The Power of Music

I never needed to be told that music is powerful. I’ve always known that. I grew up in the 80’s, so I was a champ at recording that perfect song off the radio onto a cassette tape.  (Please tell me you know what one of those is!)  Being a mom of a funny, kind, timid, tender-hearted little girl though, gives me fresh perspective on the power of music.

My daughter isn’t shy, exactly, but she is…anxious. I suppose that’s the best word. She doesn’t like change – each new school year terrifies her. Last fall, she started 2nd grade, and even though she already knew who her teacher was going to be, and knew it was someone that she already loved to pieces, she was still nervous.

“What if I don’t do good?”

“You’ll do fine, I know you will.”  (This was not the time to correct grammar.)

“But how do you know?”

“Because you always do, even though you’re nervous, you always manage to do what you need to do.”

“What if none of my friends are in my class?”

“Then you’ll make new friends. And you’ll see the old ones at lunchtime and at the playground.”

“But how will I make new friends?”

“You’ll see someone you want to be friends with, and you’ll say hello.”

“But then what?”

You see?  This is how her little mind works. She is a worrier. That isn’t something I want for her, but she is. Finding ways to help her overcome those anxieties is so difficult.  But soon after the school year started, she found something on her own.  On this particular morning, I had my iPod plugged into the car radio and we were talking when this song came on:

“I like this song, Mom. What’s it called.”  So I told her.  We got to school and she went about her day and I didn’t think anything else about it.  The next morning as we got in the car, “Can we listen to Stronger?”   So I turned it on and she started trying to sing along. Over the next few days, this song was her every-morning request.  She began to learn more and more of it.  Always curious, there was one morning when she asked me what the first part meant, about the bed being warmer. Find a simple way to explain THAT to a 2nd grader!  I said something about knowing how strong you are as a person and not needing someone else to make you strong, and that sometimes people in our lives actually aren’t good for us…she accepted that and then wanted to know exactly what the chorus meant. (Sidenote – at 7 my daughter still doesn’t understand that I am not up to these kinds of explanations before cup of coffee number 2.)v I unraveled the phrase for her as well as I could, and she went on singing. Then, just as she was about to get out of the car and go in to school:

“This song makes me feel confident. It makes me feel like I really am stronger.”

Well….wow.

Later, she added another song to that one:

Because, as she said, “Sometimes I do feel like I just can’t do stuff. But this song makes me feel like I really can.”  (I should add that this was after it was featured in the movie Madagascar 3, which we loved.)

So, those had been her favorites for this school year. She had other songs she liked a lot too, Bible School songs, funny songs, and every single song from these guys:

http://imaginationmovers.com/  (I’m sure I’ll be including more about them later – they’ve been a huge part of our mom/daughter time.)

Skip ahead to February. We watched The Lego Movie, which had the song, “Everything is AWESOME!”  She and I both went around singing it for days, much to the annoyance of her Dad who apparently didn’t enjoy having it stuck in his head on a permanent basis. 🙂

Since she loved the song, I decided to download it for her, and while I was at it, I got some other songs that I knew she liked and made her her very own playlist on my iPod.  I included songs from the movie Brave, and from The Lion King, some from The Muppets, just a nice little variety of kid-friendly music. I also included this one, which I knew she already liked:

This one is a family favorite, and we’ve talked a lot in the past about what makes a hero.  Recently we were in the car and this one came on.  After commenting how much she loves the opening, and singing the guitar part for me, she just listened quietly for a while. Then suddenly:

“Mom, this is a really good song, ’cause, you know, soldiers? They are so brave. They are willing to die for us.”

I agreed of course, and we talked about how Jesus was the ultimate Hero, because He gave His life for us. And then we talked about others in our world now who are that kind of brave – police officers, firefighters, soldiers, and the like.  She got quiet again, and then,

“It makes my eyes water.”

I looked back and there was my tender-hearted little girl with tears in her eyes because she was thinking about real heroes, and what they give for others.  It was a huge reminder to me, to be thankful for those who are out there protecting me, day and night, fair weather and foul, holidays and weekends.

It was another reminder too, of the power of music. If we are willing, music can impact us more than just at weddings and funerals. It can empower us. It can soothe us. It can remind us of what’s important. It can take us back to a memory.

And that’s powerful stuff.

From the Archives – October 2012 “Intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism”

That’s a quote from the Doctor. Doctor Who? Precisely.

Those who know me well know that I’m not a hippie, not a peace freak, because sadly, I know that the world we live in will not ever allow for peace. The world is populated with humans, and we are, by our very nature, self serving and prideful. Peace doesn’t go with those things. Yes, there are many fine people out there, there are some who are wonderfully generous, genuinely compassionate and beautifully gentle. However, as a whole, we generally screw things up due to our, well, humaness.

Anyway, when I watched the episode of Doctor Who in which this line was spoken, I hit the rewind button  a few times to hear it again. It struck a chord in me. It stuck out.  And I couldn’t figure out why at first. (As I mentioned above, my attraction to this phrase isn’t because I delude myself into the hope of a world with no violence. I love football – obviously I believe there is a time and a place for brute force.)  I kept thinking about it, it’s one of those things that just wouldn’t get out of my mind, but the words would play over and over. Finally, I took them completely out of the context of the show. Once I did that, I began to understand my attraction to them.

Growing up, I was most definitely what you would call a “hopeless romantic.”  Beautiful things and beautiful stories and beautiful music, these appealed to me. I was always drawn to the beauty in tragic stories, to the misunderstood characters, the woeful souls who, so often met with heartbreaking circumstances. Even though, in most cases, I recognized that the ones I was so drawn to had serious character flaws, I always felt their hurts and wanted to “get to the bottom of” their issues. As a pre-teen, I was obsessed with Gone With the Wind, with Scarlett O’Hara. Just the woman an adolescent girl should want to be like, right? Yes, she was self-centered. She was spoiled and stubborn and greedy and petty. (Let’s be blunt, she was, what we in the south would refer to as, “a hateful little you-know-what, bless her heart.”)  But she was also strong, and smart, even brave.  I was fairly enamored with Rhett Butler as well. He was a self-professed pirate, a scoundrel!  But his character was, to me, so dashing and so strong!  And, between the words on the page, I knew, just knew, that he truly loved Scarlett, loved her with the kind of love that would burn them both. Ferocious love – I wanted that! (Oh, the ravings of an adolescent female’s heart. Don’t judge me!)

A few years later, it was the Phantom. I was in love with Erik – the tragedy of a disfigurement that defined his entire life. It began with the original book The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, but it was sealed when I read Phantom, by Susan Kay, and cemented when I heard Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical interpretation of the story.  Erik’s character was full of beauty and envy and intelligence and hate and compassion and murder…all at the same time. There was no pinning him down to one definition, and I loved that. He loved even more fully than he hated, but again, he was burned by both.

I won’t even go into my fascination with Westley from The Princess Bride, or Robin Hood, but they were there as well, shaping my fantasies and my expectations.

So, I grew up a romantic at heart. But then, I grew up. Growing up is not something I recommend if you want to hold onto your romantic ideals.

Yes, there are wonderful things of beauty and beautiful moments of wonder in this life! Remember that!

But so often, so, so very often, they are overshadowed by the mundane and the ordinary and the dull. This happened to the grown up romantic and she forgot how to look for the beauty and the wonder. It wasn’t a conscious choice.  (It wasn’t that there was no romance – I married my high school sweetheart!  That’s made all the more romantic by the fact that, 16 years later, we are still married. It IS romantic, but it isn’t BECAUSE OF romance. It’s because of so much more, so much that goes far beyond romance. That’s another story!)

At some point though, between just the day to day of trying to make a living, pay the bills, have a little fun every now and then, the tough times, the heartbreaks that God chose to allow in my life, I allowed disappointment to define too much of my heart and I stopped looking for romance. You know what happened then? I became a pessimist. And I didn’t like it.

It was for my own protection of course. That’s how I justified the fact that I was becoming someone I didn’t like. As long as I let that defeatist attitude protect me though, I thought it would make disappointments hurt less.

It didn’t. It just kicked beauty and hope to the curb and made room for resentment and bitterness. Life is full of so MUCH. Beauty and pain and joy and hurt and triumph and heartbreak and hope and worry – these are all part of life and feeling them is all part of living.  My crunchy outer shell didn’t shield me from hurt, it just shielded me from caring. The problem though, is that it also puts a veil over the joys and happinesses of life. And you know what I finally realized?  Being numb is not a pleasant alternative.

Pessimism is the assurance that Murphy was correct and that anything that can go wrong in my life, will.  It’s an unwillingness to hope. It isn’t possible to be a pessimistic romantic.  And it isn’t wise to be a hopeless romantic. So, I’ve decided to aspire to being a Practical Romantic. (I thought about Pragmatic Romantic, but that’s just too much of a mouthful.)

Intellect may seem like a strange companion to romance. But it isn’t. To me, there is so much joy in using the living computer in my head. I love facts and trivia, but the key is using them, not just storing them – that’s intellect. Knowledge is good, but application and wisdom are satisfying.  Being hopeful, looking for romance, using intellect to shape our opinions and perspective – it all works together.

So, what is a Practical Romantic?  I think of it like this: the real world is rough, and there are times in our lives when it is difficult to remain hopeful.  There are other times which aren’t marked by sorrow or heartache, but we are simply so bogged down in the details of life, the to-do lists and the errands and the bills and the schedules, that we don’t think we have time to breathe, much less look around us for the beauty and the hope and the romance that is still there. But if we don’t force ourselves,  at those very times, to look around us, we’re going to miss out. We’re going to miss our children growing up. We’re going to miss those moments with parents who are likely to be gone from our lives someday. We’re going to miss that kiss from our lover. Every sunrise, every sunset, every thunder storm is unique, and we miss them!  A Practical Romantic strives to remember that beauty and hope are not just fairy tale ideas, but  part of reality – you just have to open your eyes and choose to see.

Eyes. Wide. Open.

From the Archives – July 2012

I’ve been thinking a lot the past few days about how I perceive myself, especially as compared to how others perceive me.

And how little I care anymore.

I’ve decided that if I am real, if I avoid the trappings of the phoniness I see everywhere, then I’m ok with being an outcast. I’ll be a pariah, by choice.

If I could do one thing for young girls growing up through the hellish years of puberty, crushes, popularity and competition, it would be to convince them that the things that seem so huge right now, will someday seem so silly. But I would never be able to convince them of that. I think I’ve figured out why, besides some of the more obvious reasons.

The growing up years are all about figuring out who you are, who you’re going to be, who you want to be, and how you’re going to get there. Because the whole of who you are is so confused in your hormone-addled brain, you’re constantly looking around you, seeing who others are and basing far too many assumptions about yourself on what you see in others.

Unfortunately there are a lot of adults who never get over that. Don’t believe me? Look around your work place, your kid’s school, your church. Does anyone stand out as being “different”?

Do you?

I hope that I do. I’m just not content to be one of the herd, not even if the herd is what’s accepted, conventional…safe.

If I’m a follower of Christ, safe is not my number one priority. Nor is conventional, or acceptable. Jesus is radical – He demonstrated that in every act of his human existence on earth, He spoke it with His words, and the words He left for us in His word, spoken through others.

I read a quote recently that has been attributed to Coco Chanel, “I don’t care what you think of me. I don’t think of you at all.”  I love that! It’s not my job to monitor and to manipulate what others think of me. My job is to be His hands and feet and to love Him and to love my neighbor.

My daughter is 6 years old. Soon she’ll start seeking to find the truth of herself. I hope she looks to Jesus and looks inside herself, and nowhere else. If she is one that others look to in trying to figure out who they are, I hope it’s because of her kindness, her intelligence and her courage to be the person she was created to be. God give ME the courage to be an example to her of that kind of life.

Why pretend? The ones who are worth caring what they think, will love you for the real you. And ultimately, every one of us only answers to One.

Be real.

From the Archives – June 2012

My fight or flight instinct has kicked in – I have no desire to read all the diatribes zipping across Facebook regarding the happenings in D.C. Love you guys. Mean it. But the fact is that every one of us, on every side of every issue, is just as convinced as the ones on the other side that their side is right. I’m as passionate as you, but chances are we’ll never, ever, convince each other to come around to our way of thinking.

You know what? There’s an issue, that’s bigger than whatever the issue du jour may be. There’s an issue that is honestly at the root of all the rest of them. There’s a big truth and this is it: there is not a program out there that will fix us.

I know, it’s shocking.

There’s one thing that would make the difference in this world that we’re all waiting for someone else to make. And it has nothing to do with any program, government or otherwise. It’s not Extreme Makeover fixing up a house or Secret Millionaire helping a worthwhile organization. It’s this crazy, antiquated idea of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” You know, “do unto others,” and all that. (sidenote: this man called Jesus is the Author of those ideas. He’s incredible and loves you and me beyond belief. But that’s another, albeit related, note.)

I’m not talking about tossing your spare change in the red kettle at Christmas time. I’m not talking about sending a donation to the American Cancer Society, Feed the Children, the ASPCA, Habitat for Humanity or any other organization. I’m not talking about an extra tax-deduction. I’m talking about your own backyard. And mine. I’m talking about the “issues” under all our noses…

We live down the street from a single parent working two jobs just to get the ends close. Making ends meet is beyond their imagination at this point in their lives. That mom or dad is just praying their kid doesn’t get sick, because their co-pay just jumped up. Again. We walk right past him on the first day of school when he’s looking at the school supplies list, shaking his head.  We don’t give her a thought while we’re at the mall buying our kid their Under Armour gym clothes, North Face jacket and the latest pair of $90 running shoes. Meanwhile, she’s at the dollar store, just hoping she can fit the glue sticks, gym shoes, pencils, headphones and pack of facial tissues that are on the list into an already over-stretched budget.

I’m talking about the little old lady we barely notice at the pharmacy. She’s saying something to the cashier about, “…but when did the price go up so much?”  Before we can process a thought, by a lucky chance, we’re distracted by the sign advertising t-bone steaks for 8 bucks a pound and we’re thinking, “Oh! That would be such a great back to school celebration dinner for the family!”

How dare we claim that we care? How dare we say that we’re concerned for others? How dare we think we have any right to preach to others about how we need to take care of the less fortunate in the country and world, when we won’t even take the time to help the people who are right in front of us every day?

If we can buy our kid the latest ridiculously over-priced shoes that all the kids just “have to have,” then by all that is right, we can quietly put a little box filled with glue sticks and pencils and Kleenex on our neighbor’s front porch. If we can feed our family steak on a regular basis, then we can stop by the pharmacy and ask if there’s a way we can put 10 bucks on that little old lady’s account for the next time she comes in.

I love dressing my kid in cute stuff.  I love steak. There’s nothing wrong with those things. What IS wrong is the fact that we are unwilling to take our eyes off ourselves for 30 seconds and look around.

I’m not a wide-eyed optimist. I’m a realist, believe it or not. I know there will never be world peace any more than there is any chance that we’ll ever all love each other the way we should. But I also know that if we really did care, if we ever noticed the needs around us AND DID WHAT WE COULD TO MEET THOSE NEEDS, we would make a difference for someone.

I’m as guilty as anyone. I’m just as wrapped up in my own life, my own budget, my own bills and day to day “stuff,” that I forget to look around and see what I can do to make someone’s life better.  Everyone of us has the means to help someone. And if enough people did that, we wouldn’t have to worry about depending on some program to fix it all.  I know that isn’t going to be the case. I have no desire to gather in a circle, hold your hand and sing “We Are the World.”  (Honestly, I loathe that song.) But I believe with all my heart that every single one of us who is too wrapped up in ourselves to notice the needs around us are the very ones responsible for a whole lot of the hurt in the world. And no program, no charity, no leader is going to fix that. I know we can’t fix all that is wrong in the world. But if I open my eyes, if I take a minute to really SEE, I can use what I have to make a difference on my own street.

But will I?

From the Archives – February 2012

Do you ever think about simplicity?  The surest way to make it complicated is to think about it, but that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m not talking about turning off the electricity and getting back to the “simple life.” (Which, by the way, was nothing like ‘simple’ if you think about it.)  I’m talking about the simple, uncomplicated way that a kid views the world around her.  Specifically, my kid. At 5 and in her first year of school, she’s just beginning to realize the complexities that make up the world.  But so often, something she says or does reminds me of the beauty of simplicity.

Everyone who has spent any time around little kids knows that no matter how great the gift they get, it’s the box that gets the most play time. That’s simplicity. Katie has a box that we turned into a playhouse about 4 years ago and she STILL plays with it.  She finger painted all over the outside. She keeps a flashlight inside. These days it’s her dog house, when she pretends to be a dog, which is almost every waking hour of her day.  She has tons of toys. Most of them go months without being touched, until she forgets all about them. But the box never goes away. It can be anything!  All she needs is a big imagination.

That simplicity goes beyond play time too. Kids dream big – but even when their dreams are big, they’re simple.  Looking into the sky the other night, Katie said, “You know what I just wished for on that star, Mom? I wished I could touch the moon.”  Touch the moon. Obviously not a simple task – my mind immediately pictured her in full astronaut mode, bending over to put her hands in moon dirt – but still a simple wish.  She didn’t over-think it.

I dread the day my daughter is forced to realize that this world does not smile on simplicity, that most of us are so messed up in our priorities that we make our lives more complicated than they need to be and that we’ve come to expect things to be a tangled web of trial and error.  But I hope that I can somehow learn to appreciate that simplicity before she loses her ability to revel in it.

Fickle Fragments

Random ramblings, casual convos, meandering musings, aimless adresses, and slapdash speeches.

You never know what I’ll share here. I don’t know what I’ll share here. But I promise it will be…something. One day I may share a recipe, the next a diatribe on something that’s bugging me. Next week it might be a funny incident from home. Just fickle fragments of my life, pieces of my mind, and occasionally bits of my heart.