I went to the post office this morning to mail Athens Middle School Cross County gear to my entire family. Doug was working. Doug is always working. Doug does not make small talk. He does not smile. He didn’t smile before masks either. Doug is the postal worker who really will make you sign your credit card before he will process it, even if you’ve used it unsigned for years across this entire continent and Europe; Doug is not impressed.
But let me tell you: Doug will get you the most timely, cost-efficient prices for your packages. Sometimes it’s first-class, sometimes it’s priority mail. Doug is savvy to the nuances of our mail delivery system, and he will navigate them with you. And that’s something, even if he forgot to ask if I needed any stamps today.
Music and movement. These are the twin pillars of purpose and pleasure that structure and support a meaningful and bearable life for me. To be honest, I’m probably touched a little with the ADD; I flounder without a focus. Music and movement are how I quiet the noise, but gurl, it’s hard to focus on anything right now. I should probably line up a therapist now to deal with the psychological fallout of my year-long COVID isolation. (We’re only 43 days away from that anniversary. Oh joy.) Anyway, here’s how it’s been going so far in 2021.
This week, I did something that I haven’t done in years, maybe decades: I practiced my piano. Deliberately and with joy, I busted out the Hanon, worked some scales and arpeggios, and then went all the way back to the beginning with Clementi’s Sonatina in C, op. 36, no. 1. We’re talking way back.
For lack of a better idea, my plan is to work through the progressive order of the sonatinas as listed in the front of my old Schirmer Sonatina Album, purchased from Music Mart of Kent for $7.50 a thousand years ago. It’s got coffee ring stains on the cover and masking tape on the binding, so you know it’s good.
I practiced in several 30- to 45-minute sessions over the course of a day. The kids’ online-school schedule only allows for working in the morning, during lunch, and then after school. I played until I was interrupted, or my hands and brain needed a break. Coming back to piano with a deliberate practice plan for improvement is a little like time-traveling, or having the chance to go back to then with what you know now. When I was working on these pieces as a kid, I was simultaneously learning the language of music–reading, theory, history. Now, two degrees in music later, all that is clear. I’m just waiting for my hands to catch up now.
The first movement, the Spiritoso, is memorized. On to the Andante next week.
Learning to play the guitar is my big goal for this year. And it’s going to take some big grit on my part. Things I’ve been working through:
Researching electric guitars because I read they’re easier to start on
When I took lessons a few years ago during my music therapy stint, we started with Alfred’s Basic Guitar Method I. So, of course, I started it again. I’ve worked my way through the top three strings and have just started chording. It’s slow going, and the slowness is the hardest part of this for me. But, my singer roommate during undergrad taught himself guitar during his senior year. Mostly, he just always had his guitar in hand. He’d sit on the sofa and just play, for hours–watching TV, talking, procrastinating. And now he’s a guitarist. I think about this often.
My goal for January was to exercise an hour every day. LOL. Yeah, that did not happen.
Ambitiously, at the beginning of the month, I reset my Apple watch exercise ring to 60 minutes a day. I’ve now scaled it back to 30 minutes a day. I usually go over, but when it was 60 minutes, it just seemed like too much, so I didn’t do anything. Obviously, this was not a winning strategy. Thirty minutes is better.
Last weekend, I went skiing for the first time in 25 years. (Bill Clinton was president then, for some perspective.) I have to say, it actually went pretty well! It took about 8 hours of skiing to get back into a rhythm and loosen up, about halfway through our second day. I fell on my first and last runs, as you do. I am excited to pick it up again. I hope we can go at least one more time this season.
Every new year, as we all do, I start off with the best of intentions to carve out a more productive and better life. This January was a struggle. I knew winter was coming, but it was heavier than I expected. We weren’t with our family over the holidays. The kids and I hit 300 days of COVID quarantine. There was the attempted coup and insurrection before Biden’s inauguration. Seasonal depression. Frankly, it’s been a lot.
February is short and hopefully sweet. At the very least, it’s another 28 days to get my life together. See you then. xo
There are two types of people in this world: those who like New Year’s resolutions and those who don’t. I freaking love them.
There is something so delicious about starting a new calendar year with the best of intentions. In Scotland, they “red the house” (starting a new year with a dirty house is bad luck, y’all) during Hogmanay, and we Americans like to deep clean our intentions, having paved the road to hell with good ones the entire year [see: 2020]. For 2021, I’ve set two big goals and a bunch of little ones. Drum roll, please …
Learn the guitar (and actually practice this time)
Exercise an hour every day
And though I am scared of using the phrase “this is my year” ever again (thanks, 2020), this is the year I finish learning guitar. I’ve started about 47 times and can play a few chords, but I am pretty freaking far from basic competency. Mark me, I’m doing it. Then we can sing songs together–yay!
The Great COVID Quarantine of 2020 did have some benefits, believe it or not, and one of them was that it lit a fitness fire under my ass. Because let’s be honest, I’m not in my 20s anymore. Or my 30s. We joined Peloton and got Apple watches. And by “we,” I mean my entire family: my dad, mom, three sisters, three brothers-in-law and their families. You can find us via our hashtag #fitfam (just kidding, I deleted all my social media accounts). Lemme tell you, you will find the twin spirits of discipline and competition when your entire family knows whether or not you went to the home gym on any given day. Either because I’m old or have owl legs, I can’t seem to generate enough power to burn a large number of calories in a short period of time, so I’ve committed an hour a day to the task. It’s going really well, and my wardrobe consists almost entirely of exercise leggings and sweatshirts now. See, people can change.
Do the New York Times crossword every day (I did it last year!)
Learn to draw
Knit more than one project (I still have to finish that sweater, oops …)
Organize my family’s genealogy
Blog five days a week …
…which brings me to why were here.
If you’re reading this, you either still have an RSS reader or you love me. I quit all my social media accounts last month because 1.) I was addicted and 2.) my creativity was all blocked and dying in the darkness of my inability to look away from Twitter and Instagram and all the other platforms that are designed to suck you in and keep you there. I was unable to rise about their brilliantly conceived and executed mind manipulations. (By the way, it’s okay if you can’t either–truly, it’s not your fault.) For me, the only option was to burn it all down. And here we are.
My old blog, MAB libs, died a quiet death in 2016; she just slipped away. I’ve been searching for something to write about for a long time now and struggled to find a focus. I believe I’ve found a twofer in writing about the things I’m doing and learning. I can hold myself accountable, and I get to share with you all the things I love. So, thank you for reading. I missed you.