Towels Coming Out of My Ears and other Stream of Consciousness Nonsense

Right now I’m hanging out in bed with a glass of sangria and my ipad (except now I’m on Millie the Macbook for ease of blogging, but just a second ago – the ipad) feeling pretty proud of myself.  Grant and I got up fairly early this morning (for a weekend, anyway, but make no mistake. We let the sun get up before us), made coffee and breakfast, watched an episode of Voyager (Sci-Fi Saturday Mornings are my thing – like grown up Saturday Morning Cartoons – unless I get so unbelievably hooked on a show that my life turns into Sci-Fi Anytime until I make it to the end *ahem-Battlestar Galactica-ahem*) and then got to work.

Clean clothes which have been piled on chairs on Grant’s side of the room for months?  Folded and put away.  Extra hangers laying everywhere? Put away.  Piles of clothes in lumpy messes in the closet?  Looking like a retail shop again. And the best thing is – three closets (THREE! CLOSETS!) were all totally torn apart and put together again.  There is a pile as tall as me for donation and recycling sitting by our front door.

For. The. Win.

The biggest thing we decided to do when we committed to living here longer-term than we originally planned was go through everything (and I mean – again! – because we did this a little over a year ago when I moved in) and decide what could go and where it should go.  That second part is possibly the more important piece there, because we have had almost one entire closet FULL of towels for the last year.  Of course they all get used, because I hate laundry, but then we have baskets and baskets of towels everywhere and it takes three days just to wash all of them! (our washer/dryer – oh, we’re so thankful to have one at all up here – is itty bitty).  I’ve been meaning to get rid of AT LEAST half of them since the moment I set foot in this place, but the thing is – what do you do with towels? That is way too much stuff to just throw away, but surely Goodwill doesn’t take towels right?  Even the ones you’ve never used?

(side note: we did NOT register for towels for our wedding, and we only received one rogue pair of towels as a gift.  This was a pre-existing condition, mostly leftover from my college days wherein I accepted a whole boat-load (probably literally) of lost-and-found towels from the swimming pool where I worked, and also got towels and more towels and even more towels as graduation gifts. Grant had a similar hoarding problem, although his seemed to be specialized in the hand towel and washcloth segment of the terrycloth madness)

Well, google is my friend.  Animal shelters take towels! We now have two giant trash bags full of towels and I hope some puppy stays very dry because of them.

Anyway, we just really needed to make this place comfortable again and we are so well on our way.  We’ve made lots and lots of improvements over the last year – both aesthetically and functionally, and we have lots more to make (hello, I still do not know what to do with our bikes that we never even ride because HI three flights of stairs), but I really believe we can make two bedroom living work for us for a long time (talk to me again in a couple years when we (hopefully) have a kid running around. ack).

And that’s why I’m laying in bed relaxing.  Because the living room is a mess. :)

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So Good For Right Now

We have been working toward some really aggressive financial goals lately.  Super aggressive.  One of them, as of last month, is met (so long student loans, and good riddance!) and ever since I sent in that final payment, I have been scrambling in my brain and in spreadsheets at work when I should be focusing on, you know, work, trying to figure out where that money should go next.  We have two big goals:  pay off my car (I still hate that I had to give up my totally paid for Breeze named Baby, but Sidney the Honda is a nice girl too, albeit, you know, not paid for) and buy a house.

Well, at least, we did.

You know what?  Paying off huge debt feels great.  Knowing you had the means and capacity to pay it off early feels great.  But it is so totally soul crushing to then have to look and say, Oh My Gosh, there is more where that came from.

I can’t take it anymore.

So we did some soul searching, and we decided to QUIT SAVING FOR A HOUSE.

And by that, I mean, we are still saving the same amount of money we always have been and it will more than likely go toward a house someday but by God, I cannot focus on buying a house in a certain price range in a certain neighborhood by a certain date anymore.  We have more important things to worry about.  Like cleaning our closets out and riding our bikes once in awhile.

So part of that decision has been a renewed sense of making our condo truly ours, and for that, I’m really excited.  We’ve put in some simple work like putting some color on the walls and swapping out some furniture, and we have some more simple things like that on a list.  Our place is small (smallish – there are people out there working with much less than we have and they have my total respect) and I’m sure it will only feel smaller as life continues to twist and change, but we’ve committed.  This is where we live. This is where we’ll love.

And I love so much about it, and we have so many ideas, big and small, for making it feel like our grown-up, so-good-for-right-now home.

Who needs a big house full of empty rooms anyway?

Not us.

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Weekend Bliss

Weekends are lovely this time of year.

We spent most of Saturday cleaning up the place a bit. Then we laid out fancy (but easy-peasy!) snacks and shared an evening viewing of Les Miserables with my friend Paige.

It was Grant’s first time seeing the movie. None of us could resist making fun of Russell Crowe. That guy was not meant to sing.

Sunday we had lunch with Grant’s side of the family, and then popped over to visit our friends Jason and Chelsea. Jason officiated our wedding, and almost a year later we still hadn’t done much to thank him for accepting such a special place in our history. So, we surprised him with a gift he loved, and we sat in the back yard in the shade, and enjoyed a drink and each other’s company.

All in all, a lovely couple of days.

And hey, look at how these guys are doing.

Plus a couple more in the corner, now.

How was your weekened?

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Put My Heart Down

And because I want to remember this foreeeeeeeever:

sara evans tweet

 

She’s basically been liking any tweet where someone tells her the new album is awesome so it really probably doesn’t mean anything BUT I’M GOING TO PRETEND IT DOES. The end.

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Music Row

Did you know that if you google “Music Row” and view the images you actually get a bunch of pictures of downtown on Broadway? Not the same thing, my friends.  But I know why that happens – Music Row really doesn’t look that impressive.

There you go, country music fans.  It’s just a normal little street – well, a couple of normal little streets.

We’re going to see Nickel Creek (!!) at the Ryman this weekend, and hopefully continuing with springy activities like cleaning (sigh) and tending to our little #shoegarden and just enjoying the nice weather.

Happy Easter Weekend!  Hope you have a lovely one.

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5 Happy Things

I got to come home about an hour early today – no particular reason, except that I worked a lot last week and this past weekend, so when I looked at my calendar and it was free from 11 am on (oh, miracle of miracles) I decided to churn out some things I needed to get caught up on and then duck out early.

This is going to sound so cloyingly sweet, but ever since I walked in the door this afternoon I have just been met with so many things that make me HAPPY.  And in an effort to preserve them for posterity, I guess(?), I decided to list them.

Top 5 Favorite Happy Things of the Moment

    1. Windows wide open sunny breezy spring!
    2. Growing things. I’m not super awesome at it but this year’s little balcony garden experiment is going quite well, if you ask me.
    3. Homemade bread, one day old, toasted, with lots of real butter. This is my weakness.
    4. SINGING. I mean, of course, but really.  Even when a sneaky little virus shuts me down for a week and a half.
    5. Our home. It keeps changing ever so slowly.  I know this isn’t our forever home, but I know one day I’ll be very sad to see it go. At least we can take the awesomeness like this with us:

What’s making you happy this week?  Tell me!

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Wherein I Get Technical and Perhaps Discover My New Blogging Destiny

My least favorite thing about being a singer is that the slightest little tickle in your throat can completely shut down the thing you most love to do.

I don’t know whether to feel annoyed or grateful, because I’ve had a few of these tickley, swollen throat things this year without them ever turning into that full blown headache, swimmy, can’t get out of bed feeling.  No coughing! No gunk in my lungs!  On one hand, YAY immune system!  On the other hand, booooo now I have to LISTEN to the music instead of singing loudly over the top of it.

I was told all my life to “sing through it” and just exactly HOW I should be singing through it. More space. More air. Blah blah.  If you’re a singer you’ve heard these things before.  And it’s definitely a good idea to learn how to sing when you’re sick, because sometimes you don’t have a choice.  But the hardest lesson I ever learned was that when I DID have a choice, the choice I should make is SHUT UP.

That goes for speaking too.  Shhhhhhhhhh.

It all comes down to this:

  • Do you have a performance coming up?
  • How soon?
  • What can you do to prepare BESIDES singing?

If the answer to the first question is, “No,” then oh my gosh, shut your mouth and rest your voice.  Nothing good will come of forcing yourself to sing when you’re not well.

If the answer to the first question is, “Yes,” then we have to move on to the next pressing point.  How soon? There’s no good answer that works every time here.  It’s all a complicated equation involving how long you have until you perform and just how out of commission your voice has become.  If you HAVE to sing, it’s a good idea to go back to singing SMALL.  Go back to the very, very beginning of everything you’ve been taught.  Work on breath, relaxation, space, tone placement, and remind yourself with every sound that comes out of your mouth NOT TO PUSH IT.  You may very well sound exactly like you always do OUTSIDE of your head and you might not (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing – I had a choir teacher tell me once that I’d do well to have that chest cold at Festival time, because I sounded extra fantastic with it), but I guarantee that inside your head, things are messed up.  It’s like flying a plane through a snowstorm.  You trust your instruments, not your own senses.  So trust your training, not your hearing.  And for goodness sake, don’t hurt yourself.

If at all possible, though, you should still try to work as much vocal rest in as possible before your performance.  Voices heal more quickly when they can rest, and overworking them when you’re sick can just make them worse.  But you don’t want to let your mind wander, right?  You want to keep the focus and the momentum going!  Here are some things you can do:

  • Practice breathing! Standard breathing exercises, as well as practicing your breath (I think a steady “hiss” is the closest to actual singing when it comes to breath control) while reading the lyrics to your songs/pieces in your head keep the rest of your body in shape while your voice heals.
  • If you have tricky rhythms, find yourself some pots and pans and bang them out.  Or clap, that might be less annoying to your family and/or neighbors.
  • Read the lyrics to yourself over and over.  If you’re singing in a foreign language, practice your spoken pronunciation. For anything, classical, jazz, pop, – anything – speak the words out loud, if your voice can handle it.  The best sung musical phrases sound conversational, so, practice conversing.
  • Do some simple exercises – especially exercises that promote great posture!  These simple yoga poses are a great place to start.
  • “Sing” the songs in your head.  When I was a kid, I used to finger my piano lessons on my desk at school when I got bored.  I could hear the music in my head, and my fingers were learning some much needed muscle memory.  The more you hear your music in your head, the more confident you’ll be, whether you’ve actually been singing it out loud or not.

I totally did not start this blog post out as an instructional guide to whether or not you should sing when you have a cold, but there you have it.  I doubt you’re even with me anymore, unless you were in desperate need of random voice advice.  The point is, man, I’m just annoyed that I can’t (read: shouldn’t, and mostly am following my own advice MOSTLY) sing right now. It is my looooooove. It is my liiiiiiiiiiiiiife.  My throat tickles. Boo.

What are the hardest lessons you’ve had to learn about pursuing and living your passions?  Share them with me. Make me feel better.

 

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Do What You Love

So, I started taking voice lessons again. My first lesson was Wednesday.

I’m still having a hard time organizing my thoughts regarding this.  My mind has been racing since I booked that first lesson.  I could hardly sit still the day of the lesson.  I couldn’t sleep for the next two nights after the lesson.

It’s like there was this part of me that had finally emerged from the jail cell I’d unknowingly locked it up in, Shawshank Redemption style.

I’ve alluded to the studio I’m taking lessons with, and because I’m also trying to build my own studio and I’m not officially certified by this studio to use their name for those purposes, I won’t tell you who they are here (ask if you want to know).  Suffice it to say (one more time) that I’ve gotten recommendations for this studio from professional musicians. These guys are good.

I have to say, I don’t know what finally possessed me to book lessons, but it was the best, best thing I ever could have done.  I’ve been told all of my life that I have an exceptional talent for singing, but I have never felt as though I was as good as I wanted to be.  I know when I first moved to town, the thing that kept me from taking lessons was the money.  Then it was that my time and energy levels were low and my dreams of making music for a living were slowly turning from fire to embers. I have gone months without writing songs, spent weeks at a time listening to NPR in the car instead of singing (I mean, I love NPR, but music.  Music is important), and… I don’t know.  I wasn’t unhappy.  But I have not been excited about anything in years – especially music.

Showing up at that studio on Wednesday reignited all those things in me that I had forgotten I could feel.

So, I met my coach, who was an absolute doll – so fun, personable, and of course, one hell of a vocalist, and we sang.  We just… sang.  We sang, and I walked out of my lesson singing things I have never, ever, in all of my years of private lessons and choirs and musical theater and TRYING MY DAMN HARDEST, been able to sing.  I also think I (oh my good grief, finally) found my whistle register later that night, singing in the car on the way home.

Who just accidentally finds their whistle register?

Well, maybe a lot of people actually, but you have to be doing a million other things right first.

I’ve been singing non-stop all the rest of the week, trying these new techniques I’ve either learned or been reminded of, singing songs that have always been killer on my voice.  Now, they’re coming out effortlessly. I mean, come on.  I spent 50 minutes with this girl and suddenly I can sing every Sara Evans song in existence?  This is too good to be true.

I told myself for quite some time that, you know, why would you bother “wasting” money on voice lessons?  You went to college for this stuff.  You’re already supposed to know what you’re doing.  Also, are you performing anywhere anymore?  What exactly are you investing in here anyway?

But I’ll tell you what I’ve learned.  One – you’re never so good or so educated that you can’t keep learning. I mean – we all hear that, right?  And this certainly isn’t the first time YOU have heard that from anyone.  Sometimes you just need to figure those things out for yourself.  Take that pride, throw it on the ground, and stomp on it.  There is always something to learn.  Two – What exactly am I investing in here anyway? My freaking happiness, that’s what.

Do what you love.  Do it.

 

 

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Run Him Out – Homemade

This is one of the songs from “Homemade,” my newest EP.  You can get it for $1.

 

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Singing is not for Sissies – New Learning Opportunity

I made some big decisions last week.

First, I signed up for voice lessons/vocal coaching.
Second, I decided to actively start looking for voice students again.

Huge.

I’ve been considering vocal coaching (as in, being coached) ever since I finished college.  I have missed having someone to sing with, give me feedback, and just provide that relationship where someone is there to push you to be better than you were yesterday.  I’ve had that kind of relationship in my life since I was in middle school and I would be lying if I said I had thrived without it.

A few things held me back for several years – partly pride, partly just not knowing where to seek out lessons when I’m already at my level (this goes back to pride, a little bit. Hi, I’m in Nashville). Mostly, though, money (and again, Hi, I’m in Nashville).

So my connections around town have grown slightly (and I mean slightly) over the years, and recently I found myself with several people I could honestly ask – do you have a voice coach? Who? – whose answers wouldn’t take me back to their educated-same-as-me, used-to-working-with-sixteen-year-olds coaches.  Everyone led me to the same vocal studio in Nashville, so I checked it out, and I signed up.

I start on Wednesday.

And with that, I’m also opening up my personal availability for teaching lessons again.  I taught when I first moved to Tennessee and I loved it, but for several reasons I just wasn’t able to continue.  Truly though, it is something I want to do. I miss doing.  Since I’m finally taking the initiative to get my own voice back into shape, now feels like the perfect time to help others who want to learn as well.

The best part is – my services are available TO YOU. I teach in Nashville and ONLINE – all you need is a Skype account. I’m accepting all levels – kids, adults, beginners, experts, and everyone in between.  You don’t have to be a performer of any kind.  You don’t have to want anything but to sound great while you’re singing to the radio as you drive down the road. Singing for singing’s sake is a fulfilling journey – and it’s a hobby you can carry with you for the rest of your life. 

So if singing to the radio on the highway, or singing lullabyes to your kids at night, or being able to help your kid with her piano lesson, or writing that special someone a song just for them is something you want to do, you should work with me.

My teaching availability is here.

My main focus will be singing (of course!) but I also teach/tutor Music Theory and Songwriting. I’ve gotten an inquiry or two about piano and ukulele, and even though I don’t advertise those services on my TakeLessons profile, I’ll work with you on those if the circumstances are right. Just send me an email at courtney @ courtneyolson.com before you book to discuss the situation.

AND FINALLY:

I will give ONE complimentary lesson to anyone who will leave me a review on my TakeLessons.com profile.  The Nashville market is saturated; positive reviews will really help me out.

What are you waiting for?

 

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