The Best Mothers Day Gift

My daughter’s absolute favorite song is Bridge Over Troubled Water sung by Johnny Cash.  I wonder if she remembers it from her embryonic days, but will never mention this to her, as I’m sure she will once again proclaim my weirdness and stop talking.  She actually loves several versions of this song, and yesterday we sang them all in the car on the way to Mimi’s and Nana’s and back home again.

I realize that I am by no means a gifted singer.  I am a shower singer, a driving in the car by myself singer, a person with music, good and bad, sifting around in my head all day singer.  The right phrase spoken out loud by stranger can trigger a song in my head and sometimes out of my mouth.  Such words Spoken by a friend can lead to both awkward or funny blurts of melody and lyrics, based on my timing.  Timing is everything.

Newport BridgeWhen I was pregnant with Julia, I not only sang to myself, but I sang to her.  I felt like I could communicate to her through my car and shower singing rituals.  But just in case I couldn’t reach her, I spent many relaxing hours with a pair of headphones on my belly so that she might get exposed to some people who could actually sing – George Jones, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson to name a few.  Mellow, sweet and sad songs that could calm her while opening and forming her little unborn mind.  Songs about love and loss, which sounds depressing, but it was the tonal quality of the voices and the music that I was after, to soothe her, and myself.

Once Julia was born, the music really began.  I sang to her in the car before she could consciously object.  I danced her around the house to George Harrison All Things Must Pass and other Beatles songs every evening before bed.  Reading stories included music and singing songs, always.  From infancy to at least 2 years old or so, she stopped crying almost instantly whenever I sang Michelle to her.

The first song she ever sang was the Winnie the Pooh theme song.  We’d drive to daycare and kindergarten singing Elmo and other Sesame Street character hits; I grew to enjoy Elmo’s screeching little high-pitched laughter (I no longer can tolerate him, thankfully).  As she went through elementary school, we’d still sing in the car in the mornings, to everything from Julie Andrews to Hannah Montana to Weird Al Yankovich, based on whatever stage she happened to be going through.  The songs she learned in school were also belted out on the way to the grocery store, bank, or whatever other errands we ran together.  Singing with her, though not a conscious activity (as in NOW WE SHALL SING), was our way of connecting.  I never thought that would change.

If you’ve read some of my past blog posts, you will learn that eventually, around 5th or 6th grade, in Julia’s mind, our music became “your music” and “my music.” ( Read   or  Me singing Julia’s music became … unappreciated.  In fact, it was very much frowned upon.  My heart shattered, my ultra sensitive feelings crumbled.  How could she shut me out?  How can I believe that she still loves me?  So many parts of our relationship began to change.  She became a DT – Disagreeable Tweener.

I’ve now learned to appreciate the moments when we are both together and somewhat aligned, and that’s certainly helped me accept her becoming the individual that she is.  They are small and sometimes short-lived moments, but relished and sealed in my heart forever.  And becoming more frequent these days, thankfully.

So yesterday was Mothers Day and included car rides to visit my mom and my mother-in-law.  Julia normally changes the radio to one of “her” stations as soon as the ignition turns over, or plugs in her phone and her music before I even get a chance to object.  But not today.  Today Paul McCartney belted out Till There Was You without interruption or eye-rolling.  No looking out the car window with disgust, just a patient tolerance.  And then after came our medley of Bridge Over Troubled Water.  Some gifts are priceless.

Take a listen to Julia’s favorite renditions, in order of preference


Flirtin’ With Disaster, But You Can Always Count on Me

Flirtin' with Disaster (song)

Flirtin’ with Disaster (song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I heard this song both pulling into work this morning and as soon as I turned the key to leave the parking lot; therefore, it must be a cosmic message.

I have never been a huge Molly Hatchet fan, but I always liked this song for some reason.  It sounds fun and wacky and almost scary that’s the kind of music you like when you’re a kid.  But these lyrics speak more to me now than when I was young and reckless (not btw).

There have been some tough days lately, lots of big thoughts flowing around in my brain. Decisions to make about where I am, where I’m going as a writer and a person.

I’m travelin’ down the road and I’m flirtin’ with disaster
I’ve got the pedal to the floor and my life is running faster
I’m outta money outta hope it looks like self destruction
Well how much more can we take with all of this corruption

We’re flirtin’ with disaster, ya’ll know what I mean
And the way we run our lives it makes no sense to me
I don’t know about yourself or what you wanna to be, yeah
When we gamble with our time we choose our destiny

I’m travelin’ down that lonesome road.
Feel like I’m draggin a heavy load.
Yet I’ve tried to turn my head away,
Feel about the same most every day

Things aren’t really terrible, but I’m flirtin’ with it, I think.  Disaster seems ever-present, right under your toes and there to catch you if you slip up.  The key is of course – don’t slip up.  But how does one avoid slipping and falling?

I’m not quite sure, but I believe it has a lot to do with being true to yourself, not compromising yourself, but at the same time being collaborative, engaged  and open to the thoughts and feelings of others.  Opening the door and facing life, not running away in Candy Crush land, like I’ve been doing for the past few weeks.  Sure it’s relaxing, but it’s an avoidance tool as well, turning my brain into, yes, syrupy goo that is incapable of making decisions and even worse, writing anything down.

I’m on a lot of teams – my family team, my marriage team, my work team and my friend team.  I have some really good writing teams too.  I have people to hold me up, and I have people who I need to hold. Being present, addressing problems without whipping myself into a frenzy, and facing the decisions with a cool head and an open heart is all I can do.  Nothing is truly terrible if you’re honest.

I am hoping for a little less Molly on the radio in tomorrow.  Perhaps a little Bruno?

I Heart Harry – Chapin

Harry Chapin at Veterans Memorial Auditorium

Harry Chapin at Veterans Memorial Auditorium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy 2013, Everyone –

So far things are going well in my world. I finished editing the manuscript for A Girl From the Hill, and I’m putting some final touches on it. I’ve gotten help from some great people and am feeling very grateful.

So why the frown? Not really a frown, just a little melancholy and reflective. On the way to work this morning, I had my favorite satellite 70s station on and Harry Chapin‘s Taxi came on. I haven’t heard this song in years. It always moved me. First as a girl growing up in the 70’s and not even understanding the story, but loving something about it anyway. Maybe his voice, how it changed throughout, or that hauntingly high singing during the bridge. I always wondered if it was a man or woman, and then I saw Chapin perform this song on television one night. A shaggy guy with thick spectacles and an angelic soprano crooned the most haunting lyrics I’ve ever heard. It freaked me out as an eight year old, and still does a little today as I watch this same performance on YouTube 40 years later.

Harry Chapin was an amazing story-teller whose life ended way too early. I felt compelled to look up the lyrics today and read them. His words create such vivid images, both ordinary and fantastic.

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My Daughter’s Music

English: Adam Levine from Maroon 5 performs at...

English: Adam Levine from Maroon 5 at the Neighborhood Ball in downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I turned the key, and the radio blasted out Maroon 5, One More Night.  Julia climbed in and we buckled up, on our way to her school drop off, then an off-site conference for me in downtown Providence.   As the music blared, I sang along in my best over-exaggerated, high pitched Adam Levine voice- ‘got you stuck on my body on my body like a tattoo ooo like a tattoo ooo, and glided the car down our crunchy gravel driveway.  Merry, chipper, almost giddy considering the 40 degree chill and the early hour.  Julia looked down and snorted.

I was not going to let her pubescent moodiness blow my groove.  It’s Friday and there is no reason for me not to be glad for it. 

“Mom!  Stop it!”

“What Jules?  What is it?”  I am almost officially perturbed.  The music plays on.

“Stop singing to my music.”  She tried to contain her rage, remembering my  – it’s not what you say it’s how you say it – lecture, no doubt.

“Mom it’s just really REALLY annoying when you sing along to my music.”  My little twelve year old girl looked up at me and pleaded with her cornflower blue eyes, inherited from her Papa Al, and able to focus on me just as intently as he could.  As he can.

“Your music? This is your music?”  How could music be hers?  Music is for everyone, isn’t it?

“Well I’m sorry to annoy you, but this is my car and my radio and my music.  If I want to sing along I’ll sing along and it’s just too bad for you.”  I am wounded, and these words blow out of me like steam from a boiling teapot.

Julia looks out the window, away from me, as we drive to school.  Silence.  Just my song, excuse me, her song, finishing up, fading away.

“Have a good day, Sweetie.  See you tonight, “ is returned with a grunt and  the slam of the car door.

Her music.   She has music.  Music that isn’t mine.  How dare she?

I get settled in at the conference at my assigned table with a coffee, and begin to mentally prepare for a day full of presentations and group discussions about Information Technology Leadership best practices.   

A few more moments in my happy place when I’m suddenly thinking of my father whistling along to his easy listening favorites.  It’s 1977, and the maroon Ford LTD station wagon with the wood panel siding is taking me and Kim and Joanne to a basketball game.  Or a football game.  Or a float meeting or confirmation class or something that should have seemed like a short ride but felt endless.  

An Eternity of whistling along, while I looked out the window and pretended not be there.  While Kim and Joanne tried not to giggle in the back seat.  Yes it was wonderful of my Dad to tote us wherever we needed to go, without complaint.  He enjoyed it, riding along with the girls, being as close as I would let him get into my life as a preteen and teenager.  

Sometimes he would even hum or ‘do do do’ to music, trying to impress us with his deep baritone.  I sat mortified.  I wanted him to shut up and put on my music.  My music, not his, mine.

I texted Julia.  Sorry for the singing this morning.  It is your music.  Love you.  The first presentation began and I got to work.