A lullaby at bedtime. A cruisin' tune for the highway. The opening song of your workout mix. Regardless of what your favorite songs are, or where you hear them, music has the power to soothe, energize, and take you back in time.
Music has always been a big part of my life. I have early memories of singing along with my parents to a tape of folk music they kept in the car (think Little Boxes and Where Have All the Flowers Gone). We got our first piano when I was five; one of the first songs I learned to play was Blue Moon.
From those early experiences and many others, I learned to love and appreciate music - almost as much as I love and appreciate dairy cows.
We always had music playing in the barn. The radio wouldn't come in, thanks to the steel siding on the barn, so we listened to tapes instead. ("Tapes?" my kids ask, "what are those?")
For one whole summer, the tape we played had Garth Brooks's greatest hits on one side and Shania Twain's greatest hits on the other side. We'd climb up on the stall dividers to flip the tape over. For many years after that summer, when one of those Garth Brooks songs came to an end on the radio, my mind would automatically start playing the next song from the tape, and I'd be transported back to that summer of milking cows with my sister.
Even when the radio's not on, there are songs playing in my head.
As a young teen, I often ended up milking or cleaning barn alone. The song that always started up in my head was Celine Dion's power ballad that went: "All by myse-el-elf... Don't want to be all by myself anymo-or-re."
When we first moved to this farm, there was no music in the barn until I got Glen a fancy new radio for his birthday. No other radio could pick up a signal in our barn. With the new radio, two stations come in reliably - a country music station and a pop/hip-hop station.
For the most part, the radio is tuned to the country station. But, then, a couple years ago, I switched to a preference for pop music. (I generally switch music genres every couple years; it's like the need to rearrange the living room every once in a while.)
That's when the radio wars started. If I was in the barn by myself, I'd tune the radio to the pop music station. When Glen and I were working together, we'd listen to country. One night, I convinced Glen to leave the pop music on while we did chores. When we were done, Glen said to me, "I think I just got teeny bopped."
The radio war continued until Glen had a brilliant idea. He moved the radio to a windowsill and, what do you know, he got a classic rock station to come in. I like classic rock almost as much as I like pop right now, and Glen loves classic rock. It's a perfect musical compromise.
Country, pop or classic rock, either way, music in the barn makes chores easier.
Music makes everything easier - bedtime, a long drive, a tough workout, even those tough evenings when dinner, bath time, homework and taking care of a newborn get crammed into far too little time, and the world seems like it's going to end.
When I first got my elliptical machine a couple years ago and started exercising indoors, I was quickly reminded that indoor workouts require musical distraction. With a little help from iTunes, I had a rockin' workout mix in no time. Before long, I found myself looking forward to workouts, just so I could listen to my music.
Then, I started putting my headphones on to do laundry. I'm not one of those moms who does laundry daily, so tackling the laundry becomes an event worthy of a complete soundtrack. But, I find myself doing laundry a lot more often now that I put the task to music.
So, it didn't take too long to figure out that a little headphone therapy could give me the boost I needed to keep it together during those world's-going-to-end evenings. Now, I keep my iPod on the counter in the kitchen next to the stove. Even just one song from my workout mix can do wonders for my mood.
But if I'm still feeling stressed out by the time we get to bedtime, our lullaby routine usually erases the last of the tension. Sometime this summer, Dan and Monika started asking me to sing them a lullaby after we say our prayers. We started with Hush, Little Baby, complete with ten extra verses that I made up to avoid singing about a billy goat. Because the first time I sang about a billy goat, Dan asked Glen the next day if we could get a goat. That didn't go so well.
Now, most nights I sing two songs: All God's Critters Got a Place in the Choir and my rendition of Braham's Lullaby, which I first put words to when Monika was a newborn. Some nights I give an encore and sing one of the folk songs my parents used to sing with us in the car.
Dan and Monika have started singing along with some of the songs. It makes my heart swell with hope that they, too, will develop a love for music. Because music has the power to make a lot of things in life go a lot easier.