Music Education: A New Song

Just got done walking with my old high school friend and her mother, and here I am at Starbucks again–across town from home–for another break. I’ve been trying to coordinate my schedule better in order to fit in regular writing time. When Virginia has guitar and band practice, I either rehearse with my music partner, Craig, or I come here to write. If Craig and I do rehearse that particular day, I make time on the weekend to write instead.

I’m not doing the Miracle Morning exactly as prescribed anymore. The reason is that, as you might remember from a previous blog, I now get up at 4:30 a.m. and am in caring-for-others mode until about 6:30 a.m. However, I do find time to fit in those important components during my morning, and I do not read any news or go on social media until I’ve got myself going in a positive direction. So I definitely find a few minutes to meditate when I can during those 2 hours, or shortly thereafter. For me, meditation does not always mean sitting quietly with my eyes closed, feeling my breath, highly concentrating on listening to myself, etc. (Although I do try to do this a few times a week.) Often I find it to be while I am watering my plants and garden, while the sun comes up and the birds begin calling all over the place. The cheering of the cicadas has begun to die down. So, as I walk around with the hose or watering can, I’m silently enjoying Nature and feeling consciously grateful for all of the good people and things in my life. In the shower as well, I try to gratefully acknowledge the miracle that my body is by thinking of all of the parts and the work they perform so harmoniously so that I can survive another day. I know it sounds hokey–I used to think this, to be sure–but I feel better afterward. When I step out of the shower to dry off and find myself staring into the mirror, I don’t feel as bad about myself. In fact, sometimes I don’t feel bad at all about my body. After all, I’m 42 years old, and I’ve done a fair amount of living. And I’m still here. And, I’m relatively healthy. What’s the point in dwelling on imperfections? Every day, we live a little more and die a little more. It’s better to take a positive approach. And gratitude puts me on that path.

I’m in the happy position of being friends with many working musicians–another situation I’m grateful for. More than 6 years ago, I took Virginia to her first violin lesson. There I met her teacher, another Virginia (who I’ll call Ms. Virginia now), who will probably be reading this very blog at some point. About 4 years ago, I took Tony to his first piano lesson–also with Ms. Virginia. Tony had observed (often passively, while playing with Ms. Virginia’s pups or reading or doing some other activity) our Virginia’s lessons over the years, and one day he said, “I’m ready to start playing music, Mom.” To which I said, “Great! Are you excited to play the violin, or were you thinking the viola like your sister?” And he said, no, that he’d actually like to play the piano.

Fast forward to yesterday. Tony’s piano recital. Our front room packed with friends, family and neighbors, Tony played 12 pieces (some very complicated) from memory. I was so amazed and proud of his accomplishment. He’s gotten so much better through persistence and discipline, and it showed. “He is no longer a beginner,” Ms. Virginia said to the crowd, and I watched his face light up from his bench. We had a wonderful day, listening to him play and celebrating his achievement. I felt it particularly, being a musician, myself. It was like a mama bird watching a baby bird take its first leap from the branch. Tony has played in recitals before, but never until yesterday had he played a full recital by himself. At age 12! I was 16 when I played my first recital, and I shared it with the very friend I walked with this morning, a clarinetist. We split the recital in half and collaborated on one piece–The Shepherd on the Rock (Der Hirt auf dem Felsen) by Schubert. It was a nerve-racking but critically important experience that did me so much good as a musician.

My daughter, Virginia, is still searching along her musical path. She stopped playing her viola (which she studied after beginning on violin) in order to play electric guitar, which she picked up quickly due to her strings experience. Through studying electric guitar, she stumbled into singing when she became part of an alternative band and no one else wanted to sing. She sings all the time now, practices guitar and periodically takes out her viola (as she did yesterday evening) to fiddle around (ha ha). What is important to me is that she cares about her music. It is up to her, at almost 14, to determine what is most important…what she should focus on.

But the reason I brought any of this up was really to go back to Ms. Virginia. Through Ms. Virginia, I met her husband Lyle (a cellist who I had the pleasure of studying with for a while–cello is my favorite instrument…but I decided to focus on acoustic guitar so that I could work up to accompanying myself when performing…I still believe my time spent on cello was a wonderful experience, and that learning other instruments will likely be one of my favorite pastimes throughout my life). I also met Lyle’s father, Pop. These three are some of my favorite people in the whole world. ūüôā

But back to Ms. Virginia. Through her, I met this special friend, Rebecca, a singer-songwriter violinist (guitarist, uke player, etc.). Through Rebecca, I was reunited with several friends from the arts program I attended in high school: her husband Jeremy, LaRue, and Jamie.

Also, I have music friends connected to my dear old friend Chad (he is not old–I just mean he is an old friend, ha ha). Chad is a drummer and we met at work years ago when he was studying piano. He accompanied me for a while which was great fun. He’s been in several bands, so I made friends of those members, and Chad and I were also in a special music project for a while, so I connected with these folks as well. Through Chad I met Shawn, who recorded our music, and then Shawn and I became music partners and created an EP together with some good original music that we co-wrote and Shawn produced. That was my first experience in writing melody and lyrics.

Some years later, I partnered with Craig and he and I have written some gorgeous songs. We’re a lot more acoustic than Shawn and I were–mainly because Shawn was a producer and Craig is not–his strength is in his playing. He’s been playing guitar (and uke, banjo, mandolin, etc.) for 40 years. Both men are highly gifted songwriters. So, basically, I’ve been blessed in the partner department–although of course there are always ups and downs as there will be in any meaningful relationship/partnership in life.

Because of my main occupation as a homeschooling mom, or some may refer to me as a stay-at-home mom or a homemaker, I cannot devote as much energy to music as my full-time working musician friends. But I feel super blessed to be able to work with Craig and create beautiful music that others enjoy whenever we play out. And I love to practice my guitar and uke, and of course, to sing. Singing is my strength, and I do pick up a vocal student here and there, who wishes to explore singing and learn basic music theory.

I’ve realized over the last several years, though, that I want to do more as a musician. I began singing backup vocal harmonies for Rebecca as needed and then Jeremy asked me to become part of a very cool band he was putting together. This was super great stuff because it provided me experience working (literally, for money or other payment) as well as more contact with other musicians. I met more musicians in Rebecca’s band as well as Jeremy’s. It’s helped me learn a lot more about how musicians conduct their lives in order to do something they love. And, not surprisingly, it’s very tough. They must be careful in choosing what jobs to take, spend time marketing themselves, entering into contracts, hauling equipment all over the place, putting wear-and-tear on their cars as they travel great distances to gigs. And of course they must practice so that they put on a good performance. Many of them must teach as well in order to get by. But this has been the way of the world for musicians throughout time.

Some months ago I felt there should be a course for children so that they could gain an appreciation of music. A sort of mixing bowl of music that would contain fundamentals of music theory, music history and elements of performance. It wouldn’t be a dull class or program. (You can’t lecture to kids for very long…you just can’t. You can’t lecture to adults for very long these days, either!) It would be engaging. There would be some lecture, to be sure, but also some fun videos, and hands-on activities. For example, when we study Gregorian Chant or Plainchant, we would create our own hand-drawn chants on scrolls that we would decorate with gold and silver paint, just like the monks did. When we study Ancient music, we would make Egyptian sistrums out of wire hangers, duct tape, and shims or buttons. We would engage in activities to help these children better absorb music theory terminology, such as sitting in a circle and tossing a ball back and forth from student to student, and whoever catches the ball draws a card and must identify the term. It’s a fun and humorous activity that I’ve used before, and it really keeps participants engaged and alert. Since we would be spending chunks of time listening to music from throughout music history (which would be separated into eras, of course) in order to learn the nuances of those eras/styles, another great game is to play a super short clip of a piece–perhaps 3 or 4 seconds–and see which student can guess the musical era or style first. A more challenging game (for a more advanced class or perhaps down the line) would be to see who can guess the composer or name of the piece, based on all of our listening (as well as perhaps a Dropbox if they want to listen in their spare time while they are doing other things). Because we will spend time listening, I would make tea or hot cocoa, which we could enjoy. No one really slows down these days, but true music listening entails just that. We must slow down, stop, close our eyes, and savor the sounds. The more we do this, we begin to really detect what is transpiring beneath the layers. With practice, we develop the ability to pick out the percussion line. We can hear the different instruments. We can differentiate the flute from the oboe, and the oboe from the bassoon. We know which is cello, and which is bass. We might even figure out which line those violas were playing–not an easy task. (It’s like an auditory Where’s Waldo, actually.) We can listen to much older instruments, Ancient instruments that are still being played today around the world, and compare their sound to the more familiar sound of their descendants. How have these instruments changed? Why were those changes made? How do these musicians make their livings? What does music mean in various cultures? There are just a million directions to go. And in the right class, one where creativity is fostered and encouraged, this is one of the most wondrous things.

So I began to put together this class, and, I’ve got to tell you, it’s so fascinating. Much of the material I haven’t studied in decades, and back then it was just a class I was taking in high school or college. A class I was trying to pass with a decent grade that wasn’t conducted in an interesting manner. Mainly lecture and listening while we high school students chugged Coke clandestinely to stay awake or, as college students, hung onto our coffee mugs for dear life. There was just no attention paid to actually engaging a student’s mind, which is probably the most critical element of teaching, when you think about it. The average child or adult isn’t going to receive a good education if they are bored to tears. So I think, as teachers, we must not only reach out to students–we must TRULY REACH our student. And this sometimes means getting their hands dirty. By which I mean, getting their hands into or onto what we are trying to teach them. Engaging the senses is key. I would bring my musical instruments in for them to handle. We would play a little on them. We would do some sightsinging, ear-training, write our own basic compositions–perhaps collaborative at the start, and then they might write their own. A class that provides such a rich foundation (by engaging senses), that the students cannot help being interested in music. And perhaps they become a better singer or instrumentalist. Or, perhaps they begin an instrument. Or, perhaps they just come away with a better appreciation for what they are hearing on the radio. Perhaps they begin to vary their listening. Perhaps they become more open to music from other areas of the world. Perhaps they not only sing along, but begin to understand how those musicians created that song, and all the work that went into it.

In short, they take what they have learned, and write their own song.

I find that, after so many years of being involved in music, I’m still writing my own song. Will it ever be finished?Probably not. Not so long as there are recitals and friendships and hugs and love and death and poverty and longing and bills and strife and shouting and tears and smiles and pets and flowers and WiFi. To me, it is all music. No, I think my song, and probably everyone’s song is and always was, and always will be.

And that’s probably the world’s best composition.




Manic Morning

It’s 7:38 p.m. and this post comes to you courtesy of Starbucks. God bless them for providing free WiFi. My daughter is down the street at band practice, and because my music partner and I played out on Monday, we are not rehearsing this evening. So I finally get a BREAK today. Yippee!

So, here’s how my day goes. I get up at 4:30 a.m. (well, not really…I wake up several times a night and squint at my clock because I can’t set the alarm for 4:30 a.m. because that would wake my husband, who rises at 5:30 a.m….and I wear earplugs because we have a roommate who keeps later hours than we do, and hearing him meander around the kitchen right outside our bedroom and use our bathroom…CONNECTED to our bedroom…and shower ABOVE our bedroom is just way too much for this incredibly light sleeper. In the words of Mr. Spouse, “A fly sneezes and you’re awake.” So, yeah…I listen THROUGH EARPLUGS for the whoosh of the shower at 4:33 a.m. and then hop out of bed to start my day. I throw on my robe, dash out to the kitchen, make sure the coffee is brewing (2 days ago my daughter and I had a scare when we walked into the kitchen and there was NO COFFEE…we simultaneously threw our hands up and hurriedly fixed the problem, madly pantomiming throughout), grab¬†my daughter’s¬†snacks for the day from the fridge and shove them into the correct backpack (that’s right – because¬†this high school freshman¬†needs TWO backpacks…one for the day she attends “A” classes, and another for the day she attends “B” classes), and begin prepping¬†Mr. Spouse’s¬†breakfast: our home-fermented death juice (otherwise known as Fire Cider), vitamin D, fish oil; grab coffee mug for his¬†coffee I will pour just as we are about to dash out to the bus stop 5 minutes before he rises; fruit, 1 home-fermented vegetable from one of several jars in our fridge, and instead of one of his usual homemade soups, this morning I leave instructions for him to retrieve the jar of¬†whole milk yogurt¬†(from a nearby Tampa farm–score!) mixed with plump¬†chia seeds and bananas that I left in the fridge late last night and drizzle with raw honey, sprinkle walnuts I have chopped…yummo, can’t wait to enjoy some, myself).

Exchange¬†a few of the usual words with my daughter as she sips her¬†sock monkey mug of coffee which she won’t finish and I will soon inherit. The words consist of “tired,” “so exhausted,” and a few random “ugh”s. We also joke about something that now escapes me entirely (an all-too-common occurrence), and whisper laugh because she is sipping coffee at the time and snorts. Then I have her go upstairs to brush her teeth, which she does, and I prepare her travel¬†coffee, feed the cats who¬†burst from the laundry room¬†like the starving captives they were, and pour¬†Mr.Spouse’s¬†hot coffee.

“Are you wearing pants?” asks my daughter as we make our way to the door.

“Of course I am! These shorts are¬†just really short under this robe. They’re bedtime shorts.”

“Christ,” she says, rolling her eyes.

“Leave Christ out of it,” I say. More eyerolls. I, and probably countless other parents, could make hilarious GIFs out of my daughter’s various eyerolls. (Actually, they probably already did that. I’m always the last to think of these things.)

“Is my phone in my bag?” she asks.

“It is.”

We roll to the bus stop.

We sit in the dark car a few minutes until we spot her new friend (who wakes at 3:30!)¬†riding our way down the street. The friend has a nice bright headlight on her bike. She must lock her bike to¬†a street sign¬†until they return¬†in the mid-afternoon. My daughter’s face lights up¬†and she gathers her things.


“I love you,” I say.

“You, too.”

And she’s off.

Back at home, Mr. Spouse sits in his seat munching and crunching his yogurt.

“How do you like that?” I asked.

“Taste-uh pret-ty gooood,” he says, using his funny Italian accent that he only does at home. It’s early and so he can still be a tiny bit silly. Often by evening his mouth is a tight line, but he is lighthearted in the morning, which is lovely.

We have our breakfast together silently, he showers and dresses while I clean up breakfast and pack up his lunch. He kisses me goodbye and is on his way. It’s 6:35. I’m still cleaning up and turn my attention to our turtle, day gecko (and insects in the habitat–crickets and beetles as well as larvae boring up through the soil after I sprinkle it with water…I drop a few pieces of watermelon into the terrarium and stare, enraptured, as the insects find each piece…I make internal bets on which cricket or beetle will find each piece first…I lean in closely to observe them as they eat…okay, okay, I’ve killed 5 minutes doing this…I spray more water around, taking care to include the tube in the corner where a frog has been living for several years…once or twice we’ve caught him in the water bowl in the middle of the night, but he quickly hopped back into his tube to hide). I pull 4 huge leaves of Romaine lettuce off the head, pit 4 cherries, and bring these items outside. I drop them into our tortoise Jerry’s enclosure. He hasn’t emerged yet.

“Good morning, Jerry,” I coo in my animal baby voice. “Breakfast is served.”¬†I kneel down in the enclosure, which is about 5 feet by 3 feet, and peer under the roof. There he is, staring me down as only a tortoise can, “Go away so I can eat,” the stare says. “And please stop using that high voice. It’s too early.”

I run back into the house, throw on some clothes, greet my 12-year-old boy who begs to use my bathroom because the roommate is in his. I say of course, and that I am going to take my walk, and he can do his reading, then practice piano afterward if I am not back yet. (He has a piano recital this Saturday at our house. Eek!)

AND…I was going to write the rest of my day, but now I must leave to pick up my daughter. BLAST!

I was just getting started.

Hopefully I’ll get another break soon. ūüôā




Love, Uncategorized

Sleeping with the enemy

I’m blogging at 6:30 a.m. because it’s been getting away from me. But other than that, I’ve achieved most of my daily goals. Because I now get up around 4:30 a.m. with my daughter, I’m able to do my Miracle Morning. Of course, that routine will somewhat change tomorrow, the first day of school, because I’ll need to run her to the bus stop and wait with her a bit. But I’m sure I’ll be able to get everything done at least shortly after my husband leaves.

To recap, here are Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning¬†Life SAVERS, which may be done in your own desired order:

S: Silence (meditation, prayer)

A: Affirmations (from internet is fine, but writing out your personalized Affirmations and speaking them daily works best)

V: Visualization (vision board, images from web, silent contemplation of images of what you want in your head…whatever works)

E: Exercise (it needn’t be a long session…perhaps a brisk walk, a few minutes of pushups, jumping jacks, etc.)

R: Reading (self-improvement, self-help, soul-nourishing, etc.)

S: Scribing (writing in your journal or on a blog, for ex.)

I’ve been writing in my journal daily, which has helped me goal-wise, because writing the goal (I also speak it) helps to really put it into my head. I’m talking about daily goals such as writing on my blog, practicing my guitar/uke, working on songwriting, as well as other daily chores that I’ve been meaning to get to.

When I read my affirmations daily (aloud), that also really helps me to be more serious about the steps I must take to achieve those goals.

I’m so glad I got away from Facebook–a platform that has been absolutely no help to me in actually achieving anything. The pull of it is unreal for me. My soul partner, Alicia, and I have been discussing it recently. I can’t believe the amount of time¬†I¬†frittered away on it. All of the mindless, fruitless scrolling all throughout my day–I imagine the minutes added up to hours. I used it as¬†an escape from real life and found myself¬†sucked into a lot of drama and¬†nonsense, which negatively affected me and¬†bled into my day and relationships.¬†Not that I actually noticed–I was asleep at the wheel.¬†Facebook is like¬†my drug, and my friend is¬†correct in her assertion that one day it will fall, just like so many other platforms before it have. The perception that so many people hold, that “I need Facebook for ________, or else I wouldn’t use it, either,” is exactly what Facebook wants. So long as people¬†have convinced themselves that¬†they cannot function without it, Facebook’s profit margins will continue to grow while¬†its users’ human potential is simultaneously diminished by a steady stream of virtual, tabloidish heroin, which, sadly, they, themselves,¬†continue to¬†contribute to, minute by minute. Valuable time wasted, day in and day out…while running around, saying, “I’m too busy,” or “I just don’t have time,” etc. I know very well. This was my life.

When I think of the harmful content, I’m talking about spreading false information in order to stir up a frenzy, sharing nasty memes, poking fun at everything under the sun, and the need to constantly share photos of what we are doing (only the positive, most flattering ones, of course). Also using Facebook as a place to rant about our most personal struggles rather than turning to someone like¬†a trusted friend or family member. Someone who actually knows the real us and knows what we need–not the fake us we are putting out there to strangers.

I’ve got nothing against social media–heck, I’m typing on a blog right now. I think connecting with others is a great thing, and so many¬†innovations in technology have improved our lives. I think of it often. When I’m using GPS technology, for example, (never get lost again, yeah!)¬†or when I’m talking with my friend D, who lives in England. I¬†had real penpals when I was a kid, and I wrote letters and waited excitedly for those written replies. The international stamps! This was before the internet or cell phones. Now, my friend in his country and I in my country can communicate instantaneously. It’s amazing, and so many doors have been opened. And thank goodness it has helped expose inequalities and corruption in some important areas.

But, at the same time, there’s the¬†negative side of innovation. The side we must use our own¬†reason to guard against. A side that seems to be gradually eroding humanity by desensitizing us, making us lazy¬†and flooding our brains with unhelpful, often harmful information.¬†This negative side is leading to (not just contributing to, in my opinion) some detrimental things like increased rates in the areas of¬†obesity (we can’t just keep blaming the food industry for our lack of activity…i.e., social media, video games) and depression. Even suicide. When I was a teen, getting broken up with was very tough to deal with. I cried to my guidance counselor about it. I still remember. But today, teens are broken up with and it’s all over social media with Instagram photos of new paramours (sometimes the same day) to boot. Not to mention the nasty cyberbullying.¬†I can’t imagine how I would have handled such things when I was a kid.

Anyway, now you know the reasons I’m happy to have gotten away from Facebook and why I think it’s overall a bad thing. For some, it is manageable and a great way to connect to others. But for many others, that’s just not the case. Personally, I’ve decided I can succeed in life without Facebook. I think all we can do is decide what’s best for ourselves based upon our own behavior and experience. I’m grateful that by taking small¬†steps every day to improve my life and work toward goals, that¬†I’ve¬†experienced an awakening. Here’s hoping that I don’t fall asleep again.







Love, Uncategorized

Middle-aged Meltdown

A few days ago, I was looking for something on this laptop and clicked on a folder which contained a lot of pictures I had downloaded from my phone. The pictures were from about two years ago, and some as recent as less than one year ago. As my daughter and I clicked through them, she made many comments about her appearance (a few positive, but mostly derisive because she has now decided that she¬†looked “ridiculous” in certain style or clothes choices…although I always admired those choices, mostly borne out of her independent, creative spirit, which I very much hope she doesn’t lose in starting high school).

I couldn’t help but notice that I looked SO MUCH YOUNGER in these photos, and I kept wondering to myself, what on earth had happened to me?

I understand that I’m moderately heavier than some of the pictures, and perhaps not in as good of shape (although I’m not sure I was even going to the gym during these timeframes…I’m now going regularly, and feeling better and better). Also, I used to dye my hair back then, so this was the period after I was no longer lightening it to blonde, but coloring it dark brown to cover that bleaching as my natural color (light brown) was growing out. My hair is now a light brown color, and I have tiny bits of gray coming in that are mostly noticeable by me when I peer closely into the mirror with my forehead nearly stuck to it. They’re there for sure.

My hair doesn’t have the same silky sheen that it did when I paid to color it, and I’m reminded of a blog entry I did some years back all about how important it was to me to stop dying my hair and to allow myself to be authentic and age naturally. Several of my female friends said something along the lines of, “You’ll want to cover it up, too, when you have lots of gray. Then you’ll understand!”

I think I’m beginning to understand. I tried to verbalize to my husband how I felt about realizing I suddenly seemed to look a lot older–as if I had aged a significant number of years in 2 years–and he essentially empathized and said he’d come to the same realization, and we must simply accept the fact that we’re old now.

This didn’t sit well with me, but I bottled. I feel that I don’t need to lie about my age or feel bad about aging, but that perhaps I need to do a few things to feel better about myself. I’m already back to working out, which is great, and eating clean. I rarely eat poorly or drink alcohol, and I don’t smoke. I’m now doing a short meditation daily, speaking personalized¬†affirmations, spending a short time on visualizations concerning goals, practicing gratitude, reading self-improvement books and writing more.

But, still, this did not stop me from having a meltdown the other day while driving to the gym with my daughter. Since I had seen the pictures, things had gone downhill in my daily life. It just seemed a dark gray cloud over everything. Instead of being happy to spend time with my husband, I was argumentative with him over petty things. I was passive-aggressive in my behavior toward him, which was really not warranted. I wasn’t genuine in addressing the things that bothered me openly with him. I was letting my “old self” feelings ruin everything.

So, in the car, after arguing with him over flowers versus food-producing plants, I had the meltdown while driving. My daughter consoled me, which was amazing because she has also been very put out with me over typical teenager things like my not allowing her to suddenly have her hair cut into a Mohawk several days before high school starts, and my not properly understanding (although I actually understand it quite well–it’s just not her teenaged version of understanding) her position in friend drama.

I believe I said something along the lines of, “I feel like nothing but a fat, stupid, old, wrinkly, worthless, matronly hag¬†who does nothing but keep house,” while tears streamed everywhere. My daughter was sweet and warned me that driving this way could cause a car accident.¬†And that none of what I had said was actually true. I was just feeling bad about myself. She added that I don’t look so much older as I feel I do, and that I just needed some new things.

I wear my clothes to death, so I’ve realized, all at once, that I need socks, bras, underwear, pants and tops. Also a few dresses. And a bathing suit. And I’d love to color my hair but I was trying SO HARD to “be me,” with what may be a misguided sense of virtue. I was trying to be authentic all this time by not doing things I had done, that made me feel good in the past. Also, I’ve tried very hard to be smarter with money since we had the job loss last August. We’re not making as much money as we were, so it was critical that I begin to really take better care in spending.

So, here I am. A raggedy matron. “I’ll bet a criminal wouldn’t even think of robbing me because I look so poor,” I whined.

My daughter’s answer is to buy all new things and dye my hair.

I’m not really sure what the answer is to feeling comfortable with aging (without breaking one’s pocketbook). I feel like it’s more complex. I’m embarrassed that I even feel the way that I do about myself after all the time I’ve spent trying to “be real” about feelings, and especially since I’ve been back on track.

But I realize it takes patience when we are making changes. And I need to try to be gentle with myself. I realized after some reflection on the meltdown, that I had forgotten to do my gratitude exercise that morning. I’m not sure if that contributed or not, but I’ve found that doing that exercise really shapes my day in such a positive way.

I’m hoping to find a way to get through this. I don’t want to be a vain person, but at the same time, I want to be happy with me. I’ll have to ask myself the question why I’m not¬†and try to get to the root of it all, I suppose.

On a positive note (literally), I saw a local opera company perform yesterday. Many of the singers are amateurs and studying with a very experienced teacher. My daughter, who went along, thinks I should join this group. It would definitely improve my singing in the area of opera, and looks like it would be a lot of fun. I’m not sure how much those vocal lessons would cost, but I may look into it. There was no question that my voice would fit very well into their group.


Little by little

I’m just going to write about whatever I’m thinking about on my blog instead of feeling like I need some specific aim. Although I am focusing on several things in my personal life, I find that, more often than not, I’m an archeress with no bull’s eye. No target. My arrows fly up and down or zigzag to and fro in unknown directions–some never to be seen again.

Today is a rainy, gloomy day. Earlier it seemed great weather for mowing the lawn and, since ours is out of control due to recent storms, I looked forward to it. According to my fitness app, which sends me reminders throughout the day, mowing the lawn would have fulfilled my “activity goal” for the day. I love to listen to podcasts about history or wellness when I work out in the yard. Work hard, sweat, make things look tidier,¬†and learn something new simultaneously. But today it isn’t meant to be.

I’m feeling tired today, and now it is pouring.¬†Huge¬†slashes of rain are¬†gashing¬†through the plant bed just outside my window, and thunder rumbles that there is more to come. I must have been insane to agree to get up at 4:30 a.m. to help my daughter adjust to early rising. Honestly, it’s only 1 hour earlier than I normally wake up–I didn’t think it would be much of a change¬†for me. But yesterday and today, I’ve felt exhausted. I’m definitely thinking of brewing some coffee. My daughter’s school bus will pick her up at 5:44 a.m. beginning next Thursday. She feels she needs an hour in order to get her “wings” right. (For those of you as clueless as I about makeup terminology, “wings” are thick lines of eyeliner curved outward from the eyelid. They are striking to look at, but difficult to draw on properly.)

I think I may have been this way in high school about makeup as well, for a while at least. Then I gave up and mostly dozed on the school bus on those dark mornings. It was just as long a sleepy drive for me because I am a graduate of the same Performing Arts program my daughter is beginning, and the same high school.

We’ve had a nice summer, though. A trip for each of the kids with one of us, fun at movies and the mall, concerts, hanging out with friends, etc.¬†It will be good for everyone to get back into a school routine. For my daughter, high school will be dramatically different than being homeschooled. But she’s strong and tough, has a good personality, a lovely smile,¬†and has grown so tall. She¬†is quietly statuesque and carries herself with a certain confidence, which¬†leads many to believe she is older than she is.¬†So my problems are just beginning, basically. Ha ha.

My son is doing his best to excel in laziness as I type this. He will have to help with chores shortly but is so troubled by the exertion of emptying out a drawer, wiping out the drawer, sorting its contents, and putting the items back in. This sounds suspiciously challenging¬† to the boy, and cuts right into the important time he is spending on his Harry Potter DVD marathon. “And these are from the library so we only have them for so long, you know…”

My dear husband attended a class this past weekend all about medicinal herbs and how to make various tinctures, tisanes, etc. Which ones you can grow (and where)¬†and eat, and¬†the many¬†health¬†benefits plants provide. He’s been in an excellent mood since, which just¬†demonstrates how important self-care and self-nurturing is. He spends so much time working and taking care of us (which I know he loves doing–the cooking and gardening parts, anyway) that I realized recently¬†that he hadn’t done anything personally enriching in years. He had become buried by his own industry. It’s been fun watching him these past few days as he continues to research everything he learned about.¬†Quietly observing¬†the studious wonder has been such a delight.

As for me, I go day by day looking after the children, our home and our pets. I enjoy time spent practicing with my guitar or ukulele, and I may soon have the pleasure of taking ukulele lessons with a young musician I greatly admire. It’s so nice to accompany oneself when needed. I work on developing¬†my music class–I start teaching some 9-11-year-olds in September. There’s just so much fascinating material, but crafts and interesting activities are needed. Lectures aren’t going to fly with 9-11-year-olds, no siree. I also need a new boombox. Do they make those anymore? Perhaps just a decent Bluetooth¬†wireless speaker. I shuttle children hither and thither–there are important lessons and meetings that must be attended. I sometimes think I really should have found a way to complete my music degree (I changed majors and graduated with my BA in English) because then it would be so much easier to be employed as a music teacher. But then I think to myself, would I really want that much of a commitment? Full-time? No. It’s just too much. Not to mention, the public school system, I’d want no part of it unless it was a specialized magnet program. Part-time is so much better for me and my family.¬†I still am a musician. I do practice with my partner, go around and perform. I enjoy it. I don’t have as much time for it as I would like, but, then again, I wouldn’t like to sacrifice more of my at-home-with-kids time or the time I spend on the many other things I am doing. And I have just enough time to enjoy some reading, podcasts and music listening as well.

So, in the end, it seems I already¬†have the perfect life for me. I get to homeschool my son every day¬†(starting next Thursday…but, gosh, we’ll miss his big sister), be available for my daughter in the mornings¬†(like her tired self will be thinking “breakfast” or anything clearly at that hour…we’ll drive¬†on over to¬†the dark¬†bus stop–a few steps from the grave of a baby who died in the 1800s…she used to drop flowers at its headstone in strange fascination at age 9 or so…we’ll be clutching those coffee mugs like a couple of¬†caffeinated zombies). In afternoons if she needs me, I can help her out, shuttle¬†her and her brother¬†to and from lessons and rehearsals, keep house (I really enjoy cleaning and, as I mentioned earlier, outdoor yard maintenance), rehearse, perform, brew kombucha, cook, and write. I can also bring my mom to her doctor appointments while she cannot drive after her foot surgery. I can be the nurturer to the one who first nurtured me. I can be everyone’s emergency contact. Like they’ll call ME…ha ha. They won’t. No, now that I said that, they totally will. It’s actually a wonderful life. It’s funny how often we don’t see the forest for the trees. (By “we”, I mean me, of course.) “If it ain’t broke…”

Okay, I’d better go brew that coffee now. I’m lost in Clicheville. ūüôā


Checking it off my list

Who knew I could go so very long without updating my blog? There have been countless times I’ve thought of writing, but I haven’t. I’ll go into the reasons why, but begin by saying that I’ve finally excavated myself from that pit, so I don’t want to dwell too long and bring myself down.

It¬†all started around the time of our last US Presidential election cycle.¬†Things get really bad on¬†social media here in the US when it comes to the US Presidential election.¬†Many people who spend the majority of their lives being kind and caring, become¬†very different during this time. This happens to myself as well (although I consider myself to be reacting to¬†the onslaught of negativity being thrust upon myself). I’ve¬†long felt that our¬†right to think,¬†develop our own opinions, and express ourselves freely are the foundation of what is right in America. But at the time of a US Presidential election, this all goes out the window the moment someone expresses an opinion different from his or her fellow American. Then there is so much generalizing, so much attacking, so much hatred. It’s emotionally exhausting. I spent countless hours researching information in developing my opinions, which do not entirely match those of friends and family nearest and dearest to me. I learned that if I am not a “sheep,” the sheep transform into wolves and want to eat me (or anyone who disagrees) alive by accusing ME of hate. There is no rational discussion because analytical thought seems impossible, or perhaps many people are just too lazy to give it a try, anymore. It’s easier to join in with one’s friends where one feels accepted and good than it is to isolate oneself based on certain principles.

So, in the end, I essentially refused to “play the game” and vote on a particular team. I now know that being an independent thinker is utterly useless in our political system. One may only gain power by being a sheep — a Republican or a Democrat. Being a Libertarian is utterly useless. (I am a Libertarian, who is thinking of switching to Independent, but I also realize this is useless, so why trouble myself?) I don’t agree with everything Republicans espouse (though I do agree with a great deal) or Democrats espouse (thought I do agree on several key components), which is why I always come out as an Independent when I take political quizzes. I used to care about what I was politically, but I no longer do. I see now that politics is mostly a giant waste of my time.

I prefer to spend my time doing the things I care about and trying to develop myself into a better mother, wife, musician, teacher, writer (ha ha! starting today, anyway!) and person. I believe that if I devote my energies to specific¬†personal¬†goals–which I have been over the last several weeks, rather than being my typical scatterbrained mess–the good and important things will happen. And, invariably, none will involve politics.

Now that I’ve turned off my Facebook account–well, I did totally deactivate it but then I realized that, as an instructor, I will need access because Admin and parents will contact me…also music contacts–I’m feeling so much better. I only sign on now if I receive an important notification that someone is trying to reach me, or if I really need to share a piece of information. (I used to share all the time, but was it really needed? Uh-uh.) I’m taking way less photos which showed me that I cared more about sharing them than taking them. Which showed me my ego was an issue. I’m so much more present now, and I’m actually working every day on myself, which is almost a miracle.

Speaking of which, I highly recommend The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. It is his method that is helping me to improve myself and see the light that is still within me, that I personally allowed to be dimmed by a bunch of overwhelming nonsense that has absolutely nothing to do with me.  My new, very deliberate Miracle Morning routine has helped me get back to developing myself and well on the way to achieving my goals.

So that’s about all I have for the moment–my family is¬†about to dash out the door to enjoy a minor league baseball game with friends. I’m so happy. I know this wasn’t the best blog post, but I put it on my list of goals to achieve today, and I finally did it. I’ve been saying for weeks that I wanted to get back to blogging, and now¬†I have.

I’m checking this off the list now, Hal. Aren’t you proud?


The Mess That Heals You

I’m enjoying my (black! undoctored-up!) coffee this morning and internally planning my day. My children are still sleeping. My husband is away on a business trip. My pets have either gone outside, or are mute. Aside from the gentle whirring of the dishwasher, the periodic shaking of a ceiling fan, and the continuous ¬†pouring of water from our turtle’s waterfall across the room, it is quiet. Which means, I suppose, it isn’t actually quiet. But it’s peaceful in my home.

I was thinking about how when you are plodding along through life, and everything is going right, that can be a great thing. It usually means, to me, that a person is really doing a lot of what works in her own Universe. The planets seem to align, so to speak, in response to that person’s actions, wishes, direction.

Yet when we are in a mess, whether it be a deep one of our own making or we are being tossed around in the whirlwind of someone else’s turmoil…or, as we all know, many messes are jointly made, so maybe it’s a shared mess…we learn our most valuable lessons from cleaning up that mess. What caused it? Can it be prevented in the future, or at least minimized?

I’ve been involved in countless messes in my 41 years. Too many to go into here, really.

Many say that weight gain is simply a symptom of other life issues that run deeper. I think that sometimes that is true and has applied in my own life. But the hard part is how much more effort it takes to reduce body weight as I get older…being more limited in certain activities.

Now I’m sure there are many people out there that would say, You can do anything, Barb! Don’t limit yourself like that. Just put it out there into the Universe and it will happen!

I used to have this exact mentality. The fact is, the Universe cannot heal certain physical ailments. And as one ages, one needs to adjust certain things accordingly.

The biggest adjustment for me is being more careful about my knees. Minimizing running and impact to my knees. Being careful with squats and lunges. But, at the same time, it’s critical to increase lean mass in those supportive quadriceps and hamstrings. Also lose weight which will reduce pressure on those joints.

I’ve got a slowing metabolism working against me.

It’s so important that my diet is improved because THAT is really the key to so much of what I need to accomplish in order to lose weight, get stronger, look and feel better. And as I’ve preached so often on this blog, the results feed all of my relationships positively.

I’m on Day 3 and I’ve done really well the past 2 days, meeting my goals.

Today I’ll continue decluttering my mess, and I’m feeling positive about it. But it needs to be addressed and thought about every day. It really can’t be swept away anymore, or minimized. My health and myself are too important to neglect any longer.