Fun, Favorable, AND Frugal Activity?!

Remember growing up – when you had to be creative and make the presents for your family? Maybe it was just me, but I often made pencil holders out of soup cans and construction paper.

It seemed hokey but it was creative and from me. That is what the holidays are about!

Nothing is worse than not having the resources to give what you think is deserving of the people you care for. Especially when those people are dependent on you! You feel like you’re doing them a disservice.

When we think about activities that we can do with residents, music therapy is high on the list but generally costs quite a bit and the frequency is too low to really make a difference. Group drumming is in that family but also can be inhibitory from a cost standpoint.

“Music washes away the dust of every day life.”
-Art Blakey

Drumming is a blast and anyone, regardless of ability, can do it. It is scientifically proven to be a huge benefit to all kinds of people. Assisted living and nursing home residents are high on the list. The problem is that you need the equipment as well as someone to lead the group.

Well, you can get by without that expensive stuff! You can even have newbies and volunteers lead it if you’re short-staffed!

There are free audio group drumming sessions on this webpage: Click Here. It even includes a video on making your own instruments as well as links to buy inexpensive ones if you choose to do that (eventually).

“There are 106 miles to Chicago. We have a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses. ”
-Elwood Blues

No matter your situation, you can make this work. I regularly lead groups of kids, adults with disabilities, seniors, and more! There are plenty of free programs included on the page.


They’ll get you started and you can decide if you want to buy the 50+ audio tracks at a special rate.  For December, I’ve decided to give everyone a holiday gift. I know, I am like a modern day Robin Hood 🤠.

I am including a whole DIY program for conducting drum circles on your own. This includes words and phrases (I use language rather than written music to make it easy to play) that you can use, demonstration videos, games you can play, plans that you can use without preparing, and much more.  Normally, they go for $197 each but for the rest of the month you get them both for $97!

“Are you not entertained?”

– Maximus Decimus Meridius

It really is of huge benefit to everyone. They love it and you’ll love it! Check out all of the free sessions and see for yourself. Good luck!

You Can Make a Nothing Day All Seem Worth While!

Don’t Let the Perfect be the Enemy of the Good

Have you ever heard the expression don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good? Are you better than the math teacher when you help your kids with their homework? Is a tennis coach better than the player – no!

Perfection is different than explaining, guiding, and assisting. It’s not being “the best” but I’ve noticed that people who have made it their mission to help others and make their lives better are sometimes afraid to tackle somethiing when they’re not “perfect” at it.

Drum therapy does a lot for people of all ages and especially for people living in retirement, assisted living, and nursing homes, with PTSD sufferers, and people with a whole slew of diseases.  A major stumbling block, though, is that activity directors, CNAs, therapists, caregivers, and volunteers, won’t do it themselves and make their only option to bring in a professional.

Maybe they should!

“Maybe my best isn’t as good as someone else’s, but for a lot of people, my best is enough.”


-Lindsey Stirling

While bringing someone in is a big step towards providing residents with a better quality of life and is great fun to do on occasion, there are many logistical concerns that may make it impractical.

  1. This is a therapy that can only be provided by a professional on an infrequent basis if at all.
  2. Some facilities are located in an area that doesn’t have access to this type of therapy.
  3. Most other places can’t afford to bring somebody in with their equipment often enough to see the long-term benefits that research illustrates.


Scientific research has illustrated many points that are associated with group drum therapy. This includes many physical, mental, and social benefits.

But there is another advantage that gets less attention. Did you know that drumming actually synchronizes the two hemispheres of the brain?

Drumming is one of the few activities that uses both the creative side AND the logical side of the brain. This can actually lead to getting better sleep, being more creative, improved immunity, enhanced mental processing, reduced stress, less fatigue, and potential reduction and addictive tendencies.

If you were to see even half of those changes in your residents, wouldn’t that be awesome?!

And this doesn’t even account for the advantages that aren’t accounted for. Advantages like increasing range of motion and functionality, the feeling of being young again (fun, invigorating, and contemplative), and energizing. Why would you ever deprive your residents of this in their golden years?

“That was one of the most exciting programs I’ve experienced in a very long time. So entertaining and instructive and creative…..not enough words to describe”


-email from a resident at one of my recent sessions


Isn’t a Better Quality of Life in Everybody’s Best Interest?

I started by saying don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This is something I feel strongly about. It’s great to be able to bring in someone to perform this activity but we need to be realistic.

Remember that leading people, if you have some basic tools, is not only easy – but it can and will bring you closer together as you work through activities that are best for your particular group!

There is a whole set of videos (including how to make easy instruments and links to cheap ones), instructions, and easy-to-follow plans (like I use) for leading drum circles (group drumming) with your patients Here. It’s tons of fun, therapeutic, and it makes you more marketable!

“Never had one lesson!”


-Ferris Bueller


I spend a lot of time providing group drum therapy for others.  I love it and they love it.  I can only get to a place so often, though.

If you can do it every day, see the smiles on their faces, and feel the advantages that research (which is performed in a short amount of time on a very regular and consistent basis – that’s how research is done), why wouldn’t you?

Raise Resident Quality of Life and Save Money at the Same Time

Have you ever been in a situation where you wake up at three in the morning and an idea comes to you that’s so obvious, so simple, that you can’t believe it didn’t occur to you before.

This happened to me with group drum therapy. As a person that visits a lot of nursing homes and assisted living homes to perform this kind of activity, I assumed that you needed all of the correct experience and knowledge in order to do it.

But what I found was that I had a better experience when the therapist or other attendant was walking around helping me out. It occurred to me that in order to get the best, most therapeutic, and most fun results for the residents, the therapists or attendants needed to be involved.

They’re the experts. They have the knowledge of and the relationships and rapport with the residents.  More than that – they can do this every day, if they want.

I know they probably wouldn’t, but a lot of the value comes from frequency – as you do it more, the participants get more comfortable with the idea and become more creative – and more active!  There’s a better chance that they’ll remember what you did the time before.  There is a lot of value in making this a regular part of your routine.

So why do I need to be there? I know that people respond better to a new face and somebody that they can associate with only that activity. The reality is, though, that I can only get to a certain facility every month or so and that’s all they can afford!

It’s really just a matter of having the tools. If members of the staff or volunteers know how to perform the sessions, they can do this all of the time and have an effective way not only for the residents to enjoy themselves but also to stimulate physical, mental, and social activities.

They don’t need to understand music theory and have the ability to play a song on the guitar!  Don’t get me wrong – there’s value in that and I have a great deal of respect for the therapists that do that.  They don’t have to, though.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  There is tremendous value in group drumming and it is not the same thing as music therapy.

Group drumming (e.g. a drum circle) is a scientifically proven but underutilized therapy and a very effective way to play games, review trivia, and do just about anything else you want – and creating the instruments, decorating, and personalizing them, can be a separate activity that can be repeated, all in itself!

The best part, though, is that it’s free (once someone is trained). When your volunteers conduct the activity, the residence will get as much if not more out of each session and it’s an easy enrichment activity to do when nothing else is booked or planned!

At a time when budgets are tight and money is shifted away from activities and enrichment, this is a great way to raise the quality of life of residence while saving money.

If you’re interested in leading drum therapy at your facility – this will get you started:

Madison Man Living with MS Set for Eighth Walk MS

Jim Turk, a native of Madison, holds a bachelor’s degree in Natural Science and a master’s degree in biotechnology, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a husband and father of two sons, a blogger, an avid drummer…and has been living with multiple sclerosis since 2008.

MS is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. There is no known cause, or cure.

“My neurologist has said that this is what makes me unique – high-level research knowledge but with the patient perspective,” Jim says in his blog. “I wasn’t going to take this diagnosis lying down!”

On May 7, 2017, Jim and his team MS for MS will join more than 1,200 people at Walk MS: Madison to raise more than $185,000 to fund the Society’s critical research. Since 2009, Jim has volunteered and co-chaired the Walk in Madison.

“I used my training and research knowledge to tackle living with MS,” he says. “I’m in a much better place than I was before this came about, I’ve figured out how to achieve balance in my life, and not a day goes by without me continuing to work on it.”

Jim receiving donationBalance issues, related to MS, have Jim using a wheelchair to move around safely. Yet, he exemplifies standing in defiance of a disease that’s trying to stop people from moving. He remains active by presenting at grade schools and colleges about living with MS, has attended several meetings and conferences on behalf of the Society, and shares his passion for drumming as much as possible.

“I have a real passion in bringing joy to others while raising awareness for the disease.”

Walk MS is an opportunity for people living with MS and those who care about them to connect, join together, and be inspired. In 2016 alone, nearly 300,000 people at more than 550 locations across the country walked to create a world free of MS, raising nearly $50 million.

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful

Remember how Vigo the Carpathian died, according to Ray (Dan Aykroyd) in Ghostbusters 2?  Probably not.  I’m pretty sure I was the only one to see that movie.vigonormal

Spoiler alert – He was poisoned, stabbed, shot, hung, stretched, disemboweled, and drawn and quartered.

People made an assumption that he “died of old age” at 105, but that was far from the truth.  How often do you find yourself judging someone based on prior experience or taking the easy route?

I’ve spent the last nine years committing myself to causes and helping others despite my own challenges.  I, for example, do a lot for the National MS Society.  It’s a little like going to the gym.  I know that I’ll be better for it in the long run and I’ve learned how to truly enjoy the process.

I lend a hand (figuratively) to several groups in town, including the MS Support group, the Spinal Cord Injury group, and the alumni board for my masters program.

My real passion is conducting therapeutic drum circles for everyone from seniors in assisted living to children with disabilities.  I stay pretty busy, despite the fact that I don’t work anymore.

So why do I do it?  Surely I could sit back and rot away or enjoy the “easy life.”  I don’t make money doing this stuff – I must be getting something out of it, right?

I can do these things despite my condition.  I’m not the only one in a wheelchair.  It doesn’t matter that my hands don’t work well.  I can pull out my fan whenever I need it.  I don’t need to worry about putting on a hazmat suit or decontaminating my wheelchair.  And, I make my own schedule.

Oh yeah – and I seem to have a good rapport with people of all ages.  You see,

“I’m an ideas man.” – GOB Bluth, Arrested gobDevelopment

But mostly – it’s therapeutic.  I feel good when I do it.

It’s not that I don’t wear myself out – sometimes to the point of collapsing – when I’m trying to stand while packing up my gear.  It has happened, but I look at everything as a learning experience – if I can figure out what will make packing up easier and more sustainable so I can keep doing this for the foreseeable future, I’ll do it.

It can be physically challenging but it’s always socially gratifying.  And it lasts.

I get so much pleasure from enriching the life of someone who needs it or getting through to someone that no one else has been able to, that what happens in the short-term is not remotely significant.  Not only that but I get to enjoy the music and focus on the students in the meantime.  It’s extremely rewarding.

As an example – I was working with a small group of first graders with various disabilities last week.  One of the teachers approached me and whispered that a boy that had responded hasn’t done that with any other male adults at the school.

I will remember THAT more than anything that happened that day.  The good far outweighs the bad.

Is there bad?  Most people wouldn’t think so because I tend not to complain about it.  I might make excuses for my behavior – probably too much – but usually don’t complain.  Why?  Because I serve others, listen to good music, or do other things to change my state of mind before wallowing in self-pity.

I remember a meme that was making the rounds a few years ago of a woman standing on her wheelchair to reach a liquor bottle.  I don’t remember the quote but the idea was that if she can stand on her wheelchair, she must be faking it.

For me, standing is an option and even though it’s hard to do, I continue to force myself to stand so that I don’t deteriorate any faster.  I can tell you that I hadn’t been to the mall or anywhere else that required walking for a few years leading up getting my wheelchair.

Not only that, but just because I make it there under my own power doesn’t mean I’m not ready to pass out.  It’s not always a light switch.

I tend not to make a big deal out of issues that I have because 1) there’s only so much I can do and wishing that it wasn’t the case isn’t going to make it any different.  I just need to keep making adjustments to my lifestyle – my eating habits, my exercise habits, my sleep routine, my stress control, and the experiences that I have.  I need to control the variables.  2) Because bitching about things only makes them worse.  We find what we are looking for – always.  If I’m complaining about my legs, I’ll look for more reasons to complain about them and find I was right when I discover them.  It compounds the problem.  3) I want to set a good example for my kids.Jim receiving donation

So I look at the bright side and enjoy life by spreading the idea of positivity and serving those that need it.  But people still have questions:

Am I in pain?

Almost always.  Not the “stabbing pain” that so many of my friends are burdened with, but more of a chronic achiness in my legs, like I just ran a marathon or climbed 10 flights of stairs with two bags of groceries.  Sometimes it’s so bad that I have a tough time falling asleep and it’s the reason that my feet rarely stop moving.

How’s my coordination?

Well – I haven’t been able to write in years.  I can barely hold the pen for a signature at this point.  As luck would have it, I’m right-handed and my right side is the bad one.  I can’t write, hold food on my fork, or stand on my right leg while I’m getting dressed.

Weirdly, despite the weakness on my right side, my left foot is the numb one – figure that out!

My hands have become so shaky and my balance so bad that I have to have my kids carry any soup, cereal, or drinks to my spot at the table or in front of the TV so that I don’t spill them.

Why do I use a cane or wheelchair?

My legs are heavy – almost like their stuck in quicksand.  This means I tire very fast on the rare occasion that they’re working correctly but that they usually don’t move if I need them to.  Often times, the result is that I fall.  Combined with my stellar balance, this means that even turning around while sitting might end with me kissing the pavement.

Bladder issues?

I had a bladder like a pregnant chipmunk before MS – now it just has a 5-second fuse attached to it.  I tend to dehydrate myself before I go anywhere.  It’s not terribly healthy, but there are worse things.

What’s the worst thing I’ve experienced?

Hands down, the worst part for me was losing my ability to speak clearly.  It sounds odd, but I found out when I originally had major speech problems in 2006 and then again in 2008, that I would happily give up my ability to walk or write before my ability to communicate.

Everyone’s experience is different, though.  I sometimes have trouble swallowing but have found ways to manage it.  THAT could surpass the speech issue if it gets worse, I suppose.

Some people that I know have cognitive issues.  I have certainly been in a fog or gotten stuck, but have, depending on who you ask, been relatively clear-headed thus far.

What other issues do I have?

Heat tolerance.

I’m not talking a Whitney Houston or Meatloaf sweating issue – I’m talking about being shot with a tranquilizer dart.  I often joke that once I start to feel comfortable (temperature-wise), I know I’m in trouble.  For a guy that shivers uncontrollably, it’s no joke.  I HAVE to be cold if I want to be functional.

It’s all manageable.

I know a lot of people that have it worse so I just do what I can to make the lives of others a little better which makes mine better as a result.  A lot better.

Is that selfish?  Maybe – but it’s a passion.

My hope is to show everyone that, no matter what they’re dealing with, you still can make a choice to feel better.  That doesn’t mean great – just better, but it adds up.

I always say that you feel good for a reason!  If something is making you feel better, you’re creating a better environment for your body to recover or heal.  You’re working with your therapies rather than against them!

I’m genuinely good with the way things are.  Let me say that again –

I’m good.

I manage my symptoms (sometimes obsessively) and found a therapy that I truly enjoy.  It’s hard to complain.

Donate to my page for Walk MS:


When Awareness isn’t Awareness

This is a post from a year ago but I thought it was worth posting again for MS Awareness Week.  Pay close attention to the Raising Money tips, which I recorded during an MS Society Leadership Conference.  They are particularly important right now.  Enjoy!

Have you ever nodded your head to make someone think you’re following what their saying but really have no clue?  You probably don’t even care what they’re talking about.

I often joke that this is really how I’ve gotten through life – I’m just good at seeming interested!DSC03387

I fear that this is what happens when we talk about “MS Awareness,” though.  We talk about it and people close to the disease celebrate “awareness,” but most people don’t really know why we do it.

The common misconceptions remain.

We all know that having an “invisible disease” is physically AND emotionally difficult.  It seems that everyone – our loved ones, our friends, and even our physicians – say that they understand.

But they DON’T understand.  They might be empathetic, or want to appear to be, but they don’t really “get it.”capitol2016

What they understand is that we complain about something that they have to take on faith.  They have to trust that we’re telling the truth.

Even our doctor’s job is subjective.

Sure – there are some measurements that they take.  They do MRI’s and look at patterns and trends, but there is an awful lot of judgement that happens at your appointment.

Your doctor is good at this – probably one of the best.  I’m not saying that their opinion isn’t respected – they’re doing the best with what they have to work with – and I’m grateful for that!

But when we talk about MS awareness, what are we raising awareness about?  And why?

Our tendency is to explain it to people.  To try and make them believe us.  Like you’re a three-year-old trying to make your parents see the “owie” that your brother gave you when he pinched you.

Did that ever work?  Are you taking advantage?  Crying wolf?

We like things that are concrete.  We need specifics to assign blame.

You could tell people that in MS the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body… (snore).

That’s what the Mayo Clinic website tells them – if they stay awake.

But it’s too complicated.  It’s not bite-sized.

It’s not concrete or active.

There are no cancer cells that we need to kill.  There isn’t an artery that requires a stint.

I often just tell people that I have a nerve problem.  I don’t elaborate and they usually don’t ask questions.  Is that wrong to do?

It’s easier to explain, they get the gist of what the problem is, and I’m not lying to them.  I’m just not giving them the whole truth.

But that does nothing to raise awareness, does it?

So would it be wrong to tell people that MS has “taken over my legs?”  That I have “MS induced pain?”

Assign blame – Make it concrete!

How about saying that I have “MS-induced ataxia (which covers a lot of ground and explains a lot of symptoms)?”  It’s more believable!

Why does it work?  It’s ACTIVE.

It’s like saying “I was punched in the jaw” as opposed to “I have a sore back.”

ID-100265475The former is easier to empathize with.  It’s active.  There is a cause-and-effect and we can relate – if not from personal experience (like the time I was cold-cocked while playing a video game in sixth grade – I’m not bitter), then certainly from what we’ve seen on TV.

Connect the dots – make it active!

When I think of awareness, I think about starting a conversation.  About clearing up the confusion and giving them an emotional reference.  It’s hard to relate to it, otherwise.

Connect the dots.

Raising money – for research, for scholarships, for assistance, and much more – is a lot easier when you can show the human side of the disease and assign specific blame!

Make it active.

If you can do that, you’re not just telling them that something called Multiple Sclerosis exists – you’re raising awareness!

So get to it – share this post and spread the word – let’s make this the most productive MS Awareness Month ever!


A Special Superbowl Edition!

I was excited to see that Lady Gaga, who has tested as “borderline positive” for saragormanportraitlupus and has brought attention to this terrible auto-immune disease, did the widely watched halftime show at the Superbowl.  (click here to watch it)

To honor this occasion, I have posted an interview that I did a couple of years ago with Sara Gorman, who has systemic lupus.  Enjoy!

Click here to view Sara’s website.

Drummin’ Does A Body Good!

Have you ever had that feeling where you’re really cold, go to bed, get under the covers and feel all warm and tingly? That’s me when I sit down to drum. That’s what I want to share you.drumming 1-15

Research has shown time and time again that group drumming is very therapeutic (click here). Group drumming synchronizes the two brain hemispheres so that they’re working together and it’s one of the only activities that actually does this.

Group drumming makes you think about the drumming, the music, and the camaraderie that goes with it. It doesn’t allow you to think about everything else that might be going on in your life. It lowers blood pressure and enhances the immune system. It makes you feel good.

It’s like meditation.

It’s great for kids and adults – it’s active, engaging, and you don’t have to have any particular abilities to do it. It’s great for reducing stress and focusing your attention, it keeps the muscles moving, the blood flowing, the nerves firing, and it’s healing – both physically and mentally.

When I sit down to drum it’s like I’m in a different place. It’s like I have a new meaning.

Group drumming is something I always thought about but never really pulled the trigger on because I felt like it was poorly represented. I think there’s a connotation, a Woodstock – hippie connotation, that goes with it.

Once I left work due to my disability, I felt like I needed to do something with my time. I wanted to share my experience with others that might have the need and the desire but not the means. I wanted to use my experience as a lifelong drummer (click here) in bands, as a percussion instructor, as research administrator, and as a public speaker, to spread the word and give people a chance to participate.drumming-pic-1

I purchased around 20 new drums to go along with my existing percussion equipment and decided an an approach to make the experience accessible to everyone. I let the MS Society know, the local Spinal Cord Injury group, my drummer friends, and anyone else who would listen.

My goal is to get people involved, both physically and socially, and I can’t think of a more fun way to do it!

Let’s have some fun and feel better while we do it!profilepic

Check out my Facebook drum circle page (@bmddrumcircles) or email me for more information.