Category Archives: Inspiration

My 5 New Habits for 2017

January 17, 2017

Creativity / Inspiration

I am not big on New Year’s Resolutions these days.  This year, I have decided to imagine that it was already December of 2017.  I started to think about what I could accomplish this year that would make me immensely proud, and then I started to think about how I can do regular small actions to make them happen.  Essentially, I started to think about how I can actively change by life through new habits.

Currently, I already brush and floss my teeth, read books, play music (either my piano, cello, or ukulele), and do some kind of exercise (even if it is just a little) every day.  What’s great about these daily practices is that they are already attached to specific times.  Brushing happens in the mornings and evenings.  Flossing and reading takes place before bed.  Music is played for at least a half hour (usually longer) in the evenings and so on .  .  .

This year, I want to develop new habits that enhance my creative abilities.  So here is a list of them and how I hope to get them accomplished:

1.  Goal:  Write 52 Blog Posts in 2017

How:  Spend at least 5 minutes every morning writing, and publish a new post on                
Monday or  Tuesday every week.

At the core of all my creative pursuits, I have always been a writer.  Being able to express myself through words has been a conduit and catalyst for my music, lyrics, and virtually everything else.  I have learned that writing is a skill that needs to be practiced.  Especially since I am currently in college, my writing abilities need to be at the top of their game.  Writing every day will help me do this, and since this blog is my own sort of online journal, it is the perfect outlet and forum for me to practice my writing and share my thoughts.

2.  Goal: Learn to read and play 2 difficult pieces of classical music
                1.  Impromptu #4 (Opera 90) by Franz Schubert
                2.  Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig Van Beethoven

How: Study just one line of sheet music per week (the equivalent of about 3 to 5                 stanzas).  Go over them every night during regular practice.

As a pianist, I am actually pretty terrible at reading music.  When I think about how I learned to read letters and numbers, it was a gradual and very consistent process.  Learning a long piece of music incrementally will help me understand how to play it better.  I chose two different pieces for the qualities they possess.  The Schubert piece is more about virtuosity through speed and rhythm, and the Beethoven piece emphasizes mood and emotional expression.  I have my work cut out for me, but I really want to do this.

3.  Goal: Learn how to play the ukulele

How:  Memorize one new song to play and sing every month in 2017.  Practice                     every night.  Song for January:  Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton

I already play the piano and the cello.  The problem with both is that neither is terribly convenient to carry around.  My cello is petite and delicate, and I have already broken it once.  I have owned a ukulele now for about 4 yours without actually digging deep to learn it.  I can take it EVERYWHERE with me.   I already know how to play a couple of songs, and I think it is time to really start branching out.

4.  Goal: Do more with watercolor

How: Paint a new piece for every blog post in 2017.  One night every week will be           dedicated to painting.  Continue with “Year of Color” practice on social                         media by 
posting this art.

I have recently been geeking out on watercolor.  I have this adorable portable set  that comes with a brush, sponge, and thirty colors.  This is far less expensive and messy  than oil painting, and it is super fun.  One new piece every week means 52 pieces by the end of the year.  Woah.  I am still trying to figure out which actual night will work best, but as you can see at the top of this post, I have already started.

5.  Goal: Improve my cello hold and learn vibrato

How:  Consult with as many cellists and experts as much as possible.  Do research through weekly lessons and practice on Sundays.

By this time, I have no doubt that I can play the cello and consistently produce a solid tone, but I still experience pain in my hands when I play.  Perhaps this is par for the course for any cellist, but I want to do all that I can to play well and not damage my hands.  If by the end of this year, I have not improved my technique and eliminated pain, I may retire my cello pursuits altogether.  It is just not worth the damage to my hands if I cannot fix this.  Lastly, learning to play vibrato is one of the aspects of cello music that makes it sound so darn beautiful.  I live to play beautiful music.  So, let’s do this.

There you have it.  I’ll be checking in about all of these pursuits throughout the year both here and on social media.  Please feel free to ask me how I am doing.

What do you hope to accomplish by the end of this year?

Reading Will Save the World: 2016 Books In Review

January 10, 2017

Inspiration / Reading Will Save the World

At any point in my life, I have always had a book that I was in the middle of reading.  I love to read.  Outside of playing music, it is my favorite form of recreation.  You can visit foreign countries and experience new cultures.  You can live someone else’s life through their thoughts and perspectives.  You can laugh, cry, or become inspired.  I would not be the artist and creative person I am today if I had not taken the time to read important books and become more informed about how the world around me truly operates.

Reading books makes me happy.  Here is a listing of all the books I finished reading in 2016:


Heart of Darkness

Author: Joseph Conrad
Book Length:  79 Pages
This book is not for the weak of heart.  It is a harrowing reflection of the pitfalls on both sides of imperialism, in which the vulnerable working poor and the indigenous peoples of conquered lands fall on the destructive and bitter end of the equation.  Though a tough read, it is an important piece of literature and a quick one at less than 100 pages.

 

 


The Robber Bride

Author: Margaret Atwood
Book Length: 528 Pages
This is the first novel I have read by Ms. Atwood of the many she has already penned.  It was entertaining and a bit predictable here and there.  There is a purely evil antagonist in this story who is the human equivalent of a small tsunami, sweeping everyone forcefully into the wrath of her cunning intentions.  The story  felt like a comparison between women either tearing each other down or supporting one another.  The former is horrendous while the latter is what gives this book some genuine tenderness.

 


Smarter, Faster, Better

Author: Charles Duhigg
Book Length: 300 Pages
I am constantly interested in productivity in terms of how we can do more of the activities that we truly value and enjoy.  Given the many demands in our full lives and varying individual sensibilities, this is tricky.  This book not only offers insightful ideas on how to live more effectively, but it gives real-life, concrete examples to back them up.  It’s a fascinating read.  Highly recommended.

 

 


The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay

Author: Michael Chabon
Book Length: 639 Pages
I can see why this book won the Pulitzer Prize.  It is incredibly imaginative and well-written.  My only complaint is that the story went on far longer than it should have.  The final third of the book lost a good bit of the momentum and excitement that it had earlier.  Nonetheless, the two lead characters, as constant underdogs, are what draws you in.  I was rooting for them the whole time.

 

 


Running With Scissors

Author: Augusten Burroughs
Book Length: 304 Pages
This is a semi-autobiographical novel by its author.  Quirky and strange would be good adjectives for the family this story molds together.  “Downright insufferable” would also apply to them in some instances.  Reading this book was like watching a terrible car accident in slow motion and then not being sure if it was a good thing that everyone made it out alive.

 


All the Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr
Book Length: 531 Pages
This was one of the best pieces of fiction I have read in a long time.  It is another Pulitzer Prize winner and as such, quite deserving.  IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL.  There is a blind girl, her father who builds miniature cities (MINIATURE CITIES!!!), a gorgeous little French town on the coast, and a young man with an uncanny ability to make machines come alive.  There is whimsy, passion, sorrow, and love held high against the backdrop of World War II.  I did not want this story to end.  So. Damn. Good.

 

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Author: Greg McKeown
Book Length: 272 Pages
These days, I am more prone to simplicity and minimalism as a way of life.  I found this book in my research of these topics, and for good reason, it has been universally recommended by anyone who has read it.  Its message and teachings are clear, precise, and extremely practical.  I loved it.  For anyone wanting to distinguish between all the noise and what is truly important in one’s life, read this book.

 

 

The Four Horsemen and the Apocalypse
Author: Viscente Blasco Ibanez
Book Length: 324 Pages
This book chronicles the lives of a wealthy family during World War I in Europe.  If its title sounds daunting, that’s because it is.  This is, by all accounts, a war novel, even though most of it takes place away from the battlefield.  It is more of an account of the effect of war on families and society.  If this is your cup to tea, it is a worthwhile and well-written read.

 

 

The Japanese-American Internment During World War II
Author: Wendy Ng
Book Length: 232 Pages
I chose this as a book report assignment for my US History class.  I have always wanted to learn more about this specific topic, and this book goes into great detail by providing an in-depth historical timeline and analysis, personal written accounts from actual internees, a photographic essay of the camps, reprints of pertinent legal documents, an extensive annotated bibliography, and a thorough (and quite damning) examination of the US government’s role in it all.  This is one of many dark periods in US history in which extreme prejudice based on race informed our government’s actions.  It is a modern and legal precedent that can be used to justify similar actions in the future.  For this reason, this book is well worth the time needed to read it.

Now that we are fully in 2017, I am engrossed in a new book.  This is what I am currently reading:


It is a book that explores the many mysteries of trees, and so far, I am really loving it.

Every month, I’ll be writing about the books that I am devouring.

What are you reading right now?  (Let me know in the comments below.)

Generosity in 2016 and Color in 2017

January 1, 2017

Creativity / Generosity / Inspiration / Simple Living

Happy New Year!!!

Since it is officially 2017, I now declare it to be my Year of Color!  I’ll be posting colorful artwork and photography on social media (namely Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter) all year-long.  I am feeling very creative with my visual work, and I just want to challenge myself to create and share more of it!

At the beginning of 2016, I set my sights on making 2016 my year of generosity with acts of kindness for 52 weeks.  I did in fact carry out many acts of generosity throughout the year, and for this post, I wanted to highlight the organizations that benefited from my giving.

Nashville Rescue Mission (https://nashvillerescuemission.org/)
This is a  local non-profit that provides shelter, food, and clothing for homeless men, women, and children in Music City.  I donated lots of bottled water and canned goods.

Pet Community Center of Nashville (http://petcommunitycenter.org/)
As an animal-care non-profit , Pet Community Center provides affordable immunization and other services.  You should check out their monthly mobile unit that goes out to different neighborhoods across Nashville. I took Steinway there for his shots.  They were very sweet to him.

National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (http://nathpo.org/)
This is a national organization of Native American tribal leaders who work to preserve tribal lands across the United States.  Giving to them is a small gesture I can make towards supporting the indigenous people of the US. This organization helps maintain schools, hospitals, and infrastructure on tribal lands as well as protection and emergency preparedness on sacred sites.

Habit Zen App by Leo Babauta
(https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/532372598/habit-zen)
I am a huge proponent of mindfulness, simplicity, and meditation.  Leo Babauta is a native of Guam who currently lives in the San Fransisco area.  He is the author of the blog zen-habits.net (which is read by millions of people around the world), and I really love his writing and his ideas about simple living.  He’s assembled a small team to build an app that helps people create and maintain healthier habits based on his own work and research.  I am proud to support any thing he does.

Time Out Youth (http://www.timeoutyouth.org)
There will always be a place in my heart Time Out Youth.  TOY is a non-profit organization in Charlotte, NC that carries out support and advocacy for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning youth ages 11-20.  Not only did I seek out their services when I was a 19-year-old living in Charlotte, I also worked as their Youth Programs Director. I made some of the most meaningful friendships of my life, and being a part of the TOY community was the  most affirming experience of my young adult existence.  I needed the love, validation, and support everyone gave to me more than I realized.  This place still exists today, and they are as strong as ever.

Wildlife Conservation Network and the Elephant Crisis Fund  (https://wildnet.org/)
Elephant Crisis Fund
Who doesn’t love elephants? Well, a better question would be why are elephants getting killed by the dozens? The answer to this question is not a simple one. At the center of this issue is a longstanding and illegal ivory trade that has been profitable for anyone involved in it.  There are cultural and economic implications to this terrible crisis, and the only ones paying the real price are these beautiful and sweet creatures whose bodies are slaughtered and left to rot after their tusks are cut and ripped off of their bodies.  This is horrendous, and I hope it ends someday soon.

Rocky Mountain Institute (http://www.rmi.org/)
In spite of those who beg to differ, climate change is real, and it is actually happening. I am trying to do my part by recycling everything I possibly can every week, and by living in a remote and rural home, I have decreased my ecological footprint. (This continues to be a work in progress.)  We as human beings have thus far failed as stewards and caretakers of the Earth’s natural resources, but I believe we have the capacity to be better.  The Rocky Mountain Institute is doing some incredible work through its multi-level approach at tackling climate change both in the United States and internationally.  Their biggest mission is to work with corporations, businesses, and communities across the world to shift their enterprises towards efficiency and renewable energy/resources.  In my mind, global enterprise needs to be led by global sustainability.  I fully support any initiative that advocates for this.

This year represents the most that I have given to charity pretty much ever.  I plan on doing monthly giving to these and other worthwhile organizations in 2017.  From now on, generous giving to others will be a strong and integral part of my life.

 

So there you go!  Bring on the color in 2017!!  Bring on the giving!!

I am looking forward to the year to come! Let’s make every day of 2017 extra special!

Gordon Roqué Supports Hillary Clinton for President

November 8, 2016

Inspiration

 

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On social media, I have refrained from adding my voice to the maddening crowd.  Through the primaries, the party conventions, and the full-fledged presidential campaigns, I have watched and kept my own tabs as we all have witnessed the most divisive and contentious US presidential election in my lifetime.

Now, on election day, I want to announce my support for Hillary Clinton and her running mate Tim Kaine.  I have taken the time to see where she stands on education, LGBT rights, climate change, campaign finance reform, and a whole slew of issues.  You can get informed about where she stands at her official website here.

On several issues, her vision aligns more with my sensibilities.  She has experience in public service as Senator of New York state, in addition to having been a lawyer, law professor, a first lady, and Secretary of State for President Obama.  Of course, she is also a woman, a mother, and a grandmother with the life experience of having built a career while raising a child.

To me, all of these elements strongly qualify her to attain the highest office of the land.

Is Hillary Clinton perfect? No.

Is she without questionable flaws? No.

I am one among many people who does not fully trust politicians in general; however, this does not mean that I need to be apathetic and just give up. I can choose to be discerning.  I can let my thoughts and voice be heard and do my part to improve my own life and the community I live in.

I choose Hillary Clinton because I simply believe that she is more experienced, qualified, and capable than the current Republican Presidential Candidate (who, on this and any of my sites, will not be named).

Speaking of the Republican Presidential Candidate, here is some food for thought:

And then, how about something very poignant . . .

With your vote, you have the power to decide the fate of our nation.

Use your vote.  Use your power.

The choice, as I see it, is between Hillary Clinton and a demagogue who is completely unfit and unqualified to be President of the United States and leader of the free world.

I choose Hillary.

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What I Learned From My Year of Thankfulness

January 20, 2016

Inspiration / Simple Living

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For those of you who are connected to me on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) for at least the past year, you know that I published thankfulness posts for every day of 2015.  This idea was inspired by my friend Leigh in Seattle who does the same thing annually for every day in November.  I remember reading her posts and thinking about how wonderful an idea it was.  Not only do you get to honor aspects of your life that you truly value, you also get to share those things with all your friends and loved ones.   This makes them more aware of what they might be thankful for and creates a  broader cycle of thankfulness out in the world.

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I wanted to try this out for myself and decided to do it for an entire year.  On December 31, 2015, I published my final thankfulness post for this project.

Here’s what I learned from it all .  .  .

Honestly, I learned just one thing.  It’s an incredibly important thing, and it took me a year to figure it out.  I’m so thankful that I learned it well.  So, what the heck is it?

For me, what I learned is that thankfulness makes you feel happier.

Yes, it does.  This is a realization to which I can fully attest.  It was a funny “AHA!” moment to gradually experience.  As the year progressed, I noticed that I felt more joyful and positive about everything.

Seriously, EVERYTHING.

I still had my down days and frustrations like anyone else, but they effected me less severely than in previous times.

If I was to try to deeply analyze this, I might say that being outwardly and inwardly thankful reduces stress by helping you be more comfortable with how things turn out and by being more positive.  It helps you be resilient by allowing you to cherish what you have instead of drowning in a stew of negativity that makes you miserable.

So, anyone out there want to feel happier?  Here’s how I did it and continue to do so:

  1.  Be consistent in your thankfulness.  You can do as I did and make it an every day habit or you can do it every other day or every week.  The goal is to do it consistently.  The unfailing and continual barrage of thankfulness eventually chips away at your dark side.
  2. Write down what you are thankful for.  It’s not enough to acknowledge it in your mind.  Some sort of outward and external expression of it makes it far more potent.  You can do as I did and post on social media or even just maintain a Thankfulness Journal.
  3. Ultimately, make it a habit.  There are many activities we do every day that are part of the fabric of our lives.  Brushing our teeth, eating lunch, putting socks on our feet before wearing shoes, and any number of things happen while we are on autopilot.  Make thankfulness part of your life’s fabric.  Build it into the essential ways that you go about your day.  At some point, you won’t even have to remember to do it.  Hopefully, it will connect each thing you do in your life to everything else.  It will embody you.  This is a good thing.

I offer no guarantees that being thankful will actually make you feel happier every day.  I can only say that I feel happier now than I have ever been.

There will always be room in life for sadness, anger, confusion, guilt, and all other emotions we feel as human beings.  It’s just that maybe the biggest room, the one we inhabit most, can be sunnier, brighter, smile-inducing, and much more carefree.

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