my entire support structure and makes it virtually impossible for me to progress and could, in fact, set me back significantly. She suggested going back to the breathing exercises that I began when I first came to her. This particular exercise allows a slow growth and expansion of the rib cage and builds and strengthens the muscular support structure throughout. When done properly, it really does work. It's how I've gotten this far. And once in a while, I have to revisit this little lesson when needing extra support, which happens as my abilities grow. If I'm not able to resolve this with my four-a-day exercises, I will have to seek treatment from a professional--perhaps a respiratory therapist or physical therapist.

I believe I've mentioned in earlier entries that I had pertussis (aka whopping cough) in mid-November and spent another 2 1/2 months fighting the lingering cough. It could be that all of the coughing caused more extensive damage to my lungs than originally thought. I could have a small tear in a muscle. Or it could simply be that the left side took the brunt of the pertussis and is still exceedingly fatigued. I really haven't given my lungs a rest since being diagnosed. Although I wasn't able to sing for more than a month, once I could, I came back with a vengeance with at least three rehearsals a week. I'm really hoping that it's simply muscle fatigue and that the renewal of breathing exercises will strengthen the left side. I hate to consider the alternative.

On a brighter note, my lesson did go well and the NATS pieces are coming along nicely. I simply don't have the stamina to practice as long as I should when I'm fully utilizing both sides. I'm hopeful the exercises will help, and I'll certainly keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Audition opportunity for all

For those of you who live in the Dallas area and are interested in singing with an opera chorus this summer, The Living Opera has announced its chorus auditions for both of its summer productions, Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Pasquale. Neither opera requires a large amount of chorus, thus both are perfect for novices. For more information, please visit the audition page of the company's website.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Driving 101

Drivers in N. Texas are stupid when it comes to cold weather & the driving issues it brings with it. Take, for instance, my drive to the dr's office this morning. Ordinarily, it takes me about 35 min to drive across town the "back way" when I avoid freeways. Since temps didn't get above freezing yesterday, I knew I would need to go the back way in order to make my early morning appointment. I left early, allowing time for a little slow-moving traffic. I did NOT anticipate it taking me 45 min just to get out of Rowlett! People were literally driving less than 5 mph across the bridges. Now, they were a little icy (though not like they were Sunday), but really, 5 mph?????

Then you get the people who think that, because it's cold and the bridges are icy, they should drive at a snail's pace on every street and highway...even the ones that are completely dry and nowhere near a bridge.

Aside from the early morning commuting frustrations, it's been a productive day. Made both of my appointments and now have the afternoon to enjoy. Probably ought to tackle the laundry I neglected this weekend. And I definitely need to put in some practice time. Think I'll do that while Derek is gone making a delivery for work. Supper's in the crockpot, so it's smooth sailing the rest of the evening.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ice Skating Anyone??

Well, the rain finally got here...a fine, drizzling mist all night long. So what did that mean? Quite a treacherous drive to church. All of the news stations made a big to-do out of the threatening weather yesterday when it wasn't doing ANYTHING. What did they say about the weather & roadways this morning? Absolutely nothing useful!!! "Bundle up. It's a cold one. The roads are fine, but be careful on bridges & overpasses." Well, duh, I knew that would be the case. What they didn't say was that there was a fine layer of ice over every major roadway and the bridges had a good inch of the slick stuff. I shouldn't have gotten out to drive the 30 min to church. Those roads were more than a little slippery. My dad would say that I have more brains than sense, and today, he would be right. But all's well that ends well. Made it to & from church just fine. And Derek made it back and forth to Greenville twice for two separate cases.

Now that we're home, we'll leave the road skating to the fools who think the roads are passable. We're now all snuggled in for a night in front of the tube and a holiday tomorrow. What will we do with a day off together? ;)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Kiddos

A few photos of the "kids." Enjoy!

A perfect example of Dori enjoying a good sniff of the wind.

L-R: Adda, Flick, & Dottie enjoying their favorite hang-out. Posted by Picasa

Cold Weather Pansy

Yes, I admit it, I'm a wuss when it comes to cold weather. While I like cold weather a lot, I prefer snowy weather b/c it tends to be warmer. (Think Colorado on the ski slope) It was 85+ F on Thursday. Today, it's 27 F and drizzling. That makes for bone-chilling cold. The wind is light but just enough to break through every warm layer you put on. Went to my morning rehearsal and ran last-minute errands for the going-away party. Sure wish I could have just stayed in my nice, warm bed! Thankfully, the roads are all passable. We've missed most of the rain storms that were predicted. Hope that remains true. Cold is much easier to deal with than ice!

Dori, on the other hand, LOVES this weather. She begs to go outside every five seconds. She just sits on the end of the walk with her nose in the air loving the weather that reminds her of her roots. If she had it her way, she'd be outside until it gets warm again. Crazy husky!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Much-needed Long Weekend's Friday. Ever have a week where it feels like every day just creeps by? I've found this particularly true when a holiday approaches, like this weekend. It's a good thing Monday is a holiday because I have a busy weekend ahead!

Tomorrow, I get to sleep in a little later and then have a much-needed, albeit long, rehearsal for a quartet I sing with at church. We've not had a rehearsal since Christmas. So it's time to pull out new music for the new year. Rehearsal will be longer than usual because we'll be sightreading a piece the chancel choir may do for Easter (Haydn's Te Deum). Afterwards, I'll dash home to get things ready for the congratulations/going away party we're throwing for my brother. Sunday's the usual. Monday's full of appointments and errands.

Of course, this entire schedule depends on the weather, which began changing yesterday about 6 p.m. The front moved in with 60 mph winds all evening. Got up to 36 F this morning, which is the high for today (and the remainder of the weekend, in fact), and a lighter wind (20-30 mph). Rain is expected to move in this afternoon and will hang around through Sunday. Bridges and overpasses are expected to freeze, but accumulation on the ground is not anticipated as it's been in the 70s & 80s this week. We'll see.

It will be a great weekend for hot chocolate and comfort foods.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Texas Weather...Go Figure

The Valentine's Day dinner went over without a hitch. The food was great, and the company was even better. It's nice to share special occasions with friends.

Well, today, it's been in the upper 70s. Silly me, I wore my wool coat this morning, thinking that it would still be in the 40s when I left & low 60s when I got home. Ha! It's windy as all get-out and stuffy. Supposed to be near 90 tomorrow. Yeah, you read that right...90! Then the crazy weather forecasters are calling for weekend freezing precipitation, which generally means ice in this part of the country. Go figure. Only in Texas!

After a quick bite, it's off to church for service & choir rehearsal.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Reflecting on Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day. The "day of love." Aside from the commercial side of Valentine's Day, where major retailers begin setting out candy and heart-shaped goodies in early January (blech!), Valentine's Day is a wonderful reminder to us all to...stop...take a minute...a whole day to reflect on the abundant blessings God has given us in family, friends, and spouses. Take a minute out of your busy day to share a little love with everyone. Tell them how wonderful they are. We really don't do that often enough!

And it's in that spirit that Derek and I are hosting a semi-formal dinner party for several of our neighbors tonight. I'm getting out the china, the crystal, and the nice dinnerware, lighting a few candles, putting on some good ol' Frank (Sinatra, of course!) and enjoying time with some dear people.

Wherever you are, whatever you have planned, we hope it includes a little love. Because "love actually is all around us." We just have to lend a helping hand in spreading it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Way to Go, David!!!

In my previous posts, I've forgotten to mention my brother's terrific news. David's been accepted into the DPS academy. In a few short weeks, he'll be shipping out to Austin to undergo about six months (Correct me if I'm wrong, David) of intensive training. It's similar to going to bootcamp as far as intensity of training. When it's all said and done, I guess I'll have to convert my lead foot! I'm sure he'd get a real kick out of pulling his sister over as she flies to a rehearsal! Way to go, bub, we're really proud of you!!!!

Yesterday was a productive day in the practice room. Started working on the German piece for NATS. I'm so glad that German makes sense to me! Otherwise, I'd be up a creek without a paddle. Have to hit those NATS pieces again tonight and begin memorizing before the end of the week. In fact, while the pizza dough is rising and Derek is still working, I think I'll go sing a little.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Blustery Day

Remember me saying winter's supposed to make a final visit? Well, it came with a vengeance! Not quite in the way that Rachel is experiencing it...but it's here. It's not been out of the 40s all weekend, and the wind is whipping (sustained 30 mph). Crazy! I decided to run my mid-month errands yesterday and was quite sorry I ventured out. Brrrr!

Since I spent most of yesterday running errands & doing the usual weekly cleaning, I didn't make it to the practice room. Shame on me. BUT since I did get all of that good stuff done yesterday, I'm about to head to my music room right now. The neighbors are all out and about, so they're safe...this time.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Consider Earplugs

The cold weather really comes at an opportune time as I have lots to do at home this weekend. Namely, I have several big auditions coming up and really need to dig into my pieces. Having whooping cough (a/k/a pertussis) has really put me off kilter, not to mention off schedule. (If you haven't had a DPT since childhood, consider getting an adult booster!!) I finally got rid of the cough this month (mind you, I've been sick since mid-November!). For those of you who aren't singers, having a cough is the kiss of death for us. Obviously, a cough is disruptive. Beyond that, a cough fatigues the entire breathing mechanism and can lead to permanent vocal damage. For a coloratura, it slows everything down. All of the progress I had made with agility and runs over the summer and fall has basically been for naught as I'm virtually back where I started. It's frustrating to work so hard and have to begin again. But I digress.

For the first time ever, I'm going to be adjudicated at
NATS. I've been taking voice for 3.5 yrs now, and Janette feels that I'm finally ready to be professionally critiqued. I will sing four prepared pieces before a panel of professional singers/teachers of singing. There are four category requirements: opera, musical theatre, contemporary art song, and foreign language. I am able to use two songs already in my repertoire (Bester Jüngling from Der Schauspieldirektor and Out of My Dreams from Oklahoma!); they simply need polishing. I have to learn two new pieces for the remaining categories (I Love All Graceful Things by Thiman and Ständchen by Brahms). Adjudication is in six weeks. So I have to perfect my German and get the technical parts polished. I have time if I actually practice between lessons.

Aside from that, I have to continue working my Dallas Opera audition pieces (The Silver Aria from The Ballad of Baby Doe and Batti, Batti from Don Giovanni) and the pieces I hope to use for both the Garland Summer Musicals and WaterTower Theatre auditions (That'll Show Him from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Out of My Dreams). No postings have been made for Dallas Opera (chorus) or WaterTower (for their production of Sondheim's Into the Woods), but Garland (Kiss Me, Kate) auditions are set for early April. No matter, I can't get tunnel vision on NATS and leave these pieces unworked.

Long story short, lots of strange noises will be heard by passers by. So, if you think my summer rehearsing demanded earplugs even across the street, you ain't heard nothin' yet!!!

Winter Makes Its Final Call

As far as Texas winters go, I would say this is the mildest one I can remember. We've had very few really cold days this year. In fact, most of this winter has been more like spring. So much so that my silly Bradford Pears are budding! But this weekend, we're set to get a reminder of the season as an arctic cold front moves in. Lows are expected in the 20s with highs only reaching the upper 40s. Burrrr! This will be a perfect weekend for a bowl of soup, a mug of tea, a good book, my comfy chair and favorite blanket.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Whole New World

I'm no stranger to the internet. On an average day, I probably spend six hours online. Most of my surfing is work-related, but a fair portion can be attributed to personal interests. In fact, each of my animals has its own website. I am, however, quite new to the whole world of blogging.

My first true exposure to individual blogs came this past spring when a dear friend of mine moved to Philadelphia and started her own blog to keep up with friends and family here in Texas. Since then, I've been a regular visitor to Vox Vendsel and have even discovered that many more of my friends have been blogging for years.

After much thought, I've decided that I'm going to jump headfirst into this new world and see where it takes me. I have friends and family in far-away places who may enjoy visiting a blog more than they enjoying emailing. At the very least, it will be a learning experience for me.

So, here goes.