Monday, September 4, 2017

Impromptu Road Trip

Sometimes you decide to take a last-ditch, last-minute trip to celebrate the end of summer. Neither of you has much money to spare, but you jump on the ferry and borrow someone's car on the other side and drive to the capital. There is eating and walking and lots of laughing. You might all decide to walk the one whole block(!) to the beach to catch the last of the sunset. 

Then there is bedtime in a small apartment, with three of you bedded down in the living room. One of you snores. Loudly. Not coincidentally, only one of you gets a single wink of sleep all night. 

The next morning, you and your love will stumble to the beach again and search for sea glass, clutching your coffees like a lifeline.
Why is Victoria such a great place to find
beach glass? I have no idea. 
You will find the best and cheapest breakfast place, right on the water, and the rest of your party will stumble in, and plans will shift and change, and soon you are heading to the river in two cars in the intense heat. 

Of course, you are not the only ones who thought that tubing on the river during a heat wave on a holiday weekend would be a fine idea.

The first place is sold out of tube rentals(!), but there is a second place. Fast forward through the yucky stuff: lineups, waitingwaitingwaiting on the asphalt in the heat, figuring out how much time we have left before someone needs NEEDS TO BE HOME, packing hot bodies in a smelly van to drive to the river. Nothing matters but hauling your tube to the water and AHHHHH! you're in. 

Even then, nothing's quite how you imagined: the water is still high but the current is sluggish so the breeze blows you backwards and it takes forever to float downstream to the rapids. But who cares? There is beer, and swimming, and lazy conversations. It's hard to capture this spectacular place, seeing as only one of you brought a phone. And- whoops!- guess what? Ziplock bags aren't waterproof! Someone's phone takes an impromptu bath!  

You finish later than you thought, of course. So two of your party race away, and you and your love linger at the ice cream store that sells homemade cookies, cupcakes, and other treats. You eat ice cream for dinner #1.

Dinner #2 is at the crazy little Mexican restaurant in Nanaimo. There's a lineup, and it's only open 'til 8, but the wait is short and the food is great, although it's so hot you might as well actually be in Mexico. And guess what? Even though you couldn't make ferry reservations and you're sure you won't get on... You drive to the ferry anyway and bliss! There's no lineup at all! You will get home earlier than you hoped, and a good thing too, because by the time you hit the sack you will have been up for over 36 hours. 

Sleep deprivation catches up to someone. 

And you learn- again- that nothing ever goes quite according to plan, but that the way it went was actually better than you had planned, and you need to let go of always wanting to be in control of things. And he learns- again- that maybe making a few flexible plans isn't always a bad idea. You learn and you grow and you squabble and you laugh, and you have happy, imperfect holiday time together as the summer draws to an end. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Birthday Week: heat wave, picnics, and family visits

Autumn! You are so very necessary this year, what with all the fire and fury of our hot, dry summer. Even I am almost ready for you.

My birthday was yesterday, and it was on a day so hot that even I quailed. I had to teach some preschool classes in the morning, and by the time I met my sweetheart and biked to the PNE for some deep-fried meat and other healthy snacks I was so exhausted and irritable that I couldn't quite give in to the carefree enjoyment that a trip to the fair demands. I even snapped a few times at my poor love, who is so swamped with work and yet still took time off to cater to my wishes because it was my special day. (Sorry, Jay.) We got our coveted free-entry stamps so that we could come back to the fair that evening and see Tom Cochrane perform, and then we biked (so uphill! much panting!) to Black Rook Bakehouse because I needed birthday cake, dammit! But as I slumped, sweaty and defeated, over my Molly Cake, I had to accept the fact that

  1. nothing could take the place of Blacksmith Bakery's peerless Chocolate Guinness Cake, which I'd had in Fort Langley on my birthday last year, and 
  2. It was just too hot for sugar, even though (or maybe especially because) I've been cutting back so drastically on it lately.
Luckily, things started looking up once we got sensible and dragged ourselves over to New Brighton Park for some much needed r&r. Not right away though, because I'd just bought myself a Knapbag. Are inflatable couches all the rage where you live? They certainly are here. Unfortunately, my couch didn't come with instructions, and therefore I took out the plastic lining inside of it, not realizing (silly girl!) that you need those liners, because that's where you trap the air. Whoops. 

Utter despair. 
The bag, of course, wouldn't inflate properly. I was hot and frustrated and furious. With myself, natch.  What a waste of 60 bucks!

Luckily, Jay is made of sterner stuff, and he soon figured out how to re-insert the lining. Thanks to my love, I was able to lounge comfortably after all! And he appreciated it too, because he could use it as a backrest while he sat and sketched, which was part of the work that he needed to do. Win-win!
Much happier! 

We stayed here for about 5 hours. I, of course, spent some of that time in the pool. I felt much more human again after a quick dip. 

Later, we went back to the fair to watch Tom Cochrane and Red Rider play. Although we were both tired, the air cooled as the sun went down, and Tom played a great set as we cheered and sang along in the night air. Honestly, these fairground shows are mostly nostalgia acts, meaning you'll often see performers in their waning years, but many of them are still super-tight, sounding great, and seem genuinely happy to be there. Tom had tons of energy, and his voice was as good as ever. I can't think of too many bands that are more quintessentially Canadian than this one. 
Rockin' out. 
Two years ago, my birthday plans (almost identical to this year's) were foiled by some epic winds and rain, which closed down the PNE for a while. This year, the epic-ness went the other direction, with temperatures that got up to over 29 degrees. Even I, with all my love of sunny days, found this one to be simply too much. It is greatly to Jay's credit that we were able to have a lovely time despite the blistering weather. 

As usual, I like to spread my birthday over several days. Why have one celebration when you can have three?

Last Saturday I had a little picnic in another local park. It was very last-minute, and very small. I panicked about inviting people for several reasons:
  1. Vancouverites are infamous for saying they'll be somewhere and then bailing.  
  2. This trait gets even worse in the summer. 
  3. What if I set it all up and then the weather changed? (This was the dumbest concern, as it hasn't rained in over a month.)
  4. Did I really want a large group of semi-friends, or just a small group pf people I really wanted to see?
In the end, I went with a small group of friends. I had my band, my boyfriend, and my mom. And a shit-ton of food. We hung out, we drank illicit alcohol in the park, we played music, we ate (not as much as we should have- I bought waaaaayyyyyy too much stuff), and we sunned ourselves. It was easy and perfect. 

The next day, my dad and his girlfriend arrived for a quick visit. Thanks to the weather, it was also easy and perfect. We ate dinner en famille on Commercial Drive. We walked over 15km around downtown and Stanley Park, much to the delight of my dad's girlfriend, who's hardly ever been to Vancouver. And on their last night we simply barbecued steaks in my back yard, invited my landlord to join us for dessert, and sat in the summer darkness: me, Jay, landlord, dad, and girlfriend- just talking and laughing and enjoying family time.  It was a delightful birthday week. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Appetite For Destruction

I had an ice cream today.
Actual ice cream not exactly as pictured. It was actually a double scoop
of Earnest Ice Cream's Strawberry Swirl and Salted Chocolate, in case you care. 
I really hate that it's even a thing I have to think about, let alone feel guilty over. I mean, God, I just went for over a month without having a single dessert so I could break sugar's hold on me and maybe lose a few pounds and get healthy and all that crap. It started slow, while I was still in Saskatoon. It felt hard, damn hard. But by the time I got home the self-discipline had taken hold and I was rockin' it, you know? It even started to feel good.

Then I levelled up: I started biking everywhere. Taught some music classes on Granville Island: biked. (Easy- not even 30 minutes from my house.) The next week I helped teach a creative drama camp in West Van. Did I want to take the bus every day? I did not. I got on my bike 4 days out of the 5 and I biked through downtown and along the Coal Harbour seawall and through the @#$ Stanley Park Causeway and over the mighty and terrifying Lions Gate Bridge and past Ambleside and then I worked with active little kids for 2.5 hours and then I got back on my bike and did it all again... in reverse. I got addicted to the feeling of getting myself from A to B under my own power. I still didn't eat the sweet stuff. And at the end of those 2 weeks of teaching, I wanted to stay active. Hell, I don't even want to be indoors at all when the sun's out and it's hot. 

My lovely landlords went away for 2 weeks and left me in charge of their house, garden, and cat, so every morning I was also getting up to give the kitty some company and water the plants and spray the veggies down before the full heat of the day made that a bad idea. (It's the one thing I know about gardening: don't water things in the middle of the day. Oh, and that deadheading is always a good thing.) Not only that, but I was allowed to harvest things as they grew, so suddenly it was lettuce with the dirt still on it, and tomatoes and cucumbers right off the vine, and tiny eggplants made into the best Baba Ganoush... 

And you know what? These things work, dammit. I could see a change, see my face thinning out, feel my clothes fitting better. I felt stronger, faster, firmer. Drama camp ended (and with it, the commute across the bridge), but I discovered HIIT workouts. I still bike everywhere, and I'm starting to swim at New Brighton Pool, an outdoor pool which kicks Kits Pool's ass, in my opinion. In short, I am one healthy person right now, and I don't want to screw it up. 

At the end of July, my 30-day sugar challenge was over.

You know what? Cold turkey is easy, really. I mean, making it stick can be a pain in the ass, but once you get going, it snowballs. You feel proud. Empowered. All you have to do is one thing: stay the hell away from whatever it is you need to stay away from. (Okay, I don't have experience with hard drugs; I'm not speaking about quitting heroin here. But cigarettes? Been there, done that. Several times, in fact. Sweets? You know it. Again, many times.)

What really stymies an addict is trying to wrap their heads around moderation

I recently worked with someone who had it way worse than me. He had to bring pre-made, portioned meals to work, because if left to his own devices he would have eaten a week's worth of lunches in one sitting. "Food addiction is tough," he said gloomily. "It's not like you can just quit eating." Indeed. 

In the past I've tried:

  • Having "dessert days", where I could only indulge on certain days of the week. That went about as well as expected. 
  • Counting calories (The biggest pain in the ass ever. Forget it. Seriously.)
  • Joining various websites. Spark People. Noom. A Facebook page/support group for a cult way of eating called My Bright Life, where people- almost all women, by the way- regularly posted about how naughty they'd been for eating some bread! Or having a glass or two of wine! 
  • Keeping a food diary, to be more accountable. (This worked somewhat. But not for long.)
  • Buying a too-large bag of treats and then throwing them away somewhere where I wouldn't be tempted to retrieve them later. When I read Ann Lamott's writing about her addictions and she described running water over food so she couldn't eat it later, I felt a shock of recognition. 
  • Started my own Facebook page to support and empower myself and my friends- again, mostly women- who wanted to do something about their health. A good idea, but almost no one ever posted anything, so I gave it up, not long before I gave up on Facebook altogether. (Which is still one of the best things I've ever done, by the way.)
I have never been bulimic, thank god. I've certainly binged, but I've never purged. 

So I'm really nervous that having to be moderate about this whole eating thing is going to screw it up for me. 

Here are a couple of rules I'm putting in place to help cope: 

Every morning, the first thing I do when I get out of bed is put on workout clothes. And usually the next thing I do once I'm dressed is a quick workout, or some yoga- something to start the day right. (The only problem is that on hot, sunny days, I'm often inclined to leave the stinky workout clothes on all day so I can stay active. You have been warned.)

I have the poor man's Samsung version of the FitBit. It's called a  GearFit2, and when I remember to charge it, it's fantastic, at least for nagging me when I've been sedentary too long, and for logging my runs, walks, yoga sessions, and bike rides. It doesn't log swims (not waterproof), or HIIT workouts, although if I just kept it on during those it would probably measure my rocketing heart rate and know that something was going on.

Speaking of getting up, most days I'm getting up early. Now that my garden-tending duties are done, I'm hoping this trend will continue. It just sets the whole tone of the day, for me. 

I'm varying my routine when it comes to staying active. Some days, it's just yoga, to be honest. Other days, it's a quick HIT workout in the morning, and maybe a bike ride to the pool later on. I'm digging Fitness Blender for their workout videos, because although their workouts are torture tough, they're also blessedly short

What to eat (and more importantly, what not to) is, of course, the biggest challenge. I'm lucky, in that in the summer  I really want to eat less, and to consume lots of fruits, some veggies, and less carbs. In the winter, that changes. (So does the getting up early. It's just really hard to get out of bed when it's rainy and dark. If you have any suggestions to sweeten the deal, I'd love to hear 'em.) 
This time around, after my 30-day ban on sweets lifted, I hit upon a new idea to help with moderation. Most of my unhealthy behaviour takes place alone- it's harder to indulge in over-the-top portions and choices with an audience. So my new rule is dead simple and, I hope, effective:

Eat the ice cream, on occasion. Have the cake. Don't feel guilty about it, and for god's sake, don't be a bore about it. Just...
Don't do it alone.

I'm betting that this rule should keep my bad habits under better control (except for my boyfriend's unholy love of Chicago Mix, but I can avoid that, I think). 

Because when it comes to food- the good and the bad- the goal isn't to avoid it entirely. For me at least, the goal is just not to over-think it. Or over-eat it.

Bon appetit. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ten Things I Love About Saskatoon

Well hello! I'm right in the thick of rehearsals in my usual summer home of Saskatoon at the moment, but it's starting to weigh on my mind that it's only a quick visit this year. (Although I did spend 4 weeks here in the spring, so if you count those weeks plus the 3 weeks I'm here this month, it'll have been 7 weeks total in 2017.) Although I miss my sweetheart a lot, I am always happy to be here. There's something about this place that has really captured my heart, so I thought I'd make a list of some of the things I love about this prairie city:
  1. The people. It's that small-city-big-town thing I guess, but strangers really do smile and say hello to you here.
  2. The neighbourhoods: Caswell Hill- my home away from home. Riversdale, where I enjoy the farmers market, a cappuccino at Collective Coffee, and shopping at all the hipster stores. Oh, and brunches at The Hollows (sadly not this summer though, because I work Saturdays, and they're not open 'til 11). Broadway/Nutana across the river, where I love to go shopping and eating! Downtown, where I spend way too much money at Midtown Mall. The Weir, a manmade waterfall on the river, just beside a giant railway trestle that you can walk across. Stunning. Mayfair- home of the Safeway where I stock up on supplies, the zany antique-store-coffee-shop, the bakery, and several other cool stores on 33rd. 
  3. Speaking of stores... The local corner stores here are wonderful. You'll be biking along a residential street, and suddenly you'll come across a convenience store that's totally like a small-town store: it'll have the usual chips and candy, but there'll also be some baking, or some kitchen supplies, or some home cooking, or something else that makes it just a little different than your run-of-the-mill corner store. Even though Saskatoon has all the big box stores and supermarkets, these little local stores continue to offer neighbourhood shopping for their communities, even if those communities are only a few blocks in size. It's pretty cool.
  4. Pelicans. When I came here in March this year, these giant birds hadn't yet arrived, and it was weird seeing the river without them. When I came back in April they'd come back, and most nights in April and May I'd walk or bike down to the weir to see them floating gently above the falls, or bouncing on the choppy waters beneath, looking for fish. They spend some of their year in exotic places like Mexico and Guatemala, and they look foreign and out of place here, but I love them, because we don't have them in BC *EDIT: And Jackrabbits! I can't believe I forgot about Jackrabbits! Seeing these big-footed bunnies bounding through the city streets is always a treat. 
  5. Jazz Fest. Every year, my visits coincide with Saskatoon's Jazz Festival. I will admit that I've seen very little actual jazz here, since their headliners and free shows tend to be more pop/hip hop/rock than jazz. But, there's nothing I love more than heading the short distance to the free stage after rehearsal, grabbing a drink, and letting the music wash over me. This year, Pride Fest and Jazz Fest joined forces and brought Hawksley Workman to the free stage last Saturday, and I was in heaven. I also love hanging out by the river behind the Bessborough Hotel and hearing the big-name headline acts playing their shows. Why pay 60-70 dollars when you can hear just as well behind the stage with a great view of the river? I'll be hanging out down there on Thursday night, when Michael Franti hits the stage.
  6. The weather. I KNOW. I am a total fair-weather friend to Saskatoon, having never spent a winter here. Even being here for a few weeks in March and April this year had its challenges, as I had to walk everywhere because it was too icy to bike (it was too icy to walk, for that matter). But summers here are the bomb. Except this one, because it's been kinda cold and very windy. But even so- still sunny, most days. And when there's rain, it's epic and short-lived. Oh, and thunder storms! Love 'em. 
  7. Biking and running. It's flat. Biking is easy. Running is a delight. Oh, and there are also fabulous paths on either side of the river for your walking/running/biking pleasure. 
  8. Outdoor swimming pools. I think I've written about this before, but it blows my mind how many outdoor swimming pools this wintery city has. Not only do they have awesome pools, but the pools also usually fence off grassy areas as well, so that you can lie on the grass and relax before or after your swim. True story: when I flew into Saskatoon for the very first time, 2 years ago, I looked down from the plane and saw a gorgeous little park and a cute little pool with a water slide, and I thought, what a great neighbourhood. Little did I know that I would be living RIGHT BESIDE THAT PARK. And to this day, I still make my home very close to Ashworth Holmes  Park and Mayfair Pool, every summer. 
  9. The theatre community. Small but vibrant, Saskatoon's theatre scene is pretty awesome. Shakespeare? Check. (Their version of Bard on the Beach is called Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, and it's in a tent down by the river.) Brand new works by local playwrights? Absolutely? A theatre company that is passionate about making a difference in their community? (Big shout-out to Sum Theatre, who were my employers last summer, and who are incredible in this regard.) I feel so very lucky to have been welcomed into this community as a musician/music director, because there's certainly no shortage of local talent. 
  10. My friends. Who are, by and large, part of the theatre community here. It's getting so I'm more likely to have people to talk to at an opening night in Saskatoon than back home in Vancouver. My friends here lend me bicycles so I can get around. They let me live with them for 6 weeks while I'm working here.  They invite me to stay at their farm on my day off. They ask me when I'm going to move here for good (probably never, but I sure hope I can make it my home away from home for a long time to come). 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ten Reasons I Won't Ever Use the Term #Blessed (unless I'm being sarcastic)

  1. It's glib. You're putting shit like this mindlessly at the end of your social media posts because everyone's doing it and who knows, maybe it'll win you more followers, right? Or maybe because you think that posting this hashtag makes you exempt from, you know, actually doing something for others. Way easier to be #blessed than to make sure others are feeling that way. 
  2. It turns your uber-boastful post into something that looks like gratitude. Putting the word #blessed in your posts does not suddenly give you carte blanche to post a gazillion pictures of your kid, your material possessions, or your tropical holiday. Guess what? We know you're still showing off. You're just hiding it behind a humblebrag. 
  3. If God existed, She wouldn't bless you. No, really. He doesn't hand out blessings like the Easter Bunny hands out chocolate eggs. Or so they tell me. 
  4. If you don't believe in God, it's even weirder that you're using this hashtag. Who the hell #blessed you- the Tooth Fairy? 
  5. It's symptomatic of our guilt over the glut of things we possess. Do we know that there are millions of people in the world- hell, in our towns, mere streets or houses away from us- who have a tiny fraction of the things we have? Yes we do know that, and we think that somehow, if we acknowledge that we're #blessed, we can sleep a little easier on our soft, soft feather beds. 
  6. Because practically any other adjective would be more accurate. You could claim to be #rich, if you're showing us your new house. You could be another #boringparent or #ObsessivePetOwner, if you're posting nothing but shots of your kids, either furry or not. (and no, that doesn't mean I don't want to see any pics of your pets or kids, before you get all upset with me. I do. Just don't be boring about it.) You most certainly are #lucky, or more honestly, #privileged beyond belief. And here's the most accurate hashtag of all, but you won't see this one popping up on people's feeds...
  7. ...#Random. Most of us, even the atheists, want to believe in some kind of order in the universe. It's way easier (and glib-er- see #1) to say that you're #blessed than to admit that the world is completely random, and that most of the great things that fall our way are the result of frighteningly chance occurrences, connections or coincidences.
  8. You think it's a simple way to show gratitude. Gratitude is great. But truly showing gratitude doesn't mean adding a couple of meaningless hashtags to your boast-y posts. True gratitude should be about acknowledging your good fortune, luck, random set of circumstances, etc. by taking action, whether it is in a good attitude, a positive mood, or even better: by sharing your good fortune with others. 
  9. It's thoughtless. I mean that in a very literal sense. It's as bad as posting Minions memes, linking to ill-informed articles you haven't actually read, or basically putting up anything that doesn't contain some original thought. The internet is full of stupid. Why make it more so? 
  10. Look, I get it. Social media is designed for bragging. I do it all the time. So do you. And then we feel guilty, so we add that one little word to make ourselves feel better. But maybe instead, we should take the time to think a little more about what we're posting on social media. And why we feel the compulsion to post anything in the first place. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Catching Up: An Interview

Whoa. Hi there. Seems I took a bit of a break from blogging, which is usually a solid sign that I'm busy living. Over the last year or so I've been trying to blog about specific subjects: life as a musician, the arts in general, teaching (which I totally just typed as teachering, thereby proving that I may have a little bit more to learn), etc. But it's been a while, so why don't I just catch you up, in the form of an imaginary interview?

First off, how do you like your new home? 
Love it. Love it.  LOVE. IT.  I really can't say it enough times. After 2 months, it still seems fresh and magical to walk through that door (my door!) every evening. Sometimes I still say "hello, home" as I put down my bags and settle in. Part of the reason the attraction is so fierce is that I've been away almost half the time since I moved in, so when I'm home I still feel like it's brand new. Leaving for Saskatoon for two weeks when I'd literally only been in the new place for a week was painful. Thankfully, I worked my ass off unpacking in that week, so I had a clean, well-organized place to return to. My landlords are amazing. The other day I put out the rubbish bins and got an email saying how nice it was to share a house with me! It's also just wonderful not to have to live with anyone. My sweetie comes over once or twice a week, and that's great, but other than that It's MY home, and I like it that way. I love being around people, especially as a teacher and performer, but at the end of a people-heavy day I love having a quiet, empty apartment to return to.

Wait a minute- Saskatoon? What are you doing there?
Working for Persephone Theatre's young company helping teenagers perform their songs better in a show they created called Here. On the plus side, I get to work with amazing young people and spend time in a city I'm now proud to call almost a second home. On the minus side, I miss my new apartment, and it makes me feel a bit disconnected at work when I miss classes. But theatre is still very much my first love, so it's a sacrifice I'll keep making. I have one more trip in 2 days (!) but then I'm back for three more weeks in June to do another show. Saskatoon: the town that keeps on giving (me work). And hey, a cool side effect is that my hatred of flying has mostly worn off!

What about theatre here in Vancouver?
Not as much as I'd like, but I did get to perform in a remount run of The Out Vigil, which I first did around the same time last year. Luckily, all the old cast and crew were back, and we had a magical and too-short reunion. I sincerely hope that this may not be the last time we get to do this show, but we'll see.

So... Your work just lets you have time off for all this stuff? 
Yeah, basically. I have a really great job. It's not without its frustrations and challenges, but I can honestly say that I love it. It's taken me several years to feel at home at the music school where I work, so it's hard-won, which makes it even more rewarding. And because every year I am exposed to new challenges (this year it was teaching preschool music and teaching music to kids with autism), I learn constantly, and in turn, this makes me a better teacher and musician. Also- and I feel kind of mercenary saying this, but it's important- my standard of living has improved immeasurably because of teaching, and that is no small thing. This time last year I wouldn't have dreamed that I would be able to afford to live alone.

Still in any bands? 
Yes, thank goodness! I have pretty much made my peace with the fact that being a performing musician will be a sideline rather than the main event in my artistic life. But just because I don't do it all the time doesn't mean that it's not vitally important to me! I still perform sporadically with Zeellia, which is the Ukrainian band I've been a member of for well over a decade now. But the best decision I made came fairly recently, when I invited some friends to start a new band with me after our old one disbanded. And then I got even smarter and asked another friend to join us. And gradually it was like a flame that had been sputtering was re-lit again. This new band was rough, but we were all eager to get better. Excited to bring in new songs. Open to switching instruments (each of us plays at least two). Two summers ago I was surrounded by music; in a musical, even, and I had no urge to play or write. These days I can't stop. I credit this to my new-found love of my teaching job, and to my new band, which is just loose enough to have fun, and just tight enough to be full of possibility. It's a creative time.

Do you have time for your partner and friends, with all this travelling and work going on?
Sadly, not as much as I'd like. Sigh. I'm just super-lucky that most of my friends are busy too; that my bandmates are all my BFFs, and that I adore all the people I teach with. My boyfriend is King of the Workaholics, so our weekly trysts are usually enough for both of us to feel connected, while still being able to pine sweetly for one another. In related news, I recently decided to quit Facebook for a while, and reconnect more with people in real life. I've only been off for 2 days, so don't throw a parade for me yet or anything. In fact, it was quite funny, because after resolutely deactivating my account I found myself having to reconnect it again to I could log into apps like Spotify. (The dangers of using your Facebook identity on other platforms.) The turning point came when I hardly got any work done on Monday because I was too busy checking to see if friends had "liked" a witty post of mine. Plus there was a fierce debate going on over the use of accents in comedy routines, and I watched as people on both sides of the debate- including people I know and adore- indulged in endless, useless fighting. Hardly anyone was reasonable. Hardly anyone exchanged ideas in a respectful or open-minded manner. It was gross. And I couldn't look away. So I decided to go cold turkey, for a while at least.

Um, haven't you noticed that the world is basically ending?
Yes, because my Facebook friends never stop talking about it! (Another reason to get off there: read more real news and a whole lot less stupid memes, trollish comments, and preach-to-the-choir posturing.) What the fuck am I supposed to do about the horrendous things going on in politics and the environment? My firm position is that the best thing I can do is to be better-informed (still working on that one); to be more connected to the world (less internet time); and to be kind.  If the human race is in its twilight years 'thanks' to Donald Trump, North Korea, or our egregious misuse of the planet's resources, I'm certainly not going to spend my last days being miserable. Until I have no other choice, anyway.

Are you quitting this blog?
All appearances to the contrary, no. For one thing, if this quitting-Facebook thing works out, I'll need somewhere to dump post my observations about life. It's interesting to me that a number of the blogs I loved have either quit altogether, or significantly reduced their number of posts. I think it's partly because a lot of the blogs I first loved were so-called "mommy blogs", whose writers eventually found they had less and less time/inclination to post everything their little darlings did. As their kids clambered out of toddlerhood, their parents started feeling a little more connected to the world again, and were able to reach out beyond a cold and often judgemental internet. At least that's my theory. Apparently, blogging is passe these days. But I started my first journal at the tender age of six. I'm not going anywhere.

Anything else?
Let's see: passed my second Psychology course; played a solo accordion set at the Princeton and made some new friends; entered another Storyhive music video contest; tried and failed at a number of health/diet initiatives; started buying plants and not killing them...mostly; worked on new friendships; lost touch with some other peeps; got to know Saskatoon better; haven't spent enough time exploring Vancouver lately. You know. 

And now,  in the spirit of being better connected to the world I am going to sign off this machine and empty my organic waste bin. It's good to be back! See you soon.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Air That I Breathe

I never smell very good after a seniors home gig; I'm sorry, but that's the truth of it. They keep the heat cranked up- and rightly so- for the feeble and the slow-moving, and neither of those words describes me when I'm performing. By the time my hour is up, I'm rather...damp, to put it politely. 

Today I had to spend a good while putting together a new book of songs for the gig, as my usual binder is packed in a box somewhere. I've been getting a jump on my move by boxing up everything I think I can do without for a few weeks... and a few things, obviously, that should not have gone into boxes just yet. After reluctantly slitting open a few boxes with no success, I decide to just print out new lyric sheets; after all, most of them are saved onto my laptop anyway. This leads to some new song choices, which is refreshing. I decide to bring my ukulele as well as my accordion, since I'm playing more uke than squeezebox these days anyway. As I stagger down the street with my accordion in a knapsack on my back and my uke and purse in my hands, the good angel on my shoulder urges me to check my pack... good thing, because I've left the binder with all my freshly-printed lyric sheets in my bedroom. Stagger back (luckily not far). Surprise the cats with my re-entry. Grab binder, depart again. Two buses later and I'm there. 

Up on Three West I begin with a new one: Singing In The Rain. Right away I know it's a good choice as a chorus of voices immediately joins in. I keep 'em coming: Big Rock Candy Mountain into Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen into Blue Days Black Nights... Today's seniors grew up in the '40s and '50s, so I mix country blues, folk, Canadiana, Irish and good old rock 'n roll, with the occasional Big Band-era blaster like Minnie the Moocher or Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey. 

Right away I notice a bubble in the air, an energy coming up to me and getting bounced back to the audience through my music. Maybe it's the slightly younger crowd: I see more than a few residents who look to be in their early seventies, even one woman with punky green streaks at the front of her bleached or grey hair. I've always had fun playing at this home, but sometimes I've seen people wheeling or shuffling away before my hour was up. Not this time. Their voices join me on everything from Harvest Moon to Blue Suede Shoes. Maybe it's me. I'm feeling rested and my voice is in fine form. Whatever the reason, today we're cookin'. 

Imagine you spent most of your time breathing something that was like oxygen, but wasn't. You'd do fine, but something would be lacking. And then some days, you got to breathe the real deal- your lungs would fill and your eyes would sparkle and you'd feel extra zest and energy you didn't know you were missing- That's what singing and performing feels like to me. Oxygen. Even when I'm sick it lifts me up. When I'm not sick... Pow. 

I say this a lot, and I really mean it: I have the incredible good fortune to do what I love for a living. I never thought I'd be a good music teacher, but I love it. I never used to think I'd be a good musical director, but they keep hiring me so I guess I've got the skills. And I DO love my jobs: I love showing kids (or actors) how to put a song together; I like arranging; I like getting to pass on my rag-tag collection of Things I Know. I even like the herding-cats exercise that is teaching preschool music. But here's why I'll never be the best teacher or musical director there is: because there's always going to be this little diva inside of me that is silently yelling Just step aside and let me do it instead, Jesus CHRIST let me because I can do it better than that, because it's all I want to do and I can't, they won't let me they keep hiring me to teach you instead-
Which isn't to say I'm silently hating on you when I work with you or your kids, far from it. (Unless you're really terrible at your job and they hired you instead of me. Then yeah.) It's just... I have this friend who has a doctorate in music education. He's never in his life played in a band, or been in a play, and he's Never. Wanted. To. His passion is teaching music. (He also helped me get my teaching job, for which I'll be eternally grateful.) Mine is performing music. 

I lack the killer instinct, which is why I'm not recording an album or touring Canada, or, you know, famous. Instead, I'm a (mostly) very happy teacher of music/music director who plays in a band with three good friends and has moments of passion and inspiration at all of her jobs, and really really comes alive when she gets to step into the studio for a session, or play onstage, or even when she lugs two instruments on two buses to play for thirty or so seniors, some of whom may even not be sleeping. 

Today, we make some magic at Royal Arch Masonic Home. Who knows why? I make my way through 21 songs and the seniors are with me every step of the way. Someone (dear god, probably only my parents' age) asks for Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", so I do it, scrolling through the lyrics on my phone with one hand as I stumble through the bass notes on my accordion with the other hand. I am surprised how many voices sing the haunting chorus with me. 
I launch into Stan Rogers' "Forty-Five Years" and feel my eyes water a little as I take in the pink and crepe Valentine's Day decorations strung up around the room. The song is Rogers' beautiful tribute to his much-loved wife; how many of the seniors in the room still have their loved ones with them? Too few, I'm thinking. I finish with "Goodnight Irene", which I often close with because I love to hear the old ones sing it with me. 

They've handed my money to one of the residents: Ms. Green-Hair. She wheels toward me slowly, a challenge in her eyes. First, she thanks me for bringing some sunshine, because "it can get kind of dreary in here." I bet. Then she says, "But we're not going to give this to you that easily. If you want this, you'll have to do another song for us." 
Challenge accepted. It's the first time I've been asked for an encore here. I rifle quickly through my pages: what would be the perfect finisher...
Ah, yes. I put on my accordion and launch into "Folsom Prison Blues", the perfect song for people who are trapped in a seniors home, no matter how nice it is. As I sing, I hear their voices joining me one last time. 
I'm stuck in Folsom Prison/And time keeps rolling on/But that train just keeps on moving/On down to San Antoine.

And then I leave, back to the rest of my unfettered life. Breathing that sweet, pure oxygen until my lungs are as full as they can get.