The Music Mom: Eileen Carey

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It is not easy to raise kind kids nowadays. Compassion and selflessness are less in vogue than ever before. In their place, selfishness and narcissism seem to be everywhere. From our social media to our pop culture to our politics, it seems as though everyone everywhere cares only about themselves.

The good news is that we can defeat all the toxic egocentrism that’s out there. It takes a whole lotta effort, but we can instill in our kids a long-lasting sense of compassion. To do it, we must nurture in them a willingness to genuinely care about other people.

By doing the 4 things mentioned in this post, you can help make compassion cool again.  

1. Live a life of compassion.

You’ve probably grown tired of hearing it, but you are the best example your kids will ever see. In fact, you’re kind of like a walking billboard for how to treat others. To further that analogy, your little ones are stuck in traffic, sitting in their (plastic) car and staring up at you.

ALL THE TIME! 

Because of this, try to develop a keen sense of awareness regarding your actions. And remember that you can show compassion in big and little ways.

For example, your younger kids notice when you volunteer your time at a local charity. 

On the other hand, your older kids see how you respond with sympathy when their sibling falls and gets hurt.

One act is obvious, while the other is more subtle. 

In the end, though, they both point to you being a compassionate person who genuinely cares for others. 

2. Surround your family with compassionate people. 

As your kids get older, their social world expands. This is good in that it can introduce them to new and interesting people from all over the world. It’s also bad in that it can allow less than savory individuals or groups to influence them. 

The good news is that you can actively combat these negative influencers by surrounding your children with people you trust and admire. 

You can select a core group of people and institutions that reinforce your message of kindness and compassion.

Be it the neighborhood in which you live, the families who you befriend, or the schools you send your kids to, you can directly influence your child’s circle of influence. 

Surrounding your kids with people and groups who share your kindhearted values has a two-fold positive effect: it ensures your kids receive the right message from someone other than you, and it creates a sort of protective force field around them that prevents messages of narcissism from getting through to them. 

Now that’s worth finding the right company!

3. Openly discuss with your kids what it means to be compassionate.

As your kids get older, you should create an open dialogue pertaining to compassion, what it means to show it, and how you can foster it in others. This will enable your children to gain a deeper understanding of the concept and how it can play a part in their lives. 

The best way to adequately discuss compassion is to point out examples of it as often as you can. Show your kids that being patient and kind to their siblings is one way to show compassion. Tell them that every time they take their clothes that no longer fit and donate them to the local charity, they are demonstrating compassion. 

It’s important for kids to realize that showing kindness and compassion is not just for adults. That it’s something people of all ages can do. 

The more you explicitly discuss the ins and outs of living a compassionate life, the more comfortable your kids will be with the concept. 

4. Give your kids plenty of opportunities to show compassion.

The most powerful way to prepare your kids for a life of compassion is to have them actively engage in one today. Yes, it’s important to discuss the concept, but nothing beats getting out and doing it. 

The best part is that you can start with little things and work your way up to bigger, more complicated actions.

For example, the next time one of your children is knocked out with the flu, have his or her sibling take care of them. Show them how to care for someone who is sick, and then allow them to take over. Let them take ownership of their sibling’s healing.

You can eventually move on to more elaborate ways of showing compassion. One thing we like to do is foster an abandoned pet. This teaches your kid that all living creatures have value, and that it’s our job to look after them when they’re hurting – even if we didn’t initially cause their pain. 

During and after you complete an activity like that, make sure you’re constantly reflecting upon what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Your reasons should go beyond rescuing a puppy because he’s “sooooo cute!” 

There are numerous benefits to your kids having this type of direct experience while showing compassion. 

In the case of a sick sibling, it allows them to see the gratitude in their brother or sister’s eyes. They can put a face to their act of kindness, thus making it that much more impactful. 

Same thing with the puppy. Being the recipient of all those wet puppy kisses will implant on your child’s brain the positive emotions associated with their act of thoughtfulness. 

Closing thoughts

Contrary to what modern society seems to think, compassion is cool. Teaching your kids how to do it will ensure that the fine art of living a compassionate life survives at least one more generation.

What are some additional ways you like to teach your kids compassion? Mention your ideas in the comments.

And as always, stay kind!

As the calendar prepares to turn to August and school becomes a more common topic, I’m struck by the sad realization that summer won’t last forever.

Fortunately, though, there’s still plenty of time to do some of those amazing activities that summer is known for.

If you’re like me and you’ll miss the sunshine and warm temps once fall arrives, make sure you do each of the items on this list.

It’s obviously not a comprehensive list, but I think I hit most of the major activities that make summer so fun and relaxing.

Some of these are mysterious (stargazing and catching fireflies), while others are just pure fun (swimming in a lake and watching a movie at a drive-in). 

Without further adieu, here are 10 things you absolutely must do before summer ends.

I hope you enjoy each and every one of them!

1. Watch a movie at a drive-in

5 Georgia Drive-In Theaters You Can't Miss | Official Georgia ...

Summer and nostalgia are a perfect pair. And nothing shouts nostalgia like a drive-in movie theater.

Drive-ins are obviously not as common as they used to be, but they’re out there. You’l likely have to venture to a small town or rural setting to find one, but that would make the whole thing even more enjoyable.

So get your popcorn, your candy, and your soda, and let the stars be your overhead lighting as you enjoy a flick in the great outdoors.

2. Read a book outside

Winterpock Summer Reading - Lessons - Tes Teach

Summer is the perfect time to catch up on all those books you’ve been waiting to read. And since it’s so nice outdoors nowadays, why not take that favorite book of yours outside and read it there? 

I find that the best reading environments are the ones that are calm, quiet, and peaceful (I’ve never been much of a train reader!). What setting could be more tranquil than underneath a large oak tree on a warm, sunny day?

So go ahead. Ditch your phone for a few hours and dive into that book you’ve been meaning to finish – all in the comforts of the great outdoors! 

3. Sleep outdoors (preferably in a hammock)

The 6 Best Hammocks of 2020

Sleep is a wonderful thing. Sleeping outdoors is even better. 

Some of the deepest, most relaxing sleep I’ve ever experienced has been outside. There’s something about resting in the warm embrace of Mother Nature that feels so natural. I’m definitely grateful for the roof over my head, but sleeping outside feels like something we’re supposed to do. It just feels right. 

Some of the benefits of frequently sleeping outside include increased peace, improved mental health, and an improved immune system. 

By the way, if you can get your hands on one, I highly recommend sleeping in a hammock. It is one of the most relaxing ways to experience an outdoor slumber. 

4. Swim in a lake

The best places to go wild swimming near London | London Evening ...

I know that beaches and summer go hand in hand, but I’ve always loved a lake setting just as much as the sand and surf of a beach. If you’re looking for a change of scenery for your outdoor water fun, I suggest you round up the crew and head for the nearest lake. 

A visit to a lake can be an adventurous family or friend activity. Even better, a trip to the lake is usually much more affordable than a vacation near the beach. 

Also, if you ask any adult whose family took them to the lake as a child, they’ll confirm that lakes are perfect for creating lifelong memories. 

That’s good enough for me! 

5. Go stargazing – far, far away from the city

Stargazing Around Austin | Texas Kids & Family Blog

The stars are waiting for you. All you have to do it leave the city and go find them. 

I’ve never stared up at the stars and not been stirred. It’s an incredibly moving experience, and one that’s easy to do if you can escape the bright lights of the city or suburbs. 

Summer is the best time to plan an evening outdoors spent stargazing. Make sure you and yours do it at least once this summer. 

6. Have a picnic in the park

Header-Family-Picnic - Pat Casper Insurance

There’s nothing more summery than a picnic in the park. While it’s not the most innovative activity, it’s a tried and true way to have fun and enjoy summer’s finest weather. 

Definitely make it happen before summer ends. 

7. Go camping

What to Wear Camping in the Summer: Tips and Cute Outfits | Jetsetter

Summertime is all about escape. And nothing lets you get away from the craziness of the world like camping.

Summer weather is perfect for camping.

The nightly temperature drop will provide you with perfect sleeping weather.

The setting of many campgrounds offers tons of opportunities for sports, hiking, and other summer activities. 

Oh, and who can forget about the joy that comes from making – and then eating – s’mores? 

Bring your family and friends to a campground near you, and watch how many memories you make. 

8. Watch (and listen to) a thunderstorm

Thunderstorm over the river at night

I love things that are mysterious.

That are awe-inspiring.

That make you gasp.

I love summer thunderstorms.

This one is obviously more difficult to schedule, but if you can find a safe spot to watch and listen to the thunder and lightning of a summer storm, do it.

The sounds, sights, and even the smells of a powerful thunderstorm will blow your mind. And if you have kids with you, multiply that by a thousand! 

9. Catch fireflies in a jar

Speaking of mysterious, perhaps nothing is more awe-inspiring than those little givers of summer light, fireflies. 

Fireflies represent all that’s right about summer: they’re mysterious, fun, and thought-provoking. 

Even if it’s just for a few minutes, gather up the kids, grab a few mason jars, and go find some fireflies. Of course, the humane thing to do after you catch them is to let them go. 

But the few seconds they’re in your grasp will make for an exciting time that your kids will remember forever. 

10. Visit a farmer’s market

The Ultimate Guide to Farmers Markets - South Sound Magazine

I know that summer is often synonymous with junk food.

There’s the ice cream.

And the hot dogs.

And of course, the previously mentioned s’mores.

Yes, these are all staples of the summer diet. 

But the truth is that summer provides an excellent opportunity to eat healthy.

And one of the best ways to do that is to head to a farmer’s market.

There you’ll find the very best collection of summer fruits and veggies. Not only that, but the atmosphere at a farmer’s market is often vibrant and more fun than kids think it’ll be. 

If you’re determined to eat better this summer, plan a trip to your local farmer’s market.

A final note

So there you have the 10 activities I think you have to partake of before summer ends.

Which summer activities would you include? Go ahead and mention in the comments your can’t-miss things to do during the summer.

Thanks for reading! 

 

 

As we get ready to kick off what should be a most unusual summer, I’ve been thinking a lot about positivity. I’m a big believer in the benefits of maintaining a positive outlook on life, so I try to encourage my family and friends to do it.

The problem is that many folks struggle to keep a positive mindset. They genuinely want to, but negativity keeps creeping in at the absolute worst times. Like nowadays.

On that note, here are 5 tips for developing the positive mindset you’ve always wanted.

1. Start your day by reading, watching, or listening to something positive. 

I strongly believe that how you start your day has a huge impact on how the rest of it goes.

There’s so much negativity out there, so I try to avoid soaking it in right when I wake up. I try to avoid the news as much as possible, as so much of it is downright depressing in nature.

Instead, I listen to music that makes me happy.

Or I read inspirational quotes.

Anything that lifts me up will do.

The goal is to fill your mind with the type of positivity you want to put out into the world. I’m certainly not the first to confirm that whatever you put in your mind will influence what comes out.

Fill your head and your heart with love.

Fill them with joy.

Fill them with hope.

Fill them with humor.

Doing so will ensure these things come out of you throughout the day.

2. Focus on the here and now.

So much of our negativity is the result of a failure to live in the present. When we get stuck trying to change the past or worrying about the future, we set ourselves up for a world of negativity.

The good news is that we don’t have to settle for that. We can take control of our thoughts and shift what and when we focus on.

One way to force ourselves to be in the moment is to meditate. It doesn’t have to be a formal activity, and you don’t have to assume any of those fancy yoga positions.

All you have to do is sit in silence for a few minutes each day. Sit there and listen to yourself breathe. Try to hear your heartbeat. Concentrate on the fact that you really, truly are alive right this second.

3. Create a list of 3 achievable tasks at the start of each day. Then complete them.

Perhaps you’re wondering why I added this one to the list. Well, I’ve discovered that I’m often at my most positive after I’ve accomplished something. Even if it’s something relatively minor (organizing all my books, albums, and movies, for example), I always have an extra bounce in my step after I get something meaningful done.

With that in mind, I suggest you spend a minute each morning jotting down 3 achievable tasks for the day.

Make them attainable.

Make them meaningful.

If possible, make them fun.

Having tasks to complete also gives you a sense of purpose. This can further enhance your overall positivity.

4. Each day jot down one person or thing you’re thankful for, and then summarize why.

Negativity is often the result of a lack of perspective. With so many modern distractions and accessible material things, it’s incredibly easy to lose sight of all we have.

One way to overcome this negativity-producing shortsightedness is to consciously reflect upon the people and things that matter most to us.

I spend a few minutes each day writing about a person or thing I’m thankful for. I’ll typically write a few sentences in which I explain why this person or thing matters so much to me (sometimes it’s even a place). It really helps me focus on the important things in life.

I have found that reflecting upon the people and things that matter most to me is an excellent way to instill positivity within myself. I highly recommend it for you, too.

5. Surround yourself with positive people. 

This is probably the most important thing you can do to develop the positive outlook you want. Don’t take for granted the extent to which the people around you can influence your entire perspective.

If you’re constantly surrounded by Debbie downers, eventually that’s who you’ll be, too.

On the other hand, watch how your view of pretty much everything and everyone changes for the better when you hang out with positive folks. They have a knack for bringing out your best self.

Sometimes you simply can’t choose who you spend time with. But most times you can. Spend as much time as you can with people who are positive, optimistic, and easygoing. You’ll notice that their positive attributes will soon become yours.

I hope these tips help you develop a positive mindset. They’ve been VERY effective for me. Please leave a comment describing any methods you use for building a positive outlook. I’d love to hear your suggestions. Stay well! 

 

 

 

 

George Harrison had no idea how right he was when he sang of a “long cold lonely winter” in “Here Comes the Sun.” It’s been that and so much more.

Now, after several months of a seemingly constant gray isolation, summer has arrived. Finally.

To celebrate the highly anticipated arrival of summer, I thought it’d be fun to share 10 of my absolute favorite summer songs. I hope they bring you as much joy as they do me.

“Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)

“Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful tells of sweltering days in an urban setting. It features urgent rhythms, fun lyrics, and even real street sounds such as car horns and jackhammers. A truly timeless summer classic.

“Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts (1972)

Nothing says summer like feel-good harmony-driven folk-pop, and “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts embodies that genre more than any other tune. This 1972 hit somehow actually captures the feeling of a welcome warm and gentle breeze. Summer instantly happens every time “Summer Breeze” comes on.

“The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley (1984)

This is easily the most melancholic of all the summer songs on my list. In it, Don Henley mourns both a summer love that slipped through his fingers and the ditched ideals of the Baby Boomer generation. The line about seeing “a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac” says it all.

“Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone (1969)

Released in August 1969, “Hot Fun in the Summertime” by funk trailblazers Sly and the Family Stone climbed to No. 2 spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 on the Billboard soul charts in the autumn of 1969. Honestly, how did this one not reach No. 1? Mixing a happy-go-lucky melody with lead singer Sly Stone’s soulful vocal stylings, “Hot Fun in the Summertime” needs only 2 minutes and 39 seconds to completely capture the many joys of summer.

“Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas (1964)

Joy, joy, joy! Martha and the Vandellas’ 1964 hit “Dancing in the Street” contains all the booty-shaking joy you could want in a summer song. And with lyrics like “across the nation” and “around the world,” it’s clear that the gals wanted everyone to unite in feeling the joy.

“Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams (1985)

In his 1985 hit “Summer of ’69,” Bryan Adams sings of two things I love most about summer: rock and romance. This bouncy gem of a tune remains the ultimate ode to the endless optimism adolescents feel as school ends and a carefree summer begins.

“Saturday in the Park” by Chicago (1972)

New York City’s Central Park was the inspiration for Chicago’s 1972 hit “Saturday in the Park.” The feel-good tune is still one of the band’s signature songs. Just try not singing it if you happen to be in the park on a warm summer afternoon.

“Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys (1966)

Wow. Where to start with this one? “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys is a classic in so many ways. With its groundbreaking instrumentation (it features a cello and an electro-theremin), its innovative harmonies, and its sunshiney good vibes, “Good Vibrations” is the ultimate soundtrack to summer.

“Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves (1985)

I dare you to try to listen to “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves and not bop your head, tap your foot, or even break out in dance. It’s impossible. This 1985 radio hit isn’t actually about summer at all, but it doesn’t really matter. The song’s frantic drums, big brass notes, and sing-along chorus make us feel as though we’ve stepped into an eternal summer sunshine.

“Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles (1969)

George Harrison wrote “Here Comes the Sun” at the tail end of a particularly dark and dreary period in his life. Half a century later, we are all still better for it. This classic remains the absolute best song to kick off summer and, in certain years, end a pandemic.

The past few years have taught me so much about the music industry, but even more about myself. So much of what I thought I’d experience while in a music career was wrong. Dead wrong. 

And yes, it’s been incredibly challenging at times to travel this long and winding road I’ve chosen. As music moms, we face the least traditional path to music industry success.

But taking this path has also been wildly rewarding and life-affirming. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I have always felt inclined to guide and support other women who are trying to build a stable music career. As a result, I’m now sharing five songs that capture the essence of all I’ve learned as I’ve gone from part-time back-up singer to full-time, chart-topping mama.

It’s been a whirlwind of a few years, and these tunes perfectly capture the wisdom, wonder, and wounds of it all.

“Love Can Build A Bridge” by The Judds

In 1990, legendary mother-daughter country duo The Judds released “Love Can Build a Bridge.” The song was a timely reminder that love opens way more doors than it closes.

A life spent in the rough and tumble music industry could easily justify all the bitterness, animosity, and negativity you could muster. But that will get you nowhere fast. My personal experience has proven to me time and time again that treating even the worst folks with love leads to a wonderful cycle of positivity and goodwill. 

As a willing participant in the music biz, you’re going to face your share of people who allow hatred and negativity to define, guide, and inspire them. My answer to that? Let love define you. Let love guide you. Let love inspire you. 

In the end, what you put out into the world will most certainly come back to you. What would you like that to be?

“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor

Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 anthem “I Will Survive” is perhaps the single greatest masterplan for anyone crazy enough to pursue a full-time music career.

In it, Gaynor celebrates her legendary survival skills and lust for life amidst a world intent on kicking her down and knocking her out.

Don’t believe me? Check out these lyrics:

Do you think I’d crumble
Did you think I’d lay down and die?
No, not I, I will survive
Long as I know how to love
I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live
And all my love to give and I’ll survive.
I, I, I will survive.

Now that is how you handle all the misogynists, egomaniacs, naysayers, backstabbers, bad reviews, empty rooms, and endless nights on a crowded bus that come with a life spent in the music industry. It can be heartbreakingly brutal, my friends. 

So thank you, Gloria, for singing the song that gets us through it all. 

“Dream On” by Aerosmith

I’ve met all types of people over the past few years. Some of them have been happy. Some of them have been sad. Most of them have been somewhere in the middle. There’s an entire spectrum of happiness upon which the people I’ve met fall.

But over and over again, I’ve noticed that the happiest people in the world are those who refuse to give up on their dreams. This is so much more than mere coincidence.

This world is a hostile place for dreamers. Trust me: I’m a female musician who happens to have kids. If I, or any of the hundreds of dreamers I’ve met, let the naysayers have their way, we’d all be stuck in dead end jobs doing things that leave us feeling frustrated and dead inside. Never!

Aerosmith’s 1973 classic “Dream On” urges all of us to “dream until your dreams come true.” The fellows from Boston not only succeeded in writing a feel-good rock n’ roll anthem, they also created a blueprint for how to live the type of life that leaves you happy, content, and inspired. Especially if you’ve chosen to follow in their musical footsteps.

“Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw

Life on the road and in the music industry has revealed to me this unfortunate fact: too many people refuse to live for today because they’re obsessed with yesterday or tomorrow.

Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” is a 2004 country song that provides the perfect solution for all those who aren’t fully engaged in their life or relationships. 

McGraw’s message is clear, and one that we all need to hear every now and then: live your life like there is no tomorrow, because eventually there won’t be.

Love with all your might.

Laugh with all your might.

Work with all your might.

Play with all your might.

Help others with all your might.

Forgive those who need it with all your might. 

Live with all your might.

There’s really no other way to do this thing called life. Especially if music is in your blood. 

“Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.

So many people. So much pain. My time on the road has given me the opportunity to meet a diverse group of individuals, and no matter how much folks differ from each other, this much remains true: we are all complex humans with a wide variety of pains, conflicts, and troubles. All of us. 

That’s why R.E.M.’s 1993 hit song “Everybody Hurts” is on this list. The profound truth in Michael Stipe’s rather simple statement causes me to view each person I encounter, no matter how unlike me they are, as someone who is much more like me than they are different. 

This realization has motivated me to empathize with people in ways I could never have imagined. Getting to know them and discovering the reasons why they hurt has been a fulfilling experience, one that makes me even more grateful for a music career that takes me to the people and places I’d otherwise never encounter.

I urge you to do the same. Find the common ground you have with others. Search for the things that cause your family, friends, and yes, even strangers, all the pain and suffering they’ve endured. Be there for them. Help them heal.

Doing so will make the world a better place, the kind you’ll want to visit time and time again. Maybe even on a tour bus in support of your brand new single. You know, the one you wrote about all the people you’ve met and all the things you’ve learned while in the music industry. 

If you’ve yet to get going on that healthier lifestyle you swore you’d start for you and your family this year, worry not: you can start right now and still see improvements before the calendar flips to the next month.

The incredibly good news is that improving your physical and mental health does NOT require completely changing your lifestyle. In fact, you and your loved ones can bring about improved health and increased happiness simply by embracing three simple formulas.

Food + screens = health trouble

Whatever you do, do not let anyone in your household snack while watching TV or using the computer. Here’s why: eating while in front of the TV or computer almost always results in mindless overeating.

Then, think about how dangerous it is to combine that overeating with a lack of activity. It’s a recipe (pun intended) for disaster.

Instead, make sure everyone stays active by limiting screen time to specific times of the day. And when everyone is in front of a screen? Keep snacks a thousand miles away from you and anyone you care about!

More time outside + less time inside = improved health and more fun

Listen. I already strongly believe that the outdoors should be a more frequent destination for families. But when you add to the mix our modern eating habits, well, it’s easy to see why the great outdoors ought to be everyone’s favorite hot spot.

Whether it’s playing, camping, biking, or hiking, we all stand to gain improved health and tons more fun when we spend time outside. There’s so much open space for us and our kids to explore, so let’s get out there and do it. 

Of course, some activities are meant for indoors. And sometimes exceptionally lousy weather leaves us with no choice. But it’s important to remember that nothing, and I really do mean nothing, beats soaking up the sun, rain, snow, or wind while spending time with your favorite people.

0 + 5 + 10 + 30 + 150 = the best health you’ve ever had

I must admit that I didn’t come up with this fabulous formula. I’m borrowing it from Colin Kopes-Kerr, MD from the Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency in Santa Rosa, California. But it’s so important that I’m okay with admitting a bit of thievery. 

In this inspiring editorial entitled Preventive Health: Time for Change, Kopes-Kerr suggests this formula to “help patients achieve healthy lifestyle goals” that’ll last a lifetime:

  • 0 = no cigarettes or tobacco products
  • 5 = five servings of fruits and vegetables per day
  • 10 = ten minutes of silence, relaxation, prayer, or meditation per day
  • 30 = keep your BMI (body mass index) below 30
  • 150 = number of minutes of exercise per week (e.g., brisk walking or equivalent)

There’s so much wisdom in this formula that I genuinely regret not knowing about it sooner. The really awesome part of Dr. Kopes-Kerr’s equation is that each of the items in it are easy to achieve – and even easier to maintain once you’ve started them.

Take, for example, the 150 minutes of exercise each week. That comes out to only a little more than 20 minutes each day. That is a mere percentage of the time we typically spend texting random thoughts to each other, Googling things we don’t necessarily care about, and watching YouTube clips that mean absolutely nothing to us.

In other words, we all have 20 minutes a day to spend walking, jogging, playing, exercising, or lifting weights. Let’s use that time in a way that will have long-lasting benefits for our bodies and minds. 

Final thoughts

One of the biggest misconceptions parents have is that it takes a massive overhaul of their family’s schedule and priorities to bring about the healthy living they want for their loved ones.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you otherwise. It simply is not true that you need to drastically change your lifestyle in order to develop the type of habits you’ve aspired to all these years.

The three formulas described above will leave you and your family healthier and happier than ever. The best part? You can start right here, right now.

Good luck!

A brand new year is once again upon us. For many people, this is the time for fine-tuning their list of resolutions and goals for the coming year. You know, all the resolutions and goals most of us end up bailing on before March.

Instead of making up a list of all the things you think you should achieve this year, things like losing ten pounds, finding a new job, or ditching your bad habits, instead of putting those types of things on paper, I want to encourage you to take a different approach this year.

An approach that is guaranteed to put you in a better frame of mind throughout the year.

An approach that will enable you to actually achieve the typical New Year’s Eve promises you’ve made – and broken – in the past.

I want to encourage you to commit to being present, positive, and purposeful this coming year. The 3 P’s are what I consider a perfect blueprint for living the best life possible – and you don’t have to worry about scales, bank accounts, and the other ways by which you’ve measured your success in meeting previous New Years goals. 

My life has been so much more rewarding since I began focusing on the here and now, maintaining a positive attitude towards everyone and everything, and living each day with a specific purpose in mind. Gone is all the anxiety, bitterness, and disappointment I experienced in the past.

And when you think about what it means to constantly live life in opposition to the 3 P’s, it totally makes sense. Would you rather live a life in which you are always wishing you were somewhere else? Would you rather live a life in which you are always consumed by negativity? How about a life in which you are always wandering aimlessly, not quite sure what you are doing or why exactly you are doing it?

Thanks, but no thanks!

Be present.

Have you ever thought something like this:

“If I could just turn off all the thoughts running around inside my head, it would feel incredible. If I could just look at all that’s right in front of me, instead of staring at the past, the future, or some other place I’d rather be, I’d be so much happier.” 

Well, you can take on that mindset. Everything you think, and every attitude you embrace, is a choice. All of it.

So choose to be right here, right now. Notice who and what is around you. Pay attention to what you’re feeling. Dive deep into the thoughts you’re thinking. 

And when you do, guess what’ll happen.

You’ll experience reduced anxiety.

You’ll experience increased proficiency and effectiveness in everything you do.

Most important, you’ll experience improved and healthier relationships with the people you care about most as they finally believe you appreciate them.

That alone is worth being present. 

Be positive.

Negativity is a contagious disease that can destroy relationships, ruin careers, and cause permanent damage to a person’s physical and mental health. Like any contagious disease capable of such damage, you need to avoid negativity by any means possible.

You can do this by transforming yourself into a more positive person. Here are three ways to do that:

  • Limit your negative thoughts by consciously combating them with positive thoughts.
  • Allow humor to alter your mindset. I’ve always believed that heartfelt laughter is the best medicine.
  • Tap into your creative side. It’s proven that creativity and self-expression can have all sorts of positive effects on your mindset.

Once you’ve begun pursuing a positive approach to life, you’ll soon notice many benefits.

Your physical health will improve, as you bring less and less stress upon yourself.

A positive attitude will also help you more successfully tackle the more challenging aspects of life. Anything negative or unexpected can be overcome with a positive mindset. 

Finally, much like when you’ve chosen to be present, you’ll notice obvious improvements in your relationships with your family, friends, and colleagues.

Again, that in itself is reason enough to embrace a positive approach in everything you do. 

Be purposeful. 

It is so easy nowadays to lead lives that are chaotic, distracted, and purposeless. The weird part is that we often wander aimlessly through life, but we do so while being busier than ever.

Living that way can easily lead to burnout and the intense frustration that comes from feeling like we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing. That feeling can weigh down even the most optimistic person. 

In contrast, being fully focused and connected to what you intend to do is one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. Being purposeful brings with it so many benefits, including

  • better mental and physical health,
  • more free time because you’re using your time wisely,
  • more energy to do the things you enjoy, and a
  • greater sense of accomplishment because, well, you’re actually accomplishing more. 

So how can you become more purposeful so that you can enjoy these benefits? Well, for starters, it helps to identify some sort of mission that is bigger than yourself. Attach yourself to a cause, or something more meaningful than the mundane items of everyday life.

I also recommend focusing on one thing at a time. It’s nothing more than a myth that we can actually thrive while multitasking. Trying to do too many things at one time will only lead to confusion of purpose and, in the end, it’ll prevent you from mastering what you’re truly capable of mastering.

The most effective way to be purposeful is to live in the moment. Actively look for situations during each day in which you can take a step towards achieving your purpose for that particular moment. That can’t happen if you’re hung up on the past or stressing about the future. 

Closing thoughts for the new year

Of course I believe in setting certain attainable and measurable goals. They can be helpful as you try to become the best you possible.

But the reality is that traditional New Year resolutions don’t typically do that. They tend to cause anxiety and guilt more than anything else.

The new year should bring you feelings of joy, newness, and freedom. I hope it does. And if you spend this year living a life based on the 3 P’s, I’m pretty sure you’ll still have those feelings a year from now.

Happy New Year!

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Mom was still stirring, as she snuck like a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
Then again, how else does Mom do these things, every day of the year?

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
Never really knowing, how much they fill Mom’s head.

While Mom set out all the gifts, she still had many doubts,
Had she done enough, or would her kids be without?

Gifts were bought, some more thoughtfully than others,
But Mom would buy more, if she had her druthers.

And Mom would do more, if only she could,
She’d buy more, and give more, and love more – of course Mom would.

Feeling tired, inadequate, and oh so worn,
Mom became the object of her own newfound scorn;

Not even St. Nick, with all his toys and cheer,
Could rescue dearest Mom, from all this Christmas drear.

But then suddenly, the strangest thing occurred,
Mom found near the glowing tree, a paper filled with words;

It was sloppily written, rushed and without pause,
This letter from Mom’s youngest, to Mr. Santa Claus; 

“Dear Santa” it went, as Mom began to read,
“Here’s a list of all the things, I could ever want or need.

This list is short, though, so I hope it’s worth your time,
But the gift I’m asking for, is always on my mind.

So Santa, please give it to me, each and every year,
And wherever I go, please keep this gift so near.”

By now, Mom was curious, filled with much intrigue:
“What is this gift of a lifetime – what could it ever be?”

She continued reading, hoping to learn more,
Which soon she did, and left her fully floored;

Floored by the words that somehow made her whole,
This symphony of sweetness, this music to her soul:

“The only gift I’ll ever want, is the only one I’d ever miss,
So if I can have just one thing, Santa, Mom alone is on my list.”

It wears you down. It wears you out. But you stick with it, fully aware that not doing it is not an option. It’s part of who you are, and you need to do it.

What exactly is this labor of love? Well, if you’re a music mom, it’s your motherhood and your musicianship. That’s right: you are the rare bird that is 100% committed to two seemingly opposite – yet at times equally trying – roles. 

Before you say something like “Yikes! I’ve never thought of it that way!” and begin freaking out about all that’s on your plate, let me make clear my intentions: I want to encourage you to 1) notice the similarities between being a mother and being a musician and 2) fully embrace the two roles with the knowledge that being a music mom is the best way to succeed at either role.

In short, I strongly believe there are many ways your motherhood and your musicianship can compliment each other, and doing one makes you better at the other

The reality is that being both a mother and a musician is not as different as you might think. Sure, bedtime and showtime are quite different in terms of volume and energy – or at least they should be.

But there are several aspects of a music mom’s two favorite activities that mirror each other. The cool part is that recognizing these similarities and then embracing your roles will make you an absolute rockstar at both.

Ready to be inspired? Me too. Here are the ways that being a musician and being a mom are similar: 

Moms and musicians both need LOTS AND LOTS OF CREATIVITY.   

As you know, parenting does not come with a “how-to” manual. Despite your best efforts to learn from all the moms and dads who have come before you, once you have your own child, you’re pretty much on your own.

And because there is no foolproof plan for raising kids, you often find yourself figuring things out on your own. This requires a certain amount of spontaneity and creative thinking. It’s amazing how moms can sometimes turn an unexpected, negative, and potentially disastrous situation into a fun, positive, and memorable experience. 

Likewise, being a musician exercises the same parts of your brain that produce the abstract thinking necessary to handle those stomach-turning, stress-inducing parenting endeavors. There is no blueprint for how to handle many of the moments you’ll encounter as a musician.

Composing a brand new tune for a songwriting contest? No blueprint.

Promoting a new song or album on an internet that is completely filled to the brim with more new albums, artists, and songs than you could ever count? No blueprint.

Collaborating for the first time with a group of unfamiliar musicians who are a bit more, umm, “eccentric” than you expected? Definitely no blueprint. 

But you survive, and sometimes even thrive in, these situations.

Why? Because your creative instincts allow you to. They’re among the greatest gifts you could ever have as a musician. And as a mom.

Wear them like a badge of honor. 

Moms and musicians both FOCUS ON THE BIG PICTURE

Whether you’re trying to move on from that disaster of a gig in which your guitar strings broke and your voice gave out, or you’re trying to forget the exhausting and overly spirited argument you just had with your teen, you’re going to need lots and lots of perspective to maintain a positive attitude as a musician and as a mother.

This perspective will get you through the countless moments you feel like a failure. As a parent, you really don’t have a choice. There’s another human being depending on you to move on from your bad moments.

So you do, knowing full well that your performance as a mom is not graded by one, two, or even a thousand uh-ohs and oopses. Nope. Your final grade as a mom will be determined by the kind, caring, and empathetic adult you help build. And deep in your heart of hearts, despite your many mess-ups, you know you’re doing a helluva job.

Similarly, one bad note, one lousy rehearsal, or one very forgettable gig does not define you as a musician. You’ve poured too much time and energy into your music to be destroyed by one or two failures – or even by twenty.

You care too much to be deterred by a critic’s negative review, or by a less-than-stellar crowd for a gig you’ve spent months promoting. Does it hurt? Of course.

But deep down, you know this: those negative moments are a part of this here music thing. If the biggest names in music history, the iconic singers, musicians, and bands who inspired you to first pick up an instrument or belt out a tune, if they had those bad moments, so can you.

You know this, and that’s why you continue pursuing your music, in whatever way and to whatever extent you do.

The big picture is your best friend, both as a musician and as a mom. Thank God for the big picture. Thank God for perspective.

Moms and musicians both shed their share of BLOOD, SWEAT, and TEARS.

The best things in life are worth fighting for. And sweating for. And crying for. If you’re a music mom, you’re gonna do all three, both for your kids and for your music. Plan on it. 

Parenting is, by its very nature, an attempt to survive the consequences of making yourself completely vulnerable in oh so many ways.

As a parent, you must endure the physical exhaustion that comes from making sure a completely helpless being survives multiple stages of life.

You must endure the emotional agony that results from selflessly loving and caring for a person who means more to you than any other person or thing on this planet. 

And in the end, there is no guarantee that all your love, caring, and concern will be given back to you. But you give it anyway. Day after day, year after year. 

Likewise, as a musician, you spend countless hours practicing your craft, collaborating with other musicians, and promoting yourself and your music.

You pour your heart into it, and sometimes even your soul.

You ride a never-ending pendulum of emotion, going from extreme confidence in you and your craft one day to downright disbelief in what you’re doing the next. 

Final notes

Let’s recap what we’ve covered so far. Your motherhood and your musicianship are similar in that they both require a crazy amount of creativity, an ability to focus on the big picture, and the shedding of blood, sweat, and tears. Recognizing this common ground between the two roles is the first step in becoming the best music mom you can be.

The next step? Make sure that you fully dive into each role as you take it on. Remember: we’re not aiming for being all things at all times. That’s a surefire way to spread yourself too thin and do a less than stellar job at both roles.

Instead, being a music mom is all about time management and giving both roles all you’ve got, as I described earlier this year in this post

Being a music mom is definitely challenging, but I can’t think of anything that is more exciting and fulfilling than raising kind and thoughtful humans while also exploring and expressing my creative instincts through my music.

When I think of it that way, I have to ask: why would anyone not want all the magic, mystery, and madness that comes from being a music mom?

Parenting is the best job you could ever have. It’s also the toughest. By far. Not that this is breaking news to you, but I know I find it reassuring to hear it from someone else.

Yet, if you’re like me, hearing about how difficult this parenting thing is is not enough. You want it to be easier. You want to get better at it. You want to screw up as little as possible.

The problem? By its very nature, parenting is the ultimate breeding ground for mistakes. Raising, protecting, teaching, and caring for another human being – and doing these things well – is incredibly difficult. You’re gonna screw up. Lots and lots of times. Here are just some of the mistakes you can expect to make as a parent:

  • failing to discipline your child
  • losing your temper
  • not listening to your child
  • avoiding conflict with your child for the sake of temporary peace
  • letting your actions contrast with your words
  • micromanaging your child
  • inconsistency in how you respond to your child

How you handle these mess-ups is often more important than the mess-ups themselves.  Based on everything I’ve seen, heard, read, and experienced, I have found that successful parents make lemonade out of lemons by doing two things with their mistakes:

  1. They learn from their mistakes.
  2. They let go of their mistakes.

These two are obviously not the be-all and end-all of parenting tips, but doing them has made a world of difference in my life, as well as in the lives of my kids.

1. Parenthood is the ultimate classroom in which you can learn from the good and the bad. Learn from your mistakes. 

Next time you make one of the mistakes mentioned above, remember this: Making mistakes is natural, but fixing them and then learning from them is not. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Admit your mistake to your kids.
  2. Reflect upon your actions, carefully analyzing what you did and why.
  3. Actively pursue better parenting methods.
  4. After reflecting on your actions and the new info you’ve gained post-mistake, do everything in your power to do better next time.

The benefits of using your mistakes as learning tools

Not only will following these steps allow you to learn from your mistakes and fix any damage that’s been done to your relationship with your child, it will also make you a superb role model for how to deal with mistakes.

By preaching within your home that mistakes are opportunities to learn, your kids can learn important lessons that include:

  • messing up is a part of life,
  • it’s possible to survive mistakes, rather than be defeated by them, and
  • they can pick themselves up off the floor after they’ve messed up.

Your kids will begin to resemble you in that they admit their mistakes, make amends with anyone who’s been hurt by their mistake, reflect on how and why they made their mistake, and try hard to do better next time.

If you look at it that way, you can see why some parents view mistakes as golden learning opportunities.

2. They will only bring you pain, anxiety, and guilt, so let go of the mistakes you’ve made.  

Every mom and dad regrets something they have said or done. Or something they didn’t say. Or didn’t do. So if there’s something that has been eating away at you, now is the time to forgive yourself and move on.

Forgiving yourself for parenting mistakes will help relieve you of the stress, guilt, and anxiety you may be feeling, and will allow you to focus on the present more than the past.

Why we are so hard on ourselves as parents

Making some of the mistakes described above – especially in the heat of the moment – is natural. It is part of what makes us human.

But when we make mistakes, and then view those mistakes in light of the unrealistic expectations put on us by ourselves and society, is it any wonder we feel guilty?

Whereas our parents only had to deal with the probing eyes of their neighbors and closest friends, we are seemingly under constant scrutiny as modern parents. Social media has allowed everyone with an opinion to make that opinion known, and they have the ability to judge everything we do and say. And yes, many of these folks do judge everything!  

You might feel as though you are doing a fantastic job as a parent, only to read a random article on Facebook that criticizes the very thing you thought you were doing right. Or perhaps someone felt the need to enlighten you regarding the flaws of a certain parenting technique of yours, and now you feel like absolute garbage. We’ve all been there. 

Next, you fall into a pattern of questioning every single thing you do and say as a parent. Modern parenting is more difficult than ever, and the type of unsolicited critiquing I described above is one reason why. 

The effects of holding onto your mistakes

Yes, we parents are the ones who carry the bulk of the weight of guilt from past mistakes. It has multiple negative effects, which I’ll discuss in a minute. But we are definitely not the only ones whom it affects: our kids are negatively impacted when we hold onto our mistakes.  

As parents, we often feel bad for our mistakes, and beat ourselves up because we know we could have done better. This is completely normal. 

But on occasion, we can feel so guilty that we end up feeling anxious about each and every thing we do and say. We can even fall into a state of depression. This is not good for us, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. And it’s definitely not good for our kids. 

They don’t get our best when we are in a negative frame of mind. We are less patient than usual with them. We are overly sensitive to their words and behaviors. We are more prone to engage in poor parenting when we allow the guilt from past mistakes to haunt us. 

So how do we let it all go?

How you can let go of your mistake – and all the guilt that comes with it

Letting go of a past mistake and all the guilt that comes with it doesn’t have to be a long and drawn out process. You can take steps that help you to immediately begin moving on.

You have to make amends with whoever was hurt by your mistake. Have that talk in which you own up to what you said or did. Tell them you are sorry, and that you want to make things better. That you will make things better. 

And don’t be afraid to ask for forgiveness. The forgiveness of others is often what fuels the fires of closure and healing, so ask for it. Receiving someone else’s forgiveness often allows you to forgive yourself.

Turning your mistake into something positive is another way to move on from all the negativity of that mistake and its connected guilt.

Decide that your mistake is going to be a source of learning, self-awareness, and self-improvement. Decide that you are now a better person because you made the mistake.

Taking this positive approach is another surefire way to leave behind the mistake, as well as all the bad vibes associated with the mistake. 

Moving towards a parenthood filled with more learning and less guilt from the mistakes you most definitely are going to make

Once you’ve forgiven yourself, sought forgiveness from whoever your mistake hurt, and turned the bad of your mistake into something good, take a proactive approach to avoid future guilt. You can accomplish this by doing the following:

  • Never forget that parenting mistakes and the guilt that comes with them are normal. 
  • Stop chasing the impossible dream of parenting perfection. None of us are going to achieve that, so bless yourself with the gift of realistic parenting expectations for yourself. 
  • Be proactive in communicating your feelings. Express your thoughts and feelings so that you can more easily transform them into positive actions.
  • Find yourself some form of a support system. It might be a friend or relative who is a parent. Or maybe it is an online community of parents. They’re out there. We’re out there. For example, here’s a Facebook group I created. We are moms who share a love for our music and have decided to pursue it full-time. We’ve got each other’s backs, and it’s a wonderful thing. 

Closing thoughts

If you’re a parent, you’re going to mess up. Sure as the sun will rise, you’re going to make mistakes.

The good news is that you can – and you will – overcome those mistakes and turn them into something positive by learning from them and taking the steps necessary to let them go.

Best wishes on your journey towards parental learning, healing, and closure!

 

 

 

 

I’ve had lots of working moms ask me how they can get better at balancing their family and career. My response to them? Don’t.

After they pick their jaw off the floor, they ask what I mean. I tell them what I have learned over and over again as a full-time mom who is smack dab in the middle of a full-time music career: family-work balance is an impossible to achieve fallacy that leaves many working moms tired, frustrated, and resentful of both their career and their kids.

WHY BALANCE IS IMPOSSIBLE

As a musician, the idea of perfectly balancing my career and my responsibilities as a mother sure sounds nice. But it is impossible. Here’s why.

The concept of family-career balance often has to do with time, as in with my situation, giving equal amounts of time to my kids and my music. So, in theory, if I spend two hours a day recording in the studio, I should spend two hours a day playing with my kids.

Sounds fair, right?

The problem is that life doesn’t work like that. Time doesn’t work like that. Most days have an uneven distribution of free and busy time, planned and unplanned events, and work and leisure. Sometimes giving an equal amount of time to different activities simply isn’t an option. Pretending that it can be accomplished can only lead to immense frustration and anxiety.

HOW TO BE THE BEST WORKING MOM YOU CAN BE

Instead of trying to achieve a balance of time spent on career and kids, I have found that the best way to succeed as a music mom is to

  1. plan things out so that you have specific times set aside for both roles and
  2. pour all your energy and attention into each role while you are doing it.

The goal is to have specific times when you are taking on each role. This can only happen with much planning and organization. Then, once you have things mapped out, jump into each role with both feet. Do everything you do with as much gusto as you can, and you’ll soon find that the two parts of your life that sometimes seem at odds actually complement each other quite well.

As an example, let’s look at the life of a musician. Makes sense, right? When it’s time for you to focus on your music, you need to be completely there in that world of songwriting, studios, and stages. You are still mom, of course, but you need to be able to tune out everything else while you are working.

Your career deserves you giving your full attention to your music. As do your fellow collaborators and colleagues. Your fans, too.

You love your music and you want it to succeed, so it must be treated just like any other career in which one wants to excel. Work hard. Network. Believe in yourself. Devote yourself fully to the task at hand, whatever it might be. And then kick its butt.

Likewise, your kids deserve to have all of you when you are with them. Commit to being fully with them in body and mind. 100%.

And yes, sometimes the mind part is tough. There are lots of details involved in a music career that can distract you from whatever you are doing. Not only that, but inspiration for musicians can strike at any moment. Trust me. I’ve had plenty of lyrics and melodies randomly pop into my head. Some of them at inopportune times. 

Still, you need to fight the urge to give heed to each and every little thing that comes to mind. If you have committed to watching a movie with your little ones, snuggle with them on the couch and watch the movie. Intently. Don’t check your email on your phone to see if your manager has an update on your upcoming tour.

You probably already know this, but your kids totally know when you are not fully there with them. The only thing that could happen from getting that message from your manager now instead of an hour later when the kids are in bed is your kids feeling as though they are not enough. As though they are not worth your full attention. They might even begin to resent your music. That would be a shame, wouldn’t it?

So give your kids exactly what they want and need when you are with them: you.

THE BENEFITS OF ORGANIZING YOUR ROLES AND GIVING THEM ALL YOU’VE GOT

There are several benefits to giving your kids and your career the time, attention, and effort they both deserve:

  • You’ll have reduced anxiety by not trying to be multiple places at one time.
  • You’ll find yourself more focused on everything you do.
  • You’ll get better at your chosen profession.
  • You’ll get better at being a mom.

Sounds pretty worth it, eh?

CLOSING THOUGHTS ON BEING A MUSIC MOM

Being a music mom is a wonderful thing, and I wouldn’t trade either part of it for the world. My family and my music both bring me incredible amounts of joy. Sure, it can sometimes be exhausting to take on both roles, but it is always worth it. I’m sure you feel the same about your kids and whatever career you’ve chosen.

To really excel in both roles, though, remember that there are times when you must separate them. This separation requires planning and organization. Then, once it’s time to take on a specific role, give it all your attention and energy. Make sure that you give whatever you’re doing, and whoever you’re doing it with, your undivided attention.

And remember: whatever you do, do it with all your heart. That is, after all, the only way to do anything.

Good luck to you in all areas of your life! And if you are working towards becoming a music mom, I hope you excel as both a mom and a musician.

 

 

I have heard from so many music moms who struggle to justify pursuing their music once they have kids. They know they must continue being mom, but, sadly, are much less sure about the music part.

Most of the negativity surrounding these mothers’ musical aspirations comes from the Debbie Downers and naysayers of society who hold women to unfair and unrealistic expectations. They demand that us moms conform to the rigid creative restraints and boundaries designed by society way before we existed. 

If you’re a frustrated music mom who has dealt with this way of thinking, you are not alone. And if you have completely ditched your music or just put it off to the side, or you are considering doing either, please continue reading this post. I wrote it for you. 

Before I dive into the three reasons why you should keep doing your music, let me restate what I’ve said a thousand times before: your responsibilities as a mother should always come first.

Your family should always be at the top of your list of priorities. Always. Everything is secondary to them, and yes, that includes your music. No matter what form your music currently takes, and regardless of how you define musical success, your music simply cannot be something that detracts from your role as mom. 

My goal with this post is not to devalue motherhood. Nor is it to take away from the significance of family.  

Instead, I want to remind women that while a mother truly is the most amazing thing you could ever be, it is not the only amazing thing you can be. 

On that note, I feel like I need to remind you of something important, something you might already know, but is so easy to ignore:

Your music is a part of you.   

It is not something you put on and take off, like that killer pair of jeans you love putting on but hate taking off (and sometimes vice versa). Your music is deeply embedded in you. It’s in your heart. It’s in your soul.

Think about it: throughout your childhood, adolescence, and whatever amount of adulthood you have under your belt, you’ve known you had the music in you.

Whether it was writing songs, playing instruments, jotting down lyrics, making beats, or recording other people’s music, you knew all along that music was a part of you. A big part. It was, and still is, in your DNA.

Having kids and adapting to your role as a mother changes you in many ways, but it does not make your natural talents, dreams, and passions suddenly go away. 

With music being such an essential part of your being, it is imperative that you continue to embrace and develop it. Here are three reasons why you should never, ever ditch your music – despite what the cynics say.

REASON #1. CREATIVE WOMEN IN TODAY’S SOCIETY (ESPECIALLY MOTHERS!) ARE CONSTANTLY TOLD WE CAN’T, SO WE NEED GALS LIKE YOU TO PROVE WE CAN. 

I bring up reason #1 with the assumption that you care about improving our situation as women because, well, I know you do.

We all know that nowadays women have more difficulty expressing our creativity than our male counterparts. It takes so much effort just for us to be taken seriously and viewed as equals – and that’s just the women who don’t have kids. As for those of us who do have children? Ugh.

Women need to see folks like you succeed.

We need to see what can happen when a mother tells society that its unfair expectations will not keep her from doing what she loves.

We need to see the joy and satisfaction that come from a woman living a life in which she gets to enjoy both who she loves and what she loves.

After all, why can’t we have both? Why should men be the only ones who spend time each week doing the things they cherish and then come home to the people they cherish? They shouldn’t.

Music moms like us have a golden opportunity to change society’s perception of what we are capable of. 

When we prove that the love shared between us and our families is as strong as a family with more traditional roles, we win.

When we prove that a different family routine is not a negative family routine, we win.

When we prove that a mother who takes her music seriously doesn’t have to compromise her role as the loving, nurturing bedrock of her family, we win.

We all win. 

But it all starts with us not giving up on our music (or any other creative endeavors we value) simply because it doesn’t fit the mold of traditional motherhood.

REASON #2. EMBRACING YOUR CREATIVE SIDE MAKES YOU A MORE FULFILLED PERSON, WHICH MAKES YOU A BETTER MOTHER.

Fully embracing your creative instincts helps you feel more fulfilled. Instead of wallowing in frustration (or anxiety, or depression) because you’re suppressing your natural talents and interests, you’ll feel more relaxed, more accomplished, and more fulfilled. This will make all parts of your life easier and more enjoyable, including motherhood.

I’ve known some gals who immediately ditched their musical aspirations once their kids arrived. No more songwriting. No more recording. No more live shows.

I can’t help but think that most of these women made these changes solely because they felt obligated to. They felt pressure to make sacrifices for their kids, and, well, this must include removing things like music, art, and literature. You know, all the unimportant parts of life we can obviously live without.  

Keep in mind that many of these women were not striving for rock n’ roll stardom. They never dreamt of spending countless hours away from their family promoting their newest album. They never had visions of flying across the globe on fancy jets while FaceTiming their sad, lonely kids who missed them like crazy – just so they could perform for thirty minutes at all the major music festivals in the world. 

No, the only thing many of these women wanted was to write songs of their own. Maybe even a full album’s worth. Perhaps they simply wanted to get better at their chosen instrument by practicing on their own for a few hours each week. Or maybe they looked forward to playing the occasional open mic at the local coffeehouse. But, unfortunately, they didn’t do any of those things. 

Sadly, these moms ended up resenting their kids because they subconsciously blamed them for stealing the joy that comes from doing what they love. Keeping your creativity alive and well will eliminate any chance of this happening to you.

In short, if you are at heart a musician and you want to feel fulfilled, you need to make room in your life for your music. Doing so will benefit everyone around you, including your biggest fans of all: your kids.

REASON #3. PURSUING YOUR PASSIONS AND FIGHTING UNFAIR GENDER EXPECTATIONS MAKES YOU A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL FOR YOUR KIDS. 

As parents, one of the main things we try to teach our kids is how to live right. A big part of that involves showing them how to live the right kind of life physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Simply walking away from your music in a way that leaves you miserable and resentful is not the right way for you to live. You don’t want to be that type of example for your kids. They deserve better. And so do you. 

We love to tell our kids that they should pursue their passions. We feel like parenting rock stars when we encourage them to make good use of their talents. We teach them the value of working hard at something in order to improve at it. Discover what you love to do in life, we tell them, and then find a way to do it over and over again.

Yet creative moms often neglect their own passions and talents out of a sense of duty to their family. Even if their intentions are good, they’ll still end up teaching their kids the wrong lesson. Just imagine having to have this conversation:

Kid: “Mom, why don’t you write songs and play open mics like you used to?”

Mother: “Well, honey, I just can’t right now.”

Kid: “Why not? Julian’s dad does, and I know you’re a better singer than he is! If he can do it, why can’t you?”

Mother: “Julian’s dad is, umm, well, he’s a dad. He’s a dad, and I’m a mom, so it’s different. I need to be here for you.”

That’s quite a heavy weight to put on a child’s shoulders, eh? Even if you worded it as delicately as possible, your child would still end up feeling as though he or she is keeping you from something you enjoy. That type of guilt could produce negative consequences that last well beyond childhood. 

Now I know that conversation seems a bit farfetched, right? None of you would actually give an answer like “he’s a dad and I’m a mom” to explain why you can’t do your music. But honestly, when you think of the forces that keep moms like us from pursuing music and other forms of creativity, doesn’t it pretty much boil down to that?

Even if we live in a world that treats us that way, don’t we want to show our kids that we are 100% willing to fight against it? Don’t we want to prove to them that it’s better to rock the boat than to give in to those who try to force us to be someone other than who we really are?  

One of the best qualities we can find in a person is genuineness. Being who you really are. Being who you’ve always been. It’s called being real, and at a time when filters and fake usernames rule the day, being real is more valued than ever before.

So be real. Be yourself. Embrace your creative side. Make time in your life for your music. With the proper balance, planning, and resources, you really can have all the things that are important to you.   

If you’ve wanted to be a music mom, now is the time.

You’ve already proven that you have the mom part down. 

Now show everyone the music.  

“The Living Years” by Mike and The Mechanics

“Song for Dad” by Keith Urban

Despite the sun, fun, and good times that are on their way, the start of summer can also be a time of stress and uncertainty for kids and parents.

Yep, even as our favorite season rapidly approaches, there are some legit challenges that come from shifting gears from the routines of the school year to the unknowns of summer.

To help ease the transition, here are 4 tried and true tips for ensuring a smooth, stress-free shift from school to summer.

Add routines to your summer schedule.

Kids thrive on routines. During the school year, it’s much easier to maintain a routine. Summer schedules tend to be more open and flexible, so routines are less common. But this doesn’t mean you should ditch them.

You and your children will benefit by doing things like waking up at set times, reading together at the same time each day, and packing bags for summer camp at the same time each morning.

These routines will give your kids the same sense of structure and security they enjoy during the school year, and that is a very good thing.

Include your child in summer planning and preparation.

Kids always like to feel as though their opinion matters.

Give your kids a say in what they do and where they do it by asking for their input in the early days and weeks of summer. They will appreciate the opportunity to have their voice heard.

Some other ways in which you can include your child is by having them map out driving routes (using an actual map is much more fun than pulling up directions on your iPhone), writing up a list of clothing and items needed for your activities, and searching online for more detailed information pertaining to your destinations.

Remember: a fully invested young traveler is a happy young traveler – and a happy young traveler is a very good thing on a long road trip!

Have your kids stay in touch with their school friends.

The bonds your child developed during the school year with their friends were an essential part of their comfort and security at school.

Just because they won’t see those friends in a school setting for a few months doesn’t mean they should lose contact with them. Quite the contrary, actually.

Strengthen your child’s attachment to their closest friends by arranging summer play dates. Or keep them connected by writing letters and sending messages via email.

However you do it, make sure your child stays in touch with their school friends. This will help lessen the negative effects of summer’s great unknowns.

Embrace and encourage summertime learning.

We all agree that learning doesn’t have to happen only in schools. It can take place anywhere and at any time – especially during the summer.

The summer provides an excellent opportunity to learn about so many things, including geography, history, and nature.

Family field trips can introduce your child to new places, new people, and new ideas.

Or, if you’re mostly staying home this summer, something as simple as an outdoor scavenger hunt can reveal to your child so much more than a textbook.

Teachable moments happen everywhere, so be on the lookout for them.

Encourage your kids to read new books, take photos of things that interest them, and document their discoveries in a journal.

I hope these simple tips will help ease the transition from school to summer. I also hope you and your family have a fun and safe summer, filled with lots of love, laughter, and learning. 

Why healthy habits matter

One of the more common stereotypes associated with musicians is the reckless, drug-addicted party animal. Unfortunately, much of this image is enforced by the way some music makers choose to spend their free time.

The truth is, though, that you don’t have to play into that cliche. Debauchery, destruction, and unhealthy habits are bad for you in the long run – both as a musician and as a person.

If you want to be more professional, organized, and, in the end, successful, you should try to develop repeated behaviors that facilitate those positive traits. In other words, you should try to develop healthy habits.

4 healthy habits every musician should develop right now

To help push you and your music career in the right direction, I’m sharing these 4 healthy habits that all musicians should develop. They’re simple and easy to repeat, so they won’t take long to evolve from new behaviors to helpful healthy habits. If you’re tired of spinning your wheels and you’ve been looking for something positive to replace your old bad habits, get started on these healthy habits ASAP.  

1. Spend lots and lots of time outside being active. 

I view nature as a wonderful facilitator of the arts. Here’s why:

  • Being active in nature inspires some of your best and most creative ideas.
  • Being active in nature can help increase your focus.
  • Being active in nature can also produce increased energy and enthusiasm in all parts of your life, including your musicianship.
  • Finally, and most important, being active in nature can inspire new songwriting ideas.

The best part? You don’t even have to spend a lot of time outside. It’s now proven that walking in a green space for a mere 25 minutes will boost your creativity

2. Ditch any creative dependencies.

If you are dependent on certain substances or conditions just to write music or “be” a musician, now is the time to stop.

Your musicianship should happen naturally. Make sure you can create at any time, without depending on anything else to make it happen.

Your creativity comes from within you. While the presence of certain people, places, or things might inspire increased output, the absence of those people, places, or things shouldn’t cause decreased output. 

3. Embrace early mornings as the best time to do your thing. 

I know it sounds like a ridiculous idea, but mornings are actually an excellent time to unleash your creativity. In fact, recent research shows that the best time to write and create is early in the morning. 

If you can get up and moving early enough, you’ll find lots of energy and a clear mind waiting for you. Some folks believe they can only do the creative thing late at night, and for certain night owls, that might be true.

But I urge you to try mornings instead. The clarity and freshness of a new day will work wonders for your body, mind, and creativity.  

4. Spend time each day meditating, praying – or just relaxing and thinking. 

Sometimes the mental clutter we accumulate during the day clogs our creativity. All the doubts, fears, and worries we gather can leave us flat out exhausted, with little to no energy left for creating. As musicians, this is a very negative place to be.

To counter this, spend a few minutes a day in calm isolation. It might be meditation. It might be prayer. Or it might be you simply sitting there and focusing on something positive for ten minutes.

However you do it, and whatever you call it, you can expect the following benefits of sitting in silence: a greater sense of clarity and control, less anxiety about your musical ambitions, and an increased awareness of  yourself as a songwriter, musician, and creator. Sounds good to me. 

Need more convincing? Check out this superb video by David Eby, a.k.a. “The Inspired Musician.” In it, he perfectly sums up the benefits of meditation for musicians. 

So, what healthy habits do you suggest? 

I’m always looking for more ways to fine-tune my craft while also improving myself as a person. The habits described above work for me, but what works for you? Feel free to share in the comments any healthy habits that have worked for you.

There are so many ways to say “Happy Mother’s Day,” but if you’re a music mom, you know the best way is in a song. 

Songwriters from pretty much all genres of music have recorded their very own special odes to their moms. But for me, there’s something real special about a country singer belting out a sweet, soulful song for his or her favorite lady.

On that note, check out these 6 country gems that will remind you and your mom just how much y’all are loved, needed, and appreciated.

“You Can’t Lose Me” – Faith Hill

Released in 1996, Faith Hill’s “You Can’t Lose Me” tells the story of a mother who supports her daughter after she finishes last in a race. Moms and daughters everywhere can relate to the undying support shown from the mother, from the end of that childhood race to the day she is forced to let her daughter head out on her own. 

“In My Daughter’s Eyes” – Martina McBride

This 2003 classic from Martina McBride instantly embroidered itself onto the hearts of moms everywhere. “In My Daughter’s Eyes” is from the perspective of a music mom who hopes and prays to instill within her daughter important traits like honesty, respect, and compassion that she’ll need later in life. McBride also gives thanks for all that she has learned by looking at things through her young gal’s eyes. 

“The Best Day” – Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is best known for writing songs about having fun and enduring the ups and downs of male/female relationships. In “The Best Day,” however, she addresses a more poignant topic: her mother’s steadfast love. Swift looks back fondly as she recalls how her mom was there for her during the tough times of childhood. Now that she’s grown, she wants her favorite lady to know that the best times she had were spent with her. Such a sweet message, and one that all moms need to hear. 

“Mama’s Song” – Carrie Underwood

All mothers want their little girls to find true love and be treated like a princess once they grow up. “Mama’s Song” is Carrie Underwood’s message to her mom that Underwood did, indeed, find a man that “treats her little girl like a real man should.” Every mother should be so fortunate to receive such a sweet and soulful confirmation that her not-so-little girl is now in the right hands. 

“Angels” – Randy Travis

“Angels” by Randy Travis gets me every single time. In the beginning, Travis sings about a friend who doubts the existence of angels. Travis soon responds with a set of lyrics that should make every mother tear up:

Well, you missed the most obvious thing                                                                                   Man, are you blind?                                                                                                                         Just look in your mother’s eyes

Yes, sir. Anyone who has had a mother knows that angels are, without a doubt, real. 

“Mom” – Garth Brooks

“Mom” by Garth Brooks wins the prize for most original concept. In it, God has a chat with an unborn child who is moments away from discovering Earth. The child likes it where he is, so he asks God if he can skip the whole being born thing. God’s response is why “Mom” is one of Brooks’ favorite songs to sing – and why we love it so much. 

“Why can’t I just stay here with you
Did I make you mad, don’t you want me to?”
God said, “Oh, child, of course I do
But there’s somebody special waiting for you”
So, hush now baby don’t you cry
‘Cause there’s someone down there waiting
Whose only goal in life
Is makin’ sure you’re always gonna be alright
A loving angel, tender, tough and strong
It’s almost time to go and meet your mom

Now if that doesn’t hit you like a ton of bricks, nothing will. 

So, what are some of your favorite country songs about moms? Feel free to post links to songs in the comments.

I hope you have an amazing Mother’s Day – one so good that it belongs in a song! 

Hoping that your child is as creative as you are is normal. After all, you’re a music mom who has experienced the joy, growth, and sense of accomplishment that come from unleashing your creativity, and now you want those things for your favorite little person.

The best part? We generally don’t have to teach kids to be creative. They seem to have a natural instinct for it. If we give them the proper tools and get out of their way, kids will create more than we could ever imagine.

Eventually, though, some obstacles might get in the way, including fear, time restraints, and passive entertainment, among others. This is where we, as parents, step in.

If you find yourself wondering how to overcome these obstacles, check out these 4 ways to help unlock your kid’s creativity – including the wild and crazy stuff!  

Provide your kids the resources they need for creative expression.

The most important resource you can give kids is time. They need tons of it so they can engage in self-guided and unstructured play in which they’re completely free to use their imagination.

Another resource necessary for creative expression is space. Make a space that is solely theirs to play in, create in, and make a mess in. Perhaps a room in your basement or attic could work. Make it their own personal area where they feel comfortable, somewhere they can paint, dress up, play Legos, or bang on the drums.

For their next birthday or Christmas gift, give your child items that will contribute to their creative growth. Blocks, costumes, art supplies, old instruments, dispensable cameras – all these are items that your kids can use whenever they want.

By making sure your child has these valuable resources, you’ll be ensuring their growth as creative individuals.

Allow your kids the freedom to explore their ideas – no matter how wild and crazy they seem. 

Generally speaking, kids have active imaginations that can lead to some pretty wild and crazy ideas. Remember that three-headed lion swimming in a bathtub that your son randomly drew? Or that extremely silly song about how her pet could “faaaaaaaart with all her heaaaaaaaaart!” that your daughter composed and then sang for an entire day?

Well, that drawing and that song were products of your child’s imagination. They were very early expressions of their creativity. Instead of focusing on the silliness factor, focus on how unique and imaginative they were. It’s much too easy to dismiss them, but don’t.

Embrace your child’s wild and crazy ideas and encourage them to continue drawing, writing, painting – whatever! Make sure they know that their ideas – no matter how silly or way out there – have value.

And then, to prove that not all creative output needs to look or sound a certain way, introduce them to stuff like The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus,” Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” and The Police’s “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.”

Or, to really make the point, you could just browse the paintings of Picasso.

Ask lots of (good) questions about your kid’s creations.

One of the best ways to inspire kids to be creative is to show them you are interested in their creative endeavors. There’s no better way to do this than to ask questions about their creations.

Instead of giving a generic and half-hearted compliment like “Wow, I like that!” (something they’ve likely heard a thousand times), ask sincere questions like “What were you thinking when you drew this?” or “What was your inspiration when you wrote this?”

These types of questions will convince your kids that your interest is genuine, and they will give them an opportunity to analyze their thought process as they create.

Set a positive example by showing your kids how to be creative.

I’m sure you know this, but your kids are always watching you. They see and hear everything you do. More important, they also copy what you do and say. To put it simply, they do everything they can to become little versions of you.

This gives you an excellent opportunity to model the type of creativity you want them to eventually display. Let them see you hashing out the chords to that brand new song you’re writing. Show them the lyrics you’re struggling to complete. Invite them to the studio to watch you record your new album. Make them a part of the process. 

Most important? Don’t obsess over the final product that you’re creating. Show your child that the process itself is the most important part of the creative journey. This will encourage them to have a positive relationship with their creative side, no matter what struggles they encounter along the way.

Show them that being creative can be a messy, imperfect, and sometimes frustrating process, but it can also offer growth, learning, excitement, and all types of rewards.

Closing thoughts

As a parent, you are most responsible for your child’s creative development. This is both a blessing and a challenge.

But if you follow the steps above, rely upon your own innate sense of creativity, and continue being the supportive parent you’ve always been, there’s no doubt that you’ll soon unleash your child’s creativity like never before. 

Good luck!

Did you ever notice how carefree and happy young children are while they’re painting? There’s no fear of failing to paint the perfect picture. There’s no anxiety over how others will respond to their painting. It’s just them, their paint, their paintbrush, and a big bunch of smiles. It’s an incredibly joyful thing to watch, from start to finish.

As adults, we sometimes lose the joy that comes from such creative activities. We occasionally allow self-inflicted killers of creativity to keep us from being the innovative and inspired creators we know we are.

And just what are those creativity killers? There are several, including guilt, comparison, and distractions. In this post, however, I want to focus on the one that seems to be the most common among musicians, artists, authors, and other creative types: fear.

I hope that by identifying overwhelming fear as an obstacle to creative freedom and discussing 5 ways to rise above it, you’ll soon begin enjoying prolonged periods of creative bliss, success, and satisfaction. 

The different fears creative people encounter & how they negatively impact us

Although it is completely natural and can sometimes be used for good, fear is one of the most common roadblocks to our success as artists. Want proof? Just check out this list of all the different fears that creative folks like us encounter:

  • fear that you are not really a creative person
  • fear of disappointing yourself
  • fear of taking the first step
  • fear of failure
  • fear of the unknown
  • fear of being judged by others
  • fear of revealing yourself
  • fear of rejection

Each of the above fears can stop us from learning more about ourselves. They can prevent us from discovering the beauty and joy of artistic expression. They can keep us from realizing our true purpose in life. 

The worst part? These fears can negatively impact us to such an extent that we ditch the entire creative process just so we can avoid the fear.

Think about that: fear is so powerful that it can actually keep you from doing what you love.

If you think that’s a complete shame, you’re absolutely right.  

5 ways we can rise above fear & the benefits of doing so

Instead of trying to create in the frustrating frenzy of fear, there are specific things we can do to defeat fear.

  1. Embrace the fact that the entire creative process is a dynamic journey, a mystery worth investigating. Within this creative journey, we will often succeed. We will also sometimes fail. But if we welcome the process as something that can make us better artists, and more important, better people, we win no matter how things turn out.
  2. Think of your creativity as a way to discover new things about you and your craft. Cherish the uncertainty of it all. Don’t obsess over the final product. Start by calling each new creative idea an “experiment” rather than an attempt at perfection. You are trying something new, and learning from it. Perfection is never possible, while improvement is always possible. 
  3. Tell yourself that your creative identity is not defined by whatever song, painting, sculpture, or book you end up making. The final product is only part of the entire journey, and again, that journey is an absolute treasure that we as creative people get to experience. 
  4. Be kind and gentle in how you critique yourself. When it’s time to evaluate your final most recently improved work, avoid saying things like “this song is trash” or “I stink at this.” Instead, take note of specific things that can be improved.
  5. Take baby steps as you reveal yourself as a creative person. Begin your creative endeavors by creating in private. Once you’ve created something you’re excited about, choose a group of people you trust to show it to. This will give you the confidence you’ll need to gradually expand your audience. Before you know it, you’ll be sharing your creation online and then in front of complete strangers.

Right now is the best time to rise above your fear

It’s time, friends. It’s time to let go of everything that’s been holding you back. It’s time to embrace and unleash the creativity you’ve always had within you.

Why now? Because you’ve already waited long enough, and, most important, you already have everything you need in order to do this. 

Follow the methods described above, and get ready for the fun, excitement, and sense of accomplishment that come from discovering and nurturing your creative self.  

It’s time for the daring and innovative creative you to rise up, and fear to step down. 

 

 

With so much technology filling our everyday lives, one of the biggest challenges of modern parenting is making sure our kids create more content than they consume.

Screens are everywhere, so if we’re not careful, our children can easily be blasted with all sorts of content from all sorts of sources. Another way to put it: it’s way too easy for our kids to become constant consumers.

There’s plenty of evidence that our kids are consuming insane amounts of technology, and that it’s starting at an early age. For example, this study in 2014 released the following results:

Most households had television (97%), tablets (83%), and smartphones (77%). At age 4, half the children had their own television and three-fourths their own mobile device. Almost all children (96.6%) used mobile devices, and most started using before age 1. Parents gave children devices when doing house chores (70%), to keep them calm (65%), and at bedtime (29%). At age 2, most children used a device daily and spent comparable screen time on television and mobile devices. Most 3 and 4-year-olds used devices without help, and one-third engaged in media multitasking. 

The good news? The same tools that lead to all that consumption also let kids of all ages create content. There are tons of apps, games, and toys available that encourage imagination and creativity.

It is with the proper use of these tools that we can help our children develop a positive relationship with technology by becoming active creators.

Here are 5 fun and simple ways to encourage your child to be a creator.

Is your child a musician? 

This one is obvious to us music moms, eh? Most kids love music right out of the womb, so transferring that love into creation isn’t hard when they’re little. You can record sounds using everyday items such as spoons, pots, salt shakers – whatever!

When it’s time to progress a bit and your child is ready for actual instruments, you can take the sweet sounds they make (or that they will eventually make) and let them experiment with sound. Older kids can use all sorts of tech tools to help write their own tunes and master their craft.

When they’re ready to start laying down some tracks, your kids can easily record, edit, and share their output with friends and family.

Is your child a storyteller?

Storytelling seems to be a natural activity. As soon as kids start talking, many are eager to tell tales. Use this innate inclination to encourage them to narrate their activities.

While they play, build, or wander, ask them questions that allow them to create a narrative. Questions such as “What are you building?” and “Where are you going when you climb that tree?” are invitations to open their imaginations.

Tech-wise, there are lots of apps that let kids record their stories and create digital books. If this all sounds too good to be true, rest assured that I am not telling any tall tales! 

Is your child a director?

Pretty much all children love to watch television and movies. Most of them don’t know that they can actually be a part of the fun.

If you’ve seen your child use his toys as characters in a story, they are already acting as a director. Encourage that skill by having them play around with animated storytelling apps that let them record a mini-movie with movable characters, props, and settings.

If your kids are older, introduce them to more advanced stop-motion animation apps. It’s then up to you whether or not they try to go viral by posting their content online. 

Is your child an artist?

If your kid is naturally artistic, it doesn’t take much prompting to get her to draw or paint. Eventually, though, she will want to take things to the next level. Try giving her even more inspiration with apps that feature famous painters, sculptors, and designers.

For kids who love comics or manga, there are programs that enable them to create their own cartoon characters, panels, and dialogue balloons.

There’s a little bit of everything out there, so every young artist-in-the-making should have plenty of opportunities for creative exploration. 

Is your child an author?

The days of pencil and paper will never be totally gone, but the first steps to becoming an author sure have changed. Apps like Book Creator are extremely kid-friendly, so kids can easily create while writing a story.

As for what type of story that might be, it might be something as simple as the recent weekend outing you went on as a family. Thanks to modern technology, your child can then make his or her book interactive by adding images, audio, and video to it. 

The last step is to publish and share your kid’s book with family and friends – and maybe even with a publishing company or two, if you think it’s good enough!

So, now that you know all this…

Technology is so incredibly powerful – almost as powerful as your child’s creativity. When you put the two together and give your child the tools and freedom to find inspiration and direct his or her own learning, you will be amazed at what they are able to do. 

Creating with technology is an adventure, one that’s even more exciting and beneficial than consuming it. 

As a parent, it can sometimes feel as though we are stuck in a rut, like our parenting juices have run dry and there’s nothing left to give. Our search for inspiration and motivation leads to nothing but frustration.

Experience tells us that we will eventually return to the land of parenting milk and honey, where our energy is unlimited and our creativity abounds, but sometimes it feels soooo far away.

Likewise, as musicians, there are times when we simply cannot do what comes naturally to us: create. More specifically, we cannot write songs. Any songs. At all.

Songwriter’s block is an incredibly frustrating problem that eventually afflicts every songwriter. It can be incredibly demoralizing, even to the point of convincing some musicians that they should walk away from music and pursue something else.  

The good news? This dreaded blockage of creativity is fixable. You can break the dam and allow your creative juices to flow freely, and you can do it as soon as today. 

Here are 8 ways to end songwriter’s block and get you once again writing the songs you want and need to write: 

1. Focus on a repeated chord progression instead of lyrics.

If you’re trying to write the perfect lyrics but keep coming up empty, ditch that approach and try looping a chord progression. The repetition will allow you to try several melody and lyrical ideas in a short amount of time.

Something good should come from doing that, putting you right back in the songwriting groove. 

2. Think of your song as a story.

As a songwriter, one of your goals should be to discover a clear headspace in which to write. Instead of cluttering your head with the frustration and anxiety that come from trying to create the perfect melody or lyrics, develop a storyline that you can build upon.

Use this storyline to introduce characters, a setting, and a message. Before you know it, you’ll have created a brand new world that is the perfect setting for your song. 

3. Picture in your mind a specific time and place, and start from there.

Think of a place that you’re familiar with, or make one up from scratch. What do you see there? What do you hear there? Who is there with you?

Your answers to these questions will function as the starting point for your song. Sometimes knowing that you actually have a starting point is all you need to get started. 

4. Focus on an exceptionally emotional personal experience from your past. 

This sounds obvious, right? Too often, though, songwriters try to imagine the perfect story idea for a song, when their own personal experience will work just fine.

Tapping into an emotional event from your past will ignite the fires of your creativity, which will hopefully lead to a deluge of song ideas. 

5. Listen to songs that inspire you. 

We all have those handful of tunes that always inspire us. Return to the songs that first motivated you to pick up an instrument.

There is a very good chance that the inspiration you feel simply by hearing these songs again will put you in the right frame of mind for writing your own tunes. 

6. Change your setting. 

Sometimes the same old same old can suck the life out of you.

If it’s been a while since you’ve been somewhere new, perhaps it’s time for a different setting. Go somewhere new, refresh your mind, and watch as the change in scenery jumpstarts your creativity.

A revived sense of creativity ought to be enough to end your songwriter’s block. 

7. Write from somebody else’s perspective.

Sometimes getting out of your own skin and seeing things from somebody else’s perspective can do wonders for your creativity.

It can open up a new world in which you are free to explore new and exciting points of view. It can make you feel emotions that you might not have felt previously.

All these new thoughts and feelings are sure to spark something in you, something that could very well knock down the wall that stands between you and your next album’s worth of songs. 

8. Borrow song structures from other songwriters. 

Trying too hard to reinvent the wheel is often the cause of songwriter’s block. Hence, sometimes you just have to ditch trying to be completely original, and accept the fact that most of the greatest songs ever written follow somewhat similar structures.

Identify the structures of some of your favorite songs, and then mimic them as you attempt to write your own song.

Having a tried and true basic song structure from which to write makes it easier for you to create your own melodies and lyrics.

Borrowing song structures from other songwriters (particularly from your songwriting heroes) just might be the trick to ending your songwriter’s block.  


What tricks do you recommend to someone struggling with songwriter’s block? Share your suggestions in the comments. And as always, thank you for reading.

One of my favorite things about music is its unique ability to connect people. It happens in the rocking chair of the baby’s nursery, the sacred sanctuary of the church, and the sprawling decks of the stadium. Seemingly all around us, music is often the bond that unites us on both big and small levels.  

The really cool part of this musical bonding is that it starts well before we are even able to recognize or understand it. From our very first moments on this planet, we hear the soft lullaby of our mother, and it brings us comfort. Soon, we begin to associate our mother’s voice with love and safety. We begin to experience the early stages of a bond that will grow stronger and stronger as we age.

Want proof of just how moving a mother’s lullaby can be? Enjoy the sweetness of this baby girl turning emotional as her mom sings to her:

This is just one example of music causing individuals to bond on a one-to-one basis. We choose our significant others based on numerous factors, but sometimes their musical taste can certainly sway us a little.

Perhaps we like the same style of music. Perhaps we even like the same artists within that same style of music. And if we happen to like the same songs from the same artists within that same style of music, look out: there just might be a love connection! 

Sometimes, though, two incredibly talented people connect while making beautiful music together, and the rest of us reap the reward:

Music is also capable of bonding large groups of people. Sporting events, music concerts, protests, and religious gatherings are all events during which music can unite us. Below are some examples of people from different walks of life joining together in song.

Check out these epic chants from European football matches (yes, I know, it’s soccer for us Americans):

Of course, the most common setting for sing-alongs is a concert. With that in mind, nothing beats this memorable concert footage of every single person in the crowd singing along with Freddie Mercury – and each other – at Live Aid in 1985: 

Sometimes the crowd is so inspired that it doesn’t even need an act onstage for it to sing in unison. Check out this crowd singing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” before punk-rockers Green Day take the stage:

And when the songs are as good as The Beatles’ tunes, sometimes a sports crowd will sing along with one another during a game. Case in point is this 1960s English football crowd singing Beatles songs:

Music is so good at connecting people that sometimes it does it at unexpected places at unexpected times. Check out these a cappella singers as they burst into song at a Chick-fil-A restaurant:

The scenes above are of people uniting to sing fun, light-hearted songs. Sometimes, though, music can add weight to a more serious moment.

One of the best examples of this was at the 1963 March on Washington. Thousands upon thousands of protesters joined together to march for equality for all Americans. Folk singer Joan Baez lead the crowd in singing a riveting version of “We Shall Overcome.” Fortunately for us, the inspiring moment lives on film:

There are so many reasons to love music. It can heal. It can inspire. It can energize. But I am most awed by its ability to unite us. The examples above are only some of the ways it can do this.

When have you seen people come together through music? Which songs are especially good at uniting people? Leave a comment with your thoughts, and thanks again for reading. 

Both as parents and as musicians, it is sometimes difficult to successfully communicate our feelings. Sometimes we struggle to find the right words, or to hit the right notes. And when the topic is parenthood itself, forget about it: sometimes the struggle to accurately express the joy, sadness, and uncertainty of parenthood feels insurmountable.

The good news, though, is that dozens of songwriting music moms and dads from the past have already given us a massive catalogue of songs that perfectly capture the ups and downs of parenthood. From John Lennon to Lauryn Hill, from Stevie Wonder to Lee Ann Womack, their lyrics tell of both the bliss and the blues that come from caring for our own flesh and blood. We can use their songs, their sounds, and their stories as motivation for our own songwriting.

Better yet, we can find endless parenting inspiration in their tunes. As we listen to their songs, we can reflect upon our own parenting experiences, hopefully with the goal of becoming better moms and dads.

However you want to use these 8 great songs, I’m sure you’ll get something positive from them. Some will bring you smiles, others will bring you tears. Either way, I hope you’ll do the following: listen, learn, and love. 

“Isn’t She Lovely” – Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder wrote this feel-good tune for his daughter, Aisha Morris. If it feels authentic, you’re right: “Isn’t She Lovely” begins with a baby’s first cry recorded during an actual childbirth and ends with a recording of Wonder bathing Aisha as a toddler. “Isn’t She Lovely” is super sugary and fun – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I Hope You Dance” – Lee Ann Womack

Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” represents every parent’s wish for their child.  The song’s lyrics come from the perspective of a mother who wishes her children will embrace life, and, when they are older, give love and faith a chance. Due to its ability to put into song every parent’s desire for their children, “I Hope You Dance” is unsurprisingly Womack’s biggest hit. 

“Beautiful Boy” – John Lennon

The typically brash ex-Beatle really let down his guard on this one. Half philosophical statement on the absurdity of life (“life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”) and half soothing lullaby for his newborn son Sean, Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy” is the love song every parent sings to their brand new little guy. 

“Young Boy” – Paul McCartney

Another ex-Beatle here. This time, though, the song is much more in character with the more tender-natured Paul McCartney. While his wife Linda prepared a dinner for a journalist, McCartney removed himself to a separate room and began strumming the core of what would be “Young Boy.” The song was both a reflection upon his younger days and a message filled with sage advice for his young son.

“To Zion” – Lauryn Hill

The story behind Lauryn Hill’s “To Zion” is the most complicated one on this list. The song is an introspective piece surrounding Hill’s decision to have her first child, Zion David Marley. Her career had climbed to heights previously unknown when she became pregnant. Many friends and industry veterans suggested Hill have an abortion. Instead, the strong-willed singer kept her baby, causing her to eventually feel as though she herself had been “born again.”

“Here For You” – Neil Young

Most of the offspring on this list ranged from still unborn to young child when their parents wrote of them. Leave it to Neil Young to buck the trend. Young wrote “Here For You” for his daughter Amber Jean, who was 21 years old and in her final year of college. Young talks about how much he misses her, and he reminds Amber that he will always be there for her. “Here For You” is a poignant ode to the complexities of the feelings we feel as parents while we watch our kids transition from childhood to adulthood.

“Kooks” – David Bowie

David Bowie wrote “Kooks” for his newborn son Duncan Jones. The song offers perhaps the most unique perspective on this list: “Kooks” is the term Bowie uses to describe the eccentric nature of he and Duncan’s mother. He’s basically saying “Look out, kid. You’ve got a couple of odd – but loving – folks for parents. Get ready!” I love how at the end of “Kooks,” Bowie reminds Duncan of the genetic nature of kookiness: “Because if you stay with us, You’re going to be pretty kooky too.”

“Cats in the Cradle” – Harry Chapin

This one is the most heartbreaking song on the list. By far. Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” tells the unfortunate story of a father who never has time for his son. Towards the end of the song, karma strikes yet again: now an adult, the son just can’t seem to find any time for his father. Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” is the type of song that seems to touch every generation, and it’s easy to see why. As parents, its message is loud and all too clear: the time we spend with our kids while they are young is precious, and it will eventually end. 

What songs about parenthood would you include on this list? Leave song titles in the comments. And as always, from one music mom to another, thanks for reading. 

As music moms, we often feel pressure to place our creative endeavors on the back burner of our priorities.

Society tells us that our music, our art, and our poetry – all the things we cherish as important expressions of our creativity – are supposed to come after we focus on our families, our careers, and the other realities of life.

I recently realized that the creative things we do are more than mere distractions. They are more than mere hobbies. Instead, the outer expressions of our inner creativity are a huge part of what makes us human.

In essence, the songs we sing, the stories we write, the portraits we paint – all these things partially define who and what we are. Our desire to connect with our creative side comes from our desire to connect with ourselves.

With this in mind, I have become increasingly focused on keeping my creative juices flowing. Here are 4 steps I’ve taken to enhance and unleash the creative queen inside me, even when all the world says moms like us should do otherwise. I hope these tips help you satisfy your natural urge to create.

Remind yourself that your art is a necessity, not a luxury.

All too often we treat art like it’s a luxury, something expendable that we don’t necessarily need. I wholeheartedly disagree with this view.

I consider the creative process – and its sometimes inspiring results – a necessity. When you think of something as being vital to your health and existence, you tend to cherish it and make time for it.

Treat your creative expression as something crucial to your health, because it is. By doing so, you are ensuring the best possible you. And we all know that you reaching your full potential is the best thing for you and your loved ones.

Discover your creative tribe.

I’m sure you’ve already discovered the value in belonging to a community of mothers. Thank God for the bonds we have created with those who share in this crazy thing called motherhood. Who knows how we’d survive without their comfort and words of wisdom.

Likewise, uniting with fellow creative souls can do wonders for your journey through motherhood. If you’re fortunate enough to add the right members to your team, you’ll receive all the camaraderie, inspiration, and emotional support you could ever want.

These creative mamas are out there, and they’re very likely looking for gals like you. Hunt them down, and then watch with joy as you propel each other to creative heights previously unknown.

Choose yourself over everyone else (at least once in a while).

This might be the toughest one of them all. We are programmed by society to always put our kids above our wishes and desires.

Every mother struggles with this, and for good reason: taking time away from your child is hard. Sometimes, though, it’s absolutely necessary.

While we all agree that becoming a mother is the best thing that has ever happened to you, remember that it’s not the only thing that has ever happened to you.

You are a complex, multi-faceted woman, so it is absolutely essential that you fully discover all aspects of your being. This most definitely includes your creative side.

Ignore the haters who try to guilt you into ditching your creativity.

There’s a good chance you’ve already experienced this, but there will always be naysayers and doubters who tell you to give up on your creativity, dreams, and goals.

These Negative Nancys will join with the Debbie Downers of the world for the sole purpose of persuading you that childbirth ought to mean the end of your creative endeavors.

They’ll pour on the guilt for spending an afternoon in the studio when you could have been watching your kids at home. They’ll shame you for spending a night playing the live music you’ve poured your heart and soul into, simply because your spouse had to watch the kids. Boo!

My advice? Don’t give them one single minute of your precious time. You don’t need their permission or blessing to be the creative soul you’re meant to be. Wish them well, and then move on.

And then, with your family and friends as inspiration, keep doing exactly what you’re made to do: create.

 

A brand new year is just days away, and with it comes the temptation to draw up a list of resolutions that we hope will make us better versions of ourselves. While we typically focus on fixing our bodies, relationships, or checking accounts, this time I want to encourage you to focus on your mental health as you plan for the coming year.

As working parents who need to be in the best shape possible to successfully manage our families, careers, and relationships, it is vitally important that we care for our minds as much as we care for our bodies. 

Doing these 4 things will ensure that you are on the path to well-being, thus making you the best you possible: 

Embrace your emotions.

As parents, we often feel that we need to hide our emotions from our kids and, to a larger extent, the rest of the world. The truth is that pretending that we don’t have emotions is unhealthy.

Instead of suppressing your feelings, embrace your anger, sadness, or disappointment. Allow yourself to feel these things, and then calmly and coolly figure out how you plan to respond to them.

You’ll soon feel better, and your children will grow up knowing that even if you have no control over a particular situation, you can still control how you deal with it.

Bottled up emotions are bad for everyone involved; do what you can to feel them, discuss them, and then respond to them in a thoughtful and positive manner. 

View your mistakes as opportunities to improve.

Do you ever make a mistake and then replay it over and over again in your mind? Do you put yourself down over the littlest of things? Do you constantly compare yourself to other people? If so, the coming new year is the perfect time to stop doing those things.

Never forget this: we all have our faults, and never are those faults so bad that they mean the end of the world. We all make mistakes, but hardly ever is a mistake so bad that it can’t eventually be fixed or viewed as a positive thing.

Simply try to learn something about yourself, something that can be used in the future to make things better. Accept that failure and mistakes are a part of life, and then start to view them as opportunities for improvement and growth.

Improve your physical health.

We all know that there is a relationship between how we treat our bodies and the way we mentally feel. It’s all connected. The foods you eat, the number of hours you sleep, and the amount of exercise you get are all factors in determining your mental health.

So what exactly can you do to improve your physical and mental health? Be sure to eat nutritious meals, drink lots of water, get plenty of sleep, and find at least one physical activity you enjoy.

Doing these things will help eliminate your anxiety, guilt, and fatigue. In their place, you’ll feel more relaxed, self-confident, and energetic. For those of us who manage active families and careers, feeling that way is essential to our success. 

Live in the moment.

It is so incredibly easy to obsess over the things that have happened in the past. Too often we try to change them, or we regret the way certain things turned out. That is a surefire way to breed anxiety and self-loathing. 

We often do the same thing with the future. While it is wise to plan for the future, we often spend too much time focusing on what might be. The truth of it all? None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, much less months and years from now.

While we’re doing all that bad stuff, it is entirely possible that we are missing out on some good and exciting things that are happening now. Without even realizing it, life speeds by, filled with fascinating people, places, and things that deserve our attention.

The best way to live is to treat today as if there is no tomorrow. Take time to notice the little things, spend quality time with your beloved friends and family members, and do the things that make you happy.

These 4 tips are only some of the things you can do this coming year to ensure your mental health, but they are a start. I hope you’ll try them.

I wish you and yours a happy and safe new year. Make this year the best ever! 

If you’re like me, you’re already starting to feel some of the burnout that comes from the holiday madness. As parents who love seeing our kids enjoy this time of year, it’s easy for us to fall into the trap of trying to do all the fun things that come with this season. But here’s the truth: more is not always merrier.

Sometimes it’s better to slow down and savor the season. Below are 5 ways to do just that. My kids and I have had memorable experiences doing all of these, so I hope you’ll try them.

If you want your entire family to truly enjoy the current Christmas and New Year season, you should:

1. Do less.

It’s tempting to try to cram as many activities as possible into this time of year, but it is not always the best approach. Plan fewer, more meaningful, outings.

After all, the best thing about this time is that families get to be together more than at any other point during the school year. Time spent together is what Christmas and New Year’s is all about, so it doesn’t really matter where you are.

Who you are with is all you need. 

2. Plan ahead.

Mapping out your outings is always a good thing, but it is especially beneficial during the holiday season.

You already have enough stress with buying gifts and seeing some of those hard-to-connect-with relatives (we all have them), so why give yourself one more thing to stress out about?

Planning ahead will allow you more mental energy for the things – and people – that matter most.

3. Stop trying to be perfect.

If you’re like me, you want every holiday party to be the perfect gathering, every toy you buy to be the perfect gift, and every Christmas tree ornament to be the perfect decoration.

But none of that is possible – and it doesn’t need to be. Allow yourself to find joy in the simple act of doing these things, rather than obsessing over how well they turn out. Again, your family isn’t looking for perfection; they are looking for time spent together.

It might not be perfect, but in their minds, time spent together is pretty darn close. 

4. Remember that simple and quiet are more than okay – in fact, they are ideal.

Everything nowadays is bigger, louder, and more exciting, so it’s quite natural that we feel the holidays ought to be, too.

But I have found that my favorite times of the Christmas season are the simple and quiet ones: the late-night snuggles on the couch beside the Christmas tree, the early morning walks on the soft and newly fallen snow, and the hours after the kids have opened their Christmas gifts and are now reading their new favorite book.

These soft and sometimes silent moments stay with me long after the drama and energy of the season have faded away. 

5. Value the gift of experience more than things.

All the things you could ever buy your kids can’t compare to the time you spend with them.

Long after their momentarily favorite app, toy, or article of clothing has vanished from their memory, they will fondly recall the people and places that make up their most meaningful experiences. Many of those experiences will include you and the holidays – especially if you make sure to live in the moment.

Activities like making Christmas cookies, watching your favorite holiday movies together, and snuggling on the couch with mugs full of hot cocoa are the perfect ways to slow down and savor the season while you make memories that will last well beyond this Christmas. 

Happy holidays to you and yours!

As a mother, I am frequently asked right about now what I want for Mother’s Day. The expectation is that I’ll request some of the more traditional gifts we tend to give moms: chocolate, flowers, or a massage.

While I will gladly take any (or all) of these items (and not just on Mother’s Day), they are not what I think most moms want. Of all the things you could give your favorite lady for Mother’s Day, the one thing that seems to matter the most to the moms I know is this: your time.

Nothing can beat receiving the time and attention of someone you adore. Especially nowadays, when there seems to be a million and one distractions that keep us from our favorite people. Getting our loved ones’ attention always makes us moms feel special. Always. 

Now that you know what most moms want, go out of your way to give it to them. A lengthy phone call or FaceTime session is great. An afternoon chat at Starbucks is a wonderful gift. Even better, if you live close enough to do it, an unexpected visit will make every mom feel special.  

The point is this: gifts are great, but in the end, all the “things” we get our mothers will eventually crumble, fade, or spoil. In contrast, the memories made during the time we spend with our moms will last forever. 

If you’re not a mom, I hope you’re able to find time this weekend to meet, talk with, and enjoy your mother. If you are a mom, I hope you have an amazing Mother’s Day, one spent with all the people who matter to you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

As parents on the move, it is sometimes way too easy to settle for giving our families fast food or hastily made meals. The biggest problem with that approach is that it leads to poor nutrition. As a result, we often feel sluggish. Not only that, but we’ve all experienced the moodiness that comes from not eating properly. No thanks!

In contrast, taking the time to properly plan our family’s meals gives us, our spouses, and our kids the best nutrition possible. The result? We are able to have the type of healthy and happy family we want.

Here are 4 reasons why you should do whatever it takes to provide your family with the best nutrition you can:

1. Good nutrition leads to a greater sense of well-being. 

Eating a diet that is low in nutrition is proven to reduce physical and mental health. For example, the Mental Health Foundation reports that approximately two-thirds of people who consistently eat fruit and veggies report no mental health issues. In contrast, those who do struggle with mental health problems typically eat less healthy foods. All of us can enjoy a greater sense of well-being by making sure that we eat lots of vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates.

2. Good nutrition maintains our immune system.

We all hate when our kids are sick. We know that their immune system is their defense against disease, yet we often allow poor nutrition to negatively break down that defense. Maintaining a strong immune system requires an intake of proper vitamins and minerals. It’s simple, friends: making sure our families eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat foods will help support their healthy immune system.

3. Good nutrition gives us more energy.

As parents, one of the most frustrating things can be when our kids are sluggish and seemingly incapable of doing what we’ve asked them to do. It is at those times that we need to remember that their bodies get their energy from the foods and liquids they consume. The main nutrients their bodies use for energy are fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Any deficiency in these areas, as well as a lack of hydration, will cause low energy levels, and, worst of all, high irritability.

4. Good nutrition is less expensive in the long run than unhealthy foods. 

This may or may not shock you, but almost two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the heart disease, cancer, and diabetes that result from our poor eating habits cause an unnecessary $71 billion per year in medical costs. In short, it might sometimes cost a little more to eat well (although planning in advance can prevent this extra cost), but the long-term costs of a poor diet will be much worse.

 

 

Sometimes being a mom feels like I’m in the middle of an epic and mysterious novel. The plot is long and winding, and I’m not quite sure how the whole thing will end. As one of the co-authors of this story, though, I’ve got a pretty good feeling that all the characters in this book called “life” will end up pretty okay.

Thanks to an unforgettable Reader’s Digest article, I recently stumbled upon a series of touching stories about moms that will inspire you to hang in there, despite the many ups and downs of these riveting stories we share with our children, family, and friends. 

What follows are just some of the stories their readers shared involving their moms. In 100 words or less, readers from all around the world told their “poignant tales of the bond between mother and child.”

I hope these 7 short – but oh so sweet – tales warm your heart like they did mine: 

MOTHER OF ROCK
by Paul Anderson, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

For my brother, my sister, and me, Guitar Hero was a competition of who could score the most points on the hardest level. Mom, on the other hand, would play the ten-minute “Freebird” on the easiest level while we kids prepared for our next showdown. When Mom restarted the song after missing a note, we all shouted our disapproval. “Rock stars do what they want,” she said, and we laughed because we agreed: Mom was a rock star. That’s why, later, her funeral felt more like the last stop on a farewell tour, with “Freebird” as the perfect send-off.

TWO SIMPLE WORDS
by Abigail Wortman, West Long Branch, New Jersey

On the first day of first grade, I stood by the front door with butterflies in my stomach. I voiced my biggest concern to my mother: “How will I make friends?” Crouching in front of me, she handed me advice I carry with me to this day: “Be Switzerland.” Be friends with everyone. Treat everyone equally and fairly. For all of my 20 years, I have lived by these words. Soon I will graduate and become a part of the real world. And on that first day, nervously facing new responsibilities, I know I will whisper two words to myself: “Be Switzerland.”

THE NEED NEVER GOES AWAY
by Saman Rahman, Peshawar, Pakistan

“Mommy, you are a fairy,” I said. My mother laughed like tinkling bells. “I am serious, Mother. You know everything.” “My child, I try to answer as best as I can. When you grow older, you will not need me,” she said. “No, Mom, I will always need you. Nothing can change that,” I said. Her words echo in my heart as I look at the blue sky: “Dear daughter, nothing remains the same except the vast blue sky.” It has been ten years since I lost my fairy. Mom, you were wrong about one thing: I still need you.

MEMORIES IN VERSE
by Pat Witty, Fairmont, Minnesota

The day I was dreading had arrived—it was inevitable. I had seen it coming but had chosen to ignore it for as long as possible. My very capable, intelligent mom had started forgetting to pay her bills, and it was time to take over her finances. As I looked through her wallet, I made a remarkable discovery. Tucked away in a tiny compartment were four Mother’s Day poems I’d written for her in the 1960s. She had saved and cherished those simple gifts for 50 years. What a happy surprise!

MIGHT AS WELL FACE IT…
by Beth Kailukaitis, Kalamazoo Township, Michigan

Coming home from work one day, I found my mom dancing to Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love.” I watched, enthralled, as she moved and sang along, her hips twisting to the beat, big smile plastered on her face. It had been a long while since I’d seen her dance, so this display of pure joy was infectious. She died unexpectedly in her sleep a few weeks later. I have many memories of her that I’ll always cherish, but none quite as happy and carefree as her dance that day. It’s definitely the simple things—thanks, Robert Palmer!

PAY IT FORWARD
by Teresa Martin, North Aurora, Illinois

You reap what you sow: In her old country, my mom saw a very poor blind woman with her young daughter. She felt sorry for them and loaned them all her savings. Although Mom was worried sick about it, they miraculously returned every cent. Two decades later, when Mom left her Communist country and came to America as a refugee, the Catholic Church gave her money to feed her many children. She returned them every single cent, and her children continued to pay back through worldwide charities. Mom is now 90 years old and has a richly blessed life.

A STAND-UP WOMAN
by Robin Hynes, Slingerland, New York

My mom had a great sense of humor and a knack for making everything fun. One thing that resonated with me, even as a small child, was how much she seemed to enjoy her own company and found ways to entertain herself. As a kid, I remember her giggling while paying bills. What was so funny about bill paying? She would put humorous notes in the reference section of the check: For the electric bill, she might put “You light up my life,” and for the mortgage she’d write “Four shingles closer to owning it all.”

Have you ever watched one of those YouTube videos of a kid composing a beautiful piece of music or drawing a masterpiece that is way beyond his years? Perhaps upon seeing such creative magic you thought to yourself, “Hey! I want my child to do that.”

Well, it’s entirely possible that your son or daughter already has similar skills within them. The problem is that they have yet to unleash them. The good news is that it’s never too late to discover your child’s innermost artist, poet, or musician. 

So how do you bring out all that creativity that seems as though it’s been hiding in your kids? Raising children who successfully tap into their creativity is not an easy task, but it can be done. 

Here are 5 tried and true ways to raise children who fully realize their creative potential:

1. Remember that mistakes are not only acceptable, but they are good for the creative process.

Tons of recent research tells us that kids who fear failure are much less likely to think creatively. When your daughter messes up that drawing she’s been laboring over for the past three hours, focus on the process rather than the outcome. Praise the time and effort she has put into her work. The goal is for you to view mistakes as opportunities for growth, rather than failures. Your kids will be the better for it. 

2. Embrace a good mess.

This one is tough. I like a neat and clean space as much as anyone, but sometimes you just gotta let it go. Sometimes when our kids are smack dab in the middle of their creative groove, messes can develop rather quickly. Let them have at it. There will always be time to clean it up later on. The benefits of them fully diving into their creativity far outweigh the temporary inconvenience of a messy mess.

3. Model creativity for your kids.

How do you express your creativity? Is it through your drawing? Your songwriting? Your dancing? Or how about your cooking? The key is to let your children see you expressing yourself through your creativity. Kids who watch their parents participate in creative activities are much more likely to do so themselves. Plus, engaging in a creative activity is a healthy act for folks of all ages. Not only will your kids be inspired to do something creative if they see you do it, but you’ll be well on your way to making a better you.

4. Set aside time for creativity.

Setting aside time specifically for creativity can be difficult, especially for those of us who are working parents. Remember, though, that children tend to thrive when given sufficient unstructured time. This is time when they can build, imagine, experiment, and explore. The good news is that it doesn’t require a ton of time to allow your child his or her creative fix. Thirty minutes after dinner or right before bedtime will often suffice. Just make sure that you allot some time each day for them to do their thing.  

5. Reduce the amount of time spent in front of a screen. 

Ugh. This is definitely one of my biggest pet peeves. I acknowledge that we may never be able to completely remove screen time. But when we realize that time spent watching videos or cartoons is time that our kids are not drawing, painting, or writing a song, we might be inspired to drastically minimize the amount of time they spend staring at the television, tablet, or iPad. Cut out the screen time, and let loose your child’s creative abilities. 

What ideas do you have for unleashing the creativity in your kids? I’d love to hear what has worked for you and your family. 

I have spoken with several parents who struggle with properly managing the relationship between their children and social media. When we allow our kids access to smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even desktops, we open up the world of social media. That is something none of us are prepared for.

Because the adolescent brain is reorganizing itself and risk-taking is high and impulse control is low, I can’t imagine a worse time in a child’s life to have access to social media than the pre-teen and early teen years.

Here are 5 reasons why we should seriously consider not allowing our kids access to social media.

1. Social media was not designed for our kids. 

A tween’s underdeveloped brain is simply not designed to fight off the distractions and temptations that come with social media use. While it is entirely appropriate to start teaching responsible use of technology at this age, we must acknowledge that there is simply no way for us to teach the maturity that the proper use of social media requires. Make no mistake: our kids will use social media inappropriately until they are older.

2. Social media is nothing more than a meaningless form of entertainment technology.

Social media does nothing to make your child smarter or more intellectually curious. It provides no skills that will help your child succeed in his or her future endeavors. Its sole function is to entertain, and it often does this in a negative manner and at the expense of others. There are literally hundreds of other things your child can do that are a better use of their time. 

3. Social media is an addictive form of screen entertainment.

We now know that people of all ages are prone to addiction to the screens we see all around us. Kids are especially vulnerable to getting hooked on today’s technology, and social media is often the gateway to this addiction. Needing to keep up with every post, comment, and “like” can turn our kids into obsessed zombies. No thanks! 

4. Social media replaces sometimes difficult face-to-face interactions with peers. 

When kids primarily interact with friends via screens, they are prevented from sharpening the interpersonal skills they will need during their life. For example, it can be difficult to disagree with someone in person, but learning how to tactfully do so is a vitally important social skill. We deprive our kids of these learning/growing opportunities when we allow them to hide behind the wall of social media. 

5. Social media can cause kids to view their friends as more important than their family.

Strong family bonds are vitally important to the emotional development of our children. While friends do (and should) play a necessary role in the lives of our kids, they should never be viewed as more important than siblings, parents, and even extended family. With its emphasis on “likes” and other forms of artificial friendship, social media tricks our kids into believing that the attention and respect of their peers is what they ought to be pursuing. 

I hope I’ve convinced you that your child will be much better off without social media in their life. I know that it seems as though every other kid is using it, but in the end, you are only responsible for what goes on in your family. Good luck!

Let’s face it. There’s something very special about the bonds we form with members of our family. These bonds are often stronger than the ones we have with even our closest friends.

Maintaining relationships with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins can greatly enrich our lives. The problem, though, is that doing so often takes a great deal of effort, communication, and coordination.

To help you keep in touch with your far away loved ones, I’ve compiled 4 of the simplest ways I could think of that will allow your family to stay close – no matter the distance between you. 

1. Read about each other.

Even with the sophisticated technology of today, news doesn’t always travel as quickly as we would like. I absolutely love hearing about the newest news involving my extended family, but sometimes it can take weeks or even months to learn of new births, anniversaries, or relocations.

One way to keep each other in the loop at all times is to design a family blog or private Facebook page. The hardest part will be getting in touch with everyone, but once you do, members will be able to make updates that everyone else can see.

2. Surprise each other with snail mail.

If you’re old school like me, you still get excited when you receive mail. Email is fine, but nothing beats grabbing a slightly worn letter out of the mailbox. A special package is even better. I’ve passed this appreciation on to my kids, as they now love receiving unexpected items via snail mail.

Sending photos, letters, and packages is the perfect way to let extended family know you still think about them. It takes more effort than sending a text or email, but remember: the effort of these small gestures go a long way towards maintaining the type of relationships you want with your extended family.

3. See each other online. 

If your family is like mine, they are probably spread out all over the country. This often makes visiting with each nearly impossible. Again, thanks to modern technology, we can bridge that gap via video calling services such as Skype and FaceTime.

It is so incredibly easy to chat with those family members who we might otherwise never see in person. This particular means of communication also allows our kids to maintain relationships with the folks they hardly ever see. 

4. See each other in person during a family reunion. 

Family reunions are growing in popularity. Yes, they take quite a bit of planning. And yes, they might require some traveling expenses. But the truth is that a family reunion can be as simple as a lunch or dinner at everyone’s favorite restaurant. It can also be as elaborate as an extended vacation at a far away resort.

Regardless of how you do it, meeting lots of extended family members at a reunion is always worth the time and effort. Nothing beats seeing the people you grew up with in person. 

If your extended family is important to you, I strongly suggest finding ways to stay in touch. All the new memories you build will definitely strengthen the bonds you already have.

As parents, we spend countless hours trying to make sure that our kids think, say, and do the right thing. How often, though, do we take time to ensure that they have the self-confidence necessary to actually follow through on those positive behaviors?

Here are 5 simple – yet effective – ways to make sure that you are raising your child with enough confidence to successfully handle all of life’s challenges.

1. Teach your child to be a good communicator.

Communication is everything. It allows us to be fully understood, thus leading to a greater sense of self-esteem. Teaching your kids to express themselves clearly and concisely will allow them to become master communicators.

They will then be able to handle pretty much all situations they encounter, both as children and eventually as adults.

2. Stop telling your child “good job” for every achievement.

This one might sound a little confusing. After all, telling them “good job” is a positive thing, right? Well, yes, it is.

But that particular form of praise is much too generic. Your kids deserve a little effort if you are going to try to give them credit. Your child’s achievements, no matter how small, are very important to them, so they deserve you replacing “good job” with specific compliments.

This method of praise also reinforces the fact that you really are paying attention to everything they do. 

3. Show your child that what they are doing really is important.

It is sometimes easy to dismiss what our kids are doing. We can act as though we are genuinely interested, but if we are not, they will notice. As you can imagine, this can negatively impact their confidence.

To prevent this type of deflation, get down on your child’s level and treat what they are doing as you would any other important task. If you want to convey to them your interest, take the time necessary to ask them questions about what they are doing.

Dive into the things that take up their time. Doing this will prove to them that you are truly interested in not only them, but also the things they do. 

4. Teach your child to create their own goals – and then help them follow through.

One of the most important things we can do for our kids is to teach them how to create achievable goals. Whether they are short-term or long-term, goals help foster focus, determination, and pride.

Discussing with your son or daughter what types of goals are worthy of their time and attention also helps instill in them a sense of perspective. They can glean from the process what is worth pursuing, and what is not.

Remember: it’s okay if your child sets a somewhat lofty goal. I’m a supporter of dreaming big, so let them reach for the moon. 

5. Model for your child how to handle failure and rejection.

At some point in their life, your child is going to fail at something. How they handle it will be due in large part to how they have seen you deal with your own failures and disappointments. Be open and honest with your child about the times that you have experienced rejection or failure.

Even more important, show them what it means to be positive, determined, and resilient. Doing this will go a long way towards teaching them how to overcome even the most painful times in their lives.

Unfortunately, we can’t prevent our kids from encountering these negative situations. But we can rest assured that we have instilled in them the type of confidence necessary to survive and thrive during life’s most difficult moments. 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s untimely death. While an assassin’s bullet succeeded in tragically ending MLK’s life, there’s nothing on this planet that could ever erase the visionary’s timeless words and relevance to American society. His stirring words and writings inspire us today as much as they did during the 1950s and ’60s.

With tomorrow being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I think it is a perfect time to reflect upon 10 of MLK’s most poignant quotes. His words represent extraordinary levels of purpose, compassion, and selflessness. I hope and pray that they motivate us all to do what we can to make this world a better place.

1. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

2. “Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude.”

3. “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

4. “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

5. “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

6. “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

7. “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

8. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

9. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

10. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Hello, friends. Check out this press release for my upcoming show with Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits. It happens on Thursday, January 18 at one of my favorite venues, The Rose, in Pasadena, CA.

I would love to see you there.

Thanks again for your support!

Eileen

PRESS RELEASE

An ocean and several decades may separate them, but 1960s British Invasion legend Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits and modern country pop chart-topper Eileen Carey share one essential skill that transcends space and time: an uncanny knack for writing memorable feel-good pop songs.

Fueled by her recent award for Independent Music Network’s Entertainer of 2017, Carey will open for Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone at Pasadena’s The Rose on Thursday, January 18. Tickets are now available.

Gracefully breaking down the barriers between country and pop, New Music Weekly 2017 Crossover Artist of the Year Carey will share the stage with Noone, who achieved international fame as the lead singer of the legendary ’60s pop band Herman’s Hermits.

Noone’s hits included “I’m Into Something Good,” “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” “I’m Henry VIII, I Am,” and “There’s a Kind of Hush.” Ultimately, Herman’s Hermits sold over sixty million recordings. In all, fourteen singles and seven albums went gold.

Credited by POPDOSE with “blending pop, country, and rock in a way that feels uniquely hers,” Carey has appeared on CBS L.A.’s The Weekend Morning Show and Nick Jr.’s Take Me To Your Mother. Her singles “Good Bad Girl,” “In the Air,” “Faith,” “Bring on the Big,” and “Bottle Your Crazy Up” have danced atop the New Music Weekly Country, NMW’s Adult Contemporary, and other Top 40 charts.

According to Ron Wynn of Nashville Music Guide, Carey’s message of empowerment is as powerful as her music:

“Carey has emerged over the last few years as both an accomplished storyteller and effective stylist, all the while making music that deftly combines country influences with pop arrangements. Her songs also offer distinct, prominent messages about personal empowerment and emotional fulfillment.”

Other recent awards for Carey include NMW’s 2016 Country Breakthrough Artist of the Year, National Hits Radio’s Favorite Female Country Artist of 2016, and the Los Angeles Music Award for Country Artist of the Year.

Carey continues to post in her new blog, The Music Mom. The Music Mom reveals Carey’s desire to positively impact others via the sharing of her experiences and wisdom: “The world is filled with ups and downs, so I want to help people see things in a more positive light and find a better place in life.”

Happy new year! As we begin to embrace 2018, I think it’s a great time to remind you that setting realistic goals for the new year is an effective way to bring about the better you you’re pursuing this year. Coming up with a reasonable list of practical goals works much better than crafting a long list of unrealistic resolutions. 

With that in mind, I’m offering up 6 simple skills for the new year. I’ve decided to focus on skills because there is no greater satisfaction than being able to “do” something. Knowing stuff is fine and dandy, but actually doing things is where it’s at if you’re looking to build your sense of confidence and self-reliance. 

I hope these 6 skills make your life easier, healthier, and more enjoyable. 

1. Learn to do your own home repairs.

This one is definitely a challenge for me. But I can confirm that, for example, it feels pretty darn good to clean out your own sink pipes, rather than paying big bucks to hire a plumber to do it. The satisfaction that comes from doing something that is entirely doable on your own is well worth the time it takes to figure out how to do it. Besides, imagine the money you will save. Learn to do basic home repairs on your own, and you will eventually reap the many rewards that come from it.

2. Declutter your house.

One of the best things we can do for our mental health is to declutter our houses. When we do this, we transform our homes from hotbeds of chaos and stress into havens of peace and inspiration. It all begins with ditching the things in your house you no longer need. Next, organize everything that is left. Having a neater, more organized home will allow you to live a less stressful and more comfortable life.

3. Learn an instrument.

Can learning to play the piano or guitar really improve your mental prowess? The research says yes. For example, it is now proven that the brains of guitar players work differently than those of everyone else. The process of learning to play guitar chords can open up new neural pathways, thus rewiring the brain in a way that can lead to long-lasting cognitive benefits.

4. Read as much as you possibly can. 

This is perhaps the most important skill on this list. Reading not only introduces you to intriguing new information, but it also expands your worldview. A good book, magazine, or online article can take you places you never thought you’d see. Much like learning an instrument, reading also sharpens your mind. Whatever type of text you have in front of you, dive right in. 

5. Learn self-defense. 

One of the best feelings in the world is knowing that you can defend yourself if, God forbid, need be. It is incredibly reassuring and confidence-building to have the skills to physically protect yourself. Everyone should spend the time necessary to learn some basic self-defense skills either formally via a class or informally through a friend who is an expert. There are several major martial arts techniques from which you can choose, too, so you have options. 

6. Learn to cook like a pro.

There are countless benefits to learning to cook like a pro. First, as the sole maker of the food you eat, you will always know exactly what is going into your body. Don’t like the tired and heavy way you feel after eating fast food? Well, cooking like a champ gives you total control over how much fat, sugar, and salt goes into your meals. This allows you to instantly create a healthier diet for you and your family. Oh, and one more thing: cooking like a pro may cost you time, but it will eventually save you a ton of money by eating at home instead of at a restaurant.

 

Okay. Let’s be honest. It’s right before New Years Eve, and you are currently dreaming up the most fantastical resolutions for 2018. But while losing 1/5 of your body weight sounds like a great idea, is it really something you will achieve? The truth is that resolutions like that are typically gone and forgotten by March.

The good news is that you don’t have to come up with resolutions you can’t keep. I have had much more success creating smaller goals that lead to bigger results. Here are 25 suggestions that I hope you’ll consider as you prepare for an amazing 2018.

Happy new year!

1. Make iPads and other electronic devices the exception, not the norm, for nighttime family entertainment.
2. Make a meal for any friend or family member who is sick. 
3. Give away the stuff you don’t need.
4. Demonstrate to your kids what it means to show gratitude.
5. Learn a new instrument (or practice an old one). 
6. Act like more of a team player.
7. Live a more minimal life that allows you to simplify things.
8. Stay in the moment – wherever and whenever it is.
9. Post mostly unfiltered and realistic images on your social media.
10. Eat out less and cook from scratch more.
11. Run or walk a few miles each week.
12. Plan to interact with your family on a more regular basis.
13. Spend one-on-one time with close friends each week.
14. Instead of texting, talk to people on the phone more often.
15. Plan at least one weekend day-trip each month.
16. Take your significant other on a date night at least once per week.
17. Make your own coffee at home.
18. Listen more and talk less. 
19. Sit in silence for five minutes every day.
20. Drink tea instead of coffee.
21. Drink less soda and sugary beverages.
22. Determine to plan ahead by buying birthday presents well in advance.
23. Assign your kids reasonable chores – and then make sure they actually do them.
24. Find a genre of literature that you like and consistently read for pleasure.
25. Try doing something new each and every week.

 

As we end this wild and crazy year, I want to share with you 5 soul goals that I truly believe made me a better person in 2017. I hope you’ll consider doing them as you prepare to usher in 2018. I also hope you have a healthy and happy new year! 

Take time to explore new places.

Exploring new locations can do wonders for your soul, as there’s something reinvigorating about seeing new faces and places. There’s a whole world out there that you’ve never seen, so hop on a train, bus, or simply take your car somewhere you’ve never been. 

Learn something new.

Whether you want to learn a new language, a new instrument, or a new form of writing, find the time to challenge your mind in a new and exciting way. The challenge of learning something new will inevitably make you more confident, and as a result, help mold you into a better person. 

Declutter your home.

This was one of my most rewarding goals of the past year. I strongly recommend taking the plunge and decluttering your house. It can be a ton of hard work, but you will immediately feel more relaxed. If you’re looking for one less thing to be stressed about, I suggest decluttering your house.

Volunteer your time.

While the internet and social media have allowed us to strengthen our bond with the global community, it’s quite possible that we have neglected our local community. This is why I definitely recommend volunteering within your community. Yes, it will make you feel good. But more important is the fact that it will bring some much needed positivity to someone else’s life.

Reach out to an old friend. Or better yet, make amends with an old enemy.

One thing I’m really glad I did this year was reconnect with several old friends. It had been many, many years between chats, and finding out about their lives was one of the best things I’ve done in a while. Because I prefer to bury hatchets, I also made amends with someone with whom I had previously not gotten along. Life is too short for grudges, and fixing that particular relationship did wonders for my mind and soul. 

Happy Christmas, friends! I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season. I have been so fortunate to have your support in 2017. Amazing things have happened to me and my family, and pretty much none of it could have occurred without you.

As I think of my loved ones, I find myself wishing that I could give each of you a very special gift. Obviously, I can’t do that. But I can send you tons of good vibes, well wishes, and support for when you need it.

It is with this goodwill and hope for the future in mind that I want to share my Christmas wishes for you. I hope they all come true. Every single one of them. 

1. May you find physical, mental, and spiritual peace wherever you are. 

2. May you love with all your heart and be loved with all of someone else’s heart.

3. May you never lose sight of your dream, and may you someday realize it. 

4. May you find good physical health and diminished pain or discomfort. 

5. May you help bring about the type of love, open-mindedness, and tolerance the world so desperately needs.

6. May your voice always be heard, and may you never forget to listen to others. 

7. May you experience the wonder of forgiveness. 

8. May you discover something in nature that leads to an appreciation for the world in which we live. 

9. May you have the opportunity to give to others the types of gifts that build memories and bonds that last a lifetime.

10. May all the peace, joy, and love you feel this Christmas Eve stay with you long after the holidays are over. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my biggest goals this year was to set smaller goals that could help me become a better person, both inside and out. 

Today I am sharing 5 goals that have positively impacted my physical health this year. I hope they make you feel more energetic, healthy, and happy – just as they’ve done for me. 

Go for a walk after lunch or dinner. 

I am very glad that I set this goal for myself. Consistently going for a walk after a meal has helped me better digest my food. It has also allowed me to reset my mind as I prepare for the rest of the day’s inside activities. The extra dose of fresh air is always welcome. 

Occasionally drink tea instead of coffee or soda.

To be honest, this one was tough. I’ve been a coffee drinker for what seems like forever, so trying to cut out coffee has been difficult. I love the way it smells and tastes. The thing is that coffee and soda tend to dehydrate you. They can also put a legit dent in your wallet. Tea is cheaper and typically less dehydrating, so start off slow by switching to a cup of tea the next time you want coffee or soda. 

Squeeze in ten minutes of exercise each day.

Getting started is often the toughest part of exercising. Because of this, it helps to tell yourself that you are only going to exercise for ten minutes. You’ll be much more likely to get started due to the minimum commitment. Chances are that you’ll go longer than ten minutes once you get your engine started.

Prep your meals in advance each week.

Eating rushed meals at home and expensive fast food can get really old. It’s also very unhealthy for you. Your body deserves so much better, so I highly recommend prepping your meals in advance each week. It’ll save you tons of time, and I guarantee that you’ll feel healthier due to your new food choices.

Drink more water. Lots more.

Aside from your body’s survival, there are a ton of benefits to drinking lots of water. For example, making sure that you are always hydrated keeps your brain alert and your skin glowing. You’ll also notice fewer headaches and aches and pains. At first you’ll need to be very conscious about drinking more water, but after a while, it’ll become second nature. And you’ll be all the better for it. 

I know it sounds weird, but one of my biggest goals this year was to set more goals. Not crazy big goals, but instead smaller ones that could help me become a better person, both inside and out. 

As I reflect on the types of goals I’ve set this year, I realize that I’ve been setting goals that fall into one of three categories: mind goals, body goals, and soul goals. 

This week I am going to share 5 goals that have positively impacted my mental health. I hope they do the same for you. 

Avoid going online one day each week.

I know this sounds difficult, but remember: we were connected in different ways and fully content before the internet. The biggest challenge will be the fact that you are likely hooked on being online. Take one day of the week to stay completely offline, and after a while, I guarantee that you won’t miss it. At all. 

Meditate every morning.

The thought of meditating might sound like something you need to work up to, but it’s really not. Taking a mere five to ten minutes out of your day to sit and do nothing is simple, and it can help you relax and give you a renewed sense of focus as you begin your day. 

Journal or blog every day.

Jotting down your thoughts in some form is incredibly relaxing. Another benefit is that it gives you a sharper sense of focus as you struggle to understand and handle the ups and downs of life. Even if you’re having a tough time getting started, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what will flow from you once you begin the writing process.

Do a full media detox.

If you’re like me, there’s a good chance that all the fussing, fighting, and bad news of the media has you feeling a bit overwhelmed. With 24-hour news cycles and tons of media options now the norm, it can feel as though you can’t escape current events and the opinions they inspire. Start off by spending a day away from news sites and avoiding pop-up news stories on Facebook and other social media. If you like how this new separation feels, build up to a few days each week.

Take a legit “me” day.

Some moms don’t buy into taking “me” days. They think it’s pointless or, even worse, selfish. I couldn’t disagree more. Getting away for an entire day (or even part of a day) can do wonders for your mind. I highly recommend scheduling a spa day or booking a room at a hotel. If you are budget-conscious, you can pamper yourself at home by taking an indulgent bubble bath. The goal is to give yourself an opportunity to completely relax. Your mind (and your body) will reap the rewards of you focusing solely on you. 

Friday is finally here, and with it comes big hopes and plans for the weekend. As you know, though, sometimes our weekends aren’t quite as productive as we would like them to be. It is so incredibly easy to lose your weekend to distractions caused by technology, relationship issues, and unforeseen events. The result is that we often feel more stressed at the end of the weekend than we were at the start.

It is with this in mind that I have come up with 5 tips for having a productive and satisfying weekend. These are simple – yet effective – actions you can take that will make you even more excited about the weekend than you already are.

Good luck!

Come up with a plan for your weekend.

It seems that there are now more ways than ever to become distracted. Whether it’s watching television or exploring the internet, you will be much more likely to waste your time if you enter the weekend without at least a loose schedule of activities. Write in two to four things that you can look forward to doing, and then proceed accordingly. You’ll appreciate the focus this gives you, and you won’t end your weekend feeling guilty about all the time you wasted.

Schedule something fun for your Sunday night.

If you’re like me, you typically spend the last half of your weekend dreading Monday morning. In order to avoid that, I’ve started planning something I can look forward to on Sunday nights. This allows me to maintain a sense of excitement and anticipation throughout most of the weekend.

Get the most out of your weekend mornings.

Weekend mornings tend to be nothing more than wasted time. Too often this wasted time sets a bad tone for the rest of your weekend day. If you can convince yourself to get out of bed before the rest of your family, you will soon discover that this time presents an excellent opportunity for you to pursue personal time. Be it an arts and craft project, a workout routine, or a deep dive into your new favorite book, early morning is an excellent time to accomplish that which might be more difficult when everyone else is wide awake.

Schedule a nap time.

I know most folks think naps are just for little kids, but they are wrong. Trust me. I always feel better after I take a brief nap during the mid to late afternoon. Even better is when my entire family joins me in resting for a while. Schedule for you and your kids a legit chill time, and you’ll soon discover that your batteries are charged just in time for you to enjoy the rest of your day.

Limit your use of technology.

Spending at least part of your weekend away from computers, phones, and the like will enable you to rediscover the people and things that are most important to you. I highly recommend tuning out for a portion of your weekend. The result will be more direct contact and more effective communication with your loved ones. Plus, after staring at screens all week, your eyes and mind deserve the weekend off too, don’t you think?

Today is Small Business Saturday, a day when we celebrate those entrepreneurs who are doing their own thing while simultaneously spurring our economy. It is so important that we purchase from the thousands of individuals and groups who are trying to make a living via their small business. Their success is our success, as their contribution to the local community can never be overestimated. 

Days like Small Business Saturday allow us to focus on those who are trying to utilize their gifts in order to serve others while making enough money to survive on their own. One industry with which I am quite familiar is the music industry. Not everyone who loves music is destined to write, sing, and perform it in front of others. The good news is that there are tons of ways by which music lovers can pursue a career in the industry. 

In honor of those whom today we’re celebrating and rewarding for their hard work, I’ve compiled a list of 8 great ideas for enterprising musicians who want to start their own small business. I hope these help you discover your passion and make a living while doing it. 

Music teacher/tutor

So you have all this musical talent, but you’ve never really been keen on performing in front of people. Consider a career as a music teacher. As a teacher, you can either start start small by offering specially designed workshops or you can go big and start your very own music school. 

If the school of rock thing is too ambitious, you could work with clients on a more personalized level as a musical tutor. I highly recommend this job if you are determined to teach folks how to play a single instrument, such as the guitar or piano. 

Booking agent

Some of the coolest industry people I’ve met have been booking agents. If you’ve always been awed by the live stage and the energy in the room during concerts, but you’ve never really had the itch to get on that stage, this might be the career for you. Your job would be to book shows for bands, solo acts, etc. You’d also get to meet a ton of really interesting artists. This is a great gig for those of you who love organizing things. 

Event promoter

Again, if you a natural organizer, you should consider becoming an event promoter. You could start small (think an open mic at a local cafe) and then work your way up to building more complex events (perhaps a spring concert at a local university). With the advent of the internet, it is now easier than ever to promote concerts and other music-based events. 

Music therapist

Music has the incredible ability to heal bodies and minds. If you have a passion for music and medicine, you should definitely look into music therapy. It is a rapidly growing industry, so you’d be joining an exciting and relatively novel field. You can start your own business as a music therapist or bring your skills to places like nursing homes.

Music website designer

All musicians need a website. There’s simply no way around it. So if you have top graphic design skills and you love music, starting this type of business is perfect for you. It might take a while to build up your portfolio, but once you get rolling, your reputation will proceed you. Again, websites are pretty much always in high demand, so jump right in.  

Music blogger

Do you love writing as much as you love music? If so, you should consider writing about music or even sharing multimedia on your own site. It is extremely simple to start your very own music blog. The key is to put out lots of content. Write reviews of shows you’ve seen. Do interviews. After a while, you’ll be able to run your blog as a business.

Instrument repair service

Are you handy with instruments? Are you the one who your friends always ask to repair their broken guitar string? If this sounds like you, you could build a business around doing repairs for musicians. Musicians are pretty good at breaking things, so you know there will always be a need. 

Karaoke service

This one sounds like a ton of fun. I can count on one hand my friends and family who do not enjoy karaoke. Knowing this should inspire you to starting a karaoke service that caters to the rest of us who love to belt out tunes at full volume. This will give folks an opportunity to show off their musical skills, or, if they’re so unfortunate, their lack thereof. 

Good luck in your endeavors!

 

Thanksgiving is finally here. With it comes the fact that most of us will be reunited with our loved ones. Unfortunately, it also means that some of us will be reunited with our not-so-loved ones. 

Now, as someone who always prefers to keep the peace, I want to remind you that there are several ways by which you can maintain a friendly, joyful environment – even when encountering those friends or family members with whom you typically don’t get along.

One of the most effective ways to keep things nice and jolly is to simply avoid certain topics at the dinner table. You might not be able to control how some folks choose to conduct themselves, but you can usually have a say regarding which items are discussed during dinner.

As you’ve probably already noticed, there are certain topics that almost always lead to either a silent tension (best case scenario) or all-out fisticuffs (worst case scenario). If you’re looking for a drama-free Thanksgiving dinner in which the turkey is your sole source of indigestion, you will definitely want to avoid discussing these topics:

Long-standing family spats

It is time to face the facts: if you’ve yet to resolve things with that very special someone after ten years of hostility, you probably aren’t going to make peace during Thanksgiving dinner. I hope you do eventually work things out, but a crowded Turkey Day table is likely not where it’ll happen. So there’s really no point in bringing up the past. Be civil. Be polite. But remember that you are there to eat a dead turkey – not beat a dead horse. 

Recent divorces, separations, or affairs

Aside from a new engagement that you know everyone approves of, your best bet is to steer clear of relationship stuff at the dinner table. The potential for bitterness or hurt feelings is too high. But if you do feel the need to discuss such recent romantic developments, please do yourself and all your fellow revelers a huge favor: avoid any and all mentions of negative events.

So what types of romantic tragedies do I mean? I’m basically talking about divorces, separations, or affairs. Even if your purpose for bringing them up is to be supportive (“I’m so sorry that things didn’t work out between you and Kevin”), just leave them alone. This is the type of topic that can lead to a sea change in the mood at the dinner table. It can also cause a public rehashing of sad events for someone you care for. 

Money

A surefire way to bring about holiday hell is to talk about how much money someone borrowed from someone else or how little someone has. The truth is that money can be a very divisive issue. We all have different amounts of it and entire families have been destroyed over it, so tread very carefully when anything financial comes up. 

Physical appearance

According to some family members, commenting on the physical appearance of others is an entirely appropriate thing to do. The problem with that is that nobody can be 100% sure how someone else is going to respond to their observations. Even if we intend a comment to be a compliment, there’s a chance it might not be interpreted that way.

Oh, and you should be ready for someone else to offer up some unsolicited thoughts regarding your appearance. Perhaps you’ve put on a bit of weight this year. Or maybe you’ve lost some. Maybe your hair looks much different – even though you know you haven’t done a single thing to it. Some folks just love to comment on these types of things, so if it comes your way, be prepared. Simply grin, bear it, and move on. 

Religion

The only time it’s ever safe to discuss religion at the dinner table is when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you and your fellow diners share beliefs. If you have any inkling of a doubt, though, avoid discussing religion at all costs. Like money, it can ruin your time together and, in some cases, even tear apart your family. 

It doesn’t really matter which religion you grew up with; if your adult religious beliefs differ from those of your family members, stay away!

Politics

I don’t really have to convince you about this one, do I? 

You will meet countless people during your life, but few will ever come close to being as important to you as your family. Typically speaking, when everyone else has come and gone, your family will still be there. It is for this reason that you should invest in strengthening your relationships with family members.

One way to do this is to make family traditions that will last a lifetime. And now, with Thanksgiving just a few days away, you have the perfect opportunity to do just that.  

Here are four reasons why everyone should create (or continue) family traditions:

1. Traditions help make new memories. 

Always remember this: certain memories can last a lifetime. This means that the traditions we enjoy with our family today can be a source of joy and comfort in the future. Even better, we can pass these special moments on to future generations.

Some other really cool things about memories is that they create bonds between family members and strengthen our minds as we get older.

My favorite thing about the memories our traditions make, though, is how they are guaranteed to last longer than any material gift we give each other. 

2. Traditions give you something to look forward to.

Every Thanksgiving I look forward to gathering around the table to see and hear those who I haven’t seen in a year. As much as I enjoy their company, I’m aware that if this type of interaction happened every week, or even every month, it would lose its luster.

Having the opportunity to be with my family every year at Thanksgiving is something I look forward to with great anticipation. These types of traditions are incredibly important events to me, so much so that I spend the good part of the fall months looking forward to our next gathering.

In a world that often feels chaotic and unsure, knowing that I will sit down next to my loved ones, break bread, and share stories brings much comfort. 

3. Traditions help families grow closer.

My personal experience with traditions has shown me that they tend to bring family members closer to each other. Even though we are now more connected than ever, even Facebook posts and other forms of social media can’t match the positive impact of engaging in a tradition with those we love.

There’s an exceptionally unique bond that forms when we routinely engage in a fun or exciting activity with the same people over time. This bond alone makes traditions well worth the time and effort. 

4. Traditions bridge the gap between generations.

As I mentioned earlier, traditions have the uncanny ability to bridge the gap between generations. When a grandfather is playing a game with his son and grandson, there is an amazing continuity happening there that might not otherwise occur. A unique bond is formed, the type that has the potential to last a lifetime. 

Traditions bring about a number of healthy experiences that are good for individuals and families. Stories are told. Emotions are shared. Bridges are built, while walls come down. In short, nothing unites family members of different generations like tried and true traditions. 

Being a musician can mean several different things. For some, it’s a full-time studio gig. For others, it’s a career filled with songwriting. The most iconic image of a musician, however, is that of the hardened road warrior, the travel-weary performer who is gone for weeks at a time, conquering a new city each and every night.

While this is true sometimes, most musicians will admit that life on the road is far more grueling than it appears. They’ll also acknowledge that without the support of those back home, it is incredibly easy to burn out. Life goes on at home – even when we musicians are not there. As with pretty much any career, we musicians have to strike a balance between work and home.

Here are four ways to maintain healthy relationships with your family and friends while you are on the road. 

Stay in touch – often! 

This sounds ridiculously obvious, but the most effective way to stay connected with your folks back home is to talk with them on a frequent basis. Yes, you are busy. Between gigs, interviews, and much needed rest, you have your hands full while on the road. But there is ALWAYS time during the day to make a quick call or send a thoughtful text.

With smartphones and such, instant (and more meaningful) communication is easier than ever. Don’t settle for mere texts when FaceTime and Skype are options. Show your loved ones where you are and what you are doing. This will make it feel as though you are shortening the distance between you. 

Reunite, and it’ll feel so good

One of the best things about touring is that it gives you a golden opportunity to catch up with friends and family who you might not otherwise see. Sometimes it takes a bit of planning, but the more of the world you visit, the better chance you have to reconnect with a distant loved one. 

Another suggestion is to arrange for those who are exceptionally close to you to meet you on the road. I know plenty of musicians who never go more than two weeks without seeing their spouses or children. Sometimes you have to get creative, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Keep an eye out for discounted flights. If you book your tour way in advance, you’ll increase your chances of having that very special road reunion.

Plan ahead so you don’t miss important dates

This one is important. There are certain dates that you simply do not want to miss. Do everything you can to avoid missing birthdays, anniversaries, and major holidays. These days mean a lot to your family and friends, so you being home for them says a lot about your priorities. 

There’s really no reason not to plan around these particular days if you give yourself enough time. If you think about it, touring properly includes at least a few months of promo time anyway. So schedule your tours with one eye on those special days when you really should be at home. 

Truly be home when you’re there

One of the more eye-opening scenes in the biopic I Walk the Line has Johnny Cash sitting in his armchair for days after returning from the road. His wife is frustrated and angry, and deservedly so. My advice to you: do NOT be that guy. If you are going to be home, really be home.

You need to put aside all the good and bad things you just encountered on the road so that you can be fully present. Don’t disconnect yourself from your family. Just as with any other job, the ability to leave work at work is absolutely essential to a healthy and productive home life. 

Today is the big day. Your kids have their costumes ready to go, your house is fully stocked with all sorts of delicious treats, and now you’re hoping and praying for nice weather. Before your kids venture out on their pursuit of sugary loot, here are 7 tips to guarantee that your children have a safe Halloween:

1. Children should wear bright costumes that allow for easy mobility. Don’t allow them to wear clothes that could cause them to trip and fall. 

2. Young children should ALWAYS be accompanied by an adult or older sibling – no exceptions!

3. Older kids who go trick-or-treating without adult supervision should walk with friends or in groups. They should also be given a set time to return home.

4. Children should stay off their phones and other electronic devices while walking, always being sure to look both ways when crossing streets. Remind kids to never run out into the street without first checking for traffic. 

5. Make sure kids carry glow sticks, flashlights, or some other device that allows them to see and be seen by cars and other trick-or-treaters. Things that go bump in the night are NOT fun when they are our kids running into unexpected objects or people. 

6. This one is so important. Children should NEVER enter the home of a stranger. It’s common sense to us, but remember that kids don’t always see things quite so rationally – especially when there is the promise of candy. By the way, this “no stranger” policy should also apply to cars. Surround your kids with people you know, and this should not be an issue. 

7. Immediately dispose of any candy or treats that appear to have been tampered with or already opened. Trust your instinct on this one. If it looks shady, ditch it.

I hope you and your kids have a memorable, fun, and safe Halloween!

I have a friend who very recently underwent a painful procedure on her spine. Already aware of the agony that was headed her way due to previous surgeries, she listened to an iPod’s worth of relaxing classical and folk music before and after her surgery. The result? While she was not completely without pain, she did confirm that she felt significantly less pain following this procedure than after her previous ones.  

To be fair, I cannot prove that my friend’s decreased post-surgery pain was due entirely to music. But hers is not the lone story of someone using music to improve their physical condition. It is now so common, in fact, that researchers have begun looking for applications in healthcare. One example is their attempt to help patients during post-surgery recovery or improving outcomes for Alzheimer’s patients. In certain instances, music’s positive impact on health have been more potent than medication.

Neuroscientists now know that listening to music increases positive emotions which stimulate spurts of dopamine. These spurts can make us feel good, and sometimes even euphoric, so it’s no surprise that music is an increasingly valuable tool in the fight for good physical and mental health. 

Here are three ways that music seems to impact our overall health and wellbeing:

Music reduces pain.

As in the case of my friend who found relief in her iPod, music has the ability to help with pain management. Scientists have yet to determine exactly why music can reduce pain. There is, however, a good chance that it has something to do with music’s tendency to release dopamine.

As you’ve likely discovered, stress and pain tend to go hand in hand, so music’s unique ability to sometimes reduce stress may also partly explain its pain-relieving effects.

Music decreases stress and anxiety.

Research has shown that listening to certain types of music can relax people, even during times of extreme stress and pain. Researchers discovered that the patients receiving surgery to fix their hernia who listened to music after surgery experienced decreased plasma cortisol levels and required significantly less morphine to manage their pain than those patients who did not.

In a separate study focused on patients who had undergone surgery, the stress-decreasing effects of music were more powerful than those of a particularly potent anxiolytic drug. Turns out that certain types of music can be quite the cure for the things that are stressin’ us. Good news, eh?

Music motivates us to exercise.

If you’re like me, you pretty much always need some form of music blasting in your ears as you attempt to exercise. It’s so tough to get the engine started, and the right type of energetic rock, pop, or country can work wonders. This is not an accident, by the way, as research has shown that music really does help us get going when it comes time to burn calories. 

According to one study, researchers in the United Kingdom convinced thirty participants to listen to either up-tempo (or “feel-good”) music, low-tempo music, or no music at all while they exercised on a treadmill. The data of the experiment revealed that the two music conditions increased the length of time those participants worked out, seemingly giving them more energy. Those who listened to the uplifting music added that they felt better during their workout than those with slower and no music. 

In what ways does music help your physical and mental health? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 

 

One of my favorite things to do during the Halloween season is to sit down with my entire family to watch a scary movie. I obviously need to be careful when deciding what is appropriately “scary,” as the last thing I want is for my kids to have trouble sleeping after we watch our movie. With that in mind, the horror and suspense movies I’ve listed below are acceptable for family viewing. They were not necessarily created for kids, but graphic violence, profanity, and sexuality are all kept to a minimum. FYI: most of these films are rated PG-13, so there might be some mild naughtiness. 

I hope you enjoy the sights, sounds, and scares!

Arachnophobia (1990)

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Steven Spielberg’s Arachnophobia is filled with the family-friendly fun of his earlier films such as Goonies and E.T. It also includes lots of creepy-crawly suspense that will make you think twice before you put on your slippers, take a shower, or eat cereal straight from the box.

Beautiful Creatures (2013)

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Unfortunately, Beautiful Creatures completely flopped at the box office. That shouldn’t keep you from checking out this smart, well-acted, and romantic film.

The Birds (1963)

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The Birds is easily Alfred Hitchcock’s most kid-friendly films. The simple storyline of birds attacking a town for no apparent reason is easy for children to follow.

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Twilight Zone: The Movie

Another Steven Spielberg film, “Twilight Zone: The Movie” tells four short stories that not only provide sufficient scares, but they also teach lessons about selflessness and tolerance. It’s a fast-paced production that will hold the attention of even your most easily distracted child.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

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This on-screen adaptation of the Ray Bradbury book of the same name tells the story of a devilish carnival owner who grants wishes at a price. Your kids will find the two 13-year-old lead characters easy to connect with and their adventures intriguing, but not overly spooky.

Poltergeist (1982)

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Poltergeist might be the scariest film on this list. It tells the story of a typical family who confronts a very supernatural presence. While Poltergeist does feed off of childhood fears of under-the-bed monsters, Spielberg provides enough playfulness to make it worth your family’s time.

Gremlins (1984)

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Gremlins is a lighthearted monster movie that tells the story of a teenage boy whose father gives him a cute creature called a mogwai as a Christmas present. The twist? That oh so adorable creature eventually spawns into several not-so-sweet gremlins. Your kids are guaranteed to coo over the mogwai and scream while the gremlins wreak their unique brand of mischief.

 

 

As a strong believer that the arts fit perfectly within the realm of education, I was thrilled to discover this story about Chicago-area high school students getting their chance to watch and participate in the award-winning musical Hamilton. From ABC 7 Eyewitness News in Chicago:

“Some high school students turned a history lesson into rap and poetry performances and got to perform their material for the cast of the Broadway hit Hamilton. They’re telling America’s history in their own way and in their own words. Students from the 27 participating schools packed the CIBC theatre for the special field trip. The young performers spent several weeks studying one of the country’s founding fathers only to create an original work which was debuted on the musical’s stage.”

I love this for a number of reasons:

First, it encourages young people to express their creativity. Too often we stifle kids by telling them (directly and indirectly) that their thoughts and talents don’t matter. Getting kids up on a stage where they can show off their skills encourages them and their peers to pursue their inner voice. 

Next, students had to become familiar with the story of Hamilton and our nation’s founding in order to create a piece deserving of the stage. Ours is a complicated and often disturbing history. The more our kids know the truth regarding our roots, the more likely they are to learn from our past. Our hope should be that each generation does better than the previous one. 

Finally, students encountered a learning experience that transcends almost any other they’ll face in high school – and possibly beyond. This was a hands-on, all-encompassing activity that not only taught young people about the past, but also prepared them for life by teaching them about themselves. 

To the Chicago-area schools and the fine folks at Hamilton who made all this happen, there’s really only one thing to say about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you’ve given so many students: bravo!

It’s been a crazy week, filled with lots of ups and downs. One of the most impactful and somber events was the untimely death of Tom Petty this past Monday. I’ve always been such a big fan of his songwriting, style, and attitude. When I think of iconic American songwriters, Petty is pretty much at the top of the list. His heartfelt delivery and unique ability to pack more punch by saying substantially less than his peers made him a favorite of mine from day one.

As you can imagine, choosing 5 tracks that best represent what Petty means to me is beyond challenging. There are dozens from which to choose, but when I hear these 5 songs, I’m immediately filled with very specific emotions that are tied to very specific times and places. I refuse to number these songs, by the way, as that would imply some are better than others. I believe you should turn them all up as loud as you can as you celebrate Tom Petty and his musical genius.

“Refugee”

 Refugee” from Petty’s 1979 classic Damn the Torpedoes was originally written as a spirited rant against the fickle music industry. But we can all attest to it being an anthem of independence against whatever (or whoever) seeks to keep us trapped.

“I Won’t Back Down”

Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” is from his first solo album, 1989’s Full Moon Fever. While its straightforward and punchy beat is catchy, “I Won’t Back Down” is most revered for its stone-faced defiance against the forces of this world that try and try to knock us down and out.  

“Free Fallin’”

Thirty minutes. That’s how long it took Petty to write “Free Fallin’,” his 1989 hit. I’ll let you ponder that as you do whatever you’re going to do over the next half hour. 

“The Waiting”

Petty wrote more than his share of singalong tunes, but perhaps none are as infectious as “The Waiting.” With its “yeah-yeah” pre-chorus and its even bigger chorus, “The Waiting” is a universal lamentation for those of us who want something right this second, but just can’t get it.

“American Girl”

If we’re ranking Petty songs based purely on their feel-good vibe, “American Girl” easily takes the cake. Adored by fans and Hollywood alike, “American Girl” paints a somewhat somber picture of the ever elusive American dream. More importantly, this line perfectly captures the longing that I will always associate with Tom Petty’s music:

God, it’s so painful when something that’s so close, is still so far out of reach