The Music Mom: Eileen Carey

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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

Hey, Cali friends! Join me this Saturday, September 30 as I celebrate family and good health at Kidd Park in Long Beach during the second annual Family Health Festival. Presented by the great people at FX3 Events and Partners HealthCare, the Family Health Festival will be free, all ages, and right on the water. 

So, what can you expect? In addition to an absolutely gorgeous seaside view, there will be free health exams and tons of people. The blend of family, health, and music is right up my alley, so I am beyond excited to headline this event. I look forward to seeing you all there.  

Stay happy, healthy, and well!

Eileen

With the school year now fully upon us, we are once again confronted with treats that can be easily packed in a lunchbox or grabbed by our kids when they get home from school. The potential for unhealthy eating is definitely there, but by filling your kitchen with healthy snacks, a quick treat can be something that positively impacts your child’s growing brain and body.

Do you need ideas for how to fuel the little people in your life? If so, I highly recommend preparing these 5 healthy – and delicious – kid-friendly snacks.

1. Freeze-dried produce

Freeze-dried raspberries

Let’s be honest. Raw fruits and vegetables can get boring. Freeze-dried produce is a lovely alternative that usually contains minimal sugar. So which items typically go over best? I have found that broccoli, beets, and kale are popular vegetables, while raspberries, blueberries, and bananas are favorite fruits.

2. Whole grain breakfast cereal

Chocolate-Cherry Snack Bars

Whole grain cereals are great because they provide your kids with all types of complex carbohydrates that energize active muscles – including the brain! Be sure to select an iron-fortified cereal that contains 7 grams or less of sugar. Oh, and ignore anything that does not list whole grains as the first ingredient.

3. Whole grain muffins

Peach Crumble Muffins

One of my favorite family cooking activities is to make muffins from scratch. Doing this guarantees a whole grain, veggie-filled snack that you can keep for use throughout the week. The ingredient options are practically unlimited: sweet potatoes, zucchini, blueberries, and bananas are only some of the vegetables and fruits you can include in your muffins.

4. Whole grain waffles

Strawberry-Ricotta Waffle Sandwich

Known mainly as a breakfast tradition, whole grain waffles can also function as a delicious snack on the go. Nab them from out of the freezer and drop them in the toaster. Next, smear them with any assortment of scrumptious blended toppings, including, but not limited to, peanut butter/banana and almond butter/blueberries. My mouth waters at the thought of these treats.

5. Nut butter

Apple with Cinnamon Almond Butter

With options that include peanut, almond, and sunflower, nut butters are a great choice if you are looking for fats that are kid-friendly and good for them. How you use nut butter is entirely up to you. You can spread it on apple slices, blend it into a smoothie, or match it up with your favorite yogurt.

One of my favorite seasons is finally upon us. Autumn is when the days get shorter and the weather turns cooler. I always consider the fall a time of reflection, as it often represents the sharpest contrast between seasons. Much like life, things change drastically during the fall.

In addition to the sound of rain falling on your windows, there are some other sounds that you will definitely find appealing. This mysteriously moody season has inspired songwriters to write some of my favorite tunes. Below are 7 songs as brilliant as the autumn leaves. Which one is your favorite?

Green Day – “Wake Me Up When September Ends”

Van Morrison – “Golden Autumn”

Moody Blues – “Forever Autumn”

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – “Autumn in New York”

Willie Nelson – “September Song”

Earth, Wind and Fire – “September”

The Kinks – “Autumn Almanac”

 

Have you ever wondered why some people are healthy eaters and others are not? Research shows that the eating habits we have as adults are typically established when we are children. This is incredibly important information, as it lends a special gravity to how and what we feed our kids.

Although there is plenty of focus on kids’ nutrition (including obesity prevention programs, healthy school lunches, and nutrition education), research consistently reveals that a child’s home environment is, in the end, their biggest food influence.

So where should parents turn for the right answers regarding their children’s eating habits? While that might seem like a complicated question, the good news is that all families – including yours – can develop healthy eating habits that are sure to guarantee good health and a lifetime of happiness.

To prove this point, I’ve compiled 5 healthy habits that your family can start following today. It won’t take long for you to notice drastic changes in your mental and physical health and well-being.

Habit #1: Eat together often.

While it’s all too common for individual members of families to eat separate meals, healthy families eat together as often possible. Need an incentive to gather around the table as a family? A 2011 report published in Pediatrics found that families that shared three or more meals per week were 12% less likely to be overweight, 20% less likely to eat unhealthy foods, and 35% less likely to have disordered eating.

Habit #2: Make mealtime an overall pleasant experience.

Mealtime in the homes of healthy families looks and sounds different. Absent are the patience-testing battles between parent and child. The adults serve meals family style, often with individual members passing plates. Mealtime in a healthy family’s house is a sacred time during which members take turns talking and listening to each other. It is a form of communion in which conversation and a genuine interest in each other are prevalent. 

Habit #3: Eat a wide variety of food. 

Ever feel like you and your family are stuck in the rut of eating the same old food every day? Well, healthy families meet all their nutritional needs by cooking a wide variety of food. Main meals typically have 3-5 food groups and snacks have 2-3. Processed food is typically replaced by real food options such as fruit, veggies, and whole grains. Sweet treats are usually enjoyed without guilt because they are rarely consumed. 

Habit #4: Eat with intention. 

Healthy families avoid mindless eating. This means that they avoid random snacking while watching TV or spending time on the computer. They eat with intention. They plan their meals and gather around the table as often as possible. Attention is paid to the messages their bodies send them. When they are full, they stop eating. This prevents the type of overeating seen in unhealthy families. 

Habit #5: Avoid diets and negative body talk. 

You might think that healthy families live sullen lives of denial and sacrifice. The reality is that healthy families don’t diet, restrict their food intake, or think negatively of their body. Weight is never a focus. Rather, good health, self-care, and a high quality of life are emphasized by parents and children alike. Because they care about the holistic health of their children, parents guide their young people towards a skepticism of the type of idealized body shapes seen in Hollywood and social media. 

Which of these habits are you already doing and which ones do you need to work on? Feel free to share your successes and your challenges in the comments section. 

We are only two weeks away from the second annual Family Health Festival at Kidd Park, taking place on Saturday, September 30 in Long Beach, CA. I am so incredibly excited to be a part of this fun celebration of family and health.

In anticipation of what is sure to be an exciting event, I’ve compiled a list of 7 calorie-burning activities for your entire family. In addition to being fun and easy to facilitate, each activity encourages the type of interaction that will strengthen the bond between you and your family. 

1. Go for post-dinner walks.

Building a walk into your daily schedule guarantees that it won’t get put off. You really don’t have to travel far. A simple walk around the block is enough to burn some of the calories from your dinner. This early evening stroll will also give you plenty of time to talk with your favorite people. 

2. Boogie down as you crank up the music.

One of our favorite family activities is to move our furniture to the side of the room, hook up the CD or record player with upbeat dance tunes, and let everyone do their thing. It’s amazing how much joy a little song and dance can bring. 

3. Turn household chores into a game.

Here’s one example of the type of game you can create from a simple household chore: Pretend that dust creatures are invading our dear planet and it is up to Captain [insert child’s name] to save the day by capturing them with his broom. This goes to show you how far a little creativity will go – especially when convincing your young ones to help clean up.

4. Exercise for charity.

Teaming up with your children for a fund-raising race allows you to model good health and the fine art of giving back to society. The best part is that it doesn’t really matter what you do. You can walk, or you can run. With this option, the actual physical activity you do matters less than the cause. 

5. Put your kids to work in the yard.

Autumn offers the perfect opportunity to play catch – if you think outside the box. Fetch your kids after the falling leaves, and you will see them having more fun than you thought possible. You can make it competitive by seeing who can catch the most yellow, orange, or red leaves. Next, tell your kids to rake them into piles and have fun jumping in them. This never gets old. 

6. Grow your kids into gardeners.

Kids are experts at digging up dirt (and, as we know, wearing it on their clothes), so let them turn over the soil and help you grow something new. Recent research reveals that gardening is as good as weight training, so there’s an immediate health benefit. Another benefit is that if you’re planting vegetables, your children will likely be more connected to the veggies. Why does this matter? Well, it should make them much more likely to actually eat their greens. 

7. Walk the dog.

It should come as no surprise that recent research from the North American Association on the Study of Obesity shows that dog owners had more fun losing weight and were able to keep it off longer than those who are not dog owners. Those of us who have a pooch can attest to the fact that our canine friends are always ready and willing to join us, should we hit the open road for a walk around the neighborhood. 

What are some of your favorite healthy family activities? Add them to the comments below. 

Everyone who knows me knows that I am all about a healthy lifestyle. That’s one reason why I’m so excited to be headlining the second annual Family Health Festival at Kidd Park on September 30 in Long Beach, CA. I can’t wait to help celebrate healthy living and family fun.

One of the most important elements of a healthy lifestyle is breakfast. It can make or break the rest of your day. The question of what makes a healthy breakfast is one I consistently get from friends and family.

While it depends on what your morning routine looks like, I think it’s safe to assume that for most of us parents, mornings are typically quite the whirlwind. Things are crazy, and sometimes it’s much too easy to dump some sugary goodness badness into our kids’ bowls. This might be convenient, but it’s not the way we want to fuel our kids’ engines as they start their day.

In addition to the inevitable comedown from their sugar high they’ll feel just a few short hours later, tons of research tells us that ingesting too much sugar as a child is a recipe for future disaster. That is the exact opposite of what we want for our loved ones, so it is well worth it to find healthy alternatives to the overly sweet and salty cereals and “fruit” bars that have unfortunately become the breakfast norm. 

On that note, below are 5 of my all-time favorite breakfast meals. They are easy to make, delicious, and good for you and your entire family. Enjoy! 

Gorgeous granola

There are three reasons why I love granola as a breakfast treat. First, there are seemingly endless combinations for us to explore. This is probably why it’s nearly impossible to get tired of the stuff. Second, homemade granola tastes infinitely better than the stuff you buy from a store. The freshness makes all the difference in the world. Finally, homemade granola is so much cheaper than store-bought granola. Dive into the world of granola and you’ll be happy with what you discover.

Perfectly planned porridge 

If you want to fuel up in the morning, oatmeal is a great way to do it. It’s high in whole-grain fiber and protein and low in calories. Oatmeal is a type of porridge, and the two terms are often used interchangeably, but not all porridge is made from oats. A porridge is a hot cereal that can be made from a variety of grains and vegetables. It’s typically boiled in water or milk until it is nice and mushy. Best of all, it is absolutely delicious. 

Exceptionally excellent eggs

Eggs are a tried and true favorite. The best part is that when scrambled, they can pretty much be paired with anything. Some of my faves are tomatoes, feta cheese, broccoli, and pesto. You and your kids will love bringing something new to an old and reliable breakfast classic. 

Beautiful banana bread

banana-bread

There is something so incredibly comforting about the smell of baked banana bread. And then once you get the warm bread in your hand? Forget about it. This is easily one of my favorite breakfast items. If you prepare the ingredients the night before, it really doesn’t take long to make.   

Yummy yogurt and grapes or berries

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This sweet treat is healthy and ridiculously easy to make. Pretty much any fruit you have in your kitchen will go well with yogurt. The sweetness, meaty flesh, and softness of the fruit contrast perfectly with the crunchy granola. I can’t get enough of it. In fact, our entire family is addicted!

What are some of your favorite breakfast meals? I’d love to hear more ideas as we continue pursuing a healthy and happy lifestyle. 

Hello, friends! I have some news that I’ve been itching to share with you. I am super excited to be headlining the second annual Family Health Festival At Kidd Park, happening on Sept. 30 (2:30 PM) in Long Beach, CA. Consider this post an official invite. 

In anticipation of the big event, I’ll spend the next few weeks posting a bunch about health, fitness, fun, family, and music. ALL of those things are so incredibly important to me, so this is going to be a really exciting time for me. 

Oh, and more thing: if you’ve yet to follow me on Facebook, check out my official Facebook page. I’ll be spreading the word about the details of the Family Health Festival. Plus, I’m always sharing interesting articles, posts, and other tidbits of information that I hope you’ll find helpful, so drop by and give me a “like.” 

Thanks for all your continued support!

Eileen

Have you ever gotten chills from an exceptionally emotional song? Some new research suggests that it might be you – and not the music you’re listening to – that helps create these good vibes. Called frisson, a French word meaning “aesthetic chills,” these seemingly random sensations are completely natural, but not everyone is fortunate enough to experience them.

Better yet, there’s also a good chance you might be more emotionally intelligent than someone who doesn’t get these musically-induced goosebumps. An intriguing new study suggested that those of us who get goosebumps from listening to music just might be a little bit extraordinary:

The findings have come from University of Southern California PhD student Matthew Sachs, whose paper on the subject – ‘Brain connectivity reflects human aesthetic responses to music’ – has been published in the Oxford Academic. Sachs argues that those who get goosebumps when listening to music have structural differences in the brain, with those individuals possessing “a higher volume of fibers that connects their auditory cortex to the areas associated with emotional processing, which means the two areas communicate better.”

In other words, if you’re the type of music listener who gets chills while listening to a particularly nostalgic song or an exceptionally moving part of a song (think the epic rising tide of sound at the end of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” or the inspired sax solo in Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland”), you are very likely tuned into your emotions in a way that others are not.

Now that I know the source of these chills, I’m off to a find some music that will get me some new ones. Call it a mission to free my frisson!

 

 

Neo-Nazis and the KKK are marching in our streets. North Korea just detonated a nuclear bomb that they claim is small enough to attach to a missile. Houston is still under water from Hurricane Harvey, while Los Angeles is hot as hades due to its largest ever wildfire. If ever there was a time for finding your place of perfect peace, now is it.

I know quite well where I find my place of perfect peace. Give me a guitar, a notebook, and just a little bit of room, and I’ll dive right in to my personal refuge. It is here that I make sense of the world, even as it seems to spiral deeper and deeper into an illogical and fearful mess.

Music is, as it has always been for me, a sanctuary, a safe space from all the troubles of the world. Whether I’m listening to it or creating it, music is my absolute favorite hiding place. The peace that comes from discovering hidden melodies and writing expressive new lyrics is not everlasting, but it’s darn close. Tapping into my creativity is a surefire way to temporarily look beyond all that is ailing our world.

When I can’t write my own music, nothing can top the comfort I feel from listening to The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, and the rest of my all time faves. They inspire in me the type of emotions that reignite my faith in humanity, all the while providing assurance that everything will, in the end, be okay. I can’t imagine life without these saints of sonic sanctuary. 

What is your place of perfect peace? To where do you run when you seek shelter from today’s craziness? Share in the comments section the things that provide you refuge. 

The devastation from Hurricane Harvey has had me thinking about the countless obstacles our friends and family members in Texas are facing. It has also forced me to think of the many ways by which we overcome such obstacles. Music is often the answer, as it has an uncanny knack for lifting us up when things are at their worst. 

Whether it’s the complete destruction caused by a hurricane, the conflict of racism, or the countless personal struggles we must all endure, songs of survival inspire us to persevere. Here’s a playlist for when you need to fight through your own struggles. I hope these songs help you endure. 

1. “Lean on Me” – Bill Withers

2. “Don’t Stop Believin'” – Journey

3. “Don’t Stop” – Fleetwood Mac

4. “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” – Pat Benatar

5. “I Won’t Back Down” – Tom Petty

6. “No Surrender” – Bruce Springsteen

7. “Heroes” – David Bowie

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Even as someone who uses words to make a living, it is difficult to find the right words to describe the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. It is even tougher to express how it all makes me feel. In addition to a guttural sadness and sympathy for the people of Texas, I am often overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness. I feel so incredibly removed from their unfortunate situation because, well, I am.

It is at times like these that I am reminded of the one thing that brings me comfort. That one beacon of hope for me (and more importantly, for the devastated people of Texas) is that we, as Americans, have a tried and true history of supporting each other in the most challenging of times. 

If you look through our storied history, you’ll find countless examples of Americans uniting during both natural and man-made tragedies. You’ll discover thousands of stories of individuals and groups rising above their circumstances to help each other. Empathy, courage, and compassion abound. All this despite the distinct political and cultural differences that often separate us.

It is this last point that stands out to me. We are constantly referring to ourself as a divided nation. Given the current political climate, I believe that is an accurate statement. While there’s no need to rehash our many differences in this post, it is important to acknowledge that they exist. 

Despite these differences, Americans have a seemingly endless reservoir of willingness to rise above and do what is necessary to help those who so desperately need it. We see it in the countless makeshift shelters in Texas. We see it in the tweets and Facebook posts of those who speak on behalf of others who cannot call out for help on their own. We see it in the urgency of the New York City firefighters who hop in their trucks and make their way to Texas. 

These are just a few examples of the compassion, kindness, and goodwill that are aimed at Texas. Buildings, entire neighborhoods, and dozens of lives have been lost, but hope has not. As long as Americans continue to help each other, hope remains. 

 

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One of the most recently discussed topics on social media has been the unfortunate trend of mom-shaming. If you’re not familiar with it, mom-shaming is when one mother publicly criticizes the parenting skills of another mother. It is impossible to overestimate the impact of social media on the rise of mom-shaming, as it has become ridiculously easy to make disparaging comments on forums such as Facebook and Instagram.

I feel strongly that, aside from calling out blatantly inappropriate parenting practices, we should support each other as mothers. We have the toughest job in the world, and the truth is that none of us are perfect parents.

I want to suggest some ways by which we can lift up our fellow moms. Taking these steps will ensure that we don’t undermine each other as we continue doing the most important job of our lives.

1. Instead of spreading more online negativity, focus on the positive when commenting on social media.

It is so incredibly easy to find fault in every little thing our fellow moms do. Instead of making a comment about a mom who constantly lets her kids stay up too late, share an article on the benefits of our kids getting a good night’s sleep. You obviously don’t want to share it in the comments section of the post that brought the issue to your attention. Neither should you tag the offending mom, as that it is extremely passive aggressive. Wait for the right time. You’ll be spreading some good parenting advice into the world without stepping on the toes of a fellow mom.

2. Instead of judging the way moms dress their kids, share cool ideas and great sales for kids clothing.

Instead of gossiping about how a mom dresses her kids, why not share with the world the fashion tips that make your kids so stylish? Since you can’t know why a mom dresses her child the way she does (perhaps her family is experiencing financial difficulties), it is never appropriate to publicly judge a child and mother in this way. Plus, we all want to be known as parents who value people for things other than their physical appearance, so I suggest making fashion a source of goodwill and fun.

3. Instead of criticizing the actions of other kids, consistently model for your children the proper way to act and talk.

Rather than publicly insulting a mom for something her son or daughter said in school or on the playground, be a shining example of how your kids should interact with others. Keep in mind that your actions and words are being constantly observed. You have an opportunity to do much more good by treating all people with respect than by calling out the inappropriate behaviors of someone else’s child. 

4. Instead of making a judgment regarding whether or not a mother breastfeeds her baby, assume that all moms are doing what they believe is best for their children.

This is one of the biggest issues facing mothers as they try to raise a healthy child. Over the past few decades, it has become more and more taboo to feed babies via formula. While we all know that there are inherent health benefits to breastfeeding, it is impossible to know why a mother has chosen to do otherwise. There are multiple health reasons for why a mom might use a bottle, so keep an open mind. This is one instance in which it is always better to mind your own business. 

We moms know what is best for our kids. Parenting is tough enough without facing random and unwanted critiques, so be a supportive woman and do what you can to make sure you’re not shaming moms. After all, we all want the same thing: to raise healthy, happy, and well-adjusted children who love us with all their hearts. 

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You’ve probably heard the saying “if mom is happy, everyone is happy.” My experience has definitely shown this to be true. Often, though, we forget the many varied ways by which we can find happiness. We are taught from day one of motherhood that our happiness and contentment must come solely from our kids – and that choosing to spend time away from them for any reason is a sign that we don’t care about them as much as other moms care for their kids. Unfortunately, many of us believe this lie. 

Being a mother is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. It’s also the most rewarding. Due to the wonder and joy it brings, I wouldn’t trade being a mother for anything. Yet, I still find it very necessary to pursue my talents, my dreams, and my favorite activities. Here’s why I suggest you pursue some quality alone time for the purpose of chasing that career you’ve always wanted or that hobby you’ve always dreamed of. 

You are, believe it or not, your very own person!

It really seems as though sometimes folks forget this. While we are, as moms, 100% responsible for our children’s wellbeing, that shouldn’t mean that we neglect our own mental and physical wellness. So often we allow ourselves to exist solely for others, thus leading to a life that is only half as fulfilling as it could be. It is so important to rediscover the things we love – and then to find time to do them. Demand from yourself and from others permission to focus on yourself. By doing so, you will soon see that your self-awareness and self-care cause you to be a better mother. 

Give yourself some time and distance from your kids, knowing that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

This one is tough. Modern mothers are essentially forced into feeling guilty if they spend even one minute away from their kiddies. You must reject the social (and often self-imposed) pressure that comes with that mentality. Like all people and things that you love, spending a little bit of time apart from your kids will inevitably lead to a greater sense of enjoyment when you finally reunite. You will also feel incredibly refreshed, filled with more energy and patience than you ever imagined. Yes, you adore your child. None of us here doubt that. So do what is best for him and you by getting away for an hour, an afternoon, or even a day, if time allows. Both of you will be better for it in the long run.

You want to make your children proud of you and your gifts and skills, so spend time working on them.

Do your kids know what your hobbies, passions, and interests are? If not, they should. Share them and then take some time to develop your talents. You will very quickly discover that your children are impressed with you for having such interesting skills that they never even knew of. Nothing beats overhearing your kids telling their friends about your unique skills. Not only is it cool to hear them bragging about you, but you will also do them a great service by teaching them the values of practice, hard work, and belief in one’s self. 

Eventually your kids will grow older and move on, so be the best you possible. 

I don’t need to remind you that one day your kids are going to be out of your house. The realization that the time you have with them is not infinite should inspire you to make the most of the here and now. One effective way to do this is to be the best you possible. This requires you taking care of your mental and physical shape. Don’t lose sight of yourself and your needs. Finding alone time and pursuing your interests are two ways by which you can be the best mom possible. 

 

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As much as we might want to prevent it, our kids will eventually discover the ugly truth about events like Charlottesville. If we could eternally shield them from the ignorance, hatred, racism, and violence associated with groups such as neo-Nazis, the KKK, and the alt-right, we would. But we can’t. It’s out there, and with the ever-increasing reach of social media and technology, it’s more accessible than ever.

With that in mind, I was relieved to discover this article from The Los Angeles Times. Entitled “How to talk to your kids about the violence in Charlottesville,” it begins by setting the stage for why we, as parents, currently face this particular challenge:

“As violence erupted in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, with three killed and dozens injured at one of the largest white nationalist rallies in a decade, TV screens and news feeds across America were filled with images of chaos and terror. While politicians including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Senator Dianne Feinstein reacted by condemning the attacks, calling for “hope and prayers for peace” and reminders that “violent acts of hate and bigotry have no place in America,” parents seeing the news were faced with a dilemma that’s becoming an increasing concern for American families: if, and how, to talk about violence and racism with their children.”

The article goes on to list nine extremely helpful tips (all highly recommended by mental health experts and parents) for talking to your kids about what happened this weekend in Virginia. There is plenty of information to digest within the article, so they went ahead and broke it down to a few bullet points:  

How to talk to children of different ages

Elementary school age

  • Relate the issue to their world — make sure they know who they can go to if they ever feel unsafe.
  • Tell them that if they see people being picked on at school, to always tell an adult, and to treat others with respect.
  • Use age-appropriate language.

Teenagers

  • Watch/read the news with them, then ask how they feel and what they think.
  • Share your experiences.
  • Help them discover what actions they can take to educate themselves and effect change.
  • Remind them that you’re there, even if they don’t want to talk.

I hope this information helps you as you try to explain to your kids the type of things I never thought we’d need to explain in 2017. 

Love and care for each other. 

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That voice. That guitar playing. And those songs. Geez, I am really going to miss Glen Campbell. He was a huge influence on me and pretty much every other country musician who has strummed a guitar and sung their heart out during the past five decades.

Campbell’s God-given talents made him one of the most successful and influential country pop singers in music history. In some ways, he was the face of mainstream country music, the guy who casual country fans and suburbanites instantly recognized. His songs were gorgeous tales filled with evocative imagery, unforgettable odes capable of lifting listeners to another time and place. Absolute brilliance.  

As you probably know, Campbell endured an extremely difficult last few years due to Alzheimer’s disease. Because of that, I am glad that his suffering is over. Now we are left with his music and the impact it’s made on countless fans, musicians, and critics. 

Here are 5 songs that I feel best represent what Glen Campbell means to me. As you listen, spend a moment being grateful that we were blessed by a talent and soul such as his.

5. “Gentle on My Mind”

“Gentle on My Mind” became an early signature song for Campbell. Slightly older fans will remember it as the focal point of his 1969-1972 CBS television series The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.

4. “Still Within the Sound of My Voice”

Easily the best single of Campbell’s later work from his time in Nashville, this late 1980s top 10 hit definitely sounded familiar to fans. The song’s arrangement had that same dramatic sound as many of Campbell’s earliest works.

3. “Southern Nights”

Allen Toussaint wrote “Southern Nights” about his memories of trips to rural Louisiana. Campbell instantly thought of his childhood in Delight, Arkansas. Campbell’s version is noteworthy because it includes one of the most memorable melodies in country or pop music history.

2. “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” 

A double Grammy winner for Campbell in 1968, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” is often considered the best example of the Glen Campbell sound. The lyrics tell the story of a man who has made the agonizing decision to break away from his lover – despite knowing that it’s the last thing she would ever expect.

1. “Rhinestone Cowboy”

This iconic ode to big dreams became Campbell’s first country chart-topper in six years, and his first to top the Hot 100. It is the very definition of a classic, an instantly recognizable and catchy tune that inspires musicians to never give up on their dream of making it to the big time. 

 

 

NPR recently premiered in their Songs We Love segment a powerful piece of protest pop, the creative video for Jenny O.’s “People.” Here’s how they describe the song:

“Jenny O.’s “People,” from her album Peace And Information, is a song written in the midst of a cultural shift that has thrown the Western world into a state of panic. How did this happen? What world are we living in? “People” goes back to the basics with a core message that those in power so quickly and easily forget that they are not superior to those over whom they have power. It is a breath after a crash, a memory test to reorient ourselves.”

Jenny O. breaks down the song’s message like this: “The song is about equality. I was trying to write about racism, authority — how can anyone feel superior to anyone else? When people are protesting for their lives, listen to them. ” Her final point is a poignant one: “Change is a long game, but it begins with dissent and compassion.”

As for the video, NPR paints a pretty accurate picture of what’s going on both sonically and visually: “Animated by Brazilian artist Caco Neves, “People” takes on the style of a classic propaganda film in collage. Jenny O.’s voice floats over warm ’70s mid-tones while photographs from different eras of oppression are cut out and played with, interacting and telling a zoomed-out story of a world desperately clinging to the arc of justice, trying not to fall off.”

The video for “People” is as intriguing as the song is relevant, so check it out. 

 

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In my last post, I suggested that you sneak in at least one road trip before summer ends. August is already here, so now is the time to gather your family and hit the open road.

Of course, if you’re going on a great escape, the music you listen to on your voyage matters almost as much as your destination. 

With that in mind, I’ve hunted down several playlists for your ultimate summer road trip. The Internet affords the luxury of choice, and when it comes to summer songs, there are some really amazing playlists out there. 

First up is this list of top tunes from our friends at Alpha Mom. It includes tracks from Johnny Cash, Rascal Flatts, Van Halen, and Queen, so it’s right up my alley. There’s nothing better than a diverse blend of genres and catchy hits, so I highly recommend this one. 

Meanwhile, TakeLessons.com took the time to compile what they call “97 perfect road trip songs the whole family will love.” That’s literally the title, so you know they mean it. And after browsing the list, I have to hand it to them: they have compiled quite an eclectic collection of hits. Turns out that was on purpose, as they so eloquently explain:

“It can be difficult to make everyone happy at all times — but we’ve got you covered, with our top picks for country lovers, pop fanatics, and oldies-rockers alike.” 

Cafe Mom included some of my favorite artists of all time in their family road trip playlist, including Blondie, John Denver, REM, and The Rolling Stones. This playlist features so many catchy tunes that I actually planned a day trip after stumbling upon it. That’s how good it is!

Fatherly.com has compiled a fun-filled list that is intended specifically for your kids. If you are traveling with little ones, you’ll definitely have to check out this list. It includes talking animals, tons of sound effects, and lots of other fun stuff that is guaranteed to prevent your kids from asking the always dreaded “are we there yet?” question.

Popular blog 3 Boys and a Dog created an awesome soundtrack for your family’s summer adventure. This one is easily one of my faves, as it includes a ton of country classics, including Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” Rascal Flatts’ “Life Is a Highway,” and Brooks & Dunn’s “Red Dirt Road.” There’s also a healthy dose of rock and pop, so there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

I hope these playlists provide you and your family countless hours of fun and quality time together as you make the most of your next summer road trip. Enjoy!

 

The calendar has turned to August, and with it comes the sad realization that the end of summer is a mere month away. With that in mind, I suddenly feel the need to do all things summer – and to do them fast.

As a result, I have compiled a bucket list of must-do summer activities for us to enjoy during these here dog days of August. I hope you dive right in and get the most out of the rest of your summer. 

1. Hit the road for the ultimate road trip.

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The open road and summer make for an irresistible pair. The best part is that you don’t even need a specific destination. Just some gorgeous weather and good travelin’ company and you’ll be ready to for an unforgettable road trip. 

2. Eat some incredibly unhealthy (but scrumptious!) food at a state fair.

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Fruits and veggies are typically not on the menu at state fairs, so get your share of the sweet and salty stuff when you visit these 5 best state fairs.

3. Plan a barbecue with your friends and family.

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This is one of those rare activities that you will not be able to do in a few months – at least not comfortably. What could you possibly be waiting for? Check out these delicious recipes, and then fire up the grill and invite your favorite folks over for one of the trademarks of summer. 

4. Watch a movie at a drive-in theater. 

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This is one of the classic summer things to do. According to our friends at Mental Floss, there are currently only 336 drive-in theaters throughout the United States. Hunt one down and enjoy a truly unique cinematic experience while you still can. 

5. Take a short hike and watch a long sunset. 

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Views like these will soon be a distant memory, so get to a point of high altitude and watch our favorite star in all its glory. It is the perfect way to end a summer day. 

6. Dive into a local swimming hole.

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This is most definitely one activity that you will not be able to enjoy in a few months. The dog days of August are known as the hottest weeks of summer, so enjoy all the perks of your local swimming hole while you still can. 

7. Read your favorite book outside. 

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Picture you and your favorite book on your favorite grassy knoll. If this sounds like a fantasy, it doesn’t have to be. Summer is the perfect time to combine literacy and lounging, so get outside and recline, read, and relax to your heart’s content. 

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Today is the big day. As we spend time celebrating Mother’s Day and reflecting on what our moms mean to us,  I thought it’d be fitting (and fun) to look at 10 quotes that perfectly express the love and gratitude we are all feeling today. From Abraham Lincoln to Stevie Wonder, there are definitely some gems here. 

Once you’re done with the day’s celebratory meals, coffee, wine, gifts, and laughs, share these powerful words of wisdom with your favorite woman in the entire world: 

1. “God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.” – Jewish proverb

2. “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dates all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.” – Agatha Christie

3. “I will look after you and I will look after anybody you say needs to be looked after, any way you say. I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.” – Maya Angelou

4. “Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.” – Stevie Wonder
 

5. “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” – Abraham Lincoln

6. “Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.” – unknown

7. “A father may turn his back on his child, brothers and sisters may become inveterate enemies, husbands may desert their wives, wives their husbands. But a mother’s love endures through all.” – Washington Irving

8. “I realized when you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.” – Mitch Albom
 
9. “Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
 
10. “Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.” – Robert Browning

Much like our favorite songs, mothers inspire us and are always there to provide comfort. With that in mind, I’ve gathered eight songs that represent the sweetest elements of motherhood. Mother’s Day is right around the corner, so feel free to share this playlist with your favorite person in the world: mom.

1. “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted” by Carrie Underwood

This touching ballad finds Underwood paying tribute to her husband Mike and son Isaiah. With lyrics like “Never pictured myself singing lullabies / Sitting in a rocking chair in the middle of the night / In the quiet, in the dark / You’re stealing every bit of my heart with your daddy’s eyes,” “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted” is a wonderful ode to motherhood.  

2. “This Angel” by Jennifer Nettles

Jennifer Nettles wrote “This Angel” following the birth of her child. It is a testament to the enriching and transformative experience of becoming a mother.

3. “In My Daughter’s Eyes” by Martina McBride

Martina McBride’s “In My Daughter’s Eyes” is an exceptionally poignant song. In it, she describes the world as it is seen through her daughter’s eyes. Best of all, McBride then expresses her desire to see things exactly how her daughter does. 

4. “Lullaby for Wyatt” by Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow’s tender “Lullaby for Wyatt” is dedicated to her son, whom she adopted in 2007.

5. “Gabriel and Me” by Joan Baez

Folk singer Joan Baez wrote “Gabriel and Me” when her son was little. Today, he is all grown up and playing drums with his mom’s band. Such is the mother-child bond that can form through music. 

6. “To Zion” by Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill’s “To Zion” is definitely the most controversial song on this list. It is about Hill’s decision to have her son despite the urging of her music industry peers to have an abortion. Hill’s decision speaks to the complexity – and the joy – of motherhood. 

7. “Lullaby” by The Dixie Chicks

The Dixie Chicks wrote the ultimate sleepy time song with their sugary sweet “Lullaby.” The lyrics are incredibly touching, asking every mom’s favorite questions, “How long do you wanna be loved? Is forever enough?”

8. “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack

Lee Ann Womack’s hit “I Hope You Dance” was written by Tia Sillers and Mark Sanders. When Womack heard it, she immediately knew her experience as a mother would allow her to make it entirely her own:  “The song made me think about my daughters and the different times in their lives. As a parent, you just hope those are the kinds of things you will make your children think of.”

With us now just under two weeks away from this year’s Mother’s Day (May 14), it is the perfect time to begin pondering creative new gift ideas for our favorite person in the entire world. After all, a sign of truly caring for someone the way we care for mom is giving them a thoughtful gift.

The truth is that selecting the perfect gift for someone you love can be a stressful task – especially if it’s the woman who lovingly raised you. Finding a thoughtful Mother’s Day gift that shows what she means to you while also being something that you know she’ll love might seem like a tall order, but it’s more doable than you think. Plus, one of the great things about moms is that you can pretty much guarantee they’re going to love whatever gifts you give them.

Whether she loves to squeeze in an early morning workout or spend the afternoon curled up with a good book, there is definitely a thoughtful gift out there just waiting for your mom’s unique personality. The best part is that you don’t really have to spend a fortune to show your mother how much you care.

With prices ranging from $10 to $100, you can easily find the perfect gift to celebrate the woman who changed your diapers, taught you to read, and hauled you and your friends all around town before you could drive on your own. Here are 5 thoughtful gift ideas guaranteed to make Mom happy on her special day. 

1. For the chef at heart

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Rather than taking your chances by buying a kitchen gadget that your mom may or may not want or need, you should sign the two of you up for a cooking class. You are often able to choose between a demonstration class in which the chef does all the cooking and a hands-on class that is pretty much all you. Either way, every time she makes that very special meal, she’ll think of you and the quality time you spent together.

2. For the bookworm

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If your mom is like mine, she loves nothing more than diving into a good book. With countless genres of books by a plethora of acclaimed authors, a subscription to Book of the Month just might be the perfect gift for your favorite bookworm. Subscriptions are now more affordable than ever before, with prices ranging from $45 for three months to $144 for a year. If you want to invest in spending more time together, you could also buy the same books for yourself for the purpose of starting a mini book club.

3. For the fitness guru

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It seems that everyone nowadays is obsessed with physical fitness, and moms are no exception. Help your mom pursue a healthier and happier life by buying her a fitness gift card that will encourage her to engage in her tried and true exercises or venture into a new method of getting healthy. Fitness options abound, with yoga and meditation classes currently all the rage. If you have a higher budget, perhaps finding your mother her own personal trainer is the best idea.

4. For the wine connoisseur

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I’m not 100% sure, but I think it’s pretty much a universal thing that moms love wine. After all, they had to deal with us as kids, right? Whether she likes red or white, you might be shocked at how much she will appreciate you buying her a bottle of her favorite wine. Not only can you buy her a bottle of wine, but you can also take things to the next level by combining her favorite wine with a set of simple wine glasses and a few carefully selected food items.

5. For the green thumb

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When I think of gorgeous green gardens, I think of moms. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother planting flowers, fruits, and vegetables. I miss those days. Luckily, there are a ton of options for those moms who own a green thumb. A gardener’s apron, rolling garden seat, or garden clogs are just some of the thoughtful gift ideas for those mothers who find peace and pleasure in their garden.

Kinetic Kickstarters: 6 Kickin’ Songs to Jumpstart Your Exercise Routine

In my last post, I sang the the praises of listening to music while exercising:

First, because music distracts you, you are less likely to focus on the difficult work your body is doing. As a result, you are much more likely to have a longer workout. Another benefit of playing music during your workout is that the right kind of songs, the ones that offer an inspiring message (think “Eye of the Tiger” or “Walking on Sunshine”), can keep you in a positive mindset. Uplifting tunes can cause you to push harder during a workout by reducing your perceived exertion during the most challenging/exhausting/painful moments of your session.

So, lucky for us, the end result is less perceived pain and a longer workout. Dr. Costas Karageorghis of London’s Brunel University told TIME Magazine that listening to music while working out can improve endurance by close to 20 percent.

Karageorghis also explained how to choose the best workout music. You should choose a song that builds to the same beats per minute (BPM) as your target heart rate, with the target rate being somewhere between 120-140 BPM. 

I have put together a list of 6 pop and country songs that I think are perfect for working out. I hope they provide you with tons of inspiration and energy as you try to build a better you. 

“Shake It Off” – Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s feel-good hit “Shake It Off” not only told off the haters of the world, it also completed the young singer’s metamorphosis from country darling to pop superstar. Keep that radical transformation in mind as you look to change your physical health and appearance. 

“Dancing in the Dark” – Bruce Springsteen

If you’ve ever spent your time on a treadmill imagining yourself in a music video, you’ve probably pictured a scenario similar to the video for Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” In it the Boss pulls out of the audience a young lady who is fortunate enough to join Bruce onstage. Couple the fantasy of such an experience with the song’s heightened sense of urgency (“I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face!”), and you have the ultimate workout song. 

“One Way or Another” – Blondie

Blondie’s “One Way or Another” is a catchy and energetic song that possesses the perfect amount of hook and attitude. Debbie Harry and her band of hip new wavers demonstrate the type of indomitable spirit and personal resolve that should inspire you to work out harder and longer. 

“Let Your Love Flow” – The Bellamy Brothers

The Bellamy Brothers may not have known it when they were writing it, but their hit “Let Your Love Flow” does wonders for the soul in need of a quick pick-me-up. With lyrics like these, how can you not feel inspired?

There’s a reason for the sunshine sky
And there’s a reason why I’m feelin’ so high
Must be the season when that love light shines
All around us

“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – Queen

What could possibly be more uplifting than Queen’s Freddie Mercury channeling the swagger of Elvis Presley? Well, that’s exactly what you get with Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” This is perhaps the most feel-good song on my list, as its infectious beat and rockabilly sound are sure to provide you with all the positive vibes you’ll need to make your way through even the most difficult workout. 

“Maniac” – Michael Sembello

Michael Sembello’s 1983 hit “Maniac” is an intense, synth-drenched kick in the pants from the hugely popular soundtrack to Flashdance. It is virtually impossible to listen to “Maniac” and not want to get off your behind and burn some calories. If you’re a fan of ’80s movies like I am, the sweet nostalgia of Flashdance and “Maniac” will only add to your enjoyment as you sweat to what is now, somehow, an oldie. 

Healthy Hymns: How Music Helps Your Mind and Body During Exercise

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Are you one of those people who can’t wait to go to the gym? Or are you the type of person who can’t wait to leave the gym? Regardless of your feelings on exercise, it is more obvious than ever that music and exercise are pretty much a perfect fit. In fact, including music into your routine has been proven to increase the efficiency of your workout.

There are some folks who can seemingly run for hours in complete silence. I am most definitely not one of them. If you’re like me, you probably can’t even begin working out without blasting some tunes. I need a sonic distraction, something upbeat to take my mind off the repetitive and sometimes painful nature of exercise.

I used to think that the exercisers who preferred silence were kind of crazy, but it turns out that this is because there are actually two distinct kinds of workout personalities.

The first type, associators, turn all of their attention inward while they are exercising. They prefer to focus on things like their form, heart rate, and breathing.

Dissociators, meanwhile, turn their focus to anything that can distract them from the hard work their body is doing, be it a book, television, or in my case, a steady stream of music.

If you think you might be a dissociator, welcome to the club. There are several reasons why music might be your best choice for a better workout.  

First, because music distracts you, you are less likely to focus on the difficult (and sometimes tortuous) work your body is doing. As a result, you are much more likely to have a longer workout. My preference is music with high beats per minute, or BPM. This will help you as you try to maintain a more rigorous workout by keeping a faster pace.

Another benefit of playing music during your workout is that the right kind of songs, the ones that offer an inspiring message (think “Eye of the Tiger” or “Walking on Sunshine”), can keep you in a positive mindset.

It is scientifically proven that uplifting tunes can cause you to push harder during a workout by reducing your perceived exertion during the most challenging/exhausting/painful moments of your session.

In short, the right songs can make you not physically feel all the negative things you might associate with working out, thus allowing you to last longer. 

Less perceived pain AND a longer workout? That is all I need to know to convince me that my iPod will always be joining me as I prepare to exercise.

Stay tuned for my next post, in which I’ll discuss some of my favorite workout songs. 

Never Too Soon: 5 Budget-Friendly Tips for Planning Your Summer Vacation

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I know it’s only early March, but I can’t stop thinking about the upcoming summer. Based on my personal experience, it is never too early to begin planning your summer family vacation.

If you’re like me, the two most important things to keep in mind while mapping out all the madness are fun and affordability.

The best way to make sure you plan a memorable vacation for everyone that won’t break the bank is to begin planning NOW! Below are 5 helpful tips for mapping out the perfect summer vacation that will, thankfully, be here before you know it. 

1. Research potential destinations with your kids.

This process can be quite enjoyable. All you need to do is spend a few hours online with your children as you investigate possible destinations. They can scout out places that pique their interest, and you keep an eye out for the best deals. 

2. Book everything NOW!

Whether it is a hotel, flight, or rental car, get the best deal possible by booking it now. It’s possible to get a great deal by booking at the last minute, but is it really worth the stress? 

Right now is the time to book the lodging you’ve been eyeing. Ask for a discount before you lock in your reservation. Simply call or email and ask if there are any discounts for special memberships such as AAA or for folks who want to book several days. 

3. Plan your meals.

Try to stay someplace with a kitchen or a fridge. If that is not an option, try to stay somewhere that offers a free breakfast. The last thing you want to do is waste time and money having to eat all your meals in a restaurant every day of your vacation. 

Have a picnic for lunch when you can. Bring your own sandwiches to the park or the beach. Remember: kids typically don’t like waiting in restaurants anyway, so try to avoid them. 

4. Resist impulse purchases by researching specific mementos.

Heading to a cool science museum? Browse the museum’s online gift shop to see which specific items you and your family are interested in. Knowing what you are looking for will help you avoid the whole “kid in a candy store” thing that often leads to spending too much money.

Encourage your kids to start a collection based on your vacation. This could include patches, stickers, or postcards. Do a little bit of hunting beforehand so that you have an idea of what to look for as you and your family begin your adventure. 

5. Replace pricey attractions with those that are free (or nearly free).

This one is sometimes easier than done. A good example of opting for a less expensive alternative is attending a minor league baseball game instead of a major league game. You will save possibly hundreds of dollars, and unless you or your family are beholden to a specific major league team, you will have the same pleasure of watching America’s pastime during the warm summer months. You might even find it a more charming experience. 

What are some tips you’d suggest for planning the most fun and affordable summer vacation ever? Feel free to share in the comments section.  

 

Country Classics: 6 Must-See Destinations for Country Music Fans

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5 Steps to Living a Balanced Life

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I am currently on the road in Nashville, and loving every second of it. I’ve met so many talented artists and incredible people, all the while getting the chance to perform in front of new fans and friends. All of it makes Music City feel like a second home to me.

While things are getting really busy with my music, I do find myself being pulled in many directions at the same time. Don’t get me wrong: I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to play my songs in front of more and more people. But I am also increasingly aware that I must balance my music career with my family life and other personal relationships.

Living a balanced life is absolutely essential for achieving peak physical health, peace of mind, and personal and professional effectiveness. Whether we work, attend school, raise a family, or do some combination of the three, we all have responsibilities.

The challenge in life is to properly balance the things we must do with those things we want to do. Failure to reach a balance can cause unnecessary – and unhealthy – stress, some of which can have long-lasting effects on us and our personal relationships.

I’ve put together a list of 5 helpful steps we can take to ensure a more balanced life. I hope these simple, yet effective, steps lead you to the happiness, peace of mind, and good physical health you deserve.

1. Take care of yourself.

A balanced lifestyle is nearly impossible to attain if you are constantly unhealthy. Make sure that you are getting plenty of quality rest, exercise, and nutrition. So often we think we can eat junky food and put off exercise and still accomplish everything we want. We are usually dead wrong.

Our bodies (and our minds) are finely tuned machines that need to be maintained on a daily basis. If we neglect our physical and mental health, we are practically begging for these machines to break down. If that happens, it becomes nearly impossible to get done the things we need and want to.

The best way to ensure your physical and mental health is to set aside time each day for an activity that you enjoy, such as walking, dancing, or working out. Find a quiet place where you can truly relax, and then commit to going there at least once every few days.

2. Prioritize your priorities.

Remember: Balance does not mean that we should try to cram in every possible activity. I strongly believe in focusing on the quality of our tasks more than the quantity. Trying to do every single thing that you are able to do is a foolproof way to do none of them well. Examine your activities, and decide what is important to you.

Think of it like this: is it really more important that you skim through your email for the tenth time today instead of calling your grandmother? In the big picture, which one of those two activities is going to most enrich your life and, more importantly, hers?

After you have decided which things are most important to you and the success of your relationships, prioritize them. Figure out which ones need more of your time and attention, and act accordingly. Again, don’t try to do everything. It’s more than okay if you can’t do every single thing, every single time.

3. Embrace an organized lifestyle.

An organized life is most often a balanced life. While there are times when it is best to have nothing planned (lazy Sunday afternoons come to mind), mapping out your weekly, and even your daily, activities can only help as you seek a balanced life.

Take time at the beginning of each week to assess what needs to be done. Focus on the must-do things. Get them scheduled first. Fill up your planner or calendar with your week’s appointments, meetings, and calls. Then, knowing that all work and no play is no good at all, plan the fun stuff that you and your family want to do.

Keep in mind that these are the most important items on your calendar, as they will allow you to bond with the people who are most important to you. Don’t just plan to “spend time with little Johnny this week.” Set aside a specific time and place on your calendar for Johnny. Both of you will be better for it.

4. Expect the unexpected.

As John Lennon wisely said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” There will always be unexpected events, both good and bad. Rather than getting stressed about them, learn to roll with them. An early morning traffic jam, a random computer crash, or a suddenly sick child will throw a monkey wrench in your immediate schedule, but they should not drastically alter your big agenda.

Once you accept that anything can happen at any time (and most likely will), you will be better mentally prepared when it does. You have a game plan, so expecting the unexpected will allow you to adjust your game plan.

Don’t forget that there are certain unexpected crises that will make a balanced life impossible. A sudden death or injury to a loved one will become an all-consuming event, demanding your immediate and undivided attention. Don’t be afraid to give that situation the time and energy it deserves. Rest assured that life will, however improbable it seems, eventually return to normal.

5. Stay positive.

This one is sometimes easier said than done. The trials and tribulations of life can make it extremely difficult to stay positive. But I can attest to the benefits of starting each day with a positive approach to life.

Things may not always go as planned, but you’ll soon find that contentment and happiness are a state of mind. We often wait for good things to happen before we can discover happiness.

The reality is that once we take on a positive mindset and actively choose to focus on the brighter side of life, we will feel happier and more content. Learning to savor each and every moment is a conscious decision, and it is one that will help lead to the well-balanced life you so desperately want and need.

There’s Something Happening Here: 7 Classic Protest Songs to Inspire Change

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Unless you were hibernating with the bears during their extended winter slumber, you probably heard about last month’s massive Women’s March on Washington and other U.S. cities, as well as a plethora of spirited protests against President Trump’s Muslim ban. A widespread refusal to tolerate the status quo is growing by the day. Change is most definitely in the air. 

It is in that spirit that I’ve compiled a list of seven of the most important protest songs from the past few decades. I hope these songs move you and motivate you to speak out against the many injustices facing our sisters and brothers from around the world. 

7. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” – U2

In a decades long catalogue of epic political statements, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” might very well be U2’s most powerful protest. The song reveals the terror and desperation felt by an observer of the terrible day in Derry, Ireland when British troops fired on unarmed civil rights protesters. Their crime? They had simply gathered to bring awareness to what they described as the inhuman internment of anyone even remotely associated with the IRA. 

6. “Another Brick in the Wall” – Pink Floyd

Despite what many music fans think, Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” was not a protest song about the Berlin Wall. While it was eventually adopted as an anthem for the movement to end communism in Berlin, the song was actually about the rigid schooling and abusive teachers experienced by many students who attended England’s overly restrictive boarding schools. Singing about the welfare of children is definitely a cause I can get behind. 

5. “Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival

John Fogerty knew that which he spoke of in “Fortunate Son.” Having served in the Army Reserves, Fogerty witnessed firsthand the unfairness of America’s wealthier citizens being able to prevent their children from being shipped off to Vietnam. This is a powerful protest song that touches on socio-economic status and the injustice of the deep disparity between the rich and the poor in American society. The fact that “Fortunate Son” is still relevant today shows how in tune Fogerty was with the issues that consistently plague America.  

4. “Blowin’ in the Wind” – Bob Dylan

A song made famous by folk heroes Peter, Paul, and Mary, Bob Dylan’s 1962 hit “Blowin’ in the Wind” is perhaps the song most identified with a particular decade. Evidence of the song’s popularity is the fact that it’s been translated into more than a dozen languages, featured in numerous movies, and played live more than 1,000 times by Dylan. Dylan’s method of asking some of the deeper questions in life to get his message across is indicative of the wordsmith’s knack for tackling meaningful issues within a catchy tune. 

3. “For What It’s Worth” – Buffalo Springfield

Contrary to what most fans think, Stephen Stills did not write “For What It’s Worth” about America’s involvement in Vietnam. He wrote the song in 1966 to show support for a group of Los Angeles hippies who were engaged in a battle with the police over a pending curfew. The song immediately thrust Buffalo Springfield onto the national stage, thus launching the careers of Stills and Neil Young.

2. “Eve of Destruction” – Barry McGuire

By 1965, Bob Dylan was pretty much done writing protest songs. Barry McGuire was more than willing to fill the void left by Dylan. His cover of P.F. Sloan’s “Eve of Destruction” became a #1 hit. The reason for the song’s success was the tangible fear felt by many who fully expected a nuclear war to break out at any moment. With the Cold War in full effect and the tense Cuban Missile Crisis a very recent memory, McGuire’s apocalyptic “Eve of Destruction” touched a nerve in a way that other protests could only hope to. 

1. “Ohio” – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Ohio” is perhaps the most poignantly powerful protest song of them all. Days after the Kent State massacre, Neil Young saw the disturbing photo of teenager Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the dead body of college student Jeffrey Miller. Ever the sensitive and tuned in young man, Young transferred his all-consuming anger and sorrow into “Ohio.” One day later, the entire band had recorded the song and the rest of the world was on the verge of hearing about the tragedy at Kent State. 

Perfectly Presidential Playlist: 5 Songs for Presidents’ Day

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Happy Presidents’ Day weekend! Many of us will get the day off this Monday as we celebrate the commanders-in-chief of our past. What better way to reflect on the men who have greatly impacted the United States – for better or for worse – than to create a perfectly presidential playlist? I hope you enjoy these tunes that tell the tales of some of the executive legends, as well as some of the unknowns, from American history.

5. “He Was a Friend of Mine” – The Byrds

Originally written by Bob Dylan in 1962, “He Was a Friend of Mine” soon turned into The Byrds’ somber reflection on the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. The song features all the trademarks that made The Byrds one of the most popular bands of the 1960s: glorious harmonies, jangly guitars, and powerfully poignant lyrics. Perhaps most importantly, “He Was a Friend of Mine” paints a picture of a national leader who was truly respected and revered, a man adored by those who never met him.

4. “Abraham, Martin and John” – Emmylou Harris

Originally recorded by Dion in 1968, “Abraham, Martin and John” is a tribute to four assassinated American icons of social change, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy. Emmylou Harris covered the classic tune in 1992, and her live version on PBS captured the gentle, reflective nature of the original. Backed by her live band, The Nash Ramblers, Harris delivers a touching ode to these four heroes from America’s past.

3. “James K. Polk” – They Might Be Giants

This tuneful history lesson by They Might Be Giants is a fun, rollicking tribute to James K. Polk, winner of the 1844 U.S. election. “James K. Polk” is a U.S. History teacher’s dream come true, with references to abolition, Manifest Destiny, and the Oregon Territory all carefully weaved into the tune. The clever gentlemen in TMBG also manage to sneak in Polk’s nickname, “The Napoleon of the Stump,” given to the eleventh president of the U.S. because “his oratory filled his foes with fear.”

2. “Young Abe Lincoln (Make A Tall, Tall Man)” – Johnny Horton

Johnny Horton’s 1960 hit “Young Abe Lincoln (Make A Tall, Tall Man)” is a great example of storytelling through song. Horton’s ditty is a charming stroll through both the factual and fabled life of our most famous president. From his humble upbringing (“he lived in a cabin way down by the creek, he ran through the dust in his bare feet”) to the Civil War crisis that consumed Lincoln’s presidency (“he heard both sides of the battle of rights, he hated to see those soldiers die”), “Young Abe Lincoln (Make A Tall, Tall Man)” covers all the major events of Lincoln’s storied life.

1. “Mr. Garfield” – Johnny Cash

“Mr. Garfield” was first recorded by Bascom Lamar Lunsford in March of 1949. The folk song is an epic narrative of the events and emotions surrounding the assassination of James Garfield, who was shot by a deranged man who grew increasingly frustrated with Garfield’s refusal to give him a cushy government job. Johnny Cash’s version of “Mr. Garfield” is an even more intriguing blend of country and folk music, sung with all the charisma Cash was known for.

Do you have any presidential tunes that you enjoy? If so, share in the comments.

Winter’s Wisdom: 4 Life Lessons Learned From Our Coldest Season

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One look out the window confirms what the calendar has been telling us for weeks: we are smack dab in the middle of winter. The days are short, the air is cold, and the sky is all too often gray.

While these few months can feel like an eternity to those of us who prefer the splendid surf, sun, and soirees of summer, there are plenty of lessons to be learned from winter. Here are 4 things this cold, hard season has taught me:

1. The sun will come out tomorrow – or maybe the next day. But it will come out. It is scientifically proven that a lack of sunshine can negatively impact your mental and emotional state. If you find yourself down in the dumps during the winter months, you are certainly not alone.

The good news is that at some point, the sun will return. It might not be as warm as its July version, but its mere presence can do wonders for the soul. Plus, don’t you appreciate the sun even more when it’s peeking through the clouds on the coldest, grayest of winter days? Yeah, me too.

2. Take things slow. Winter’s dreaded mix of snow and ice can be lethal if you decide to take things too quickly. I am certainly guilty of rushing to get out the door, only to slip and fall flat on my back due to the sheet of ice awaiting me on my steps. Lesson learned. The advantage to the often inclement weather is that we get tons of practice taking our time.

Moving more slowly is not just something we should try to do during winter. In a fast-paced world in which information comes constantly darting at us from all directions, perhaps it is best to take a careful and cautious winter’s approach to life all year long.

3. Expect the unexpected – and then roll with it. Winter is sure to cause some unexpected delays. Whether it’s a deeper than expected snowfall that leads to you running late for work, or a stressful flight delay caused by a blizzard in your city of arrival, you can rest assured that winter will bring its share of headaches.

But if you remember that your health and happiness are more important than things always running smoothly, you will be grateful for the chance to enjoy winter and all its madness. You’ll eventually get where you want to go, so relax and enjoy life as it is – even if it’s not exactly as you planned it.

4. Beauty exists in all things. That’s right. Even during the slushy, muddy, and chill-inducing winter, you don’t have to look hard to find a season’s worth of beauty. Have you ever really examined the incredible complexity of a snowflake? Or the frozen magic of a 3-foot long icicle?

Sure, those things can be nuisances that make life difficult, but they also contain an equal amount of beauty and wonder. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the intense winter sun as it breaks through gray clouds to reveal a crystal clear blue sky. It’s almost enough to make you feel okay that summer is still five months away.

I hope that you stay safe and warm and enjoy the season that you are in at the moment. It might be cold, gray, and inconvenient at times. But before you know it, all that brilliantly bright snow will melt and be gone until next year.

2017: Living Simply in the Here and Now

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Happy new year, friends! I hope 2017 is off to a great start for you. I haven’t written yet this year because 2017 has gotten off to a crazy busy start. I am not at all complaining, though, as there are few things I love more than playing big shows with talented musicians and sharing my songs with listeners. It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, and in this industry, whirlwinds are a sign that things are going well. I feel quite blessed to be able to say that yes, things are going better than well.

I added the picture above because it represents two approaches to life that I plan to take in 2017. I hope you will too. You’ll notice that there isn’t a whole lot of “stuff” in the picture. This was on purpose. This year, I want to live a simplified life.

I am intent on getting rid of the things that are not absolutely necessary to the happiness, success, and wellbeing of me, my loved ones, and my career. I am convinced that we spend so much time and energy on the things that simply do not matter, often at the expense of the things and people that do.

This desire to get rid of excess not only applies to material things, it also pertains to some of the heavy mental baggage that can weigh us down and keep us from moving forward. That brings me to the second element of the image that I want to focus on. I am particularly fond of this picture because I am looking ahead.

One of my big goals for 2017 is to stop dwelling on the past. What’s done is done, and all we have left is today and whatever future we’re fortunate enough to enjoy. Onward and upward, as they say.

There’s a lot to learn from the past, but sometimes we get stuck in it. This year, I want to positively impact my future by fully embracing today. If there’s one thing the past has taught me, it is that our futures are shaped by the decisions we make today. Right now is a product of way back when – for better or for worse. That is both an incredibly sobering and inspiring thought.

With an eye toward the future and a big, warm embrace of who and what is important in the here and now, I hope you’ll join me as we make 2017 our best year yet.

The Sounds of Solace: How Music Can Get You Through Times Like These

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Lately it has felt as though the world is falling apart at its seams. Current events have caused such anger, frustration, and bitterness – and it’s all right there on television and social media, seemingly overwhelming us at every turn. The good news is that whenever I’m torn between wanting to scream and needing to cry, I have something that comforts me: music.

The warm embrace of my favorite song, or better yet, my favorite album, can do wonders for my soul. My most cherished sounds of country, pop, and rock n’ roll have the uncanny ability to instantly bring me unbridled joy and optimism, as well as a sense of refuge that often feels worlds away. They can take me to another place, somewhere I can forget the harsh and divisive rhetoric of today.

Escapism is not the only reason why I love listening to music when I feel the stress of days like these. There is an entire catalogue of songs from the past that provide a sense of perspective, something that feels much needed nowadays. Certain songs and artists have a way of reassuring me that everything is going to be, in due time, okay.

Our country – our world, in fact – has been this divided before. Difficult social and political issues are deeply embedded within our history. We are hardly the first generation to deal with explosive topics such as immigration, racism, and gender inequality.

I take solace in knowing that we have survived and, more importantly, come together, during other turbulent times in our past. The songs of yesterday are a sort of soundtrack to these struggles, as well as an anthem of our eventual reconciliation and progress.

If you’re struggling with the anxiety, bitterness, or frustration that often festers in times like these, I strongly recommend that you dive into your favorite music. It can provide enough healing, refuge, and perspective to get you through it all. I hope you enjoy your special sounds of solace!

In the meantime, check out this feel-good Spotify playlist filled with country classics that have gotten me through the toughest of times:

 

Never Tear Us Apart: Comforting Words on Election Eve

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Tomorrow is the day. Finally. The longest, most excruciating election season in memory will end as those of us who have yet to vote will head to the polls to have our say. And with Election Day 2016 now upon us, I thought I’d provide some comforting words for those of us who fear the worst for a nation plagued with the type of hateful and divisive attitudes, behavior, and rhetoric so common in modern American politics.

When it’s all said and done and the election has been decided, there will be much frustration and anger on one side, if not both. The harsh words and the argumentative tone of the past year will not suddenly disappear once the news networks dramatically reveal the 45th president of these United States. Acknowledging the fact that there will still be intense feelings of resentment is, I believe, an important step in starting to heal the wounds of such a divisive election season.

It is what we do with these feelings of bitterness and hurt that will determine how well we move on as a country. Recognizing that ideological and political differences are actually an important and necessary hallmark of a successful democracy, I hope that we try to understand and actively address the complicated beliefs and opinions of those with whom me may disagree.

It is always easy to get along with those who share our views. It is how we engage and interact with those of differing views that matters most. Getting to know and fully grasp the ideals and values of others is a significant step in moving forward.

With that said, while I do believe it’s important to show tolerance and appreciation for the views of others, I don’t think we should tolerate implicit or blatant words and acts of hatred. In fact, quite the opposite.

I consider it our civic and moral duty to push for what is right, to counter the type of ignorant and destructive behavior we have witnessed in recent months. When intolerance and disdain for other beliefs, cultures, and races are present, we must speak out against them. It has been proven time and time again that history is on the side of those who have the courage to do so.

These are troubling times, no doubt. Tension is everywhere. Everything we do and say currently feels highly flammable. But I strongly believe that America has what it takes to overcome the suffocatingly negative climate of this year’s election. God knows we have encountered worse. Much worse.

I take comfort in knowing that even an election this intensely divisive, this wrought with fear and loathing, cannot completely destroy the bonds which have united us for centuries.

 

 

Do you ever feel as though you are constantly running behind? As if it is impossible to maintain a balance between your career and the rest of your life? I do. Often, in fact. Feeling like this is a sign that you might be a bit too consumed with work. Your work-life balance is off, and you need to fix it. 

Now, let me be clear: this doesn’t mean that you should spend equal amounts of time working and not working. Some days (or weeks) you need to put more into your career in order to get what you want out of it.

Rather, think of a healthy work-life balance as you making everything fit in a way that doesn’t leave you completely exhausted, frustrated, or anxious. When you do this, you leave yourself open to greater mental and physical health. Who wouldn’t want that, right? 

On that note, I am sharing with you 6 tips for achieving a proper work-life balance. I hope they lead to a more peaceful life that leaves you feeling more focused, energetic, and satisfied. 

1. Turn off your electronic devices.

There’s no doubt that modern technology has been a blessing in so many ways. But the bigger picture reveals that it has also caused a great deal of anxiety by making us obsessed with staying connected. Nowhere is this more evident than in the workplace. Bosses can get a hold of you whenever they want. Learn to leave your work at work. Establish a norm that it is unacceptable for bosses and fellow employees to contact you after work hours. Again, it is vitally important that you turn off your availability once you’ve left work. 

2. Establish a set time to leave work. 

I highly recommend telling people at work that you need to leave at a certain time. This will make it much more likely that you actually do it. First make the commitment to yourself, and then share it with your co-workers and bosses. Something like this ought to work: “I’ve got to be out of here on time tonight, so if you need something, let me know by 4:00.” Before you know it, everyone involved (including you) will learn to work around your schedule. 

3. Build downtime into your weekly schedule.

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the past few years is that finding time to relax and enjoy myself is absolutely essential to finding a healthy balance between life and work. Recharging your batteries typically doesn’t happen by accident, so plan on it. Build into your weekly schedule specific times and events that will allow you to leave work behind. Trust me on this one: the benefits are plenty. 

4. Ditch the habits that steal your energy.

It is so easy to spend time aimlessly staring at a computer screen or fiddling on a smartphone. It all seems to easy and, therefore, harmless. The truth, though, is that every minute you waste on social media and the like is time not spent being productive in the areas you need to be. If it’s something you don’t really need to be doing or it doesn’t significantly improve your physical or mental health, your best bet is probably to ditch it. 

5. Make time for exercise.

Contrary to what you might think, engaging in some form of exercise will actually give you more energy. It might be difficult to get started, but once you do, you’ll find yourself getting tired much less often during the day. Even a few minutes of exercise a day will be enough to kickstart your body and give you the energy you need in order to achieve everything on your agenda, be it work-related or not. 

6. Communicate.

If you feel as though you are hitting the proverbial wall, don’t be afraid to communicate that to those around you. And yes, this includes your boss. In fact, your boss is probably the one person who really needs to know it. They want you to be refreshed so that you can maximize your performance, so you should feel confident in letting them know when you need to adjust your schedule. Since you’ve proven your worth, they’ll likely be much more accommodating than you’d imagine.