Stuff I Keep Track Of- Totals for 2021

As you may know, throughout the year I keep a running total of days that I perform activities that are important to me.  Over my many years as an artist, musician, and active person in the world, I’ve found that this process of counting has helped me maintain focus on aspects of life that are very important to me.

I wrote more about the counting works in a blog post called Stuff I Keep Track Of – Totals for 2019

In addition, I more fully explain this process in my zine, Sticker Method: Creating a Habit of Practice which is available in my Etsy shop.


Jan 19, 2020 – The Foothills of the Organ Mountains, Las Cruces NM

2020 was a year to begin to settle into some outward and inward changes. First, and most obviously,  since 1998, this was my first full year outside of Chicago. I now live in Las Cruces, NM in the foothills of the Organ Mountains. This prairie is directly outside my front door and I spend a lot of time there.

Second, after a lot of personal struggles in the spring, my doctors and I determined that I am someone who is affected by ADHD. WOW! What an important recognition. While some of these struggles came to a head in the spring of 2020, I actually think that I’ve been wrestling with these challenges for my entire life. The diagnosis has given me a peace of mind that I have never had. This knowledge and acceptance has fostered many welcome changes in my day-today life.

Final Numbers for 2020

My Stuff I Keep Track Of – Totals for 2020 was a bit incomplete because I lost some of my data during so much moving. I was able to keep track of it all in 2021.

The Demming Fusilers, Last Gig of 2021 with Jerry Grandle, owner of the Spotted Dog

Music-Making (non-teaching) = 275 days = 75% of all possible days (Down 13% from from 2020).  It’s interesting that the total is down because I feel MUCH better about the music I made in 2020. A highlight has been playing with a group called the Demming Fusiliers during a recurring afternoon session at the Spotted Dog Brewery.

Foothills, 2021, Charcoal, 20″x28″

Visual Art = 349 days = 96% of all possible days (Up 26% from 2020). So cool! I predicted that, “I think that this will be stronger in 2021”. Wow. It was a lot stronger. This makes so much sense. I’ve let go of a lot of mental blocks, and the tools I now have to work with ADHD have helped immensely in allowing me to focus on, and enjoy A LOT more, the visual art work I have been working on.

Body/Mind Work = 285 days = 78% of possible days (down 2% from 2020). Interesting, but not surprising. I think that some of the changes that I made during the 2nd half of the year allowed me to be more centered in general, which made some of the physical work and meditation sessions less essential. One change in terms of counting the numbers is that I went for and counted a lot more short walks to clear my mind, along with strenuous workout classes and meditation sessions.

Business (non-weekly lesson teaching) = 277 days = 76% of possible days. This was the first year I kept track of this number. I did a lot of work on, and even led my first session of, Harmonica Orchestra. I also worked with  consultants to build a stronger website and improve my marketing materials. I’m thrilled with how it all turned out. 

Quarterly Focus Words

  • Quarter 1 = Home
  • Quarter 2 = Root
  • Quarter 3 = Sprout
  • Quarter 4 = Attune

Goals for 2021

  • Music-Making – I have written a bunch of songs over the past 18 months and I have an undeveloped plan to record them. I want to do that.
  • Visual Art – I feel so free and confident in my art making. I plan on continuing to strengthen this foundation.
  • Business – Oh yeah! This is the area that I am a) least experienced in and b) least confident about. I really, really want to sell the Harmonica Orchestra. Sales. Not what I like to do, but I’m going to learn.  
  • Body/Mind – I’m very unclear what will happen with this category in 2022. Because of some of the changes I mentioned above, I’ve been able to bring so much of these practices into my moment-to-moment living.  The number may go down. Or, I may develop another way to acknowledge and count this work.  

Thanks for reading. See you next year!


“Did you draw those yourself?”

I’ve been looking into some of my limiting beliefs about both my ability to create art and about how we all create art in general. This memory – a mix of good and bad feelings – is prominent enough that I think about it often.

In the 3rd grade I read a book called Dominic, by William Steig. I don’t remember much about it, except that I really, really liked it.  Turns out, it’s a book about a dog who kind of hits the road. That the book resonated so much is interesting in and of itself, considering how my life has taken shape.

We made diorama for the book we were reading.  It was during this process that my dad showed me how I could draw a graph over a drawing and then draw the same graph on another piece of paper and use it to copy the original.  

I drew a bunch of the books’ characters that way and handed in my diorama. I was thrilled that I could replicate the characters in a way that made the diorama look like a pop-up version of the book.

I remember very strongly that the teacher asked, “Did you draw those yourself?”  I remember that she seemed skeptical when I answered yes; like she thought I was lying. I don’t want this to be the story of an evil adult squashing my creativity.  I liked this teacher, and she liked me. Looking back, I assume she was surprised at what I had made because I had probably never made something that looked like that before.  

Why does this memory, of all the moments, stick so strongly in my mind? It’s strong enough that I’ve thought about it many, many times over 35 years. This memory has affected choices I’ve made a beliefs I have about what tools I am “allowed” to use when I create art and how much I can say that a piece of work is mine. That, “Yes, I made this.”

How will this story change now that I’ve brought it out into the light?

Drawing Circles – Counterclockwise/ Clockwise, Eyes Open/Eyes Closed

This is the continuation of some thoughts I’ve been thinking and discussions I’ve been having around the idea of talent.

As a guitar teacher, I spend a great deal of lesson time on the mechanics of playing the guitar.  The sounds that musicians are able to achieve from the guitar are wildly varied, and it can take some work for students to expand their physical habits to allow for those sounds to be achieved.

In my limited time as an art student, there hasn’t been much talk of the physical movements needed to achieve my goals.  It really caught my attention when my art teacher mentioned an exercise a teacher had her perform in art school where they had to draw circles on a piece of news print.  

I took some time this morning to try it out.  I stood arms length  away from the paper and just drew circles. The first one is one that I unconsciously “completed”. I drew to the counterclockwise to make the first half and then started again and completed it at the top.

The rest are made with one continuous movement; standing an arm’s length away from the paper.

Some things I noticed:

  • Starting at the top and drawing counterclockwise, the charcoal slid right along the page. But, when I needed to swing up to complete the circle, my arm had a much more difficult time controlling the line.  Instead of being loose, the line would skip. As my arm tensed to gain control, the line would become too shallow or to wide.
  • I started to close my eyes. This is something that I know from guitar playing.  We, as musicians, can play a lot more accurately than we might think with our eyes closed.  Sometimes, we’re even better with our eyes closed.  
    • I closed my eyes and got a picture of the circle I wanted to draw in my mind, and then I’d draw it.
    • If completing the circle was the goal, I was MUCH more accurate than I thought I would be. 
    • If I drew counterclockwise with my eyes closed, I was able to complete the circle almost every time.
    • If I drew clockwise with my eyes closed, it was much more challenging.  I almost never completed a circle.
  • On drawing clockwise – I thought it was very interesting that I had to be very, very deliberate if I wanted to draw clockwise. Many times I’d think, “OK. I’m going to draw this one clockwise.” But, then I’d put the charcoal down and end up drawing counterclockwise. This happened several times in a row. I realized that I had to be much, much more deliberate if I wanted to draw counterclockwise.  

What do you think? Do people have a talent for drawing circles? How good do you think one could become as a circle drawer?  Do you like them? Are the completed circles the only ones that you like? 

Stuff I Keep Track Of – Totals for 2020

I keep track of the number of times I do certain activities in my life. This comes from a pretty severe case of perfectionism/”fear of the blank page”. Keeping track of this stuff has helped me immensely over the years, and is actually how I developed the Sticker Method: Creating a Habit of Practice.

You can read more about the process from last years’ blog post Stuff I Keep Track of – Totals for 2019.

Here are the totals for 2020


This year saw a lot of change in my life. I moved to Marquette, MI in last November of 2019. Between Jan. 1, 2020 and Dec. 31 of 2020 I lived in five places for at least a month and, including other travel, all total I slept in about 15 different beds.

And, then there’s the pandemic.

Basically what I’m saying is, that is why my numbers are not as complete as I would like them to be. I know that I kept track of my numbers for all the months, but I can’t find where I wrote them down! I only have numbers for seven months, which is SUCH A BUMMER!

Final Numbers

We’ll say that there were 215 days available (in the months that I have data for)

  • Music making = 189 days = 88% (This is the first year of collecting this data)
  • Visual Art/Writing = 150 days = 70% (Down 16% from 2019.)
  • Body/Mind Work = 169 days = 80% (Up 53% from 2019).
  • Skateboarding = Well, this is a sad one. I got 30 days in, in the late spring and early summer, BUT, I broke my shoulder on July 10, 2020 and I have retired from skateboarding.
  • In addition, I started collecting some data on how many days I work on my “business” (that is not my actual teaching.) This is a very new category and I’m still not sure how to keep track of it. I hope to have more conclusive data next year.

Quarterly Focus Words for 2019 (I got this idea from the Being Boss podcast.)

  • Quarter 1 = Nurture
  • Quarter 2 = Patience
  • Quarter 3 = Prepare
  • Quarter 4 = Clarity

Goals for 2021

  • Music-Making – I’d be happy to maintain these numbers. It was so helpful to re-engage with the Dozen a Day piano books. It’s so helpful to have a concrete set of musical exercises to play in the mornings.
  • Visual Art/Writing – I think that this will be stronger in 2021. I am much more confident with my work as a visual artist. And, I’ve found many ways to “break through” in those moments when I am feeling unsure.
  • Body/Mind Work – I mean, I could actually see myself being able to get to 365 days. That would really be something. I wonder. 312 days would be six times a week. 300 days would be 82%. I wonder.

See you next year!

Básquetbol en el Barrio – Theme Song for Basketball in the Barrio Camp

“Campamento que amo yo, donde están mis amigos. Básquetbol en el Barrio. Básquetbol en el Barrio!”

Every year I teach the Music Station at an incredible sports/art/music/community-building camp called Basketball in the Barrio, in Segundo Barrio, El Paso, Texas. We couldn’t hold the camp in 2020, so Coach Denisse Franco and I wrote a theme song which, hopefully, we’ll all be able to sing for camp in 2021.

Give it a listen and we’ll sing it at camp next year!

KB’s Theme – song for my art teacher

I take visual art classes with the most amazing person; Kaye Buchman. Her art classes have moved online and it has been a highlight of the week to meet with her and the other students. I’ve been saying that the pandemic has taught me that, “A good teacher in person is going to be a good teacher online,” and Kye certainly proves that to be true.

Kaye and I always talk music almost as much as we do art, so I wanted to write a theme song for her art studio; KB Studio. Building community is the name of the game at Kaye’s studio, so I was thrilled when one of the other students, Mary Ridley, agreed to sing the song I wrote. Enjoy the music and take a look at if you want to build your visual art practice. She is fantastic.

You can listen to the song right here. And, you can download the notation of the song, here.

The Sticker Method: Creating a Habit of Practice

Available now from Etsy!

This fall I published my latest zine, The Sticker Method: Creating a Habit of Practice. This is a method for taking a lot of the stress that can come with being a learner/do-er out of our lives. I’ve developed the method over my lifetime as both a teacher and a student.

I am a user of The Sticker Method and one of my favorite aspects of it is that the method can be used for anything. If you’ve heard my music, seen my drawings, watched my skateboard videos, or if we’ve talked about developing a habit of going to the gym, then you’ve seen The Sticker Method in action.

What are you going to practice? I’d love to know. Drop me a note at

On Practicing – Sept. 2020

I’ve been playing guitar for a long time. And, I teach a lot of guitar players that haven’t played for very long (comparatively).

Learning to play is a lot of work, and for the most part it’s very solitary work, so “the public” only sees the “finished” product.

As a teacher, I can tell that it is difficult for students (especially adult students) to believe that I have had, and continue to have, all those same challenges that they have. I’m not special, I’ve just been doing it for a long time. The work isn’t any easier, I just know how to do the work.

Here is a short excerpt of a tune I recently wrote. It has a part right in the middle where my fingers need to make a move that they are not familiar with. Now it’s time for me to take my own advice! Slow down. Play with intention. Don’t let your habit take over because your habit doesn’t know it.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played this very short section over the past couple days. Finally, it’s starting to come together.

It’s taken a lot of work. The work is the thing to do.