Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Preparing for the Next Adventure

So, today is the day for my first round of tests and procedures. I was up at midnight and at 3am and am now sitting here typing about my anxieties about this next week. Thank goodness for journaling, even if it is a public blog out there for anyone to read. There is something about having a place to put my thoughts down to see and been seen that helps me organize and accept my responses to things.

I'm going to the hospital today for a series of tests, an EKG, and colonoscopy. All of these things are new to me, and my natural bent towards being a weenie when it comes to medical things is starting to take over. I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, and I'm really tired of being scared to do things. Everyone tells me that I'm going to be fine, and I know I am, but that doesn't really assuage the feelings of anxiety that are sweeping over me again and again.

So, it's time to breathe.

It's also time to clean the kitchen, so I'm going to do that. I'll post this after my procedures for the day are over, so there will be an update... 

The next day...

Well, the colonoscopy was interesting. I was awake and alert for the entire procedure even through all of the medications that they put into my veins. I watched the scope go through my innards and saw all of the bits and pieces that are giving me trouble. It was interesting, but really not what I wanted to do - I wanted to be completely OUT!

My next step is surgery. This will also be a new experience and adventure. I guess it's pretty good to go for 43 years with only having wisdom teeth extracted. Here we go. It will be an adventure. That's it - an adventure!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Medical Anxiety

I am a wimp when it comes to medical issues. I have always been this way. My mother reports that the pediatrician who evaluated me after birth stated that he had never seen a child lift her head off the table and watch him walk around before. He was a bit freaked out, and apparently I was as well!

My regular pediatrician got very used to my screams and unhappiness whenever I saw him. I would start to scream when I saw his office nurse in the grocery store (poor woman!). There was one time, though, when I reacted to him in a completely different manner.

I was about three years old and had some fever-induced seizures. My parents took me to the emergency room where my pediatrician was doing rounds. He came along with an entire gaggle of student nurses, and, when I saw him, I smiled, opened my arms, and gave him a huge hug. He took the hug and stood there patting my back and rocking me back and forth. He looked at the nurses, and said, "This child is REALLY sick. If she was in her right mind, she would NEVER let me get this close to her much less hug her." I think he was thrilled by the hug, but very concerned as well.

Medical anxiety is not something that I have outgrown (unfortunately), but I no longer scream when the doctor or the nurse enters the room. I have managed to control my impulses a bit better than that in recent years. It continues to be a struggle, though.

Recently, I have been to lots of new doctors, met lots of new nurses, and have had medical experiences that I have hoped to never have! Those new experiences will continue as I go into surgery and stay in the hospital for the first time since birth! As she was the first time, my Mom will be here this time as well.

I've been getting things ready at home and at work. Yesterday, I was talking to a friend who works in National Office, and she reminded me to take my mp3 player with me to the hospital. I hadn't even thought about that! How strange and funny that a music therapist wouldn't even place her mp3 player on the list! Shows you how anxious I am.

I will just keep breathing, listening to music, and singing throughout all of this adventure.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

8,300 and Counting!

It amazing that this blog has been viewed 8,300 times. I'm humbled by the idea that others actually read what I have to say. Thank you, readers, for looking at this little page! I appreciate it!

Today, I went to work on a day when I don't have to so I could sort all of my music therapy stuff into three piles - Trash, closet storage, and music therapy office. I did it. All of the stuff (and I have lots of it) is ready to be moved. I'm hoping that someone can move it soon since my life is going in another direction right now - away from work and into solving my medical issues of the past seven months.

Hopefully, if I am not the one who moves stuff around, it will all be finished when I get back to do music therapy. Are there any moving fairies out there?? Anyone??

This next year will be challenging on many levels. The first is the actual challenge of not having a space to do music therapy. I'm the first to admit that I've been REALLY spoiled in my career. I've always had a music therapy home. Of course, that home was sometimes a closet, sometimes a cafeteria, but most often a room all to myself. Of the four homes I've had at my current job, this last one has been the best. That leads to my second challenge - a new space once this renovation has been finished - a room that will not be appropriate for the type of therapy I do now. The third challenge should be the first thing that I'm thinking about, but it isn't. That is the challenge of changing the way I do therapy with my current students. They have been a bit shocked to hear that we will not be having music therapy in the music room this next school year. No one has a concept of music therapy on a cart, so it will require us all to follow a new learning curve.

New challenges ahead, an end to the bad antibiotics in sight, and, hopefully, there will be an end to the constant medical issues that are happening within me right now. I just have to survive the next week.

At least the room is ready. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sinking and Going Down Fast

Do you like medication side effects? I, of course, don't, but it is a fact of my life right now. The medication that I'm on causes me to feel depressed in addition to helping me feel better as far as pain goes. I find that this manifests itself in a couple of different ways.

First, I find that I am happiest when I am around my clients. I still love making music with people, but I also want them to cancel their sessions so I don't have to do anything. Instead of my usual enthusiasm for making sure that my clients have the treatment I think they deserve, I am willing to cancel, if needed.

Second, I overreact to the most stupid things. Yesterday, I FINALLY got to see the plans for the new music room. I was not happy and started to cry when I saw the space. I have real concerns about the functionality of the space itself and my fears were not assuaged by any means. Actually, I now have more concerns about the space that music therapy is being crammed into.

Third, I am taking things much more personally than I am sure that others intend.

One of the things that I have found over the past six months of pain, uncertainty, and medication side effects, is that my current feelings will get worse, but then they will get significantly better. I just have to acknowledge the feelings, own them, and understand that some of what I am feeling and responding to is not intentional. I also need to make sure to use my frontal lobe to check some of my impulses...it's not a good idea to go talk to the facility's CEO at the moment, MJ.

When I'm involved in situations like these, it makes me wonder what my students are going through. It took me two repetitions of these medications, several comments from family members about my horrible attitude, and a couple of dark crying jags for me to figure out that I was being chemically altered in ways that I don't enjoy. Can you imagine what a 6 year-old with a diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum is trying to figure out?

It's time to go to work, try not to cry over stupid little things, and get the day started. Thank you for reading and going on this journey with me. Only five more days of medication and then I should be back to normal(ish) behavior.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Relax Into the Now

One of the things that constantly challenges me is relaxing. I do not find it easy to simply sit and do only one thing. I often do not feel that I am using my time wisely unless I am doing more than one thing. For example, at this very moment, I am blogging, watching a new television show, listening to a load of laundry churning away, and thinking of things I can do with my clients next week during sessions.

It is difficult to just sit somewhere. This is probably why I do not like meetings and inservices. I have to simply sit and listen to someone who may or may not be speaking about something that relates to me or my role at my facility. I often take a notepad or my laptop to meetings to keep myself occupied and multitasking the entire time. It really is a shame.

I find it hard to simply relax, to float, to not make lists of things to do. So, I don't. I keep myself going, find new challenges, and keep multiple tasks going at all times.

Then, I hit a wall.

If you've been reading my recent posts, you know several things about me. First, I am not feeling really well. Second, I have to plan a major surgery pretty soon. Something that may not have come across clearly is that I am on some pretty messed up medications for this illness that I have. The medications have some side effects that really mess with me. Among them, nausea and depression. Not exactly what I want to be doing right now, but my body has different ideas about what I need to focus on at this moment.

This is my current wall.

My problem with this is that my internal happenings affect my external interactions. It is difficult for me to maintain my therapeutic relationships at a level that my clients deserve when I have to concentrate on not vomiting all over the music therapy room. (Was that too much information?? Probably - sorry.) So, I have some choices to make about how I will be interacting with my clients in the next several weeks as I am on medication and getting ready for surgery.

One of the things that I will focus on during the next week and couple of days (the amount of time I have providing music therapy for the rest of the summer session) is encouraging clients to be active in making music - with or without me.

So, now it is time to start forward into the work week. I am equipped with a case of ginger ale, a cooler to keep things cold, and a current need for mashed potatoes - the real kind with lumps in them! It is time to relax into what is going on now. I am sure that I will figure out what my clients need as they arrive in the music therapy session. I am sure that each client and every group will find benefit in the interaction between music and myself. I am going to relax and allow the dominoes to fall as they will...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

All of the Dominoes are Going to Fall

Do you ever have times in your lives when there are so many things going on that you can't seem to get on top of all of the things that you need to do in order to remain up-to-date?

There are so many things going on right now that I really shouldn't be surprised that I'm not able to find my creative impulses right now. Every time I sit down to compose something or draw something or think about something, everything else in my life starts to intervene.

Domino One: illness...
Domino Two: school renovation...
Domino Three: surgery...
Domino Four: new intern...
Domino Five: intern applications...
Domino Six: work...
Domino Seven: medications...

My problem is that I want all of my dominoes to be set perfectly and ready to be pushed when I want to push them. Blech. If you have ever seen a domino display, you know that one small misstep, one small jiggle, or a simple klutzy move can start the entire process of falling. That's kinda how I'm feeling right now.

I am wondering if I've seen every eventuality, - in my rational brain, I know that I haven't, but I am not always rational when it comes to medical stuff - and I hope that I have a plan for all of those eventualities. Every time I start to make plans, I add more things to my list of things to "fix" and plan. This will never end!

So, long story short, I am trying very hard to control things that are not under my control. It is time to let go.

The dominoes will fall. That is an inevitable fact - all of the things that are challenging me right now will occur and will happen as they are meant to happen - with or without my intervention and interference.

Just in case you want to see the world's longest domino line, here is a link to YouTube - it's somewhat hypnotizing.


Friday, July 12, 2013

New Songs and Ideas

I admit. I am stumped right now. I don't have any new ideas going through my head.

This ever happen to you? You find yourself doing the same old things in the same old way with the same old folks? How do you get yourself out of the rut?

Over the years, I have had so many of these brain freezes that I have become pretty good at shaking up my own creative process. It is time to be inspired by someone or something. So, let's get started...

Within reach of my computer keyboard I have a bunch of Star Wars stationary, a fish clacker, a weather board for school calendars, several kids' poetry books. and wall borders with transportation pictures and other themes. Here is where inspiration starts.

(Now, here is where some of the more psychodynamically-oriented music therapists may feel that I practice at an auxiliary level in my sessions - starting with the activity rather than the client, but I am not necessarily developing Therapeutic Music Experiences (TMEs) right now, I am jumpstarting my creative process as a composer and a therapist. I feel that the song development is just the first step in being a therapist. Once I have the framework, I can then transform the song into a TME directed and customized for each and every client that crosses my path.)

So, I'm looking around wondering where to start. I think I'll start with the poetry. Shel Silverstein is one of my favorites and Where the Sidewalk Ends is my favorite favorite! So, I'll flip through this book in an attempt to find something new in familiar poems. My absolute favorite poem in the entire book is Invitation on page 9. I can't replicate the poem here since it is protected by copyright, but the theme of poem is creativity and interaction with others who are creative as well. When I read this poem, I know that I am not the only person in the world who is a dreamer. There are more of us out there, all struggling with various life situations and waiting for others.

Page 23 has a poem entitled, Ourchestra. It is an ode to body percussion. Why not use it as a framework for a rhythmic improvisation and discussion with clients about percussion sounds? That will work with some of my clients - others will not respond well to the poem, but will really respond to the improvisation and movements.

Listen to the Mustn'ts is on page 27 and tells me that the monkeys (the monkeys, the MONKEYS!) of shoulda, woulda, and coulda are not barriers but are obstacles that can be stepped around. This is a message that everyone of my interns needs to hear as well. Some of my clients would also benefit. Hmmm. Inspiration starting...

Silverstein, S. (1974). Where the Sidewalk Ends. Evil Eye Music: New York.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Well, I Didn't Hold Up My End of the Bargain

Yesterday, I didn't do a very good job of holding up my end of the therapeutic triad. I wasn't really participating in the therapeutic process as much as I could have or should have. As I was watching my clients interact with music throughout the day, I kept thinking, "I could be doing so much more." Truly, not one of my better days as a therapist...

Now, please don't think that I usually sit and watch my clients cavort around the music room without any type of intervention from me - that is certainly NOT the case at all! Unfortunately, yesterday was a day of pain for me, and I was trying hard not to telegraph my pain and fever to my students. It was more prudent for me to take a more passive role in the session than try to engage in the middle of pain.

Today, I opted to remain at home rather than head to my summer school sessions and try to keep the increasing pain to myself. I should be able to return to my normal routine and the task of being a therapist tomorrow. I hope so, at least!

It is important for therapists to acknowledge the times when they are not able to interact in a way that supports the client's progress towards goals and objectives. Without that acknowledgement, I may have writhed in pain in front of my clients - most of whom have experienced trauma in their lives. Can you imagine what it could do to a youngster to see a therapist curled up in a ball because of pain? Not good at all! It is better for the therapist to not be present in the session than to be placed in a position where roles are reversed.

I always feel guilty when I take a day off from work. Even when I feel ill or am in immense amounts of pain, I still feel guilty that I am at home and not doing my job. This morning I debated whether I really needed to stay at home for a good hour before I finally decided to stay here at home. Looking back, it was a good call.

Here's hoping that tomorrow is relatively pain-free, and my clients and I can keep moving down our objective paths.

Monday, July 08, 2013

The Monkeys...The Monkeys!

I am a novice art journaler. If you don't have a clue what that is, don't worry about it! I didn't know about it either until I just thought I would Google the term and see what popped up.

Much to my joy and constant challenge, I found this website: http://dannygregory.wordpress.com/. Now, Danny is an amazing art journalist who turned to journaling after his wife had an accident and later died. He has a blog and has been recently started a series of posts about monkeys (do you see the link to the title yet?). Danny's monkeys are little voices that tell you that you are no good, can't do anything, and stand in your way when you start to doubt yourself. He has written three posts about his personal monkeys, and I have found each one resonates with me.

I have monkeys that roam around the spaces of my mind just waiting for a quiet moment to jump out and take over my life! I see them most often when I am experiencing one of my occasional bouts of insomnia. It is amazing how they get loose when there is very little happening to keep me occupied.

If you are wondering about your own monkeys, check out Danny's blog. He has done a wonderful job of identifying these thoughts and offering solutions to help calm the monkeys.

(On a somewhat related note, I finished a file folder this weekend for the song, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. It was fun to draw my monkeys and give them a folder to stay in...hopefully forever!)

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Playing with Scissors

So, yesterday I spent some time playing around with ideas and with my multitude of crafting materials and stuff (remember that I'm a pack-rat and LOVE stuff!). I started with two folders from my "Projects to Be Done" file and just started creating things. My two folders were "Three-Part Scheduler" and "An Austrian Went Yodeling." The schedule folder had started with pockets on the folder itself, but I had to create the rest of the idea...So, I did!
One of the things that I enjoy about working with children and adolescents is that music therapy offers opportunities for choice that other opportunities do not. I can walk into a session with one or more of my kids, and, because I tend to work in a client-directed manner rather than a therapist-directed manner, I offer those kids chances to choose what we're going to do.
Many times, my students have diagnoses on the Autism Spectrum. Some of them have become accustomed to using a schedule to organize themselves in the classroom environment. Way before teachers were using schedules in the classrooms in my facility, I was using schedulers like this one to organize my sessions. A visual schedule such as this one offers a format for both myself and for my client. I have found this to be a valuable tool with my students - especially the ones that tend to flit from idea to idea. The schedule promotes the expectation that they will complete one thing before moving onto the next.
In case you can't see the picture clearly, each "choice" has the word and a line drawing. This allows me to use the scheduler with readers and non-readers. I have 12 cards to choose from, and the ideas are vague enough that I can promote client executive function and decision making throughout the session. When the choice is complete, we can either turn the card over or remove it from the board completely.
One of the other things that I always do when using a scheduler is to include a "Mystery" card. One of the downfalls of using schedules is that students occasionally get overdependent on the schedule. This is often manifested as tantrums when something happens that is not on the schedule. I try to incorporate an element of uncertainty into music therapy sessions by introducing a bit of the unknown. This makes music therapy a place where we may be using a scheduler, but there are things that happen that are not indicated on the schedule. Freedom within structure.
The second project that I completed yesterday was a folder for the song, Once An Austrian Went Yodeling. I learned this song from my ever-singing mother and used it lots during my camp song-leader days  It is a wonderful song for plain old fun as well as for expressive language, receptive language, motor planning, sequencing, and other therapeutic goals. It is one of those songs that I do not often remember during those moments when I am trying to wrack my brains for something to do with my clients for the last five minutes of my session. Finishing this folder will help me remember the song and will allow me to use it with my clients when indicated!
So, the inside of the folder has a mountain - this picture comes from the song - once an austrian went yodeling on a mountain so high..." He then moves on to "meet" several other people and animals as well as an avalanche. Now, when we sang this song in Girl Scout Camp, we used to put in all kids of Girl Scout related things, but I stuck with animals (and the avalanche) to make the ideas more concrete to my students. There are 12 pictures of hand-drawn animals laminated on yellow circles (yellow because I like it!) that are designed to be moved around the folder so clients can choose the sequence of the song. The back of the folder has a copy of the song so the clients can see the pictures and the therapist can see the words (if the therapist doesn't know it or forgets it for some strange reason...). All I need to do to finish up this folder is to cut out the pictures and velcro them to the folder!
You know, I really enjoy making things for my clients to use. I enjoy drawing and trying things out. I love playing with scissors!
Off to do some more! I think I may work on Monkeys on the Bed today.

Saturday, July 06, 2013


“The only escape from the miseries of life are music and cats...”
Albert Schweitzer

Ah, Albert, I think you are a man after my own heart. I can be stressed out about having to think about surgery, situations at work with my supervisor, the balance in my bank account, and I find that two things can make those things seem less concerning to me. Those two things are making music with my clients and rubbing Bella-cat between the ears.

There is something about hearing the melodic purr of my cat after a long day that just makes me breathe a bit more deeply.

There is also something about being in the middle of a musical improvisation with kids who have finally become group-oriented that requires being fully in the moment and not distracted by anything else. One of those perfect music therapy moments is like a plug in the bottom of a bathtub - find it, and all of the outside stressors just drain away.

“My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.”
Edith Sitwell 

Oh, Edith, I think we could have been friends. I have days where I crave silence above all else. I have to turn off as much as I can in order to refresh myself, and I have to be away from music.

There are other days when all I want is music swirling all around me.

Reading is one of my strategies for escape - I am a book addict - and I can easily escape from any situation with a library book and my reading glasses. It is wonderful to get sucked into the plot lines, characters, and twists of a good book while everyone else around you is running around. A book can drown out the hustle and bustle of the airport or the doctor's office. I always have at least one in my bag or backpack.

“I've always thought people would find a lot more pleasure in their routines if they burst into song at significant moments.”
John Barrowman 

I love this idea. Could you imagine if your entire life was one long musical, opera, or recitative? All emotions would be expressed in song. All ideas would be shared with us all in lyrics. All relationships would have a theme. 

I would love it if others shared my propensity to burst into song at any moment of the day or night. It would be reassuring to be deemed socially adept when I felt the need to sing about my frustration at not knowing what to decision to make or about how standing in long lines increases my frustration sevenfold.

That is probably what I love about music therapy. I have an excuse to sing in the hallways at work. I can use music to mirror emotions. I know what it is like to feel the need to make some very loud keening sound to express what is inside of me. I also have no qualms about acknowledging those keening sounds in an echo to reinforce the idea that the sound has been heard and the situation is being addressed. It is amazing how many kids have looked at me in shock when I have echoed their screams right back to them. Those sounds are a starting point for communicating emotions, wants, and needs, and off we go!

Have a great morning, all! 

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Trying a Bit Too Hard

I have been trying and trying to figure out what to write about on this blog post.

The ideas have come and gone, each one less interesting as I start to think about it. So, this blog post is going under the label of Random Thoughts. I'm sorry in advance and completely understand if you move on to different parts of your life!

Independence Day - I am getting ready for a (hopefully) quiet night around me out here. I really do not like fireworks - a holdover from a terrifying fireworks show when I was five years-old. I have had neighbors who have thought it was a good idea to shoot off fireworks at 2am, pointing them towards my car, and in a rain storm. Now, if they had done this stunt at 8:30 pm, I probably would not have called the police, but 2am is just plain wrong! Yep, I called the police who seemed to be happy to know where the illegal fireworks were coming from!!

Renovation Thoughts - My facility is getting ready for a major renovation. I am facing the challenge of changing my entire professional process, and it is freaking me out a bit. This week offered me a chance to make the ideas that I have in my head a bit more concrete. I was able to claim my space at the alternate facility, so I know that I will have all of my music therapy instruments and materials at my fingertips. My stress level has decreased dramatically just in the past two weeks.

AMTA - I have been watching a flap on Music Therapists Unite! concerning censorship and our roles in social media. Someone took off a comment that someone else had tried to take over, and the original poster ended up being (how I felt about this - this is only my own feelings now) chastised about the decision to remove the original comment. The original comment was about the folks at AMTA who have very difficult decisions to make about our profession every day. The original poster is a media friend of mine, and I really felt her point of view over those of the people spearheading the conversation and criticism. I am getting to know all of the folks at AMTA, and I feel that they do an excellent job of making decisions about what to focus on for the good of our profession. 

There are times when I wished that they would drop everything and attend to only me, but seriously?? Why would that be their only focus? Me and only me?? (If you don't know by now, these last comments were tongue-in-cheek and intended to be snarky!)

Music Therapy Interns - I enjoy running webinars for music therapy interns. I had one this past week and found that this group is finally starting to relax and interact with me and with each other. I'm hoping that this group of interns will become more interactive as we continue through this process.

Health - I am completely freaked out about an appointment that I have tomorrow morning. This is not unusual for me as I have "white-coat anxiety." (And have had it since birth!) Our discussion will be centered around some upcoming surgery that I will have to have at some point. I am really hoping that I can plan this, but I may need to do this in an emergency situation. Blech. Just thinking about it makes my blood pressure rise. This appointment will affect what happens with my internship training program for the next calendar year. So, I have to write down all of my questions and get them answered tomorrow.

Okay, I think my rant is over.

Happy Independence Day, fellow Americans! Happy Thursday, everyone else!!