Category Archives: Uncategorized

Halfway

3rd June 2017

We’re halfway through 2017 and I haven’t yet written a word here. That’s mystifying to me. So much has happened!

There have been times where I halfway thought I would sit down and write. Maybe about the last semester of graduate school, about the spring opera, about my master’s recital (!), about graduating, about what’s next for me.

I only ever got halfway. I never fleshed out my ideas. I never sat with certain uncomfortable truths about things and parsed them out. I ignored them. I halfway thought about them, I promise. But for whatever reason, I decided I’d rather not write about them.

The truth is, I’m not particularly comfortable with the concept of halfway. I don’t like to ‘halfway’ do anything, let alone this blog.  I would prefer to just not if it means I have to halfway do something. Anything.

I think this is generally a good thing. Being 100% committed to things is a good thing to do, most of the time. I think we can probably all agree on that (and that’s something that’s quite rare these days).

But you know what? I’m in this very transitional, semi-scary part of my life, and I think that maybe I need to grow a little more accustomed to halfway. Halfway isn’t the goal, it’s a starting place. But I have to start. I must start.

If I start this halfway, maybe I’ll get all the way there tomorrow. But the first step has to be taken, right?

So, here is a halfway blog post. A halfway hello. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe there’ll be a whole blog post. A whole hello. A whole update on what I’m doing.

But for now, I’m halfway there. And I like that.

image: Unsplash

Baby, It’s Cold Inside (My House)

5th December 2016

southern-fried-soprano-baby-cold-outside

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

While I’m sure that chestnuts are roasting on an open fire somewhere, here in Wichita, Kansas, yours truly has Jack Frost nipping at her nose in her ground-level apartment. It’s chilly in here, y’all. And before you ask, the thermostat is set at 70, so.. it’s not like I’m trying to save (frozen) pennies. I just get cold easily, apparently.

I seem to be doing better than last year, though! Progress! I swore that this year, the year of our Lord 2016, I would not be wearing two sets of pajama pants, two sets of socks, a shirt, and a hoodie (zipped up, duh) to bed… to sleep under my four (count ’em, FOUR) blankets.

I told you I get cold.

I did myself a huge favor and moved my bed from under the window in my bedroom. My highly scientific observation (re: singer paranoia and anecdotal evidence) is that this keeps me from Drafty Winds™. It seems to be working well so far–while I’m still wearing a light sweater and slipper socks to bed, I haven’t felt the need to Suit Up™ to do what normal humans do for 6-7 hours a night. I also got a rearranged room out of the bargain, which has just got to be good for my psyche or something.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, Y’ALL.

Y’all know I love seasonal things, so I’m trying to slow down and savor this holiday season as much as I possibly can. I felt super cheated out of fall this year (singer scheduling can be a beast, man), despite consuming practically every pumpkin-related thing in my immediate (and not-so-immediate) vicinity.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the mess of parties, gift exchanges, concerts, and last-minute get-togethers. Get on Pinterest (here’s my Christmas Pinterest board) and lose yourself in the recipes, the gift ideas.. It’s easy to forget just how much we need to stop and pay attention to what’s going on around us.

Things are pretty bleak in the world right now–and they have been for awhile, honestly. It feels like the ugliness of humanity has just been bubbling under the surface for quite some time, and it has taken some recent current events to make a lot of us acutely aware of it.

It’s almost like this season–this holiday season–is coming at just the right time. We need a little goodness and cheer right now. I don’t think the world needs another Dirty Santa gift exchange, but it sure could use a few friends or coworkers coming together and laughing and sharing. It could use a few more book and toy drives, people taking time to donate food for holiday dinners.. it could use a lot of those things year-round, really. It’s a shame that it takes us until November or so to start acting like we care about our fellow human beings.

My friends laugh at me because I decorate my voice studio office door for the holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, various December holidays…). I laugh, too. I buy things from the discount store and hang them up on the walls. I wear silly hats.

But I don’t know.. maybe there’s something more to it, for me. I tell my students all the time that you’ve got to have something silly in your life.. something silly, something that no one can take away from you. Something you can turn to when things are tiring or frustrating.

Me? During this time of year, when I smell cinnamon and apples and fresh pine needles, when I drink hot cider, when I can admire lights on houses.. when people seem to care just a little bit more about each other, when I find the perfect little gift for a friend or family member..

It never really seems cold in my house at all.

Southern Fried Soprano: It's November

It’s November, Y’all

1st November 2016

Southern Fried Soprano: It's November

Can I be honest with y’all? I know I can, because you’re my Invisible Internet Audience™, which means I can always talk to you.

It’s November. Yes. Which means it’s been.. a hot second since my last post. (For those of you playing at home, my most recent update was in May.) I didn’t write a single word over the summer.

Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t think about writing. I definitely thought about it. There were times over the summer when all I wanted to do was scream from the top of my lungs about the things I was experiencing and feeling–things that I haven’t felt or experienced for a long while, and things I don’t really wish for anyone to feel or experience any time soon.

What I should have done was take out my personal diary and write those things down. Process those things fully but privately–in a way that still made me feel like I was telling someone but not, you know, telling someone (like my Invisible Internet Audience™).

But I didn’t do that either, honestly. I did, however, talk to some really cherished friends and family members (y’all know who you are, shout out to you), who put up with me despite my endless talking in circles (I kind of feel like I’m doing that right now?).

Instead of processing my feelings like a mature human being, I took a lot of bubble baths and watched more than my fair share of bad court television. I told you I was good at wallowing.

Anyway.

This is all to say that the past few months have been difficult, but ultimately good. Hard, but necessary. Refining, in a way.

The last few months have tested me; they have asked questions that I am not sure I can answer now (or maybe ever!). … which reminds me!

I first learned about Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet during my summer at Arkansas Governor’s School. Rilke’s advice is not just for artists; it rings true for anyone who’s a member of the great mass of humanity. I walked into my Area II class (thanks, Bryan Cwik [now Ph.D! man, tempus fugit] with this quote on the chalkboard:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

I learned a lot of things from Bryan Cwik’s Area II class, but this is probably the thing that has changed my life the most. I picked up a copy of Rilke’s letters and devoured it. I return to his words again and again when I need inspiration, comfort, or guidance. Excerpts are posted on the door to my voice studio so my students can read them.

This seems to be one of those times when I needed to read Rilke’s words again.

I am, perhaps gradually, without noticing it, living along these distant days since my last post into the answers that the questions of this summer asked of me.

In short, it’s good to be back. I’m glad you’re still here, Invisible Internet Audience™.

 

My Arkansas Bucket List

8th June 2015

In 53 short days, I will no longer be living in Arkansas full-time.

I read that sentence, and while I understand it–I know what it means–I don’t really grasp the gravity of it. The last time I left home “officially” was for college, and I was more than ready to leave. I was 18 years old. I hadn’t applied anywhere in-state for school. I had two feet out the door.

That was six years ago, though, and one undergraduate degree later, I’m again getting ready to leave my home state for school, this time in Kansas. I can’t help but think about all the things I’ve left undone here.

One thing Arkansas isn’t offering, though, is enough opportunities for classical musicians like myself. And so we leave. We have to, if we want to have any sort of performing career. (And God bless the people who are working here to revive the arts community here in central Arkansas and beyond).

Arkansas is my home. It’s not a perfect place, by any means–sit down with me some time and I’ll be glad to tell you all about a few things that need fixing. But it’s filled with good people who are working tirelessly to enrich their communities and to change the not-so-great parts. I’ve gotten to meet these folks and witness first-hand some of their efforts. I’m convinced Arkansas is changing and growing for the better.

Anyway. None of that really obscures the fact that come August, I will no longer be a full-time resident (except for tax purposes, if you know what I meaaaaan) of Little Rock. Time is ticking and I have so much left to do! Cue the sirens.

I want these last 53 days to be memorable, so of course I had to do the typical millennial thing and create a bucket list. Arkansas has a LOT of cool stuff that I’ve yet to do and experience–picking these 5 things was not the easiest task in the world.

Thankfully, this is just a ‘summer 2015’ bucket list and not a ‘I’m never coming back, see you later Arkansas’ list. WITHOUT FURTHER ADO.

My Arkansas Bucket List

Continue reading

Living an Authentic Life

8th May 2015

southern fried soprano - social media

Am I living an authentic life? What does that even mean, anyway?

I was mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed when I noticed two of my friends posted links to the same ESPN article. It was a powerful profile on the life, public and private of Madison Holleran–and her eventual suicide.

Its revolving theme? Her social media. Madison was a promising student and star athlete, attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she ran track. She, like most other college students, also had an Instagram account.

How could the seemingly-happy, smiling college freshman in the photos on Madison’s Instagram end up jumping off of a nine-story Philadelphia parking garage?

Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media. People share moments that reflect an ideal life, an ideal self.

Checking Instagram is like opening a magazine to see a fashion advertisement. Except an ad is branded as what it is: a staged image on glossy paper.

Instagram is passed off as real life.

The truth is, no matter how wonderful life looked like through filtered Instagram snapshots, Madison was having a hard time.

No one can ever really know why Madison Holleran took her own life. We can speculate to the cows come home on what her friends, family, or therapists could have done to intervene. We might think of our own experiences with suicide–how we could have helped.

Who knows? I don’t.

There’s a huge buzzword in the blogosphere right now–“authenticity.” We need to be living authentically. We must create an authentic life.

The problem? No one seems to truly define what this “authentic life” is, and while an argument can be made that the definition is intentionally made vague so that you can “form your own definition”, I think the issue is a little deeper than that.

What is curious to me is that so many preaching the Gospel of Authentic Life™ seem to also have the most curated, branded lives. They style their supposedly candid Instagram photos (you cannot tell me that all four members of your family wear your brand’s color palette EVERY DAY, ma’am). They say the right things in their weekly re-caps. They’re relentlessly positive.

And I think that’s dangerous.

Some of this is just very strategic marketing. We’ve gotta hustle, y’all, and I get why it’s important to present an image that our ideal client (whoever that is) might want to have for themselves. I do. I get it. It’s savvy.

I’m no stranger to this life-curation thinking, either. I do it all the time! I’ve strategically presented the best parts of my life to the Internet because I’m scared of what it means to present the uglier parts.

How will what I say on social media impact my career?

Who hasn’t taken a selfie and then agonized over which filter to use to make sure my eyes look a little bluer, my eyebrows look a little more defined, my double-chin a little less prominent?

Who hasn’t waited until the exact right time to post a Facebook status for maximum ‘likes’?

Who hasn’t felt just a little bit cooler when a tweet goes mini-viral?

(I’m sure that someone is reading thinking [well, I haven’t! Not me!] and to that I say: hooray! good for you! I am but a weak millennial.).

I don’t want us to stop doing any of those things I listed above. But only posting the happy-go-lucky portraits of ourselves, those carefully curated, branded images of our lives and experience?

That’s not living an “authentic life,” blogger lady, and I won’t believe you for a second when you tell me that it is.

I want us to post more selfies. I want us to send photos of our happy, cheesy grin faces into the world. I want us to celebrate our lives, our experiences. And there’s no better way to do that than by sending that out into the digital world for everyone to see! 

But I also want us to live in a world where it’s okay for us to be vulnerable on social media.

There is no guarantee that posting the sad and frustrating parts of life on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram will lead to fewer articles like the one I posted.

But there are so many benefits to making our online spaces safe for people’s unfiltered (pardon the pun), unbranded thoughts.

A world where we can openly talk about our struggles with mental illness and other life struggles is a world I want to live in.

Seems pretty authentic to me.

Earning Extra (Easy) Money for Dummies

7th May 2015

earning extra money

Earning extra money while working a full-time job and maintaining my practice schedule is no joke, y’all.

In preparation to move 450 miles away to Kansas, I’ve been thinking of ways to save and earn extra money.

Since I’ve been home, I have been lucky enough to have reduced cost-of-living by staying with my mom (shouts to the Tixqueen!).  Let’s be clear, though, I totally have expenses right now, too–just not as many as I’m going to have in Kansas.

Maybe you thought that I had amassed quite a nest egg for my eventual move during my gap year from undergrad to grad. “Surely she has some savings,” you thought, stroking your beard!

I would have laughed and dissolved into a puddle of operatic tears, because it costs thousands of dollars to apply to graduate school and travel to those auditions. I’m still taking donations for frequent flyer miles [/shakes tin cup]. But I digress.

Being the resourceful Girl Scout that I am, I’ve been thinking of ways I could earn a little extra money while still maintaining my practice schedule and sanity.

Here are just a few of the ways I’m earning some FREE money by doing absolutely nothing that I wouldn’t otherwise do:

1. Cash Back Grocery Apps

You’ve gotta eat. This is non-negotiable. Why not get some cash back for the purchases you already make at the grocery store?

There are a host of totally free smartphone apps that can help you with saving money on food–sometimes, if you combine these promotion with coupons, store loyalty programs, and store-specific deals, you can even make a profit! Here are a few of my favorite grocery cash back apps:

1. Ibotta

ibotta logo

I use Ibotta the most out of all of my grocery cash-back apps. All you do is sign up/download the app, unlock rebates, and then head to the store.

Once you’ve gone shopping, you submit your receipt and verify your qualifying purchases. Then bingo–cash is deposited in your account!

You can redeem your rebates for either cash (via Paypal or Venmo) or gift cards. Easy peasy!

You might be worried you won’t be saving money because you’ll be buying things you wouldn’t otherwise buy in order to get the rebate. Do NOT do this–just use Ibotta for the purchases you’d already make! What I really like about this app is that they always have rebates that aren’t for brand name or packaged products.

For instance, right now they have a rebate for soda–any brand (including generic store brands). There are always produce rewards, too.

Join Ibotta here: join Ibotta.

2. Checkout 51

 checkout 51 logoJust like Ibotta, Checkout 51 pays you for the purchases you’re already making. Pick the offers you like on everything from apples to deodorant, go shopping, upload your receipts, and get paid!

For those of you not into gift cards or dealing with Paypal, Checkout 51 pays you with a check. Yup. It’s that simple!

I like Checkout 51 because they’ve got a “pick your own offer” option, where you can select from a few different things for a rebate. This week, I’ve gotta buy potatoes, so I’m saving on that!

3. BerryCart

berrycart logoMaybe you’re worried that saving money on groceries means having to sacrifice your healthy eating. Nope!

With BerryCart, you can earn cash back for eating healthy and by purchasing organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free products. That means all you Whole Foods and Sprouts junkies won’t have to give that up!

Once you’ve hit their cash-out threshold, BerryCart will pay you back in your Paypal account or you can select pay-out in the form of gift cards.

2. Swagbucks

swag-logoI’ve been using Swagbucks for years and couldn’t tell you how much money I have saved. There are SO many ways to earn Swagbucks–which you can redeem for gift cards to hundreds of stores (or Amazon, which is what I use mine for).

Watch videos, take surveys, enter sweepstakes, or just use their search engine and get paid for searching the web. Yes, really.

I get paid in Swagbucks to search for “cute cat videos” because I have their search engine installed.

If you do a lot of online shopping, many online retailers will give you Swagbucks for every dollar you spend (just use their online portal).

Join Swagbucks today!

3. Paid Surveys (via InboxDollars)

InboxDollars

When I come home from a long day of rehearsal or work, I like to sit on the couch with my dog and do absolutely nothing.

Doing nothing is fun, but doing almost nothing and earning money for it is even better. That’s why I use InboxDollars.

It doesn’t take any energy–just a little patience–to complete surveys and free offers that earn me money. Also, by receiving a few emails, I earn cash, too!

Survey-taking is a little more irksome than other ways to earn cash, to be honest, but there’s always a trade-off. I recommend you get a dummy email account so you can avoid cluttering your mail email accounts.

4. Tasking Apps (via Receipt Hog and Shopkick)

1. Receipt Hog 

receipt hog logo
Go to a store. Buy whatever you want. Upload the receipt. Earn coins, which you can redeem for Paypal cash or Amazon gift cards. Easy!

Join Receipt Hog, use my referral code (jamp6282), and you’ll get extra spins to earn even more cash!

2. Shopkick

Shopkick-Logo

What I love about Shopkick is that I can walk into a store, not buy a single thing, and earn points toward cash back.

Shopkick shows you deals at stores near you, but you don’t even have to buy anything to earn.

The location-based app allows you to walk in and earn “kicks” just for being in the store. JUST FOR WALKING IN. You can earn extra kicks by scanning items, which I find super fun, because it’s like a scavenger hunt!

Cash your kicks out for gift cards. Join Shopkick and get money just for window shopping.

Super easy ways to save money!

What ways do you earn easy money? Have I missed anything? Let me know in a comment below!

(This post contains referral links, which allow me to save a few extra pennies at no extra cost to you! Help a diva out, y’all.)

Epiphany Burnout

6th March 2015

Epiphany Burnout - Southern Fried Soprano

Is it just me, or is anyone else completely exhausted and burnt out by revelations? I mean the “wow, if I just believed X, I could really get better” or “if I start doing Y, then things will change for me” kind of epiphany that inspires purple prose-y blog posts (and will probably inspire some of my future posts).

Stay with me on this one.

I think that the pursuit of self-improvement is a good thing. I’m looking to improve myself. So are you (whoever you are), probably. And that’s just great! Hooray for us. But.

How much of my time is spent each day reading about getting better rather than, you know, actually doing the messy and hard work of getting better? Probably a lot. Probably too much.

And I know why. It’s because the thought of “better”, whatever that better might be, is–by definition–nicer than where I am right now. You know, that whole “grass is always greener” thing.

The future is typically pretty glamorous, when you parse it all out. I’ve mentioned before that in thinking about the future, no one ever really gets their kicks by thinking of all the ways that the future could be, hypothetically, a little more bleak than the present. Whatever is coming has to be better than what is occurring. Right? So sayeth the blogs!

Maybe.

I think I forget sometimes that “getting better” isn’t always pretty. It isn’t glamorous work. And no one is really rushing to do un-glamorous work, because there’s room for failure. There’s room for darkness. For negative. For “no”.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m really, really tired of devoting so much emotional headspace to self-improvement. I’m giving up so much of my energy to the pursuit of something rather than the actual process. … Which, when you think about it, seems a little counterproductive.

I realized this when I discovered a few days ago that I was doing something just for the sake of crossing it off my to-do list. So I could get to the end result. The future! Where I am BETTER (whatever that means).

Was I actually improving anything if I just rushed through it so I could tick a box?

Some tasks deserve to be rushed through, because they’re the kind of tasks you won’t do unless you make them A Thing™. I count root canals, filing your taxes, and going to the DMV among these sorts of tasks.

But “change your life” or “do a complete 180 with your attitude”–those things aren’t really the sorts of things that are accomplished by a checkmark or a strikethrough. As much as we’d like to rip the bandage off and say “we did it”, personal growth and emotional health are not quite that simple. They’re amorphous, free-flowing, intangible processes that change by the second. They’re completely dependent upon our current circumstances–where we are in that moment of life. Not the big picture. Not the entire person, but a single strand of hair on that person’s head. They’re tiny. So small you might miss them.

I have many more thoughts on The Big versus Little Picture and how those two views can be used in conjunction for massive personal growth. That’s for another time. This is not that post. It can’t be.

I don’t want to focus on “another time.” I don’t really want to think about “the next time.” There might not be a next time! … But there is a right now. I know there is because I am living it.

And while reading a thinkpiece from one of my favorite writers or reciting a Louise Hay affirmation every morning is awesome and great and may lead to ~self-actualization~ and the ~building of my dreams~… doing those things is nothing without some nitty-gritty hard work and potentially a big spoonful of failure.

That messy, difficult work comes in the present moment, not in the future. Here. Now. Right now!

There’s a place in the world for those epiphany blog posts. I’ve been in that place and I’m sure I’ll be back again. But right now? Nope.

I will focus on the moment I’m in, not the moment before me. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

On Things Happening for a Reason

25th January 2015

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 9.19.13 PM

The last thing I really want to do is write a post about my cat dying. I don’t know what useful things I have to say about that. There isn’t really anything useful to say, is there?

I could wax poetic about the transience of life, of comings and goings, beginnings and ends, but there doesn’t seem to be any poetic justice in that, either. It seems trite to attempt to summarize the love I had for a very silly, fat cat in a blog post. I don’t think I could, even if I wanted to try. So I won’t. At least not today.

But I’ve been thinking. Continue reading