Monday, October 29, 2007

I Recommend Fiori

I was telling my friend Kevin last week about how I’d pulled something and my neck and shoulders were sore. Kevin told me in no uncertain terms that what I needed was a massage. He sent me the link to Fiori, a spa near the Galleria, that he had visited with Kari. I was impressed by the website, thought the prices were reasonable, and was thrilled to learn that they had Sunday appointments. I made one for this past Sunday, between lunch and the HCB concert. Granted, a relaxing afternoon at the spa isn’t something you should squeeze into your calendar with a shoehorn, but I had no choice if I wanted to do something about my neck any time in the foreseeable future.

This

Place

Is

Amazing.

I got there early for my appointment, as requested, filled out a form that asked me some very pertinent questions, such as my gender preference for people providing my services, whether or not I bruise easily, allergies to foods or herbs, etc. Then I was shown to the ladies locker room. Which was palatial. It had wood paneled lockers with key pad combination locks, sinks made to look like basins of glass on top of marble counters, two large showers, two large toilet stalls, a steam room, bottles of chilled water, towels, towels, and more towels, and in my locker, a stack of towels, some washcloths, and a soft, fluffy, chocolate brown robe. The attendant brought me my spa slippers, and told me to find her in the shop when I was done changing, and she’d show me around.

I put on my swimsuit, just in case, wrapped myself up in that warm, thick robe, and padded off to the shop for my tour. The attendant showed me the pool (too cold), the underground mineral bath (YES in HOUSTON!), and the Jacuzzi hot tub. That’s about as far as I made it. She said she’d send someone down to get me when it was time for my manicure and pedicure (after wandering over Italian cobblestones in the dust of Rome and Tuscany wearing sandals, my feet needed some pampering). I soaked in the warm, foamy water, relaxed by the sound of water flowing all around me in the small, rock-walled room. I had the place entirely to myself at the time. I closed my eyes and cupped my hands along the water’s tumbling surface, feeling the fizz of the bubbles as I trapped them in my hands. It reminded me of a dream I had where I lay along the hill side of my old home as clouds skimmed along the ground, and I reached out to catch them as they raced by.

I kinda got bored of sitting around after a while, so before anyone came for me, I went back to the locker room to towel off and put on dry things again before padding along in my robe to the shop again to figure out where to go for my nails. The attendant sent me to the top of the stairs to find the quiet room and wait for the manicurist to collect me. I went up and found some soft comfy couches and chairs, and sank down into an armchair to wait.

In a bit Tracie came to get me, and took me to the manicure and pedicure room. She told me to pick out an enamel, but I asked if I could get a buff shine instead, and she said of course. (I really don’t like nail polish much. It’s fun, but it chips too easily, and I don’t have the patience to let it dry properly.) We started with my hands, and while I was quiet, she just let me be quiet. Eventually I got over my usual shyness, and asked how long she’d been a manicurist. She laughed and said too long, since high school, but that she’d always worked with people, and was glad she had this to fall back on. After a number of other jobs, all requiring more patience than I certainly have, she had come back to this, and enjoyed her job very much.

We talked about how beautiful the building was, and the attention to detail in its d├ęcor. I haven’t really mentioned this, but the spa is a rock and timber building with slate floors, for the most part, or warm tile, covered with sisal mats or rugs. The walls are painted warm colors in some rooms, or a soft ivory, with decorative patterns painted inside the archways or around the wooden doors and wooden doorposts and lintels. The windows are shuttered with thick wooden blinds, and the lighting is soft and indirect. As Tracie gave me my pedicure, I could look alternately into a small, sunny courtyard, or at the bronze and amber chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The room with the mineral pool had a blue ceiling and red ceiling painted over with beige lattice that reminded me of a ceiling in the Vatican museum. Warm woods and leathers and ceramics were everywhere, and the whole looked quite a bit like the pictures Summer showed me of the villa they visited near Siena for a stargazing trip.

After Tracie told me what not to do to my nails in the future (I did rather hack at my toenails recently, since it had been so long since my last pedicure), and buffing all my nails to a lovely shine, she released me for my massage. I went back up to the top level, and finally found the quiet room, though all the ottomans were taken, so I didn’t go in, but instead sat on another plump armchair just beside the curtains that separated it from the corridor to the massage rooms.

My masseuse, Maziel, came and led me to a dim, wood-floored room and a soft massage bed. She asked if there was anything in particular I needed her to work on, so I told her about my shoulder. She let me choose between eucalyptus, orange, or lavender oils (I chose orange) and left so I could get myself situated. The massage bed was warm (I think there was an electric blanket somewhere in there), and the sheets covering me were a cotton so rich it felt almost like silk. She came back in and started my massage. She was pretty shocked at how tight my shoulders were. I think at least 30 of the 50 minutes I got were spent working out the tension there.

The knot in my right shoulder felt like a golf ball-sized lump of pain that she kneaded and kneaded at until it finally broke up and dispersed back into the muscles of my shoulder. She did my legs and arms, and kept coming back to that shoulder to work it around some more, stretch out the muscles, loosen the joints. It hurt pretty bad, at times, but it’s the sort of pain you grit your teeth through because you know it will only get better by getting worse. She told me I’d be sore today, and I was this morning, but I also have full mobility in my neck and head again, in spite of slight bruising over everything between my shoulder blades. I did check off on the form that I bruise easily. Still, it was worth it.

She finished off by massaging my neck, my temples, and all through my scalp, then waited outside while I robed and slippered up, to take me to the quiet room. She handed me a glass of water with a hint of lemon and lime, and settled me into one of the tan, micro-fiber covered ottomans in the dim room behind a chocolate velvet curtain. There was a rich brown blanket to cover up my legs, and two huge candles on the center table, melting into soft golden curves beside a bunch of stargazer lilies. The lamps were dimmed, and I didn’t bother with the books on the tables, but closed my eyes and let my mind drift along with the music playing softly from somewhere.

After some number of minutes, I began to hope that the music was computer generated, and that no real musicians had been forced to sit in a studio for hours playing subtly shifting chords. I don’t care how celestial the sounds are, pages full of whole notes would just be cruel and unusual. I think it was mostly synthesized, at least, but still, if a person had to sit there and push the keys, I pity them, and hope it paid well. It was just background music, and thoroughly innocuous, but still!

By the time I’d gotten completely lost in the sounds, found myself again, and finished my glass of water, I decided it was time to refill the glass (“Drink LOTS of water, okay?” Maziel had said) and go sit in the steam room for at least ten minutes, like she’d recommended (“Otherwise you’ll be really sore tomorrow”).

So I slipped back down to the locker room with a fresh glass of ice water, wrapped myself in a humongous towel grabbed a chilled, damp, lavender-scented washcloth, turned the steam room dial to ten minutes, and went in. I sat on the caramel colored stone-tiled bench listening to the dial outside tick, which fortunately drowned out the sound of those interminable major chords, until a strange rumbling gurgle in the wall made me open my eyes to watch this new novelty: steam pouring from a spigot near the floor, filling the little room, clouding the air until I couldn’t see my own hands on my towel-covered lap, and the light above and the light from the door were just a gentle glow through the haze. I shut my eyes and breathed deeply in and out through my nose. Breathing through my mouth made me cough on the warm dampness in the air. My nose filtered most of it out, and (forgive me for reporting a less than graceful and sophisticated detail) the steam made my nose drip like a faucet. I found this amusing, intriguing, and thoroughly predictable, once I thought about it, but still, it surprised me.

Ten minutes wasn’t enough in the steam room. When all my lovely humidity had seeped away, I went out and reset for another 10 minutes. This time was better because the steam was warmer to start with and I found the spray bottle of eucalyptus and citrus scented something or other that made my nose tingle. I decided after 20 minutes of steam that I shouldn’t push things, because I still needed to shower and go change into a black formal for my concert.

I don’t think I got any more than half of my massage oil off in the shower, but didn’t mind going to the concert smelling slightly fruity, so I dried off, dressed, and paid my tab. The entire afternoon, gratuity included, cost me $188.80. Not bad at all for 3.5 solid hours of luxury!

Now, how do I get rid of thing lingering pain in my trumpet playing muscles that made me have to come home early from jazz band, and how do I get rid of the lingering guilt for spending so much money on luxury and not on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and defending the widow and orphan? I think that's another blog for another day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Regrets

You know, there's not really a lot that I've done or not done that I look back on these days with regret. I've made some mistakes that have had a pretty significant impact on my life, and it's taken a lot, but I've learned to live with them, knowing that I made the best decisions I could based on what I knew and felt at the time, and I've come to realize that 1) it's not my fault I didn't know everything I ended up needing to know, 2) all I can do, any given day of my life, is my best. If I do my best, and it doesn't work out, that may be cause for frustration, sadness, even grief. But not regret.

I can live with the things I've done, for the most part, without regret. There's just this one thing. What bothers me isn't missing out on the chance I had. I wish I had done things differently now, but it's a pretty fair chance that things happened for the best. What bothers me is *why* i missed the chance. I could have decided to stand back because of a million reasons why it was the smart thing to do. Not that the smart thing to do has much pull with me. After all, the smart thing, as I've found, isn't always the best thing. But I didn't decide to pass. I missed my chance because I was... afraid.

By the time I got things sorted out in my own head, and realized that I was stalling, not deciding, and that I might decide to do things differently, well, my chance was gone. Or at least greatly reduced. Or just much more complicated. I don't know. I'm back to sorting, because things changed. Life didn't wait for me to make up my mind. It moved on without me. I understand that happens. It's my job to keep up, not the world's job to wait.

So this time, I'll stay on the sidelines, I guess. And I imagine it's for the best. Things tend to work out the way they're supposed to, whether I'm out there trying to make them, or just letting them make themselves. But I hate that it was fear, uncertainty, insecurity, and lack of confidence and self-knowledge that made me miss my chance.

If I'd made an actual decision, I'd be better with living with it. The fact that I pretty much just dithered and waffled away my chance...

That's what I regret.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Du Jour

Soup! Of course!

It would be a pretty silly idea, since I'm singing in a huge concert on Tuesday next, to go to the Rice football game on Saturday. I don't feel like anywhere near half a fan if I'm not yelling my guts out, and face it, that's just a baaaaad idea at this point.

So instead, I've decided I will make soup. Yesterday's (rather ephemeral) cool snap put me in the mood for thick rich hearty soupy goodness. The question becomes, what kind of soup?

I have a bag of navy beans in the pantry and ham and venison sausage in the freezer. That has worked well for me in the past. But I'd really like to make chicken noodle. I can't get my egg noodles from Weikel's, though. Well, you know, I could. I could get up early on Saturday, pack a cooler, drive out to La Grange, grab some noodles, and while I'm there, really I ought to buy the chicken from the city market. Because it will be about 20 times as fresh as anything I'll get here.

But that involves getting up Saturday morning. Hah, sooooo not happening. I bet I can find egg noodles and a reasonably fresh fowl this side of Highway 6. Then some cheese cloth. A large onion. Carrots. I have spinach leaves. I like to boil them in, then pull them out. I don't really like spinach, but it adds something.

Yeah. Chicken noodle soup. That sounds like a good sort of day.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Always an Adventure

I clomped down the stairs of my apartment this morning at 0-too-early and out onto the sidewalk. I glanced up and was stopped dead in my tracks by the brilliance of the stars. In Houston, you don't normally see stars. The air was crisp and clear, and the sky was dark. All the defining points of Orion were visible, my favorite constellation. He rises high in the sky for the autumn and early winter, my favorite part of the year, with Canis Major and the Dog Star. The brightest star in the sky. Venus blazed in the east with two other planets. I haven't been following my astronomy reports, so I don't know which one, but they were like diamonds. I was floored.

Of course, I still had that flight to New Orleans to catch. I got to the airport in plenty of time, and decided that a breakfast taco from the Pappasito's in the airport sounded good. Better than one of the bagel sandwiches from the counter in the Hudson News. So I got one and wandered down to my gate. I sat down to eat it. It tasted really good, but about halfway through, the foil at the bottom got really hot, then my knee felt hot. The eggs were... a bit runny. :-(

So I set some stuff down and grabbed some napkins. I had my computer bag on my shoulder, and when I picked my taco up and put it on the bag it came in to contain the dribble, my bag slipped down, jerked my arm, and bag and taco went flying, and, I kid you not, they did a 360 degree flip together, and the taco landed on top of the bag on the ground.

Splattering my shoe, pants cuffs, and computer bag with egg water. I sat down laughing with my head in my hands. What else ya gunna do? I mopped up, and since my taco landed face-up, so to speak, I finished eating.

I got on the plane right on time (i.e. way too early), got all settled, and looked around me, and noticed something funny about the overhead bins. They were blue, and had... pictures of... Shamu... and... the Sea World logo... and... one of them *said* Shamu!!! Was it really....???

I looked out my window at the rotor.

Which was encased in a smooth cylinder panted in black and white! I was on a Shamu plane! Eeeeee!!!!

I was in the sky before the sun was. That's a hard way to start the day. But the sun was bright in a blue sky when we landed. And the traffic on I-10 was a swamp. And my cabbie was *nuts*. It was like that scene in Office Space when the lane the guy isn't in is always the faster one. But my cabbie was undeterred. At one point he went across all three lanes, then went right back. At some point I started pondering why on earth I would feel complicit in his insanity, just because I was paying for the transit. Huh.

Another thought to ponder came from a bumper sticker I saw on a flatbed. "Our trucks don't run on Citgo" it read. Anyone know what's up with that? Is there something I should know about Citgo?

My meeting went well. My mission to get us set up with an application the Shell folks keep wanting us to use turned out to be a wild goose chase. Ugh. Spun my wheels on that all afternoon, then dragged myself out the door, into another cab, slightly more sanely driven through a similar traffic tangle, and into the airport, where I walked calmly and quietly to the nearest Popeye's. Did I mention that I was chasing geese so intently that I didn't eat or drink anything at all the entire day after my breakfast taco and diet coke? Oy.

At some point during my morning meeting my phone had gone off and I'd quickly shut it up. I finally remembered to check my voice mail, and the message was from Kid saying she'd be coming to my concert so to save her a ticket!!! Yay!

I'd IMed Frank during the day and found out he was in New Orleans, and would be coming home in the evening too, so I agreed to meet up with him at the airport for a drink. It was fun to chat with him, though I hate it when he starts razzing me about going home early after HCB. Just because *he* doesn't get sick when he doesn't get sleep... grmblgrmblgrmbl pout.

Frank had to leave earlier than I did. And then my flight was late. The 6:30pm to Houston is ALWAYS late. Ugh. So I was up in the sky after the sun had left for the day. The stars were faint in a dark hazy sky when I got back to my apartment. And I'm home and I'm tired and my throat hurts. Not a good sign. Done with adventures. I'm going to bed.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

October Sky

I decided this evening that I didn't need enough in the grocery department to justify getting in my car and driving to the Krogers. I only needed a few things I could get from Walgreens. And Walgreens is not but a mile away. I could just walk. And for good measure, I took a shoulder bag to carry my groceries home in.

Of course, when I stepped outside of my apartment building, it was raining. But not all that hard. No big deal. So, I just kept walking. There was a tree on the far side of the bridge near my apartment dropping thousands of tiny yellow flowers that smelled like clover honey from a late summer harvest. The bayou looked like it was covered in embroidered lace, with light dimpling off of the surface as the water rippled by. It was such a calm and peaceful evening. It took me about half an hour to get up to 18th Street, then I got my groceries and headed home.

And started wishing I had a real camera with me. A scrap of rainbow floated in the southern sky.


The sunset over the pine trees in the White Oak Bayou park started out radiantly beautiful...


...and only got more glorious.


So my cell phone doesn't take the best pictures. Some of the houses in the neighborhood north of my apartment have started putting out Halloween decorations, and in spite of the heavy damp warmth of the evening air, they made it feel like autumn. Especially when I stopped to watch a bat, fluttering like a black rag through the air, swooping and leaping after it's tiny prey against the stone gray clouds.

One of the things I got was popcorn, which is such an autumnal, after-harvest sort of thing, that I think I'll go pop some and settle in for the rest of the evening.

Fall is my favorite time of year.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Happy (Early) Birthday to Me!

So, I know it's more than two months off, but I got the idea, and it seemed like a really good one, so I acted on it. I have tentatively bought myself a birthday present. The tentative part is because my boss hasn't said yea or nay to my request for vacation Thursday, December 20, and Friday, December 21.

Provided I get those days off, here's the plan. Party Wednesday night, yo. My last night of being a 20-something. I don't plan on getting wasted, so sorry, but I want to be surrounded by all sorts of friends and well wishers and fun folk.

Then, the next morning, I do what I pretty much always want to do (no, besides that). I drive west. I head for the hills. I bury myself in the Hill Country for two days. Two days stolen away from the weekly routine of work and band. Two nights hidden away, quietly recharging before for a whirlwind holiday season with family and friends and travel and celebration. My soul is tired in ways it never has been, and I haven't been out to my hills nearly enough. My birthday present to myself is two nights in a bed and breakfast near Canyon Lake. This B&B, to be precise. This room, to be very precise.

No concrete plan yet for those days, of course, but I'd like to spend some time doing a little family Christmas shopping in Medina, Boerne, Fredericksburg, and circle back to Canyon Lake in time to check in between 3PM and 5PM. I'll take some books. My laptop. I'll do some writing. I'll walk out at night into the cold crystal air to bask in the starlight, provided it isn't cloudy. I'll eat German food and explore little nooks and crannies. I will REST. Really and truly rest.

Then it will be off to Mom's house, not really so far away, where I can celebrate my birthday with the incredibly woman who was there before they started, and the amazing young lady she gave me as a sister. Then on to La Grange for Christmas with Momo and aunts and uncles and cousins, then back to Houston for work, ugh, and in a few weeks a couple of weddings, yay!

It's so far away, unfortunately. But it will come. I'll tell Mom and Kid and Grandma that instead of a birthday present (I always get more than enough for Christmas anyway) they can help send me off for these two days of peace. Or welcome me when I get there with some of the extras I could request. Would you look at this list from my confirmation e-mail!!!
  1. Vintner Dinner Basket: Basket filled with smoked salmon, assorted hard cheeses, and cheese spread, assorted seasonal fruit, artisan bread, olives, and cheese cake for dessert. A bottle of wine from our local vineyard, Dry Comal Creek is also in the basket for your enjoyment. $95
  2. Sweetheart Tray: Cheddar Cheese, Cream Cheese with Raspberry Chipotle Sauce, Seasonal Fresh Fruit, Box of Chocolates, Gourmet Crackers, and your choice of sparkling grape juice, or champagne. All served on a sliver tray with flowers. $75
  3. Romance Tray: (same as above, but in smaller quantities and no flowers. You can not keep the glasses as well) $55
  4. Hot Tub/Jacuzzi Tub Spa Pack: Your spa tote is filled with bath pearls, Safe Liquid Aroma Therapy for the spa, After Spa Lotion & Body Mist, an acrylic body massager, and jell candle. $45
  5. Fun Spa Pack: Your spa tote is filled with 2 bottles of Safe Liquid Aroma Therapy for the spa, Soy Candle Travel Tin, Bath Spa Pearls, and acrylic body massager. $35
  6. Cosy Bath Robe & Slippers: Take your experience here at Biscuit Hill home with you when you order our robe and slippers. Our robes are so soft you don't want to take them off. $75 for robe & $10 for slippers.
  7. Guy Goody Package: Your special guy will love this one, a thermal 6 pack tote stocked with all the goodies a guy loves, beef jerky, mixed nuts, 6 pack of his favorite beverage, popcorn, and much more, you can see all the details on our Celebrations Page of our web site. $65
  8. Bubbles & Berries Package: Great way to kick start your romantic stay at Biscuit Hill. The service is light and refreshing after your drive. Sit back enjoy your Champagne or Sparkling Grape Juice and a plate of Fresh Strawberries and Sweet Dipping Cream. $25 Add flowers & vase - Total $45
  9. 6" Mini Cake: Just the right size for your stay with us. Make this Birthday, Anniversary, or Proposal very special with this cake. See our Cake Page on our Celebrations Tab at the web site for details. $15
  10. King Cup Cakes: These are the size of 2 cup cakes in one. $5 each
Shame I wouldn't have any way of really using one of those acrylic body massagers all by myself, but even if I had someone to take, taking someone would kind of defeat the purpose of a luxurious, restful, just-me getaway. Still, the aroma therapy for the spa and the floofy soft robe and slippers do sound incredibly tempting. I think at the very least I owe myself a birthday cake, no? :-)

Sigh. It's blissful just to think about!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Quality of Life

I’m sitting here curled up on my couch. I called in sick because I woke up feeling like I’d been run over by an old Chrysler with its muffler dragging. In the back of my mind for the past few weeks I’ve known that something has got to give, and I was just hoping it wouldn’t be me. Well, I guess we’ve found the weakest link. Now it’s something else’s turn.

By all typical standards used to define quality of life, I’ve got it made. I have no chronic or incurable illnesses. My income exceeds my expenditures, and my expenditures are enough to put me in a very comfortable apartment. To surround myself with a sufficient number of beautiful, entertaining, and educational objects. I have plenty of clothing, much of it fairly expensive (which wouldn’t be the case if I could wear jeans to work every day). I have plenty of food. I have clean hot water to shower in and clean cold water to drink. I have a car that isn’t in the habit of breaking down. I can afford to put gas in it, and I drive it down the street to work or across state lines to New Orleans with the same lack of concern or consideration about whether or not the car can make the trip. I’ve traveled to Europe twice now, and have the luxury of enough time off from work to make several trips a year. And to call in sick when I need to. I have enough and more than enough to the extent that I’m currently examining ways in which my more-than-enough can help shift someone else’s not-quite-enough into at least just-enough. I have wonderful friends. I am blessed with more than the average share of brains and talent. For all this, if you asked me right now if I have a good life, I’d have to say that while it sure looks like it, it sure doesn’t feel like it.

I am officially the poster child for Over-committers Anonymous. I play trumpet for three bands, sing in my church choir, and now in a performance chorus. I have one night during the work week that I’m not committed to be somewhere. Leaving out my actual full time job, which might occasionally require overnight travel, my schedule looks a little bit like this:

  • Monday: Jazz Band Rehearsal 7-10pm
  • Tuesday: Choral Rehearsal 6:30-9:30pm
  • Wednesday: Dinner 5:30-6:30pm
  • Wednesday: MOB Rehearsal 7-8pm
  • Wednesday: HCB Rehearsal 8:30-10pm
  • Thursday: NOTHING! WOOHOO (Oh, but I could be at MOB rehearsal 7-8:30pm if I were actually going to be at a game)
  • Friday: Valhalla and Dinner 5pm-whenever
  • Saturday: Probably dinner with folks, and maybe a football game, and maybe a chorus retreat
  • Sunday: Choir Practice and Mass 9-11pm, maybe a chorus rehearsal, maybe an HCB concert

It’s just a little bit insane. It’s not that I feel obligated to see my friends, but I like to see my friends, you know? So I put them on the schedule. Those are the things I do because they’re fun! So, I’m thinking, maybe I should make a matrix, and rank all of my activities based on three factors:

  1. How fun they are
  2. How they help me grow
  3. How obligated I feel to be there

Then I think I need to pick at least one thing to quit. It’s hard, because I do all of these things for good reasons. But there are so many things outside of my control that could lower the quality of my life, why on earth am I doing this to myself? Not only do I not get enough sleep, to the point that I start to get sick, I’m constant feeling like I have somewhere to be and something to do. And that kind of stress, that feeling of being put upon (by myself, ultimately), has started giving me heartburn and frantic dreams and emotional spazing that are keeping what sleep I do get from being restful.

I don’t have enough time for just me. I don’t have any time for anyone but me. Even when I start feeling like meeting new people, going on dates, I really can't at this rate. I won’t ever have time. I mean, I could try to squeeze a date into, like, Thursday. But it’s hard enough for me to meet new people. It takes so much out of me. I’m so painfully shy. If I start shoehorning people into my last ME evening, I know I'll just start resenting the intrusion. And resenting some poor guy for just being there? Yeah, that sounds healthy. That doesn’t sound self-defeating at all.

So I need to cut back. To simplify, let's say there's:

  • Jazz Band
  • Chorus
  • HCB
  • MOB
  • Friend time (including Wednesday dinner and Friday celebration)

All of these are high on the fun list, probably in this order: Friend time, MOB, HCB, Jazz Band, Chorus

The growth as a person list goes: Jazz Band, Chorus, HCB, MOB, Friend time

The obligation list is: HCB (I feel a loyalty to my section), Chorus (I've got a solo, after all), Jazz Band, MOB, Friend time (the last three kind of tie for last)

Hmm, so if we do a straight vote from 1 to 5, Friend time gets 7, MOB gets 8, HCB gets 11, Jazz Band gets 10, and Chorus gets 9. Friend time is NOT going out the window. (I'll need to do this more scientifically, weighting fun more heavily and maybe refining my definition of "obligation" to differentiate feeling involved vs. feeling put upon.) MOB is pretty much already almost not on my radar. That leaves Chorus. But in Chorus I get to sing a solo in Jones Hall, and might get more if I stay with it! I've also been looking for a singing group for ever. This is not going to be easy. :-(

But I have to do something. When it comes to life, it really needs to be Quality. Not Quantity.