Happy Moments

Hello, dear readers, and apologies for the late blog today – I overslept this morning and time got away from me.

First off, some good news – I got the results of last week’s MRI back yesterday, and everything looked normal. So that’s a relief. I still need to get labs done (I tried on Monday, but once again, my veins didn’t cooperate), but I’m taking my wins where I can get them.

The weekend was definitely a mixed bag – it was largely positive, but also included a migraine and a lot of worrying about what the MRI results might be. The highlights of the weekend were my two D&D games on Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday, the Body Love Open Mic hosted by our friend Talia. My husband and I performed together for possibly the first time? Certainly the first time in a long time. And it went pretty well!

The second verse got kind of garbled on this Zoom recording, but you get the idea.

So that was fun. We were definitely nervous, but it felt good to try out a new song on an audience for the first time in a while.

I don’t have much beyond that this week – I hope you’re all hanging in there and taking care of yourselves and your communities. And if you’re in the US, I hope you’ve got a voting plan!

It’s All About Community

Happy Thursday, dear readers! I am getting back into the swing of life after a wild couple of weeks, and I nearly forgot to blog – I keep thinking it’s Friday.

Last week, my partner and I made our way to the Rocky Mountain Song School in Lyons, CO. We got a late start, leaving Chicago for Lincoln, NE around 2:45 Friday afternoon, because we were trying to get the rest of the packing for our move done before we hit the road. We got to our hotel in Lincoln around 1:15am. It made for a short night.

We drove to a friend’s house in Denver the next day. It turned out her roommates were gone, and she was dog-sitting for some other friends, so after we hung out for a while, she left to do that and we had the house to ourselves. It was nice – I was especially exhausted, and was able to crash early.

The next morning, we got breakfast with friends who just moved to Denver from Chicago. It was great to see them, and after we ate we went for a little stroll around the neighborhood to look at street art. Then we drove back to the house, packed up our stuff, and headed up to Lyons. It was a bit rainy on the way there, but thankfully by the time we got there and were setting up, it had stopped.

It was so good to be back at Planet Bluegrass. The details of the individual days are a little muddled in my brain, but it was a great time. Monday I took a couple of classes that involved writing to some prompts, and that generated some ideas that led to me writing a complete set of lyrics to a new song that night. Over the next two days, I worked out music for it (my first attempt was entirely too moody, which I realized after another class), and Wednesday night I got to perform it at the open stage, with eight of my favorite humans, who came up with harmonies literally fifteen minutes before we went on to perform. It was incredible.

Practice

Practicing/learning harmonies 15 minutes before going on stage (Photo Credit: Rah Foard)

Performing

Performing at the open stage (Photo Credit: Rah Foard)

Other highlights of the week:

  • I made it my mission to do new things. I took a bunch of classes that intimidated me, and stayed out of my comfort zone most of the time.
  • I went swimming! It was my first time going shirtless in public (it’s been almost three years since I had top surgery). It felt good.
  • I reconnected with some of my very favorite people. I was surrounded by the most incredible community, and the safety that community created gave me the courage to try new things, take risks, and get out of my comfort zone. I was continuously reminded of how important community is, even to an introvert like me. Life doesn’t happen in isolation.

It’s been a whirlwind since we got back. We got home Saturday evening, and picked my partner’s dad up from Union Station (we borrowed his car for our trip, and so he came down to help us move and to get his car back). Sunday we did a lot of running back and forth between apartments. Monday, I headed off to work, and my partner and his dad coordinated with the movers to get the bulk of our stuff over to the new apartment! At this point, we have I think 99% of our stuff over at the new place, and we’ve been sleeping there all week. It’s a chaos of boxes, but last night my partner got most of the kitchen unpacked (I’m feeling under the weather and crashed early – hoping I can be more useful with the rest of the unpacking), and we HAVE to have everything unpacked by Saturday morning, because that’s when the reusable boxes are being picked back up. So…it’s going to be a bonkers couple of days. But it’s a great new space, and it’s already starting to feel like home.

Falling and Floating

It has been, on the whole, a very decent week…with one or two large caveats.

Saturday, I had an afternoon volunteer shift at the Old Town School, where my partner and I were also going to catch a show that evening. When I got off the bus, it hadn’t pulled all the way to the curb, so I had to step onto the street. When I went to step onto the curb…I sort of missed. My toe caught on the edge, and I went sailing forward in what felt like slow motion – I kept thinking I could catch myself, and then there was the awful moment when I realized I couldn’t, and I crashed, hard. I landed on my bad knee, ripped a hole in the palm of the fingerless glove on my right hand, and hit my head. The travel mug I had been carrying and the water bottle that had been in a pouch on the side of my backpack both went flying.

I was pretty shaken up, and my knee hurt like hell, but I managed to get up and hobble to the school, where I texted my partner (who was at the March for Our Lives), and then, like the millennial I am, posted about it on Instagram.

It was horrible, but before too long, the day started turning around. I got some ice from the cafe for my knee, and no sooner had I gotten downstairs with that than a friend showed up with a gluten free cupcake for me. My partner came and met me for dinner between my shift and the concert, and that was lovely; the concert was also a lot of fun.

Monday I had my first gig in a couple of months, and I was able to try out some of the material I wrote during FAWM. I managed to actually look at the audience more than my lead sheets for the first time ever, so that was a big win.

The rest of the week has been fine, and I’m going to the doctor today to get my knee checked out. (Also, if you’re thinking, “didn’t he just fall a month ago?” You are not wrong. Gravity and I are not getting along these days, apparently.) The fall was a bit of a nightmare, but it could have been so much worse – I could’ve cracked my head open, I could’ve broken something else…I landed a few inches from an iron fence. And I have good people that have been checking in on me and taking care of me. It was an unfortunate situation, but a good reminder that my people are the best people.

Here’s hoping I can stay upright for a while!

Momentum

Despite the fact that the entire rest of my work team was on vacation last week, making for a rather sleepy week at the office, it feels like my life is really picking up speed.

I’m less than 50 days out from chest masculinization surgery. There are a handful of details to finish nailing down between now and then, but for the most part, it looks like it really is going to happen. It’s starting to feel real. It still feels like it’s a long way off, but then I start looking at the actual numbers, and really…it’s coming up faster than I think I’m allowing myself to process.

I’m playing two different shows in the next couple of weeks. Sunday night I’ll be playing my longest on-stage set ever (a whopping 45 minutes). I was asked to do the show with one week’s notice, and in a moment of madness, I agreed. I’ll manage to get everything polished enough to play by then, but it’s definitely nerve-wracking. It might be my last big show of the year, depending on how recovery goes after surgery, so there’s also some self-inflicted pressure there, to go out with a bang.

In a few weeks, I’ll be participating in a show comprised entirely of covers of songs written by one of my dear songwriting friends. So that’s two additional songs I need to get cemented in my head within the next few weeks. I’m excited and honored to have been asked to participate, and I think it’ll be a really fun night. I never really do covers, because I generally feel like I can’t do another musician’s work justice. So it’s an exciting challenge.

I’m trying to cherish all the time I’m spending playing my guitar right now, since it’s going to be a major challenge (and for a while, an impossibility) post-op.

I’ve been a little down the past few days, for no real reason I can figure aside from the cyclical nature of my brain. But I’m aware that things are falling into place, and that’s a comforting thing to realize.

Stage Fright, Take Two

On Monday, I played my second ever non-class-recital show. Last time I did this, I ran out of material a couple of minutes early. This time around, I over-prepared and didn’t get to play my last song, but that was better than walking off the stage early, for sure.

The show was a lot of fun (in a completely terrifying sort of way). I realized the morning of the show that music has really become a place of home for me, and it’s nice to be able to share that with other people, even if it makes me unbelievably anxious. (Turns out ManicBrain and pre-show jitters are a SUPER FUN combination, if anyone was wondering. By which I mean Monday was not the most comfortable for my brain.)

Thanks to the friends who came out and the ones who couldn’t come but sent encouraging messages throughout the day. My people truly are the best people. And hey, we recorded the audio of my part of the show, so you can get an idea of what it sounded like even if you weren’t there:

Making Music

I have always, always loved music. Listening to music has always worked wonders for my unpredictable brain. It’s incredibly soothing. I enjoy music across most genres for a myriad of reasons. (Fun fact: when I’m manic, nothing brings me down and back to myself like putting on headphones and listening to heavy metal music. It’s the only thing that can keep up with the frenetic pace of ManicBrain.) But I also really love making music, and that’s becoming more of a focus in my life again. I’m really excited about a lot of what I’m writing, and I feel more of an urge to share it with the world instead of just playing for myself.

This week I’ve been wrestling with the fact that I am always wanting to learn new instruments, but that I need to be saving money and working with what I have, at least for this year, as I’ve got some big expenses coming up in the fall. Contentment is something I struggle with, along with patience and delayed gratification, but it’s something I need to learn.  So, I’m thinking I will need to focus on writing more than ever, and on expanding the skills that I have on the instruments that I already know how to play, so that I can do more interesting things with the music I write.

Last week I read this article about Apple’s new Music Memos app for the iPhone, and over the weekend I got a chance to play around with it. It is so cool and I’m super stoked about it – I’ve basically been telling all the musicians I know that they should try it.

I was pretty pleased with the song I wrote for my songwriting class last week, so I recorded it and stuck it up on my SoundCloud page. The guitar was recorded in Music Memos, where I also added the automatic drum and bass tracks. Then I exported it to GarageBand (also on my phone) and recorded vocals over it all. I’m really pleased with how it turned out – this is the closest I’ve ever come to hearing how one of my songs would sound if I played with a band, and it’s making me extra excited about making more music.

Five (Somewhat Scattered) Thoughts

  1. The show on Monday went really, really well; I’m pleased to say I’m proud of the performance I gave. I recorded the audio of my songs, but I’m still trying to decide if/when/how I want to put it up online. [Edit: I’ve put it up divided into tracks here.]
  2. It’s fascinating to me that I’ve reached a point where I can actually enjoy listening to recordings of myself singing. i hated my voice for so long…it made me so uncomfortable. Now, it sounds…well, it sounds more like me. Last week, I pulled up some old recordings of myself from the year before we moved to Chicago, and it was more than a little surreal hearing this voice that apparently used to come out of my throat but that sounded like a completely different person.
  3. I need to rotate which instruments I play more frequently. After almost a year of mostly playing my guitar, switching back to the tenor guitar or mandolin is more of a challenge than I’d like to admit.
  4. I’ve been super distracted lately. While I’ve been riding a bit of a high since Monday night, I’m still definitely in a place of lower energy overall. My brain feels pretty scattered, and I’m casting about for a bit of direction.
  5. In light of the general scatteredness, I’m really grateful for the structure I have in my schedule these days. I’m also wishing I had a bit more. How do you find the line between structure and overscheduling? I don’t seem to be very good at it.

Stage Fright

Between classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music and chasing our favorite musician friends around the Midwest, over the past couple of years, music has been an increasingly important part of my life.

Music has always been one of my favorite ways to center and ground myself. I played the piano as a kid, and when I was home alone I would pour my soul out into the keys. I got out of the habit (and I no longer play the piano as well as I used to), but I’m trying to pick up a guitar or mandolin more often than I have been, because there’s something unspeakably soothing about music.

I’m writing this Wednesday morning, feeling a bit nervous about starting a new songwriting class Wednesday evening, taught by a teacher I’ve never met (but who I’ve only heard good things about). I know the crowd in Steve Dawson‘s classes well enough that it’s rather less terrifying to step into them than it is to face a room full of unknown entities.

Even more than that, though, I’m getting increasingly nervous about next Monday.

Next Monday, I am getting up on a stage by myself and playing a full 25-minute set of original songs.

Up to this point, I have never played more than two songs at a stretch on stage, and that’s been limited exclusively to songwriting class recitals and open mics. This is seven songs, a whole new experience, and while I’m definitely exited, I’m also…well…pretty terrified.

I know that chances are once I get up there and start playing, I’ll be fine. And even if I’m not fine, I doubt anyone in attendance will be throwing produce at me. If I fumble my way through all seven songs, then at least I’ll have made it through all seven.

Getting up in front of people and singing and playing words and music that I wrote is not an easy thing for my introverted, socially anxious self. But it’s something I’ve wanted to try for a long time, and this particular sort of anxiety is one that I find I need to face and force myself through once in a while, or it becomes paralyzing. So, we’ll see how it goes.

Birthday Week Music Break

Yesterday was my birthday, and while there are many things I’m reflecting on as I look back at another trip around the sun, I’m not quite ready to write about them yet. So instead of a typical post, here’s a song I wrote a couple of months ago that I just recorded this week. Enjoy!

Finding My Voice: Part 2

So remember last week how I said I was going to perform in a songwriting showcase over the weekend, and I was terrified?

Well, I did the terrifying thing. Not only that, but I had fun doing it!

Those of us who performed had the option of doing two songs, so I actually performed more than one thing, and it went much better than I was afraid it would. Many thanks to my instructor, Steve Dawson, for organizing the showcase.

I had my partner record a video of the performance so I could share it with you. The camera died about ten seconds short of the end of my second song, but it’s close enough. Unfortunately, if I compress the video down to a size that I can upload, you can’t really see what’s going on. So I’m just going to post the audio here. Enjoy!