Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 25, 2013: The Cat is Finally Out of the Bag...


Sorry I missed you on Sunday; I didn't get in from Jacksonville till about 11pm, and I was up since  3am, so I basically set the coffee machine, brushed my teeth, and collapsed into bed.  Then, last night, I sat down to write this, but got totally sucked into "The Blacklist."  I'll tell you more about Jacksonville in a minute… let me get to the real juice.

Ang has been on a secret agent mission for Verizon Wireless since January code named "Atlas." Verizon Wireless made a bold decision to completely redesign their 'destination stores,' which are their flagship stores nationwide.

So, if you ever saw her flying to Philly on Facebook, she was flying into a factory building where they built a complete replica of their new store inside… a building inside a building… so no competitors would see what they were up to.

If you saw her flying to Houston on Facebook… yup, that was Atlas store redesign.

If you saw her flying to Minneapolis on Facebook, yup, that was store number one… Mall of America.

The day finally came last week when the curtains were opened up, the red carpet was rolled out, and Verizon Wireless unleashed the next generation of their stores, and it was AWESOME for all there.  Not only was Selena Gomez their first customer, but Verizon threw a private concert for all the employees that worked their butts off launching this massive project that featured Train and Owl City, and Angelique was in the front row!

Pretty awesome.  So, if you live in the twin cities, make sure to head to MOA to see the new store.  Ang's job was to create the blueprint for the overall training experience, and to manage the curriculum development team that put it all together.

My wife is kind of a big deal.  :-)

Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, FL, the American Music Therapy Association held its annual national conference last week.  Usually around 1200 or so music therapists attend, making it the largest gathering of music therapists in the country each year.  Hundreds of classes are taught in the form of pre-conference institutes, workshops, and concurrent sessions.  About 80 vendors come to share their wares in the exhibit hall, and all the committees and assemblies and regional boards all meet to do business to help advance the profession.

The view from over the river of where conference was held…

For me, as a regional president-elect, I have to attend, but even without my participation on the regional board, I'd never miss conference.  I live for it.  I work by myself, and as an extrovert, I am not only energized when around others, but increasingly so when around other music therapists.  After all, their my people!  LOL.  There were many highlights this time around, and it could be said that it was the best conference I've attended.  I taught a 5 hour work shop, and gave two concurrent sessions, one 60-minute, and one 90-minute.  Between the three classes, I probably taught about 150 music therapists business and personal development skills to empower them not only in their own careers, but I also taught a student-specific class that had about 80 college students in it.

However, the professional highlight was when the Executive Director of the AMTA gave her plenary address, and within the first five minutes of it, acknowledged me for my TEDx talk, and had me stand to receive a round of applause from her… and my roughly 1,199 peers in the hall at the same time.  It meant so much to be acknowledged like that.  I was so lucky to be given the opportunity to give a TEDx talk; I was just giving a talk at an event where the TEDx organizer was in attendance, and the rest, as they say, is history.  I look up to so many of my colleagues, and to be recognized by them for a job well done in advocating for music therapy (the video has been viewed just under 15,000 times on the YouTube channel and who knows how many times it was viewed when it was on the AMTA's home page for 3 months earlier this year), well, that just about made my heart burst.

Our Executive Director, Dr. Andi Farbman on stage…

So, all of that is great for Ang and me, but NONE of it would be possible without grandma and grandpa.  Rodger and Carolyn Rhinehart by name, they are the glue that keeps this family together as mommy and daddy attempt to balance simultaneous career growth with family cohesion.  Angelique and I are so lucky to have them just 30 minutes from us, and Ali and Julian are so lucky to have a regular relationship with their grandparents.  Neither Ang nor I got to grow up with regular interactions with our grandparents.  The relationships they are building just warm Ang's and my heart.  There is so much love going on in both directions, and our crazy schedule creates lots of opportunities for interaction! LOL.  We are very lucky in life, and as we roll into Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for Ang's parents, for once again, without them, I don't even know how we'd keep it all together.  We love you grandma and grandpa!

God night.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

November 17, 2013: Calm Before the Storm...


Yesterday was one of those days that was like the eye of the storm for us.

Angelique got home from a business trip Friday evening, and leaves again tomorrow morning.  She'll be back Thursday, but I leave on Wednesday on my next trip (thank GOD once again for grandma!). Both trips represent kind of a 'professional climax' for each of us, and it's interesting that they are the first business trips of the year that overlap.  We've been amazingly lucky to get this far into the year without this happening yet.

Angelique's trip, well, I'll be able to tell you more about it next week.  The details of it are kinda top secret, so I'll fill you in soon.  I'm heading (back) to Jacksonville for the American Music Therapy National Conference.  I am teaching three courses/sessions there: a 5 hour class, a 90 minute class, and a 60 minute class, plus attending numerous meetings as the regional President-Elect, PLUS launching something rather top secret myself. :-)  Uff da.  That's a lot of stuff between Ang and me.

SO… yesterday was our day to really unwind and be in total kid mode.  First, Ali asked me if I would take her to "Princess Ballet" class, since mommy had taken her the first two times.  She wanted me to see her in action.  No problem.  Well, let me tell you, that girl was IN HER ELEMENT.  At the beginning of class, each student gets a pair of fairy wings, a tiara, and a magic wand… gear we already have at home, of course, so donning any of it was/is second nature to La Princessa Alessandra.  I asked her to come to the door for me to snap a quick pic to capture the moment, and this pose was all her, with no prompting…


Next, it was onto "A Day Out With Thomas (the train)."

We hopped in the family minivan and drove out the the bustling metropolis of Perris (not Paris), California.  There is a train museum out there and they had a whole fair set up with a full size, real life Thomas the tank engine pulling a line of (random) coaches down the track about a half a mile and back through a pretty, well, run down neighborhood.  But forget all that, because with children, the imagination is a powerful thing, so for every functioning or nonfunctioning train we saw, we thought of the train in the Thomas world that it most resembled and we called it that, and you know what?  It worked like a CHARM, baby!  Both Ali and Julian were fully invested in the trains.  It was super cute.

Then, being not too far away from some dear friends of ours, we headed over to their house to see their baby for the first time and eat some grub.  We had a wonderful dinner, and their daughter and Ali HIT IT OFF with their common love of all things princessy… apparently, she is usually around boys all the time, so to have a girl come over and want to play dress up was a pretty amazing thing!  It was great to see our friends, and so sweet to hold a 5 month old baby again!  All you parents know what I mean… once your kid is 30 pounds (or more) of non-stop action, a little tiny baby is just DELICIOUS to snuggle with! LOL.

In other random news, Ali and I planted this morning glory plant from a hand full of seeds in a pot over the summer.  Can’t remember when specifically, but a lot of work went in to cultivating those little seeds.  A lot of work went on “underground/behind the scenes” before we saw about a dozen little sprouts in our pot.  Then, they grew up this little structure we placed in the pot to help them climb.  When they reached the top, I transplanted the lot of them into the ground and prayed they’d survive the move.  Then, they started dying out, but one sprout kept going, and it caught on to the big lattice I placed behind it.  It grew slowly, delicately, and I was a good steward, re-routing the vine back and forth across the lattice.  The vine grew, and the leaves grew, but for the longest time, no flowers.

This photo is what I woke up to this morning.  It is POPPING and EXPLODING!  It’s what Ali and I envisioned all those months ago, and it’s beautiful.

Life is busy, and while life may be full of wonderful things, there are many things a lot less than wonderful that happened this week to friends, family, colleagues, and members of the EB community.  It was a tough week with a lot of loss.  The EB community lost another BMT patient 5 months post transplant; our thoughts and prayers are with his family along with all those who just got hit by tornadoes today, and of course the typhoon in the Philippines.  It's just impossible to make sense of it all, and I'm again reminded of how temporary and fragile life is.  So please, while you have one (a life) LIVE IT UP… don't just survive.  You and I have this precious GIFT.  Enjoy it with a healthy dose of gratitude.  Let your living life to the max be a tribute to those who have lost this gift.

God night.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November 10, 2013: Happy Tenth Anniversary!


Friday marked Ang's and my 10-year wedding anniversary!

Where did the time go?  I'm sure many of you can relate to that question, right?  There was a special on H2 last night about the White House, and former alternative icon Henry Rollins was the host, and MAN DID HE LOOK O-L-D.  It was really depressing, because I used to be a HUGE fan of his back in the '90's… of course the '90's were as many as TWENTY years ago already.  Sheeesh…. Ang and I started dating 4 years before we got married, so we actually were dating in the '90's! LOL.

Anyway, grandma watched the kids while we went out for a nice dinner full of uninterrupted conversations!  Isn't that just the best?

Compared to so many couples we look up to, 10 years isn't much at all, but it's still an accomplishment, right?  It honestly doesn't feel like 'an accomplishment,' though, and here's why… when you're shooting for 50, 10 is just getting started. ;-)  Seriously, we are lifers… so no one issue, challenge, accomplishment or event feels that big or significant when looked through that lens.  It takes a lot of pressure off, frankly!  Being a recovering perfectionist, it allows me to make a mistake and not beat myself up over it, and it allows Ang to make a mistake and me not obsess over it.  I like that a lot.  Point is, keeping a big picture, we laugh a lot...  at each other,  at ourselves, and DEFINITELY at the kids.  We'll probably pay for that someday, but it's funny now!

Have I ever shared my song, "Marriage Advice (Yes, Boss!)" on here?  Perhaps tonight would be perfect!  I more or less spontaneously wrote this song at a campfire on the island of Kauai on the night of September 8, 2007, having been the officiant at my close buddy and his wife's wedding that day on the beach of Hanalei Bay.  It's one big goof, and it may be a little hard to picture without me singing it, because it is pretty idiosyncratic, but here goes.  The nylon sting guitar strums in a minor i-iv-V chord progression that evokes a certain "Besame Mucho" vibe…

You think you know how to keep her happy
and always right by your side
You think you have a plan, but you don't even
understand how to turn the tide back in your…. [spoken] back in your favor!

So I'm gonna share a big secret with you
one that will help you out
now that you're hitched for life there is no doubt 
that sometime in your future
These two words…. [spoken] will really come in handy!

YES BOSS!  The only two words that you need
YES BOSS!  It's less words than "I love you…." [spoken] that's three!

"Honey take out the garbage for me please?!"
"Will you rub my feet?"
"Buy me a new house a new SUV"
"Or something from Tiffany's"
To match the 3 rings…. [spoken] you know…. 

1. the engagement ring
2. the wedding ring
3. and THE SUFFERING!  Ohhhhhh!

YES BOSS!  The only two words that you need
YES BOSS!  It's less words than "I love you…." [spoken] that's three!

Now we have come to the end of my song
I hope that it helped a bit
It's best if you just hand your (male genitalia) right to her
it will help you to sit
Sit on the bench…. [spoken] the bench outside that really expensive boutique in the mall where she'll be shopping for three hours with your credit card the next time you screw something up!

YES BOSS!  The only two words that you need
YES BOSS!  It's less words than "I love you…." [spoken] that's three!
YES BOSS!  The only two words that you need
YES BOSS!  It's less words than "I love you…." [spoken] that's three!


And with that sage wisdom, feel free to pass that song on to the men in your life.

God night!

Fresh from a bath and bandage change, Bella lobotomizes to either Baby Einstein or Mickey Mouse...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November 3, 2013: Transcendence...

And on the 7th day… daddy worked is BUTT OFF! LOL...


What exactly is transcendence?

How do you know when you've experienced it?

It is a one-time-thing, or can you "make the jump to light speed" many times?

Transcendence is a word that I have been wrapping my tiny little monkey brain around now for probably a good year now.  It's one of those "things" that I knew of, but never really bothered to 'take it on,' until, well, since May for sure, but I probably started seriously reading book after book on it beginning a year ago.

This weekend I had the joy of working an event with my mentor, Christine Stevens.  She led a small team of us in leading a drum circle at a seminar of about, oh, I'd say about 200-300 participants.  I had the joy of playing the bass drum to 'lay down the heartbeat' for everyone to sync to.  Great experience, but what made it really interesting were two exercises/experiences that led up to it.

One of the cooler stages I've seen at a seminar...

The seminar was a multicultural event where lots of thought leaders and spiritual leaders from really diverse walks of life shared different practices and rituals that promote health, prosperity, and transcendence.  Our job was to promote the power of music.  Some of the other speakers were Don Miguel Ruiz, Joe Vitale, Marci Shimoff, and Indian master, Pandit Samavedula.

Master Samavedula performed a vedic yagya, which was a really interesting experience.  He chanted a mantra 108 times as he ceremoniously added some sort of indian butter to a small fire… almost like he was making incense.  As I was watching this, at first I was just 'watching' it like a spectator, which was pretty boring, let me tell you.  I mean, who wants to listen to some priest chant the same thing in a foreign language 108 times in a row?  Then, something happened.  Can't put my finger on it, but at some point, I got my posture into the meditative posture I use when I meditate in the morning, and I slipped off into a meditative state.  It was really sublime, until two of the production team dragged me out of it with their talking.  Grrr…  Still, there was a moment where 'something' happened in me.  It's hard to articulate.  I went… inward… like part of me disconnected from my body, any yet I was really connected to my body at the same time.  I didn't leave my body or the room, I was really grounded in that very moment.

Is that transcendence?

I had to wonder, as Master Samavedula was reciting this mantra that many times, where was he?  Was he on auto-pilot, thinking about other things?  Was he right there in the moment?  My dad used to pray the rosary.  I prayed it a few times in childhood, but it was tough to stay present for 59 consecutive prayers as a kid.  I wonder, if anyone reading this blog prays the rosary, what is it like for you?  Do you find your mind wandering?  Do you find yourself praying other prayers while you are reciting the Hail Marys and Our Fathers?  Do you ever experience what you might call transcendence when you are 'in' the rosary?

After that, we did a really sweet exercise where all the participants gathered in two concentric circles facing each other.  We were shoulder to shoulder, and about a foot apart.  Our instructions were to get into the circles in complete silence, and once we were all in, we were to look into the left eye of the person across from us without talking.  Just be with them.  Don't 'do' anything.  After about a minute or so, a bell rang, and the inside circle shifted one person to the left, and we did the same thing with a new person.  All the while, a beautiful song with just piano and a female voice gently played in the background.  The song's refrain was singing something about, "You are the face of God."

As I gazed into each person's eye (really great instruction to just focus left eye to left eye, because we really got to 'lock in' with the other person), some really great moments occurred.  First of all, I was struck by how beautiful the human eye is.  I marveled at the beauty contained in each one I looked at.  Then, in other moments, I was able to really connect with the human at the other end of that eye!  That may sound funny, but in some moments I could perceive a whole person.  Other times, I was marveling at the brilliance of the eye itself.  Still others, I could the reflection of me and the room in the person's eye, and almost see what they were seeing.  But finally, for a couple of brief, fleeting moments… I thought I was looking into an entire universe, and in one of those moments, I thought I spied God way off in the distance somehow smiling at me, even though I wasn't perceiving a face… it was just an energy that gave off that feeling.

Was that transcendence?

Whatever those moments were, I was filled with peace, love, and a deep, profound connectedness to these otherwise strangers, and to God.  I was grateful that I got to partake in such tender moments, and it was very mind-opening to be exposed to other ways of reaching that same place, for the master was every bit as reverent and humble as any priest or minister I've encountered.

Many paths?

God night.