Manda's Musings


There is a salt of the earth woman in the musical I’m working on. She sells flowers in the market square. The backstory to the main plot is that the queen and king are unable to have children. Ever since she was young, the queen yearned for a child. She sings about it in ‘A Child of My Own.’

Whenever she goes to the marketplace ‘Queenie’ (as the Flower Peddlar calls her) watches forlornly while children play. This one particular time an urchin, one of the Flower Peddlar’s children, chants a singsong verse of ‘Ring Around the Rosey’: “The queen’s up in her castle, she wants her own wee rascal, she tries and tries and cries and cries, ‘cuz no one’s in her satchel!”

Understandably the queen becomes incensed and chides the child. The Flower Peddlar comes out from behind her cart upon hearing the commotion. The queen alienates her, criticizing her parenting. The Flower Peddlar promptly leaves. In the song ‘If You Knew’, the urchin informs the queen that she’s just offended the one person who could have helped.

The short of it is, eventually the Flower Peddlar comes back and gives the queen a remedy. Beforehand the queen sang a song of how sweet it would be raising a child. After listening the Flower Peddlar, who has raised many, gives her own view in her song ‘Children’:


Central Park never ceases to amaze me. How visionary it was in the 1800s to preserve the space as sanctuary. Frederick Law Olmstead was one of the main designers. I remember him featuring prevalently through the halls of the Harvard School of Design, where I worked in the eighties. Yikes! The eighties!

My husband and I had the pleasure of attending a wonderfully intimate and visionary wedding of the daughter of friends. It took place at Cop Cot – a pavilion constructed of natural wood with vines weaving through branch slats overhead. Thank goodness it didn’t rain.

Sitting beside my mate, I listened as best I could hear in that open space, to the ‘marriage officiant.’ I heard: “You are here to dedicate yourselves to the well being and happiness of each other.”

From the time I was young I have felt strongly drawn toward the spiritual. The earliest tangible spiritual experience I remember having was when I was around twelve years old.

As I am growing into marriage with my husband, after hearing that officiant’s words, I, who yearned for many years to lead a monk-like life, came to a deeper knowing of the grace in choosing to live into the vow of dedicating myself to the well being and happiness of another. It is perhaps one of the greatest releases from ‘the bondage of self’: Marriage.

How visionary.


For fun we ran through Central Park 7am Sunday the morning after the wedding. There’s nothing like a good morning run to witness change in relationship.

On our first runs together my now husband was happy to run beside or behind me at my pace. We’d chat happily or just run along in buoyant quiet camaraderie.

Fast forward to NYC, Sunday, October 15, 2017.

“Left!” He called behind as one of the streetlights changed. “Cross.” “That way.” “Don’t we need to go this way?” “No. That way.”

We arrived at Central Park. He led and I worked hard to keep up. He wanted to run on the main thoroughfare with all the fast people. I wanted to meander down side paths seeing scenery and scouting out the general public. We ended up at the reservoir.

Seeking relief from his pace – albeit slow for him accommodating me, I suggested, “Why don’t you go your own pace around the reservoir and then double back to find me? We can meet between these two trees as a back up plan.” “Sounds good.”

While running I discovered a path hugging the reservoir in a tighter circle than the one we were running. ‘Maybe I can beat him.’ No chance. But I took it, with little regard for the ‘then you double back to find me’ part. So Peter ran back fruitlessly searching for me.

But our back up plan worked. We met between the two trees where I was enjoying my self-styled T’ai Chi routine.

“Where were you?” “I took the path up there,” I said, pointing toward the reservoir. He gave me a hard stare. But with all that extra distance Peter was easier to keep up with on the way back to our hotel.

It’s always good to have a back up back up plan!


It’s a curious thing – the work of the Foley Artist. Today is the day my engineer for my ‘Six Kids’ Songs, Six Radio Shows’ project does a temporary mix of all six radio plays now replete with sound effects.

There’s the story of Evalina the Dinosaur. Philly Chatterton, the Foley Artist from Toronto Island who has so magically transformed these productions with his work, was on the search for just the right sound to layer over the fundamental sound he was using for the thirty ton, seventy foot long Apatosaurus.

To have ears that hear sounds under and around sounds all wrapped up into one. That’s precision! There is a moment in the Leo the Lion story where Leo leaps up into the sky and becomes a constellation. When Philly and I first talked on the phone he told me how a neighbor of his on the island had made a mobile out of sea glass and hung it on her front porch. He heard that as Leo’s ascent.

I’m waiting with baited breath to get back the temp mixes so I can feast my own ears on the richness of the worlds he’s created through Foley.

I got an email from Philly telling me by a strange twist of fate he is going to be at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. He’ll be presenting on using Foley in Horror Films.

I encourage all those with ears to come hear!


We are mixing and mastering my album at Q Division Studios October 26-27. I consider that to be an auspicious date as one of them is one of my brother’s birthdays.

The past few weeks I have been working with my producer to create final lead vocals. To slip on those headphones, step in front of an exquisite microphone and feel like I am singing effortlessly, due to the way he has the sound mixed (along with some years of practice), is to me one of life’s great joys.

So there’s this one song I wrote called ‘Wastin’ Time.’ I was inspired to write it after hearing Claudia Schmidt in concert quote an author who said, ‘If you enjoy wasting time then that’s not time wasted.” Threw my sprockets into a whirlwind. (I was dealing with four teenagers at the time.) So the way I’ve always performed that song is to have one calm, serene voice singing that lead line as the chorus, and a harried, frantic voice singing the verses. I tend to run at a high energy level – especially in certain singing situations – and have been used to a slightly unbridled approach.

“Kindness,” he said.

Pulled me up short. I was singing the last chorus and that calm, serene voice flew into an energetic, slightly challenging adlib.

“Be kind to me.”

Though I never alluded to it, a wall came crumbling down in that moment.

“You mean, at 57 years of age I can give up all this angst [and sublimated (and not always so sublimated) anger] I’ve been hauling around?’



Editing is an arduous task.

Why can’t the first draft be the last?

Here lies before me my two-act play

With music and some lines to say

Can’t it be done now? Just for fun?

But no, I’m on page fifty-one.

And these darn people speak their minds

And it’s my job – their words to find

That’s it! You all speak for yourselves!

Or up you go on dusty shelves!

No! Don’t talk back. It’s just not fair.

Come on! Get real! This once? Please dare.

Honey, where’d you hide the flask?

This editing’s an arduous task!


Two true patriots.

Taking a knee to me is a solid act of patriotism.

It is saying that we expect more from our nation. We expect our nation to live into all our flag symbolizes. Taking a knee is an outward expression of an inward brokenness.

Our nation is broken and personally I am grateful to those who are brave, thoughtful and care enough to say so by taking a knee during the national anthem.

We as a nation and a people are better than this. We are better than a people who can say it’s okay not to have ‘justice for all’. We are better than a people who say if you kill another unlawfully due to your fear of the color of their skin, or anything other than a direct threat to your life or the life of another, you won’t be held accountable. We are better than a people who can allow a powerful lobby group to irresponsibly inundate our nation with deadly weapons supporting an industry’s gluttonous amassing of their own fortune. We are better than a people who will not take full responsibility for past wrongs and meaningfully set them right.

We are better than this. Aren’t we?

I am no better than anyone else. It takes a lot of effort to train and retrain a mind steeped in narrow story. It’s a lifetime of effort. But one well worth taking.

Like taking a knee.


Sometimes one’s being is washed over by a beauty too big to bear. I’ve lived long and partially conscious enough to know that that beauty is different for each and every one of us. Yet I hope at one time or another we’ve all felt it.

I felt it last night. My producer emailed rough mixes of songs we’re recording for my upcoming album. I listened to them after the Patriot’s game last night – a beauty that was not too big to bear. Midnight approacheth but I donned my headphones to give a quick listen before bedtime (which should have been hours beforehand).

Crit Harmon and Brad Hatfield are my cohorts and companions in this escapade. I could not have better teachers. Education finds us in creative ways. I’ve learned even more of what I’ve been learning from my coach, Vance Gilbert, these past few years.

I’ve learned Kindness – to the song, to the hearer, to the music, to myself. I’ve learned Power in singing humble. I’ve learned Generosity of good will and helping others move forward. I’ve learned Joy of being part of creating a unique and magnificent sounding project.

Ever grateful to them for so aptly helping this project become, for me at least, what last night felt like a beauty too big to bear.


Dealings with a thirteen year old get testy at times. Believe me, the responsibility does not lie solely in the lap of said thirteen year old.

Yes, I’ve heard the wisdom of not asking questions that set children up to choose between lying or not. Does it stop me from asking questions that way? No. Yes, I’ve heard the fruitlessness of lecturing. Does it stop me from lecturing? No. Yes, I’ve heard ‘choose your battles.’ Does it stop me from choosing every one? No.

“But I asked you if you were working on your Math and you said you were and you weren’t. You’ve lost the right to sit where I can’t see your laptop screen (Thank you so much to the Hopkinton school system for placing those distraction machines in the laps of young learners since 6th grade!). Sit over on the blue couch so I can see over your shoulder.” (He grudgingly heads over.) “And why when I asked you if you were working on your Math did you say you were when you weren’t? Be impeccable with your word. There is no honor in doing and saying things so you can get away with stuff.” (Like I never did when I was his age. I lean over the back of the couch for added emphasis.) “You’re hurting yourself and you’re hurting us who want to trust you.”

Errant son looks me straight in the eye, “So I told a lie. It’s not the end of the world. You make it sound like it’s the end of the world.”

He has no idea.

So the next morning I hear a friend talk about how he used to talk to his kids and how he tries to now. He asks himself (another thing I’ve heard many times), “Would I rather be right or would I rather be happy?”

My turn to choose.



I continue to be uplifted and amazed by the goodness in young humans. For the past two home Cross Country meets I have stood at the entrance of the new course, just recently installed, through the woods. The runners pass by twice – first toward the beginning to head into the woods to Center Trail toward the Loop Road exit side – and second as they make their final push to the track to finish.

Girls and boys run in separate groups. Depending on which one goes first, the others come to root on their compatriots – and those of the other team as well. Many stay long past the frontrunners passing by. Some stay until the very last ones come in.

When the very last runners come in you hear cheers ringing from the finish line.

As an elder I feel an intriguing investment in each runner feeling good about what and how they’re doing – no matter what team they’re on. Believe me, I want Hopkinton runners to outrun their counterparts – but I do yearn for each one to feel good and confident about at least part of their achievement.

Aging is a curious process. You get to revisit yourself from varying perspectives as you witness others going through stages you’ve (presumably) already been through.

And somehow I find myself hopeful they’re doing it just a little bit kinder toward them selves than I was at their age.

And from what I could tell at those Cross Country meets – they are.