Brandyn Blaze

Life Between The Scenes

Category: Stuff I Love (page 1 of 2)

For Those About To Rock

It should come as no surprise by now that music makes up a huge part of my life. In fact, I think I’ve mentioned it enough that it’s just a given by now. Hell, I’ve even released three books with music as a central theme!

The other night, I was sitting around listening to music with my daughter and we had some pretty great discussions about the different songs that played, like we always do. At four years old she is already full of little rock and roll factoids and it makes my heart smile.

As I was contemplating writing a post about it, I remembered that I had written about how important her musical education is to me. Today, I will be sharing that post exactly as it first appeared on my old blog on January 10, 2014.

***

 

Last night, Almost-Mother-In-Law and I were sitting at the dining room table discussing my concerns that my daughter has inherited insomnia. It runs high in both my family and Almost-Husband’s and we have been fighting numerous sleep issues with her since she came out of the womb. As the conversation progressed, she started talking about what worked for her and her kids when they were small.

“We used to play an alphabet game,” she tells me. “I’d say, for example, animals that start with the letter B and he’d name one, then he’d ask me and so on.”

“I know that game!” I enthused. “Except when we played it with my mom we did bands or songs!” I went on, explaining that it didn’t stop with the alphabet. We’d do bands with a color in their name or songs with love in the title, for example. The games could go on for hours, especially on road trips. I still try to start one up every now and then.

Almost-Mother-In-Law looked perplexed for a moment. I could see the thoughts churning in her head: what kind of weirdo of a mom does that? How is that educational? There’s really people that into music? No wonder Brandyn’s the way she is!

I laughed as I explained that this is the same woman who had all us kids able to name all the members of the Beatles and the Stones by the time we could speak. In fact, a lot of time was dedicated to our Rock and Roll education. We’d listen to the radio and mom would give us a fun fact about the artist or the song. A rocker’s birthday never passed without acknowledgment. The older we got, the more in-depth the discussion became. We’d talk about the meanings of a song, the use of metaphors in lyrics, how to look at things in context. If we were looking for something to read, she’d helpfully guide us to an autobiography of a rock legend.

She also would have bought us this bear.

When we developed our own tastes, she’d make sure we had all the books and magazines we could want about our favorite bands and that we always had the full discographies. She’d go out at midnight to be sure we had the new releases when they came out. She’d listen with patience and enthusiasm while we prattled on about our favorite artists, even if she didn’t particularly like them or already knew what we were saying. She’d take us to concerts and signings, even if it meant a 7 hour drive or going without sleep the night before her yearly trip to Beatlefest. She validated our rights to have our own likes and opinions, to question the world around us, and to be heard. She encouraged our fancies. She made an effort to know what we were into and use those things as a frame of reference for teachable moments. In short, my mom rocks.

Now that I’m a mother, I find myself doing many of the same things. For example, the other day we were in the car and “I Can’t Drive 55” came on the radio. “That’s Sammy Hagar,” I told her. “He’s the Red Rocker. We like him solo, but we don’t like him with Van Halen.” She’s heard things like this repeatedly throughout her 14 months of life. She’s learning that David Bowie is the Thin White Duke, that David Lee Roth is Diamond Dave, that Johnny Cash is the Man in Black, that Ozzy Osbourne is the Prince of Darkness, Elvis is King and Lemmy is God. She hears that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are the Glimmer Twins and that Steven Tyler and Joe Perry are the Toxic Twins. I could go on with the nickname thing, but I think you get the point.

We watch music videos and I point out each of the band members and tell her what their name is and what instrument they play. We work on pumping our fists, flipping the horns, and banging our heads. We dance, we sing. If she responds strongly to a certain song, we make sure we play it often for her. All because I feel that music is just as important to her education as colors, shapes, or the ABCs. It’s a wonderful medium that provides rich ground for all sorts of learning possibilities, regardless of what type it is and I can’t wait to see where this part of our journey will take us.

Now, the funny thing about all this is that not even an hour after having this conversation with Almost-Mother-In-Law, I ran across this. Funny how life can sync up sometimes. For those of you who aren’t going to click the link, it’s a freakin’ hilarious piece about talking to your kids about Ozzy. It’s done in the style of a bit about talking to your kids about sex or drugs, and it just so perfectly captures how my family does things that I couldn’t help but to share.

Maybe your family’s thing isn’t music, or maybe it’s a different type of music. Maybe it’s baseball or it’s larping or something. Maybe your family has many “things”. Maybe your family hasn’t found its thing, yet. Whatever the case, I think shared interests serves to unify a family and strengthen it’s bond. They can provide a starting point for engaging conversations. The more you’re able to communicate, the more chances you have to impart your lessons and values. The more often these come up organically as part of a mutually enjoyable conversation, the better the chances are that those little nuggets of information will really sink in.

Music is how my mom got through to me and I’m grateful that I had such an amazing teacher. I hope that I am able to use the same template to serve my daughter as she learns, develops, and grows, whatever her “thing” may be.

What Fuels Your Soul?

With me rockin’ this work at home gig, and my husband working for four 10 hour days, Thursday is my family’s Friday. It is also payday, so I spend the morning ordering our groceries and taking care of bills, then I prep and freeze as many  meals as possible for the week ahead. After that, I catch up my housework and try to squeeze in some writing. By the time my husband gets home I’m  more than ready to start our weekend.

We usher in the break with a few adult beverages and hours of good tunes. We sing and goof around, and just relax. Until our daughter’s bedtime rolls around, she rocks out with us. It’s my favorite part of the week and makes me think of my own childhood.

Music has always been a big part of my life. My passion for music began at home. My parents always had the radio on, and my dad is a musician. My mother was passionate about it as well, and we spent many, many nights dancing together in the living room. Those memories are priceless and I love creating more of the same with my child.

As I was sorting through some old posts from my now-defunct mommy blog, I ran across a post that perfectly summed up how I feel about the role of music in my life.  I smiled as I read about the way my daughter reacted to music at such a young age and I couldn’t resist sharing it here today.

passion for music, set your soul on fire, my daughter and I

*Originally published on December 19, 2013 at Life, Motherhood, And The Pursuit Of Happiness*

My daughter’s favorite song is “Hold On Loosely” by .38 Special. Every morning she picks up her daddy’s cell phone and hands it too him, watching expectantly as he puts on her song. She immediately snatches it from his hands and begins dancing. Watching her react to the music fascinates me and always puts a smile on my face.

Even in the womb she reacted strongly to music. At 7 months pregnant I went to Beatlefest in Chicago (which I guess is now called The Fest For Beatles Fans, but I refuse to make the switch), like I have every year with my mother, my aunt, and my best friend. Every night that child would kick my insides until I was sure she’d come bursting through my belly.

She did the same thing when I was 8 months pregnant and went to see Kiss and Motley Crue. I must note that she kicked more to Kiss than she did to the Crue, which disheartened me a bit and delighted her uncle.

She was born to a Beatles playlist and the instant she entered the world she was greeted to her father and I singing “All You Need Is Love”. Since then we’ve exposed her to a variety of music and there isn’t much she doesn’t like, although she is definitely starting to show some preferences.

What amazes me the most, however, is that it can just be the sound of one of us drumming on the table and she will stop whatever she’s doing and dance. It’s like some primal instinct that she just can’t control, something inside her just tells her to move. I know that feeling well. That divine moment when the music enters your being, touches you to the core, and everything else just falls away. All your worries, all your inhibitions, gone in an instant.

I live for that feeling. The rush that I get from certain songs and certain artists is beyond measure.It’s helped me through the worst of times and it’s enhanced the best of times. If I am to be entirely honest, it’s the only thing that makes me feel truly alive.  It’s been that way for as long as I can remember, and although it has caused me great joy, it has also brought a degree of pain. I found it hard to relate to other people from a very young age, which pushed me further into my obsession with music, which made it even harder to relate to others. Music was my salvation. Songs can’t judge you, they aren’t going to suddenly change, they can’t leave you.

Over time, music has become as essential to my well-being as air or food or water. Singing has become like a reflex to me, a lot of time I’m not even aware that I’m doing it. I’m sure it gets annoying for the people who have to be around me on a consistent basis, and I’m grateful for the people who choose to put up with it anyway. I’m even more grateful to the few people who really get how important it is to me.

Denied the release that immersing myself in music brings me, I turn into a whiny, nagging ball of stress. Almost-Husband has likened the phenomenon to a wild animal kept in captivity that needs to be let out to run. I think he nailed it.

I’m sure everybody has something that affects them so profoundly. I wonder what it will be for my daughter. While I hope that my daughter shares my passion for music at least to some degree, I also will never push her to it or try to divert her from whatever her passion may be. My only wish is that she finds fulfillment and happiness in life, and that she can put up with her crazy mother with an understanding smile.

Whatever it is you love, embrace it. Enjoy it. And don’t ever let anyone take it away.

30 Things I Am Thankful For This Year

Every year around this time, my news feed is full of people expressing things they are thankful for each day. Each year, I vow that I will do the same throughout the month of November, and each year I fail miserably at it.

This year was no different.

I started out strong, but by the tenth day, I was starting to be a little more lax about it, managing to only post something every other day. I would double post to make up for the days I had missed, constantly reminding myself to do better. By the 18th I gave up and stopped double posting, just doing it crossed my mind. As you can imagine, I gave up entirely by the 23rd. I didn’t even post one on Thanksgiving.

It’s not that I don’t have a multitude of things to be thankful for, or that those things go unappreciated in my day to day life. In fact, I make it a point to find at least one thing to express gratitude for each and every day as part of my self-care regimen. It is important to acknowledge the blessings in our lives to avoid burning ourselves out as we strive to sort out the more trying aspects of existence.

The truth of the matter is that I’m just too lazy and forgetful to keep up with any sort of 30 day challenge. I’m also not very good at keeping up with social media in any capacity, which is definitely a hindrance when you choose to work in a field that is highly reliant on making your presence known.

I suspect that some of it has to do with my anxiety issues, but there is also the fact that I have a tendency to over load myself with more projects and goals than I can feasibly handle at one time. Adding one more task to the list each day just isn’t reasonable when you’re already struggling to keep up with everything else.

That said, I love the idea of sharing your blessings with the world through social media each day. It’s wonderfully refreshing to see so many positive posts breaking up the endless stream of negativity that I have seen lately.

In the spirit of the season, I would like to share the 30 things I am thankful for in one easy to digest post.

30 things I'm thankful FoR

  1. I am extremely grateful that I found someone as weird as I am to share my life with. Through the last 10 years, my husband and I have endured just about every obstacle a couple can face and have always come out stronger for it. He’s one of a handful of people I can really be myself with, and that in itself is something to be thankful for!

  2. My beautiful daughter, and the love and laughter she has brought into my life. I really didn’t know just how good life could be until my little girl was born. I also didn’t have a clue of what I was capable of or just how strong I really am. She’s taught me so much in so few years!brandyn and lennon thankful for my daughter
  3. My mother, who is so much more than just a mom. She truly is one of my very best friends. I am beyond grateful for all she has taught me and all she has allowed me to learn for myself, for her encouragement and support, and for the grand tradition of “friend ears” that has facilitated open and honest communication on subjects that would otherwise be difficult to discuss. To say I don’t know what I’d do without her is an understatement!
  4. My grandmother, who was more like a second mother and friend to me. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her, and this time of year is especially hard as I find myself wishing for just one more holiday together. I am extremely thankful that I got to know such a wonderful person and for all the memories I have.
  5. All the people who have supported me on this journey as I work to build my career, even when I’m not quite sure of myself. If it wasn’t for the love and encouragement provided by my nearest and dearest, I never would have had the courage to finally release a novel and chase my dreams.
  6. My closest friends, who have become part of my family. I have been blessed with a handful of people who I cannot imagine not having in my life, who uplift me, and who I can just be myself around. I am incredibly lucky to have these strong bonds.
  7. My large network of family. It’s amazing how many people make a difference in our lives. Knowing there’s so many who care about our family is a blessing indeed.
  8. My wonderful fur babies: Kuma, our big beast of a dog, and Jude, our mostly reclusive cat. These two always bring a smile to my face and make life much more pleasant.brandyn blaze dog and cat thankful
  9. I’m thankful for music. Whether I’m listening to it or making it myself, nothing else in the world does as good a job of turning around a bad mood, or enhancing a good one. Over the years it has been a constant source of comfort and has shaped me in indescribable ways.
  10. Books. How awesome is it that we can open up a novel and be transported into another universe? Being able to step into a reality different than our own is a wonderful escape, and there is always a lesson to be learned from even the silliest stories.
  11. Wine. Because seriously, some days you just need a drink. Or 3.it's always wine time
  12.  I am extremely thankful that no matter how tight things get, we have a roof over our heads, our bills are paid, and there’s always food on the table. There have been times when things were a lot more uncertain than they are now, and I know there are others for whom these things are a daily struggle. We are incredibly lucky to be where we are.
  13. My cell phone. Even though we no longer have phone service, the device itself is still a wonderful thing to have. I can connect with friends through various apps, play games, take pictures and video, and so much more. Not so long ago the idea of being able to do all of that with one item wasn’t fathomable. How cool is it that we’ve seen technology advance so much?
  14. Lazy days. These may be the days I love the most. Just lying around the house in my PJs with my family and taking the time to enjoy simply being is one of my favorite things in the world.
  15. Mindy at MRB Photography. I met her when she did my best friend’s wedding and knew instantly that she was who I wanted to do my own. She did such an amazing job capturing our special day, and we got along so well, that I recently contacted her to do some head shots for me and take some shots for the cover of the next book. I am very thankful that our paths crossed!

    brandyn blaze head shots

    Three of my favorite shots from this set, I can’t wait to share more!

  16. Delicious food. I don’t want to come off as braggy, but I’m a pretty good cook, which I credit to both of my grandmothers. I love to cook (so long as I’m not rushed and no one steps into the kitchen while I’m working!) and I love to feed others. I am very thankful to be in a place where no one leaves my home hungry.
  17. A car that runs. Seriously, we have had our share of junk cars and have gone long stretches without a vehicle at all. Having a reliable set of wheels is amazing!
  18. Online grocery shopping and delivery. I often blame my dislike of shopping for groceries on the hassle of taking my unpredictable 4 year old with me, but the truth of the matter is I just don’t like to put on pants and deal with people. I much prefer waking up and putting in my order while I’m still in my jammies! Plus, I save a ton of money by sticking to the list and not blindly grabbing snack foods off the shelves!
  19. The internet, without which none of this would be possible. There are so many new opportunities for artists of all types nowadays, and it is truly a blessing for those of us who wish to share our work. It is also wonderful to be able to learn new things so easily and to be able to stay in touch with people you otherwise might not have.
  20. My early morning quiet time. I get up at 5:15 every morning. After I make my husband’s coffee and send him off to work, I have three to four hours to myself before my daughter wakes up. Being able to begin my day at a slower pace and have time to read, write, and recharge before resuming the usual rush is a life saver!
  21. People who put up with my singing. This should probably be higher on the list, because I’m sure it gets annoying. I’m generally always singing, whether it’s an on the fly ditty about why I’m walking to the kitchen, or singing along with whatever happens to be on. This is true regardless of where I am. 90% of the time, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. It’s just a reflex at this point. Props to all those who can handle it!
  22. Babies. Are they not the best? They inspire so much hope and wonder and best of all they’re cute and snugly! I’m especially grateful for the times I get to watch my adorable niece and I hope one day she has awesome memories and stories to tell of her Aunt Brandyn.
  23. My siblings. Do you know how awesome my mom is? She’s so awesome that she gave me one brother when I was two and needed a built-in friend, and then another when I was 20 and needed a practice baby. I have such a unique bond with each of my brothers that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I also was blessed with step-siblings when my father remarried and was lucky to form strong bonds with them as well, especially my step-sister.
  24. New friends. It’s amazing when you find others who are on your wavelength, and even more amazing when they become part of your circle of kinship.
  25. Happy childhood memories. Although there were definitely some rough patches in my life, I have far more many happy memories than bad ones and I am beyond thankful for that, as I know many cannot say the same.
  26. Mistakes I have made over the course of my life. There are many things I could have done differently, but I have learned a valuable lesson from every misstep and bad decision. I am thankful to have the ability to use that knowledge to improve my life.
  27. My crockpot. Because some days you just can’t be chained to the stove.
  28. My health. Although I have faced some fairly serious health issues in the past, I am mostly healthy. I am able to take care of my self and everything works more or less as expected, and I think that is something many of us take for granted.
  29. My bed. Am I the only one who freaking loves sleep? It’s the best. Not only that, but just chilling out and watching TV in comfort or reading a book (or writing a book, for that matter) with my mountain of pillow behind me is just heavenly.
  30. All of you, the people who follow my blog, my social media accounts, and read my books. You are all amazing and I am so lucky to have such great people in my corner. Thank you so much for your continued support!

Don’t Dream It Be It: A Celebration of Rocky Horror

As a child, I was always the odd-ball. For as long as I can remember, I struggled with feeling inadequate and strange. No matter where I went, I just never felt like I fit anywhere. I liked weird things. I thought about weird things. From the clothes I liked, to the music I listened to, to my introspective nature, I was always different, and it seemed like the older I got, the weirder I got. For a long time I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me.

And then, something wonderful happened. I rediscovered a movie that changed my life forever.

That movie was, of course, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I’d seen it as a small child and had loved the costumes and the music. At 12 years old, it became the first thing that made me feel like maybe I was okay. I remember the relief I felt when I realized that so many others felt the way I do about this film.

At the end of the day, it told me quite clearly that it’s okay to be different. It’s okay to be weird. It’s okay to be yourself, regardless of what that may be.  The words “Don’t dream it, be it” encompassed everything I needed to hear and became my motto.

Not going to say it’s always been easy. I still feel like a weirdo, but I’ve learned to embrace it. Some days it’s frustrating, but I can always go back when I need a boost.

And go back I have. For fun I’ve worked out the math, and it seems I’ve watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show at least 1382 times in my life.

number of times I've seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show

When they aired the remake on Fox last week, I decided to make a night of it. I also cooked up a plan to mark the occasion with a new YouTube video and other fun social media treats.

I threw dinner in the crockpot so I could maximize my evening and set my hair up in rollers early in the day.  I was thrumming with excitement as I went through my daily routine and mentally prepared for the shoot.

hair in rollers, getting ready for shoot

 

Finally, the child I babysit through the week went home and I was able to complete the next step in my process. I put on the Rocky Horror soundtrack, poured some wine, and got into the zone as I dug through my closet and put my outfit together.

Everything's better with wine, red lipstick on wine glass

Everything’s better with wine.

I even enlisted my husband’s help with my eyeliner.  Thankfully, I still had my sister’s jacket from when she dressed as Columbia for my Rocky Horror themed birthday a couple years ago, since mine mysteriously disappeared.  I decided to go for an RHPS theme, versus choosing just one character. I must say, I love the result!

rocky horror themed outfit

 

When it came time to make the video, I wasn’t as nervous as I normally am. I looked in the mirror and saw me for the first time in what seems like years. That feeling was amplified when I watched the playback of my performance, and I must admit, I am more proud of this video that damn near anything I have ever done.

 

 

If I could spread one message it would be this:

Be you, and do so unapologetically. Embrace your weirdness. Celebrate your uniqueness. Go after the things that make you happy. Life’s too short to let others dictate your thoughts or actions.

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