Voice Lifted in the New Year

As we transition from 2014 to 2015, I look back on my Voice Lifted journey in this past year and look ahead to where I hope to take my music making in the upcoming year.

My Christmas Benefit Concert on Sunday, December 7th was a success.  It was a great experience to perform in the newly remodeled Tamaqua Community Arts Center.  I was delighted to connect with the wonderful audience who came out that day, and I am thrilled that the event provided support to the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation as well as the Community Arts Center.  I look forward to seeing these two organizations continue to serve our community in the coming year.

2014 brought the release of my second album Voice Lifted at Christmas.  This album is now available for sale online (download or CD) at this link.  My first CD Voice Lifted is also available here.  Downloads of the music from my Christmas CD are also available at Amazon.  Additionally, Voice Lifted at Christmas is available in streaming format on Spotify.  

In 2014, I greatly enjoyed many performances at private events, community events, and at churches.  I am excited to continue these in 2015.  For those who like to plan ahead, I am announcing the date for my 2015 Christmas Benefit Concert at the Tamaqua Community Arts Center – Sunday, December 6th, 2015.  I will be announcing other public performances throughout the year, but I wanted to get that date out right away, as I have loved hearing that some people are now making my benefit concert an annual Christmas tradition.

I also plan on additional performances in the new year with my music partner Tom Flamini.  Right now, we are preparing for a February 8, 2015 performance at Providence Place in Pottsville.

In the upcoming year, I also plan to continue blogging.  I plan to do that with more regularity, as I know that writing is a wonderful source of creative expression for me, and I enjoy sharing my journey with others on the path.  Additionally, many ideas are floating around my mind for live performances and recording possibilities.

For me personally, 2014 was a year that brought many challenges and much growth, and I see 2015 as a building year.  I believe that there will be much opportunity to take all of the lessons of 2014, allow myself to start at the place at which I am, and create much from the bottom up in this new year with faith and trust as the foundations.  Many of those around me have expressed similar feelings about 2014 being a year that involved much tearing down, shaking up of things, a lot of confusion, “a year that brought us to our knees,” and a year that was like a roller coaster ride.  I am envisioning and holding 2015 as a building year for myself and for those around me, for anyone who chooses to embrace this intention.

New Year’s Blessings to all of you and to those with whom your share your hearts and your lives.


Falling on Purpose


I tried stand-up paddleboarding for the first time on the Friday before school started. It was one of those things that I just wanted to try once, and I thought, “If I end up being able to stand, that would be cool,” but I didn’t really expect that I would get to standing.


My first time on the board was with Ruth from the L.L. Bean Center Valley Discovery School.  I went out on Lake Nockamixon as part of a group of 5.  After going over the basic terminology and the safety procedures, we practiced going from kneeling to standing when the boards were set out on dry land.  Then we took the boards to the water.  After we paddled out on our knees, our instructor invited us to shift from kneeling to standing when we were ready.  I watched some of the others in the class go to standing, and they did fine.  Their success was honestly a little distressing, because I really didn’t want to be the first in the group to fall into the water.  I was rationalizing that it wouldn’t be such a big deal if someone else fell in & then I did, too.  I just didn’t want to be the first one to lose my footing.  Everyone else was standing, so it was time to try this…I stood up, and it was a very strange feeling.  My legs felt shaky, but I got more comfortable as I went along.  I enjoyed this experience so much that I started looking into when I could go out again.  I checked if there was anywhere closer to home where I could go out paddleboarding.


Last Friday evening, I went to Lake Harmony.  I had my second lesson with Morgan from Pocono Paddle & Fitness.  At first, I was nervous;  I thought I made a bad choice to go out for a lesson on Labor Day weekend when the lake was exceptionally busy with boat traffic, including people on jet skis.  I ended up having a wonderful time again!  As Morgan and I paddled on our knees to a calmer cove, we chatted and got to know each other.  I was feeling comfortable and excited after reaching the cove and got right up to standing.  Then, I practiced going back to my kness and back to standing again and again…and even learned a different way of getting to standing – the “pop-up.”  I then remained standing for the rest of my time out on the lake.  We travelled around the lake and then went back to where we started.  I even navigated some decent-size waves from passing boats along the way.


When I did these two lessons, I asked both instructors if it would be possible for me to fall into the water “on purpose,” so that I could practice getting back on the board…just in case I ever fell off in the future.  Both instructors agreed that this was a great idea.  I believed that it would be much better to fall on purpose and to learn how to get back on the board when I was with an experienced instructor and while it was not an “emergency.”  If I had actually lost my balance and fallen off of the board, I would have possibly been upset with myself or scared, and those emotions would likely have impacted my ability to get back on the board.  Now, I know what to do if that ever happens, and I know that it’s not a big deal at all.  I got back on the board easily.  And the falling part was pretty fun, too!


Falling on purpose…just to prove to myself that I can handle any future spills I might take.  That gave me confidence.  I know that it’s not practical to do trial “falls” in every situation we might encounter in life, and I’m not advocating that we dress rehearse tragedy.  Yet, it’s healthy to recognize that we will sometimes stand tall and we will sometimes fall…and when we fall, we can get back up again.  Resilience allows us to live life fully – we can navigate both the ups and the downs with grace.  We can be there to support others and cheer them on, and we can allow others to support us and cheer us on.  This time, I fell on purpose.  I know I will fall again, and it will not always be “on purpose,” but I know that I will make it back up to standing, and I will keep growing and living fully and welcoming new experiences and new challenges into my life.

Stand-Up Paddleboarding at Lake Harmony

Copyright © 2013 by Susan M. Featro, Voice Lifted

Finding Ourselves, Being Ourselves

This past weekend, a friend introduced me to an episode of My Little Pony.  I am not a regular viewer of the My Little Pony series, but I’d seen a few episodes previously with this friend, and I must say that I’ve been impressed:  The show is full of great life lessons, and it presents these in a way that is entertaining and that does not “talk down” to children.


In order to understand what I’ll be saying about this episode, I need to give you just a little background information.  Each of the pony characters has a picture on his/her flank that is called a “cutie mark.”  It is a symbol of what makes that pony special.  The pony who is an apple farmer has a cutie mark that portrays apples;  the pony who controls the weather has a cloud & a rainbow on her flank, etc.  Well, in this particular episode, a spell has been cast that has resulted in all of the ponies’ cutie marks being switched.  Ponyville is not running very well, with the ponies not doing those things at which they excel.


This episode made me think about the process we must go through in order to find our identities and then to live as our authentic selves.  The teenage years constitute a major period during which we begin to explore who we are, try on different identities, and determine what lights us up.  This process continues, and it is normal for our identities to shift as we learn new things and are introduced to different people and different experiences.  When we are middle-aged, most of us are refining our identities to some extent, as we begin to question some choices we made when we were younger, and we finally have the confidence to show our real face to the world, even if we think that others might be displeased.


One thing that makes the process challenging is the sheer volume of “input” we get – solicited and unsolicited.  In growing up, we are shaped by our family, our friends, and our teachers.  These people matter to us, and we know they mean well, so we notice the examples they are setting, and we listen to their advice.  This is good…but it can’t be at the expense of listening to the voice within.  Many people choose to “people please” and go along with what they interpret as the expectations that the world has for them.  They disconnect from their core and fall into the roles that have been suggested to them.  An additional source of “input” is the media.  The messages about how to look and behave in the world are no longer limited to billboards and magazine advertisements.   Things pop up on our computer screens;  iPhone applications sport advertisements.  All scream and compete for our attention…”This product, this decision, this vacation is going to change your life for the better.”


The process of finding and living out our identities is not easy.  Our identities are multi-faceted:  It’s not only what career we will have but where we will live, whether we choose to partner with someone in an intimate relationship, how we spend our time, what we consume and what we create, how we take care of ourselves, what kinds of friendships we have, what we choose to believe, how we present ourselves to the world.   This E. E. Cummings quote acknowledges the magnitude of the process, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  Once we are able to quiet the external voices and hear the voice inside that is our true self, we then face another challenge:  we have to take action to be that person.  There are risks.  We risk falling flat on our face as we dive into a new venture.  We risk being rejected by those whom we love most.


Every day, we make choices that align or don’t align with who we are at our core.  Sometimes, these are major life-changing decisions that we are making;  sometimes, these are little choices that collectively add up.  As part of my spiritual path, I am questioning each of the decisions I’m making and reflecting on whether they align with who I am at my core.  In some instances, I have time to process this before acting and making a decision, and at other times, I’m looking back and evaluating the choices I’ve made.


I’ve struggled with many of these decisions, and I have felt the fear that preceded some of those big jumps and some of the small ones that led me further and further down a certain path.  I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about what others think of my choices.  And I admit that I have sometimes abandoned myself and done what I thought would make others happy.  Yet, I’m never stuck in one place.  Each day, I have the opportunity to make new decisions that are right for me.  I feel very vulnerable when making some of these choices, but I know the importance of establishing my identity and living my life intentionally.


Brene Brown says, “Without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of getting criticized or feeling hurt.  But when we step back and examine our lives, we will find nothing is as uncomfortable or dangerous as believing we’re standing on the outside of our lives looking in and wondering what it would be like if we had the courage to show up and let ourselves be seen.”  Yes, it will feel like a huge risk, but I would rather put myself out there and follow my heart than stand on the outside of my life, wondering about what could have been.  I lift my voice.  I lift my heart.  I lift my dreams…and trust in them.