Parenting a Singer

 

Photo Courtesy of Ibiza

Photo Courtesy of Ibiza

I recently wrote a post about parenting a designer, and in the interest of harmony, love and equality this will be a 3-part series. Yes, I’ll admit that I religiously counted the Teddy Grahams to make sure that each daughter had exactly the same number.

Parenting a singer is a joy, and will move you in ways that you never expected.

It may show up early.  You may suspect you have a singer on your hands when other toddlers are struggling to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” at play group and your budding diva regularly entertains you with a repertoire of show tunes. She may not have perfect pitch at age 3, but then again – maybe she does. Some kids seem to be born with the gift of song. With encouragement and support, you and your singer can develop and enjoy this gift for a lifetime.

All the world’s a stage.  Your little singer may or may not be a performer. Most likely, though, they can’t help humming or bursting into song. It just happens. Don’t be surprised when they belt out favorite movie theme songs at the library or just perform regularly at the dinner table. Bath time is another favorite time for singing and you’ll always know when your singer is in the shower (from anywhere in the house). There must be some primal connection between water and vocal chords. Be an appreciative audience and store up these memories. Someday you’ll miss their daily performances.

A song for all occasions.  As your singer grows, they may discover that any situation can be turned into a song. They may not remember later on, but singing to your baby will get things started. Cookies in the oven and timer going crazy becomes “I’m gonna beep beep beep ‘til you take me out.” A hot summer day with nothing to do but melt inspires a song called “Lemonade.” Then there’s “Fish Boy,” a catchy number about some guy hanging out in front of a seafood restaurant. A song can lighten any situation. Just laugh and sing along.

Prepare to be moved.  My family will tell you that I cry at movies and am a wreck at concerts. My advice? Bring your camera, carry Kleenex and invest in waterproof mascara. Your kindergartener’s premiere at the school talent show may astonish you, and high school choir solos may leave you in tears. Music touches us in an emotional way, and when it’s your kid… good luck keeping emotions in check.

Prepare to be annoyed.  I can guarantee you, with absolute certainty, that sometimes your singer will get on your nerves. On purpose. When she discovers that the song you dislike most in the universe is that beloved theme song from “Barney & Friends” or the 1982 Rocky III anthem, “Eye of the Tiger,” you will hear it 10 times a day for an entire week. Then she’ll get creative and make up new lyrics – and invite her sister to sing along. Music is a beautiful gift from the gods. It can also be used to torment.

Feed the fire.  It may seem obvious, but singers and musicians of all types like music. Encourage curiosity by surrounding your child with music of all styles and genres. Irish whistles, Japanese Taiko drumming, majestic choral concerts, bluegrass, classical jazz and chill out – it’s all good. Attend concerts and performances regularly and try something new.

Your singer may be challenging and changeable at times, but great musicians express emotions and move us in a way that no one else can. Singing is also a gift given freely that will add joy to your life.

Ride the waves, encourage daily practice and most of all, enjoy.

Parenting a Designer

Project Requirements

Project Requirements

 

After having a few good laughs and nodding in agreement at the uncanny insight on a blog post called “Dating a designer: 10 things you need to know”, I was inspired.  I haven’t dated a designer (or at least not recently), but I’ve known a few and I’ve raised an aspiring industrial designer to adulthood.  It has been a unique experience – one that I’m sure that other parents can identify with.  So I’ve decided to share a few insights of my own.

You’ll know it when you see it. You’ll know your kid is destined to be an architect or designer when other toddlers are cramming everything into their mouths and your child is building complex structures with wooden blocks.  You’ll know it when they prefer to arrange their food into pleasing patterns to actually eating it.  It will be obvious when you see their first grade drawing of a detailed scene drawn in perfect perspective – and then you see their classmates’ sketches of stick mommies and three-legged cows.  Design thinking may show up early. Recognize it and nurture it.

Trust their judgment.  When your designer child laments that they’re the only one in the family with style, accept reality.  It’s probably true.  Instead of feeling offended, accept constructive criticism and rely on their expert judgment.  My young designer once told me that I needed a signature color.  “I suppose you have one.”  “Of course,” she answered.  “I’ll bet you even know the Pantone code.”  “376. Pea Green.”  She was right.  I needed definition.  I wasn’t able to pin my essence down to a single code, but if you look in my closet you’ll see a range that spans from light aqua to cerulean blue.  I’m not a designer, but my color scheme and confidence have improved.

Gift shopping can be a challenge.  Unlike the blogger who is dating a designer, I wouldn’t say gift shopping is next to impossible.  Or at least not until they get older, tastes are more refined and they’re lusting after a minimalist watch with no numbers.  Let’s just say that you need to be willing to consider unusual presents.  You may even have to visit places like Lowe’s for items such as a Dremel MultiPro kit or drop by Office Max to pick up a 12 pack of Pilot Precise V5 pens.  Their friends will shake their heads and say, “You got a tool kit for your birthday?  That sucks.”  They’ll never understand.

Designers are the new rock stars.  At least to designers.  At her age, I knew the latest hits and was damaging my hearing at stadium concerts.  She works at a fabric store and gets excited when the new collections arrive from her favorite textile artists.  We’re not so different.  Really.

From my experience, parenting a designer is like raising orchids.  It’s not always easy, and they only bloom under the right conditions.  In fact, just read this excerpt about growing orchids and tell me if it doesn’t sound familiar…

For your best crack at success, start by choosing one of the less fussy varieties that is adapted to the type of growing conditions you can provide.  Buy the most mature plant you can afford (young plants are much more difficult to please)…”

Yes, young designers can be fussy and difficult to please, but they are imaginative thinkers that will help you to see the world in a whole new way.  With the right conditions, plentiful resources, patience and understanding, your young designer will bloom and grow.

So stock up on paper, pens, tools, hardware and art supplies.  Expose your designer to new experiences and inspiration and see what develops.  Most of all – accept, encourage and enjoy.

Travel by Design

The journey is about more than the trip

Experience Time Span (iversity.org)

I recently took an online class called “Design Thinking” through iversity.org, a platform for Massive Open Online Courses based in Germany.  One lecture sparked an interest in designing user experience and made me think about travel.

The simple visual above perfectly describes my travel experience.

Stage 1 is The Vision.  When I know that I will be taking a trip, I begin to imagine the experience as I plan activities.  Anticipating the journey, I am already experiencing it in my mind.  I can almost feel the cobblestones under my feet, smell the sea breeze or hear the animated chatter in the marketplace.

The next phase is The Experience.  While I’m traveling, I tune into the moment with intensity.  Unfamiliarity sharpens my senses, as I notice every detail around me.  Colors seem brighter, tastes more memorable and sounds that might go unnoticed at home form a cacophonous symphony.  I feel awake and alive.

The 3rd stage is Reflection.  When the journey is over, I return home and reflect.  Instead of being just a checklist of tourist attractions, each experience becomes embedded in my psyche and changes my perspective.

The final phase, which may last a lifetime, is The Story.  This is the memory that becomes a piece of well-worn quilt that I wrap around my shoulders.  Over time, the memories may lose intensity, but they are still colorful tiles in life’s mosaic.

Thinking about the entire process makes me realize how wonderful it is to incorporate design thinking into the trip.  When I become the creator, each journey is unique and the experience is entirely mine.  Instead of standing behind the crowd that glances at the Mona Lisa and heads to the next destination, I turn around and discover a joyful masterpiece on another wall.  Walking the streets of a German town, we happen upon a tiny printing museum and are treated to a leisurely private tour with a knowledgeable master.  On our way to the Alamo, we take a detour and find the peaceful garden at the Spanish Governor’s Palace.  Allowing time to get lost and time to explore, we discover forgotten paths and hidden treasures.

Experience design means paying attention to the details and thinking about the entire process – before, during and after.  When it comes to travel, it means creating a loose plan and allowing plenty of time and opportunity for exploration and serendipity.  Planning means that I know the address to plug into the GPS, the names of cities I’ll visit and the place I might sleep.  But the time in between unfolds as it unfolds.  I design the experience, do my research and plan the “ingredients,” but how it all comes together is something totally unexpected and memorable.

 

The Ageless and Universal Language

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(Photo Credit:  Adweek.com)

What a simple and wonderful idea!

Young students in Brazil would like to learn English, and elderly Americans in retirement homes are looking for conversation and companionship.  Organizations in the two countries have found a way to bring them together.

FCB Brasil and the CNA language school network are launching a project that connects Brazilian students with American elders using video chat technology that allows them to talk face-to-face.  The project builds more than language skills.  As inter-generational relationships develop, both sides are enriched by friendship, understanding and cultural exchange.

Watch the video to witness this remarkable and touching story.  I hope that the pilot project expands to benefit many others on a global scale.

 

Spring Forward, Look Back

Spring is a time of hope, when promises unfold and the world is fresh and green. It’s also the time when I reflect on life-changing milestones and special memories.

Every April, I celebrate the evening that I reluctantly attended a barn dance outside Lawrence, Kansas and met my future husband. I also remember the time, four years later (to the day) when he defended his thesis and we prepared for our move to the Netherlands (the next day!). An overwhelming cascade of memories mark the flight to Holland, arriving in that unfamiliar village that would become home, and meeting a friend who would instantly become family. I also think of young daughters searching excitedly for brightly colored Easter eggs hidden among the daffodils or scattered throughout the house.

It was quiet this year, and a college visit took the place of the traditional Easter egg hunt.

My friend sent photos of her home – a beautiful farm in Holland, ready for friends and family sharing a festive holiday brunch.

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Image

Resurrection and Light

The last few months have been a quietly busy time of slow transition and transformation.  A former employer’s “reinvention” (and reductions) motivated me to do some reinventing of my own and I’m still working on it.  Energy focused elsewhere, I found it difficult to blog.  But with spring comes renewal and the desire to re-energize, engage and connect.

After recently authoring a business book, I’m ready to take on more personal projects and the whole concept of reinvention has me thinking. I’m interested in stories of people who have found purpose and passion, changed for the better and are making a difference. As I connect with others and share my ideas and vision, they tell their inspiring stories – each like a luminaria, lighting the way forward. I’m not sure where this path will lead, but I’m hopeful.

luminaria

Especially interesting are people in the “third age” of life who are transforming dreams into reality and moving from retired to “rewired”. Instead of “old age pensioners,” these people are active elders, vital mentors, community builders and trailblazers.

When I was doing some research for an article, I was looking for a synonym for “elder.” I wanted some variety and didn’t really like the word “senior.” Thesaurus.com offered few alternatives, so I looked up “old.” Synonyms such as decrepit, tired, broken down, debilitated, enfeebled, exhausted, grizzled, hoary, impaired, inactive, infirm and wasted made me realize the contempt with which we view aging and those among us who are well-experienced. Instead of wisdom, we see irrelevance. Instead of venerable, we see obsolete.

My research is taking me to a re-imagined world where the journey leads to connection, learning, teaching, growth and renewal. I have some time to go before I am well into that third stage of life, but I’m looking for alternatives to the typical retirement and plan to share my findings with others.

Do you have stories of renewal and reinvention? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Letters from the Front

Collection at the WWI Museum in KC

Collection at the WWI Museum in KC

Museums don’t always thrill me, with their guards and heavy silence and collections of objects trapped lifeless behind glass.  But I was pleasantly moved and surprised by a visit to Kansas City’s World War I Museum during a recent trip to my hometown.

Housed in the Liberty Memorial, this is the only museum in the U.S. dedicated solely to World War I.  Featuring exhibits and interactive displays that engage all senses, the facility appeals to history buffs and those who aren’t so enamored with conflicts and hard-to-remember timelines (like myself).  I always enjoyed living history, oral history and first-hand accounts that told individual stories.  Primary resources like diaries and letters speak to me and I like candid photos, music and letters that describe the laughter, love and pain absent from textbooks.

A collection of envelopes that had encased letters from a father on the front to his son in San Antonio caught my attention.  Skillfully drawn and addressed to Private Walter L. Myers, these miniature works range from comical to patriotic and capture remarkable everyday experiences, from one soldier to another.  The sketches carry a message through time and space, so that a century later we understand at first glance.  Connection in the face of conflict.  Textbooks document the dates and timelines, victories and losses, nationalities, maps, destruction and casualties.  But a comical sketch sent from “somewhere in France” or a photo of the artist drawing in a distant combat zone soars above boundaries like the hot air balloons depicted by Myers, an artillery scout.  It doesn’t matter if the soldier is French, American, German or Russian – he’s a man and a father, far away from home.

After touring the museum, I visited the post office and bought 2 books of “vintage seed package” stamps.  I haven’t written to my daughters in awhile – maybe I’ll get out the colored pencils today and get drawing.

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