one family's yearlong dare to live their dreams
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Living for our dreams: month 1 update

Photo by Denver Beattie

Wendy summed up her experience of our first month of living for our dreams in her last post. I had a different, though no less satisfying experience.

I’m not learning an instrument, but in the spirit of our theme of the month, Music, I spent some of January getting back in tune with some old favorite songs and discovering new ones. It’s simply amazing what’s available musically online these days.

Check this out:

Go ahead, click it! I dare you!

Joe Satriani is just one of the artists I’ve been listening to lately. And listening to and listening to, largely thanks to a music service called Mog. It’s all you can eat, download, listen to, mix, remix, and groove to for 10 bucks a month. Man, I remember when it cost more than that to buy a 45-minute LP that you had to play on a dedicated player that sat in one room of your house—and you had manually flip the thing over after only 22 minutes.

Continuing the clutter busting I started in December, I got the Shed of Doom halfway conquered. It’s on its knees, man, and it isn’t even that threatening any more. Most of the nasty bits are hunkered down in the back corners quaking in fear. Now to post some assorted wheeled conveyances on Free Cycle. Anyone want a yellow men’s mountain bike that we’ve never even ridden in the six or seven years since someone gave it to us?

I’m still practicing my landings on the flight simulator every weekend, and hey, did Wendy mention that she’s been practicing guitar every day, no matter what? That’s what I’m talking about. She also got her passport and just last night called the hotel in India she wants to stay at in April. We are definitely on our way.

Unfortunately the ultimate clutter bust, namely unloading our house, didn’t work out. Turns out this place has lost something like 30% of its value since we bought it. Since we’re not ready to lose our shirts (and socks and underwear and pants) just yet, we’re staying put.

But I just now got off the phone with the town tax assessor, and after I sketched out the barest outline of our case, he allowed that our taxes are too high. Way the hell too high, I’m gonna tell him, but all in good time. I’m putting together some nice looking charts and graphs to bring to my meeting with him soon.

This month, February, is the month of love for Wendy and me as we continue our quest to better our lives this year and do all the things we’ve always wanted to do. Wendy’s keeping a lid on how much we’re going to share, but I’ll work on her. Maybe she’ll let me me mention those teledildonics I have on order. No? Oop. Sorry, Wendy!

Notes from a Month of Music & Joy

We are 30 days into Our Year of Living Bigger, and let me tell you: stuff is HAPPENING over here. Music is happening – or something sort of like music, though perhaps not yet. You see, I’ve had just three guitar lessons. But my fingers are sore in a way that feels surprisingly good, and even makes me a bit proud. I’m on my way.

Stuff is happening with our kids, too. Amelie at 5 is learning to read, and it’s magic to watch. Jade at 22 months is starting to express herself in something very much like English. And I do believe she is at the height of her Cuteness Powers.

Not that it’s been easy here in music land. I have lamented my lack of finger strength and my lack of finger length. I have expected more bend-ability from my lithe yogi fingers. And I have wondered where on Earth I will possibly find the time to practice guitar in a life that already feels like an overpacked grocery bag splitting apart at the flimsy paper handles.

Yet I’ve had my small successes – and yes, joys. I have released a few beautiful E chords and A chords and D chords into the ether, admiring them as they go. When my indefatigably enthusiastic teacher shouts “Goooood!” after a particularly successful note, I feel the way I imagine my five-year-old feels when I stick one of her adorably imperfect drawings up on the refrigerator. A person can get hooked on praise like that.

The music is coming and so is the joy, albeit in pieces. When Michael and I remember to honor one of the simplest tenets of our manifesto – “No whining” – we find that our household joy increases a thousandfold. I agree with Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project book and blog, that one of the key secrets to turning around a bad mood is “Act the way you want to feel.” If you want to feel joyful, she suggests, try going through the motions first, like an actor on a stage. Most of the time you end up convincing yourself with your own performance.

The ancient yoga sage Patanjali had a different way of talking about essentially the same thing: “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana” (Yoga Sutra 2.33). As a bonus, the Sanskrit phrase is so much fun to say. How can we possibly go wrong?

And yet we can, and we do. Parchment-paper wisdom can slip mysteriously out of reach. The urge to kvetch, useless as it is, can be tempting. So we are taking the joy piecemeal, when and where we can get it: in a Level 1 reading book, in a new word from the mouth of a babe. We are taking the music, too, one clear and dazzling note at a time. I have a hunch that it will all add up to something pretty great.

The Night the Lights Went Out

The other night, an ice storm took out our power. We live somewhat in the boonies, a mile from the center of town, and our power goes out all the time–whenever the weather gets a little dicey.

This time the weather was really dicey. Some power line must have gotten covered with ice and fallen down under the weight or snapped. And this time it wasn’t just us who lost power, it was a swath three towns wide.

With our computers and Internet connection out, we couldn’t work. With everyone home we greeted the darkness together after our evening meal. Only it wasn’t so dark. A near-full moon bathed the winterscape in a pale silver glow from behind the cover of clouds. Nothing moved outside. Well, nothing except me, shuffling around outside, clearing pathways, gathering wood. I stopped to wonder at the world I found myself in. It was like being the only actor on a fabulous stage set.

Inside we lit candles and banked up the fire. We read stories and we all stepped out of our usual routine and got in sync with each other.

“We should turn out the lights every night,” Wendy or I said. And so we have, at least for the last two nights since then.

We found each other that night. Really stopped and acknowledged each other and the world around us. It was good. It was affirmation that we’re on the right track with our yearlong live-for-our-dreams project.

Already I see my vistas opening up, and we’re only just getting started. Wendy started guitar lessons as part of our month of music, and she’s practicing every day, no matter how busy she gets with the work we need to do to pay the bills.

I had a dream that I was learning to play guitar, just through osmosis, picking out tunes on my own.

I spied Wendy one night with a guitar over her shoulder, heading upstairs to practice, and she just looked so right. Like she was just meant to have a guitar over her shoulder. And I thought, “I’m married to a Woodstock, guitar-playing yoga mama. That is out of sight, man, outta sight.”

I’m getting in the groove too, rediscovering old favorite music I haven’t listened to in years and rocking out with the kids. Last night I fell asleep to Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue.”

The party is officially under way, and every party needs music. We got it going on.

Rhythm Quest

Do Re MiMaybe it’s because I live in Woodstock, famous for the ’69 music fest. Or maybe it’s because my five-year-old has watched The Sound of Music about 25 times now, and I can’t get the alpine image of a strumming Julie Andrews out of my mind. But over the past few months I’ve heard this curious and rather insistent little whisper in my head: “Learn guitar.”

For me, this is completely out of character. My only prior experience with a musical instrument was with the recorder – a simple wind instrument with which I produced shrill, decidedly unmellifluous sounds, despite the best intentions of my middle-school music teacher.

But this project of ours, this Party of Four “year of adventure,” is about breaking through any rigid, long-held notions of who we really are. It’s about expanding our very idea of ourselves. And so I will listen to all those little whispers of yearning, including this dogged inner urge to find my rhythm.

My first step is to seek out a good guitar teacher (and believe me, Woodstock is swimming with them). I plan on bringing Amelie, my Rogers-and-Hammerstein-singing kindergartener, along with me to a few of the lessons (she already has a lot of enthusiasm and a $30 kids’ guitar, which just needs a little tuning). There is of course the question of just how expensive this musical experiment will turn out to be – but I’ve already offset the cost by borrowing a friend’s guitar (thanks, Kristin!).

I know that I will never be as melodious as the effervescent Ms. Andrews. But that’s fine with me. I have no rock-star ambitions. I simply want more joy in my life and in the lives of my children. I recently heard a yoga guru say “Joy belongs to everyone.” I believe this is true, if we are open to it.

How do you claim joy in your life?

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