May 17, 2010


Last week I was listening to the radio and was introduced to the word "quotidian". It was surprising to me that such a fancy sounding word meant pretty much the opposite of anything out of the ordinary. Routine, normalcy, the mundane--even boring--details of everyday life: these are quotidian. I've had people tell me they think I have an exciting life and I guess I do go out for a spontaneous adventure now and then, but for the most part my days are pretty routine.

Where my routine differs from others' is maybe what surprises them. For whatever reason, I have always been a morning person and, especially lately, I've been living that in the extreme. My day begins when my alarm goes off at 3:47 am (yes, I intentionally avoid 5s and 0s when I set my alarm--don't ask why) and shift sleepily into work mode. I'm out the door in 20 minutes and at work by 4:30 in order to enjoy the next 3 1/2 hours of peace solitude that are the conditions under which I work best.

My current job, engraving saxophones and testing trumpets at Cannonball Musical instruments, takes a good deal of concentration. While working over the bell of a sax with a sharp metal tool intentionally scratching the surface in what eventually reveals itself as an intricate design, I am much more at ease not having to experience the hubub of a busy workplace right outside my door. I usually turn on the radio, classical 89.1 for music or KUER for news depending on my mood, and cocoon myself into the rhythm of my gravers zig zagging across the curved metal surfaces of the instruments. It was my request to keep such odd hours and though I have had a few issues with getting enough sleep, in general this schedule is, for me, ideal.

I leave the office every day just before 8:00 and head over to my Mom's house where I'm free to practice my trumpet without having to disturb neighbors or use a stuffy practice mute. After checking email and chit chatting with Mom for a half hour or so I hit the woodshed.

I'm pretty particular about my practicing and monitor my time on and off the horn in a way that some would describe as excessively anal. I plan out my practice session before hand--what techniques I'll address, what music I have to polish up for an upcoming gig, and how much time I can afford to keep the horn on my face that particular morning.

I do this for a couple of reasons. It is amazing how much more I accomplish when I address specific techniques rather than just going through a tired daily routine that tries to hit all the bases. If I target three or four issues per practice session, spend a specific amount of time devoted to each item (typically 10 minutes), and follow each segment by a required amount of rest (3 or more minutes--usually more), my practice efficiency goes WAY up. I improve much more quickly and preserve my chops much better overall compared to the more loose and general way I used to practice. The older I get, the more this proves to be a career saver. So, as ridiculous as it may appear to anyone else, I sit in my Mom's living room every day looking out over the valley to the west and, with a stopwatch and notebook, meticulously plan out and time my noise making.

Another habit I've gotten into is during each short rest period I'll get up and do some little chore around the house...take out the trash, start dishes, do laundry, play with the dogs... This helps pass the time and makes me feel less guilty about using someone else's house as a practice room, and shamelessly mooching some food out of the fridge for lunch.

After practicing I'll either take the dogs for a walk or head out for the gym. Now that the weather's been nice, the dog walking usually wins out. It's amazing to see how Rusty (my parent's Jack Russell) has totally figured out my routine. I'm convinced that he knows how my practice intervals are timed because whenever I finish a segment, he runs right into the living room and looks at me with head cocked inquiring, "so are you going to play with me now?" I've taught him the meaning of the phrase "I have to practice" and whenever I respond to his query with that phrase, he turns around and skulks out of the room until the next break. He hates the sound of my trumpet! However, George (the Chihuahua) doesn't seem to mind my horn at all and usually comes into the room while I'm practicing and curls up for a nap in my jacket while I work.

Rusty can also tell when I've finished my whole session and start my warm down. At that point he'll come in almost bursting at the seams and ask, "Ok, are we going for a walk now?" He's usually right on the money and I take him out for 3 or 4 miles first, then come home and take he and George (who doesn't seem to have the same desire to go for long walks) for a lap around the block. They're sweet puppies and I'm sure going to miss them when I take off in the fall.

By the time I make it through this routine it's usually about noon and I have the rest of the day to fill how I please (which these days usually includes a substantial nap!). I guess I thrive on structure and it makes me feel a ton better when I've been productive right off the bat. Getting that good start is everything.


  1. You and Matt are twins, I swear. He practices like that, but his practice usually lasts all day. Like, hours and hours. Thank goodness he doesn't do it at 8 am! That would be a problem...

  2. I love how you write Kelly! All of us are totally creatures of habit in our own ways, especially Rusty!!!