Sinfully Musical: A Musical Theme based on the Seven Deadly Sins

When my daughter suggested the seven deadly sins as a theme for our musical adventures, I thought it was interesting. And I knew that she would find a song for every one of the damn things–that’s just the way she is. Awesome, thorough, and a little compulsive. If you don’t believe me, check it out at Sincerely Kate.

Well, I have my own issues, so I took a different approach. I decided to focus on one specific sin–that of pride, and apply it to what’s been going on as I try to bring some semblance of calm into my crazy life. OK, calm might be too strong a word, but I have to face it. My life is just too full of things to do, and it’s time to make some changes.

So how does that tie into pride? I think some of my self-enforced busyness comes from a mis-directed sense of pride. The compulsion of my personality type is to be busy, and I do not disappoint. And that’s just the problem. I am driven to appear responsible, to achieve, to shine. And yet, there is often little satisfaction in it.

How much is enough? How do I know when it’s right?

Get it Right (Glee)

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And then there are the times when I act as though what I do is so important, but for whom? It’s really all illusion, as in the song below.

Everything I’ve done, I’ve done for you

I move the stars for no one

Within You (Labyrinth)

 

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So it sometimes gets tangled up in accumulating more and more of the stuff to do, to get the fix I think I need. A little greedy, don’t you think.

Mine Mine Mine (Pocahontas)

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After a couple of inner dialogues with a character known as Plate Spinner, it was time to swallow my pride and start shifting my focus.

Inside Out (Eve 6)

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There is a long way to go, but I feel like the break-up with the need to accomplish for its own sake, life seems a little more hopeful.

But since you’ve been gone
I can breathe for the first time
I’m so movin on yeah yeah

Since You’ve Been Gone (Kelly Clarkson)

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As I continue to work on making this shift in my life, I’ve been doing many internal dialogues (see second Plate Spinner dialogue)  to discover what is really important to me, so that I quit wasting my time on the pointless activity. I am enrolled in a course called “Write Your Own Story,” and as I work with these dialogues and figure out who will narrate my story, I realize that I am paying a lot more attention to what’s really going on with me. I feel like I’ve become much more of a friend to myself, and that I have more self-support than ever.

Someone’s Watching Over Me (Hilary Duff)

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I may have to work on weeding out some of the other places these deadlies show up in my life, but for now, I’ll focus on the fact that for now, I’ve done enough.  🙂

Thanks to my Collaborator at Sincerely Kate for the above selection of songs to illustrate my foray into exploring the sin of pride. And it’s important to her pride that I give credit where credit is due. Thanks, Kate!

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FanFoFeb: http://willowdot21.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/fanfofeb-stress-and-then-madness/

A Coffee Date with Plate Spinner: Our Follow-up Conversation

This is Part 2 of an inner dialogue between me and Plate Spinner, the part of me that can’t seem to stop doing all the time. If you missed Part I of this “conversation,” you can find it here.

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platesME:  Would you like a cup of coffee?

P.S.: I’d love one! I can’t remember the last time I could take a break and just relax for a few minutes. Nice choice of music by the way.

ME: Thanks! I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said yesterday, and I realize things need to change.

P.S. I’d like to jump up and down for joy, but I can’t. First, I don’t really have the energy with all the spinning I’ve been doing. And second, forgive me, but I’m just a tad cynical about you changing your ways.

ME: I know I don’t have a good track record. But I really do get it. I can prove it. I totally resisted an interesting plate earlier today.

P.S.: Yeah, but that’s nothing compared to the moratorium you took on last year, and that only lasted a few months before you started collecting plates again. Granted, some of them were smaller plates, but they still require lots of attention to keep them spinning.

ME:  OK, you’re right. Just a minute while I link the moratorium stuff here. Some of the people listening to our conversation won’t know what we’re talking about.

P.S.: I’m sure they will be as amused by it as I was.

ME: Oh, come on! Seriously, I want to make things better between us. But your attitude is getting in the way.

P.S.: All I know is that we are currently on semester break, and we can’t take a real break. We have so many plates still spinning that we have to fill these days with to-do lists and projects. I mean, look what it took just to get your attention so that we can have a cup of coffee and talk about this stuff.

ME: But if you’re going to argue with every idea I have, how can anything get better. I really want to change.

P.S.:  OK, I’ll play along for a moment. How is this time going to be any different from all the other times you said you would change? Are you going to retire a few of these plates?

ME: I think I could make a plan for that.

P.S.: Oh, great! Isn’t THAT encouraging? When you make plans for something, the plan itself becomes another plate to spin. Do you even know how many plates you have in the rotation?

ME: Of course . . . . not. Ok, ok, you make another valid point. But I realized something else this morning. As I was explaining my decision to Avis this morning not to take her up on the quilting thing, I told her that one of my big problems is that I think things will only take a few minutes, and that I can manage that . . . . .

P.S.: You mean that you figure I can manage another one of your shiny plates.

ME:  Well, yeah, . . . .  when you put it that way. And then of course, it finally dawned on me, that those few minutes multiplied by the number of plates and projects just makes things impossibly tiring!

P.S.: I’d like to believe you’ve seen the light, but you can’t blame me if I’m still a little skeptical. Do you realize that if we were just going to store these plates–never mind spinning them, we would need more cabinets than will fit into this apartment?

ME: OUCH! Don’t you think that’s a slight exaggeration?

P.S.: Sorry, truth hurts!

ME: OK, so a moratorium must be re-established and maintained. That’s obvious.

P.S.: It might be a step in the right direction, but it’s certainly not enough to make a real difference in the here and now.

ME: Well, you don’t want me to just sort and reorganize. You yourself said that would just be another project added to the huge pile we already had–the pile that I just accumulated without really thinking about the consequences.

P.S.: Look at it this way. I’m willing to accept as a starting premise that most of the plates need to be brought to completion. And I will also–for the moment–attempt to believe you won’t add any new ones.

ME:  I hear a “but . . .”

P.S.: I demand better working conditions! Have you looked around? It’s a disaster area around here. All of these plates have paperwork and paraphernalia attached to them. It’s a miracle I haven’t broken my neck!

ME: Well, I can’t argue with that. I find myself overwhelmed by all the clutter around here. I sometimes gather up the stuff I need for a project or two and head for the coffee shop just to have space to think and work.

P.S.: But that’s my point. YOU can leave! I can’t! It would take a moving van and a crew of at least four for me to go anywhere and still keep all of this going.

ME: Yes, the stuff has to go. That is clear. I don’t really need it all. Even with all of these crazy plates, there is still stuff here that has nothing to do with the plates that need to be finished. And I have to be honest. If stuff doesn’t go with any of the over-abundance of plates, it doesn’t belong.

P.S.: Right, and don’t forget. You’re planning to leave this place in 18 months. Couldn’t we have some breathing space while we wind down this spinning production?

ME: You’re totally right. Time to tackle this de-cluttering thing, once and for all!

P.S.: I know it’s a major change for you, but we can’t simply have all of this stuff. We can’t continue to DO all of this stuff.

ME: Well, why don’t I make an intention to de-clutter the apartment?

P.S.: I’d be more inclined to believe it if you make an intention card.*

ME:  You’re on! Let’s do this!

P.S.: OK, so what do you want?

ME: It seems pretty obvious. I want . . . we want more time and space in this life we share.

P.S.: And why do you want it?

ME: To get you off my back, of course!

P.S.: Very funny! Somehow, I don’t think that will motivate you in the long run. If you’re serious, you need to figure out what the payoff will be when this place is de-cluttered. What will you get?

ME: Well, just thinking about the place being de-cluttered helped me feel relaxed a bit. I don’t feel as stressed or as trapped. If I focus my attention on this intention and persevere in spite of the obstacles, I can enjoy life more. I can enjoy people more. I can be more, instead of simply doing more. I can discover what it is I really want from life, rather than spending all our energy on this plate spinning thing. The idea of not having to spend all of our energy just treading water is very freeing.

P.S.: OK, it seems like you might really want this. Of course, this is a huge project. So we have to be realistic.

ME:  Right. I need Intention, Attention, and Perseverance. I’m not crazy enough to say that I’ll do the whole apartment in the next two weeks. I want to work on it a bit every day, maybe even twice a day.

P.S.: Right, but don’t set yourself up. Let’s make an intention that is do-able, that gives us breathing space. If you do more than the minimum, that’s fine, but let’s make sure we find a workable minimum an commit to that.

ME:  I know. I just get excited about the possibility of space. But I didn’t get into this mess overnight, it’s not going away overnight or even in several overnights. I’d like to think I can make some strong headway by summer though.

P.S.: OK, let’s start with an hour three times a week.

ME:  OK, that seems reasonable. And I will schedule three times in the calendar right now. I will write it in for Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

P.S.: That sounds good, too. What else can you do to keep your attention on the intention?

ME: I’ll ask Dave to either help me, or to at least check in on me. I could find another person to check in with, too. Maybe even find someone else who is trying to de-clutter. We can check in and keep each other on track.

P.S.: And now, how will you reward yourself when you stay on track? And even more important, what will you do when things get in the way of following through? You need a plan for perseverance because you KNOW something will happen to pull you off track at some point.

ME: Oh yeah, I remember when I started the exercise program. If I hadn’t had a plan for perseverance, I wouldn’t have made it through the first two weeks.

PS: Right! and now you’re already in your third month. So what will you do to keep perseverance going for this intention?

ME: I think I would like to have some quilting time on Sunday for a reward. And if I haven’t met the goal of de-cluttering time for the week, I could do some on Sunday.

P.S.: I think this might just work.

Taiwan 047ME:  I’ll think some more on it, and refine the intention card a bit. And while I’m at it, I’ll write an intention card for restarting the moratorium. I obviously need some attention and perseverance when it comes to that intention as well.

P.S.: Excellent! I feel better already. I’m really glad we had this little chat.

ME:  Haha!  Me, too. I think that might be another way to stay on track. Checking in with you on occasion.

P.S.: Put on the coffee and send the invite! I’ll be there!

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*For information on making and following through on intentions, see the following:

INTENTION IS POWERFUL:  http://farthertogo.com/2013/07/17/intention-is-powerful/

ATTENTION IS ESSENTIAL http://farthertogo.com/2013/07/19/attention-is-essential/

PERSEVERANCE IS MAGIC:  http://farthertogo.com/2013/07/21/perseverance-is-magic/

Spinning Plates: An Inner Dialogue

Here is the first part of a conversation between me and Plate Spinner, the part of me that tries to manage the multitude of projects and ideas I take on in spite of myself.

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ME:    Hi, Spinner. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.

P.S.:   No time for chatting. If you want to talk about something significant, make it quick. I’m very busy. No time for small talk.

ME:   Well, I don’t want to intrude. If you don’t want to talk to me . . .

P.S.: Seriously? If I didn’t have all these plates to keep spinning, maybe I could sit down and have a cup of coffee with you, but that’s not the reality.

ME: I see: Why do you spin so much? Do you enjoy it?

P.S. Ha! It’s been a long time since I enjoyed it. It’s become nothing but a burden. It’s not whether or not I like it: it’s what I do.

ME: That’s the problem. You’re always doing.

P.S: Well, if I stop, all of these plates will fall. That wouldn’t be a pretty sight.

ME: Maybe not, but sometimes I get exhausted just watching you. Don’t you ever relax?

P.S.: No time. If it’s relaxation you want, turn it into a project, paint it on a plate. Then we can talk. Well, actually, I can’t really talk much, but I can add it to the other plates.

ME: Sometimes you can be so frustrating. Don’t you want a little time for fun, for friendship, for just exploring new things without it all being so frantic?

P.S.: What are you talking about? What would I do if I wasn’t spinning these plates? More importantly, how would all of these important things get done?

ME: Maybe they’re not as important as you think.

P.S.: Really! Aren’t you the one adding all these plates to the pile?

ME: Hey! I thought I was the one one asking the questions.

P.S.: Just because you keep me too busy for questions most all of the time doesn’t mean I don’t have them.

ME: O.K. I guess that makes sense. I don’t like it, but I can’t really argue with you. There might be some truth to it. I’ll go out on a limb here. Do you want to ask a question?

P.S.: Damn right, I do! But first, I’m going to put all of these plates down for a few minutes. Unless you’re brave enough to tell me to just let go of them all.

ME: I might like to be that brave, but I have to admit, I like most of those plates.

P.S.: No you don’t. I think they’re just a poor substitute for what you really want to be doing. You’re keeping me and yourself busy with all of this stuff. We barely have a moment to think. And besides, this stuff isn’t satisfying to either one of us.

ME: What do you mean? I find a lot of satisfaction in these activities.

P.S.: Excuse me while I laugh hysterically. When is the last time you actually were satisfied with something you were doing? You don’t even give yourself a minute when something is done before you’ve moved on to the next thing, or the next dozen things. I work for you, remember? I can’t stop spinning these plates, because you won’t stop spinning. OK, give me a minute to put all these plates down for a few minutes.

(You can see the process in this video.)

P.S.: There! That feels better. Do you hear that?

ME:  Hear what? I don’t hear anything.

P.S.: Precisely! That’s my point. No whirring from the constant spinning of plates, no frantic footfalls as I run from one pole to another to keep all the plates in the air.

ME: Wow! I guess things really have gotten out of hand.

P.S.: When I came to work for you, I didn’t realize there would be all of this overtime. I didn’t realize that we would be spending so much time in the immediate moment keeping all of this crap in the air so that we’d never have time to work on the bigger dreams. I mean I do like spinning–and juggling for that matter–but you’ve taken all the joy out of it.

ME:  Wow! I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize how miserable I’ve made things for you. What can I do?

P.S.: Well, for starters, you can stop grabbing every new plate that comes along. And then when I do finish with a plate, you could consider just leaving that space open. Give me some breathing space. Give us a chance to step back on occasion and see the big picture.

ME: I hear what you are saying, but sometimes I can’t help myself. The colors, the textures, the patterns, the . . .

P.S.: Cut the crap! One of these days, I’m just going to drop the lot of them! I’ll walk off the job!

ME: Oh, please don’t do that!

P.S.: Why not? What do these plates really represent?

ME: Well, I never really thought about it that way before. But since you ask, I guess they represent me. After all, who am I without all of this activity to define me? Who will notice me if I don’t do all of these things?

P.S.: Really? You’re going to turn this into an identity crisis? Isn’t that a little too convenient?

ME: I’m feeling threatened, insecure. And I’m definitely not sure what to do next. You’re making sense, but I don’t know how to make it better. I don’t know where to start.

P.S.: Oh, I think you do. You didn’t get into this mess overnight, and you’re not going to dig out of it in a day, or even a week, but seriously, I think digging out is right where you need to start.

ME: You’re right. And I need to get intentional about it.

P.S.: Now I’m beginning to feel like you’re listening to me and like there is hope. I really need to get back to all of these plates. But if you’ll back off a bit, maybe we can meet tomorrow and map out this intention thing.

ME: You’ve got it. You’re really good at what you do, but I want you to feel like you’re using those skills for better things than just juggling all of my unexamined stuff. We’ll talk tomorrow!

P.S.: Great!  See you then!

(TO BE CONTINUED!)

 

 

New Year, New Beginnings (Music Theme for December 31)

Like any year, 2013 has had its ups and downs. At the moment, it seems the scale is tipped in the direction of down, but that’s just my current story. And in the end, it doesn’t matter, because 2014 is really coming. I can say good-bye to 2013 and embrace the possibilities of 2014.

Sometimes, it seems we put a little too much stock in the new year, hoping that some magical “reset” button is going to make things better. But I know there is nothing magical about it. I also know that much of what will happen in the new year is beyond my control. But my attitudes about it are in my control. And my intentions for the new year are in my control. So, I will focus on building a set of intentions (not resolutions) for 2014. Watch this space for more!  🙂

In the meantime, here are some of the songs that I take into the new year with me. Thanks to Collaborator for her assistance in finding these songs that I will use to inspire me, motivate me, and keep me keeping on when it seems difficult to do so. According to one of them, I have five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes in 2014. My first intention is to make the most of those minutes.

Still Got Tonight (Matthew Morrison)

Taking Chances (Glee)

Seasons of Love (Rent)

At the Beginning (Anastasia)

 

I Know Where I’ve Been (Hairspray)

Closing Time (Semisonic)

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Check out our other themists:

WILLOW:  http://willowdot21.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/new-musical-theme-the-new-year-all-this-old-and-new-2/

EVA: http://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/

BEAR: http://bearspawprint.wordpress.com/

JOHNNY: http://johnnyojanpera.wordpress.com/

COLLABORATOR: http://sincerelykaterz.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/out-with-the-old/

Eleven Things I’ve Learned from the 31-Day Blog Challenge

1. You never know what you can do until you try.

The first year anniversary of my first post is this weekend, and the most posts I had ever done in a month prior to now was ten. I kept a twice a week publishing schedule for five months before dropping off in April and then disappearing for four months. When I came back in September, I wasn’t sure about what kind of schedule I wanted to keep. I just knew it was time to jump back in. The invitation for the 31-day blog challenge came at the right time, and I decided that it was just the push I needed. Even though I got a little behind, especially in the last week, I successfully posted 31 times! If I hadn’t tried the challenge, I never would have found out what I was capable of.

2. Once I committed to my intention to write more, I actually wrote more.

This isn’t really rocket science, and it isn’t that big a surprise, but the reality is that once I know I need to write, and I actually START writing, it becomes easier to keep writing. By following the intention to sit down and blog regularly, it was easier than I thought. The commitment kept me motivated. The limited time of the challenge (31 days) made it seem possible. It wasn’t forever, it was 31 days. And I could do it if I set up ways to keep my attention focused on it.

3. Having a specific number of posts to do in a specific amount of time makes a difference.

You may think that I have already learned this from other endeavors in my life, but it’s always amazing to me how often, some ideas have to be learned again and again. But when I make specific intentions about what I’m going to do and when I’m going to do it, I have a higher rate of success. Go figure!

4. It’s easier to follow through on an intention with a system of social support.

Knowing other people are also working on the same thing is powerful. Even more powerful is the fact that when like-minded people support each other, the synergy exceeds. I know beyond a doubt that trying to carry out an intention that I keep secret is going to be much harder than it needs to be, and that I am setting myself up to fail. Telling other people about my plans and intentions makes it more likely that I will stick to them.

5. The more posts I write, the more ideas I get.

I found this particularly interesting. I had a few drafts in reserve when I started the challenge. And I wondered if I would have trouble coming up with ideas to write about. But the more I wrote, the more I ideas I had. I now have more pieces waiting in line than before I started, and several more ideas that I’ve got jotted down to do. Writing definitely begets writing.

6. The more I write, the more I learn about myself.

I have discovered that I can explore my own thought process, that I can make discoveries about what’s going on inside this brain. That I am becoming more willing to take risks and try new things, especially when it comes to blog posts. Following up on #2 above, I also discovered that I am now ready to tackle other short-term challenges. I’m participating in a quilt-along in November and December. If I could focus on this challenge and complete it, I can choose another that appeals to me. I choose challenges that are specifically focused on things I’ve been wanting to do, and the results are powerful.

7. Maybe the most significant discovery, is that I can be too “practical.”

Fear of failure is a crazy reason to lower the bar on what I want from life. To limit myself because of potential disappointment keeps me locked in a place where I will always have and be less than I could be. I the dreams and ideas I have for my life. In spite of the fact that I keep the bar too low as a result. I talk myself out of things before I even start. The spill-over effect of succeeding at a challenge leads to other possibilities beyond I thought was possible. For example, I just completed my first entry in a Trifecta Writing Challenge.

8. Taking time for me and what I enjoy energizes me.

It may seem counterintuitive, but being busy can actually be energizing IF the activity is based on things I want to be doing. Most of my busyness before was based on the wrong things, and that’s what wore me out. I need to focus on what will nourish me, what accomplishes the things I want, or simply finding what it is that I want to accomplish. Having an intention like this one has made me feel more alive, more tuned in to the people and events around me.

9. Perseverance really is the key.

I can do what I set out to do if I persevere. Making intentions and setting up ways to keep focused on them has made a huge difference for me. When things don’t work out, it’s much easier to pick up and start again because a system for accomplishing the intention is already in place. This was particularly significant both for the blog challenge (when I went four days without writing a post), and for starting up an exercise routine. In both cases, I had several strategies in place to keep my focus going, so there was no need to throw up my hands in frustration. I just could go back to the plan.

10. The reactions of my audience rarely matches my expectations.

I have been surprised over the last month about which posts get people excited and which ones tend to fall a little flat. Of course, in the blog world, timing is significant. No one can follow all the blog posts that show up on their readers. By the same token, blogs are ongoing. So you never know when someone is going to go back to earlier posts.

11. Blogging is now something I pay attention to.

I am constantly surprised by new ideas, new things I want to try. I’m paying attention to blogging in a way I never did before. All kinds of ideas emerge: I take notes, I try things, I have fun. Now that I’m focused on it, it flows more often than not. Sure, it’s early in this process, but I am finding that the time spent on the blog is making a big difference in the way I approach life. It’s a great tool for exploration and for boosting my willingness to try new things. Who knows, I may be up for another blog challenge one of these days.  .

Challenge: Making My Life Less Crazy

Resolution - better time management

(Photo credit: vpickering)

As some of you may know, I did a blog challenge in October. For November and December, I’ve joined a quilt-along (cutting fabric later today–YAY!). Last week, I joined Curves for a two-month trial to see if it will work for me and my artificial knee. All of these things are about taking time for me, something which I haven’t been very good at in the past, something I want to change. My first post in October was all about Taking Time for Me, and I am moving well in that direction.

This is because I have a problem with taking on too much, especially at work. If a project interests me, and I have the skills or expertise to do something about it, I’m in, usually without thinking. It doesn’t take a big stretch of the imagination to realize that this tendency can lead to trouble, especially when several of those projects collide in terms of deadlines or the necessary focus and attention they need. Let me give you just a few examples.

      1. Most people at our university, if they teach writing at all, they only teach one section, maybe two because it is so work intensive. I teach both first year (1 section) and second year (3 sections) writing courses to English majors.  I also coordinate the first year program. (Yes, I’m insane, but I love writing, and I love helping people find their voice.)  This kind of work really feels like my niche. But of course, it’s only half of my course load. I also teach three sections of general English to students from other majors. Which leads to #2.
      2. Our University uses in-house textbooks for our general English program. Since students are required to take four years of English (focused on all four skills: reading, listening, speaking, writing), there are eight books in this series, one per semester. We are currently in the process of producing new books to replace the series that is nearly 15 years old. And when I say “we,” I mean that I am the coordinator of this project. I have completed one book so far, with two more in active production. Five to go! Insanity, but I brought it on myself.
      3. This year, I serve as the advisor on three senior research graduation projects for three groups of English majors. One group has four members, the other two have two members each. I’ll spare you the details, but it does eat up a chunk of time.
The teaching alone could keep me more than busy, in addition to the research that I am doing, but I’m committed to these other projects. I accept that, and I work somewhat consistently on moving forward on them without stressing too much. But it’s only been recently that I’ve managed to get that stress thing under control. As part of that effort, I made a series of intentions to take time for myself and to take care of myself. Sometimes, it feels like taking this time makes things more complicated, as when I sometimes put the blog challenge ahead of other things I could (in the past I would have said “should”) be doing. But the things I’m now doing for me are changing the way I feel about everything in my life. After the experience of the blog challenge and preparing for the quilt-along, I would never go back to the way things were a few months ago. I like this new direction, this new way of thinking, the way I can reimagine my life. It just takes time.
I can credit my work with Farther to Go! with this transformation in the way I think about things. I now view  my life (n general) and my over commitment to work (specifically) in a while new way. I can’t change everything all at once. But bit by bit, I’m taking my life back and making my decisions and activities more intentional. In the meantime, even while things are still crazy, I am less stressed, and I have hope for a calmer schedule in the not-too-distant future.

Musical Animals (Musical Themes) and Unintended Consequences

ANIMALS IN MUSIC

I’m back with another group of songs based on a theme. This time the theme is animals, selected by Willow. You can check out her blog here. Others who are participating in this thematic scheme include Johnny, Bear, and Eva. Check out their selections about animals and their other themes.

There are many mentions of animals of all kinds in music, and it took me a while to think of how I wanted to approach this theme. After a little thinking and exploration, I decided to go for a variety of critters. So I have two mammals as well as one bird, one amphibian, one reptile, and one fish (although the fish might be pushing it). I even have insects, a whole swarm of them.

As I was putting the final post together, I noticed that the majority of the songs had such high energy. Not all animal songs have such high energy; many of them are more mellow, much like Wildfire below, but I gravitated toward high energy. Also, I’ve had some very interesting insights while working on this post, which I’ve written about after the links to the songs. I hope you have as much fun listening to these selections as I had putting them together.

I’ll start with the mammals

Uganda Kob (male) in the Queen Elisabeth Natio...

Uganda Kob (male) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lion Sleeps Tonight (The Tokens)

Wildfire  (Michael Martin Murphy)

The Insects

DirkvdM orange insect 2

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Flight of the Bumblebee

A Bird

Bird - Duck - Mallard

Mallard Duck (Photo credit: blmiers2)

Mocking bird (Carly Simon, James Taylor)

An Amphibian

Description: Golden Toad (Bufo periglenes) †. ...

Golden Toad (Bufo periglenes) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joy to the World (Three Dog Night)

A Reptile

English: White-headed dwarf gecko in Dar es Sa...

White-headed dwarf gecko, Tanzania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Crocodile Rock (Elton John)

A Fish

A Giant grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus) take...

A Giant grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Barracuda (Heart)

The fish also get an honorable mention above in Joy to the World above:  “Joy to the fishies in the deep blue sea.”

SURPRISE! THE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF PARTICIPATION

When I started this blog, I never thought I’d be posting about music. These thematic challenges intrigued me, and I started participating, not realizing that there was something more basic going on. This activity was calling to me at a deeper level. With this second of my musical posts, I think I understand this tug a little better.

For many years, the piano was a major part of my life and my career. Now, between graduate school and my time here in Taiwan, I have been away from the piano for nearly ten years. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve sat down at a piano since coming to Taiwan. Two of those times were last summer when I spent time at the home of my brother’s family. They have my piano there for my nephew to use, so it will be there for me someday when I return. I was rusty sitting down to play, but even in those two sessions, I could tell that it would come back with a little work.

I’ve been aware of missing music in my life. I’ve tried a few things, like online radio, reminding myself to turn on music, finding a few songs I like to sing along with, but somehow it doesn’t fill the void. There are moments when it feels like I’m almost there, but it doesn’t last. Maybe it was that I wasn’t really engaged with the music the way I have been in the past. But this activity of finding songs and building a narrative for them around an assigned theme is different. It engages me on many levels, and the deadline keeps me from putting it off.  If I put it on the back burner, I lose out on the opportunity. Until I can spend regular time at the piano again, exploring music in this way and posting the results is helping me reconnect with music, to be surrounded by it again, in a new and powerful way.

FAILING at Art

Cardinal on Snowy Branches

Cardinal on Snowy Branches (Photo credit: Reid Kasprowicz)

There are moments that define us. Sometimes, we know in the moment. Other times, we realize in retrospect that a particular event or occasion affected us in ways that were totally unexpected. While some of those defining moments move us forward, others create a sea of self-doubt that takes a long time to recover from.

I had such a moment in the 5th grade when I was ten years old. There were good things about 5th grade, but school was not one of them. Most people who knew me in high school and college would not believe that 5th and 6th grade were an academic nightmare for me. I’m not sure I can blame it all on THE defining moment, but considering the lasting effect of this moment on the rest of my life, I think it’s highly possible.

The event I’m about to share took place in a Catholic school, and yes, a nun was involved. However, I’m not going to do the Catholic School Bash, because I also had some amazing experiences in Catholic school. And regardless of where you go to school, there are good teachers and not so good teachers. And there are good teachers who occasionally make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. And in the case of this moment, I think a mistake was made. In other words, I don’t think what happened was intentional or that she realized the impact her words and actions would have upon me, but here it is.

I don’t remember art classes before fifth grade, except a project we did for 2nd grade when we were studying Spanish. I think my mother still has my la naranja (orange) embroidered on burlap. It has an orange on it, with little green leaves, and the words embroidered in both languages.I remember that it used as a cover for our phone table. Before we brought our projects home as gifts to our parents, our teacher sent a few of us to the office to show the principal, Miss Lamb. I was excited that mine was selected to show. And then we could give them as gifts to our parents. This was happening back in the 60’s when bilingual education wasn’t yet a part of regular elementary education.

Fast forward to fifth grade. Sometime in the first semester, we had an art assignment involving yarn, felt, and burlap again, but we could choose our project. Spatial concepts aren’t really my forte, nor is realism, but I had an abstract idea in my head for this art project. I still remember the colors and textures creating a free-form design over the piece of burlap, but I didn’t have the skills to execute my vision.

From my first cutting and stitching, I was disappointed in it, and I didn’t know how to make it better. But I kept working on it, trying to make something remotely artistic out of it. Apparently, my teacher was disappointed in it as well, because she not only gave me an F on the project; she also called my mother in to have a conference with her. I don’t remember if I was there or not, but I have a feeling that I was. The message was clear. My project was not acceptable, but the teacher would reconsider my grade if I did a new project over the weekend with my mother’s assistance.

Cardinal    by Kristy  of Quiet Play    Winter...

(Photo credit: Susie’s Sunroom)

My mother doesn’t remember this incident, but she was wonderful to me. I don’t remember her making me feel worse about the situation. But I do remember going through her sewing stuff and getting more burlap and some felt and yarn. I don’t know if the design was her idea or mine; but she helped me produce something that was not only acceptable–a cardinal on a branch. The picture on the left is NOT the one she (we) did, but it had a more sloping branch. It was actually quite good, but it didn’t feel like it was really mine. I did get a passing grade though, and at the time, that must have been important to everyone, maybe even me. I don’t remember that part, only the feeling of failure. And, luckily my mother’s willingness to help.

My memories of this incident have been colored by the passing of time, but I do know that from that time on, I didn’t think that art was something I could do. (Luckily, it was the same year I discovered that I loved piano and was good at it.) When it came to art, I not only doubted my ability but the ideas I had about art. Luckily, art isn’t a required class in high school, so I could basically just accept my limitations and focus on other things.

This story has a happy ending. It took many years, but I went on a retreat in 1995 that reaffirmed my artistic and expressive side. There are stories to share from that experience, but for now, the important thing is I began to heal. I began to trust my creative self again.

I had been planning to tell this story for a while now, but after yesterday’s post about my insecurities about quilting, I realized that I might have one more battle with this demon. I am encouraged to make this observation because I know all the other ways that I’ve regained my creative confidence. If I step outside my comfort zone with the quilting and take creative risks again, I cannot fail.

581 days to 60!

600 Days to 60

English: Path, Crackley Wood Temperatures for ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Several months back, I discovered a blog, 400 Days to 40. Even though I found the blog rather late in her 400 days, it got me to thinking that I might like to try something similar for my next milestone. So I calculated (and recalculated) to find the magical day on which I would launch my new blog, 600 days to 60.

When I first calculated the start date for this new blog, I was keeping a pretty good schedule with Container Chronicles. Until April, when things slowed down, and then lay dormant for four months. This month, I’ve finally resurrected the thing, but I think I need to stick with one blog for now and see how it goes. Also, I haven’t found exactly the right focus for this blog yet. I wander around, and I’ve decided that it’s ok to do that. After all, it is about the journey and not the destination. This blog can be a container for all kinds of ideas and explorations. So it seems to make sense to have multiple threads in just one blog and see where it goes from here.

I’ve decided that I’m not looking at this 600 days to 60 as a count-down, but rather a count-up! I want to think of these next 600 days as a journey to find the best version of me there is to find. It will be a process of excavation and checking the foundation, and finding new ways to create and decorate. It will be a time of new keywords and of intentions that challenge and revitalize me. A time of decluttering, revisioning, and finding clarity. My intention is that this journey allows me to find what is important and discard the rest as I move forward toward a life full of vibrant possibility.

The moment is now. 600 days to 60!

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