Monday, February 25, 2013

February 24, 2013: Grateful...

Can you guess how many instruments are in this photo?


Yesterday, I had the opportunity to provide a HealthRHYTHMS drum circle for Kaiser Permanente's Hospice volunteer program.  There were 30 people in attendance, and it was a neat story of something coming full circle.

Kaiser Hospice used to employ a wonderful music therapist named Cathy O'Neal.  Cathy taught my first music therapy class at Chapman University, and I was lucky enough to have her for my last fieldwork assignment.  But the circle goes back further than that.

My dad and my grandma passed away in hospice.  It was wonderful.  When my dad died, Enya was playing on the cassette player in his room.  It was like having the sound of angels in the room.  That was when I had the thought, "If I could be the soundtrack of someone's transformation from life to afterlife, that would be the highest use of my God-given gifts."  I didn't know about music therapy at that time.  It would be another 5 years before I would even bump into those two words.

So, fast forward from 1997 to 2013, and I get the opportunity to provide wellness to the very volunteers whose ministry it is to go to people's homes and help them die with peace, comfort, and dignity.  What a great opportunity it was!

I love my job.

On the home front, things are always busy but good.  Ang traveled to Texas midweek, and the kids were so happy to see her when she got back.  Ang and I now both have iPads, so using the "FaceTime" feature is so great.  We used to just put the parent-on-the-road on speaker phone, but this is way better!

Ali in her element...

Ali is preparing for her Elementary school talent show this coming Thursday!  She'll be portraying "Laguna Blue" from the show "Monster High" and along with two friends, they'll be dancing to the Monster High theme song.  Ali is taking this very seriously and is very concerned because her two friends don't exactly have her confidence to get in front of an audience and dance!

Julian is just cuter and cuter by the day.  He is walking talking and naming the world.  Car!  Bike!  Milk!  Walk! TURTLE!  (seriously) CEREAL! Duck!  These are his favorite words right now.  He's still just as happy-go-lucky as ever, and his appetite for reading has not slowed one bit!  We have been reading "Make Way for Ducklings" for about a week, and he will sit focused on the book for the entire book.  It creates such an opportunity for snuggling.  Oh man, it is awesome!

Oh, last note, we saw "Lincoln" (finally) this weekend.  It was the most powerful movie of the year for me.  Les Miserables had me balling, and in any other Oscar year, Hugh Jackman should have and would have won top honors, but Daniel Day Lewis is SO friggin' good in Lincoln, it's mind boggling.... AND HE'S BRITISH!!!!  Try to remember that next time you watch that movie.  You can't tell.  I know that may sound like, "well duh,"  but I've seen Lewis star in 3 previous movies, and his voice was so different in each one.  The guy is a class act, and an absolutely phenomenal actor.  If you haven't seen LINCOLN yet, you owe it to yourself!

Alright, best to you.  And to those still commenting, I say a giant "Thank you!"  This blog is lonely for me when it is just me broadcasting my thoughts and feelings out in the internet.  Thank you for the connection.  I really appreciate you!

God night.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

February 17, 2013: A Dream Realized...


When I first joined LinkedIn a few years ago as a new music therapist, the site asked me for my job title.

I put, "Ambassador of Music Therapy."

It remained that until recently when I updated it to "Transformation Architect," which incorporates more of my speaking, coaching, and non-profit motives, but I digress.

It has been a mission of mine to raise the level of visibility and perceived value of music therapy as an industry during my time here on earth.

This past week, I got a huge opportunity to help make good on that mission.

Back in December, I was given the amazing opportunity to give a 7 minute TEDx talk on music therapy at a local TEDx event in Orange County.  When selecting keywords for YouTube and the TED website, I researched who else among allllll the TED talks out there had put "music therapy" in their keywords...

No one.

In all of the TED talks online, not one was on music therapy... until this week.  I had the honor of essentially giving the first TEDx talk on music therapy.  Here it is for your viewing pleasure:

What struck me as poetic about the talk is that I got to combine my passion for music therapy with my journey with Bella in a truly authentic way.  Up to that point my music therapy world and Bella/PUCK world were seemingly different universes.  I have two different websites, two different email addresses, two different business cards, etc.  But finally, I got to 'bring it all home,' so to speak!

I also see the trail of support that led me to that stage.  I can trace each hand that reached out and helped me up along my way... most of which never guessing their outstretched hand would help me to this point.  The event organizer, Nikkisa Abdollahi, was a guest at a private party where I spoke about the music therapy program I was trying to build and raise funds for at UCI.  I didn't even meet her till after I spoke.  That party was a year ago this Tuesday.  That party was thrown by the medical director at UCI Cancer Center, Dr. Frank Meyskens, who has been my champion at UCI these past two years.  However, if it wasn't for my champion advocate social worker colleague, Jennifer Higgins, I never would have met Dr. Meyskens.  Not only did she invite me to a giant survivor dinner for cancer patients and give me a booth, she marched me up to Dr. Meyskens and introduced me to him.  I don't think I would have had the courage to do that myself at the time.  Last, if it hadn't been for my teacher, Helen Dolas, who struck up the relationship with Jennifer and her colleague, Donna Baker, way back in 2007, none of this would have been possible.

You know who else made all this possible?  Ang.  I remember I had like less than a week's notice to get  my booth set up and attend that first dinner.  Ang said no problem.  Know who was seated front row at Dr. Meyskens' house, reading testimonials from patients into the mic while I played my native American flute?  Ang.  Know who was watching the kids so I could be laser focused on giving the best talk of my life this past December on a Sunday afternoon?  Ang.  Without her unwavering support of me, none of this would have been possible.

Last but not least, you KNOW who made this all possible, right?  God.  Who else could have orchestrated all these things in such a way?  Remember me researching and studying to become a NICU music therapist, and low and behold, BELLA is my first patient?  C'mon... Providence, Providence, Providence, the whole way through.

I am blessed beyond belief, and the gratitude I have for each one of these people is immeasurable, for I know I didn't get here on my own.  Sure, it's my job to prepare for each event so that when my mouth opens, (which it has no problem doing HAHAHAHA) the best possible combination of words - and music - comes out.   However, without all this support underneath, there is no place for me to speak, and no one to speak to.  I LOVE speaking.  I feel at home speaking.  I feel built to speak.  I feel like God's conduit... like a mouthpiece.  I pray that these amazing opportunities continue to come my way, and that I may continue to share this beautiful field of music therapy and this beautiful journey with Bella in such a beautiful way... many, many more times.

Thanks for letting me share it again here with you tonight.

God night.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

February 10, 2013: Having Fun...

Julian in his first Bounce House...  DUG IT!


Life is good, you know?

Life is... (you fill in the blank, you know)

Life is also ever-changing, you know?

Life is also... (you fill in the blank, you know)

Life simply is.

We say how it is.

We make it up.

There is tragedy and sorrow, success and triumph all around, every day.

So which is it?

It is all those things.

Life is a plurality.

Never did I learn this more so than during our journey through the grief of losing Bella and the joy of being given Julian.  Joy and pain walked hand in hand.

They walked hand in hand yesterday.  We were all in the family minivan driving down the freeway to one of Ali's best friend's birthday party, and Katy Perry's "Firework" came on.  I love that song, and I love that video even more.  When I see the girl who looks like she's battling cancer, I think of Bella.  I think of the words of the song, and I think of the inspirational impact Bella had/has on the world, and I think of how lucky and blessed I was to be there to be a supporting actor.  I was crying in the minivan driving down the road on a sunny day in SoCal, with the family all in a good mood... me too, mind you.  I was in a good mood, too.  The beauty of Bella's life danced with the sadness of how much I miss that girl.  The fun of the present day mixed together with the sorrow of days past where the horror of Epidermolysis Bullosa stung our very core.  Days that we've shared about, and days we'll never tell anyone about... all dancing together down the 5 freeway on our way to a young girl's 7th birthday party, full of unicorns and balloons.

Life, you are so rich, so robust.  So complex.  Cheers to you.

Ali's aunt Dina gave us these great frames where you put in your own art... PERFECT for Ali's weekly art that just pumps out of her!

The week was spent busy developing new business.  That coffee shop meeting went GREAT!  I booked a wellness session with 35 hospice volunteers to implement the training I got over the weekend.  BAM.   This is the year of implementation! LOL.  That was Monday.  Tuesday was spent in the hospital bedside with cancer patients.  Wednesday and Thursday were spent in orientation at a behavioral health hospital where on Monday (omg that's tomorrow already) I return as a Per diem therapist to lead groups to teach healthy ways to cope with depression, addiction, and a whole host of other psychiatric diagnoses with music... and rhythm.  It's so rewarding to watch someone who can't find the words to label their emotions, clearly 'play' their emotions on a drum, THEN have a fellow peer hear the emotion and label it, and watch the original person light up and say, "Yeah!  That's EXACTLY it."  Anyhow, Friday I booked another speaking gig after being invited to speak at a Peace Conference here in Orange County, and had an amazing brainstorm session with Ang and Christie Zink, PUCK's Relationship Coordinator on this summer's Time To Fly Race in Minnesota on June 22 in St. Paul.  Our team page is already up!  CLICK HERE to join our team!  It's gonna be a PARTY this summer!  That's our plan.

Ali's "100th day of school" project... 100 sea creatures stuck on an aquarium...

It was a good week, but perhaps the weekend was even better.  We discovered an ADORABLE little brand new retro diner in Old Towne Orange where we live.  It is so cute!  Anyone living out here, you GOTTA check 'em out.  They are on Glassell in the circle tucked away in the same alley as Zito's.  We then headed over to Cafe Lucca for a little gelato.  Fun times.

Saturday was a fun-filled birthday party for 6 and 7 year old girls (and a few unlucky boys... I mean, the party was unicorn themed after all).  Then we headed to grandma's where the kids hung out while mommy and daddy went to a grown up birthday party!  Our friends the Kellys throw really fun cocktail parties where we get to all be grown up because no kids are allowed.  I really appreciate this because we get to have grown up conversations that are uninterrupted!  Need the balance... although by a certain point in the evening we were all just talking about our kids anyway. LOL.  Still, an occasion to dress up is always nice, and Ang looked STUNNING.  Who, me biased? :-)

Today, my soccer team started the day with a win, and I got some decent playing time and played well. Then we went to lunch and did some shopping before Ali went to afternoon church choir rehearsal and study.  It was our turn to feed the kids, so 7 large cheese pizzas later, we all headed home giggling and singing away.  Mommy and Ali worked on Valentine's cards for class, and the kids sacked out a couple of minutes early even!  It's like having FOUND TIME! LOL.

Ali's shopping and church ensemble today.  How cool is this kid?

Anyhow, the family unit had a lot of fun this weekend, and I am just so grateful to have such an adorable family to cruise through this journey with.  The kids just continue to make Ang and me laugh out loud, and we continue to make each other laugh out loud as well.

Like I said, Life is good.

God night.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

February 3, 2013: Reinvigorated...


Well, I just got home from a wonderful two-day advanced training on a group empowerment tool called HealthRHYTHMS.  Rather than go into what it is too much, you can check out  a brief but cool video on the website by CLICKING HERE.

I've been thinking a lot about the communities/populations of people I want to serve in this year, and my focus is shifting away from individual patients in the hospital and more toward groups.  I want to serve more and more people, providing enrichment, connection, and inspiration.  I want to accomplish this through continuing to speak publicly, continuing to write, continuing to coach, and continuing to provide music therapy, but I'd like to get back to doing that with groups.

This weekend, I burned some cognitive calories in some high-level group facilitator training with some real masters at group facilitation.  Frankly, my brain hurts from the workout! LOL.  Because my clinical focus has been individual therapy for the past few years, my group muscles have atrophied!  LOL.  This weekend was like going to some sort of exercise camp when you haven't worked out in a couple of YEARS.  Oh, and I have a program planning meeting tomorrow morning at 9am with a new client.

Good thing it's at a coffee shop!  I think I'll need the extra brain power.

I've been trying to remember to schedule free days on the Mondays after conferences and seminars, but frankly, I put this training into my calendar really late, so tomorrow had already begun to fill up!  My body and brain need a day to recharge after going non-stop over the weekend.  ESPECIALLY with all the sick people roaming the countryside right now!  It's amazing to me just how bad this flu season is.  Oh well.  Progress over perfection, right?

I have to tell you a couple of the GREAT side stories of the weekend.  First off, I sit down in the drum circle first thing Saturday morning, and what am I wearing under my dress slacks?  Fabulous socks, of course.  What is the gentleman (and my new friend, Lawrence) right next to me wearing?  Even MORE fabulous socks.  MISS PIGGY socks!  Holy cow!  What are the odds?

What socks is he wearing today?  I've got my disco girls on and he's got TINKER BELL!  Totally epic.  He was another big kid like myself walking around in a man's body.  I sometimes wonder if I fool anybody with my snazzy dress clothes.  Can they tell I'm just a curious, passionate, sometimes scared/sometimes seemingly invincible little boy inside?

Also, the last time I attended this training was when Bella was 7 months old, and we had just traveled to MN and NYC to meet with the docs to choose which hospital we would try to save Bella at.  In the line to register, I recognized one of the guys from that training in Jan. 2010, and he remembered me, and remembered a specific conversation we had.  He said yesterday, "WOW, you look really good.  I remember last time you were really intense."  I laughed.  I thought about it, and that's when I realized what I was in the midst of when I was last there.

Sometimes I forget just how intense our lives were from May 27, 2009 through the fall of 2010.

I tend to look forward in life, I guess.

Two other ladies who were at that same training both stopped me to give me some love and condolences and tell me how much better I looked now.  I know that I felt comparatively worse and more intense then, but I didn't realize that my body showed it.  These comments were really a validation of the healing and growth that has occurred since then, and I just want to thank all the elements of love, support, and nurturing that have contributed to that evolution.  Thank you.  This includes all of you.  If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have this cathartic outlet to process with in the same way.  After all, I could just be writing all of this in a word doc, but by knowing my words and actions would be read by others, it forced me to work through my own issues - essentially in public - and open myself up to your feedback and support.  Sometimes I've done a good job of being a gracious host, and sometimes I haven't, but isn't that how we are in most things in life?  We're 'sometimes this. and sometimes that.'

In my humble opinion, nobody's perfect but God.

On the home front?  Ang wrangled the kids while I was at the training, so THANK YOU HONEY!  The kids were super happy to see their daddy tonight, and it was a really warm and fuzzy feeling to have both of them so happy to see me.  Ali and I have been working extra hard lately to create a respectful, harmonious relationship, and I really felt it tonight.  Good stuff.

Alright, I am fried.  I could go on, but thanks for being here.  Thanks for your comments.  Thanks for playing the game of life, and not letting it play you.

God night.