The Music Mom: Eileen Carey

Fun & Frightening Film Faves: 5 Halloween Movies for Your Entire Family

One of my favorite holidays is just around the corner, and I could not be more excited. As someone who loves the creative process, Halloween offers the opportunity to show off our super scary creative skills. Whether it is decorating your front porch with witches and ghouls, or designing the perfect costume for the year’s most sugary soirees, Halloween allows all of us to make the most of our imagination.

One way I love celebrating the creative spirit of Halloween is by watching some of my favorite fun and frightening films with my family. You won’t find Carrie or The Exorcist on this list, but that’s okay. These age-appropriate classics display all the gasps – but none of the gore – you and your kids could ever want. Happy Halloween!

1. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

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If you are a kid, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is pretty much a childhood rite of passage. One of the best things about watching this classic with your kids is seeing them react to Charlie Brown and his gang with the same joy you felt the first time you saw it. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a must-see movie this Halloween, so it’s definitely #1 on my list.

2. Corpse Bride (2005)

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Tim Burton is one of the best at producing cinematic gasps and screams intended for younger viewers. His 2005 hit Corpse Bride is no exception. The shy Victor (Johnny Depp) accidentally marries a corpse (Helena Bonham Carter). This unique gothic love story is a fascinating Halloween tale that fully embraces its Victorian setting.

3. James and the Giant Peach (1996)

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James and the Giant Peach tells the story of a brave young orphan boy who travels to New York City inside a massive peach just to get away from his mean and frightful aunt. This classic is the rare Halloween film that features themes of friendship, courage, and the fight to make one’s dreams come true. In other words, it’s the perfect movie for your entire family.

4. Coraline (2009)

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If you’re looking for the most creative and unique movie on this list, you found it. Coraline is an incredibly captivating piece of animated cinema. In addition to boasting some of film’s most impactful visuals, Coraline also teaches a very important lesson for family members of all ages: the things in life that appear too good to be true very often are.

5. Frankenweenie (2012)

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Children of all ages will relate to young Victor Frankenstein, the main character in Frankenweenie who takes extreme measures to bring his beloved dog back to life. This darkly humorous film by Tim Burton is the rare Halloween favorite that manages to be both creepy and sweet.

I hope you and your entire family will enjoy watching these scary – and oftentimes sweet – movies. What are some of your Halloween favorites? Feel free to comment with some suggestions.

 

Wise, Young & Fun: Teen Singer Madison McWilliams Reminds Us to Live Life to Fullest in “Smell the Roses” Video

Youthful energy and exuberance is infectious and quite often inspiring. That’s one reason why I love discovering young new musicians like rising teen pop singer Madison McWilliams. The Austin-based 14-year-old performer, multi-instrumentalist, and actress first enchanted listeners in 2015 with her cover of Nina Simone’s iconic “Feeling Good,” generating over 1 million views on Facebook. She has also been featured in Paste Magazine, The CW, Fox, and Austin Woman Magazine.

Madison now offers us a wise and timely reminder to live life to the fullest as she and her fun-loving friends frolic in her new video for “Smell the Roses.”    

Directed by LA based Nayip Ramos and filmed in Madison’s hometown, the video for “Smell the Roses” is an ode to Austin and self-expression: “One of my favorite things about this video was shooting it in my hometown. It was so fun because I could express myself in an environment that I love. I had such an amazing time working with Nayip on this video. He has incredible talent and vision.”

Sounds to me like this kid has her head – and her heart – in the right place! Check out Madison on her official site

Falling for Autumn: 5 Fun-Filled Fall Activities for You and Your Family

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The leaves are turning. The nights are crisp and clear. The sweaters and light coats are being taken out of storage. The entire world looks and feels more vibrant. Fall is on its way, and along with our most colorful season comes tons of fun-filled activities that you can enjoy with your entire family. I’m so excited about the arrival of fall that I’ve compiled a list of five must-do fall favorites. I hope you enjoy!

Take a fall foliage road trip. Road trips are always fun, but when you add in fall foliage and cooler temperatures, the fun doubles. Try to find a heavily treed area near where you live, and set out sometime in the early evening as the sun is going down. The autumn colors at this time of day seem to explode – as will your affection for this wonderful time of the year.

Decorate your house and porch. As you know, I fully support all forms of creative expression. One of my favorite ways to show creativity is by adding some fun fall flash to my house and porch. This is perhaps the best time of year to use nature’s gifts as decor. With pumpkins, gourds, and more leaves than you’ll ever need, you have a full menu of natural items to choose from.

Go apple-picking. The apple orchard is always a favorite destination for those of us hungry for some fall fun. The home of the apple can be a wonderful place to visit, and if you have a bountiful experience chock full of apple-filled baskets, it can also be a healthy outing. Load up on one of fall’s most popular food items while being sure to soak in what it sure to be a lovely environment.

Go for a late evening walk or bike ride. If you are fortunate enough to live a wooded area, the aforementioned car ride isn’t even necessary. All you have to do is take a walk around your neighborhood. You’ll get plenty of exercise while breathing in perhaps the most refreshing air of the year. Bring a sweater with you, though, just in case the temperature drops during your

Bake, bake, and bake! If you are a fan of the tastes and scents of fall, you are in luck. The fall baking possibilities are almost endless. These are just some of the delicious items that you and family can feast on during autumn: apple muffins, soft pumpkin cookies, cinnamon roll cake, pecan pie, apple pie, and walnut pumpkin pie. Baking can be a great opportunity to spend quality time with your young ones, too, so warm up the oven and begin the baking bliss.

There are countless other things to do during this time of year, so I’m sure you’ll never run out of fun fall festivities. Happy fall, y’all!

 

Beat the Blockage: 5 Steps to Removing Your Writer’s Block

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If you are a writer who has experienced writer’s block, you know how frustrating it can be. The inability to express yourself when you really want to can feel overwhelming. Whether you are a songwriter trying to pen the perfect lyric, or a novelist in search of the ultimate ending to your plot, writer’s block can sometimes make you feel like ditching the entire creative process.

But fear not: I have compiled a list of several simple things you can do to break the dam that is blocking your word flow. Try one of them, or try them all. I’ve been there before, and I can vouch for each and every one of these as effective tools for ending the dreaded writer’s block. Good luck!

1.  Write something entirely different. Sometimes stepping outside of your comfort zone can free your creativity. Experiment with content or a perspective that is unique to your genre or typical subject matter. The same old themes, characters, and stylings can cause you to grow tired of the entire writing process. Once this happens, you might be a step away from unintentionally walking into a long and exhausting bout with writer’s block.

Explore new genres or sub-genres. Examine new trends in your chosen field. Discover one or more experts in your field who is doing something interesting, and mimic their approach. Variety is the spice of life. It is also key to keeping your content fresh and intriguing – both to you and those who enjoy your writing.

2. Write in a different setting and at a different time. A change of scenery can be the perfect antidote for what’s ailing the blocked writer. If you typically write from home, venture to the great outdoors. If you have a favorite table at your local Starbucks, perhaps it’s time you move on to a different venue.

Likewise, if you are a morning bird, spend a week holding off on your writing until after lunch. If you tend to write at night, flip things around and grab your tools of the writing trade first thing in the morning. Mix things up a bit.

3. Hang out at a bookstore. As a writer, there is something inherently inspiring about being surrounded by books and the people who read them. I very often find myself inspired by the mere sights and sounds of bookstores.

While most any bookstore will usually do the trick, I feel a distinct sense of creative motivation in older used bookstores. There is something about these hip storehouses of old and new ideas that unleashes my inner wordsmith. If there happens to be a used vinyl record shop in or near the bookstore, even better.

4. “Borrow” from somebody else. You have heard the saying that “there is nothing new under the sun,” right? Well, it is true. Even the most talented writers tend to recycle previously used themes, styles, and phrases. The trick is to borrow from the best while somehow making your new product entirely yours.

If you are a songwriter, find some of your favorite lyrics and use them as a starting point by paraphrasing the lines. If you write short stories, discover a character from another story and create a mirror image of that character. Or better yet, create a character that is the exact opposite.

The goal is to use the inspiration of other people’s work as a springboard for your own masterpiece. If all goes well, your song, book, short story, or blog post could very well end up inspiring another frustrated writer.

 

5. Stop writing for other people, and start writing for you. One of the biggest causes of my occasional word blockage is my tendency to write for other people. What do I mean by that? Well, sometimes I wonder to myself what a particular person or audience would want to hear in my writing. I then shape my writing based on that.

The problem with this method is that it can cause you to overthink your writing. Creativity ought to be relatively spontaneous and inspired by pure and unfiltered thoughts and emotions. Trying to figure out what a specific audience wants encourages the exact opposite of that. It can lead to forced writing that puts pressure on you. And if we were to break down writer’s block to its simplest form, it would probably have a lot to do with pressure, be it external or internal.

So relax. Write something you want to read or hear. If you genuinely enjoy your topic, you will be much more inclined to enjoy the process. Once you begin enjoying the process, you will very likely be on the verge of ending your writer’s block.

The Kids Are Alright: Comforting Thoughts for Parents Sending Kids to School

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September has arrived and, like the first bell of the school day, a new school year is now upon us. With it comes the excitement and apprehension that comes from sending our little loved ones off into the world.

As parents, we are filled with an anxiety that can only come from handing over our kids to complete strangers in a completely strange world.

As difficult as it seems, I find that the best way to handle the uncertainty of sending our children off into the world is to keep in mind the big picture.

When they go to school, our children are encountering the people and ideas that will help shape their future. Every skill our kids learn from their teachers and their peers will help them in the long run, and will equip them with the tools necessary for future success.

Keep in mind that it often takes a village to raise a child. I take much comfort in knowing that our children’s school environment is filled with those who are often as committed to the village as we are.

The uneasy feelings we experience as parents during this time of year remind us of the special and enduring nature of the relationship between parent and child. The bond we share is unique, and is meant to survive time spent apart.

Our young ones might spend countless hours with other adults and children throughout the school year, but they will always be ours.

They might learn valuable information and life lessons from unknown teachers, but they will always carry with them the core values that we have instilled in them.

They might spend numerous hours in strange classrooms and crowded buses, but they will always return home to us.

Knowing this makes our kids’ departure for the new school year a much more pleasant experience.

Good luck to you and your kids this school year!

5 Tips for a Most Spectacular School Year

Young child holding stack of books and back to school written on

Somehow, someway, school is once again upon us. Millions of students all around the world are starting to feel the butterflies associated with the rapidly approaching school year.

The start of school can also be a stressful time for us as parents, but it doesn’t have to be. There are several things we can do to make the transition from summer fun to autumn studies a smooth one. I have compiled a list of five helpful tips that will ensure a successful school year for you and your child.

Develop an organized nighttime routine: Sleep. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of sleep in your child’s school success. A tired child is a tired student. A tired student is typically an unsuccessful student. By establishing a sensible nighttime routine, you can put your son or daughter in a position to succeed.

The most obvious element of this routine is an early bedtime that allows for at least eight hours of sleep. Some other things you’ll want to do include deciding on the next day’s outfit the night before, limiting the amount of sugar and caffeine your child ingests after a certain time, and participating in a brief winding down activity before bedtime.

Establish an organized morning routine: Just as important as your nightly routine is a daily routine, one that is simple, organized, and efficient. Mornings can be hectic and, as a result, can be the source of much anxiety. The good part is that they don’t need to be. Having a plan from the time your kid wakes up until he walks out the door is the key to a smooth – and stress-free – morning.

Before school even starts is when you will want to establish the order of events. Be sure to leave no stone unturned, as you will want to map out each and every activity of your morning well before you encounter them. These activities include waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, grabbing backpacks and other belongings, and leaving for the bus.

Kick off each day with a healthy breakfast: God only knows what your kids will eat throughout the day when they are away from you, but you can get them off to a great start by feeding them well before they leave.You want them to feel energized, both mentally and physically, so a nutritious meal packed with protein is an essential part of a breakfast that puts your kid in a position to succeed.

Label everything your child wears, uses, eats, etc.: Kids lose things. It’s simply a fact of life. As much as you teach, preach, and practice responsibility for their personal items, you should expect your kids to lose at least one item of theirs during the school year. It might be a sweater. Or it might be a binder. Worst case scenario, your child loses a backpack containing both their sweater and their binder.

Since you already know that your kid will lose something, your best defense is to label the heck out of everything. And yes, I mean everything. This includes socks, shoes, shirts, pants, sweaters, coats, textbooks, pencils, pencil cases, individual food items, and the backpack that carries them all. Seriously. Label all of it. You will feel much better knowing that these items will eventually make their way back to you once they are inevitably lost.

Set aside one-on-one time to discuss daily goals and expectations: A friendly morning reminder of the day’s plans, goals, and expectations is always a good idea. Having a brief face-to-face before your child leaves for school is an excellent way to reassure him that there really is a plan for the entire day – and that you believe in his ability to successfully maneuver his way through that plan.

Discuss any big items that might be a source of stress, including upcoming tests, project due dates, and altered plans for after school. Also, the morning is a great time to nudge a kid in the right direction as it pertains to behavior, manners, and the like. Most of all, remind your child that you are his biggest fan. After all, once school is over and summer makes its triumphant return, you will still be there.

The start of the school year can be stressful, but following the above tips will make things much more tolerable. Feel free to comment with any suggestions you have for parents. And most of all, I hope you and your kids have a great school year!

 

 

Fantastically Fun Family-Friendly Film: Based on Real-Life Case, “Ace the Case: Manhattan Mystery” Tells Thrilling Story of 10-Year-Old Super Detective Girl

Television and movies nowadays can sometimes be sketchy. If you’re like me, you are always searching for family-friendly entertainment. One of my favorite things to do is to take the kids to see some action-packed fun on the big screen, so I was very excited to hear that the suspenseful New York City mystery and family comedy caper Ace the Case: Manhattan Mystery will hit theaters on August 26.

Created by writer, director, and producer Kevin Kaufman (The Perfect Murder, I Married a Mobster), Ace the Case: Manhattan Mystery tells the story of a real-life NYPD case in which a brave and resourceful kid puts herself in danger to solve a crime.

Check out the exciting trailer to get a sneak peek and get to know the multi-talented star of Ace the Case: Manhattan Mystery as Ripley Sobo sings and dances her heart out in the film’s inspiring and action-packed music video for “Aim High.” 

According to the movie’s press release, kids and adults will both have plenty to enjoy while watching Ace the Case: Manhattan Mystery:

The movie revolves around 10-year-old Olivia Haden (Ripley Sobo), whose mother goes on a business trip for the weekend, leaving Olivia home alone with her 17-year-old brother Miles (Aaron Sauter). While walking her dog on their first night alone, Olivia witnesses a young woman being kidnapped on the empty New York City streets.

Olivia runs home and tells Miles, who doesn’t believe her. The next morning, she explains what happened to local cops, who also do not believe her. Only a cynical female detective named Dottie (Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon) listens to Olivia, but she too is skeptical.

Undaunted, Olivia bravely launches her own investigation, putting herself in numerous perilous situations. Olivia crisscrosses lower Manhattan in an exciting family-oriented thriller sure to delight viewers of all ages.

According to Kaufman, Ace the Case: Manhattan Mystery is “suspenseful, full of adventure, and something that the whole family can enjoy together.” He adds that “most importantly, the main character is a resourceful young girl.” 

The Final Countdown: 10 Things to Do before Summer Ends

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With the calendar now turning to August, I am reminded that there is less than half of our precious summer left. Like most things in life, I have little doubt that the next 4-6 weeks will fly by.

As a result, I thought I should jot down a list of 10 things you should definitely do before summer ends. I hope it helps you get the most out of everyone’s favorite season. Enjoy!

1. Watch a movie at the drive-in. Expect the lovely twangs of nostalgia to hit you as you enjoy the type of outdoor cinema you loved as a child.

2. Attend a music festival. Live music + warm weather = one of the joys of summer. Nowadays there are literally thousands of festivals featuring all genres of music, and they’re happening all over the place. Hunt one down and go for it.

3. Invite your loved ones over for a BBQ. Food, friends, and family. I don’t really need to add much to that, right? Summer is the perfect time to meet and eat, so plan an outdoor BBQ today.

4. Go hiking on your own. Nature and some quality alone time are always a good combo. You will experience the ultimate source of relaxation as you enjoy the great outdoors with the one person you usually don’t get to spend time with: you.

5. Sip wine somewhere outside as the sun goes down. If you liked the previous suggestion for its ability to help you wind down, you’ll love this one. Nothing says summer relaxation like slowly sipping a tall glass of your favorite red or white wine as the sun starts its descent.

6. Roast s’mores over a fire – preferably with kids. This simple – and delicious – summer favorite can be enjoyed right in your own backyard.

7. Go swimming at your favorite beach. What would summer be without a dip at your preferred beach? By now, the water has probably reached the perfect temperature for you to dive right in, so go for it.

8. Go for a long walk. You might want to aim for early morning or evening to do this, as things can get a bit hot during August and the early part of September. But taking a long walk during the summer can be excellent for your mind and your body.

9. Take your family camping. If you’re like me, you love making memories that last a lifetime. Camping is one surefire way to do that. Whether it’s in the woods or on the beach, your kids will never forget the summer you took them camping.

10. Take a short road trip. Summer is the perfect time to gas up your car and hit the road. Keep in mind how the winter weather can make you feel trapped, and then take full advantage of the sunny skies and superb road conditions. Sometime you don’t have to go far to feel like you’re getting away. Safe travels!

Live and So Alive: Why I Love Performing Live

Eileen Carey

This Friday I’ll be performing at the Orange County Fair in Sacramento, CA. As I prepare for the show, I am reminded of why I love performing live so much. Aside from the addicting adrenaline rush that every performer feels as they take the stage, there are several reasons why one of my favorite things to do as a musician is to perform my songs in a live setting.

I am fortunate enough to have fans who know my songs. I never take this for granted, as I am fully aware that not every musician can say the same. I’ve been blessed to see so many familiar faces at different shows. I have come to know many of these music lovers, and I am genuinely overwhelmed by their support.

I cannot describe the appreciation I feel for those who join me in singing my songs. These songs of mine were never intended to be kept to myself, so part of the pleasure of playing live is having the opportunity to sing them with those who know them. There is a sense of camaraderie that grows from singing songs with audiences. When the songs are yours, the entire process is even more satisfying.

Of course, as I belt out my songs tomorrow, there will be audience members who have yet to hear my tunes. Their presence is also a blessing. I love the feeling of meeting new people and trying to turn them into future fans. Some will become friends, too, which is even better.

I recognize that in today’s digital age, there are now more musical options than ever before. As a result, I do consider it a worthwhile challenge to win over those who are seeing and hearing me for the first time. The challenge is to connect with new audiences, to make them feel what I’m feeling as I sing and perform these little pieces of my heart and soul.

One of the best parts of being a musician is having the opportunity to perform my songs in front of both familiar and unfamiliar faces. The live show is the lifeblood of most performers. On a night like this, as I prepare for tomorrow’s big show, I am lucky to feel this alive.

 

This Place, This Hour: Why Your Dog Is Happier than You

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The above cartoon says so much about why we, as humans, struggle to find, and then keep, happiness. We often lose sight of the present by focusing so much on the past and future. Very often, the things we think about are negative in nature, or are sources of anxiety and fear.

In contrast, dogs are completely content in the here and now. They enjoy the moment for exactly what it is. There is no yesterday, and there is no tomorrow. There is only the present. They see and hear what is in front of them, and that is all they need. If you’ve ever watched a dog spend time with his owner, you know that it is impossible for that dog to be mentally anywhere else.

I’m not denying the fact that humans have a plethora of things to care for that other species don’t. There are bills to pay. There are relationships to tend to. There is the planning for the future that every responsible person must do. We certainly have our hands full juggling the ups and downs of everyday life.

With that said, it is possible to push all those things to the side. It is possible to be completely present in the here and during the now. It is not easy, but it can be done. Like most good things in life, being content takes some effort and usually requires some practice.

Walt Whitman eloquently summed up the determined approach we must take when trying to mimic the life approach of our canine friends:

“Happiness, not in another place, but in this place. Not for another hour, but this hour.”

Love Is the Answer

Fear and love

In my last post, I attributed many of the problems we’re currently facing in America to fear:

I used to think that racism, disdain for the “other,” and disregard for each other’s lives were causes of the type of societal turmoil we’re currently seeing in America. Recently, though, I’ve realized that those things are effects, not causes. They are the effects of fear. It is the fear of those who are different, a paranoia caused by unknown races, faces, cultures, and lifestyles, that is leading to the words and actions that threaten to tear us apart.

Instead of fearing those who are different from us, I suggested we embrace the very things that make us different:

These problems will only be solved when we, a wonderfully diverse and beautifully complicated people, learn to not fear others, but instead, to find the good and the great in those who are not like us.

So if what we need is less fear, the question becomes, “How do we fear less?” Well, there is no shortcut. Several religions and philosophies wisely teach that love pushes aside all forms of fear. Love is the only thing that allows us to embrace, rather than be afraid of, our differences. Racism, fear of the “other,” and acceptance of violence are effects of a lack of love. Simply put, to get rid of fear, we need to love each other.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the type of love we feel when we see that very special someone, the one who brings knots to our stomach and dizziness to our head. No, that’s an easy kind of love. The kind of love that allows us to hold in high regard those we don’t know and aren’t familiar with is a tough kind of love, one that takes a whole lot of effort.

This love takes forcing ourselves to realize, and then focus on, the fact that beneath that skin, behind that veil, and beyond that wall is a valuable human being, one who deserves as much love and respect as we want for ourselves and our loved ones.

Again, seeing as we are taught from a young age to fear those who are different from us, thinking this way, and then acting on it, will not be easy. But it must be done if we are to become peacemakers and champions of what is just, kind, and right.

John Lennon was by no means a saint, but he should be credited with offering an extremely simple – if not easy – solution to the difficult problems we now face as Americans. In his 1973 hit song “Mind Games,” Lennon summed up what it takes to defeat the fear that currently divides us and threatens to eventually tear us apart:

Love is the answer.

Countering the Culture of Fear: Why Americans Should Embrace Unknown Faces

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I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to figure out why America feels like it’s on the verge of a complete breakdown. Among other things, there is a never-ending stream of violent acts, a ton of angry and hateful rhetoric, and a strong undercurrent of racism. All this negativity often feels suffocating, as if we are drowning in a wave of our worst impulses. So why are these things happening?

I used to think that racism, disdain for the “other,” and disregard for each other’s lives were causes of the type of societal turmoil we’re currently seeing in America. Recently, though, I’ve realized that those things are effects, not causes. They are the effects of fear. It is the fear of those who are different, a paranoia caused by unknown races, faces, cultures, and lifestyles, that is leading to the words and actions that threaten to tear us apart.

There are two ways in which we can respond to those who are different from us. We can welcome them with the knowledge that part of what makes humanity so amazing is the fact that we are all extremely different. Even those of us who share a skin color, or a language, or a religion, are different from each other in countless ways.

It is this appreciation for the unique ways in which we’ve been created that leads to peace, love, and the betterment of society as a whole. God knows we can use each of those right about now.

In contrast, when we react to each other’s differences with fear, trepidation, and condescension, we create an atmosphere that allows for the type of mistrust, violence, and hate that is all too rampant in America at the moment.

These problems won’t be solved by our government. They won’t be solved by continued separation of people by race, religion, and world-view. They will only be solved when we, a wonderfully diverse and beautifully complicated people, learn to not fear others, but instead, to find the good and the great in those who are not like us.