Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sensory Blessings

*Posted originally on the amberwavesband.com site. Moved here and post dated.

IMG_20150127_080810Before the first day of March we had already played 30 shows in 2015, with a third of them half way across the country. By the time we are finished with our winter season, over 50 performances will have gone by between the months of December through March.

 It's a mixed blessing. Our lifestyle is feast or famine, and we do enjoy having a little extra money for the occasional indulgence, repairing a broken air conditioner, and getting the boy-child a new pair of pants for the week, which he's sure to grow out of the following week.

 Though we definitely prefer the perks of the busy season, by the time last November hit we were already worn out and weren't sure how we'd manage such a schedule, let alone another year or two of full time travel. The bus has gotten smaller as the kids get bigger and their need for space increases, and a lack of privacy has all but made creativity and artistic growth stall.

 We needed some strong renewal of our spirits, and it was during my usual morning quiet time, (in which I grab coffee, a bible, and lock myself in the minivan to find a moment of peace and sanity), where I realized that we didn't need a major overhaul in our situation. Sometimes it's in the little things where you find renewal.

 One of my resolutions for this winter season was to grab those little moments whenever life allowed. There were certainly times when it was impossible, or pretty haphazardly accomplished, but every small effort has mattered. The goal has been to create an atmosphere that stimulates the five senses, with at least some small effort daily towards one or more.

I thought I'd share some of the changes I've been making to bless the home-on-wheels in hopes it will inspire others to think in terms of sensory related blessings, which are such little things that make a big difference.


The cat claims her spot on our new quilt.
We love our dear bus, Benny, but we did not convert him. In fact, he was originally designed to be a hunting and tailgating vehicle for a man and his buddies. The colors are drab, mostly a sandy yellow against black, brown, and a bit of blue. There is rarely time or space to improve on this much, but on a day trip to Mexico I decided to buy a few of the throw rugs sold on the street. A set with brilliant blues, a mix of turquoise, baby blues, royal blues, white, and even an orange stripe jumped out at me. Far from being the usual subdued colors I had been using in the bus, they were fun and busy. I put them right at the entrance of the bus, down the living room walkway.

With this first step I chose my birthday present, a bright, colorful quit. (I always pick my own birthday present, which saves Michael a lot of stress!) Michael and I sleep at the front of the bus so it's a primary location where everyone hangs out and was perfect for a bit of cheering up. In an effort to add color to our lives, last year we added a red coffee maker and containers in a coffee station, and someday, if we stay in the bus and if there is ever time, I hope to paint the cabinets fun colors. The challenge in a bus is then keeping the clutter down to actually see the color, but we're not going for perfection, just that little blessing!


It was a big surprise to me how much the scent in a room can effect the mood, with blends for relaxing, focus, and to uplift raw emotions.
 It was a big surprise to me how much the
scent in a room can effect the mood,
with blends for relaxing, focus, and to uplift raw
 A dear friend has entered into the recent essential oil craze, and knowing our often stressful situation and inability to indulge in quality oils, she blessed us with a starter set from a popular company. To go with this, at Christmas I chose to indulge in an essential oil diffuser.

I have previously never liked strong odors, but after smelling some quality essential oils, I found it was only the artificial scents I did not care for. I have truly loved mixing my own "potions" to diffuse, choosing ones to go with the need or mood of the bus. Additionally, I am coming out with a line of diffuser necklaces, already available at our CD tables. Eventually, Alex will get an etsy shop and we'll offer them on her store site.


Mozart is one of my favorites, when I can wrestle our small speaker away from Alex and Katie and their Indy Rock!
Mozart is one of my favorites, when I can wrestle our small
speaker away from Alex and Katie and their Indy Rock!
  Not long ago I was reading a book by one of my favorite authors. She described a concert she recently was privileged to attend in London of Brahms's Requiem. I remembered loving that mass and it brought to mind several other favorite musical works I had on cassette tape in college, all of them long gone and never replaced digitally. I searched iTunes and found a few of my favorites, including Nigel Kennedy's Vivaldi's Four Seasons, and even a bonus album of Brahms and Mozart's Requiems. I hope to also add some old jazz and blues to the mix. We don't have a music entertainment budget, so additions will come slowly, but now I know what gift I'll give myself for Mother's Day!

 Though free evenings are a luxury this time of the year, we have also brought back family read a-louds, so our evening sounds have fewer beep-beeps of texts and video games, and more of Michael's voice reading the latest adventure.  


My kitchen has a single burner that only plugs in directly in front of the oven. Using more than one appliance to fix a meal is quite a challenge when what is in the oven is finished before what is in the pot!
My kitchen has a single burner that only plugs
 in directly in front of the oven. Using more than
one appliance to fix a meal is quite a challenge.
When we get busy I think of only one thing - survival food. If it can be tossed into a single pot, spiced up to taste adequate, and thrown into the wonderbag to take to the next show, it's what's for dinner. I have a kitchen about the size of an end table, and the counter space is closer to the size of a shoe box. I used to love baking but with nothing more than a counter top oven, a single electric burner, small microwave, and a recently acquired electric wok, the most baking that occurs is the gluten free pizza we make every Friday. I have vowed to attempt to change this once a week when possible. Instead of having dessert night be a run for ice cream, I have been trying to bake cookies, a cobbler, or some little taste of joy, even with the small oven.
  I have succeeded in this goal only a few times since deciding upon it, but sooner or later the kids will start expecting it, like pizza on Friday, and you can bet that they will help me remember to fix something special now and then.  


Handcrafted dessert necklaces by Mary.
Handcrafted dessert necklaces by Mary.
Whether tactile, keeping busy with the hands, or the touch from others, this is a very powerful sense. The recent addition of a fun tactile craft has greatly blessed me and Mary, with the twins joining in at times too. We have started creating necklaces and jewelry that we mold ourselves. Kneading the clay, rolling it between the hands, then shaping it into something delightful we can wear.

Mixed in a roller bottle with coconut oil, a therapeutic blend for relaxing tired muscles.
Mixed in a roller bottle with coconut
oil, a therapeutic blend for relaxing
tired muscles.
 I have also come to realize how therapeutic a simple thing like a shoulder massage can be. Recently Katie has developed some occasional back strain, likely from wearing her heavy banjo every night through so many shows. It got so bad that she had to wear a back brace under her outfit and even found herself needing to sit whenever she was not needed close to the microphone for harmonies. On a hunch I massaged Alex's shoulders and noticed the very same pattern of knots, despite not having a banjo on her shoulders. The strain of the last year of travel and the heavy schedule was on her shoulders as well.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I even found some pressure point massage that, when combined with frankincense, has done wonders for Mary's reoccurring stomach problems due to her food intolerances.

Of course, the best "touch" is cuddling with a warm fuzzy, (the cat does not cuddle and therefore does not count), and this winter we were able to borrow Grandma and Papa's dog while they were in Texas. It's been over 3 years since we had to say goodbye to our dear dog. In the summers we have been known to be gone from the bus 16 hours or more for shows or simply sightseeing. The cat is fine with this arrangement, but a dog would not handle that many hours alone, plus we already have a very small dwelling. Though we had to give Bootsie back before we headed to Florida, the kids are aching for another dog, and I admit, so am I. It's our hope that this will be our last year of heavy travel, keeping to smaller routes at select times next year instead. Perhaps a small dog will be in our future?

Sometimes it's the littlest touches in life that heal the weariness. We'd love to have a fancier rig with more space for travel and more time off to work on other projects, but creating an improved atmosphere right here has been surprisingly easy. It takes very little time and effort to focus on one little blessing a day, or even just one every few days when things get really busy. One turns into two, which turns into three, and soon there is always something new and fresh to look forward to. I love the routine of engaging the senses and hope to make a habit of it in the future.