Saturday, March 23, 2013

Making Something New

Yesterday, I was in the mood to create, so I started to play with an idea that I've had for a bit of time now. (NOTE: This was inspired by Pinterest which Sarah TOTALLY got me hooked on and who was been aided and abetted by my sister, Kelly, who only stays on the Education page - what's up with that?) Anyway, I am always looking for ways to get my clients to work on skills independently, and this seemed to be a good way to start!

If you do not know what this is, you are not alone!

Lapbooks are becoming more and more popular as a schooling tool. Kids are making them, home-schoolers are using them, and there are several patterns for music education lapbooks out there on the web.

I was interested in these books as they seemed to be extensions of one of my interests which is file folder experiences. What concerned me the most about the templates already available were that they had lots of envelopes, flaps, and pictures to lift up. These are wonderful, but I have a rule that anything I spend lots of time creating HAS to be laminated so it has a chance of lasting past one session. Another rule of mine? It can be no larger than a file folder since I have limited storage space for things. So, I started to experiment.

The first experiment was a lapbook about music instrument families. I started off well - I decided to take one folder, fold it in on itself, and cut flaps from each of the new covers. I then used my computer to print out some challenge questions and answers for my clients. Questions included, "Name an instrument from the Brass family," and "Which instrument family do you play by hitting or shaking?" I used some label stickers and decorative stickers to increase visual interest, and then got REALLY stuck!

The problem? I had absolutely NO idea what to do with the remaining parts of the file folder. I had an inside part as well as the back of the folder that had nothing on it. I try very hard to respect copyright and other legal restrictions, so had no pictures for the lapbook. The pictures that I draw are not always the best quality, so I stopped working on this folder. I'll finish it when I have some instrument pictures that I like...

I absolutely CANNOT stop a project once I have started one, so I started a new lapbook centered around a different theme.

This one was about manners. Several years ago, many of my classes wrote piggyback lyrics around manners. We turned these songs into Powerpoint presentations and offered them to the rest of the school. As far as I know, no one has ever looked at the presentations. Sigh. I still have all of the songs and all of the presentations and was trying to think about using a lapbook to use music to address nonmusical goals. I started looking around my Therapeutic Music Experience (TME) file, and voila! There were the Manners songs.

To make the lapbook, I followed the same procedure of folding the sides into the center line. I cut flaps and started to decorate. I printed questions about appropriate responses to specific situations. The inner part of the flap has the expected manner. The center of the folder has the lyrics to all of the songs. I used stickers again and lots of scrapbooking paper to add some color. 

I laminated and trimmed everything and the lapbook is ready to be field tested with my clients. I think I have a group in mind, and I definitely have two young ladies in individual treatment who I will try this book on during their next sessions.

Next time I do this, I will try to make something functional for my kids with pervasive involvement on the autism spectrum. The current lapbook is too busy visually and requires lots of reading - way too much for those kids. It is now time to go back into the contemplation mode of my creative process and start over...

What to do next... hmmmm.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Can ANYONE Give Me a Hand?

Is this morbid? I find it FASCINATING!
So, I have some strange things in my house, but nothing more than my fake arm.

It is a strange thing that I picked up at some random Halloween sale (I hope it was at a Halloween sale, but I honestly can't remember - I do know that I bought it, though!). It is amazingly lifelike and a bit creepy as well, but this has inspired a Therapeutic Music Experience (TME).

As you know, if you read my posts on a regular basis, that I work with children and adolescents with developmental and psychiatric disorders. I have some students that will NEVER see the arm. I have a couple of kids who could do with a bit of spookiness and who will LOVE the arm!

Anyway, many of my students have issues with asking for assistance when they need it. Often, not asking for some attention leads to inappropriate behaviors that they could have avoided by asking for some attention.

So, here comes the TME...

I am thinking that the group will be mostly older students with pretty solid academic skills and a bit of an idea of abstract concepts. We will pass the arm around singing something like, "when you need a hand to help you, ask, ask, ask." When we get to the end of the simple song, we will practice the skill of asking for some help - either raising our "hand," or asking for help using our words!

Maybe we could practice "shaking hands." with the arm. We also have a pretty strict "no touching and personal space" rule at work, so we could use the arm for high fives and partner tag as well. Oh, the ideas just keep flowing!

What kind of strange things do you use as props in your sessions? I would love to hear them!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Quick Post!

I have 21 minutes until I start another webinar for music therapists, music therapy students, and others interested. As I am trying to keep myself calm and not jumping out of my skin as I get more and more nervous (typical for me prior to a presentation of any kind!), I thought I would dash off a quick post here.

Tonight's webinar addresses my favorite topic - being creative as a person. We are going to sing, play, and move tonight. This will be interesting because I will be using my very old Casio keyboard to provide us with music making opportunities. I have never done much collaborative music making using the Internet, so I'm not sure what will happen.

I find that I am enjoying these webinars very much! There is something really neat about being able to interact (well, sorta) with music therapists from all over the place while I am sitting in my home, shooing Bella-cat away from the computer. (Do you want to know a secret? I wear my pajama pants during each one of these webinars! I love being able to collaborate with MTs while wearing ultra-casual clothing.) 

There are other things about these webinars that I like. I now know a bunch of music therapists that I would have never met otherwise. My professional network has expanded greatly, and I love it!

I've gotta go get ready for this next webinar. If you are interested in more information about the webinars that I offer (FREE of charge), you will find that information on my website, , on the webinars and courses page. Hope to "see" you all soon!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Following the Instructions

One of my favorite quotes is:

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

I love the idea of having unlimited ways to grow, develop, create, and expand within the boundaries of instructions, rules, techniques, and expectations. I try to remember this statement when I am engaged in creative endeavors as well as when I am working with others...

The quote reminds me that my way is not the only way out there. It reiterates that I don't have to do things the same way every time. I can only be limited by how I view the world around me - if I get bogged down in the rules, I miss opportunities for expanding my limits.

I keep a copy of this quote, printed in a funky, large, green font, pinned on my home office bulletin board where I can see it every day. It has been there since my first, real (sorta) music therapy job and has moved with me wherever I have landed. The format of the quote has changed somewhat over the years, but the quote remains the same.

I like rules, structures, and restraints. I like them and feel most comfortable when the boundaries are clear and defined. I do not function well in situations where the boundaries are hidden. 

This post was quickly becoming a rant against people who do not follow rules and remain within expectations, but I am going to rein myself in.

Structure is a necessity for me as a therapist - I like to be able to plan which clients will arrive at my clinic at specific times. I enjoy being able to use the structure of music to assist clients in moving towards their therapeutic goals. I also thrive on being flexible in the moment. I can use elements of the structure of music to adapt the music to fit the present needs of my clients in each and every moment of their music therapy session. The interaction between therapist and client is not scripted, but the framework provided by the structure of the music and the theoretical philosophy of the therapist provides enough options for creativity and novelty in every session.


Structure is important. Rules are important. Follow directions, but explore your creativity within those directions and frameworks and expectations.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Updating the Music Files

I have an embarrassing number of CDs in my collection. Really, it's embarrassing how many CDs I own and store in my small house. Several years ago, I decided that I could no longer stand to have shelf after shelf after shelf full of CD cases. I moved my collection into many large books. In the process, I made sure that I copied my CDs onto my external hard drive.

Now, for some reason, my computer doesn't always remember that I have all of those files. So, there are times when I have to rerip some (and sometimes all) of my CDs.

I just finished updating my computer files.

It is nice to be able to see my collection. I have obscure pieces of music, popular music, and everything in between. It's fascinating what types of music are out there.

Need a version of The Circle of Life in Gregorian Chant style? I've got it. Need a karaoke version of a song from Andrew Lloyd Webber? I have at least one copy available for my listening pleasure. Want to hear Violet Eyes by the Meat Puppets? Yep, I can do that.

I enjoy music. (Well, duh! Of course I do!! How can you be a music therapist and not enjoy music, right?) Anyway... I have eclectic musical tastes and feel that I can best serve my clients by nurturing my tastes as well as experiencing the music that they prefer. So, my collection includes lots of songs that I would not usually choose as well as the songs that I love.

I have a new goal for myself. I will listen to a new song each week in an attempt to expand my musical familiarity and knowledge. I guess I need to figure out how I will do that...maybe my mp3 player...and my commute...and my car...hmmm.

Off to shuffle music to my mp3 player for listening and mind expansion.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

What to Do?? What to Do?? What to Do??

It's the second day of Spring Break, and I am looking for something to do...

Of course, there is the typical stuff that I SHOULD be doing - laundry, cleaning, cooking, throwing things away, and the various and sundry other things that have been waiting for me to "get to them." So, now I have to decide what I am going to do today.

Now, because I am a music therapist and a musician, I often sing to myself. This behavior has been increasing lately as I have been making up short mantras and singing them to myself. For example, "It is not my job to make everyone happy. They have to make themselves happy." This mantra is sung in a major key with lots of syncopation. Another current mantra is, "Spring Break is here." 

These mantras allow me to put my emotions into music. I like this for several reasons. First, using music allows me to regulate my breathing, my heart beat, and my muscle tension. Second, the lyrics encourage me to put my emotions into concrete phrases that I can acknowledge and then problem solve. The best thing, for me, is that once those emotions are out in the environment, I can start to figure out a way to fix my issues...

There is a very strong possibility that I will be singing to myself today. Good thing the cat is used to my (hee, hee) caterwauling. She'll turn her green eyes towards me and will just leave the room.

So, how would a decision song go? Let's see...

What am I going to do today?
What am I going to do?
What am I going to do today?
What am I going to do?

Maybe I will start the laundry,
Maybe I will grocery shop.
Maybe I will clean-up the craft room,
Maybe I will take a nap!

What am I going to do today?
What am I going to do?
What am I going to do today?
What am I going to do?

Maybe I will crochet a scarf,
Maybe I will make some gifts.
Maybe I will eat some ice cream,
Maybe I will take a nap!

What am I going to do today?
What am I going to do?
What am I going to do today?
What am I going to do?

There is my "What to do" song. I need to write it down and put it in my TME file for use with others later. There we go, that's one of the things that I am going to do today.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Vacating for Vacation

I am now, officially, on Spring Break.

The rest of the faculty at my facility have to go to an inservice day, but I do not! This is the benefit of being essential staff on inclement weather days - beautiful spring days off at a time of my choosing! So, rather than sitting in the music room, completing tasks that are completely unrelated to my job, designed to be "team-building." My idea of what is appropriate "team-building" looks VERY different from dancing the Harlem Shake. REALLY!

Anyway, it is time for vacation.

I feel strongly that the purpose of vacation is to "vacate."

In the vein of self-care, the next several days will be devoted to things home- related rather than job-related. Of course, being a music therapist, I cannot completely stop thinking of music as a therapeutic medium, but I am going to make what I want, do what I want, and focus on things that are more globally music therapy rather than on my facility.

So, it is now time for vacation. The only thing on my agenda for today is a doctor's appointment for the sole purpose of renewing my prescriptions. After that, I will do some grocery shopping while I fill my medications. Then, back to the sunshine and 70+ degree weather for the rest of the day. I am ready to take naps, make gifts, clean, and read books.

Ah, vacation.

By the way, there will probably be more posts this week as I start to get bored with my own company and will need to reach out!

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

There are times when I overextend myself. Is that really a big surprise to anyone who knows anything about me? Probably not. On the other hand, I tend to do better when I am busy, challenged, and constantly thinking about things that are going on around me.

I saw a post by a Music Therapist acquaintance where she was talking about the importance of self-care. This is always a challenge for me, but is something that is very important to talk about and think about all of the time. 

We are helpers by nature. You cannot be an effective therapist and be completely self-centered. There are times, though, when all of us need to focus on our "selves" rather than on others. Self-care is an important skill for a therapist to cultivate.

Personally, I often find myself in need of serious self-care when I am too busy. At the times when I have too much to do, too much to think about, and too many demands, I find it difficult to take time away from my clients and their needs. After being a therapist for a long time, I have learned that I have to refresh myself in order to be a better therapist. When I am not proactive in taking some time to simplify my life, my body rebels and just stops working the right way.

In researching a presentation that I recently offered to music therapy interns, I came across several articles and websites about self-care, burnout, and compassion fatigue. Here are some links to information that I found interesting...

So, now as I am currently sitting in my bedroom, writing this post, I am making plans for Spring Break. I always have grandiose plans for my school breaks including cleaning, organizing, projects, and catching up with friends. My reality often includes napping, frustration, difficulty getting motivated, and boredom. I am going to allow myself to nap. I am going to allow myself to be bored, but I am also going to set two goals for the break. I am going to go to the doctor to get my health checked (at a time when I am relatively healthy), and I am going to clean my craft room. There. 

I will make an effort to simplify my expectations for myself. While it is important to keep myself busy, it is also important to rest and take care of myself. So, for my vacation, I am going to vacate the role of therapist and just be a person for a while. Then, when I am finished with vacation, I will be able to be the therapist again.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Fleeting Thoughts

I am in a situation where I get these random flashes of (well - let's call it brilliance since there is no one else in my brain) brilliance that flash into radiant flame and then, POOF, dissipate into complete opaqueness...

I had an idea about a song just about fifteen minutes ago, but that idea is now gone.

This has happened quite a bit lately. I blame it on snow day schedules, the upcoming time change, exhaustion, lack of sleep, and some mystery illness that causes me to smell burning things all over the place (there is nothing burning around me at all!).

I am not worried about this creative roller coaster since I have been through this time and time again. Eventually, I will even out and start to remember things for longer than just a flash of time. In the meantime, I will walk around with a pad of super sticky Post-It notes and a pencil, just in case I need 'em.

I have always been interested in creativity. How do we encourage that little flash of thought into a reality? How do we keep coming up with new songs, new experience ideas, new ways to move clients from one life situation to another one?

What do you do to refresh your creative spirit?