Tender Digits

Dear Psychos, I’ve been learning piano for the first time. Six weeks ago, I couldn’t read music, and I had no idea what keys played which notes. Of course, I’m in the thick of stumbling around, trying to wrap my brain around junk like the fact that some idiot decided that A flat and B sharp ARE THE SAME GODDAMN THING. Also, no one informed me that I’d need to learn Italian in order to play this instrument. Not unless this outfit comes with bottomless thin crust pizza and gelato. No grazie.

I’ve often been asked if I play piano (or told that I should) because my fingers are so long and amazingly graceful. Well now, all you well-intentioned judgy people can rest easy, because my fingers are fulfilling their prophesized (spellcheck doesn’t like this work and says it’s not, in fact, a word, but I disrespectfully disagree) glorious destiny. However, in my limited exposure to musical pieces, I’ve come across some that require my pinky to be on one note (like a C) and then for my thumb of the same hand to be on yet another C an octive higher and jesus handcramps that’s hard and my tender digits just can’t reach! I’m honestly not sure how I’m supposed to figure this one out.

In short bursts, learning to play an instrument whose sound I consider to be heaven on earth is exhilarating. The first few weeks of class, we were instructed to practice the pieces we were given, and I did, but I couldn’t contain my excitement and almost immediately started looking up music tutorials on YouTube. Finding it kinda by accident, I came across the theme to Harry Potter and just couldn’t help myself. It took me maybe an hour of practice to be able to do the first few measures with little to no mistakes, and as soon as I produced those first eight magical notes (if you’re fans you know exactly what I’m talking about) I got this rush of giddy excitement. ACTUAL MUSIC WAS FLOWING THROUGH ME! Music by John Williams, no less! I learned the first minute of the song and practiced it so much that I have it memorized and didn’t even need to consult my sheet music. What excited me the most was when I found myself starting to sway as I played – the piece has such a whimsical quality and I found myself playing around with speed and intensity. After a while, the piece felt so natural. My fingers knew their places – muscle memory was successfully taking place. Insert mind-blown emoji.

After seven years of being out of the workforce and being a stay at home mom, getting to challenge my brain in a way it’s never been challenged before is both exhausting and exciting. I’ve been having dreams of playing the piano – ever more complex pieces. I’ve found myself keying (musical pun intended) into background piano music in commercials or movies, wondering what key that was in or if I could play it if I tried. I can also feel a difference in my hands. They are literally stronger, more dexterous. My fingers are more nimble and responsive. It’s like they’ve woken up from a deep sleep. I feel like my hands are finally doing what they’ve been meant to do all along. I remember feeling the same way about my boobs when I started breastfeeding my babies.

I find myself frustrated that I can’t magically play complicated pieces immediately. My left hand can’t switch chords fast enough and forget trying to make my two hands play two different things at the same time. But progress is being made, however slowly, many swear words at a time.

My ultimate dream is to be able to play Lady Gaga and sing at the same time. I’m well on my way.

My Six Books

I was challenged by a friend – well, I begged her for a blog post idea and she came through like…someone who’s really dependable – to come up with three books that are “a snapshot of me.”

I already failed, since I came up with six and couldn’t whittle the list down any further.  They are listed in the order in which they were read…because that’s the order in which I grew.

  1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – JK Rowling

This book captures my whimsical childhood imagination.  If I had three wishes, I’d wish to go to Hogwarts for a year.  I’d date Ron and be besties with Hermione and go on adventures with Harry.  And I would steal some lemon drops from Dumbledore.  Why this HP book specifically?  Because they form The Order!  The kids become more rebellious and independent and help each other out and fall in love…sigh.  Deep down, I really do believe in magic.

2. Letters to a Young Therapist – Mary Pipher

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I read this book in my Master’s program when I had no idea how to help my clients and I had a shitty supervisor who wouldn’t help me.  This book became my virtual supervisor and gave me space me to begin to figure out what kind of therapist I wanted to be.

3. The Gift of Therapy – Irvin Yalom

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Like the previous book, this one gently taught me to figure out what therapy was and how I could use time, space, and words to help people help themselves.  Most of all, Yalom urged me to use myself- that, through authentic relationships between therapist and client, meaningful change could happen.  Such a simple, powerful message that has stayed with me.

4. Quiet – Susan Cain

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THIS.  I never fully understood my introvertism, or that all those weird things I do even had a name, until I read this book.  I am drained and exhausted after interviews.  In college, I avoided small talk with drunk dudes in bars by asking a real question, like When you die, what do you want to be remembered for?  I can be alone and happy, reading for hours.  One time in grad school, I wanted to go home and get in jammies but my friends wanted to stay out.  While we were discussing it, the last bus of the night drove by.  I left mid-sentence and RAN to that bus stop.  I didn’t look back.  Reading this book felt beyond validating.  Having the additional insight into my personality and disposition will prove invaluable as I navigate interpersonal relationships (including the one I have with myself).

5. All Joy and No Fun – Jennifer Senior

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This non-fiction book is about how children affect their parents, and woo-boy, it describes my first year of being a parent like SHE’S IN MY HEAD.  I spend a good chunk of my days doing work, a lot of thankless work, to keep my child alive and healthy.  It’s no fun.  And every once in a while, I get a moment, one moment of sheer, complete divine JOY when my boy belly-laughs or snuggles with me.  Aaah, that’s why people birth small humans.

6. In the Body of the World – Eve Ensler

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Eve is best known for writing The Vagina Monologues, and recently she fought and won her battle with uterine cancer and wrote about it in this book.  While no cancer story will ever be the same as my own, there were many times where her experiences mirrored mine, and her ability to eloquently wade through grief and words and symbolism brought out all my feels.  We’ve both worked to help women survive violence, we lost parts of our female reproductive systems, and struggled not to feel like less of a woman because of it.  I was honored to meet her in 2008.  This book spoke to me on a level that few books can.


nanopoblano2015lightNaBloPoMo Day 16

I’m bringing joy to the picnic

I get the symbolism, the tradition of making new years resolutions, but what I don’t get is why people keep making them since they don’t work.

I’ve observed that the nature of the most common new years resolutions is often to do something that we “should” be doing already anyway: lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more, eat better.  The “should” is in quotes because my immediate response to “shoulds” and “have tos” is “who says?!”  The “should” is a value statement that came from somewhere- friends, family, the media, society, etc. -and a person has to believe in a “should” in order for it to have any meaning.  Very arbitrary indeed.

My assumption is that people who make new years resolutions must be resolving to do something that they don’t want to do…otherwise, wouldn’t they have just done it already?  If quitting smoking was something that you really, truly wanted to do, then why would you wait to begin doing it until the first of the year?

I am rejecting this guilt-based form of resolutions!  I support joy-based resolutions!  I am resolving to do things that I like to do, things that bring me JOY!  One thing I started doing already (because why wait?!) and that is to blog.  Check.  The other is to take my picture everyday for at least the year of 2012.  So far so good.  Another is to continue to read. 

In my attempt to pass on the joy I experienced through reading this year, below is my year in book reviews for 2011.  They are listed in the order I read them, and an asterisk (*) means I had read the book before.  Enjoy!


1. *Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut

I had read this in high school and remembered liking it.  I think I am a Bokononist at heart. I just love the close-to-home absurdity of it all! 

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
3. The Girl who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson
4. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson

I just tore through these books, and I think they really highlight the year for me, especially since I followed these with the three Swedish and first American movie versions.

5. Enlightened Sexism – Susan Douglas

Awesome non-fiction about how sexism as backlash is more covert in the media now more than ever.  I like books that teach me how to be a more critical consumer of media.

6. Gone – Michael Grant

The Michael Grant Gone series (more below) are young adult books, and even though they start to go a crazy, far-out TV show Lost route, they are still fun, easy, and imaginative reads.  I look forward to the few more in the series he has yet to write.  Basic premise is that in one moment everyone in this town over the age of 15 just disappears…

7. Bossypants – Tina Fey

Tina, I love you, I love you, I love you!  This autobiographical hilarity she calls a book is well worth it.

8. *A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

I read this one as a child and reading it again made me feel like I was 10 again.  Love the power of books.

9. Hunger – Michael Grant
10. Lies – Michael Grant
11. Plague – Michael Grant

These titles really indicate how the plot thickens…

12. *Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – JK Rowling

I think this was at least my third read.  I had to read it before the last movie came out so that I could properly tear the movie apart for inconsistencies.  The end of all things Harry Potter was and still is traumatic for me…

13. *Tales of Beedle the Bard – JK Rowling

To ease the pain of the Harry saga coming to an end, I read this for the second time.  For this reading, I actually read one story out loud each night to the boyman before we went to sleep.  He hadn’t heard them before, and there was something magical about sharing the stories out loud to someone else.

14. The Golden Compass – Philip Pullman

So this book seemed right up my alley.  I was still mourning the loss of Harry, and I figured this whimsical fantasy with a female protagonist would help ease the pain…but it was soooo slow and parts were boring and I struggled to get through it.  I struggled so badly that I gave up hope trying to finish the series.  Maybe someday I’ll try it again.  And maybe I learned the hard way that nothing can ever take the Harry Potter PTSD away.

15. Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer

This non-fiction first account of a disastrous trip to the top of Everest was the most captivating and anxiety-provoking book of the year for me.  I could not put this down, and I even had dreams about being in mortal peril in the freezing snow and not having enough oxygen.  I recommend this adventure of a book!

16. Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen

I remember that at this point in the year, I said that I would choose media devoid of abuse and trauma, so I chose what I thought was a charming, old-timey circus fling.  Sigh.  I still enjoyed it, even though there was some domestic violence and animal abuse thrown in there. 

17. A Stolen Life – Jaycee Dugard

At this point I think my curiosity got the better of me and I threw out my rule about choosing books free of abuse.  This book gets me enraged and hopeful at the same time.  Enraged that someone could do horrible things to someone else for SO LONG before getting caught, and hopeful because Jaycee and her girls are so resilient and kind and determined and not broken in any way.

18. The Help – Kathryn Stockett

Phenomenal book, beautifully written.  This book makes me want to visit the south.

19. The Whistleblower – Kathryn Bolkovac and Cari Lynn

Here is another example where I couldn’t help myself.  This is a true story where Kathryn, a cop, was hired to help prevent and police sex trafficking in Bosnia, only her superiors were sabotaging her work and were consumers of the sex trade themselves.  I love a story where women kick ass and not only take names, but take them to court!

20. Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim – David Sedaris

I had heard good things about Sedaris, and so I borrowed this book from a friend.  Full of autobiographical stories of David’s family and life growing up.  He has this dry humor I find amusing, although I expected the stories to be more laugh out loud funny.

21. Holidays on Ice – David Sedaris

More stories, less autobiographical.  I found that these stories were either hit or miss for me.  One was absolutely hilarious, and the other was so over the top that it missed its mark.

~Here’s to many more happy, fun, exciting reads for 2012!~