Obsessed

Hello, dear readers! I’m pretty sure it’s Thursday. Time has felt particularly nebulous this week.

On Friday, my new octave mandolin arrived, and I am obsessed with it. I’ve played almost every day since it arrived. It’s beautiful and everything I wanted.

Here’s a video of me playing “Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór,” one of my favorite songs to play on mandolin. I’m a little rusty, but i love how this instrument sounds.

I don’t have a lot of other news this week, but I’d like to leave you with this article. It pulls no punches and is a hard read, but I believe it’s important for framing our conversations about racism.

I hope you’re hanging in there. Wear a mask when you go out, and take care of yourself and your people!

Highs and Lows

Hello, dear readers. We’ve made it to another Thursday.

I feel like this week has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I’ve been anxious and tired, and my allergies are pretty bad right now (cottonwood season gets me every year).

On the other hand, I managed the very exciting achievement of saving up and paying for my dream instrument this week. It should arrive this weekend, and I am over the moon about it. It’s a new octave mandolin, and it’s SO PRETTY:

I’m so excited!

We also managed to get wedding invitations finished and emailed out this week, so that felt like an accomplishment.

I am going to keep this short again, but I want to leave you with this article from the Washington Post that I found challenging but helpful this week. If you’re white, please take the time to read it and sit with it a while – educating ourselves is important, but anti-racism is not an academic exercise. Dismantling white supremacy and the systemic oppression of Black people requires action, and not just in the moments when the Black Lives Matter movement is front and center in our social media feeds. This is lifelong work.

Victory in Uncertainty

Happy(?) Thursday, dear readers! How’s everybody holding up?

The week here has been a bit of a mixed bag. I’m still wrestling a bit with some leftover queasiness from last week, and the realization that we really don’t know what the future holds right now is steadily sinking in.

However, in the midst of all this uncertainty, I did have a major victory this week – I paid my credit card down to $0 for the first time since we moved to Chicago 7.5 years ago.

Some history on this: I had paid it all off before we moved, but when we got here, we we both very much underemployed, and, well…we had to eat. I leaned on the credit card because it was the option we had. Then our job situations improved, but I was in the habit of using the credit card, and…it got out of control. By August of 2017, I had accumulated nearly $16,000 in debt. So, I made a plan, and since September of 2017 I have been aggressively paying down my debt, dedicating about a third of my monthly income to credit card payments.

I had some setbacks, for sure (retail therapy is a hard habit to break). I originally thought I’d have it paid off in two years, then by the end of 2019, and finally it was clear it was going to take until June of 2020. However, I was able to sneak a couple extra payments in thanks to the pandemic stimulus check and my new job, and I am now debt free a month ahead of where I thought I’d be.

It’s a surreal feeling, but mostly, I feel like I can breathe again, and that’s a really great experience. I recognize that I am privileged beyond measure to be able to achieve something like this during such stressful and uncertain times, and I don’t want to take that for granted.

The other fun news from this week: I started playing the mandolin again, and am taking a class online at the Old Town School to get my playing back up-to-speed. I’m remembering all the reasons why I fell in love with the instrument almost 9 years ago, and am a little sorry I put it down for so long (I haven’t played much in probably 5 years now…been focusing much more on guitar). It’s the only instrument I can play where I can pick it up and just noodle around and make up melodies that sound nice.

I hope you’re all hanging in there and finding your own victories (big or small – they all count) to brighten up your days.

What a Time

Hello, lovely readers! I’m a little over halfway through my first week at the new job, and things are going well, at least on that front. I like my coworkers a lot, I’m learning, the commute is easy, and the office is great.

It’s also possible that my second week will be working from home, because, well, COVID-19.

I’m okay, but we’re getting at least one email a day from leadership updating us as to the company’s policy. Thankfully, working from home is possible for me (although it’ll be weird to do all my onboarding and training remotely). I have a pretty good chance of job security.

My partner works at a museum. We don’t know if they’ll end up closing. We don’t think there’s much chance that he’d lose his job if they closed for a while, but who knows what the pay situation would be. It’s scary to think about, but ultimately, all we can really do is take it one day at a time.

Despite the global pandemic, there have been some bright spots for me personally this week, so let’s end on a high note:

  • I left my job of 6.5 years on a high note, and got a lot of sweet well-wishes from colleagues.
  • I started my new job and seem to fit in well here!
  • Wednesday night we got to see some of our favorite musician friends, Heather Mae and Crys Matthews, play a show. (Support your favorite independent musicians, folks – it’s a rough time out there with shows getting canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.) It was so great to see them – I am consistently blown away by the talented, fabulous people I’m so fortunate to know.

Write Write Write

I am writing this on Wednesday night. It is the 12th of February, and so far I’ve written a song a day all month. If I can make it two more days, I’ll “win” FAWM by the time the month is only half over!

I’m actually rather liking a lot of what I’ve written so far, too. Few things feel finished finished, but that’s fine. I’m signed up for “Finish Your Damn Songs” at the Old Town School starting in March, and there’s no rush, really, as I can’t imagine I’ll be trying to record this tarot project until at least late next year.

Every year, FAWM reminds me how great it is to be part of this worldwide community of songwriters. When I started writing songs, I mostly did it for myself, but the longer I do this thing, the more I believe that songs are meant to be shared. They’re a powerful tool for connecting with people.

It’s been an exciting week for other reasons, too, but not ones I can talk about yet. What I can talk about is the fact that we have a good friend coming to visit this weekend, and I’m very excited for that. They’re a low-maintenance houseguest and a delight to have around.

Once again, I’m going to leave you with a song I’m happy about from the past week of writing. This is the song for XIII – Death, which is not always about death (it’s often more about endings birthing new beginnings), but I leaned into the archetype for this one. It features some kind of spooky harmonica, too, so that’s fun.

Surprisingly Productive

So…I’ve had a shockingly productive first week of February (by which I mean: I’ve had a really successful first week of FAWM). I’ve gotten up at 5:30 to write four days in a row now. I’m 6/6 days/songs written.

I don’t expect that I’ll write a song every day all month. That feels bonkers (and also, we have a friend coming to visit next weekend, and while they are lovely and encouraging I don’t think I’m going to get a lot of writing done when there are three of us in our one-bedroom apartment – it’s hard enough when it’s just me and my partner). But I am really excited about how the month is going so far.

I’m trying to participate more in the listening and commenting on FAWM this year than I have in the past. As a result, I’m making some friends. I’m probably going to do a collaboration on a song with someone whose songs I’m really digging but who I’ve never met, which is just a cool think about the internet.

This year for FAWM I’m focusing on this 78 Songs project I’ve been “working on” for about four years with little success. I’m trying to write a song for every card in a tarot deck, and up until this year I had maybe half a dozen done. I decided to use this concentrated songwriting time as a catalyst to get some traction on this project. So I’m starting with the 22 cards of the major arcana. Since there are 22 and I only really had the first one done, I started working my way through a week or so ahead of time. As of today, I’ve gotten through XI – Justice, which means I’m over halfway there!

I’m going to leave you with my favorite of the songs that I’ve written so far. This song is for VII – The Chariot. I did not think this was going to be a 5 minute song, but here we are. This was largely inspired by a conversation I had with a friend. It was later pointed out to me that it’s also very queer, and I’m a little embarrassed and very amused that I didn’t realize it on my own. Anyway, here’s a song: enjoy!

2019/2020

Happy New Year, folks! We made it to 2020.

I have a tendency to set intentions and create resolutions at the beginning of the year and then never look at them again. That kind of happened in 2019. However, I looked back at my first post from 2019, when I laid out goals for the year, and even though I hadn’t looked back on them at all as the year progressed…it turns out I actually accomplished most of them? So that’s cool.

Let’s take a look back and a look forward, shall we?

Goals I had at the beginning of 2019, and progress on those goals:

  • Find a new therapist
    • I found a new therapist in January, and it was, on the whole, the most productive year of my life, in terms of therapy. I’ve been working through all sorts of things and feel like I’ve greatly increased my capacity for handling shit that comes up.
  • Complete a second FAWM
    • I wrote 18 songs for FAWM this year (the goal is 14), including two co-writes with my partner! We’d never written together before, so that was cool.
  • Write 30 songs
    • I wrote 50 songs, which is completely bonkers. The last one was written via quietly-recorded voice memos on the late-night drive to Minnesota for Christmas.
  • Read more
    • Technically I managed this – I read more books than I did last year. Didn’t quite hit my Goodreads goal of 25, but managed 23.
  • Go back to Song School
    • We did this, and it was such an incredible, affirming experience. I even managed to write a song while I was there, and got to perform it at the open stage with eight beautiful people.
  • Play out at least four times
    • Unless we count Song School, I played out three times. However…
  • Find at least one opportunity to play out somewhere other than the Acoustic Explosion
    • I did this! I played a show called Homolatte for the first time, and it was brilliant.
  • Play more D&D
    • While I always wish I could play more, I did this. Also got into some other games. I love the folks I game with so much.
  • Keep tracking finances and get money under control
    • I still feel less in control than I’d like, but I’m way better off than I was last year, and I’m on track to have my credit card paid off in June!

Other things that happened:

  • Saw my grandmother for the first time in nine years
  • Attempted 50/90 (and managed 17 songs)
  • We moved!
  • Reintroduced myself to my extended family (which went way better than I expected it to
  • Was a pallbearer at my grandfather’s funeral
  • Deepened existing friendships; made new friends

Goals I have for 2020:

  • Write. Songs, yes, but also other things, poems and short stories and maybe even games.
  • Read more, especially poetry and other things that inspire me.
  • Make music often, as close to every day as possible.
  • Do the work, in therapy and on my own, to be an adult that my inner child can be proud of.
  • Take care of my body and my brain and my spirit.
  • Follow through on the plan to have my credit card paid off in June.
  • Create more routine and space for ritual in my life.

May your 2020 be better than your 2019, and may this time of transition treat you gently and leave you with what you need from it.

Five Good Things

Hello, dear readers. I’m feeling stuck for something to write about this week, so I’m going to default to the five-item list of some happy things from the past week:

  1. The EMG last Thursday went well. I mean, it wasn’t fun, by any stretch of the imagination, but it did at least rule out pinched nerves as the cause of the chronic pain I’m dealing with, so that’s good. The rheumatologist recommended PT (which I still need to follow up on) and some supplements to try, as next steps. I’m not exactly hopeful, but at least we were able to rule something out.
  2. We bought a Harry Potter LEGO advent calendar last month, and it’s been so fun to open it each day and build a tiny thing. (Granted, we have forgotten about half the days, because we’ve not had an advent calendar in past years and also it’s the season where we come home and are tired and not thinking very clearly. But still.) We’ve had a handful of characters, some Christmas trees, a turkey (with legs that pop off so the minis can hold them…it’s adorable), and a few other random things. It’s a nice source of joy.
  3. We’ve made so much soup the past couple of weeks! Since we’ve been under the weather and it’s been cold, soup has seemed like the correct course of action. I’m getting to use the techniques we learned in the knife skills class we took last month, which is making my food prep way more efficient. This is the recipe we’ve liked best so far.
  4. We’re finally both getting over this awful cold. My partner’s a few days ahead of me in recovery, so I’m hopeful that by the weekend I’ll feel much better. I’m already much better than I was last weekend, so we’re moving in the right direction!
  5. I wasn’t sure what class to sign up for at the Old Town School for next session (songwriting filled up suuuuuper early and I missed my chance), but I finally made a decision and signed up last night – I’ll be taking a mountain dulcimer class! My partner’s aunt had given an old dulcimer to my partner’s dad a while back, and he’s not using it much, so he said I could borrow it. I’ll pick it up when we’re there for the holidays. I have felt kind of stuck, musically, and I think learning a new instrument is a great way to get unstuck. So I’m excited about that!

Having a Body

Sometimes, having a body is exhausting. This feels like one of those weeks.

Last Thursday I had an unexpectedly positive experience at a new rheumatologist’s office, and I’m feeling a little more hopeful that this one will actually try to figure out what is behind the chronic pain I deal with (as opposed to the last one, who basically just wrote it off as, “because you’re fat”). So that’s a happy thing.

Monday, in the middle of a staff meeting, I felt my back seizing up. I needed to stand but felt like I couldn’t (because everyone else was sitting and I felt the social pressure of not drawing attention to myself), and as a consequence have been in a not inconsiderable amount of back pain all week. It’s slowly working itself out, but it’s a process.

While this has been going on, I’ve also been trying to tackle multiple projects at work. I have a desk that can adjust from sitting to standing, and that’s been a lifesaver in terms of back pain management. But I’m finding the types of work I need to do are harder to focus on while I’m standing. On the other hand, sitting for any length of time makes my back stiff and sore. I feel like I can’t win.

Add to that the rain and temperature shift today, and I’m in a place of “everything hurts and I am exhausted.”

Thankfully, I have some bright spots to focus on this week. Most notably, I finally got to play the show I missed the night I had to go to the ER a couple of weeks ago. It was fun, more people than I expected showed up, and I even made some money in tips!

Under the Weather

It’s snowing in Chicago at the moment. Not much if it is sticking – mostly, everything is just cold and wet.

Generally I don’t mind snow. I like cooler weather – I run warm, and I like to show off the stuff I’ve knitted. Today, though, I’m a little cranky about it.

I’ve been getting over a cold for two weeks now. I have a cough that just won’t stop. I sound worse than I feel, at this point, but the cold, damp air isn’t helping anything.

We visited my grandmother for her birthday last Saturday. It was a good trip, and I’m glad we went…things weren’t perfect (she tried avoiding pronouns altogether, but when they did come up, she defaulted to the wrong ones for both of us, and at one point she introduced my partner to the staff as my “friend”), but they went about as well as I could have hoped. I hope I look as good at 92 as she does.

Tomorrow night we’re finally going to see Hamilton! I am very excited about that. The first time my partner played the soundtrack for me, I remember not being sure how I felt about it. But it was our main road trip music for our trip back to Minnesota one Christmas, and by the end of the trip, I was sold. It’s so good!