Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Photos

Follow this link to see Halloween at the Fay household (it will bring you to my photo album on facebook. You should be able to see it even if you're not on facebook, yourself.)

Quincy Symphony article

I had a front-page Entertainment section article on the Quincy Symphony Orchestra in yesterday's Patriot Ledger.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

So proud

Abby is developing into a very good little violinist. She can play all of the Suzuki Twinkle variations, plus the A major scale and arpeggio, and a few other pieces.

She likes to practice, too. I told her the other morning that she could have some free time when she was done practicing, and she said, "Playing violin is my free time."

It makes me happy to see her enjoying it so much, and making such progress. It makes me even happier to see her so engaged. She is on when she's playing, taking direction and making corrections virtually instantaneously. I have never seen her so connected to an activity (that wasn't perseverative) or to another person -- me -- as when she's concentrating on making music.

She has "Music Share Day" in a couple of weeks, in her general music class at school. I hope she'll want to play for her peers, who know she studies violin.

I am resolved not to be a stage mother about this. If she doesn't want to play, that's OK. But I hope she will.


It was a technical problem! The problem wasn't me! It was the website!

Tech help got back to me yesterday, telling me that there was a problem with the website that had been fixed, and that I should be able to upload photos without a problem. Skeptical, I didn't want to try it until I felt able to handle another round of image problem hijinks.

This morning, fortified by coffee and with a calmer demeanor, I tried it. And it worked!

On to the next assignment. Hooray.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blowing off steam

Gaaaaaaaahhhhh! Bang bang bang.

That was my primal scream of frustration, followed by a little light head-banging, brought on by my continuing and storied inability to manipulate visual information in any form.

I can't draw.
Or paint.
Can't estimate sizes or distances.

And now, I cannot even download and subsequently upload a stock photo to go with my ezine article. Help can't help me. Tech support can't help me. I'm helpless.

The editor asked me to find an image. Imagine my surprise; I thought I had set the article to publish with an image. No dice.

He asked me to find an image yesterday, and I've found several. I've been trying off and on all day long to get one to publish with my article. I finally just sent him an email, telling him that I'm not ignoring his request, just that I'm having huge technical difficulties.

I did not tell him that I believe there's a vast conspiracy to keep me from ever achieving anything in the visual realm.

Words, good. Pictures, bad. Who or what can help me?

Monday, October 27, 2008

First webzine article

My very first article written exclusively for the web (not including this blog, of course!) was published today. It's an introduction to Suzuki piano, and it's essentially the information I communicate to prospective students and their families when they contact me about piano lessons. Read it here.

A shocking lack of discipline

Everyone is at school or work, the house is quiet, and I'm supposed to be writing an article that's due tomorrow. I'm just not motivated to do it.

This is quite possibly the only chance I'll have today to write in peace and quiet. I'm not interested.

Restlessness, thy name is facebook.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Peace in the morning

The house is dark, save for the one lamp shining onto the computer screen from over my shoulder. This is my time.

I've been making an effort to get up extra early for the past couple of weeks, and it has made such a difference in my outlook. Sure, a few more minutes of sleep would be nice, but it's more important to me to have some time alone in the morning, before the kids get up and it's mommy-on-demand all day long.

I check my email; I peek at facebook and see what the night owls were up to while I was asleep. I do a little editing, search the web for my posted articles, maybe jot down a column idea or two. Sometimes I just sit, sipping my coffee and thinking about the day ahead.

Soon the kids will come downstairs, and there will be hugs and breakfast and our busy weekend will begin. But until then, I'm enjoying my solitude, stocking up on the peace I will need during the busy day ahead.

Debt reduction seminar article, column

My religion feature about a church-sponsored debt reduction seminar ran in today's Ledger.

It's Just a Minute weekend, too. Watch for the next installment in two weeks.

Added in the afternoon: I just noticed that Just a Minute is a featured story on the GateHouse News Service website. Cool.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Crisis = danger + opportunity

GateHouse Media, the parent company of The Patriot Ledger, is going to be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange on Friday. The stock is practically worthless, having declined 95% since its initial offering in 2006. The Ledger is cutting positions and pages, and this writer is getting nervous, having put most of her eggs in the GateHouse basket.

I've decided it's time to diversify. I'll write for the Ledger for as long as they'll have me, but I need to do more writing for other outlets, and soon. I've submitted a column to a particular magazine, not sure if I'd like them to remember me or not from the time they threw me a line earlier this year. (I did nothing to jog the editor's memory in my pitch.) I've also sent out a query to another magazine, and am considering writing for an e-zine, although I doubt that will bring in much money.

Writing is easy; finding opportunities is harder. They're out there, even in tough economic times. I'll find them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I've been thinking lately about how I don't miss performing as much as I thought I would.

I spent about 15 years of my life working toward one goal: to be a professional, classical singer. To that end, I earned two degrees in music, did endless auditions, learned to write a good resume and cover letter, spent a fortune on headshots and demo tapes (tapes!), spent another fortune on traveling for all those auditions, endured at least five thousand rejection letters, attended countless operas, and practiced during every free minute. Oh, and did get to do some performing, too, in operas, operettas, one concert appearance and a few self-produced recitals.

It was a hectic way of life, and not all that rewarding. The rejections far outnumbered the gigs, and even when I won an audition, and truly enjoyed myself during the rehearsals and performances, it was a stressful experience. I was always second-guessing my sound, my technique, my appearance; always having uncomfortable interactions with colleagues (hello, social relatedness issues); and always glad when it was over and I could go home.

So a few years ago, I stopped auditioning. Of course, that move roughly corresponded with the births of my children, but I did do some performing when Abby was small, and still had the same old issues. Even the one concert appearance a couple of years ago -- I was so grateful for the opportunity, but didn't really, really enjoy it the way I thought I would. It was a thrill to make music with some fantastic colleagues, but overall I just remember it being a stressful experience, loaded with thoughts about whether I was good enough and how I would really just rather be home.

It's been more than two years since that concert, and I've done zero performing since then. The exception is my church work, where I sing three masses at three different churches most weekends. But that's less of a performance and more of a ministry (although at a couple of the churches, the dear people usually applaud after mass, which makes me a little uncomfortable, but what can I do?) I've adopted the thought that the cantoring is enough performing for me right now, and it is.

So why don't I miss the actual performing more? Can it be that I was never meant to go down that road very far? Did I not have the big career I strove for because I wasn't talented enough, or because my heart just wasn't in it? Maybe a bit of both, and it saddens me to think I spent so many years chasing after something that I'd never catch, and which probably wouldn't have made me happy, even if I had.

I'm actually quite content, but I feel like somehow I shouldn't be. I tell myself I have other talents, and that I'm putting them to good use. I love to teach, and I'm good at it. And writing, which had been a means to support myself during the audition years (via corporate communications jobs) has now turned into the main gig somehow. Well, one of the three main gigs, with cantoring and teaching being the other two.

I feel like I've somehow betrayed my younger self. Did I give up, or just grow up?

I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, with all the force of unfulfilled dreams. No sign of it yet.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Babysitting problems solved!

Oh, the Internet is a wonderful thing. Thanks to the magic of instantaneous mass communication, I have found a babysitter who can do Wednesdays and Mondays, has her own car, can pick up Brian from school, is a music education voice major in college, has lots of experience with child care, lives locally even when school isn't in session, is organized enough that she brought her planner with her to our interview yesterday, and can start tomorrow!

Actually, I left the boys with her yesterday while I took Abby to her violin lesson. They're in love already.

Thanks again to the Internet and referrals from friends, I also have a few potential babysitters in the queue, with whom I'll follow up in the next few weeks.

Another item off the list. Whew.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Well, the Sox came so close, but just couldn't do it in the end. Ah, well. Two rings in five years isn't so bad.

Yesterday was most productive. I made a list and actually did everything on it. Well, I delegated the corn muffin-baking to Earl and the kids. But I did everything else, including finally ordering a chord method book for some of my students who really need a systematic approach to reading chord symbols. I've been procrastinating on that one for weeks.

I have an annoying little cold, but at least it's little. I was able to sing all three masses this weekend (plus a wedding on Friday) with no major coughing incidents. I've been in touch with lots of old friends from college this past week, and it got me thinking: I owe my ability to sing with all but the most grave illnesses to four years spent in the airless underground bunker known as the Crane School of Music.

I need to get cracking on the kids' Halloween costumes. We have ideas for all three, but not too many practical details. This is not my favorite task. As Abby would say, I'll give it five phooeys: phooey, phooey, phooey, phooey, phooey.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Boat ride

When we were in the Berkshires last weekend, our hosts' friend, Hal, took us out on his boat. Timmy, Brian and I, captain Timmy, and Auntie Kathy with Abby.

Brian's fish

A couple of weekends ago, the kids and I went for a walk to collect leaves, and then came back home and made pictures with them. Brian has been waiting patiently for me to extract the photo of the fish he made with his leaves. I couldn't find the cable to connect the camera to the computer, so I finally broke down and bought a new one today. (This means the old one will turn up soon.)

Here's the fish, a masterpiece on my pantry door.

An evening out

I went to see most of the concert by A Far Cry last night. I arrived late, due to a suddenly sick Timmy, whom I couldn't leave with my poor babysitter. Once Earl came home, I sped over to Quincy just in time to catch the end of the first half.

The orchestra plays really, really well, both technically and musically. I hope they pack the house at Jordan Hall tonight, and get a good review. I'd write one, myself, but the Ledger isn't interested in classical reviews, and besides, my review would be missing the whole first half of the concert.

Afterwards, Earl and I watched the slaughter of the Red Sox, and turned off the game in the 7th inning. And this morning I learned that the Sox came back with a huge rally in the 9th, winning 8-7. O me of little faith!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's so much easier now

When I was working on that article about A Far Cry, I was amazed at how easy it was to get the ear of a couple of local conductors for their takes on a conductorless orchestra. It really struck me how receptive they were to my inquiry, and how generous they were with their time and thoughts.

Contrast this to my auditioning-for-everything days, when it seemed like there were at least 14 layers of protective obfuscation around every music director in the world.

Yet one more confirmation that I'm supposed to be doing the writing thing more than the performing thing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Entertainment article

Here's a short article I wrote about A Far Cry, a conductorless chamber orchestra playing in Quincy on Thursday evening.

Pure love

Is there any better smell than ground beef browning with onions and garlic? How about chocolate chip cookies baking? My poor students are going to be overcome with olfactory input when they walk in the door. Spaghetti with meat sauce (a taste of my childhood) is for dinner, and chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I'm in heaven.

For the curious, here's the chocolate chip cookie recipe. I have no butter in my house today, other than what's on the butter dish, so I looked for a recipe that uses oil instead. I had my doubts, and the cookie dough was sticky and not very yummy. But the cookies! Lovin' from the oven.

I've really got to find another way to nurture myself besides food.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Columbus Day weekend column

Here's the link to this weekend's Just a Minute. I submitted this column weeks ago, before my editor at the Ledger went on vacation. I've noticed several columns in the paper about surprise pregnancies since then, including Dianne McDonald's Everyday Feminist column at the Ledger, and also a few Dear Abby items. It must be due to the upcoming election, and the fact that Sarah Palin's daughter is pregnant out of marriage. Maybe that's why everyone's writing about it!

On another note, we had a wonderful, relaxing, perfect-weather weekend in the Berkshires with our friends Ralph and Kathy. They're Earl's godparents, and they are the personification of gracious hospitality. I'll write more, with photos, assuming I can ever find the little cable that will release my photos from my camera. That's a project for tomorrow morning.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Procrastination overcome!

I did about half of the article during commercials last night, and finished it up this morning. It's amazing what sleep and subsequent coffee do for my compositional skills.

Maybe it's really the added pressure of a same-day deadline that finally gets my writing self in gear when I leave it until the morning.

At any rate, it's done, and now I'm on vacation for a few days. Catch up with you next week.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A few thoughts

I'm procrastinating on a writing assignment, and sometimes it helps me get started if I get other things out of my system first. So here goes:
  1. Three children at the dentist's office is just too much. Earl and both went this morning, but it was still a very anxious time for all three kids. Abby held herself together very well, actually, but Brian and Timmy were in tears the whole time. They didn't even have any cavities or anything; they were just nervous about the experience. On the other hand, making separate trips to the dental clinic at Children's Hospital for each kid might cause just as much anxiety for me.
  2. We're getting ready to head to the Berkshires for the weekend -- the whole family this time, not just Earl and I. Earl's wonderful godparents will be there, and they say they're really looking forward to it. I am, too, especially if the weather holds. Today's is perfect.
  3. Clothes that actually fit make me feel like a million bucks. Yes, I'm carrying 15 or 20 more pounds than I'd like, but at least I can feel somewhat snazzy in clothes that fit.
  4. I've become obsessed with LinkedIn, and have decided I really only need to check it once a day. Otherwise I'm spending way too much time looking at people's connections.
  5. I'm so thankful my laptop is fixed. I've really come to depend on it for my teaching and my writing, and a week without it was tough. My brother-in-law is a miracle worker, I'm sure of it.
  6. I really want to eat a brownie. There are just a few left out there in the kitchen, and I need to save them for the kids. Or make another pan.
  7. I will not make another pan of brownies. That's ridiculous.
  8. I think a Republican win in the presidential election is a long shot.

And now, I'd better get cracking on that assignment, or I'm going to have to miss Ugly Betty and/or Grey's Anatomy tonight. They are the only TV shows I watch and I look forward to them at the end of my teaching week. Here I go.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Help wanted

I've Craigslisted. I've asked around. And now I'm appealing to you, dear readers.

I'm in a childcare pinch. I need a mature, responsible babysitter, with his/her own transportation, to watch my kids on Wednesdays 2:30 - 8:00 p.m. while I teach music lessons in my home.

Responsibilities, besides the obvious of keeping all three kids safe, occupied, happy and relatively quiet while I teach:
  • Take Timmy with you to pick up Brian at his preschool at 3:00
  • Help me get everyone fed during the very quick dinner hour
  • Help Abby with her homework as needed


  • Dinner provided -- no chicken nuggets for grownups, I promise
  • Seeing the "Just a Minute" crew up close and personal
  • Paid time off at the holidays

You obviously need to be nearby -- let's say south of Boston -- and we'll have to talk about rates, too.

If you love kids and can help me consistently on Wednesdays, leave me a comment with the best way to reach you. Many, many thanks!

I'm linked!

I joined LinkedIn yesterday. I've resisted social networking websites in the past; what does a married mom like me need with Facebook or MySpace? But I've been thinking I'd like to get more writing work, specifically marketing or corporate communications work on a freelance basis. LinkedIn is a professional networking tool, so I figured, it couldn't hurt.

I found some friends, colleagues and former colleagues who are already on LinkedIn. I'm hoping that by getting back in touch, I'll be able to drum up some consulting work, based on my varied background in communications, health care, the arts, education, etc. Of course, with the economy the way it is, my timing is not great, but I'm giving it a go, anyway.

What got me thinking about all of this was the foam insulation piece I wrote. I realized that I can write about nearly anything, if I understand the audience, the business and what the client is trying to accomplish.

Joining LinkedIn is one of two concrete steps I am taking to get more writing work. The other is submitting magazine queries on a regular basis. I was initially thinking weekly, but the research involved (as well as the initial brainstorming) makes that timeline too aggressive. I think I'll aim for twice a month.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Oh, the humiliation

I like being a cantor. It keeps me singing every week, and I enjoy helping people worship and pray. Cantoring has the power to teach spiritual lessons, too, sometimes even to the cantor.

Those lessons often come from a new understanding of Scripture as I'm proclaiming it in the Psalm or a hymn. But sometimes, there's another kind of lesson that teaches me in a far more practical way.

Last night at the 5:00 mass, there was a substitute pianist. She and I have worked together before, and I enjoy the chance to sing with her. She had made some changes to the music selections earlier in the week via email, which I never printed, but figured we'd have the chance to go over them before mass, which we did.

Everything was going swimmingly until I took my place on the ambo for the Psalm, "The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel." Imagine my surprise when the introduction she played was for another psalm altogether.

Now, I recognized the tune for this other psalm. Panicked, I flipped through the pages of my hymnal. I thought I would just sing the refrain, bring the assembly in to repeat it as usual, and hopefully God would help me find the verses before it was time to sing them.

Alas, 'twas not to be. I sang the refrain and the assembly repeated it, full-throated and confident. And then all the air went out of my balloon as I stood there, helpless, blushing, nearly choking in my inability to find the verses.

In the end, I just repeated the refrain and walked down the ambo steps. I was humiliated, because even though the pianist had made the mistake -- she just somehow played the wrong thing, she later admitted -- it appeared as though I had, since I was the one who was unable to perform, so to speak.

In my fog of embarrassment, anger and confusion, I didn't even hear the second reading. As I continued to fume, I had a thought: yes, that was an awful situation, but Jesus suffered far more humiliation on the cross.

I finally was able to laugh about it last night, in a cringing sort of way. I wouldn't care to repeat the experience, but remembering that others have suffered far more at least put it into perspective.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Decluttering article

My article about decluttering ran in this weekend's Patriot Ledger. It was called "Outer order, inner peace" in the print version, but it's running in Gatehouse papers as It's time to declutter your space.

I noticed that it ran in Norwich, CT; Carthage, MO; and even popped up as an "around the web" feature at the Washington Post's website.

I also noticed that last week's Just a Minute was picked up by a few out-of-town papers, too. Now that my laptop is back in working order (thank you, Dave!) I can actually look around online in a reasonable amount of time again.

Friday, October 3, 2008

I know I'm not Jewish, but...

I'm really enjoying our new family routine of a nice dinner at home on Friday nights.

Friday is really the only night of the week when we're all guaranteed to be home, and I'm not either coming from church or rushing to get ready to teach.

Tonight's menu is roasted pork tenderloin, roasted butternut squash, cauliflower (for Abby, who loves it), salad and rolls. I'm also going to make applesauce to go with the pork. We have a little apple cake left, too, so that will be dessert later.

Our dinner on Fridays is always a little later than usual, since Abby and Brian have therapy until 6:30. It's nice, though; we eat and then it's not long before it's bedtime for the kids. It's a cozy little way to end the week.

I think I'll get a tablecloth out. If I weren't worried about fire, I'd get some candles, too. I think that would be tempting fate, though, with wiggly kids at the dinner table.

Time to get the applesauce started. Wishing you a cozy Friday evening, too. Go Sox!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Good news, bad news, more good news

The good news: my fabulous brother-in-law, Dave, was able to retrieve all my files off my laptop.

The bad news: he may have to totally rebuild the thing.

More good news to make the bad news easier to take: at least he's a professional.

And let us not forget to be thankful that I still have a computer in working order. Slow, but working.