Author Archives: Anne Russell


12 Dec 18
Anne Russell
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I started with good intentions for the semester. I set myself some hard goals to keep moving forward in the areas I love (see the unfortunately flopped Tea House Trials), but I had some unexpected harder commitments. This is when I started to have trouble getting everything done. But I wouldn’t stop saying yes. 

I started with good intentions for the semester. I set myself some hard goals to keep moving forward in the areas I love (see The Tea House Trials), but I had some unexpected harder commitments. This is when I started to have trouble getting everything done. But I wouldn’t stop saying yes. Several people tried to warn me about doing too much at once. My mom told me to cut out some commitments, but I wanted to stay in everything to be consistent. Some friends told me I wasn’t looking well (not harshly, but worried for my health). I ignored them. 

This revealed a greater heart problem than being too busy. I had the choice to say no to more commitments, to stop working for a while, to rest rather than try to have the best grade. But I chose to say yes to more and more, rather than saying yes for the most important things. When I saw how hard this was, I realized that I wanted satisfaction from what I could do, rather than from Jesus.

This theme was made clear to me in Hebrews.  The book shows how Jesus is above everyone from angels to Moses. It shows how Jesus is highly exalted above all things. Then, Hebrews 13:5 says: Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself [Jesus] has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” If the Lord of all was not enough for me, I was missing His character. When I chose to glorify work rather than God, I was putting my satisfaction in what I could do, rather than the Lord I served. I was worshiping work. 

This is how I want to grow. I want to honor the Lord by saying no to over commitment that harms my health and steals my time from everything else. I want to be satisfied in Jesus, not in what I can do. So moving forward, my prayer is to see Jesus as ever more valuable and satisfying. Work is a gift, but the Lord is the Giver (James 1:16-18). And He is far more satisfying. 


The Great Tutorial Day

07 Aug 18
Anne Russell
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The Tea House Trials 

Pro Tools Tutorial Expectation: I get on the internet. I find several interesting tutorials, about fifteen minutes long each. There are also some longer tutorials, but I save them for later. Armed with these brief bursts of information, I have a short listening session before I go to work.

Pro Tools Tutorial Reality: I get on the internet. There are many tutorials, all at least forty-five minutes long (except for the part-one-of-twelve videos). Realizing that I could make and drink six cups of tea in the amount of time it would take for me to get through one video, I am swamped with information.

The good side of this story is that I found a helpful series of articles on getting started with Pro Tools from Jeff Towne. That is a good enough start for today, and hopefully I’ll be prepared with a kettle for next time. 

Tea of the day: Earl Grey with Jasmine. I may have an Earl Grey obsession. 

Day One: Picking a Song

06 Aug 18
Anne Russell
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The Tea House Trials

I had the first moment of “Oh, I didn’t really think this through all the way, did I?” today. Since I’m working on one song, I actually have to pick a song. I have six completed songs, plus a couple of uncompleted ones. I’ll safely rule out the uncompleted ones to eliminate extra work, and I have one song that I’m using for a collaboration. This leaves me with five songs. 

The first is a song of unrequited love. This song has the most potential for adding other sounds and instruments besides piano/vocals. 

Next, I have a reflection on Psalm 34. This song would need some polishing before recording, but it’s classic. 

I have two songs about songwriting, one funny and one serious. They’re both good options, but I can see myself getting tired of them before the semester is over. 

Finally, I have a song I wrote for my friend who told me about being assaulted. This song is close to my heart, and would be the simplest to produce. 

The biggest choice is probably between my first song (tentatively “Stardust” and the last (which I’m calling “There for You” until I find a better name). The decision will probably come down to whether I want a simpler production with less steps, or a fuller production with some added sounds. 

Today I’ll probably end up researching steps I won’t need until October and socializing with friends to avoid choosing a song.

Tea of the day: 
Earl Grey, a classic. 

The Tea House Trials

05 Aug 18
Anne Russell
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The Tea House Trials

I love music. My biggest experience with writing and producing music was a school project with my friend Tyler, but I mostly wrote and sang for this project, and didn’t do much of the mixing and producing.

Recently, I’ve been writing more music in my spare time. I love writing music, because it gives me a way to express and process ideas that are new or interesting to me. But I have no idea how to get this music from the page and a phone recording to a song that I would be happy to share with my friends and family.

This is the point of the Tea House Trials. For the Fall Semester 2018, I’m going to try to get a song from draft to done, using things I can learn online or from friends, and share the story along the way. Maybe it will all end in tears, but at least there will be lots of tea. 

Edith Piaf – Anne’s Earworms Episode 32

11 Apr 18
Anne Russell
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I first ran into Edith Piaf at the library in the international music section. I wasn’t expecting great things from the music, I just wanted to hear something different than my normal musical genre. I was shocked.

I started with her beautiful song “La Vie en Rose,” and I was instantly absorbed by her passion she has whenever she sings. She applies a constant energy to her music, whether she’s singing a powerful about having no regrets or a comical song about being haunted by a melody (“Padam, Padam”).
A great place to start is her album Eternelle, although a greatest hits album is also nice. I hope you enjoy a little Edith Piaf as much as I did.

How to Read Books for College

27 Jan 18
Anne Russell
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In college, there tends to be a lot of required (or strongly recommended) reading. Whether there are regular reading quizzes, book reviews due, or information for finals, there is always something to read, and being able to do it as efficiently and effectively as possible is important. With that, here are my tips for reading through college-assigned books:

How to Plan for Reading:

Have a plan.

If you have a specific goal and a specific plan to go with it, your process will be far easier than trying to panic-read at the last minute. For example, if you have to read a 10 chapter book and write a 5 page response, and you have 6 weeks, until it’s due, you can break it up this way:

-Week 1. Read first 3 chapters, and make notes.
-Week 2. Read 3 more chapters, and make notes.
-Week 3. Finish book, and make notes on the last few chapters.
-Week 4. Compile your most important thoughts together.
-Week 5. Write your first draft, and get feedback from writing center and/or professor.
-Week 6. Edit and submit.

Compare the above plan to the no-plan version:
-Week 1. Read first chapter.
-Week 2. Do nothing.
-Week 3. Do nothing.
-Week 4. Do nothing.
-Week 5. Realize that the project is due. Do nothing.
-Week 6. Total panic and last minute cramming.

Set a timer.

One of the quickest ways to ruin your reading time is getting distracted. Decide how much time you need to spend on reading, and set a timer for that long. Keep reading until you’re finished, or your timer goes off. During this time, have your phone/social stuff turned off or silenced, and don’t let yourself do anything else. Your focus will be so much stronger, and you’ll find that you get through reading much faster.

Pick some background noise.

If I am in a seperate room from everyone, and just need to filter out weird sounds (say, the dishwasher, distant conversations, tea boiling), I like brown noise or rain sounds. If I’m in the room with other people, I like to do calming music with words to cover the sounds of conversations (typically something by Ella Fitzgerald). You might be different. This is a good time for experimenting. Try some soundtrack music one day, and white noise or something similar the next day. What works best for you? Don’t choose music that you want to start belting whenever you hear it; remember: the point is to be less distracted.

How to Read for Learning:


Read with the end in mind.

This will help with the first tip. If you’re writing a review, think about the main points, and whether or not you agree with them. If you’re writing for a test, think about what might me on said test. Also, pay extra attention to sections that relate to parts of lectures. If your professor talks about a specific composer, and your textbook has a section on that same composer, it may be worth a second read-through.

Take notes as you read.

I will use a pencil and underline important quotes, write in questions or one-sentence thoughts, and other pertinent thoughts (thanks to Amy Crider for getting me started on this one!). Then, when I’m looking back at the book later, I can easily find what I want to talk about.

Underline or circle information or points that line up with your goal (see tip one of this section). With books that have exams coming up, for example, underline or circle important names, dates, and ideas, so that you can find it for studying later. This method saves much pain in the future, even if it seems weird at first.

There you have it. Those are my top tips for reading effectively for college. What are your favorite ways to read more effectively? I would love to hear about them in the comments section!

Fly Me to the Moon – Anne’s Earworms Episode 31

25 Jan 18
Anne Russell
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I love Tony Bennett’s interpretation of “Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words).” He takes a typically peppy song, and makes it sweet and slow. This reflects the lyrics in a fresh way, transforming the song from the breathless romance in Sinatra’s an Buble’s versions to a soulful serenade. It begins with trepidation, but builds into a passionate plea, maintaining both simplicity and a feeling of completeness.

The orchestra is sparse, complementing Tony’s singing without overpowering it, almost as a duet. It contains a touch of saxophone, and a bit of strings, and a little jazzy piano, each one having a simple, slow part. Tony Bennet takes a typical song and makes it unique, which is truly inspiring for any aspiring cover artist or musician. Enjoy!

Daydream Believer – Anne’s Earworms Episode 30

05 Jan 18
Anne Russell
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Thursdays are the longest days. By the time I finish school, my private music lessons, and teaching private lessons, I want nothing more than to go home and sleep. Often, I’m discouraged, and occasionally I’m just hungry.

This Thursday was much the same as many Thursdays. I was tired and ready for home, but the traffic at 5 mostly involved sitting. That’s when I first heard “Daydream Believer.”

The song opens with Davy Jones singing of the troubles of the working person, who must leave fantasies and dreams to go to work. But the songs turns to a celebration of a positive attitude. He chooses to be a daydream believer, who lives life looking forward, rather than dwelling on things that he has to leave or things that he doesn’t have.

This is the way that I want to live. I don’t have to choose between dreaming and living. There are certainly sad things in life, but I don’t want to spend every waking hour dwelling on them and worrying.

Since then, I’ve learned to enjoy the Thursday drive home. Instead of wishing that I was at home, I try to enjoy the time I have sitting. Thursdays are still long, but they don’t have to be discouraging too.

2017: An Honest Evaluation

02 Jan 18
Anne Russell
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I put goals in two categories. Either they are passing successes (only achieved if I complete the goal exactly as I had it written) or they are a total failure. Since I seldom deem anything perfect, my goal evaluations are mostly negative and discouraging.

I don’t want this to happen this year. I want to look at 2017 honestly. I want to enjoy the success and learn from the downfalls. So that’s what I’m going to do today. Here’s how I did on my goals from 2017:


  1. The Reading Challenge. I ended up reading 33 books from the main list, plus 5 from the advanced list (I couldn’t help myself). I learned about some new genres, especially steampunk, found some new favorite authors, and had some laughs about terrible books that I read just for the challenge. I also read some books that didn’t fit on the list, just because I wanted to try them. Overall, the challenge helped me with what I wanted, which was consistent reading even when I was busy and an expanded reading repertoire.
  2. The Writing Challenge. I did not do this well. I think my biggest problem was finding a time to consistently write every day. If I try something like this again, I should figure out a better system before I begin.
  3. Anne’s Earworms. This was a fun way to find new things to write about. Although I only wrote 29 Earworms. I enjoyed trying to find new artists and songs, and finding interesting ways to talk about old ones. I want to keep doing these posts, so I can improve in consistency and in creativity.
  4. The Bible in a Year. I did it! I had to do some catch up days, but I completed the Bible in a year. With this I wanted to prove to myself that I could, to grow closer to God, and to learn more about the Bible. This upcoming year I think I’ll do a different Bible reading plan, but this one was awesome.
  5. Audible. This challenge was an unqualified success. I loved listening to audiobooks, and I found a few series that I listened through. Even now I’m still listening, currently swimming in a fantastic reading of Sherlock Holmes.


Overall, I did well on my goals. I have room to improve, and successes to celebrate, and I’m ready to move on to a few new goals. The biggest problem I had in 2017 was having too many goals to balance, so I’ve decided to cut back from so many year-long goals and try a few quarterly goals. Here are my three goals for January, February, and March of 2018:


  1. Find and complete a new Bible study. Since my school semester is starting up again in a couple weeks, I want to find something to keep me in the Bible even when I get busy.
  2. Read for 20 minutes. 6 days a week. This will help me continue to grow my mind and stay relaxed.
  3. Raise $8,000. I am currently saving money for a study abroad program to Salzburg in the summer, and I’m also saving to stay in college debt-free. Because of this, I’m trying to raise some money by teaching, hosting murder mystery parties, and the like.


What are your 2018 goals? I would love to hear about them in the comments!


The 12 Days of Christmas (Straight No Chaser) – Anne’s Earworms Episode 29

29 Nov 17
Anne Russell
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My dad introduced this song to me several years ago. I love it because it’s clever and unpredictable, but still pleasant to hear. I love A Capella groups, and this adds in an element of fun to a classic holiday song. Enjoy!

The live version:


The non-live version: