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How We Create Family Harmony

Once upon a time, I was on the dance floor with my college boyfriend. It was at a disco -- remember those? -- and I thought I was doing an OK job of imitating the moves of the people around us. Wrong.
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microphone in hand isolated on...
microphone in hand isolated on...

Once upon a time, I was on the dance floor with my college boyfriend. It was at a disco -- remember those? -- and I thought I was doing an OK job of imitating the moves of the people around us.


In a trivial but oddly defining moment of my life, my boyfriend -- whom I hadn't been dating very long -- looked at me with exasperation and said, "Listen to the music."

And yes, it's been a project ever since to talk me into dancing.

I'm not sure where I got the idea I couldn't sing, but I'm more loathe to sing than dance. I admitted that to a voice teacher once, who assured me the opposite was true. I have a lovely singing voice. The fear remains, though. When I'm in an auditorium filled with sports fans singing along to the national anthem, I don't even move my lips in an attempt to pretend I'm singing -- that's how spooked I am by the proposition.

So here's hoping you'll be surprised and amused by how much I sang to our daughter, Katie, when she was little. You might remember the song, "Basketball Jones." My version went like this:

"Applejuice breath, you've got applejuice breath. You've got applejuice breath, oh baby oh oh oh..."

Music is so much a part of our lives I feel like we're in Les Mis -- minus the hopelessness, the sadness and I suppose everything else about it except the singing.

When Katie was in middle school, we talked Dad -- a farm boy who'd never been to the Big Apple and had no desire to go -- into watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve. The two of them wrote a song to mark the occasion -- set to "Year 3000" by the Jonas Brothers: "We're goin' to New York City. I think we're nuts but now Mom is in heaven. And our crazy 12-year-old daughter is on her side..."

Katie dressed up like Kanye and sang "Ice Ice Baby" in her high school's holiday variety show -- adapted for the Christmas season, of course, with help from Dad: "Santa's comin' your way, nine little reindeer pullin' his sleigh. Be good, so you stay on The List. Don't be a fool or your house'll get missed..."

Nothing's too mundane not to sing. Katie belts out the lyrics to the commercial at the top of her lungs as we run errands...and after a fancy dinner that may or may not have included a glass of wine, Dad relents and sings "Hey, Soul Sister" at the top of his lungs after claiming he didn't know those lyrics.

Katie gets up an hour early on weekdays so she can practice with the jazz band. When it's time for regular band a few hours later, she breaks out her bassoon and greets her fellow musicians with riffs from Rebecca Black's "Friday."

A friend of Katie's piano teacher surprised us by being the entertainment on a cruise -- and suggested she sing along to Billy Joel's "Piano Man" while he accompanied her on the baby grand in that piano bar. Which she did. Which just might top our list of favorite family memories.

It's fascinating to me, how much music can change your mood. Feeling sad? Play a sad song in your headphones just loud enough to worry it's too loud to preserve your hearing, have that cry, feel better. Need to write a cover letter to that employer? Play something uplifting and coax those words out of your heart and onto the screen. Need a reminder of how sacred life is? Play "Canon." Repeat.

Speaking of feeling sad, have you noticed it's impossible to play a sad song on the banjo? I'm probably not the first person to have that observation, but try it. Boing de de boing boing boing. It doesn't work. Maybe that's why if I had to pick a genre to stick with as the soundtrack to my life it would be bluegrass.

There's just something about it that works.