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Today I choose Freedom


The word “freedom” is a loaded term.  In America, it evokes images of everything from the first day of summer vacation to the slaves being freed after the Civil War, and everything in between.

Since you and I have never lived under the helpless, hopeless, demeaning, overwhelming burden of slavery, we might not ever truly appreciate the experience of exquisite, life-giving, unhindered freedom. I would like to share with you a taste of what it meant to one who knew it first-hand.

A few weeks ago, researching the song All NIght, All Day for the upcoming book & CD, America, I happened upon an account of Josiah Hanson, a slave from the day he was born in 1789, until his escape to Canada in 1830. There was a vivid description of slavery—the real kind, being owned by some other person—which not only inflicted tremendous damage on this young man but continued to hinder him after he escaped to freedom.  His words indicate that, as an older man, he became more and more aware of the mountainous obstacles he faced through the lack of an education. (To read his story, click here.)

It made me think of a quote from Lois LeBar's classic, Education That Is Christian, words spoken by Daniel L. Marsh, president of Boston University in the early 1900s.
"Education should make us live life with zest, with gusto, with exuberance.
But so much that passes for education takes away the wonder of life, and
puts us in deadly peril of things named and classified. So much that
passes for education is only the smoke of a futile fire. . ."

That is true freedom, friends! Not enslaved by what "passes for education," we can, instead, be prepared through learning to thrive in whatever careers and service we find.

Today, I choose to walk in the amazing freedom of a life filled with zest, gusto and exuberance.  How about you?


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Today I Choose to Embark

Image-1-10You know, I love reading about the courageous adventures of pioneers who crossed rugged mountains, forded torrential rivers, and made it through dangers and trials all the way to their new homes–people like Sweet Betsy From Pike . .

I love reading about them from the comfort of a plush sofa, with Starbucks' cappuccino providing the energy to turn the page.

It is a different experience to be the one embarking on the adventure.

Let's see. Crossing the Great American desert in a covered wagon?

Okay. That means walking 2,000 miles. . . in 6 months.

Then, there's the small matter of eating food without the benefit of grocery stores, restaurants, or fast food joints. Hmmm.

Suddenly, embarking sounds like a lot of work. Without the comfort of guarantees, embarking means facing dangers, having adventures, and, occasionally glimpsing spectacular vistas unseen by those unwilling to take the journey.

But, all romantic ideas of glorious vistas aside, the point of embarking, at least for pioneers like Betsy, the folk-song heroine, was to get there. In her case, the hope for better opportunities made embarking worth the risk.

So, what is important enough to get us off the couch and into the adventure?

___ Better parenting?

___ Better education?

___ Better finances?

___ Better career?

___ Better health?

___ Better _______ ?

My choice today is to embark on the journey–leave where I sit to go where abundant life awaits. New freedom, better opportunities, great life!

What about you?

photo-8Part of my own embarking on a new journey is to bring back into print the tremendously fun products, America, Westward Ho!, and Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Folk songs, like Sweet Betsy From Pike, will not only bring musical delight into your homes, they will also give you a front-row glimpse into American history.


Coming soon to Diana Waring Presents.  Stay tuned.

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Today I Choose to be Authentic

Today I choose to be authenticThere is something remarkably healthy about being yourself. Whether quiet or talkative, constantly moving or peacefully still, seriously studious or spontaneously fun-loving–being the unique person you are adds a vital richness to those around you. You can bring to the world an authenticity that is recognizable — and wholly your own.

Think about this from a musical standpoint. If bagpipes play, what country do you think of? Or, if you hear a twangy banjo, what region of America does that represent? I don't know about you, but I never get those mixed up! Bagpipes ALWAYS speak Scottish, don't they?

So, today, I would like to consider a popular American composer of the mid-1800s, Stephen Foster, because his unique sound exemplifies this. Foster grew up near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, where many of the workers were immigrants from various cultures, with their own unique music and sounds. As Foster was exposed to the melodies of Italy, Scotland, England, Germany, and Ireland–along with the spirituals of African slaves–it inspired him to write his own melodies, ones that reflected his unique approach to music, ones that remain recognizably, authentically, Stephen Foster songs.

What happens when you and I are free to be fully and authentically ourselves? Where we do not have to fit into cookie cutter molds? I believe that it sets others free, inspiring them to be authentic, as well. Just like a toe-tapping, guitar-strumming rendition of Oh! Susanna gathers a crowd of smiling folks, being authentic—being you—is contagious!


Coming soon from Diana Waring Presents:  Experience History Through Music series! 

America: Heart of a New Nation

Westward Ho: Heart of the Old West

Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Today I choose HOW to not be a mule


4 mph.

That was about how fast the mules and horses, harnessed to barges, moved people and goods along the canal.  I once had a friend tell me old family stories about moving to the far west — Ohio! — by means of the Erie Canal.  He described how his great-grand-relatives used to step off the slow moving packet boat to pick a few ripening apples from a neighboring tree, before stepping back on.  It is hard to imagine the leisured pace of these mules, who were changing the nation.  Without mule- (and horse-) powered canal boats, America's development would have slowed drastically.

With gratitude to these beasts of burden, let me respectfully say again: being a mule is great, if you happen to be a mule.

We, however, are people.  Unlike mules, we were not designed as beasts of burden, to plod along the same tired paths year after year.  We were not designed to be driven, harnessed to a never-ending load, nor hindered from creative imagining and freedom to choose.

It was not mules that envisioned an Erie Canal, nor surveyed the land for the best route.  It was not mules who designed the canal, nor constructed it. It was not mules who dreamed of a new life, staking their fortunes on a several hundred-mile move to the west to establish a farm or mill or export company.  

People did that.  

As people, we were designed to choose.  We can choose to be strong, not stubborn. We  can choose to envision, to create, to try, and to build. We do not need to mindlessly plod the same paths over and over again, harnessed like a beast of burden.

Today, I choose HOW to not be a mule.  I am going to dream, create, and try new things.  How about you?

For more, read the story and hear the song in chapter 3 of America: The Heart of a New Nation, one of the new titles in Experience History Through Music series by Diana Waring Presents.


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Today I choose to NOT be a mule

Erie Canal

When you hear, "mule," what is the first word that comes to mind?

For me, the word is "stubborn."  Mules are linked in my mind to an ornery stubbornness that is proverbial.  How often, growing up, did I hear, "You're as stubborn as a mule, Diana!!" And it was not meant to be a compliment.

It was with some surprise, many years ago, that I first connected the words of the historic American folksong, "Erie Canal" to something positive about mules.



I've got a mule, her name is Sal,
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.
She's a good ole neighbor and a good ole pal,
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.

Historically, being a mule was great, if you happened to be a mule.  They were highly prized for their enormous strength, and were often the beast of choice when moving wagons or pulling barges from here to there in days of yore, prior to railroads and trucks.

This was seen clearly in New York's Erie Canal, a technological marvel of the 1800s, which took ten years to build. Forty-foot wide, four-foot deep, the canal began at Albany, on the Hudson River, and continued all the way to Buffalo, at the eastern edge of Lake Erie.  Designed to easily transport goods and people, this waterway would dramatically alter the westward expansion to such far-off frontiers we know today as Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. In a sense, mules changed America.

It turns out that having a mule can be a great thing.  Being a mule, if you are a human being, is a different matter altogether.

Today, I choose to be me, not a mule.  That means I can choose my attitudes and actions: strong, yes, stubborn, no.  How about you?

For more fun in history, read the story and hear the song in chapter 3 of America: The Heart of a New Nation, one of the new titles in the Experience History Through Music series by Diana Waring Presents.

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Today I choose HOW to Fly


As a nation, we have had many moments of inspiration beyond the writing of our national anthem.  What happens to your heart as you read these important words from U.S. history?

"Fourscore and seven years ago. . . "  Abraham Lincoln

"Ask not what you can do for your country. . ."  John F. Kennedy

"I have a dream. . . "  Martin Luther King, Jr.

"That's one small step for man. . ."  Neil Armstrong

Do they encourage your perseverance, move you towards service, motivate you towards compassion, rouse you to greater actions?

Powerful words, spoken during momentous times, affect people long after their initial utterance.

Obviously, words are often inspirational.  Let's face it, though.  Our words inspire far less than our deeds.  Sometimes, it seems like we think our multitude of words will be what inspires the next generation to live nobly, righteously, and justly.  But, have you ever noticed the daunting reality that, "Children learn more from what is caught than what is taught"?  That puts the greater impetus on our actions, lived out day-by-day.

Inspiration is a tricky thing, isn't it?  One does not wake up one morning and say, "Today I choose to inspire the world, or my community, or my children."   Inspiration does not work that way.  It is not a tool we can manipulate, like power or wealth.  Instead, it is more like a river that flows out of daily living—gaining momentum and strength as we choose to live each day with courage and compassion.

That is how we choose to FLY!


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Today I choose to FLY


Do you remember the story of Francis Scott Key writing our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner?  It is an amazing-but-true account of one patriot's inspiration in a time of struggle, as our nation was fighting a war that had suddenly turned a dangerous corner.  

With news that the British had just burned Washington D.C., the city of Baltimore was preparing for the onslaught of this determined foe.  And Fort McHenry stood as the lone obstacle between the British navy and Baltimore's harbor.

It was the perfect place for an enemy to topple.  Facing overwhelming bombardment, the outgunned Americans would have no choice but to surrender, and then the nation's third-largest city (of the time) would fall like a ripe apple into the hands of the British–who had recently won their decade-long battle against Napoleon.

Detained aboard a British ship, Francis Scott Key was the unwilling observer of the bombing of Fort McHenry. He watched anxiously through the night, pacing the deck, searching for any sign that the Americans had survived the attack. In the early morning, after twenty-five hours of non-stop shelling, he caught a brief glimpse of the flag still flying over the fort.  That sight–a visual confirmation of the breath-taking courage of the fort's defenders–was the never-to-be-forgotten inspiration for Key.  You know the rest.

In reading and rereading stirring accounts of men and women through the centuries who have faced insurmountable odds, it has struck me that most of these folks had no idea they were heroic. They simply kept going, not giving up, and in the process, became the inspiration for later generations.

So, here is today's thought:  Your life inspires others.  Despite your struggles (which may be epic!), others are watching to see if you still continue to fight the good fight. There are eyes upon you—perhaps little eyes that are learning lessons about life and how to live it—and your courage will be their life-long inspiration.

You matter.  Your courage shows.  And what it inspires in others is priceless.

Like our flag over Fort McHenry, show your mettle and fly!!

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Today I choose WHY to be a Doodle


Being free to be who you are is liberating. And it reflects the amazing creativity of the One who designed you.

It is easy to talk in generalities, isn't it?

Be yourself.
Embrace your identity.
Wear your uniqueness.

Big talk. But what does it mean? As you and I both know, being yourself can be a pretty scary proposition if you don't look exactly like everyone else in your circle. Especially if there are rules of conformity that push you into a cookie-cutter mold, shaping your looks, your behavior, your activities.

In 1755, when Yankee Doodle was written to express condescension of American colonists, the British military had rules and expectations. Some were necessary, like "Obey orders." Others were culturally derived, like precision marching and red coats (important in European wars, disastrous in the French & Indian War). The Americans, however, had a different culture. It wasn't "less than" the British, it was simply different. It fit the Americans, just as red coats fit the British.

So, bringing this home for today, let me tell you a story.

I like to talk.

That has been a problem for me much of my life, as the cultural expectation in the schools of my day was, "Be QUIET!" My report cards reflected this—I often received a "C" in conduct for talking too much.

When I was seventeen, an older woman looked at me as we were working together in the kitchen, and scathingly remarked, "Don't you EVER shut up????"

Despite the constant crushing disdain, the simple fact is that I was designed as a communicator.  And, when I stumbled into the joy of speaking before audiences (teaching gourmet cooking classes for a community program), it all suddenly made sense.

Just like American colonists who went to war in their homespun clothing, with their finely honed musket skills, I found satisfying success in simply being me.

As a speaker, I am a DOODLE. Though it did not fit certain group norms, it was who I am. . .who I am designed to be.

Now it's your turn. Despite the naysaying of those around you, what kind of a DOODLE are YOU?

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Today I choose HOW to be a doodle


Face it.  All of us will encounter disdain at some point in life, whether at home, church, school or work.   But, disdain need not define.

Being a DOODLE means that we accept who we are, embracing our strengths, even celebrating our uniqueness—just as those early Americans celebrated their victory in 1781 with Yankee Doodle!

This is a good lesson to learn early on.  So, for the children in your life, look for evidences of their unique strengths and then encourage them there.  It might look like a ten-year old chef spicing up Ramen Noodle soup with unidentifiable herbs, a budding musician picking out melodies on the piano when her feet can barely reach the floor, a basketball-playing teen who shoots (and makes!) rim shots on the garbage can with a tangerine. . .

Sometimes, when confronted with these marvelous talents, we have difficulty distinguishing genius-in-the-making from making a mess. That’s why we we’re talking.  By encouraging kids to discover their strengths, they will be better equipped to withstand disdain.

Today’s assignment:
Choose to be a DOODLE, then help the kids in your life learn how to be a DOODLE.


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Today I choose to be a DOODLE


When Yankee Doodle was originally penned, it expressed the arrogance of certain British officers who looked down their nose at the local-yokel colonists. These colonists had come to support them in the French and Indian War, but their informal dress, lack of polish, and ignorance of the rudiments of marching made them appear foolish to the British.

That happens today, too. In fact, I happen to have my very own DOODLE story. When I went to college as a vocal music major, I was assigned a voice teacher.  Sue was a classically trained soprano, delighted to display her prowess with operatic arias. When I walked in, as a long-haired, folk-singing hippie chick, she regarded me with a chilling haughtiness.  My attempts to sing classical music must have been a whole lot like the colonial militiamen trying to march in military step. . .not impressive. I will never forget when she said, with disdain, “Don’t quit your day job, Diana.”  It was a humiliating moment in my life.

The colonists knew what it was to be mocked by those who considered themselves superior. When it came to fighting in North America, though, what had seemed weakness turned out to be strength. With a gutsy humor, the Americans changed the words of Yankee Doodle in the early days of the Revolution. With wonderful irony, it was also played at the surrender of the British in 1781.

It became obvious I would never sing opera. But then, singing opera is not the only way to be a vocalist, is it? I joined three other musicians to create America: American history through folk music. Our homespun, toe-tapping approach to music is the very reason AMERICA is successful.

Many people have had a DOODLE experience—being told that they “couldn’t” accomplish something, but now excel in that field or another. What is your DOODLE experience?

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