Missing My People

It’s Thursday, and I almost did not blog this week. I’m taking the week off from work, because this was supposed to be the week of Song School, and I figured I’d keep the time I’d requested back when the summer looked more optimistic.

It’s been really great to have the time off, to rest and reset. But it’s also been sad – I miss Song School so much. We’ve been doing our best to recreate parts of the experience at home.

Song School canopy in the living room!

We set up the canopy that’s usually outside of our tent at Song School in our living room – because we have no overhead light fixture, it just barely fits. We initially did it to be funny, but how it’s transformed the space has been pretty magical.

Zoom writing hangouts

We’ve also been hosting some Zoom hangouts with people from Song School. Every morning this week we’ve set up some quiet time to hang out and write for an hour, and it’s felt so good. Just seeing the faces of some of our Song School friends has helped to ground me in time and space in a way I feel like I haven’t been since the pandemic started. It’s nothing like the real Song School, but it’s been a better substitute than I thought it was going to be. We’ve had more people show up than we expected, too, which has been fun.

We also hosted a little Zoom song circle on Tuesday night (and we’re planning to again tonight), which was fun – it’s great to hear what people have been working on.

It’s hard to not be able to hug these people we love so much, to be in a place where we can’t listen to the river or see the stars. But seeing some of their faces, even just over a computer screen, has brought me so much joy even in the middle of grieving the loss of this incredibly important week in our year.

Tomorrow morning we’re hosting an extra writing session (Song School would be wrapping up tonight, if it was happening), and then we’ll fall into our familiar weekend rhythm before I start working again on Monday. I’m glad I took this time off (it’s also the most extended break I’ve had since Christmas, and I’m only just realizing how much my brain needed that), and I’m hoping it leaves me in a better place for diving back into “normal” life…as close to normal as we get these days, anyway.

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.

Move and Vacation

We are inching ever closer to our move date, and the number of packed boxes in our apartment has increased since last week. We’ve been coordinating some maintenance needs with the new landlord so that we don’t need to have them come and fix things when we’re actually there.

We’re down to the wire for packing now, though.

My partner has been in Minnesota for the past few days, hanging out with his parents before borrowing his dad’s car to drive to Song School. He gets back into town this afternoon. We leave for Song School tomorrow.

I am so excited for Song School, for seeing dear friends and digging into the practice of songwriting. I am also worried that I’ll struggle to be present, knowing that we move two days after we get back. I’m hoping I’ll be able to set that aside and fully engage while we’re on this trip.

On that note: there will be no blog next week, as I will be in Colorado and off my phone as much as possible. The next time I write a blog will be from our new apartment!

On My Mind

I nearly missed getting this blog written today – I meant to write last night but then suddenly wasn’t feeling well and just wanted to go to bed. I’m still not feeling great, but I wanted to get a blog out anyway, so here we are. These are some of the things that have been on my mind this week (that are mostly unrelated to the consistent undercurrent of the world being on fire and US politics being a horrifying shitshow):

  • This stellar HuffPo article: “Everything You Know About Obesity is Wrong”. As someone who struggled with weight fluctuations for years and who has, in the past, had an extremely disordered relationship to food, this resonated so powerfully. I’m so lucky to have a doctor now who respects me as a person and doesn’t write all my problems off as being “because you’re fat.” Not everyone is so lucky.
  • This speech Anne Hathaway gave when accepting an ally award from the HRC. I am not about giving cookies to allies just for being decent human beings, and I have my reservations about the HRC, but I think Anne Hathaway provides a good example of how to do allyship correctly. Also, there were pieces of this speech that made me cry, so…that’s a thing.
  • Songwriting! Last Friday my partner and I went to an all-day songwriting workshop at the Old Town School, and it was fan-fucking-tastic. On Sunday we’re gathering again to share our homework from the workshop. I got one song that I think I actually rather like out of what I’ve done so far, and I have some other ideas percolating. This was the most writing I’ve done since Song School, so that felt good. Also, on Saturday I’m taking the stage at Silvie’s here in Chicago with over 40 of my fellow Chicagoland musicians to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Acoustic Explosion, which is the Monday night show I’ve played a handful of times a year for the past few years. I’m so excited for a night of music with this community I adore.

That’s it from me for this week, but once again, I’d love to hear from you, dear readers! What’s been on your mind this week?

Song School, and Returning to Reality

Hello, dear readers! You may remember that I took last week off from the blog because I was busy unplugging at Song School.

The week at Song School was…well, pretty incredible. We made new friends and connected with old ones, we got some writing done, we learned a ton. I don’t have adequate words to describe the experience (largely because I am exhausted and struggling with re-entry into real life), so here are some pictures.

The St. Vrain

The St. Vrain

Friends!

Friends!

Group sing in the St. Vrain

Group sing in the St. Vrain

Performing

Performing

Singing with friends

Singing with friends

It was truly an amazing week, and I left feeling like my head was full to bursting with new lessons learned and my heart was full of gratitude.

Re-entering real life has been a struggle. Going back to work this week has been rough and overwhelming. But I am so glad we were able to go. I am also glad to be back to sleeping in my own bed.

Song School!

Hello, friends! First things first: there will be no blog next week. That’s because I will be in Colorado, attending Song School, and will not have internet access (or time to blog).

The past week at work has been pretty ridiculous (read: extremely frustrating). It has frequently felt like every little thing that could go wrong has done so. I am beyond ready for vacation. I am trying really hard not to mentally check out before I actually leave. Today is my last day in the office for about a week and a half. I have one meeting to get through this afternoon, and I’m sure there will be a few last-minute things to sort out. I just have to hang on until 4:30.

I am so, SO excited to be heading back to Song School. My partner and I attended for the first time last year, and it was one of the best experiences we’ve ever had. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with friends we made last year, and meeting new folks, and learning enough that I feel like my head will explode. It’s going to be great. This year has been extraordinarily productive for me from a songwriting perspective, so I’m excited to see how that impacts my experience of Song School.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty to talk about in two weeks, when I’m back to reality. For now, though, I’m on vacation. 🙂

Music, Music Everywhere

It’s a musical time of year.

Monday night, I had my first gig in about four months. I was nervous, but I actually ended up having a lot of fun. There were some magical moments where the whole room went silent while I was playing, which was super gratifying.

The downside of Monday night gigs is that Tuesday is a work day. I didn’t get home until about midnight Monday night, and I struggled to wake up Tuesday morning. It was worth it, though.

Tuesday night I had songwriting class. Usually I end up writing my song for the week’s class on Sunday or Monday night, but I was weirdly on top of things last week (knowing I wanted time to practice for Monday), and had written my song on Wednesday. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to remember it. Thankfully, I had a quick voice memo recording on my phone to refresh my memory. I love my songwriting class – I love the community of songwriters that I am part of. They’re good people. Class is always a highlight of my week.

And somehow, we are now only a couple of weeks away from Song School! I am excited and nervous and am planning to sit down this evening to start making lists to help mitigate the nervousness. We met so many wonderful people and had such a fantastic time last year, and I can’t wait to be back in Colorado.

I’d love to hear what is bringing you joy this summer, friends! What fun are you having these days?

Song School 2017

Last week there was no blog, because my partner and I were at the Rocky Mountain Song School at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, CO. I spent the week almost entirely unplugged: away from my phone, not thinking about work, not focusing so hard on the news. It was…

Well, it was incredible, really. I didn’t get a lot of writing done (there are classes pretty much all the time, and they’re all fascinating, and it’s impossible to get to all of them), but I learned so much. I met so many amazing, beautiful people doing amazing, beautiful work. We talked about songwriting generally, but also about songwriting as survival, as resistance, as revolution. We held space for each other, cheered each other on and pushed each other to do better. 

I’ve never been in a new place around so many new people and felt so safe to be myself. 

It was an amazing experience. I don’t have adequate words to describe it. 

The road trip there and back was pretty great, too, although we did have some moments in small towns where we didn’t feel so safe (being an obviously queer couple in small town rural America can be frightening). I remembered, once we were finally in Colorado, that getting out of the city and into nature sometimes is essential to my mental health. It’s a thing that’s easy to forget in the convenience of living in Chicago, where I can get everything else I need, but it’s important. 

I’m going to be processing what I learned and working on the new songs I started for a few months, I think. I can’t wait to go back next year!

Adventure Calls

This past week has been a fun one. Sunday, I got to take a class on hand-sewing bow ties, taught by the fabulous Franklin Habit. The bow tie I made turned out a little snug, but I’m already gearing up to make more (with some adjustments to size so I don’t strangle myself when I wear them).

My partner was visiting his family in Minnesota for a few days, so I got some time alone in our apartment, which is a weird and rather uncommon thing. I definitely missed having him there, but it was nice to be a hermit for a few days, too.

I’ve been struggling to focus at work this week, after a couple of weeks that felt uncharacteristically (but refreshingly) productive. I don’t really mind that I’m a little scattered right now, though, because tomorrow, I will be on vacation.

My partner and I leave tomorrow for a grand adventure we’ve been wanting to take for years now: we’re headed off to a week-long songwriting camp in Colorado.

I was feeling pretty anxious last week, mostly, I think, because I started worrying that the experience wouldn’t live up to expectations, since we’ve been looking forward to this for so long. I feel like yesterday I finally hit the point of accepting that the journey is just as important as the destination, and that even if it isn’t perfect (which it probably won’t be, because life is messy), it will still be a new experience and a thing worth trying.

Besides, my partner and I love road trips, and this will be the biggest one we’ve gotten to take together.

There will be no blog next week, because I’ll be busy making music and ignoring my phone/the internet as much as possible. Catch you all in a couple of weeks!