Friday, March 29, 2013

Bro & sis-in-law have left town again, so I'm back at their downtown pad with these guys:
"Breakfast. NOW."

"I only lie on the floor when I'll be right in your way."
It's a nice life. I need the space and solitude to get some big assignments done for school, so this 4-day Easter weekend away from home is a godsend. I have the peace to get my work done, and having a dog around means that I have to take breaks from work and get out in the spring sunshine. It's all about balance, baby. Being right downtown among the water and the parks and the coffee shops is also great. (I know, we have all of those things in abundance in my neighbourhood too, but it's nice to experience some different ones). I got up at 8 this morning, walked the dog for half an hour, came home and ate breakfast, and worked for 4 hours on my arranging assignment. Then another dog-walk, followed by internet browsing and blogging. I have a band gig late tonight so it's nice to be mellow this afternoon.

The end is nigh, at least where school is concerned. If I can get through this week then there will be little else to worry about in the way of assignments. I only have a few exams and although of course I'll be studying I'm not worried about any of them. The luxury of doing well all year is that I don't have a lot of last-minute cramming to do. I'll be getting ready for my move up north once school winds down, and taking a short road-trip with my mom. We only live hours away from Seattle, and I haven't spent any time there for years. We'll be going to this restaurant and this bar which are owned by my favourite food blogger. We'll be roaming the halls of Pike Place Market, which pops up, wildly altered,  in my dreams from time to time. Basically the whole 3 days in Seattle will be about eating and long walks, which are me and Mom's two absolute favourite things in the world. (Here's hoping that the long walks cancel out some of the eating!) Oh, and we may try to find a museum or a play or a concert to take in as well, if we can fit it into our busy schedule of walking and eating.

It's almost 5 o'clock. Almost time to leave my little piece of paradise downtown for the wilds of East Van and some Turkish Gypsy pop. Happy Easter.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Out Like a Lion

March has decided- with a vengeance- to be lion-like this week, although as one of my friends said on Facebook, it's high time for it to, and I quote here: "lamb the hell up". Well said, Danette.
Seriously, it's epic, folks. Wind! Torrential Rain! More wind! Brilliant sunshine! Warmth! Cold! Actual freakin' snow this morning! How's a girl supposed to dress?
Vancouver in March is how I imagine life with a toddler to be: hours of excruciating annoyance punctuated by moments of sheer joy. Suddenly I love my neighbourhood again and I want to be outside all the time so I can photograph things like this:

This? This is why I live here.

But for every one of these days, which bring sunsets like this:

...there are still days of stultifying greyness. (Greyness not pictured here, as I never take my camera out on days like that. There should actually be no record of them, in my opinion.)
Yesterday? Was awesome. A short day at school with fun classes, followed by my first ever session with a personal trainer who is helping to whip me into some sort of shape (a smaller, thinner shape, hopefully) before I go away in a month and a half. I feel really, really pretentious saying that I have a personal trainer, sorry. Does it help if I explain that it's my friend Leslie, who as well as being a fitness maven is also a blues singer par excellence? And she's giving me a fantastic rate? And she trains people in her house, where your every move is avidly watched by two obese cats? Anyway, Leslie is great, and she worked with me for an hour yesterday and then, fuelled by some kind of endorphin madness from the exercise, I walked downtown in the spring sunshine and met my brother and sis-in-law for an evening of socializing which included 4 large and interesting cocktails. This is the life, I thought blearily as I lapped up Margarita number 2 in the sunny window of a Mexican restaurant with my kin. This is Spring in Vancouver! Truly I am blessed. 
And then I woke up this morning and dragged myself out of bed. I felt like I'd been hit by a fucking train decidedly less perky today. Muscles I didn't know I had were stiff and sore. I sucked miserably at a theory assignment, an assignment which had to be played in front of the entire class. I was so tired that I was teary all day. Classic case of overdoing it. 
Clearly, March felt that the sunshine and balminess of yesterday was overdoing it as well, because we had snow this morning. Although I have to say that things improved as the day wore on. Weather-wise, at least. My mood will only improve once I've had a very long sleep. And no more cocktails for at least a week. 
Water with lemon and rosemary. It's the new coffee!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


The hallways, once a blur of noise and confusion that I scuttled through, head down, are still noisy, but I am part of that noise now, and comfortable in it. I know that it's easiest to find free practice rooms when the guitar/bass ensemble rehearses (because there are more guitarists and bassists than any other instrumentalists or singers at this school). I know that high up on the 5th floor are cubicles where I can sit for hours and finish my homework in the endless break between classes, listening intently to drum patterns or chord progressions while staring out at the treetops and the rain. I know that it's better to work in the small dark computer lab than to try and get work done in the big lab, where kids are blasting YouTube videos of jazz bands at top volume and laughing uproariously at their own witty remarks. I know when there are odd days I can skip school and get more work done at home, and when I absolutely need to be there. I know to avoid the cafeteria, with its overpriced, lousy-quality food, and bring my own snacks. I still go to the library, but less. More to browse and borrow in the fiction section than to hide away from it all.
I am a music school survivor: I have great marks, I do good work, I perform well, I have friends. People have dropped out: broken bones, bad marks, carpal tunnel, lack of interest. I wish I could go back and tell my September/October self to chill out, but of course I can't. I can only hope that come Fall, when I start new classes and a new routine, I will remember this hard-won wisdom and not have to start from scratch once again.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sometimes it's hard to remember why I do this, when the joy of music gets tangled up in the complexity of chords and scales and chord/scale theory and did I practice enough? and oh god I have to transcribe that drum part and exams and homework and feeling as if I'm on a slightly different planet from most of the people I go to music school with. Not to mention next year's courses, which will probably be mostly science and psychology and other subjects that will require a lot more discipline and hard work for me to get though.
Then I play a gig like last night's and I remember why:
Music Heals.
It's really that simple. I can be standing on stage or at a friend's house or just strumming a guitar in my living room and life will start looking better. My fingers may stumble and my voice may crack, but it doesn't matter if I used the Dorian mode to solo over those chord changes, or whether my phrasing of a lyric was exactly right. What matters is the chemistry that crackles between four people who have been playing together for a long time. The heartfelt roar of an audience singing along to your words. The magic of 4-part harmony. The sheer workout of playing a 30-pound accordion that's strapped to your torso.
I go to music school to learn how to be a better musician, so my musical experiences will be ever more challenging and rewarding. I decided to get a music therapy degree so that I could hopefully make a living doing the one thing that I know without question I am good at, but also because I know for a certainty that music can make everyone's life better.
How could I ever doubt that? I have seen it work on me time and again.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


The greyness at this time of year can be overwhelming, the mountains virtually hidden from view for days on end. Sometimes we are gifted with a day of sunshine and that almost makes it worse, makes us remember what we so often lack in this rainy town.

I have been making my own sunshine lately, thanking my lucky stars for small things:
 a warm sitting-room with a big picture window that lets me watch people splashing by on the street below; time to reconnect with some friends; some money to buy new clothes with after months of hating everything that I was wearing. Having hunted high and low for the perfect pair of jeans I finally scored and now I want to buy about 20 more pairs (Lucky Brand Jeans, I love you and am a fan forever!). It's amazing how a few new clothes can help you feel better about the way you look. 

I'm thinking a lot about self-image these days; how I see myself and the way others see me.
What do I see when I look at this picture? Of course I see my sloppy toque and straggly hair, a round face and pretty eyes. I see a face that's wary of smiling for the camera, knowing that my eyes will crinkle unattractively and my mouth will twist. (I also see my friend Ari in the background, looking as though he's going to slip on his big gloves and strangle me.)
I read a book called The Hunger Fix recently and it's helping me come to terms with my struggles with food and addiction. It's also helped me to make some changes in my lifestyle that will hopefully have positive results. I keep a video diary every week and so I stare at my face and think Oh, is that really me? Certain mannerisms I was only half-aware of, endearing and annoying both.
I juice limes and blood oranges when I get tired of water. Or beets and apples with mint and ginger. I eschew the muffins and Red Rose Tea at school for decaf Cinnamon Spice brought from home and breakfast eaten in a hurry before I leave the house. A friend told me yesterday: Your face looks thinner. You look good, have you lost some weight? Comments like that keep me on the straight and narrow.
Daylight Savings Time begins this weekend. Soon I'll be finishing up this scary, delightful, academic, soul-searching school year and (far too soon!) packing and leaving for my job up north and then the whole cycle will repeat itself again with variations.
Seeing myself in these pages, in the video diaries, holds me accountable, pins me down. You were this. You said that, felt like this. You struggled with that. A life, however imperfect. My life, on this screen, in the world, in my heart.