The Music Mom: Eileen Carey

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.”