Music that Mends

Music is a powerful and potent mender of the soul and, in some ways, the body. It is transforming and uplifting and allows us to forget, in the moment we experience it, the stresses and aches of life that weigh us down. I attended a concert last night called “Music that Mends” and have found its title to be abundantly true lately. It was meant to be a benefit show for someone who is struggling and, although the crowd was small, the intimacy of those who did gather made the music that much more of a salve. I certainly do not have the struggles of the man for whom the concert was played, but my small stresses of money and home repairs, pregnancy and parenting, etc. paled as I sat and just listened. And watched the faces of those who were simultaneously touched by the same mood. It was, briefly, a soundtrack to life. Children giggling in the background, water flowing in the courtyard, people speaking softly, doors opening and closing. Even the birds joined in periodically. And it was lovely.

All of our weekend plans involved music and every night I had to convince myself, due to ever-increasing pregnancy nausea, to leave the house and follow through with them. Yet each night, in the presence of music and friendship, I was able to forget, temporarily, how sick I felt. Even the mediocre cover band at the burger joint where we met friends Friday night was enough to inspire Aiden and all of the other kids to dance and sing. Which, in turn, inspired us to smile and have the freedom to engage in good conversation and good food. As we left, Aiden said, “I like those guitar guys!” Likewise, the incredible food, fellowship, and fingerpickin’ of Saturday night’s cookout/jam session was just what the doctor ordered. So, my prescription for alleviating stress and its various side effects: get together with friends, add a little food, and TURN UP THE MUSIC. You’ll be grateful you did.

Are Your Crutches Disposable?

What is a crutch? It is something that holds us up when we cannot stand on our own. Physically, emotionally, mentally. We all have them. But a crutch can be a good thing or a bad thing. Where the line is drawn is often vague. A simple question to ask ourselves is, do our crutches help us get somewhere we could not otherwise get on our own? If we are able, but unwilling to move forward without them, then they are enabling our weakness. We would be stronger if we could let them go and walk on our own.

My son, at two and a quarter, decided, by himself, to give up his paci because pacis are for babies. This was something that he had leaned on for comfort and calm his entire life. He had never spent a night without one. But, realizing that he was big and strong and didn’t need it for the same reasons any longer, he let it go. Not entirely without struggle, but most things worth attaining do not come without struggle. Similarly, I, after ten years of relying on nicotine for stress relief and relaxation, have learned that I am capable of handling stress in different ways. Better ways that do not harm me physically. And I have let it go. Not perfectly, and again, not without struggle, but I now no longer lean on that crutch for stability.

There are so many things in our daily lives that serve as crutches to help us avoid the pain and struggle of learning to walk alone. Television, alcohol, video games, social networks, you name it. As infants, none of us can walk without a crutch or a prop of some kind until we learn to stand stably on our own two feet. This is true of emotional stability as well, but unfortunately we have many emotional infancies. Moments of rebirth or redefinition that require us to prop ourselves up till we regain our footing. And those props often become so familiar and comfotable that we have a difficult time letting them go and learning to be stable again. And then, sometimes, certain things happen that leave us crippled in such a way that we cannot stand on our own without the aid of something or someone else. And that is okay. Recognizing weakness that cannot be worked through alone is a brave and noble thing. One that we should never be ashamed of. On a recent trip to the zoo, my son saw a crippled man walking with braces because his legs were bent. And, in typical toddler fashion, he loudly exclaimed, “Mommy, what’s that?” Rather than shush him as many parents are apt to do, I told him openly and within earshot of the man that those were crutches that helped the man walk because his legs were hurt and he couldn’t walk on his own. Amazingly, the man smiled and the look in the his eyes could only be described as relief that someone had actually acknowledged him. And I found myself wondering how it must feel to walk through life with no one meeting your eye because they are ashamed to acknowledge your handicap. How often are we ashamed to acknowledge each others weaknesses. To look one another in the eye and affirm, non-verbally, that we have nothing to be ashamed of.

So which are you, the man walking with a cane not because he needs it but because he finds it debonaire while everyone else finds it ridiculous? Or the man who has a handicap he cannot overcome without the help of a crutch, but with which he can accomplish so much?

I Prefer My Popsicles in a Glass

It is a wonderful thing when you find a project that captures the mind, imagination, and senses of a child. It is an equally incredible thing when you find something that tickles your creativity as an adult and becomes and outlet to help you forget the monotonies and stresses of the day. But to find something that accomplishes both in one fell swoop, is downright magical! I present to you “Orange/Strawberry/Banana Popsicles” in kid version and grown-up version. Enjoy.

Kid Version: Orange Juice and Strawberry/Banana Juice mixed in ice-cube trays and topped with sliced strawberries to help keep the sticks up while they freeze. I used wooden kebab skewers cut into thirds.

Grown-up Version: Same recipe as popsicles above minus the sticks. When frozen, and the kids are in bed, place into a martini glass and top with vodka (and water or juice if straight up is a little too stout).