Mistress of the Mix: Hang in There, Baby!

Ever have one of those months when life is just one swift kick in the seat of your pants after another?

I have to admit that right now, life is pretty good. For me. Except for one thing. I’ve been saddened lately by the overwhelming number of my friends that are experiencing problems. Huge problems. Medical. Heartbreak. Custody issues. Job loss. Disappointment. Grief. Financial setbacks. Bad juju is buzzing around like a mosquito hunting for a warm body right now, and I wish I could swat it into oblivion. Of course I can’t.

I can only be there, for my friends, with a sympathetic (sometimes more empathetic) ear. I can listen, I can bitch, I can suggest potential solutions, but there’s really nothing I can do to ease the worries and frustrations for any of my friends. I can’t make their troubles go away. And for many of them, what’s done is already done. The thing that rocked their world has already happened, and now all that’s left is the emotional pain. Finding a way to make that emotional pain and suffering go away and move forward is all they can do. And that can be a mighty difficult thing to accomplish.

It reminds me of a time back in the late ’80’s when I was going through a rough patch. I had just broken up with my college boyfriend of several years after realizing that all the love in the world I had to offer wasn’t as strong as the lure of something else that had come between us – drug addiction. And as long as I stayed with him, I was enabling him to continue, at my own emotional expense. So I finally walked out the door – on Christmas, no less – and he continued along his downward spiral. Now he’s a substance abuse counselor.

I was pretty depressed for a while after that, because I hate giving up on love. It seemed like not only had I lost this relationship, but other bad things were lining up to take a shot at me. Parking tickets. Car breaking down. Money problems. School problems. Roommate problems. I related to a co-worker that I felt like PigPen, with this big dark cloud following me around, raining crap on everything I touched. It seemed like every conversation I had, every situation I found myself in, was tinged with negativity. At some point I realized that other people were simply reacting to the permanent scowl I had on my face, but didn’t know how to turn things around. I felt like giving up.

Then one evening, music changed my entire attitude. I was hosting the late night jazz show at JPR at the time, and I came across this song that said everything I needed to hear. When I heard it, I realized that I did need to give up. I needed to give up the worries, the attitude, the fear and the negative thoughts that had been clouding my head. I needed to box up those worries and ship ’em off somewhere else. I played the song on the radio, and smiled for the first time in months. Had my first belly laugh since December. When that song was over, I was ready to move on. And I give all the credit to Mose Allison.

Years later, I found my job on the chopping block when Newt Gingrich launched a successful effort to snatch most of the federal funding away from public broadcasting. The staffing for the station I was at – the only source of daily local or regional news in the pre-internet era – was going to be cut from 13 to 3. Things got ugly as my co-workers began jockeying for the few jobs that would be left at the end of the month.

One day as I was going through the new releases I found a song that helped me realize I had the power within me to live through it – to hang tough – and find another career. I started the day feeling overwhelmed and crushed in spirit, and after playing that song I felt lifted and ready to hang tough. I asked to be pink slipped that very day, telling my boss that while radio was my passion, I was going to move on, start my own coffee house and have a baby. And that’s just what I did. (In fact, I gave birth to that amazing baby 14 years ago today. Happy birthday to the most amazing human being I have ever met and had the pleasure of knowing. I’m honored to be your mother, and to share in the credit of your development.)

To sum up: Music has a way of speaking directly to us from time to time. Forgive me as I unabashedly quote from almost every song on today’s playlist as I speak directly to you.

Friends, when life is getting you down, don’t worry about a thing because sometimes you can’t control your life (no matter how hard you try), and sometimes things just don’t turn out alright. Whattaya gonna do about it? You’re gonna suck it up. You’re gonna hang on. You’re gonna stand up. You’re not gonna back down. You’re gonna look on the bright side and you’re not gonna give up. You’re gonna survive, and you’re gonna hang tough. You’re gonna be OK. You’re gonna put on a happy face, dust yourself off, keep your head up, walk on the sunny side of the street, get back in the saddle & cowboy up.

I know you can do it. I have faith in you.

Stream the playlist on Grooveshark

  1. Mose Allison– I Don’t Worry About A Thing
  2. Crescent City Gold – Hang Tough This is the musical Dream Team of New Orleans. Dr. John, Allan Toussaint, all the great musicians together, hanging tough.
  3. Lenny Kravitz – Stand Unfortunately, Grooveshark doesn’t carry this tune. Bummer. Fortunately, YouTube does! Please enjoy this song by watching the video. It’s one of the most meaningful of the bunch.
  4. Destiny’s Child– Survivor
  5. Morcheeba– Good Girl Down
  6. Randy Newman– Can’t Keep A Good Man Down
  7. Andy Grammer– Keep Your Head Up
  8. Stevie Wonder– Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing
  9. Monty Python– Always Look On The Bright Side
  10. Frank Sinatra– On The Sunny Side Of The Street
  11. Ingrid Michaelson– Be OK
  12. Pink Martini – Hang On Little Tomato That little tomato is you!
  13. Ben Folds – Golden Slumbers Maybe what you really need is a nap.
  14. Coldplay– Everything’s Not Lost
  15. Michael Franti & Spearhead– Hey World (Don’t Give Up)
  16. Kate Bush– Don’t Give Up
  17. Tom Petty– I Won’t Back Down
  18. Shakira– Waka Waka
  19. Chris LeDoux– Cowboy Up
  20. Gene Autry– Back In The Saddle Again
  21. Andrews Sisters & Bing Crosby– Ac-cen-tu-ate The Positive
  22. Anita O’Day– Pick Yourself Up
  23. Stevie Wonder– Put On A Happy Face
  24. Michael Franti & Spearhead – Have A Little Faith

Valerie Ing-Miller has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for nine years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She’s the mother of a teenage daughter and a 7-year-old West Highland Terrier, and can’t imagine life without them or music. Valerie wakes up with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Valerie Ing
Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
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25 Responses

  1. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    How could you have left off "I Will Survive"?

  2. Know what's funny, Barbara? This is exactly what you said the first time I left Gloria Gaynor off of a playlist where it made sense to include her! I didn't forget about "I Will Survive" but I did forget that I'd left her off of the "Let's Give Cancer the Finger" playlist (https://anewscafe.com/2011/06/21/mistress-of-the-m…). I did include her in the "Kick Him To The Curb" playlist(https://anewscafe.com/2011/08/12/mistress-of-the-m…), and didn't want to overdo her.

  3. Avatar kirsten plate says:

    Is "I am woman" just too passe'? Am I just tooooooo bloody old?? Hate to admit that I don't know most of these songs! Val- you'll have to EDDECATE me…………….

    Kirsten

    • You mean eddiecate! And getting to know these songs is as easy as clicking on the Grooveshark link as long as you don't have dialup. Oh. Wait. You have dialup! Nevermind. You'll just have to come over and we'll turn up the iPod loud over a bottle of Carmenere!

      • Avatar kirsten says:

        …………….hey- don't forget: PMC has the 20% off-sale next 5 days……………. for CARMENERE………..

  4. Avatar Adrienne Jacoby says:

    Randy Newman, Frank Sinatra, Pink Martini, Ben folds . . . . thank you for including some of my favorites!! What's that saying?"Music wounds all heels. . . . ummm . . . guess that should be music heals all wounds. But, which ever fits, use!!

    As I read your post, I kept finding myself saying AMEN . . . a lot!!

  5. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    Extraordinary article! Oh my gosh. When I was living through depression in college and wrote an paper about the effects of music on people's emotions in video, my philosophy teacher wrote at the bottom of the last page "please don't walk along the aqueduct with music playing." Well, music to uplift and survive, and music to …. well you know. Music is a strong cultural force. It is often the most powerful way to pass on cultural values about work and live and love and death. Thank you for a great article.

    • Thanks so much, Joanne. I agree. Music has a lot of power, especially the power to help people relate and understand that whatever emotion you're going through, someone's not only been there before you, they've written a song about it!

  6. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    So I checked out the first unfamiliar tune on the list, and by golly I'm filled with renewed enthusiasm and vigor! Cowboy Up!

  7. Avatar 2R's says:

    Wonderful wonderful.. Great article.

    It's clear to see Most of US are going thru a bit of a tough time,like you said in the first paragragh.

    Things sometimes,even out of our control,health issue's ,Finding work or job, forclosre's at the highest rate ever yada yada yada..

    And your right.. I seen a T shirt once,that said "Music saved my life",And It's true.. A good ispiring song can change our mood in a instant.Free our mind from worry abit and shine alittle hope..WE have the power within Us to overcome any setback,and If we Believe that,it's half the battle.

    We are certainly in a time of Change,People are LOOKING closer at how things work or Dont,and our conscious Awarness is rising.I believe as a whole,as human BEing's.

    So dont despair,surround your self with good Happy people,seek friends with common interest,and give back a little If you have something to share.. It makes a world of difference..

    I'd like to add another song….One Love.. and If you are famaliar with the Playing for Change worldwide venture(youtube),there is a great Share vision there.

    Love and Blessings,to All of US who are hurting.

  8. Avatar 2R's says:

    "Inspiring" song 🙂

  9. Avatar Cheri says:

    Valerie…

    Your article is spot on. I am a massage therapist and in the last couple of years and last year intensely…more and more people are coming in and sharing about so much going on in their lives. We talk a lot about the ability to learn to live in the moment and let it all go for yourself and for your loved ones as well. Music is a wonderful pathway for that….as well as dancing. I am also asking my clients if they dance….and encourage them to if they don't.

    When I dance I am in the moment of joy within myself, within my body..and I don't have a worry in the world.

    Hey, in fact you should host a Mistress of Mix Gala Ball!

    🙂

    Cheri

    • 2Rs and Cheri: I'm so glad this column is resonating with so many people. This one really was from the heart. My heart has been breaking for several of my friends who've been going through all kinds of tough times recently, and this was the only way I could think of to try to help them through it. If I help a few others at the same time, even better!

  10. Avatar Paul Frye says:

    Hi Valerie,

    we don't know each other (I don't think) but that won't stop me from commenting on your fine article and offering a few observations.

    Your article is clearly one (IMHO) by someone who has been down. How nice for you that you discovered, or, possibly, the music found you, at just the right time. I want to make the following comments/observations.

    1. Trying to maintain the fantasy that we are, even very remotely, "in charge" of our lives is a painful fallacy. We have so little control over everyday occurrences, like weather, the behavior of other individuals, the list goes on. I recycle, try and buy local, not use a car as often as I used to, etc. Small things that I can do. I believe the "best' thing that I do is try and keep a positive fantasy about how things will work out.

    2. A wise man with whom I used to "hang out", said that he had talked to Mr. Natural the previous week. Mr. Natural had been to the top of the mountain and read the sign on the other side. You know, the one with the answer/answers. He said the sign said, and I quote, "It don't mean shit".

    Keep writing, keep your head down, keep listening, and consider adding Randy Newman's, I think that it's his "You got to sing, like nobody's listening". Have a glass of wine, pet the cat, try and smell the apple sauce that we are making from the apples that we obtained at the Harvest festival.

    Please know that this drivel is from a 71 year old man who has had his head up his butt much of his life. But, 71 is 71. I assure you that no one is more surprised about that than I am. Blessings.

    Peace and Love,

    Paulie

  11. Paulie, thanks for your comments, and thanks for your observations! It's nice to know that my musings on life and working through the tough stuff is resonating with a lot of folks. Thanks for reading!

  12. Avatar Terry says:

    And I'd like to add another "Amen". Thank you for a timely, uplifting and encouraging article! The power of music to heal is a Great reminder for us all. I really appreciate your sharing your insights, and I'll be passing this on!

  13. Avatar Karen Whittaker says:

    I love your column! I am not really into music that much, yet there are a couple songs I would like to add, for the moments getting out of darkness…

    Beatle's George Harrison: Here Comes the Sun

    Celine Dian: A New Day Has Come

    And my most fav classic: somewhere over the Rainbow. IZ has a great version, so does Martina McBride…

    Thanks for letting me share on late notice!

  14. Avatar Canda says:

    Great article, Valerie. I'm listening to your Grooveshark as I write this comment. That was a really cool thing to put in your article! My husband works out of town a lot, and one of my favorite of his sweet gestures is sending me youtubes of songs. Those he sends speak to his heart, and definitely speak to mine as I listen. I have to agree that music is the best therapy, and there are songs for every human emotion. I couldn't live without Pandora! Love that station. Thanks again for a really good read.

    • Canda – my sweetheart does the same thing! Isn't it sweet? Our tastes in music (his and mine) are completely different, but whenever he finds a piece of music on blip.fm or youtube that he thinks I would like, or something that speaks to him about how he feels about me, he sends it to me. It's one of the sweetest things, I agree! We are such lucky people, aren't we?

  15. Avatar MzMtl says:

    from the "other" mistress in Redding, a heartfelt thank you for your words. <3 The Mistress of Metal… 🙂

  16. Avatar kirsten says:

    Mistress of metal? I am intrigued………… I knew, we have a "Mistress of Wood" aka. Alice Porembski, but a metal deity? Please let me in on the secret………

  17. Avatar Katie says:

    Aside from… or more likely in addition to, any great Reggae, Dancehall, Ska up beat songs, I like Megan Slankard's "Sails". If I am feeling the need to add a little poignancy to whatever I am feeling, Sarah Mclachlan "Arms of an Angel" certainly does the trick!