The Music Mom: Eileen Carey

Live, Love, and Learn (4/22/16)

child-watching-parents

Your actions speak volumes to your kids, so consider the message you are sending. 

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” – Robert Fulghum

You’ve heard it said that actions speak louder than words. Nowhere is that more true than in the home. Kids see and hear everything we do. They are curiously waiting to see how we behave in certain situations. The most important thing about their constant surveillance of us is that it will greatly influence how they act in the future. Just as our words will make or break a child’s self-esteem, our actions will determine their behavior when they are older.

Live, Love, and Learn (4/21/16)

fatherson

You can look forward to your child’s future if you prepare him for it. 

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

In the above quote, FDR summarizes the reason why we as parents should feel anxious about our child’s future and the way by which we can feel peace about it. It would be a source of much joy if we could perfectly plan every detail of our child’s life, with happiness, peace, and safety neatly mapped out for them. But we can’t. What we can do is properly prepare them for all the unforeseen people and events that await them, both good and bad. Let’s raise our children as though their futures depend on it. Because they do.

Surviving the Road Trip Blues: Five Things Kids Do that Could Ruin Your Road Trip (If You Let Them)

Two children fighting in the backseat of a car

Road trips with kids are fun, right? They can and should be, but beware of these five annoying/distracting/exhausting behaviors.

Behold, the warm weather is upon us. That must mean that long family road trips are on the horizon. I love these outings, as they provide a welcome change from everyday life and a golden opportunity to spend time with some of my favorite people. There are, however, certain things that make long trips with the kids a less than pleasant experience.

While I typically like to focus on the positive side of things, in this post I am going to discuss five things that you should be aware of as you embark on your trip. In short, these are five childish behaviors that can absolutely ruin your trip. Take note and prepare yourself, lest your vacation be unexpectedly spoiled from the get-go.

Bathroom breaks: Yes, at some point we all need to go. It’s life. But nothing can be more frustrating for you, the adult driver who used the bathroom right before you left, than hearing the dreaded “I need to go!” 15 minutes into your trip. You ask the seemingly rhetorical question “Did you go before we left?” – knowing full well that no, your little one did not go before you left. You just got past all the dreaded traffic of the city, and you finally made it onto the highway. And now the kid wants to stop? Ugh!

Fighting: This one is pretty much inevitable if you intend to travel any longer than, oh, I don’t know…20 LOUSY MINUTES!!! It’s going to happen, despite the generally passive nature of even your calmest/coolest/sweetest kid. If kids are traveling together for any extended amount of time, expect anything from mild bickering to, God forbid, a WWE bout in the backseat.

And yes, this brawling usually happens just as you are attempting to navigate the most stressful traffic situations. Stuck between two massive trucks on a frighteningly narrow overpass? That is exactly the moment when your son will let out a piercing scream because his brother has pinched, bit, or smacked him. It’s going to happen, so be ready to remain calm and focused, knowing that you will handle the dispute once you are safely off the road. Barring a headlock that is depriving one of your children of oxygen, nothing that happens in the backseat should steal your attention from where it needs to be: the road.

Whining: The least pleasant sound in the entire universe is the long and drawn out whine of a road-tripping child who has decided that he or she is ready for the trip to end. It might be a high-pitched whine, or it could be a low and rolling grumble. Either way, your kid wants out.

Whining is usually a bit more predictable than the other behaviors on this list, as it typically happens after several hours on the road. And beware: The whining often starts off innocently enough with a simple “Are we there yet?” Those are some of the most dreaded words heard by any parent who has ever taken their kids anywhere. If your child has not been taught the fine art of biding his or her time while you travel, you might be in for a hellish ride.

Personal space concerns: Most of us adults grasp the concept of personal space. As you probably already know, kids do not. And the concept seems even more foreign to them when they are stuck in a car for an extended period. “Molly is on my side!” or “Paul put his feet on me!” are the types of nerve-wracking refrains you should prepare for.

It almost seems as though the longer your trip goes, the more space each kid wants. Set clear and easy to understand boundaries for your kids, reminding them that respecting each other’s personal space always works both ways.

Noise galore: There shall be noise. Lots of noise. If you are like me, you occasionally encourage the overwhelming surround sound by leading a sing-along or by blasting your favorite song as it comes on the radio. Our intentions are good, but we often unleash a sonic beast that could take hours to tame.

Kids love to yell. They love to sing. They love to bang on toys. Anything that makes noise, they love. Keeping your kids from indulging in loud and oftentimes annoying sounds is next to impossible, so indulge them once in a while. When you have a nice open stretch of road (and you’re not being sandwiched by two massive trucks), let them make noise. But they need to understand that nonstop yelling is both inconsiderate and dangerous, as you need to be able to concentrate to guarantee the safety of everyone in the car.

These five road trip behaviors have, time and time again, proven to be major headaches. I adore my kids and I love spending time with them. But these five negative behaviors often leave me wondering: “Should we have just stayed home instead?”

 

 

Spring Cleaning (Part 2)

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Don’t look under your couch for inspiration to clean. Check out this list of tunes that will definitely get you swiffing and sweeping.

In my last post, I stated that developing a positive attitude is the best way to get yourself motivated to dive into the now necessary task of Spring cleaning:

“A positive approach to life’s dirty and potentially depressing tasks rarely happens by accident. In order to have a positive and productive attitude, you must choose to do so. A handful of simple steps can ensure that you begin your cleaning activities in the proper mental state.” 

One extremely important ally in your battle to maintain a positive mindset while undertaking unpleasant tasks is music. The right music can provide hours of inspiration by altering your mental approach while revving up your heartbeat to accomplish the job at hand. Below are ten songs I highly recommend you listen to before and during your next attempt at Spring cleaning. Enjoy!

1. “Come On, Eileen” – Dexys Midnight Runners

Of course I need to place this song at the top of my list. The band is literally begging me, by name, to get moving! Luckily for me and my house, they always succeed.

2. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – Queen

What else could get us sweepin’ and swishin’ like Freddie Mercury pretending to be Elvis? That is exactly what this song sounds like, and is a must for anyone needing inspiration to start cleaning.

3. “Listen to the Music” – The Doobie Brothers

This ’70s classic by The Doobie Brothers is the ultimate feel-good, sing-along tune. And when it’s time to clean, feeling good and singing along is a must!

4. “Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson

The King of Pop gave us the perfect cleaning inspiration when he wrote “Billie Jean.” The opening drum beat is infectious, and is the perfect way to get yourself moving. Thank you, Michael.

5. “Twist and Shout” – The Beatles

The unrestrained energy of this Beatles classic is pretty much the perfect motivator for spring cleaning. Plus, if John Lennon could sing until his voice gave out (it took him dozens of takes to nail the vocal on “Twist and Shout”), we can clean until we drop.

6. “Devil Went Down to Georgia” – Charlie Daniels Band

Few things can get you moving like an uptempo bluegrass tune that features a fiddle contest. This song was a 1979 hit for Charlie Daniels, and is guaranteed to be a hit for you as you shake off the winter blues.

7. “Jump” – Van Halen

This song contains perhaps the most recognizable lick on this list. The opening synth notes instantly add a pep to anyone’s step. Definitely blast “Jump” if you are dragging. It is guaranteed to get you in the proper cleaning gear.

8. “Walking on Sunshine” – Katrina & The Waves

This 1983 hit is another feel-good classic that can be counted on to improve your attitude and add a much-needed bounce to your step as you are getting ready to clean.

9. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” – Guns N’ Roses

This is easily the most “rock” tune on my list. From Slash’s legendary guitar intro to Axl Rose’s screeching “Where do we go now?,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine” not only works well in karaoke bars and super-sized stadiums – it also gets the job done in more intimate settings such as your living room, while you are preparing to vacuum.

 

10. “Start Me Up” – The Rolling Stones

I’m not sure what Mick and the boys had in mind when they wrote “Start Me Up,” but it might as well have been the need to get motivated for an early morning cleaning session. This iconic classic is perfect to sing along to during the very beginning stages of your Spring cleaning.

So there you have them. These are some of my favorite songs to blast when I need a boost of energy. What tunes do you recommend for getting mentally and physically prepared to take on Spring cleaning?

Spring Cleaning (Part 1)

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A positive attitude really can make your Spring cleaning this easy.

The cold of winter has waned, and the Ides of March have passed. Spring has sprung, so it is officially time to enjoy all of the new season’s exciting activities. Finally, after several months of dealing with snow, wind, cold, and that disgusting brown stuff that forms when snow and the street meet, you are free.

Free to go ahead and open the windows, feel the breeze, and…commence cleaning? OK. I know that last one is not one of the highlights of this new season, but it is necessary. After a long and messy winter, it might be very necessary.

So how can we make the daunting job of cleaning our house a tolerable experience? Well, as with any task that we don’t naturally enjoy, it all starts with our attitude. A positive attitude can pretty much make any undesirable job more pleasant. Just ask Mike Rowe of the hit television show Dirty Jobs.

A positive approach to life’s dirty and potentially depressing tasks rarely happens by accident. In order to have a positive and productive attitude, you must choose to do so. A handful of simple steps can ensure that you begin your cleaning activities in the proper mental state:

Leave your house for a little while before you begin. If you’re preparing to clean your castle, it might help to take a break from the place before you begin. The last thing you want are feelings of resentment towards the very place in which you’ll be spending the rest of the day. Changing your environment can change your perspective. You’ll likely return to your house energized and ready to go.

Fuel yourself. Spring cleaning can be a physically exhausting experience. Feeling tired and hungry often leads to grumpiness and a lack of motivation. These are definitely not traits of an effective and efficient cleaner. Eating a protein-heavy peanut butter sandwich and drinking lots of water will give you the sustenance you need. Add in just the right amount of caffeine via coffee or tea, and you will be ready and raring to go.

Picture the end result. Forming in your head a clear picture of what your house will look like after you have finished cleaning is a great way to motivate yourself and begin the task with a positive attitude. Keep in mind how refreshing and pristine your house will look, feel, and even smell once you are done cleaning, as this is an effective way to inspire yourself. As with most goals in life (big and small), having a vision is a key element to achieving success.

Following these three steps will help you form a positive attitude before you begin your Spring cleaning. As a result, you will find the entire tidying up process much more enjoyable and productive. Happy cleaning!

 

 

Happiness, Then Success

Schweitzer

Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer could have won the award simply for his wise observation that “happiness is the key to success.”

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

Amen, Mr. Schweitzer. The winner of the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize offered an approach to work and life that we should all adopt. In this post, I will contrast the typical way we go about discovering happiness and the method prescribed by Schweitzer. The difference could not be any more striking.

More often than not, we operate under the assumption that achieving a certain level of success will result in sheer happiness. We do everything we can to warrant certain levels of praise and approval from others. We push. We grind. We endure. And most of the time, we do all these things not for our personal enjoyment or satisfaction, but for the approval of others.

As a musician, I can confirm the temptation to live life this way. It is a seemingly natural inclination to want to write a song that ends up #1 on the charts. It is par for this particular course to want to put on a live performance that ends up earning me rave reviews, both from critics and fans. Again, the desired top-notch singing and performing is motivated by the approval of others. My thinking (subconscious or not) is that I will feel happy if fans and critics tell me that I have done a good job at what I already enjoy doing.

Schweitzer’s approach to life is a complete reversal of this “I need success in order to be happy” way of living. He turns things completely upside down by insisting that success follows happiness, not the other way around. Schweitzer’s advice is to find out what you love to do and then figure out a way to do it on a somewhat permanent basis. When we are consistently doing what we love (preferably with those whom we love), we will realize that we have stumbled upon success.

It is never too late to set goals for the current year. Since discovering Schweitzer’s quote, I am determined to spend less time in 2016 seeking the approval and affection of other people. I want to actively pursue doing the things I love for the sake of doing them, to further improve my craft while learning more about the craft and, consequently, myself.

Trust me: Being a full-time musician, I will gladly accept rave reviews and ample amounts of applause. But those things will no longer be why I write songs and perform them in front of others. I must remind myself again and again of Schweitzer’s message: Happiness leads to success.

In Times Like These

Times Like These

The type of world events that have recently made the news are more than capable of completely sucking the life out of you. So much hatred. So much conflict. So much violence. Enough of each, it seems, to last several generations. All of it could make a jaded recluse out of even the most cheerful and outgoing optimist. It could, but it doesn’t have to.

Scottish band The Marmalade beautifully summarized the indomitable will to live during turbulent times in their 1969 hit single “Reflections of My Life:”

The world is a bad place, a bad place
A terrible place to live, oh but I don’t wanna die

Of course we don’t want to die. We want to stay alive, to feel, to discover – regardless of how bleak things look around us. But in times like these, it really does require a purposeful redirection of our focus to avoid getting dragged down by the constant barrage of gloom and doom.

So if we are to avoid focusing solely on the catastrophic and, some would argue, apocalyptic, events of today, toward what should we instead direct our attention? What could possibly serve as a positive and worthwhile distraction from all that which steals, kills, and destroys? The answer, my friend, is right there next to you.

Our loved ones, be they our family or our friends, are where we should look for our comfort. They are where we find a renewed sense of comfort. They are the ones who allow us to rediscover the fleeting peace of these troubling times. Focus on them. Divert your time and attention to them. Shower them with your affection, knowing full well that your time together is short-lived.

It is nearly impossible to avoid updates on the latest bombing, genocide, or political dispute. With modern media, we really can’t hide from those things. But we can choose who and what will receive the majority of our time, energy, and attention. When the world is mean, I choose to focus on those who mean the world to me.

Homeward Bound (Part 2)

Home

In my last post, I sang the praises of home and all the good things that come with it:

“The feeling that accompanies being home is something that I wouldn’t trade for anything, even all the energy and excitement that come with discovering brand new places. I am capable of achieving full relaxation while at home, something that simply does not happen while traveling.”

I am now excited to share with you a handful of my favorite songs that deal with home.

1. “Two of Us” – The Beatles

This might be the most feel-good song on my list. Lennon and McCartney’s refrain “We’re on our way home, we’re going home!” is the soundtrack I hear in my head whenever I am landing at the airport or pulling into my driveway.

2. “Our House” – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

My favorite part about this classic tune is how the lyrics paint an incredibly cozy picture:

I’ll light the fire
You put the flowers in the vase that you bought today
Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you
Play your love songs all night long for me, only for me

It’s difficult not to fall in love with this particular setting. If my house looked like that, I would very likely never leave it.

3. “Homeward Bound” – Simon and Garfunkel

The hauntingly beautiful vocals on this song are bested only by the dynamic duo’s lyrics. As a musician who is all too familiar with the road and the insatiable desire to return home, the lyrics to “Homeward Bound” really resonate with me:

I’m sitting in the railway station
Got a ticket to my destination
On a tour of one-night stands my suitcase and guitar in hand
And ev’ry stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band
Homeward bound,
I wish I was,
Homeward bound

4.  “The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert

I absolutely adore Miranda Lambert’s touching tale about visiting the house in which she grew up. Her lyrics are achingly poignant:

I know they say you can’t go home again
I just had to come back one last time
Ma’am I know you don’t know me from Adam
But these handprints on the front steps are mine
And up those stairs, in that little back bedroom
is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar
And I bet you didn’t know under that live oak
my favorite dog is buried in the yard

Geez. Talk about lyrics that tug on the heartstrings.

5. “Silent House” – The Dixie Chicks  

This song is chock full of tight harmonies and vivid imagery. The old home comes alive as memories are rediscovered while roaming each room in the house. Though the house is now silent due to the passing of a loved one, the joy of times spent together remains.

These are only a handful of songs that I think of when I think of home. I’d love to hear your favorite songs about home, so please share in the comments.

Homeward Bound (Part 1)

Home

I’ve done a ton of traveling recently. This has included short trips, long tours, and a little bit of everything in between. I love the road and all the interesting people I get to meet while on it, but there truly is nothing better than coming home. There is a sense of safety and warmth that comes from walking these rooms and halls. It is something that I simply cannot find anywhere else.

No offense to my friends who are literature enthusiasts, but Thomas Wolfe was wrong when in 1940 he stated that “you can’t go home again.” At a time in my life when I am pretty much constantly on the move, it is a never-ending source of comfort to know that I always have a familiar place to which I can return. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of a distant place, I have home on my mind.

Luckily, I also have home as a very real destination. The knowledge that I can and will, at some point, return home is a fount of tranquility that settles my mind and emotions when things start to get a wee bit crazy. Whether or not I am physically present in its embrace, home is always there.

And when I do finally return home? I am surrounded by familiarity. I am welcomed by serenity. It is one of my favorite feelings, capable of making all the madness of an ever-increasingly unstable world disappear.

The feeling that accompanies being home is something that I wouldn’t trade for anything, even all the energy and excitement that come with discovering brand new places. I am capable of achieving full relaxation while at home, something that simply does not happen while traveling.

In my next post, I am going to feature several songs that sing the praises of home. In the meantime, I am curious: What does home mean to you? What emotions does it cause you to feel? Share your thoughts with us here at The Music Mom.

Me-Time: How to Give Your Very Best You

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Unlike the ever ticking clock, me-time really is your friend.

In my last post, I suggested taking an occasional brief break from everyday life to spend time with someone you probably tend to ignore: you. I also mentioned some very simple ways to make that happen:

“Time alone can be as short and simple as spending an hour in your favorite corner of your favorite bookstore, sipping coffee and reading a magazine or book. It can be taking a drive along a scenic road while you listen to the sounds of the radio or the voice inside your head. It can be sitting on a bench in a park. A brief respite from those around you can happen without spending lots of money or fully disconnecting from the life you know.”

In this post, I want to further persuade you to seek alone time by listing the ways in which me-time can benefit you and your kids. After all, the most important thing we do as parents is take care of our kids. To do that to the best of our abilities, we must properly take care of ourselves.

Me-time is important for the following reasons:

  1. Getting away from stressful situations (even for a little bit) leads to less anxiety. And everyone knows that an anxiety-free mom is much more likely to be a happy mom.
  2. You are pretty much guaranteed to take better care of your young ones when you have spent time taking care of yourself.
  3. You will rediscover the parts of your identity that you might have lost while being the super mom you’ve been. It is so important that we prevent ourselves from being a one-trick pony – even if that one trick is the most important thing in the word.
  4. You will discover a suddenly revived spirit pertaining to all things “mom.” You will have more energy, patience, and tolerance for your kids – and for everyone else in your life.
  5. Being wise with how you manage your time sets a great example for your kids. They also learn from an early age that mental health and taking care of one’s self is an important part of maintaining healthy relationships. The sooner your kids realize that your me-time is a positive thing, the more willing they will be to give it to you.

I hope I’ve convinced you that one of the most effective things you could do to be a better parent doesn’t actually involve your kids. By giving yourself the occasional healthy dose of me-time, you will ensure that you give everyone around you your very best you.

 

 

Spending Time with a Stranger (Me)

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I decided to spend some time with the one person I’ve been ignoring: me

I recently realized that I spend pretty much all my time with other people. I enjoy what I do and I love the people with whom I’ve surrounded myself, but it is so easy to fall into the pattern of giving everyone else my time and attention. After doing that for so long, though, I realized that the only person I wasn’t spending time with was me. Hence, I decided to spend some time with myself.

Going away to a place where you don’t have to meet deadlines, give attention to others, or immediately respond to requests can be a lifesaver. It can provide an opportunity to think and hear your own voice for a change. Stopping to hear yourself think and breathe is a wonderful act of self-realization and comfort. It soothes. It inspires. It reenergizes.

People often don’t pursue spending time alone because they think it has to be a formal process that involves an extended stay away from the rest of the civilized world. Trust me when I say that quality time with yourself doesn’t have to include a weeklong vacation on the beaches of Mexico or a weekend of isolation in your uncle’s cabin in the woods.

Time alone can be as short and simple as spending an hour in your favorite corner of your favorite bookstore, sipping coffee and reading a magazine or book. It can be taking a drive along a scenic road while you listen to the sounds of the radio or the voice inside your head. It can be sitting on a bench in a park. A brief respite from those around you can happen without spending lots of money or fully disconnecting from the life you know.

Go ahead. Take some time getting to know the one person you’ve been ignoring while you engage in this hectic , all-consuming world: you.

 

 

Sad Songs Say So Much

Elton John

Elton John knew the power of a sad song. 

I always thought it was ironic that Elton John’s 1984 classic “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” is a bouncy, upbeat tune with a feel-good melody. Despite its message, it does not at all sound like a sad song. But there is no denying that “Sad Songs” resonates with anyone who has tuned in to a particular song for the purpose of reliving the bad vibes of a break-up, the loss of a loved one, or the end of a friendship.

In the second verse of “Sad Songs,” John perfectly summarizes why it feels so good to listen to songs that make us feel so bad:

If someone else is suffering enough to write it down 
When every single word makes sense
Then it’s easier to have those songs around
The kick inside is in the line that finally gets to you
and it feels so good to hurt so bad
And suffer just enough to sing the blues

John is pointing out the fact that every now and then, someone captures in their lyrics exactly how you are feeling. It is strangely cathartic to hear someone put into song your feelings of loss and regret – especially if that someone is a popular singer whom you admire and respect. There is a certain comfort that comes from hearing them share their pain, which, perhaps surprisingly, sounds similar to your pain.

Every once in a while, we simply cannot put into words our sadness or sense of loss. Sometimes it is due to us trying too hard, and sometimes it is because we don’t try at all. As John sang in the chorus of “Sad Songs,” one of my favorite things about music is that there is always a song there to do it for us:

When all hope is gone
Sad songs say so much