Monday, November 30, 2015

Not Quite Ready, But It's Just About Time

Tomorrow is the end of my injury and the beginning of my recuperation and recovery. At this time tomorrow, I will be a mess. No water, no distractions, nothing to keep me from my anxiety except for my own mantras and breathing. Today, however, is another story. Today, I can have water, I can find distractions, and I can continue to clean to counteract my anxiety.

My home is looking pretty good, but it is not ready to be declared "clean-ish" yet. Long story short, I have lots of stuff and limited space to put the stuff in. My to-do list is shrinking a bit as well. I have finished all of my Christmas shopping and, by the end of today, it will be on it's way to California and North Carolina. I still have lots of work to do in the living room, but much of that is towels, so it will be cleaner when the towels are washed and dried. The rest is paper stuff that I should have organized and thrown away many months ago. By today, it will be neater.

Tomorrow I can spend some of the last hour before I get picked up for surgery vacuuming all of the carpet that I have uncovered.

Other than cleaning today, I am going to rent some crutches and send the packages. I am going to make a tuna noodle casserole (not everyone's favorite, but it's comfort food for me) and then freeze some stuff for reheating later.

People keep asking me what I need. I honestly have no idea what I need other than good thoughts sent out into the universe and interaction through social media. I think the rest of the stuff that I can anticipate is covered. There will inevitably things that I have not thought about yet, but then I can ask for help from the many people who have offered. I have stockpiled movies, books, and projects for this next month, knowing that I would have to keep myself entertained. I've changed my Roku box setup so I can access lots of stuff from all around my house, and I know that I have plenty to do both physically and mentally to keep myself occupied.

Enough of this. It's time to strap on Mildred, my current brace, and get to work. I may not be blogging as predictably in the next week, but I'll write when I feel the urge. See you on the recovery side of things!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Supplemental Sunday: File Folders - Not Just for Filing

I love file folders.

I am such a space miser that I look for things that I can store using a minimum of surface area and that I can use over and over again with different clients doing different things and working towards different goals and objectives. File folders help me do just that - store a multitude of things within limited space.

For me, however, file folders are more than just storage. They are container, visual aid, and sometimes an entire TME. 

File folder activities are not for large groups. It's important that the person who is using the file folder be able to see and interact with all parts of the folder itself. (Having said that, I think that anything you can put on a file folder you can also make large enough for an entire group to use - just think bigger and bigger!) 

I make and manipulate file folders often. I cut them apart, make flaps and pockets, smoosh several of them together to make larger pockets and areas. I Velcro them back together, laminate them, and then take them to my clients to work with, destroy, and take back to remake again and again.

I get to find fun folder patterns to manipulate. I get to draw, color, and letter to my heart's content. I don't use patterns - I make my own. I illustrate songs, I make games, and I have fun!

I know that making things like this is not everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoy it. It is part of my creative process to make things that I can use in my music therapy practice, and file folders offer so many outlets for creativity.
So, the folders included in this post are things I have made over the years including Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, Instrument Family Lapbooks, Manners Lapbooks, An Austrian Went Yodeling, B-I-N-G-O, Do Your Ears Hang Low, a scheduler, mini file folders, One Of These Things Are Not Like the Others, a generic game board, a transportation folder without a song at this time, and the graphics for I Don't Want to Live on the Moon that someone won a couple of weeks ago at the AMTA conference...

If you are interested in any of these folders and want either kits or completed projects, please let me know through the website.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Yesterday...Today...Tomorrow...The Next Day

Yesterday, I spent most of the morning working alternately on my sing about winter project and my kitchen. As a result, the winter compilation is getting larger and larger and the kitchen is pretty well clean. This is good since there are only three days left until I am into recuperation post-surgery and will have some movement and lots of lifting restrictions for a bit. I have to get things under control in the next three days so that I don't trip over things for the next two weeks.

Today, I am going to do more of the same. I am going to work on the sing about winter theme book of therapeutic music experiences and clean up the hallways in my house. There are three short hallways, so I should be able to check them off my list pretty quickly. I was inspired by a post on the blog for Bear Paw Creek, written by guest poster, Kathy Schumacher, about her instrument closet. I've been thinking about converting my front hall closet into an instrument storage system for a while now, and I think I will be ready to do that at some point. I don't think I can do it now, but this is something I could be doing from a chair in about four weeks. I will need to figure out where to put the things that are currently in the closet once I want to put instruments in there, but that's a task for another day - not today!

Today is for cleaning the hallways and writing more TMEs for clients.

The half-hour switch works well for me. It means that I get enough time to see something being accomplished, but I do not get too bogged down in any one task. Yesterday's schedule worked well for about four hours before I shut down - in my defense, I also wrenched my knee pretty severely towards the end of that time. 

So, today, I am going to adjust my schedule and my expectations. I am going to do the half-hour switch thing from 5am to 8am. Then, I am going to take a break to do Facebook things and goof off for a while before starting up for another 3 hour period. After that, we will see what I will be doing. There may be the need for a nap or for a trip to the trash can (though it seems to be a bit icy out there so I am not really all that excited about going outside). The laundry is always waiting as well (right now, the laundry is piled up in the hallway, so that should be taken care of as I am cleaning).

Tomorrow will be church day and then gift wrapping day. The packages have to go out on Monday so they can get to their various locations before Christmas. I have at least one more slipper to crochet before tomorrow afternoon, but that will be pretty easy to do. The slippers work up pretty quickly, and I like making them. The ability to create something out of yarn and a hook just gives me a sense of accomplishment that I enjoy. I also have to finish my amigurami bunny for my new nephew. The bunny needs some eyes, a nose, and a tail - all stitched onto the crocheted body. I've never attempted a project like this before, and I am VERY proud of myself. I hope my new nephew gets to use the bunny. It is meant to be loved.

The flurry of activity and the pressing need to get things done is how I distract myself from my anxiety. As I get involved in cleaning and thinking and creating, I stop fretting and imagining outlandish situations that will NEVER happen, but that my mind envisions. This way, when my emotional mind starts to go off-book, my rational mind can say things like, "Hey, whatcha doing getting all immersed in this kind of stuff. There are t-shirts to be folded. Let's get this going." Then we go.

It is almost 5am and time to start the first half-hour of cleaning. I'll start with the shoe closet and move down the hallway from there.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Working Hard at Music Making

I have a time-directed deadline coming up. It is one I imposed upon myself, but it is coming, nevertheless. For this deadline, I am writing a bunch of original songs based on a winter (not holiday) theme.

For me, the writing of music comes easily, but the transcription takes significantly more time. I have a rhythm notation problem that is greatly assisted by notation software. I can hear when a rhythm isn't exactly right, but I can't really see it. So, my lifesaver over the years has been a program called Cakewalk.

Cakewalk Home Studio (2002! Can you believe it? 2002!!) has always been my go-to program. I've never tried the others that people have used and continue to use. I got the Cakewalk program and have been able to use it ever since. It is familiar to me, so I am able to do every and anything that I need to do...except guitar tabulature...I had another program that did that, but it stopped working three computers ago.

Anyway, it is time to sit down and knock out some songs for some new therapeutic music experiences. My plan is to write for 30 minutes and then clean for 30 minutes. In between all of the writing and cleaning, I'm going to run the laundry and watch lots of television on Amazon Prime and Netflix. Today is a good day to do this since my area is kind of under a freezing rain advisory, and I don't want to go out shopping on this Black Friday anyway. So, I am going to take advantage of being under an ice warning and plan on staying close to home.

I have composed several of the songs already. I have also written them down, but it is time to fix them in a regularly accessed method. Most folks wouldn't be able to decipher my scratches and notation style in its rough form (believe me, 23 interns have had some challenges with my style), so I need to put it into a more conventional notation style. I also have several visual aids to put together.

This type of creativity spurs my interest and makes me happy. I love to put together theme packets and therapeutic music experiences based on hypothetical clients. There is something quite fulfilling about making something that has never been made before and then sending it out into the universe. I am excited about having a day devoted to creative endeavors. (I am also hoping that this next month will be a time for creativity as well.) It is time to start the first half hour of cleaning (since I have been spending some time on a creative expression already), and then it's time to set I am a Snowflake into the computer and into a fixed manner for publication.

Happy Friday! 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thoughtful Thursday: Success

It is time for another Thoughtful Thursday, and this week's quotation comes from Al Capp.

"Success is following the pattern of life one enjoys most." - Al Capp

I often think about what would have happened in my life if my family hadn't moved from all the places that we had moved from in my elementary school years. Where would I be if we had never moved from Dallas? Temple, TX? Hacienda Heights, CA? Denville, NJ? Would I have ever heard of music therapy or would I be working as a special educator or a mom or something completely different? One of the things that I do know is that I would be working with children and adolescents and I would still be doing music in some form - performing or teaching of some sort.

The patterns of life that brought me to music therapy are the same ones that would take me into other paths - a love for music, helping, and people.

I was lucky and found one road that allowed me to combine my passions into one job, one profession, one career.

Within our profession, there are many different paths to take. This goes beyond simply choosing who you want to work with - both clients and co-workers. This goes into what you want to do - theoretical foundations, philosophical viewpoints, practice elements, and role in the profession as a whole. It is important to find your passion and life pattern in order to find your own success.

One of the things that keeps me from fully feeling successful is my need to compare myself with others. I continuously struggle with not feeling like what I do to contribute to the music therapy world is not valuable. My rational brain knows better, but my emotional brain gets caught up in my special form of self-doubt and then the goblins come to visit (I should, I would, I could - Goblins begone!!!) When I get particularly bogged down in these types of thoughts, I have to engage in some active cognitive restructuring.

It all comes down to what I love. I love talking to other music therapists about music therapy. I love composing music for clients to use. I love talking to music therapy students and interns about music therapy. I love the actual process of being a music therapist and of being THE music therapist for my clients. Therein lies my success.

We are fortunate to be in a profession where diversity of thought, style, song, and relationship is prevalent. We need to make sure that we celebrate this diversity and allow it to flourish in order to remain a growing profession. My success is not going to be your success - My life patterns are different from your own. My success should never destroy your success - we are not in competition, we are in collaboration. Your path through music therapy is not my path, and that is something to celebrate!

This week has led me to think about what I want out of my life as a music therapist. This is always a challenging thing for me to do as I tend to get bogged down by the goblins, but I am always able to identify what I do NOT want out of my music therapy life, so that's where I start. Once I know where, when, what, how I do not want to be, I can start to see the other opportunities.

This next month will be a time where I have lots of time on my hands to think and vision what I want my future to be. Expect lots of rambling on days without themes. I am trusting that I will be able to figure out some things that have been challenging me lately and will challenge me in the future. I will use these thoughts to lead me onward, towards my own definition of success.

"Success is following the pattern of life one enjoys most." - Al Capp

Happy Thursday (or Thanksgiving, US readers!). 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Things to Do - Places to Go

It is the beginning of Thanksgiving break for me, and the beginning of my preparations for my upcoming medical procedure. I have (gulp) six days before I finally get my ACL repaired. I am simultaneously looking forward to and dreading the upcoming weeks. I am ready to get my knee fixed to a point where I can bend it, walk normally, and even jog a bit. Before next Tuesday, however, there are things to do.

Some of these things are easy to accomplish. For example, I need to get the car service finished. That's happening in about an hour. I have the easy role to play in that scenario - I just take the car in. They are going to tell me that my tires are shot, but I refuse to pay for tires from the dealer, so I will need to get tires very soon. The rest of the to-do list is on me.

It is necessary that I spend some time cleaning my home so I can navigate with crutches next week. I also have some cooking on tap so all I will have to do is reheat instead of cook from scratch. Cooking and cleaning are the most crucial things to do. In addition, I need to finish the latest installment of sing about songs for publication on December 9th. I also need to get the ice maker up and running, find an ice bag, and do the never-ending pile of laundry.

I hope that your Thanksgiving (if you are here in the States, like me) is a time of relaxation and an opportunity to give Thanks for the things that we all have. If this Thursday is just a regular Thursday for you, please have a wonderful day!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

TME Tuesday: Work Smarter, Not Harder

Caution! This is not my typical Tuesday post! I hope it will give you some ideas for therapeutic music experiences (TMEs), but I'm not giving you an idea to use with your clients today. I'm thinking about things a bit differently right now.

Someone posted something about having difficulty with organizing materials and stuff in between sessions as a busy itinerant music therapist. This started me thinking about how I organize myself in this same situation. (On a side note, I've done several webinars about this topic for both MT-BCs and interns). My mantra, in this type of situation is to always strive to "Work Smarter, NOT Harder!"

To that end, I have managed to come up with a system that really works for me. It contains session planning, TME development, organization, and my four "C"s - Corral, Categorize, Conserve, and Consider.

This system may not work for you, but I hope that it may spark some ideas on how to give yourself the gift of working smarter when it comes to music therapy session planning and implementation.

First things first, think about your clients. All session planning should start with the clients, always and forever! What do you want to do with them during their time with you? Start brainstorming what clients need to do in order to move them towards their therapeutic goals.

Second, as you are writing down therapeutic music experience ideas, spend some time thinking about what you are asking your clients to do during the TME itself. Those are your goal areas. Once you start thinking about goals in each and every TME, you will find session planning a bit easier because you already know everything that TMEs can address.

Third, match client goals with therapeutic music experience goals to develop your session plan and material list.

Fourth, arrange your materials (I use my four "C"s to help me with this!).

The First "C"
Corral - keep all your music therapy materials in one place in your area - living, car, office, what have you. Always put things back in that place when you are finished. It really helps you to get materials quickly when the shaker eggs are always in the same spot. Keep an inventory of your materials, instruments, and supplementals and use a check-out system to help you remember where you took the instruments so you can find them if they go lost.

The Second "C"
Categorize - I use a different color for every type of session that I have going. The groups for kids who have significant sensory areas of focus have blue things - the blue bag, the blue box, and the blue folders. The groups for kids who have more emotional/behavioral areas of focus have materials in the red bag, box, and folder. As I am planning, I place the materials that I need in the colored boxes/bags/folders for each group. I also write down what I put where on my check-out list so I will always know where the shaker eggs have traveled.

I also have an "always" bag. This is the place where I keep things that I need all the time or need to have at any time. This includes the iPod, documentation, invoices, a spare pad of paper, pens and pencils, marketing materials, and any instruments, materials, or supplementals that will be used in all of my sessions. I still use a check out list for anything that isn't usually in the bag, but the essentials are always present.

The Third "C"
Conserve - It is important to protect your body as you are schlepping instruments around to all of your sessions. To that end, it is important to use good body mechanics when you have to move things around. Think carefully when you are organizing. Do you really need 17 djembes? Would one djembe and 16 paddle drums be fine? Could clients take turn playing the one djembe? Would soundshapes be just as good for the clients? The answers to these questions will help you figure out what and where you can conserve.

Limit your materials to those things that you know you will use - not what you might use during a session - and this leads us into the fourth "C."

The Fourth "C"
Consider - When you have your materials set and organize, start to brainstorm all of the different things that you can do with those materials - beyond your session plan. Take it from someone who has been there... often... sometimes daily... when you finish everything that you have on your plan, but still have fifteen minutes left, you want to have thought about what else you can do with the things you have on hand. Write these ideas down and make a small prompt for you so you don't have to wrack your brain during the session for some idea. (I like super sticky post-it notes for these small prompts.) Keep these ideas so you don't have to reinvent the process each and every time you include the cabasa/afuche in your bag.

Here's what works for me. What works for you? How do you work smarter and not harder? Leave a message in the comments!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Two More Days...Two Days More!

It is almost time for Thanksgiving break, and therefore, the beginning of my foray into new medical adventures. I have been spending time trying to anticipate needs post-surgery. I have a portable ice maker, 10 new movies, updated my Roku situation, have ordered two ethernet cables so I can do things with the computer from my room, and a slew of new books to read (most of them continuations of other series, so I get to re-read the series as well! I bought the ingredients of many freezable meals so I can make them this weekend, freeze them up, and then re-heat when I am hobbling around.

I've been working on my music therapy room as well. There are things for students to do without me - books to read, games to play, the parachute, dance routines, individual projects to work on, videos to watch, and card games of all sorts. I need to move the drum set from its usual place to my desk area (to discourage fingers from "fixing" the set while I'm gone). The rest of the room just needs some tidying and then I'm good to go for the month.

When I was a student, I didn't really have an idea about how much teachers looked forward to their own breaks from school. Now that I work at a school, I am VERY aware that teachers look forward to breaks just as much (maybe even more than) as students do. I know that my fellow co-workers are ready for a break just as much as our students. You can tell.

We have only two more days to go.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Supplemental Sunday: My Turkey Ideas

The original kit

One of the goodies that I received this month from Music Therapy Mailings was a turkey kit. Here is a picture of the pieces in their original package. I saw this and started to think about the things I could do with more than one of these kits. Instead of searching for another kit, I traced the pieces of the kit onto the cardboard inset in the kit, and now I have the makings of my own file folder activity!

I am always on the lookout for things that I can use in many different ways. I am working on a folder activity that includes Todd and Tammy Turkey, dressing for Thanksgiving. Right now, the therapeutic purposes for this song/TME are kinda vague as I haven't completely fleshed it out, but most of the composition is finished, so the rest will come along as I use it with kids.

The pattern pieces
That's the really nice thing about visual aids (or supplementals, as some call them). One visual aid can prompt many different therapeutic music experiences - there should never be a time when you only have one thing to do with a visual. You should be able to use it over and over again to enrich the music therapy experience.

Tom. Todd and Tammy will look a bit different!
Currently, I have three songs to sing about this guy - Gobble, Gobble, Gobble, Fat Turkeys, Super Turkey (song by Jan Essinger, video link courtesy of Janice Lindstrom, music therapist extraordinaire!), and the developing Todd and Tammy Turkey saga. Three more, and I can justify keeping this guy in my clinic space!

Everyone, meet Tom. Tom, meet everyone! Tom needs some lamination to be ready to go to work with me, but I am confident that he will make a great addition to my Thanksgiving TMEs for many years to come (and, since I have a pattern now, I can make more, if needed!).

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Non-Conventional Holiday

Thanksgiving is one of my least favorite food holidays. There may be many different reasons for this - lots of pressure around the holiday celebration, getting the stomach flu in a spectacular manner at Thanksgiving time, my grandmother's need to parade us around in her birthday celebration/Thanksgiving open house every year, the insistence upon formal portraits taken every year, and my own inherent stubbornness when it came to anything she asked me to do (I inherited my stubbornness from her, and she didn't really like it when I refused to do what she told me to do!). Long story short, the things that most people love about Thanksgiving literally turn my stomach.

I cannot stand the smells, the food, the hoop-la, so I opt to have Thanksgiving in my own way.

I make a delectable dish called Crepes Ensenadas. It is a gooey, cheesy concoction of ham, green chiles, monterey jack cheese, tortillas, and cheddar cheese roux that makes me feel very thankful. It takes me about 2 hours to make (from start to finish), and it is wonderful!

I find, when I don't have to focus on the things from my past that have stressed me out, I can celebrate this holiday in the way it is intended - giving Thanks.

Me at Three, Not Happy About Taking Pictures!
My dad doesn't understand this. His mother (the aforementioned grandmother) made a big thing out of this holiday. It was always around her birthday (November 22nd) and she was a home economics teacher who was able to entertain! There was always a big open house where all of her friends gathered to eat wonderful food, dress up in fancy clothes, and celebrate the season together. It was a time to show off the grandchildren to strangers. We would have the open house and then have a huge family dinner on the actual holiday that included cooking for hours and hours. The women and female children were expected to do all the work while the men-folk were not expected (or even wanted) to do anything.

There was a children's table and an adult's table. When I was old enough to be at the adult's table, my aunt decided that her daughter (the youngest) should get the place rather than me. It was just another thing to put on my list of things I didn't like about the holiday.

When I was in my undergraduate college years, I went to my grandmother's house for the holiday. She was unable to travel and my siblings and cousins were all in high school, so travel was more difficult for them and their schedules. She lived about an hour away from my school, so we spent the holiday together. This is when my own Thanksgiving tradition started to swerve from the tradition she had always insisted upon from all of us.

I called my grandmother (She preferred to be called Mama Icie) a bit before our first Thanksgiving. She started asking me about what we would eat.

Mama Icie: So, how big should the turkey be?
Me: Well, I don't like turkey, so don't get a big one. Just the size you think you could eat.
MI: Silence
Me: Silently thinking, "oh crap, I've done it again."
MI: I don't like turkey either.
Me: So, why are we getting a turkey?
MI: Do you like ham?
Me: I love ham.
MI: We'll get a honey-baked ham, then!
Me: Great!!
MI: Okay, now we need to talk about pies. We'll get a pumpkin pie, of course.
Me: I'm not a fan of pumpkin, but can we get a cherry pie as well?
MI: Starting to sound a bit excited now - I don't like pumpkin either. How about cherry and pecan?
Me: Oh, I love both of those!

Right after our meal, I asked Mama Icie why she served the things she did for so many years when she didn't like them. She blinked in confusion for a moment, and then said, "Everybody else liked them, so I made them." We both agreed that we liked our version of the Thanksgiving meal much better than the feasts that we had made and eaten before.

Mama Icie and I had two Thanksgivings and three Easters together before she passed away. I treasure those memories of a woman who I got to know in a way that my siblings and cousins didn't. We found commonalities after years of struggles and stubborn interactions (where neither of us would back down!). I believe that she would approve of my Thanksgiving holiday celebrations these days (though she would really want me to be at home with my family rather than in my own place), but my food choices would certainly be something she would enjoy.

For me, the holiday of Thanksgiving is not about what you eat, but about how you view the world. I can be just as thankful for a plate of noodles as I can for a feast.

I will be celebrating this holiday in my own way with as little fuss and muss as possible. There will be no open house, no command performances, and no turkey (or, SHUDDER, green bean casserole)! There will be me, talking to my family members about the blessings of our life while giving thanks for the things we have. I hope you have a wonderful celebration (American readers) and that you feel a sense of gratitude for the things that we have in this world (everyone, everywhere).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Absurdity Day

One of my favorite authors, Sandra Boynton, states that today, November 20th, is Absurdity Day! This makes me very, very happy!

My life is a festival of absurdity. It stems from my job and my personality, I think. What else would you call an existence that leads a person from deep discussions about the future of music therapy and then goes into a rousing chorus of On Top of Spaghetti complete with ukulele chorus?

I love both of these lives. I love the ability to go from one role to another in the blink of an eye. It is the nature of the job. While I am singing On Top of Spaghetti and being silly with my clients, I am also spending time in the other side of the job - the analytical side. I am looking to see which of my clients is engaging in the song and which are not. I am adjusting my music to accommodate differences in client interaction. I am slowing down to encourage clients to coordinate their oral-motor mechanisms and to be able to sing. I am overemphasizing the absurdity of the song in order to gain the attention of some clients. I am changing the lyrics to increase novelty and see what my clients will do. I change the pitch, melody, and harmony. Within the silly is science, and I live in both worlds simultaneously.

I am sure that there are other professions where you have to present yourself one way while processing in a completely different way, but I think that music therapy can be that way (especially when you work with children and adolescents like I do). This is part of the conundrum of music therapy. Most of the stuff that happens in a music therapy session is unseen - it happens within the experience rather than in an overt manner. This is why my supervisor continues to think that what I do is facilitate "happy children making happy sounds."

Most of my music therapy life has been spent explaining what I actually am doing within each music therapy experience. I once had a teacher observe a session and ask, "Why is it that it takes CLIENT 5 minutes to answer the question, 'How are you feeling,' during calendar time, but he only needs 30 seconds in music therapy?" I was able to explain the priming effect of music on neurological processes. She started singing the question to the client, and lo-and-behold, it worked - a significant decrease in latency of response! The science lurked within the silly, but it worked at increasing the neurological processing and increased the client's ability to respond.

I am going to spend most of Absurdity Day in non-absurd activities. I'm going to work on the next version of sing about songs while simultaneously making sure that sub plans are in place for the next month (I'll be gone for at least two weeks and probably all three weeks of December). Then, I am going home and cleaning the kitchen - Whee!!

What will you do to mark this special day? Sing a silly song, just because you can? Spend some time making faces at a baby? Explore something that seems out of reach to you right now? 

Do something absurd, please.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thoughtful Thursday: Brian Tracy
I have been at a loss lately since I stopped doing Favorite Thing Fridays. I enjoy writing with some structure on some days. I also enjoy alliteration (can you tell?), so I've been looking for something to inspire me to write on a regular basis. I found it last Saturday when my first Music Therapy Mailing arrived at home.

In my mailing, there was a small box that contained a variety of inspirational quotations. A-ha! Something to write about on a regular basis. Direction. Structure. Something else to do!

Be forewarned - there are 230 quotes and ideas in this little box, so there is lots of fodder for these days. I am thrilled. I start by living with this quotation for a week before writing about it. I spend time thinking about the ideas and how they affect or are defined by this place... at this time in my life.

This week's quote is from Brian Tracy.

I wrote yesterday about my dread of the day Wednesday. This quote was really true for me yesterday. Do you know what the world threw at me yesterday? Completely unrealistic expectations that turned out not to be true. The day went very well - only one box of instruments thrown across the room (I don't think Brian meant literally thrown, but it works in this case...) and other students who have been mean, nasty, and very aggressive who turned themselves around. It's a good thing, too, since I had a migraine on top of all of the rest of the stuff.

I am constantly amazed by the resilience of the human spirit, and I think this is why humans are so resilient. We are complex organisms, but we are adaptable, we can change, we can learn to live with situations that are untenable.

I think this quotations defines the complexity of the human spirit and reinforces the idea that each one of us can be strong when we need to be. I am ready to find out what is next in the box and in life.

I am starting down the path of next week's thought. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Unhealthy Practices

It's Wednesday.

I know why this day is such a difficult day for me. There are lots of reasons that basically add up to this is always a long day. I know that my attitude has lots to do with what happens during the day, but my attitude is constantly tested by this day.

I am going to try something different.

Today, I am going to try to relax and enjoy what happens with students. I am going to enjoy the kids who are actively engaging. I am going to revel in the fact that my students feel comfortable enough to act out in music therapy and express their negativity in authentic ways. I am going to try my best to stay in charge of what is going on in all four of my sessions.

How am I going to do this?

I am going to eat lots of chocolate. I am going to get breakfast from McDonalds and then eat lots of chocolate. I am going to stay hydrated. I am going to make some music for myself, and I am going to finish a prayer shawl for my church group.

This is my last Wednesday (probably) for the calendar year, so I can keep moving forward through this day.

Does anyone have any chocolate? Just kidding - I have PLENTY!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

TME Tuesday: Improvisation


This word was the bane of my existence for many years. It started in junior high jazz band. My band director was a jazz fiend and had a reputation for turning out good jazz musicians, even at age 12. I was supposed to be one of those good jazz musicians, but improvising got in my way. We were taught the "rules" of improvisation and were expected to stay within those guidelines. I would step up to improvise and everything we had been told about "rules" would rush out of my head. I would choke. I'd get yelled at, and the clutch would happen again and again.

It happened all through high school as well.

When I went to college for a degree in music therapy, we talked a bit about improvisation, but the skill wasn't really encouraged in my practica. We were expected to write songs and then use them in sessions. It wasn't until my internship that I started to find my improvisation style, skill, and chops.

My internship supervisors, Sheryl Kelly, Angie Powell-Bollier, and Mary Goldenetz, were the first music therapists who required me to make music throughout my sessions. They pointed out that music organizes the brain and so we should have music going throughout our treatment. In order to do that and accommodate clients' immediate needs, there have to be some extemporaneous music experiences that happen naturally. That is improvisation. I finally had a realization that improvisation could be just making music to illustrate what was going on during the session.

Ta-daa! Can you hear the herald trumpeters signalling a major revelation? I certainly did and all the "rules" of improvisation that I had been told, yelled at about, and practiced all of a sudden made sense. The "rules" didn't have to be followed at all! I could do anything I wanted within the music environment. Blues scales? Only if I wanted to do so!

Are you wondering where the TME part of this comes in?

Here it is...

This is where thinking about those elements of music in all of the other TME Tuesday posts come in handy. This is where the savvy music therapist uses musical elements to support and urge clients towards their personal goals. The music therapist bases his or her decisions on the client's behavior, demeanor, and attention and matches the music to those decisions.

For me, improvisation is easily defined as using music to illustrate what the client is doing. Sometimes that is singing, sometimes playing the piano. Yesterday it was using the ukulele to support the ukulele playing of each client in turn. I used my two chords to support what they played - whatever that was.

In my experience, you can learn all the rules of music you want, but until you are ready to explore the world of music and all of the musical elements, you cannot be considered an improviser. You have to know the rules to be able to break the rules, AND you have to explain why you broke those rules in a client-centered manner for non MTs to understand. This is how we justify jobs as MTs, this is how we demonstrate that we are the "experts" when it comes to using music as a therapeutic tool.

Learn those elements of music. Understand how the elements can change. Learn about the effect of these changes on the elements on the brain. Understand that when you change a tempo, you are changing the physiology of all within hearing distance, and then go out there and boldly make music!

Boldly make music! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Starting the Freak Out Process Now

The one big thing on my calendar that has made everything else shift and move is now over. The AMTA Conference in Kansas City was wonderful and profession-affirming, but I missed all of the socializing that I usually do when I am in the hotel. It is now over. So, now I have to do all of the things I was putting off until after AMTA.

I have two weeks to get myself organized for Christmas. You may be thinking, there are five weeks before Christmas, but I have surgery on my ACL on December 1, so I have to get all of the things that need to be mailed to various places in the world out before then. After December 1, all gifts will be sent directly from the retailers to the recipients. I still have some questions about how the entire thing will happen including how I will get money for living and the like, but I am confident that everything will come together.

Before then, I need to crochet four pairs of slippers, clean my entire house, send packages, talk to the medical folks, stop listening to ACL horror stories, organize music for Advent, find a portable ice maker, and keep myself from anxiety attacks when I think about surgery. Oh, I forgot the next edition of sing about songs for distribution by December 10th! I have only 8 more days of work until surgery, and I think that my session plans are ready to go!! I can check that off the list!

I will try my best not to freak out too much over the next two weeks, but I use this blog to process my emotions, so this may be a theme that comes around again.

I was really happy to see many of you at AMTA this past week! Thanks for reading!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Supplemental Sunday: Look What I Got!!

I am home from AMTA 2015, and I am feeling exhausted, full of thought, and contemplative. Yesterday, I bought myself two ukuleles. I've never really had a good uke before and I figured it was time to plunge into the world of ukuleles. I trudged around the conference with my big West bag containing my two new instruments, and, when the day was over, I brought them home to find my first Music Therapy Mailing waiting for me by the door! This is the first time that I've signed up for something like this, and I can tell you that I a)wish I had had this idea because I've loved the thought since the beginning and b)loved the things that arrived. They started a inspiration cycle just before I fell asleep last night.

Here's one of my ukuleles, sitting on top of my Music Therapy Mailings envelope. The uke is a Kala Waterman - it is made out of plastic but is surprisingly good sounding. It is also waterproof and easily cleaned. This is an essential in my world.

It is green! One of my two favorite colors. (There weren't any yellow ones, unfortunately.) It was also cheaper than the other colors for some reason. I just wanted the green one, so the cheaper price actually ended up being a good thing for me. I like green, but I guess others don't. Good thing for me!!! 
The stuff in the envelope was fun, surprising, and inspiring. There is a turkey kit that has inspired the beginnings of a song, file folder activity, and "help the turkey find his feathers" TME idea. There is also an Autumn activity board with some stickers and stuff. I got a slide whistle, Christmas BINGO cards, four reindeer clips on small clothespins, and some hand sanitizer. The last thing that I got was the box there in the left corner. This is an inspiration box with 230 different quotations to use for inspiration.

I've mentioned before that I really like this idea (and wish I had had it first!). I've never been able to sign up before, but I have been anticipating this package for the past month. I hope that the other months that I've signed up for will be just as inspiring!

If I have time, I'll flesh out my ideas for the turkey file folder this week in order to post it soon. We'll see how the week goes.

Have a wonderful week, all!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saturday Slump

I can tell you, morning comes awfully early during conference. I have been driving in every morning and driving home every evening to 1) save money and 2) sleep in my own bed and 3) rest my injured body so I can avoid getting overtired and pneumonia again and 4) cruise into surgery in two and a half weeks without another issue, so my conference experience this year hasn't been the same as in year's past, but I am finding that this just doesn't matter.

Conference is exhausting!

My conference experience these days is to be in meetings and to present information to others. I don't often get to go to concurrent sessions, or CMTE courses, or institutes. Yesterday, I went to two concurrent sessions (my only ones of the entire conference since I won't be at conference on Sunday morning - my choice). I went to one presentation about developmental theories of supervision (very detailed). I felt bad leaving at the time the session was over, but the presenter was still going strong, and I had to go to the other side of the world for the next presentation. The other presentation I attended was about how to present your mission to the world. Julie Palmieri sat next to me!! I started thinking that my mission isn't as clearly defined as I want it to be, so started sliding into my "woulda, coulda, shoulda" goblin point of view (this always happens at conference - an existential crisis of sorts - I blame exhaustion!). Then I spent a stimulating afternoon in a meeting that constantly challenges my way of thinking about the greater world of music therapy. It was a good day.

Today is my other day of talking to people about things and situations that are happening in music therapy. The first days - Wednesday and Thursday - are my talking-heavy days. Yesterday was the only day where I didn't have some form of talk to make to large groups of therapists. Today, I get to blurt out 8 minutes worth of information on The Online Conference for Music Therapy at the Global Perspectives Session. Then, I get to facilitate a discussion between internship directors and academic faculty that is sure to be a doozy. There are lots of things happening in the world of internships, my friends, and I am trying to make sense of it all.

Conference is exhilarating!

In addition to doing stuff for the American Music Therapy Association, I get to see people that I enjoy. I've met a couple of former intern webinar attendees - Thank you for stopping me and introducing yourselves! I've been able to put faces to names on the National Roster. I've seen dear friends in passing. I had a chance to talk to Janice Lindstrom about collaborating on something in the near future - we will talk more about that as we flesh out what we want to do. I have seen two of my former interns - one even attended the Supervision CMTE about how to be an Internship Director and nodded when I made statements about how I do things as an ID. I saw you, Sarah, and it made me giggle! 

This time, more than any other time of year, makes me feel proud of my life choices. I am proud of being a music therapist. I am proud of being part of such a diverse community of professionals and students. I am proud of our work right here and now, and I am hoping we take bold strides into the future.

More than anything else, dear readers, I hope that you are able to contribute to and participate in the bigger world of music therapy (that which is outside your own reach). There is such opportunity available for each of us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and it's this time of year when I am reminded that we are not isolated - we are part of a whole. Find something that you love about this profession and step out. Share what you love. Write presentation proposals. Connect with others. Speak to that music therapy hero that you have - they will probably really love to speak to you. Share your favorite things to do with your own clients with other music therapists. Those therapists will share with their clients who will probably love the ideas and TMEs as well.

Conference is opportunity.

Take yours!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Check That Off the To-Do List

I write lots about how I love working with interns. I enjoy being a part of their internship experience (even when it's just through a computer screen), and I feel that there are lots of opportunities for interns to network, learn, and grow during that very intense educational capstone. One of the things I don't write about very often is how much I also love to work with internship directors and supervisors. Yesterday, I got to do just that.

The AMTA Association Internship Approval Committee (otherwise known as the AIAC) ran their FREE CMTE course called "Supervising the National Roster Intern." The room was not full, but it is rarely full when there are 300 seats present. There were many, MANY attendees, though. I think there were more people in that room than we have had in many years. There were 80 people preregistered and we sent out information to more people who just arrived and attended.

We talked about topics that are near and dear to our hearts, about things that are difficult to talk about, and how to engage in the practice of supervision with our most precious professional commodity - our students (otherwise known as the FUTURE of the PROFESSION!). I think it was a pretty stimulating conversation...I only saw one person close her eyes during the presentations (when she wasn't supposed to do so), and we startled her awake pretty quickly!

We received a compliment from one of my music therapy heroes that I will truly treasure forever.

After the CMTE was finished, I took myself down to the Take-A-Chance Drawing to look over the display one more time and to take my own chances with winning something. I've been lucky before, so who knows if I'll be lucky this time around. The jar next to my donation had about 15 tickets in it when I left. This was before the actual event started, so I'm feeling pretty good that folks were interested - at least, 15 people were interested! Small steps, folks, and this was a HUGE one for me. I'll do this again next year. It's worth the creative angst to donate something of myself to an organization that does so much for me, both personally and professionally! (Did I ever tell you about the "sorry for your injury" card that folks at AMTA sent me when they found out about my knee? It was amazing and touched me deeply.) Now that I have been through the process, I can do this again. I WILL DO THIS AGAIN!

Thursday is now checked off of my conference planner (thanks again, Janice Lindstrom, for that invaluable tool!), and now I move boldly into Friday. There is a presentation on supervision that I am hoping to attend at 7:30, another presentation on "Mission-Building Writing Workshop" at 9:00, and then the AMTA Business Meeting and Exhibit Spectacular. I get paid today, so I have money burning a hole in my pocket, and the exhibits are calling. Unfortunately, most of my money will have to go towards music therapy theoretical books, but that's also lots of fun for a bookworm like me. After all of that, I have a meeting with the Education and Training Advisory Board that will be in part of all of the rest of the presentations for the day, so no more concurrent sessions for me! I will, hopefully, spend some good time in socialization with friends and new friends before hauling myself back home for another night.

Tomorrow's schedule includes an 8 minute presentation, a roundtable with internship directors and academic faculty members, and two long meetings with the Education and Training Advisory Board. No concurrent sessions for me tomorrow (except the one I have to facilitate). At the conclusion of the conference day tomorrow, I will be finished. Sunday will be a day for me to go to my part-time job and start the process of resting after all of this. 

I'm getting ready to head out here - fed the cat; took my shower; am getting dressed in my "nice" clothes; Mildred in tow; candy in the car; need to go to the bank for spending money (Whoo-hoo!); get gasoline; attend sessions; go to meetings and think; spend some money (Whoo-hoo!); talk to friends!!! See who won my loot, and off we go!!

See you there?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

It's Finally Here!

I'm sitting in the conference hotel, on the Mezzanine level, plugged into a charging station, thinking about what I should be doing instead of just enjoying this moment. So, I'm going to take a bit of time to just be mindful of what I am doing and where I am in this moment - begone, Shoulda Monster!!!

I am here, surrounded by music therapists arriving from all around the world. There is a professor of music therapy sitting across from me right now, reading the Board Book for her position on the Assembly of Delegates. I've seen several friends walking by, and many, many others who are not friends yet, but who have a distinctive "music therapy" look. If you are one of us, you know what I mean. If you are not, then, just trust me, we have a look. As it is the morning before the opening session, people are either in courses or just wandering around, getting organized. It is a wonderful thing to be surrounded by people that love doing the same things that you love to do, and this is definitely the place where I feel that the most strongly. I am ready to be rejuvenated.

Back to regular thought...

I have simultaneously lots to do and less to do than usual. I have a bit of time before my next obligation, so I am going to do some reading and writing and thinking about some stuff I've been putting off for the last several months. I have to be able to coherent when I talk about this tomorrow afternoon, so I guess it is time to get going.

I get to lead a continuing education course this afternoon with a bunch of women that I really enjoy and respect. There may be glitter. There may not. There will definitely be chocolate (and other, less useful candy for those who do not like chocolate - that's a completely different topic that deserves much discussion and contemplation - later, of course). 

I haven't seen my usual friends yet, but I know they are here. They keep posting things on Twitter and Facebook that indicates that I am just missing them. We will see each other eventually. I have seen lots of other friends who have passed by this seat on the Mezzanine. If you are here - stop by. I anticipate that I will be here for the next several hours, at least! I am trying to avoid too much walking, so will set up a corner of the world for myself.

I went down to the Take-A-Chance Drawing tables and saw my stuff. I need to take pictures later to post of the finished result. There isn't an actual basket. I tried to get things set up in the basket, but it just didn't look good enough and the logistics of the winner having to figure out how to get the basket home was just too much for me to handle, so I bought a cake box for them to store stuff in. It's square so it should be a bit easier to stuff into a suitcase, but can also be thrown away if the winner doesn't want to keep it. I hope people want the stuff I'm producing, but if they don't then okay. I'll keep making it for me.

Time to post this and get to work reading and thinking and writing. See you VERY soon!!

I am so glad to be here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Pre-Dawn of AMTA 2015

Happy Almost-Start-of-Conference Day! For many folks, conference doesn't start until tomorrow, but for some us poor volunteers, most of the conference actually happens before the official start of the event. Of course, for me, this means that I'm up at 2:33am, trying to get myself so organized that I actually have everything that I need for today. I think I'm pretty well set, but that means that I'm forgetting something.

Both my father and my sister have been harping on the fact that I need to remember that I am hurt and not functioning the way I usually do. Dad has tried to impose a curfew on me (for cripe's sake, Dad, I am no longer 15!), but I am not going to stress about it. After all, what's he going to do? Ground me?? HA! (Now, if it were Mom, that would be an entirely different matter!!)

So, here I am, trying to keep myself calm and in the house until a reasonable hour before heading out to see many of you music therapists (at least, I hope so!!). My day will consist of one big meeting with two little meetings thrown in and one more meeting at the end of the day. I hope I can spend some time with friends of mine before getting home, but I probably won't be able to as their meeting schedule is just as jam-packed as mine... and, there's this curfew thing.

To complicate matters, I am having nosebleeds.

This is going to be a great conference!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

TME Tuesday: Kansas City

Folks are starting to arrive, so I thought this might be a good choice for this week's therapeutic music experience (TME). See many of you soon!!

Therapeutic Music Experience
Kansas City
Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC

Purpose: To discuss concepts of travel; to encourage social interaction through discussion; to encourage verbal interaction; entrainment to external beat; increase awareness of musical styles and genres

Source: Leiber, J. & Stoller, M. (1952). Kansas City. Produced by Bobby Robinson. TME development © 2015 by Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC.

Materials: Accompanying instrument; OPTIONAL: Map or location cards to prompt interaction and discussion

Environment: Group members need to be arranged in a way where they can hear the music.

Song/Chant/Words: This song has been covered by many performers over the years. Here is a link to a performance by Fats Domino:

Basic Blues Chord Format:
(/ indicates beat)
I/// I/// I/// I7/// IV/// IV/// I/// I/// V7/// IV7/// I///

I use alternate lyrics - instead of women, I say, "They've got lots of things to do there, and we're gonna have some fun!"

Procedure: R = Reinforcement opportunities; C = Redirection/Cue opportunities; A = Assessment
1.      C=start to sing the song, substituting any location for Kansas City, if relevant. (May want to make the initial presentation of the song relevant to the location of the client).
2.      A=assess whether group members are entraining to the beat through movement or singing to the words.
3.      R=reinforce all responses to the music.
4.      C=continue to sing the song, offering new destinations and new ways to travel to those destinations.
5.      C=ask group members for suggestions of how to adapt the lyrics.
6.      R=reinforce all responses and suggestions through repeating the song.
7.      Continue to sing until group members have all had a turn to contribute, show signs of disengagement or boredom, or time runs out.

Therapeutic Function of Music:
The repetition of the rhythm, the phrases, the lyrics, and the song pattern provide a predictable intervention that allows group members to engage in entrainment behaviors such as movements, singing, and/or increased attention.

Scalar melodic motion; Repetitive; Format doesn’t vary between phrases
Variable based on client preferences or needs
Shuffle pattern – swing feel.
Variable based on client preferences or needs
12 bar Blues – I,I,I,I7,IV,IV,I,I,

Strophic with Bridge
Variable based on client preferences or needs
Variable based on client preferences or needs
12 bar Blues
Repetitive; Variable based on client preferences or needs
Chart adapted from Hanson-Abromeit, D. (2010). A Closer Look at the Therapeutic Function of Music. Presentation at 2010 American Music Therapy Association National Conference: Cleveland, OH.

·         Use the song to format movement experience.

  • Discuss different places to go and how to get to those places.