99 – sublime

Nothing can overshadow the joy of listening to someone who has survived decades of life. Too many times we hear of famed singers, actors, sports stars who have reached the age of 19 and feel compelled to write their memoirs.   How could someone barely in their 20s have anything as significant to say about their life as someone who has lived 8 or 9 decades.

This weekend, I had the honor of meeting with, and listening to, a family friend of my deceased grandfather. Johnny Bloise (Bloisi).  My grandfather, Frank, and Johnny worked together at the Corning glass factory decades earlier. On occassional weekends they were hunting buddies.  The absolute joy in this nearly centarian’s eyes, in his smile, in his gaite — were like a flash of light to my heart.   The hug, the kiss on the cheek, were the seal to the anticipation this elderly gentleman exhuded on the phone the day I called him.    He said, “I’ll be waiting for your call all afternoon!”

Johnny called all his children, most lived near him, to meet my mother and me for the evening.  All but 2 (twins) of his 7 children were there to greet us.  They were as thrilled to see us as we were to put the past in the present.  “I loved your parents,” Johnny exclaimed to my mother who had lost both her parents 20 + years earlier.   I remember hearing the stories of the adventures with Johnny during my childhood.   My grandfather would sit on the front porch at night — sometimes during a thunderstorm — and look across to the mountains in the distance that separated PA from NY.   “My hunting buddy, Johnny lives in NY,” grandpa informed me.

My grandfather introduced me to shooting a “22”.  I shot paper targets of crows, metal cans or ceramic pots placed on a brick wall.  Grandpa raised 3 girls in the 1930s and 40s, so he didn’t have any trouble letting his granddaughter experience some of his same joys.  We went fishing on a lake, but I mostly loved observing all his woodworking tools in the unfinished basement.   So here I am sitting in the living room with one of my grandparents favorite friends and Corning co-workers.    Johnny lived in Corning most of his life.  My grandparents traveled the 30 – 40 minute drive into NY to work at one of the finest glassmakers.

My mother remembered staying with her older sister, Barb at Johnny’s home when she was a child. Johnny even discovered photos of my mother with my sister (age 1).   The evening was wonderful. We agreed to meet the next morning for breakfast and then went back to Johnny’s home for a few more hours of history.  I was in my element — listening to the great stories of family trials and tribulations — and sitting in awe of a man who had so much fine quality character to be able to have faced diversity in his life and treasure the time he still has with remaining family and friends.

Johnny is already planning his 100th birthday party,”God willing” he notes, with the aide of all his children.   We’re invited.  I have the date on the calender.   Considering Johnny has siblings /aunts who are age 105 — let’s consider this party a sure thing.

Private vs Public Personae

Even on a small scale, being in the “public eye” has it’s challenges. It doesn’t take much for an average person to listen to something said and believe the information as the truth just because the words were spoken. Then there’s print media, television, and now the internet. How can we really determine the truth and a person’s character from the image they portray when in the public eye?

Reading about the young Olympic gymnast who has been plunged into the limelight so abruptly, I began to ponder how we treat people who are well-known or even “famous”. I think back to my childhood when there were certainly a multitude of stars to swoon over and idolize. But I didn’t have that tendency, need, or desire to idolize people that were performers, or well known. It’s not that I didn’t admire them for their abilities and notoriety, it’s just that I understood what they were doing. They were working. They had acquired or trained for their position of prominence. They ended up getting to a level called FAME.

I was raised in a family of educators who because of their skill in teaching and love of the craft, were recognized everywhere we went — at all times. I was OK with that. The grocery store, every restaurant, event — people recognized my parents. Then, as I grew older, it was my siblings who became known for their skills and public personae.

My family also included music performers — on stage either in the group or in front of the group. I, too am a performer. I trained from an early age to be a musician, then performer. It took years to feel comfortable performing in front of an audience until I realized that I was the ONLY one in the whole room or crowd that could do what I did as well — in my unique style. I was a teacher in a public school for over 10 years and was recognized by 1000s of children. Then I made the final decision to go out on my own and start a business that had begun years earlier.

This was a new step for me — nothing like being in the public eye through education or performing. It was a peculiar place to be. Before, I was recognized with admiration — purely with respect for my career. Now, as an entrepreneurial businesswomen, I was under suspect in the public eye. I didn’t notice the difference right away, but the variance in how I was treated emerged fairly soon in my career as an independent.

I BUILT my business (s) from scratch! Oh there were a few folks along the way that assisted (notably my generous parents), but I started with an entrepreneurial spirit as a teen. I kept with it, designed it, grew it, built it, managed it, promoted it, worked it, funded it. I DID it. No government handouts, nobody sacrificing for, or because of me. I DID it!

What didn’t make sense to me is that I was doing my job and people were suspicious. Even more relevant, was that I had to earn EVERY cent on my own. There was no instacheck in my mailbox, no direct deposit in my bank account. I was accountable for every dollar I spent, every dollar I brought in, every dollar I owed someone else. My public personae changed — not by anything I did, not by the income I earned nor by the business cards I distributed. Geeze, I’ve been essentially the same hard-working, determined, creative, design-my-box person since childhood.

What changed? How OTHER people viewed me. More about this in a future blog . . .

Love of Language

I already speak the universal language – MUSIC.   I speak fluent English.  I studied French 35 years ago (remember un peu).  Now I’m ready for Spanish.  I’ve spent a couple months listening to CDs.  I enjoy auditory learning 2nd best to hands-on training.   I just signed up for a new online program.   The concept of learning auditory, visually and by pressing buttons on my keyboard was appealing.   AND there are supposed to be lessons with songs and movies.   I’ve never been motivated by learning for grades nor for being paid to do the work I love.  Doing the best job possible and leaving a lasting result for humanity has always been my motivation. I’m an intrinsic learner.

Also came across this article on a blog:

Drive by Daniel Pink – Grades Can De-Motivate Us to Learn Spanish

Spanish Learning Motivation

Surprisingly, grades and other external motivators, can de-motivate us says Daniel Pink.

You might guess that getting a reward like money or a good grade would really motivate us to do something good like learn Spanish or any other language.

But according to Daniel Pink, author of “Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” that’s not how motivation works.

“Most of us believe that the best way to motivate ourselves and others is with external rewards like money. [Or maybe grades Ed.] That’s a mistake. . . The secret to performance and satisfaction — at work, at school, and at home — is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.”

 Learn How To Motivate Yourself and Others

If you have ever found yourself less motivated to learn Spanish, French or your favorite language than you wish you were, then you should read Drive.   According to Daniel Pink, and a lot of careful scientific research that he cites, adding expected external motivators like money or grades often has the unexpected effect of reducing motivation.

Small children who like to draw, will spend less time drawing if you start giving them certificates for drawing.

If you are a teacher who needs to motivate your students, or you just want to learn how to motivate yourself, you will probably enjoy Drive by Daniel Pink.

Twits and Tweets

Getting around on social media can be a challenge when there is a new set of terminology to continually learn.  Let’s FACEbook it, there’s barely a TWEET out there that doesn’t lead you to another place in cyberspace.  You’ll be lost for hours in the endless search for information that bombards us each day.   It comes at us fast. Better be ready to catch it in a mental net and hope it stays still so you can absorb the new processes, gadgets, techno jargon before it flits away.

Are there still people who watch TV daily?  I haven’t seen a TV show for months — don’t miss it.   An occasional movie is fine.   I won’t even get bored in the ever spinning world of knowledge.  Tweets are short and sweet — a treat in a day cluttered with interruptions of lengthy discourse.  That must be why texting is great way to communicate.  Get to the point in a few words — then move on.  If you can’t say what you need to say in a couple sentences, then you probably are over analyzing the situation.

Better yet, we could call someone for information thus spend less time on the computer reading about their life.    Just call and ask if you want to know something or need to know their “status”.

Time to log off and go talk to humans again.

Life’s Chapter Book

Life is a chapter book series.  Sometimes it rests on a table, stories  included, pictures added, a momento is glued.  Or the book is an old classic, read some time in the past then shelved for posterity.   My life’s chapter book series is still being written though I’m hoping to end the current book.  I want to put this book up on a shelf so that I can move on to a NEW chapter book.   I’ve tried putting this one on the shelf a few times, but it keeps falling off, opening to chapters that I had forgotten about and many chapters that I don’t care to remember.  I need to write the concluding chapter to the current. So far, there have been too many obstacles.  Stay tuned for future posts.

Character and a Car

I was filling my fuel tank when I glanced over at the customer in the next aisle. The man said “nice car!”.   My reply, “thanks, it’s old, but it has a good engine”.   “That’s all that matters,”  “You can always fix the outside.”, he replies.    I agreed. I stated that when the engine needs work, it is indeed more difficult work to fix.    We had our “moment” of insight relating to people and the similarity to a classic car.   The man concluded, “Enjoy the rest of your day.” And, indeed, that did make my day at least — knowing that, no matter what, my “character” is the inside engine that keeps me going — and my appearance can be altered — yet the exterior is never as important as the “engine.”

Humane vs Human Society

May 2011, I adopted an orange tabby cat from the Humane Society.  My new tabby was chosen for his circumstance, name (eventually changed), color and researched disposition.  I  needed a new companion that wouldn’t “bark at me” morning, afternoon, night! Or pounce me . . . and hurt me.  When I brought my new companion home in a cardboard box, I already had his safe place chosen.   There were lots of boxes to explore, things to jump on, but more importantly, there were places he could hide and feel safe.    My new furry friend was gaining freedom. He needed to learn to trust again.   We had allot in common.


I had been trying to find respite out of town from the DV spouse. Upon returning, my employee noticed two weeks in a row, that the cat had relieved himself week #1  carpet, week #2 the couch.  “Someone” closed the basement door.  We quickly put 2+2 together to realize that he was purposely kept from using the litter box.  Of course, I left it open for him to access his food, drink, and litter box.

Always receiving concern and compassion from patrons at work, one lesson night I mentioned to a 15 year old student that my cat had been denied access to his litter box.  In a split second, he remarked “that’s animal cruelty!” .   I agreed, but mentioned that my elderly mother had been locked out of the household bathroom for months, and — NO ONE — seemed to question that action. Concern for a cat overshadowed the bizarre treatment of an 82 year old woman.

The emotional, mental, financial and physical abuse I endured for years — severely in the last two years — was minimized, overlooked.     Even all the provable and documented offenses have been dismissed by legal counsel — some of which were perpetrated by the neighboring, vindictive defendant’s counsel.  I was able to evacuate my home physically unharmed, cat in bag, employee got in his father’s car.   But such extreme dichotomy of response is incomprehensible.

When I made my final evacuation, I removed the brass headstone that marked the burial plot for my beloved buddy Leo, artist model.   I can anticipate many years with my new companion, Carmel, the comfort cat.

Dog Gone Parks

They may be man’s “best friend” but I see plenty of women in the public parks, on a regular basis — not with their children or grandchildren — but with their DOGS.   I can’t say that the dog park replaced the ball park, but their does seem to be some kind of correlation.   Civility is BEGinning to wain to the canine. I have witnessed, first hand, the protection that animals are even given in more prominence than people. More about that in the next post . . .

Music Across the Lifespan

We all develop relationships with music.  Cheryl Dileo

Music enhances every stage of life no matter who we are. There is growing evidence of an in-utero response to music. The startle response is created by loud sounds and according to research, even the young life in the womb responds to these sounds. Infants can accurately identify their mother’s voice. Early on there is discrimination of melodic contour. Between ages 1-2 body movement can be incorporated into the music. It is unknown at what age a child’s brain mechanism impacting music perception and cognition are mature. That is why children need high exposure to a wide variety of sounds while the brain is forging neural networks. By age 4 when the brain’s left hemisphere has had time to develop, rhythm games involving sticks, shakers, tambourines and drums may be used. French composer Francois Couperin declared all children should start music by 6 or 7 and will benefit from a lifetime of enhanced interhemispheric brain activity. MRI studies have shown that the fibers in the corpus callosum which connect the left and right brain hemispheres are as much as 15% wider in musicians compared to non-musicians. Between ages 5-9 is a good time to start music lessons. During adolescent and teen years, young people begin to identify their own preferred styles and forms of music. Exposure to a variety of musical genres at concerts begins to open worlds of possibilities.

Most adolescents or adults can become competent on most instruments with sufficient training and practice. The nonmusical benefits like satisfaction, memory, creativity, relaxation and self-discipline may be as great or greater than the musical skills acquired.

For the elderly music might give an overall sense of wellbeing, providing relaxation and reduction of tension. Music can bring balance to an elder’s lifestyle. Music may arouse and bring recreation and leisure. Participating in musical activities whether singing in a choir or attending a concert can provide opportunities for sociability. Music stimulates connection to people and ideas. Music stimulates long-term memory retrieval and can maintain cognition especially if there are lyrics. Music, used with exercise and activities can strengthen extremity responses. Music is an excellent means of reminiscence, verbal communication and life review.

Music and Biology

Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons and you will find it is to the soul what the water bath is to the body.  Oliver Wendell Holmes

Music has a symbiotic relationship with the body. The body can adapt to the music we hear and the body may influence how music is perceived. When the elements of music are applied appropriately to meet certain goals, the limbic system (emotional centre of the body) receives information which can adjust the physiologic system. Music is one of the most viable resources for putting the body at ease.

The limbic system is made up of a group of interconnected neural structures arranged in border-like fashion at the top of the brainstem surrounding the midline surfaces of the cerebral hemispheres. This system concerns itself with homeostatic processes of body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, acid-base balance, sleep/wake cycles and fight-or-flight survival instincts. This system also moderates survival behaviors like thirst/hunger reflexes, sexual fulfillment drives, competition. Music, in particular melody, appeals to the limbic system. Music is nonverbal so it can move through the brain’s auditory cortex directly to the center of the limbic system. It may be used to calm down sensory input and dispel fears. It may also stimulate the senses and fire up activity. Music provides an environment of excitability or reassurance.

It is also this system that tags information for storage (hippocampus). When we hear music, our brains try to make an association through whatever visual, auditory and other sensory cues accompany it. We try to contextualize the sounds into our schema and eventually, we create memory links between a particular set of notes and a particular place, time or set of events. Music becomes cross-coded with the events of our lives. That is why music easily triggers associations. Hearing a melody years after an event takes place may “re-member” the neurological links or groupings and surface memories.

Music engages the auditory system (hearing) which is a vital connection to the vestibular system (balance, movement). Rhythm is a stimulus that instigates movement and can help integrate and organize the sensory system. Many experts suggest that it is the thythm of the music or the beat that has the calming effect on us although we may not be very conscious about it. Rhythm is the most important musical element that the body detects, attends to, and resonates with through neural entrainment. Entrainment is the rhythmic manifestation of resonance. With entrainment, a stronger external pulse does not just activate another pulse but actually causes the latter to move out of its own resonant frequency to match it. Music alters the performance of the nervous system primarily because of entrainment.Furthermore, electromyographic (EMG) studies of the electrical activity of muscle function show that auditroy cues can arouse and raise the excitability of spinal motor neurons. For example when you listen to a fast beat song, many times your foot will start to beat automatically in rhythm to that beat and then your heartbeat will follow. Music therapist Dorita Berger claims that internalizing rhythms through marching, beating a drum or tambourine will assist in body coordination, proprioceptive-tactile feedback and motor planning. Listening for rhythmic changes may bring about auditory focus, tracking, sound tolerance and depth perception.

There is sufficient evidence that music influeces the cardiovascular and respiratory systems and reduces anxiety, heart and respiratory rates. One study took forty patients who had recently suffered hear attacks and exposed them to “relaxing music” Results indicated that heart rate, respiratory rate and measurable states of anxiety were significantly reduced. Another study reported systolic blood pressure was significantly reduced in nine subjects who listened to music at 55 beats per second. Still another study reported that among patients who had been recently admitted to a coronary care unit after suffering heart attacks and exposed to music for 2 days had fewer complications than those who were not.

Studies also suggest that soothing music can affect stress and anxiety and influence our immune system. When the brain attends music and the auditory input is “safe”, neurotransmitters such as dopamine and sedating chemicals that calm and minimize systemic excitability are discharged. Whether it is the direct effect of the music or the effect of distraction, the person may momentarily forget her fear and anxiety.

Music and Spiritual Care

For the human heart and mind, music is a gift that brings hope and comfort through even the darkest times. In the midnight hour of the soul, when we feel most besieged by grief and alone in sorrow, music offers solace in the recognition that, although the rhythms of our lives fluctuate between joy and despair, the song remains.

Albert Lee Strickland

Music has a capacity to uncover our personal depths and pour completely into the crevices of our unknowns. It reinforces our values and beliefs.

Music can deepen us spiritually because it explores and may even uncover our personal depths. We may perceive ourselves and situations in ways that we don’t normally see them. Music satisfies the senses and emotional need. It may open the door to feelings of safety and greater spiritual experience. Music suggests meditative or quiet states. Music may provide a venue for adoration and worship, an important aspect of spiritual life. The structure of music itself lends itself to forgiveness and conflict resolution. Well designed music has a theme which develops suggestive of conflict and then resolves with a new perspective.

Music has a transcendent capacity. When we listen to soulful music or when we play soulful music, our inner existence immediately climbs up high and enters into something beyond. Music has been called the language of heaven.

In the context of mourning, songs take on the nature of lament, mourning the dead. Certain songs bring to mind memories that refresh our grief. The associative strength of melody may connect us to moments spent with our loved one, including the sounds, smells and feelings surrounding them. Musical lamentation may provide an emotional release for the bereaved. Music can help thaw and awaken paralyzed places and inspire us to begin living. Their may be heightened awareness to the lyrical themes which start us thinking about our own mortality. The strong connective, spiritual nature of music may keep us feeling close to our loved one over time.

Music and Life Care

Death is the one instance in which a picture does not say a thousand words, for in death it is not the disability or disfigurement, but the caresses, the gazes, the meticulous physical tending, the spiritual discoveries and the private emotions—spoken and unspoken—that truly convey what is happening. In the end, it is not the act of dying, but all those final moments of living, that are truly important.   Virginia Morris


Music may be most powerful at end of life. The capacity music has to connect, communicate and companion makes it a peaceful presence for those facing an end of life journey. When we are overcome by grief and sorrow, music offers solace.

Death is another life passage where music can accompany us. In fact it may be most effective during the end of life journey. Relationship completion is a significant part of dying. Palliative doctor, Ira Byock states there are five sentiments that permit relationships to reach completion once they are expressed. These are “I love you”, “thank you”, “forgive me”, “I forgive you” and “good-bye”. Songs can convey these messages more powerfully and completely than words alone. Throughout the ages, songs have been important vehicles for the expression of the deepest human feelings. While the use of sacred songs has reflected the spiritual dimension, it is popular songs that reflect the everyday sentiments of everlasting love, missing a partner, cherishing a friend and gratitude for all that has happened. Songs may help express these five sentiments and be helpful in relationship completion.

There are a number of reasons why music is now being recognized as a complementary treatment in palliation and why music therapists are part of the palliative team. Non-pharmacological strategies like music therapy promote relief in pain and symptom management. Music is used to promote relaxation, to reduce anxiety and to supplement other pain control methods. A terminal illness highlights every psychological dynamic in the person’s life—dysfunctional patterns of behavior, unhealed emotional wounds, troubling relationships and unfulfilled dreams. Music may facilitate accessibility into unresolved aspects of the person’s life. Reminiscence through songs provides life review.

Music may help people cope with loss of control. Songwriting and improvisation may give a sense of empowerment. Music can assist in release and closure by providing hope and dignity.

Introducing music in end of life must first come from a place of love and trust. Each death is unique and there are no formulas or guaranteed outcomes when using music.

Assess: Does the patient have a preference to a certain style of music like country or classical or steel drum? Ask. “Would you like to listen to…?” Or, you might say something like “Here is something that may help you sleep.” Or, “I have found this music very relaxing”. Be sensitive. Music is evocative and for a number of reasons, it may be difficult for a family member to hear a song that surfaces very personal and sometimes private memories or feelings.