Christmas Benefit Concert

 

 

This year, I will offer for the fourth consecutive year the Voice Lifted Christmas Benefit Concert on Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 2:30 pm.  This event will again benefit the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation and the Tamaqua Community Arts Center.  100% of the ticket money will go to these two organizations, with each receiving 50%.  Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.  You may call 570-818-4135 for advance tickets.

I am excited to announce that guest performers this year will include Mr. Steven Toth (Tamaqua Senior High School principal), Emily Barrett, Tom Flamini, and Barbara Greim.

If you have not attended a Voice Lifted Christmas Benefit Concert in the past, I invite you to experience the event as a way to lift your spirit and to do something for yourself this holiday season that will help you to connect with the deeper meaning of Christmas.  My intention each year is to make this concert a retreat from the busyness of the season, a time to breathe & go within & reflect on who we are and how God is present in each of us and in our world.  The concert will include familiar Christmas songs as well as many unfamiliar pieces that explore our relationship with the Sacred, our human experiences and emotions, and our connection to the past and to the future.  A favorite part of the concert in past years in addition to the music was the improvised sharing of personal stories and messages.  I look forward to opening my heart to the inspiration of the Spirit and seeing how God speaks through music and word in this annual event.

Please be in touch if you have any questions about the event or would like to purchase tickets in advance.

Brave

 

While pop music is definitely not what I prefer listening to, a friend recently introduced me to the song “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, and I must admit that I kind of like the song.  The melody and rhythms are pretty catchy, and the lyrics to this song are powerful.

 

The song begins by pointing to the power of words.  It then continues to encourage listeners to be brave by speaking out and not holding back on what we truly want to say.  In the music video, there are many scenes of people of all ages and backgrounds dancing freely in public places.

 

I believe that this message of allowing our authentic selves to be heard and seen is important for all of us.  It’s not just teenagers who shy away from being themselves in order to fit in.  I believe that it is a societal tragedy that the majority of people restrain themselves from free expression in speech and movement and action, because they have become better at listening to others than listening to themselves.

polls_2735265336_4aeb1b947a_2858_897551_poll_xlarge

When I teach young children, I see how freely they sing, dance, and tell ther stories.  I see how they don’t question how others are going to judge them before they assert themselves into the world.  As they get older, they hear those first words of feedback.  Praise by parents and teachers, correction by adults, or ridicule by peers then influence how they behave in the future.  There is now a combination of voices that guide them as they make choices and interact with others.

 

Sadly it is easy to lose touch with one’s own voice and to squelch one’s impulse to dance and play and live fully.  It takes a lot of courage to say what we want to say and to live our lives from the inside out.  I am lucky to belong to a wonderful tribe of friends who are committed to being brave and who support each other in this, even when it is most challenging.  We know each other and give each other a hard time if we know that one of us is shrinking and “going along with” rather than being brave and speaking and acting with integrity, passion, and conviction.

 

So often, the path of least resistance is to follow along the same path as others, to say what we think others want us to say, to do what we think others expect of us.  Instead, being brave is choosing to sing our own songs, dance our own dances, and tell our own stories.  Judy Garland urged, “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”  In order to do that, we must be brave.

Life Lessons

tumor-pituitary

 

A recent health scare has taught me some very important life lessons.  After having routine lab work done in April, I got the report that one of my hormone levels – Prolactin – was elevated.  My doctor recommended that I see an endocrinologist, but since I couldn’t get an appointment for several months with an endocrinologist, I asked the doctor if I should have a contrast MRI of the brain/pituitary gland done, just to make sure that there were no abnormalities that could be causing the elevated Prolactin level.  After the MRI, I got a phone call…not from one of the doctor’s office secretaries, but from the doctor herself:  the MRI showed a pituitary tumor.

 

After this diagnosis, I did even more research (on reputable medical websites) on elevated Prolactin levels and pituitary tumors.  The more research I did, the more I learned and understood about this condition…and the more scared I got.  I read about medications that had very serious side effects and saw statistics showing that almost everyone who took these medications experienced these side effects.  I read on multiple websites that the most common course of action was surgery.  I became horrified when I saw that the surgery is typically done transsphenoidally (going through the nose and the sphenoid bone.)  Since the nasal cavity is a resonance chamber for the singing voice, I felt that this was the worst possible thing that could happen to me;  I would have much preferred that they just cut open my head.  In  the meantime, I saw an endocrinologist and an ophthalmologist.  The reason I was referred to an ophthalmologist is that sometimes these tumors can press on the optic nerve at the optic chiasm affecting peripheral vision, but this isn’t the case for me.

 

Because of my concerns with my singing voice, I went to see a team of doctors at Johns Hopkins Pituitary Center in Baltimore, Maryland.  They were able to get me in for an appointment last Thursday, and that appointment brought me good news.  The doctors are recommending that this tumor be monitored through serial MRIs.  I will have repeat blood work in 6 months and a repeat contrast MRI after that.  Then, they will see if the tumor has grown over time, stayed the same size, or has shrunk.  At this time, they do not feel that medication or surgery is necessary…since I have not been experiencing any symptoms.

 

This was the best possible outcome I could have hoped for.  While I will need to follow up and monitor this condition, I am not looking at surgery or medication right now…and possibly will never need to do anything to treat it.

 

I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I do want to take away from this the life lessons that are mine to learn.  A health scare of any kind is always a reminder to be thankful for one’s good health.  This also has reminded me that everyone has challenging times and things to deal with that are very scary, sad, and painful…so I hold that in my heart as I am interacting with people, whether it is a student of mine, a parent of a student, my friends, a cashier at a business, someone whom I meet while waiting in line at the post office, anyone…  I am reminded of the quote that was attributed to Plato, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

 

I know that another lesson for me in this is to let go and release my grip on “how things should be.”  We can sometimes get so fixated on there being only one possible outcome…one possible way for things to go that would be “the right way.”  But that is not the case…and so often, there is something better in store for us.  I knew, as I was going through this, that I would have to get to a place in which I was going to accept and be okay with whatever the outcome was.  If I was going to need surgery, then I’d need to believe that this was happening because maybe my body needed a time to slow down and step away from it all, and this would be a time to take good care of myself.   If surgery or medication would affect my singing voice, I’d have to accept that there was some other way that I was to share of myself with others and contribute to the world.  And this was a reminder that I am not entitled to anything & that nothing is a guarantee…I’m not entitled to one more day with the voice I have;  I’m not guaranteed one more day on the planet.  I can hope for more days to lift my voice in song and more time to do the things I love, but none of it is guaranteed.  This has reminded me to see it all as a gift and has allowed me to be so grateful and so amazed by the tremendous gifts I’ve been given and continue to get.

 

It took me a while to process all of this & feel my feelings & come to peace.  I did get to that place, and I think that was a major reason that the Universe orchestrated this challenge for me.  Even though it wasn’t in a pleasant form, it was something that I had to experience in order to grow.  There are so many other lessons to take away from it all.  I also know this was an opportunity to practice advocating for myself and my health and remembering that I know my body best.  Finally, this experience showed me that there are so many people who care about me and that I have wonderful friends who are willing to listen and to share of their experiences with me in a beautiful and authentic way.  If I never had this experience, I wouldn’t have had these same conversations…wouldn’t have become so vulnerable in my sharing and wouldn’t have heard the supportive words from friends & experienced such wonderful connections.

 

So I do believe this happened for a reason, and I’m grateful for the life lessons I’ve learned and am still learning from it.  Of course, the future with this tumor is uncertain. At any time in the future, I could notice symptoms.  I could have my repeat blood work and repeat MRI and get a bad report.  But on the other hand, I could end up having this for the rest of my life and have no problems at all from it…it very well could even shrink.  And that is life: never knowing what is coming next, so therefore, being in the present moment and engaging wholeheartedly with the life that is right in front of you.

 

fall apart quote picture

Doing it Anyway

For quite some time, I’ve considered putting a blog on my website.  It’s been almost a year since I started telling friends, “I think I’m going to start blogging.”

My hesitation centered around two major fears:

1- People might read your blog.

2- People might not read your blog.

Simple.  Contradictory.  The real deal.  Can any of you other bloggers relate?

I acknowledged that my blog would be available to all who travel through cyberspace.  That’s a good thing.  I want my voice to be heard.  But…anyone might be reading what I’ve written:  students I teach at school, those who’ve attended performances I’ve given, friends, the guy who asked me for change at the Farragut North Subway Station, my parents, future employers, people who don’t agree with what I’m saying, the waitress who got my order just right at The Hershey Pantry.  The list goes on.

On the other hand, I’ve been terrified that no one would read my blog…that my writing would be “wasted,” (although I realize that would not be so, as writing almost always helps me make sense of what is floating around in my mind and my heart.)  Yet there was a very real fear that my voice would go unheard, unnoticed;  that would not feel good as I put myself out there, embracing vulnerability.

So…I’ve taken that important step of naming what I’ve been afraid of, and now I intend to release all of that, shake it out, and move forward on this exciting journey.  My friend and fellow musician & InterPlayer Stan Stewart advocates the “feel fear and do it anyway” approach, and that’s what I intend to do.  Thank you for joining me on my journey.  I ask you to please say “hello” and let me know that you’re here.  Comments are most welcome!