Manda's Musings


I’ve started studying with Don White. I’m looking to up my performing and know I’m going to get a whole lot of help from him. Already I’m beginning to get a greater grasp on what this profession is all about.

One job of entertaining and performing is about helping people. It’s about lifting folks out of the mundane – the every day lives we live – and giving them a moment in time that’s unique – memorable – something worth remembering. That’s been a new understanding for me over these past few years as I’ve delved deeper into the craft.

So now I’m working on a six-part opener. And one of my pursuits is to write a song that tells folks about me – my whereabouts, whoabouts and howabouts.

Upon driving home from that first coaching session with Don, a song began burbling up in my brain. I share with you the opening stanza:

So I told him, “You mean everything in the world to me, my darling. And if you ever lost your way I’d search this Earth to bring you home. But you’ve still got to wait ’til tenth grade for a new phone.”

You’ll have to come to one of my shows to hear the rest!

Ha! My first marketing move!


There’s is nothing I love more than to go sledding after a good snow fall (except perhaps cross country skiing). I used to take my older two kids, Christina and Dylan, to this great three-tiered hill in Westborough near the High School. They’ve since reconfigured that hill accommodating for new home construction. That caused a heartache.

Since moving to downtown Hopkinton, the State Park has become our go-to place for sledding. It is a two-tiered hill but quite formidable.

I note how as Sam has grown older the height of our starting place has grown higher, until these past couple years when we automatically go to the highest and steepest part of the slope. Teenagers to our left built a substantial jump and careened down and off it on lime green plastic saucers.

A friend/family group to our right, ranging in age from two to twenty-something, were busy shifting sleds, turns, riders every which was but loose, with teen and preteen boys impishly plowing each other down as they made their ways back up to the top after their runs.

We were three – Mom and two thirteen year old friends – one son, one not. We had two zipfys and a foam toboggan. I practiced my parenting skills by not practicing them. Keeping silent and turning a blind eye as various and sundry exchanges that did not meet my textbook expectations took place between the two teens. I focussed on my sledding.

Zipfys are my favorites.Shaped like a saddle with an extended pommel for holding, they can go very fast. They can go very fast down a steep two-tiered hill. They can fly very fast up into the air when one hits the lip of the second tier. They can fly very far and hurt very much when one lands back on one after flying very fast up into the air.

And now I cringe whenever I sit down coccyx hurts!


Our son and three friends were assigned a project by their Math teacher: to build a catapult. This past Tuesday they met at a friend’s house to accomplish the task for today. Upon his return I peppered him with questions about the construction and success of their endeavor and was met mostly by grunts and ‘I dunno’s.’ I chalked it up to teenager-dom and let my line of questioning go.

The next morning at breakfast before school I entered into it once more. I asked him what materials they made the catapult out of and how far the projectile flew.

“Actually, [So and So] and their father was going to put it together last night. We just got the parts ready.”

“Are you serious?”

“He’s an engineer, Mom!”

“Yes, but he’s not a Math student in your Math class. Your teacher did not give him the assignment. She gave you four the assignment. She’s not going to be calling him up and saying, “Hey, Mr. So and So, you did a great job assembling that catapult with the one child from your family who belongs to the group who received the assignment. Well done. The assignment was yours. I so dislike it when parents do stuff like that.”

“I shouldn’t have said anything.”

And as a parent I know he says that but I also know somewhere inside he knows he doesn’t mean it. Because something inside him knew it was a huge opportunity lost. I can only imagine the fertile and fun fiasco it would have been to witness the workings out of those four eighth grade cohorts as they made their way through the design and construction and testing phases of that catapult together. And the lost opportunity for elation (or not) when they were able to witness the fruits of their labors, casting a projectile across the room.

But now that’s all that’s left – to
only imagine it.

Epilogue: Wednesday I bought dowels and rubber bands and this morning Sam (begrudgingly) constructed his own catapult.


Buy back all assault weapons.

Live bravely and accept that the commoner will not have the same level weapon as the one bent on causing maximum harm to others. Be willing to take that risk, for the good of our American society as a whole.

Buy back all assault weapons.

Be willing to accept that, yes, we may die due to another’s ill intentions – but choose to live boldly without a fright-based personal defense.

Buy back all assault weapons.

I do not want to live my life armed against all possibilities. I do not want to live my life afraid of death. I want to live willing to accept the inevitable: that we will, each and every one of us, die someday. Of course I would rather do so as late and healthfully in my life as possible.

Buy back all assault weapons.

There are groups of people who have lived with the feeling of – and the reality of – being threatened throughout their lifetimes and generations here in America. For some of us living with this kind of threat is not new. For others of us it is.

Buy back all assault weapons.

I want to be part of a society that works to diminish and deconstruct its own weaknesses and destructive patterns/practices that contribute to creating breeding grounds for violence by those who come to feel disenfranchised, disposable, disregarded, and discarded by society.

I do not want to be part of a society that aims to keep arming its citizens with legal deadlier and deadlier guns to fight against  those who are in possession of the same legal deadlier and deadlier guns. Let’s confiscate as many of those deadlier and deadlier guns and start anew.

PLEASE                                                        Buy back all assault weapons.


Grandniece Millie came over to play.

Our home was the waystation for Dad’s drop off at 5pm and Mom’s pick up at 6:45pm.

Millie immediately spied Big Bird’s book – one and a half feet by three. She found the two bears and nine bats, but had trouble finding the twenty twiddlebugs. Anyone would. I mean who REALLY knows what twiddlebugs look like?

We stacked wooden circus elephants; balanced barrels on a rocking clown; banged Boomwhackers ‘in time’ to Justin Roberts’ music; and fished for sharp toothed plastic Piranhas on a merry-go-round with plastic fishing rods.

It wasn’t until we pulled out Winnie-the-Pooh’s Candyland that I became painfully aware of our age difference. Being two years and eight months old, I knew attempting to play the game was a fool’s errand. Understood. But Millie was immediately drawn to the little white plastic semi-circular stands that hold cardboard depictions lining the Candyland pathway. She could quite adeptly slip them through the slits. Great! We can set the pics up in order of the pathway.

The first one Millie placed was in Rabbit’s garden, where Rabbit grows peppermint sticks. She pressed cardboard Owl into that stand; the second – Piglet at Owl’s house; the third – Pooh flying with balloon, belly down and sideways, where Eeyore was to go; and finally, the victorious rainbow colored picnic scene, the glorious destination for all winners, Millie placed at the START!

And with each and every one of those painfully inopportune placements, I cringed, feeling both sides of my aching skull, and conjured a forced smile, managing to eek out, “Good job, Millie. Good job.”




I know I’ll probably have to take a look at this errant behavior someday but not now.At times I ski trails that are closed. Though I don’t go if signs indicate danger, I knew these trails and sensed their closed-ness was due to ungroomability because of small stream cut throughs. The weather had been cold enough for long enough and we just had new, fresh snow (it was still snowing).

Every inch of my winter being was insisting, ‘You must do Cascade Brook, then Beanbender, then Lower Snows. Lower Snows, other than the initial downhill, isn’t much of a challenge, but it brings me back to the open, groomed trail.

An immense stillness permeates my being as I schwoosh along through new fallen snow. Add solitariness and for me it nears the sublime. (Within limits. Not when the sun’s going down and I still have far to go and I have no water – but that’s only happened once.)

Backcountry skis have metal edges and cut turns nicely in most conditions.

I finished Cascade Brook and headed to the top of Snows Mountain to take Beanbender down. When I got there I saw no one had gone over the top. All tracks stopped at the TRAIL CLOSED sign. (Someday I’ll take a look – not now.) Off I skied. What a rush (relatively speaking, of course, if you were to ask my downhill skiing progeny). Legs held strong french frying and plowing down the slope. Onto Swazeyland and the rolling trail through the woods to Lower Snows.

After the initial downhill, Lower Snows became a bit laborious. But the work was well worth it when I spied the back of the bright orange TRAIL CLOSED sign I had seen on Livermore, the groomed, open trail, on my way up to Cascade Brook. Turned left onto Livermore and home.

Not a bad outing, considering so many trails were closed!


I have felt overwhelmed by sadness these past couple days. Somber times.

The shooting in Florida. I had the news on while waiting in the car. I had heard several accounts of the shooting, but suddenly started sobbing – hard to catch my breath sobbing.

I simply cannot fathom the callousness and detachment. Seventeen more people die in the eighteenth United States of America school shooting in 2018 – by a person using the same gun that has been so effective in other mass shootings here in our nation – and the people clothed with the power to change things on a national level cannot see fit to take meaningful, bold, responsible action.

Ban these deadly assault weapons!

I try mentally to place myself in the bodies of these people marching around the halls of congress, touting their rights to use military style guns as an essential part of their second amendment rights – with people in a national organization who give them millions of dollars  to keep their hands off sensible gun control measures – and hear only in America are these rampant school shootings happening – and only in America do we legally let people get guns more easily than driver’s licenses – and my already trampled over belief in the basic humaneness of fellow human beings, given bounteous privileges of both freedom and relative prosperity, stand dangerously stubborn in their demands for access to a weapon so blatantly inhumane. ‘Safety’ is crumbling and people in charge are hogtied by themselves and others.

What will it take for them to get overwhelmed enough to act?


So – no doubt it’s a condition of my age. This morning or last I fired up my computer to get to work and there was a photo of Mitt Romney with a headline about his upcoming announcement.

Politics aside – what I saw most notably were his wrinkles. And immediately what rollicked to mind was, ‘Why is it OK for men to have wrinkles in close ups but women’s faces need to be ‘touched up’? In the media you will rarely see a photo of women with a healthy amount of wrinkles.

I have had two photo shoots in the past couple years. In the first one the young photographer who took my pictures ‘touched up’ my photos without me even asking. The most recent one left all the wrinkles in. And I wish I could have looked at them and said, “Yup. That’s me.” And even when he ‘touched up’ the photos, I STILL had wrinkles! And I really do love them. Because each one of them has been earned.

So someday I pray women can go out and get their pictures taken and looked upon with total acceptance for their lack of makeup and plethora of wrinkles! There’s a goal worth striving for.



Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

-Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

I get it. But I don’t. And I will. And I won’t.


The title track on my upcoming album is Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now.’ I have been singing that song in earnest since my thirties. For the album I recorded a simple piano/vocal version.

Well, not exactly simple. After pestering from my coach, Vance Gilbert, I came up with my own piano voicings. I plonked out each note – note by note. So the tune transformed from a folky consonant accompaniment for twenty-something years to a richly complex – yet curiously simple and moving – Herbie Hancock-ish arrangement here in my fifties. Which is perhaps more true to how I experience life.

Of course the lifeline of the arrangement, bar none, is Joni Mitchell’s prophetic and sage lyric. She was in her twenties.

‘I don’t know clouds’; ‘I don’t know love’: ‘I don’t know life’.

In my teens, when I first heard the song, I added – ‘yet’ to each of those ‘I don’t knows’. In my thirties– ‘but I’m getting there’; and now – ‘yup’.

As a kid, myriad times I used the beloved phrase, ‘I don’t know’, to stay out of trouble (sorry, Mom); I cringed having to say it in class after being called upon; as a smoky emotional young adult trying to sort things through I spoke it with raw, shredded nerves; later, when my own kids incredulously demanded WHY? when asked to do something – outside I answered authoritatively, with the inner self admission, ‘I don’t know’. And sometimes when asked for answers by students (and offspring) I would falsely answer, ‘I don’t know. What do you think?’

Yet now I know that was not so false. At least – I think I know. Let’s say I believe I know.

For the more I know, the more I know I don’t know.

And logically – that’s an impossible statement. Don’t ask me how I know – because I don’t.