3.21.2014

Fall back, troops.



I'm retreating.

I've said yes to a few too many things. All good, and good for me, but different and unrelated and brain-stretching. 

So, as I try to wrap my mind around them, I'm instead drawn to a book on Les Six, another on creativity, a pandora radio station populated by good friends from high school and college (Harriet fro the Sundays, Edie, Morrissey, Robert from the Cure...wonderfully mopey stuff), and a ridiculous bottle of neon orange nail polish. There's a large snuggly lab sleeping again my calf, and I have a lined notebook full of story ideas that I'm going to tackle as a celebration once all this crazy stuff is finished. 

Planning to spend half the day tomorrow working, and the other half at a farm, eating goat cheese and drinking beer. Thinking that the ends will likely justify the means.

I always panic a bit in the spring... So much to do, so few hours. I forget, every year. Will one of you kind folks remind me next year that things will be more intense than I remember? Thanks in advance. 

And if you have platitudes or inspirations or daydreams that help you get through, will you please share them? I could stand to lengthen my perspective a bit.


3.09.2014

Sunday. Taking stock.

I've been reading this book. Among others...I'm a polygamous reader, but I'm faithful to all of the books I start. (Except for this one...couldn't finish it, because I just despise Ignatius. I'm sure that, in a different stage of life, I'll pick it back up again and enjoy it. But that won't likely be happening soon.)

Anyway. I started that book. It's all about finding ways to structure your work so that you do your best stuff when you're most suited to it. And it talks about slow incremental progress. And it talks about the reactivity of work and the loud voice of email. And it talks about the power of habit.

It's hitting me at a vulnerable time. Or, rather, at an impressionable time. I took an office job to have a regular (well, -ish) schedule and paycheck. But sometimes I dream about freelancing and restructuring my days accordingly. There are things that I want to do - play more piano; compose; write. I only allow myself to indulge in those things when I've "done my chores." When I've run out of other things to do - running errands, cleaning, gym, cooking (ok, this falls into both the Must category and the Enjoy category), working.

It seems backwards, right? Putting off the things you love for the things you must do? Sometimes it's ok - necessary even. But as a habit, it's a pretty shitty one.

In the off-season, there's no good reason for me to check my work email on the weekends. My boss has my cell # and uses it when she needs. Outside of that, everything can wait until office hours. And yet, every weekend I log on several times just to see... It's a distracting waste. (Granted, in the summer my phone is on and my email checking is constant. But that's different, and finite.)

So, I'm trying to re-prioritize. To make some new habits that allow me to create. To cut down on the amount of purely reactive action that I take. We'll see how it works out. I'll likely be grumpy as all get out as I figure this stuff out...please know that if I'm snippy it's me, not you. And that I'm sorry. It's for a good cause, I promise!

3.04.2014

And the point was?

I started following Humans of New York today because of a post they shared on Facebook that hit home. It's a photo of a pretty girl, a big knit stocking cap on head, a coat and a shearling vest, but flat and oh-so-bare ankles. She's sitting on her suitcase, somewhere at Penn Station if I had to guess. Her quote is:

"I wish I'd partied a little less. People always say 'be true to yourself.' But that's misleading, because there are two selves. There's your short term self, and there's your long term self. And if you're only true to your short term self, your long term self slowly decays."
I'm more than a little terrified that the above quote sums up my life. That I've done thirty-day projects and tried things, but haven't kept that long-term vision in my sights... and now I've forgotten what it is.

(How's that for a Tuesday crisis of confidence? Go big or go home, I suppose.)

It's Mardi Gras, and I've celebrated by ditching any semblance of healthy eating for cake and cookies and homemade bread FROM MY NEW COLLEAGUE (we've been calling this position "The Unicorn" for months, because we really didn't think we'd ever get another staff person. But we did! And she's awesome!) WHO JUST STARTED TODAY AND I REALLY HOPE COMES BACK TOMORROW. (Oh, add wine and cream-cheese frosting to that list of things that have leapt into my mouth unbidden.)And the day was pretty good until I decided to grill burgers and my back stoop was a sheer sheet of ice and my grill was covered in ice and it took forever to chip everything out (because there wasn't really a good Plan B and I really wanted a bleu cheese burger) and I almost started a grease fire BUT at the last minute resisted the urge to just throw a metric ton of snow onto the grill to subdue the flames and so we're all ok and plus burgers for dinner!

So I guess it's not all bad, even now, right?

My street wasn't plowed, and evidently doesn't get a lot of afternoon sun, so my impending dog walk would be scary except I have these things, which are nerdy but so awesome that you can judge away and it bothers me not at all. Not falling on one's butt when one has a large labrador in tow (or maybe he's the one doing the towing...anyway) is a very good thing!

Lent starts tomorrow. As always, looking forward to the structure, and to living with less excess for a while. I know I'm not here often anymore (although this will be my 1138th post. Crazy, right, that someone could write so much and say so very little.) If you're looking for more regular updates from me, you can find them over here.

Here's hoping that, in the next 40 days, we find what we need by giving up what we don't.


2.22.2014

TGIF

I was going to write about this doozy of a week....all of the great things and the good things and the total drags that happened. (Cliffs Notes Version: Long days, horrible nightmares, wonderful music, interesting people. The scales are even.)

But some stuff has come up.


I talked with Lara St. John today about her campaign for live musicians. She's talking specifically about HBO's Game of Thrones, a show that I love and that I'm pretty sure she would too. And it struck me in that conversation that there is a generation of young people who can't differentiate between a live cellist and a sampled cellist. Or - maybe more tragic - prefers the cleaner sampled version to the real thing...because there's too much emotion, too much imperfection, too much - something - in the sound of the live player.

Imagine Stevie Nicks' voice cleaned of "imperfection" or Jeff Buckley...pallid, limp, clinical. As humans, I'd say that our very best parts are our imperfections.

Tonight these folks played a KICK ASS concert in my hall. Really, so good - the Shostakovich in the second half was crazy good. And part of me is a little sad...there were empty seats, and we just couldn't fill them. And they were SO GOOD. It wasn't a question of talent, for sure. But it hurts my heart that I couldn't give them a full house.

I listened to the trio play this evening. 
Thought about the empty seats. 
And felt completely defeated. 

Y'all, there is so much good art out there. So many good players, so many ensembles looking for opportunities. (And when I say looking for opportunities, I mean paid opportunities - these same artists have been training and rehearsing and perfecting their craft for years. For me a debut artist is a quartet who has been playing together for 5-7 years. YEARS.You'd pay your plumber,  please pay your pianist.) 

How do I convince people that washing the day's troubles away with music is worth it? That, regardless of genre, a chance to step away from the idiot box and focus on the aural world is not just a luxury but is a necessity? How do I give people the permission to daydream, to let their mind wander, to reject their to-do list for two short hours in exchange for a masterful tour of a sonic landscape that they might not find by themselves?

(Not expecting answers, though if you have some I'll gladly listen. Just venting quite late on a Friday night.)

2.17.2014

Thanks, George and Abe. You're the best.

The light was crazy beautiful this morning.
Oh, today was a beautiful day. And I'm not solely talking about the weather.

First off? I got All-The-Things done.
Dog? Walked!
House? Clean!
Laundry? Laundered!
Groceries? Purchased AND put away!
I even snuck in a shower amid all that busyness! (You're welcome, neighbors.)

And when I was finishing up, this great tune came onto Pandora. So I sang along. And then I bought the song on iTunes. And then I looked up the chords.

And then I sat down and did this. (First take. The piano is horrendous, yes, I know. Trying not to overthink it, but for a first take not terribly bad, right?) (If your answer is more negative than "yah...sure." please tell someone other than me.)

And then? I sat down with Garage Band, and played around with the tune and loops and my little midi keyboard until the tune sounded more like a techno version of a Pat Benatar song. I know...not everyone's cup of tea. Hell, if you'd have asked, I'd likely say it wasn't my cup of tea either! But I have to say that I really enjoyed putting it together. I find that technology makes me both musically smarter and more stupid. (It's difficult to chunk a song into sections when all you want to do is SANGit!)

And maybe I'll post that link here too...maybe. Someday.

I am so grateful to have had a free day to both get my (literal) house in order, and to be able to get a little creative. Days when I have that option are really the best days there are.

(Maybe I should make more time for that option? Maybe...)

Here's the source material. They're playing at The Barns, but they're sold out! (I know, I waited too long to get tickets and I can't get in. Le sigh.)

2.16.2014

A brilliant Sunday.

It's barely 5pm on Sunday evening, and yet I'm still proclaiming it a success.

It didn't start that way.

I was feeling pretty virtuous just for getting my heinie out of the house at 8:30 for a class at the gym. I had rewarded myself with a pair of cycling shoes, and was using them as impetus for getting to the studio and getting a decent workout in.

I walked in early, hoping to figure out the whole clipping-in thing without an audience. And I was alone, indeed... in an 88-degree room. Seems the heater is stuck on, and the room was TOASTY. And I was grumpy, and passively-aggressively tweeted my displeasure.

The heat created a bit of camaraderie, though...and the instructor created room for each person to adjust to their comfort level. And, let's face it, a little Billy Idol on a workout playlist is never a bad thing.

Fast forward to the end of class; over 1000 calories torched (likely way less, but I've NEVER had a four-digit output before). Mood: euphoric - both for the great stats AND for just staying in the room, in the heat.

I realize that I should be prouder of those moments when I push myself.
And that I should push myself more often.

The birds have been fed. The boys have been fed. I'm contemplating a walk with the dog, a soak in the tub, some time with a sketchbook and Oprah magazine and a good book ,and an early bedtime.

Brilliant, indeed.

p.s. I'm spending this month creating lazy journals - one-sentence journal entries that allow me time to doodle. i'm cataloguing the results over at instagram.

2.13.2014

Remembering.

I had been trucking along on my latest cockamamie self-improvement scheme...eating pretty well, exercising, journaling (well, kinda...#lazyjournaling. better than nothing, right?)

And then a foul mood descended on Tuesday and I couldn't get it to leave. Snappy. Anxious. Blue.

I had a glass of wine last night, and then another, trying to feel a little less...well, a little less everything. And then it hit me.

It's been six years to the day since my dad died.

No wonder my mind had been roaming around a sketchy neighborhood!
I'm equal parts relieved that I figured out what it was, and mortified that it took so long to figure it out.

I miss him.

But today he seems pretty close...this wonderful snowfall (and day home from work), a kitchen experiment gone (mostly) right this morning, and finally holding crow pose for two breaths (instead of my usual one...baby steps!) during my yoga practice seem to be signs that he's checking in. Or, at least, that's how I'm choosing to read them.

I'm grateful to him for so much. He had the ability to see both sides of an issue, and to treat both sides with compassion and humor. He was constantly learning- not only did he teach French and coach the football team, he was the yearbook advisor; he gardened; he made stained glass windows and lampshades and a little jewel box for me; he photographed weddings; he taught himself how to cook (after some spectacular failures, admittedly). He was a strong, constant source of love and acceptance.

To my dear friends who have recently lost family, I can only hope that they've met my dad in heaven; because if they have, they're all having one hell of a good time. :)