Out of My Head (My 2016 Keyword)

Posted by on Jan 25 2016 | Songtaneous

Wow. I struggled with picking a word for 2016. The whole process felt slippery and unsettled.

A lot of that had to do with the fact that I didn’t feel like I finished with last year’s word — RELEASE. (And we know how I like to finish things. *smile*)

2015 is over and I didn’t shred my old files or mail all my extra books to Africa or even get rid of the old futon I never use. And I didn’t release any kind of recording project (which apparently was a secret wish for last year’s keyword.)

I did complete a clothes “tidying” project and I had to release my kitty, Zoey. (She passed away right before Thanksgiving.)

cat zoey sitting in a box

I also began trying to get clear on how I wanted to focus the finite amounts of time and energy I have in the upcoming year.

All that is to say that I felt a bit out of sorts at the end of 2015 and not quite willing to let go of last year’s word. In fact, I seriously considered choosing the word again for this year (Release 2.0!).

But then I realized that was kind of the opposite of what having a word like RELEASE was all about. *rueful grin* So I practiced releasing a final time and committed to find a new keyword for this year.


As always, I look for a word to push guide me and help me focus on my goals/work/art for the entire year (all while acting from afar, of course!), but I found that I was having trouble picking words that felt like they’d be relevant in a week, let alone by December of 2016.

That’s not unusual. It can take me a few weeks to come to the word. Usually, when I discover my word for the year, however, I experience a sense of knowing. (And sometimes a teensy bit of dread.) I intuitively know it’s the word for me. That it will likely make me stretch and it will help me grow, often into a new area.

Far more words than usual (i.e. fit, resonance, voice, health, clarity and find, to name just a few) crossed my not-so-short list for this year. I had plenty of my own ideas and received other good ideas from family and friends.

But none of them were resonating.

A friend of mine suggested that perhaps I didn’t need a keyword anymore, but this process of choosing a word has always provided a useful and informative chance to reflect on my goals and narrative from the past year as well as to discover what a new word could bring to the year ahead. I didn’t feel finished with that.

And, I noticed that I was feeling called to pick words that felt more personal or feel-y, but that I was also resisting being more vulnerable, especially in front of an “audience.” (It’s not you, dear Reader, it’s me.)

During my visit over the holidays, my mom and I talked over my many candidates for this year’s keyword, including what I liked about them and what I didn’t.

My mom is a pretty smart lady (and she’s known me for a long time *smile*) and she knows that I am a head first kind of gal. I like to think about things and know what I think about things. She reflected that I seemed to be having a lot of feelings with which my intellect hadn’t quite caught up yet.

And then a week or so ago, I read this article about “16 Uncomfortable Feelings …” and confirmed that I was (am) feeling on edge and at the start of things. Itchy, and at times cranky and out of sorts – kind of like the cooldown, without any particular thing from which I’m cooling down.

I also realized that I had been rejecting active and structured words like energy or focus (or act or structure *smile*). This supported the idea that I am trying to get out of my head. Intuitively, I knew I could not choose a word that I would have to “live up to” or “work toward.”

Not to say that words that challenge us are wrong. I have picked a number of such words in the past – 2009: discipline, 2011: embody, 2014: start – but this year, it felt like those kinds of words would be an excuse to stay busy rather than do the work I’m meant to do in the upcoming year.

So I’m slightly surprised, a bit disconcerted, but (mostly) convinced that my keyword for 2016 is HEART.

It shouldn’t be surprising that I can’t really articulate why (it’s a feeling, more than a knowing *grin*), but I think/feel that HEART has to do with getting to and working at the center of things, acting on what I truly believe and increasing the joy and satisfaction that I get out of the year.

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Making Art in the Real World

Posted by on Dec 30 2015 | Songtaneous

Helping my niece decorate a gingerbread house.

Helping my niece decorate.

I got to spend some time with my 3-year-old niece this past week. (Yay!)  She is smart, funny and tidy. So when we took on the project of making a gingerbread house, we tried to be organized and orderly.

Strike one.

Pretty quickly, her mom and I realized that it would have been a good idea to do a little more prep. As soon as we opened the box and read all the instructions (okay 75% of the instructions), we realized that we should have assembled the house ahead of time because the two separate construction steps called for 10-15 minutes for the icing (i.e. mortar) to set. And, that 10 – 15 minutes really could have been 45 minutes to hour. Oops! (At least the gingerbread was already baked. *smile*)

So we assembled the four walls and set a timer to wait for 15 minutes. While we waited, we distributed the decorations into different bowls. With a plan to work on puzzles for the rest of the drying time, we were good to go.

Then we added the roof and waited — you guessed it — another 15 minutes of drying time. Back to do more puzzles and we were still having a pretty fun time.

(Still … ten to fifteen minutes is an eternity to a three-year-old, even a pretty patient three-year-old like my niece.)

Now let me just say that when completely dry, the icing  provided in our gingerbread kit became stronger than concrete, but while moist it was … um … shall we say …. pliable.

So it’s been 40 minutes or so, we’ve completed 4 or 5 puzzles and we (finally!) have the walls up and the roof attached. Time to decorate!

We put our little Virgo in her painter’s smock and bring our bowls of decorations to her work table. She begins to press candies onto our gingerbread house.

This is the moment that the art we expected to make becomes the art we are actually making.

Little Bit pushes a piece of candy firmly onto the roof which causes the entire structure to shift and lean to one side. (Uh oh, strike two.)

Then one side of the roof begins to slide off the house. There’s a small outcry of alarm (from all three of us) before we leap into action. It’s okay, there’s three of us. I hold the structure in place while Mommy and Niece continue to decorate (and take some pictures!)

Our gingerbread house continues to … er … settle. The walls tilt inward, the roof slides off. My niece – who is neat and orderly and perhaps not so excited about getting sticky in the first place — lets out another small whimper.

Fortunately, my sister-in-law is an art teacher and I’m an improviser. *smile*

“Look!’ I say, “Our gingerbread house is like a snowman, it’s melting!” My niece looks at me suspiciously, but the whimper stops.

“We’re making art,” says her mom, “Art isn’t always about the product, it’s about the process. This process is FUN!”

And, with that, we changed a potentially disastrous project into a fun and creative process. My niece kept working until she had emptied all of the bowls (she’s a finisher, just like her auntie) and then we counted to three, let go of the structure and celebrated as it “melted.”

After all, being creative is largely about the process, not the product.

Final Gingerbread House

The finished “product.”

Happy Holidays!

P.S. Our plan for any future gingerbread houses — since my niece doesn’t really like sweets — is to hot glue the structure together beforehand and save the frosting for the decorating. *smile*

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Expressing Thanks

Posted by on Nov 24 2015 | Songtaneous

Our parents were right to council us to say thank you. Thanking people is important.

Why? Because it provides an opportunity to quantify just what someone did to help you and how it helped. And if the help wasn’t exactly what you asked for, that’s a good thing to figure out, too.

Maybe you got more (or better stuff) than you asked for. Maybe you’ll learn that your requests could be clearer.

I have a friend who hand writes and mails (or hand delivers) wonderful thank you notes. She sent me one when she graduated from school. In fact, she sent them to everyone she felt had helped her earn her degree — her teachers, her friends and her family.

She was genuinely surprised at how touched people were by the gesture. She said to me “Don’t people thank people anymore?” “Not like that, ” I replied.

Think about how many hand-written thank you notes you’ve received. Now, think about how you feel about the people who’ve taken the time to thank you in that way.

Try to thank people before, during and after they’ve helped you. It keeps you tapped in to the help people (or the Universe) are providing. So even when there is no specific person to thank, why not take time to appreciate and express gratitude for the progress you’ve made?

Thank you for reading this blog, coming to hear me sing, singing with me and all the other support you have provided for my music-making endeavors.

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