Finding resilience in 2020 – and carrying it into 2021

2020 was just…wow. Most of us learned a lot of lessons that year. What word or phrase did you take away from it?  What goals or values are you carrying with you throughout 2021?

Some thoughts on resilience

Last year was all about resilience for most of us.  Did you have those days where you were holding your head in your hands, wondering how you were going to do it all again tomorrow?  A brilliant book by my colleague in rhythm, Jim Boneau, called “The Rumble Zone,” helped me get through it, especially his chapter on resilience.  Below are some excerpts in quotes.

“Sometimes resilience is required, not to overcome an actual defeat, but the story of defeat we create in our head.”

“Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties – the choice towards optimism and belief in possibility.”

“Sometimes you just have to sit with the discomfort. As you sit with the emotion you develop the ability to choose resilience again and again.”

Choose one word to be your focus

You know, I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions, but I strive to always be growing.  Another of my colleagues in rhythm, Jim Donovan, always invites his community of followers to choose ONE word for the new year that will be their focus, and to build out their values and goals around that one word.

After the hellish year we had, I couldn’t pick just one.  So, I chose three. Do any of these resonate with you too?


After my business struggled greatly last year like so many other small businesses, I had to rebuild the foundation from scratch:  redefine my business goals, change up my offerings based on my clients’ new needs, and learn how to run a business as a new mom working from home 24/7 instead of just part time. I also decided I needed to go back to the drawing board on my habits as well – picking up journaling for clarity and focus, and setting specific weekly and monthly goals for my physical and mental health.


Also, with less time on my hands, I needed to get laser focused on my “one thing” each day that needed to get done.  All the other tasks around the house and for the business were still there, but the “one thing” required my focus for a solid hour. Personally speaking, I also decided I was going to hold myself accountable for planning monthly and yearly fun and enriching activities for my family to enjoy together.  Having something to look forward to is so important for our mental health, don’t you think?


And speaking of mental health…

Did fear, anxiety, depression, anger, or frustration creep into your psyche this year?  I felt all that and more, between the pandemic, my struggling business, and being a new mom to a child with nearly uncontrollable colic and reflux. I’ve decided this year to react less, and to build more proactive habits for dealing with my mental health.  This includes simple breathing exercises that I lead all the time in my group rhythm sessions (I’m shaking my head that I didn’t ‘practice what I preached’ much before), as well as better sleep habits, TV-free yoga time, and the use of the Headspace meditation and mindfulness app.

Accountability – make sure you get it done!

Now, my invitation to you is to pick your word (or words) for 2021 and:

1) speak them out loud;

2) write them down in a visible spot at home or at the office (preferably multiple places); and

3) tell them to a trusted friend or confidante.

I want to come back to Jim Boneau’s words on resilience – over time, we develop the ability to “choose resilience again and again.” We can’t just throw up our hands, shake our heads, and walk away.  Put the power to choose into your hands, and let’s choose resilience together.

How can I help you, your family, or your organization improve on its goals this year?  Reach out to me for a 15-minute consultation and let’s find out!

Choosing resilience at a socially distanced, masked self-care retreat for Baptist healthcare chaplains in October 2020

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How do you communicate when words fail? Two ideas for inspiration

Lately, communication has been on my brain.  Our son just turned 9 months old a few days ago, and to be honest, I’ve never felt more challenged as a communicator than as a mom.  It’s been a crash course in identifying and naming all his cries, screeches, shrieks, and squeals. More than once I found myself asking – why can’t babies just talk already?

So, I started using baby signs with him, to help him make sense of his world a little better and give him some tools to tell me what he wanted.  He’s starting to learn them, but for the most part we still figure out what he wants based on his sounds.

As a musician, I wanted us to be able to connect with each other through music and rhythm – lullabies, dance parties, and teaching him how to play a baby-sized djembe drum (which he’s already rocking!).  We’ve had some of our best moments together this way.  Sometimes, when neither of us has the words, I flip on some music – any music – and away we go.  My husband has introduced him to Indian Bhangra music that he used to love to listen to, and our little guy loves to bop around to it.

Some ideas for inspiration

So, back to the question – how can we communicate when words fail us?

How many times have you said to yourself this year (or on social media), in response to something the world’s thrown at you – ‘I have no words.’

Below are two resources for you to watch, listen, and be inspired to use music to connect with others when words fail you.

Christine Stevens’ ‘3 Keys to Rhythm Conversations’

Christine Stevens is a facilitator, mentor, and highly sought-after keynote speaker in the field of music medicine.  Her “rhythm postcards” transport her audience to wherever in the world she is that week.

In her 2-minute video “3 Keys to Rhythm Conversations,” she drums an improvised piece with fusion musician Fantuzzi.  In the video description, she lists the 3 keys, which we can apply to any conversation, musical or otherwise:

  1. Take turns – listen just as much as (or more than) you speak
  2. Support each other’s creative ideas – go where the creative flow takes you, and use an open mind and heart
  3. Listen for a natural ending – know when it should be over, to allow room for something new to begin

Start with why – handpan drum inspo

Jeff Holland is a dedicated lifelong drummer, percussionist, and self-named “sonic artist.”  He’s one of the hardest workers I know, on a mission to inspire peace and compassion through sound – whether it be drumming, percussion, handpan drums, gongs, sound bowls, or something completely new.

In this 2-minute video, he takes his handpan drum (think an inverted steel drum) to the Grand Canyon and plays at sunrise to a 360-degree view of nature’s majesty.  No words, no introduction.  Just music and an unforgettable view.

Everything Jeff does, he does it with purpose and with the vision of bringing people of all backgrounds and ideologies together through the healing potential of rhythm and music.

I dare you to watch this video and not get goosebumps.  I invite you to sit in stillness for 2 minutes after watching and think about your purpose – not just your career, or your family, or your hobbies and interests – but your Purpose with a capital P.  What gets you up in the morning?  How are you living that purpose each day?  What action can you take to live that purpose more fully?

When the world outside becomes too much for me, I find comfort and rejuvenation in music – listening to it, making it, dancing to it.  Sometimes our favorite music can say what words can’t.

I hope this inspires you to flip on some music and get back in the groove.

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What I’ve learned from leading virtual programs this summer

With the recent spike in COVID cases around the country, many people and organizations are again reassessing the immediate need to get back to business, school, and more.  We’ve had a (relatively) busy summer filled with virtual programs for summer camps and libraries.
I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way when it comes to facilitating virtual programs on Zoom and similar platforms. Could any of these help you with your next remote meeting?

Be patient – be very, very patient

I’ve had the pleasure of facilitating mostly groups of kids during our online summer programs.  Now, working with kids takes lots of patience anyway, but add online technology into the mix and you’ve reached a new level of patience.

For the most part, I’m amazed at how well-behaved the kiddos are during the online sessions.  I’m assuming they’ve already sat for hours in front of a screen before they come to my program. But what takes patience isn’t their behavior (leaps and bounds ahead of the behavior for our in-person programs), but rather the technology.

Screens freeze.  Someone used the “old” Zoom invite link.  Adorable babies, dogs, and cats cry, jingle, and leap in the background. Your screen share suddenly doesn’t work and you have to apologize profusely while randomly pressing keys to make it look like you’re doing something to fix it.

It’s a lesson in patience for sure.  Take a deep breath, laugh about it, and move on.

Adapt – go with the flow

Speaking of moving on, those technology foibles make it necessary for us to adapt quickly to change and think on our feet (even when we’re sitting on our keasters).

A little background – my laptop is 5 years old, which in computer years is about a zillion.  It doesn’t know how to run Zoom and share audio or video at the same time.  So I started using my husband’s old laptop (curiously older than mine) to do Zoom calls where I need to do more than just speak.

It’s a comfort to know others are in the same boat, and we can be patient with one another when things go awry.  Computer not working?  Dial in on your phone.  Missed the live call because your dog threw up all over the floor of your ‘home office?’ Catch the recording.  Adapt!

Be real

Last, recognizing the enormity of the situation but still being able to take it lightly are paramount.  Do you feel more yourself in some ways on a Zoom call?  That’s because we don’t have to deal with the usual social hierarchy that tends to be present at in-person meetings and events – your boss might be taking the call in the laundry room because the kids are trying to home-school at the dining room table.

Seeing everyone at home in their domestic element (at the mercy of WiFi, kids’ and pets’ needs, lawn people right outside their window) paints everyone in the same light.  It breeds authenticity in a way that just can’t be achieved in a board room.

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