Category Archives: The Mother

Entries based on home life and balancing the act of work and family.

Usher in Positivity

The holidays are over. The wave of craziness came and went without a hitch. Exhaustion levels were at a high this year, but happiness and enjoyment stood firmly beside it. So much family. So many friends. So many gatherings to celebrate! The year has come to a close and life is picking up where it left off about two weeks ago. My lists continue to grow. Here I sit at 6am with my secret cup of coffee, writing to you. All is as it should be in the McNally household.

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My survival mechanism.

As I scan through social media, I cannot help but be overwhelmed by the number of status updates and tweets that are anything but graciously ushering out the year 2014. It seems as if people had a hell of a year and can’t wait to move on. Don’t get me wrong; I see the positive lists online as well- the friends and family that have thanked the previous year for all its gifts. These posts are what so clearly highlight a contrast between one and the next. The thing is… these people seem to do this every year- After New Years, without fail, you will find lists of things that were unfavorable from the prior year- things that people are happy to watch disappear behind them, as if the turn of the calendar year will somehow wipe the slate clean and all the gunk will just wash away. Out with the old and in with the new. People ecstatically welcome the new year into the old one’s place as if it’s insurance that “this year will be different”.

Here’s where we falter. Not to sound cliché, but things really do happen for a reason. It may not always be clear what that reason is, which is why you must be active in figuring it out… sometimes being active means simply being patient and waiting it out. So, even when things happen in life that are hard- even awful and tragic- do not usher them out the door to be forgotten. Do not dwell on them as hindrances to where you can go from here. Examine and learn from them, count the blessings you do have and move forward. The turn of the calendar is a good metaphor for moving on with a clear path. Moving on with a positive outlook is a good; I do not discount that. Setting resolutions and goals are great, even if they only last a little while. The key is that if they don’t hold up they way you wanted them to, not to look at that like a failure; if you do that, they don’t serve their purpose to usher in change and positive anticipation.

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Last year I had a great year. I made a career switch that changed my life. Music truly became the center of my career for the first time. I started a business that is successful, hitting all of my enrollment goals earlier than expected. I became an operational board member of Chanson Voice & Music Academy and piloted a choral program at the school; I was active in receiving its first grant, enabling the program to expand in 2015. More to come on that! Stay tuned! Changes happened in my family life last year that are all for the better, which as I look back, I see needed to unfold in this way to get us all to the happier, healthier place that we are at today; a clear example of not knowing how something bad can become good, having faith and patience- waiting it out. I made serious health changes, dealt with the trauma of asthma as an opera singer, and came out on the other side more healthy than when the year started; you can’t ask for better than that.

The year 2013 had ended with awful auditions of which nothing came from, pushing me to get a new voice teacher early last year; he offered me a “gig”. This set in motion a string of events that led me to take part in four shows last year which each changed my life as a performer (how lucky is that???). These shows each introduced me to people that changed my life. They brought forth opportunities for the new year; More to come as 2015 progresses. I am amidst an unveiling of another new project that will change my life forever- something I have dreamt about for a long time, and I finally get to see into reality. Once again… cliff hanger, check back in for details!!! I will be updating you all within the next couple of weeks.

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Words of wisdom from mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.

I ended 2014 busy and exhausted from working solely on things I love. I was able to connect with people, new and old. It was a good year. I cannot wait for all that 2015 holds in store- not because I can’t wait to see 2014 disappear in the distance, but because the years all link together. What I dreamt up in 2014 now gets to be fleshed out further in the new year. I get to see it all become more of a reality.

Take this advice- clean your own slate, if that’s what needs to be done. Clean up messes and make room for new ones. Learn from things you didn’t love about last year and march forward. Set goals.

Oh… and make lists.

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

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Say What!?

Lately, we have been watching a lot of Hairspray (the movie) at our house. My child loves to dance and sing, and she is right at the age now where she has memorized how the songs go and loves to perform right along with the characters. I happen to enjoy the movie, too, so if I had to pick something to replay off and on, Hairspray is an okay choice. As a mom, I like that the content is slightly controversial and that the subject of race and social progress is a prominent and positive vision for my young one. Even if she cannot grasp the concepts, it remains a positive view for her.

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Hairspray (2007)

As Emers has started preschool and gotten the chance to be further exposed to diversity, we have watched her remain un-phased by other children’s differences. It’s truly a remarkable innocence. It is much like the realization from other children that Emers has two moms. Literally, no moment of pause or hesitation from other children, except possibly to say, “Oh, I only have one mom…”. When Em cannot understand a child at the park who is speaking another language, she now understands that concept; She used to be confused as to why she couldn’t tell what they were saying, although still pretty un-phased. Now she knows that she can just go up and start talking and if they can both speak English, great, and if not, they play anyway!

So, yesterday on my way to drop the little one off at preschool, I almost spit out my coffee as she says, “Mama, Link [from Hairspray] says ‘Kiss my ass’…”. I must have misheard her. I ask her to say it again and she repeats the same sentence with a big sweet smile on her face. Oh no… I tried to explain to her how that is a naughty phrase and when Link says that he gets in trouble. “No he doesn’t”. I explain that after he says it he gets sent to detention, something she knows nothing about. “That room with Tracy? Where he dances?”. Oy. Yes. Sigh… So, I reroute the conversation saying that he gets a note to take home to his parents saying he was naughty in school.

Check out the clip here.

To my child, saying “stupid” is a naughty word, or “shut up”. Real swear words or phrases mean nothing to her. Her innocent and unapologetic faith in the world holds firm. I can see why in a movie like Hairspray she would think this phrase meant something good. Link says it to his teacher and winks at Tracy, and then they both go to detention together to join the dance party… frankly, something my child would love to join in on! So at the end of the day, when my child once again repeats the phrase “Kiss my ass”, I have to firmly announce that I never want to hear her say that again. That if I hear a teacher tell me she says it, I will be very upset. And now she knows it’s really naughty.

I know I will hear the phrase again, and in all honesty, other than not wanting other people to think I talk that way around my child, I don’t really care much about the words themselves. We don’t talk like that around the house, and my child doesn’t even think it’s a defiant phrase. She thinks it’s a funny, cute saying, to be said with a grin and followed by a wink. No matter what I say, it will stay that way in her mind. She will remain positive and full of faith in the world until we as adults start to change her mind about things – until we start to fill children with our own views and prejudices.

So take this lesson and know that children are watching and listening- soaking up everything they see and hear. Know that they remain un-phased and innocent until you give them a reason to question and doubt the goodness of world. So do I continue to let Emers watch musicals that use “bad” phrases and cover controversial topics? Yes, I do. And I continue to teach her what she can and cannot repeat… because… well, for no better reason than “because I said so”.

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Hairspray (2007) final scene

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Mama vs. The World: A Survival Mechanism

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Morning Necessity

When I first started Mockingbird Studio of Voice, I knew I needed to create an efficient schedule for myself. The flexibility of creating my own schedule is great, and as a parent it is invaluable. However, for those of you who know me well-  a crazy organizer in love with highlighters and calendars to a fault (That’s good for business, might I add!), I knew I needed to create a set schedule very quickly. Many new teachers will bend their schedules to accommodate prospective students, but I am unable to do that. For me, that requires more (money for babysitters!) time away from home. I set myself three very long days of teaching and one day as a “work day”. This work day is used for scheduling meetings, fitting in that doctor’s appointment that I can’t seem to get to any other time, and lesson planning and prepping.

So, my schedule was set, and it was great. Except that, as you can imagine, running a business requires a ton of time. A ton of time that did not fit into my Monday work day when I had meetings and appointments already scheduled. With a business comes… emails. SO many emails. To grow your business you really must respond in a timely manner and provide quality service. I found myself spending too much family time responding to work. In an age where smart phones are accessible and almost necessary, emails pop up right in your pocket! An email pops up, and responding immediately, I would miss the cool trick my four year old daughter was showing me at the park. Or worse yet, we miss going to the park all together because something comes up, I got distracted and lost track of time.

I knew right away that something had to change. So what change could I make? Where could I come up with this extra time? I tried to stay up to work at night, after Emerlyn went to bed at 8:30pm, but as many parents can commiserate, I was just too tired to be productive that late. So the other option…wake up early. I started getting up at 6am to get an hour or so or work done before Emers woke up. At first this was hard; It was dark and quiet and I just wanted to keep sleeping. However, very quickly I realized how awesome having this time of day to myself is!

Not only did I become ok with having to get up early, but I started to WANT to get up early. Even on my days “off”, I get up to have this time to wake up slowly. I have a little routine that I sincerely look forward to (I am a creature of habit for sure). I do this thing with the coffee that I call my “secret cup of coffee”. I turn on the coffee pot and when it’s about 1/4 full, I pour all that in to my favorite coffee mug before the rest of the pot finishes brewing. It makes this one truly amazing, super bold cup of coffee (I know that I am a little crazy when it comes to coffee), and I get to enjoy this cup of coffee all by myself, in my sweats, sitting in the dark, (and most importantly) quiet house.

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Secret Cup of Coffee

This is truly my ME time. I love it. I need it. It makes me a happier, healthier person, and because of this, I can be a better mother and wife.  Even while working, because I truly enjoy what I am doing, I can still wake up slowly, sipping my not-so-secret-anymore-cup-of-coffee, enjoying the time alone, uninterrupted and productive. Since I am already awake and content, I get excited to see Emers wake up, immediately ready to talk… so much. When my wife is home, I get to take her a cup of coffee in bed and we can enjoy a minute of calm before we get going for the day. I feel productive so early in the morning which allows me to take a breath and enjoy a little more of the day. This hour in the morning has changed my life!

So, what changes can you make in your life to benefit your health, your happiness, or others around you?

Thank you for reading my blog post!

Check out Mockingbird Studio of Voice and Chanson Voice and Music Academy.

Follow @MockingbirdSOV on Twitter.

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