Thursday Ramblings

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! We had Monday off at work in observance of Lunar New Year, and then I ended up only working half of Tuesday because I was wrestling with a headache, so I’m all sorts of turned around about what day it is this week.

It’s been an okay week – I’ve gotten some knitting done, and am so far staying caught up on homework. I’m really enjoying my Comparative Religious Ethics class, and I’m really excited to start my next Spiritual Direction class in a couple of weeks. I also made the decision last week to switch from going for a MAL (Master of Arts in Leadership) in Spiritual Direction to an MDiv in Spiritual Direction; I’ll get to take more classes I’m interested in, and I think it’ll open up more possibilities for what I might do with the degree post-graduation. It means I’m adding an extra year or so onto my seminary journey, but I’ll still be done before I’m 40, so that’s fun.

Work has continued to feel kind of bananas, but I’m managing to stay afloat at this point. I need to nail down what I’m doing for a stretch project over the next few months (keeping in mind that I’ll be on medical leave for one of those months to recover from the hysterectomy); I have some ideas, just need to get them organized.

I’m very excited that FAWM is less than a week away! It’s always one of the highlights of my year. Even if I don’t get much writing done this time around, I’m excited to hear what everyone else comes up with.

I think that’s about it for me this week; here’s your weekly dose of Nova:

2022/2023

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to the last Thursday of 2022! What a year it’s been. 2022 brought a bunch of changes, challenges, and revelations. To highlight just some of what happened:

  • I started my graduate studies in Spiritual Direction at United Theological Seminary.
  • I did a sleep study and found out I’m really bad at breathing when I sleep. I consequently ended up getting an APAP machine, and it has been life-changing.
  • In April I made a last-minute trip to Chicago to see a friend in a play, and got to catch up with some of my favorite people.
  • I went on my first big company trip to New York City in May and got to meet a bunch of the people I’d only known through screens for the past two years.
  • I got my Carrie Fisher tribute tattoo.
  • We made it back to Song School after a couple of years away; I took a performance class with Amy Speace that was also life-changing.
  • The end of August marked a whole year with Nova, and we had a party to celebrate her 3rd birthday.
  • I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in September, and that’s brought a whole bunch of new medications and routines into my life.
  • We talked my best friend into moving into our building, and we live in a sitcom now, and it’s wonderful.
  • I took a songwriting class online with Sue Demel through the Old Town School of Folk Music and actually wrote some songs that I’m pretty happy with.
  • I passed all of my first year of seminary classes.

In addition to all that, we helped several members of our chosen family navigate a variety of crises, and I started making some new friends at school and through D&D.

My big, overarching goal for 2022 was to learn to approach life with more curiosity and compassion and less of a need for control. I think I made pretty good progress, although there’s definitely still room for growth. It’s leading me straight into the goal for 2023, which is to lean into vulnerability and unapologetically ask for what I need. As my therapist reminded me a couple of weeks ago – “you don’t need to be perfect to ask for your needs to be met.”

I think I’m going to wrap it up there for the year. I hope your holiday season has been reasonably gentle and that you’re able to go into the new year feeling refreshed. I’ll send you off with these holiday photos of Nova:

Catharsis

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! I’m feeling a bit scatterbrained today and I have a full day of meetings, so it’s going to be…interesting. It also means this blog is going to be on the short side this week.

It’s been a decent week. The weekend was lovely – Sunday morning we went to a drag brunch for a friend’s birthday, and then that evening went to see Semler in concert, which was amazing – Mayyadda opened, and she was incredible, and then when Semler came on the whole venue spent the rest of the show scream-singing along to every. single. song. I don’t think they quite knew what to do with the level of energy the crowd brought. It was a cathartic experience and I’m really glad we went. Monday, though, I woke up with almost no voice and felt absolutely exhausted after doing two outside-the-house things that involved a lot of peopling the day before, and so I ended up having to call in sick to work to recover. Extra sleep helped a lot.

I’ll leave you with some Nova photos – it’s been snowing here, and she is absolutely over the moon about it:

Good Week

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! Although I have had a bit of a struggle keeping track of my days this week, it’s been a good week overall:

  • I seem to be over the worst of the queasiness I was dealing with last week.
  • My husband is home again, so Nova has been much less anxious (and therefore less vocal).
  • On Monday, my best friend moved into our building! I’m so excited to have her as a neighbor.
  • I managed to get a song done for my songwriting class this week, and I’m actually reasonably pleased with it.
  • I had a really affirming appointment with my doctor yesterday.

Also, this weekend it looks like I’m going to get to play D&D, hopefully, so that’s exciting.

I don’t actually have a lot of thoughts this week. I will leave you with two things:

First, an admonition to please VOTE if you’re in the US – election day is next Tuesday, early voting is available in many places right now, and while voting won’t fix everything, it’s one of the tools we have to try to get things back on the rails.

And finally, here are photos of Nova in her Halloween costumes (which, as you can see, she was *thrilled* to wear, lol):

Finding Balance

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday. It’s been an off week here in terms of routine – my husband is out in Washington helping my best friend pack and move back to the Twin Cities. I took the first half of the week off to give my brain a break (but also to attempt to catch up on some schoolwork). Nova has been a little extra needy with only one human around, so we’ve been navigating that. And then today I woke up feeling rather queasy and just generally under the weather, so I’m taking a sick day.

The week in general has been pretty good – I binged all of the She-Hulk series on Disney+, which I really enjoyed. It was fall symposium at school this week so I watched a bunch of the paper presentations for that, and that was really interesting. I got some homework done, and some knitting; a friend came over for a little study date on Tuesday, and that was really nice. I had a couple of medical appointments this week; one of them was pretty frustrating and the other went fine. Last night I started a songwriting class with the fabulous Sue Demel through the Old Town School, and while part of me feels I’ve taken leave of my senses signing up for another thing right now, I’m really excited about it.

Tonight I have class, and I really don’t want to miss it, so I’m going to spend today resting and trying to listen to what my body needs. As I’m adjusting to new medications I’m needing to relearn some of my body’s cues, and it’s a process.

I think that’s about it for this week; please enjoy these photos of some epic Nova naps:

Song School 2022

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! We have almost made it to the weekend.

Last week there was no blog, because I was in Lyons, CO at Song School! It was an absolutely incredible week. Some of the folks we usually end up hanging out with couldn’t make it this year, but we were able to reconnect with a bunch of old friends we hadn’t seen since 2019, and we made a bunch of new friends as well. There’s nothing quite like being surrounded by a community of like-minded, creative humans.

This year, rather than camping, we stayed at a tiny house resort across the street from camp (because I didn’t want to have to figure out a battery for my APAP machine or worry about that battery exploding in the heat of the tent). It was adorable:

Planet Bluegrass (the host of Song School) continues to be one of the most beautiful places on earth:

I started off the week deciding I was going to do things that scared me, so I took performance classes with Amy Speace (who is absolutely brilliant and if you’re unfamiliar with her music, please go listen to her album Tucson right now). I volunteered to play my song in the first class and have my performance critiqued (although “critiqued” sounds harsher than it was; it was more a gentle nudging toward greater authenticity), and I learned a TON – and then I found out I’d gotten one of the last performance slots for the open stage on the last night of Song School, so I had all week to integrate what I learned. On the last day of class, we each stood up and sang a few lines of Amazing Grace (or Happy Birthday, for those who didn’t know the words), and then our classmates assigned us three attributes based on their immediate impressions of our performances – two that had positive connotations and one “shadow” word, which we then worked to turn into something we could use to ground ourselves when stepping on stage. The words the group came up with for me were kind, sincere, and reserved, which were turned into the persona of Kind, Sincere Bear. I cried. It’s nice to be seen.

Some of you have seen this on Facebook already, but the classes with Amy were honestly life-changing. Historically, when I performed, even if it was going pretty well (maybe especially if it was going pretty well), I tended to dissociate. I’d step on stage and mostly leave my body.

This performance wasn’t perfect, but I’ve never been so present in my body while playing in front of people. I’ve never had so much fun on stage; I’ve never been prouder of a performance. I will be forever grateful to Amy for the tools she gave me this week, and to all the other friends who made this week so incredible.

Lyrics:

Pen and ink and paper combine
Alchemical fire as you write the big bang
Worlds spring into existence
Ready or not, connect the dots

Stop, take a breath
Feel the magic in your chest
When you know who you are
You are born of stars

At the top, it feels like flying
Giddy with altitude, one with the sky
In this earthbound apparatus
There’s no risk, just innocence

Stop, take a breath
Feel the magic in your chest
When you know who you are
You are born of stars

Some love starts with warm beverages
Held in nervous hands as voices spill secrets
And you slowly learn to ask
If you can dare, for what they might share

Stop, take a breath
Feel the magic in your chest
When you know who you are
You are born of stars

And because I know you’re all wondering – Nova did great at the boarders. We drove all the way home on Friday (which was my husband’s birthday), leaving Lyons at around 6:30am and arriving at the boarding facility just before midnight. The report card from the facility says that Nova was “so sweet” and “the life of the party” at group playtime. (We have a popular kid, apparently…she didn’t get that from either of her parents.) I will leave you, as always, with a few pictures of our girl, who will have been with us for a WHOLE YEAR as of Sunday!

Rest and Reset

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! I’m a little late writing and posting this today; it’s my first day back to work after an extended long weekend, and I have been working on getting my bearings again.

My four-week intensive class wrapped up last Thursday night, and in honor of that, I took Tuesday and Wednesday off from work (in addition to Monday’s holiday). The time off has been a bit of a mixed bag. Mostly, I’m so used to having so much to do and such a regimented schedule that I felt a little aimless and drifting without things on the calendar. Still, I managed to rest and have some fun, so that was good. Here are some of the highlights of the week:

  • On Sunday, we had a four hour Zoom hangout with my best friend who lives out in WA. It had been way too long since we’d talked like that, and it was absolutely delightful.
  • Monday we went to my in-laws to have ribs for dinner; it was delicious (and it was great to see them)!
  • Tuesday was a busy day:
    • That morning I met with my academic advisor and got a better sense of what’s going on with my degree program (when I entered, the partner school that was offering the concentration courses had just announced they were discontinuing that program; thankfully, my school is going to pick them up and the program will there), which was a relief and gave me a little more of a sense of direction.
    • I got my hair cut, which always makes me feel like a new person.
    • Nova and I went for a lovely walk with my parents, including a stop at a little riverside bar to rest on the shaded patio before heading home.
    • That evening, I got to play D&D!
  • Yesterday, I was struggling a bit – I had nothing on the calendar, but because of the intensity of the last month, I kept thinking there was something I must have been forgetting, so I had a bit of a hard time relaxing. But I did end up having some fun – I recorded some guitar tracks for a couple of songs, and finished listening to the audiobook of Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad, which I’d started on my trip to New York back in May.

I will leave you, as always, with a few Nova photos from this week:

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.