Goodbye 2020!

2020. A year of immense pain and suffering for so many around the world. A year of sacrifice and difficult work by our front line workers. A year of virtual meeting exhaustion. And yet within this darkness there was light – humanity helping one another, kindness, environmental change and incredible advances in science.  

For me, 2020 has been a weird and whacky year – one that I am grateful for at the same time. I turned 40, learned how to snowboard, bought a house, went back to school, got a new job, recognized the need for rest amid a pandemic and took the last two weeks of 2020 off to finally chill and unwind. While I miss my family terribly, I am very grateful for the good things that happened this year. Below is a recap of the year, with a few pics!

January brought reflection and reset, as well as some brainstorming for the things I wanted to do in my 40th year since it was fast approaching. I learned to snowboard and didn’t break any bones! Shout out to Kelly who was super patient as I learned and to Ryan, Lisa & Morgan for being excellent slope pals! I figured acquiring this skill was important since my twin niece and nephew were doing it, as well as my brother, his wife and Kelly. Plus, snow sports are fun, right?!

February was a fun month. We visited Parc Omega and fed the animals carrots, and had a lovely Valentines Day lunch at Chateau Montebello. I turned 40, starting the day on an early plane ride back from DC and received 40+ random acts of kindness from my friends and colleagues all around the world. 🥰 I spent the day chillaxing at the Nordik Spa with my besties. We held a little party at the local pub down the street, and the kittens enjoyed the helium balloons with ribbons attached!

In March, we took a trip to the Dominican Republic and went all out to celebrate Kelly finishing his Harvard Program and my 40th birthday. It was an amazing place, and we had a blast! We ate, we chilled and we kept an eye on the news as the whole coronavirus thing seemed to be dominating the news. On our 2nd last day there, flights were cancelled from Europe to the US and our Prime Minister started making announcements requesting that Canadians abroad come home. Little did we know what was to come. Thankfully we had no issues getting home, and we self isolated for 14 days on our return. We also brought back a few rolls of toilet paper from the resort since we heard things were getting scarce in Ottawa.

The self isolation was weird at first, but our friends helped us out – thank you Lindsay! I worked from home via a cell phone for 2 weeks which was totally bizarre. I baked scones and bagels. We played golf on the back porch. The kittens were entertained by the local wildlife. Despite everything being cancelled and not being able to go anywhere, we were safe and still had jobs. The introvert in me rejoiced, while the extrovert missed seeing my friends and singing.

The lockdown continued into April. I lended my team’s talents out at work to some others who needed help. I got a work laptop and was able to start doing more than I ever thought I could from home. The sunshine started to come out more, and we went for daily walks which was nice. Fresh air! At the end of April, Ginger started having seizures. This was terrifying, as I didn’t know how to help her, but at least I was working from home and could keep an eye on her. After many tests and a few spells, out of the blue we realized she had been licking a himilayan salt lamp near her bed. We removed it and since then she has been healthy, for which we are eternally grateful.

In May, we celebrated Kelly’s birthday with key lime pie and on our daily walks we saw many baby geese! They were adorable. I rolled up my sleeves and became a wine fairy, delivering wine and goodies to a bunch of random people in my neighborhood and some friends and colleagues who I thought could use a lift. That was super fun and brought me a lot of joy! At the end of May, we bought a house in the west end of the city. It all happened very fast, at the exact right time like it was meant to happen.

In June, I started the Harvard Senior Executive Fellows program, which was a leadership program delivered online with participants from around the world. It was exhausting and incredibly challenging, but I loved every minute of it and grew so much! I read a ton every day and met some amazing people and professors in the process. It was a full time program for a month, and the timing was perfect from a work perspective. The kittens were great study buddies too, often making appearances in my zoom classes.

In July we received the keys to our new house and celebrated with bubbly! We started renovations right away to finish our basement and slowly moved our stuff to the new place. Kelly started a new job working from home, and I was asked to step into an Acting Director role. While this was in my long term career desires, I didn’t think it would come this fast! It was a whirlwind time learning a ton from my incredibly smart and kind colleagues.

July and August were filled with lots of moving things and getting settled in the house. The basement renos finished (with awesome results!!) and we started exploring the neighborhood a bit more, sampling the local restaurants and going for more walks. We also golfed every Saturday which was fun and a great way to socialize outdoors in a socially distant and safe way.

In September, we tasted some local wine, continued painting and working on the house and entertaining the cats. In October we wrapped up golf for the season, and celebrated a covid safe Halloween at a farm outside of the city with our neighbours. I also hit a bit of a wall – I had been running at full steam since March with the house, job change and covid weirdness. My body shut down over Thanksgiving weekend and I realized I was exhausted and needed a break. I took a realistic look at my own boundaries, where best to focus my time and learned exactly what I needed to decompress. I’m grateful to many people for helping me through this and thankfully I bounced back with a new outlook on the importance of wellness.

November brought another round of whole 30 eating, as I wanted to bring more clarity to what I was putting in my body. It went really well and it was the perfect time to focus on our health. I also went to a nutritionist and found out that I have an intolerance to wheat, bananas and almonds! Very interesting. We also watched them US election with the rest of the world.. even Marble watched the results come in!

And this brings us to December! We made a decision early on to stay put in Ottawa this Christmas. While it was weird seeing my family virtually (having not seen them in person for a year), I am grateful that everyone is healthy and still had a good holiday. We have been eating and relaxing and watching a lot of tv. The cats have been super cute and very playful through it all. Honestly, it has been wonderful to hunker down and to truly rest. Even though Ottawa is in lockdown right now, I’m hopeful that 2021 will be a better year for us all.

Wishing you all the best in 2021 and beyond. Looking forward to giving you hugs when it is safe to do so! Stay healthy, happy and hopeful my friends! Cheers! 🥂

Happy New Year from Ottawa with tons of love,

❤️ Melly

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How performing has improved my leadership skills

My career journey has been an interesting one. Some people are gifted with the clarity of knowing exactly what they want to do when they grow up. That was not me. 🙂 I loved learning, trying new things and I had a heavy fear of missing out, so I changed my mind a thousand times before finally landing on Computer Science. After graduating from university, I have worked mostly in IT, but I’ve also taught math and music, learned languages (French & Italian) and spent a few years working as a professional singer. While this path might seem odd, it matches the core of who I am and looking back I can’t imagine things unfolding any better. Everything I’ve done so far has led to my growth as a leader.

When I returned to IT over 4 years ago (where does the time fly?!), I learned how to rebuild myself. How to observe, ask questions and understand the massive change that was happening inside and around me. I finally listened to my own voice and started to step into my own power. Today I’m acting in a Director role where I get to use all of the leadership skills I’ve developed over time. What’s at the top of that list? Active listening and curiosity. Second? Knowing myself. Third? Empowering the people around you to be their best.

1 – Active listening and curiosity. As a performer, one of the key things you must do to be successful is listen with curiosity – to your teachers and coaches, to your colleagues on stage, to the Directors of a production, and last but not least, your inner voice and instincts. My intuition was a constant guide for me with music and I’m grateful to all of my teachers and colleagues for the time I spent expanding my voice, growing as a performer and actively listening to perform at my best during a show. It is a magical thing when everything comes together in a performance with a live audience, especially in Opera. Holy complex project with all the people!! 🙂 I learned how to hone this skill well when I was performing regularly and also how to balance listening to myself and others at the same time.

2 – Knowing myself. As a girl from a small place, becoming an executive was the last thing I ever thought would happen. I had big dreams as a child and a huge imagination, but I never truly thought any of it would become a reality. Fostering my love of learning was key, especially as I grew up and began looking inward to better understand myself and my strengths and weaknesses. This summer, I attended a leadership program that allowed me to explore who I am as a leader, and why I am a leader. I learned about the importance of using my strengths to maximize positive outcomes, while not losing sight of my weaknesses. This insight gives me the knowledge of where my blind spots are so that I may surround myself with different perspectives and skills to maximize the outputs of my teams and celebrate diverse ways of thinking. Through exploration of ourselves we can learn a lot about what we value, what triggers us, and how to not let our egos get out of line.

3 – Empowering people around you. This circles back to 1&2. You can’t empower others if you don’t listen to them, or if you don’t know yourself well enough to manage how you respond to others. If you don’t know someone as a human – what they value and what makes them tick – how can you effectively work with them and learn to trust them as part of your team? (Back to #2, do you know this about yourself?) This points to the value of developing professional connections at the human level, regardless of someone’s job title. I also believe in developing trust through transparency, action and being real. It is challenging to give feedback to someone, to set boundaries based on your own needs and to be kind when we feel threatened or triggered. These types of situations aren’t easy, but they are worth navigating and learning from, and they get easier with time and practice. Be curious with your colleagues, listen to them, value what they have to contribute and invite them to participate in discussions. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll expand your own knowledge and perspectives along the way.

Does this resonate with any of you? What does good leadership look like to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays to you all! 🎶

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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 😮, 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! 🎶 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!! 🙂

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! 🙂

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. 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! 🏆

 

 

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. 🎢

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.  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!!  🙂

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. ❤

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. 😀

 

 

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! 😃 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! 🙂 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! ❤ 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! ❤🙏

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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!! 😊 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. 💜🌷

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

❤ 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. 🤓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. 🌎Getting 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. 🙂

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. 😊 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! ❤

To those celebrating today, Merry Christmas!! Wishing you a day filled with love, light, joy, and all of the deliciousness!! 🎄🎁

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. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

❤ 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. 🙂

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. 🙂 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! 😨 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? 😁

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. 🙂 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!!

❤️ 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. 🙂

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, 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. 🙂 Life may disappoint you. 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. 🙂 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?  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!! 🙂
  • 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 ❤️

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