Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 31, 2013: Happy Easter!


Wow, what a weekend.

Providence story of the day...

Yesterday morning, we attended our church's annual pancake breakfast and easter egg hunt.  It was great fun to watch Julian partake in his first easter egg hunt.  He picked up on the concept pretty well with a little guidance and encouragement.  The funny part was later in the day when he was feeding me hershey's eggs.  He would give me an egg, I'd unwrap it and eat it, and he'd get MAD.  Come to find out that earlier in the day, he would do the same thing to Ali, but she would unwrap it and feed it to HIM!  LOL...  DAAAAD, THAT WAS MIIIINE!!! That was pretty much what the tantrum read.  Oops!

However, here's where the Providence story kicks in...

On our way home, kind of out of the blue, I ask Ang if she doesn't mind if I take us on a drive through some really pretty historic neighborhoods in nearby Santa Ana that I dream about living in someday.  They are called Floral Park, West Floral Park, Morrison Park, and Fisher Park for those locals.  Really pretty older homes in neighborhoods with really big shade trees that remind me of "Anytown USA" more so than southern California.   Anyhow, she agrees, and we take a good sized detour to visit this part of town.

Within just a few blocks of turning into the first neighborhood, we spot not one, but TWO tiny dogs running off leash across the street ahead of us. "Uh oh," comes out of both of our mouths at the same time.

*Back Story* Ang and I used to be foster dog parents for a wonderful rescue group called Paw Placement in Phoenix, AZ.  In fact, I think we were their first dog foster parents right when they were starting out.  We LOVED the work, and since it was before kids, we had the space in our schedules and our home to accommodate rescue dogs.  We fostered something like 15 dogs before we moved to CA, so rescuing dogs is near and dear to our hearts.

So, without even discussing it with each other or telling the two kids in the back what we are about to do, we immediately went into rescue mode.  I rolled up past them.  They were two smallllll puppies that looked like chihuahua mixes with no collars on the full trot with tails between their legs, looking and running frantic.  We drove by them and up the street looking to see if anyone was chasing them on foot... nothing.  Then we doubled back and dropped Ang on foot to see if they were approachable.  We were one block from a busy 5 lane street that we didn't want to see them reach.  Then, I drove past them, pulled over, and got out to essentially "corner them" on one block.  Luckily, there was a house that blocked their escape to one side.  We slowly started talking to them and started at about 20 feet from each of them, and after about 10 minutes, slowly got closer to them.  By now, one had trapped himself in a little retaining box next to a basement window, and the other was just laying down in a corner next to the house and the back yard fence.  We tried calling animal rescue, but no one would come.  We sat there, just a few feet away from these guys, with the kids still in the car, and I finally said, "What are we DOING here????"  The dogs were clearly puppies... tiny, scared, and tired.

"We just can't LEAVE 'em."  I said, to which Ang agreed.  So, I just gently kept talking to my guy and eventually sat down next to him for a while, and then I gently went in and scooped him up.  He was putty in my arms immediately!  I encouraged Ang to go in and pick up the other guy, and sure enough, he was putty in her arms immediately as well.  They were pooped out.

So, there we were, in Morrison Park, holding two stray puppies who were the CUTEST little things...
We drove around the neighborhood to see if anyone was out looking.  Nope.  We even talked with one of the neighbors who saw the whole thing go down.  Nope.  We certainly weren't bringing them to a nearby shelter, so before you knew it, we're driving home with a puppy in each of our laps.

I laughed at one point, looking at the sky, and said to Ang, "Apparently THIS was why we came to Morrison Park today?!?"  A half hour later, I'm at our vet's office.  No tags, no chips, not neutered, fleas, puppy teeth, and a nice coat of DIRT.  The ladies at the vet were so sweet; the vet was gone for the day, so they hooked me up with free samples of puppy food and even split the fee for the flea treatment between them!    How nice is that?  Ang gave 'em baths, and now they are just the sweetest, cutest little DEVILS.  I say devils, because they just officially 'came out of their shell' when we got home tonight and have been wreaking havoc while I am trying to type this and while the rest of the family is trying to go to sleep!

Now, to figure out what to do with them.

First, we took the advice of the vet's office and didn't put up "FOUND" signs.  Instead, they advised us to drive the neighborhood and look for any posted "LOST" signs.  So, we did that after church today.  Then, we talked about adopting them ourselves, but we aren't up to the challenge of TWO chihuahua mix puppies in our condo along with 16 year old chihuahua Lucy, and two human kids!  We talked with grandma and grandpa, but they aren't up for two pups as well.  They are both boys, 6 months old, and really connected.  They sleep on top of each other, and follow each other every where.  We don't want to split them up if we can avoid it.  So, tomorrow, we'll be on the phone with two local small dog rescue groups to see what they can/are willing to do.

Gotta admit, though, I am TOTALLY smitten with "Caramel."  He's the long haired-red head.  He looks like a corgi chihuahua mix, and corgi is totally my fantasy dog.  That's the breed I've always wanted.  Ali wanted to name them, so originally we named the white one "Toasted Marshmellow," and the brunette, "Salted Caramel," though grandpa and I both think the white one looks like a "Coco" for some inexplainable reason, so his full name is name "Toasted Marshmellow Coco."  Hey, gotta have fun with it all.

P.S.  Did I mention they aren't housebroken? :-(

So, beware when you have a sudden urge to go somewhere "off the beaten path" or "out of the way,"  God may have something up His sleeve for you that day!

Happy Easter and God night.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 24, 2013: Under my Belt...


Well, my turn to be on the road this past week.  I had the honor and privilege of giving the keynote at the annual conference of the SER-AMTA, which is the Southeastern Region of the American Music Therapy Association.  The Association is divided into 6 regions and each region holds its own conference in the spring, while the association as a whole gets together for our annual conference in the fall.  There were 289 music therapists, interns, and students from the 10 Southeastern states.  That's Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina for those who are curious.

My talk centered on our journey with Bella, and how we used music and VERO to not only survive, but transform the experience into one that has left a lasting powerful legacy.

I've talked about how we used music before on stage, but this was the first time I have laid out my VERO model other than on here many moons ago.  I can't even tell you how many times I gave the talk in my office, timing it every time, to sculpt and sculpt and sculpt.  It was quite the process.  Nothing like having a deadline to push my creativity though.  I am SO GRATEFUL that I was given this opportunity for a couple of reasons.  First, it MADE me finally carve this concept into a real deliverable.  Now that it is a key note, I can expand it into a seminar and a book.  Second, I love providing inspiration to young music therapists and students, and this conference was largely attended by that group specifically.  When I looked out over the crowd, I felt like a minority in that most of the attendees were younger than me!  

This was also my first regional conference outside of the Western Region, where I went to school and completed my internship.  National conference is HUGE, and it's challenging to make time to meet new people there.  Regional conferences are more intimate, so you can connect on more than one occasion with people.  So, after delivering the keynote, the region was kind enough to let me stay for the rest of conference!  I had so.many.wonderful.conversations with so many people over the ensuing days.  I already knew a handful of MTs from the region, and was able to deepen my friendships with them as well.  It would be a dream come true if the other regions asked me to speak as well, and I could have the same type of experience.  Inspiring others makes me happiest of all, so to inspire my fellow music therapists...

On a side note, we drove through Ringgold, GA on the way to Chattanooga!  It happens to be just over the state line from Chattanooga in fact, and there are pictures of my dad holding me in front of either the town line or the bank in town, so I asked my driver to pull off the road so we could get a shot like that 38 years later.  It was cool, because it linked me to my dad, much like my trip to New Orleans and Preservation Hall last winter.  I don't get to cross paths with my dad's footprints anymore since I live in an area where he didn't, so this little moment really made me feel connected to him again in its own little way.

On the home front, Ali won tickets to Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach at school and took grandma today (and Julian), and that gave us the amazing opportunity to go to Del Mar and meet up with PUCK Relationship Manager and all around EB Advocate Christie Zink, her husband, Matt, and Team PUCK - California member Sara Cooper for breakfast!  Matt had a business trip in San Diego, and Christie came along, and we all managed to connect this morning.  It was GREAT to see them again as we only get to see Christie and Matt once a year when we travel to MN for our annual TIME TO FLY race hosted by our parent charity, Children's Cancer Research Fund.  Plus, Sara and Christie have truly become friends over the past couple of years online, and this was the first time where they finally got to meet!  It was so great to see them connect at long last.

Speaking of Time To Fly, registration is OPEN!  Team PUCK has BIG PLANS for this year's race!  Each year, we learn a little more about how to make the event even more fun, and this year we are throwing a serious party!  We have also DOUBLED our fundraising goal!  Uff da!  So, if you are interested in finding out more, donating, or registering, cruise on by our team page by clicking HERE!
I am really excited about how much FUN we are going to have this year!  We even have child care at our Team tent this year provided by two licensed early childhood specialists... and did I mention a masseuse as well?  Good times will be had FOR SURE.  Please join us as a team member or contributor, won't you?  Once again, CLICK HERE to find out more.

Alright, off to bed.  Have a great week.

God night.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 17: Getting What I Need...

Food Truck night!...


Happy St. Patrick's Day to ya!

So.  Another week under our belt.  Ever have the experience that you are 'surviving' a week/month/year, etc.?  Sometimes Ang's and my schedule catapult into warp speed, and it can feel that way.  For example, Ang just traveled 7 of the past 9 days between two different trips back east.  Uff da!  Next, I travel two of the next three weeks.  Then, I'm home for two weeks, and Ang travels again.  When each of us is running cover at home for the other while they travel, there is an element of survival at work! LOL.  Ang and I both salute with the deepest and utmost respect single parents.  'Playing one' for a few days or a week certainly doesn't even touch the experience, but that sense of "anything that needs to get done has to get done BY ME" is distinct and different.  It requires a whole extra gear.

On Wednesday night, for example, I learned that Julian can project the contents of his stomach over his head in the air while laying flat in his crib.... twice.... with NO warning.  The kid got a total of THREE baths that night and two loads of laundry done before he finally collapsed from exhaustion at midnight. I will TOTALLY CONFESS RIGHT HERE that if Ang had been home, I would have hoped she would have been the one to give him those two extra baths.  However, with her in New Jersey, ain't nobody gonna do it but me!  I jumped into some hyper productive mode that I honestly remember from Bella time, but haven't had to access it with the same urgency since.

It's nice to be pushed to remind me how strong and resourceful I actually am.  Muscles and bones grow stronger from eustress (positive stress versus distress), and I think our 'coping muscles' are exactly the same way.  If we don't 'work them out' on a regular basis, they atrophy, and when we get hit by a big stressor, we are 'out of shape' and it wears us out.  This is one reason I feel strongly that people should exercise and strengthen their bodies.  It is a complete metaphor for their spirit as well, because to strengthen the body, one has to stare exhaustion, fatigue and discomfort in the face and push right through it.

What's on the other side?

The experience of being stronger than your complaints, your worries, and your stories about what is possible and impossible.

I've stood on the other side of that wall enough times to 'remember it' when I'm down, but what of the person who doesn't have a library of experiences to draw on when they feel beaten by some circumstance?  That circumstance just might win the day.  I am so committed that people live empowered lives that I actually think about this daily... like... how can I empower more people to beat their disempowering stories about life? about grief? about being fit? about WHATEVER it is that is important to them.  I live inside a constant state of dissatisfaction related to whether I am touching enough people.  The good news is that the intensity of that urgency comes and goes.  It's not always over the top, but you know how there's a "learning curve" in life?  I think about a "serving curve," and that drives me to be thinking about how I can serve more and more people.

Can you hear the perfectionist in me leaking out!?  Why do I say perfectionist?  Well, a perfectionist isn't EVER satisfied with the level of production or execution or success they ARE experiencing.  So, while I AM actually reaching many people on a daily and weekly basis, the perfectionist in me wonders, "Yeah, but is it enough? Why aren't you reaching more?"  more more more.  Like an unquenchable thirst.  That's the curse of perfectionism.

The GOOD news is that I am in recovery. ;-)

I admitted I 'had a problem' with perfectionism in 1998, and I've been steadily and imperfectly working on accepting what is rather than what I think "should be."  In fact, with my coaching clients, I have them strike the word 'should' from their vocabulary!  Try it!  It's very liberating.  I am a work in progress. That's what I remind myself.  I am so grateful to be a work in progress, and I am so grateful that I get to share my imperfections with you and the world, hopefully reminding both me and you that it's human for all of us to struggle with all of this stuff.

I'm off to Chattanooga, TN this week to give a keynote at a regional music therapy conference for our professional association.  I am so honored to have the opportunity to share my life and my passion with my colleagues.  One of the things that trips me up sometimes is the fact that I have only been a music therapist for 4 years now!!!  What do I know about anything that I could share with so many that have been at this for so much longer?  Well, then, I laugh at myself and thank me for sharing my concern.  Again, the perfectionist says essentially, "You aren't enough yet.  You need more _______."

More more more...

Can you relate?

As if I stand at the edge of a forest with a saw with the task of cutting my way through, except I can't start because my blade isn't sharp enough...

Well, guess what?

I think it is.  ;-)

God night.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 10, 2013: Movin' On...

Ali dressed as "Fancy Nancy" for Read Across America Day...


Well, with one talent show in the rear view mirror, miss Ali set her sights on playing piano for tonight's Talent show at church.

So, we tackled a little Beethoven:

A great, familiar melody that is easy for kids to learn.  I wrote out the score and put the finger numbers under each note so all she would have to do was play the numbers and the melody would take care of itself.  Yes, that is a big cheat sheet, but when you are 6 and you have 9 days to prepare, and you haven't touched a keyboard since October, IT WORKS!

Ali was super nervous, and mommy and I just kept reiterating, "That's perfectly normal and natural, honey."  We don't want her associating that there is anything 'wrong' with being nervous.  That would just compound it!  I played a memorial service yesterday which I got called on Monday for.  The piece that I was to play and sing wasn't decided on till FRIDAY, and it was a song I had never heard before Tuesday.  YIKES!  It was "Beautiful," by Gordon Lightfoot, and the vocals are incredibly idiosyncratic, meaning Gordon plays around with the vocal rhythms a TON.  This wreaks havoc on the  right hand, whose job it is to lay down the steady pulse/rhythm for the entire piece.  I was so nervous my hands were sweating like mad!  I shared this story with Ali, and again, she couldn't believe it!

"Your HANDS were sweating???  How is THAT even POSSIBLE?" She said, bursting into laughter.

You know, most of the things we fear and are nervous over really aren't life threatening, so for me, the key is to be aware of my fear and anxiety, and then go act anyway.  This is what I'm hoping will stick with Ali.  As you saw from the video, she did great, the goal is for her to internalize that each time she was nervous, she still did great and came out the other side a winner... in this case meaning she played great and got a giant round of applause... reinforcing that support.  Good stuff.

Ali and Julian at our library celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday...

Work is going really great right now for Ang and me, meaning we have more of it than we can handle, but on the flip side, I have to admit that we have had little time and energy for PUCK.  We've spent a lot of time effort and energy raising money for the past two years, and we're running out of gas.  When I did the math at the end of 2012 and realized that collectively between the 4 EB charities, we'd raised just over a million dollars for Dr. Tolar in 2 years, I metaphorically collapsed, because that was the original number he asked for.  I felt like I had crossed the finish line of a marathon, and I fell apart.  There is a sense of completion... which is really messing with me, because we are in year three of a three year plan, and our goals for this year are the most ambitious yet.  There's much to do, and I am struggling to find the energy to do it.

That makes me sad to read.

It's a conundrum.

As the grief journey continues through time, one of the pieces that messes with me A LOT is this feeling of becoming further and further separated from Bella through linear time.  One the one hand, the pain is receding through the process of steady and continued grief work (I still talk with a spiritual advisor 4-5 times a week), but on the other, I just feel further and further from Bella.  Because pain and anxiety (inside me) were a part of every day of her life, I can't unravel if I am feeling further from that, or further from her.  

I remember this awful feeling after my dad died...

... the feeling of 'feeling better.'

It's the worst!

First, I felt bad.  Then I started to feel better.  Now, I feel bad for feeling better!  It's a vicious circle!  Ever experience that?  Yuck.  It's as if the feeling bad is a measure of how much I love Bella, and if I feel better, I'm somehow "getting over" her, and no longer loving her.  I know this paradigm traps A LOT of bereaved parents.  I've heard it first hand on the grief retreats through the years.  It's all wrapped up in some self created guilt, which is totally unnecessary, but MAN, it feels real!

I am still sad.

I do still love her.

But, it is not as painful as it once was,

and honestly, the wonderful present and future are CALLING.

I KNOW that Bella wants us all to move forward and seize the amazing gift of life we have to the fullest, since we are lucky enough to have it in the first place.  I also know that if the roles were reversed, the feelings would be the same.  Seize the day.  Seize the life you've been given, because for so.many.people, tomorrow won't follow today.  My journey with Bella, and my work at the hospital reminds me of this truth daily.

Seize TODAY.

God night.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

March 3, 2013: Whaa??? March, already?


I'm in shock.  Where does the time go?  I can NOT believe it is March 1.  I SWEAR it was New Year's Day yesterday.  Where DOES the time GO?

This past week,  Ali had her School Talent Show!  She and two of her first grade friends dressed up in their best "Monster High" costumes and danced away to the theme from Monster High.  For those who don't know what that is,  Monster High is a "brand" of toys that also have online TV episodes, a movie,  and I believe even a game for the wii.  Ali's been collecting Monster High dolls for two Christmases now, and we have quite a freaky collection.  The premise is the if all the famous Hollywood monsters had teenage kids, they'd all go to the same school... anyway, that's more than enough about that!  What's important is that for the second year in a row, Ali has gotten up and "done her dance thing" in front of all the older kids and parents.

She is fearless on stage.  It's great to watch!  What was really great was the tender conversations we had in the weeks and days leading up to the event.  She shared with me that she was nervous about performing, and I asked her what specifically she was nervous about.  Each time, she opened up about whatever was troubling her, and it was so great to keep reminding her how normal and natural it was.  The best was when I told her that the first time I was on stage was when I was 4.

"That was 36 years ago, honey, and I still get nervous now and again."

"Reallllly?  WOW!"  She 1) couldn't believe how much time that was and 2) was completely relieved that there was anything "wrong" with feeling nervous.  Hey, let's all admit it... none of us really 'likes' feeling nervous about an impending public performance of anything, but I want her to really deeply understand that it's okay to feel those feelings and stay in action anyway.  Hope it sticks.  I think it will since we're walking through these feelings together at such a young age.  I'm just tickled I can support her in this way.

Next Sunday is Ali's church talent show, and she wants to play piano.  She has had a hiatus from piano since November when her teacher when on leave to have a baby.  Then Ali got busy with talent show, and before you know it, we have 8 days to get a piece under her fingers.  I tried to get her to adapt her dance routine, but that was so last week!  LOL.  So, we're learning the melody from Beethoven's "Ode To Joy," which is recognizable, and super easy to play in the right hand.  Ali got it in no time.  It is also the same piece I taught my beginning guitar student to help him get into his art school, so I learned how to teach it with him.  It's already gone great!

Parenting is so great, because today, tomorrow, and the day after that, I get to try a new and better way to connect with my kids.  It really doesn't matter what I did yesterday (I mean, for the most part), because I get chance after chance to either do it "right" or do it "better."  It's like eating; I ate like crap over the last week to mitigate some sadness I am dealing with, and you know what?  Tomorrow, I get a whole slew of chances to eat right and nurture my body.  This mindset really has me looking forward to each new day with Ali and Julian, no matter what stage of life they are experiencing.  It is genuinely...


God night.