The Music Mom: Eileen Carey

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: