“Feels So Good”

“Feels So Good”

Believe it or not, I forgot it was Tuesday until just now.  And, while I should be working on two summer school presentations I have to do tomorrow or plugging away on my two new summer grad courses that started yesterday, I am writing my blog post now. I try not to miss Slice of Life Tuesday’s during the year. I missed last week due to being at our cabin which is a place of being unplugged and of re-communing with nature in all its glory! So, once I realized it was Tuesday, I new I had to stop and write my post. Yes, this is procrastination at its finest!

It’s been a busy Tuesday which contributes to why I forgot what day it was. My youngest was up before 5 a.m. to go to the high school with a friend for a morning work out session scheduled at six o’clock. But, by 6:10 he was back on his bed, reportedly because the HS doors were locked….no workout today, boys!  (I’m sure they’ll squeeze in a trip to the YMCA later for a pick up game of b-ball.)  I had an appointment myself at 7:30, so I was awake and getting  my act together. By 8:20 a.m., I was at our local Target, picking up some much needed toiletries, as well as odds and ends for my soon to be college freshman. I hustled home and unloaded, heading off to my hair stylist’s salon for a much needed cut and color.

Already, one of the topics I had pondered writing about was that of validation. We all, as humans, need validation don’t we? Our existence, our intelligence, our good works, our community contributions, and more all need some kind and some various amount of validation. But, this seems to be quite a heavy post for a Tuesday morning and maybe one that I am not quite ready to write about myself. Let’s suffice it to say that I am on the look out for some external sources of validation and leave the rest to your imagination for now. Do not worry! I am not up to anything that requires the use of the marauders map or anything else of a covert nature! Just some plain old validation – that’s all.

After my beautification at the salon (I just love having my hair done by a professional), I headed home for some lunch. As I pulled in the driveway, a song came on the radio that has been a favorite for most of my adult life. This song makes me smile, hum, and listen as few others do. It is Feels So Good by Chuck Mangione (1977). Until writing this, I always thought it was released in 1978, but I was wrong. It was late in 1977 when this instrumentally great composition hit the airwaves. Can you place your self in time when you think of this song? I can. Mangione was from Rochester, New York, the city closest to where I grew up. My parents have pro-ported that they went to high school with Chuck and his brother Gap, but I cannot confirm this  memory. The late 70’s were the start of high school for me. I was a band geek. And, although I did not play a piece of brass like Mangione, I certainly did and  can appreciate his talent with this composition. Feels So Good makes me feel just that…..so good. I had to sit in the garage with the car running (door open, of course) just to hear this favorite play out in its completion.  It was so worth it.

Listen for yourself to this wonderful work. (I make no claim to the rights of the YouTube broadcast or song itself). Just reposted for your appreciation. Enjoy!

YouTube Link to the Composition, Feels So Good by Chuck Mangione (1977).

When You Are Old Enough That Your Spheres of Knowledge Collide

When You Are Old Enough That Your Spheres of Knowledge Collide

You know you have a lot of life experience when your worlds start to collide. This morning while scrolling through my social media feed, my eyes were drawn to an article on butterflies and how they survive rainstorms. Actually, it was the title and the graphic of the article that attracted me. It was on the New York Times webpages and titled: Butterflies: Riders on the Storm. 

Being a monarch conservationist of almost two decades, flush with knowledge that both illuminates and disappoints, the article was soon read. However,  the title of the article itself, took me down a different path. “Riders on the Storm” – wasn’t that the title of a song by the iconic rock band, The Doors in the early 70’s? Immediately, a verse was sung. My husband shot me one of those, where did that come from looks!  An explanation followed.

As a lover of all kinds of music, this was an easy connection for me to make. Butterflies, and Rock Bands, in my world – it all fits. And, it fits together! But, some explaining of the song led to looking it up on YouTube, a listening session, and brief rock music history lesson of the legendary Door’s lead singer, Jim Morrison, too.  Soon enough, both my husband and I had Riders on the Storm stuck in our heads and were contemplating the meaning of Morrison’s undoubtably drug infused, yet inspired lyrics. We are old enough, but a little too young to have been listening to this song as it hit the airwaves in the early 70’s. Soon after which time, Morrison died.

The article on butterflies proved to tell me little more than what I already knew, but then again, my intense interest in the subject could not let me skip over it and just be satisfied with the creative title. Monarchs use adaptive mechanisms and behaviors to cope with the storms they encounter whether in transit or at the over wintering grounds. Many times, those coping strategies are enough to enable their survival. They are truly Riders on the Storm, not unlike any of us who need to adapt to the storms, literally or figuratively, that we encounter in our daily lives. Oft times the adaptations we employ are enough to ensure survival, occasionally they are not.

But, it amazed me that before 8 a.m. this morning, we explored the challenges of  a beloved insect, revisited some famous rock music, and had a history lesson life science, music, and sociology all rolled into one. It occurred to me that this was only possible because of my age – not old – but old enough to have my spheres of knowledge collide and connect over a very unlikely titled article in a popular online newspaper about  butterflies.

Butterfly or Human, We are all Riders on the Storm!



Investments in Home Maker Spaces

Investments in Home Maker Spaces

About a year ago, we got a 3-D printer. As parents, we try to support our children’s interests. Outside of school, each of our sons have some self-cultivated abilities that seem to be serving them well to complete their well-roundedness and sense of accomplishment. To a very large extent, they are innate talents, supported by hours of self-imposed practice, and an internal desire to learn and excel.

Our eldest son was musically supported with years of music lessons, a piano, two saxophones, a clarinet, and various reeds, oils, stands, microphones, sheet music and such. Although deciding not to be music major, music filled this child’s youth. Despite the lessons being helpful, the desire to play well and share his talents, were self-imposed. Hours, especially during the stresses of high school, were spent on learning piano concertos and instrumental pieces, culminating in two exemplary  performances at our state level solo ensemble. It is hard to believe that was five years ago!  Right about now, during the stresses of graduate school, he is probably wishing he had more time to practice his musical abilities. I know I am wishing that for him. Perhaps, by June he’ll have time. Investments pay off over time.  The music is there waiting for him.

The 3-D printer, although purchased as a “family” gift, has been solely used by our middle son. He is our inventor, entrepreneur, and tinkering maker – essentially a wanna-be engineer – which he plans to pursue formally this fall.  He took to the printer right away, learning its controls, types of plastic filaments, and tricks to producing the products he sought.  The printer, as with any tool, is not perfect. But, the imperfections have led this child down a road of persistence, inventiveness, and self-reliance. The printer has been fixed a number of times. Again, this has been solely our second son’s “deal”.  Not once in the last year, has he asked for help fixing it. He just figures it out on his own, orders the correct parts, makes the repairs, and starts printing objects again!  This last repair involved the direct soldering of wires because he discovered the plastic connector the company had used was not the right grade for the degree of electricity that was traveling through it, so it melted. Despite the fact that during this process, my table got ruined from the soldering, I am finding it hard to be mad about it.  The table can be refinished and the printer got fixed, yet again!   The amazing thing is that none of the skills he’s used with his work on the printer have been formally taught to him.  He is self-taught because he wanted to learn how to use (and fix) this machine. Isn’t that what school should be all about? School should foster the love of life long, independent learning. If this can be augmented at home, it should be.

Our youngest is an artist and his abilities are also self-taught. Like his brothers, work on his talent is self-imposed. He’s drawn some fabulous portraits, won a drawing contest  sponsored by an olympic athlete, tried out watercolors, and now is learning how to use oil paints. Like most artists, he is self-critical.  His first oil took 30 minutes, (pictured below.)  Although we love it, he does not. A couple more oils were tried and unseen, as they were “trashed” before we could get a look at them. Yesterday, true to form, he developed his “own” methodology  (like he has in the past with his pencil drawings) for layering the oils. Like his brothers, what he produces and the persistent determination, self-reliance, and degree of self-teaching amazes me. Again, I am glad we have the resources to be able to support these talents that are not gained in the current educational climate. For these abilities and the co-existing self-determination are not taught and I am beginning to believe they cannot be.  It takes self-reflection, access to instruments, materials and tools, and the desire to learn, improve, and contribute – whether it be musically, physically, or artistically – and whether or not there is an associated “grade.”   It also takes time and freedom to learn self-expression.

I know now that what I might have sought for my sons in the past from educational institutions, my husband and I have provided at home – right in our own maker space(s). And, while they do not receive grades (nor seem to need them for motivation),  they learn, they improve, and they flourish under their own will and self-imposed guidelines.  Perhaps this is the best kind of learning, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!








Driving with Great Music

Driving with Great Music

Driving took up half my day today, traveling from Wisconsin through Minnesota down into central Iowa. I noticed two bald eagles, one perched in a tree right on the Mississippi River near the I-90 expressway and one in Minnesota a couple of hours later, soaring over the snowy prairie fields. I hope they both got a meal. I also saw a couple hawks but what kind they were alluded me – my best guesses would be a Coopers Hawk or Red-Tailed Hawk. They were both perched looking for the gullies on the side of the highway.

To pass time when I drive a greater distance, one that takes more than an hour on the road, I always try to bring along a few CD’s. Today I grabbed an old favorite by the Boston Pops. CD

Many of the songs on here are from old Disney movies, to which I was having a hard time remembering the words. But, I knew the music. I hummed and sang along when I could, usually at the top of my lungs!  It was fun and made the trip go by fast!

Do you ever sing in the car? What type of music do you sing along with? Leave your response in the comment section! Thanks!

Pizzelles, The Carpenters, Coffee, & Dancin’ in the Kitchen!

Pizzelles, The Carpenters, Coffee, & Dancin’ in the Kitchen!

Saturday morning in Wisconsin it was snowing. Training camp for soccer took one son out of the house. A trip to the YMCA for a quick workout took the other son out. My husband had errands to run. This left me home alone, which is something I usually do not mind.  We had been invited to a friend’s house for dinner and not told to bring anything when I asked.  But, being brought up in a more “proper time”,  I decided that I would make pizzelles which could be taken with us for dessert.

Pizzelles are an Italian cookie. We have a pizzelle press that is part of a waffle iron – Panini combo appliance.  We did not get around to making them this holiday season, so I thought it a perfect activity for a slow, snowy, Saturday morning.  Music. I needed music to complete my kitchen experience!  Wandering over to my CD rack in our deck, adjacent to the kitchen, I immediately grabbed a new Carpenter Love Songs CD that I received last year (2016) for Christmas from my husband. I have listened to this once or twice before but was more than ready Saturday morning to sing along with Karen’s low, sultry voice, while she was either on Top of the World, looking for love, or lamenting the fact it didn’t work out. Into the under cabinet CD player went the disc. Soon, Karen was crooning, Richard was tinkling on the keys as he did so very well, and saxophones or flutes were being played for extended solos. I was reliving the 70’s all over again, only in my own kitchen – not my bedroom of my parent’s house!

The pizzelles were made, but not without a quick trip to the grocery store by my husband for more baking powder. Luckily, we noticed this before I was left with a plan but no car to find a new supply at the grocery store.  The half batch (for which I had enough baking powder) turned into a full batch and I started to put the dough onto the heated griddle form.  Pizzelles contain anise. I love anise. It is my favorite additive to baked goods. I would much rather add anise than vanilla.  But, the recipe from Cooks.com called for 4 Tbsp. of anise! WHAT?! Four tablespoons is a ton of a very potent licorice flavoring.

I know that not all people like anise the way I do, so I halved it.

Then, figuring out the right size dollop of dough to put on the press was a challenge. First, too much. Then, not enough! Ugh!  The iron seemed too hot at first, as they pizzelles were a little too brown and then, not hot enough after I backed off on the suggested 3 minute bake from my husband.

The Carpenters continued to croon. Soon enough working the pizzelle press was down to a science, albeit not an exact one, and I was dancing around in the kitchen, drinking coffee, and listening to some of my favorite music from days gone by.  I was, quite figuratively, on the Top of the World!  Not bad for a slow, snowy, Saturday morning in Wisconsin.



The Power of Music

The Power of Music

The Power of Love! Do you know it? The old song from Huey Lewis and the News? (See it on YouTube here.) It is one of my favorites, probably because I was in college and college is where I met my husband. The song was popular at that time. It was featured in the Back to the Future movie in 1985.  When  I hear The Power of Love, it immediately transports me back to the 1980’s.  Music has the power to do that, in my opinion. We hear a song from the past and in a flash, we remember; before we consciously even realize, we are singing along, word for word, with the tune. It happened again this weekend.

A friend of ours has a very talented daughter. We have watched her grow up. We used to be neighbors and know this family well. On Saturday, this young lady was singing at a classy lounge in a small downtown in the mid-west, near where she grew up and we were neighbors. This was a three-hour acoustic performance – just her and a similarly talented guitarist. We were treated to songs from Elton John, The Eagles, Christina Perri, Taylor Swift, and more. Each was better than the rest!  My favorite was probably Unchained Melody, which most people today know from the from the movie Ghost with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore (1990).  The song has a long history before that, as noted in this article in The Atlantic in July of 2015.  Our lovely young singer-friend got to show off her wide-range in this piece and hit the high notes beautifully without any hint of a screech or crack in pitch. It truly gave us all chills. Her mom gets chills every time she hears it. I can more than understand why. It was beautiful!

While listening to this beautiful, talented singer, I told her mom that it made me miss the music in our house.  We never had a singer. But, we had/have a talented pianist. It is just that he does not live at home any longer. Now, a graduate student in the field of Statistics,  our young pianist would fill our house with all kinds of music. Classical, and broadway musicals or show-tunes were most commonly played, along with some pop and of course any music chosen for recitals – which were held once a year, right at this time.

A lot of memories converged for me this weekend. I am working at a school where I drive past the church where the piano recitals were held. My pianist has played many acoustic performances, some with the very music our friend sang on Saturday night.

The piano would be played in practice, daily, sometimes for great lengths of time. It was obvious the performance on Saturday had required practice. As a performer, our friend was relaxed and enjoyable to watch. She has been performing with this guitarist for a while, as well as with a band during the summer months in which he is also the lead guitarist.

Both of these talented young people, my son and our friend, have incorporated their love and talent for music into their lives. Yet, neither are majoring in college for music. It is possible to love music, be a talented musical performer, and share your love for music without making it work or filled with competition of chair placements, section leaders, or winning a solo.  Let me be clear that they both, as individuals, have enough talent to have made music a more “official” part of their degrees, lives, or wages.  However, their love for music has kept it alive for them – we benefit because they share their talent through performance and practice.

It is obvious that music in some form will always be with these young adults. Just last week, my son had to take a break from studying. What did he do? He went and played piano. He has access to music rooms at his university, as well as an excellently maintained piano at the church he attends.  His self-imposed therapy worked……upon returning to his apartment, he was able to finish his work easily.  His head had been cleared! I love that playing the piano can do that for him!

Music is powerful! It can be used for entertainment, enjoyment, relaxation, and even stress relief. Music can transport you to a different time and/or place. It can give you chills, make you cry, or fill your heart with joy.  Those who have music in their lives, in some form, are probably some of the most lucky people on earth! Music is powerful!




The 1812 Overture: The Memory of A Love for Music

The 1812 Overture: The Memory of A Love for Music

It was 39 years ago that I was a freshman in our high school symphonic band. It was that year the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky catapulted me to the first seat in the first section of flutes, after having to play it for our chair placements. It was half way through the year, and I previously held the first flute, third chair position. Being seated first meant that I performed better than anyone else in my section on my scales and on this most difficult piece of music – we had the full score, not a watered down version. I had played the piece with few errors for my band director and hence was sitting in front of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, leading the section. I remember thinking, “am I ready for this?” Playing the piece was exhilarating, exhausting, and challenging but oh, so worth it. Each time we finished, whether in rehearsal or concert, a sense of pride and accomplishment overwhelmed me. Here is a link to a version I found on You Tube.

The memory of band and this piece of music came flooding back to me last night as I watched the PBS special, “A Capitol Fourth”. I do not think the piece was played particularly well, nor did they spend twenty minutes of the broadcast playing it. But still, my love for music runs deep. At one point, in late middle school,  I considered being a musician but that idea vanished from my head after the above experience, and others, that showed me the politics and stress of chair seating in bands and orchestras. A girl I knew, and played flute with for years, simply wanted it more. “It” refers to leading the section. I do believe she went on to be a music teacher.  And I, being a shy introverted 15-year-old, let her have it. I never sat first flute, first chair again. I simply did not want to. I made sure that I had mistakes on my piece in future auditions!

This revelation did not dampen my love for music nor the importance it has played in my life. As a flautist, I enjoyed being able to play the melody in most pieces. As a piccolo-player, I was challenged and enthused to play the fast paced Sousa marches we all know. I love them all. I have played most of them. Among my favorites are The Washington Post,  Stars and Stripes Forever, & Semper Fidelis. These rousing renditions can take me back through time to the streets of a parade or a field show routine under the Friday Night Lights.

I played in marching band, symphonic band, and fireman’s band. I played solos, duets, and even quartets (known today, as a flute choir, most probably). Music was, and is, part of who I am.  My grandfather and mother, both, were musicians as youth, played clarinet, guitar, and piano. It seems cliché, but music fills my soul. I have been known to get choked up while singing hymns in church, shed a tear during a high school band concert, or sing a show tune while paddling a canoe – as I did just this past Sunday night.

I can and do appreciate the talent and skill of great artists. Music is a language all its own. Through artists and composers such as Beethoven, Aaron Copeland, Benny Goodman, Kenny G, Vince Gill, and Brian Setzer, who not only play the instruments but also write the language, we are unified as humans.

It was both enjoyable and disappointing to hear such a memorable piece of music last night on a national broadcast. The 1812 Overture is familiar to many and played at many National occasions. The sounds of the composition brought me right back to sitting in that first chair, first flute seat and memories of how much I loved being a band member. Music is an experience that stays with you for life.