Between Semesters

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! It’s been an interesting week.

Last Friday, one of our favorite Chicago friends came into town and we went to the My Brother, My Brother, and Me live show in Minneapolis. The show was hilarious, and it was so delightful to have her here for a couple of days, even though I was still quite under the weather and we had to keep things pretty low-key. Nova absolutely fell in love with her, and was very disappointed when she left.

Unfortunately, pretty much right after our friend left, my husband came down hard with the cold I was recovering from. It’s been a rough week from that perspective, but thankfully we’re both on the mend now.

In continued adventures with my PAP machine, things were going pretty well while I was sick, actually, because I was propping myself up at night and not moving around much. Unfortunately, the last few nights have been harder – the mask keeps leaking air up over the bridge of my nose and waking me up with the whooshing noise. I am going to call today to see if I can get a different mask configuration to try. Overall I’m still really hopeful that this will bring some major changes to my quality of sleep, and I’m grateful it’s gone as smoothly as it has so far.

We also bought a new mattress that we got to sleep on for the first time last night! It’s a Big Fig, and it’s a MAJOR upgrade from the cheap foam IKEA mattress we’ve been sleeping on for the last 12 years. We woke up with some aches in different places because we’re not used to so much support, but it’s really comfy and I’m very excited about it. Nova is enjoying the fact that the old mattress is hanging out on our living room floor for now.

I’m in between semesters for the next couple of weeks, and it feels good to be through the first semester of seminary, but also weird to not be in classes/doing homework. I keep feeling like I’m forgetting something. Over the summer I’m taking one asynchronous class at United (History of Modern Theologies), and one intensive class for the month of June at St. Kate’s that’s specific to my concentration (Sacred Activism). I’m really excited about the St. Kate’s class, even though I recognize June is going to be…a lot. All my books are ordered and at least half of them have arrived, so I’m feeling good about that.

In two weeks I’m going to New York for work for a big company get-together. I’m extremely nervous about traveling now that mask mandates are lifting, but it is what it is. I’m excited to get to meet colleagues in person for the first time – the global team is coming in, so I’ll get to meet coworkers from London and Singapore in addition to my NYC and Chicago colleagues. I’m already kind of exhausted by the thought of socializing that much, but I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Nova went to the groomer on Saturday and they got so much fur off of her that I actually had to resize her collar. She’s looking very sleek and we have slightly fewer tumbleweeds floating around our apartment. I will leave you with a few pictures of her, as always.

At Last

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! I am all mixed up about what day it is this week – I’ve been fighting a cold all week and ended up taking a couple sick days from work and so my routine is way off. (Thankfully I tested negative for covid over the weekend.) I’m on the mend but still very stuffy and occasionally getting hit with coughing fits. It’s not my favorite thing.

However, in happy news, I finally got my PAP machine on Monday! It’s technically an APAP rather than a CPAP – the machine adjusts the amount of air pressure based on what I need throughout the night. This has been great, because I was really worried I was going to feel claustrophobic if I had constant air blowing at me all night long. I’m still not sleeping great, but that’s largely because of the cold and not because of the machine. In fact, the machine is super quiet – my husband noted it’s eerily quiet in the bedroom now because I’m not snoring all night. Nova has not really reacted to it at all, which is great, but I guess she’s used to seeing me wearing stuff on my face.

I’m also wrapping up my first semester of seminary this week! I just have one class session left tonight and then I’m done. It’s wild to think it’s been a whole semester already. I just ordered my books for my summer classes, and I’m looking forward to continuing to dive into this program.

Last week I recorded the beginnings of a song I’m hoping to release this year. This inspired me to finally get a website launched for my music! There’s not much there yet, but if you want to keep up with my musical happenings, you can find me at https://alyxanderjames.com.

I’ll leave you with your weekly dose of Nova – here are a few pictures of her enjoying the sunshine over the weekend:

Penultimate Week

Hello, dear readers! We’ve made it to another Thursday. This week I spent much of Tuesday thinking it was Wednesday and much of Wednesday thinking it was Tuesday, but I think I’ve finally gotten my days straightened out in my brain.

This week is the penultimate week of classes for my first semester of seminary, which is absolutely wild. We have next week off (for holy week), and then the week after I wrap up my first two classes. It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve spent a lot of time feeling very overwhelmed, but I’m glad I made the decision to do this thing. I’m learning a lot and meeting really wonderful people and I’m excited to see what the next semester has in store for me.

Beyond that, I don’t have too much to report. I’m still waiting to hear back about getting a CPAP machine. Next week since I have school off I’m also taking the week off from work, and I’m excited for a reset. I’m also hoping to maybe start recording a couple of songs; we’ll see how that goes.

I’ll leave you with your weekly dose of Nova:

Vacation Imminent

Hello, dear readers! We have made it to another Thursday. I kept thinking yesterday was Thursday, even though nothing about the day indicated that it was anything other than Wednesday, and today I woke up thinking it was Friday, so we’re not off to the best possible start. Still, it’s almost Friday, and that has to count for something.

Last weekend I wrote my first real paper for seminary. It was just a few pages long, but it was more academic than any writing I’ve done in over a decade, and the citation style was different than what I used in my undergrad life. It didn’t actually take me that long once I sat down to do the writing, but gathering the materials and trying to make everything coherent was a struggle.

But now, it’s almost a vacation week for me! Next week is symposium week at school, meaning no classes and no homework due. I decided to also take the week off from work (because my brain really needs a break). One of our best friends from Chicago is coming up to hang out for a few days, and it’s going to be great. I am very excited to have almost zero calendar commitments for a whole week.

I am pretty fried and don’t have a whole lot else to talk about this week, so I’ll leave you with these photos of Nova:

It’s a Blog!

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday. I am struggling a bit this week – I have a lot of things going on between work and school (not to mention the rest of my life), and I’m having a hard time holding it all and prioritizing which balls I need to keep in the air and what I can allow to drop for a bit. I will be fine – I have therapy this afternoon and I know that none of my problems are all that big – but I am tired and my jaw is tight and I’m just a little overwhelmed.

I wasn’t sure what to write about this week beyond the overwhelm, but I thought after showing off how my new electric mandola looks last week, maybe I should share how it sounds, too. Last Friday I took the day off with the intention of spending the morning taking some assessments for school and the afternoon doing music as a chance to kind of reset my brain. The assessments ended up not taking very long, so I was able to record one song I’d already had pretty much figured out and then write and record a whole second song that afternoon. Here’s that second song:

Awake with You by Alyxander James

This was an experiment in GarageBand – it’s not perfect and listening to it again there are definitely things I’d change. But I’m pleased with it overall for not really having a clue what I’m doing.

Here are the lyrics, for the curious:

Today was another hard day
I know you’ve had a lot of those lately
Everything feels like a mess
Been a while since you knew it’d turn out okay
Now you lie in bed
With the day on replay in your mind
Wondering whether the tension will ever unwind

But I will stay awake with you
I will stay awake with you

I am not going to say
That life will look better tomorrow
And I am not going to tell you
That every day you’ll be subject to sorrow
No one can say
What’s waiting for us down the line
But whatever it is, I’ll be right by your side

I will stay awake with you
I will stay awake with you

oo

I will stay awake with you
I will stay awake with you

I’ll leave you with this photo of a Very Good Doggo looking intently at something unseen by the humans in our apartment.

Searching for Focus

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday. I am all sorts of confused about what day it is – I ended up taking Monday off because I was fighting a headache most of Sunday night into Monday morning, and that always throws the rest of my week for a loop.

It’s been a decent week, but I have been struggling to focus. I got my homework for the week done early. I should have started working on a paper that’s coming due in a couple of weeks, but I didn’t. I need to make sure I have enough sources for the paper I want to write, and even that has been an uphill battle in terms of focus and prioritization. I’m enjoying my classes, but I’m still trying to figure out how to keep my life relatively balanced between work and school and play (and no, I will not be giving up play while I am working and in school – that way lies madness).

I’ve been increasingly excited about music, thanks to FAWM – I haven’t finished any more songs than the one I wrote on the 1st, but I’ve got some snippets of things down that I’m trying to find time to work on. And a couple of days ago I got a new electric mandola, which I’m super excited about and having tons of fun with in whatever down time I find.

Eastwood Airline Electric Mandola

I’m aware that bringing a new instrument home in the middle of when I should be working on homework was a questionable decision, but I don’t have any regrets at the moment.

I’m taking tomorrow off to catch up on homework and hopefully get some music time in, too. So I’m looking forward to that.

I think that’s about all I have to say this week. As always, I’ll leave you with a picture of Nova:

The inside-out ear just slays me

So Tired

Hello, dear readers – we’ve made it to another Thursday. I am particularly grateful for calendars and to do lists today, because I definitely forgot about blogging until my phone reminded me this morning.

I am…weary. Classes are going pretty well, things are good at work, everyone in my household is staying relatively healthy and well, but I am just exhausted. I’ve been a bit sniffly the past few days, so maybe I’m fighting off a cold, or maybe it’s my body’s reaction to the fact that I woke up yesterday to an actual temp of -15 outside and a windchill of -35 and I just want to hibernate. (It has warmed up significantly since last night, but it’s supposed to start getting cold again over the weekend, and the variation in temperature mostly just makes my joints ache.)

My Tuesday class, which I usually go to in person, was moved to Zoom this week because our professor had a covid exposure a couple of days before. Thankfully she seems to be okay, but for safety we all Zoomed in from our respective spaces. My husband also had a music class Tuesday night, so we were both occupied with our computers for a while and Nova was not happy about it, which was a little distracting. But we made it work, and hopefully we’ll be back to in-person class next week.

I am feeling a little behind for tonight’s class – I finished the readings and the written assignment in plenty of time, but the professor for this class records the lecture portion of the class on Tuesday afternoons to make the Thursday night class an hour shorter, and I haven’t had a chance to watch the lecture yet. I’ll have to figure out free moments in my work day to get it done, I think, which is not ideal.

Really, though, it’s not been a bad week. I’m just so tired…

Anyway, I leave you, as always, with some Nova photos from this week:

Anxiety Management

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! It has been an up and down sort of week. We had a lovely time with my husband’s family on Saturday (it always warms my heart when my gluten-free self can eat everything on the table, and it was delicious). Then on Sunday night, I got super sick with a stomach bug out of nowhere. I powered through work for most of the day on Monday (I did end up signing out a little early in the afternoon). Tuesday I took the day off because I had a physical in the morning and I didn’t know how I’d feel after getting poked and prodded, and I also got my flu shot and my covid booster while I was there. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have found this doctor – she is so affirming and pragmatic and it’s such a relief not to have to educate my doctor or be continuously advocating for myself in a medical setting.

This afternoon I have an intake call with a potential new therapist. I’m tentatively hopeful that this will be a good fit and that I’ll be able to get back to working with someone on expanding my toolkit for dealing with anxiety. I also started on blood pressure medication this week, which I am hoping will also help with the anxiety, since anxiety and high blood pressure tend to create a horrible feedback loop (I’m anxious, and my blood pressure is high, which my body interprets as anxiety, etc.). A friend listed out all the things I have going on right now in a text to me this morning, and it really put it into perspective that yes, it does make sense that I’m under some stress and should be utilizing every resource I can to manage it. So that was a good reminder.

I learned yesterday that the university that partners with the seminary I’m starting at next month to do the Spiritual Direction courses is actually discontinuing their Spiritual Direction program, but that it shouldn’t impact my journey – next semester is the last cohort of new students they’re taking for the program. So that’s an additional level of stress that I’m processing. Fingers crossed I’m able to finish all the courses I need to there before the program closes (slated for 2025, so my chances should be pretty good).

Today and tomorrow I’m going to be spending a significant portion of my time between meetings writing performance assessments for my direct reports. I think it’ll actually go pretty smoothly, but getting started is always the hard part with these. I’m grateful for these rockstars and I want them to know they’re doing well, but I also want to give whatever constructive feedback I can to help them continue to grow and excel.

That about does it for this week. As always, here’s your weekly dose of Nova:

Wild Week

Hello, dear readers! We’ve made it to Thursday. Yesterday felt like a Friday here, so the fact that it is only Thursday is a bit of a bummer, but I will survive. I hope you’re all hanging in there.

It’s felt like a wild week, although in reality it’s been quite mild compared to all the drama with Nova’s medical stuff the last couple of weeks. Last Thursday afternoon I registered for classes for my first semester of seminary (eek!) and ordered all of my textbooks for those. Friday I got my financial aid information, so I spent the weekend figuring that out and returning those forms.

Work has been particularly wild this week, for a whole host of reasons I’m not going to get into here. I have a lot that needs to get done before Thanksgiving next week (next week already!), and I’m not really sure how it’s going to happen, but I’ll figure it out somehow.

It snowed here a little bit last weekend, and Nova loved it. I am both excited to see how she reacts to a real proper snow, and also nervous about getting her enough exercise once winter really hits and I’m in school two nights a week. I should probably start researching dog walking services here to get us a little extra help. She really needs at least 4-5 miles a day, and the loop that I can handle taking her on in the dark when I get done with work is about half that. Usually my husband can take care of the rest during the day, but they’re also looking for work now, so that will probably change soon. So, uh, dog-owning friends in the Twin Cities, hit me up with your dog walker recommendations!

It’s time for me to go get more coffee and figure out how I’m going to get my work done today. I’ll leave you, as always, with a few Nova photos from this week:

All the News

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday! This blog is going up a little late today because it is Veterans Day here in the US and that means I have the day off, and I decided to let myself sleep in. It’s been a long week and I have so much to share.

First things first: I got accepted into seminary! I am meeting with someone this afternoon to go over the plan for classes for next semester. I’m so excited. Definitely also nervous, but mostly excited. Since I’m sure some of you are curious about what in the world is going through my head that I feel like seminary is a thing I want to try, I thought I’d share the “personal statement” I submitted with my application:

I am not necessarily the first person you’d expect to be interested in pursuing a seminary degree. I’m queer, trans, nonbinary, more-or-less agnostic, and have a complicated history with religion, to say the least – I was raised in a church tradition that I thought was safe when I was younger, but that does not accept the fullness of who I am as an adult.

I am, however, often the first person my friends and chosen family turn to when they need a listening ear and some insight. I am called upon for pragmatic opinions as well as intuitive tarot readings. I don’t follow an organized spiritual tradition, but am deeply interested in life’s big questions, even if I don’t feel the need to have the answers to them like I did earlier in my life.

I believe that everyone deserves to be able to make meaning out of “big life stuff” in a way that works for them, and to connect to something larger than themselves if they want to. I am deeply committed to creating and holding safe spaces for people to ask questions and try on a variety of answers. Rather than running from the unknowable, I see it as an opportunity for play and experimentation.

I have watched several friends go through spiritual direction certificate programs and/or pursue ordination in their chosen spiritual tradition, and they have each opened my eyes to new and different ways of engaging with that “something larger,” through everything from music to tarot to roleplaying games and beyond. I carry each of those relationships and experiences and ideas with me into this course of study, and I am excited to see what new ways I might find to engage with spirituality.

While I don’t intend to pursue a career in spiritual direction, I am hoping that this degree will give me a better toolkit to come alongside fellow travelers in the world and hold those open spaces of safety, to engage with a variety of spiritual traditions with openness and curiosity, and to find my own opportunities for further spiritual growth.

So, with that excitement out of the way, on to the other news of the week.

Right around the time that I got the email saying I’d gotten into United on Friday afternoon, we discovered that Nova had managed to chew up and swallow 2-3 inches worth of a beef shank bone we’d given her a little earlier. She’s had these bones before and has only ever gnawed on them, never tried to actually eat them, so I thought she’d be fine and we weren’t paying very close attention until we realized the bone was significantly shorter than it had started out.

(Before I go any further, I want you to know that this story has a happy ending. Nova is fine.)

We called our regular vet, who was about to close for the day and suggested we call an emergency vet. We tried three different places before I found somewhere that was opening in a little over an hour. We decided to drive there and be there right when they opened. Thankfully they were able to see us; they did X-rays and discovered a few pieces of bone in her stomach, but thought they were a size and shape that she should be able to pass on her own. We went home with instructions to follow up with our regular vet in the morning.

We did that – they did follow-up X-rays and there were still pieces of bone in her stomach, but she seemed okay otherwise and they were hopeful that she’d be okay passing things on her own. Sunday passed pretty much without incident – she was a little slow and sleepy but she seemed like she was starting to feel better.

And then Monday morning she refused to eat and had to be practically dragged out the door to go outside. When she remained lethargic and was clearly uncomfortable all morning, we called our vet again, and they recommended we take her back to an emergency vet. We called three different places again and finally got through to the U of M veterinary center, who agreed to see her.

More X-rays, more exams, a lot of waiting. The conclusion was that the bones had made it out of her stomach and had broken down enough that they didn’t show up on X-rays anymore, but her GI tract was just really irritated from processing all of that, which was why she wasn’t feeling well. We went home almost 6 hours later, exhausted but less worried than we had been.

The last couple of days she has been noticeably improving – she’s still pretty tired (and annoyed about that), but she’s clearly feeling much better. She hates getting the medicine I have to give her via syringe 3 times a day to help calm her GI tract down, but she hasn’t murdered me in my sleep yet and we only have a couple of days left of that. I have spent SO. MUCH. MONEY. on her in the past week, and it’s been so scary not knowing if she was going to need surgery. But she’s worth it. (We also signed her up for pet insurance in the middle of all of this, which of course covers none of this week’s adventures but should cover us the next time our sweet little trash goblin decides to eat something that’s not food.)

Thank you for coming on this journey with me! I’ll close this one out with a couple of photos of Nova’s recent convalescent naps: