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.

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.

Oddly Energetic

Hello, dear readers! This has been a weird week.

I’m still sitting on the exciting news I alluded to last week – next week I will hopefully be able to make an official announcement about that. But, at least in part because of that, I’m feeling…oddly energetic. I am riding a wave of creative energy right now.

Some of this is also because it is almost FAWM – February Album Writing Month. I write about this every February – it’s a songwriting challenge where songwriters from around the globe try to write 14 songs in the 28 days of February. I’ve participated the past three years, and am getting very excited for year number four, even though my life looks vastly different now than it did even a year ago and I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to do it. I’ve been getting up early to journal the past couple of weeks, to get in the practice before February hits, as generally early mornings are my best writing time. (I am not a morning person, but often I have more interesting ideas before my mental filters have fully kicked in post-coffee.)

I’m very excited about songwriting in general right now. I recently acquired some audio equipment that should make it easier to make nice recordings at home, and I am dreaming of possibly recording an EP this year, even if I have to do it from my apartment. I’m also writing for the class I’m taking right now at the Old Town School, and the past couple of weeks have elicited some interesting songs that I’m really quite pleased with. I’ll share last week’s here, because it’s been stuck in my head off and on all week. The assignment was one I’ve done before, where we’re asked to think about writing as a collective enterprise. Our task was to ask a handful of friends to tell us their most memorable dreams, and turn those into verses. For the chorus, we were to ask a question of a vast concept or thing. The group of friends that I asked did not disappoint, and they community we are in together inspired the questions in the chorus. So here it is; enjoy!

Holier Than This – Alyxander James

Lyrics, for the curious:

You made yourself at home in our shared space
Our familiar interactions put a smile on my face
But something here between us feels different today
I can see you

Do you ever cry?
Do you believe in miracles?
What happens when we die?
Is it anything to fear?
In all these stories that we tell
Making meaning out of myth
What could be holy, holy, holier than this?

It’s been some time since we’ve seen eye to eye
But now we sit together on this rollercoaster ride
Nothing left to run from and nowhere left to hide
I can see you

Do you ever cry?
Do you believe in miracles?
What happens when we die?
Is it anything to fear?
In all these stories that we tell
Making meaning out of myth
What could be holy, holy, holier than this?

Not a day goes by I don’t wish you were here
No matter how much time has passed, can’t always stop the tears
But now I see you smile when I’m looking in the mirror
I can see you

Do you ever cry?
Do you believe in miracles?
What happens when we die?
Is it anything to fear?
In all these stories that we tell
Making meaning out of myth
What could be holy, holy, holier than this?

Deep Breaths

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday.

I’m in a position where I feel like there’s a fair bit of news that’s going to happen, but none of it has happened yet, so I don’t actually have a ton to write about this week. This is gonna be a short one. That said, I’m going to focus on a handful of things I’m currently feeling grateful for:

  • My job, even when it’s stressful, is really great. I have never felt so affirmed in a work environment as I do at this job, and there’s a sense of stability that comes with that feeling that’s really necessary right now. The fact that my husband is out of work and we’re still doing okay financially is mind-blowing to me.
  • The Illinois legislature voted to end cash bail, among other things! This is a big deal.
  • I’m in a new songwriting class that started on Saturday, and I’m very excited for it. It’s a small group, just 4-5 students, which always makes for an interesting session. This week I’m struggling with the assignment, but even as I feel like songwriting is an impossible endeavor, I’m still looking forward to class and feeling motivated to keep trying, so that’s exciting.

Dream Collecting

Hello, dear readers! For once, I am writing this blog on Wednesday night instead of Thursday morning; here’s hoping it posts when I tell it to.

My week so far has been a bit of a mixed bag – I woke up Monday feeling very sniffly, and Tuesday morning I woke up with vertigo (which happens occasionally, usually if my allergies are particularly bad). I seem to be mostly on the mend, though, and tonight (Wednesday night) has been lovely – we had tacos for dinner, and I had my last session of songwriting class for 2020. The class has been absolutely magical, thanks to our inimitable instructor, Sue Demel, and a whole cadre of brilliant classmates. I’ve taken this particular class with Sue a few times now, and it’s always a joy – this third time around was no different. Every week I’ve been completely blown away by the songs my classmates have brought in! It’s inspiring to know that such beautiful creative work is happening week to week.

This past week our assignment was to be “dream collectors” – we were to ask friends and family to tell us about their most memorable dreams, and turn those into a song. In the past I’ve posted on Facebook to source this, but I’ve been off Facebook for a month now and am apparently not ready to go back yet, so I asked one of my D&D groups instead. They gave me the most beautiful, haunting, heartbreaking, weird, wonderful material to work with, and I really like what I came up with, so I thought I’d share it here. This is a rough draft and it’s still changing and settling into itself, but I’m pleased enough with it as it is. Enjoy!

Time Has Changed – (c) 2020 Alyxander James

Lyrics, for the curious:

You were a stranger
But your face was familiar
And I trusted you more
Than my own reflection
In a corner booth
Over Moroccan stew
It was an effortless connection

I opened my eyes
And you disappeared
The thin light of day
Spilled through the curtains
A lonely ache
Filled up the space
The emptiness a burden

Time has changed
Time has changed
Time has change me

I’m happier now
Than I knew I could be
I’ve grown stronger
And wrestled my demons
But still there are days
When the ghost of your face
Disrupts my sense of freedom

Time has changed
Time has changed
Time has change me

Time has changed
Time has changed
Time has change me

Taking Time

Hello, dear readers – we’ve made it to another Thursday. I don’t know about you, but my week has been a bit on the sleepy and unfocused side (although I think I’m generally being more focused than I was last week, so that’s something).

I mentioned last week that on Sunday I was going to participate in a Body Love Creative Writing Workshop that my friends Eli and Talia were putting on. I’m so glad I did! It was a lovely workshop that helped me to feel more connected to my body, and the exercises we did helped me to look at some of the difficult relationships I’ve had with my body in new ways. I ended up getting a song out of it, too, that I’m actually pretty happy with. Since I don’t have much else to talk about this week, I figured I’d share my rough cell phone recording of the new song with you all:

My Body Takes the Time It Needs

Here are the lyrics:

My body takes the time it needs
When I am walking down the street
It won’t be hurried past the trees
My body takes the time it needs
Oooh…

My body takes the time it needs
Reminding me to bend my knees
Allow my legs to carry me
My body takes the time it needs
Oooh…

I’ve been ashamed of my slow pace
My steady, plodding gait
But I am learning to have grace
My life is not a race

My body takes the time it needs
To laugh, to cry, to heal, to grieve
To feel the sun, the rain, the breeze
My body takes the time it needs
Oooh…

My body takes the time it needs…

Anyway, here’s to letting our bodies take the time we need, particularly right now. Keep wearing your masks and washing your hands and socially distancing, and keep hanging in there.

Bursting at the Seams

Hello, dear readers!

I am having a really great week. I can’t talk publicly about all the reasons why just yet (feel free to reach out if you’re curious), but here are a few:

  • Last Friday, I ended up writing a song with a fellow FAWMer. I wrote the lyrics, sent it to them for music, they sent it back, I recorded the melody and guitar part, and they added harmony and ukulele. It sounds FANTASTIC, and I am so excited about it. You can listen to it here.
  • Over the weekend, a friend from the Twin Cities came to visit, and it was so fun! They are a very easy houseguest and it was a relaxing weekend for everyone, I think.
  • As of this morning, I’ve completed my personal FAWM challenge of writing a song for every card of the major arcana in the tarot. I’m very excited about that.

More to come next week on the rest of the excitement. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you – what’s making your week brighter?

Attempting Optimism

It’s been another kind of hard week. I’m tired, I’m achy, I got an unexpected medical bill, and I’ve been feeling cranky and out of sorts a lot of the time. However, I am attempting to look for some bright spots – not because I think everything needs a silver lining, but it’s easier to get up in the mornings and get through each day if I have things to look forward to. So here are a handful of happy things:

  • I was able to play guitar this week! A couple of weeks ago I picked up my guitar and couldn’t play, because my hands hurt so much. Thankfully, despite the fact that they still hurt, I’m finding that I can play some things, as long as I mostly avoid barre chords and don’t capo up so high that I’m having to cram my fingers into smaller spaces. So that was exciting and encouraging.
  • My department at work is going bowling tomorrow. I have admittedly mixed feelings about this – both because of how much socializing is involved and because my hands have been hurting and I can’t imagine bowling is going to help that. But I do enjoy bowling (even though I’m pretty bad at it), and it means a few extra hours I don’t have to work, so that’s good.
  • I’m getting super excited for FAWM. This will be my third year participating in this challenge, and it’s always a magical time. This year, I’m planning to get some serious work done on my 78 Songs project, where I’m writing a song for every card in a tarot deck. I’ve been “working” on this project for years and have almost nothing to show for it, so I’m excited for the external motivation to get some of the work done. This FAWM I’ll be tackling the major arcana, which is comprised of 22 cards. Since the goal is just to write 14 songs, I started working on them this week, and have two songs done and another set of lyrics started, so that feels like good progress.

What things are you excited about or looking forward to?

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.

Dreaming

I’m in a weird, waiting space in a few big areas of my life right now. It’s not bad, necessarily, but it’s uncomfortable and I’m hoping I’m able to start moving again soon.

In the meantime, I’m dreaming, and I’m trying to figure out how to manifest some of these dreams. (I’m also thinking about how “manifesting your dreams” usually comes down to some combination of hard work and privilege.) What do I want my life to look like? What do I want to give more time and space to? Where is my focus shifting away from things that have taken up a lot of time and space historically?

I’m trying to stay on top of assignments for my songwriting class (which I’m super grateful for at the moment, because if I didn’t have those deadlines, I probably wouldn’t be writing much at all right now). There are dreams tied to that, too – when will I hit the point where I can save a little money to record an EP? Since 2012 I’ve written almost 175 songs; more than half of those have happened in the past two years. I’m sitting on a lot of material, and it would be nice to be able to put some of it out into the world in a way that feels more permanent than the (very) occasional live show.

I really, really hope I have some more concrete news to blog about soon. In the meantime, I am trying to learn to breathe through the discomfort of waiting. I don’t know that I believe that everything happens for a reason, but I am trying to see what I can learn from this liminal space. Patience is not always my strongest virtue, but I’m working on it.