Friday, 25 September 2015

Chasing Dreams

I was looking online for sheet music for the Muppets song Rainbow Connection and suddenly it brought up a flood of memories so powerful that I had to stop and write about it.  The song has resonated with me from the first time I heard it back in 1979, and for a long time afterward I was inspired to chase after my dreams.

Over the years, many of my dreams had to be put aside for various reasons but I always held onto one: music performance.  I studied piano, sang in my grade school choir, played clarinet in my high school band.  Like many teenagers do with their passions, I threw myself into it by memorizing songs and libretto from various Broadway musicals and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and driving my parents crazy with renditions of "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" and "So Please You Sir".

Despite my parents' misgivings I took a music degree in university, during which I sang in the choir (which I enjoyed so much that I kept returning to sing for years after I graduated) and continued my piano studies.  After graduation I applied to an advanced program in music direction and orchestra conducting, but I was turned down on a technicality.

Undaunted, I began auditioning for local choirs and theatre groups, only to be told each time that I was not quite good enough to qualify.  Part of the problem was that I had no vocal teacher and hadn't the finances at the time to take formal lessons, so I had to self-train.  My dream seemed to be escaping.

Life moved ahead; before I knew it, music had fallen by the wayside.  My piano had to be given to my brother when my parents retired and moved out of the city, because the apartment I lived in at the time had no room.  I married, and after our daughter was born we moved to the suburbs, which made it much more difficult to get to the places in the city where I would have needed to be to sing.  I decided to take a break until our daughter was in school and then I'd get my voice back into shape.

But then one winter I had a series of nasty colds and respiratory infections, including bronchitis.  After I finally healed I made an awful discovery: my voice that had always been "not quite good enough" and that I'd tried hard to make good enough just wasn't the same any more.  I'd lost more than half an octave off my upper range and what remained sounded fuzzy.  It was if something else was telling me I couldn't be good enough to sing on stage.

Now, my singing is limited to karaoke Disney songs with our daughter, and I've hardly touched a piano in over a decade.  The musical career I'd once dreamed of is unlikely.  But that's okay.  I tried but wasn't quite good enough.  What matters is that I tried.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


We have scheduled our final discussion with the child psychologist in two weeks.  I took our eight year old daughter "Missy" to see "Dr. Z" twice a week through most of the summer.  Now Dr. Z has finished her analysis and will be giving us her report and recommendations.  At last we'll be getting some answers and advice on how to identify and perhaps solve some of the issues that our daughter faces.

It's not a moment too soon.  Missy's issues seem to be escalating now that she's back in school.  She doesn't get enough physical activity, and as a result goes to sleep late and is overtired in the morning.  She behaves like a spoiled princess and expects to get her way all the time; if she doesn't she throws a tantrum.  She won't do as she's told half the time and blames her hardships on others.

We've even noticed her becoming more violent.  During tantrums she will throw things, and has hit me on occasion.  She has begun to yell at and push other girls in her Brownies troop, which is not acceptable.  This morning I was told by the breakfast monitor at school that Missy hit another child, and if it happens again she will be banned from the breakfast club program.

We're both extremely worried that if this continues she might never become a fully-functioning member of society when she gets older.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Rules of Life

Rules of Life by Charles J. Sykes
Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!
Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.
Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes; learn from them.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.
Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Lessons Learned Online

I've been reflecting on my attempts at freelance writing, particularly the most recent disastrous foray with the local web magazine, which shall remain nameless.  I had thought myself reasonably web-savvy for a person who has been out of the mainstream workforce for eight years but it's still a learning curve.  I've learned a few new things, both good and bad.

Watch out for that NDA.  Be wary if a company asks you to sign a non-disclosure agreement, particularly if it's vaguely worded.  Ask for clarification first, be sure you're aware of all the specifics, and get a copy of it so you have a reminder.  An innocent blog post about your job has the potential to get you into a lot of trouble.

Companies often have preconceived ideas as to what their audience wants.  It's a tricky business trying to figure out what sells and what doesn't, but that often results in being closed-minded and unwilling to experiment with new material.  More ideas are rejected than accepted.

Never assume a personal opinion is private. Whether you write it on a blog, web site, or Facebook, people and companies have ways of finding you out even if you don't post under your real name.  Your opinion can have major repercussions for your job (even though it shouldn't).  To be safe, don't post it.

Expect others to take credit for your ideas.  From plagiarizing a blog post to outright stealing your original idea, there are those who are so lacking in imagination that they won't hesitate to grab your valuable work and pass it off as their own.  Aside from asking the person to remove the content, there's little you can do to protect your work.

Your co-workers might not be trustworthy.  This ties into the previous two points.  It's fine to brainstorm and discuss ideas but be careful what you say or share.  There's almost always one person in the group who's trying to further themselves at the expense of others, and will tattle to the boss when anything controversial comes into the conversation.

All this isn't to say that you can't trust anyone, but be careful who you share your information with.