Wednesday, May 29, 2013


This is a week of vacating all of my responsibilities. I enjoy weeks like this - times away from most of the responsibilities that I usually have during any and all weeks.

This vacation started like most of my others - with a long car trip. I drove through the Painted Desert and five states on my way to my final destination, Southern California and my family.
I've become very good at taking pictures out my car window while streaking down the Interstate. Here are some of the results...

Vacations are something that I didn't really think about before I started to work full-time. As I have become an experienced therapist, I am more and more appreciative of the opportunity to leave everything behind in an effort to relax and refresh.

It is important to leave things behind every once in a while. I do not do this easily. I spend much of my vacation time corresponding with music therapists from all over the world - I find it difficult to completely disconnect. I always find myself thinking that I should be writing a song or clearing out things in my home rather than simply enjoying a moment of relaxation. I have a book for writing down ideas for Therapeutic Music Experiences, so I can jot down ideas when they arrive. I cannot access social media easily, so I have to make lists about what to when I can access the computer. I try to keep myself in a relaxation mode, but it is becoming more and more difficult these days.

Why is it so difficult to leave things behind? Why is it difficult to relax?

The best thing for me is a period of time of enforced schedule changes. Right at this moment, I am far away from my home, I do not have all of the things that I need to complete any of my current projects, and I have nothing on my calendar for the next three days.

This is an unusual circumstance for me, and I feel a bit uncomfortable about the entire situation. What am I going to do to fill my time? Why didn't I bring my book to read by the pool? When will I get my laminating done for summer school? What can I do in the next five minutes that will enrich me as a person?


There are sometimes when you have to leave everything behind you. I am constantly challenged to do this very thing. I have to consciously tell myself to take things easy, not to brood about silly stuff, and just enjoy the relative peace and quiet.

This week has been a busy vacation. I drove out to California for my brother's wedding and am staying with my sister as my parents' house has been full of my nephew and, occasionally, my brother. We eat out lots (difficult for me due to digestive issues and strange food allergies), we stay up late, and we spend LOTS of time in the pool - the nephew is discovering the joys of swimming. When I get back to my house, I will need some vacation time to recover from my vacation.
Isn't that a funny thing?

By the way, this was one of the views from the wedding reception! Can you beat this for a vacation?
As an introvert, I often need to spend some time by myself to get refreshed. I do not get that time on vacations, and ESPECIALLY on this vacation. There has been limited time for me to simply sit quietly by myself and get bored. Boredom has really been a goal for me during my recent vacations - I want to get so tired of being by myself that I need to get back to work in order to be around other people. This vacation has not been that sort of vacation, so I will be happy to have another long car trip as well as four days to myself once I get back home. 

A break from my break...

Happy vacation, all!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Sense of Accomplishment

Yesterday, I posted about a to-do list. Something I like to do to make myself feel organized. I am pleased to report that I finished almost everything on yesterday's to-do list, and I am feeling good about my day. 

I spent my day alone, cleaning and organizing. As I have repeatedly said on this blog, I am a packrat of a person, so cleaning and organizing often takes me several days. I am constantly on a quest for being organized in my home life and would love to be a minimalist, but just can't bring myself to throw away my notes from school or give away my textbooks. This contributes to my packrattiness. (Gee, for some reason, spell-check doesn't like that word! It suggests attractiveness instead.)

I get a sense of accomplishment when the bathrooms are clean, when you can see lots of carpet, and when the dishes are completely finished.

It interests me that, while I am a messy housekeeper, I am an organized therapist. My work space has more organization than my home space. I cannot function when things are too disorganized in my work space. So, I organize, label, arrange, and rearrange my space to accommodate my needs at work. 

In the next several months, my facility is getting ready for a major renovation. I am not going to be going back to my current music room when the renovation is finished - this distresses me as it seems to indicate that my beautiful 29' by 17' spacious room will be replaced by a small, cramped area that will not offer the same opportunities that I have at this time. I also get to spend the next contract year doing cart-based music therapy while sharing a small closet area with the Art therapist and my intern. Things will change.

I am hoping that I will continue to feel a sense of accomplishment as I am trying to figure out how to safely transport instruments and materials all over the campus. I hope that I will have many meaningful music therapy moments as I have to rethink the use of music as a therapeutic modality with my clients. 

We will have a graduation ceremony today for one student who is leaving our facility. This ceremony also leads to a sense of accomplishment as we watch one of the clients that has been with us for several years move into adult programming. Over the past few years, we have discovered that this student, while nonverbal, communicates very effectively. He likes to dance, especially to the song, YMCA, and gets real enjoyment out of being in the music therapy session. It is with pride, joy, and sorrow that we say goodbye to this young man today. (We will be dancing the YMCA after he has officially graduated, by the way!!)

Today, I can leave home knowing that things are pretty well organized and ready for my return. I hope that you have such a sense of accomplishment in your life.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The To-Do List

I am a list maker. I enjoy writing things down and organizing myself into planned completion of each item. Today my list is all about getting my home and car ready for vacation.

I am trying to organize my life into a vision of what I want to be. My major life plans have changed recently, and I find myself envisioning a future that is significantly different than the one I thought I would have. So, I am making a to-do list...

  1. Be happy
  2. Love my job
  3. Be around people I love
  4. Be away from people I find toxic to any of the above
There. A to-do list for the future.

Now I'm off to complete some of my list items so I can feel like I am ready to go. See you all soon!

Monday, May 20, 2013

It's A Small World After All...

I thoroughly enjoy getting to know music therapists from around the world. It is wonderful how social media has exponentially increased the amount of contact with people from all over the world. It is crazy to think that there used to be times when I felt like the only person in the world who believed in the power of music as a therapeutic modality. That is definitely no longer the case.

You know the game Six Degrees of Separation? You have to find a link between two seemingly unrelated people within six connections - some people call it the Kevin Bacon game. It is not difficult to do within the music therapy community and is becoming less difficult every day.

I "met" a new music therapist yesterday and had a nice conversation with her about being a music therapist as well as developing new ideas. We found two mutual friends within seconds and talked about a bunch of topics. It was fascinating to find out that we knew several of the same people and had probably passed each other many times during our years as therapists.

How strange to realize that we went from strangers to acquaintances due to something I wrote about on a Facebook group.

This year at the AMTA National Conference was the first time I felt like I was no longer a nameless face in the crowd. It interested me how many times people walked past me, did a double take, and came back to me saying something like, "How do I know you?" or "Are you Mary Jane?" I realized that these connections were 100% due to efforts to use social media more effectively to connect to other music therapists. 

So, thank you, social media, for increasing the number of connections that I have in the music therapy world. It is great to realize that, even though we are literally a half a world away, we all enjoy music and love using it with our clients in each of our exotic settings.

Thank you, friends, for being there!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Library Update: Week 3-ish

FAIL! I did not read nearly as much as I had originally intended. I will NEVER get to my next reward level!! I'm going to start over in my count - back to one solid week of reading and then, special dessert!

Oh well. In my defense (because I always need to have a defense to justify to myself when I don't do what I had planned), this was a busy, crazy week. I did get some reading in - a bit more of Baker & Wigram's Songwriting text and a review of my old Sheet Music Magazines, but nothing was really in-depth or all that relevant to what I do on a daily basis.

So, back to the plan.

I want to read the equivalent of 60-minutes per day. The readings will be on music therapy techniques, theories, or therapeutic music experiences. I will stay within my own library offerings (translation: the scads and scads of texts that I have already purchased and use sparingly). I will read a bit of whatever tickles my fancy at the moment - there is no need to start at the beginning and read straight through. I will take notes and attempt some form of critical thought and integration into my own clinical process and philosophy.

By doing this, I think that I will further enrich my awareness of music therapy as a treatment modality, will provide more meaningful therapeutic experiences for my clients, and will be more effective in explaining music therapy to those who simply do not know.

I am also thinking it may be time to increase this into a social media group event...


Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Week of Crazy, Random Happenstances...

This week was just plain surreal. You know, one of those weeks when everything is just a bit off? It wasn't necessarily a bad week, but there were some strange things happening all around me.

Some of the things that have been happening can probably be chalked up to end-of-the-year school situations. The paraprofessional who deliberately defied me in a music therapy session will not do that again - I'm sure that she just wasn't thinking (ULTRA SARCASM HERE!). In addition, the series of hysterically giggling music therapy clients were probably just feeling the excitement of being near the end of the year (I'm not at all upset about the giggling - it was contagious and uplifting, especially after insubordination!). 

Some of the situations were not related to the school year at all.

Two days ago, the construction company working on a new assisted living facility down the road opted to cut a 6 foot wide ditch in the only road to both my facility and another facility. The only road, mind you! Of course, they decided to cut through the road 15 minutes before the buses arrived to drop off our day students. They had filled in a ditch with gravel, but neglected to consider the effect of a car's weight on a pile of gravel. So... as the first bus pulled up, there were a bunch of construction guys staring at a car that had started through the gravel pile, started a huge erosion problem, became stuck, and blocked the only option for entering not one, but TWO major businesses in the town.

The bus line backed up quickly. We had to use the parking lot of another facility to unload kids from their buses. Then, we had to walk our students (many of them with multiple symptoms associated with their diagnoses and who are VERY resistant to changes in routine) past a 20-foot pile of dirt, through the soaked grass, around the bulldozers, and up to the school building. Now, some of the teachers were in their classrooms, doing their normal morning routine, but many of them were helping with the buses. This led to further interruptions of routines as students had to go to places where they could be supervised.

The afternoon bus routine included walkie-talkies, the principals out in the street directing traffic, and more hysteria as we had to bodily stop drivers in their vehicles from driving around the variety of roadblocks and people directing traffic. (It is amazing how many drivers seem to think that they don't have to follow directions!) I had an opportunity to calm the principal down after a consultant blatantly zoomed past all of the staff, both of the principals, and placed some of our students in danger! (It probably didn't help that the consultant showed up in a Porsche Carrera and just zoomed past everyone with a cutesy wave when we tried to stop her!)

I got yelled at for not being out at the buses 20 minutes early when the situation first started. I explained that no one had informed me that there was a problem, and that I had actually started my bus duty 10 minutes earlier than the other two bus duty people. The person who yelled at me stated that she had some problems with kids who looked at her and asked, "But, where's Mary Jane?" They didn't think that she should be taking them off the bus and wanted to see me (I guess to know that it was fine that this semi-stranger was interrupting their routine). Fortunately, by this time, I had seen the complete absurdity of the entire situation and had moved into laughter.

Later in the day, I had a music therapy session with my students who have multiple medical issues. All of these clients are nonverbal. Most use wheelchairs for ambulation, and all have wonderful senses of humor. I enjoy the classroom session immensely. All of the students are day students, so the entire classroom had been through the bus room fiasco. Their buses had to go to an alternate parking lot at the north side of the facility because there was no way that their wheelchairs could manage to cross the gravel pit, the ditch to get to the grass, or the wet, grassy fields between drop-off and school. They had had an adventure getting to school. So, we wrote a song about the morning of "Our Crazy Day."

Using a basic blues pattern, we started to write the lyrics. When I got here this morning, the bus couldn't get through because the construction company had ruined the road... It went on and on about how the bus driver had to turn the bus around and take everyone on another drive. We finished the first verse describing how it was just the start of a very crazy day. After we finished the lyrics, it was time to improvise!

Each student chose what to do during the improvisation. One student opted for the drum set - he really likes the cymbals more than anything else! Two students indicated that they wanted keyboard instruments, and the last student in the group decided to use the microphone. I found my camera, and we started to make music.

It was wonderful! A group of kids that do not usually get much credit for being able to do anything (but only by those folks who do not know these kids!!) made music together! The musical accompaniment for our song ended up being perfect for the song itself as well as for the day - at times chaotic, disorganized, and crazy! Eventually the music became more coherent and communal. They found their group groove. It was a wonderful experience for me, both as a music therapist and as a part of that musical community.

I am so happy that I was able to film the students doing their thing. While I am not able to share any of the experience with anyone outside of the facility, I was able to share the experience with their classroom teacher and demonstrate what music can do to help those with the quietest voices express their thoughts and emotions. In addition, we captured some of the fun that we had.

Music therapy moments like the one described above are what keep me going. I can deal with the insubordinate paraprofessionals (though a particular one will not be welcome in my sessions again), the often ridiculous demands from administrators, the lack of budget, and the problems with equipment because I get to watch my clients make music in their own way every day. In case you haven't figured it out by now, I LOVE MY JOB!
Happy music making, everyone! Keep singing, even when especially when things around you are absolutely crazy!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Just in Case You are a Cat Person...

I have some strange likes on social media, including several blogs that I do now want my father to know that I enjoy... one of those bloggers sent a link about a website that turned your writing into cat font! I have to admit, I REALLY liked it!

Let's see if it worked!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

The Library Update: Week 2

This week, I found reading for a set amount of time per day to be a HUGE chore. Nevertheless, I persevered and got a second week of reading into my brain. 

This week's reading topics? Ethical Thinking in Music Therapy (Dileo), Music Therapy Reimbursement Best Practices and Procedures (Simpson and Burns), Models of Music Therapy Interventions in School Settings (Wilson), and Music Moments to Teach Academics (Nichols). I also spent some time in Music Therapy, Sensory Integration, and the Autistic Child (Berger).

My reading technique is based on an attempt to refresh and extend my knowledge of music therapy theory through reading the textbooks that I already have in my library. I grab a book off the shelf that interests me in the moment and read as much of it as I can. When I get tired of the topic, I switch to a different book. I have included my songbooks and "things to do" books into the category of "texts" when I need something a bit lighter than ethics or brain construction.

Some of my resources are dated (I purchased many of them before the current financial downturn), but they are still valid and are often relevant. The portions of the texts that are no longer relevant are very interesting to me from an historical point of view.

The most interesting topics from this week's foray into the library have been sensory integration and ethics. I was "raised" in a behavioral music therapy educational program and left that theoretical zone during my internship where I was immersed in sensory integration focused music therapy treatment. Reading the text by Berger functioned as a great reminder of that time - remembering that we are all sensory beings that have different ways to interpret the information that is perceived by our sensory systems. I appreciated the reminder that I should remember to consider all of the sensory systems whenever I interact with any person.

Week two (and a half) is finished. It is time for a special dessert (as a reward - I am still very much a behavioral therapist!).

Berger, D. S. (2002). Music Therapy, Sensory Integration, and the Autistic Child. Jessica Kingsley Publishers: London.

Dileo, C. (2000). Ethical Thinking in Music Therapy. Jeffrey Books: Cherry Hill, NJ.

Nichols, K. L. (2001). Music Moments to Teach Academics. Tree Frog Publications/Kerri-Oke Publications: Lacey, WA.

Simpson, J. & Burns, D. (2004). Music Therapy Reimbursement Best Practices and Procedures. American Music Therapy Association: Silver Spring, MD

Wilson, B. L. (2002).  Models of Music Therapy Interventions in School Settings. American Music Therapy Association: Silver Spring, MD.


Friday, May 03, 2013


This is my 400th post on my blog.


Now, you may be thinking that I will have something really exciting or profound to say, but you will probably be disappointed as I am not really in a contemplative mood right now. I am simply relieved that I have made it through a work week without having a breakdown. SCORE!

I spent time this week engaged in games with my clients. We played a variation of Kim's Game - memory game - using audio discrimination to identify played and unplayed instruments. My students were surprisingly good at remembering what was under the blanket and not played. It was fun to listen to them as they called out the names of the instruments (even the difficult ones like the kokiriko) or yelling about how the instruments are played! That was fun.

I also spent time reading parts of my library books, thinking about the ethics of being a music therapy internship director, and entertaining a visitor from another program.

The last thing that I did was to avoid people who are toxic influences in my life.

I am ready to get ready for the next 400 posts!

Thanks for coming along on the journey.