When I Fell in Love with Music: Songs in the Key of Life

I wish those days could come back once more. Why did those days ever have to go? ‘Cause I love them so

These lyrics are appropriate for my relationship with music for several reasons. Firstly, I am so disappointed with most of today’s mainstream music, across several genres. I found myself listening to more “classic” music – classic gospel, classic R & B, classic jazz, etc. As I mentioned in my post, Support Independent Music, I have become a fan of Independent Music, as well as opened up to the downtempo/ambient/chill and other genres I failed to explore in the past. So “I wish” for meaningful music to once again be found in abundance on the airwaves, as opposed to lingering, often unnoticed, in underground venues, on internet radio, and in other inconspicuous locations.

These lyrics are also meaningful for me because Songs in the Key of Life was a monumental album for me, and was the defining moment that began my love affair with music. I was 7 years old when Songs was released, and my parents had just bought a new stereo for my then 18-year old sister. Songs in the Key of Life was the album she chose to accompany her new stereo. This summer while visiting my sister, who now lives in South Carolina, I trolled through her many albums, and shed a tear when I ran across this classic musical masterpiece. I began to reflect upon my first experience with Songs. My sister had taught me how to work her stereo, which was much more advanced than the giant monstrosity of a console stereo/television we had in our living room at the time. I sat on the floor, clutching this beautifully designed fold-out album cover and read every lyric to every song, and read every liner note and credit. I remember “Sir Duke” and “I Wish” being the first songs I had learned all the lyrics to and I sang along with Stevie as if I were one of Stevie’s backup singers!

My sister’s LP stash

Our giant monstrosity…but gave hours of listening and viewing pleasure!

Yes, Songs introduced me to the beauty of lyrics, the poetry of lyrics. Stevie Wonder is still one of my favorite lyricists of all time. Songs helped me to appreciate all the elements of a real “album”: the artistic design of the album cover, the written lyrics, the music credits and personal acknowledgements (must always thank God and your Momma!), and of course, the music itself.

I can never hear any song from this album without thinking of its significance in my life – the first album of this audiophile’s life soundtrack.

To Songs in the Key of Life, to MUSIC, I say: “As around the sun the earth knows she’s revolving, and the rosebuds know to bloom in early May. Just as hate knows love’s the cure you can rest your mind assure, that I’ll be loving you always.”

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Motherhood Ain’t Easy

I apologize in advance for the grammatically incorrect title of today’s post. But sometimes, you’ve just got to tell it like it is. Last weekend I saw a friend and her two young daughters. She and I were both pregnant at the same time, during both pregnancies, and I had not seen her in quite a while. As she was trying to get her girls to settle down, and I was trying to reel in my children, she looked over at me and said, “They didn’t tell us motherhood would be like this, did they?” I laughed and replied, “I don’t think ANYONE could have prepared us for this!” It made me think of how I could possibly prepare Yvette for motherhood. I realized that I can’t; it’s one of those things you just have to experience for yourself to really understand. There is nothing that can fully prepare you for parenthood. Yes, there is basic advice you can give – a heads up here and there about things like sleep deprivation and potty training. But there is nothing like the real thing!

Certainly, I am not complaining about being a mother. I look at it as a challenge. My downfall is being too hard on myself, as if any “Mommie mistake” I make is going to bring permanent damage to my children’s mental health and well-being. I often joke that my goal as a mother is to keep my children out of therapy when they grow up, or at least limit how many hours they’ll have to spend in it! But one of the cardinal rules of parenthood, and especially ” Mommiehood,” is to not beat yourself up as a parent. Our job is to LOVE, PROTECT and PROVIDE for our children. That, to me, means to do the very best we can, for as long as we can.

Today, I did something I rarely have the chance to do. Yvette was at a classmate’s birthday party and I was talking with some of the class moms. Usually, we are just saying hello in passing when dropping off or picking up the children. It was nice to hear of their similar experiences with their girls. It also made me feel good that they complimented Yvette on how polite and helpful she is with her classmates. One of the moms mentioned that Yvette had stopped to help her daughter open her lunchbox last week. When you hear others speak well of your children, it makes you proud to be their Mommie, but deep down, you silently give yourself a hug for teaching them a lesson they have obviously remembered.

Is it easy being a Mommie? Absolutely not! But it is SO worth it!

Compassionate Children

This morning as I dropped the children off to school, one of my son’s first-grade classmates, Lisa (not her real name) was very sad and crying. She seemed to have had some separation anxiety issues this morning.  Just as a side note, I have noticed that the kids don’t cry on the first day of school; it’s usually the second or third days that bring on the waterworks! Someone explained to me that by the third day, the reality has set in that this is not just a one-day stay…I’ve got to go to school EVERY day! But I digress…Lisa was quite upset and the teacher stepped in to bring comfort. Izzy gave me a quick hug goodbye and informed me that he needed to say goodbye quickly so that he could stay and help Lisa feel better. In his usual way, Izzy proceeded to put his arm on Lisa’s shoulder and offer her words of encouragement. Now, many children exhibit this type of innate compassion, but I have always marveled at how GOOD Izzy is at doing so.

I recently read an interesting article about raising compassionate children which had this to say regarding the value of compassion,

Developing compassion starts with the recognition that we are not isolated creatures, but rather individuals who are a part of many groups-communities, races, religions, nationalities, and citizens of planet Earth-that must coexist to survive. This realization leads to an awareness of others; who they are, the culture in which they live, what they believe, how they live their lives, and the challenges that they face. Compassion provides us with a context in which we realize that people are more alike than they are different. We all want to be healthy and happy, safe and secure, and feel connected; we work, we play, we raise families. Compassion enables us to feel empathy for others and to put others’ needs ahead of our own when necessary.     (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/200912/parenting-raise-compassionate-children)

Although some aspects of compassion are inherent, it is interesting to see it develop in children. It is important for parents to exhibit compassionate behavior in front of their children, because as with other behaviors, children learn what they live. I am thankful that having two children allows us to easily teach compassion right at home, by having our children first learn to respect and have compassion for each other. Yes, they argue and fuss, but when one is hurt, the other is quick to jump to the other’s side. It’s a beautiful sight to see my children want to comfort each other, but it’s even better to see them exhibit the same behavior to a friend, a new classmate, or even a stranger. I believe that lack of prejudice against others, and the absences of preconceived notions about people allow children to easily show compassion to others. Hmm…yet another opportunity for adults to learn a lesson from our children!

Back to School

This is the time of year when children all over the country are trading in their swimsuits and camp shirts for school uniforms and lunchboxes – ready to leave behind the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer and head back to school. I remember as a child, I LOVED this time of year! You got to use all those brand new school supplies – ah, the smell of a fresh new notebook and pencil case, and the feel of that new bookbag on your shoulders. And who could forget all the new school clothes? All the shiny bells and whistles to show off to your friends, as you eagerly recount to them your summer adventures.

I always recall one of my favorite episodes of The Cosby Show, where Cliff and Clair Huxtable celebrated the first day of school as if it were a national holiday. It was the day they “got their house back” from the children, who seemed to just be hanging around all summer. As the mother of a first-grader and pre-schooler, the first day of school is somewhat of a mixed blessing to me. For our family, the routine didn’t change much over the summer, as Izzy and Yvette attended a summer program sponsored by their school that encourages using the summer to strengthen academics as well as prepare them for the next grade. The schedule is similar to their regular Fall/Spring schedule, with additional play time and almost weekly field trips. So in terms of the time we get ready in the morning and bedtime at night, our daily routine didn’t change until the last 3 weeks, when camp was over. Fortunately though, we do not have to perform the systematic deprogramming many parents have to in order to get their children. or themselves for that matter, ready for the new school schedule.

Though the fictitious Huxtable parents were excited about the first day of school, I submit many parents dread this time of year – suffering long lines, long school supply lists and slim pickings for last-minute back-to-school items from _____ (insert any discount retailer here). Now is the time to struggle getting the kids up earlier instead of letting them sleep their summer mornings away! But as a parent of very young children, I look at it positively – the beginning of their next year of learning new things. Things they will share with us at the dinner table. New concepts and facts they will proudly recall in the car on the way home. So parents, let’s be like the Huxtables and celebrate “National Back to School Day”!

Here’s wishing all the students a successful school year…and all the parents a relatively stress-free school year!