Sonic Sanctuary

We live in amazing times.  Just when I thought Amazon Prime couldn’t get any better, bring on the free music.

It seems like just yesterday I was buying albums so I could carefully blend the most magical tunes together in order to have a mixed tape for every mood.  I’d spend hours as PJ the DJ carefully curating the most energizing tunes for my aerobics classes, the subtlest of sexy songs for the dating ritual, the rowdiest road songs for adventurous outings, along with the occasional classical cut to cultivate my creativity or monastic chant to elevate my spirit.

These days all I have to do is search the playlists that are already assembled by other music lovers, hit the download button, and in the same time it took me to make one side of a mixed tape, I’ve downloaded twenty playlists.

I once listened to an audio program called This IsYour Brain On Music by Daniel Levitin.  I remember the author stating that we vividly remember the music of our younger days because of all the emotions associated with our developing brain and bodies.

Although that may be true, I’m finding it works miracles at midlife as well since this seems to be the second coming of hormone-induced hysteria.

Music is a universal language and when words fail us, we can fall back on our favorite playlist to do the talking for us.  There is something supremely satisfying to me to know I can search and rescue my favorite song from oblivion at a moment’s notice and share it with an unsuspecting niece, nephew, sibling, parent, partner, or passerby.

Before Sirius XM, I had been stuck musically somewhere in the last century.  Now I am  thrilled to discover new music every time I step foot inside the virtual Coffee House in my car.  When I’m not in my car, websites like Amazon Prime, Spotifiy, and Songza catapult me right out of the past and directly into the present where I can surround myself with all kinds of music from an incredible array of genres.

Who knew I’d once again be spending oodles of hours listening to music from the past and present like a lovestruck teenager?

As soon as I figure out how to add playlists to my posts I’ll add them to this blog.  (Feel free to fill me in if you already know how.)  That way if you don’t have time to read the post, you can just listen to the playlist.  I’ll think you’ll be able to adequately determine how things are going in my world just by listening. 

Plus, you can send me yours and it we’ll create a virtual record store… or better yet, a sonic sanctuary.  Oh yes, that sounds so soothing.  A Zen and Pen moment if ever there was one.

Give me a few days to figure it out and I’ll be back to rock your world!

Jury Duty: A Musical Tribute to the Bee Gees

The other day my friend Ann and I were talking about my experience serving on jury duty.  It appeared as though our main contribution as jurors was simply to scare the beejeebees (as opposed to the Bee Gees) out of the defendant.  Then we began to wonder what  scaring the Bee Gees out of someone might look like.

After several moments of hilarity born out of  a deep respect for the Bee Gees’ influence on our  troubled teenage years, we were visited by what can only be described as  the Mama Mia muse.   She was clearly itching to do for the Brothers Gibb what she did for ABBA.

And that, my friends, is how  Jury Duty: The Musical was conceived.  I published the original version on www.midlifemacgyver.com.  But after hearing from hundreds of Bee Gees fans (channeled through former fan club president Michelle H.), I had to amend the initial script in order to add additional songs and a more fitting title.

So come with me now as we step into a magically musical court room where every question can be answered with a Bee Gees song.    Listen closely…. can you hear it already?

Heeere we are……. in a (court) room full of strangers…..

Prosecutor:   Are you saying you have a medical condition that  could prevent you from Stayin’ Alive?

Defendant:  Yes.  Night Fever.

Prosecutor:  What is that?

Defendant:   It’s just Emotion that’s taken me over.

Prosecutor:  And what causes this condition?

Defendant: Too Much Heaven or too many Nights on Broadway.

Prosecutor:  So you live in New York.

Defendant:  No,  Massachusetts.

Prosecutor:  Previously you claimed to have a broken heart.  How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?

Defendant: Run to Me and I will explain.

Prosecutor:  Are you joking?

Defendant: No, I Started  a Joke, which started the whole world crying, but I couldn’t see that the joke was one me.  It was a tragedy.

Prosecutor:  Define Tragedy.

Defendant: When the feeling’s gone and you can’t go on, it’s a tragedy.

Prosecutor:  And this is a problem?

Defendant:  Indeed.   Clearly, you don’t know what it’s like, To Love Somebody the way I love you.

Prosecutor:  How I am to respond to this?

Defendant:   I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You.

Prosecutor: Why?

Defendant: Words are all I have.  Come On Over and we can be One.

Prosecutor:  Objection!  It’s just your Jive Talkin‘, telling me lies.

Defendant:  No, Fanny, Be Tender with My Love.   I’m the man who Loves You Inside Out, backwards and forwards with my heart hanging out.

Prosecutor:  Just How Deep Is Your Love?

Defendant:   Deeper than Islands in the Stream.

Prosecutor:  Are you suggesting my Lonely Days are over then?

Defendant:   Yes!  You’re More Than a Woman to me.  If I Can’t Have You, I don’t want nobody, baby.  Don’t Throw It All Away by sending me to the slammer.

Prosecutor:  If this is in fact true, I should be dancing.

Defendant:  Of course, Boogie Child.  You Should Be Dancing, yeah.

Judge:  Do we have a verdict?

Jury:  We believe the defendant has  nothing to be Guilty of.   Defendant, You Win Again.  Prosecutor, even though this may feel like the New York Mining Disaster  1941, we don’t believe that a Love So Right will turn out to be so wrong.  Don’t Forget to Remember the defendant would go to the Edge of the Universe for you.

Fade out…

Who’s Your Daddy?

Yes, I realize Father’s Day was last Sunday, but my dad’s birthday was yesterday and I figured after all he’s done for me, he deserved a day and a blog post all to himself.

Having a birthday on the summer solstice is quite convenient for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s easy to remember because the beginning of summer is usually something people celebrate more than the beginning of winter, at least in Iowa. 

Second, it’s more likely Dad will be able to spend the day doing the kind of things he enjoys doing, like fishing, watching the Cubs play baseball, or having a patio party with friends and family.

And third, it’s the driving force coercing me out of the comfort of my bed and into my writing room to post this while the day and my dad are fresh in my mind.  I swear I’m channeling the collective energy of all the midnight revelers dancing in the moonlight as they usher in the summer.

Whatever the case, it’s well past my bedtime.  However, the words will not wait so I will release them and maybe we’ll all sleep better for it.

I would like to get something clear from the get-go.  I’ve never been Daddy’s GirlDaddy’s Little Princess, or even the first name that came to mind when he addressed me.  Being the youngest, he often remembered my name only after reciting my sister and brother’s names first. 

Granted, I often got him so flustered or irritated that addressing me in an ever increasing crescendo of Kellie-Kendall- PENNY was the most effective way to let us all know I was in trouble. 

While we each had our ways of  sending this gentle giant over the edge, I was particularly good at it.  Especially during church, I am told.

As anyone with siblings can attest, it’s not necessarily the one who started it who suffers the consequences.  It’s the one who gets caught.  Since there were three of us, it was usually two against one, and I was often the sacrificial lamb or black sheep.

I’m not saying my dad didn’t have reason to suspect me.  I did my very best to challenge him throughout my childhood.  Not intentionally, mind you.  I was just incredibly independent.  “Because I’m your dad and I said so,” might have worked on the other two, but it seldom worked on me. 

Even though I was the last on the family food chain, I was the first to try things that I considered to be brilliant, bold, and daring.  My dad didn’t see it that way .

Once in a fit of frustration he said in a loud voice, “You are the most independent woman I’ve ever met!”  To this day I consider it a compliment, although when I’m walking three dogs and Scooter exhibits his independent nature and leaves the pack to discover disgusting things to proudly bring back to us, I begin to see my dad’s point.

This is the thing with dads and parents in general.  They are wiser than we ever give them credit for and right more often than we care to admit.

Even though we live our whole lives in anticipation of their approval or in reaction to their rules, there is no denying the indelible influence they have on who we become, how we behave, even how we look.

I’ll never forget one particularly bad blind date that ended in a drive by drop-off .  The guy had never met me but had met my dad.  The first words out of his mouth were, “You look just like your dad.

My dad is approximately  6’3″, 280 lbs, and balding.  Although my dad is handsome to me, no woman with any sense of sexiness left after succumbing to the humiliation of a blind date is going to want to be compared to those height, weight, and hair restrictions.

I knew at that point, the rest of the night was pointless.  Seriously, men who might be reading this:  Unless your date’s dad has just been named Sexiest Man Alive, avoid that line.  And the drive by drop off.  Walk your date to the door at least.

Okay, so before you begin to think daddy issues are responsible for me not getting engaged until now, let me reassure you it’s more the independence thing. When the independence thing had run its course and I moved back to the Midwest, I became fiercely protective of my parents.   

Midlife has a way of softening judgments and expectations not only of ourselves but especially our elders.  When options begin to contract instead of expand, and there are more exits than entrances, there is a certain amount of grace we learn to extend to others.  For me, this began at home.

After years of being the yin to my dad’s yang, the “heck, yes!” to his “heavens, no!“, the left to his right, the open to his closed, I find myself appreciating the middle space we can meet in now.

I used to believe my dad would never understand me, let alone admit he had something to do with creating me.  But my mom told me how once he was busily bragging me up to strangers, telling them his daughter had written a book.  Up to that point, I wasn’t sure he knew what a big deal getting a book published was to me.

Then there was the day I decided to temporarily set my writing dream aside to take the respectable job I have now.  On our way to Maquoketa to look for a house my dad said, “This is going to be really hard for you, isn’t it?

My free spirit heart melted as I realized I had been living the dream for all of us.  My dad had his share of dreams he had to give up in order to be responsible, respectable, and do the right thing for his family.  Now he was witnessing me make the same choice.

The happy ending to this story is I’m now writing again while holding down a job and enjoying a family of my own with friends and animals that supply me with blogging material on a regular basis. 

I suppose if Bob would suggest I remind him of my dad, I’d take no offense to that.  After all, my dad is kind, intelligent, generous, and lovable.  And he can say his daughter dedicated this blog post to him, even though I suspect he may not know what a blog is.

What about you?  Who’s your daddy?  Share if you dare in the comments below.  Or hop on over to my new work-in-progress blogsite at www.pennyplautz.com.

Teach An Old Dog A New Trick

As an educator, one of the ideas I embrace with gusto is lifelong learning.

From my childhood days of playing school to my attendance at a college known for cranking out teachers , I’ve picked up on the clues that learning lights my fire.

Granted, most learning takes place outside of the classroom where ideas get translated into action.  Sometimes it takes years before you benefit from your extensive training in algebra, Latin, or history.  But one glorious day, the fruits of your labor will be revealed.  Carpe diem!

The best kind of learning for me is a mixed bag of challenges and instant gratification.  While I believe the view from the top is spectacular in part because of the climb, I’m equally sure I’m going to need a few glimpses of that view along the way to convince me I’m not barking up the wrong tree.

If it were easy,” the saying goes, “we’d all be doing it.”  But “easy” is a relative term.  For example, my challenge this week is to become proficient at using Twitter.  While this may be “easy” to those raised with a smart phone, it tends to leave me feeling a bit slow on the uptake.  But like the little engine that could, I think I can, I think I can.

The amazing thing is so far I have as many followers on Twitter as I do my blog and I have yet to tweet anything.  By following others in return, I have found some very useful, albeit overwhelming, information. 

I’m in the process of revamping my website and this blog so when I get to the Blogher Conference in San Jose next month, I will at least not appear to be the dinosaur boomer bloggers are assumed to be. 

After reading Career Comeback by Lisa Johnson Mandell, I’m on a mission to expose midlife as the mecca of miracles it can be rather than the slow decline into oblivion we’ve been taught avoid like the plague.

There are opportunities at midlife that may not have been viable options before.  For me these include home ownership, getting engaged, and considering braces.  Again, I might be slow on the uptake but it does give me faith that you can teach an old dog a new trick or two. 

For you it could be financial freedom, retirement or changing careers to something you’ve always wanted to do, moving to the country or the city, or creating your own internet tv channel or weekly podcast.

It matters not what you want to learn.  It matters deeply that you learn.  (And you can tweet that!)

I’ve always loved this quote that apparently is a combination of thoughts by German poet Goethe and W.H. Murray.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

With that in mind, today’s tasks include Tweeting and putting together a new website on WordPressI’ll keep you posted on my progress.

What about you?  What kind of summer school have you signed up for?

Share if you dare in the comments below, on Facebook, or @midlifemacgyver on Twitter.