The Music Mom: Eileen Carey

Do the Nostalgia

Dust-grooves1

Modern media allows us to rediscover the music of our youth. I highly recommend you do so. 

I have recently been on quite the nostalgia kick. Thanks to YouTube, I have spent a ton of time hunting down the music of my youth. The emotions that these songs conjure up are some of the strongest feelings I’ve felt in a while. A warm sense of joy accompanies a gentle aching for what I remember as simpler times. In the end, listening to the tunes of my youth is a soothing experience that fosters a newfound appreciation for my younger days.

If you’ve never allowed yourself to fully dive into the music of your youth, I strongly suggest you give it a try. Put on some headphones, search for the songs that dominated radio when you were a kid, and feel the magic flow. You will discover a treasure trove of familiar faces and places that you might have thought were permanently deleted from your memory.

It is becoming increasingly easier to identify the many ways by which technology and the internet positively contribute to our lives. Nowadays, the majority of the music of our youth, everything that was on vinyl, 8-track, or cassette, is available for us to rediscover. That is something that adults did not have when we were children. Hence, I am all for taking advantage of it.

Go ahead. Dive in. Do the nostalgia.

From Where the Song Comes

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As a prolific songwriter, I have been asked dozens of times by fellow musicians and non-musicians the same thought-provoking question: Where do your songs come from? What a fascinating question, huh? The most interesting part of that inquiry is that I cannot pinpoint exactly where my songs come from. But I do think it is worth thinking about. I’ll share my thoughts with you.

Very often, I am inspired to write a song after hearing another song. I’ve heard it said that the musician’s greatest muse is often someone else’s music. I can attest to this. It would be impossible to list the countless times favorite songs of mine inspired me to create something in the same mood or vibe. It could be an entire tune, a specific phrase, or even one particular note that puts me in the songwriting mood.

It seems to me that most of my songs come from a place of necessary creative expression. There are times when I absolutely must stop what I am doing to hammer out a melody, write down some lyrics, or fiddle around with some chords. It is very much like an itch that needs to be scratched, lest I go a little bit loopy. These attacks of creativity and expression seem random, but I am guessing that there is some sort of trigger that fuels them.

Every now and then I experience emotions so strong that they stir my creative juices. It might be a moment of extreme pride in my children, or a painful feeling of loss for someone who has passed, or an overwhelming sense of adoration and appreciation for a cherished lover or friend. The more I think about it, the more I realize that these emotional moments are most often the source of my songs.

If you are a songwriter, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Where do your songs come from?

The Year of Living Positively (Part 2)

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In my last post, I described how I plan to improve myself in 2016 by creating a list of several things I should do this year that will hopefully result in a healthier, happier, and more productive me. This is in contrast to the typical laundry list of “can’t haves” and “don’t dos” that I’ve drawn up in years past. In short, I’m replacing the negative approach to making resolutions with a more positive plan of attack for improving my life. In this post, I am excited to share with you a few proactive steps I am taking towards better physical, mental, and emotional health.

One thing I have already begun doing is drinking more tea. I have always had a soft spot for soda, but I am well aware how bad it is for me. While the sugary goodness of the drink is appealing, I realize that I typically drink it when I want/need a boost of energy. So, to get my caffeine fix and avoid the sugary mess of my carbonated demons, I will continue to drink tea on a more consistent basis. There are thousands of delicious flavors out there, so I am optimistic that I will maintain my enthusiasm for tea throughout the year.

Another area in which I want to improve is exercise. I have tried in the past, but only allowed myself the “opportunity” to run. I put quotes around opportunity because the truth is that I absolutely loathe running. I find it to be boring, painful, boring, lonely, and, well, boring. I do know that an increased heart rate is very good for me, but I’ve always struggled with running.

This year, instead of putting myself through the torture of running, I am determined to engage in activities that are good for me and that I enjoy. I am no Serena Williams, but I do have fun while playing tennis. Plus, being the outgoing people person that I am, I’ll never not have company while getting in shape. I look forward to playing tennis at least twice a week in 2016.

One final piece to my self-improvement puzzle is the reduction of stress. Being stressed out all the time is negative in so many ways, including health and relationship-wise. But rather than yelling at myself to “NOT BE STRESSED!” (how often does that work?), I am actively pursuing environments that lead to calm, comfort, and the removal of anxiety. This doesn’t necessarily mean beachfront vacations – although I am open to that. But it does mean that I will put myself in settings that bring me peace.

Off the top of my head, I plan to spend more time inside at bookstores and museums and outside at lakes and mountains. I imagine that some more time spent staring at the stars can only help distract from the maddening events of everyday life.

I am excited at the prospects of my new positive approach to making a better me. 2016 is already off to a great start, and I predict these steps will make it even better.

What positive things are you determined to do this year?

 

 

The Year of Living Positively

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I am very excited to wish you a happy new year. 2016 is already off to a great start for me, and I hope and pray that it is for you, as well.

As my family and I were approaching the new year, I was faced with the annual task of compiling a list of challenging, yet hopefully achievable, personal resolutions. This year I tried a different approach, one that I have been chomping at the bit to share with you.

Rather than weigh myself down with a laundry list of taboo items, a depressing assortment of “can’t haves” and “don’t dos,” last week I decided to create a list of several things I should do this year that will encourage a healthier, happier, and more productive lifestyle for me and those I care for.

We often think of the new year as a time to figure out what we need to eliminate from our lives. Logically, most of these things are inherently bad for us. I’m sure you’re familiar with the types of items I’m talking about: cigarettes, alcohol, carbohydrates, slothfulness, greed, and the like. January 1 represents an opportunity for a clean slate, a purging of that which is destructive.

The problem with this new-found commitment to living without these things is that, well, we typically don’t like living without things. Telling ourselves that we cannot have something leads to frustration and resentment, often to the point that we forget the benefits of going without it. It is an inherently negative method for bringing about meaningful – and necessary – change.

As this year approached, I promised myself that instead of compiling a list of negative things I should not do or have, I would create a list of positive things I should do or have. My thought process behind this new strategy was simple: By engaging in specific positive actions that are good for my mental, emotional, and physical well-being, I will naturally eliminate some of the negative behaviors that harm me.

I am genuinely excited at the possibilities of this revised mental approach to self-improvement. My next post will focus on several positive steps I am determined to take in 2016 in order to better myself – even if it happens in a roundabout way. For example, I will drink more tea this year for the purpose of drinking less soda.

Stay tuned as I provide more examples of a positive approach to my yearly changing of habits. Happy new year!

Ludwig’s Lesson (Part 3)

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven: “Listen and learn!”

This is my third post inspired by Beethoven’s belief that “music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks, and invents.” The more I think about this topic, the more I am inspired to push for music to be actively promoted as an effective tool of education. I fully realize that music (and the rest of the arts, for that matter) are commonly viewed as expendable parts of our culture and education system, so this week I have made it a goal of mine to promote the benefits of music as an impetus for learning.

My personal and professional experiences have proven to me time and time again that music can, when used correctly, establish a positive learning environment that allows for comprehension, creativity, and discovery. It does this in several ways, including the following:

Music facilitates a multi-sensory learning experience: It is no secret that the most impactful learning experiences are the ones that involve multiple senses. Think of some of your favorite scenes from movies that were intended to teach you a thing or two about history, love, or life. Chances are that certain songs were as relevant to your cinematic experience as the visuals flashing on the screen. Music can be an amazing stirrer of emotions, and I wholeheartedly recommend its inclusion when trying to teach or learn an important lesson.

Music enhances imagination: In addition to stimulating creativity, music contributes to the development of a more active imagination. Einstein, known as perhaps the most creative genius of the 20th century, often turned to music to help with his creative process. He recognized an unexplainable link between music and his science: “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. I get most joy in life out of music.” When forced to confront moments of unclarity, Einstein would cozy up to the piano and, after playing just a few keys, would confidently claim “There, now I’ve got it!” There was something about music that ushered his thoughts in fresh and creative directions.

If the inclusion of music at critical points in his storied career worked well for Einstein, I strongly suggest we give it a try. Beethoven, it seems, would agree.

 

Ludwig’s Lesson (Part 2)

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven: “Listen and learn!”

Earlier this week I claimed that instead of insisting on complete silence in certain learning environments, we should follow Beethoven’s belief that “music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks, and invents” by actively promoting music as a useful tool of education. This post (and my next one, since I LOVE this topic!) will detail some very specific ways in which music benefits us and those around us as we try to learn, discover, create, and grow.

Music allows us to arrange a learning environment that is rich and resonant. If you are at all familiar with working with children, you know that a varied approach to learning is most effective. Music opens doors to new and exciting opportunities and offers an unexpected setting that transcends the usual, shall we say, stale, learning environment.

Based on what I have experienced in my personal and professional life, I can attest to the fact that music can, if used correctly, establish a positive learning setting. It does this in a number of ways, some of which include the following:

Music creates a desired atmosphere: This point is obvious. For example, the belief that “music soothes the savage beast” is based on the reality that slower-paced music really does have a calming effect on those who are, um, a bit too wound up. Next time you are trying to teach your kids an important lesson or have a serious discussion, try playing some soft, relaxing music in the background. You will be pleased with the result.

Music energizes learning and creative activities: In contrast to the previous point, music can be a wonderful facilitator of much needed energy and anticipation. For example, if you are trying to get your kids amped up to create the perfect birthday card for your spouse, try blasting “Birthday” by The Beatles. There is pretty much no way they will not immediately get pumped for the sometimes tedious card-writing process.

Stay tuned for my next post when I discuss more benefits to using music as a springboard for learning.

Ludwig’s Lesson (Part 1)

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven: “Listen and learn!”

“Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks, and invents.”

Beethoven pretty much summed up the educational value of music in this quote. It amazes me that people love listening to music when they are relaxing or enjoying free time, but often turn the music off when it is time to work or go to school. By doing this, we enforce the notion that music is merely a form of entertainment, something that can be enjoyed, but not included in some of the most important moments of life.

I have witnessed the intentional use of music in the classroom and other learning settings, and I can confirm Beethoven’s belief that music ignites a spark, a flare of discovery and thought that often does not exist within the grey nothingness of complete silence. Music tends to enhance learning activities, often making the entire educational process more fun, interesting, and effective.

My next few posts will be an attempt to persuade you that you should actively pursue making music a part of whatever learning experience you are facilitating, be it for you, your little ones, or the adult learners among you. I will detail very specific ways in which music can make learning a more enjoyable experience. Music is all around us. Join me this week as I describe the benefits of letting it occupy our learning spaces.

Day-tripping (Part 2)

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Travel time without tunes would not be the same.

In my last post, I raved about the joys of family road trips. In contrast to most parents, this music mom loves nothing more than packing up my car with my kids and hitting the open road. Of course, as a mother who is constantly creating and listening to music, the songs we play during our voyages are very important to me. A good soundtrack is the lifeblood of an exciting trip; boring or mistimed tunes, meanwhile, can very easily put a damper on a family expedition.

So what makes for a good collection of road trip songs? I have found that the best soundtracks for our exciting excursions are dynamic roller-coasters that feature ebbs and flows to match the many different moods of me and my fellow travelers. Most often, it’s the upbeat, energetic songs that make for the best travelling tunes. These lively numbers include pretty much everything from the early Beatles, Motown, Johnny Cash, Reba McIntyre, and a whole lot of synthy songs from the early to mid 1980’s.

Of course, a lengthy road trip will (and should) include quiet and more reflective moments. We all know the power of music, so it should come as no surprise that the perfect tonic for kids who are a bit too wound up is to turn down the tempo and the volume of whatever is pouring out of your car’s CD player or radio. Yes, bring down the music, and watch your kids come down off of whatever sugar high or nervous energy buzz they’ve been on. To soften the mood, my favorites include Judy Collins, James Taylor, Mazzy Star, and the occasional hair band ballad from the ’80s.

If you’re at all like me, you probably can’t imagine a lengthy road trip without your favorite tunes. Music has been a constant companion during my life. It only makes sense that I bring it with me as I embark on my most memorable trips along life’s long and winding road.

What are some of your favorite tunes to listen to while hitting the road? Share in the comments section, and thanks for reading!

Day-tripping (Part 1)

Yes, this is still how I picture road trips with the kids.

Yes, this is still how I picture road trips with the kids.

I am unique among my friends for many reasons, but the most obvious is this: I simply adore hitting the open road with my kids. For most adults, a car jam-packed with a handful of energetic kids is the stuff of nightmares. The mere thought of squeezing into an SUV with highly charged kids as your companions for half the day or more has at times, I’m sure, been a most successful form of birth control.

I am, however, the exception to this rule of parental paranoia. Part of it is likely due to the fact that my kids are no longer toddlers. They are able to sit still for extended periods of time without whooping and/or hollering, which makes things a whole lot more bearable. I do not long for the days of hysterical babies and whiny toddlers causing unplanned – and unwanted – detours on already lengthy trips.

No, those days are over. Nowadays, road trips with my family are not just something to endure; they have become a source of utter joy and excitement. While I am keen on the sedative wonders of modern technology (three cheers for iPods, Kindles, and, of course, headphones!), I most enjoy the time we spend talking to each other. Whether it is a detailed discussion on something that is going on in the world today, a simple check-in to see how my kids are doing, or a passionate debate on the merits of Taylor Swift, I genuinely like hearing the sound of my kids’ voices.

The non-stop madness of daily life in our house often makes it difficult to engage with my children in this manner, so I am grateful for opportunities such as road trips. Avoiding each other is not an option, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am well aware that there will be a time when making long voyages to see family and friends will be a solo activity. Contrary to the opinion of some adults, that will certainly be a much less enjoyable experience.   

Stay tuned for my next post, in which I’ll discuss some of my (and my kids’) favorite music for day-tripping.

We Can Work It Out

Sometimes it takes a little creativity, but it is possible to get our kids to put down the gloves.

Sometimes it takes a little creativity, but it is possible to get our kids to put down the gloves.

Bickering between siblings. It is something that we parents know all too well. It can happen anywhere, and, unfortunately, at any time. It can involve something major, but it usually involves something minor. Let’s face it: This here parenting thing is probably most difficult when our kids are arguing, fussing, and fighting. If you’re like me, nothing tests your patience like two (or more!) siblings who absolutely refuse to get along.

Due to the aforementioned frustration, I often find myself seeking new and creative methods for combatting the combat. My most recent technique for facilitating family friendliness worked so well that I thought I should share it with you.

While my kids were recently on the verge of yet another World War 3, I found myself growing increasingly helpless. Completely desperate and in need of some positive vibes, I suddenly found the lyrics to The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” running through my head:

Life is very short, and there’s no time

For fussing and fighting, my friend

I have always thought that it’s a crime

So I will ask you once again

Try to see it my way

Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong

While you see it your way

There’s a chance that we may fall apart before too long

We can work it out

We can work it out

The random mental British invasion of togetherness and reconciliation inspired me to yell the following: “You guys are not only going to listen to this song a dozen times, you are also going to write the lyrics until you memorize them!”

My kids stopped yelling at each other and looked at me with looks of uncertainty as to whether or not I was serious. I was. And I did make them listen several times to the Lennon/McCartney classic. Best of all was their surprising willingness to write, by hand, the lyrics ten times. They pouted about it, but I think they secretly enjoyed my innovative way of handling the situation. Plus, they really did memorize the song, and I have since heard them sing it when they think I am not paying attention.

I have no illusions that methods like these will forever prevent future armageddons. But they do lighten the mood and redirect children’s energy towards something positive. Best of all, my kids learned yet another life lesson from the Fab Four. The writing of the lyrics was meant to penalize them for fighting, but the exposure to such wisdom was impactful. The Beatles were right: Regardless of how big or small our family squabble, we can, with a little creativity and effort, work it out.

Don’t Wait to Create!

That's the smile of a man who knows he doesn't have to wait to be creative. Neither do you.

That’s the smile of a man who knows he doesn’t have to wait to be creative. Neither do you.

As parents, a good chunk of our lives is spent waiting. Perhaps it’s watching with bewilderment (and a touch of angst) as your teen unsuccessfully tries to peel herself away from the bathroom mirror. Maybe it’s sitting outside in a parked car as your kids hunt down that ever elusive coat. Or maybe it’s watching with ever growing frustration as the hot meal you just cooked turns cold due to your little ones’ inability to make it to the table on time. That is, without doubt, my favorite. I am well aware that Tom Petty had other things on his mind when he claimed that “the waiting is the hardest part,” but I don’t care. That tune rings loud and clear each and every time I find myself waiting for someone to do something or be somewhere.

The best part about being a music mom is that my creativity does not have to wait for other people. My urge to write a lyric or a melody is not dependent on other people’s schedules. When the inspiration comes, I sing. When the mood hits, I jot down lyrics. My creativity is entirely mine. This complete ownership of my creativity is a godsend, as it often provides a much needed sense of control in a world that has, quite often, gone mad.

I strongly suggest that you give in to your natural urge to create. For me, it is songwriting. I make sure to always have a guitar, keyboard, or iPhone voice recorder nearby. Perhaps for you it is painting, or poetry, or digital design. Whatever it is you do to unleash your creative beast, allow yourself the opportunity to do it. When the inspiration comes, embrace it. Know that even with all the many things on your plate, you still have time to express yourself. The best part is realizing that you don’t have to wait for anyone else to do it.

In Dreams You’re Mine, All the Time

Roy Orbison, as I picture him in dreams.

Roy Orbison, as I picture him in dreams.

“In dreams I walk with you, in dreams I talk to you.”

These lyrics from Roy Orbison’s 1963 hit single “In Dreams” occasionally hit me like a ton of bricks. They remind me of the cold, hard reality that certain loved ones are gone, only to be seen and heard within the soft glow of our dreams.

I have grown increasingly appreciative of these dreams, to the point where I now cherish their random visits. I am well aware that we now have seemingly endless methods of documenting each other’s existence, but nothing moves me like the appearance of a long lost friend or family member in an unexpected dream.

Perhaps it is the way that these dreams affect me that makes me most appreciative of their occurrence. These unexpected (but very welcome) nighttime visits have the ability to shake me to my core, to leave me breathless at the sight of someone who I mistakenly thought I had completely forgotten.

Of course, these evening escapades have a bittersweet side to them. The friends, lovers, and family members we see in our dreams are not there when we awake. Orbison addresses this unpleasant reality near the end of his classic:

“But just before the dawn, I awake and find you gone.”

Despite this truth, I still cherish each and every one of these magical moments of unconscious nostalgia.