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Thursday, May 26, 2011

This is Hard

I have sent inquiries to Berlitz and to the Cambridge Institute about teaching English.  I know, it isn't what I came to Austria for, exactly.  Nevertheless, I am here, and something must be done to fill up the bank.  Almost immediately, I got a response back from Berlitz.  I have a contact person, the proper email address, and a request for a CV.  Now, of course, I have heard of a CV, but I have NEVER written one.  In my haste, before I left, I didn't rewrite my resume, either.  I lost my old one when my hard drive burned out. CV, or curriculum vitae, literally means life story.  They want my life story on a page.  Who cares about the job I had in 1992? I probably had two or three concurrent jobs that year, I don't exactly remember. I was busy surviving, socializing, and generally wasting my time, except that I remember going back to school that year for nursing.  I am not so sure I want the planet to know and remember all the time I wasted. It certainly isn't something I'm proud of. So, I distill from all the years of my life and all of my educational experiences a few marketable skills.  I am proficient at reading and writing in the English language.  I have created tools and educational materials to use in the workplace to make things more efficient.  I have been a team leader and a team player.  I have provided and received all manner of customer service.  Outside the realm of counting heart rates, drops of urine, starting IVs, and resuscitating people and being a public health educator for the last decade and a half of my life, what do I have to I have to offer people who aren't sick or needy?  It is quite thought provoking.

 Nursing was something I liked reasonably well, on the occasional good day, but at the end of my last day, I couldn't hit the exit door fast enough.  I remember it well.  Near the end of the shift, we received a patient from HVC (heart and vascular center) who was dying and afraid.  He had a Do Not Resuscitate order in place, but someone asked him again what should we do if there is an emergency.  He said he wanted the staff to try to save him.  So, the nurse told us that he rescinded his DNR (although there was no accompanying physician order on the chart to make him a "full code"). The nephrologist had signed off this guy's case, so he wouldn't be getting any more dialysis.  His death was certain to come in a short time whether or not we made efforts to resuscitate him. The primary nurse was not able to get a clear order from the hospitalist about whether or not to resuscitate.  The cardiologist was angry and refused to give orders for additional vasopressors.  The nurse was stuck in the middle of this mess.  Then, it happened. Shift change arrived, and so did this patient's time to expire.  The nurse called the doctor again to see what he wanted us to do.  He gave this lame order: call a code and have the ER doctor intubate this patient.  Intubation was not going to save a man with no kidney function, and very little heart function.  When I left that night, the ER doc was putting in the ET tube.  I was never more disgusted about the treatment of a patient.  I was never more ashamed of the doctors, my facility, and my profession.  In how many things must one participate in that violate professional ethics and human rights, not to mention COMMON SENSE? I threw away the scrubs I was wearing and changed into "street" clothes before I left that night.

As horrible as that experience was, and as much as I never want to do it again, it would have been much easier to stay where I was.  It would have been more convenient to go back to work after a day or two off than it would be to change my life.  Life change is hard, and it takes work and determination, much like this CV I am about to tackle.  I pray that the CV shows my skills, talents, abilities and turns out to be a wonderful marketing tool for me.  How do you put that kind of experience into a CV?  I have lots of it. On the other hand, maybe this is hard because I am not proud of the education that I should have gotten for myself and did not.  Whatever the case, I have to write a CV between now and tomorrow afternoon (and a Mozart/Strauss concert to see tonight).  Please feel free to share your thoughts.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Starbucks, Wagner, and miscellaneous thoughts about perspective

I had this post nearly finished and was doing some editing when I lost power.  Now, I must start from the beginning.  I hope it is as nice the second time around!

Although there is much better coffee in Vienna, I like Starbucks. Specifically, I like the Starbucks near Stephansdom.  The streets are filled with pedestrian traffic. No cars are allowed in this immediate area.  It is busy and full of life.  At this particular Starbucks, the baristas are always friendly and helpful if I am searching for a German word or two.  While they all speak impeccable English, I haven't tried ordering off the menu just yet.  Today, I went in armed with my dictionary, computer, and the volume that holds DICH THEURE HALLE.  I started translating it this morning.  As I was chatting with the baristas alternating in German and English, they asked why I was here, and I told them about studying voice and singing.  They promised me free coffee if I would sing for them.  So, I gave them a bit of Andrew Lloyd Webber's PIE JESU.  It was nice to be "paid" in coffee for a few phrases of a song.  It was flattering to hear their compliments, and I felt extraordinarily grateful for my "Vienna Debut" this morning. They told me they want to hear Wagner next time! I have a bit of work to do before DICH THEURE HALLE is ready.  Someone told me yesterday not to be afraid to come out of the practice room and to deliver what I have to give.   This advice is so appreciated on so many levels of my life. My Starbucks debut was just the tip of the iceberg. The dream feels very alive today.

The dream is alive, and new perspective has been gained.  It is something, that to me is worth sharing even though I haven't completely understood or processed the things I have been pondering.  As I was in church yesterday, someone shared about a book he read that helped him gain perspective on the loss (via miscarriage) of two babies recently.  I was interested to hear about this from the father's perspective, but as he shared with certainty that those two little lives are in God's hands, I started seeing the babies of women close to me that had been lost.  They are in God's hands.  In my mind, I have a picture of what that looks like.  Suddenly, as he was talking, I saw a picture of all the patients I had taken care of over the years.  While they were in my care, I felt responsible, maternal, protective, and as if they were dependent on me.  The picture I saw was a snapshot of perspective from an aerial view.  While I cared for those patients and helped them get well or helped them pass, I was only a vessel, like a glass holding water for a thirsty person, for the care that they needed.  All that time, they weren't in my hands, but God's. As much as they were not in my hands, they (and I) were in God's hands.  As for singing, I was once reminded that a singer is just a vessel for the message of the composer. The aria was created by the composer.  The orchestra is full of people playing their parts, the singer is just the "delivery boy."  That keeps things in perspective.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Remembering what's important

visit with Cordy March 2010

Grandma Maria Alicia
Today is the one month anniversary of this blog, and last time I checked, the number of page hits was 1215.  I am so grateful for all the support I have had on this adventure!  Today, I received the book I ordered about auditioning.  I am too old, too fat, and too untalented according to this book (I'm feeling like I wasted some precious dollars on this purchase.)  The first two things I had already heard many times before I left on this adventure, and the great internal struggle I was experiencing told me to just go for it anyway.  Sometimes success comes from the most unlikely places.  When I see videos of Paul Potts and Susan Boyle, I am inspired.  Are either of them the greatest singers on the planet?  No. Nonetheless, I love them both for the talent they have and for the nerve they displayed in their desire to share the gifts they have with the rest of us.  I follow Paul Potts on facebook, and I wish him all the success on the planet.  His success flies in the face of authors Marita Knobel and Brigitte Steinert.

This brings me to what's important.  It is important to have courage to give what you have to the people around you.  The ripple effect touches everyone.  Having courage inspires courage.  Giving love inspires love.  The photos in today's blog are an example of what's important.  Cordy is my "Mexican sister."  She is an old friend with whom I reconnected via facebook.  When we finally met again, it was almost as if the intervening years hadn't occurred.  It did not change the love we feel for each other.  Her children (who came during those intervening years) welcomed me into their home and into part of their lives also.  They are important to me.  They are not family of my gene pool, but they are family of my heart and of our choice.  The day these photos were taken was when I met Grandma Maria Alicia.  Cordy snapped this photo as I was saying goodbye to her.  She was saying a blessing to me, to my life, and to all my future to come.  Today, I need to remember what's important.  That doesn't include absorbing advice from authors previously unknown to me.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guten Morgen, Wien!

I downloaded this photo from facebook, it isn't mine, but it sure made me smile and gave me inspiration when I saw it.
  As I went out today in my skirt and cowboy boots, I wondered if anyone would stare at me.  No, nobody paid attention to the boots/skirt combo here.  I would have gotten more flack for that in Ohio! However, frequently, people do look at me quite strangely when I am speaking.  As I was in line to mail off postcards to my friend, Delta Charlie, I rehearsed in my head what I would say to the clerk.  I had it worked out just fine.  When my turn in line came, the clerk greeted me, and I him.  I asked in German, what it costs to send the little cards to the USA.  He answered me.  For some reason, I have trouble understanding numbers. I asked him to say it slower.  He looked at me as if I came from Mars!  I told him that my German isn't very good.  Again, he looked at me strangely and repeated the numbers. He switched to English, and he curiously started asking about what brought me here and exchanged pleasantries. Of course, there was a line, so that was the end of the conversation.  Another day,  I was at a cafe when I met an interesting lady.  She heard me speak to the waiter in German, and I looked over at her.  SHE was staring at me.  I didn't take my gaze away as I was trying to decide whether to say, "hi" or "hallo."  Finally, I just broke into English conversation and told her what I was thinking.  She told me that she was looking at me because I speak German without an accent.  When I ran out of vocabulary words, it was strange to her until we started conversing.  She works as a translator, and she can usually hear a foreign accent.  If she thought I spoke without an accent, then I will take that as a great compliment to my diction and the German music I have sung through the years.  This phenomenon makes me want to be able to speak fluidly in the mother tongue of my ancestors.

There is more German music yet for me to sing. Today, I have been on YouTube listening to recordings of a couple of Schubert pieces that I hope to learn and perform.  Here are the links:  and .  The second is a clip from a 1930s movie.  I couldn't help myself!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Photos of the basement and the orange car.

The basement photos were taken in the klavier shop where I practice.  I see this basement frequently.  The orange car is one that I saw parked down the street from my flat, and I couldn't resist taking photos. It is a Lamborghini.  I don't think I had seen one until I saw this car.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More small successes

Today, I had an early morning voice lesson.  Let's face it, 10 am is early for a voice lesson.  Those of you who sing KNOW of that which I speak.  To get there, I took two trains and a tram and was still 15 minutes early.  So,  I had time to just look around unhurriedly.  I was in the U2, minding my own business, and I saw a sign at the coffee/bakery.  It was in German, of course.  I read it.  I read EVERY WORD of it.  I understood it without having to translate it in my head.  HOLY MOLY!  HAPPINESS hit me.  I read; I understood, and I didn't have to translate to myself.  I'm pretty good at figuring things out, but I was ecstatic when I realized that I didn't try to figure it out, and I did nothing at that moment to understand, it was just there. Sorry for the belabored point, but that moment was a big deal to me.

Later, as I was enjoying the beautiful, warm weather at an outdoor cafe, I met the lady sitting next to me. As I was talking to her, she was staring at me so strangely as I was stumbling for German vocabulary.  I gave up quickly and asked if she spoke English.  She is an interpreter, and speaks perfect British English.  She said that she was amazed at my German because I speak without an accent.  I laughed.  I told her that  I wish I could say that about my English.  She was confused.  I told her that I have lived in several different parts of the US, and my friends from down South think I speak like a Northerner, and my friends from up North think I speak like a Southerner, and the native Texans know that I "ain't from around here" by the way I speak. Kelly, my hair guy, will be happy to find out that my new friend gave me the name and number of a salon.

At my early morning voice lesson, as I was struggling to correctly form my vowels, I remember an old voice teacher that once told me my German diction was better than my English diction.  Maybe I will have better luck if I think of vocalizes in terms of German vowels. (OK, it's worth a try, right? :))

The image below of the praying woman is still my favorite of all my Vienna photos.  It expresses the gratitude I feel to God for the opportunity to be here living the life I have.  It is gratitude for what has been, what is, and what is to come.

King Triton?

This statue is outside one of the churches I visited Easter Weekend.  I don't remember which saint this is, but he reminded me of King Triton.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Stepping forward

Since the first voice lesson, I have accomplished several things.  First, I found a practice room, complete with piano.  I have been able to go and actually sing freely! The first couple of times I went there, they were polite, but not friendly the way Americans think of being friendly.  One day, Herr Franz was not so busy as I was leaving. I started a conversation in German with him.  Now, everyone in the shop acts as if they are glad to see me when I arrive.

Next, I found a new voice teacher, one who was not at all rude, who believes that my vocal goals are achievable.  He's hired.  I have another lesson on Monday. I love singing in his studio.  It is in the bottom floor of a 100 year old apartment building that has concrete walls.  The natural feedback in that room is fantastic!

 Traditionally, teachers have used various tools to motivate their students that don't work.  Offering encouragement, giving perspective, and finding the right words to instruct are, on the other hand, quite helpful.  I once had a teacher that I was stuck with two semesters.  Maybe she thrived on drama, but she used to tell her students that they would never do anything, weren't good enough, etc until they were upset, and then expected them to sing during the lesson.If there was praise to be given, it was always in the form of a back-handed compliment, "If you knew what to do with your voice, you would be peeling the paint off the walls with it." That was my personal favorite "compliment."  I was friends with a few more of her students, so I am acutely aware that she wasn't picking on JUST me.  That was her way.  Some people could just let that stuff go right over their heads and proceed.  I'm not sure that woman is still alive, but during my time with her,  she was another one of those "has been" divas that needed to continue to assert her self importance.  Lots of us paid the price for that.

Last Sunday, I went to a church recommended to me by one of my Austrian facebook buddies.  The English service is comprised of Brits, a couple Americans, a Polish woman, a German woman, and Austrians who speak good English as well as those wanting to learn more English.  It is relatively low tech compared to the contemporary worship style churches seen in the US at this time.  Being there reminded me of a church I went to during my teenage years.  It was kind of a hippie-Jesus sort of meeting.  The people were super friendly, and at that moment, that is just what I needed.  The sense of isolation was bothering me, and it was nice to feel welcome rather than being tolerated as a tourist.

Last but not least, of the accomplishments for this week: I got registered for health insurance.  It is weird going to the place where the healthcare is delivered to get signed up for insurance.  I was a little nervous seeing all the people in scrubs.  I have a nightmare about going back to work in nursing.  Here, it is worse because I don't know the scope of practice, laws, or enough German to function in that capacity. 

 Sometimes, I think about nursing again, but I still don't want to do it. I remember the day I KNEW I had done this long enough.  The day I KNEW I would be putting my notice in.  It took a lot of nerve to gather the courage to leave the familiar and take a great leap of faith into the complete unknown.