Well, it’s about that time…

…when I realize that I should post something on this blog or risk it going into oblivion (or is it too late for that already?).

I’m coming out of a sort of apathetic hump (probably part of the no posting problem) where I found myself kind of milling around and getting through one activity and on to the next with as little energy as possible.  Impetus had become a long lost friend that I kept saying I’d write to, but then always “forgot.”

I could claim that it’s because I’ve got a lot going on and too many important things to accomplish.

I could claim that I just need something new, whether that be a new wallpaper for my computer or a new study spot.

I could even claim that…

Nope. Got nothin’ else…

The main reason for my lack of blogging/impetus/drive to do cool things has just been laziness. As much as it stinks to admit it, I can be a really lazy person a lot of the time and that kind of kills everything.

There’s this guy that I happen to be married to who often says “Creativity begets creativity.”

(I think he might have stolen that from somewhere else, I’m not really sure…)

I think this applies to a lot of things in life.  Writing begets writing. Working out begets working out (or lying on the floor in an exhausted heap). Studying Japanese begets studying Japanese.

So now I’m back at the same point I was at the beginning of the year, just needing to take those first steps.

There’s a great blogger, Stephen Guise, who writes about strategies for focusing, staying motivated, being confident, general self help topics.  One of the things I think he nails is a concept he calls “Mini-Habits.”  It’s the idea that one small step each day is way bigger than a grand gesture every couple of weeks.

Again, just like January, right?

But the thing about being human is that, while we often mess up and fail ourselves and others and completely bomb on reaching expectations, we are really good at second chances. And third. And fourth.

So the big question now is, do I get discouraged with myself and just give up on everything completely (cause that would be an awful way to live…)?

I THINK NOT.

Now is the time to pick things up, figure out what didn’t work last time, and try again.

So here are some of my new strategies-

  • Plan out my week every Sunday and figure out where there’s free time. Then see which things I want to fit in to those times (Don’t forget to relax! Not cruise around Facebook relax, I mean really relax.).
  • Still keep it flex, because I am not controlled by my time. I control my time and what I do with it.
  • Actually write down the things I really want to do so I don’t get stuck doing things I just kind of want to do at that moment.
  • Another quote I love: “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” -Dolly Parton

Okay that’s it for now. I feel like making too many rules kind of defeats the purpose of keeping it flex.

That’s all for the reflection bit!

UPDATES:

I have officially started online classes at DTS. I’m taking Introduction to Theology and I can already feel my study jitters coming back.  Don’t worry, it’s a good thing. It’s the “I’m so excited about studying things that my brain won’t stop” feeling. My vocabulary is improving (note the above usage of “impetus”) and I’m really enjoying putting thoughts together in different ways and learning about a subject that I kind of sort of knew about but not really.

We are currently working on another album that I am super excited about. Adam’s actually doing most of the work, but I’m adding my two cents in when I can. Sign up for our newsletter at  http://www.thelastcityformiles.com/ for exclusive downloads and updates!

I officially start teaching again on MONDAY but I have all my lessons completely planned out minus a few worksheets and the fun class that is actually really interesting to plan and fuels my creativity.  This semester also has a lot more national holidays built in which means a little more breathing room.

Imperial Garden Violin

BONUS!

If you’ve made it this far, here’s a cool video that was made using footage I took in Hiroshima during the Peace Celebration in August. The ladies who put it together did a fantastic job!

http://www.hitrecord.org/records/1669786

EDIT:

I read this article right after I wrote this and cleaned off my whole desk after reading it.

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On the Balance (and being in Hiroshima for two years)

The rice has started growing again. It’s one of my favorite things to look at here.  As I bike up the (excruciating) hill on my way to work, it gives my eyes a momentary, peaceful distraction.  This particular field is especially sentimental because it’s one of my solid, early memories of arriving here.

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I took this photo two years ago June 4, a couple of days after we arrived in Japan (which was conveniently June 1, otherwise I’d never remember from year to the next what day it was).

Oh hey, did I say two years ago? That’s right! We’ve been here for just over two years, as hard as that is for me to believe, and I’m really excited about it.  I remember first arriving and thinking we’d be here for a year and a half, have some fun cultural experiences, make a bunch of money, then leave.  One out of four ain’t so bad.

I had no clue how quickly the people of Hiroshima and the city itself would capture me and put me in this whirlwind of my life which I love so very much! I definitely never imagined wanting to stay here long term.  Turns out God had some different ideas (fancy that?)

So yeah, with the lateness of this post as a great indicator, the whole balance thing that I started out the year preaching (already six months ago, *insert cliche about how fast the time goes*) has kind of gone by the wayside.  I actually began making the balance more important than the things I was trying to be balanced for and since that kind of defeated the purpose, I stopped.

I still think the idea of balance is great, it turns out I just needed to really redefine what balance was.  It’s not about allocating specific tasks to each day and making sure you do everything that you need to do to enhance your mind, body and soul.  It’s about learning to stop, evaluate where your mind, body and soul are, and then figure out what you need to do to get them balanced.  It’s not an outside-in thing, it definitely has to come from within you and that was the thing that I really missed at first.

I’ve realized that my life is nowhere near as crazy as it will be once we have children, so me trying to control every single aspect of my life is only going to make things worse (and probably destroy my family so that’s kind of a big deal, too).

So instead of trying to control my time, I do what needs to get done but I also make sure to do things that I enjoy (which sometimes means putting off “important” things for later).  I’ve been embracing teaching and being a housewife (which means mainly cooking… I make Adam do as much of the housework as I can get away with), and I love to experiment with cooking.

I’ve been working hard on my garden which is taking over it’s tiny space and will soon be producing all manner of deliciousness.

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I’ve been spending time with the next door neighbors who, by the way, are awesome.  Today we had a takoyaki party.  Life doesn’t get much better than that.

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Often, I find I have all this stuff bouncing around in my head and I can’t figure out which things are important.  That’s usually a pretty good indication that it’s time to slow down.

So those are some of the things I’ve been learning about and thinking about lately.  I’m pretty sure that the more plugged in we get to social media and other random things outside of ourselves, the less in touch we become with what’s inside.  That idea terrifies me.  That’s not a place I want to go.  On that note, I’m out.  What about you? Have you found that magic equilibrium?

OneRepublic- Love Runs Out (Cover by The Last City)

So we recently made a new video and, while I know I’ve said this before, this is one of my favorites so far.  It was fun to make and put together.  It does a good job of showing who we are. Without further ado, here’s our cover of Love Runs Out by OneRepublic!

I hope you enjoy it!

We just finished up Golden Week which meant I had a couple of extra days with no classes. It was refreshing to practice a little more consistently and get back to a place of feeling comfortable with my instruments. I miss that.  I love teaching and I love my students, but sometimes I wonder about the cost.

One day, if we can make music videos and create music for a living with teaching being on the side, we will be better people.  I’ve been reading a book by Sir Ken Robinson called The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.  It’s full of anecdotes of different people who are living out their passions and, while it’s not an easy or quick thing, it’s incredibly fulfilling.  I want everyone to be able to find their Element and do it full time. It’s idealistic, I know, but who says dreaming is a bad thing?

daydreams

He points out several things that I love.  My favorites: Intelligence and creativity cannot be put in boxes.  Intelligence is not only in reasoning and math, creativity is not only in the fine arts or creative writing.  They work together in different combinations in every person and, when allowed, make beautiful things.

I’ve been challenged to find ways to be creative and intelligent in the things that I enjoy doing instead of trying to do things that I think are creative and intelligent just so that I can say I’m being creative and intelligent (Yes, word games, I’m looking at you).

Anyways, another post to come soon on that whole balance thing that I was obsessed with at the beginning of the year. It’s related to this in a lot of ways but I have to go back to the administrative tasks that seem to consume my non-teaching times (Challenge time, how can I make recording attendance creative?)

Until the next time!

Taking Stock

So I’m looking at my Don’t Break the Chain calendar aaaand while the first two months went pretty well (and by that I mean I’d remember at the end of the week to go back and mark the days that I did things), March really fell off. I’m looking at starting a different system that is hopefully a little more organized and something that I carry around so that I remember to do it.

I find myself constantly fluxing between skimming and trying to go deeper. I want to have deep relationships. I want to live well. But sometimes I get into this rut. I want to follow a script of what I think will make me happy and I get so focussed on what my (self written) script says that I miss out on the good things that are around me. I think being 1/4 of the way through the year means it’s a good time to reflect and see what I really want to do. Maybe it’ll even happen this weekend.

I need to stop doing and just be.

Where is your heart?

I’m reading through this book with Carolyn (my awesome college roomie) called “Idols of the Heart.” Yesterday’s chapter basically said that our actions are what reveal where we’ve placed our hearts. Simple enough. But the more I thought about it and the further I read, the more I realized that really specifically, the actions and thoughts we don’t think about, the little ones that happen automatically, are often the most telling. The things I do when I think no one else knows reveal so much more about my heart and my character than the sweeping gestures that everyone gets to see. I think that’s what makes it even scarier.

In the deep dark places of my heart, there is no one else to hold me accountable, there is no one else who knows.

That being said, it is really wonderful for me to know that God sees and that He knows. In a way, the Bible ends up being a sort of mirror that helps me to hold myself accountable.

Whether or not you believe in God, knowing the standard to which you hold yourself makes a huge difference when trying to see who you really are. The joy of the human brain is that when I match it with intentionality, as slow as the going might be, I can move my priorities and my heart back to where I want them to be.

What do my actions and thoughts say that I value?
Love?
Gratitude?
The opinion of others?
Being right all the time?

Where is my heart?

Vicarious Living

Why are we so obsessed with other people? I’ll be the first to admit that whenever I have a free moment I love to hop on Facebook and see what’s up with the people out there in internet land, even if all the posts are the same because my last free moment was literally only two minutes before.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Facebook is a great way to share our lives with others, and for expats that makes it especially valuable. But how much of me scrolling through my newsfeed is actually trying to intentionally communicate with those with whom I want to maintain solid relationships? A lot of days it’s almost next to none. I’m too busy trying to take in the output of people who are on my friends list but I haven’t talked to in five years, or even worse, who I don’t remember in the first place. It’s so easy to get sucked into glancing through windows into the lives of others because it keeps us from looking deeper into ourselves which, admittedly, can be a lot more difficult. It’s so much more entertaining to see who from college has kids or who’s got a new car or who likes this article than to sit and study Japanese for fifteen minutes.

I see this thing on tumblr a lot where people post selfies of other people or pictures of other people doing things they wished they could do/were doing right then/could look more like etc. while I know the people on Facebook (most of the time…) I think I end up doing the same kind of thing. Being able to only see the sides of people that they’re allowing us to see often leaves me thinking “What if I…. Went straight to grad school? Had kids already? Cooked more gourmet food? Read more? Wrote more?” The list could go on and on. I find it harder and harder to live in the moment and enjoy where I am because I’m trying so hard to live in the moments of others. But that shouldn’t be the case at all. I definitely don’t want my memories of my twenties to be more of other people than myself.

All that to say I’m not completely quitting Facebook, but I definitely am going to start cutting back. It shouldn’t be my go to time filler. One of the mottos I’ve tried to implement is “Live with intention.” I think it’s time to start doing more of that.

Finding the Joy

As I sit here at 12:30, wishing I was asleep, I think through my New Years resolutions and all the things I still want to do tonight.  But, as I have been learning lately, there can still be joy and gratitude.  I’ve been reading blogs and and books and the theme this past week seems to keep coming back to these things. Everything can somehow tie into that. I’m reading through a book, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper (hey, guess what? It’s a free download!)  In chapter 4, he talks about the joy of Jesus and how that joy can be mine if I would only allow myself to experience it, to let go of my minuscule notions of what I think joy should be.  Then, I read this post on John 1 and this post on gratitude by Ann Voskamp.  They reminded me that if I remember what things are important, if I put Jesus first and remember the things that I’m grateful for instead of living through each day without paying attention to the beauty around me, the joy will follow.  And I’m not talking here about the temporary happiness that is so very fleeting, I mean the joy that pushes you through the tough weeks, the deep knowledge that I am a child of God and that not matter how crazy work is, or how much I want to just disappear for a few months, it will be ok because He won’t change. Not ever.  So that has been on my mind, and then I saw this awesome video of John Green talking about creativity and boom! Motivation, priority, it all ties in! If you do something just to make money, you’ll never make enough.  If you do something because you love it, well, there will be really hard days. But my gracious the good ones make it all so worth it.

So tonight I had the opportunity to skype with my roommate from college and my friend who has truly seen me for me and still loves me, and it was so good to talk about where our hearts and priorities are.  It is so good to know that there are wonderful people who I get to walk on this path with, even when I don’t really deserve it.  One of the projects that Anna Voskamp does every year is keep a Gratitude journal and I am thinking about starting one. But tonight, I am grateful for my friendships, my relationships with people who love me even after they’ve seen the ugliness inside, and I am grateful for a good God who gives me love and joy for when mine runs out.

Oh hey, welcome to 2014!

As I reflect back on the past year, I realize that my blogging career probably won’t be taking off anytime soon… That being said, I would like to start blogging more and have made it a goal to blog at least twice a month.  We’ll see how that goes… So along with a new year comes some updates!

I believe that I shared our new website before. We have both been blogging over on that side as well as our new Hubpages site. Our goal is to slowly create a larger and larger web presence. We’ve also been adding to our Youtube, tumblr, twitter, and Facebook accounts.

So here’s what I’m thinking for the new year. To make it better, I have goals set.  They’re small daily goals as opposed to really huge ones, though.  I saw a create idea for calendar check lists that basically gives you a visual to motivate you to complete small things each day.  I have one for 15 minutes each of language learning, quiet time, exercising, and working on music.  I also have plans to blog more, read more, create more, and promote more.  I’m also doing a month long health challenge with some friends that Adam and I did last year. I’m pretty stoked for it! All this productivity means less time for time wasting!

So while of course taking care of my body and becoming fluent in Japanese (ha!) are important, my spiritual life is definitely of greatest importance and one of the parts of my life that I have tried to take the most time to reflect on this year.  One of the verses I have been reflecting on as I begin the new year is 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  Then today I read a couple of things that I really want to take in to the new year with me. The first is from Matthew 11:27-30.  Three sections that seem kind of disconnected when read on the surface are really well connected when taken deeper.  The first discusses things being hidden from the wise and revealed to children.  The second discusses knowing God through Jesus.  These contrast head and heart knowledge of God.  While both important, heart knowledge is necessary for the third part, which is coming to Jesus completely openly where He offers to give us peace and rest. But until we are willing to drop our pretensions and assumed knowledge of him, until we can come to Him like children, we won’t be able to fully come to Him.

Speaking of dropping pretensions, I read a great post today by John Piper, “Don’t Waste Your Weaknesses.”  It encouraged me to drop the facade of strength that I have so that I can fully allow Christ to work His plan through my problems and weaknesses. That’s good for me to remember.  One of these days I’ll get it. Anyways, have a great New Year!

Consuming Creativity

As a musician, I often think about creativity.  I  used to think of it as something that had to be generated from the inside, this magical ability that one has to be born with.  Something given to the elect. Lately, though, my thoughts on it have changed.  I see it as a skill that has to be developed and, if not wielded well, lost.  I am a consumer of creativity. I love reading books and listening to good music, but the creativity only comes back out in very specific forms.  I want it to branch out.  I want to be more creative in other areas.  If we aren’t careful, all we end up doing is sucking on the creativity of others. We gorge ourselves and never produce anything, slowly becoming more and more obese in it.  We are satisfied with sharing our latest favorite thing on Facebook, the video or music or piece of art that took countless amounts and energy to produce.  Am I really that person?  My encouragement to you and myself: feast on the creativity of others but don’t just stop there. Find ways to engage your creativity in new and interesting ways. Otherwise, you may find that in consuming the creativity of others, you’ve lost your ability to create.

Cold strikes again!

It’s back… that time of year when simple things like running to the bathroom in the cold part of the apartment is now a fight for life…  In the mean time, we continue to work on music and figure out what exactly our place is in this city.  We are adding more promotional stuff to our arsenal for the Willfully Human EP and getting super excited about it. We’re looking at a couple of busy weeks ahead but I think overall they will be productive. So all in all, life is good.  I’m just dreading it getting colder. Really not a huge fan of not being able to feel my fingers… That’s kind of it for the moment. Everything else is normal. We’re plugging away at Japanese. If you have anything in specific you’d like me to blog about, please let me know! Have a great day!