Thursday, July 28, 2011
"Have your tongue more towards the tip, and try a lighter touch. Pull your lips back more."
"Try slowing it down if it gets too hard doing it fast. It's fine to start out slower."
"Try pulling your tongue back more, don't purse your lips, it'll flow a lot better."
"It doesn't look like you're doing anything crazy with your mouth or anything, I think you just need to work on your positioning."
"The fingering is pretty good, you just need to get into the rhythm."
"Having control of the jaw is really important, don't let it go all over the place."
"You know your tongue is in the right place if the back of it is against the back teeth."
"Try to blow evenly."
Yep, my saxophone teacher really pays attention to the details. I've been taking saxophone lessons for about a month now. I'm not sure why, but I thought that he might take it easier on me since I'm just getting back into playing again after a 12-year hiatus, but no, he expects to actually, ya know...WORK. My teacher really challenges me, which is something I need. But he also indicates that I over-analyze the music a lot and don't just "play" enough. On one hand, he tells me that I over-think what I'm trying to do, and on the other hand I feel like I'm doing everything wrong.
This week, my teacher wanted me to use only the mouthpiece to make a single note, to help me learn how to have better control of how I'm playing. He had a music tuner, and I could go above the note, and just below it...but I just couldn't hit it. He said, "Don't think about it, just let your ears do the thinking, and your body will know what to do." (Dammit, that's what I'm trying to do.) Still...not getting it right. It was kind of a goofy exercise, and he could tell I was reserved about making funny noises through the mouthpiece. He waved his hand, "No embarrassment, just let it out." And then he proceeded to play almost an entire classical piece with only the mouthpiece. It sounded like a kazoo on crack, and I don't know why I was trying NOT to laugh. My fear of looking stupid in front of someone else is holding me back from having fun with my lessons. I feel like my lessons should be "serious time," when I put on my game face and show my teacher how perfect I can be.
Now today, not playing in front of someone who I'm trying to impress, I hit it spot on the first time I tried. I didn't THINK about it, I just DID it. I need to change my approach to playing and stop thinking so hard, and just PLAY.
"You can't stay the same. If you're a musician and a singer, you have to change, that's the way it works. "
I'm not thinking like a musician right now. I'm thinking like a stressed-out, people-pleasing, overworked person. I picked up my saxophone again a couple of months ago because it sounded fun to play again, and I missed having music in my life. It started out being an outlet for stress, but I'm too stressed out about work to just pick it up and play. Everything I try to play sounds awful right now. I'm killing every song I try to play, and it probably reflects some of the stress I've been feeling because of my job and feeling some uncertainty for the future. These are not valid reasons to butcher the notes that someone worked so hard to put on paper. Music should be my release, and should bring out any joy I feel inside. I believe it's in there; I just need to let it out. My teacher seems to think it's somewhere in there, too.
I felt like I was doing well with working on a piece called "Sonata No. 3" by Handel. A couple of weeks ago, when I was in a better overall state of mind, the piece was starting to sound pretty good. But my over-analyzing, over-thinking, trying-too-hard brain kicked in and now I just freeze up. My tempo goes all over the place. I stumble over the notes. Plus, I get nervous playing in front of a professional (even if he is my teacher). If I stop to think about some of the humorous things my teacher says, or the phrases that I interpret like a 14-year-old boy would, I start to giggle. I relax. I am able to play, in every sense of the word. I'm telling you, I'm going to make that classical piece my bitch. And hopefully I can show that to my teacher next week when he tells me more about how to "handle the piece."
My sax teacher. Image from kingmusic.org.
"Music is the shorthand of emotion. "
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I believe you should live each day as if it is your last, which is why I don't have any clean laundry, because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of their life?
Today is the first day I've had off in 15 days, and considering how much I despise my job now, it was a long stretch. I have been counting down the days until today. Then again, is it really a day off? My house and garden are utterly neglected. I could spend the next 24 hours straight cleaning and weeding and still not be anywhere near being done. I could do the grown-up thing and start tackling the house and yard work, but I'm not gonna. Today, I do what I want!
I am always amazed by people who own a house and who have children and who also go to school full time...I don't know how they get it all done. No doubt these people are driven into the ground. After being a single homeowner full-time working full-time college student, I understand a bit about what it's like to have to do it all yourself. Therefore, no day off is an ACTUAL day off. The never-ending cycle of adulthood tasks piles up, the dishes glaring from the sink, "Why don't you wash meeeee? Don't you loooove me?" The weeds in the garden waving in the wind, giggling in the sunshine, "You shan't control me, weakling human! How could you...you are a mere HUMAN! MWAHHAHAHAHAAA!" Fortunately, I pick up after myself most of the time, I yank some weeds from the garden as I see them, I sweep the floor almost every day. But I'm no Martha Stewart.
Well, even Martha Stewart kicks back sometimes.
So I am declaring to be an ACTUAL day off. Yes, I'll wash some damn dishes. I MAY even put in a load of laundry. I MAY go pull a few weeds. But I will do these things only if they strike my fancy, and most certainly not because they need to be done. I am choosing not to be perfect. And not being perfect means I can actually enjoy myself for a few hours. So what DO I want to do today?
1) Watch T.V.
2) Practice my saxophone
3) Walk the dogs
4) Do my strength training and kettlebell workouts
5) Watch more T.V.
Now, I'm missing People's Court as I sit here writing, so I have to go now. I hope that some of you out there get to enjoy an ACTUAL day off at some point.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
This past week went very well. I finally got through my head that I need to get a new job. Writing about my job yesterday really helped it sink in and helped me process it (if you read that blog, be forewarned that your computer may explode from all the venting). Well, I'm not wasting any time. I've come across about 10 jobs for which I am qualified and have a salary range suitable for my needs. I also came across a site for credentialing health educators. I feel kind of dumb that I was not aware of this certification, and I think my Bachelor's qualifies me to take the exam and become a health educator, which was what I was going to go to grad school to do. I thought I had to have a Master's degree to be a health educator, but turns out I'm wrong! I feel like I have a future again with thinking about having a brand new shiny career to go along with my healthy lifestyle.
This was also, needless to say, a big weight loss week. After several weeks of not-so-great losses, I dropped 6 pounds this week. I didn't do anything crazy. Actually, I think the weight was lost from my lower right leg.
I have had lower leg edema for months now, and my mother (who is a nurse) said she thinks I may have primary lymphedema in my legs. This condition runs in our family, so I guess it's not surprising. I wondered what was going on when I measured my right thigh at the beginning of July and it was 2 inches bigger than at the beginning of June. I knew I hadn't had the best month for weight loss in June, but really? I thought I was just rocking the cankles when I would look at my legs that looked like bloated balloons. My right foot got so swollen that most of my shoes didn't fit, and the pressure from wearing the shoes actually damaged my right big toenail. I thought my legs have just been sore because of arthritis and/or the knee problem I've been having. My mom said that she thinks my right knee hurts not because of the injury, but rather *because* the leg has been swelling up. My left leg has been getting swelling, too, but not as bad as my right. I will get evaluated when I have insurance, but for now, I trust my mom's 40 years of E.R. nursing to get me through.
My mother gave me some sexy compression socks (T.E.D. hose) and told me to try wearing them at work. My right leg felt better almost instantly. The first day I wore them, I took it off when I got home and my eyes widened. My leg wasn't a swollen balloon any more--I actually had a nice taper where my calf muscles meet my ankle. No cankle. Huh. I see now how easy it is to dismiss an abnormality as a result of being overweight. And even better yet, my leg doesn't hurt, not even the knee. Wearing the T.E.D. hose has make a huge difference.
Admit it--T.E.D. hose are HAWT!
As a result, I think I lost a lot of fluid weight by getting the swelling to go down. I can't give total credit to the edema, though; I did much better on both the nutrition and exercise fronts this week.
I tempered my exercise a bit over the past week and didn't worry too much about following a strict exercise plan. I still worked out almost every day, but modified when needed for my crazy and exhausting work schedule. The exercise highlight was biking to meet KVARNLOV on Friday, and we biked to the beach and swam for a while. I got in a solid 30 minute swim, and I did a total of 105 minutes of biking. Yesterday, however, I started my Shock Training System (STS) upper body workout, and it was evident 10 minutes in that I was too tired to complete the workout. So I will do my STS workout today.
My nutrition was also much better this past week. I ate within an appropriate range every day, which, oddly enough, actually leads to weight loss. I have actually discovered a REVOLUTIONARY new weight loss plan that I followed this week. You will be AMAZED!:
Saturday, July 23, 2011
I've been meaning to write a blog about procrastination for a while now.
I've been putting off writing a blog about procrastination and the one thing I desperately want to change in my life: my job. I was so excited to start my job in animal poison control 4 years ago. I had heard so many great things about the company I work for, and I was ready for a change after 5 years in veterinary emergency clinics. I would still get to use my emergency skills and we had great management (you know, actual leaders, not just "bosses"). My supervisor did not hover or really "supervise"--she recognized that we are professionals and don't need to be "supervised." It was a genuinely respectful and great workplace. Between calls, my awesome co-workers and I would chat and joke; sometimes my belly hurt after work from laughing so hard all day. Since we were well-staffed and I had competent and efficient co-workers, work hummed along smoothly most of the time. I had pride in my job and my company. I felt we offered a great service and I was happy to be able to help animals and their owners.
Two years ago, my supervisor decided she didn't want to be a vet tech any more and moved to New Mexico to pursue a career in writing. At first I thought this would be okay, because at that time my company was a close-knit family. Going to work felt like going home. Everyone had each others backs, and we had great support from management. If a caller was being unreasonable (yelling, swearing, screaming, threatening, etc.), it was our policy to tell them so and hang up on them. Sometimes if a caller was really bad, our managers would call them personally and tell them to never call again. It was our policy to not tolerate abusive callers.
The changes in middle management over the past two years have ruined my job. (Then again, there's probably a reason they're in the middle, and not at the top). They put one of the most incompetent vet techs at my work in charge of all of the vet techs. My "supervisor" has lied about things (therefore making others look bad), and even when shown concrete proof, our company's founders have taken no action. The micro-managing has been relentless, and the more we push back, the more we get micro-managed. The changes in middle management drove out most of my awesome co-workers (or, a lot of them got fired). Now I have almost no one at work I have any desire to talk to.
My "supervisor" has set up our lives to revolve around our jobs now, which goes against our company's old philosophy that work should never consume our whole life. Our schedules are completely erratic. While they have been good about putting me on evening shifts only, they refuse to do a set schedule. I may work 9 days in a row and then get a day off, work 3 days and get 2 days off, work 7 days and get a day off--we rarely get 2 days off in a row. Our schedule is treated as though we are just letters in a box that can be haphazardly rearranged, rather than realizing that those letters in a box on a timetable encompass entire lives. My "supervisor" says, "There's just no other way to do it," which I have translated into smart-person speak: "I don't have the brain capacity to figure out how to do that." The biggest kicker is that while this is supposed to be my full-time job, they often scale back our hours. Instead of my "guaranteed" 40 hours a week, I may get 20-25 sometimes. Needless to say, these cuts have meant financial disaster. I'm caught up for now, but I won't be if they mess with my hours again.
We also don't get breaks at my work (which is actually not illegal), and a couple of co-workers and I have offered solutions to this so we can get away from the phones for a bit during our shifts. My "supervisor" says, "There's just no other way to do it," which I have again translated into smart-person speak: "I don't have the brain capacity to figure out how to do that." In talking to the company's founders about these issues, I have offered solutions and offered to handle the schedule and breaks myself (with the help of another co-worker), but they don't do it. It shows how much they truly do not value us.
My current "supervisor" will only hire people who will suck up to her, so needless to say, they need to be be pretty meek and dumb (some of my co-workers and I lovingly call them the "B-squad"). The newer veterinary technicians, for some reason, have been assigned to handle the most difficult cases that require skills in emergency medicine, fast thinking, and confidence. Because these sheeple have no confidence in either talking to people or in assessing even the simplest exposure, they are a lot slower on the phone. They ask me about almost every one of their cases. So not only am I handling a lot more cases than a lot of my co-workers (often 40-50% more cases), I'm ultimately handling their cases, too. This gets extremely tiring by the end of day.
It now goes in our permanent record if one of those yelling-screaming-swearing-threatening-nut
bag callers complains to management. Even if they are 100% in the wrong, we get reprimanded. The middle management seems to believe that if our "customer service" skills are excellent, then no caller will ever get angry or complain. We're asked how we could have "handled it better." I guess the response of, "Well, let's see, I could get a time machine. Then I could go back to the time before the caller's parents met, prevent them from conceiving, therefore preventing the a-hole from being born in the first place. Then they could never get a dog that they can't take care of, only to yell at me for charging for our service, which clearly proves that I don't care about animals," probably wouldn't go over well. We didn't used to worry about crazy callers, because we knew our company would support us. Now, we cringe when we hear anyone complains, because we know that middle management is going to ask us to reflect on the call and try to "think of ways to do it differently in the future." I suppose not picking up the phone in the first place would be a really good start. Whereas our company used to operate on respect and open communication, the middle management is trying to run it on intimidation and dictatorship. The problem is, they are too weak and dumb for me to take them seriously. Instead of being intimidated, I'm just pissed off. I used to be so proud of what I do, but the middle management has made sure that we can't feel that way any more. They don't set up our workplace so we can be successful any more, it is set up to try our best to avoid mistakes (most of which are beyond our control, such as crazy callers).
The biggest recent change is that I've become so apathetic that it is really starting to affect my performance. It's not that the way I talk to callers is different, but I'm no longer a caring individual helping each caller individually. I'm a machine churning out cases as fast as possible to pick up the slack for my co-workers, counting down the seconds until my shift is over. I feel like I'm no good at my job when I don't care. It's become very clear that my company is not only not going to get better, it will continue to get worse. Since my company has made it clear that they don't care, then why should I care? I'm tired of feeling like crying at work. I'm tired of crying when I leave work, after working for 8 hours without a break and then still being there late because we're understaffed (of course, we're just reminded that we're "not being efficient enough with our time"). It is really too bad that the company's founders are making no attempts to *actually* change things, because they've turned a job that I used to care about into one where I simply count down the days to my next paycheck. The fine line between exhaustion and total apathy has been crossed. There was a point a few months ago where I was thinking that I'd rather be dead than keep doing this job. I have never had that kind of thought because of a job. That was the true signal that my job is very, very bad.
"Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar."
Wow, that's a whole lotta whining. When I sat down to write this, I didn't realize what a list of cons would pour forth. It wasn't meant to be a whine-fest nor to sound so angry and be so long, but I'm going to leave it. If I start to think, "Oh, maybe it's not that bad," I need to come back and see this. The sad thing is, I can't think of any pros to my job, other than my paycheck. Even the grateful callers don't touch me the way they used to. I'm so bitter and apathetic that their words don't sink in. That makes me sad. I love animals, I love helping people...I want to care. My workplace has made that impossible, so it's time to get a job where I can be the caring person I want to be. I've spent a lot of time convincing myself that maybe it is just me, but seeing it written out tells the truth: it's not me, it's them. I've procrastinated and have put my life on hold long enough. I deserve to care again. For whatever reason, working through my problems on SparkPeople has produced results, whether it be weight loss, finances, or living a more fulfilled life, so I'm going to let the magic work on my job situation.
I graduated with a self-designed Bachelor's degree in kinesiology and psychology last December. My original intention was to go to school for a Master of Public Health in Community Health Education, but I just can't justify accumulating any more debt for education. I have used this as an excuse to not pursue a different job. I've come across jobs for which I would be qualified to apply for with my degree, but quickly dismiss it with the thought of, "I'm sure I wouldn't get it anyways." I've come across a range of jobs in health and wellness, and even healthcare organization, that seem interesting. I need to start aggressively applying for them.
I knew I wanted to get certified as a personal trainer, too, and I have all of the materials. Although I am aiming to get a job in wellness and health education, I know having personal trainer certification would be an asset and open a lot of doors for me. Between preparing for and taking the exam and the daunting task of applying for jobs, I've gone through the excuses:
*Registering for the exam is expensive.
*Studying is time-consuming.
*No one will hire me while I'm still overweight.
*Changing jobs is scary.
*Looking for jobs is hard work.
*What if I look like I don't know what I'm doing?
*Changing jobs is hard.
*What if the world ends because I changed jobs?
Each excuse ticks away more minutes of my life that I should be using to pursue my dreams. I need to stop glancing at my personal trainer materials and think, "I'll get to that...eventually..." I need to stop listening to friends telling me, "You'd be so good at helping people turn their lives around," and then think, "I'll get to that...eventually..." I need to stop coming across a job that looks interesting, and set it aside thinking, "I'll get to that...eventually..." I need to put a stop to the excuses and stop thinking, "I'll get to that...eventually..."
This shows the disastrous consequences of putting things off, so I better get started:
If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.
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