Posted in differences, mindset

Too much free time

There are so many creative, often silly, sometimes ridiculous photos and videos that get passed around nowadays, and the response to many of them, from many people, is:

“Someone has too much free time!”

But you know what? If someone wants to use their time to create something that gives them joy to create and gives us joy to consume, why shouldn’t they?

Instead of being curmudgeonly, appreciate the time, the creativity, the vulnerability that someone(s) offered to us through whatever it is that they put “out there.”



Posted in know better do better, mental health, podcasts

Podcast quote: variations on a theme

There’s a short podcast series (four episodes) called UnErased, talking about the history of gay conversion therapy in the US.

It’s captivating.

You’ll experience at least most of the span of human emotions listening to it—or at least, I did.

In the last episode, they spend time with John Smid, a man among the leadership for 25 years—many of them as the top dog—of Love in Action, a giant inpatient evangelical gay conversion program—”ex-gay ministry.”

Unsurprisingly, John is gay. (The most vitriolic anti-gays almost always are.)

He had this to say.

“I don’t like my life to be painted as a villain, and that’s kinda the way I feel about this movie [Boy Erased]. It’s like, I don’t like it, it’s uncomfortable. I don’t like the movie. I don’t like the book. I don’t like what people are saying. I don’t like hearing Garrett talk about it. I don’t like it; it’s uncomfortable. At the same time, there is truth in that I was a forerunner and a spokesperson and a national and international leader that said you must eradicate homosexuality from your life.”

I’ve written here about “when you know better, do better,” and I thought this quote exemplifies that so clearly. No, he doesn’t like it, but it’s real, and he owns it.

(Later in the podcast, they get into some philosophy behind that—with all of the suffering he induced, should he get to just walk away? So interesting!)



Posted in about me, hope, vulnerability

I’ve always hated Christmas, but…

…I’ve wanted to love it.

It just sucked.

My mom’s love language must be gifts (based on things more than just Christmas). There were always piles of stuff for my brother, sister, and I to open, each in a different color paper.

My earliest Christmas memory, I was 7 or 8. We had ripped through our piles of stuff, and my brother, four years younger, had a meltdown because there was a particular toy he had wanted and didn’t get.

I have no idea what the toy was. I have no idea what he did get. I have no idea what I got.

But I remember being agitated that he had gotten all of these toys—presumably many of which he wanted—and he wasn’t happy.

(At this point in my life, I realize that he was three or four years old…but Child Heat didn’t give him that pass.)

As I grew up, I was religious and hated that the religious significance was drastically overshadowed by materialism—both in the culture at large and in our house.

(Don’t read too much piety into that. I always had a Christmas list and didn’t ever say I wanted nothing.)

When, during college, I became very much not religious, I still hated the materialism.

(I believe that much of the distaste came from other gift-related issues with my mom that were just overbearingly present at Christmas. Another story for another day.)

I don’t remember a time when I felt like I was part of my family of origin, or a time when I wasn’t ostracized. So holidays that are “for family” were torturous.

Years passed, The Tall Daddy and I got married, and I was so excited to have Christmas with his family. They were kind and loving to me—so unfamiliar and welcome—and finally (FINALLY!) I would have a holiday that’s about family with family.

Turns out, they didn’t do much for Christmas. Siblings lived in different states and some of them might get together at some point during that week off, but most stayed home with their kids.

It’s not that those years were bad so much as anticlimactic. (Also, The Tall Daddy and I gigged on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, so there’s that.)

The Christmas after that marriage ended, I had the flu.

The year after that, The Kid and I went to New Jersey. He was four. While we had dinner with a friend and her family, we spent Christmas Day in a hotel room, doing our own thing, just a few miles from my parents’ house.

It was so healing.

The next two Christmases were spent in Florida with The Climbing Daddy’s family, and while the second was not as bad as the first, those are not holidays I care to revisit.

This year … we’re at home. It’s just us. We’re settled into our house. (Last year, we moved right before heading to Florida.)

The Kid loves Christmas and decorations. Always has. The house isn’t totally decked out, but there are more decorations up than if I was left to my own devices. And it looks lovely. He loves Santa (though he’s always known that Santa isn’t real). And, of course, he loves getting LEGOs.

And so I am hopeful that this year, Christmas will be nice. Maybe even amazing.

I’m planning to take some of the traditions from my family of origin—little details that I loved—and hang onto them in ways that fit me now, with good friends. And leave the stuff I didn’t love. And add in other pieces that maybe someday my son will remember fondly as “something we did at Christmas when I was a kid.”

It’s been a long time comin’, but maybe this is my year.

(Also, I’m anxious that I’m putting too much into it and have a high likelihood of being let down. But I’ve pretty much always lived by the notion that the results are best when you’re all in, so………….)

Posted in mindset

What does it mean “to do the work”?

As per yesterday’s post, in order to get great at something, we need to do the work. It’s not innate.

But just doing work doesn’t necessarily make us better.

The old saying was “practice makes perfect.” I still hear people say it from time to time.

I disagree. I’ve heard more accurately, “practice makes permanent.” Of course, it’s typically not permanent—with work, most things can be changed. (And how maddening to work and work and then have to work and work to fix it!)

I like to say, “perfect practice makes perfect.”

Practice it the way you want it to be.

That said, I teach an art that happens in real time. In a performance, you don’t get to edit the mistakes. (I wish we would stop editing them out of the recordings, too, honestly.)

Currently, I’m engaging in an art where I have the opportunity to edit.

In both cases, having someone who knows better (or different) how to do what you’re doing makes a big difference. A teacher. A coach. An editor. An adjudicator.

You can show them your work (whether that’s in real time or not) and they can critique you. Tell you what you’re doing well and what you ought to change and how to change it and why.

Because all of these things have a level of subjectivity—especially once you pass a certain level of skill—having more than one mentor is useful. Not necessarily at one time, but moving on from one to another after a period of time. Or taking an opportunity to have a once-off with someone. A one-night stand, but for creative skill.

My writing improves as I write more. Everything I write, I edit prior to publishing. Most posts I let sit for at least a day before I go back and read again to edit. Many posts more than once. But my writing has improved the most when I’ve had other people read and critique and edit.

So. Do the work. But do it well. And if you don’t know how to do it well, find someone to help you. (And, because they have already done the work and have expertise, please expect to pay them.)


Posted in mindset

Talent is an excuse

My career has been in teaching music.

Every job I’ve had has included teaching elementary band—teaching kids who don’t know which end is up how to play a band instrument.

(I’ve also taught middle school band, elementary and middle school orchestra, kinder through third grade general music, third grade recorders, middle school music theory, middle school hip hop, community college jazz history, and was a band assistant and percussion instructor for high school.)

Every year, I hear comments about this kid or that kid being so talented. (The implication is that the other kids aren’t.) They’re being cheated out of the work they’ve done.

A friend of mine has three kids. She’s a music teacher; until last year, her husband was also a music teacher. Her kids are all musicians and play really well.

Countless people have dismissed all of the hard work that the kids have done, saying that of course they play well—they have music teachers for parents!

Music teacher parents don’t ensure you play well. They know the value of practice. They can help you practice if you’re willing to accept the help. (Have you ever tried to help your kid with something they didn’t want to do? Or something they were doing wrong but insisted they were doing right?)

Her kids play really well because her kids practice and have practiced for years.

Being highly skilled (for whatever “highly” indicates) takes work. All of the people who are great at ANYTHING have worked at it.

A colleague had a student arguing (quoting for ease of reading, but paraphrased): “You’re better than me because you’re just good at it and I’m not!”

Her response: “Don’t take away my hard work so you can have an excuse to give up.”

Believing other people have talent and you don’t is just an excuse to give up, to skip the hard work.

With all of that said… this is how I explain it to my students at the very beginning of the year.

“Some of you will start to play your instrument and will just be able to play pretty easily. Some of you will start to play your instrument and it will be a little bit hard and you’ll have to work at it a bit, and then you’ll get it. Some of you will start to play your instrument and it will be hard and you will need to work on it a lot, and then you’ll get it. You all have the ability to get it. Don’t compare yourself to people who are getting it more easily than you—it will frustrate you. Don’t compare yourself to people who are having more trouble than you, unless you are able to offer them kind and useful help.

“This is the thing. At the beginning of the year, we all wish we were the kids who just pick it up and play, because it’s easier. But there will come a point when those kids get to music that is hard for them. Everyone does. And when they get there, they won’t know what to do, because it has always been easy, and they’ve never had to practice. A lot of kids quit at that point, because they don’t like it any more because it’s hard.

“If you are one of the kids who needs to practice in order to get it, that thing doesn’t happen to you, because you’re used to needing to practice to get the hang of it. Keep practicing. It’s good for you.”

Because no one, talented or not, gets really good without practicing. No one. You might pick it up without working on it, and as you go, you might get a little better, but you don’t get great without putting in the work.

(More on another day of what “the work” looks like…)

Posted in about me, storytelling, vulnerability

Poking around in your head

Yesterday, I published a post that ended with a question asking about your experience. I’ve asked a similar question a few times.

This is the thing: I’m really curious about the answer.

I’d love to take every single reader out for coffee for a few hours and pick your brain about random things like yesterday’s post. (It’s not yesterday’s topic in particular…)

What’s funny is that without that context, if I actually was at coffee with some random person, I’d have no idea how to start that kind of conversation…or if it’s even too intimate to attempt.

I love poking around in people’s brains.

Some people don’t like their brains being poked around in. More than that, it seems that people think there’s nothing in their brains worth poking around in.

Yes there is, my friends. Yes, there is. You have lived this long. You’ve met people. You’ve done things. You’ve gone places. You’ve developed opinions. You’ve (probably) changed some of those opinions. You react to things in certain ways. You are definitely interesting.

I just need to figure out how to open up those kinds of conversations…

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, meandering, mindset

Perfectionism, skill, imposter syndrome

I am a recovering perfectionist.

For a long time, everything had to be just right. Edit, erase, start over. Make sure there’s always a straight-edge handy. No streaks, no cracks, no chips.

I realize this is fear-based.

I’m better about it. I don’t spend an hour carefully curating which font I’m going to use on slides for public presentations. Find one, make sure it’s good enough (primarily: legible), and spend the time on the real work.

I’ve hand-drawn cards for my students with music notes on them that are not each exactly the same. Someone volunteered to laminate and cut these cards for me, and they’re not all the same size. Deep breath, use them anyway, they still work fine.


I am also not always a good judge of “good enough” versus “the best I can do right now” (which might not really be good enough).

I was looking through pictures from an old blog the other day. I had shared quite a few recipes, and there was one pic with each … and many of them were not good at all.

These kinds of realizations make it a little bit harder for me not to get thrown back into perfectionism, or into give-up-ism, or just into heightened self-consciousness.

Ultimately, my photography skills are limited (though that’s on my to-do list, and has been longer than I’ve been blogging) and my photography tools are limited (phone, though a real camera is on my wish list).

(That’s why I’ve given myself permission not to have a photo with every blog post. If I don’t have one or can’t relatively easily take one that works for the post, I’m going without. It’s not a photo blog—they’re here to enhance or to attract, but the words are what I’m here for and, I assume, what you’re here for.)

And you see how defensive I immediately became? Oof. Brains are funny. And this post isn’t supposed to be about photography! So then I debate: edit those paragraphs down (or out) and stick more closely to the topic, or keep them in and let it be more real?

Today, real wins. Paragraphs stay. (Sometimes, I choose to stick to the topic more closely.)

This rabbit hole occasionally brings me to this: what is life like for people who don’t have this problem? People who can create the details (like the font, or the photo), and be satisfied with it, and be correct that it is satisfying, and then move on? Or is that one of those things where I’m comparing my insides to others’ outside and everyone who creates anything has this struggle in some capacity? Or am I expecting to be able to do something easily that others have spent hours working on?

That happens with my students. Often. They see that I can play instruments easily. They see some other students who can play their instruments easily. And they assume they “just can’t do it.” When really … they need to put in the time.

I would take better photos with more practice, for sure. Would I choose fonts more easily?

How do you differentiate between imposter syndrome and just needing more skill?

What’s your experience?

Posted in physical health, tips

My wintertime best friend

Tis the season for the creeping crud.

I mentioned the other day that it was creeping around here.

Thus, my wintertime best friend made its seasonal debut: the Neti pot.

It’s a fairly common device, so there’s a decent chance that even if you have never used one, you’re familiar with it.

Basically, it’s a teapot for your nose. You use warm salt water to irrigate your sinuses and flush out the garbage.

My understanding is that it’s not a good idea to do this on an ongoing daily basis, but with proper salinity, using this little guy as needed is beneficial.

It’s one of my go-to things when I start to feel run down. (Extra sleep is another.)

It helps.

When I’m already sick, it helps clear out my nose, at least for a little while, so I can breathe well.

The plastic ones at the pharmacy are pretty inexpensive. Read and follow the directions on the box.

Do you already have one of these in your bag of tricks?

Posted in about me, mindset, vulnerability

Some days, I look tired

There’s a new-to-my-awareness probably-MLM line of products being hawked in my Facebook feed.

“Total makeover. Only takes 10 minutes!”

But you know what?

I like my face.

Some days, I have bags under my eyes, because I’m tired. Some days, I’m exhausted and have full-blown suitcases.

I’m at the point where I have creases in my forehead and crows feet next to my eyes.

This is me.

My path has not been easy, and I have the creases to show for it. But I’ve laughed a lot along the way, and I have the creases to show for that, too.

Also, I’ve spent 20 years raising my eyebrows at kids, and I have the creases to show for that.

The last five years have been especially unkind to my skin. Stress is unforgiving like that; age was a sidekick.

This is me.

I could buy stuff and try to cover it all up, but then who you see wouldn’t be me any more. It would be some weird likeness. A china doll version.

I’ve been spoken to pretty harshly for my opinions on makeup.

But really, I wish we could all just like our faces.

Posted in about me, food, mindset

Food adjectives

We need to change some of our language surrounding food.

I do my best not to use the words “good” and “bad” when talking about food. Except when something doesn’t pass the sniff test. Then it’s bad.

“Good” could describe tastiness, it could describe healthiness, it could describe virtuousness.

We’ve made some unfortunate connections between those three things.

If it’s healthy, it’s not tasty, but it’s virtuous. If it’s tasty, it’s unhealthy and transgressive, unless it’s a reward, then it’s not transgressive…unless it’s too big a reward—then it’s transgressive again.

You know those things don’t inherently connect like that, right?

Let’s quickly pick apart those three things.


You like how it tastes or you don’t. (Or sort of do, or like it in small quantities, then that’s enough, or wherever it lands on the yummy continuum.) This is completely subjective.


It provides nutrients, vitamins, minerals, water that are necessary for optimal body functioning without providing too much (or any) of other substances that are unnecessary and/or toxic.

There is some variation in this because people have different sensitivities and allergies to foods, but there are some basic things that all bodies need.


This is a cultural thing and is completely tied to the first two, but only because we tied them together.

Because the virtue is tied in, when we want to rebel, we can eat a bunch of food that makes us feel physically sick but emotionally satisfied. We can do that often enough that we don’t feel physically sick any more when we do it, but the emotional ties are still there.

Because of all of this, and because of the additional boatloads of baggage emotionally connected to food, I do my best to be specific.

“This food is tasty.”

“I’d like to find something healthy.”

And I do my best to take the virtue out.

What I eat either moves me towards my goals or it doesn’t. Or it doesn’t but I’ve made a decision to let that go for whatever reason.

There’s no use in eating something and feeling guilty about it. Either eat it and enjoy it, or don’t eat it. But that’s starting a new thread for another day…