Vlog #11 – How Do I Compose For Film?

I recently asked my fans if they could help me out by suggesting some vlogging topics – as I’m trying to be better about vlogging more often and more consistently.  One of the topics that was brought up quite a lot was me sharing with you how I compose for film, and what my studio set- up.

My methods for composing for film and for my own music are quite different  – so talking about how I compose for myself is an entirely different vlog for another day. But I hope you enjoy this inside little glimpse on just a small part of the process I go through when composing for film. Enjoy!…

P.S. Are you subscribed to my Youtube channel yet? 🙂

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2016 Indie Music Channel Awards Recap

I’m finally sitting down to write a blog post about my recent weekend in Los Angeles for the 2016 Indie Music Channel Awards (Apr 23rd-24th, 2016).

This was my 3rd year attending this particular awards show.  My first year was 2012, and I attended as a guest of Viktoria Tocca – who completely swept the awards that year…

Viktoria Tocca – 2012 IMC Awards

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Jennifer Thomas and Viktoria Tocca – 2012 IMC Awards

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I had such a fun time that year as a guest, that I decided the following year to enter my music in to see if it would garner any nominations, and it did.  I ended up winning 9 awards that evening including “Artist of the Year”, and “Album of the Year” (for my album Illumination).

Jennifer Thomas – 2013 IMC Awards

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By the way, here is Viktoria and I again at the Nominees Reception (2013).

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But ANYWAY I’m not here to go down memory lane, but I just wanted to say all of that to make the point that I’ve been involved with the Indie Music Channel for several years now – it is a wonderful platform and still a small enough entity where these events feel like family. I really enjoy attending.

Hence…the reason I went to the 2016 awards THIS year.  Obviously, there were a few years gap there.  For those who don’t know I had a baby in 2014 (my 3rd), and so I took an extended break. And then at the end of 2015 I released a new Christmas album entitled “Winter Symphony”.  And it is for that album for which all the nominations were for.

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So here are a few photos I thought I would share in this blog, that I haven’t shared on social media before – so you are seeing a good portion of these for the first time – woohoo! 🙂

Day 1 – LA and Film Scoring/Director’s Notes Session

Arriving in LA at my friends’ Ryan and Becky McNeal’s apartment, ready for fun!

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Oh my goodness excuse the horrible quality, but this is from the film director’s notes session I did with Alex and Ryan about their upcoming short film “Desert Rose” that I’ll be scoring the music for…

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Basically, we sit. We watch without talking. And then we watch again and talk. And then we watch again and critique. And then I try to imagine throwing the temp music out the window and what I would compose to replace it with.  The usual.

I also went out to the theater with friends to go see “The Jungle Book”, which was quite good. And the theater seats were WAY better than anything we have where I’m from, by the way.

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Day 2 – Yummy Food and the IMC VIP Reception

And oh wow, let me share just a little bit of food porn here…I went to Cafe Aroma not once, but TWICE, it was so yummy…

Man. I’m actually really hungry typing this post, and those pictures are NOT doing me any favors.

Focus, Jennifer…focus.

So Saturday night was the VIP Nominees Reception. In the past they’ve held this event in the daytime and it was quite casual, but this year it was a red carpet event held at the W Hotel in Hollywood.

Something you may or may not know about me is that I’m pretty much either in yoga pants or a formal gown.  Never, hardly EVER, in between.  The fact is when I’m at home I like to be comfortable – I work out of my home music studio AND I’m a mom, so I pretty much wear whatever is comfortable.  And then when I have music events, concerts, or videos then of course I dress up and make myself quite presentable.

But when it’s anything in-between I SO struggle.  Fortunately I found this cute striped midi dress from Alloy Apparel online (it was onlyi $39 – Score!) and it was perfect for the VIP reception.  AND I brought my beautiful and talented friend Aeralie Brighton with me. If you don’t know who she is, you need to Google her. She has a very beautiful unique voice and she has sung on many major video game soundtracks, movie trailers, and projects.

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So a funny story – is that on the way to LA I actually had some mishaps. I almost boarded the wrong flight, and I lost my drivers license making it impossible to pick up my car rental (which I was totally bummed about because I had a nice one waiting for me!).  But I discovered Uber and Lyft while there, and I gotta say it was AMAZING! I don’t know why I thought I ever needed a car rental.  Those services were so fast and easy to use, and super inexpensive as well.

Aeralie and I attempting to get a decent selfie together before embarking out on the evening, while waiting for our Lyft taxi.

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Which is quite hilarious because it literally looks exactly like the selfies we took a short while later at the W Hotel…

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Women. We are always on a quest to get the perfect selfie, right? Haha. At least I’m honest about it, come on. 😉

And a few more selfies throughout the night with music friends Greg Ryan, and Dale Edward.

Some from the professional photographer who was going around that night…

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And then here’s me on the red carpet…which, by the way, I just want to tell you that I put cushy heel inserts into my red heels that night and they were AMAZEBALLS.  So much more comfortable. I don’t know why it’s taken me years to figure that little secret out.

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It was a really lovely evening, lots of nice people and talented musicians.  Afterwards it was off to Hollywood Blvd to catch our Lyft taxi home…

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And, of course, take more selfies because well, the background looked pretty neato.

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Aeralie and I had a late night staying up laughing and talking, and finishing off our leftovers from Cafe Aroma. YUMMM. Perfect midnight snack 😉

Day 3 – Lunch with Brian, IMC Awards

The next day, I went to Cafe Aroma AGAIN, this time with my mixing engineer Brian Vibberts.  Brian worked on my album from LA while I was in Seattle and so we never met in person until lunch this day! It was great!

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A friend of mine commenting that we have almost the same face from the nose down, and oh my goodness we totally do.  Haha!  Maybe it’s the lighting, but too funny.

Anyway, Brian made my album sound pretty off-the-hook amazing.  If you’re not a musician, let me just explain to you what he does.  He is basically one of the last people to work on the album – he is the one that mixes all of the tracks together (aka “mixer”).  And on my album particularly, I had hundreds of tracks going on including a 100 piece choir, orchestra, brass, percussion, soloists and then my piano on top of it all.  It is not an easy task to take all of those hundreds of tracks and mix them at levels where everything has a proper place and sounds sonically correct.  He is one of THE key persons when it comes to the process of making music, and I couldn’t be more thankful to have worked with him on Winter Symphony.

Dress Drama

Later that evening was the actual awards show, which of course takes hours of prepping.  Here is yet ANOTHER funny story – so I actually had dress drama.  I am in the process of losing weight and I didn’t want to buy a new dress, nor did I have very many options in my closet either.  A good portion of my dresses fit me at a smaller size, and then the ones that do currently fit my body I’ve worn a bajillion times this past concert season – not to mention they are all red and Christmasy.  Not exactly a dress I’d wear in 75 degree LA weather in the spring time.

So I decided to rent a dress from Rent-the-Runway.  I’ve never used them before but I spent a lot of time browsing through their reviews and options, studying various dresses.  I’m actually a little embarrassed how many hours I spent on that site, but when you’re trying to figure out “Will this dress fit my curves?”, “Will this dress be too big or too small?” etc it does take some planning to figure it all out.

Well I narrowed it down to 5 dresses that I liked.  ALL of them ended up being rented out already and so I was not able to get them. I was rather disappointed.  So I ended up choosing a dress that was definitely not my first choice – it was a very long sequin gown in a forest green color.

Well it arrived and looked pretty awful on me. I felt matronly and unattractive, and even with heels and trying to accessorize it, I just was not happy. And when you’re getting red carpet photos taken and possibly going to be up in front of an audience – the last thing you want to worry about is your dress. You want to feel beautiful and confident!

So at the very last minute, I called Rent the Runway and explained that the dress wasn’t going to work for me and I asked if I could send it back and exchange it for a different one.  There was this black dress by designer Monique Luhlierre (the one I ended up wearing) that I was originally interested in but they didn’t have it in my size.  But they did have it in a larger size, and I thought I would just take a chance and order it in the larger size anyway.

They rush-shipped it and it arrived in LA just in time for the awards, however, it was WAY way way too big on me. Like 4 sizes too big on me.  So right before the awards show that night, Becky was literally safety-pinning me into that dress and pinching/gathering it up as tight as she could.  She also tied a big black sash around the waist and pulled that sucker in as tight as it would go.

Fortunately it had a flared skirt and so the fit from waist down was fine.  But the bodice (upper portion) was a bit of an oversized mess, and because of that I had to adjust it quite a lot throughout the evening and make sure that I was always standing for pictures in a way that hid certain things, or helped my waist look smaller.

In our Uber Taxi SUV on the way to the Grammy Museum…

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Funny enough though, I ended up getting LOADS and loads of compliments on the dress that evening.  So that did make me feel much better…

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Bathroom mirror check halfway through the awards…

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Annnnnnd blurry selfie with Prince…

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You guys. The awards were LONG and I needed to get up and walk around a bit before my categories.

And of course, I had to get my girl Adele into the shot as well…

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Okay! So back to the awards now. I did eventually go back inside.  Here is a snapshot of my friend Greg Ryan, whom I was sitting next to, with a very “deer in the headlights” type of look…probably because neither of us knew my flash was on. Whoops.

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Greg ended up winning LOADS of awards that night – which I was very happy for him, since he is also a fellow pianist/composer in the same genre. He flew all the way over from England for this, and he gave quite entertaining award acceptance speeches which I quite enjoyed. 🙂

Annnnd my girl Viktoria Tocca also took home a LOAD of awards as well.  I lost track, she won a LOT. Because she is awesome like that. 🙂 (unfortunately she was touring and wasn’t able to be there in person this year though ).

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My loot for the night…

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And some photos of me accepting the awards…

If you really want to know how I felt the absolutely stupidest that evening, was when I failed to acknowledge BRIAN during all 3 of my blasted acceptance speeches!  (Music Video of the Year, Best Classical Music Video (over $5K), and Best LIVE Classical Performance.

Not only am I an idiot when I get up and have to accept an award, but my mind goes blank and I forget to thank all the wonderful people who contributed.  I was thinking “Ok video award, so I’ll thank Ryan and Alex because they directed and edited it, and yes I’ll thank my husband and children”, etc….and then I’d sit down right next to Brian and say “CRAP!!!”.

3 times people.

So right now, I’m having a redo.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank my AMAZING sound engineer/mixer Brian Vibberts, whom, without him this album would not have sounded half as amazing as it did.  Thank you Brian.

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I made up for it though be letting him hold my awards for red carpet photos. 🙂 I’m KIDDING!  I totally wanted him to.

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And then here is Ryan, Alex, and I…

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And here is Greg and I again at the end of the night…

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ANYWAY.

We caught our Uber ride back home, ordered pizza, and I personally put my pajamas on and once again finished my 2nd set of leftovers from Aroma Cafe (YUM) around midnight-ish. We all celebrated our wins for “Alleluia” (my music video that won two awards), and then called it a night.

Day 4 – Heading back to Seattle

The next morning I was up and off to the airport…with bedhead and leftover awards show makeup. Because I’m lazy like that.

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And SPEAKING of #airportbathroomselfies, we terribly missed Glen Gabriel this time. He lives in Sweden but he also obviously played a huge role in Winter Symphony and it would have been so fun to have him at the IMC Awards.  BUT hopefully we’ll be seeing him in LA this November for the HMMA Awards because…

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More airport, uh, stuff…

And then back home…

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Yes, on order to get home I travel by taxi, then plane, then car, then boat, and then car again. 🙂

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One of my friends from home commented that she enjoyed seeing my FB updates while I was in LA, and asked me if I felt like I lead a “double life”.  Because, you know, picture me usually at home in my yoga pants and a top knot and that is the real me.

I will say that having these special music events to go to always makes me feel inspired to be a better musician. I love being around other creative people and seeing them work hard as well.  It definitely inspires me.

AND I always come home a better mother as well – having a few days break to be a kidless adult does wonders for my mommy heart. I always come home more ready than ever to love them and give them my attention. 🙂 My hubby as well. 🙂

Until next time…

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A Quick Q&A with Jennifer Thomas

Just a quick Q&A with some questions I have been asked before and/or recently.

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Tell us about your newest album:

WS - v3 Square“Winter Symphony” is my most recent album – it was released November 20th, 2015 – so just a few short months ago.  Typically with a new album, I’d be busy promoting it constantly after it’s release – but since this was a Christmas album I can’t really talk about it much until it gets nearer into the holidays again this year.

It’s a bit weird actually – to have worked so hard on a new album and then not get to talk or promote it except for the 6 weeks of Christmas music season between the U.S.’s Thanksgiving and New Years. It’s like you had a baby but can’t show anyone for a while.

At any rate though – it’s a wonderful album that I’m extremely proud of.  With every new project – I try to make it better than the last.  So a lot of hard work went into this album. 🙂 It is my signature cinematic/symphonic piano music, this time featuring The Ensign Chorus (recorded at St. Edwards Cathedral at Bastyr University), with orchestra and soloists.

What’s your favorite work at this point in time?

B008KW9V1OsmallI’m very proud of my 3rd album “Illumination” still.  It was a 4 year labor of love. In particular from that album, I really love “Etude For the Dreamer” because it’s very fast and fun to play, but I also love “Eventide” which is slow and dream-like.  I often play Eventide at night after my children have gone to bed and I am just wanting to wind down at the piano.

What, or who, inspires you?  

I am inspired by success stories – whether it be empowered women, weightloss transformations, healing, or anything positive.  I always feel very motivated about life in general when I see people accomplishing big feats like that; it makes me feel like anything is possible if you try hard enough.

When it comes to music though – to be honest I’m very inspired by the music that I love the most.  When I listen to my favorite composers, it fills me with such drive and passion towards music and creativity that I just want to go to my piano and write new work.  I’m also very inspired by the beautiful outdoors, especially the ocean and the beach.  I’m sure you can hear that a lot in my work given certain song titles.

Which song do you wish you wrote?

hqdefaultThat’s easy.  “Time” by Hans Zimmer from the Inception movie score.  It’s perfect in every way – from the chord progressions, the way it starts softly but builds and builds until it reaches epic proportions.  Yes I wish I wrote it.  It’s genius. It is so simple, yet so larger-than-life at the same time.

How would you describe your sound in movie genre form?

Probably either Historic Drama or Epic, if that is even a film genre.  At least those are the images in my mind a lot when I write music.  Everything I write tends to build up to a big swell or epic emotional climax in the song – even on the ones where I try to tone it down a bit.  I can’t not have that in it.

f3f7cf5399f02e7808658a92b1732d9cExcuse me while I nerd out for a second, but it’s sort of like the movie “Sense and Sensibility” where a lot of it is really pretty, but there is that scene when you think it’s Willoughby carrying Marianne home through the rain, but then you realize it’s actually Colonel Brandon and he is this amazing hero figure now and you can’t help but swell with romantic notions and feelings and pride.  THAT swell of emotions you experience is how I think of music when I write.

How do you compose music?  Do you write it out, memorize, use software, or…?

I’m really old-school when it comes to composing. I hand-write everything out on composition paper. I have dozens of composition books that I leave laying around – some containing various albums all in one, others just random works.  I leave them near the piano with a pencil and a sharpener and I write in them when I feel inspired with something.  Or even just sketches of ideas.

This past year, my thing has been writing down any descriptive words that come to my mind when I start a new song. This helps me later as I figure out a title.

After a song is finished, I’ll record it and then eventually transcribe it into Finale for sheet music.  Oh, and one big reason I do it this way is because I’m really not great at memorizing new songs I write. I write them down so I won’t forget them, and then when it comes time to perform them publicly I usually have to re-learn and memorize at that point.  I also feel that I can write more technically challenging music with this method because it allows me to really dig into certain passages of the music and tweak things – which I can’t necessarily do live or on impromptu.

How do you find time to do music and be a mom?

12768307_10153603513813425_4509925277828146166_oThis is a great question – if you figure out the answer please let me know. 🙂

I think the key is just trying to not do it ALL at once.  I can either be an awesome mom, or an amazing musician – but not typically simultaneously.  Fortunately I’m lucky to have a husband who is very supportive of my music career and he helps out a LOT.  If I am working on music projects, he is the one taking care of the children and doing the stay-at-home-Dad thing.  But like right now, he is busy working on our 2nd home remodeling, and so I’m currently doing the full-time mom thing while he works, and so composing new music is not really happening much right now.

10358991_10152206405203425_4520012190882494127_oI honestly don’t know how I could be doing what I do with my music if I didn’t have my husband.  There was a time, not too long ago, when he had a great position with Microsoft – but he was also hardly ever home. He would sometimes work 60 or 70 hours a week. I’d wake up at 3am to find him on his laptop stressing out over trying to finish a report that needed to be done by 7am that morning.  And if I had music to work on, I would either have to stay up through the night while everyone was sleeping, or hire babysitters (which got very expensive).

12928191_10153682559418425_1534486033198862920_nFortunately though, my music career has reached a point where it supports our family all on its own. It was a no-brainer that Will would quit his MS job and support me in my music.  The stress and lifestyle we had while he was working a corporate job was not something we enjoyed.  But now we get to be together all day everyday, and the boys get to actually have a Dad around while they are growing up instead of just 2 hours in the evenings every night (like previously).  We’re almost 2 years into this new lifestyle of making my music the “main gig” around here, and we love it.  But seriously, if Will wasn’t around, I definitely wouldn’t be being able to do the mom and musician thing as well as I do. I’m very grateful.

What’s next for you?
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I just finished a very very busy concert season and album release which all came to an abrupt stop January 1st (refer to question #1), and since then I have been laying low and playing the mom role at home while my husband finishes work on our other home soon to be put on the market.  Many have asked me if I’m booking concerts or what my next album is going to be  -but I really needed the break after I finished Winter Symphony – both physically and mentally.

But aside from currently being lazy (actually being a full time mom is anything BUT lazy), by the end of the year if things come together in time, I hope to make a couple more music videos for “Winter Symphony”, travel around for award shows (the nominations are coming in which is great), work on a couple of collaborations, as well as scoring a short film.

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But all of that is just sort of up-in-the-air in terms of when. When it happens it happens and I am putting no pressure on myself with deadlines this year. I’m also working on some health goals (finally losing my pregnancy weight as my “baby” just turned 2 years old, and this is the first time in 2 years I’ve had the time and motivation to dedicate to it), I  also need the downtime to grow and create new music, and part of that is experiencing “life” in between projects so I can be inspired with new material and ideas. I guess that is the advantage of being my own boss – I can continue on with music or just take a break for a while if I choose to. 🙂 I’m grateful to have such loyal fans that keep assuring me that they will still be here when I DO put out the next big project. Until then…

Where can we keep up/follow you?

youtubeI tend to post pretty regularly on my Facebook Fan page, but if you want to see a more personal side to me you can follow me on Instagram (@jenniferthomas623).  It’s a mixture of my music stuff, my kids, outdoor adventures, travelling, and more. I’m also on Twitter but admittedly I’m horribly at it – if I remember to check it once a day that is on a good day.  My teenage fans tell me I need to do Snapchat but I’m not on there quite yet (nor have I figured it out). Oh! And of course Youtube! Please subscribe to me there – I post my music videos there, and also my vlogs. 🙂

 

 

My Latest Creation: 9 Months in the Making!

I’ve been wanting to share with you guys about my latest creation for a while now. And while I’ve given you little peeks and snippets on my Facebook page, it’s only now that I’m finally sitting down to write a blog post about the birth of my 3rd baby – Riley Finn Thomas.

Riley was born on March 16th – weighing 7 pounds, 6 ounces.

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Many of you know over the past 9 months I have been working quite hard on this beautiful creation added to “Team Thomas”. 🙂 I did do a few concerts in my 1st and 2nd trimesters…

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(Performing with Grammy nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker at Benaroya Hall in Seattle – 5 months pregnant)

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(After performing at the Arlington Nativity Festival – 6 months pregnant – with my Grandma and mother)

…But after my 6th month I decided to take a hiatus from music, as it was increasingly difficult to reach the piano keys and sit at a piano bench with no back support.  And I was just tired. And busy. And pregnant. And I had 2 other kids. I needed a break. So I got to enjoy my 3rd trimester just being pregnant.

Riley is our 3rd boy. Yes BOY.  We do have 3 boys now – and they ALL have red hair.

140324_DSC1824 (My 3 boys – ages 4 weeks, 3 years, and 5 years –  with my Mom, Carolyn Southworth)

Sometimes I am convinced that this is to be my life, LOL:

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Riley’s Birth Story: I am not one of those women who has been blessed with wonderfully easy pregnancies and deliveries. On the contrary, I have had my fair share of cruddy stuff happen to me with each one – from dislocated ribs, pre-eclampsia, pancreatitis, gall bladder removal, weightgain and more. BUT I have been incredibly blessed with 3 healthy beautiful babies.  Each time they were born, tears filled my eyes with love and gratefulness for their tiny little spirits and healthy bodies coming into our lives. My first two boys (born 2008 and 2010), I labored 20+ hours with each of them and ended up having Csections both times.  I tried my hardest to avoid having major surgery, but apparently my body wasn’t built to accomodate childbirth the “normal” way.

Knowing that we were having a 3rd baby, the decision this time was easy to go ahead and just schedule a Csection and avoid having to go through labor all over again. So it’s safe to say that the birth of Riley was much different than the first two.  We had it scheduled on the calendar, had our boys scheduled to stay with Grandma and Grandpa, bags packed and everything.  I have to say it was pretty nice knowing that I knew the day and time when this baby would come, and so I didn’t have to worry about anxiety over when it would happen.

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(A few days before baby came – around 39 weeks pregnant, feeling a bit huge and uncomfortable!)

These next few are from my maternity photo shoot (Photos by Will Thomas)

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On the morning of the 16th, we got up around 4:30 a.m. in order to be at the hospital by 5:30 a.m.  Because of a planned Csection, I was required to fast the night before (no food or drink), and I think because of this it made me start having contractions that morning because I was so incredibly dehydrated.  On the way to the hospital they were about 5 minutes apart and pretty painful.

Once we got to the hospital, they got me checked in, into a hospital gown and after many attempts to get an IV in me (it took 4 different nurses), I finally got some fluids and the contractions died down.  For those of you unfamiliar with how Csections work, it is kind of dangerous to go into labor after already having had 2 Csections because of the amount of scar tissue in that area – there is a possibility of rupturing which is very dangerous for both mom and baby.

I like to refer to this as the “Stay puff marshmallow hospital gown”

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They monitored the baby and I for about 2 hours and then finally we went into the operating room for the delivery of the baby!  It took almost 45 minutes for the anesthesiologist to get the spinal block into my spine and it HURT. Oh wow it hurt.  But once they got it in, I started to feel very numb from the chest down to my feet.  It is like a weird creepy crawly feeling that takes over your body. Kind of a weird feeling.  I wanted to throw up, I won’t lie. Even though they gave me anti-nausea medicine I wanted to throw up. Thankfully my anesthesiologist was on top of things and put some kind of wonder drug into my IV that calmed me right down.

These are the baby stations – so fun to look over and see them knowing that very soon a new life will be in them!

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Both my OB and an assisting OB worked on the surgery/delivery…

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Me trying to stay calm even though I felt like throwing up… 

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And around 8:23 a.m., the most adorable little Riley was welcomed into the world.

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It took another 45 – 60 minutes for the doctors to sew me up, and during that time I got to hold this precious new baby on my chest – which is not the normal procedure for Csections. Normally with our other two sons, they handed the baby to my husband and he held them while I got sewn up.  But this time it was very very special that I got to hold him and snuggle with him first. Very special.

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  We stayed in the hospital for 2.5 days.  Csection recoveries are not for wimps!  But amazingly enough the nurses and doctors know what they are doing and were there to help me every step of the way. About 12 hours after delivery they had me up and out of my bed walking around in our room.  Very painful – yes I wanted to die of pain – but each time it got better and better. And of course I had my amazing husband there to help – I couldn’t have done this without him!  Csection recovery is simply not something a mommy can do alone, so he was there to change ALL the diapers, hand me the baby for feedings, get me ice water, food, and whatever I needed.

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We had some special visitors while we were there as well…

(My Dad with Riley)

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(My 3 year old, Taylor, with Riley and I)

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(My Dad with my 5 year old, Preston, and Riley)

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(Not my favorite photo, I’m a bit swollen from surgery, but here is our first family picture together – all 5 of us!)

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Since Riley has joined our family, I have just absolutely been enjoying EVERY single moment of snuggles with him.  He has been the sweetest easy baby, and I am so in love…

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He is now almost 5 weeks old (as I type this on April 18th).  It took me a good 3 and 1/2 weeks of downtime and recovery to be mostly pain free.  I am still taking it easy until week 6, when my doctor will clear me to go back to the gym. But I know from past experience I need to take it easy or I pay for it later.  So we’ve just been enjoying a lot of snuggles…

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Riley is our last baby and so I don’t want to miss any moments with him. I have just been feeling so grateful for the miracle that he is – there was so much about my pregnancy and his delivery (some complications) that in the end made everything so incredibly miraculous and a bit too personal to share here, but I will tell you that I can’t be anything but humbled and in complete awe of him. I’m also amazed at what my body did.  I feel so incredibly blessed.

I feel so lucky to have my wonderful family – my husband and my 3 boys.  They have been so supportive of me not only with my music career, but as a wife and mommy.  My heart has been so full of joy.  Family is so important and so wonderful – I hope any of you out there who have been thinking about having a family to go for it.  It is one of the most rewarding things you can ever do or accomplish in this life. I’ll leave you with a few photos from Riley’s newborn photo shoot – taken when he was 2 weeks old. (photos by my husband – Will Thomas).

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The Art of Attaining Your Goals

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Last Sunday, I was asked by the teacher in the women’s organization at my church if I would take a few minutes during her lesson and share about a goal I had achieved, how I did it, what obstacles I faced along the way, how overcame, and felt, etc.  Her lesson was on bettering ourselves in the new year and setting goals.

Goal setting is something I am very passionate about.  I’ve set goals since I was a child, and have always set my sights high.  I have always had this natural faith that I could do whatever I set my mind to.

Mind you, I don’t always accomplish every single goal that I set, but I try very hard and my ambition is great.  And when I set out to do something, I am one the most determined persons you will ever meet.

I thought I would share some of my thoughts that I shared in church, in hopes that it might help any of you.

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Goals are NOT crap.

I recently read a blog post where the author talked about resolutions and “how they are crap”.  She believed that instead of setting goals, failing, and then feeling discouraged – that you should just leave your life up to God and allow him to decide what comes for you.  As I read the comments on the blog post, it seemed like everyone was praising the author and saying how much better this made them feel instead of setting goals.  And then there was one commenter who had the guts to say what I felt inside – that life was about bettering oneself, reaching for something higher and not allowing oneself to be complacent. Of course, the other people attacked him a bit for having a difference of opinion and having the audacity to say so.

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Some people will argue that resolutions and different than goals, but to me they are the same.  It’s saying that you want to accomplish something and are willing to work towards it.

Maybe resolutions/goals are overwhelming to some people because they really do feel like they fail, and fail often.  I personally don’t think it’s because their goal was unattainable, but it was probably because a) they weren’t ready to commit, and b) they didn’t set themselves up for success.

As I think back over my life and the various goals I’ve set/accomplished, there are a few that really stand out to me.

Goal #1 – Finishing ‘Illumination’

It took me 4 long years to complete my 3rd album “Illumination”.

I started writing the songs in between other projects until I had enough songs and the kind of songs I wanted for this album.  Some of the songs took me over a year to finish composing. My skills as a composer developed immensely during the process, and the diversity of the music on the album reflects that as well.

During those 4 years, I had a child, finished a film score, started and completed a 2nd album, got pregnant again, and gave birth to our 2nd child, worked and completed the 3rd album. So not only was I busy working on music, but I was busy growing our family and both took a lot of time and effort and energy.

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Many people asked me “How do you do it??”.

It did take a lot of time management and goal-setting to complete, and even got to a point where I made myself write out goals and deadlines, otherwise I feared I would never finish the album.

(Here is a blog post I wrote as a guest columnist for author Alex Bledsoe, on the act of balancing parenting and career).

Monthly Goals and Deadlines

One thing I did was I set monthly goals with specific dates of when I wanted to accomplish certain things by.

This is a screenshot from the ACTUAL goal sheet that I made and had pinned to the wall in my music studio.  As I was still trying to lose all my pregnancy weight, you will also see that I had some weightloss goals defined on there as well – as I was preparing for photo shoots and videos and wanted to look my best.  I was working hard on all levels, I tell ya!

You can click to enlarge if needed.

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Another thing that I did was create a spreadsheet for each process of the album creation so that I always knew where I was at with each song and what I had left to do.

On the left you will the name of each song (some names changed later on, btw).  And then a space to check off everything from recording, editing, orchestration, mixing, mastering, naming the song, and more.  (To clarify Glen co-orchestrated some of the music, and Rob was my sound engineer).

Click to enlarge

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That spreadsheet was so crucial to me. And I was VERY adamant about not checking anything off until it was absolutely 100% completed.  So it always felt great when I could put a check mark in any of the boxes.

Setting Myself Up for Success

One thing you need to keep in mind is in order to accomplish a goal, you need to arrange your everyday life so that you make it possible to attain. You need to set yourself up for success.

My husband works a busy day job for Microsoft, and since we have two kids (now as of Jan 2014, one more on the way – due in March), we had to figure out a system in our home where we could juggle parenting responsibilities, work, and more.

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Fortunately, I married a guy who has ALWAYS, always been my hugest fan and supporter.  He would move mountains to help me accomplish my dreams.

We created a weekly schedule where 3 days a week he came home early from work and took over everything. I mean EVERYTHING.  When he walked in the door, I was ready to hand the kids over to him and go into my music studio and shut the door.  And I was typically in my studio until the wee hours of the early morning trying to get things done.

There were days when I needed more time, and so I would hire a babysitter to watch my kids all day, or take them up to my parents’ house so that I could have a few solid days of uninterrupted work-time.

I Was Kind to Myself

My original goal was to finish my album by June 0f 2012, but I know that things usually always take longer than you think. So when little hiccups came up, I wasn’t hard on myself or disappointed, I just kept moving forward.

Many people tend to give up when they fail, or say “What’s the use?”.  Thing thing is, is that LIFE HAPPENS.  Illnesses happen.  People you depend on fail you.  Money can be tight.  Other responsibilities come up.  The key is to not give up and keep going. I know that sounds so cliche, but it’s true!  Nobody is going to do it for you. You have to believe in yourself.

I completed the album only 6 weeks behind schedule and released it in the latter half of July 2012.

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So the biggest ways I was able to accomplish the goal of finishing that album was

1) Setting monthly detailed goals and deadlines
2) Setting myself up for success by arranging my life to make my goal possible
and 3) Being kind to myself in the process.

Goal #2 – Fitness and Weight loss

This isn’t a topic I usually talk about publicly because it has nothing to do with my music, but since you obviously now know it was part of my goals (from my goal sheet I attached above), I wanted to talk a little bit about this goal and how I worked EXTREMELY hard towards it and achieved it.

603315_10151233773213425_1842082860_nHaving kids does some crazy things to your body. I will say that.

Both of my pregnancies were really hard on my body and I gained more weight than I would have liked.  I seemed to have anything and everything go wrong with me – from several dislocated ribs, hip problems, pancreatitis, pre-eclampsia, and emergency C-sections both times.  Exercising during my pregnancies was hard.

After I had our 2nd son in Aug of 2010, I will tell you that I was very self-conscious of my body and how I looked.

I actually turned down performance opportunities because I was too embarrassed to go on stage and have people judge me for how I looked.  And granted, I have the best fans and supporters in the world and most of them are there for the music and not for what I look like, but still, in MY mind, I just didn’t have the self-esteem and courage to do it.

So for a good year or more, I really didn’t perform very much. I was still busy working on music in my studio, and commissioned projects, but just too self-conscious to get up on stage.

As I got closer to releasing “Illumination”, I knew I wanted to be in better shape so that I would look good in my photos and feel more confident.

At my “Illumination” Photo Shoot – Paramount Theater, Seattle, WA – May 2012

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Even at my photo shoot for my album (pictured above), I wasn’t at my goal weight but was still proud of where I was at that point.

It took me close to 3 and 1/2 years to lose all the weight I had gained from both pregnancies. From 2010 (after I had our 2nd baby) to summer of 2013, I lost a total of 70 pounds – which actually put me UNDER my pre-pregnancy weight.

The following photo is a progression of me in 2010 (after the birth of Taylor), and finally on the right in 2013 when I filmed the outdoor scenes for my Illumination music video.

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I will say that THIS goal was not as straight-forward as my goal for finishing my album.  I am very good at disciplining myself to work on music, but not always great at disciplining myself with my body (which is why it took me over 3 years to lose the weight).

But there came a point in Feb of 2013 when I was tired of losing a little, gaining a few back, losing a little, gaining a few back.

I wanted to reach my goal and I was finally in a motivated frame of mind where I wanted to kick some butt and just get it done!

A few things I did to accomplish my goals were:

1) I hired a personal trainer
2) I set myself up for success by re-arranging my daily schedule so I could go to the gym 6 days a week
3) I got my family’s support with my food goals

Each of those things were very involved with many variables.

1040700_10151565003563425_246904629_oFor example, I hired a trainer because I needed accountability and I was at a point where I felt like I had done everything I could myself and needed outside help.

The trainer (Monica Lynne) I hired was also a life coach and nutritional coach, and so we had many hours of wonderful talks that provided insight into my soul as to the reasons behind why I did certain things.  For the first time in a long time, I was overcoming issues I had and reaching goals that I really wasn’t sure I ever would.

It was the BEST feeling to know I was capable of achieving this goal and could overcome trials.

As for setting myself up for success, this involved making my gym time a priority – even over friendships sometimes and other things that were fun.  I had a rule that the mornings were “my time” at the gym, and I would say no to anything else that got in the way.

It wasn’t easy, at first when I would tell people “Sorry I can’t, I have to go to the gym.”, they didn’t really see that as a valid excuse to get out of something. So I stopped saying that I was going to gym, but just instead said I had a standing appointment every morning and that I was “unavailable”.

My gym has a daycare too that my boys absolutely LOVED to go to, and so I didn’t feel guilty for having the “me time”, because they were also having a lot of fun, meeting new friends, and being social.

1234964_10151680335663425_1868392960_nMy husband was also very supportive by making sure I had my gym time, sometimes re-arranging his schedule in case I needed to go to the gym in the evenings, and also Saturday mornings.

My husband is an ultra-marathon runner and his big training runs are usually on Saturday mornings.  As crazy as this sounds, he would usually get up around 4 a.m. and go on his 4 to 5 hour trail run, and when he got back we would switch and I would go to the gym.

I got my family’s support with food goals, and this was not easy.

With an ultra-marathoner who loves his carbs, and 2 little boys who are picky eaters (can we say chicken nuggets and mac ‘n’ cheese?), we often rarely all ate the same thing at dinner time.  And everyone was okay with this.  I would eat my lean protien and veggies, while they ate their carby stuff and proteins.

I also didn’t bake as much, or bring sweets into the house as often, and got very good at saying no to things.

I was very motivated by the success I was having, and how fit and wonderful I felt.  Some people who say getting in shape is a vain endeavor obviously don’t know how great it feels compared to having extra pounds on you.  I LOVED being able to hike up mountains and not be out of breathe, to fit into my dresses with ease, and to be on stage performing and feel confident.

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Shortly after that last photo was taken in July of 2013, I found out we were pregnant with baby #3!

So I am going to be starting the process ALL OVER AGAIN come March. 🙂  This time though, I have still been able to work out at the gym through this entire pregnancy. I am currently 30 weeks along and still doing cardio and weight training 3 to 4 days per week.

To Sum It Up…

My point to all of this is YOU CAN ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS.

It’s not always easy, it’s not always fast, but it IS POSSIBLE.

Goals are not crap!

If I can do this with 2.75 children, husband, busy music career, and everything else, YOU can definitely accomplish your dreams too.

I want to leave you with a neat story about world renowned concert violinist Isaac Stern.   A real hero of mine…

(Story retold by Rex D. Pinegar)

stern1“Isaac Stern, the world-famous musician-violinist, was asked by a television talk show host at what point in his life he determined to devote his energies toward a career as a concert violinist. Mr. Stern told of having given his first concert in San Francisco at a young age. Music critics were extremely impressed and predicted a fine future for the promising young talent. With this encouragement, Isaac Stern began preparations for another concert a year later in New York City. The critics were not so kind to him there. It would require a tremendous amount of work, they judged, if Isaac Stern were to achieve success as a soloist.
Dejected and discouraged, the young Mr. Stern boarded one of New York City’s double-decker buses and rode it up and down Manhattan a number of times. He was, in his words, “crying inside” as he tried to decide where he was going from there. Were his critics correct? Had he gone as far as he was capable of going? Should he now seek a profession as just another member of an orchestra?
After his fourth bus ride through the city, he returned to his apartment where his mother was waiting. He had made his decision. “I am going to work, mother—work at my music until it works for me. Today Isaac Stern is acclaimed as one of the finest violinists in the world. Work is a principle with a blessing. Work builds us physically and spiritually. It increases both our strength of body and our strength of character.” (Isaac sterned passed away in 2001).