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!

The Apartment is Alive with the Sound of Music

Hello, dear readers! We’ve made it to another Thursday. This will probably be a relatively short blog as I’m writing this before work on Thursday morning, and I have a pretty packed workday ahead of me, starting with two hours of management training (which, don’t get me wrong, I am immensely grateful for as a new manager…it’s just a lot first thing in the morning).

It’s been an exciting week on the music front in our household. Last week, I was poking around the Old Town School‘s music store website, and I noticed they had a used Seagull guitar in their lineup that I had seriously considered buying back when they were in production, but hadn’t had the money to justify. In a bit of a snap decision, I went ahead and bought it. It needed some minor adjustments (I put lighter strings on it and learned how to adjust a truss rod for the first time), but now it’s in good shape and will make a great travel companion – it’s smaller and lighter than my main guitar.

I’ve decided her name is Gladys.

The same day I got the guitar, my partner was looking at gear online for the home recording class they’re taking. Long story short, we now also have a MIDI keyboard and…A DIGITAL PIANO. We are both very excited to get the apartment in a more orderly state so we can get it set up (it’s here and ready to go, we just need to clear out a couple of things first).

I’m so excited about my private lessons I’m taking in preparation for recording right now. Yesterday was our second session, and even in the first week, I’ve learned so much. I have 13 tracks picked out to record, and have started a spreadsheet with details on all of them. It’s all very exciting.

We also heard this week that Song School is hopefully going to happen in August, so we are going to be keeping extra alert for when we can get vaccinated. I miss our Song School friends so much, and I really, really hope we get to see them this year.

In non-music news, I’m feeling really good about my new role at work, and am just endlessly grateful to have landed where I did when I did last year. I hit one year with the company on Tuesday, and while on the one had it feels like I just started, on the other, 2020 was at least a decade long. I could not have gotten through last year nearly as well without this job.

That’s it from me for this week – I hope you’re all hanging in there and taking care of yourselves and each other.

Movement

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday. (I’m pretty sure it’s Thursday, since that’s what my computer is telling me, but I was definitely certain for most of yesterday that it was Tuesday, and just a moment ago was completely convinced it was Friday today…time feels particularly wobbly this week, for some reason.) FAWM has ended – I wrote 19 songs last month, and I’m actually reasonably pleased with several of them. The songwriting class I’ve been in for the past two months has also wrapped up – I’m really pleased that my classmates want to stay in touch, and we have an email thread going.

Yesterday, I started private lessons with one of my favorite songwriting instructors at the Old Town School, Sue Demel. I’ve never taken private lessons before (though I’ve taken many group classes, including group classes that Sue was teaching over the past four months), and it’s a little intimidating to get that kind of 1:1 attention. But it’s also great, because I adore Sue and her enthusiasm for helping singer-songwriters find their most authentic singing voices. The goal of our work together is to get me ready to record an album this year – I bought a bunch of recording equipment recently, and my husband is taking a class to learn how to make the best use of it, and we’re both experimenting a bit in GarageBand and Logic – it might be a self-produced album, or it might be something I start at home and finish in a studio this fall if enough folks get vaccinated and things open back up a bit. One of my goals for today is to nail down my track list (I have done a lot of brainstorming on this, but Sue has encouraged me to make an actual decision so we can narrow the focus of what we’re working on in our lessons). I’m very excited, even though I also feel like I’m biting off more than I can chew – I’ve been writing songs since I was 10, and since I started keeping track in 2012 I’ve written over 240 of them. It’s time to get some nicer recordings done and out into the world.

In non-music news, my new role at work is going well. I’m one month in and learning a tone – I started taking over 1:1s with my direct reports this week, and that’s been great, although I’m already realizing things I can adjust there. I also did a Mental Health First Aid training through work this week, which was super informative.

I hope you’re all hanging in there and continuing to stay safe and healthy and taking care of yourselves and each other.

February Winding Down

Hello, lovely readers, and welcome to Thursday. Yesterday felt a lot like a Thursday to me, and today feels like a Friday, which means tomorrow will likely be a challenge. I have just been tired this week for no particular reason. Thankfully, the weather in Chicago is turning warmer and sunnier, and that makes things feel a little better (I like cold weather, but my joints have other opinions).

February is winding down. I have 18 songs posted on FAWM and, assuming I can get a song done for class this week, should round out the month with at least 19, which ties for the most songs I’ve ever written in a month (I also wrote 19 songs the first year I did FAWM). I got a bit overwhelmed by it all sometime last week and haven’t been writing or posting or engaging with the site in general as much as I was at the beginning of the month, but it’s still been a major source of joy in my month.

Work has been good, although I feel like I’m behind on a couple of larger projects. In reality I probably didn’t have super realistic expectations at the outset of these things, and I’m trying to be gentle with myself about it. I’m still definitely feeling a fair bit of burnout from being at the computer all the time, and am going to look today at when I can take a little time off next month to reset.

I’ve been quite achy this week, I think in part because I forgot to take my glucosamine supplements over the weekend, and also because of the weather shifting. I think that’s also impacted how much I’ve been writing this week, because it’s hard to really play an instrument very well when your elbows and hands ache. It’s also made knitting harder. Sigh. The good news is that in general I’ve been in a bit less pain in between shifts in weather and the times when I forget my supplements. Unfortunately this is just a really volatile weather time in the Midwest.

I hope you’re all hanging in there, friends. I am looking forward to the day when vaccines are more widely accessible and we can hug each other again. I’m still planning to wear a mask in public for the foreseeable future, but hopefully after we’re all vaccinated, hugs will feel safer.