Teach Your Children Well

February 13, 2014

I mentioned in the previous post that I have recently begun working with an early-childhood music program. O.M.G.

If you have been reading my blog for any period of time, chances are you have noticed that I work with adults. The end. I have not, since practicums in school, worked with anyone under the age of 18. So, naturally, when I was contacted by this business, I decided it was a good idea for me to jump in to work with non-adults by working with people who require me to be an entirely different kind of facilitator in a musical setting: Toddlers.

These are typically developing kids, and the music program is more of a world music and art exploration class, which is actually right up my alley (I love world music).  Parents are always present (though some have more than one child in attendance) for the entire 45 minute class, which helps with the wrangling and herding of the masses, and there is a ten minute art portion where an art teacher brings in some very creative things for the kids to paint with (on various surfaces – last week, they were painting on snow!) and they paint to whatever musical theme is explored that day. The classes run from September to June.

The first class (I keep wanting to say “session”) was a disaster. There were five children (all with parents present) and they were EVERYWHERE! The room had several structures, toys and props that were left out, which provided huge distractions, so I was definitely leading the parents in music for most of the time while the toddlers moved about the room so fast, I barely had time to get over to them with my guitar before they were on their way to another area.

The second class was better, as the administrators decided it might be helpful to remove some of the more distracting items from the room beforehand, and I actually had the attention of some of the kids!

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The third and fourth classes were both really nice, even with larger numbers of kids, and I find myself now enjoying not only the sessions, but also the minimal but necessary preparation before sessions – making playlists for the world music listening/art/free movement aspects of the class and learning SHORT songs and movement exercises that go with the premeditated world music and art themes – and getting to know the little ones. I can see, only in a few short weeks, that some are learning from our classes, those little sponges, and becoming more comfortable with me, which I appreciate, because they seem to be actively attending and participating more.  For a take-away, here are the last four mini session/lesson plans:

Waltz theme

Play “Blue Danube” before class while kids explore

  1. Learn names/introductions
  2. Greeting song
  3. “On top of Spaghetti” with Instruments
  4. Put away instruments
  5. “Chim-Chimeny” with pom poms
  6. Put pom poms away
  7. “Daisy Bell” with bells
  8. Put bells away
  9. Free movement with Scarves to “The Christmas Waltz” and “Lara’s Theme”
  10. Put away scarves
  11. Painting with coil whisks to “Waltz of the Flowers”
  12. Put away paints
  13. “The More we Get Together” – movement exercise
  14. Goodbye Song

Hawaiian Theme

Play Hawaiian music playlist* before class while kids explore

  1. Learn names/introductions
  2. Greeting song
  3. “Spread a Little Aloha” with shakers
  4. Put away shakers
  5. “Little Grass Shack” with instruments
  6. Put away instruments
  7. “I’ll Build a Bungalow” with pom poms
  8. Put pom poms away
  9. Free movement with Scarves to playlist*
  10. Put away scarves
  11. Playlist – painting with flower shaped sponges
  12. Put away paints
  13. “Lovely Hula Hands” – movement exercise
  14. Goodbye Song

Hawaiian Music Playlist

Pili Me Ka’u Manu – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Lovely Hula Hands (Instrumental) – Hawaii

Honolulu – Hawaii

Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

 Southern African Theme

Play Southern African music playlist* before class while kids explore

  1. Learn names/introductions
  2. Greeting song
  3. “Hakuna Matata” with instruments
  4. Put away instruments
  5. “Izika Zumba” with shakers
  6. Put away shakers
  7. “Lion Sleeps Tonight” – puppets/animal sounds
  8. Put away puppets
  9. Free movement with scarves to playlist
  10. Put away scarves
  11. Playlist – painting with animal figurines’ feet (animal tracks)
  12. Put away paints
  13. No More Monkeys – movement exercise
  14. Goodbye Song

Southern Africa playlist 

Streetbeat – David Hewitt

Mbube – Mahotella Queens

Langa Mo – Aura Msimang

Kalimba – Dr. Victor

Sangoma – Bakithi Kumalo

Hendry – Tarika Sammy

Hello Hello – Mose Se Sengo

Cold Weather Theme (originally Icelandic, but no appropriate Icelandic music exists that I felt comfortable playing for toddlers)

Play Cold Weather playlist* before class while kids explore

  1. Learn names/introductions
  2. Greeting song
  3. “Frosty the Snowman” with instruments
  4. Put away instruments
  5. “Let it Snow” with pom poms
  6. Put away pom poms
  7. “Snow is Falling” – to the tune of “Frere Jacques” and with hand and body movement
  8. Free movement with scarves to playlist*
  9. Put away scarves
  10. Playlist – painting on fresh snow with brushes (blue and purple paint)
  11. Put away paints
  12. Goodbye Song

Cold Weather Playlist

All Souls Night – Loreena McKennitt

Dedicace Outo – Dead Can Dance

Between the Shadows – Loreena McKennitt

Crow Wing – Nakai/Demars

Tango to Evora – Loreena McKennitt

On the business side of things…I’m not getting paid my regular rate (what I make is based on how many kids are signed up in advance and then how many drop-ins there are, which all varies) and while that’s definitely not my favorite part of this experience, I decided before I even started that I would think of this as a class I am taking, since this is decidedly not my population (toddlers) or area of expertise (teaching). So, when I look at it that way, I am getting experience working (not as an MT) with a group of people that is COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone in almost every way, and I’m getting paid to do it, which is awesome.

Roll With the Punches

February 10, 2014

In December, I found out from one of my contracts that they needed to cut my hours in half. I was disappointed and thought that I could talk the new dementia unit recreation coordinator into reconsidering with my Jedi mind trick knowledge of how beneficial music therapy is for clients with dementia, etc.  I called a couple of colleagues for advice, and came up with a plan to meet with the woman in person, after a lot of negative thoughts and anxiety made their way into my brain.

I was sad and nervous and had been rehearsing with myself all morning. No sooner had I walked through the door the day of my meeting, than I ran into an activities employee I know who informed me that they had just hired a new Director of Resident Life (who hadn’t started yet), and that she is also a music therapist.  I asked who it was, and as chance would have it (eh – it’s a small world – who am I kidding…) it was someone I had met at our regional conference last year. I became more relaxed after my conversation with the activities person, and decided to throw my “plan” from earlier out the window. I decided to just talk with the new rec. coordinator about regular things and then explain my situation logistically, philosophically and financially when the subject came up in an organic way. This was a much better approach, and I didn’t feel as much on my guard as I had earlier. It turns out it was a budget issue, more specifically, that our weekly sessions were taking up literally half of the monthly budget, and that they wanted to have a bit more variety on the unit.  I guess sometimes things just don’t work out! I was still somewhat frustrated though, and to add to that frustration, I had been doing a lot of cold calls in order to get my sub more work and I hadn’t heard back from any of them (even after following up) so I was a little defeated in general, especially after so many months of doing really well in that regard.

Over the next couple of days I had some moments of negativity (which is not common) but on Sunday, I just sort of accepted things and thought to myself…”with every closed door, comes an open window.” I decided to be okay with my less than successful month of job-getting, and get back into my regular mindset. Maybe something would come up?

On Monday, I signed in to my LinkedIn account to write a message to the music therapist/Director of Resident Life at the facility that was cutting my hours, just to say hello and tell her that I work with the facility she’s starting work at. When I logged in, I saw her name on the screen and was very confused as to why this person’s name was on my screen when I hadn’t done anything to bring it there, and then I realized that she had written ME a message (that same morning). Her message stated that she was leaving her private practice, and asked if I had any interest in taking on her clients (if they were interested). UM. Yes Please.

I wrote her back and told her the bizarre circumstance under which I signed on to LinkedIn to begin with, and then agreed to take any clients who wanted me. I received e-mails from three of the several contracts, and am therefore now working with an early-childhood music program (not MT, and if you’re familiar with my blog, then you know it’s not my population either), a Day Program near the hospital I work at, which includes adapted piano lessons for one – soon to be two – adult men with special needs, and an assisted living facility within the same company as others I contract with. Through the latter, I have also gotten e-mails from administrators in other facilities under the same umbrella. So basically, stuff is happening.

Also in December, a music therapist I spoke on a panel with last year got in touch with me about an opportunity working in a special needs classroom. I am not taking on much in the way of new work because my schedule is pretty full, so I asked my sub if she might be interested.  She started last week and though there have been some minor kinks to work out, I think it’s going to be a good experience for us all, and she really seems to be enjoying it.

This is such a crazy adventure in self-confidence and acceptance of the things I cannot change. I have to remind myself not to take anything personally, to continue to foster good relationships with everyone I meet, and to never never let anything keep me down for long, because something awesome is waiting around the corner if I just believe it’s there.

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!

Movin’ on Up

July 26, 2012

So this past week, Sherman Hemsley of “The Jeffersons” and “All in the Family” fame died.  While I stayed up too late watching “All in the Family” among other 70’s and 80’s sitcoms during my sophomore year of college, I never saw “The Jeffersons.”  I still haven’t, and I probably won’t start now, but I do appreciate the sentiment of its theme song.

For the past couple of years, I have been toying with the idea of going back to school.  I think I was trying to find a way to make my job more challenging, added to the fact that I have a couple other friends who are either just starting grad programs or have just finished (and I was feeling a little internal pressure to go in that direction myself), and colleagues have, point-blank, told me that I need to go back and get a Master’s. And my dad told me (from personal experience) to go back to school before I have babies.

However, something else has just come up which will most likely postpone grad school applications for at least a year (ideally, it would postpone grad school indefinitely, but that may not be realistic).  I am getting two university-affiliated interns this September at the hospital system I contract with, and what’s really cool, is that it looks like it will probably open interesting doors and windows for me and the people I work with in the near future.

This year began with me starting to spend a little more time being healthy, active, and mindful, and I believe the shift in my energy level has made me more motivated in every way, and has really allowed me to take advantage of situations in a way I never felt comfortable doing before.  I called two new places this week and scheduled appointments to do sample sessions at one of the facilities.  I had a meeting with someone regarding copyright issues for a super secret project I’m working on (in all my spare time…), and I made a list of the things I’d like to accomplish in the next week, including filling out some paperwork so that I can open a Roth IRA, so that I can actually retire someday!!.

Things are happening, people, and I can only hope that this fantastically awesome wave I’m riding on continues to bring good things my way.

 

 

 

Taxman

April 9, 2012

**I have made some adjustments and corrections to this post based on some helpful feedback.**

I don’t know where I have been lately, but I can only guess it was a place so remarkable that I could only write one blog post in the past month.  Any guesses?  No?  Okay, I was lying before.  I do know where I was.  I was actually just busy and preoccupied.

This time of year, there’s a lot going on.  The weather has started getting nicer, so instead of blogging on Saturday mornings, I’ve been trying to get some exercise out in nature.  I’ve been doing all sorts of busy-work, like getting pictures framed and starting seeds for the garden and finally thinking about the Ides of April…the date we all dread…the day when we feel like the government reached into our pockets and stole our money and our dignity and our hope for the future…

TAX DAY [insert loud minor chords being played on Dracula’s organ].

Ok.  Now for something a little less dramatic.

I’ve been self-employed now for a while, and even when I was still dabbling in “employment” here and there, taxes were not my favorite thing, as you can imagine.

For those of you who haven’t yet started your self-employment, or who are procrastinators just now getting around to thinking about taxes, like me, this post is for you.

Some things to know:

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There is a separate and larger “self-employment” tax for us lucky ones.  Yay!  Solution: deduct as many things as possible.  The loses will be taken from your Gross Income and lower your taxable income by as many dollars as you have spent on your business or your professional life.

Pretty much anything you buy that has to do with your work-life is deductible on your taxes.  Instruments, uniforms, gasoline, cost of service to your car, plane tickets and hotel accommodations to conferences, conference fees, AMTA member dues, CBMT courses and dues, cost of food at business meetings, a new computer or phone (or tablet) that you use for work, home office costs, and pretty much anything else you can think of that has to do with you getting to work and doing your job well.  I have not written down all of the things I deduct, but hopefully that gives you a good start.  This does not mean that these things are free.  As I said before, the amount you spend is deducted from your income so that you are only taxed on the money you actually brought home.  Just thought I’d throw that out there so you don’t all go to the next conference and spend all your money on sound massage chairs with reckless abandon.

Since this is more complicated when you have eight 1099-MISC forms instead of one 1040, use something like TurboTax (I’m not getting paid to advertise them) which will prompt you and let you adjust each item in each section as many times as you want.  You send in your taxes online and pay any additional taxes with a credit card.  It costs about $100.00 for the small business version (which you want if you are self-employed) and in my opinion, it’s well worth it to be completely in control of what you’re going to owe (because you’ll probably owe something – welcome to self-employment).  I have been convinced to look into getting a CPA to do my taxes.  They can sometimes catch deductions that you would have missed, but given the fact that most new professionals aren’t going to shell out $700.00 for tax preparation, TurboTax is a great alternative.  It prompts you and asks any questions you would be asked by a CPA, and they give you detailed examples of acceptable deductible items. Everyone has different preferences and priorities, and I have found TurboTax to be extremely helpful in the past.  Online filing and in-person tax prep costs are also deductible on the following year’s filing, so it’s mainly about having the money up front for tax prep if you want to hire a person to do your taxes for you.

Quarterly taxes:  If you don’t pay these, you could get a fine and that’s no fun.  There are small business forms online that allow you to calculate how much you will have to pay in taxes to your state government and the federal government, and the IRS separates that number by four.  You pay in April, June and September, and then the January of the following tax year, and it significantly decreases the chance that you will owe $4,000 to the government on April 15th of that year (In case it wasn’t clear, that statement comes from personal experience, unfortunately). This can be done online, at https://www.pay1040.com/ among other websites, and you can get more information on the subject at http://www.irs.gov/.  Each state is different, so contact your state’s treasury department for more information on estimated state taxes.

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This post is meant as a basic self-employment tax guide for beginners.  I am sure there is more to know about this subject, so in the meantime, if you have any additional information or suggestions for my readers, feel free to comment below.

In conclusion, the tax deadline this year is actually April 17th, since Washington D.C. has a holiday (Emancipation Day) on Monday the 16th.  I sure wish I could be emancipated from taxes.

Just this year, government?  Pleeeeeease?

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.

Karma Chameleon

February 29, 2012

I may have mentioned that I am extremely lucky in past posts.  I am.  I am very fortunate in my life, professional and personal, and I don’t take it for granted – ever.  I believe that sending positive energy out into the world will bring exponentially positive things back to me, and as far as I can tell, it works.  Since breaking free of the requisite evil teenager phase, I have tried very hard to do only good things and to appreciate all I have in this life. Not only do I try to make others happy because it makes me happier, but because the world becomes a better place when positivity is paid forward.

Or maybe my luck is all a coincidence.

When I was in my internship, I was told, “There are no coincidences.”  At the time, I was not terribly open minded (though I thought I was), and I thought that admitting to my own spirituality meant that I was on the road to religious extremism.  Following internship, I made peace with my spirituality and read a wonderful book (given to me by my internship director and which I have since paid forward to a dear friend) called The Celestine Prophecy.  My four line synopsis is: “There are no coincidences.”

Was it a coincidence that when a table full of idiots I was waiting on (during college) walked out on a $200+ tab, one of them, who had left earlier, had accidentally left behind a backpack with John Hancock employment papers in it? (The “short-version” result: Thanks to local police, I got my money back plus a 20% tip and no one was charged with the misdemeanor that they committed).

Was it a coincidence that two weeks after my guitar was stolen out of my office, I went to the place I got it from to buy a new one and was shown my own guitar, complete with the same serial number and chipped varnish on the head? (The “short-version” result: I did not have to pay more money for my guitar, and I even got my Levy’s gig bag back).

Those questions will never be answered, so I just have to believe.

Believe in what, you ask?  I don’t even know. Maybe if I treat people well, I will be rewarded somehow.  If I follow my own ethical and moral guidelines, I will find peace and understanding and tolerance and grace for people who have missed the boat.  I just have to believe that good things will happen to me if I do good things.  Which brings me to the main but generally insignificant point to all of this philosophical jibber-jabber.

Today I got a new contract.  At a fabulous Assisted Living in the small, on-site residential dementia program there.  Alongside an activities coordinator with a master’s who knows what music therapy is. Working with clients who will be capable of participating in all the kinds of interventions and exercises my training and expertise has to offer (sorry about the sentence fragments). I’m ecstatic.  I really shouldn’t be this excited, since I get new contracts frequently and I’ll only be going there every other week to start, but I just experienced such a great energy from every aspect of my meeting/interview/audition, and as James Brown once exclaimed, “I FEEL GOOD!”

I cannot be given full credit for most of my contracted work because things tend to fall in my lap.  Don’t get me wrong, I really really appreciate that, because I have not been a very motivated advocate for myself, but this job came about because I actually tried.  I made the call on a whim during a ten minute break on Tuesday afternoon.  The woman called me back the next afternoon, wanted to schedule a meeting for today and said she would be “delighted” to talk to me about starting a MT program in her dementia unit.  Delighted!  Has anyone ever said that to me about starting an MT program? You can guess what the answer is there…

Something feels different in the air today.

Earlier, at the geri-psych unit, I gave a 5o-something year-old a choice between “Love Me Tender” and “I’m a Believer.”  He chose the latter and we sang it while he quietly listened and tapped his feet to the song.  Following the session, I turned on the TV for the remaining patients.  I skipped over three “bad news TV” channels and stopped on one that wasn’t showing horrible images of horrible events.  “Davy Jones, 66, Dies of a Heart Attack” was on the banner at the bottom of the screen and the next several minutes were full of exclamations and saddened Baby Boomer nurses.  I JUST played “I’m a Believer” ten minutes before that!  Strange.

I was watching the latest episode of “Modern Family” a little while ago and one of the characters opened the door to two men, half-dressed like the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz and holding masks.  The dialogue went as follows:

Man 1: Hey.

Man 2: Hey –

Man 1 & 2: We’re the Monkeys.

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…

9 to 5

January 5, 2012

I never thought I’d be a ninetofiver.  Well, I’m still not, since most of my days start at 10 AM-ish, but I’m closer to it than I had ever thought I’d be.  The difference though, is that I work at three or four places during my work day, and that is exactly how it needs to be in order for me to stay afloat, mentally/emotionally.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know many things about my work life, and probably some of my personal opinions and gripes as well.  Something you may not know is that I change my schedule around every couple of years when I’m feeling things getting stale and monotonous.  This is one of those times.

I recently gave notice to a place I’ve been working at for a number of years, and while I’m sad to be leaving residents I’ve grown quite attached to, it is time for a change.  One of the things that is changing, as well as my income (by a substantially negative amount – c’est la vie) is my Sunday-Friday schedule.  I have been working on Sundays for over five years.  If I was working on Sundays but had Fridays and Saturdays off it might not be so bad, but basically I’ve been working six days a week for my entire career (some years it was more brutal than others). Because I’m leaving this one job, I’m able to change things around in such a way that I will no longer be working on Sundays, AND I will never be driving for impractical distances for just one session – well, not as frequently.

I am so excited about this schedule change that I’ve been boring my mother and many of my friends (thanks guys!) with exactly how my schedule is going to change, which new empty spaces in my new schedule need to be filled with something, and what I’m hoping will fill those spaces and where.  It’s all a big puzzle with too many pieces, but I won’t go into that here, lucky for you.

One of the perks of being a contractor, especially one who has been lucky enough to get contracts with places that have very flexible schedules, is that I get to make my schedule almost exactly what I want it to be.  It’s taken years for me to get to a place in my work-life that allows me to work only where I want/enjoy, and where I have the self-employed freedom to take time off when necessary or needed, and I never forget that or take it for granted.  Ever.

I’ve known some people who assumed that the minute they started working, things were going to be easy and work was just going to fall in their laps.  This is not usually the case though, and I must say that while for me, many contracts did fall into my lap, I started with one. I began my music therapy career with one hour a week an hour away from where I was living (this has turned into five additional contracts over the years and a couple of presentations).  I applied for and got a 4o hour (20h music therapy, 20h activities assistant) job after that (this turned into a presentation and two additional jobs and I eventually cut out the activities hours and left that MT job), and applied for and got the job I am now leaving shortly thereafter (which turned into two presentations and two additional contracts), and there were several miscellaneously referred contracts that came about in the middle of everything, some of which I kept, and some that I didn’t. My point, for all you newbies out there, is that if you decide to contract, it is a wonderful experience (eventually) but it takes a lot of work, driving, and patience to build a client base.  And it DEFINITELY doesn’t happen overnight.

I am happy to say, though, that once you build your base, it is actually possible to fill your days with work, get home by dinnertime, and have weekends free.  You just have to wait.  Probably.

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?