Saturday, May 7, 2016

Wanted: Band Members for Starbucks

The twins are looking for jobs and over the last couple of weeks Alex and Katie have done some initial job hunting, and both have decided their current life goal is to work at Starbucks.

The First Starbucks
2014 in Seattle
Why Starbucks? They're young. You can be anything you want to be, right? So why not look to be an engineer, write a novel, CEO of a major corporation, or any number of esteemed opportunities in life? Ok, so it's not the final life goal, but it's a great stepping stone and they want it for a few very good reasons.

First, they love coffee. They love the way coffee smells, the warmth of coffee, the many lives coffee can take, and the funny memes coffee inspires on Tumblre and Facebook. They get this from me. I may have failed in some parenting areas, but I like to think I got this one right.

Second, they love Starbucks. It was one of the pioneers to realize the art that is in coffee. Yes, we've traveled to some mighty amazing coffee places throughout the USA in our years on the road, but you have to give credit to a company that takes a great idea, makes a good business model, and convinces an entire nation that $5 is a reasonable price to pay for a cup of coffee. It's brilliant. You may think it's ridiculous to pay so much for coffee, and you may be right, but you can't knock the marketing magnificence that convinced so many others to cough up the money for a pile of milky, syrupy, artificial flavory cup of heaven. 
Nov. 2012 We still mourn the sad death
of this perfect coffee cup, purchased
at Disney World.

Finally, they want to work at Starbucks because they have a college option for good employees. Again. Brilliant. You get brainy employees that are goal minded. After having taken a year of online college and completely acing every subject, (that was an I-didn't-completely-fail-at-homeschooling plug, if you missed it), Alex has decided she likes this thing called college and finally decided on a likely educational direction in pursing a degree in communications, now that she is no longer an on-stage band diva. In watching this transformation, Katie has also decided school may be for her as well and she wants to pursue something in programming. Since neither have an interest in romance and are still determined to simply be crazy old cat ladies, they figure they have plenty of time, so they will take this year off to earn some money and get established in our new location, then look at beginning school in 2017. 

The problem is convincing Starbucks to hire them. Baristas are sought after positions around here and they turn down far more applicants than they hire. 

I've been helping them find ways to word their "past work experience" in a way that makes it look good, since I'll be doing the same, but I'm beginning to realize that it may be difficult to get a potential employer to look past the word "band" when they have 20 other applications on the desk, some of which can say "McDonalds", which looks so much more service related. 

Be honest. If you see the word "band" as the only other thing a young adult their age has ever done, do you sort of think of Wayne's World? A couple of young adults, living in their parents' basement, jamming to some obnoxious tunes. 


The reality is perhaps a bit different so I warned them that they may have to get some other job first and see if they can learn to serve people a sandwich and a drink, 'cause that's where you get the real important skills. Then after 6-8 months of this they can go bug Starbucks again and see if they will hire from that experience. 

Part of me sympathizes with the Waynes World mentality, especially when the only past employer the manager can call is the applicant's mommy. However, if they did call me, here is what I could then tell them.

Hire them. Do it. They know how to show up and work under some rather difficult situations and do it with a smile. 

Sept. 2012
First Pumpkin Spice of the season.
In a little "family band", they have played 3 hour sets in 45 degree weather where they could hardly feel their fingers on the metal strings and 4 hour music sets in 105 degree weather that made you almost dizzy. Torrents of rain? Done that. Wind that blew over the sound system? Yep.

They have gotten off the bus after driving 8 hours, set up a sound system, played music for a small group of people, sold CDs, then broke it down, to then drive to a Walmart and sleep a few hours before heading out again.

In a "quaint little family band", these young ladies have performed with fevers, sore throats, coughs, and have even had to sit down at times during the show from weakness from a minor illness, but they had to get through the show or we would not have the money to get by that month. 

May 2015
Some random Starbucks out east
After pulling out high energy for an hour on stage, they have taken their small 10 minute break to listen to some audience member who bent their ears about each of her grandchildren who plays various instruments and was a rock in a school show once, and how her cousin's brother's uncle's grandpappy played in a band once. They smiled. Their feet hurt and they never got that drink or run to the bathroom, then they got back up on stage to sing more. 

They have helped design shows, design original music, written their own solos, and learned 3 hours of challenging music without the aid of sheet music or lyrics. Then they have had to throw out the plan and wing it on stage when a string broke on the instrument that was to be featured next, cutting out a break or a whole verse of a song with only a look and a shrug, and the audience never knew anything happened. 

More importantly, they have lived in a small, leaky, sparse, 300 square foot bus for over 4 1/2 years with parents and siblings, learning to not kill one another when things get tough, the money ran low, and the days got long. 

Hire them. You won't get better.

So, anyone know anyone at Starbucks?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The End? The Brutally Honest Post You Probably Weren't Waiting For

Once upon a time there was a blog. The blog was started as a journey began, full of excitement and hope. As time went by the pages filled with exciting pictures of adventures, but occasionally a look at the challenges. Not often, as the goal was to look at the positive. As time went by the negatives began to weigh heavily and the new adventures, once so fresh and thrilling, became monotony with the constant uncertainties looming. Without a home base to unwind and recharge, burn out eventually was bound to set in. It took almost three years, but sometime towards the end of that third year, we knew we had to make a change.

The problem is, when your financial life revolves around a schedule that demands you book shows 6-12 months in advance, and there is no unemployment or cushion money available if a job does not arrive after you halted booking those gigs, it is easier to just kick the can down the road over and over again. Additionally, Michael's earlier jobs were in IT, a field that doesn't just stay put while you take off for four years. The technology moves forward. Younger, brighter competition comes on the scene with recent certifications and experience. Needless to say, the last year left us on edge. We put in our end date and sat back to see what would happen. 

According to psychologists, uncertainty is more stressful than knowing that something bad is going to happen. It could happen. But maybe it won't. But maybe it will... 

When we all started on this journey it was a giant leap of faith. Somehow, God provided, but often by the slimmest of margins, and sometimes to a deficit. We spent a lot of time treading water, having enough to scrape by, but not enough to move forward. Of course, that is the way we sometimes lived in a sticks and bricks home, balancing mortgage payments, utility bills, old vehicles, and the occasional layoff through various tech crashes. At least this time we were free of that rat race and on an adventure of a lifetime. It was worth every moment of uncertainty as we'd look to summer and hope to find enough events that pay in order to eat in six months. 

It was worth it all... until it wasn't. 

(Warning, Debby Downing ahead but we'll turn it around in the end.)

The decision was made, but left nothing to replace it. When you stop dreaming and planning on the future of the band, the next CD, the next show stopper, you have to find something else. Unfortunately, that something else was desperately unknown. We had no idea what part of the country we'd land. Could we risk trying to stop up north where we may find ourselves on minimum wages, in the bus with multiple adults looking for jobs, still unable to afford a decent place to live, and winter heading towards us in a bus with no insulation or built in heater, and while RV lots tend to close up for the season? What about south? We considered Houston but they have a rather significant down-turn right in jobs because of the oil industry. At least we could live in an RV lot all year, but that's a lot of jobs to cover in a down economy, on low wages, all to afford to live where we really didn't want to live. How do you get Michael back into IT? Where do the twins go to college? Can I homeschool Sean and Mary if I'm working full time trying to make ends meet? With no easy answers, a lot of dark thoughts can set in, stomping all over my preferred dreamy state of existence. 

It's show biz.
Dueling Banjos
Girl Style
Then add burn out to that, which can really do a job on you.

2 1/2 to 3 years on the road would have been a great run. 4 1/2 years almost took the joy from the previous. To be very clear, the first three years were filled with the usual ups and downs of life, but with the occasional punctuated side of FAN-TA-STIC. Transitions, especially major ones, are draining, and crossing it with burn-out and a bit of uncertainty can make you forget the awesome for a time.

But the downs do eventually find everyone and in this case, even the best of times can turn into drudgery when you find yourself in limbo on the next step. Uncertain limbo sucks. For me, I simply lost my desire to blog and checked out. I read one stupid book after the next, didn't fight the bus clutter monster, didn't care if the kids wore the same clothes 3 days in a row, and hit only the minimum three Rs in homeschooling. I wasn't depressed at all. I was checked out. Sort of in survival mode. It was almost fun, but not particularly useful. It wasn't just me, it was everyone, and perhaps especially Alex, who was also tackling online college and a deep dread of another winter season of playing pretend. Sean was bored and started to live off of video games, Mary was bored and watched way too much anime, and even Katie, who usually is the one to maintain function, stopped cartooning and reading about productivity. We were toast. 

Wearing Bronco colors
at a show, minus Dad,
who watched the
Super Bowl alone in VA
We found ourselves unemployed last fall and living off the credit cards as we could not go to our Arizona destinations. It was possible Michael may have to fly out for a job, leaving me to manage the van and bus, which terrifies me to drive. Instead we headed to our usual spot in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. When he finally started a job in December and headed to Virginia, the rest of us quickly reworked the show, having Mary take over bass lines on the U-Bass, with Sean, Katie and I occasionally filling in on the extras, removing banjo or mandolin when another had to take the bass, and learning more Irish tunes, which are very friendly to optional bass and/or banjo. 

Hospital stay for testing
 after a seizure.
From January through early March we went to our shows, minus Michael, dealing with a growing impatience from the lot, a seizure from our youngest which was followed by a hospital stay and tests we couldn't afford but agreed to anyway, then family tragedies that required an early departure to Colorado.

Would I now discourage someone else from taking such a dramatic leap into the unknown? Nope. Life will have ups and downs anyway and the last several months are a worthy price to pay for the previous years.

And so, here I've let loose my Debby Downer...

Well, guess what? We made it! Once again, through insurmountable odds, God provided. We have some wonderful friends who not only took a chance and got Michael a job in northern Virginia, but they opened their property to us while we try to scrape together the funds we'll need to retire the home on wheels and find another sticks and bricks home.
Blizzard in Colorado

As of today we have been here for almost four weeks. Michael, Sean, Mary, and I are living in an above-the-garage apartment. The twins are living in the bus, which is parked right next to it. We've had only one show in over a month, having had the one in Colorado canceled from a blizzard. Our next show is in August. I was supposed to try to find summer shows to keep us afloat but somehow my brain kept finding excuses, and everyone decided it would be preferable to just go get ordinary low-paying jobs instead. We'll play in August to remind ourselves how, then only when requested, and only as time allows. 

In the last month I have procrastinated pretty much everything, from laundry to slowly unpacking the bus. I didn't realize how tightly coiled up my nerves had become until they started to have a chance to unwind, unwind, then unwind some more. 

The uncertainty monster is still out there, as we try to find a vehicle to replace our poor, dying minivan, then get jobs to afford first and last month's rent in a place that doesn't cost more than we make per month. We'll be back to the usual lifestyle of barely treading water soon enough, only in a new location. Seems our lot in life, but I'm not particularly materialistic, thankfully. I long far more for peace. 

This time, while treading water, there is at least a place to stretch out and steady income, even if it isn't enough at this time to provide. It has potential and it's a starting spot. I'm gradually finding my optimism return as I can allow myself to dream about what I may want to be in my next life. There are so many options. Maybe I'll teach music again? Write that music curriculum? Sew and make clay items for summer festival booths? Write a book? Become a public speaker? (I actually like doing that. Go figure.) Work at Costco or Taco Bell... Ok, that last one is probably closer to the start, but I've never been one to do "normal" for long, so I'll go ahead and dream.

I'm not sure what that means for this blog. It may have served its usefulness. Part of me wants to write up a formal account of our journey someday, but it can't be right away. After our stressful year in 2011 as we prepared to launch on this adventure, the challenges we had getting out of the house and moving into the bus almost erased all the joyful times we had as a part time band and family simply living a quiet life in northern Colorado. I can finally look back on it with objectivity, and with a whole lot of joy and longing. I expect I will need time to shake off some of late 2015 and early 2016, then I can look back on this blog, our old calendar, and the wonderful pictures, with joy and longing as well. Then maybe I'll write that book about our journey.

Or that steam punk fictional book idea I had from a dream where this girl from the future is thrown back in time, and likely another dimension... 


Monday, August 10, 2015

Between the Moon and New York City

I had a summer fun failure. I never got around to connecting my phone to my computer and downloading pictures. After you neglect it for a bit, you realize that the amount of time it will take to have your computer scan and find all of the many pictures will take up more time than you feel like spending at any given moment so you put it off again. More pictures and more time passes and it just gets worse.

By the time I finally tended to all of the picture downloads I was behind a couple of months. Exciting months, too.

So, do I post the whole summer in one post, or in multiple little ones? I thought I'd do one big post so people could just scroll through, then I started posting and realized it was asking a bit much of my attention span. I'll hit the highlights of the Big Apple first, then get to Gettysburg, Atlantic City, and Montreal in a later post.

New York City

We had the privilege of visiting some long time friends from Colorado, who are now living in New Jersey. They spoiled us rotten for a few days and included a wonderful day trip into the city.

Two years ago when we went to NYC we took a tour bus, but you can't really get a feel for life in the city without riding the subway. So this time we did! I think my ladies look like they belong here.




The new One World Trade Center is absolutely stunning!



A volunteer at the memorial gave us a full description of the survivor tree.

I love the different layers you see through out the city.

I love to see unique buskers! I always try to have a few dollars available to give out and the more I'm blessed by the presentation, the more I give. It's a weakness.  The jazz band in the subway was amazing! I caught it on video but my wifi is too limited to upload. Trust me, they rocked the subway!

 Stopped off in Central Park where Katie did what Katie does best - a cartoon sketch of whatever catches her eye.



As the sun set we walked from Central Park, by Radio City and the Rockefeller Plaza, over to Times Square so we could enjoy the lights at night.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z is for Zeal!

Today is the final day of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I don't know if I will join next year, but it certainly did give me a good kick to get writing more.

Alex and Katie  have pushed to get me to write a novel during the NaNoWriMo challenge in the fall, and though I don't really care to write fiction, but I may write on a non-fiction subject, or a memoir of our journeys, something. Anything I find for which I am zealous! I'll decide in November.

But for the end of  the challenge, Z is for Zeal!

I obviously have several things for which I am zealous and covered a few in this challenge. They include folklore/music history, arranging new music, and definitely children's music and instruction. I find it interesting that performing doesn't seem to be something I'm nutty over enough to write about, though I certainly love performing, but I think it follows as a result of the others. I think this gives me some clues as to what I may gravitate towards as we wind down our travels next year.

There is at least some zeal for fun with essential oils, sewing, crafts, etc. but it is perhaps secondary. The secondary ones are usually in the "mental health therapy" boat, being there to give my brain a break.

NOT that the band is ending - I don't want to give that impression, but for us to stop full time travel next year the band will need to move more local, wherever local may be. Bands usually have to travel to where the action is if they wish to bring home the bacon, so this means supplemental income may be helpful. I'd really like to supplement it with something I love.

Economically supporting zeal is the best kind.

Side note: For the MLM zealots, one thing I likely will not be doing is selling for a Multilevel Marketing company, so please don't ask. (I write this because of the sudden high jump in friends I have who now sell with MLM and invite me to one e-party after the next.) I'm not against it at all and even sold Usborne Books briefly ages ago. I liked the books and wanted some, but I was my usual broke self. Personally, I think liking the product is really the only reason to sell anything from an MLM company. Economically, it really doesn't add up.



Speaking of zeal...

Did you see the super cute necklaces I'm working on??? The little ice cream cone has a hole in the back where you can drip some essential oil. Hidden in the cone there is a different type of clay that is more fragile, but absorbs and holds the oils wonderfully. I want to make some for kids. I have a few interesting adult necklace ideas too, when I have time to play with clay.

You want one, right???

Sorry, they're not for sale yet. They're in experimental mode right now, but soon I will have your money, er, make these wonderful trinkets available.

I will admit, zealousness can be wonderful but it is also sometimes a dangerous thing. Not everyone is going to be zealous over the same things, and sometimes those things clash. I have friends on facebook who go at it now and then in a rather subtle fashion. One will post a string of articles that demonize GMOs in our food. Another will then post articles about how many lives GMOs have saved and the bad science behind the anti-GMO crowd. Food seems to be a big one lately, but I suspect politics will start to heat things up over the next year. I sometimes just get a mental bag of popcorn and watch the fireworks. I don't participate much anymore.

I haven't the energy.

I have clay necklaces to make, opinions to formulate over children's music programs, and a few new gospel arrangements going through my head that I need to get into the kids' heads so we can play them. Since Sean, Alex, and Katie all just got a new book on jazz improve for their instruments, I eventually need to figure out how to smush jazz licks into a few songs.

And I get to help Mary learn her new U-Bass. Isn't it cuuuutttee!

There is a lot of zeal in my head. You cheer mine and I'll cheer yours, deal?

That's it for my A to Z Challenge. We now return to your regularly scheduled blogging program.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y is for "Yeah, I got nothing."

As the A to Z Challenge starts to come to a close, I am running out of ideas, at least anything that can be moved into a Y or Z.

We just returned from our fifth show this week and my brain is shot. With kids suffering from pollen allergies and food intolerance tummy aches, I am simply weary of try to come up with a topic, so... Y is for Yeah, I got nothing.

The challenge was a good experience and I found out I really can write regularly if I simply sit down to do it. Not that I have to at the moment, but I am far more confident now that I can if the opportunity ever presents itself to get rolling on a formal blog or book.

Maybe tomorrow a "Z" topic will come to me, but tonight, I'm letting myself off the hook.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X is for Xylophone!

Earlier in the A to Z blogging challenge I discussed popular music programs for children under K is for Kodály. One of the programs I mentioned that I highly admire is the Orff Approach, largely because I agree with the basic belief that children should ideally learn music the same way they learn language, through making music.

I remember my favorite part of teaching Kindermusik was when the kids all received their little glockenspiels. They were cute and made such a pretty little sounds.

I am addicted to percussion instruments, particularly xylophones, marimbas, concert bells, and other barred instruments, which is odd for a flute and mandolin player, I suppose. I even played the marimba in marching band during high school, but mostly I love the tiny ones in the hands of little kids.

In honor of Orff, X is for Xylophone.

After teaching children's music using only glocks and tone bars, I remember purchasing a metallophone as a personal birthday present one year, stalking it on ebay and then sniping it. I was so excited when I won and would always look forward to when I could justify bringing it in to classes. In the Montessori and homeschool programs it was easy to incorporate, but Kindermusik was far more constructed. However, there was enough flexibility that I was able to share it with the kids now and then, substituting it for the tone bars common with the program.

Giving children a chance to take a part in a group setting, playing their part and experiencing how it fits into the whole musical composition is a wonderful opportunity for children. Of course, it's one my younger two completely missed out on in a group class situation, because they were too busy making music in a group family situation. Ultimately, I don't think it hindered their musical development.

Orff and those cute little Orff arrangements are designed for settings that are, in truth, not natural to musical experiences for children. They fit a wonderful need in a classroom setting, but prior to the last century and a half, most children were learning music the way they really did learn language, by participating in it, only their participation was simply a natural extension of life.

Yesterday at Jamestowne we had a wonderful conversation with one of the men in character working on the ships. He talked about the many things they did to pass the four months at sea, stuck on the "tween" deck. They would play games, tell stories, and sing. They would sing a lot. In fact, everyone sang and knew many songs. This passed the dreary days, made light of work, and helped lonely sailors keep their sanity in dark, crowded conditions.

The twins went through all of my Kindermusik, Montessori, and homeschool programs, so they experienced the basics in Kodály, Orff, and more. Sean was in classes from infancy, but before he reached the glockenspiel class, I stopped teaching and he went straight to violin lessons. He was not doing well in the classroom settings anyway.

Mary was never in any of the classes. By the time she was born, her older siblings were all involved in private music lessons. She still danced with me, we sang songs, and she enjoyed a lot of music making on the side. I never taught her to keep a steady beat or match pitch. She was singing in tune almost as early as she was speaking because she liked to participate with the family. Now and then I would help her find her singing voice if she was singing something that challenged her range, just to make it easier for her, but I have always been fairly hands-off with my little kids on their singing, loving the natural expression.

Part of me wishes she could have experienced a group class, since she's very social, but trying to teach Mary with Orff and Kodály at home would never work. It would be awkward. I know, because when the twins were in the 3rd grade we temporarily joined up with an online charter school and I saw first hand what happens when you take a program meant for institutionalized settings and stand in your living room with mom instead. Awkward. 

However, I kind of wish I had pulled out my lovely metallophone and took off all of the bars that didn't match the chords for Old Dan Tucker, then let her have at it when she was three. That would have been a blast!

What is right for one setting completely fails in another. I understand why Orff and Kodály developed their methods. They fit a very needed void when music was taken out of the family/community and put into schools. Children are natural music makers and it's always a privilege to share it with them, no matter the setting.