Mental Music Mornings

Music flowed in my mind as I woke the other day; I hummed the song, intermittently belting out snatches of random lyrics—“…copper-bottomed tympanis and horse platoons, THUNdering, THUNDERING all along the square…!” It was the tune “Seventy-six Trombones” from The Music Man. Music in my mind is a daily occurrence. It’s like I have a playlist in my head that’s set to Shuffle. The music is just always there, as spontaneous as a sneeze. That particular morning the “trombones” song changed mid-verse from lyrics to humming while I inserted my contact lenses. I walked into the kitchen and suddenly found myself singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Today I reflected on my unconscious habit of humming and singing. Ironically, I’m not a fan of speaking first thing in the morning. It takes such an effort to open my mouth and formulate words. Hmmm. Maybe that’s the key—I have so many songs deeply embedded in my subconscious that I don’t have to generate sentence’s or consider the grammaticism of my native English tongue. My mental music flows without thought…or rationality.

This works pretty well for me because my husband leaves for work while I am still groggy with morning haze and curled up in my blanket. I can’t think of an instance when there was an actual human in hearing distance when I’ve trumpeted out phrases of random songs. Now and then, our Great Dane doggie looks quizzically at me, but then carries on with her typical morning routine—slurping large, drippy swathes of water from her bowl.

This morning while preparing breakfast for myself, the song du jour was “Oklahoma”. I will clarify that these random songs rarely start at the beginning. This one started quietly in the middle of a chorus: “…and when we say——-“ (crescendo) “YIPPPPPPP! A-yip-I- odle-AYE!!!!!” (Super forte loud)—“We’re only saying you’re doing fine Oklahoma, Oklahoma, O.K.—-!”  I stopped myself before I had to actually spell ‘Oklahoma’, that is the next part of the song lyric. It’s just too hard to think about lengthy spelling early in the morning.

It is such a joyous feeling to sing “Hallelujah!” or “Yip-i-odle Aye!” first thing in the morning. Really, you should try it. Singing about “copper-bottomed” anything is just funny. It makes my mind giggle. Mental chuckling. Actual out-loud giggling takes too much morning effort.

I love that my mind is filled with Broadway music, childhood favorites, hymns and jazzy randomness. Superfluous music works well when the day is bright and filled with hopeful beginnings. However, sometimes I hear Billie Holiday or Lena Horne’s distinctive blues lyricism in my mind. Then it is usually evening and I’m tired or challenged by racing thoughts of a less brilliant type. In those moments I hum, or sing softly while considering what’s underpinning that mood. It could be that I didn’t take my “brain chemical pills” yet. Sometimes if its already evening I just give up and go to sleep, which is always a good solution. I know that I’ll always feel better in the morning when the random music rotation surprises me. What’s the music in your head?

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Stick With Good Habits– Use Paper Clips

I vowed to drink 8 glasses of water per day; it was going to be my new habit. I filled 8 paper cups with water and lined them up on the kitchen counter. I made a continuous effort to drink from the cups throughout the day until I’d emptied them all. I tried this for a couple days and on one particularly busy day I realized it was barely noon and I only had three cups left to drink.

Whew, what a busy morning. I’d been so preoccupied with life that I didn’t even remember downing all that water. I smiled, imagining that this new habit was really kicking in.

“So, Mom…how’s the water-drinking thing going?” My teenage son strolled into the kitchen and smiled.

I was touched by his interest in my progress–until I looked into his twinkling eyes and saw his smile turn to a smirk. Suddenly, I KNEW.

“You’ve been pouring out my water cups?!” He thought it was hilarious. No wonder I didn’t remember drinking them…

The experience showed me that I need visual triggers to help with developing new habits. However, I also learned to be vigilant of saboteurs. Blogger James Clear highlighted a more subtle way to track habit-forming progress. He described the method used by new stock broker, Trent Dyrsmid who implemented paper clips as a visual cue.

“Every morning I would start with 120 paper clips in one jar and I would keep dialing the phone until I had moved them all to the second jar.” —Trent Dyrsmid

Within 18 months, Dyrsmid’s book of business grew to $5 million in assets. By age 24, he was making $75,000. Within a few years, outside firms began recruiting him because of his success and he landed a $200,000 job with another company. Read the whole post: How to Stick With Good Habits Every Day by Using the “Paper Clip Strategy” | James Clear.

I love this idea. I decided to be more “visual” with my vitamins and supplements. I purchased a daily pill container normally used for prescription medicines; it has a section for each day of the week. I made sure it was semi-opaque so that I can notice if the day’s section was empty or still full of pills.  TA-da! I’m finally consistent with Calcium and etc.

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Spiritual Light Takes Faith

Spiritual Light

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Jazz Performance Can Make You Brave–as Long as You Show Up

2014 Sep 5 Singing Stormy Weather at Rhythm & Rye, Olympia Funny that it takes courage to do something enjoyable…This is me singing at an Open Mic night with excellent, professional jazz musicians.

Here’s how it works: Have lead sheets for the songs you want to sing. Walk across the room from your nice comfy chair where  you have been listening to the excellent musicians play jazz. Hover at the edge of the stage and catch the eye of the band leader at the end of their song. He announces that you’ll be singing.

You step up on the stage, trying not to trip on the mic and amp cords on the floor. (You experience the inner conflict between fear of dorkiness and the need to be confident.) You hand out sheet music to the musicians, grab the microphone and smile into the warm, sun-bright stage lights. The musicians begin to play and you feel peace as the music wraps comfortably around you. You breathe. And you sing.

I’ve done this several times in the past few months. The same venue. The same musicians. A happy outcome.

Yet, I still feel great resistance in preparing to go–choosing music, getting dressed, driving through the darkness, parking, walking in to the building. It still takes courage to walk across the floor to the stage. It is my “feel the insecurity and do it anyway” moment.

I love performing, so I choose to do this challenging thing. I know that this will make me a better performer–trying to bump beyond the boundaries of my comfort. Are you grappling with a bravery challenge??

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Mike Tyson on Having a Plan

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”-Mike Tyson.¹

This quote has a reality that I can identify with. Sometimes the unexpected  turnings of life can “pull the rug out from under you.” That experience leaves you sprawled on the floor, breathless.  And then, sometimes life just gives you a sharp “zing!” in the face.

It seems that getting punched in the face would leave you stock photo, Lindy Hop couplestunned. And dizzy and nauseated and you might even black out. Now that I think about it, that’s just what it felt like to me when, during a vigorous swing dance, my partner accidentally smacked me in the cheekbone while we attempted a spin. I actually saw gold sparkles before my eyes. Previously, I thought that was just a graphic effect that artists drew in cartoons of fights. At least I didn’t see little birdies singing.

Here is what I did when I got punched in the face–I had been having so much fun, the  song was still playing, my dear partner was sad and apologetic, so I gave a wobbly smile, sucked in air to lessen the nausea and willed myself to finish the dance.²

A family member once said, “Don’t you wish that sometimes you could punch Life in the face?!”

In what ways do you punch back at adversity?

Sometimes you need a  team of  people to help you fight back, or hold you up till the nausea and blackness ebb away. That’s a challenge too, right? — admitting you need help, and accepting it.  It’s always good to have  something to fall back on to cushion the “blow” when it comes. Sometimes there’s nothing you can immediately do except suck in air, pray and will yourself to finish the dance.


SOURCE:
–Quality and Training Manager at OnPath Business Solutions,LinkedIn.com article by the same title.
 
2. The music playing that night was “Sing, Sing, Sing ” Listen to the song here.   Watch a segment of the song played by the master musicians Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman and Harry James here .
 
Photo was found using image search; it has this URL-http://www.185kingst.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/swing-12.jpg I couldn’t locate the actual source of the photo.
 
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P90X and Tony Horton–Changing Mind & Muscle

I’m reading a book by Tony Horton called The Big Picture. I picked it up when I noticed the author, “Hey, it’s that P90X guy…”

The only reason I was aware of him was because some of my adult kids had been trying to explain to me what the P90X program was and why they loved it and why they kept at it day after day even though sometimes, apparently, it made them vomit.

Sam flex, 2011I have incredibly intelligent, perceptive children; I was curious about this trainer that they liked so well. Additionally, I was stunned when I saw their “Before P90X” and “After” photos. They already looked healthy to me before starting the program, but now, after their consistent work, I recognize what “chiseled” means as an adverb to muscle. The photo I’ve attached to this post was a “Before” photo. I’d post the “After” but I didn’t get his permission yet. (I figured posting this pix was safe because he is disguised with the glasses and wig. Unless, of course you know our family. You probably don’t…??)

I’m typically not a fitness person. And yet, so far—I LOVE THIS BOOK. Tony Horton is an excellent, wise, entertaining writer and offers practical, doable “Laws” to change your life.

Here is a simple Law. Ponder it and recognize the depth of it:

“Do your best and  forget the rest.”

My take: Forget the negativity, forget the impossibility, forget those over-protective fearful voices in my head. Just do my best.


(P.S. On the topic of vomit, not that it’s really a topic per se; however, you need  to read Tony’s narrative of his ride in a fighter jet and how he relates that experience to life. Unless you’re generally a queazy person…, then you might want to skip that part.)

 

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“Quit the Right Stuff at the Right Time.”

I invite you to read a great post by Whitney Johnson on her blog. There are so many wonderful things available to all of us to pursue and dream. It takes wisdom to know when to focus on one important thing, the best thing, rather than several good things. 2013_Boston_Marathon[1]

“It’s important to dream, and it’s important to know when to ditch a dream.

It would be wonderful to run a marathon.
But it would come at a cost.
At the cost of dreams I want more.

What are you willing to quit pursuing so that you can go after what you really want?”

(Source:–Whitney Johnson)

Photo by Aaron “tango” Tang

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The Gospel Gives Freedom

The Gospel Gives Freedom

I found this quote enlightening: “The gospel of Jesus Christ is not weight, it is wings.” It was part of a talk by Jean A. Stevens, First Counselor in the General Primary Presidency (World-wide religious organization for children of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). By following the teachings of Jesus Christ–loving people, being chaste, giving service, honoring God–life is so much lighter and happier. You have wings to soar higher. [I designed this art by using Canva.com, very fun experience]

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Chocolate-covered Cheesecake Bonbons

Bonbon closeup, finalThis is my initial “Fun Friday” post. I am trying to infuse more fun into my life. What better way to begin than with chocolate and cheesecake?

DISCLAIMER: I am not a “Cook”, I avoid cooking as much as possible, however–I love cheesecake and chocolate and so I combined two recipes in an experiment that turned out a-MAZING. And it was easy. I  adapted the cheesecake recipe from Michael Kory’s Crust-less Protein Cheesecake. Also, I followed the advice of Alton Brown regarding how to use a microwave for tempering chocolate. Find it here.

Chocolate-covered Cheesecake Bonbons

CHEESECAKE INGREDIENTS

  • 3 packages of cream cheese (24oz total)

If the cream cheese is cold from the fridge, unwrap it and soften it in the microwave for 20 seconds.

  • 2 scoops of whey protein powder (60 g) See options below:

The only whey powder we had in the house was Hemp…and it is olive green powder. I didn’t want green cheesecake so I substituted 1/3 C white rice flour. I imagine plain old flour would also work as well.

  • ¾ C white granulated sugar

You can substitute an artificial sweetener if you want.

  • “Some” vanilla extract–I used 1 teaspoon
  • Three whole eggs
  • 1Tbsp of lemon juice

I used True Lemon brand crystallized lemon. I love that stuff! For this recipe I mixed ½ tsp into 1 Tbsp water

CHEESECAKE DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Lightly spray an 8-inch square baking pan with oil

Put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl. Choc-Cheescake Tutorial ingredientsMix into a thick batter. Choc-Cheescake Tutorial bake & cut

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for about 60 minutes. The edges will look barely golden when done.

Let the pan sit in the fridge for 2 hours. At this point if you don’t want chocolate coating, just top it with fresh fruit or syrup and eat it. Okay, maybe share it  with others…

NEXT…After 2 hours of refrigeration, cut the cheescake into squares, place on a plate and put in the freezer for a few hours or overnight.  The squares are about 1.5 “ x 1.5” x 1” , there will be 20 or 25 pieces depending how you cut it.

CHOCOLATE FOR DIPPING

Here’s the basics: You melt “expensive” chocolate to an exact temperature, you let it cool down to an exact temperature, you toss in some pieces of un-melted chocolate. Stir until it cools down further to an exact temperature, and maintain that temperature while you dip.

Why bother with the temperature, etc.?? This tempering method results in a satiny coating that is hard and brittle, not messy-soft or chocolate streaked with grey “bloom”. For this project I bought a candy thermometer from a thrift store and checked its accuracy by sticking it in boiling water. (The boiling point of water is 212 °F …)

I used Lindt brand chocolate bars and a bar of German’s Sweet Chocolate that I had in the cupboard. Expensive, good quality chocolate has a sharp, “snap” when you break it and results in wonderfulness after it is tempered.

Use about 12 oz total of chocolate bars, or pistoles ( looks like large chocolate chips).

Chop  the chocolate into small pieces. Set aside roughly 1/4 of the chopped chocolate pieces–a small portion. Put the rest of the chocolate pieces in a glass microwave-safe bowl.

Choc-Ceesecake tutorial, test temper

Microwave on high for 30 seconds, and then stir with a clean spatula to evenly distribute the melting pieces. Repeat 2 more times, 30 seconds each time, stir each time making sure there are no hot spots.

THENMicrowave on high for 15 seconds, and then stir. Repeat 2 to 4 more times or until the chocolate reaches 97-100 degrees F.

And THENMicrowave on high for 10 seconds, and then stir. Repeat until the chocolate reaches 115 degrees F. (It only took me two times at 10 seconds)

Remove from the microwave and cool by stirring occasionally until the chocolate reaches 95 degrees F.

Into the melted chocolate scatter the small amount of chocolate pieces that you set aside in the beginning. Stir continuously until those pieces melt and the chocolate cools to 90 degrees F. It should seem slightly thicker, and will look glossy.

Test the temper of the chocolate by dipping a little corner of a smooth metal spatula or knife into the chocolate. Put the metal spatula in the fridge for 5 minutes. If it is tempered correctly the chocolate will be hard, smooth and have a matte shine.

Chocolate-dipped Cheescake Tutorial

Start dipping! Gently lower a cheesecake piece with a fork into the bowl of chocolate. Drip the excess for moment and then place the dipped square on a plate. Continue until all the squares are dipped. It is important to Maintain the 90-degree temperature. You can briefly heat up the chocolate with a 10-second blast of warm heat from a hair dryer.

Look at your lovely plate of Bonbons. Place the plate in the fridge until serving. These can be stored in the freezer as well, I suspect.  I’m typing and wishing I still had some in the fridge…time to buy more cream cheese…DSCN1211###

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