2020 – Singing, Sickness, Self-isolation & Turning 40

Hi everyone,

It has been a long time since I’ve posted here on my Musings of an Aspiring Diva blog. With the worldwide pandemic happening right now, and recently turning 40 ๐Ÿ˜ฎ, I have been reflecting a lot on life and have gone through what feels like a rollercoaster of emotions, so I thought I would share what’s been up!

The past year of life has been busy, but one thing I am thrilled about is joining a wonderful chamber choir this past fall, Seventeen Voyces. I am singing regularly again – woohoo! ๐ŸŽถ This is a small but mighty group of wonderful singers (and humans) led by one of the kindest and most creative people I’ve ever met. I am really enjoying the repertoire we’ve done so far and we laugh and have fun together. I was super grateful to sing a bit of opera in the first concert with them and do some work as a soloist. We provided the soundtrack to an old silent movie in ‘Faust’, which was my second time singing a concert with a silent movie! It was fun, but also challenging; in addition to the opera bits, I was part of a trio where I had to sing high C’s in straight tone, softly. Eek! This opened and closed the show, with opera and choral singing in between. It was challenging, but we did it!! ๐Ÿ™‚

I have been super happy to sing regularly again and have realized how core this is to my overall happiness. BUT… in November, I came down with a chest infection, then the flu, and the worst cold I’ve ever had in my life. After multiple trips to the doctor and many days off of work to rest, I was sick for almost 8 weeks. I had to cancel one of my concerts last minute (first time ever), which filled me with anxiety, guilt and disappointment. After Christmas I was starting to feel better, but I still missed a few rehearsals due to sickness and travel for work. Just after I started to feel normal again, I came down with another bad cold and I ended up missing the dress rehearsal for our Jeptha concert; I knew I could sing either the concert or rehearsal with the little energy I did have, but not both. Again, I had lots of negative and guilty feelings about this, but I rested as much as I could and in the end I was able to sing for the concert. It is so hard to make those decisions as a singer, and I really hate letting people down. Guilty feelings, sickness and wallowing aside, I’m incredibly grateful to have this group to sing with. They are amazing people, we have fun, and we make beautiful music together. It’s nice to feel like I have a musical home again, as I admit I was feeling a bit lost as to where I fit here in the Ottawa music scene.
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In February, I turned 40. This was a big milestone that has had me thinking about everything in life from my career to my personal life, to what really makes me happy. After some chats with friends, I decided that for my birthday that I wanted to receive 40 acts of kindness from my friends near and far. I am happy to report that we reached this goal! It was fun hearing from so many people about their experiences and I plan to capture all of the stories in a book sometime to remember this. Thank you to everyone who participated! I also had a wee gathering at a local pub, where I realized most of my friends in Ottawa are from work! ๐Ÿ™‚

img_3266We had cake, drank beer and caught up, it was really nice. One of my friends got me a helium balloon with 40 on it, which entertained my cat Ginger for weeks – it was awesome.I am planning to continue celebrating for the whole year with trips, concerts, and personal feats.ย The first one I accomplished was learning how to snowboard! Special thanks to my main squeeze Kelly for being so patient with me and helping me learn. I didn’t die or break any bones this season, so we’ll call that a WIN! ๐Ÿ†

 

 

Now, the global pandemic COVID-19. We left for vacation in Punta Cana on March 8th, which was a much needed vacation to escape from work, school and all of the other stresses in life.

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The beach is where I recharge! While my partner and I hung out on the beach, little did we know that things would escalate so quickly with the pandemic. I watched the news like a hawk and was concerned when flights were cancelled between Europe and the U.S.; then they started asking Canadians abroad to come home. We were fortunate that our trip was scheduled to end soon after, and had a great vacation despite lots of rain.

By the time we got back last week, we were advised to self-isolate for 14 days. We haven’t left the house since last Sunday except for a short walk (keeping our distance from others) yesterday. I worked from home all week after I got back, and what I realized is how this experience differs for people depending on their personal situation. I know for me, it was weird working from home and not being allowed to go out or interact with people, but it was the right call as we didn’t want to inadvertently spread the virus to someone if we had picked it up while traveling. Others are dealing with kids who can’t have birthday parties, worries about aging parents or family members with auto-immune deficiencies, sick pets, and being isolated. The telephone network is overloaded. I feel horrible for people who are self-employed, my artist friends across the globe, and for health care workers who are risking their own safety to help others. It’s so sad to watch and it’s definitely filled me with fear and anxiety at times. Yet, I’m grateful to have this time at home to spend with my partner and my kitties and to be forced to slow down and appreciate the important things in life. And sometimes I feel guilty about being happy to be stuck home for a few days when I know some people don’t have that choice. It’s a roller coaster for many right now. ๐ŸŽข

A positive thing that I keep seeing is how people are connecting to each other using virtual mediums right now, and how people are reaching out, re-connecting with people they love and taking care of one another.ย  A friend dropped off some groceries today (thank you!) and I have had numerous people reach out to see how we’re doing, for which I am grateful. I’ve had virtual chats with friends all over the world, FaceTime wine dates with friends , and am so happy to see videos of my niece and nephew running in the woods. While I can’t offer any help outside of my home in the current state, I can listen, help people cope and lend my skills or assistance virtually! If you want to chat, or I can assist any of you, please don’t hesitate to reach out!!ย  ๐Ÿ™‚

How are you all doing? Sending love, light and positivity to the world as we get through this. Giant virtual hugs, since actuals aren’t allowed. โค

Melly

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Au revoir 2018!!

2018 was a year full of adventure, challenges and healing. I love taking time before the New Year to reflect on the past 12 months, what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown. Here it goes!

img_4484Lots has happened this year! On the work front, January brought some changes when I realized how much pressure I was putting on myself to succeed with what felt like 50k balls in the air at any given time. After some much needed time off at Christmas, I recognized that I couldn’t do everything and I needed some assistance in reducing the amount on my plate. I asked for help from my boss and within a day he delivered – woop! #greatboss That same afternoon, I had a prioritized list of tasks and official help from my colleagues which allowed me to succeed in my day job, and organize a hugely successful conference in May without burning out. Expecto patronum! With incredibly mixed feelings, at the end of May I left the group I called home since I returned to Ottawa to head off on full time French language training. img_6948It was hard because I loved the work and the people so much, but a new opportunity became available after my return from French training, so I decided to take it!

Over the summer, I learned French in a tiny classroom in downtown Ottawa with an amazing teacher from Belgium. For 4.5 months, we spoke French and talked about everything under the sun. She was an incredible person and I learned so much from her!!After attempting my first exam, I received a B, which was great but I needed a C! img_0123So I continued my studies at home, working with 3 different professors over the phone everyday. My kitties really enjoyed having me home and it was great that I didn’t have to travel everyday to work, which meant I had more time to cook, take care of myself and really let the French sink in. I feel much more comfortable now after that work (which is great for my confidence in speaking to anyone!) and I took my second test a week ago, after a quick 4 day trip to Saint Saveur, Quebec to immerse myself in the language. I’m waiting my result, and my fingers are crossed for a C!

 

In February, I took some holidays from my day job to perform in an opera with SOPAC. We performed Cendrillon (in French, bonus!!) and had a blast together telling a modern day Cinderella story, complete with paparazzi and Kardashians. img_4713I met some amazing people, had a blast singing in the chorus, covered one of the stepsisters (total hoot!) and worked crazy hard for 2 weeks. I was so thrilled to see so many people I knew in the audience! I am eternally grateful for the support of so many with my singing! I took a hiatus last year from teaching because things were just too busy, but I’m hoping to maybe get back into it this year again, as I truly miss it!

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In late February I took a trip to the Dominican Republic with my friend Karen. I love escaping the Ottawa cold for my birthday,so it was really great to get away for some fun in the sun! We had a super relaxing time, ate lots and met a ton of fun people. ๐Ÿ˜€

 

 

I took a few holidays over the summer too, one to see my family and celebrate my niece and nephew’s 3rd birthday img_9200and another one to Maryland where I caught up with friends and showed my boyfriend Kelly all of the things in DC, Annapolis and Baltimore!!! We took in a soccer game, a baseball game, visited Rehoboth beach, Dogfish Head brewery, met tons of friends and celebrated with my amazing friend Laura at her wedding in Pennsylvania. img_8263

In the fall, Kelly and I took a trip to Miami and Key West, where we took in an NBA game, lazed on the beach, chased crocodiles, and visited a sea turtle hospital. img_0586It was relaxing and super fun!! After that, I flew to the opposite side of the country to visit my friend Penny in Seattle, and we ventured north together to Victoria for a few days where we had high tea, I met up with my high school friend Emma after 15 years, and we hiked and visited Penny’s family. It was an incredible and relaxing time! Also, the West Coast is gorgeous!!

 

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One of the most exciting things that happened this year was adopting two adorable bundles of purry furr, little Marble and Ginger. They have brought so much joy into our lives and I am truly grateful that they adapted so well to their new home!! They are hilarious and have so much personality – we love them so much!

In June I moved in with my boyfriend Kelly, which has been a wonderful experience! We have lots of fun in our new little house, and the kitties love chasing each other up and down the stairs. We quickly got a BBQ and also managed to setup a home gym in the basement, img_7208which has served us well!! In November, Kelly joined me in following the Whole 30 eating clean regime, and we worked out with it as well. We both succeeded in finishing and I’m so proud of us! It’s not an easy thing to complete, but because I was home to cook and because Kelly is so good with coming up with workouts for us, we both succeeded in resetting our eating habits, working out, and in the end we both lost over 15 lbs each. I’m thrilled we were able to do it together! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ I’m also playing basketball again on a women’s team, which has been awesome.

On top of all that, my Mom came to visit in February, Kelly and I ventured to Syracuse for a college football game, img_9288I had a lovely weekend away with my friend Morgan at her cottage, I visited NYC to see some shows with Karen and Pete, Kelly and I went to Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill, I saw Pink in concert with my friend Lindsay in Toronto, img_5967I saw Foo Fighters with Kelly at Bluesfest, and I rocked out to Justin Timberlake with Miranda and Kelly! I grateful to have been enriched with so much art and music! ๐Ÿ™‚ We also survived a tornado, saw many animals, ate and drank many delicious things, and watched lots of great movies and TV.

 

As you can see it’s been a busy year! It’s also been one of personal growth. I’ve learned to let go of a lot of preconceived notions of myself, and go with the flow. I feel guilty sometimes because I’m not as good at keeping in touch with people as I used to be, but it doesn’t mean I don’t care just as much or more! โค There’s been some hard times this year too, but I feel much stronger on the inside now than I ever have. I’m happy and feel like my life has direction, even if it is not as I had planned it to be. I’m looking forward to continuing my self care in 2019, and to trying new adventures! img_2467More snowboarding and activities await! We only have this one life, and it’s important to take care of ourselves so that we can make the most of it. I’m super excited to dive into my new job and to learn new things in 2019!

 

Thank you for reading and wishing you all the best for a happy and healthy 2019! May it be your best year yet!! Love, hugs and positive vibes to you! โค๐Ÿ™

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Random Monday Musings

It has been just over 6 months since I’ve written on my blog. As I sit here eating a poutine with a glass of pinot grigio (classy), I realize how bizarre that is since I normally use my blog as a way to process my thoughts and feelings about life, as it relates to my musical journey. Perhaps that’s the challenge, as I haven’t had much singing or music in my life as of late.

There’s been a lot of change in my life since the new year – kitties, an opera performance in February, a giant work conference I was responsible for leading in May, finishing up a job that I loved shortly thereafter (a job that gave me so much joy upon my return to Ottawa), a move from my cozy little apartment in the market to a little house with my kitties and boyfriend, and finally, French training. I stopped teaching singing in January to give me room to breathe with the opera rehearsals, work and conference prep, and I never re-started it again. Truth be told I really miss it, but it was too much on top of a full time job and everything else happening in my life.

Today I’m struggling with balance between all of the things I want to do in life – singing, teaching, career in IT, home and social life. I struggle with anxiety at times over how much has changed in such a short time and how I can’t keep up with all of my friends and the people I want to here in Ottawa. I’ve had to learn how to do less and focus on staying true to my emotions and how I’m feeling without guilt. I reach out when I can and hope my friends understand. It’s hard. I’m not good at it.

I realized tonight that the situation I’m currently in is bizarre – like a hybrid of my musical and IT lives. I’m currently spending my days learning French, to obtain the levels I need to move up in the government. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s finally happening! It’s challenging, as it is one-on-one training, with the same teacher all day for 7.5 hours. Fortunately she is patient and super amazing. I am loving my time learning thus far, as well as being downtown Ottawa for the summer, and cannot imagine how some people detest their time away from work for this amazing opportunity. It blows my mind, especially as someone who knows how much people in the opera world would kill for the opportunity to be paid to learn a language.

Speaking of the opera world, I’m super jealous of all of my friends who are currently in Europe (Sicily, Tuscany, Germany, ++), traveling, singing and training. I really miss that part of my life. The three summers I spent in Italy taught me so much about myself, as a human and an artist. And oh man, the food and wine – hot damn, do I ever miss that!

Continuing on the opera world theme, last weekend I attended the wedding of a dear friend of mine, Laura. We bonded years ago during rehearsals for my first professional opera with Opera Delaware. I was thrilled and shocked last summer when she asked me to be in her bridal party. The day was absolutely perfect and I was so honoured to be part of it! I’m so happy for her and her new hubby Adam!! ๐Ÿ˜Š During their wedding festivities, I had the opportunity to sing, and I realized how much I miss that part of myself. I sang a duet with one of my closest and dearest friends in the world, and sang a few other numbers with a new friend! It was fun and made me realize that I need to take action to get back into singing more again. I’m just not sure how. Or when. But I’ll figure it out. I hope.

Do you ever feel stuck between a rock and a hard place? I sometimes feel that in the classical music world, as soon as you stop singing 3-5 times a week and doing gigs, people assume you’re out of the game and stop considering you for performances. That’s hard to swallow at times when you’re trying to juggle various pieces of your identity. Lately, I feel like I’m no longer a “real” singer. I ask myself regularly who I am and what I’m meant to do and the truth is, I have no idea anymore! At one time, I thought I knew what I needed to do to fulfill my soul, but I no longer feel like I know what that is. It’s frustrating and a bit weird.

I’ve turned back to yoga and meditation since I’ve moved and I’m going to try and ground myself now that things are a bit more settled. I’m starting to wonder if my life will ever be ‘normal’?! Perhaps normal is boring and all of these changes and challenges are meant to push me to be super strong, the best version of myself. Fingers crossed. I gotta have faith. Forte. Back to my tattoo.

As always, I’m grateful to the people who have believed in me, lifted me up, supported me through tough times, and those who have helped remind me who I really am and what I am capable of. I am not sure where I would be without the generosity of so many. Thank you. ๐Ÿ’œ๐ŸŒท

Thanks for reading. Wishing you love, light and happiness always.

โค Melly

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Roar of the Rings Anthem Experience

A few weeks ago I sang the Canadian National Anthem for the Roar of the Rings Olympic Curling Trials at the Canadian Tire Center in Ottawa. Lots of people have asked about the experience, so I figured it was time to write about it – read on for a video and the story!

So how’d this come about? I heard about it from my friend Kerrie, who emailed me to ask if I was interested. I said yes and a few weeks later, the event organizer emailed me with details, and I picked a day to sing, which was the weekend since I have the whole day job thing going on during the week. That was pretty much it!

I admit I didn’t really know much about this tournament other than it was curling and playoffs to represent Canada at the Olympics. I’m a bad Canadian – I don’t really follow curling or hockey. ๐Ÿค“However, when I did my research about Roar of the Rings, I realized just how big of an event this was. It was televised on TSN, and there were about 10000 people at the semi final games – the biggest crowd I’ve ever sung for! I thought back to my childhood when I proudly watched my Dad make the curling ice for the Tournament of Hearts. Small world. ๐ŸŒŽGetting ready to sing!

Before singing at the women’s semi final in the afternoon, I met the organizer, dropped my stuff, went into the bowels of the Canadian Tire Center with her and as we popped out onto the ice, she was notified that the opening would take place from the other end. So, off we ran to get there in time, high heeled boots and all. We made it to the opposite end of the stadium and I had time to catch my breath, meet the MCs of the event, the TSN guys, and the security guard. As the players finished up their warm up, I was told where to stand and given my microphone.

I’ve sung the national anthem probably about 5000 times in my life, maybe more. But as I got down to the area to sing, I started thinking ‘omg.. What are the words? Does my French sound legit? Is the anthem being televised on TSN? Do I look ok? Whoa!’ It’s amazing the things that go through your head right before you sing. ๐Ÿ™‚

The view from where I sang

As I sang the first anthem, I looked up and thought ‘wow’. That was a big crowd. People were singing along, which was comforting, but then I realized I was following the crowd at one point and snapped back to ‘Oh yeah, I’m leading this!’. Lol, you never want the anthem to get too slow. ๐Ÿ˜Š It was fun. Afterwards, I shook – I always have delayed nerves. Then I got my stuff and went up to watch the game with my boyfriend. Super fun times!

View from our seats

After the first game was over, we grabbed some food and I had a quick power nap – so much excitement, I was really tired! After a burger and a tea, I was ready to sing for the men’s semi final, round 2! This experience was even more fun as I knew exactly what to expect.

While I waited to go on for the second game I talked to the security guard about vocal technique; turns out he was a singer in a rock band. We had some good laughs and I gave him a few tips. When it was time to sing, I really didn’t have any nerves and I just enjoyed the experience for what it was. My mom and Dad said they saw me on tv as the players paraded out, but the anthem wasn’t televised. Fortunately my boyfriend caught the whole thing on video (thanks Kelly!!) and is now on my website: National Anthem at Roar of the Rings.

In summary, it was a surreal day, and a ton of fun. I’m grateful to have had the experience and hope to be able to do it again someday!

Thank you to everyone who viewed the video on Facebook and shared it with your friends – it means a lot! I always appreciate your kind words and support! โค

To those celebrating today, Merry Christmas!! Wishing you a day filled with love, light, joy, and all of the deliciousness!! ๐ŸŽ„๐ŸŽ

Hugs and until next time,

Melly

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Clarity in vision & life

‘I can see clearly now the rain is gone… I can see all obstacles in my way… Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind… Gonna be a bright, bright sunshiney day!’ – Johnny Nash

I recently had lasereye surgery to correct one eye for distance vision, and this song keeps playing over and over in my head. Now, as I recover, it is a huge relief to be able to see without glasses! As my vision clears, I feel clarity in my life direction and perspective as well. Read on for soul-baring, vulnerable sharing.

I’ve struggled for a long time wondering where I fit in life and why certain things have happened on my path to lead me to where I am today. Most recently, I have struggled with where I fit in the music world as a performer: opera singer? Choral singer? Occasional soloist? IT chick with random party tricks that can be whipped out at conferences and karaoke night? I’ve sung since I was 4, from solos in school to choral singing to church gigs, weddings, national anthems, opera and everything in between. I always thought my dream was to be an opera singer; it was something that seemed destined to happen and kept coming around in my life as teachers and mentors came out of the woodwork, taught me amazing skills and encouraged me. The beauty of the opera music took me to emotional places I’d never reached before, and the sheer complexity of producing these massive artistic masterpieces intrigued me. Plus, I had talent, reslience and drive to make it happen – recipe for success, right? Maybe not.

Last summer I almost quit singing entirely. I was frustrated, felt I couldn’t do anything right and I felt hopeless that I would never get to where I needed to be because there were so many things wrong with my voice, that I needed to overcome before I would be worthy of certain coaches or teachers time. I overanalysed what I needed to do to improve and became overwhelmed. I felt my worth as a human was based on my ability to succeed at singing an aria well and I kept failing and losing confidence in myself as the summer progressed, even though deep down I knew I was growing as an artist and playing catch up against people who had done this in university, young artist programs and more. My personal life was in shambles and I felt like I wanted to crawl in a cave and never come out. Some days my voice just wouldn’t work when I wanted it to. I was in a dark place. Thank goodness for the support of amazing friends last summer.

I realize today that I am so much more than just my voice. It is an huge part of my identity as a human and one of the gifts that I’ve been given, but I enjoy so many other things in life that I can’t imagine focusing only on that. I would be chasing something that may never happen, that depends on luck and sacrificing so many other amazing things that life has to offer. It has taken a long time for me to be OK with that. It’s still hard to say because my inner demons come out and I feel like a phony; like I gave up, and that I am not a true artist because I’m not sacrificing everything I have for this when so many people have believed in me and supported me on this journey.

Honestly, being a full time opera singer is not my path, but I think the pursuit of it has played an integral part in helping me find myself and what makes me happy. It lead me to teaching singing and piano, which I adore. A few weeks ago, I had dinner with my friend Jillian in London, and she said something like ‘If you focused on just singing, would it be a disservice to those around you since you give to others in so many different ways?’… That struck me. I’ve always known I’m a ‘jack of all trades master of none’ type person, but I hadn’t thought of myself from that perspective. Thank you Jillian!

I’ve realized that being a full time opera singer – while I love it and plan to continue performing as I’m able – may no longer be my dream. It has morphed into something different, and that’s ok! I still want to sing, work on my craft and be a great artist, but I also want to give back to others, have a fun, vibrant life, travel, and continue growing my career in IT where I can mentor young women.

I certainly haven’t got it all figured out yet, but the pieces of my life seem to continue to fall into place and I feel like I’m where I should be today. Some days it’s hard not knowing what lies ahead with me in music but… One day at a time. Clarity comes with time and experience, or… laser surgery. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks for reading!

โค Melly

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Musings on Canadian Thanksgiving

It’s Tuesday morning Oct 10th and I’m on the way back from Montreal with my Mom on the train. We took a few days in Montreal to celebrate her 70th birthday, a belated birthday gift from me and my brothers. We ate, we walked in the rain, we took a bus tour of the city and we had a blast seeing Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull in concert – her choice! Such a fun time!!

It was Canadian Thanksgiving yesterday, my second since my return to Canada last fall. As I reflect on my life and what I’m thankful for (as we sometimes do), I am overwhelmed with gratitude. So. Much. Love. Seriously. I’m humbled and honored to have so many incredible people in my life. I’m so thankful for my family, my friends, my colleagues, my singing peeps, my boyfriend, and for the opportunities that I have been given to grow on my journey.

Life has certainly had its ups and downs this past year. On Oct. 3rd I celebrated my one year anniversary of being in Ottawa / starting my next life chapter with my closest friends and colleagues. We shared drinks, listened to Jazz and ate delicious food together. These friends and many others have been there when I needed hugs, a shoulder to cry on, or someone to drink wine with. They helped me realize the impact I have on others and how to be strong even when I feel I’m not. They lifted me up. They made me laugh. They listened and asked how I was doing when they noticed I was feeling less than my bubbly self.

There’s something special in knowing that your friends, family and colleagues will catch you when you’re having a rough day. It lets us be completely ourselves and to process feelings so they can be released. This allows us to continue moving forward, bounce back and become even more resilient.

I’m proud that Pete and I are still such good friends after everything we’ve been through and I’m so grateful to him for being kind as we worked through everything. He takes such stellar care of our fur baby Zoe, and even though she was recently diagnosed with cancer, she is doing well so far on her medley of meds. It meant so much to have snuggles with her on my visit to DC a few weeks ago. She’s an angel that has brought me so much joy and comfort over the past 14 years of her life. It was hard saying goodbye to her, but I know her daddy will continue to take great care of her. ๐Ÿ™‚

Fast forward to today. I’m so grateful for the time I’ve had with my Mom this past week. It’s been a hell of a year for so many of us (illness, stress, etc.) and to have time to spend together when we’re both in a great place has been so wonderful! We watched a hilarious musical called ‘Mothers and Daughters’ written by a local playwright here in Ottawa – it was touching and funny. I introduced Mom to Greek food and she fell in love with spanikopitas. We video chatted with my Dad and my brother’s family… The twins, the adorable bundles of joy who keep us all on our toes. We had pedicures and Mom wowed the estheticians with her knowledge of pop music. We saw the sights of Montreal and went to a concert together. We ate Brazilian meat and saw a live samba show. And we talked about everything. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think it was the first time Mom could just be completely herself and enjoy the moment. I had a blast and am so grateful for the time with her.

I truly believe that we can create an environment where people feel safe and able to be completely themselves when we feel complete within. This was evident this weekend as we were talking to the lady who was making up our room. We entered drenched and ready to dry our clothes from touring in the rain, but she was kind and totally welcomed us inside while she finished up. We chatted, and talked candidly about the importance of different cultures working together, and the power of kindness. We really listened to each other and valued each other’s opinions. It was a random encounter that made me realize how alike we are as humans, regardless of race, religion or background.

It’s taken me awhile to rebuild after the life changes I’ve gone through, but I’m proud to say I finally feel like myself again! I may get a Phoenix tattoo soon to celebrate (ya know… Rebirth vs. The awful gov’t pay system). It’s nice to feel balanced again – work is fun, teaching is awesome, I recently got cast in an opera, playing basketball with a bunch of dudes has been great, and I’ve been enjoying time with my family, friends and my boyfriend.

All that to say, I so very much appreciate the support I’ve had from others this past year and I can’t wait to see where life takes me next. I hope that I can continue to give back to others and to keep spreading light and love moving forward. While there’s a lot of horrible things happening in this world lately, I think we all have the power to make things better by treating our fellow humans with kindness and love. Learning how to listen, how to open our minds is SO important. This Oatmeal comic sums it up pretty well: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/believe

Thanks for reading! Continue spreading the love my friends and all the best to you and yours this fall!

With love (and sake),

Melly xo

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Ever feel like a phony?

Do you ever work really hard at something and feel really good about it, but the moment you stop investing in continual learning and improving yourself in the subject (because you are distracted by other things), the more you feel like a phony and less legit? That’s kind of how I feel about singing these days.

It’s weird. Like, I know I have singing skills and knowledge given I’ve been performing and studying since I was 4, but my focus this past year has been on healing and rebuilding my life and my other career in the government, which has been really, really busy, to say the least. I haven’t put the time I would have liked into singing.

Now it’s fall, in Canada I might add – very different from Maryland! ๐Ÿ˜จ I love teaching and singing and I want to keep doing it because it feeds my soul, but I feel like because I haven’t done as much as I used to that I’m a bit out of practice. My skills are a bit dusty and not as legit as they used to be. Am I the only one who thinks this way?

I have an audition coming up soon and my anxiety is a little high having done very few auditions this past year. My voice feels different now that I’ve healed and come through the personal storm and to be honest, I’m still trying to find my identity as a singer. It’s such a vulnerable activity and so subjective, and finding guidance in a new place can be tricky. Life is looking up, but things are a bit unclear musically and I’m a little terrified. Lol… At least I’m honest? ๐Ÿ˜

Anyhow, just wanted to share my feelings and fears as I ramp up to my audition. Maybe this is the kickstart I need to get back on the horse and start singing regularly again. And to face my fears and realize everything is still there… Fingers crossed. ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess it’s like anything – running, basketball, etc. The more time you put into action and improving your skills, the better you’ll be and more confident you’ll become.

Thanks for reading and please let me know if any of this resonates with you!!

โค๏ธ Melly xo

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Life lessons from studying opera

I’ve been singing my whole life in one way or another. However, it wasn’t until I took an interest in studying opera and pursuing a career in music that I really learned a lot about myself, society, happiness and some of life’s greatest lessons. Obviously, my singing skills improved too. ๐Ÿ™‚

In no particular order, here are some of the key things I’ve learned over the past few years on my opera singing journey:

  • The importance of kindness and supporting your fellow colleagues. You never know what sort of battle someone is fighting. Everyone has challenges on their journey – be kind! People will not necessarily remember details of how or what you did together, but they will very often remember how you made them feel. This transfers to everything in life… jobs, connections, friends, you name it.
  • How to get past hurt and insecurities (not completely, but… mostly). When you learn not to take rejection so personally and that not everyone’s opinion matters, you can live your life much happier. You also learn to rebound and become resilient from the rejection, which gives you confidence moving forward that you can recover from pretty much anything life throws at you. Having performed several auditions where I did not get gigs, I had to train myself to realize that its a numbers game and believe that I am still a talented singer, even if some of the opera singing world doesn’t see that.
  • Sensitivity is a good thing. I’ve often hated that I can be so sensitive about everything, hyper critical of myself, and very vulnerable at times with those closest to me. But in music, you transmit emotion and make people feel things and relate to aspects of a story, which can really impact them and their lives. Being sensitive to the emotions of the music, your colleagues, and your audience will only make you shine and be a better artist and human in the long run. My sensitive heart and logical brain still fight a bit, but I’m getting better balancing the two. And being sensitive is like a secret weapon when you’re a teacher, mentor, and manager, where you can pick up on non verbal cues from those around you. I’ve learned to accept it is a huge part of what makes me successful, and now I try and pass on that it is a quality worth embracing.
  • The value of hard work. When I was doing a combo of teaching, performing and web design, I’ve never worked so hard in my life. And I was never a slacker in my day jobs either… Overachiever and perfectionist have been my middle name for a long time. However, when you put in the work, the product speaks for itself. Opera singing is hard and requires many years of hard work and dedication… When I was singing everyday for 2 months in Italy, I grew in leaps and bounds. I also think this applies to doing work on ourselves to grow, dealing with our inner monologue and limiting beliefs. Again, the more I’ve stretched myself to tackle my own fears and learn about how I tick, my life purpose and what is important to me, the more life opens doors and send me gifts in the form of people and opportunities for further growth. All part of the journey.
  • The value of rest, taking care of your body, mind and spirit. I had a conversation with an engineering friend of mine yesterday. She was feeling the pressure of learning a new job, kids starting school, move, feeling settled in her new home and life. There’s a lot going on. I asked her what she was doing for herself and she said… Nothing yet. I recommended she change that and not to feel guilty about taking time for her. Work life balance is really hard, but I think we often put too much pressure on ourselves to succeed and carry it all, no matter what…. Until we break. If we stopped to rest and check in with ourselves once in awhile, it would make us happier and more productive in the long run. I now trust my body, take time for me when I really need it and if I catch myself being spun up and stressed about life, I take some time to ground, meditate and let down. I think it’s so important for everyone to take breaks and rest from time to time. Otherwise it leads to sickness, illness and can get us burnt out/hitting a wall fast, which takes much longer to recover from. Health of your body and mind is important!
  • Learning to trust that life is your biggest teacher. I truly believe it is,ย you just have to wake up and be aware of your surroundings. Expose yourself to art, be open to new perspectives and possibilities and know that every challenge you face is an opportunity for growth if you can see the lesson and learn from it. I believe if you don’t get it the first time, the lesson will keep coming back. ๐Ÿ™‚ย Life may disappoint you.ย As long as you have expectations, chances are you will continue to be disappointed if those expectations are not met. If you don’t communicate your expectations and expect others to read your mind, that doesn’t work either. Be open to growth and life’s lessons, it’ll change you and those around you for the better.
  • It’s ok to make a career doing something other than what you love. I have varied interests and in general, love life. I’ve pursued my passion and tried to find what drives me and fulfills me in life… I know that is teaching in some capacity. However, my personality is such that I like focusing on many different things and being well rounded… and that’s ok. There’s a place for people like me in the world too, to have a day job and do the things I love on the side. If I could combine my love of teaching, singing, eating, photography, IT skills, and travel into a nice little career package, that would be amazing. But I’m sure there would something else to add to that list eventually. There’s just not enough hours in the day. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve accepted I can have a balance of activities in my life and career that will fulfill me.
  • It’s beautiful to express your emotions, and be true to yourself. Everyone will always have opinions about situations and some will judge, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be true to yourself and express your honest feelings when they come up. Checking your intentions behind expressing your feelings to others from time to time is healthy – is it to prove you’re right, satisfy your ego or to hurt someone in an effort to try and make yourself feel better? ย If so, ya might want to take a step back and figure out what is going on within you before you inflict anger or hatred on others. But to me, healthy expression of emotion is beautiful, like letting tears flow freely when something touches you. Don’t hold it in – let it out in whatever way works best for you!! ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Life is too short – live it. Be grateful for what you have, live with integrity, know who you are and do what makes you happy. I see far too many people wish they could do something or try something and hesitate because of fear or insecurity… then they lose that opportunity because of injury, illness or death. Don’t hold stuff inside you! Tell people when you care about them, be in the moment and live life to the fullest! It really is short and you never know when it will end, so you might as well make the most of it now.
  • Love and happiness spread like wildfire. Look at how infectious children’s laughter is, how amazing it is to witness acts of love and how good we feel when we give to others expecting nothing in return? Carry on doing the good stuff my friends. Even if the media doesn’t like presenting good news stories, there are tons of good people in this world and good will prevail!
  • People can come into our lives for a short time and have massive impact on us. In my opera studies, I spent a few summers in Italy with amazing people. I would consider several of them to be very close friends, because of the amount of soul searching, mentoring, musical revelations, and awesome times I had with them. We connected over our love of music, shared deep and meaningful experiences and have created memories that I’ll never forget. I’m grateful to so many of them and am super glad we are still connected years later! This is not just true in music, but across the board in life. I’m a firm believer that people come into each other’s lives for a reason, even if we don’t know why at the time.

My singing friends, did I miss anything from your perspective? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Lots of love and thanks for reading,

Melly โค๏ธ

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Life – ups, downs and everything in between

I wrote the blog post below at the end of September/beginning of October 2016. I stumbled on it this week and felt it might be worth sharing now that I'm in a better place, almost a year later. As I sit in my cottage in NS on a rainy day and reflect, I am filled with gratitude for those who have loved and supported me through this massive change. A tiny glimpse of a piece of my journey last fall is outlined below.

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Life has been pretty rocky lately – series of unknowns, gigantic changes all at once and I know many people are going through uncertain times and facing a lot of change. It's rather nuts.

My situation is changing pretty drastically. After many happy years together, Pete and I mutually decided it was best if we separate. We want nothing for each other but happiness, but it is hard to watch your best friend be hurt and process all of the change.

People genuinely don't know what to say to you when you're going through something like this and I admit I've been on the other side of the coin a few times. Especially when you're both still great friends, and you care and want the best for each other – it isn't the norm. I'm grateful we have both had a lot of support and our families have been good about it all, but there certainly have been moments of crying in a ball on the floor, wondering where my life would take me, why so many things would happen at once (family illness, separation, moving, changing jobs, kitty diagnosed with hyperthyroid, and more), etc.

Doing the right thing isn't always easy. Change and growth is hard. Pursuit of happiness, fulfillment and life purpose? It is worth it.

Have you ever seen Monsters Inc? You know how on the scream floor they have #ofdays since last contamination with a child? I kind of feel like that lately with having rough days. It's like I keep resetting everytime I have a day where I cry… and so far I haven't been able to get past 1! That sounds really depressing, but in all honesty, I feel like everytime I do have a breakdown I'm letting out bottled up emotion inside of me and I feel better and stronger once it is outside of me.

Also, I am glad that Pete and are getting to the point where we can sort of laugh at ourselves as we go through this. He says to me yesterday (Tues Sept 10), oh.. our split is old news now – look who just filed for divorce from Brad Pitt! Lol. I never wish any sort of harm or negative energy on anyone, but I did have to laugh when he said it.

Today is Sunday, my last in Annapolis, and I woke up thinking how much our attitude has to do with how we adapt to change. So many things have happened in the past few months that I could look at them as bad things – separation, moving away from friends, giving up full time music stuff, hyperthyroid condition for my kitty, inventory to move internationally, family sickness, catching a bad cold on my last week in Maryland, and more. When it rains it pours on the change front.

However, if I look at all of this stuff on the flip side in a more positive, possibility-like view, then I have: opportunity to still be amazing friends with Pete, opportunity to start fresh in a wonderful city, in my home country with many great friends there to support me and the ability to come visit my friends in Maryland anytime because I have a car! I'm super grateful to be going back to a good paying job where I can sing and teach music on the side – I'm certainly not giving up on that dream just yet! My kitty having hyperthyroid isn't awesome, but her happiness and health mean a lot and we've noticed in just a week of giving her pills how she seems much happier – yeah! Getting a cold sucks, but I am young, relatively healthy and still have the ability to exercise. After all the health scares in my family this year, I'm extremely grateful. Doing inventory is possibly the most tedious thing ever, but going through all of my stuff has reminded me of all the great memories that Pete and I have had together, I can clean out things I no longer need, donate much of it to people we care about it and take with me the stuff I want to keep. After 7 years in one place, purging is rather cleansing. All of this while tough emotionally (trust me, this hasn't been easy) has been a growth experience, one I am grateful for.

Perspective is something that I've long thought was important – I pride myself on trying to understand other people's points of views and giving them the benefit of the doubt with their actions that they are doing the best they can. Having a positive lens on our perspective in life can make all of the difference.

Fast forward a week. I've just finished my move yesterday, the packing/loading. I prayed for it to be a good day and it really was. The team of people packing from Movers USA were awesome. And then Pete and I ate 5 guys burgers, and then I spent 5 hours at Ram's Head in Annapolis catching up with people I have grown to love over the past 7 years. Waves of people kept coming and going and I felt really loved and that I'd be missed. It was really wonderful to spend time with people. I was exhausted when I got home but it was a good day.

Today, Friday, is one of my last few days in the US – with the change in everything here in my move schedule (can't cross the border until Monday am with my car), I have an extra few days for which I'm grateful. It's all still very surreal. Zoe has no idea what is happening. I have so many mixed emotions leaving, but I know I'll be back to visit and Pete and I will still be friends for a long time, so it is a little less hard to think about starting over. I would like my heart to heal and I need to get myself back into shape and eating well again – this month has been a write off.

It's Sunday October 2nd and today was the hardest day of my life. I said goodbye to my kitty, my home for the past 7 years and my partner of 15 years, with a boatload of tears, hugs, and views of pretty water in Annapolis. We had a great last few days together, Double T diner dates, hanging out in our neighbors hot tub, and reminiscing the good times. As I packed my car full of the last of my belongings, I was grieving but also had a faint sense of excitement in looking towards the future. My friend Molly came out to say goodbye with some pastries and it was so wonderful to see her. Pete and I walked downtown Annapolis and the sun came out for the first time in 5 days. We spent some time on the dock drinking tea and looking at crabs, and we also watched the boats from our neighbor's deck. As I drove away with tears streaming down my face I couldn't believe what was happening.

Then I was driving through the Pennsylvania hills and I thought of how the weather and the hills were like my emotions over the past few weeks – ups, downs, foggy (have to have faith this path is the right one without seeing where you're going), bright sunshine, pink sunsets, and lots of rain… like my tears. The whole gammut. I'm now in my hotel, drinking a glass of wine and writing my thoughts for the day. I can't believe this day is almost over. It's all so surreal. Tomorrow I go back to Ottawa, get to know my neighborhood, sign for my apartment, see my friends and start a new new chapter in my life.

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NFLD Vacay – Family & Music

I just spent the most awesome week on vacation in St. John's, Newfoundland – cue 'Welcome to the Rock' from the musical Come From Away! The theme that swept over me during this trip was the importance of family in one's musical development. Music is such a huge part of the culture here in NFLD (lots of Irish and Scottish influence), and it's so wonderful to witness!

I remember when I was applying to music schools years ago, they often asked about other musicians in the family. I thought it was a bit odd at the time and potentially discriminatory, but I think I understand a bit better now. Support comes from family, and in so many instances, it is needed to develop an artist and to nurture artistic talent. I see that so plainly now. Music is a hard career, regardless of the type that you pursue.

Growing up, my parents were singers. I remember my mom telling me that when I was a baby, Mom and Dad used to take me to church choir practice. At times, the choir director would have to stop rehearsal because I'd be cooing along with them. ๐Ÿ™‚ In addition to my parents, I had a strong bond with my Grampie; he used to sing, play guitar and act. We used to sing duets in music festival and I remember being in awe of him as I watched him perform in Gilbert and Sullivan productions in Tatamagouche, NS when I would visit as a child. Mom used to cart me around everywhere, take me to music festivals and help me practice. When I was in junior high and high school, I had one big music day where I'd pack in piano lessons, singing lessons and choir all into one evening (Tuesday!) since I had to travel to Fredericton for them. I wouldn't have been able to do anything without the support of my parents, particularly Mom. I sang at Grampie's funeral when I was in my teens…. One of the hardest things I've ever done. I still tear up when I sing Amazing Grace. I know he's still looking over me and I often feel his presence, especially when I'm performing or teaching.

Ok, so my trip – what happened to inspire me to write this post? The first night I got to hang out with my Mom's family and I heard all about my nephew's musical and artistic adventures. It was wonderful to see my Aunt light up when she talked about him, and to see lots of pics and videos. ๐Ÿ™‚ Then I got to meet some of my Dad's side of the family, most of whom I'd never met before! And what did we do? Told stories, ate delicious food and then I played and sang with the girls, who are very musical! It was so fun to share that with them. ๐Ÿ™‚ My cousin took videos so we could share with my parents and I was overflowing with happiness for the opportunity. I wish they were closer so I could continue making music with them!

Wednesday evening we went to the George Street Festival and saw Blue Rodeo – so much fun! I had a great time meeting new friends, seeing many familiar faces from Ottawa who call NFLD home, and rocking out with a beer or two.

We also went whale and puffin watching one day and it was glorious – the sun shone, tour guides sang to us and blasted music in the boat as we ventured out to find the puffins and whales. It was so awesome! We saw no less than about 24 whales and thousands of puffins and sea birds. ๐Ÿ™‚

Last night, we hung out with my friend Miranda's friends and their kids, ate garlic fingers, and drank pineapple crush (only in NFLD)! ๐Ÿ™‚ It was fun, and the kids were so cute. They even put on a little show for us, dressing up and singing hot cross buns with accompaniment on the ukulele. We also had a dance party in the living room, and I taught them how to do the 'shopping cart'. ๐Ÿ˜€ Then they gave us a speech, saying they hoped we enjoyed our visit and that they'd miss us. Aww! So sweet. It is true that Newfoundlanders are the nicest people ever, I have never felt so at home in my life! ๐Ÿ™‚ I'm looking forward to coming back already, next time with my parents!

Last thing, while not musical related, it was music too my ears…. Err tastebuds. I had the best drink ever – a caesar topped with a lobster claw! While caesars normally come with something fun, like a pickled bean, stalk of celery or occasional umbrella, this was on a new level. It was good enough that we went back…. twice. ๐Ÿ˜€

As I sit here at the airport (cell service out across the country and thankful for free Wi-Fi), I catch up on social media and see my singing friends posts from Sicily and Tuscany. I'm reminded of last summer and the pain I processed, my voice not working at times, wondering what my life would look like moving forward. It was scary and made me grow in ways I've never thought possible. Thank God I had music last summer and friends, family and mentors who were patient with me as I sorted my life out. I'm so grateful! Music has helped me heal, forgive, form bonds with new friends and family, and ultimately find myself. I'm looking forward to jumping back into more of my own singing when I return from holidays in a week.

But first, I'm off to NS and NB to see more family! Signing off from the ROCK with love,

Melly ❤️

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