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!

Busy, Busy

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! I am rather late in posting today because it’s a busy week and, in particular, a busy Thursday for me. I am interviewing three people for an open position on my team today (in addition to everything else I usually have to do on Thursdays), which has me feeling a bit off-kilter. However! Next Thursday begins a week and a half of PTO so we can go to Song School, so things are looking up.

This whole week is busy, though. Between work being extra chaotic lately and regular homework and the final paper I’m starting to work on (and hoping to at least get to Shitty First Draft status before leaving for CO), I feel like I’m juggling a lot of things and I’m not quite sure I can keep everything in the air. I’m working on trusting my ability to manage multiple projects at once. It’s a process.

Not a lot to talk about this week, but I’ll leave you with your weekly Nova photodump:

Nervous System Regulation

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! (I initially wrote that as “welcome to Thursday?” which actually feels pretty accurate right now.) It’s been a decent week so far – we’ve managed to maintain our newly-cleaned kitchen pretty well, we’ve cooked a few more times (I’m making tacos again tonight), and things are generally good.

We’re leaving in a couple of weeks for Song School, and I’m so excited. I’m also so anxious. We’re boarding Nova for the first time for this trip, and that’s a stressful thought – she has separation anxiety, but I know I do, too. (We took her to the vet yesterday to get her up-to-date on all her booster shots, and they gave us some trazodone for her to help with the anxiety of boarding and of going to the groomer.) It’s the longest trip my husband and I will have taken together since the last time we went in 2019. Instead of camping this year (since I didn’t want to figure out camping with a PAP machine), we’re staying at a tiny house resort across the street from the festival grounds where Song School happens, which is exciting but also unfamiliar. On top of the trip itself, I have a big final paper due for my one remaining summer class the Friday after we get back, so I need to start on that (thankfully I know what I’m writing about and got that approved by my professor, just waiting for the books I need to arrive so I can get going on it). And at work I’ve just kicked off the process of hiring a new person, and I know I have at least a couple more people I’ll be hiring in the next couple of months. It’s all just adding up to a lot – I have a tendency toward travel anxiety anyway, and all of these layers of stress are compounding into what feels like an unreasonable amount of nerves for something that is ultimately a thing I’m really looking forward to.

I’ve been thinking a lot about neurodivergence lately, and how that part of myself intersects with the other parts of me. I’m learning how to be gentler with myself, to acknowledge when I need accommodations in some situations, and to work out how to make those accommodations happen. Since I’m in a particularly stressful time (and a time that is going to continue to be stressful after I get back from Song School, as I’ll be taking 3 classes this fall on top of working full time), I’m really trying to focus on what my body needs and how to keep my nervous system a little more regulated amidst the stress. I am trying to lean into my self care and soul care practices that help keep me steady.

Thankfully, I have therapy this afternoon and can brainstorm additional regulatory tactics with my therapist. I’m grateful that, despite the stress, I’m feeling capable of handling everything. I know I have the capacity to do the things I need to do; I’m just learning how to honor that capacity without trying to power through things I don’t need to power through.

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough and I’m late in getting this posted, so I shall leave you with your weekly Nova photodump:

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

New Routines and Tiny Gratitudes

Hello, dear readers! We’ve made it to another Thursday. My week has been decent, but underlined by a background anxiety that I’m not going to be able to figure out how to get all my homework done in time. New routines are hard – all change, even if it’s positive, is hard to some degree – and I’m worried I’m not up for the task. I’ve already had to turn down some social plans in favor of getting homework done, which doesn’t feel great. But the work is all really interesting so far, and I really appreciate my classmates and professors.

I realized in therapy last Thursday afternoon that I was particularly anxious for my Thursday night class – Religious and Theological Interpretation. After talking through some things with my therapist, I realized it was largely because the last time I had engaged academically with stuff like this, I was in undergrad at a small, conservative bible college, where I was coming to grips with the fact of my queerness and watching interpretations of religious texts be weaponized against people like me. So it makes sense that I was anxious! Thankfully, I was able to name that, not only in therapy but also in class, and it seemed to resonate with a lot of people. I’m really grateful to have landed where I did.

I’m going to wrap up this post with a brief little list of things I’m particularly grateful for right now:

  • Supportive communities. My husband and I have incredible support networks (some of which we share, and some that we don’t), and I’m so grateful to know that there are multiple communities of folks looking out for us, both when life is particularly chaotic and when things are really wonderful.
  • New (to me) ideas. My classes are introducing me to concepts I’d never considered before, and I am enjoying the challenge.
  • FAWM. While February has not started yet, the FAWM website is up and running and people are starting to gather. I have no idea if I’ll write any music this February, but I’m excited to listen to what other folks come up with.

And, as always, here’s your weekly dose of Nova:

This is 33

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday. There’s definitely a part of my brain that thinks it’s Tuesday, because the beginning of my week was a departure from routine, but it is, in fact, Thursday.

It is also my birthday today! I kind of forgot it was coming until about a week ago. I didn’t really make any plans. I’m working today, which is fine. It looks like it’s going to be pretty warm out, so I’ll likely be hiding in my apartment next to my air conditioner for most of the day.

I don’t know how I expected to feel about turning 33, but right now I’m feeling pretty neutral about it. I like the number 3 a lot, so it feels like a fun age to be. I wonder when or if I’ll start to have particularly negative/existential crisis feelings about getting older. Mostly, as someone who’s dealt with mental health issues for most of their life, I’m just glad to still be around. I didn’t know how to picture myself in my 30s when I was younger. (I wonder now if some of that was tied up in gender stuff, that I couldn’t see myself as a grown woman, but I didn’t know there were other options, and so everything was just a hazy blank space.) My 20s were pretty tumultuous, and so I was glad to leave them behind when I hit 30, even as I watched a lot of my friends wrestle with feeling like they hadn’t done enough to be in their 30s yet. I imagine I’ll have a similar experience at 40, but who knows? A lot can change in a few years.

Right now, I’m just glad to still be here.

I started writing a new song a couple of days ago. It’s not going the way I’d like it to, but it’s the first songwriting I’ve attempted since FAWM ended in February. I haven’t gone this long without writing a song in years. So even though I’m somewhat frustrated with this song’s progress, I’m glad to know I haven’t completely lost my ability to write.

My coffee pot just beeped at me to let me know that the coffee is done brewing, so I think I’ll leave this one here. Cheers to another trip around the sun – thanks for coming on this journey with me!