Reviving a Voice

About eighteen months ago, I realized that I was having trouble with my voice. I chalked it up to my job, and tried to be careful with it for the last six weeks of the school year. I figured that taking the summer to rest it should do the trick. A few higher-profile gigs went well, so I thought things were going fine.

Then school started again. I went into the first day feeling optimistic. I finished the day in tears. I called my doctor before I even left the building to go home. A small knot of fear began to grow in my mind, but I tried to push it back.

My doctor referred me to a specialist. That specialist assured me I had no vocal nodes (yay!) and referred me to a speech pathologist. She, in turn, gave me some vocal exercises, as well as some tips to better manage my voice: drink more water, get more sleep, stress less. She also said that my jaw was misaligned, and that I needed to get that looked at.

Now I understood why my mouth sloped noticeably in my passport picture and driver’s license photo, but I didn’t know what to do about it or who to see. My dentist referred me to a TMJ specialist, which led to the decision to get braces on my teeth.

bracesYes, it’s true. The underlying problem with my voice turned out to be my crooked teeth and uneven bite. But I had no idea just how many other things were tied into that situation. Part of the assessment involved answering a series of questions about aches and pains here and there, and strange things like watering eyes (yes, I had that) and numbness in my fingers (yes, I had that, too). When the specialist asked me how many days out of 30 I experienced pain, I said “Thirty”. My husband looked surprised, and sad for me. I honestly hadn’t thought about it much–it had crept up gradually, and I think I assumed that everyone felt the way I did, so there was no point in complaining.

During that first appointment, I was given a simple silicone appliance to wear between my upper and bottom teeth. Within MINUTES, my headache began to dissipate. The knotted muscles in my upper back began to relax. The pain across the front of my shoulders actually WENT AWAY. I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I hadn’t been in pain.

My voice soon began to improve as well. After six months of cancelling gigs, and being unable to make it through a few songs, I called a band practice and got back at it! I don’t want to take any chances with my restored voice. I have been seeing a voice teacher to correct any bad habits, and to give me new ways to keep my voice strong. I’ve been taking bookings, writing, and practicing with enthusiasm. It feels great to be back, and I’m confident that it will be better than ever! If God had wanted me to be silent, I was determined to accept it, but it would have been very difficult. I’m not foolish enough to think there are no surprises ahead. Life has a way of throwing curves, but for now, I am so thankful to have my voice back!

microphonePhoto credits: wisegeekhealth.com and commons.wikimedia.com

 

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A Song for Sunday–Something Beautiful

Something Beautiful–Steven Curtis Chapman

Today is one of those days when I could be upset at myself because I dropped the ball on something. It’s not anything major, just another case where I can say I’m out of the running for Parent of the Year, again. If I couldn’t laugh these things off, I would have a big pile of remembered mistakes to drag around with me.

Easy enough with the small stuff, but what about the big things? Oh, there have been some of those, too. It brings to mind a quote a friend shared on Facebook recently, although I’m not sure who to attribute it to:

I never met a strong person who had an easy life.

So, yes, there have been some things that definitely helped me to become a stronger person, whether I believe that I asked for those things to come into my life or not. God has helped me pick myself up more than once, helped me move on and reassemble the broken pieces in a new way, even when all I could see at the time was a mess.God helps us to deal with unimaginable situations, and leads us through to the other side even when we don’t know how to get there, or what it’s going to look like when we get there. We just realize, eventually, that we got there, and the mess is behind us. Yes, life gets messy, but it doesn’t mean we’re stuck there forever.

I see you sitting over there with your head in your hands
And the mess life’s made of your best laid plans
You really want to shake your fist
But you don’t know who to blame
Well you can blame yourself or the man upstairs
Or the guy on the screen who says he cares
But all the shame and the blame won’t change a thing
What’s done is done
But grace has just begun

And God’s says
I’m gonna turn it into something different
I’m gonna turn it into something good
I’m gonna take all the broken pieces
And make something beautiful like only I could
So put it all in the hands of the Father
Give it up, give it all over to
The only one who can turn it into
Something beautiful
Something really beautiful

I don’t know when the next challenge is going to come my way, but I know that something will. The unpredictability of such things is almost predictable:

The journey of the soul is difficult. Life is difficult. It is those who imagine that life is easy or should be easy who end up the unhappiest. It is the friction of life, the ebb and flow of the unexpected, that all work together to help us fulfill our essential purpose and destiny. – Matthew Kelly

So, I know more challenges will come my way. My life, or parts of it, might feel like a giant mess. But, just like before, I know God will get me through it, and turn the mess into something beautiful. Again.

 

A Song for Sunday–Living the Dream

Living the Dream–Downhere

This song comes across as a little tongue-in-cheek, but maybe that’s just because of where I’m at livin’ my own dreams. Sometimes it’s hard to sort out exactly which parts of our everyday existence are helping us to live our dreams. Responsibilities can feel like burdens or distractions from what we really want to be doing, and sometimes a crisis really throws us off course for a while… or at least, that’s the tendency, to think we’re being drawn away from the path we should be on. But what if right here, in the middle of the mess, is exactly where we’re supposed to be?

Usually, I’m trying to live my dreams by squeezing little bits of time into the cracks between working at my job, driving the kids to where they need to go, getting the household chores done (or at least trying to). But then there are moments when I realize that all of those everyday things aren’t just distractions, they aren’t just things in my way.

As for me, I’m singing a new song.
I’m not gonna dwell inside
Some alternate reality

I feel free
I’m making the best of it
I’m seeing with eyes that find the heart and soul of true beauty

Lately, I’ve taken to calling certain irritations “problems of privilege”. Sure, doing housework isn’t necessarily my idea of fun, but these jobs are tied to a blessing–I have a family. My property taxes are going up? I that “problem” because I have a house. The car needs to go to the shop? I try to remind myself to be thankful that I have a car. I’m exhausted by week’s end, yet again? I have so many things to keep me busy because of the people in my life. How could I not be thankful for them?

Everyday, love makes the promise
That we can be great
If we wanted and
We are living the dream.

Highs and lows we’ll take on together,
Choosing joy whatever the weather, and
We are living the dream,
Living the dream,
Living the dream.

This is the dream.

This song is a good reminder that the dream is not off in some distant “someday”, but right here, around us today, if we just look at things a little differently. Even in the tough times, and I’ve had a few, God’s blessings surround us, if we just try to open our eyes see them.

CD Launch Party–Thank You!

Thanks to everyone who came out to the CD Launch Party. It was a great time! I love the fact that it filled up with people who were happily visiting and enjoying conversation while listening to the music. It was a very friendly atmosphere–what an awesome way to celebrate! Thanks to all the friends and acquaintances who came out, to the new people I met that evening, and to the restaurant staff.

cd launch band2As for my band, I can’t thank them enough for the great job they did, and all the enthusiasm they show for what we’re getting ourselves into. They are all excellent musicians, and I am so happy to have them on board. Jim Brown shares his awesome skills on the bass, Del Metcalfe burns it up on the guitar, and Eugene Metcalfe amazes all with his dexterity on the drums. (Sorry Eugene, I tried to find a photo where you weren’t hiding behind the mic stand, no luck.)

My son, Tate, hopped on board too, as the opener, and added his fiddling flair to a tune during our first set. I can’t wait to see what else he gets up to as a musician, I’m sure this cd launch tate & meis just the beginning for him. My whole family deserves thanks, for their wonderful support, and for their patience with the practices. They’ve heard the songs many times over and they haven’t complained (too much, haha)!

Another big thanks goes out to Al and Lisa at UCB Radio for having me in for an interview during the preceding week, and to Jay Smith and Corey North over at CKXS for their awesome promotion all week long as the artist in the Local Spotlight. It’s great to have media outlets willing to promote local artists. Both stations were a great help in getting the word out.

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better event. I would do it all over again, exactly the same way, in a heartbeat. I’m so very grateful that it went well! Now we’re focusing on getting ready for upcoming public events in Waterloo (solo appearance) and Chatham (full concert with the band). Details will be posted soon. I hope to see lots of people there! God has put the music in my heart, along with a drive to get it out there, and the means to make it happen, one small step at a time. I feel very blessed, because in the end, I don’t want to keep these songs at home in my music room–connecting with listeners is what makes it all worth it.

Album Release!

Finally, the work is done and the CDs are in my hands! “Where God Is” is now available on iTunes, CD Baby and a streaming service near you!

Two years of preparation led to ten productive days in the studio this past summer, under the expert guidance of producer Matt Connell. His patience and skill kept us all calm during those long hours, and drew the best performances out of us, whether we were fresh or nearing exhaustion. And on a sunny Saturday in late September, he came out to shoot the video on our property, complete with a piano in the forest–not likely something I will see again soon.

I owe a giant debt of gratitude to my husband and kids for supporting me, and listening to the same songs over and over again while I got ready. My extended family, friends, and co-workers have been full of encouragement along the way, and helped to keep me going. My excellent musicians (Del Metcalfe on guitar, Jim Brown on bass, and Eugene Metcalfe on drums) were essential to the recording project, and live shows are so much more fun to play now–I can handle it on my own, but nothing beats the dynamic of a band on stage.

Photography credits go to Larry Kearns, and graphics were done by Steve Bellan. Big thanks to both of them for their patience, too, as I asked question after question and requested seemingly endless changes. Aside from the actual manufacturing of the CDs, I’m very proud to say this project was entirely local. I wasn’t sure I could pull this off in my own backyard, but with the right help, I did. Three years ago, this was just a dream that I wasn’t sure I could accomplish. The biggest thanks go to God above for helping me to put together everything I needed to get it finished and out there. He really is in the small things that happen all the time, but can be so easy to overlook.

If you happen to take the time to watch the video, or check out the songs (all lyrics are here), I hope you find something you can enjoy!