Saturday, January 28, 2017
Guitar: This morning, I woke up at 6:00 a.m. and practiced guitar for over three hours! Anne was at a sleepover and Dan had to leave early for an out-of-town convention, so I had the whole house to myself. I worked on my sight-reading, and then I worked on songs. I practiced singing a lot of them, though my voice is still depressing me.
Voice: I did work on voice a bit, practicing some exercises and the song "Somewhere" from West Side Story. The trouble with practicing songs is that it's very easy to play the accompaniment, and I find myself forgetting to sing as I play and improvise on the accompaniment. I have to stop doing that. It's just that I'm so discouraged by my lack of progress in singing that my love for playing piano tends to seem even greater in contrast. So all I want to do is play piano and not sing. Singing is hard for me, a foreign land and a foreign tongue. Piano is home.
Piano: Speaking of piano, I got a book of etudes and pieces by jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. It's pretty easy to sight-read, so I played some stuff from that book for about 15 or 20 minutes tonight. Next I moved on to Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer"--a song I've been able to play poorly for years but have never played well. I'm focusing on not being sloppy when I play it. I learned to play it well many years ago, but I've gotten sloppy over the years, and I don't want to be sloppy anymore. I also worked on Vince Guiraldi's "Linus and Lucy," one of those songs I've always wanted to learn but never have.
When I wasn't doing music, I was spending time with my kid. We went around the neighborhood selling Girl Scout cookies for a good part of the afternoon, and then tonight we worked on a project she has for school next week. It's been a good, low-key day. Hoping tomorrow will be similar: quality time with my kid, my guitar, and my piano. And my, er, voice.
I haven't mentioned that I've had a problem with coughing for the past seven months. I finally went to the doctor, and antibiotics and steroids haven't helped, so the next step is to go to an ENT so he can put a scope down my throat to figure out what is wrong. The throat problem has definitely had an effect on my voice, so I'm hoping the ENT can diagnose the problem and get me a cure. Until then, I think that learning to sing will continue to be a particularly frustrating uphill battle.
The end. Time to go to sleep and dream of more music tomorrow!
Thursday, January 26, 2017
The problem was that I felt hopeless. Hopeless that I would ever be able to sing in a voice that didn't make people cringe.
That's my big fear. That my voice is going to make people cringe or roll their eyes or shake their heads and smirk. That I'm that bad. That even after years of voice lessons, I'll still be awful.
So after a half-hour of exercises and working on a song, I asked my voice teacher, "So, do you think I have any hope?" I meant to make it sound like something of a joke, but I guess I was too invested in the answer to be flippant about it. Before he could say anything, the tears came, and I was cursing myself when he finally spoke.
He said I have a beautiful voice, but that I've spent my entire life singing with tight, closed vocal cords. My entire life. That's forty-something years of something I'm having to un-learn. And on the few occasions lately where I've managed to relax and really sing out, he said, my voice is lovely. Only thing is, it's very hard for me to relax my vocal cords! Not only do I carry my stress in my neck/jaw, but I have all kinds of self-consciousness going on every time I open my mouth to sing. So, even if I wasn't stressed before, I get stressed.
Maybe I need wine before each lesson. Or a three-mile run.
Or I just need to learn to relax and let my love for singing erase the self-consciousness. It's something I'm having to learn, like a baby has to learn to walk or talk.
I'm so glad I'm doing this--taking voice lessons. I want this so badly. I've wanted it for a long time. And I think that's part of why I get emotional, too. There's the hopelessness that I'll never get there, but there is also the joy that comes with taking these first few steps, steps I've been afraid to take since I was a teenager.
I think I'll get there. There are probably be a few more teary-eyed sessions in store for me (and my hapless voice teacher), but I think I'll get there.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
So, in an attempt to guilt myself into exercising more, I'm going to post my workouts here periodically. Most of them will include some degree of running, so I'm calling these updates "The Runs." Ha ha.
So, here goes.
The Runs, January 7 - 14
Saturday, January 7: Walk/Run - 30 min, 2.25 mi.
Sunday, January 8: Walk/Run - 31 min, 2.1 mi.
Friday, January 13: Walk/Run - 31 min, 2.41 mi.
Sunday, January 14: Walk/Run - 40 min, 3.2 mi.
As you can see, I can manage to work out on the weekends. The problem is during the week, when I'm sitting on my butt at work all day plus I don't exercise. The best time for me to exercise is early, as in 5:00 a.m. It's been so hard for me to motivate myself to get up that early, even if I manage to get to bed early. I need to get back into the habit. Let's see if I can do that tomorrow.
Friday, January 13, 2017
After that weekend, I knew it was time: After 30 years of wishing, it was time to find a teacher and learn to sing. I wanted to be good at song-leading—to have a nice, loud, on-key voice that people could follow. And I wanted it for myself: I wanted to be able to fully enjoy singing, inner critic be damned.
Fortunately, I'm at an age where I can genuinely laugh at myself and move on. And that's just what I did.
Sunday, January 8, 2017
So, I got a guitar for Christmas, and I'm learning to play. I'm a novice but have learned a few songs already, now that I know a few chords.
This blog post is where I'm going to keep a list of songs that I can play/sing on my new guitar. I started keeping lists a couple of weeks ago elsewhere, and now I have half a dozen nearly identical lists on scraps of papers around the house. And I've misplaced most of them.
Since I can't misplace the blog, I'm putting the list here.
Blowin' in the Wind
Home on the Range
Kum Ba Ya
Night Rider's Lament
Puff the Magic Dragon
Rock My Soul
Say Why (a song from Girl Scout Camp)
Speed of the Sound of Loneliness
This Land Is Your Land
Today (John Denver)
You Are My Sunshine
Saturday, January 7, 2017
If I vow to post every workout I do on this blog, will it motivate me to get my once-buff self back into shape? We'll see! Today was a walk/jog on the treadmill--30 minutes, including warm-up and cool-down. The back of my left knee hurts. Keeping my fingers crossed that it won't hurt tomorrow.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
In my efforts to rediscover my musical soul in 2017, I'm taking some steps I've never taken before. I'm studying with two music teachers, 30 minutes a week (for a total of an hour a week) ... and neither of them are piano teachers. I'm expanding my horizons this year. I still love piano and play it every day, but I'm exploring other areas of music that, until recently, I've never explored.
I started taking voice lessons a month or so ago. I was delighted to learn that I can carry a tune. I always sounded okay to myself, but I figured my singing was cringe-inducing to anyone who listened. (Of course, no one ever listened, because I've rarely sung in front of another person, even in the car.) I have zero confidence in my voice, and that makes it worse--even if I sound good, I sing in barely more than a whisper. It's awful because I love to sing ... in the car, alone, where no one will roll their eyes or grimace.
I also met with a guitar teacher yesterday, seeing as I have a brand-new acoustic guitar, a Christmas present from Dan. I was more nervous about the first guitar lesson than I was about the first voice lesson, oddly enough. It went well--I think the teacher and I are going to get along well. He's a Bach nerd, too, and I learned quite a bit in just that first trial lesson.
I've titled this post "Reasonable?" because I don't know how reasonable it is for a mom who works full-time and is a Girl Scout leader (Girl Scouts requires at least two hours of volunteer work per week, and usually more) to take on lessons in both voice and guitar. Financially, it's about $200 a month, and money is tight. Time-wise, it's an hour of lessons, plus 40 to 60 minutes a day of practice. That's a lot of time. Do I have that kind of time? Will I burn out before spring gets here?
I didn't mention piano, but I want to keep playing piano for a steady 30 minutes a day. So that's another three or four hours a week of music.
I think of a couple of semesters where I've taking writing classes with the Great Smokies Writing Program. Those classes were two or three hours long--much more per week than I'll spend in music lessons--and I typically put in at least an 40-60 minutes a day of work, on average. So I don't think this will be all that different, at least as a time commitment.
Of course, I still need to write, even if I'm not pressuring myself to work on a major project.
But regarding music, there is the big question: Why study voice? Why study guitar?
I'm still trying to figure that out, and I'll write more on that later. My immediate, gut answer is that "I want to sing and play guitar with the same confidence and ease that I feel when I play the piano." (That might be a tall order, since I've played the piano for more than 40 years.) Another is, "I just want to make music, and I'm tired of piano being my only means of doing that well."
THose are the gut answers. I'll explore this question a little more later ... when I have time.
Sunday, January 1, 2017
2016: Confident. Loving. Happy. (Despite the lows of this year, I've been very happy with who I've become, with my role as a mom, and with my professional life. Having suffered from depression and insecurity for so much of my life, I'm really enjoying the feeling of confidence that comes with getting older and more sure of who I am.)
2014: Improved over 2013! (Hubster had kind of a crappy 2013. Things got better for him on all fronts this year.)
2016: Stressful. Busy. Focused (on work).
2016: I read a book called Story Physics that offered quite a bit of insight about writing--which is saying something, because I've read a lot of books on writing in my lifetime. Another good one was J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy. It wasn't a big year of reading for me, and I read very little fiction--unusual for me, I know.
2016: Same, although Girl Scouts has brought me a few new friendships that I value highly.
2016: Good news! My hair is long and wavy and pretty now! As far as my biggest personal change ... hmm. I am a lot flabbier, thanks to my knee/hip injury. :( I'm also dedicated to staying married, which is a change from a year ago.
2014: I am learning to stop blaming my shortcomings on conditions found in the DSM-V. It's very difficult to differentiate what is "mental illness" and what is simply laziness or lack of confidence . . . but I'm learning to do that. Or trying to.
2016: I had some wonderful therapy sessions this year with a therapist who has since moved on. With his help, I learned to let myself be vulnerable in my marriage again. I have also become much more comfortable with people--I am still an introvert, but I've learned to enjoy social situations.
2014: Oh, me. I could write a book on that ...
2016: I've adopted what I could call "Closer to Fine" spirituality, from the Indigo Girls song, circa 1990. I no longer torture myself with struggle, and I think that's good.
2016: I sure don't need to gain five pounds anymore! I don't weigh a whole lot more (though I've probably gained two or three pounds), but I'm not muscular anymore. I don't like that. I'm seeing a doctor on Wednesday for a lingering sinus infection, and I may talk to him about what exercises I can do that won't put me out of commission for the next week and a half.
2016: Mending things with Dan. Even closer to Anne--we have "deep conversations" all the time, and I love it. Also, as I mentioned above, I've made some new friendships through Girl Scouts and hope to see those grow in the year to come.
2014: Learning new things! Working with great people! Being in Asheville! Having an income!
2016: My co-workers! I work with a great group of smart, funny people who make me laugh every single day. I also love the work I do; I feel like I'm helping to make a difference in the world, and that goes a long way. At home, I wrote eleven chapters of a novel and had a great time doing it. All of that came to a halt in the fall when Girl Scouts started.
2014: Starting my job and having it be incredibly hard to learn because my medication was making me so stupid. It was unbelievable how much easier life became after I stopped taking the Depakote.
2016: Professionally ... hmm. I guess it's that our team grew from three to five, and for a while we had four people crammed into a relatively small office. While I love my co-workers, I don't love feeling like a sardine and felt almost claustrophobic each day. That was a challenge. My responsibilities also changed a bit, and that adjustment has had its challenges (though I'm happy with it overall). Personally? Having to lay my novel-in-progress aside. It's a decision I made, but it wasn't an easy decision.
2016: Facebook. I hate to say it, but definitely Facebook.
2016: A combination of camping with my family and being a Girl Scout leader. Definitely both great uses of my time.
2016: I'm good with kids.
2016: Landed. I feel like I've landed. I feel at peace and hopeful for the new year.