Saturday, August 18, 2018

Noodling on Cm7

This is the kind of thing I've been doing lately, now that I have Henry. I'll practice other things, but I fall back into "noodling"--just playing with a chord progression and pretending, I guess, that I'm at a piano bar, or maybe stuck in some elevator that has New Age piano music playing in the background.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Playing Musical Chairs (or Musical Clothes?) with Musical Instruments

Most of my life, I have focused on only one instrument: the piano. But then, in 2017, I decided to branch out. I wasn't playing piano that much anyway, and I'd always wanted to learn to sing and play guitar ... so why not?

I signed up for voice lessons first. It was December 2016, and a friend was taking voice lessons and encouraged me to do it. I signed up with a teacher at Asheville Music School, but I quickly learned that I needed a more experienced teacher. As a beginner, I didn't need to go to a conservatory, but I guess I've had so much experience with music teachers that I can tell a rookie when I see one.

At about that time, I also started taking guitar lessons, and my guitar teacher recommended a friend of his who was a classical voice teacher. So I called his friend, whose name was Andrew, and made an appointment.

loved Andrew. If we hadn't moved, I'd still be taking voice lessons from him. He helped me to be less "breathy" and to not be afraid to make some noise. I looked forward to our lessons every single week.

But then we moved. I found a non-classical voice teacher in our new town. She was very nice and I enjoyed working with her, but work took over my life and I couldn't justify spending $40 a week on voice when I wasn't able to practice. She was a good teacher, though, and she had a wonderful system for helping ensure I practiced what I needed to practice. I was sad to leave her, but money and time were tight, and it wasn't the right time for me to be taking voice.

I also looked for another classical guitar teacher in our new town. They were few and far-between, and no one's schedule could accommodate mine.

After we joined our church in January, I joined the choir. I'd always wanted to sing in a choir and thought this might help me to improve my voice. But really, I just felt worse and worse because I knew I couldn't sing well, and I felt like I was making the choir worse. (Truthfully, I probably had no effect on it whatsoever because I didn't sing loud enough for most people to hear.) And when you're feeling stressed (as I was), it's even harder to sing because your jaw and neck are tight from the stress (or at least mine are).

That's when I decided to get another voice teacher.

Right here in my neighborhood is a choir director who teaches voice. His prices are reasonable, and he's good. So I've been studying with him for, oh, about four or five months now.

Am I any better at voice? I think so. But there's a problem. (Why does there always have to be a problem?)

See, I have this new piano named Henry. And when I sit down to play Henry, all my stress washes away. I feel like I could curl up into the music and rest for as long as I need to. I lose sense of time from the very beginning. All I care about is the sound. I play Hanon to strengthen my fingers, then some Chopin, then some Bach, then jazz or hymns or Carole King or Billy Joel or Elton John, or stuff I wrote, or ragtime, and then back to my beloved classical, working on old pieces or sight-reading intermediate pieces from something like Music for Millions. I know my way around the piano, and I feel like I could stay there forever. The piano is home.

I would love for singing to feel like home. You'd think that would be an easier feat; after all, your voice comes from inside you, from your body, and what is more "home" than your own body? No giant contraption of wood and strings and ivory is needed to produce the sound; it's just you.

But for me, playing the instrument of voice is like wearing someone else's ill-fitting clothes. They're my own clothes, for sure, but they are scratchy, stiff, and uncomfortable. They need to be broken in, washed a few dozen times, cared for properly. That's all it is, right? I need to learn to wear them, and wear them a lot, and one day they'll feel like they fit.

The piano, in contrast, is the velvety-soft bathrobe that I've had forever.

I don't want to stop taking voice. That's not the question. The question is, Do I start taking piano? There are two barriers here: money and time. If it's $50 a week for piano, I can probably pull it off, though it wouldn't be easy. But time? I barely have time to practice voice. How will I make time to practice both? And if I sign up for lessons and don't have time to practice, what good is that? And what if I practice lots of piano but neglect voice-practice even more than I already do?

Many of my friends would say that I don't need piano lessons. And maybe I don't ... but I think I do, if I'm going to get better and play some of the pieces I've dreamed of playing.

So that's the question I'm struggling with. It's a lovely, first-world kind of problem to have: Do I take piano lessons? Do I make even more room in my already-overstuffed life for music? If I look at it practically, the obvious answer is "No." But if I look at it any other way--like from the perspective of myself as a 90-year-old wracked by arthritis, or from the perspective of someone who doesn't have an easy, first-world life--I think I'm crazy not to do it.

It's time to go wake up my daughter. Thanks for listening, blog!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Why Things Don't Happen

Some of the fun from the past week: Playing in the water sprinkler

I have three blogs now: this one, my professional blog, and my piano-practice blog. None of them are updated on any semblance of a regular basis, though I was doing a pretty good job with the professional blog for a few weeks. I was blogging every Saturday morning, but ... my professional life got in the way. I've spent the past few Saturday mornings working instead of blogging. And so the professional blog appears to be in the middle of a long summer's nap.

I posted a couple of things to the piano-practice blog last week, after getting Henry (my new old piano) tuned. I was hoping to practice every day, even if it was just 5 or 10 minutes of Hanon or scales or arpeggios. I was hoping to post my progress. But ...

Sigh.

Things just don't happen the way I want them to. To blogging and piano practice, you can add exercise, voice practice, and quiet time in general. And cooking and housework--not things I want to do, but things that need to get done.

Usually the issue is work: I have more work to do each week, than I can fit in a week of 8- to 9-hour days. So I work a few hours on Saturday, and then another hour or two on Sunday. And I'm still not caught up.

But we've had a lot of visitors lately, too. My parents and my sister and her girls were here for several days, and then this past weekend we had some friends from the neighborhood over for dinner. And then yesterday, my brother and his family visited and stayed last night. Don't get me wrong; these were all wonderful visits. I loved seeing my family, I loved spending time with my neighbors, and I particularly loved seeing my brother, my sister-in-law, and their sweet little ones, whom I hadn't seen in over a year. But now I need some quiet time: a few aimless hours at a coffee shop where I can sit alone, write, and think. Or a few aimless hours at the piano, where I can do those scales, practice some Chopin, improvise some stuff.

Normally, my "quiet times" come on Saturday mornings. And/or Sunday afternoons. But I have something scheduled for most nights for the next couple of weeks, as well as for the weekends. I see no quiet time in sight.

And that stresses me out. And the stress makes me feel exhausted because my mind can't rest. When my mind can't rest, I can't sleep. And when I can't sleep, I can't wake up early to exercise or write. And when I can't exercise or write, I feel yucky. And I just wake up and go to work. And work all day. And then play my mom/wife role after work. And next thing I know, it's 11:00 at night, and it's been another day without a single quiet moment. And this is how life flies past.

I guess I'm having quiet moments now, though, taking time to write something.

I need to find some quiet moments where I can figure out a way to better plan my quiet moments. I have to plan them, because they won't happen on their own. They rarely do.

All righty. It looks like I might have a half-hour of quiet time right now. So I'll write a quick letter to my niece (who is at summer camp) and maybe practice a bit of piano.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Henry the Grand


This is Henry.

I am in love with Henry. He makes my heart feel like it's going to burst. He's a rickety old Everett grand piano, but even a rickety old grand can work miracles. His ivory keys are yellowed and chipped, and he has some water stains in the wood that I may never get rid of completely. But he's my Henry, and I love him.

George has been a good piano. He's the piano my parents bought in 1974, and he's the piano I've played and loved for more than 40 years now. He's been my solace so many times. And he's been moved from apartment to apartment, state to state, ever since my parents gave him to me to keep back in the early 1990s. I still have him, but he's going to go to a very good home soon.

And now I have Henry. I have so little experience playing on ivory keys, and I just can't explain how they feel under the fingers. Warm. Responsive. Like they're communicating with my deepest self. It's weird. Perhaps it's just my imagination. (Ya think?) And I write all this, knowing that I may eventually replace them all with plastic.

And the power of the sound ... it's nothing like ol' George.

Still, I will cry real tears when George goes to his new home. He is a part of my most profound identity. He helped shape it; he is part of my soul. When I give away George, I'll give away a part of myself.

But Henry is already part of me, too. He came to me free, from a church that didn't want or need him. Moving, cleaning, and tuning ended up costing almost $1,000, so he wasn't totally free. But now I have a gorgeous antique piano with a surprisingly good sound, and a magical feel under the fingers that just makes my heart overflow with love.

I know all of these descriptions sound a overly sensual, but that's what piano has always been for me.

Sadly, I am so out of practice. I'm tempted to start taking lessons again because I know I need them. Not that I have the time ...

I love Henry. Henry loves me. I've loved my sweet George for 44 years, and now he's going to go to someone who doesn't have a piano but is going to love him as much as I have for so many years. (Well, maybe not as much. But almost?)

Life is good. It really is. So why can't I stop crying?

Friday, May 11, 2018

Dark Place Today

I managed to make it through the day yesterday without having a panic attack. Not sure how I'll do today--my body is so tense, and my throat so tight, that I have to focus on breathing. By 2:00 yesterday, I was wiped out.

I keep thinking people are pissed at me. This is a common symptom of depression with me, assuming the worst about people's intentions toward me. But I made a mistake last year--when I thought a co-worker, one of my Girl Scout friends, and two of my neighbors were mad at me. I blew it off, sure that I hadn't done anything to provoke anger. And then it turned out they were all mad, and they all waited months to tell me. It turns out there were misunderstandings all around. But still, I don't know if I should trust my instincts, or not. I've lost faith in my ability to do that.

Of those four people, I'm still friends with my co-worker, and the other three are history.

I was super-sensitive as a teenager, but I kinda got over a lot of that as I grew up. But for some reason, the events of last year with those four friends (well, one friend and three ex-friends), really threw me for a loop. I have trouble trusting people now. Living in this new town, I've found that people are very nice, but I can't help but wonder what darkness is behind the friendly smiles.

So yes, I'm in a dark place, when instead of focusing on the good things in life (and there are plenty), I'm sitting here thinking about how friends betrayed me, and how painful the whole experience was, and how angry I am that my ability to trust myself and others were stolen. My husband would be able to just forget about it and move on, but I'm not so strong--or so forgiving, I guess.

Let's try to make it through the day without any craziness ...

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Down, Then Up, Then Down Again

After my "I don't hate how I sing anymore" post of a couple of days ago, I'm now thinking of quitting choir.

I went to choir practice last night and had a panic attack. I was trying to sing, but I could only get out a squeak. I couldn't breathe.

A couple of things led up to it. I'm being super-sensitive here, but I'm going to write it anyway.

When we get to choir practice on Sunday morning, I usually put my purse in a chair and then go to put on my robe. Several times (at least four times that I've noticed), the person who would have been sitting next to me had gotten up and moved to another chair by the time I got back. Coincidence? Possibly. I mean, new people come in and people want to sit with certain people, or talk to certain people, so they'll move. But after this happened a couple of times, I thought, "Are they moving so they don't have to sit by me?" And once that seed of doubt starts growing, it's like a weed out of control.

Another thing I've noticed a few times: The person who is sitting next to me subtly moves their chair away so that they're closer to the person on the other side of them. And it wasn't because they needed to share music.

Another coincidence? Why would someone do that, unless it's because I was singing so off-key that it was distracting them?

Both of those things happened last night. And the weed of doubt was more like a vine wrapping my heart in a death-squeeze.

So we were doing this one song, and I lost my place. My mind started reeling, and I wasn't able to find where we were, even after someone showed me twice on her music. So I careened into a panic attack and I had to get up and leave. I waited until practice was over and most people were gone before I went back in to get my purse. No one noticed me, thank God, so I was able to leave without talking to anyone.

Am I that bad of a singer? I know I'm better than I was. One problem, though, is that I have trouble hearing myself when that many people are singing near me, so I can't tell if I'm hitting the right note or not. Even if I sing louder than is comfortable, I can't hear. I don't know if that's normal, or if it's related to my hearing loss.

I do know that I've gotten a lot better at singing on pitch. When I can hear myself, I hardly ever miss, and if I do miss, I know I'm missing. And it's usually because I got lazy and wasn't focusing. But in choir, I can't tell if I'm missing or not.

Of course, no one gives me any feedback, so I have no idea if I sound good or bad, or if people can even hear me at all.

All in all, the panic attacks seem to be coming at me from left and right, and I need to eliminate the unnecessarily stressful things from my life. Sadly, choir has become stressful, and I don't think it is a good fit. So I'm going to quit, at least for a while. I'll continue taking voice lessons. I'd like to join the choir again once I get past all of these anxiety/panic issues.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

DIY Mad Gab: Hee-ho Power

Overheard by my hard-of-hearing self at a product planning meeting today:
  • It's time for goose fat
  • Going over indeliments
  • It's another important dinner lane
  • We're gonna include Walt Wayne
  • It has a sort of hee-ho power
  • Does the song fit everyone?
  • Those are the twosome ponies
And now my brain is tired and I wish people all came with closed-captioning.

Monday, May 7, 2018

I Don't Hate How I Sing Anymore

I never thought this day would come. If I'd had faith that it would, it might have come faster. But I'm not going to complain.

I don't hate how I sing anymore.

A mix of voice exercises and songs have helped me to build up physically--my vocal cords, or whatever muscles are used in singing. I've also learned not to sing from my throat but from far below it, and to open my throat and my mouth and not "mumble-sing" (my term, I think). And it's not just that I've learned the how; I was told the how over a year ago with my voice teacher in Asheville. But now I've practiced enough that the how is becoming habit. I liken it to going all your life thinking you can't walk, and living in a wheelchair ... then suddenly learning that you can learn to walk if you try, and so you start trying, and at first you can't do it because your leg muscles are so weak ... and then you start being able to walk. The second sentence of this blog post refers to the fact that, if I had actually believed I would eventually walk, I would have worked harder. But that's the past, and I'm not looking back.

So I'm there. I'm in those first phases of being able to stumble along on my own. There is still a long way to go, but I've finally accomplished a significant "baby step," and it's a thrill.

When I first moved to Augusta, I took voice lessons with a non-classical teacher. She was a good teacher and very nice, but I wasn't in a good place. I was out-of-my-mind stressed at work (a common theme of my life), and I either didn't have time to practice, or I didn't make it a priority--not sure which. I finally quit because I wasn't getting anywhere and was ending up in a puddle of tears at my lessons more often than not.

So recently I started taking lessons again, this time with a classical teacher. What is it about me and classical, hm? (When I write classical, I mean it in the general sense--serious music, or the whole shebang of music from Renaissance to Stravinsky.) Is it that I just know it's superior, or that it's a more comfortable world for me than the world of pop? Probably both.

Anyway, I'm working on three Italian songs and two English songs, and doing voice exercises every day. I love the songs, so I'm singing them constantly, whether I have the music in front of me or not My teacher is caring and encouraging, and I find myself relaxing the moment I walk in the door for my lesson. Plus, he's an accomplished musician, and it's good to be around someone who loves and knows a lot about music. Someone like me. Well, I'm not an accomplished musician, but I do crave the company of music people.

Yesterday I listened to my recorded lesson from last week and thought, "Hm, that doesn't sound bad." I could still point out where improvement was needed, but the vicious critic who usually descends upon me during those listening sessions was gone. Or she was there, but saying, "Not bad."

That's an important point I want to make. Yes, it's true that I'm not beating myself up. But part (perhaps all?) of why I'm not doing that is that I'm better. There is less to beat up. It's good to accept yourself as you are, but it's important to have the inner critic push you to do better, as long as the critic doesn't paralyze you or otherwise make you miserable.

This morning I recorded myself playing guitar and singing John Denver's "Today"--something I did a lot when I first got my guitar in 2016. I pressed "Play" and tensed for the inevitable cringe ... and it didn't happen. My pitch was good, except for a few notes here and there, and I'd recognized them when I'd sung them--oh, that's a little flat, or I didn't quite hit that one. So no big deal. The fact that I'm correctly judging my pitch? That's another giant baby step right there.

So I listened, and I heard a strength and quality in my voice that hadn't been there before. I'm still not ready for a coffee-house performance, but I've come a long way. And now that I have faith in this whole process, along with a good voice teacher, I'm feeling hopeful about the improvement to come.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Panic Attack

So yesterday I think I had the mother of all panic attacks. The last panic attack I remember having was at my sister's parents-in-law's house, Thanksgiving, sometime around 2005. Which makes total sense because I was teaching at BCA then and a total stress case the entire year.

Yesterday I was getting some stuff together to go on the Girl Scout camping trip that I organized, and I couldn't find the mess kits. That one little thing, and ... I was suddenly gasping for air, but air wouldn't come. I went into a panic, trying to breathe, and I called Dan, who was supposed to be on his way home, to tell him to hurry. I got his voice mail, and ... I don't remember a whole lot.

I do remember that by the time I was talking to him on the phone, my arms were all tight to my body, my hands clenched, and my mouth caught in a kind of lockjaw. I couldn't close my mouth--so more panic. Fear that I was going to choke on my tongue. And I kept going into these horrible shaking episodes, and I didn't know if they were seizures or what.

I couldn't feel my mouth or nose, or my hands. I couldn't think. I couldn't talk. I couldn't do anything but cry and and panic.

Dan got home at some point. A lot of it is blurry now, but we ended up canceling the trip that the girls were so looking forward to. So on top of feeling like crap, I now have all kinds of guilt for disappointing everyone.

We didn't go to the ER because I have no insurance. Last week I learned that I'd been misled about the insurance I was buying, and I was so angry that I canceled. We have a phone meeting with another insurance company, but for the last few days, I've had no insurance at all. Considering my medical bills currently are well into the thousands (which is a significant part of my stress), I really didn't want to go to the ER. Dan was able to get some food and water into me, and I started getting better after that, so we stayed home.

Thinking back on the things that have caused stress over the past year, and in the past weeks:
  • Medical bills
  • Chronic severe pain in my hip
  • Inability to exercise
  • Feeling overwhelmed at work
  • Dealing with personalities at work
  • Dealing with personalities in my former Girl Scout troop
  • Learning that the person who sold me my insurance had not been up front with me
  • Having to cancel my insurance
  • Having my house be a wreck because I never have time to clean it
  • Being out of town for the past five consecutive weeks
  • Dan being out of town or at meetings more often than not
  • Never having time to myself--no quiet time, no writing, no piano, no reading, etc.
There's more, I'm sure. For now, I'm going to try and avoid all stress this weekend. I need to get better. Something needs to change.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Where Did the Rest of the Day Go?

Well. I kept track of what I did for most of the day yesterday. I had it in a Notepad file on my computer, unsaved, and my computer shut down this morning to do updates. Probably better for you, dear readers--it wasn't very interesting to read.

I do know that I worked all day. I was nose-to-the-grindstone for most of the day, and then I took a break around 2:45 to walk around my block.

Last night I took Anne to taekwondo at 6:30.

I did other Important Things, but I can't remember what any of them are. Is this normal? To think back on the night before and not remember a thing? I promise I wasn't drunk.

If I think really hard, I can remember going to Anne's friend's house on the way to taekwondo to pick up her shoes that she left over there a couple of days ago.

At taekwondo, I chatted with another mom who is a writer.

It's been a chatty week at taekwondo. I usually just watch Anne, but this week I've been bonding(?) with other parents whose kids started taekwondo at about the same time Anne did. It's good. These are the people that I will likely be seeing several times a week for the next few years. It's good to be making new potential friends.

What else did I do?

We came home. Anne stayed outside to play with the neighbor kids. I made dinner, even though we had no real food for dinner. A bowl of pasta for Anne, and a black-bean salad for me (lettuce and a bit of bellpepper with a half-can of black beans dumped on top).

Of course that wasn't enough for my growing child, so she had several snacks throughout the evening.

What else? See, I can't remember. I think maybe I did dishes? At some point I went outside to get Anne, and it took a good 10 minutes. She is a master of stalling.

And? She did her homework. She has to do it on the computer. She took a bath.

Oh, I got a shower. No. I planned to get a shower, my first in two days. But it was late, and the litter box was stinky again. So I cleaned the litter box and washed my hands and called it a day.

Did I plan for the camp-out tonight? Nope.

I just feel paralyzed. I am going through the motions of life (I think ... I can never remember), but I'm constantly overwhelmed.

And Hubster asked, "Why can't you just be happy?"

Indeed. Why can't I?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

My Day, 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.

My husband has a hard time believing that I don't have time to get stuff done around the house. So I'm going to write out what I do every day. Good thing I don't have a lot of readers, because these next few posts are going to be pretty mundane.

5:30: Alarm goes off. I'm exhausted because I didn't sleep. I go back to sleep.
6:30: Alarm. Still exhausted but I need to wake up. Alas, I am sleeping on my stomach and have a big yellow cat on my butt.
6:35: Extricate myself from beneath said big yellow cat. Pet big yellow cat.
6:40: Decide to get out of bed at the very moment that sweet calico cat jumps on bed. Pet sweet calico cat.
6:45: Get out of bed, go to the bathroom, go downstairs to feed the cats. Get coffee. Put last night's dishes in dishwasher. (Did I forget to do that again?)
6:49: Let sweet calico cat outside.
6:50: Go back upstairs, wake up Anne because she didn't do her homework last night and needs to do it before school.
6:52: Big yellow cat jumps onto bed.
6:52: Cuddle with both daughter and big yellow cat.
7:01: Check phone to see what the weather will be, tell Anne that it's going to be HOT today and that she can wear one of her summer dresses!
7:02: Get Anne out of bed. Fire up the computer so she can start her homework.
7:03: Go back to my room. Sit on bed. Check phone to see if any other Brownie parents have signed up to donate to tomorrow's (tomorrow's?) camping trip. One has. (Yay!) Wonder if it would be rude to send a "gentle reminder" to the parents who haven't signed up yet. Wonder how long I should wait before sending said "gentle reminder." Check Facebook, leave a comment wishing someone a happy anniversary.
7:08: Go downstairs, start boiling water for Anne's oatmeal. I kind of have to poop, but I don't have time just yet.
7:10: Get clothes out of dryer, take clothes out of wash and put them in the dryer. Sniff and remember that I forgot to clean the litter boxes yesterday. Take clothes upstairs, dump on bed.
7:13: Feel hopelessly depressed as I look at all the clean clothes I need to fold at some point between now and ... some point. Here's one of the three baskets:

7:15: Go back downstairs because Anne's water is well past boiling by now. I really need to use the bathroom.
7:16: Make her oatmeal. Pour Hubster some coffee. Hear Anne screaming from upstairs, "Where are my sleeveless twirl dresses?"
7:16: Give Anne the coffee to give to Hubster and tell her that I'll check the dryer. Discover that her twirl dresses are both in the wet clothes that just started drying. Inform Anne of such. Shut my eyes and clench my teeth, vowing that I won't lose it this early in the morning, even though she is throwing a mini-tantrum because her twirl dresses that she wore yesterday and the day before, respectively, are dirty. Tell her to wear her sparkle skirt with her kitty-unicorn shirt.
7:20: Go back downstairs. Oatmeal is ready. Make and pack her lunch for school.
7:25: Anne is downstairs. Eats breakfast.
7:30: Anne comes to me with a brush and a hair band and a giant sparkly pink bow. She wants me to do her hair a la JoJo. I do her hair and the ponytail is too far back. I re-do it because I love her and the ponytail really was too far back the first time. She runs upstairs to finish getting dressed. I really need to go to the bathroom, but ...
7:36: Those stinky litter boxes. I find a bag and empty the downstairs litter box, then go upstairs and do the same.
7:40: Go to put the stinky bag in the garbage can in the garage, but it's garbage day and Hubster has already put the big garbage can on the curb. He forgot to add the stinky litter garbage from the past week, so I bag it all up, make sure my bathrobe is tied tight and not exposing anything, slip on my slippers, and take the rest of the trash out. I am the very image of a middle-aged suburban mom.
7:45: Anne is screaming from the living room. Big yellow cat has found a roach, which is injured and scuttling around the carpet, and Anne is "trapped" between the bug and the piano. She is wearing a choker and looks strangely grown up.
7:46: I kill the roach, grab a paper towel, and throw him away. The presence of a bug reminds me that I forgot to put flea stuff on the cats Tuesday, so I put it on the big yellow cat. I'll have to get the sweet calico later.
7:50: Get more coffee. Scarf down Anne's leftover oatmeal, rinse the dishes, put them away.
7:52: I've had to poop for the past 30 minutes and can hold it no longer. I go to the bathroom, door wide open, because that's how we moms roll.
7:56: Anne bursts into the bathroom to kiss me goodbye. The bus is early.
7:57: I'm washing my hands as the bus's "reverse" beeping comes on.
7:58: Top off the coffee and come upstairs.
7:59: Sit down at my computer.
8:00: Write this list.

Now it's 8:30 and time for work. According to my Fitbit, I've already gone 1,872 steps and climbed six flights of stairs.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

DIY Mad Gab: Dilly Dilly Visions

I've had several meetings over the last few days. Here are some hard-of-hearing doozies from those:
  • Tennis Shoe, the gal that was running the meeting
  • I see that as a real natchee-cootchee
  • Botswana therein, it's attributable
  • A million volunteers were formerly Mallory
  • We want to go in separate different directions in the sunshine
  • We should do a tight end to the glaciers
  • I don't know where th'antenna needs to be in all that
  • The holy experience of guilt around the user
  • You wouldn't be worried about throwing them a few loins
  • Depending on how much you trust Hannibal hands-on
  • Hearing rhumbas about how to get back into it
  • I'm naked with the axe
  • So this is a tentacle internet marketing
  • It's worth being a connect fussy number of cities
  • This is the big pie now
  • Blessed linament emails
  • I'm gettin' in heavy
  • You should now flip-cherry your screed
  • Our pasha choirs are a hen-hen
  • Oh, wise Column G!
  • It was weeks to this pyramid
  • My vision is all dilly-dilly and I'm in a jeep
  • So the eyebrow guy comes in ...
  • Elmer's thinkin' big
  • We'll get some really good church done
  • We'll do a cutie off-site
  • I'm hoping you will go get a borscht for 2019
My brain hurts.

More on DIY Mad Gab.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

DIY Mad Gab: Sellin' Sillies

Another DIY Mad Gab, a.k.a. Fun with the Hard-of-Hearing!

These were from a company staff meeting ...
  • I can knock so you need.
  • We sold more sillies, so I don’t know if an impunity’s next.
  • It’s a chillin’ mix.
  • The second porter wanders along.
  • Not breakin’, not corrigible, just comin’ along.
  • The apocalyptic visitors to the help center
  • I don’t think anybody’s Alice.
  • We want the sh*t to move.
  • People who branched before the plum butt
  • Fifty forward greens
  • Yellin’ at people for whatever reason
  • I think I will straddle you next
  • Would be really interesting, the sewer you see.
  • Doss is gonna go above the onion.
For some reason, I understood more at this meeting than most, probably because everyone presenting was going by a PowerPoint that I could view in real time.

Still, there are always interesting little what-I-heard-but-not-what-they-said diversions.

Friday, April 20, 2018

DIY Mad Gab: Introduction. And Maybe Marshmallow.

As a hard-of-hearing person, I really like the game "Mad Gab." The whole idea is to hear something that sounds kind of like a common phrase, and then try to figure out what the common phrase actually is. For example, you might have to figure out that "Cohen Peas" is "Go in peace."

I've only played this game once, but I loved it because I got to see everyone else struggle to do the very thing I have to do all the time, every day: hear nonsense, and then reconstruct it to make some semblance of sense. An added perk was that I won the game easily because, people, I am good at this!

Now that I'm working remotely, I have a lot of conference calls and other phone calls. I generally try to get the people on the other end of the meeting to let me see them via the Zoom camera feature, but that doesn't always happen for a variety of reasons. The result is a rollickingly fun list of what I'm calling "DIY Mad Gab" phrases. Here's what I heard at a meeting earlier today. I've added punctuation because, well, I think it's funnier that way:
  • Strategically as central as their enema resources
  • Pleasure at times, but they don’t hide it for thousand dollars!
  • Every cancellation is a turnaround at the seaport.
  • Maybe marshmallow you guys?
  • Freedom nuke givers are a treasure to your cause!
  • We’re not engaging enema companies.
  • Stop-starter back there, you’re money-driven!
  • The nano man project, adieu!
  • I fling that hard in that papoose!
  • Oh wow! I was a cur and built for me!
  • Let me see if I can springform an idea ...
  • They’re doing what I kinda hetchin’ every day.
  • It’s a way to kinda damn-damn ‘em.
  • The deep take it well, it’s very offensive, and we can help.
  • I never got Alton Brown.
  • I’m immediately struggling to make my face.
  • Those cheese help a lot.
  • Stinkle sigh ...
The only problem with this game is that there is no cheat sheet, no answer on the back of the card. It's either ask people to repeat themselves every other sentence, or sit there and struggle to understand.

Actually, there is a third option: Stop struggling and just type exactly what you hear. Because some of it is seriously funny. And this is not a "I'm laughing so I don't cry thing." At least not completely.

So, friends, I may be posting more DIY Mad Gab posts soon. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Another Challenge!

I've decided to participate in a second reading challenge this year: the 2018 Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, hosted by ... wait for it ... Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks. I mean, what do I have to lose? I'm already planning to read at least 12 books, and I regularly read at least 50 in a year. The only difference this year is that I'll keep track of what I read. And, if I start getting lazy, I'll have this challenge to motivate me.

I'll update this post regularly to keep track of all the books I read in 2018. So far, I only have one (though I'm almost finished with another one).

1. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
2. Late, Late at Night by Rick Springfield
3. The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Book Review: The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese FalconThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm reading this as part of the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge, hosted by Books and Chocolate. The Maltese Falcon was my choice for the classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction category. Crime novels are not my preferred genre, but I've always wanted to read The Maltese Falcon; published in 1930, it set the standard for the classic hard-boiled detective novel. This novel has also been mentioned in quite a few of my books on fiction-writing, usually as an example of classic genre fiction, but also in the chapters on point of view. More on that below.

The book's main character is Sam Spade, a detective in 1920s San Francisco. He runs a detective agency with his partner, Miles Archer. The novel begins with a Miss Wonderly asking for help shadowing a man named Thursby ... and what follows are several murders, a half-dozen or so new characters, and the search for a rare sculpture of a bird, the "Maltese falcon" of the title. The story is told using the dramatic point of view, where we can read the dialogue, see the characters faces and body language, and follow them from hotel to alley to home ... but we don't get their thoughts. We can only infer what they might be thinking based on the narrator's descriptions and the characters' dialogue. This is a challenge because Spade appears to be a master of hiding his true thoughts. Most of the other characters are liars as well.

No spoilers here, other than that the well-crafted book has a pretty suspenseful and satisfying ending. I recommend it to others who enjoy crime fiction and who like reading the classics in any field.

Here are a few things I did like about the book:
  • I stayed interested. When reading, I never had the desire to put the book down and read something else.
  • It was fun reading the original hard-boiled detective novel and seeing the cliches before they became cliches.
  • There were some great one-liners. Here are a few. They are copied and pasted from Rotten Tomatoes, so I don't know how accurate they are. I couldn't underline anything in my copy, as I borrowed it from the library.

Sam Spade (to Joel Cairo): Sam Spade: When I slap you, you'll take it and like it.

Gutman (to Wilmer, whom he's about to hand over to Spade as the "fall guy" in partial exchange for the priceless Maltese Falcon): I couldn't be fonder of you if you were my own son. But, well, if you lose a son, it's possible to get another. There's only one Maltese Falcon.

Spade to O'Shaughnessy: We didn't exactly believe your story, Miss O'Shaughnessy. We believed your 200 dollars. I mean, you paid us more than if you had been telling us the truth, and enough more to make it all right.

Joel Cairo: You always have such a smooth explanation.
Sam Spade: What to you want me to do, learn to stutter?

Sam Spade (to his secretary, Effie Perine): You're a good man, sister.
My library copy. My daughter was very confused when, in the middle of the book, I claimed I was finished.

As I read over these quotes, I can't help but think that this book, with its dramatic POV, could very well been written as a play or a screenplay ... which it eventually was. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie (1941), starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor. (I'm as behind on my classic novels as I am my classic movies.)

Now, for a  few things I wasn't so crazy about:
  • I had a hard time following things. New characters seemed to walk in out of nowhere, and I felt a little lost trying to figure out who was who, and who was on who's side. I guess that's part of the appeal of a novel like this, but I found it frustrating.
  • Dramatic/third-person objective POV - I want to know what characters are thinking. We get lots of great descriptions of people's faces and body language, and there's plenty of dialogue, but the reader is in the dark as to exactly what is going on in the mind of Sam Spade, or Brigid O'Shaunnesey, or anyone else. All we get are facial expressions that may or may not offer insight.
  • I didn't particularly like the characters - This is probably due to the POV used. I want to connect to a character, and that just wasn't going to happen with his novel.
I'm glad I read the book because now I can say I've read it. And like I said, I'm looking forward to the movie ... and to reading a classic that pulls me in emotionally!

All My Resolutions

Last year I made one New Year's resolution: To get back in touch with my musical self.

After a year of guitar and voice lessons, I can definitely say that 2017 was the most musical year I've had in a while, though I didn't play much piano. But I can chalk that resolution up as a successful one.

This year, I have several resolutions:
I have a few lesser goals, one of them being to read more books and write at least five mornings a week (which feels weird, considering that, for most of my adult life, I've written multiple times a day, every day, for years).

Another is to decrease stress in my life. I'm still working on a plan for that.

So far:
  • I've completed Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. One down, eleven to go. I suppose I should watch the movie now that I've read the book. I'll post a review of the book here later.
  • I went to the chiropractor today for an assessment, and I'll go back tomorrow for my first adjustment. We'll learn soon enough if the leg pain is due to a pinched nerve or a torn labrum. Hopefully it's pinched nerve, or I may be looking at hip surgery.
  • I've worked my way through about 28 lessons on one of JamPlay's beginner guitar series. I'm taking a break from private guitar lessons for a couple of months and taking JamPlay's lessons in the meantime. Sadly, and a little surprisingly, I feel like I'm getting more out of the JamPlay program.
As with last year, I'll post periodically on my progress with these resolutions. Until then, a very happy 2018 to my three readers!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Looking Back on 2017

It's 2018! And now, for my sometime tradition of answering questions about the year, with my 2016 answers for comparison. So let's take a look back ...



1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
2017: Several really good things have happened this year; the move to Georgia comes to mind, but I think the single best was selling our Maggie Valley home. We bought it in 2003 and first put it up for sale in 2008, but the real estate market crashed and we had no takers. After nine (count 'em) years of the house being on and off the market, and of renting it out to people (some good and some bad), we finally sold it. We took it as a good omen that we got a buyer on the very day that Dan was offered a new job in Georgia

2016: I'm still at the job, we're still in the house I love, and I have managed to stay off meds for two years now. (The meds in question were Prozac, Depakote (for bipolar disorder, which turned out to be a false diagnosis), and Ritalin (to treat the ADD that was a side effect of the Depakote).

As far as the single best thing that happened in 2016 ... I think it has to be that Dan and I are still married. Seriously. Without going into details, I'll just say that we've had a difficult few years. 2016 was a year of arguments and compromises and decisions and tears and frustrations. Some of the frustrations are still there, but we're in a much better place than we were even three months ago. We both took steps toward trying to make things better, and those steps worked, for the most part. I think it's because we both wanted this to work, for Anne's sake if nothing else. And it's starting to work again.

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
2017: Rifts, some temporary and some permanent, with several people that I considered friends. Very long stories all, but in each case people were seeing me for something I wasn't, and making negative judgments based on that ... and then interpreting my subsequent actions based on their perceptions. I was confused by the whole thing, and for a while I wondered if I was crazy, giving off some kind of negative vibe when I thought I was being my usual kind-if-not-perfect self. A sincere apology from one friend, and a half-apology from another (where she apologized but never warmed back up to me), told me that I wasn't crazy. That was some consolation, but these experiences, happening in such close proximity, changed me. And not necessarily in a good way.

2016: Marriage problems.
  
3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
2017: Two things. First, I really didn't think I would like living in Georgia. I love my Western NC mountains and NC's mild summers, and Georgia is (mostly) flat and hot. But guess what. I love living here. So that was an unexpected joy. The second was seeing my daughter discover taekwondo. She wanted to learn "Ninja skills," for I took her to the closest martial-arts place I could find. She's now an "Orange Decided" belt and in a program to become a black belt in the next two or three years. I love seeing her be passionate about something.

Oh, and I got to meet Rick Springfield!

2016: Girl Scouts. I decided this past summer to be a Girl Scout leader, specifically for the Daisies (Kindergarten and first grade). I did it for two main reasons: (1) I wanted my daughter to stay in Girl Scouts, and she was losing interest after just one year; and (2) I was grabbing at straws to have something in common with my husband, and he was already involved in Anne's troop. I didn't think I would like being a leader; I'm extremely introverted, and I've never considered myself a "kid person." So I was probably more surprised than anyone when I took to Girl Scouts like a fish to water. I love being a Daisy leader; I love my Daisies, I love planning things for them, and I love playing a positive role in their lives. The experience has also made me less wary of social situations, at least with the troop and their parents. I look forward to every meeting I have with them.
  
4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
2017: More pain! I've continued to have the leg pain, but starting in June I began having a rash of dental problems. I've had three crowns and two root canals in the past seven months, and I have another crown and an extraction to go. I've had some serious toothaches, and it hasn't been fun. The bills have been even less fun, particularly since I maxed out my dental insurance before the end of July. I had to miss several days of work because of pain, and it the combined leg/tooth pain (and resulting financial stress) has made me irritable and bitchy a lot of the time. So I'm still learning to deal with those obstacles.

2016: Physical injury/pain. I've always been able to run, or jump, or do just about any kind of exercise or activity that I wanted. This year, thanks to a knee injury that turns into a hip/groin injury, I've hardly gone a day without pain. (And the pain-free days are only because I've gobbled up a lot of ibuprofen.) It has been very frustrating not to be able to exercise. I particularly miss running. I've been to an orthopedist, a chiropractor, and physical therapy. While they've been able to help with the pain (particularly the PT), no one's been able to diagnose the source of the pain. So it keeps coming back, and I keep having to treat it.

5. Pick three words to describe this past year (or to describe yourself this past year).
2017: Novice (at learning voice and guitar), comfortable (living in a nice house with a neighborhood pool), painful (see above).

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.)

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your year—don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you.
2017: Unsettled, musical, tired.

2016: Confident. Angry (at times). Devoted (to my daughter).

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their past year—again, without asking.
2017: Satisfying, challenging, stressful. 

2016: Stressful. Busy. Focused (on work).

8. What was the best book you read this year?
2017: Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, by Anders Ericsson

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.

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
2017: My daughter and my husband.

2016: My daughter and my husband, although Girl Scouts has brought me a few new friendships that I value highly.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
2017: I'm more guarded and protective of my feelings, thanks to the experiences I wrote about in item 2 above. I'm not as open or friendly, though I'm open and friendly enough, I suppose. I'm also learning to live with chronic pain, which has not been fun. On a good note (pun intended), 10 months of voice lessons have rendered me much more confident in my singing abilities, and I'm able to truly enjoy singing for the first time since childhood.

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.)

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
2017: See above. I guess the upside to being more guarded and protective of my emotions is that I am not going to get hurt the way I did last year. The downside is that I have trouble trusting people. I made a number of new friends (or at least acquaintances) in Georgia, and part of me keeps wondering when they're going to turn against me, and what the reason is going to be this time.

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.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
2017: Not sure if this is spiritual, but with guitar I've found a new way of communing with music. It's been wonderful to develop a whole new mode of creative expression. It'll be a long way before I've reached any level of proficiency, but I'm excited about the journey.

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.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
2017: This year was a struggle physically, a(nother) year of starts and stops. Motivation is not the problem; I'm plenty motivated to exercise. But the pain keeps coming back, and a few days of exercise lead to a few days (or weeks) of hobbling around, wincing with every step. I did manage to run a 5K on Thanksgiving (and haven't been able to run since).

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.

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
2017: I've made some potential new friends since moving to Georgia, but there isn't a lot of growing going on yet. Dan and I are much happier together than we were a year ago, but there's still work to do. Anne and I read the Harry Potter series together, and I think our relationship grew as a result of our mutual love for the books. Our relationship is changing as she grows older. It's good in that we have deeper conversations. It's not so good in other ways, but it's mostly good.

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.

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
2017: Working from home! I also started doing a lot of QA for new builds, which I enjoyed as a nice change of pace from technical writing. I also seem to be pretty good at it. At home, it's been nice to have a comfortable home that we own. Reading Harry Potter with Anne was also a high point of mom-life this year.

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.

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
2017: I felt burnt-out at times this year. Work wasn't the fun place that it had been, possibly because our little team of three grew to four, and then five, and then person #5 was replaced by someone else.  We're not as close-knit as we were before. Also, I seem to have a lot more responsibility, which is fine except that I never feel like I can get it all done to my satisfaction ... and that bring stress. Working from home, as much as I love it, has also been challenging in some ways.

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.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
2017: Facebook. I had to be on it for Girl Scouts, so I ended up being on it a lot more than I would otherwise. I've removed it from my phone as an effort toward wasting less time in 2018.

2016: Facebook. I hate to say it, but definitely Facebook.

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
2017: Practicing guitar every morning.

2016: A combination of camping with my family and being a Girl Scout leader. Definitely both great uses of my time.

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
2017: As I get older, I'm going to have to deal with physical limitations that I didn't have when I was younger. It's been humbling.

2016: I'm good with kids.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you.
2017: Pretending to be a suburban mom. I have all of the trappings here in Georgia, but the shoes don't quite fit as comfortably as they should. Still, life is pretty comfortable.

2016: Landed. I feel like I've landed. I feel at peace and hopeful for the new year.

Noodling on Cm7

This is the kind of thing I've been doing lately , now that I have Henry. I'll practice other things, but I fall back into "noo...