Monday, April 27, 2015

Published 2:31 PM by with 4 comments

You Know Your Family is Full of Musicians When....

Your toddler's favorite book is "The Noisy Orchestra" complete with buttons that sound all the different sections of the orchestra, and she had already been to a real concert before she turned one.

When someone comes home from work exhausted/frustrated/pent up, they sit down to an instrument to play music, and everyone gives them about half an hour's  space to calm down.

Three different people are listening to three different kinds of music in the house at the same time, and you have to tell your toddler that she can't have the volume on her music turned up super loud because then nobody else will be able to hear their music.

When you think of warm summer nights, your first thought is, "outdoor concerts and singing on our front lawn". 

Even though your mom jokes that she is the only person in the family who doesn't play any musical instrument except the radio, she knows way more about music than most non-musicians, after years of sitting through music lessons and having music played constantly around her.

When you start singing, another family member will either sing along with you or try to make you laugh by singing in a silly way.

There is an instrument, and often multiple instruments, in every room of the house except for the kitchen and bathroom. This doesn't mean that instruments have not been used in the kitchen or bathroom, just that there are none permanently stored there ;-)

When somebody starts singing or playing a song, somebody else will shout, " that's not the right key/lyrics/melody/rhythm! It goes like this..."

Your toddler gets used to sitting through music rehearsals and actually likes the experience.

Your toddler also likes to actively participate during rehearsals, occasionally needing you as the parent to whisper "not so loud, honey" when she begins belting at the top of her lungs during a soft passage.

Your toddler knows conductor's cues better than some high school music students you teach.

You play "guess that composer" with the classical radio station on in the car.

Everyone's music tastes are so widely varied that you have a complex system in place for car trips so that everyone gets a chance to listen to music they like at different times on the radio.

All road trips require at least one Handel's Messiah sing-along (or a musical theater production sing-along, or an opera sing-along, etc.). Those who don't remember all the words simply hum until they get back to the parts they still know.

One of the first things you do to start your day is turn music on in your home.

When you have a date night, both you and your husband automatically think, "where would there be some good live music to see..."

There are some movies you won't watch because you don't like the soundtrack or the composer of the soundtrack.

There are some soundtracks of movies you own even though you hate the actual movie.

Your child likes more of your (the parent's) music rather than the kid's music designed for her age.

The answer "I just don't like it" is never acceptable when discussing music preferences in your family. Further detailed musical analysis, philosophy behind lyrics, and theory structure knowledge is involved when judging musical choices.

Every day your lives, collectively and individually, involve music! 

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Published 11:12 AM by with 1 comment

Mondays Are All About Gentleness

This month has looked a lot like exhaling to release how I believed my time was supposed to go.

Out of all thirty-one days of March, I was healthy for maybe seven of them. The rest of the time I was battling a stomach virus, a cold, a severe chest cough, strep throat, bronchitis, and the full-blown stomach flu.

My time was often spent lying on the couch or in bed, even in between going to meetings that I thought were essential or cooking food for my beloved family so they could stay/get healthy or going to teach music or trying to play with/teach my rambunctious toddler.

But last week, when we were gearing up for what was supposed to be an exciting visit from an ensemble of young musicians from Germany, where we were supposed to be a host family, my body failed me. I spent days flat on my back exhausted and too sick to move. It was a sad moment to realize that all our plans were going out the window.

And you know what?

Another host family was found.

Food was still prepared.

My house didn't explode in flames because laundry sat in baskets for way too long.

Meetings were held without me.

Concerts were given without me.

Children were taught their music by substitute teachers.

And everything was fine.

Without me.

So now, for the first time on my feet in five days, I can truly say that I am blessed with both time to recover and gorgeous people who keep everything spinning when I am out of commission. It all does NOT revolve around me.

It's a relief, in a strange way, to know for sure that I am expendable. That the world won't fall apart if I can't make all my commitments happen because I have fallen apart. Which of course has always been true... but sometimes it takes hard situations to know it again.

Since Honor is my One Word this year, it will be good to focus on taking the time to Honor myself by helping my body back to full health. Probiotics, clean eating, resting when I need to instead doing too much, not pushing myself beyond my energy limits, lots of water, going to bed earlier rather than later, getting outside more as the weather warms up, slowing down. It's always getting myself back to the basics. Honoring these essential, beautiful rhythms of life that bring me peace, health, and energy to be who I want to be for those around me.

My guitar and mandolin are still waiting patiently for me to return to them. The to-do list is still long, but when will it not be? Monday is going to be about easing back into the swing of things gently, Honoring renewal.

Time to begin again, again.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Published 2:47 PM by with 0 comment

Intentional Living: Welcome Spring

Looking back into my Unravelling the Year Ahead workbook from the lovely Susannah Conway, I'm pleased to see that many of my small and large intentions are beginning to blossom. On the first day of spring (yay, happy springtime!) it seemed fitting that I review my goals created in December for 2015. What can I be doing to further my pursuits? Where might I be falling short? What might not feel right for this season? What still needs gentle change?

My one word: Honor

Honoring God has looked like... time spent meditating and praying and reading snippets of my Bible out loud. And lots of looking for the secret messages He sends me!

Honoring Myself has looked like... trying to make sure I have time for music and/or art every single day. Lots of tea, fresh flowers (best five dollars every two weeks I'll ever spend), time to breathe. Sometimes it means letting that load of laundry go unfolded another day, or make a simpler (still healthy, hopefully) meal for dinner so I can take a half hour to regenerate my creative spirit. Taking time for me means that I have more energy and love and renewal for everyone/everything else. That is the truth.

Taproot's latest magazine, SONG, has been sweet music to my soul!

Honoring my Family has looked like... being intentional to BE with them, to put down the phone and step into intentional living, to spend time talking and laughing and resting with them.

Honoring my Friends has looked like... going out of my way to contact those who mean the most to me, by letter and text and call and face to face conversations and walks in the park as we chase littles around playgrounds. And I got rid of Facebook, which was a relief!

Honoring the Seasons has looked like... celebrating the holidays that mark change and growth, in special ways, some old, some new. Plenty of home-made cards, now that Harmony is getting to the age where she enjoys helping me make art to send to friends and family! Valentine's day was hugely fun in that way.

Today we woke up not too early. We have a ritual around breakfast: sing our morning prayer, eat together, then when I finish more quickly than Harmony does I read a Bible story to her from The Jesus Storybook Bible, then I read a passage from my Bible out loud. We sit with the windows wide to let the morning light in. We talk together sometimes. We sing several songs together as I play my guitar. Then we clear the table and prepare for the time ahead. I love the deliberate sameness that brings intentional Beginning to each day.

Today we celebrate the newness of springtime. We created an egg tree, in honor of blessed life that springtime represents and in anticipation of the Easter joy coming in a few weeks. We read books about springtime or that celebrate the seasons.

See note at bottom for titles!
We decorated "happy first day of spring" cards to send out with a spring poem inside. We cleaned the house all week (especially needed since we were all very sick last week) so that we can welcome the new season with a clean home. Harmony and I are about to dye more hard-boiled eggs after her quiet time.

We will spend the afternoon outside soaking up the sun, as she learns to ride her tiny tricycle better and better. This will mark day 79 of going outside every single day, something I'm calling #365daysofnature on Instagram!

I am happy with my life. I am grateful for the time and blessings I have been given.

May I continue to see the direction of where I am meant to go.

~ Prompt for March 20th: Intentions


Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts! I love seeing what you write.

*Here are the books we read today for spring! 

"Springtime for Jeanne-Marie", from The Adventures of Jeanne-Marie, by Francoise

"A Time to Keep: the Tasha Tudor Book of Holidays", by Tasha Tudor (gorgeous illustrations)

"The Story of the Root-Children", by Sibylle von Olfers (one of Harmony's favorites!)

"Birds: A Child's First Book About Our Most Familiar Birds", an early Little Golden Book

"Spring Story" from the "Brambly Hedge" series, by Jill Barklem

These books are great for ages two to six or seven years old. The Brambly Hedge stories are a little challenging for Harmony since she's not quite three, but she likes the pictures a lot. We love reading about springtime!
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Published 2:40 PM by with 2 comments

Find Where Your Comfort Is

Comfort is...

her little voice saying, "snuggle, mama, I need snuggles!"

curling up with the latest Taproot magazine and a warm cup of tea

the silent beauty of the fresh flowers on my table

walking up my front steps to hear faint sounds of the piano being played

lying on the lawn in the sunshine

lying on the lawn in the moon and starlight

finding secret messages in the words of my books and Bible

a quick nap on the yellow couch

reading aloud to each other

late night conversations with friends over drinks

feeling my fingers settle into well-loved favorite pieces on the guitar

folding paper cranes in the peaceful quiet of nap time

the art on my walls

my claddagh ring

his familiar, beloved smile

doing dishes while day-dreaming out the window

knitting away at a steady project

singing the songs to my daughter that my mother sang to me

waking early in the morning to lie in bed simply breathing and being before arising

eating bread fresh baked from the oven


letters from friends far distant

soup on chilly nights

light filling the rooms from all the lovely windows

closing my eyes and knowing peace

When I find what brings me comfort, I find that I am grateful once again, that I am graced beyond measure with many blessings. What do you find brings comfort to your body and soul?

~ Prompt for March 18th: comfort


Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts! I love seeing what you write.
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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Published 2:12 PM by with 1 comment


Speaking of secret messages yesterday? Here's what I read in a book of poetry this afternoon, as I was contemplating what it means to love the wideness and fullness and deepness of God. It feels sometimes like he is stretching the constellations of His love farther than we can see. What a dangerous, daring, baring, beautiful love he has for us.

Don't tell all of their 

They might
Count each other's moles
That reside in the shy

Then keep that tally strictly
To themselves.

God and I 
Have signed a contract 
To be even more intimate than 

Though a clause

Something about not drawing detailed maps 
To all His beautiful


~ Counting Moles by Hafiz, from The Gift

~ Prompt for March 14th: Constellation


Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts! I love seeing what you write.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Published 3:34 PM by with 1 comment

Secret Messages

Ever since I was very young, in single digits, I have loved codes, messages, secret writing, the like. My friends and I used to write each other notes and full-length letters in scripts only we could interpret. Even in high school I had a group of friends who knew how to write in Elvish. We didn't focus on how super nerdy we were, just how cool it was to be able to write Elvish!

It wasn't just about disguising what you were trying to say. It was also about giving each other secret messages of information and kindness and interest that could be seen only by us invited. Symbols of friendship, a hidden meaning in a hand wave or chalk-written message on the sidewalk... we reveled in the feeling of initiation into knowingness.

And then it wasn't just about speaking with each other. It became about finding secret messages in the world around us. An eagle swooped overhead. What was he saying? A stranger bought a drink at the coffee shop for us: a compassion sign. A child gave us a flower. What did the flower mean? A song with powerful lyrics came on the radio; it helped us see a hard situation with new eyes. We read a Bible verse which brought new understanding to a circumstance. Everything had a hidden meaning. We learned that God speaks in many ways through the created world.

Even as an adult I still do believe that everything can have magic and beauty and blessing, in a grace-filled kind of way. But it is not a dark, intense pressure of trying to dig out what something IS, no, not at all. It is an eyes-open, light-filled acceptance of what comes across our path, knowing that at the foundation of all things is Love. Life is viewed from the heart. The messages that come into our lives to see may not always be pleasant or positive, but if our deepest place is one of security in Love, then the messages we find will only allow ourselves to grow more into the person we are meant to be.

When Mandy at Messy Canvas began writing about Secret Messages, I was captured immediately. She was one of the first to bring me back to this childhood way of excitement over finding out what the universe held for me to discover, what God was whispering into my ear. She writes, "a Secret Message is a reminder of sorts for something you innately know at your core. Like a colorful fortune cracked out of a cookie at just the right time." So I am always on the look-out now for those Secret Messages on this road of Becoming. Sometimes they are in the form of written words, sometimes in the voice of a friend, sometimes in the actions of an unknown person, sometimes in a surprise or a nature experience or a gentle soul-whisper.

What have you seen lately?

What has been speaking to you silently?

What has been speaking to you out loud?

What has the Spirit been speaking to your heart?

What have you been speaking to yourself?

In the words of the amazing Mandy, "May you find {a secret message} that airs out your lungs, melts your heart, and bolsters your soul."

All art pictures in this post created by Mandy Steward

Whether you think that you can or think that you can't -  you're right. ~ Henry Ford

The only impossible journey is the one you never begin. ~ Anthony Robbins

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit. ~ Aristotle

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. ~ Anais Nin

Love doesn't always show up the way you think it should - where you think it must, when you think it could. ~ Radical Creative Sanctuary, Instagram

Being creative, for me, is simply about seeing beauty in the mundane. It's about noticing the sky and listening to the heart beat of our home. Being in the kitchen barefoot - yep, barefoot, because I need to feel the ground. There is no right way for it to look. It's just love and care and devotion to seeing the beauty in our every-day lives. ~ Carrie Anne Moss, Annapurna Living

... I don't know what exactly what thought or series of thoughts were gracing my mind at the time, but I can remember the love and contentment present in my heart. I've realized that I no longer seek to understand life, or people; instead I desire to create meaningful relationship with everyone and everything I come into space with; and I choose wisely, who and what I share space with. It's beautiful... I think the energy of my life is shifting from that of a seeker to one of radical embrace. I recall the snow was falling softly yesterday, and I just remember thinking - this is magic - as I watched it float effortlessly toward the ground. Bless the tiny details and mystical moments in time we are able to hold on to and share. ~ Soulinspired, Lindsay on Instagram

~ Prompt for March 14th: Secret message


Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts! I love seeing what you write. 
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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Published 3:48 PM by with 3 comments


Playing classical guitar and playing mandolin are two very different worlds.

Yes, they both involve music, being a stringed instrument, and possessing a relatively similar tuning, but that's about all they share. One focuses on classical music, a strict world of technical focus and accuracy of playing. The other can have a wide range of genres, from Irish to early music to bluegrass to folk to old time.

With guitar, I'm focused on improving my tone, playing the beautiful music that I adore so much, and enjoying the sound of the instrument that has drawn me in since I was four years old. It was my first musical love, and one that I will continue to love for the rest of my life, I'm sure.

With mandolin, I'm completely head over heels crazy for the fun new tunes that I've been learning, the excitement of performing and jamming with others (yay, I don't have to be by myself in a practice room for hours on end!), and the laid-back, happy ease of the musicians in this field. This has been a breath of fresh air into my musical endeavors, making me branch out of my comfort zone.

This morning I worked on learning the melodies of "Frosty Morning", "Gal I Left Behind Me", and "Piney Woods" on mandolin. Plus there was quite a bit of time listening to the Fuzzy Mountain String Band on CD!

This afternoon I practiced the first Gymnopedie by Satie (the transcription by Parkening) on classical guitar while sitting outside on the front porch as Harmony played nearby. I also did slow spotwork for tricky spots in other pieces. I'm so stoked to record my CD this summer!

This weekend I performed on mandolin with a local old time band for a dance at my favorite nearby dance club. It was SO much fun. My fingers felt like they were going to fall off after over four hours of playing, but it was totally worth it! Both the dancers and the musicians had a blast.

Next weekend I am performing classical guitar selections for a film festival. Vastly different audience, vastly different music. But I'm looking forward to this event just as much as the performance last night.

Thank goodness I don't have to choose just one instrument. What can I say... I'm just obsessed with music!

My instruments to play today :-)
The dance! My view from over the banjo player's shoulder on the stage.

~ Prompt for March 8th: Obsession


Participating in Write Alm's March prompts, daily words as guides for writing down what is in my head and heart. Entries might be long, might be short, might be posted here on the blog, or shared on my Instagram account. Do join me and others in sharing our thoughts with these prompts! I love seeing what you write. 
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