These Are The Days

Smart ~ Writer ~ Mom

Month: June 2014

I Heart Music Teachers

I love school concerts. Seriously, I can’t get enough of them. I love seeing kids holding instruments that are slightly too big for their bodies. I love watching the shy kids sing their hearts out. I love the familiarity of it all.

I played clarinet for a few years and at the time I really didn’t like it. My father encouraged me to choose the clarinet because he liked Benny Goodman and ‘wouldn’t it be nice to play a woodwind instrument.’ So I did. And like most people who took an instrument and then gave it up, I regret not sticking with it.

However, that’s not the end of my love affair with music. I sang in chorus in elementary school, like everyone else did. But in middle and high school it was an option; an elective that not many people chose. I am so glad I chose it.

Participating in the chorus was the absolute highlight of my high school career. My teacher, Mr. Messina, was full of passion and enthusiasm for his craft. He introduced us to all kinds of music: swing, jazz, classical, country, Americana, popular, spiritual, folk.

He taught us how to read music and about the subtle nuances of harmony. And he taught us how to work together – by listening and responding – to create a beautiful sound.

Mr. Messina is enjoying a well-deserved retirement now. By far, he is one of my most favorite teachers. I’ve been going through a ton of old photos recently for a special family project and I came across so many hilarious photos of the awesome friends I made in chorus. The trips to Disney and DC, the musicals, the spring and winter concerts and the performances at Memorial Hall in Melrose for Memorial Day. Such a special time in my life.

My daughter just finished her fourth grade year and she’s been lucky to have great music teachers, too. But the best part is, she really appreciates them.

I know as she gets older she’ll have lots of choices when it comes to extracurricular activities. And while I don’t want to push her in one direction or another, I *really* hope she chooses to have music in her middle and high school years.

She won’t regret it.

Ten Years Ago

I’m attending my first-ever BlogHer conference this summer (yikes – next month!) and I’m so excited. I feel like I sort of attended the last three conferences because I diligently followed the conversations on Twitter. Attending this conference is like my nerdy blogger dream come true.

This is BlogHer’s 10th anniversary celebration and so they asked the question: “Where were you 10 years ago?”

Hmm. 2004.

They say if you’re going to make changes in your life you shouldn’t do all the big ones at once, right? Make a major move, switch jobs, have a baby, buy a house.

Yeah. We did all that in a matter of months. In July of 2004, we moved into our own place in Syracuse. It was a six-hour drive from my family in Massachusetts, a plane ride from my husband’s family and several states away from Florida – the place we had moved from and the place where I’d spent all of my adult years up to this point.

The best part of the whole move was that we now had a beautiful two month old baby girl. We were over the moon in love with her, like any other new parents. But there was a storm brewing inside me and I had no clue it was coming.

Many of the women who responded to this BlogHer question spoke candidly of their struggles with postpartum depression. It’s something I had heard of, but not at all something I believed I would ever have to deal with.

And yet.

It snuck up on me and it sent me reeling. Looking back at pictures is hard to do. I don’t recognize myself.

  • I would drive to Target and put my daughter’s carseat in the top part of the shopping cart. I would meander up and down the aisles, never buying anything. We were on one income and it was tough to make ends meet. 
  • I ate poorly and didn’t exercise at all. 
  • I obsessed over our daughter, taking several pictures of her on a daily basis. This was before we had a digital camera. I would take advantage of sales at the local drug store and get three copies made for each roll of film. One for each set of grandparents and one for me.
  • I saved EVERYTHING. If my daughter picked a leaf? Saved it. Found a cool rock? Saved it. Drew a picture or ten thousand pictures? Saved. Them. All. 

Thanks to a few great (and not so great) therapists, I eventually learned to process the emotions I had not allowed myself to feelor worse, didn’t feel worthy enough to feel – when I gave birth to my son. They were bubbling to the surface now that I was parenting my daughter. I had stuffed everything down for years. And now it was manifesting in the form of derailing depression.

While I wasn’t blogging at the time, I did find solace and comfort on various boards and chats with other moms. Specifically, I turned to a wonderful book called The Baby Whisperer. I devoured it. And then I went online and found her website and her discussion boards. There was this whole community of women sharing their concerns, questions, fears and so many personal details. It was overwhelming and comforting at the same time.

This post is substantially longer than I’d intended mostly, I think, because it’s not a topic I’ve written about before. And frankly, it’s not easy. I love my son and my daughters more than they’ll ever know. I just wish I’d been better prepared when I entered motherhood. Both as a birthmother and as a parenting mother. And I wish more than ever that the great work this woman does now was available to me back then.

So that’s where I was in 2004. A scared new mom whose poor husband had to deal with a woman who was slowly falling apart.

I am so glad to be on the other side now. Writing has helped. Talking has helped. And blogging has helped.

There’s so much more to my story, as there is with anyone’s story. But for me, right now, I am grateful for this time in my life and for the profound amount of healing that took place these last ten years.

52 Weeks of Sisterhood: The Most Annoying Thing

As I sorted through the array of papers, notices and such that come home from school on a daily basis, I noticed my fourth grader cringing a bit. Clearly there was something she was nervous about.

And then I saw it.

Three stapled pages with the words: “THINGS THAT DRIVE ME NUTS!!!” on the cover. Did you notice the three exclamation points?

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My curiosity piqued, I turned the page and discovered that the number one thing that drives my daughter nuts is her “annoying sister.”

 

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Now, I totally understand sibling rivalry. Lord knows my sister and I had our moments when we were younger. But I’m working really hard to bridge the gap created by their seven year age difference. I don’t force them to play together, but I do insist that my little one be included in some of her big sister’s activities. Not all of them – but some.

For the most part, big sister is accommodating. Especially when it comes to sharing her American Girl Dolls. But she’s at that age where she craves her privacy sometimes. And I’m trying to teach my little one to respect that.

It isn’t always easy.

Their fights are epic.

But my husband and I always have them make up and give hugs and apologize if necessary.

And despite the annoyances that come with having a sibling, they still really love each other. How can I tell? Well, my little one has started getting out of bed in the wee hours of the morning and climbing into bed with her big sister.

And big sister doesn’t really mind.

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Big sister doesn’t mind so much – but take notice of who has all the covers.

 

What Did YOU Want to Be When You Grew Up?

At my daughter’s request, I participated in “Career Day” at her school recently. I was thrilled that she asked me. My husband presented last year and the kids really enjoyed his talk, so I was kind of feeling the pressure. I had a great time with some very smart fourth and fifth graders about what it means to be a writer. We talked about poets, authors, speechwriters, journalists, online content, social media, personal journaling, blogging and even texting!

I tried to share with them the different tasks involved with being a writer. Knowing your audience, doing your research, making some kind of an outline, and then the actual writing/editing/re-writing/ and how to cope when you’re staring blankly at a glowing white screen.

But the conversation veered off track as we broached the subject of my role in managing social media. I’d planned to show them how to take one marketing message and adapt it to fit each medium. But as luck would have it, the school has a firewall which prevented me from actually demonstrating any of the social media stuff I do for clients. That’s right. The social media lady couldn’t get on social media.

It was a cruel irony.

So we just had a really good chat. I was surprised to learn how many of them have Instagram accounts. Many didn’t quite know what Twitter was, and of course all of them were familiar with Facebook. We also talked about how to be safe online and the importance of guarding what you post whether it’s a photo, video or just some words that you can never take back. It was a good mix of silly and thoughtful comments.

And then one student asked me something that made me smile. She said, “Was this the job you wanted to do when you were little? What did you want to be when you grew up?” I smiled because I knew the answer right away.

After clarifying that no, I didn’t know I wanted this job when I was younger because the Internet didn’t exist back in the dark ages, I told them what I really wanted to be when I was a kid. Movie star? No. Firefighter? No. Nurse? Maybe. Rock star? Perhaps. (It should be noted here that I totally *kill it* when I’m alone in my car with the windows rolled up and the volume as high as it goes).

What I really wanted to be when I grew up was a photojournalist for National Geographic. I know, right? Coolest job ever. Imagine traveling the world, meeting new people, seeing new things, taking some glorious pictures and getting paid for it. Outside of the six New England states and one high school trip to Florida, I didn’t do much traveling as a kid. But man did I dream about it. And I had a little fuel for my dreams.

A favorite uncle who was in the Navy at the time sent me beautiful postcards from all over the world. I added them to the postcard collection I’d unknowingly started after a trip to the Ringling Brothers Circus when I was about six years old. (Note: this is also where I developed my great love of elephants). My souvenir from the circus trip was a packet of commemorative postcards featuring many of the popular acts.2014_06_09_15_44_180001

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OMG. Is this not the scariest picture of a clown you’ve ever seen?

 

I kept the cards in a little shoebox. My own personal treasure chest at its beginning stages. And then, gradually, I added to it…one postcard at a time. Summer beach trip to Maine? Postcard. School field trip to Plymouth Plantation? Postcard. But the ones I found most fascinating were the ones from my uncle from such exotic places as:
Perth, Australia; Guam; Italy; Kenya; Japan; and Wake Island in the Mid-Pacific.

Then family members sent postcards – from Italy, France, Las Vegas, Vermont, San Francisco, Canada and Ireland – and I kept them all.

I was hooked. I wanted to see the world!

A few years ago while working at Disney, I noticed a long, slender book in the gift shop at the France pavilion at Epcot. It was labeled: Cartes Postales. I bought it immediately when I discovered it was to hold postcards. Today, nearly every space is filled with hundreds of postcards I’ve collected over the years. It’s one of my most treasured possessions. I haven’t traveled to half of the places in my Cartes Postales book and I most certainly do not work for National Geographic. But I love that just by opening up this cute little book I can still take a trip around the world whenever I want to. Just by looking at these beautiful pictures.

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