Tag Archives: Music

Piano Lessons. Body Issues. Teaching. Flowers.

I started taking piano lessons at the end of August, and the lessons are going pretty well. I like to think that since I can play two chords and some melody with quarter, half, and whole notes, that I’m going to be the next Sunnyland Slim or something. I can even play with both hands at the same time, though when I have to play a half note with my right hand and a dotted half with my left hand, I get a little confused. The purpose of the piano lessons is two-fold:

(1) I want to be able to play the blues. I think in a former life I may have been African American, and the blues just feels natural to me. The blues are natural to me in much the same way as African American women’s literature feels like a comfortable, old shoe that I’ve worn and worn, which is a compliment because I feel so at home there. I feel it, like I feel the blues. I wonder sometimes if I can identify with African American texts, music, and art because of my own struggles. Though they pale in comparison, I think many GLBT concerns, pains, sadnesses, or inequalities make the bearers empathetic to the plights of others. For whatever reasons, I feel the blues, man. I feel ’em.

AND (2) I needed something to use for relaxation. I used to read for relaxation, but when reading became my livelihood, books stopped providing the same sort of haven for me as they once did. In fact, I can’t stop reading pleasurable books, like I read the books I use to make a living, and I find myself doing feminist or Marxist readings of The Little Engine that Could. Which is the opposite of relaxing. I started playing piano, so I could have something to do that wasn’t letters or pictures or anything rhetorical. Music is round notes and lines. There are few words involved and the pictures music makes in my head aren’t feminist or Marxist or any other -ist. The pictures made by music are art and equality. One day they will also be beautiful. Right now they are 1, 2, 3, 4 or 1, 2, 3 or even 1, 2 as I count the beats in a measure and lift my fingers or put them down accordingly. I have faith in future beauty.


On Monday, I plan to start a new Whole 30 and a 30 day running streak, which means I have to run at least one mile every day for 30 days. No questions asked. My goal is to run 2 miles for each weekday and 5 miles for each weekend day. I have to do soemthing, so I don’t feel like shit. I’ve returned to my pre-paleo ways, and I’ve gained five pounds. I’m at 215 pounds right now, so technically I’ve gained 10 pounds from my lowest. Admittedly, I haven’t started eating grains or most other agricultural products, but I have been drinking much too much alcohol and eating much too much ice cream. I just can’t resist a good Strongbow or Chunky Monkey. The last time I went for a run, my body felt so good afterward I am not sure why I didn’t keep up that momentum and just keep running. I felt as if I could run miles and miles! I still have a goal to run a marathon before I turn 40, which means next fall is the last chance, because I can’t run when it’s hot out.

My goal is to complete the Heritage Trail Marathon in September of 2013. I tried to run a road marathon last fall, but I failed miserably because of an asthma attack, so we’re volunteering for that same marathon this year. Once I get ready to amp my mileage back up I am going to order some Altras. (EDIT: I went ahead and ordered the Altras, so I can get a jump start on those longer runs.) They are zero-drop with a wide toe-box, but they’ll provide the cushioning I like for my feet. Because I am a big girl, the barefoot thing works for short distances and in theory—but not in practicality—for longer distances. I plan to order them as soon as I get down to 200 pounds. I keep telling myself: You started at 256.4, and you’ve made it to 205, so how hard will it be to lose 15 pounds? Damn difficult is the answer. I’m hoping that by doing a Whole 30 and running every day I can jump start the weight loss again. If not, at the very least, I’ll feel 100 times better.


School’s going well, and I love teaching American literature three times each day. We’ve covered all of the early Americans and my students took their first test today, focusing on William Bradford, Olaudah Equiano, Jonathan Edwards, and some of the important Founding Fathers. I was most frustrated during this unit because the writers we had to cut from the original syllabus were all women or poets. Grr. I should have cut Jefferson, Paine, and Henry. Doesn’t everyone know, “Give me liberty or give me death,” that we’re all created with “unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and that “these are the times that try men’s souls.” Wouldn’t an American sophomore be brain dead not to know these things? One would think they’d be familiar, right? If so, one would be oh so wrong. So, we spent a day with our three rhetoricians and their famous words.

I have been surprised about how much I’ve actually enjoyed teaching British literature, too. My students have read A Taste of Honey and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead among other things, and I’ve been impressed at their thoughtful consideration of texts that even I find challenging. We’ve discussed cultural studies, hegemony, existentialism, absurdism, Othering, and a variety of other cultural issues, and we’re only three weeks into the school year.


Finally, I have been surprised at how much I feel like I am getting done this school year. I get up early, and I work on my dissertation. I go to school on the weekends, and get every thing ready for the week. I stay after to take tickets at ball games or to work on some grading or whatnot. I use my prep periods to prep things or grade. And I have time to do other things. I feel so on top of things, and the feeling is pretty nice for a change.

Everything’s comin’ up roses. Or marigolds.

Lent Day 31: Being a Grown Up Sucks Sometimes

Today’s weather was perfect for a run: 70 degrees with a nice lukewarm rain. As I came home from school today, my heart wanted so badly to go for a nice, long run. My spirit wanted to be unleashed and untethered to plod along the Greenway with my bare feet soaking up the rainwater as they splashed along the trail. I could feel the joy in that run.

I sat by the open picture window, looking out across the green floor boards of our front porch and watching the rain fall in the grass of the front yard. I admit that I have been feeling a little sorry for myself for the past month. My body doesn’t seem to have the same aspirations as my spirit when it comes to running or swimming. For example, today instead of wanting to go run, my body wanted to come into the house and fall asleep on the couch by about 5:30.

I’ve been sick quite a bit in the past month, and I wouldn’t say that it’s been a serious sickness. I’ve just been tired and haven’t felt 100 percent. This week, however, just when I wanted to really kick in my running to get ready for this 15K trail run, my body decided to rebel. I’ve had a temperature as high as 101 degrees, and I can’t seem to shake it. Of course, some antibiotics would probably help, but I don’t like to take medicine. Apparently, I’d rather wallow in my own illness than do something about it. How theological is that?

Along with not being able to run tonight, like I wanted to, I also wanted to go to Hartford City to see some bands—The Whipstitch Sallies and So What and the Deliverance—perform and to spend time with some friends. I have been planning to go hear them for several weeks, if not months, so I was really disappointed to not be able to go. But I decided that I am old enough to have to cancel some things when I am sick, which is kind of a big deal for me, because I tend to just keep going until I drop over. In fact, that’s likely why I am sick right now. Last weekend was a doozy, and since the end of February, I have been going nonstop. I’ve been going so nonstop, I was shocked when I looked at the calendar today and realized that April is literally a week away. I’ve missed March somehow. Time generally goes too fast for me anyway, but this was ridiculous.

Somehow I also missed the fact that the Huffington Post Religion section is running a special page for Lent 2012. Do they do this every Lent and I’m just oblivious? Probably.

Each day there is a meditation provided by one person from a diverse group of religious leaders and writers. Some of them are very moving, so I would suggest simply going there and perusing them if you’re so inclined. This one by Rev. Emily C. Heath was one of my particular favorites, and this one by Carol Howard Merritt is a particularly beautiful story of the grace of feet washing, to which I can thank my Church of God friends for introducing me. Enjoy the contemplation.


Josh Garrels: Love & War & The Sea In Between

I’ve had this free download since a couple of days after it came out, but I haven’t really listened to it or any other music since school started in the fall. In fact, once school starts, the work for it is all consuming and I pretty much don’t do anything for myself aside from exercising and cooking, so I was pleasantly surprised when I listened to it last night while I was sitting on the couch reading magazine articles and blog posts on the Interwebs. Each song is presented in a different style, and yet retains the overall theme of grace and redemption and healing.Love & War & The Sea in Betweentakes the listeners on a quest or a coming of age journey, but I never did feel as if I’d left the sight of the shore. There is challenge and comfort in the lyrics in a way I don’t often feel in Christian music. Garrels asks us to be self-reflective, but always reminds us that there is comfort just around the bend.

“The Resistence” is somewhere between a rap and a spoken word poem, “Ulysses” uses the story of the Odyssey as the background for a beauty rocking folk song, and “Beyond the Blue” inspires the listener to look beyond themselves with lyrics like “Plumbing the depths to the place in between/The tangible world and the land of a dreams/Because everything ain’t quite it seems/There’s more beneath the appearance of things/A beggar could be king within the shadows,/Of a wing.” I could go on, because each separate track has its own feel and its own message or lesson. But, the lessons aren’t heavy handed. The tracks are so well-written, they make my writer’s heart smile. Poetic, poignant, and beautiful. Each song is simply a comfortable reminder to be who we are purposed to be. Challenging but comfortable, like walking and talking with an old friend.

Josh Garrels