Working for the Weekend

October 23, 2013

Recently, a couple of things caught my eye.

One of these things was a commentary in “The Onion” about life and passion and time.  Read it.  It’s funny and poignant at the same time.

The guys who wrote it jokes sarcastically that we should definitely keep working at a job we don’t like and do the things we love the most after a long, exhausting day for about five minutes before going to sleep (rinse, repeat).

The second thing I saw was a commercial.  I don’t even know what it was for, but it centered on a mountain bike tour guide whose voiceover explained that he once worked at a job he didn’t like and spent most of his time making other people’s dreams come true. AND NOW?  He works as a mountain bike tour guide in an awesome place.

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Yesterday, I was cleaning up the “mess” after a large and rowdy music therapy group at a nursing home, and a new staff member asked me if I have a job “other than this.” Regardless of what this curious woman meant, what I took from her question, was “Do you have a real job?”

I’m sure many of us are asked those kinds of questions on a regular basis, and while a big part of me really really wants everyone in the world to understand that music therapy IS a “real job,” and not ask me that question anymore, I ALWAYS am happy to inform my inquirers that this is a part of my full-time job as a contracting music therapist and business owner.

It’s a hard job.  A FUN job.  A rewarding job.  A job that requires worlds of patience, optimism, knowledge, and integrity, and a job that is uniquely conducive to a full life.

I find this work ever changing.  I began working as a music therapist in 2006, and my “job” has morphed many times since then.  Every time I have found myself getting tired of the same old songs, the same old groups, something changes.  I started supervising undergrads, I got new contracts, I quit a part-time job MT job, I started blogging about work, I got some more contracts, I started a contracting agency with a friend, I did presentations, I started an internship program, I got some more contracts, and finally, I hired a subcontractor.  During the summers, and for about a month in the winter, self-imposed diminished scheduling allows me to work on things I normally wouldn’t have time for, and that. Is. Glorious. There are so many things that make my job interesting, that I AM excited about work.  I like the variety and I like the ability I have to shift things when I get antsy. It doesn’t even matter that I spend ungodly amounts of time in my car every week – it gives me a chance to catch up on world news and events on NPR, and maybe even listen to an audiobook.

Now, getting back to the Op-Ed I read this week, and that commercial I was talking about earlier in this post…

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a hairdresser for a minute.  Then a singer.  Then a movie star (this was just so I could marry Elijah Wood). In middle school, I wanted to be a surgeon (this was before I found out about the educational requirements).  Then I wanted to be a social worker.  In high school, I completely lost track of what I wanted to be.  I didn’t like school very much, and nothing except for classes in the music department kept my interest for very long.  So… I went to college for musical theatre.  I am happy to say, that if it weren’t for that very poorly reasoned decision, the two years of wasted time, and the tens of thousands of wasted dollars, I never would have discovered music therapy, I never would have transferred schools, and I would not be where I am today.

What do I want to be when I grow up?  Now that hindsight is 20/20, I’ll change that up a bit and say, what do I want to DO when I grow up?  (Ahh…if only guidance counselors had all the answers).

I want to work hard enough so that I can continue to have a good career, but not so hard that I don’t have any balance in the rest of my life.  I want to want to go to work, and have variety in my week so things don’t get stale.  I want to make my own decisions about my job, and I don’t want to have to ask someone for permission before I take a vacation.  I want to be recognized for the passion I have for my work, and I want the people I work for and with to respect and support me. I want to make music with other people on a regular basis, and I want to make others feel good. I want to be able to see my friends and family regularly, and I want to be able to do what I WANT to do the same amount of time as what I NEED to do.

I am almost there…

It’s so cool to meet other people who love their jobs, and I am virtually surrounded by those people, but not everyone is surrounded by positivity, and I think most people don’t love their jobs.  Does our culture put too much emphasis on quantity of labor, and not quality?  When I look at European culture in some areas, I wish that our culture could be more like that.   We’re so rigid here, and there are so many expectations we put on ourselves, and so many rules for life that don’t make sense. We are working for the weekend, and that’s a shame. A friend of mine from high school once told me when her older brother got a job out of college, he said, “I’ll work there for 40 or 50 years and by the time I retire, I’ll have a good amount of money in my 401K, and I’ll have a lot of fun in retirement.” She was horrified, and so was I.

Let’s save all the fun for retirement?  Puhleease.  A wise person once said, “Life happens when you’re making other plans.” Or, more spiritually, “When you make plans, God laughs.” What happens if when you retire you have a terrible accident which leaves you paralyzed?  What happens if you develop early-onset Alzheimer’s?  What happens if that money gets squandered by an irresponsible family member?  Saving fun (and more importantly LIFE) for when you retire is just a bad idea.  End of story.

If you are able to work at a job where you are still able to have a fulfilling life on the side, OR…shhhh even LIKE the work you do, you can have fun RIGHT NOW!  You can live your dreams at this very moment!  Despite the fact that money is certainly an object for most of us, there are ways to make at least some of your dreams come true, even if it wasn’t just how you had imagined it in fourth grade.

It all starts with a direction.  And some courage.  And some patience. And a positive attitude. And maybe at some point, you will find yourself working, playing, and living the dream all at the same time.

L’chaim! To Life!

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Heal the World

February 25, 2013

Helping others can be a healing experience, particularly when you’re feeling blue.  Here’s a little blue stream-of-consciousness post for you.

A few weeks ago, I was taking a walk with my mom and my dog, and we came across a duck-ish bird limping down the street. It was dark and cold. The bird would take a few steps down the street and then lay in the road.  The dead end street headed toward the ocean, where we usually enjoy the view for a moment, but we never made it there, because I decided that we must rescue this animal from certain death.  The short version of the rest of the story goes like this:

I took the bird to my parents’ house after catching it with my jacket (which I took off in 30 degree weather :/), put it in a cat carrier, took it home, and in the morning brought it to a wildlife clinic an hour away from my house.  I went on vacation after that, and when I returned, I got a call from the wildlife clinic telling me that “your bird” is ready to be returned to the wild.  Here are a couple pictures of him on the way to freedom:

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I’ve been struggling with some minor seasonal blues, and this made my day – my week.  I felt so capable and calm, and on top of things.

And it felt good.

I think as long as there is good in a person, helping feels good, and will make people want to do it more.

I see it every day in my clients with Alzheimer’s; I say, “Can you hold these [maracas] for me?”  They almost always say yes, even after I have asked them if they want to play an instrument, and they decline because they “won’t be good at it.”  When I frame it in a way where the client is able to help me, they are immediately ready and willing, even if they “won’t be good at it”. For some reason, they are willing to risk [perceived and imagined] failure and humiliation in order to help someone by holding maracas.  I might also add that these usually end up being the people who most surprise me with their rhythmic abilities – but I digress…

When a person has lost so much, they are still able to naturally help – to give.

In the psych unit, when patients help and support each other, it is heart-warming, and so telling of human instinct.  When there’s a patient who is having a particularly difficult time, others will often encourage and prompt that person, even when they themselves are in the midst of turmoil and sadness.

The phrase, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is something that comes to mind when I think of a dear friend of mine who was abused as a child and now has made it part of her own journey and healing process to help others find peace in their own similar experiences through a blog talking about pain, vulnerability, relationships, and spirituality.

It is incredibly rewarding to help others, because we can see ourselves in the people we’re helping.  Because we would want to be helped. Empathy is a powerful thing.

I lead songwriting exercises in some of my groups.  A few times, I have asked clients what makes them feel good/happy as the “theme”.  “Helping others,” is a popular response. In the psych unit, we talk about coping skills sometimes, and “helping others” often shows up on the list as well. We are hard-wired to help others – maybe because we all have weaknesses.  If we are able to help someone – whether it’s helping an elderly person with a door, a busy colleague with some papers she dropped, returning a cell phone or wallet (intact) to it’s rightful owner, rescuing a limping bird, or helping someone find peace within themselves out of trauma  – it can give us strength.

Finding strength (through whatever journey) allows us to do remarkable things, and it can change us.  It can change the whole story.

Keep it Together

January 29, 2013

As you may have guessed from the name of my blog (or if you know me, then you definitely know), I live in (more specifically, across the river from) Boston.

The Back Bay form across the Charles

The Back Bay from across the Charles

You may also know that at one point, I lived in sunny and mild San Diego, but chose to COME BACK. To one of the oldest cities in the country, and home to not only the most puritanical culture, but also some of the most progressive ideas.  I love this place.  I have lived in Massachusetts nearly all my life (with the exception of the San Diego stint) and have lived in the Boston area for twelve-ish years.  When I decided to come back from San Diego, I decided one thing: that I wasn’t going to complain about the snow or rain anymore.  This is New England, and unpredictable weather goes with the territory.  While most New Englanders I know complain about the weather as a side job (in the summer, it’s too humid, in the fall it rains too much, in the spring, there are too many allergies, and in the winter…oh the winter), I chose to see the beauty. I told myself that in place of complaining about the snow, I would decide that shoveling would be exercise, and when there was a snowstorm, I’d drink hot cocoa and then take my snowshoes and walk in the woods in the powder.  What a nice idea!

December, 2010

December, 2010

Winters in New England before last year’s historic fallwinter (where there were 65 degree days in January, and only a total of four inches of snow, two of which landed on Halloween) were picturesque: branches with a crest of snow highlighting each twist and turn, snowmen dotting lawns everywhere… Well, that’s what I saw, at least.  And it’s one of the main reasons I came back to Boston from warm and consistent San Diego, where things didn’t change quite enough for this New England girl.

This Winter is a little different.  We have had snow, but LAME snow.  One inch here, another two inches there – and more often than not, it all gets washed away by cold, bitter rain before I can say slush.

Note the spotty grass below my skiis...

Note the spotty grass below my skiis…

The problem with this, is that there is no shoveling for exercise.  There is no fun winter excursion into the beautiful Middlesex Fells Reservation.  There is no beauty.  Only cold, wet, dry, barren landscapes, and compromised immune systems.  And my emotional health has taken a hit.

In the past few years, I have had some self-diagnosed issues with seasonal depression (otherwise known as SADD or Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder).  Around mid-January, I start feeling down, for no apparent reason, and despite otherwise good circumstances.  The thing that stinks about this reality, is that there’s nothing I can knowingly do about it save taking pharmaceuticals.  I am outside periodically throughout the day driving and walking from one place to another, so I do see daylight and sometimes sunshine, and I do get exercise (though not enough recently because of the negative degree temps) which can help.  But the past two winters have been rough.  There has been no real snow, which means that my winter coping skills have needed to change along with the climate.

The one decent snow we've gotten this winter

The one decent snow we’ve gotten this winter

So, what’s a girl to do?  I eat healthfully, I take vitamins (and St. John’s Wort and Ginseng presently), and I get to see the sun.  What that means to me, is that I need to put on my big girl pants and deal with it.  Which I do.

My daily intake of vitamins and herbs.

My daily intake of vitamins and herbs.

However, feeling more tired and less alert in general does not generally mix very well with this line of work, and it is difficult to find the motivation to deal with certain things.  Plus, there are these two young ladies who spend an awful lot of time with me and depend on me to be on top of my game.  Yikes.  Furthermore, I was talking with one of my interns yesterday about how people often brush off these types of feelings because they are not completely pervasive or acute, like other more serious mental health diagnoses symptoms can be.  But!! They still should be addressed, especially if your job and clients depend on your usual enthusiasm and energy to last, even through cold, wet winters.

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Where is the line between putting on your big girl pants, and seeking help?  I have never needed to act on that latter step in the past, and with any luck a tropical vacation I am going on soon will curb some of the ennui I am feeling, but if it doesn’t, where is the line?  For those of you working as therapists or caregivers in health care or other areas, does seasonal depression affect you?  What are your solutions to that problem?  Are there any holistic treatments that have helped you in the past?  Please share your self-care techniques with me and the other readers, and we’ll make it through this, I swear! 

Scars and Stitches

January 2, 2013

In October, I got sick.

Things were coming out of my face that had no business ever seeing the light of day.  I lost my voice at the end of one day of work and then had to take a last minute emergency trip to take care of a friend in a different time zone.  It was miserable.  I was hacking and coughing and wheezing and congested and couldn’t breathe, and then my voice never came back.

I waited it out, hoping it was just a lingering case of laryngitis, but after a month and a half, I still couldn’t sing normally and my speaking voice was strained and hoarse. My interns were still leading all of the sessions (which may have actually been a blessing in disguise, because they are doing an amazing job), and I had a looming unsettling feeling of pessimism about the tumor problem in my vocal chords.

About a month ago at one of the facilities where I work, one of the nurses walked by me while I was brooding (and eavesdropping), and I heard several people say, “Heeeey! You’re back?” “How aaaare you?”  It turns out that she got sick this past summer, got laryngitis, and never got better.  And then found out that she had a nodule on her vocal chords that needed to be removed.  And then found out she would need to be on vocal rest for three weeks.

The hypochondriac that I am, I freaked out and was 100% sure that I, too, had a nodule that was going to require surgery and vocal rest, and therefore ruin my career and my life.

Here are a few of the things I learned about nodules while Googling:

NodesThey are benign.  They are polyps, lesions or blisters caused by vocal abuse or misuse.  The nurse I spoke with said that the membrane tears, and the muscles, etc. behind the fold pop out like a hernia.  I can’t find that information anywhere, so I’m not sure if it’s true, but in any case…In order to restore normal voice function, they require surgical removal followed by voice therapy paired with vocal rest.  THEY ARE AVOIDABLE.  Here’s a link in case you want to worry yourself as well!

So…I was inspired by the nurse at work, and went to the doctor (an Otolaryngologist), and found out, after a nightmarish inspection-by-videocamera (microlaryngoscopy) that occurred in my poor gag-prone throat, I found out…that I don’t have a node.  I have been sporadically worried about nodes forever, so I was relieved, to say the least.  However…

What I did find out, is that instead, I have a giant scar on my vocal chords prohibiting me from singing and speaking correctly.  What’s worse, is that it is apparently not new, which means that the five years it took me to recover from the last time I had laryngitis was probably just my vocal chords adapting to their new topography.  That’s only a theory, but it makes sense if that’s the case.

Scar VCWhere did the scar come from, you ask?  Apparently, at some point one of my vocal folds tore (probably from coughing), it almost healed, and then tore again, and then healed into a scar, but the healing process wasn’t quite complete because I probably sang and talked and yelled through it and exacerbated everything.

Now, the fun begins.  I have to see a speech and voice therapist who specializes in voice disorders for singers (and who is a former music therapist!) for 4-6 sessions.  She will assess my current situation through a series of tests and give me exercises to do that will allow my vocal chords to heal (and get back to normalish).  I will also most likely have to adjust several aspects of my speaking and singing voice, and re-learn how to breathe and warm-up. Fun times.

The reason I decided to write about this, is to stress to all of you (my colleagues, students, and friends who sing) to take care of your voice and your vocal chords.  Warm up before leading sessions.  Drink water until your pee is clear. Avoid coffee, sugar, citrus juices and smoking right before sessions.  For the love of Pete, don’t sing through a cold or cough.  Take the day off, rest your voice, and forsake the money you would have made (if you’re self-employed).  It is not worth it to have your instrument stripped of its function just for a day’s pay.  You’ll end up spending far more than that in medical bills and therapy.

Unfortunately, voice disorders having to do with scars or nodules affect adult women between the ages of 20-50 most often.  Look at that!  Music therapists are mostly women who use their voices every day to speak and sing.  Double whammy for MTs.  And even more reason to take my words seriously.

For now, I am dealing with the issue, and will start voice therapy in two weeks, but I can’t tell you how frustrating it is not knowing how long it will be before I can really sing again, or at least sing comfortably.  I can tell you, though, that I’ll be far more careful from now on knowing what I do.  Take my word for it, take care of yourself, and don’t take your voice for granted.

Try

June 23, 2012

When I was feeling burnt out last year, all I wanted to do was write.  Every group I had gave me an idea for a blog post, and between August of last year and January, I mostly wrote more than once a week.  Alas, things have changed.

My schedule changed at the end of January, which kept me much busier than usual (in a good way) and left less time for blogging and ideas.

I became more motivated in my work after leaving one of my contracts, so I have been spending more time doing work I like, and less time thinking about liking work.

I began religiously listening to NPR in my car between groups instead of thinking about work.

I started a lifestyle change in search of balance in food consumption and exercise which left less time to blog.

I have been making more creative meals for myself and my boyfriend in an attempt to get out of my “chicken meatball and brussels sprouts” rut.  This takes more time.

I began working on three fairly complicated work-related projects/proposals.

Anyway, the list goes on in terms of things that have kept me away from WordPress, but the truth is that I miss blogging and I wish I had more time to write.  However – I haven’t given up!  I have 6 posts that I started months ago and never finished that are waiting for edits and publication, and one that I finished earlier today that I’ll post later. I wonder though, if I will be able to get back into the swing of things in the same way as before…

Two things happened this past week that motivated me to start writing again.  One, a former student of mine asked me for some advice on beginning contract work and I found that I enjoyed answering his questions quite a bit.  Two, I heard a story about a young Pakistani singer, Ghazala Javed, who was shot and killed for no obvious reason. I’ll write more on both of those topics in future posts, hopefully soon, and maybe that will get the blog ball rolling once again.

My goal is to get to 100 posts by Labor Day.  This is 71.  Can I do it?  We’ll see.  In any case, thanks for reading and I’ll try to come by more often.

Last week, on the 30th of April, my boyfriend/partner and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary (by going out to a fancy dinner in the French Quarter of New Orleans).  What does this have to do with anything, you ask?  Really nothing.  Except that instead of getting him a present, I spent months (this is not an exaggeration, but let’s say that I wasn’t spending a lot of consistent time) writing a parody of Bob Hope’s “Thanks for the Memory” and added many many memories – good and … iffy.

First, before I share my version, which I played for my boyfriend before we left for New Orleans, and which he was so touched by that he insisted upon video-recording it and sharing it with the world, check out the original version from the 1938 film, “The Big Broadcast of 1938.”

My version is obviously very personal, so you won’t understand references, but it was extremely therapeutic for me to do something like this for our anniversary, and I had a lot of fun with rhymes and meter.  I talked about my love of parodies and my background with them in this post, months ago, and other than at work, I have written very few.  I think that’s about to change…

I hope you enjoyed it, and are inspired to write your own!

 

I have a confession to make.

I have been in a love affair for about ten years.  My boyfriend knows about it and accepts it.  Sometimes it even enhances our relationship, and it makes me who I am.

My love affair is with the city of New Orleans, Louisiana.

This image of the French Quarter is hanging in my dining room

I am sitting in the airport right now and I only have about twenty more minutes of free wifi to tell you five of the things I love most about the city I’m about to be in for six days, so here I go, in no particular order:

1. The music

2. The food

3. The fun and irreverent atmosphere

4. The creepy-antique energy of the French Quarter

5. Jackson Square kiosks

I love New Orleans.  I don’t call it NOLA, I don’t call it Nawlins, I don’t call it anything that makes me seem like I deserve to be there more than anyone else.  I just love it.  This will be my fourth time visiting the fabulous city, and I’ll be going to the Jazz and Heritage Festival (Jazz Fest) for the second time.  I was only there once before Katrina, and because the French Quarter was barely touched by the flooding, I haven’t noticed much of a change when I go back and stay in that neighborhood (which I always do).

I find that I get lost in the old time blues and jazz that seems to be everywhere during Jazz Fest, and I go home humming minor blues improvisations for days and weeks. Most of what I play at work ends up having a New Orleans sound for a while, and I lead groups that somehow always bring me back there in my mind.  I feel like I’m home when I go to New Orleans, and I always feel sad when I leave.

Would I ever live there? No.  I’m a wimp and too scared of floods and hurricanes in a city that was built below sea level, and I have too much going on up north to move south, but I will always go back to New Orleans.

When I’m no longer able to go back physically, I will always remember those amazing times and go back to New Orleans in my music and in my mind.

When I was in college, I worked at FAO Schwarz in Boston for two years before it closed.  I loved that job.  I was going to school full time and working [more than] part-time, but it didn’t feel like work because, well, it was a toy store.  I made wonderful friends there, so when I wasn’t working with them, I was hanging out with them, so even though I was working A LOT, I loved it, and it was fun.

Some FAO friends, post-FAO.

After FAO closed, I worked at a bar in the Back Bay full-time on top ofmy full-time status as a student.  I also hosted karaoke from 10 PM-2 AM two nights a week at two other bars.  I went to class all day, worked all evening until sometimes 2 or 3 AM, and somehow made it to class the next day.  I must have been tired, but since I was 22 or 23, I must not have noticed (?).  I was a fabulous waitress and all the running around and time management challenges created such momentum that I barely even noticed I was working.  However, I almost never had a day off, and it made a huge impact on my quality of life not being able to call in sick (I was ALWAYS sick in college) without somebody being there to cover my shift.

 

Internship was when I learned how difficult my “real” job was going to be.  I worked from 8 or 9 AM to sometimes 7 or 8 PM, and I was EXHAUSTED.  I loved it, and I was taking grown-up responsibility for myself and my decisions for the first time ever.  Maybe all that non-stop work at the bar helped prepare me for long days, but it certainly didn’t prepare me for the emotional and mental strain this work tends to cause.

As I’ve said in past posts, I started with one hour of MT work.  That was nice.  Not financially sustainable, but nice.  That lasted for a little over a month before I began piling on loads and loads of work, which was not mentally or emotionally sustainable for me, especially when I would have every other Saturday off.  That was my only time off for about seven months before I came up for air and let go of some stuff.

My office/desk at my first "real" job.

For the past few years, when I have only been contracting, I have had steady work, but my schedule has been bizarre and choppy, so there were some days where I was working for two hours in the morning, and then I wouldn’t have anything else the rest of the day.  I would sleep in one or two days a week and then work all afternoon those days.  Then of course there were Sundays…

(Cut to this week)

This past week was the first week of my “full” (new) schedule.

Is this what I’ve been missing all these years -slash- is this what work is really like?

BORING ALERT: Monday was jam-packed with work and driving.  I had a morning group, a working lunch in one of my hospital cafeterias and then proceeded to have three back to back groups in three different locations.  Tuesday was packed with work and driving.  I had a morning group, a working lunch at Panera Bread on my way out to Metro West and had two back to back groups far away from one another.  Wednesday I had a working breakfast, went to the bank to close my BofA business checking account had a group 45 minutes away, and immediately had my meeting in a different location with my new contract – my shortest day.  Thursday, I had two back to back student sessions, each followed by supervision/feedback time, grabbed a Dunkin’s egg white turkey sausage flatbread sandwich on my way to Metro West and ate in the car.  I had my afternoon group immediately followed by a drive down the road for another student session and supervision time.  Friday I had a morning group, took my dog for a 40 minute walk during lunch, ate a quick lunch, had a session followed by A WHOLE HOUR TO watch TV BREATHE, and then another session.

Does this look like your schedule?  Is your schedule worse?  If it does/is, then I am sorry I ever complained about being tired from work before this week, and that I’m complaining now.  I came home on Thursday on the verge of tears because I was so tired.  I am not used to this. There is very little time to do the other things that need to get done, like walking my dog, exercise, eating healthy meals, cooking creative meals (something I don’t have to do, but gives me enjoyment), and alone time. 

The good news, is that I CAN adjust my schedule a little bit and find ways to use my time so that I don’t come home and decide that brussels sprouts and a few chicken meatballs is what I’m making for dinner, and then cry because of a Swiffer commercial on TV (that didn’t happen, but it probably would have…).  I CAN (don’t want to, but can) wake up earlier to take a run or walk the dog before work.  I CAN (and did) ask my boyfriend to help me prepare dinner on the really busy days (he likes to cook, but I do it better and prefer to be in charge meals). If I don’t have time to make a lunch for the road, I CAN make healthy choices at the hospital cafeteria (salad with various legumes, veggies, 4 oz of chicken, and a splash of olive oil = approx. $5 & 300 calories), Panera Bread (Bowl of Low-Fat Chicken Noodle Soup with a whole grain chunk of baguette = approx. $5 & 260 calories) and Dunkin’ Donuts (egg white, turkey sausage, and cheese flatbread sandwich = approx. $3.50 & 270 calories). YES I CAN.  When does alone time happen?  On Friday for one hour in the middle of the day.  That will have to do until May.

Why May, you ask?  Well, you see, what’s keeping me hopeful, it that this is not a permanent schedule. My students will have their last session with me the second week of May and Berklee doesn’t start the next site/clinical semester until October.  The well-elder organization I work for began it’s spring “semester” of my music program this week and goes until the middle of June before a 2.5 month break.  These two contracts take up all of Tuesdays and Thursdays, but they are the only things on those days, so I have a reduced schedule from May 15th to October, and completely free Tuesdays & Thursdays from June 15th until September.  I thought about filling in those days with summer work (summer camps, etc.) but now that I’ve started this schedule, I think that by the time those free days come, I’m going to need them.  Like whoa.  So I’m keeping them open for a couple of professional projects that need some TLC.  For which I can sit on the couch with my laptop and my phone until the cows come home in the fall.

When I’ll do this all over again.

Hopefully with a lot less kvetching.

Never on Sunday

February 12, 2012

I wrote about my new schedule in a previous post, and while this may not be helpful in a very practical way for anyone reading, I thought I’d give everyone whose schedule is unideal for them, a little dose of hope and insight.

When I began working as a music therapist in the summer of 2006, I began with one hour of work.  It was on Sunday.  I gradually filled in my schedule over time with various regular part-time work, and per-diem contract hours – three of which also managed to snake their way into my Sunday schedule.  There were some weeks at the beginning where I would work for 13 days in a row before having a day off, and I took so many Sundays off for family gatherings, weekend trips, holidays and weddings, that I could almost see actual dollar bills flying out the window.  It was not working for me.  I have some friends who work on weekends, and that seems to work for some of them, but I have learned, as part of a mission to be more balanced, that having one day off a week is not healthy for me, and because of the amount of events that are scheduled on weekends, is is not good for my wallet either.  For those of you who are self-employed with a comfortable hourly rate, picture the paycheck from 4 hours of work.  Multiply that by 12 or 13 (or more) and subtract that from your yearly income.  OUCH!!  And that’s just from Sundays.

Anyway, after five and a half years of Sundays, last weekend marked the first in an endless series of Sundays where I will no. longer. have. to. work. I woke up late, ate a leisurely breakfast, took a five mile run, took my dog for a thirty minute walk, painted a picture, paid some bills, blogged, and then my boyfriend and I had a friend over to watch the Superbowl.  It was everything I thought it would be.  Almost.

The thing that I didn’t expect, was that I wouldn’t know how to utilize all my newfound free time!  After my run, walk and subsequent shower, I had no idea what to do with myself for the three hours until the big game (which I really couldn’t care less about) and it made me tense.  I asked my bf what I should do, and his suggestion was for me to paint (I used to do this all the time).  I haven’t painted in so long that I forgot it was a option!  Painting, making homemade cards, writing, composing, coloring and drawing were things that I only had one day to do, and usually that day would be taken up with hours of hiking in the woods with the dog, trips to the grocery store, cleaning the apartment and making meals.  I enjoyed those days, don’t get me wrong, but I definitely forgot about all the OTHER stuff I used to enjoy, that I really haven’t had any time for over the past five and a half years.

I realize that this is a wonderful adjustment to have to make, but it’s still an adjustment, no matter how ecstatic I am to be experiencing it.  I expect that adjustments are a constant part of our lives, and that the better we deal with them, the happier we’ll probably be.

In one of my facilities, I work with well elders.  Some of them have a zest for life and have come to accept their disabilities or hardships as inevitable while still carrying on an optimistic and realistic existence.  Others remain in the past, however, pining for their younger days, and having quite a hard time with the realities of aging.  This may be a repetition from a previous blog post, and I’ve been told that I should “wait ’til you’re MY age,” to go jumping into an attitude of invincibility toward the frustrations of aging,  but I like to think that my positive outlook and my awareness of what will eventually happen to me will prepare me for the less pleasant adjustments I’ll need to make later in life.

Now back to the good adjustments, and my second Sunday off…

Taking Care of Business

December 7, 2011

Ah…the holidays.

It seems like this time of year is here before we know it, and then it’s gone with a poof.  I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get everything done.  Between all of my contracts, students, shopping, decorating, parties, walking the dog and the shorter days, not to mention a little seasonal depression thrown in, it’s a little overwhelming to try to get everything done.

Something I’ve been able to realize is this:  If I don’t do something right away, it gets put off, and then turns into a list of twenty things that need to get done later on.

Ways that I’ve been able to make it through the holiday season [in the past] without wanting to hide under the covers all day are these:

1. Online Shopping

2. Taking holidays off

3. Exercising (even if it’s just walking the dog)

4. Saying no to things I don’t have time for

5. Watching “Love Actually” at least twice

6. Learning new songs

Unfortunately, since there’s so much to do (including a growing list of Words With Friends games to catch up on daily) blogging has taken a back seat lately, but I’m intent upon not letting my blog wither and wane.  I could use a little encouragement, though, friendly readers…

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What do you do to stay sane during the holidays?