Monday, July 1, 2013

My big fat G̶r̶e̶e̶k̶ W̶e̶d̶d̶i̶n̶g̶ Chinese Birthday

Hey there, everyone,

I realize I haven't written in awhile, and if you've seen my recent Facebook status about my Aunt Pauline/Mommy Y, things aren't all sunshine in this tropical paradise... Any prayers you could send her way would be very appreciated. For those of you who don't have me on Facebook, she's in a deep coma, and we're all extremely worried about her right now.

But to distract myself from this, and because I owe y'all a blog post, and because positive energy is only good in times like these, I thought that I could share what my amazing Chinese birthday celebration (Lao Diat) was like with you.

So, on midnight of someone's birthday, it's traditional (not sure if this tradition is Filipino or Fukien) to have a Salubong (celebration), or midnight birthday snack. So, I stayed up with my family and had some pretty great snackin' foods, and a mango torte. Mangos (especially the tropical, Filipino variety) happen to be my most favorite fruit on the planet, so I went to bed a happy camper.

I woke up that morning to have an ENTIRE lechon waiting for me (roasted young pig made Filipino (specifically Cebuano) style), which happens to be one of my favorite foods on the entire planet. We polished the whole thing off with only 6 people, because eating is a serious undertaking that needs preparation and a girded stomach in the Lim family.

After putting myself into a food coma of happiness, I went to the Mandarin hotel where my cousin has her Feng Shui shop on the first floor, and where the rest of the festivities of the day were going to take place. One of those festivities was a hot stone massage (which was literally heaven) courtesy of my Atsi Princesse. Holy crap. They take spa SERIOUSLY in this country. I walked in to be given complimentary spa slippers, and was taken to a relaxation room where I sipped some pretty fabulous ginger tea. Afterwards, I was led into my OWN massage room complete with massage table, shower, bathroom, complimentary spa/aromatherapy doodads, etc. Yeah. It really IS more fun in The Phillipinnes(™).

After that, I walked downstairs to the shop to wait for the Lao Diat with my family, and 2 minutes after walking in, my buddy Mark walked in with these awesome flowers, pictured here.

Thanks, Mark! You are a fabulous human. 

At this point, my happiness level was through the roof; just in time for most of my extended family (which is extensive, my mother is the youngest of 9 and almost all have at least 3 children, so I have 20+ cousins on my mom's side and 8 aunts and uncles) to show up wearing red (for good luck for the birthday celebrant). Once most of the troops were gathered, we went upstairs to Tsin Hao, which serves AMAZING dim sum (especially the softshell crab and peking duck... holy crap), and I found that I had a room reserved "For the birthday of Ms. Caitlin" and a customized menu that read "For the birthday of Ms. Caitlin."

These pictures are all on Atsi Princesse's camera, so I'll be uploading them to Facebook eventually, promise. I'll also upload them at the bottom of this post for those of you who don't have me on Facebook, but this will all probably take awhile, check back occasionally. I promise that the feast was ridiculous and way awesome.

I also got many gifts! And more pretty flowers! Like this huge bouquet (all these flower pictures were taken with my Mac, hence why I have them and not the other more interesting ones)! 

Couldn't even fit the entire bouquet in the picture, but let me tell ya what, it's huge, and awesome, and beautiful, and full of many exotic flowers. 
After that, we went to two bars. I just drank mojitos with some of my cousins at one, and then we hit up another called "The Blind Pig." 

The Blind Pig is a speakeasy hidden in an alley in Makati, modeled off the 1920's speakeasies of NYC etc. in America. The bar is not only hidden in an alley, but the sign is in braille in front of the door.
I mean, it is the BLIND pig, after all. 

The only lighting is candles. Their cocktails and bartenders are FABULOUS. You give them instructions (I want something sweet, slightly minty, and I like cinnamon), and they'll just whip up random drinks that are very very strong, but also extremely delicious. They don't allow flash so we couldn't take many pictures. The music is Billie/Ella, the rooms are dark, and they have the most fantastic truffle fries. Seriously, my kind of place. 

After all this, all I can say is:

1) I am one of the most spoiled human beings by her wonderful family that I know and

2) Stereotype us all you want, but I'm telling you now that Chinese people really know how to party. 

Just trying to think of positive things right now, but yes, prayers for my aunt Pauline would be super appreciated. 

Love you all, 


P.S. Song of the day (this recording is one of my favorite versions) is I'll Be Seeing You, the Billie Holiday version, in honor of Mommy Y, since this is also one of her favorite songs. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Busog na ako


Well, I've now been in Manila for a little over 2 weeks, and I'm still loving it here. The jazz singing thing I was supposed to be doing kind of fell through, so I've been trying to focus on writing. Not super successfully, but hopefully that changes soon.

But I'm writing this to tell you that I'm full. Full of food (always), family, and just the Filipino way of life. I love it here, and am seriously being spoiled like crazy. You have no idea. I have never been treated so much like a queen in my entire life.

It's just so unbelievable that I'm here sometimes, yet I already feel at home here in Manila. I'm getting used to the city, the chaotic driving/traffic, the late nights and late afternoons, multi-course meals that take 3 hours, and the geography of the city with all of its insane roads is finally starting to make sense.

I wish I could show you what it's like here. All of you. The Philippines is a completely different world from the United States. My camera battery hasn't been charging no matter how much I try to charge it, but I've still been trying to take pictures. Frustratingly, the pictures I'm taking don't really do justice to the things I'm trying to capture, it's just a cheap half-memory of what things actually look like here. The garden filled with tropical plants in the middle of Greenbelt Mall in Makati at night is SO beautiful, for example, and I couldn't take a single non-grainy picture. So frustrating. Everything here is bright and green with riots of color splashed everywhere, the ocean is always so near, making the air very humid, cicadas can be heard so loudly in the foliage all over the city. I want to SHOW you all these things, and I'm so frustrated that I can't. I wish that everyone in the U.S. would know about this beautiful place and come here, that I could share this experience with someone so that it would seem more real sometimes. The culture shock might be a thing, but pretty much everyone speaks English here.

Also, I've been living in the village of Ayala Alabang for the past few days since my cousins and Aunt/Uncle who I'm staying with are in Hong Kong until tomorrow at 8pm Manila time. To explain a little of my limited understanding of the geography of Metro Manila, it's kind of divided into little cities and villages, similar in some ways to the boroughs of NYC and the suburbs. For example, my cousins who I usually stay with live in Pasay City, just Southwest of Makati (which is the center of Metro Manila and what I would equate to a sort of Pinoy Manhattan), and Alabang is further south. Cousins, if you're reading this, please correct me if I'm wrong, I'm just going with my knowledge of cardinal directions here. Ayala Alabang is absolutely, incredibly beautiful. It's much more spread out and spacious than the rest of the places I've been in Manila, where everything is just kind of stacked on top of each other. Here, the houses are huge and most are Spanish looking, and the tropical foliage takes over the entire neighborhood, making tunnels of green as you drive and walk around. Incidentally, Manny Pacquiao, the boxing champion at least 8 times over who is also the second highest paid athlete in the entire world lives in this neighborhood in a really ostentatious house, which we drove by a few times today. Pretty neat!

Right, so about the things I've done in these past 2 weeks, there's so much so I'm going to try and list them in categories.

1) Family: Well, everything I do here is with a family member, obviously. But things specific to the family include eating cuisine from almost every imaginable culture, watching my lawyer-by-day-stand-up-comic-by-night cousin (Richie) in 2 of his gigs, visiting my Ama and Ang Kong and aunt and cousin at the cemetery (see below), and just feeling very spoiled and very loved. I think I'm more Lim than Gilmore personality-wise, truthfully, so the moment I came here, with every family member, it has been like no time has passed. I haven't seen most of these people in 8 whole years, but there has been no awkwardness at all, we all just fit together in this perfect little Asian tapestry of awesome. Seriously. I already feel like I've always been here. My family here is the coolest collection of human beings with the most interesting lives and personalities. I love them so incredibly much, you have no idea how happy I am to be living here and seeing all of them.

The cemetery visit. Very very different from an American cemetery visit, there are a lot of Chinese rituals that my family practices for our deceased, and it's actually really interesting. May 31st is the anniversary of my Ama passing away 15 years ago, so on Sunday, we went to visit. My family is Catholic because of my Ama, even though my Ang Kong was Buddhist, so our funeral traditions included Catholic prayers and the Chinese traditions.

When you go to a Chinese grave (in our case, the Lim mausoleum), it is customary to burn 3 sticks of incense and place them near the grave or shrine for each person who has passed, and then to burn 3 sticks for a small shrine that should be part of every grave to the earth god, Tu Di Kong (in Fujian, it's To Di Kong). You burn 3 at a time by setting them on fire at the tip and shaking them out, so it will smolder, never blowing out the flames because that is considered extremely disrespectful. Afterwards, you hold the smoldering incense with your index fingers on top and thumbs at the bottom, and place the 3 sticks near your forehead. You say a prayer to the person you are burning the incense for, and afterwards, bow 3 times, then place the incense by their grave or shrine. You do this for each family member who is buried there, so we did this 4 times. After this, there are 2 large slightly open cylindrical canisters of sorts (they're about the height of one of my legs, and I'm 5"1), for the burning of the money. Not actual money, but pieces of paper with gold papery stuff (similar to the foil you get off of 5 chewing gum wrappers), that you burn for each deceased member of the family, whether they're buried there or not. Also, each one of these pieces of paper has the names of the deceased on them, so the money goes to the right place. So, we all had to burn sets of money for my Ama, Ang Kong, my cousin Jeffery, my Aunt Nene, my Aunt Ming, my Ninong/Uncle Lucio, and my Uncle Charlie. You burn this "Money" with its gold plating so that way your deceased family members might have money to spend in the afterlife. After that, we offered food to the members of the family who were there, and ate at the cemetery and spent time with the family who was there as is part of the tradition. Before sunset, we said traditional Catholic prayers, and made sure to leave the cemetery by sunset, because staying after the sun is down at a cemetery can anger the spirits and is extremely bad luck.

2) Wakeboarding. We went to this wakepark in this area of Metro Manila called Nuvali, which, it turns out, is a client of my cousin Princesse! Meaning, this new area of Manila, the size of a normal city, was planned by her, where the best luck is to have residential areas, schools, etc. etc. Pretty sweet, di ba? Anyway, my cousin Ninin (Christine) and I were the only two who actually wakeboarded, while my not so physically active but physically supportive family watched us (old joke in the Lim family, we all like to eat. So, I'm going to be fat when I come back). There were 8 observers I believe to watch the two of us wakeboard.
Also, there were some really crazy people there who were a lot better than us, including a woman who I think was Australian who went out without a life vest or a helmet, wearing denim shorts and a t-shirt because she said she wasn't planning on going on the water that day, doing crazy flips and jumping off the half-pipe and ramps in the water. It was awesome to watch her.

3) FOOD. OH MY GOD. FOOD: I am literally eating all the time here. And everything is so delicious. And food here is so much cheaper than in the U.S., and the quality of the foreign cuisine so much higher than anywhere I've ever been. And meals take forever, usually we spend about 2-3 hours at the table. I haven't really eaten much American food here, but even that has been really really good. But, the cuisines I've sampled to date include: French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, German, Belgian, Swiss, American, Filipino, Italian, Australian, etc. etc. I can't even think of all of them. My Australian experience was particularly interesting, there was an Australian-themed Tapas night (which is a Spanish thing, but they themed it Australian? Whatever.) at the Mandarin Hotel where my cousin's Feng Shui shop is, so I ate kangaroo meat. For those of you who are wondering, it tastes kind of like a combination of venison and lamb, that's the closest thing I can come up with.

4) Spa: So, getting massages etc. here is very common and VERY cheap. I'm talking an hour foot massage, (like I had on the 7th) including a back massage and free tea for about 16 dollars U.S., including tip. But yes, I've already had quite a few massages. And people give you massages here for everything, I had my hair cut here and they massaged my back while I was having my hair conditioned. I got my first pedicure for less than 10 bucks U.S., and they massaged my feet and legs. Also, at the hair place, I sang for the hairdresser (by the way, there is literally nothing better than having your hair cut by a hilarious gay Filipino man), and I got my haircut for free because they liked my voice. My Aunt Baby (Arleen) told them all I could sing, I didn't just randomly start singing in the haircut place, but they asked me to and here, you just do what your elders tell you to do. Period. But hey, free haircut!

5) Being foreign: Although I've been seeing a few more fair-skinned people here (especially Australians, and quite a few creepy old white dudes with really young hookers), I'm still definitely a minority looks-wise here, since I don't exactly look like I'm 50% Chinese. So, I'm slowly getting used to random strangers staring at me for extended periods of time, or immediately speaking to me in English and being extra polite, or saying "maganda maganda" (pretty pretty) to me as I walk by. Kind of weird to get so much attention for how I look. Seriously. The amount of people who stare at me, combined with the fact that I'm waited on hand and foot, makes me feel like a celebrity or something. So weird. I don't know how famous people do it, this isn't nearly as bad and I already always feel like I'm under a magnifying glass here when I go out in public.

6) Crocheting: Yeah, so between all the tea I'm drinking here and the crocheting I've been doing for the past 3 days (My cousins Ting and Zarah and Zar's friend Debbie and I took a crocheting class that was actually really really fun at this super hipster mall-ish thing called the Collective, where I got a bunch of fun hipster-y things and drank German beer) is going to turn me into an 80 year old woman by the time I return back to the States. Seriously. I already knit, but picking crochet up at first was really hard. However, I've gotten pretty decent at it in the past 3 days, as in, I can make a mean granny square, see?

Granny Squares Fo' Dayzzz

7) Immigration: So, I had to go to the Immigration office to extend my stay, since you can legally only come in as a tourist for 21 days unless you pay for an extension. So I paid about 80 bucks U.S. to extend my stay until July 21st legally. The problem with this is that my flight leaves July 25th, and for an extra 4 days they'd charge me that again. Soooo, since that's about 1/3rd of a flight to Hong Kong from Manila, I might be spending one of the last weeks of my trip here in Hong Kong, so I could return from there with the extra 21 days and not be breaking laws and becoming an international criminal. But we'll see, I'm either going to do that, or we're going to ask immigration VERY nicely to extend it the extra 4 days since it's only 4 days, seriously, and Filipinos are usually pretty nice about that kind of stuff.

8) Chinatown: This happened the same day as immigration, and holy crap, I've never been to anywhere's Chinatown before so this was kind of awesome. We had some dim sum and ran around different shops getting vegetables for my Aunt Nena (Gloria), but we didn't get to stay for too long since I had to go back to pick up my paperwork from immigration, and we went during our half hour wait so we wouldn't be stuck in the super stinky immigration building. I have no idea why it smells so awful in there, but whatever. Hopefully I get to spend more time there exploring, it's crazy in Chinatown, everything is pretty stacked on top of everything, and my cousin said it really is a lot like Hong Kong.

God, I wish I was doing a better job of documenting the stuff I do every day, but I'm never bored and there is ALWAYS something to do. Seriously. This is all the tip of the iceberg of things I've been doing, and I hope I start doing a better job of documenting this. Sometime soon, I'm going wakeboarding again, and then having a shopping day, and having dresses made for me, and going to a speakeasy type bar, but I don't know when all of this is happening since my schedule is kind of subject to my cousins.

Some more quick translations:

Busog na ako: "I am full already." Origin: Tagalog. If you were to translate each word, Busog = Full, na = Already, and ako = me. I have a lot more to learn about Tagalog grammar so I can hopefully start forming sentences independently instead of just speaking in phrases that I know.

Mabuhay: Very similar to the Hawaiian's Aloha, can be both a greeting and a way of saying goodbye. Origin: Tagalog.

Ama: Grandma. Origin: Chinese

Ang Kong: Grandpa. Origin: Chinese

Ninong: Godfather. Origin: Tagalog (Godmother is Ninang)

Fujian: The southern Chinese province where both my Ang Kong and Ama's family originated (Pronounced and also known as Fukien).

Di ba: Right/correct/Isn't it/Don't you think? Origin: Tagalog. The shortened version of hindi ba, but everyone just says di ba.

I love you all very very much, if you want a postcard from me, please Facebook me your address.


Song of the day: Over the Love by Florence and the Machine, from the Great Gatsby soundtrack (still need to see that movie, I fell in love with the book in high school). It's just SO GOOD, and if you know the story, even better. Plus she kills it with her voice in this one, hot dang.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Manila: Until now

Kamusta sa lahat!

For those of you who weren’t aware, I just arrived in the Philippines almost 3 full days ago, and am going to be living here with my family until July 25th. I probably could have done a better job mentioning things like that online or whatever, but I guess the reality didn’t feel like it was happening until I finally stepped off the plane from my 35 hour total airport/plane experience without real sleep.

I arrived at Omaha at 5am to make my 7am flight, and after having a hellish time with customs (which I shouldn’t have, but the woman working the area was brand new), I made it just in time to board my plane. I had a short 1.5 hour flight from Omaha to Minneapolis (layover: 1.75 hours), and from there, there was a 2.5 hour flight to Detroit, which happens to be the Delta hub in the U.S. for all flights going to Asia (layover: 4.75 hours). After that, I flew over Canada, Alaska, and Russia, wishing I could have taken pictures from the plane of the beautiful scenery, my view of the polar ice caps, and the mountains and forests of the huge tracts of untamed wild in the North. 14 hours later, I arrived in Nagoya, Japan. I went through international customs and baggage checking for 28 of my 30 minutes spent there, and boarded the 3.5 hour flight to Manila, finally arriving around 1am Manila time. Naturally, my bags were legitimately the very last 2 to come out of the conveyor belt, so the claiming of my luggage took about 45 minutes to an hour, and after 15 minutes in customs and immigration, I walked outside to see my cousins Princesse and TingTing, along with my aunts, Yayun and Baby. (Real names in order: Arleen Ann, Anna Cristina, Pauline and Arleen. Everyone has nicknames in the Philippines, and it’s rare for any of us to actually go by our real first names. My Filipina name is Cocoy.)  

I have been incredibly busy from the moment I stepped off the plane, there is so much to do and see here, so I apologize for not having a lot of time to get on Facebook and answer your messages lately, beautiful friends. You’re all in my thoughts though, and I miss all of you!

Now that I’m finally settled and have been sleeping a little more normally (even though I woke up at 7am to write this blog post), things are good here. I love it, I love my guest room, I love seeing my family, and everyone is so incredibly nice. I get a lot of stares because my white skin stands out here, and a lot of people stop me in the street to tell me I’m beautiful, which is pretty gratifying. I probably won’t stay that way, since I eat so much food all the time. I’m going to come back weighing 700 pounds because everyone is constantly feeding me, and I’m always busog. ;)

Rundown of things I have done in the Philippines in the approximately 72 hours I've been here:
Acquired a Ukulele
Had my first legal drinks
Eaten nothing remotely American
Signed up for yoga
Been completely spoiled and have hardly had to lift a finger for anything
Visited my cousin and her new baby
Worried that I might go into a permanent food coma
Been given all my favorite Chinese/Pinoy foods whenever I want them
Brushed up on my Tagalog
Watched my cousin's stand-up gig

Sitting in the feng shui shop with the Ukelele my Achi Princesse got for me, thanks, Ach! :) 

Today's schedule includes composing, stuffing my face, finishing unpacking, and hookah bar.

I wish I could show all of you how different everything is here. Manila is absolutely nothing like the U.S. There are things that are slightly familiar because I grew up with my mom, but this is really just a completely different world. Everything here is incredibly luxurious, I'm waited on hand and foot, there's a driver, full maid service, etc. wherever I go, and the moment I say I want something, that desire is instantly satisfied. I’ve never been treated so much like a queen in my entire life. It’s legitimately ridiculous how much I’m NOT expected to have to do here. Also, I’ve noticed that everything is possible in this country, because, in my Achi Princesse’s words, “Filipinos are lazy.” Their McDonald’s and other fast food places all deliver (fastER food is what they call it), you can order massages to your own house (which I guess is happening for me Monday), and if you go to the store, you can tip someone a relatively low amount and have them shop FOR you.

On the flip side of this, the lack of middle-class living here in the Philippines is extremely apparent. There are only rich and poor people, and hardly anything in between. Even on our way to nicer areas of the city, poverty is very very real here. Shanties stacked on top of each other everywhere you look, children coming up to your car peddling fruits and flowers during red lights, people begging in the streets. It all puts things in perspective. I almost feel like I’m in a floating island here, watching the poverty all around me from above, and it’s disconcerting. I know it’s impossible to help everyone, but it still boggles my mind to see how some people have to live here, thanks to a horribly corrupt government that doesn’t do a lot in the way of helping its own people. One thing that was especially crazy was driving through one of the red light districts here in Manila, near Makati. This is the only place where I would see a bunch of people who were as white as me, meaning, a lot of middle aged dudes hanging out to purchase “services” from the many women who offered them around here. Also, the ridiculous amounts of “massage” places that we drove by in that area was a little alarming, and makes me kind of sad that so many people have to resort to that kind of stuff to make money.

Also, brief note on the traffic and driving here: absolute insanity. I’ve never seen a place that constantly blatantly disregards the rules of the road. I already thought that the way you’re required to drive here was slightly frightening when I was here last time at age 12, but coming back here, being knowledgeable and familiar with driving laws, etc. brings the amount of frightening to a different level. Our driver is almost constantly caught in “The Fast and the Furious” style situations, and it’s amazing to see the level of complete calm he has while doing things like driving 4 cars abreast with 2 motorcycles sneaking through in a 4 lane highway, or moving slightly out of the way when a car comes barreling the wrong way down the road to pass someone on his overcrowded side.

Weather. Two words. HOT. HUMID. All the time. We ARE very near the Equator, but still. It’s about 40º Celsius every day, which is over 100º Fahrenheit. Also, it’s always super muggy out, but it’s almost typhoon season. Haven’t experienced one yet, but it’s been rather overcast lately so I probably will soon.

My family here is wonderful, we can all talk like there hasn’t been 8 years separating us from my last visit, and they’re all some of the most entertaining and interesting people you could ever meet. My Kuya Richie is taking me out to the hookah bar with more cousins tonight after I actually get some work done today, which is a new kind of exciting because even though we’ve been running all over Manila and Makati, I haven’t gotten a single thing done productivity-wise.

Overall, I am very much enjoying this trip. I’ll keep trying to update you all, but I am very busy. Facebook is the best way to contact me, but if you absolutely need me, I have a phone, and you can Facebook message me for the number. However, it’ll probably cost you about 20 cents U.S. to message me, so be warned.

Quick translations of words I’ll be using frequently and used in this blog:

Achi: Honorific title given to older sisters or cousins. Chinese origin. Atsi is also correct.
Kuya: Honorific title given to older brothers or cousins. Tagalog origin.
Busog: Full. Tagalog.

Tagalog: The native language of the Philippines, and the main dialect of this country. There are a bunch of other dialects that are different from Tagalog by quite a bit, but everyone here speaks Tagalog. My family also speaks Visayan and Bikol, as well as Chinese, English and some Spanish, so usually we have at least 3-4 languages going on at once, often in the same sentence.

I’ve learned quite a few more words, but those are the ones I used in this post.

Love you all, stay in touch while I’m here, please! I’m 13 hours ahead of Nebraska time, so keep that in mind when trying to contact me. Also, send me a Facebook message with your address if you want a postcard from me while I’m here.


P.S. Song of the day: Clara by the Punch Brothers. Absolutely in love with this song, and Chris Thile. Yup. 

Friday, February 15, 2013


I've never considered myself a great writer. I've never been the type of person to express my true feelings towards most things. I don't share innermost thoughts or intimate details of my life on the internet, or with hardly anyone for that matter. I love people, but my inner peace and inner happiness are always found and realized when I'm on my own, having time to process my thoughts.

For once, this post is actually more for me than anything. It's just a small reminder for me to look at and know why I work so hard, why I do what I do. It's a look at what made me decide to do what I'm doing. It's a look at myself that I don't think I've ever given anyone. It's terrifying. Innermost thoughts, even song lyrics scare the heck out of me, so I guess actually writing something like this is a pretty big deal for me. But I need to do this, because I can't afford to have days where I just go through motions anymore, and this will remind me to give 100% of myself to everything I do, and hopefully the friends who read it can catch me on my off days and remind me, too.

Why did I devote my life to this? I've asked myself that from time to time. I have chosen a career that so many people want to be in, and to gain popularity and respect among the general public, you don't need nearly as much training as I have. Yet, there are years and years of training you can get, countless options for degrees, for education, for getting better. People to study with, lessons to take, ensembles to be in, all these things you need to do to be considered "good" by the music community.

Until recently, I guess that for a long time, I wanted to be "good." I wanted to be a good musician because I wanted to be impressive. I wanted all the perks included with that, the respect of my fellow musicians, people that would talk about how "talented" I was, people that would look at me and think I was worthy of the title of "Musician." I prided myself on not taking private lessons in hardly any of the instruments I play, including voice. I was proud of how far I've managed to get "without help."  I mean, sure, those skills that I've gotten until this point were, in fact, acquired on my own, but I wouldn't have had time to focus on these skills without the extremely strong support system that my immediate family has provided me.

I can't tell you when it changed. I can't tell you why. But none of that matters to me anymore. I realized that being "good" in the eyes of others doesn't matter to me anymore. Pride doesn't matter either. But getting better DOES matter to me. Being "good" is just a pleasant side effect at this point. I realized that I have spent a lot of time in my life trying to please people, or to heighten their regard of me. My pride, my moments of apathy, are things I am now trying to put aside.

As long as I'm breathing, I really have the opportunity to be bettering myself. Sick in bed? I can be practicing solfège. Tired? I've got a piano, run through all the major scales in every key for 2 minutes before I sleep. Apathetic, wanting to be on Facebook? What do I actually NEED on social media except to contact my a capella group and band to post things? All the people I hang out with have my number. Taking it off my phone was the first step, and I'm already happier, now I just need to really limit myself to under 15 minutes a day spent on it.

These are things I want to do, and am planning on following through with. I finally realized that I'm not doing this for the esteem I can get. I think after all this hard work, I would have burned out long before now if that were the true reason. But I lost sight for a little bit, and actually made that a point of focus. The "esteem" I earn will be dead when I am, and the things I'll leave behind when I'm gone are those notes that I put on paper. Listening to other composers who are far better than me-- Ravel, Mahler, Wagner, Beethoven, Mozart, Ives, etc. etc. etc-- gives me fuel, and reason to KNOW that I am simply not anywhere NEAR where I want to be. I have a lot of skills that I can put on a piece of paper and make a really pretty resumé out of, but none of that actually matters because I am not happy with my level of musical ability. I'm really not. I am not nearly good enough, and I need to keep striving harder to be better. Which is now, a huge part of the reason I remind myself why I need to do this. The phrase "Rage to Master" definitely comes into play here, I think.

Also, guys lets be real. I just straight up LOVE music. I know that's tacky and cliché, but whatever. I love everything about it. I want to know more about it all the time. I seriously crave the knowledge of it every single day. To learn more, and to look back at where I came from where I am is exhilarating. To hear my music played by REAL people. There is seriously no feeling in the world that is just that pleasing. Seriously. It's crazy. I love the crap out of performing, too, but I'm doing composition because I just like to listen to people play my music and be able to think, "I made this, this is 100% mine."

Really, I can't imagine my life any other way. I could have been an English major or something, I consume "classic" and regular novels faster than popcorn. I could have stuck with Pre-Vet and had a very nice, cushy, stable, planned out future. I could have gone into Pre-Med, since I've always been gifted at understanding science very easily. But I realized last year doing all of that stuff, that I saw it all as passing fancies or distractions that kept me from doing this. Yeah, you read that right. I viewed a science class as a distraction from what I considered to be my "real" studies. It was about that time that I decided Pre-Vet, as much as I love animals, was no longer an option to make me happy in the future.

I had a conversation with my roommate last night, and realized that I don't know how to "do" a day without music. If I'm sick and can't sing, or have no ideas to write down, I'm practicing piano. But there's always some kind of idea somewhere, and I just like to write, too. Sometimes you enter this state of amazing flow while composing, and the joy of that rivals the joy of having music played live. Though I have to admit, this kind of writing is therapeutic, too. It gives me one non-musical activity, and part of the reason I'm a composer is because I obviously enjoy getting to see my thoughts put on paper (or in this case screen, whatever).

I still have trouble expressing the true depth of my feelings through anything besides notation, since words are very scary, leave little gray area, and extremely powerful, but I'm slowly getting to a place where I can trust a little more, I suppose. This is a small, paraphrased part of what music means to me, and a small reminder that will hopefully keep me strong as my life crescendoes from here on out into even more hectic-ness and chaos.

The thing is, I wouldn't trade it for the world.


P.S. Song of the day (rather, piece of the day): A movement called The Alcotts (3rd movement of Charles Ives' "Concord Mass.") We were able to listen to it in Music Theory, and the piece is simply delightful. Another reminder of why I love composing, because this is crazy beautiful, unique, tonally unstable, complicated, and yet rustic at the same time.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Halló minn vinir,

Life updates. Let me lay 'em down for ya.

Things are somehow busier than before. Sometimes I fear burnout, but then I remember why I'm doing all these things and how much I just need to do all of it, and stop fearing it but accept that I am just one of those people who will never be happy without a lot to do. I put it all on myself, so I really have no reason to complain.

Despite adding things on that stress me out and give me more to do, things are good. I'm finally getting a little bit better from a terrible cold I've been fighting all week. My a capella group now has full vocal parts after a crazy audition process that took up a lot of the past 7 days. My band, Purple Hays, had its first performance on Thursday that went smashingly. My present keeps me occupied, but my future seems bright from here.

As many have asked, here's a basic rundown of my typical week, excluding performances and extra things.

Caitlin's typical week:

Mondays and Wednesdays:

7:15am-8:15am-- Yoga

10:30am-- Conducting

11:30am-- Music Theory

12:30pm-- Sax and double reeds (Right now I'm playing oboe.)

1:30-3:10pm- MIDI notation and sequencing

3:30-5:20pm-- Chorale/Choral Union (Yes, my schedule is screwy so I had to do it THIS year. Ugh)

5:30-7pm-- Jazz Choir

9:30-11:30pm-- Pitch, Please rehearsal

Tuesdays and Thursdays:

(Thursdays) 4-8am--Workin' at the desk

9:30am-- Music learning and development

11am-- Earl of Squirrels (Aural Skills)

12pm-- String Skills (I play double bass in there, then violin later in the semester)

1:30pm-- Big band or lesson

3:30pm-- Either composition departmental or lesson (Thursdays, convo)

(Tuesdays) 6pm-- Lesson if I didn't have lessons during the above times

Thursdays 4:30--Jazz piano

Thursdays at 5:45ish-- Cello lessons

Thursdays at 7-- Purple Hays rehearsal

On Fridays, go ahead and remove conducting and MIDI, add in some extra stuff in the morning (such as possible voice lessons--stay tuned) and there you have it. My crazy schedule.

Yes, you did see three possible lesson times. I have to text Dr. Lee to let him know what my schedule is like the day of, and we decide on lesson times that way. As a result, he booked me for three lesson times.

I know this looks absolutely nuts... And it kind of is. But I honestly don't know how to live my life any other way. All I know is that one day, I want to make a living through music. And even though all of this keeps me extremely busy, I know that everything I'm doing will help me get to that point.

I added all these extra lessons on top of what I'm already doing, and will be adding voice lessons, because I am definitely plateauing with what my natural instinct can take me to. Especially voice. I've been very lucky so far, but need to improve my technique or I will not be able to sing forever like I want to. Not taking lessons at this point is doing me no favors, and learning these instruments is something that is important to me, and I realized I needed to stop putting all of it off.

That's about it!

Song of the day:

My Body by Young the Giant. It's a good one, and that chorus seems REEEEALLY fitting right about now.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Today is a gift so we call it..."

Hello, everyone!

It's been awhile, a few updates--

It was good. I had a chance to do a whole lot of nothing, but I got 2 things done on my list of things to do (the list had at least 8 things on it, but I'm just not going to think about it because it makes me frustrated with myself for being lazy over break). I slept a lot, played a lot of Pokémon with my brother and brother-from-another-mother (Trey), learned how to play guitar, and finished an arrangement for my a capella group.

The Present:
Life is good back here in Lincoln. Extremely busy, a teensy bit stressful, but good. I've been doing a lot of yoga recently and that's actually really really helped lower my stress level and center me in order to get through my long days, even though it means I have to be there by 7:15AM. In fact, I just bought a nice new yoga mat, because the idea of the Rec Center ones and all that sharing is really kind of grossing me out. Plus, the yoga instructor who teaches power vinyasa in the mornings is simply phenomenal.

The folk band that I started with my friends Molly and Jenny is going rather well, we're learning songs quickly and hoping to start gigging by mid-February.

I'm fairly certain that my schedule is the devil, but, even though my days are minimum 9 hours long at the music building, (excluding homework and a few groups that meet outside of SoM things) I still really love everything I'm doing.

As for sleep, I've been surprisingly (so far) getting a bit more of it, I'm up to 4-6 hours a night now, usually, and it feels great. I've just been managing my time better, and using MUCH less Facebook. I've cut down to maximum half an hour a day, and removed it from my phone. I don't have time to waste on things as trivial as that, and the only reason I still have it is because it's a powerful and indispensable networking tool, plus, I like posting funny things sometimes.

Work is good, I got all the shifts I wanted at all the times I wanted them for the semester, AND they're all in the building I live in, which makes me very happy.

I love all my classes, love all my teachers. Learning string bass and oboe currently, and I'll also have bassoon and another string instrument under my belt by the end of spring.

My ensemble situation is a little less than ideal, but that'll be fixed after this semester. Due to being Pre-Vet last year on top of all this, I haven't taken Women's choir yet, and after another series of unfortunate circumstances with my schedule, had to drop USingers. Hopefully it'll just be for the semester and Dr. Eklund will take me back, but it's just really unfortunate since we're doing Carmina Burana this semester. On the plus side, jazz choir is going rather well, and so is big band.

Also, some stress with the a capella group, but hopefully we'll work through it. Just part of being a brand-new organization I suppose. But, we've been taking it all in stride.

I love my friends (even though I don't get to hang out with them as much as I'd like to), school, making music. I mean, yeah, my stress level is usually ridiculous, but, again, that yoga is reeeeally starting to help. I highly recommend it to anybody, but especially people who live high-stress, busy lives. That time to meditate and reflect has been invaluable these past two weeks, especially when I got really sad that I couldn't make it an entire week without having to brew a cup of coffee at 9:30pm to do more homework. Oh well.

That's about it! Sorry that my life is boring, but I figured I'd post something.

Song of the day: "A Dustland Fairytale" by the Killers. Kind of an old one, but it's one of my most favorite songs of all time. So beautiful, and it has wonderful lyrics on top of wonderful music.

Also, here's my Soundcloud, again. It has music on it, 4 of which are original compositions (some latin and electronic music, along with some covers).


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Ink is Never Dry

Hello friends,

I must admit, the crazy class schedule, the many sleepless nights, and the overall constant stress level wore me down a bit. I'm more ready than ever for this break.

But, holy crap. What a satisfying semester for me musically!

I'm still thinking of my education major as a fallback, but I'm a lot happier with this fallback than I was when I started it. I realize there's a lot more to education than most people ever think about in their lifetimes, and have a pretty general knowledge of what it takes to be a good teacher. But Holy applicable to what I want to do with my life, Batman! All of this has helped me look at music in a different way, and those skills classes where I have to learn all the instruments are DEFINITELY extremely helpful as a composer.

Speaking of composing, you know, the main reason I'm here and stuff, I'm very proud of the work that I've done. I still didn't get quite as much done as I wanted to because of the crazy class load, etc, but I still over quadrupled my output from this time last year, which is crazy. Not only have I quadrupled my output, but I feel that my writing from the beginning of my career here (crazy to think that it's only been a year and a half) has improved immensely. My music has more texture, more life, and clearly more musical knowledge in it than ever before. The leaps and bounds I've made getting to study under Dr. Lee are enormous, and I am so so blessed to have him as my professor. I feel that I still need to find some direction by picking what I'd like to compose for, but I can at least rest happy knowing that just because the quantity of the music I'm outputting has grown, the quality hasn't diminished at all. It's gotten better.

Every time someone performs my music, I am so immensely satisfied. Getting to hear it played by real musicians who put the emotions into your music that you wanted, and sometimes bringing it to life in ways you didn't think it could breathe and live, is just wonderful. The novelty of having it on paper has worn off a little bit, but it's still there when I stop and think about it. Which I usually don't, because once I finish one thing, I've been known to not even take a break and open up a new document to start on the next project. I feel that I can't contain all the ideas bouncing around in my head sometimes. Which is great, but, again, causes me to lose sleep a lot of the time.

The one thing I worry about a bit is that I might be pushing myself too hard sometimes, you know? This semester was my hardest semester of school yet (and that includes my first one where I was in marching band and doing pre-vet). All the sleepless nights have added up and really burned me out, and again, I cannot wait for this break to come. The worst part is, my semester next semester is looking even harder, with even fewer breaks and less sleep... Ugh. Oh well.

I mean, this may just be because I'm writing this at 3:45AM at the end of my Midnight-4am shift at work, and I'm thinking too much like I often do, but there are almost too many things I could do with my life, and I'm frightened because fewer things in this world scare me more than uncertainty. And thinking about my future, there's a lot of it. This is probably just me being a dork and overthinking it all, but I've always been the type of person who could spin a B+ on my high school transcript to possibly ending up homeless and destitute by age 40 (Yes, that really happened when I got my one and only grade below an A- in highschool, I was scared for weeks until I realized that the B+ was probably not going to make every future employer ever think I was a moron). The fact that I very well may not end up living in this country at the end of my schooling here at UNL scares me. The fact that I may end  up staying here in the U.S. and possibly missing out on opportunities abroad also scares me. If I choose the wrong thing for myself, will I miss the right one forever? Will I always be second-guessing the choices that I make from here on out? The thing is, I feel that there are quite a few things out there that could make me happy, but the idea of not having the right combination of them is frightening. How many first-world problems here does it take to add up to a real one? Jesus.

But that's why I have to keep writing, working my ass off, and trying to be the best musician I can possibly be. Because there's so much uncertainty in my future, the one thing I can hold on to is knowing that I will never look back and say "I wish I tried harder." I will at least have the strength of knowing that I am working as hard as I can, and am physically, mentally, and emotionally incapable of working harder than I do. 

So wow, yeah, that post turned from happy to serious pretty quickly. Sorry about that. I usually don't let people see how I'm feeling. I don't like talking about feelings. Ick. But, it feels good to have that off my chest.

To lighten the gloominess of the end of this post, listen to this song:

It's called Waltz for Richard by First Aid Kit. They're a sister duo out of Sweden, and their music is absolutely beautiful and relaxing and wonderful.

But truthfully, the song that's capturing my mood best is this song called The Boxer. Originally Simon & Garfunkel, but this version is by Mumford and Sons. Listen to the lyrics and you'll see why. And hell, just the music, it's perfect.

Oh, as for everyday things, I had over 6 finals last week, on dead week (don't even get me started on how dumb I think that is), and only have one this upcoming week. It's a big one, but I can (hopefully) handle it with little stress. Also, I work until Saturday, will probably spend the night in Lincoln, and come back home to Columbus on Sunday. But the beautiful thing is, I'm not OBLIGATED to come back to Lincoln until January 4th. I mean, let's be real, I probably will, but the point is I don't HAVE to (except for to do schoolwork, which I will because I am so horribly lazy when I enter Columbus city limits).

Also, I've been SLEEPING this weekend. I've gotten almost 7 hours each night! It feels amazing. So I have that to be thankful for, too. :)

Alright, I'm rambling now, time to cut this off.



ALSO, SHAMELESS PLUG: I now have stuff on my SoundCloud and you should listen to it. Available for free downloads yadayada. Russia, Switzerland, Mexico, and Pakistan have apparently already been enjoying my music.