Thursday, July 2, 2020

Friday, August 16, 2019

Four Months Later ...

It's 8:04 a.m. Normally at this time, I write in my journal for about an hour before starting my day. It's not the most exciting journal. Mostly I just write down what I did yesterday and I figure out what my plans are for the day to come. And then I get to work on those plans.

I lost my job a couple of months ago. I haven't written much about it publicly. I have too much anger about it. It was like a divorce in many ways, and the wounds haven't healed.

Still, I'm better off without the job. As with a divorce, the last year before it happened was particularly painful. So I suppose it's good that the divorce happened, though I would have been in favor of making changes to make the marriage work. But, as was often the case over the past year, my opinion wasn't the one that mattered.

So I'm currently unemployed. While the lack of a paycheck isn't much fun, I'm enjoying the time at home. I got to spend the entire summer being a full-time mom and housewife, and I loved it. My life has been gloriously boring, and mostly free of stress and anxiety. It's free of an income as well, and I admit we've started to feel the pinch. But such has been the price for freedom.

I'm looking for jobs, and I had a pretty good interview recently and am waiting to hear if I got the job or not. In the meantime, I've been doing lots of things I never had time to do when working:

Exercise. I'm getting myself back into shape, for the first time in five years! I have muscle again! I started with lots of elliptical-machine work at the gym, and then I switched to my "soulmate workout," Beachbody's ChaLEAN Extreme, with some TurboFire mixed in. I've worked out nearly every day. I'd be a smokin' hot mama by now, if only I weren't also ...

Baking. I've been baking like crazy. As has always been the case, I tend to bake when I'm happy. In the past week, I've made a banana cake, banana muffins, an easy orange dreamsicle cake, and some even easier vanilla wafer cookies. I also made some butter cookies with sprinkles with the kids. As long as I'm home, I'm going to keep baking, and Anne is going to have homemade stuff in her lunch box every single day.

Voice. Can you believe it? I'm still taking voice! And I've become a living example that someone with a terrible voice can learn to sing. My goal, literally, was to sing in a way that didn't make people cringe--in other words, to have a passable voice, whatever that is. And I think I'm there. I nearly always have the right pitch, except when I sometimes push on the high notes and go sharp. But at least I know I do it, and I know how not to do it, so the challenge is to think about it before I do it. I'm still too self-conscious to sing very loud at choir, but I'm getting better. The good news there is that you're not supposed to sing loud at choir; otherwise you wouldn't blend. So I need to sing just a little louder, and I'll be right where I need to be.

Piano. I'm still taking piano as well (surprise, surprise). I'm starting several new pieces, and am feeling a little intimidated by them. First up is Beethoven's Op. 2, No. 1 sonata in F minor. It's one of the easier Beethoven sonatas, but it's been a bear for me so far. Maybe it's my age, but I'm finding it a lot harder to learn than (I think) I would have at age 21. I'm also going to start the Bach French Suite No. 1 in D minor, and a 20th-century piece. I may go back to Shostakovich's "Dances of the Dolls." It's a suite of maybe seven intermediate short pieces. I learned a couple with Deborah, and I'd love to learn more. The pieces would offer something easier to focus on, as a balance for the Beethoven and the Bach.

Homemaking. I've been doing all the house-cleaning things I never had time to do before: shampooing carpets, polishing silver, washing windows, cleaning baseboards, etc. It feels so good to have a clean house. When I was working full-time, all of that stuff had to happen on the weekend. Since I never felt like shampooing carpets on the weekend, the work never got done. I also have time to de-clutter, do laundry, and even iron the clothes that need ironing. I've learned that housework isn't near the annoyance when there's actually time to do it. It's actually kind of fun.

Family time. I'm spending time with my kid and with my husband. Anne's behavior and attitude have improved so much since I've been staying home. Things will never be perfect, but they're definitely better. It's just nice to be able to be present, 100%, and not focused more on work, or the stress from work.

One thing I haven't been doing much of is writing, other than journaling. It's okay, though. Writing will come. My focus for now has been all these other things. I've gotten some ideas for some stories, but they're mostly swirling around in my head right now. They'll come out when they're ready.

OK, that's the update. I'm not sure if I'll be updating here again anytime soon. But who knows ... maybe I will.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Spring Flowers

I took a couple of days off from work last week, and I spent all day Thursday digging up a garden and planting flowers. It's been a week now, and they're still alive! Here are a few pictures I took yesterday:
Geraniums, planted by my mailbox

More geraniums

Marigolds. I bought three different varieties. See below for more!



More vinca, getting ready to bloom.

This begonia was left over from last year in a pot, so I replanted.


Blooming vinca

French marigolds



Azaleas from one of my bushes. These were past their prime and are mostly gone for the year now. :(

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

DIY Mad Gab: Definitely a Tribulation

Here are some of the mishearings at my latest meeting:

Shabat prompts!
Shakin' her knees, they're around us. She'll tell us.
Kitty settings in the notifications.
They're gonna get no vacations or activity.
Incising this line.
Crappolo for your free-ah pizza.
It's hearing well, and shorty.
That phrasing's dust and not mud this time.
No, it's not a loo butt.
I'm almost air and almost there.
We really want punches.
I don't think you have this off-prime, but in a brown broswer.
God bless the Addy fawn.
I'm not happy with this entropy.
Sweatin' a bona fide.
Toucan mob hours.
Hours'll be abused.
The ticket hours or the ticket opportunities.
Would that infect the cow? It would work.
The Joe Neidermeier option.
A butt's what they want.
The Higginson family hole.
And something, for some heavens, that's fine.
It can get maybe to fusing.
A gallop lice going home.
Definitely a tribulation.
'Cause I think I solved it from the Russia part.
Give it a little bit of wishful ray cup.
A jaw. A jaw.
I didn't, else maybe, I got my own thing.
I fall a little different.
It goes to sea, it goes to sea.
More of a usage state.
Vermeer to help you go to a different place.
Quash'n, squash'n, go your program.
Rod, I feel like Ibotta.
It's just surreal.
On fire by you!
Ali crack corn.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Hiking at Stevens Creek Heritage Preserve

This weekend, Dan and I went on a two-mile loop hike at Stevens Creek Heritage Preserve. It was a pleasant little hike with a couple of small stream crossings, a variety of trees, some big rocks, and even a bit of a view. Here are some pictures:

A small waterfall. Transylvania County, eat your heart out! ;-)

Dan "Sheltowee" Rogers, on his second short hike of 2019.

I wonder what lives there.

Parts of the woods were overgrown with bamboo.

Cool old decaying tree stump.

Large rocks on the side of a hill.

More rocks, and a twisty tree.
We kept seeing these tufts of sticks and leaves growing in the side of trees. We weren't sure what caused this.

Here's another one.

Dogwood bark! I'm always happy when I see dogwood bark! I love its nubby-ness.

Another way to identify dogwoods in the winter: opposite leaves (see below).

Opposite-leaved twigs form a kind of "turkey foot."
A view!

Pine tree bark. I'm not an expert on pines, but I'm guessing this is Pinus taeda, loblolly pine. 

Imagine my delight to see a baldcypress tree right on the top of a hill! I love how the bark looks like God just reached out with his brush and painted it!

Another unexpected delight: resurrection fern! These look dead and dried-up when the weather is dry, but when it rains, these beauties turn bright green and definitely alive!

Not sure, but I think this is reindeer lichen.

A baldcypress tree on the side of a hill with a view. I'm used to seeing them in swamps, so it was cool to see it here.

Twisted pine tree trunk.

More twists and turns.

Another view of the twisted tree trunk.

This is the twisted tree, with the branches and leaves growing only on one side.

This was the first and only sycamore that I noticed, growing (not surprisingly) alongside a stream.

I thought this was a neat image of the various parts of a tree trunk.

More resurrection fern! I would love to come back here after a good rain.

Dan's calves. Part of what make me fall in love with him.
All in all, it was a good little hike. It isn't too far from home, so I'm sure I"ll be visiting that trail again soon!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Music Thoughts

Tonight I practiced piano for a bit. It wasn't the three-hour marathon I would have liked, but it was a good practice.

Henry the Grand

I started with scales and arpeggios, as always. Scales have gotten easy. I guess that playing all the majors and minors every single day, sometimes twice a day, for months will do that. I've been a good little piano student and have been practicing at a tempo slow enough that I can play them perfectly ... and then inching them up a notch on the metronome.

Another thing I've started doing every day: In my re-acquaintance with Hanon, I'm playing each exercise every day. I'm up to preparatory exercise 15.

"What?" you say. "But you've been playing piano all your life! Seriously, you're doing Hanon?"

Yes. I've focused mainly on relaxing my left hand, which was tensing up a lot whenever I used my third, fourth, or fifth finger. My thumb would arch back in some kind of compensation for the weak fingers. So after many weeks of practice, I can now play the Hanon exercises (and the scales, and everything, the Bach Prelude in B-flat in particular) without tensing up like I was before. I'm also able to play through the 15 exercises without stopping (and by memory!). I couldn't do that when I first started back--just playing the first exercise would exhaust my left hand and arm.

I focused mostly on the Bach Prelude tonight, starting at ♪=92 and working my way up to ♪=96, playing it about a half-dozen times at ♪=92 and then a half-dozen times at ♪=96. In between, I stopped to work on a couple of measures where my fourth and fifth fingers on my left hand are still "misfiring," giving the measure an uneven sound. By the time I finished practicing, it sounded pretty good. Tomorrow I'll play ♪=96 a half-dozen times, and then ♪=100 a half-dozen times ... and I'll keep doing that until I get to the goal tempo of ♪=160, or ♩=80.

I also worked on the fugue at ♪=63 and, after a few times at that tempo, moved up to ♪=66. I'll practice again during lunch tomorrow and will isolate a couple of measures that are still not quite right. Other than those two measures, the fugue sounds really good. I recorded myself playing it, and I can hear the voices clearly, even where I don't hear them that clearly when playing them! Because I have the notes down cold (except for those two pesky measures), I've become better able to listen to the different voices, and I think the piece will just sound better and better the more I play it.

I also had a voice lesson yesterday and listened to my recording of it last night before I went to bed.

Ugh! I am such a terrible singer! I'd practiced this one English art song, "Come Again, Sweet Love," ad nauseam, and I thought I was sounding pretty good ... but that recording! I love my voice teacher and his patience with me. I'm sure some of the sounds I make are cringe-inducing. I so want a nice, even beautiful, sound to come forth from these vocal cords, from this stressed-out body of mine. And so I practice and I keep going to voice lessons and I keep having faith.

I do see improvement. I know that my expectations are unrealistic--I mean, I'm 48 years old and have never seriously worked on my voice. In fact, I've never even sung that much, ever since being told as a teenager that I can't carry a tune in a bucket. So I have some stuff, both technically and mentally, to overcome.

I'm glad I have piano--a musical outlet where I have some confidence, and where I know I can make beautiful sounds. And I'm glad I have voice, too--not just a voice that is functional to some degree, but voice lessons, and a voice teacher, and music, and these wonderful art songs that I've been exposed to.

While a lot in my life has gone wrong in the past year--one thing that has gone right is that I found two music teachers that I love, and I've spent more hours communing with music than I have in a long time. And that's good.

If you want to read more of my boring music posts, you can find them at my Picking Up the Pieces blog!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Looking Back on 2018

It's 2019! And now, for my sometime tradition of answering questions about the year, with my paraphrased 2017 answers for comparison. So let's take a look back ...

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
2018: I got Henry, my new (antique) grand piano, and I started taking piano lessons again. I also found a voice teacher that I love and joined our church choir. Oh, and I started going to church again. That has been good.

2017: The move to Georgia, and selling our Maggie Valley home.

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
2018: Work issues. I could write a book, but I probably shouldn't.

2017: Rifts with people that I thought were friends.
3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
2018: Henry! Henry came out of the blue. I found a voice teacher, Richard Cook, who also happens to be the music director at a church in Augusta. At my first lesson, I mentioned that I play piano, and he said, "Do you need a grand piano?" Turns out they had an old, abandoned grand collecting dust at the church, and it needed a good home. I went to visit "Henry," as I would name him later. After a couple of days of thought and research, I decided to take him. I haven't regretted it for a moment. The piano itself was free, and the moving and tuning costs added up to about $1,000 ... a pretty penny, but I know I got a great deal.

2017: I love living in Georgia, and Anne discovered taekwondo. And I got to meet Rick Springfield!
4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
2018: Insurance woes, and our renter moving out of our Franklin house with no warning. Oh, and hip pain.

2017: Dental problems and leg pain ... and the related bills.

5. Pick three words to describe this past year (or to describe yourself this past year).
2018: Anxiety-ridden, overbooked, musical.

2017: Novice (at learning voice and guitar), comfortable (living in a nice house with a neighborhood pool), painful (see above).

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.
2018: Stressed, unhappy at work, depressed.

2017: Unsettled, musical, tired.

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their past year—again, without asking.
2018: Stressful, financially challenging, unhealthy.

2017: Satisfying, challenging, stressful. 

8. What was the best book you read this year?
2018: Body and Soul by Frank Conroy

2017: Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, by Anders Ericsson

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
2018: My daughter and my husband, as always. But two of my most valued new relationships are with my music teachers. I've also made some valued friendships at church and in my neighborhood.

2017: My daughter and my husband.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
2018: I have a lot more anger. I hate to think that I am becoming a bitter old woman, but that is what happened this year. I feel like I've been treated unfairly, and there is nothing I can do about it. The sense of helplessness is maddening.

2017: I'm more guarded and protective of my feelings. I'm not as open or friendly. I'm also learning to live with chronic pain.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
2018: I feel like I regressed emotionally this year! If I've learned anything, it's that I need to guard my time and my energy. I was far too willing to give it away this year.

2017: 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.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
2018: I opened myself up to the possibility of a spiritual life again. I am still stunted beyond recognition, but I feel like there's a flash of green somewhere among the wreckage.

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.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically? 
2018: None. Thanks to hip pain, I'm now going on three years without regular exercise. But I haven't gained any weight. In fact, thanks to the depression and anxiety of the past few months, I'm ten pounds lighter than my normal weight.

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).

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
2018: I made some new friendships in the past year, though I work too much to give them as much attention as I'd like. I love Dan more than I ever have. My relationship with Anne is changing as she grows older and more independent.

2017: New friends in Georgia, but no real growing 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.

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
2018: There are still a lot of things I like about working from home, though there are definitely some downsides. The most enjoyable part with the raise I got with my promotion, I guess. Work itself was not as enjoyable as it's been in the past. I have hopes that that will change in the new year. At home ... hard to say. I pretty much worked all the time this year, and I neglected home duties in every way.

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.

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
2018: Getting a new role, never having time to sink my teeth into it because I kept being given other priorities. And then losing that role because I never got anything done. Go figure. At home: Working all the time and never having energy to cook, clean, or be present for my family.

2017: Being burnt out at work. The challenges of working from home.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
2018: I don't feel like I wasted a lot of time this year. I wasn't on Facebook as much. My biggest time-waster was probably the vicious cycle of negative thoughts that came with 2018's anxiety and depression.

2017: Facebook.

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
2018: Playing piano, and taking piano lessons. Taking voice lessons. Being part of the choir.

2017: Practicing guitar every morning.

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
2018: I recently made a friend who, observing my life objectively, confirmed that I'm not crazy and was saddened and sympathetic that certain of my life circumstances have made me a basket case. How sad is it that the biggest thing I learned this year was that I'm not delusional?

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.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you.
2018: I can't do it all, and I can't do everything to everyone else's satisfaction.
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.

Blogging Elsewhere

Hi, Strangers! I've been blogging with my friend Anh over at Then a Gentle Whisper . Check it out!