Showing posts from August, 2014

Sing A Song Sunday - Urge For Going

The other day, I was sitting at my desk at work searching for something to do. I had finished all of my clinical duties and had some time away from the computer (only one of us can use the work server at a time, so it was my intern's turn at the work computer). I happened to look over to see my most favorite songbook of all time - Rise Up Singing.  Inspiration struck!

I know many of these songs, but I don't know them all. I have worn through two copies of this book and am considering purchasing a third copy so I have one in good shape to carry around with me. This book thinks like I think - in chords and lyrics - there is just enough information about the song to replicate it.

When you thumb through my copies of this book, you'll find dots next to many of the songs. Those are the ones that I know, ones I can sing with familiarity or with just a little bit of thought. There are many, many songs that I don't know well. So, now I'm going to learn those songs.

The first o…


I am stressed today. I'm not sure why I have such a huge stress level right now, but I can tell that it's not really releasing.

So, now it's time to practice some of the self care that I preach to others about. 

I have been sitting here writing paragraph after paragraph of my rants, raves, and current stressors. Most of them are targeted around several people who don't really know much about the stuff they keep screaming about, and who will just continue to dig holes deeper and deeper until they realize what I already know. Operator error is the cause of almost everything that's going on. I've been telling them this over and over - since problems only seem to occur when one person is involved - but they are going to have to figure that out by themselves. I'm bowing out of the conversation and the process. Time to release.

I cannot continue to be shaken by the ignorance of others.

Releasing is easier said than done.

Why is it difficult to let go of things? I thin…

Favorite Thing Friday - There Will Always Be Chocolate

It is Friday, so I get to post about one of my favorite things, and today's post is about the ONLY promise that I make to my interns. 

"There will always be chocolate."

I have found, over the years, that I am not always the most patient of supervisors, therapists, or people, but I can always make sure that the chocolate jar is full of chocolate.

Are you one of those people who just can't figure out why chocolate is necessary for life? If you are, just leave this post now, because I can't really explain it beyond the idea of the strength of primary reinforcement. There are just times when a familiar taste is needed to ease stress or to celebrate a significant moment. Hence the chocolate jar!

I have some rules for my chocolate jar. First, no cross-contamination of flavors. Peanut butter and mint chocolate cannot be contained in the same jar as the caramel and plain chocolate. I have separate jars for those types of flavors. Second, the jar is fair game anytime clients …

I Can See the Tunnel!

So, if you've been a regular reader of this blog lately, you know that my facility is involved in renovation - major renovation - that has lasted longer than it was supposed to (as always) and that affects the art therapist and myself more than anyone else at this point.

We were told yesterday that we were moving in by Tuesday.

Now, this is good news as it means that all of our clients will be schooled within the same complex (no more moving out in the 100+ degree F temperature with a rickety cart full of music instruments and scarves), but it also means a change in schedule, new classroom assignments, and stressed out teachers wondering how they are going to move their classrooms over a holiday weekend here in the states. It also means that the creative arts therapists are still homeless until their parts of the renovation are complete. I am one of those therapists.

So, I feel that I've progressed to the point where I can see the tunnel, but I'm not in the tunnel yet, and I …

Today is Going to Be a Long Day

You know how you can just tell sometimes? It's going to be a long day. My intern wasn't feeling really well yesterday, so I'm preparing for her schedule, just in case, I woke up really early this morning, and actually cold, and now I have a headache just lurking at the fringes of my eyes.

So, what to do on these days when you just know that there are challenges ahead? Breathe.

My favorite way to get ready for the day is to sit with the cat on my lap. She doesn't cuddle often, so when she does, I try to take advantage of the moments just to enjoy. We spend a couple of minutes (she never stays for long), and I enjoy her purr, her breathing, and her ability to curl up and relax. She can be such a good influence on me as I get stuck in a hustling mode. So, I breathe.

I have some clients who use breathing to calm - if I can prompt them before they go into a crisis cycle, they can start to learn how to self-soothe. It's important to be able to demonstrate the soothing techn…

TME Tuesday - Dice Compositions

Today's Therapeutic Music Experience (TME) is one that I borrowed from Mozart (allegedly). While it's attributed to Mozart, I'm not sure exactly where I learned it from, and I'm not sure when I first started using it, but I use it to spur my own songwriting as well as to encourage melody composition for my clients.

It's pretty simple. You need dice (at least one per two clients), paper - either lined or scratch depending on the level of musicianship, pencils, and an instrument that the clients know how to play (I like my Orff instruments since they have note names printed on them).

You can use a regular dice in order to encourage clients to transfer from one symbol notation system to another (numbers to note names or numbers to actual notation) or you can change a dice to simplify the symbol transfer. A bit of double-stick tape and you can place just about anything on the surface of the die. I often use note names in place of the numbers - it makes things easier on m…

Time to Get Going

I actually slept in today. I awoke a short time before my "alarm" light turned on and laid quietly in the predawn silence. Once the light turned on, I actually stayed in for another 30 minutes. I'm tired, itchy, and unmotivated to get up and get going, but it has to happen - it would be more work if I didn't get moving, so I'm preparing for my day.

There are many things that go into one of my typical days. The first is actually getting ready for the day. Checking the weather, making lunch, choosing the right shoes (today's sessions includes a young man with a mild foot fetish), and choosing materials from home to take in to work (we are currently spread between four buildings, so lots of my stuff is here at home). Once I'm ready, I start out the door.

I have a 45-50 minute commute to work. I drive this much on purpose and try really hard to use that time for thinking, meditation, prayer, and organizing my day. I think through several sessions, any upcoming …

Sing A Song Sunday -

After putting up several musical pieces for Sing A Song Sunday, I thought I'd put up an explanation graphic for what I process when I'm doing these graphics. Isn't it amazing how all of this is included in every piece of music that we have? It astounds me! Comments are ALWAYS welcome! ~mj

iTunes Will Be the End of Me

Dramatic? I don't think so. I think I will really suffer significant grief due to Apple computers and my lack of intuition when it comes to iThings.

Now, I know lots of people out there who swear by Apple products and love everything possible about them. I refuse to get into any other conversations about how everyone in the world should use iThings, especially music therapists. I am a proud PC-user and will always be a PC-user.

This may be a bit strange since my first computer (in my fifth grade classroom) was a Apple II-e. I was able to navigate through that operating system without a problem, but then came the era of the Macintosh. That advance in technology changed how Apple computers navigated the computing world, and that's where I was left behind.

My journey into iThings has been complex and varied. I have tried everything and anything to see if I can change, but I can't.

I currently have an iPod that I use at my facility for playing music. I purposefully chose an iPod o…

Favorite Thing Friday - Bulletin Board Strips

I am in love with making things out of bulletin board strips. Here are some strips that I have waiting for further development. I love how colorful they are, how INEXPENSIVE (I paid a dollar per package), and how versatile these can be. I primarily use these for matching things, but I also use them to play games (the strips end up as the game board) and to make file folders for other things.

These particular bulletin board strips have colored fish and numbered frogs. I'm using them with my little kids who are working on color recognition and number recognition. All the Fish Are Swimming in the Water with a slight adaptation to include colors (all the red fish are swimming in the water, swimming in the water, swimming in the water) incorporates the colors into a song that encourages creative movement. The other strips pictured here have numbers and lily pads. I use these as is for Ten Green and Speckled Frogs. Having the strips assists the client in sequencing and being aware of the…

10 Songs I'll Listen To For the Rest of My Life

Hello, readers. I've got to tell you about a blog post that I just found that is probably going to influence some of my posts for a bit. Wendy Nielsen, over at Writing A New Story, posted a link with several writing prompts, and I'm ready to dive in! The first one I chose is #51 on her list.

The Ten Songs I'll Listen To For the Rest of My Life:

(NOTE: This is really a difficult idea for me since I have music that comes and goes in my life, but I think I'll be able to find 10 songs that are mine forever... Just know that I may have to shuffle the list if another great song arrives...)
I'm Going to Go Back There Today - I love lots of music from the Muppets, but this one is my absolute favorite of all times. Gonzo is so pensive, hopeful, and resigned to his fate. My favorite lyric? "There's not a name yet, for old friends who've just met." It gives me shivers.The World Ain't Slowin' Down - Ellis Paul - This song came as part of my Me, Myself, …

What is a TME?

This is an excellent question, and one that is not that difficult to answer, but the rationale and ideas behind both the question and the answer are not as easy to explain.

A TME is an acronym that I use for the term, "Therapeutic Music Experiences." I opted to choose this term (which I think originated with an intern who came from Western Michigan University) to describe what I do with my clients in the music therapy setting. It's a completely arbitrary term, but it felt better to me than "application" or, SHUDDER "music therapy activity." Because it felt better to me, I decided to use it as my term of choice.

Here's why I like it...

It emphasizes that everything I do in a session has a therapeutic purpose for its application. 

Why is this important? It's important because the administrative staff at my facility do not know what I really do. Sure, we call my service "music therapy," but more often than not, the service is termed, "…

TME Tuesday - Do What I Do - Old School

Today's TME is one that I wrote when I was at an interview way back in 2001. Pardon the old school way of presenting it - it's one from my card box days, and I haven't transferred it into the electronic format yet. This song is one that offers leadership opportunities to clients. The one, two, three prompt triggers completion of the motor example or the desired action. I've used this for toothbrushing, hygiene, motor skill refinement, and many other things during the years.


Early Morning Musings

Early mornings tend to bring out the philosophical thoughts in me. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing. Right now, I'm thinking about the nature of illness and life, about music and it's elements, and about what to make for breakfast and lunch. I'm also wondering where the strange mosquito bites seem to be coming from. I seem to wake up with a new one every day. Strange ideas and thoughts during the morning, but the type of thing that happens on a regular basis.

In the past week, two people who have occasionally touched my life passed away. While I wasn't involved in their daily routines at all, I did spend some time with them and will miss them when I go back into those typical interactions. While I am sad about their deaths, I rejoice for the opportunities to share in small parts of their lives. 

About music - I always feel guilty that I don't listen to more music during my off-work hours, but that feeling almost always passes quickly. I played…

Sing A Song Sunday - Yellow Submarine

I picked up one of my favorite songbooks today, The Reader's Digest Children's Songbook, and I flipped to page 74 when I opened up the book. Lo and behold, there was the song, Yellow Submarine, by the Beatles. One of the best things about the Reader's Digest Songbooks is that there are short paragraphs at the beginning of each song that offer a bit of history about the song.

Now, I don't know much about Beatles lore, but I found the story of the movie, Yellow Submarine, made the song make much more sense to me. If you're interested, I recommend either watching the movie or reading the blurb in the songbook (how's that for piquing the interest?).

Here's the song chart! How would you use this with your clients?

I wonder how I'll use this...

Favorite Things Friday - Something I Cannot Live Without!

Drum roll, please...

Today's favorite thing is a toss-up between Velcro and super sticky post-it notes!

These are two of my favorite tools for music therapy. I always have plenty of both around me so I can access them at a moment's notice! I know, I know, you think that these things are a bit obvious, but since this is my favorite thing day - here's a list of things to consider using these things for...
Put fluffy Velcro on anything that will stay put during a TME. So, if the TME is centered around a file folder, put the loop Velcro onto the file folder and the hook side onto the pieces that you move around. Then, if you need to, you can place the hook-sided pieces on the carpet, on your shirt, in your hair to demonstrate specific topics. Having the hook Velcro on the moving pieces gives you options.I keep super sticky post-it notes in my car. When a thought strikes, I have these notes at my fingertips. I know that hurtling down the highway at 73 miles per hour is not the opt…

Happy New School Year!

It is the first day of school for my students, so it's time to get started for the school year. I was one of those kids who loved school and waited impatiently for the three days before school so we could find out which teacher would be ours for the year. I loved shopping for school supplies - nothing fancy, but NEW! I enjoyed getting dressed up in brand new clothes and shoes for the first day, and I loved the start of the school year. That's probably why I am a school music therapist. I still love this time of year.

Currently, we have instability leakingout of nook and cranny at the school where I work. We were told that we would be moving. We were told that we could move everything into the new building. Then we did. Then we were told we could only move light things into the cabinets in the new rooms. Then we were told that we weren't going to move after all, and we were going back to the old buildings we were in before we started to move...but just for a couple of days -…

TME Tuesday - Breathe In, Breathe Out

Today's therapeutic music experience (TME) is called Breathe In, Breathe Out. This is something that I feel I need today - a relaxation-type TME that helps me to focus on my breathing as loads of things are happening in the world right now. Remember to use the iso-principle to engage and sustain attention to the task at hand, calming.