I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Archive for June, 2014

Good Grief, Tiger

On September 25, 2012, I pulled into my driveway later than usual. I emerge from my car, tired and ready to put the day to rest. Then I heard him. A bit freaked out, I run inside, but my curiosity got the best of me. He had followed me to the door and was meowing outside very loudly. I found a can of tuna and some water, then put them outside. “Ugh,” I thought. I had never grown up with any kind of pet. I had wanted one, of course, but my parents said they were too much responsibility. As an adult, I saw how my friends with pets had to seemingly shape their lives around their pets and was now thankful that I had never had to deal with any additional burden. Young single and free, y’all! Now this animal is meowing and pawing at the door of my free. I went to bed, half-hoping he would be gone in the morning, half-hoping he would greet me before I left for work.

Y’all already know.

ImageAs you can see, Tiger is not a fan of the flash. He turned out to be very friendly, which, from what I understood, could be unusual for a cat. I loved coming home each day and Tiger would be waiting, in front of the garage. “Where’s my dinner,” he seemed to say. I gave him food and love and became attached to him quickly. I soon learned that Tiger liked to roam, for one day a few weeks later, I didn’t see him. The next day, I didn’t see him. The day after, he returned like nothing happened. I was so relieved! I suppose he wanted to condition me because it took me a few more times before I stopped freaking out whenever he went on one of his trips.

This past week, I hadn’t seen him for a while. I never was sure where or what he was eating, but he always looked well when he returned. Off to my family reunion I went, knowing that my cousin was going to take care of him and make sure there was food out. Not seeing him last night, unmoved, I went to bed.

“Joan. Tiger died.”

The words from my mother this morning hit me like a ton of bricks. She explained that my father had found him on the road. He had been hit by a car. I think they must have called animal services or something and they buried him. I knew that it was going to take a while before I really started to understand that he’s not coming back. I’ve been looking at pictures and videos I took of him doing his favorite things – making the lives of lizards miserable, playing with other cats, and walking through the garden.

It’s funny, because grief is something with which I am quite familiar – in terms of experiencing death. I have a very large family. In fact, I was saying just yesterday that I was pleased that no one in my family had died this year. I had not had a year free of a family death since 2008 and I’ve been praying that everyone would be healthy and happy. Now my Tiger is gone. I can’t believe he won’t get excited for a treat again. That I won’t have to actually start my car to get him to move from on top of the roof. That I won’t hear his soft, sweet meow and feel him purr as I touch him.

Thanks for coming into my life, Tiger. It was way too short. I will never forget you.

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Freedom to Choose

“Joan. Not everyone is willing to make the sacrifice you are to make the music that you know you can make.”

The words of my piano teacher have been bouncing in my head since I last played for her a few days ago. At first, I just thought she was talking about practicing, as it can be bloody boring and tedious and not everyone is willing to sit and make it happen. Freaking duh. That’s why students quit piano lessons once they reach intermediate levels – if not before. That’s why students enter college and switch majors from music like, five seconds after arriving.

But what of we badasses who survive the hell that is being a music major?

I can only speak to one badass, of course. I managed to make it out of graduate school and the longer I’ve been separated from formal study, the more I want to learn and surround myself with music. Playing it, teaching it, studying it, ery’thang. The last time I had formal lessons before I decided to give a recital was 2009 while I was still a student. My last recital was in 2008. I’m doing this because I want to and that’s amazing. Perhaps this helps you to understand why I was a bit perplexed when my teacher was talking about sacrifice. “I love you, dear teacher, but I’ve been at this a while. I know it sucks quite a bit of the time,” I thought.

As you may already know, I’m quite charming. I also have a very large family. People like for me to spend time with them and I love quite a few of them. It hadn’t dawned on me just how often I turn down requests to hang out because I have to practice, train, or work.

This really isn’t one of those “OMG check me out, I’m soooooo busy!” kind of posts. I’m sure it’s coming across that way, but I swear that’s not my intent. I am not busy to show off – hell, I have to practice and train as I do because I’m working to suck less, hah! The sacrifice my teacher was speaking of has to do with choices. To choose to do anything is an inherent rejection of something else. I eat eggs for breakfast, that means I don’t have a shake. I train for triathlon, I don’t play soccer. I practice to perform – I have to make plans in advance to hang out. My life lacks spontaneity. I suppose I’ve become so accustomed to it that I stopped noticing.

I can’t have it all. Dammit.

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Least of These or Lying Heffa?

At the gas station:

“Ma’am! My car ran out of gas. It’s parked over there (a significant distance away from any pump). I need to get from here (Fort Lauderdale) to Jupiter. Can you help me?”

Why, yes. I maintain a blog. I look forward to reminding everyone what a fantastic woman I am because I helped you.

Of course, my real response was nothing like that, though clearly, the situation has moved me to write. I thought to myself, I have means, this woman is in a jam, why wouldn’t I help? I had already decided I was going to assist before I looked down and noticed she was pregnant as hell. She looked tired and thirsty. I gave her a bottle of water I happened to have and assured her I would help her reach her destination.

Then she kept talking.

“Yeah, my mom is on her way to come bring me a gas container.”

Game changer.

Now, I am fully aware that by most standards, I have never had a bad day in my 29 years. When I have a problem, it’s like, “measures 9-14 of that sonata are a beast” or “my massage therapist is out of town for a month!” Woe is me. I also know that this could change at any moment, so I make a conscious effort to walk humbly and live graciously. Of course I could help this woman. This new information, however, brought in a should.

I asked her when her mother would be arriving. She said she wasn’t quite sure. The woman appeared to be about my age. I just found it strange that a mother who could bring a container of gas couldn’t also bring a bit of cash to fill up the container. Or otherwise help her daughter reach her destination. I told the lady I would return in a minute with some assistance. I got in my car, where my two young cousins were waiting for me. They had heard what was going on.

“Joanie. What are you going to do?”

So like, not only is God watching, but here I am, off the clock and needing to set an example for the youth. I’m just a sista tryna fill up and get home and now I’m presented with a dilemma. Fie.

I thought to myself, there’s this:

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:40 NKJV)

But then there’s this:

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16 NKJV)

I don’t think the two contradict one another at all. Jesus wants us to care for those who have less than we do. That doesn’t mean He wants us to be dumbasses about it. In fact, I would venture to say that it’s morally wrong to be irresponsible with the resources with which He’s blessed us. As a good steward, it’s my job to ensure that I’m sharing both as lovingly and wisely as possible.

For some, this situation might be clearer than it was for me. “Lady J, how could you even think about not giving this woman help?” Alternatively, “Wow. I can’t believe that chick is using her baby to hustle people. Don’t let her getcha!” I thought about what would bother me more – knowing that I could help her and chose not to OR being tricked out of some cash. Yes, I’m blessed, but I work pretty bloody hard to make it rain all this teacher’s salary. In the end, I gave her what I thought would be helpful. She thanked me as I left.

I chose to do so because I could NEVER know if she was trying to get free gas, but I would most definitely know that I had means to help and didn’t. I figured that erring on the side of fool rather than jerk was better in this case.

I strongly believe that the way in which we’re moved in situations like these is reflected in our political philosophies.
Whether we find it more disturbing that an innocent person is punished or a guilty person does not get what’s coming to him. Personally, if I have to be wrong – and I’m human, so it’s going to happen every now and again – I’d prefer that a couple pregnant hustlers treat themselves to a beer than even one woman not be able to care for herself and her child as she should.

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I don’t need no stinkin’ rest days!

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Calm down, Coachie. Heh. I love that Thursday is my planned rest day! During the school year, it allows for the perfect mental relief. “Today, I rest, tomorrow is Friday!” Winning! Moreover, I appreciate the logistical ease of rest day. It’s nice to feel like I wake up with something accomplished already. Rest (rimshot!) assured, Lady J observes this day and am not overtraining.

For triathlon.

Sooooo what does a triathlete do on rest day? “Ooh look, I don’t have a workout, WHY DON’T I SCHEDULE MY PIANO LESSONS?!” Logistical ease, right? Roll out of bed and instead of immediately cursing my fins/helmet/weights/sneakers, I curse Brahms. Brilliant. I mean, I have my recital in – uh. OMG 41 days! I must make time to practice and get feedback.

And make time, I have. There have been days when I’ve put in six hours at the piano. Not just goofing off kind of six hours but tedious, combing over pieces kind of six hours. It’s been fantastic, and I am pleased that this amount of practice is not only coming with (relative) ease but moments of joy as well. However, I have not practiced at levels like this since I was preparing for my last solo recital ohhhh, I don’t know. SIX YEARS AGO!!

I wouldn’t say that I’m going from sitting on the couch to running a full marathon, so to speak. I do play the piano fairly regularly. I teach, I demonstrate, I perform occasionally. Perhaps it is more like having run a marathon before, maintaining an elemental fitness base, and deciding I should do a marathon again. With a completely different body/mind.

Lady J is finding herself TIRED, y’all. My brain spins from practicing that much. The first two weeks of summer have come and gone and while I’ve cherished the respite of not having to go into work each day, I don’t think I’m getting the mental vacation that I need. I must do something to ensure that I give my mind and spirit the rest it deserves. I have respected my body enough to do the same. If I am not careful, August will be here, I’ll have given a damn good show (looking fine as hell, thank you Augusta training) and I will not have taken one legit rest day. Problem.

Y’all make me sick! Put it back in your tri shorts, I beg you

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This isn’t true! At least, of me. For one, I’ve been known to post a race or workout related status or two, tee hee. Moreover, when my friends are doing things they enjoy, why wouldn’t I want to read about it? Only a complete asshole someone who may be envious of one’s commitment to health and fitness would feel this way, right?

UNLESS.

Unless it becomes a bitch fest. Worse, a dick measuring contest. “No fair, my pace was slower than yours!” “Well, I may not have done THIS today, but I did THAT!” Oh, comment thread. You have a way of bringing out the worst in people. I’m not going to say that no one wants to read about that, but I know for damn sure I don’t.

“But Lady J,” you counter. “Aren’t you being a *tad* judgmental? You don’t know why s(he) posted those comments.” Of course I am! I judge all day. Real talk. Not in the “I am better than you are” way, but most definitely in the “I don’t want to be around that mess” way. We ALL do. Anyone who claims not to be judging in this sense is a liar and probably a hypocrite. But yes, dear reader, you are correct in saying that I cannot be sure why said comments were made. You’ve got to admit though, not all workout posts are alike. “I did really well today!” or even “Aw man that was pretty lame” reads very differently than “My pace was not as fast as this person’s” or “I could have done that but I was out doing THIS instead.”

How about we all put away our penises and rulers and just enjoy the growth that comes with pushing ourselves to be stronger and more fit?

Throwback Thursday: Temptation Edition

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So, it’s summer. Not just any summer, but teacher summer. Single, childless, teacher summer. Hard to beat. I prance through the mall, singing to myself, “La, la, I’m not responsible for these children!” Not even kidding. When I’m not prancing, I’m either at the gym or at the piano, of course.

Problem(s).

Often, on nutritional regimens, people will say that during the week they are fine but on the weekend, there is a tendency to go buck wild. I’ve found that as long as I plan for the weekend in a way that I plan for the week, I’m good. But, uh – I kind of have a 70 day weekend. I’m not THAT good. Also, playing the piano as much as I am now hearkens back to my days of college and graduate school, where I relied on food to cope with all the negative emotions I had . Even when as I practice happily I think to myself, ooh, food reward! Damn.

Then, today, I had my piano lesson. The kind where I’m taking it instead of dishing it out. I can’t say that it was bad, as my perspective has changed, but it didn’t go how I would like. Quite frankly, I lost my appetite – for everything. No thought of any food excites me at the moment. Feel a tap on your shoulder? Is it Jesus? Yeah, that’s rare. However, I’m starting to realize that this food battle is here with me to stay, so I’m not too concerned about it as long as I don’t eat like I’m a depressed grad student any longer.

What’s more alarming is how tempted I am to give up despite a setback. I arrived home not wanting to eat, but also not wanting to practice. I feel discouraged because it didn’t go perfectly. The spark I’ve had recently is – not dead, but dimming, for sure. No one can reignite it except me. That’s a lot of freaking responsibility. Especially now, because, whereas in school I had the motivation to NOT FAIL, there is nothing outward that can scare me into getting it back.

Good news, though – I am listening to the inner voice that says it is worth getting it back to see how much I can accomplish. I am not like those annoying people who pretend they are never sad; like they are never let down. I don’t have the energy today to try again. But Lord willing, I will see another day, and I plan on trying again tomorrow – to play with joy, to eat with purpose, and to live in a way that glorifies God. How else would I show Him I’m appreciative of all He’s given me?

Ecclesiastes 11:9 (KJV)

Ecclesiastes 11:9 (KJV)

Just As I Am: The Dangers of Knowing Too Much

Most civilians know how stressful music making situations can be. By civilians I am referring to amateur musicians, of course. I say amateur musicians (as opposed to professional) because all of us have musical experience. There is not one person who does not listen to music and analyze it. We sing along, even when it is by ourselves. Only a complete asshole a very unsure person wouldn’t participate in a communal happy birthday, right? Professional musicians just have the ability to express their tastes and preferences with a greater degree of specificity.

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Das right. I’m fancy. But nobody ever thinks of the perils of being fancy, least of all Iggy.

So I’m in church last week (this triathlete loves Jesus) and we’re worshipping the Lord in song. I must confess – this is my least favorite part of the church service. “But Lady J,” you say. “This makes no sense. You love music. You love Jesus. Music + Jesus = winning, right?” Only when done my way, silly billy. I love singing my favorite hymns on my bike. I love playing through them early mornings as I have tea and (not so) quiet time with The Lord. Meanwhile, this choir and worship leader are up there, singing songs that I may not know, invariably in keys that are uncomfortable for my voice.

“Still,” you insist. “You are a trained musician. Your voice cannot be that bad.” Please. When did I say my voice was bad? It’s just not the best it can be because I have not rehearsed the songs and the worship leader was not considerate enough to contact me regarding an appropriate key. Some
Christians, man.

“So, what you’re really saying is that the talent with which God has blessed you – you’re allowing your knowledge to get in the way of thanking Him for it.”

Guilty.

It’s not as though I am embarrassed of my voice, like others often are. Hell, I’d have to care about the opinions of those around me in church to be at that point. In truth, that kind of concern would probably be a step forward for me. My perfectionism is manifesting itself yet again. God, I want to give you my best. I hate when my technique is wrong. I hate when I yawn as I’m singing praises. But Christ’s death on the cross was probably not to pay for all the off key singing.

I’m sure it didn’t help, though.

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