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Showing posts from 2007
Snow Days in a Residential Treatment Facility Snow days present an unique challenge to teachers and therapists who work in residential treatment facilities. Someone needs to be providing supervision and active treatment for the residents, but snow days are dangerous to be out and about. What to do! When I first started working at the facility, we HAD to come in to work or be docked pay. Things have evolved into a more equitable process where we have essential and nonessential staff who come in. We have enough staff to provide a comfortable ration and all students receive music therapy on snow days. In return, I get snow day credit - time off at a later date (generally around Spring Break) to spend as I see fit. I feel the risk is outweighed by the benefits in this case. Snow days start with students sleeping in - the rationale is that all of the other students in the town get a relaxing day, so why shouldn't ours as well? We let students sleep until they wake up naturally. You'd…
Christmas is coming... And while I would say that the goose is NOT getting fat, I am certainly looking forward to the holiday season this year. I am officially finished with all of the holiday hulla-ba-loo that I am responsible for, and I am getting ready to kick back! Of course, there are the two intern evaluations I need to do this week, the senior intern to prep for a second interview, the two papers to write for Dr. C, and the cleaning, the cleaning, THE CLEANING! At least the shopping is finished! Back to intern talk - there is much satisfaction to be had as a clinical trainer. I am confident that the intern that is finishing her time with me will be happy as a therapist. She has great instincts when it comes to working with adolescents. I am nervous for her, but happy that she has a promising second interview with an apparently growing company. I am starting to get ready for the next several interns. The process of teaching someone how to do music therapy is much different from actu…
Conference is only half-way over! I am exhausted! I have been here for three days and still have two to go! I am not used to sitting still for so long. I am enjoying the socialization, the discussion, the debate, and the drama (to a point), but am ready to wear my jeans and a sweatshirt rather than the professional dress that is expected (by me only, but still...). I finished one of my presentations today. The next one is tomorrow afternoon, and then I AM FINISHED! I can kinda relax after that presentation. This is a very profession oriented conference for me, meaning that I am focused on things that are good for the Association and for the profession rather than for clinical use. There seems to be lots of interest in what I am interested in, so I hope that there will be some folks in the audience. I also hope that I can see this through the entire process and finish my dissertation! I can! I will! I have to! So, that will be my new mantra. I will add it to my repertoire and repeat it to …
Going to Kentucky, I'm going to the fair, to see a senorita, with flowers in her hair... I am in Kentucky on the Indiana border, in the great town of Louisville! I have never been to Kentucky before, and I am hoping to see it in the sunshine before I leave. It has been very dark and gloomy for the time I've been here. I hope the sun will shine soon. Anyway, I am here for the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) National Conference. We always choose an exotic location and then descend upon it like locusts for a weekend. A glut of music therapists is an interesting phenomenon for any city block. The singing, serenades, research presentations, and sessions start today as 1200+ MTs arrive from all over the world. My life in the professional world is rapidly becoming that of mentor (as a long-time friend of mine pointed out yesterday, much to my surprise!!). I always feel inadequate when I see what things are happening with the profession. I have to remind myself that I am also …
Time to go to Louisville! I am packed, the dishes are clean, and the laundry is finished. It is time to go on my annual sojourn to places far distant to commune with others of my type - yes, it is time for conference! I am ready. All I have to do is pack my backpack and then get myself to the airport. The cat is not excited about her stay at the kitty hotel, but she'll be fine. My clients are not excited about my absence, but they won't even miss me. One of my interns is staying and will run music therapy while we are gone. The people who will miss me the most are the staff members who have to run their sessions. They are always appreciative when I am gone!! I am ready to be professional and cordial. We will see how long that lasts, but at the moment, I am ready!
Conference Bound... ...and ready to go, I think! I always get excited and nervous about conference. I am excited to go present, see friends, learn new things about music therapy, and generally escape from things at home, but I am nervous about the same things at the exact same time. I often feel at the end of conference that I am not living up to my potential as a therapist - challenged by what others are accomplishing, and evaluating my own life by their achievements. Then, I look around at the audience in the presentations that I give, and I realize that others evaluate themselves based on me. What a humbling concept. Can't wait to see Christine and Lalah and Larisa again, and am even looking forward to seeing Lillie. Angie will be there, too! This will be a fun week, if I can ever get through the next three days! Bella will be a bit disappointed to be left behind, but she'll enjoy the kitty jail, I mean, spa! I hope to get some new ideas for applications and some professional…
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A Helping Hand...
For the October version of the public relations brochure that my facility sends out to friends and family, I was asked to write an article about music therapy. I love opportunities like this and relish the chance to offer both the official definition of music therapy and my own interpretation of music therapy. It is an interesting exercise to sit down and write out what you believe. I try to do this every couple of years, especially when I'm preparing to train others in music therapy skills. If you don't examine your own philosophy, I feel you run the risk of becoming stagnant and burning out of the profession. That hasn't happened to me yet. I think the philosophical review helps.
Beginnings...

One of the things I like to know about music therapists is how they found out about music therapy in the beginning. Here's mine.





My story starts with my mother, the Occupational Therapist. I knew what OT was and who OT's worked with and I liked the idea of being in a helping profession. I was always the kid that kids with special needs sought out - classmates, strangers, you name it, if there was a diagnosis involved, the kid would find me and quickly be my best friend. I also enjoyed singing and playing the trumpet. The singing is what eventually led me to music therapy. I went to a Girl Scout Wider Opportunity in 1984. The Wider Opportunity program offered professional experiences for older scouts. Mine was in Evansville, Indiana at the University of Evansville and was a fine and performing arts seminar. I spent two weeks in Indiana with 104 other scouts from around the country. I was a vocalist and in addition to master classes and choir rehearsal, we also atten…
Ta-Daaaa! So, only you, Tawnya, will be really missing me, but I'm back from a blogging hiatus! Today's topic... Interns, or Teaching the next generation! I love being a Clinical Trainer. I like the challenge of encouraging others to find their own way in the world of music therapy. It always opens my eyes to what MT is and can be when I see my interns learning and growing and discovering. I have two interns right now, a phenomenon that I have not experienced since the heady days of Gina and Lindsey. Training two is harder than training one - I can't always keep track of what I have told each one of them, so have to take copious notes! On the other hand, they are teaching each other quite a bit about music therapy. One of the reasons that I have been avoiding having two at once is the potential for personality conflicts. The two interns that are with me right now are well-matched. They are both teasers, sarcastic, and appear to enjoy each other as well as the clients we serve. …
Job Hunting I just gave some advice to a new therapist about accepting that first job. I remember those days of angst - Do I really want to be a music therapist here? My parents pressuring me to get any job that paid me some money. The interrogations every evening about what I did, who I contacted, how many resumes did I send out during the day. The best advice I received was from my parents. "Find a job and then focus on your career." I spent a little over a year working near my profession, but not as a music therapist. It took me 14 months to find any music therapy job. In the waiting time, I was a recreation leader for children with emotional disorders and was a QMRP/Administrator for a group home company. When the call came for the music therapy job, I was petrified of failing as a therapist. My dad, who is my sounding board, sat me down and asked me several questions. The first was, "Do you want to be a music therapist?" I did not know how to answer - I had nev…
More thoughts on the difference between therapy and education...
The best thing about therapy is that it is client-driven. While special education is supposed to be individualized, many times the individualization comes from the IEP goals. Curriculum stays the same and is applied to every student. Therapy, in my opinion, has to evolve with each client and during every session. I often make plans for sessions that go up in smoke as soon as the clients walk into the therapy room. For example, I planned a rhythm writing and reading game that required teamwork and listening, but the classroom came in and were engaed in several arguments. There was no group cohesion. Teamwork was not an option unless riots were the goal of the session. Junk the rhythm game plan - went to ribbon stick dancing. This allowed the clients to move around the room (great for centering the thoughts, tiring the body, increasing blood flow to the brain, and for calming!) and interact with only the persons that they w…
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It's A Small World, After All...
There is something comforting about being anonymous out here on the internet. I can post my thoughts out there and anyone can read it. Pretty cool. I often wonder who, if anyone, accesses this page. Fun to find out that some people do -

Today, I was sucked into the small world that I live in. I received a comment from a fellow music therapist out there in the web and then responded to a comment on the music therapy ListServ that has generated several requests for more information. There are music therapists out there who are doing the same thing that I am!! What a nice feeling to find a community way out here in rural life!

We are back in school. Students have returned to the music room for five school days now. We are getting back into the swing of things after 2 lazy weeks in the sweltering heat. I had to assist a student with maintaining his physical responses today - not my general role, but one that I take on if needed. Today it was needed. The …
Thoughts on Therapy... I was sitting here, on my second to last Sunday off from work, just thinking about what it is to be a therapist. I talked to my intern about education versus therapy on Friday - mostly the frustration that I share with the teachers at my school about why therapy has to have different rules than the classroom. Many of them do not understand the difference. It bothers me that Ihave not been able to express the difference to them in eleven years. So, it started me thinking - dangerous pasttime! More when I get organized.
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The end of vacation...
The end of vacation occurred today. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth as I ended my fruitless quest for the minimalist apartment and settled for less crap sitting around. After two phone calls from my boss - she started each conversation with "Don't panic, this isn't a big deal," I have concluded that I am ready to return to the daily pattern of work and work, and then work some more.

It is time to focus on being therapeutic again. I had a great conversation with a friend who is a professor. She reinforced all of the things that I do not like about academe - the hidden rules, the tenure-track, the isolation and the pressures to fulfill the role of perfection. I am still firm in my resolution to remain a clinician, even after I complete my education and effectively price myself out of a job!

There is a role for over-educated clinicians in the field of music therapy. I see this role as educational on a personal level - providing examples …
I love it when a plan comes together...
Or, in my case, when everything just starts to click! I found the drill power cord, the book I needed to read showed up, and I have found a Ph.D.-worthy research focus!!!! Life is good.

I also have an entire week of vacation left.

Sigh!
Getting Ready So, I've fallen deep into the great Lawrence triangle. Haven't heard of it? It's the lesser known phenomenon that is centered around my apartment. Basically, the Lawrence triangle causes things to disappear! Every little thing that I need disappears as soon as I need it. The adapter cord to the drill, the phone book, hammers, mops,...you name it, if I need it, it disappears. So, to fool the great Lawrence triangle, I am currently making archive copies of CDs for use at work and deciding how to use the songs in therapy sessions. I am also watching lots of movies during this break. The eventual goal is to have all of the things that I need to take to LMC in the car by next Saturday. I need to make several visual aid containers for the cabinets. I have several instruments to take back to LMC and lots of scarves, beanbags, and props that I kept at home after my sabbatical at KU. I've been thinking alot about the therapeutic process of fostering the skills of oth…
Frustrations or Challenges? You decide!
There are times when even the simplest of chores ends up frustrating me horribly! Right now, the chore is cleaning the apartment and then taking stock of what I have to take to work. I am in the middle of constructing a bookshelf for some of my books, and the drill has gone dead. I have a power cord for it somewhere, but I am at a loss as to where the cord is at this moment! The mess has taken over!!

So, at this point right now, I am stuck with an 8-foot, half-constructed shelf sitting on the living room floor waiting for 8 more screws. I have looked everywhere online for a replacement power cord - no luck - and will be deconstructing all of the progress that I have made in the past 5 days looking for the cord that I already have in my possession. All of this before I feel that I can tackle the materials and equipment that I need to sort through for work purposes.

My life is cluttered. It is amazing that I can accomplish anything in this much mess!…
I forget how much my neighborhood changes on July 31st.
I am generally out of town, hanging out by the pool on July 31st, but this year I am at the apartment for the great exodus! The problem with being around a college town is that the population shifts. My sleepy town is starting to rev up - getting ready for the new year. I will have new neighbors in the next two weeks. If I'm lucky, they will be similar to me - quiet, hard-working, hermit-like. If not, I will have to put up with screaming children who are unsupervised by their parents! Keep you fingers crossed!!!
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It has been a busy summer!



...and now it is over! I am currently in fall break, recooperating from a long summer working. It has not been a bad summer, but it has seemed long and tedious. I am ready for the fall to arrive.



Not much happening here. I am attempting to clean out the apartment and it is going slowly. I have decluttered several spots in the apartment, but the progress is slow. This is not new, but I really want to get things out of my life! We will see how long it takes to clear things out.



The summer started with a trip to CA to see Mom and Dad. Tawnya came with me as it was also a busman's holiday. We had to give an inservice for some of the most unorganized folks I have ever worked with! We arrived and found out that no one had a clue that we were supposed to be there!

I did get to spend some time on Santa Monica Beach just north of the pier. We also went to Universal Studios - lots has changed since I was there last! I highly recommend the rides - very fun!
We ended up …
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Why do I ever leave? I am truly happy in CA and hate the leaving part of every trip home! Is it no wonder that I am grouchy for several days after the journey? Just look at the things that are available in CA! Here are just a few...The LaBrea Tar Pits...Agapanthus...Universal Studios - Can you see me in there? It's not that I hate Kansas, I don't. But the lure of the ocean calls to me (I watched Pirates yesterday, can you tell??) and the ability to be close to home also calls. I love my job and things would be perfect if the job was in CA. I'll keep working on my boss.

California Travels...

We made it to CA with limited difficulties...detours through Oklahoma, cracked windshields, swerving Suburbans, and helpful truck drivers with limited dentistry. After a VERY long stretch in the car on Friday - 15 hours - we FINALLY made it to Grants, NM. Tawnya ended up sleeping on gross sheets. We left Grants at 6:30 am and drove until we made it home.

Tawnya spent lots of time in the car sleeping. She snoozed past desert scenery, mountains, and rain. I, fortunately, am able to entertain myself in the car. The alphabet game is one technique - I have rules, of course, (I am a "J") - only one letter per source - this is difficult when I am trying to find X and Z, but it does work. I also count down the miles and do math problems - how many hours will it take if I continue at my current speed to get to LA? Tawnya says that she can entertain herself in the car, she was just drowsy!!!

We are here now, getting ready to go shopping for various and sundry items …
Road Trip!!
Today, we're off for CA! I, of course, am up at 4:20 and waiting for a ride to arrive in the form of Tawnya. She will be here sometime between 8 and 9. The cat and I are already ready, but this is one of the perils of driving with a "P" (obscure Myers-Briggs reference). Once she arrives, we will drop Bella-cat off at the kitty jail/spa/hotel for a relaxing (??) stretch of 10 days! I feel so guilty about leaving her at the vet for the THIRD time in less than a year, but I think it will be the last until next Christmas. I hope so, at least. I'm not planning any other trips.

The best thing about going on vacation with someone is the degree of spontaneity that I have to adopt. I don't have our entire schedule planned out. This is a novel experience. I did "J" Tawnya into several agreements - namely, hotel reservations for this evening - due to the holiday weekend, and not looking at a tour book - just for my own sanity. The last and most important…
Birthdays...The good, the bad, and the ugly!

Why is it that birthdays can be such a tragic event in a person's life? My birthday, so far, has been just the way I wanted it. I am not extremely happy to be reminded that I am nearing 40, but time is inevitable, so I just embrace it. My birthday celebration will include chinese take out and chocolate. Interesting way to celebrate, isn't it! I will also do some laundry, pack for an upcoming trip, and watch movies that I have seen a million times before. Nothing different from any other night. Happy birthday to me!
The downhill slide... Believe it or not, I am ready to go back to work. I have always looked forward to returning to my routine after a break. I definitely need the breaks, but I also like the structure of my job. And, I love my job! Music therapy is something that I enjoy. It is as simple as that statement. I like music therapy. I like everything about it. I like the songs, the behaviors, the discussions, and even the research that goes along with learning more about music therapy. My passion is working with persons with developmental disabilities, especially those persons with diagnoses on the autism spectrum. There is such simplicity in how music affects us and how we use music in our lives to motivate us, keep us moving, engage our attention, and calm our minds and spirits. It is time to go back to what I love. Only two more days of vacation. I am ready.
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Aah...The Life of a Cat

I wish I was a cat. There is nothing more relaxing or decadent than the life of a housecat. Mine - ha, as much as a cat can ever be claimed by a mere human - spends the majority of her time stretched out on her kitty condo, sleeping in the sunshine. If she isn't sleeping, she is eating or meowing to let me know that she commands my every waking moment. At some point, she decided that she was responsible for getting me up in the mornings. At 5am, rain or shine, she is walking on the pillow, yowling until I get up and accompany her into the kitchen. She does not get fed in the morning, so I presume that her jaunts to the kitchen simply function to get me out of my nice, comfy bed. She rules the apartment with an iron paw and will not let me forget it!

The attitude of repose that comes when a cat is asleep is that of melted fluid. She simply places her skeletal structure aside and flows over every possible surface. I wish I could relax like that. The ultimate in…
Chipping Away... I'm slowly going through my apartment arranging, rearranging, and eliminating things from my life. I have only 5 days left of Spring Break and need to get busy, but I am borrowing a chapter from my friend's blog and am procrastinating. I have done lots this week, but there is much more to do before I am finished. I also have a trip to prepare for and several papers to write. Today's To-Do list: empty 5 boxes of crap and throw things out vacuum the hallway chase the cat outside two loads of laundry one load of dishes Progress will occur after I get off the computer. I wonder if music will make me go faster? Generally it does not...professional hazard, I guess.
Snow Days I love snow days. I go to work at the residential school where I am a music therapist, and we have a wonderful time! My friends who stay at home on school days do not understand why I continue to drive the 52 miles, one-way to my job when the weather is nasty, but I do. Here are some of the reasons: My boss does not mind if I come in later than usual - as long as I arrive safely Day students stay home, decreasing the case load by 20% No bus room! I get to see all students in half-hour sessions Classes are different, and students are in a state of shock at the change in routine The BEST reason is this... I get to take extra time off at Spring Break - 3 extra days! Today is a snow day for me. I got out of bed around 9 am, and then went to the store. I got home and napped with the cat. I'm getting ready to go to my part-time job, but I'm not in any hurry to get there. I did not have to work a 12-hour day yesterday or today. I did not have to go through the excruciating torture …
Quiet and Peaceful Thoughts The cat is on the back porch, yowling because I will not let her in... I'm practicing tough love. The apartment is quiet except for her occasional calls/demands for the door to open. I love Saturdays. Saturdays are my only day to be alone. I work the rest of the time and need a day to be isolated from other people unless I need to shop. I really try not to shop. I'm going to keep cleaning, doing my laundry, and throwing things out of my life! Then there will be room for more stuff acquired through my adventures in shopping...Dollar Tree, here I come! Peace... Quiet... Saturday...
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Personal Therapeutic Choices and Requirements

I have come to the conclusion that I am a person who needs open spaces and blue skies to be completely happy. This realization has struck me in March after extremely changeable weather, where I have the opportunity for open spaces but not always for blue skies. This picture is from one of the few places where I am always refreshed and renewed - outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, near Winslow.

The therapeutic aspect for me is the sense of being small in a vast space. This is unusual as I take up lots of space. Empty spaces and blue skies offer me the opportunity to spread out and feel completely clear of everyday things. There are no issues with personal space out here - there is plenty of room for everyone! I always feel the silence in places like this...an unusual craving for a music therapist perhaps, but one I experience none the less.

My personal goal in life is to live somewhere where I have all the space I want to be completely happy. We sh…
So, my firend, Tawnya - the only one I suspect of reading this blog - if there are others, please let me know, has been bugging me to write more. I have been busy and less inclined toward sitting at the computer for periods of time, so I have not been active lately. Sorry, Tawnya.

Here goes the first March entry...

February vs. March I hate the month of February for a variety of reasons. First, here in this state, the month is a very unorganized time frame that incorporates beautiful spring-like days in the 70's and then immediate winter-like days in the -10's. There is little to no indication of when these weather changes will occur, so you have to bring along your entire wardrobe to stay warm or cool. Second, the place where I work always goes loopy in February. People scoff when I say this, but eleven years of February trends do not lie! The kids are restless because the staff are restless, sick, overworked, fired or simply missing! This adds strain on the folks who actually …
Ellis Paul ... So, I first heard him on the soundtrack toMe, Myself, and Irene singing "The World Ain't Slowin' Down" and now I'm hooked on his voice! I've heard him alot lately on Trail Mix and in other strange places - just serendipity, really. I am beginning to become a fan.
Snow Days and Sickness

I woke up yesterday morning after a sick day on Monday to see lots of snow on the ground. I was feeling so-so, but the thought of a snow day at the school where I worked motivated me to
get up and get going. I work as an essential staff member on snow days at the special-purpose school where I work. When students live there year-round, there is no such time as staff time-off. The sacrifice of driving to the school in the snow is well paid off in release from excruciating inservice days and conferences - the worst things for me to have to do!

So, I got up and started my day. No breakfast at home, wasn't quite up to it yet, and then drove to the school. It took me 30 minutes more than usual, mainly because I got into an accident the last time we had bad weather (but no snow day!) and still haven't had my car fixed from that kerflaffle! I stayed at 35-45 mph the entire 52 mile trip.

Mistake #1 - breakfast -biscuits and gravy with the students
Mistake #2 - lunch …
Back to basics...
Rhythm is still working. It always surprises me that the simplest elements of music are the best for communication and relationship building. It is very functional for elementary-aged students to sit and play with rhythm instruments for a 50-minute session. They start to interact with each other, they establish eye contact, and they start to listen to things outside of themselves. The rhythm provides the structure.

One of my favorite quotes...

"Structures are restraints - a way of limiting.
What you can build within restraints and structures is almost limitless."
-- Coretta Kent

Providing that structure increases the opportunities for creativity and communication. Just a thought.
February in Kansas is not the most predictable month...Yesterday it was 56 degrees and sunny - today, cloudy and 29 degrees. This definitely has an effect on my students and on my therapeutic skill. I find myself having to go back to the very basic of basics during February - rhythm, rhythm, RHYTHM! The best things to do are the easy, simple, important things. Like finding the beat and coordinating your movements to the beat. Just relaxing into a piece of music is an important skill. What a concept!
So, my current dilemma is finding a topic for a project that I am interested in...Difficult these days. There are lots of things that interest me about music therapy...how did MT become part of the treatment for persons with developmental disabilities? How does music affect the brain? What are the issues that early music therapists faced in getting started with their jobs? Too many questions, not enough interest in any of them! Ah, the life of a Ph.D. candidate!
Getting Older - Original lyrics by MJL, MME, MT-BC

Pains in my elbows, pains in my knees,
Sittin in the doctor's office, scared as can be,
Tryin to figure out just what is wrong with me,
Fallin apart at the seams.

I guess I'm getting older,
Strange as it seems.
When I look in the mirror,
My younger self I see.
I guess I'm getting older,
While my head doesn't comprehend,
My body is screamin' "Slow down,"
And I just can't pretend.

So, this is a work in progress, and I haven't been able to fit in cervical examinations or mammograms, but stay tuned!
Aaah...Visits to the doctor are a great way to remind you that you are getting older. I spent the day running around with my students, singing Groundhog carols at the top of my lungs...Look them up, they are great, especially the one that starts, "There's a groundhog leg sticking out of the snow, so we know that he must be in there!"...and then went to two doctors.

There should be a song about cervical exams and mammograms - I think I'll write one!

More later.
The snow is falling, the cat is purring, and I have been inspired by others to start this blog up. I've had the account for 10 months and have only posted one thing. What a slacker!!

Random thoughts on music therapy.

First, there are days when you should stay in bed. This was one of those days. The moon is approaching fullness and the snow storm started around 10 am. Both of these things, combined with new staff members and kids with autism and behavior disorders made for a bad first session. It got better.

Will I ever find my niche in therapy? Just a random thought.

Going to go feed the cat.

mj