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Photos courtesy of www.facebook.com/photosbychar/

At the heart of anyone playing a woodwind instrument is the drive to achieve the correct embouchure. This is the term

used to describe the way in which the musician applies the mouth to the mouthpiece of either a brass or woodwind

instrument. This isn't something that just everyone can achieve with great success. Sometimes it is the difference

between becoming a great musician and merely an average one. And then there are some people who were born with

a innate ability, the right embouchure comes more naturally and takes little to no training at all.

I have learned all of this from having a son who (pictured above) was destined to be a musician. Two months into the

beginning of fourth grade he asked me a question that would reveal his true purpose in life. That question was "Mom

my friend James wants to play the clarinet and I do to. Can I?"With a budget that was already struggling, my then

husband and I figured that the $18.30 monthly charge for the clarinet was well within our budget. At the time I was the

typical Mom driving the kids everywhere. Although he and his friend James flew through the first lesson book in less

than half of the school year. I just tossed it up to friendly competition. It didn't dawn on me until I met his clarinet

teacher that there was more to this clarinet playing than I thought. The man came at me as

though I was the goose who had laid a golden egg. You would have thought I was some kind of celebrity. All I knew was

that for the first time in his life my son looked happy. When we went to his concerts, he and James were the first ones

on the stage. They would talk onstage until the conductor called for everyone to take their positions to play the

assigned piece. And in those moments I saw a light in his eyes and a happiness that I had never seen before.

By the end of fifth grade our family dynamics had changed dramatically. I had survived breast cancer and faced my

future alone. Ed had been selected to attend two weeks at the DARTS (day in the arts) program that is a part of the

BSO (Boston symphony orchestra) It was good for him and myself to get some time away from one another. He needed

to begin to make friends and I needed to begin to let go.

At first there really was not much difference. His father would come to the performances and talk with him

afterwards. But as time went on I was the only one attending those performances. High School was approaching and

two weeks before it began my Ed came home and announced that "This is the best time of the year!" I thought he had

things a little mixed up since we had four moths until Christmas.And then he let me know that Band Camp was

beginning in a couple of days and he volunteered me to make some home made chocolate chip cookies. As tired as I

was from working, the light in his eyes and the true joy of this event produced one of the best batches of cookies I

believe I have ever made.

By Thanksgiving of his Freshman year in high school, there were three cases for musical instruments in his room. After

the second one showed up I stopped asking questions. My only concern was how I was supposed to fit all of them into

my little Dodge Caliber. When he had five cases in his room I had to tell him to stop because I did not want to pack up

the car and have to push it down the road because nether of us would be able to get in it. As a result of him playing all

of these instruments, opportunity began to present itself. At first it was a four day stay at a hotel in Hopkington to be a

member of the Massachussetts All state Lions Band. The other band mothers told me I was crazy to let him go. But one

thing I knew was I never wanted to see that light of joy fade from his eyes. He needed to go and meet other kids who

were just as passionate about music as he is. He missed four days of school and it was well worth it. He came back a

more confident young man. He had made new friends and with the advantage of social media the members of that

band stayed in touch and held reunions in Boston.

After that, opportunities began gravitating to him. That's what happens when you allow yourself to follow your passion.

While in the All State Band he met the director of the Harvard Summer Pops program and at age 15 was playing a

concert at the Hatch Shell in Boston. His years in high school were marked with new adventures that were made possible

by his willingness to take chances and his ability to react positively to criticism. He auditioned twice for Districts and did

not make it. After the last failed audition he told me that when he went into it he was thrown off by the judges asking

him to do things differently than what he had planned. That was when I knew he needed help. The kind of assistance

that only someone in music professionally could give him. I prayed everyday for a way to find this person and also the

money to pay them with once I did. It all worked out and six months after his lessons began he made Districts and sat

first chair bassoon. All of these experiences have made him a great success as he is now ready to graduate college.

The most important part of this story are the qualities that he has learned in his journey. They are: Stay true to yourself

regardless of what others are doing, always look ahead as there is nothing for you in the rear view mirror, be good to

those who are good to you and forget the rest, network,network and network, and finally, accept what others offer you

without asking for more than they are able to give.

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The other day I was watching the news and I heard the anchor person talk about the record sales that are happening

since Black Friday.I watched a video that showed people shopping and fighting over THINGS in a store. The news then

showed massive lines of people waiting outside stores until they opened, hoping to get the best deals of the season.

I watched all of these things from the comfort of my couch, in my small apartment, sipping a cup of my favorite tea. It

was at that precise moment that I started to count my blessings and began to think about how fortunate I really am.

I keep my Christmas list small and the number of presents I buy even smaller. For me, I refuse to be pushed and pulled

physically or psychologically into purchasing THINGS that may end up in the return pile the day after Christmas.

Over the past three years, I have instituted a new Christmas list. This list is made up of days that I will get together

with my friends and family to share conversation, a meal and possibly a good card game. I believe that the most

precious gift that can be given this holiday season is the one of our time, not of THINGS.

I am not suggesting that exchanging gifts should be banned, all I am saying is that for me, gift giving is not about

fighting over a material object in a store. I do not believe that any THING is that important.

Maybe I am even suggesting that we all focus less on the gifts and more on the people in our lives. Because in all

honesty the only perfect gift we can give is our presence. Recognize YOUR blessings in the small things in life because

when all of those small things are added up they are far more valuable than anything you can find on a shelf in a store.

#holiday,#gifts,#giving

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The thing about change is that it begins with a place of discomfort. A feeling that something is not quite right and needs

to be different. Yet, for a lot of people being uncomfortable becomes the norm and they learn to live with it. It is similar

to having minor tooth pain. Most people shrug it off until it becomes so intolerable that medical intervention is

necessary.

But change can only happen if we as individuals take matters into our own hands. It is the very first step that is the

most difficult. And usually it is the smallest of all the steps. The person making the change may appear exactly the

same visually as they always have. The only thing that might be noticeable could be the way they are carrying

themselves. Or they may not be reacting to situations the same as they use to.

This beginning stage is crucial to it becoming more permanent. The more consistent we are in our new behaviors the

more likely it is they will remain .The most important factor in beginning change is to remain confident in what we are

trying to achieve. This can be a little challenging with people looking at us questionably. And depending upon the

situation we might regress into our old ways.

Whatever it is that YOU are thinking about changing do it NOW. Do not wait for the beginning of another week or day to

arrive. Use what YOU have already on hand. YOU are enough and what you HAVE is enough. Your new beginning awaits

you !!

#beginnings,#happiness,#change

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When I was a kid, every summer my mother would complain about all the little yellow flowers that were growing in our

lawn. Personally, I thought they were pretty. The yellow color intermingled with the grass,was very eye appealing to

me. It took me a few years to realize that these beautiful flowers were the same plants that resembled feathery ghosts

later in the summer. I did not have a lot of time to pay attention to these details as I was whisked off to summer camp

early in the morning and did not return until late in the afternoon.

The summer I turned ten, my relatives came to visit Boston from New Jersey. My two cousins and I were in the

backyard doing some exploring. One of them picked up a fossilized flower and blew on it. A most amazing

thing happened. All of the white whisps were carried into the air and were carried away with the breeze. I was

mesmerized. I had no idea that these remnants had any value. I just figured they would eventually wither away and be

lost to the dirt forever.

The three of us sat in the backyard plucking and sending these ghosts into the air for a long time. In the process we

were laughing and giggling. There was a competition going on to see which one of us could send our tendrils in the

breeze. This all came to a complete stop when my mother , aunt and uncle came outside and saw what we were

doing. We were all in the soup after that. We had no idea that what we thought were simply harmless puffs of white,

still carried the seed of life.

The following summer my mother made sure she THANKED me for all the additional yellow flowers that appeared in our

lawn that summer. What I learned from this experience is that something can be learned from the simplest pleasures in

life. I also learned that in mother nature EVERYTHING has a purpose even when it may not appear as though it does.

This lesson has remained with me all through my life. In some of my darkest moments I have used this memory to

remind me that there is something of purpose regardless of how dire things may seem. And that there is LIFE in the

most overlooked things around me. If you are facing some obstacles in your life that seem too hard to overcome, take

a good look around you for your DANDELIONS ...

#dandelions,#life,#ghosts

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The realm of YOUR possibilities are as limitless as you allow them to be. The question is, how do you unlock all the barriers you place on that thought? And if you do not think you have barriers surrounding your possibilities, then why have you not achieved any of them yet ? If they are all in the background as merely ideas, there is a reason for that.

Usually, the reason is that there is not enough energy being placed into them. All of your energy is probably being used maintaining a job, a family and a social life.

I am not suggesting that any of these things are NOT important, what I am saying is, moving your possibilities from a place of mere fantasy to reality, requires an open door mentality. With all of the other daily demands on your time, it is a challenge to put it mildly to entertain one more thing taking up any more of your time. If you are a parent, you might consider yourself being selfish by taking a chance on something that is merely POSSIBLE. You may feel as though you would be taking something away from your kids by taking a chance. But that could not be further from the truth. In fact this is the best time of all to begin working on your ideas. When you take a leap and begin taking those small steps to creating your future, you will begin to feel differently about yourself. You will gain confidence, and as a result, the new you will have more to give to the job, the family and the social network you are connected with.

In addition to what you will have to give to others, people will begin to treat you differently as well. They will have a new respect for you. Even if they do not outwardly say anything, deep inside they will be watching what you are doing.

They will be listening intently to what your plans are. Some of them may secretly begin to do some of the same things that you are doing.The difference between you and them will be that you STARTED on your tomorrow.

But none of this can happen until you unlock the door and widen your vision of what is POSSIBLE! Get started today without delay. Just one small step can lead to a major change.

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Holding onto hope sounds easy enough to do. Especially if things are good right at the moment. That is when there is

nothing to worry about. Our focus is only on good things. In fact, a lot of times it is easy to forget to be grateful and I

mean truly grateful for all that is right in our presence.

How would I know that if I had not lived it myself? I spent more than a decade raising two kids alone. Most of that time

we all lived in a house. It was the same home they were born into. I was determined to see them grow the rest of their

formative years in that house.

Struggle had become my new first name. I might have been divorced from a marriage but not from all of the issues that

being a single parent presented. No matter how much I worked, it still did not seem to be enough financially. For every

extra dollar I brought home,there was a new issue that required all that I made and then some. When the child support

did come through, it just meant some of the bills got paid on time. I walked around that house seeing only what was

wrong with the way we all were living.

Some months when there was no child support, the bills were paid later than late. I never had the electric or the gas

turned off, and I never lost the house. And the only way I was able to accomplish all of that was by holding onto HOPE.

It was a long road to get there, but I learned that within every small victory there was a huge amount of HOPE that

made it happen at all.

With each small step towards success, my grasp onto HOPE became stronger. I began to realize that what I wanted to

achieve was attainable. And with that knowledge, Hope became my source of strength. The one thing I could hold onto

even when things seemed to be totally against me.

I remember sitting in the living room of the house with my head in my hands. I would have tears streaming down my

face trying to make sense of how I was supposed to make things work. The longer I sat and allowed HOPE to enter into

my realm of thinking, the calmer and clearer my path appeared. And in all honesty, most of the time it was all I had to

hold onto. For everything that was going wrong at the time, HOPE provided the gateway to all that was required for

things to go RIGHT!!

Allow HOPE into your life regardless of your situation or circumstances and reap the benefits of doing so. It will allow

you to see what is RIGHT with your life instead of only seeing what is WRONG!!

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One thing about a rainy day is that I usually do not want to get out of bed. I hear the rain drops falling and it is as if they are playing a lullaby that increases my fatigue. But I have learned to raise above the rain. Oh do not get it twisted and think this is something that is easy to do. It certainly is not!

Raising above the rain came as I was recovering from breast cancer. It was what I had to do in order to get back to where I was physically before the surgery. I remember dragging myself out of bed, getting dressed, hitting the treadmill and the weights. It was really hard. I had days when I felt as though I would never make any progress. Day after day I refused to give up even though I felt as though it was of no use.

I still remember lifting those tiny two pound weights, crying inside. I could not believe what cancer had reduced me to. It would be six months before I was ready to increase the weights I was lifting to a whopping five pounds. That was one of my biggest milestones. That day I felt as though I could overcome just about anything. I never told anyone about this until now. I figured that most people would not have understood my personal battle.

From then on, I was like the postman. Nothing was going to keep me down. I refused to allow the weather conditions to hinder my progress. I found ways around the depressing effects that rain.sleet and snow have over my mood. Even if the kids did not have school, I got up and I got out of that house. It was something I had to do for myself. To this day, I still work out whenever I can. And I do not permit the weather determine whether or not I can get a workout.

I have applied this mentality to every aspect of my life. And you can too. Raise above the Rain and find your way to what it is that should and can be achieved today and everyday !!

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This coming Monday in Boston,Massachussetts, thousands of runners will take to the streets in an effort to

complete the grueling twenty six mile course known as the Boston Marathon. The most fascinating part of this

race are the stories of the entrants in the news prior to what is called "Marathon Monday". Each person

highlighted on the evening news, comes from a different set of circumstances. Some of the people have lost

someone and are running in their memory. While others have just decided that this is "the" time for them to

take on this challenge.

One of the most difficult parts of this particular course is halfway through. At mile twenty all of the runners must face

"Heartbreak Hill". This is a 1.23 mile stretch that is an ascent. It is at this juncture that many runners cannot go on.

Every year I watch this race on the television and I am amazed and impressed at the bravery of each entrant for this

race. I believe that this particular race has the highest number of people who complete it without regard to their timing.

For some people it might be daylight when they begin the course and dusk upon completion. That represents a

high commitment to the goal of finishing this race.

I believe that everyone of us is in a "marathon" of sorts. Even though people have said that life is "short" the truth is,

the average life span is 79 years. That is a long time made up of intervals that mark major chronological changes that

impact us differently at each stage. If we were all sprinters, then the vast majority of folks would not make it past the

first quarter century. But that is not the case. This indicates that most people have what it takes to go the distance

regardless of their situation or circumstance. It is not necessary for them to have been previously condition for the long

haul, because when it comes down to it, what matters the most is the level of commitment to living as long as possible.

So this Monday also known as Patriots Day in Boston, remember that we are all Marathoners. It is not necessary to

have a number or a shirt in order to be in the race that represents your life. Regardless of where you are in the

Marathon, it only matters that you finish ! It is a race that is very individualized with results that vary from person

to person. Stay in it !!

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