Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pain & Suffering

Last week one of my many projects on the new house involved pulling weeds in the front yard, trimming back overgrown shrubs, and uprooting unwanted plants. Unfortunately, one of the unwanted plants, hiding cleverly amidst the pachysandra, was poison ivy. Which I now have on my right arm, upper right leg, and lower left leg. How it ended up in all those places when the minute I saw it I thought I was quite careful not to touch it, I don't know.

Around the same time I came into contact with the poison ivy, I also woke up one morning with a sizable bruise on my right forearm. And I have no idea how I got it! It did show up just in time for the final Harry Potter movie... my own personal dark mark, perhaps?

[That's one little dot of poison ivy in the middle of the bruise.]

And just when you think things can't get worse, last night I might have Nathan might have sprained my wrist by rolling over onto it and bending it into my arm in the night. (I yelped like an injured puppy! Remember, I've said before that marriage can be perilous.) It's been painful all day, and I can't lift anything with my left hand.

Other than these small details, life is great!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

NOI: A Guest Post

Written on June 27; edited and published on July 24, with pictures added gratuitously now that Brooke is not around to censor me:

We interrupt our regularly scheduled NOI programming for a special feature post.

Brooke is my band camp friend.
Brooke is my personality doppelganger.
Brooke is here with me to co-write a guest blog post.

First, a little introduction. I met Brooke on my first day here at NOI (which we affectionately call "band camp"), and the thing that made the biggest immediate impression on me was the fact that her husband is the bass trombonist in the President's Own Marine Band. I thought that was cool. Also, I thought that maybe I could use her in some way to promote my own career and try to attain my dream job of playing in a military string ensemble. No luck on that front so far, but I'm working on it.

Brooke says she knew she liked me when she heard me call the music festival "band camp;" most violinists take themselves way too seriously, and I, on the other hand, don't take myself seriously at all. Over the ensuing days and weeks, we began to notice all kinds of things we had in common. Most obvious was the fact that we spend 99% of our time and conversations joking, being sarcastic, or exaggerating in the extreme. In fact, we quickly had to develop a code word to denote the times that we're not exaggerating.

Our word? "Foliage."

Yes, we borrowed Michael Scott's "safety word" from the television show The Office. We use it in a different context, obvi.

In fact, sarcasm, humor, and exaggeration is such a normal part of our daily lives that we wonder how people who don't laugh constantly and exaggerate everything have any meaning in their lives at all. Why do they get out of bed in the morning? Why would someone use the word "literally" when what they actually mean is, well, "literally"? It boggles our minds. To us, "literally" clearly means, "I am about to say something so extreme that the only thing that could make it more extreme is claiming that it's literal."

Needless to say, we love to laugh. Here's Brooke laughing:

As the days went by, we discovered other similarities. For one thing, neither of us can whisper particularly effectively. Brooke only learned to whisper at all last year, and is still trying to perfect her newfound ability. I always thought I could whisper, but Nathan tells me my attempts are quite unsuccessful. As you can imagine, things with the two of us can get a little noisy. We periodically try to bring the decibel level down, but it never lasts for long.

For another thing, neither of us can walk in a straight line. Whenever I walk places with Nathan he has to remind me, "Hey baby, you're running me off the sidewalk." Brooke has a veering tendency as well, with the result that we're very understanding about the fact that we're constantly bumping into each other as we walk.

A few other similarities: neither of us are affected by caffeine, we're both married to extraordinarily talented and smart men, and we like dramatic words like "literally" and "horrified."

Now that I've introduced my personality doppelganger, I am going to turn the computer over to Brooke and let her begin her career as a blogger.


Hi, this is Brooke. Sarah is a lot like me, so when we are together I realize just how annoying I am; I have truly developed a lot of empathy for my husband here at band camp. Just kidding! I must say that Sarah is, second only to myself, the most amazing person in the world. Foliage literally! OK not really foliage literally, for as much as Sarah exaggerates, I am still the only one of us that regularly misuses our code word in an attempt to take exaggeration to new heights.

Neither of us takes ourselves seriously, which sometimes leads others to believe we may be less accomplished than we actually are. However, we are actually both VERY accomplished and brilliant, just so you know.

During the first week of band camp people were always coming up to us and saying, "You guys knew each other before, right?" and we had to reply, "No, sadly we have gotten this obnoxiously close in just three days."

I would like to share with you guys a special story that happened just the other day. Sarah and I were hanging out in my room when she suddenly decided to lie on my bed. I approved of the idea and jumped in beside her. I wasn't sure how she would react, but thankfully she seemed completely comfortable, and we continued our gabbing and laughing side by side. Soon enough I forgot that we were in a slightly compromising position, and exclaimed "I have an idea for something we could do! You might not want to, but just hear me out." Sarah's face turned to a look of horror and she began laughing uncontrollably and declared, "My heart is jumping out of my chest! I'm so afraid of where you're going with this!" Realizing the horror of my statement, I also began laughing uncontrollably and couldn't catch a breath to explain myself for about three full minutes (foliage literally this time for real). When I finally gained composure I blurted out my original intention: "I thought we could go get bubble tea." Needless to say, we immediately jumped out of bed and got ourselves to the nearest Asian beverage establishment.


Okay, it's Sarah again. Isn't Brooke fun?

Here's us trying out the MK&A look {that's Mary-Kate and Ashley, for those unaware...}

{Brooke is good at this look. I totally fail.}

Here we are with Ting-Ting! We love Ting-Ting!

And with Rachel! (On my birthday. At the frozen yogurt place. YES.)

With Mary!

And here we are in front of a very yellow wall:

Before we finish this post, I want to share with you an idea the two of us had. Because our personalities are so similar and tend to amplify one another, we've been faced more fully with our own weirdness, and we also tend to feed off of one another and escalate the level of crazy. Yesterday we came up with a great idea. We were discussing the fact that, since we don't go to the wild band camp parties that occur frequently, and because we're both married, perhaps people think we're Mormon. And thus our brilliant idea was born: before the end of band camp, we are determined to find some situation in which we can tell someone here, with a straight face, that we are sister wives. We'd love to see the look on someone's face when we said, "Well, Margaret's taking good care of our husband at home, but we're really looking forward to getting back to him."

We even tried taking a sister wives picture after a concert one night, with Brooke's husband Daniel. But the "adoring gazes" version just ended up with us cracking ourselves up:

So we just smiled like normal people:

Here we are with Carrie (whose sister Hannah is a fellow blogger), who came up to the two of us and said, "I need a picture with the sister wives!"

{Edited post-NOI to add: We did try telling this sister wife story to a few people, and while they didn't believe us, they did think it was funny.}

And with that, which really sums up so much of what Brooke and I are all about -- in terms of humor, not marital goals -- we will bid you all a good night.

Wait... first we will add in a conversation we just had:

Sarah: What's your least favorite thing about me?
Brooke: I can't possibly think of just one. What's your least favorite thing about me?
Sarah: The fact that it takes you literally twenty minutes to wash your hands.
Brooke: Well, my favorite thing about you is that you're like me. We have a similar sense of humor. I like it because it makes me feel more normal.
Sarah: My favorite thing about you is the way you snort when you laugh.
Brooke: Thanks, jerk.

We love each other so much.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I went for a run this evening, despite that fact that at 7:30 pm it was 85 degrees out and pretty muggy. It was my first run from our new house, and I figured out a nice loop that's about 2.75 miles. It was also my first real run since before I left for NOI, and when you add the fact that during the past year of being a full-time grad student plus working as a violin teacher and freelancing a lot, well, even before NOI, I wasn't doing much running. I did a few runs in May, but not much.

So, did I take a walk break this evening?

I totally did.

But as I was running, a Bible verse I memorized as a kid popped into my head. You can probably guess which one - it's a common one.

"Even youths grow tired and weary..."

"And young men stumble and fall..."

And then my brain inserted,

"Young WOMEN, on the other hand..."

And then, to cap it all off, I thought to myself the classic Nike slogan:


And there it is, a workout mantra for empowered women everywhere.

Nike, if you're reading this, I know you will want to market this to your religious consumer base.

Okay, well, I want royalties.

Good Reads Around The Web

For pondering: More Weight on Less Meat (Bittman)

"If everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, over a year, the effect on emissions would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road."

For sheer laughs - not without some interesting points: In Praise of Joanne Rowling's Hermione Granger Series

"The defining hero of our age is a girl who saves the day with her egalitarianism, love of learning, hard work, and refusal to give way to peer pressure. It’s hard to think of the Hermione Granger series as anything other than flawless. And yet — as fans constantly point out — there is a very big flaw in the series. You know who I’m talking about; it’s He Who Must Not Be Named, but we spell it H-A-R-R-Y."

For some pros and cons of blogging - with a nice conclusion: Letters to the Future

"So maybe we can think of blogs—at least the good ones, and maybe even ones like these—as letters, if not to friends, to everyone, to the future: here is who we are, as it unfolded in real time; here is what we were thinking, even when it turned out to be wrong; here is how we thought about each other and about ourselves; here is what we made of our world. Sometimes it won’t be worth saving, and often it won’t be thoughtful. Some day, when they edit our lifelong blogs and put them in a volume (like, say, we do now with the letters of a famous thinker), they’ll edit out the useless pieces, fix our grammar, add clarifying footnotes about confusing allusions. It won’t be a complete, accurate, well-thought-out view of life, but it will be a pretty good picture of what it was to be us."

And for a potential danger of blogging - something I've often thought about: my sister-in-law Jenn posts a Reality Check

"The problem with blogging is that I'm not always sure that it doesn't portray some false version of me--some person that I wish I was but really am not."

In the spirit of trying to keep it real, I'll post some picture of our new house soon. Crumbling plaster, boxes everywhere, and three dirty, tousled, tired inhabitants.

If you ever doubt entropy, become a home-owner. If you're still uncertain, try maintaining two properties. I can spend two hours weeding over at House #1, and three days later I have to do it all over again! And while I spend a day tackling the endless projects of House #2, the everyday tasks of dishes, sweeping, and tidying just keep piling up.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Evening Conversation

Sarah: I feel so achy and sore everywhere tonight.

Nathan: Oh baby, are you sore from weeding and gardening and pulling down drywall all day? Or maybe you have a neurotoxin.

{hmm, a neurotoxin... that must be it...}

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Odds and Ends... and Bugs

We have internet at the new house! This makes life much more convenient. I've been taking pictures of the rooms and projects we've been working on, but haven't had time to upload them and sort through them all. Things are busy, between scraping old paint, stripping wallpaper, laying new paint, hanging curtains, and scrounging yard sales and estate sales for much-needed furniture.

In the meantime, I did snap a picture with my iPhone back at the old house that sums up the state of things I arrived home to after NOI.

See that? That's a couple of toolbelts hung on the wall where there were formerly three wall hangings.

Looking closer, you can observe the dead bug, squashed squarely on the wall and left there.

Ah, life with two men in the house!

[I should note that the aforementioned men had packed boxes and boxes of things for our move, laid tile in the upstairs bathroom, and much more in my absence!]

Thursday, July 7, 2011

New House

Today was an eventful day: Nathan and I closed on our second home.

So I basically arrived home from NOI earlier this week to a house filled with boxes up to my waist, packed by my wonderful husband and brother-in-law, in time to wade through the remaining mess and help with further packing to get ready to move.

We are by no means completely ready to move everything right now. We signed papers today at 2:00, and then we spent the afternoon and evening cleaning. We're hoping to start actually moving stuff over there tomorrow. The new house is only about five minutes away from our current house, so it's pretty convenient.

Our plan is to rent out the little house we bought two years ago while we live in our new, larger house.

Here's a photo from the realtor's website. {I'll post pictures of our own soon.}


Saturday, July 2, 2011

NOI, Day 30: The Final Day

It's technically already Sunday as I write this. Our final concert is over, and as NOI draws to a close, everyone has been standing outside the dorm hanging out for hours. Since I had a nice long nap this afternoon, I'm not really tired yet and enjoyed talking to some people before coming inside to finish my packing. I'll be able to sleep in tomorrow, since we don't have to check out until noon.

This morning we had the usual Saturday morning dress rehearsal. Our conductor was so pleased, and declared that we had improved exponentially since our first rehearsal on the Brahms and Stravinsky this past Monday. It's true; our first rehearsal was a bit disastrous. Up until today I was pretty worried about this program, but somehow we pulled things together.

Someone posted a picture of the orchestra rehearsing earlier this week to an NOI facebook group. You'll be pleased to know that you can see my back. Pretty exciting. {I'm sitting third chair in the first violins. The one in the yellow cardigan.}

In rehearsal this morning, working on Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, our conductor declared, "Eez not aggressive enough! Eez too polite. Your parents would be very proud, certainly, but this is not good for Stravinsky!" Funny. The conductor definitely grew on me throughout the week. I think he loosened up as the week went on, and became more personal with all of us, even cracking some jokes.

The concert this evening ended up going pretty well. As we began the first movement of the Brahms, I was overcome by a sense of how lucky I am, that I get to play great music like this, that this is my life.

I think it's some of the most beautiful music ever written.

There was a reception following the concert, and everyone took lots of photos, despite the horrendous lighting in the reception hall. I'll post more later, but for now, here's one of me and Brooke.

After the concert and reception came the first of the good-byes: Brooke and Ting-Ting both left! We were all sad to say goodbye, but it's good to live in an age of email, texting, and facebook. It makes staying in touch much easier.

Brooke and I have co-written a blog post. {The fact that it is awesome probably goes without saying.} I'll be publishing it soon after I get home.

Home. Home! Homehomehome. I can't wait.

Friday, July 1, 2011

NOI, Day 29

Today we had five hours of orchestra rehearsal, but I'm still feeling that as a group things aren't quite ready for the concert tomorrow night. Hopefully tomorrow morning's dress rehearsal will work some magic!

Our conductor's Italian accent continues to charm people. "Strings-a and woodwinds-a..."

I love it.

Today he was much more energizing than he has been in previous days this week. He had all of us laughing a few times.

"Strings-a, these pizzicato notes-a are accompaniment-a! I want-a 'plom, plom, plom,' and you give me 'pluck, pluck, pluck,' like guitars-a in a pizzeria!"


"If you ever practice with a singer -- and I hope-a you don't -- you'd see that she'd sing the phrase in-a this way..."

{For those not in the know, musicians like to make fun of singers at least as much as we enjoy a good viola joke.}

Aside from rehearsals today, I warmed up for about 30 minutes this morning, and other than that, didn't even pretend to practice. We had a two-hour lunch break during which I certainly could have practiced, but chose to enjoy one last falafel wrap from the student-run organic food co-op here on campus. (Their mantra is "Food for People, Not for Profit.")

This is the best food in the world. Crumbled falafel, hummus, lemon tahini, spinach, sprouts, tomato, and onion. The perfect lunch, and only a five-minute walk from the music building.

After lunch, Brooke and I lay down on the wide windowsills in one of the hallways of the music building and lounged for a while. We talked about music, and Brooke mentioned seeing the comment on my blog about a teacher telling a student, "Did you think that sounded good? Because it didn't." She thought this was quite excellent, and declared, "I hope someday I'm good enough that I can say something like that to someone!"

I replied, "Well, if you keep lying around like this, I'm sure you'll get there."

And then we laughed for about five minutes. We crack ourselves up.

As things are winding down, it's clear that everyone's tired. The 7:00 am practice sessions aren't happening so much these days. Neither are the 10:00 pm ones. Quite a few students here are headed straight from here to other festivals, and I can't imagine how they can have the energy for it! I for one have enjoyed being here, but am now really looking forward to going home.

After today's rehearsals, Brooke, Kristine, Ting-Ting, and I drove to Bethesda to pick up a dozen cupcakes from the Georgetown Cupcake location there. Brooke spoke so highly of these infamous cupcakes that we had to try some before we all leave for our respective homes.

Here's our assortment of Chocolate PB Chip, Lava Fudge, Lemon Blossom, Coconut, Red Velvet, and Chocolate Hazelnut cupcakes:

I ate a Chocolate PB Chip one:

The cupcake was really good, but the frosting was the really amazing part. {And I'm not usually a frosting kind of girl.}

In full disclosure, I also ate a quarter of a lemon blossom cupcake and a third of a chocolate hazelnut one. Yes, I'm a little embarrassed.

I'll leave you with a funny little story from Brooke, in keeping with the recent themes of exhaustion and food:

"When I woke up from my nap I noticed a yogurt-covered pretzel was in my bed with me, and I was hungry, so I ate it. Then when I got up I found white stuff all over my shirt and realized I must have slept on the pretzel!"

That pretty accurately sums up the level of fatigue around here, and also perhaps demonstrates our occasional desperation when it comes to food. As Brooke puts it, "Let's get bubble tea! Food is our only joy in life right now." {A joke, but there is something about bubble tea -- one of our favorite indulgences -- that makes the practice hours a bit more pleasant.}

Tomorrow is our final concert, and after that... HOME!