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:

Vacation

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! And apologies for the late blog today – I am on vacation this week and taking advantage of the opportunity to sleep in and take my mornings more slowly than usual.

It’s been a great week off so far! I ended up taking a quick, last-minute trip to Chicago to see some friends, which was absolutely delightful, even if the travel part was a little overwhelming. It felt great to be able to hug my Chicago friends and catch up with them a bit. I was only in town for approximately 40 hours, but I’m glad I did it. I’m trying to keep plans for the rest of the week pretty minimal.

I started recording a song yesterday with our home recording setup. I’ve handed it off to my husband to play around with in the music production class they’ve been taking. I’d love to get at least one song out into the world this year.

I also got a call yesterday about finally getting set up with a CPAP machine! So that is happening Monday morning. I’m a little nervous about adjusting to sleeping with it, but I’m determined to make it work.

I’ll leave you with the video my husband took of Nova greeting me when I got home from Chicago on Tuesday. Even though I was only gone a couple of days, she was apparently pretty sad – I hadn’t been gone more than a few hours at a stretch before. It’s not letting me embed the video here for some reason, so here’s the link.

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

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! I hope your weeks are going well. I’ve been feeling tired and a bit overwhelmed, myself, but not to the same degree that I was last week (this is probably because I had Tuesday off from work this week).

FAWM has begun! I realize every year that it has totally changed my perception of the month of February. In the MIdwest, it can reasonably be argued that February is the hardest month of the year – it’s cold and dark (even though it’s slowly getting lighter), and you know that winter is going to continue for at least a couple more months. But because of FAWM, February is genuinely one of my favorite months of the year.

Because I ended up having Tuesday off this week, I was able to actually get one song written, which was my goal this year. Between work and school I don’t know if I’ll get anything else written, but I wanted at least one on the board, so I feel good about getting that done. And it’s incredible to be able to listen to the songs other people are creating! There’s so much talent in the world. It’s inspiring.

I don’t have much else to write about this week, so I’ll leave you with this: Nova went to the groomers on Saturday. When I went to pick her up, they let me know they were going to make a TikTok of her later – “She was very good…just, you know, awkward.” I think they really captured her essence here.

And finally, here’s a picture of Nova napping yesterday that made me laugh:

Sleepy baby

Ow

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday. Congratulations to us – we’ve made it this far.

I am rather out of sorts this morning. I’m dealing with a TMJ flare-up this week that’s got my jaw aching pretty badly…badly enough that it kept me awake or kept waking me up for most of the night last night. When I got up this morning I pretty much immediately ate a muffin and then took a muscle relaxer and a prescription-strength dose of ibuprofen to try to get back on top of it. It still hurts, and now I’m a little out of it while I try to work. But I’m not really sure what else to do at this point, short of attempting to strap a heating pad or an ice pack to my face. Sigh. Thankfully the meds did take the edge off, so while it’s distracting, I at least have the brainspace now to think about other things.

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster week aside from that. On Saturday we went to see Vance Gilbert, one of our Song School instructors and an all-around gem of a human, perform at a local coffee shop. Vance was the first Song School person we’d seen in person since right before lockdown hit in March of 2020. It was so good to see him and hear him perform! Going to the concert meant leaving Nova alone for the longest she’d been by herself since coming home with us two months ago. We were nervous, but she did great. She was very excited to see us when we got home, but she didn’t destroy anything or get into anything she shouldn’t have!

Monday was rough, although the last couple of days have been better. Last night I got to play D&D, which is always a highlight. Work has been busy, but manageable. Tomorrow we’re getting our piano tuned, so that’s exciting (I’m planning to take Nova on a long walk while that happens).

But first, I need to get through today. The muscle relaxer is a pretty mild one, but it’s strong enough to make me a bit drowsy, so today is going to be interesting. I’m already struggling to keep my eyes open and focus. But I’m sure I’ll manage.

I will leave you with this photo of Nova from earlier in the week, doing what I’d like to be doing right now:

Snoozy pup using her paw as a pillow

Gratitude on a Sunny Thursday

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday, which I keep thinking is Wednesday…which is, I suppose, better than thinking it’s Friday. I hope you’re all hanging in there.

As of a couple of days ago, I’m officially two weeks out from my second covid vaccine and therefore as immunized as I’m going to be for the time being. It feels good to feel like I can start making some plans with (also immunized) friends again. It also feels weird. I am definitely going to need to relearn how to be social in person, and I’m sure my limit for how many people I can tolerate being with for an extended period of time has changed over the past year of isolation. (I’m an introvert, so that wasn’t a huge number to begin with…I’m a bit nervous about going back to group activities, to be honest.)

My tattoo is healing up nicely, though it’s in a very itchy stage right now. I can’t tell how much of that is the tattoo itself and how much is the hair growing back on my arm, but I’m trying to be careful about not absentmindedly scratching at it.

I don’t really have a lot to talk about this week, but let’s end this with a little list of things I’m grateful for right now:

  • I am grateful for my job. It’s still mindblowing to be in a place where I feel both challenged and appreciated, where I feel like my value is being recognized. It’s wild that I’m in a leadership position and enjoying it (not that it’s easy, but that it feels like a good use of my skills). It’s wild to have a degree of financial stability I have not had since moving out of my parents’ house.
  • I am grateful for my friends. I’ve had a lot of really great conversations lately that remind me that my people are the best people. I’m grateful for their trust and their insight and their love. I’m so glad I don’t feel like I have to carry everything on my own, or pile everything onto my husband or my therapist, but I have whole communities of people supporting me.
  • I am grateful for music. In the past couple of weeks, I rediscovered how much I absolutely adore P!nk. In college, I went from listening pretty exclusively to contemporary Christian music to dipping my toes into the waters of other options, and P!nk was one of the first artists I heard that really connected with my angsty, troubled heart. I hadn’t kept up with her music after graduation, really, but in diving into her newer stuff, it’s been a delight to see that, even though I am not an angsty college student anymore, her music still connects. We’ve both grown since then. I have immense respect for her as an artist. My current favorite track is this one (in case the link doesn’t work, or you don’t use Spotify – it’s the last song on her 2019 album Hurts 2B Human; the track is called “The Last Song of Your Life,” and it’s beautiful), but her newest singles (from the current year) are also incredible.

That’s it from me this week – keep taking care of yourselves and each other.

Brief Morning Musings

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday that I almost forgot was Thursday. I am dashing this off before starting my workday with a two hour training, so it’s going to be fairly brief. I feel like I need a little reminder to smile on this grey Chicago morning, so I’m going to share a few things that are making me happy lately:

  • Preacher’s Kid, by Semler. This album came out recently and I’m kind of obsessed. If you, like me, grew up a church youth group kid and are now an adult with a lot of religious trauma/baggage, this is an extremely cathartic listen. It also holds a lot of space for hope, and I appreciate that. This album has made some serious waves in the world of Christian music since its release (it was topping the Apple Music charts in that genre for a bit), and it’s just giving me a lot of hope for the future.
  • The arrival of spring in Chicago. I love that it’s warming up and things are starting to get a little greener and there are crocuses and we can often have our windows open…even though I’m allergic to basically everything outside, and have been a sniffly mess for days, something about this return to spring always makes me feel a little more alive.
  • Trader Joe’s gluten free cinnamon coffee cake muffins. I just learned about these recently from a friend and bought some last week and OMG they are life-changing. I let my partner (who is not gluten free) try one, and have confirmed that they are just good muffins, period. I ate the entire box of four in under 24 hours and have been dreaming of them since. haha
  • The new sweatshirt I got from Peace Coffee this week. We’ve been ordering from Peace Coffee since…sometime last fall, I think? Anyway, they’re great, and this sweatshirt is SO SOFT and delightful. The sleeves are exactly the right length and it just fits surprisingly well and it made me happy all day yesterday when I was wearing it.
  • My new glasses. My old pair kept trying to leap off my face at inopportune moments (like, anytime I went down stairs, or was walking down the sidewalk wearing a mask like a considerate, sane person), so I decided to get what I thought would be a backup pair…but I really like them and have been wearing them constantly since they arrived. They are very gay.
Do these glasses make me look gay? I hope so.

The Apartment is Alive with the Sound of Music

Hello, dear readers! We’ve made it to another Thursday. This will probably be a relatively short blog as I’m writing this before work on Thursday morning, and I have a pretty packed workday ahead of me, starting with two hours of management training (which, don’t get me wrong, I am immensely grateful for as a new manager…it’s just a lot first thing in the morning).

It’s been an exciting week on the music front in our household. Last week, I was poking around the Old Town School‘s music store website, and I noticed they had a used Seagull guitar in their lineup that I had seriously considered buying back when they were in production, but hadn’t had the money to justify. In a bit of a snap decision, I went ahead and bought it. It needed some minor adjustments (I put lighter strings on it and learned how to adjust a truss rod for the first time), but now it’s in good shape and will make a great travel companion – it’s smaller and lighter than my main guitar.

I’ve decided her name is Gladys.

The same day I got the guitar, my partner was looking at gear online for the home recording class they’re taking. Long story short, we now also have a MIDI keyboard and…A DIGITAL PIANO. We are both very excited to get the apartment in a more orderly state so we can get it set up (it’s here and ready to go, we just need to clear out a couple of things first).

I’m so excited about my private lessons I’m taking in preparation for recording right now. Yesterday was our second session, and even in the first week, I’ve learned so much. I have 13 tracks picked out to record, and have started a spreadsheet with details on all of them. It’s all very exciting.

We also heard this week that Song School is hopefully going to happen in August, so we are going to be keeping extra alert for when we can get vaccinated. I miss our Song School friends so much, and I really, really hope we get to see them this year.

In non-music news, I’m feeling really good about my new role at work, and am just endlessly grateful to have landed where I did when I did last year. I hit one year with the company on Tuesday, and while on the one had it feels like I just started, on the other, 2020 was at least a decade long. I could not have gotten through last year nearly as well without this job.

That’s it from me for this week – I hope you’re all hanging in there and taking care of yourselves and each other.

Movement

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday. (I’m pretty sure it’s Thursday, since that’s what my computer is telling me, but I was definitely certain for most of yesterday that it was Tuesday, and just a moment ago was completely convinced it was Friday today…time feels particularly wobbly this week, for some reason.) FAWM has ended – I wrote 19 songs last month, and I’m actually reasonably pleased with several of them. The songwriting class I’ve been in for the past two months has also wrapped up – I’m really pleased that my classmates want to stay in touch, and we have an email thread going.

Yesterday, I started private lessons with one of my favorite songwriting instructors at the Old Town School, Sue Demel. I’ve never taken private lessons before (though I’ve taken many group classes, including group classes that Sue was teaching over the past four months), and it’s a little intimidating to get that kind of 1:1 attention. But it’s also great, because I adore Sue and her enthusiasm for helping singer-songwriters find their most authentic singing voices. The goal of our work together is to get me ready to record an album this year – I bought a bunch of recording equipment recently, and my husband is taking a class to learn how to make the best use of it, and we’re both experimenting a bit in GarageBand and Logic – it might be a self-produced album, or it might be something I start at home and finish in a studio this fall if enough folks get vaccinated and things open back up a bit. One of my goals for today is to nail down my track list (I have done a lot of brainstorming on this, but Sue has encouraged me to make an actual decision so we can narrow the focus of what we’re working on in our lessons). I’m very excited, even though I also feel like I’m biting off more than I can chew – I’ve been writing songs since I was 10, and since I started keeping track in 2012 I’ve written over 240 of them. It’s time to get some nicer recordings done and out into the world.

In non-music news, my new role at work is going well. I’m one month in and learning a tone – I started taking over 1:1s with my direct reports this week, and that’s been great, although I’m already realizing things I can adjust there. I also did a Mental Health First Aid training through work this week, which was super informative.

I hope you’re all hanging in there and continuing to stay safe and healthy and taking care of yourselves and each other.