Manda's Musings


My grand niece came to play on Monday. When dropping Millie off, Mom said, “Millie agreed to be a good listener today.” To which I said I would too.

We read ‘Is Your Mama A Llama’; cleared invisible fuzz off metal rods; fixed broken bones; flew to India, which ended up being Norwood; among other things. But by far Millie’s favorite was playing, “Let’s Go Fishing.” We played side by side on the blue couch.

I’ll admit, catching tiny snapping sharp-toothed piranhas swirling on a motorized turntable can be exasperating business. After a couple rounds Millie explored alternatives. She pressed her finger on the disc to slow it down. I suggested that might hurt the motor. She stopped. Foregoing the rod, she stuck her finger directly in the mini carnivores’ mouths. She pinched together thumb and fingers but those little devils slipped out. Eventually Millie stopped the whole thing all together by flipping off the switch.“

“Can’t do that! Cheating!” I said, and flipped it on again. Millie flipped it off. With a mock frown, I complained, “Makes it too easy!” And flipped it on. Millie eyed me then flipped it off. “Aunt Amanda – you’re not being a good listener.” We took a moment. “You’re right, Millie. And I said I would be. I’m sorry.” Disappointedly shaking, Millie looked down and up again. She raised a gently closed fist to her chest, “That hurts my heart.”

I guess we’re never too young..I mean old…I mean…to learn.


Yesterday morning I subbed for Middle School music classes. Both were choruses fresh off a concert from the night before. We watched it and they evaluated their performance on a rubric provided by their teacher.

I’m struck by the evolving nature of educational practices. The day before I was a 3rdgrade classroom teacher. I witness leaps and bounds in mathematics compared to when I was a 3rdgrader. The names of children who had other educators they left the classroom to work with were given to me in initials rather than spelled out. Confused at first, I had to ask the teacher next door for explanation.

I heard a middle school counselor say to a gal who had just gotten her braces off, “I hope you smile big all day today.” For the life of me, I can’t recall any school counselor sounding that invested in my inner life.

Of course, these new PC ways have their drawbacks as well. As a marker came careening by me on the floor from the area the chorus boys were sitting and I eyed the boy telling me his friend happened to be tossing the marker in the air as himself was reaching his hand in to retrieve something and his hand happened to whack the marker out as he was pulling it back, I was moved by his logic and responded, “Hmmm…remarkable. Just make sure all your future choices are ones that keep each and everyone of us safe in here.” To which a friend behind him said, with a facetious look in his eye, “Ah, Ms. Maffei.” “Yes?” “I don’t feel safe.”

My PC response? No response.


I was blessed with a rich out doors life in Marblehead as a youth. I remember many winters of big sea block ice undulating with rolling waves rolling back and forth from our little beach. Our little beach.

Can you imagine? (I didn’t have to – and now I know how blessed we were.)

We lived year round on a peninsula many residents back then only summered on.  Not now. Now it’s far more built up with mostly year round residents. In Springs, Falls and Winters we kids had the run of the place. I walked the paths connecting house to house. Stomped on frozen sands of Back Beach; hiked to Baldwin’s castle on the hill where you spied Misery, Children’s and Baker’s Islands; tried keeping balance on sea salt ice covered rocks; Snurfed down Hammond’s hill hoping not to careen off into heartless icy sea waves! I held my own Olympics, hailing from many countries, on account I was there by myself much of the time.

I am grateful for that youthful landscape within. I mourn a bit for this upcoming generation whose youthful landscapes may well be defined by video games. Perhaps I look back too nostalgically on childhood days of, “Get out of the house and don’t come back until supper.” Upon command, we’d wander – sometimes around the grounds – sometimes downtown – the freedom to explore our environs and our ways of dealing with challenges commensurate with that freedom. Without cellphones!

Can you imagine?


Armor – well met!

Yesterday I subbed for 4thand 5thgrade music classes. From mid-1990s to 2000s I taught public school classroom music full time. Yesterday I was reminded of both the joys and struggles I experienced in that full time role and why I LOVE the sub role.

Not anticipating a music person, their music teacher, understandably, provided a movie. As a musician I felt a duty to these budding musicians and learned from the Band Director that the 4thgrade was working on duration and 5thon pitch. Wheels started rolling. (I never told them we were foregoing a movie!) Our Hopkinton school system is blessed with a particularly strong music program, so I had lots of resources. I got to use a piano, metallophone and percussion instruments for our lessons. The 5th grade got a lesson on pitch through the folk song ‘Drunken Sailor’ for 5thgrade pitch.  (I later learned I should have subbed ‘Sleepy’ for ‘Drunken’. Oh my.) It was fun flying by the seat of my pants again. (Woops! Did I say again?)

The 4thgrade taught me about their ‘duration tree’ – descending from whole note to half notes to quarter notes to eighths. We practiced a fun Dalcroze Eurythmics time/space technique for pulling durations out through space and time. A whole note lasts for 4 beats. Instead of once clapping every four beats and keeping hands still in between, you keep one hand in the initial place of contact & pull out through the next three beats until releasing back to clap for the next measure. You’ve got it!

I forgot how much I love this stuff – in the sub role!


Since my late teens, as regards my music, I began a persistent sabotage on my being, deeming me a failure for never becoming musically famous on the scale I thought I should have. I thought in order to be worthwhile and successful I had to become a famous, lauded musician. I thought because I had the talent I should be famous, if I’m being true to my gift. This is a hard tower for me to fell!

A couple weeks back I met with a counselor – ostensibly due to family tensions over our son’s technology use – and found myself leaving with a hopeful new idea – I could ‘redefine success.’ WHAT? She reflected back that a person who thrives on alone time might not be the typical personality for becoming famous in an occupational vein demanding time with others, surrounded by big groups, socializing, networking and the like. That just because we have talent doesn’t mean only one measure of that talent is a meaningful measure of success. WHAT?

These past couple weeks I’ve invited that foreign idea in and am discovering something: the most important thing to me has been being present for my children’s growing as much as possible. For better (and worserer, my kids might attest to)  I’ve been successful at it. Also for better and worse I’ve worked at sublimating my rampant self-centeredness (which my husband may or may not attest to) and find myself in a marriage evolving overall in varying degrees of peace, friendship, understanding and laughter. Pretty nice. And along with those successes, I continue the good fortune to be able to be of some musical service to others in ever widening ways – and keep on working at it.

So – I guess, no – I won’t be as famous as Michael Jackson – but I am as successful as me – and maybe that’s all I’ve ever wanted – WHAT?



British reports say in 2017 5% of divorces were due to excessive video gaming – the popular ‘Fortnite’ earmarked as a major contributing culprit.

We’re dealing with the Fortnight phenomenon here at home – with son, not husband. We’ve worked out the (mostly) satisfying solution of saying, “After this part is over please shut it off,” because, as it turns out, our son is part of community while playing Fortnite and flew hard in the face of being told to outright stop. We’ve had significant philosophical tussles but have worked things out to a so far workable compromise.

I actually witness (from the kitchen) some pretty cool benefits from Fortnite playing (in moderation): I hear him planning with friends; coming up with strategies; suggesting ideas and adjusting to friends’ different suggestions; bargaining to get his way with only light protest when he doesn’t; discussing merits/detriments of others’ actions; trading supplies back and forth to aid in their mutual quest. I’ll admit to my own inner conflict over its backdrop – guns and killing – but I uphold outlets for balanced, harmless releases of aggressive inclinations.

I do find it unsettling navigating this ever-shifting terrain, but we do the best we can. Peter recently mentioned a Smithsonian article to me in which the researcher likened parental concerns for Fortnite to those of parents in the 1920s – when Pinball became the rage.


Spent Thanksgiving in the Northern Kingdom at brother & sister-in-law’s home. Derby, Vermont borders Lake Memphremagog (say that 10 times fast!) (that,that,that,that,that,that,that,that,that,that) and Quebec, Canada! Upwards of two feet of snow lay on the ground. Jay Peak, one half hour away, has a base of 30 inches.

I cannot describe the glory of donning Cross Country skis Friday morning and traversing across their 10-acre parcel through the woods to a trail groomed by thoughtful neighbors. (Much to be said for living rural.)

I had a profound awareness of the juxtaposition of skiing this year as it related to last year. Last year, when setting out, I had to grit my teeth as brain cells numbed to my aching Achilles. After a while the pain became more bearable but never fully went away – and I paid for it a few hours after ceasing.

This year – pain free – after 20 or so hours of physical therapy and continuing dutiful daily stretching exercises. I marvel at the body’s ability to heal itself – given expert, studied direction.

And I wonder at the seven years spent in varying levels of pain through avid running and skiing and am reminded of the joy one receives ceasing and desisting the hammering of one’s hammered thumb.


I don’t know at what age I began lying, but I lied prodigiously. It became such a habit that I began lying no apparent reason. The practice dwindled through my 30s and 40s and more recently I involved myself in a reconciliation process with my past – and principally with myself.

I can relate to all we are hearing in the news as of late as regards lying. ‘Seeing the splinter in another’s eye while not recognizing the log in your own’ has become one of my touchstones . I experienced a profound revelatory moment, when once, carrying a monumental judgment against one of our former presidents, I realized I practiced the same thing – the only difference being the scale.

So when on the news I hear the stories of lying to Congress and, when presumed to be at the pinnacle of obligatory truth telling under oath, being accused of being a compulsive liar, though even if it’s not a lie it doesn’t matter because one was not doing anything wrong anyway because it technically wasn’t illegal, I’m reminded of my youth, when I forgot what lies I told to whom and covered up with yet more lies that were then questioned because they didn’t match the initial ones, and this is a run-on sentence, and somehow that feels appropriate because it’s feels like a run-on government.

And I can relate to run-ons…because I’ve done them myself.


It’s rare lately that I find myself drawn to a movie past its viewing. But The Florida Project with Willem Dafoe broke the drought. Here’s what one critic said: “The Florida Project,” Sean Baker’s risky and revelatory new film, avoids the traps of condescension and prurience that ensnare too many well-meaning movies about poverty in America.

The acting was superb.The Director, Sean Baker, found at least one actor in the local Walmart store. He relied mostly on local talent. Willem Dafoe is the only known actor, but it was the brilliance of the young Brooklynn Prince as Moonee who ruled the roost. To give you a glimpse, you see her saying to her young co-star, in an outtake, preparing for the last scenes, ‘Let me be by myself for now because I have to think of something really sad.’ I witnessed mastery – the writing so true to the child’s mind – at once, achingly innocent and worldly. And the honest performance of a child so at one with her emotions that after the last scene, abiding adults whisked her off to call her mom so she could get grounded again.

The only drawback to witnessing this exquisite film is that for a big swath of our society it is not fiction.


I do not watch Fox. Yesterday I clicked on something and lo and behold I was introduced to their style of ‘reporting’. Right away I missed Walter Cronkite. Stunned – I Googled and found two things of particular interest: Walter Cronkite’s view of Fox News and Fox’s view of Walter Chronkite:

But the most telling is this montage of Fox’s coverage of two presidents’ foray into talks with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un. It’s a cautionary note of how powerfully human minds rationalize – three minutes well worth the witness: