Source: Music Therapy
Source: Music Therapy
Source: Music Therapy
Source: Meditation and me
I have a curious relationship with meditation. Over the past several years, I’ve had several people recommend it to me as a way to cope with anxiety and calm my fears. Like lots of things throughout my life (exercise and writing are prime examples), it’s been an on again/off again affair.
I became more serious about meditation a little over a year ago, while reading a self help book entitled “Mind Hacking: How to Change Your Mind for Good in 21 Days” by Sir John Hargrave. The premise of this book is that we have the ability to “hack” our minds to change our thinking and overcome obstacles that prevent us from realizing our full potential. This book was actually a great read which empowered me to change my thinking, which improved my attitude towards life. I recommend to it anyone who feels they could benefit from an attitude re-adjustment. Here it is: images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/…/51HW57bSE2L.UY250.jpg
A significant portion of this book is dedicated to “mind hacking” exercises, which included something called the “Concentration Game”. This exercise, from my perspective, is essentially meditation with an interesting twist: Once you are comfortably seated and begin focusing on breathing in and out, you are to keep track of the number of times you find yourself following your mind (being “lost in the movie”), by either counting on your fingers or in your head. When I first tried this, it seemed like a smart way to be mindful, which greatly appealed to me. I had recently embraced the notion of practicing mindfulness, so I was “all in”. However, this exercise proved to be quite challenging for me. Here’s how it went:
I sat my tush down on the floor of the room we used in our sweet “Grandma” house as an office. I closed my eyes, taking in a big breath, then slowly exhaling.
Then I thought to myself: “Okay, I got this. Oh, I feel so relaxed”. Then “Sh*t! I had a thought! Alright, there’s #1”
Then I thought “Okay, don’t forget to write down the total down when you’re done” Ok, so this was thought #2. Then I thought “Alright, quiet your brain…D’oh! Now you’re at #3”!
Okay….blank mind, blank mind, breathe…..
Approximately 22 seconds later, I hear a noise I can’t quite recognize and think “Oh, that’s just hubs getting dressed in our bedroom”. Uh-oh! Thought #4….
Okay, breathe in, breathe out, in, out…then thought #5 pops into my noggin “I’m strong, I can do this”. “Shut up!” I tell myself. Okay, there’s thought #6.
Ok, so this was not necessarily going well.
Back to it. I’m breathing in, breathing out. In my head are the words “Breathe in love, breathe out kindness…oh, I like that. Very positive”. Crap! Now that’s thought #7. Focus, woman!
Ok, breathe in, breathe out…..
A maximum of 30 seconds passes, and it occurs to me that the alarm I set on my cell phone for this completely frustrating activity is likely to go off at any second now…whoops! Thought #8.
Okay, breathe in love, breathe out kindness, breathe in love, breathe out kindness. I am becoming more chilled out now. I start to physically feel the level of relaxation I experienced when hubs and I were on vacation in the Florida Keys (Islamorada) the previous spring. I could hear the waves flapping from the ocean w/seagulls squawking in the background. Then, I thought to myself “I wonder if we’ll be able to go back there someday”. Thought #9!
Ok, breathe in love, breathe out kindness. Then the random thought pops up about how many more thoughts I might have by the time I have finished this god-forsaken exercise. Thought #10!
So, essentially this wound up being less of a mindful, refreshing meditation and more of a game of “how many thoughts can I have while meditating?”.
Surprisingly, I continue to meditate each morning. It has a calming, grounding effect on me and sets the tone for the day. However, I refuse to count my thoughts while doing so. Instead, I set my timer to 10 (not 20 like the “Concentration Game” for Pete’s Sake) minutes. And then I breathe in with a customized acronym and breathe out to another acronym I came up with. I would bet (at least $1.08) that the number of thoughts I have in these precious 10 minutes are fewer than 10. Works for me!
So here’s the thing: I haven’t written a post in a while because I’ve been in an emotional funk. Between worrying about my aging parents way far away in Northern Minnesota and the struggles my young adult children are facing, I haven’t been feeling my usual “pollyannish” self. Plus I came down with a nasty upper respiratory infection which didn’t help matters. My primary purpose for keeping this blog is to put positive energy out there. I’ve hesitated to post this last week or so because of my crummy mood as of late. But today I did something just for me. Something that feeds my soul like nothing else. That “something” is music therapy.
I’ve always been into music. Growing up, I remember spending large chunks of time in my bedroom, listening to my favorite albums on my turntable. Just listening, and pondering the lyrics and delighting in the melodies. Like the Eagles Greatest Hits. Or the Beatles. Or even the old 70’s mellow tunes from the band Bread. Sometimes, I’d sing along to the Grease soundtrack. Or I’d dance around my room listening to the Kinks, Men at Work, or Michael Jackson. The best thing about all of this music is that it made me feel. It made me stop overthinking everything and calmed my soul. Music continues to have that magical power over me.
A couple of months ago, I discovered how to create my own playlists via Google Play. I have created several playlists for myself since then. I have them categorized according to the moods I wish to create. Today, I chose to listen to my “CFO” (Chill the F out) playlist. I chose the songs on this playlist for the memories they evoke, the way they soothe me to the core. Now, on this particular playlist, there are a total of 27 songs. I respect my readers time, so I will choose to not gush over each and every one of them. I will simply highlight the ones that sang to my heart most deeply today.
“Way Over Yonder” is a beautiful song by the fabulous singer/songwriter Carole King. My oh my, how I love her songwriting abilities. This song can be found on her iconic “Tapestry” album. When I listen to this song, it makes me think of what “The Great Beyond” (aka heaven) would be like. One of the best lines (IMHO) is in the song is “Maybe tomorrow I’ll find my way to the land where the honey runs in rivers each day”. This song is like the musical version of butter to me: soft, real, and smooth.
Likely John Denver’s most well known and loved songs is “Rocky Mountain High”. It has special meaning to me, having moved from Wisconsin to Colorado 7 months ago. The line “He was born in the summer of his 27th year, coming home to a place he’d never been before”. Wow. The simple beauty of that line and this entire song always brings tears of joy to my eyes.
Then there’s Jackson Browne’s “Pretender”. I believe Jackson Browne is right at the top of the best American singer/songwriters. I love how the melody of this song draws me in right away, making me feel as if I want to physically move forward and walk alongside him as he tells me this story. He sings this song from the perspective of an American blue collar worker and weaves details in his lyrics (like “when the morning sun comes streaming in, I get up and do it again. Amen” or “caught between the longing for love and the struggle for the legal tender”) that bring to my mind all of the hardworking men I know, such as the hubs, our dad’s, brothers in law, nephews, cousins and old friends. And then there’s the sweet, romantic, authentic line of “I’m gonna find myself a girl who can show me what laughter means, and we’ll fill in the missing colors in each other’s paint by number schemes”. This is just a classic American song and it will always be one of my favorites.
Please do yourself a favor and listen to “Flower” by Amos Lee. Simply gorgeous. The melody is so smooth and silky. It is, to me, the perfect song to listen to while driving around on a warm spring or summer day with the windows rolled down. It reminds me of when I was working as a social worker in La Crosse, jamming out in my good old Honda CRV between visits with my clients. My favorite line in the song is “my heart is a flower that blooms every hour, I believe in the power of love”. This is a song that will most certainly brighten up my mood no matter the circumstances.
Then there’s a Paul Simon (oh how I adore him) classic: Still Crazy After All These Years. The line he sings “and we talked about some old times and drank ourselves some beers, still crazy after all these years” brings back so many happy memories spending time with those special, treasured friends I’ve known since forever. Makes me wax nostalgic about shenanigans we engaged in together, often after drinking ourselves some beers (and not the delicious craft beers we drink now, more like Pabst Blue Ribbon or Schmidt “pseudo” beer).
“A Little Bit of Everything” is a most special song which is also on my CFO playlist. It’s written and performed by Dawes, a band out of California whom I discovered probably 4 years ago. This one for me is right up there with “Pretender” , with it’s emotionally honest lyrics. I have forced many people in my life to stop what they are doing and simply listen to this song. It always brings on the waterworks for me. It even made my mom cry. It tells the story of different people going through their lives and declaring what’s important to them at the soul level. Every time I listen to it, I get a mental image of the story. That’s some powerful songwriting. I only wish Dawes would have made a video for this song. It would have been epic. Possibly the best line is ” I think that love is so much easier than you realize, if you can give yourself to someone, then you should”. Then there’s the line “I want a little bit of everything. The biscuits and the beans. Whatever helps me to forget about the things that brought me to my knees”.
All I can say is I am grateful I have working ears, a beating heart, and the blessing of time to listen to and appreciate my music. It fills my soul like nothing else.
My name is Rhonda and I am a foodie. I love shopping for it, making it, and especially eating it. For over a week, I was craving mexican food. Now, the hubs and I are within walking distance of a fabulous mexican restaurant (El Mirador), but I had the urge to slip into “domestic goddess” mode, so I came up with my own mexican dish last night. I found a recipe for a chicken enchilada bake on Pinterest which I tweaked to suit our palates in the best way possible. And here it is….
2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts
Taco seasoning mix
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes (should always have this in your pantry IMHO)
So…put the chicken breasts in your crockpot. Sprinkle them with a generous amount of taco seasoning mix. Crack open your can of Ro-Tel and pour it over the chicken. Add a little bit of water. Cook on low for 6 hours or so. Be sure to enjoy the aroma.
Take chicken out of crockpot. Shred it with forks.
Now for the rest of the ingredients:
2 cans black beans
1 can green chilies (more if you like)
2 cups of shredded mexican cheese
2 cans red enchilada sauce
Green onions (I used a couple of bunches of them)
1/2 package or so of corn tortillas
Then you take a 9×13 baking pan and do some layering, like you’re making lasagna. Start with pouring about half a can of enchilada sauce into the pan. Rip up some corn tortillas in half and lay them on top. Then 1/3 of the black beans (rinse and drain them first), 1/3 of the green chilies and green onions, then 1/3 of the chicken and 1/3 of the shredded cheese. Then do another layer of the tortillas, 1/3 of the enchilada sauce, beans, chilies, green onions, chicken, then more cheese. Do a third layer of all, then top with more tortillas and pour the remaining enchilada sauce over all. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Then take the foil off, cover with some more shredded cheese and bake another 10 minutes. Once it’s out of the oven, you can top it with whatever you like. I used some diced up avocado, sour cream and salsa.
If you enjoy a good mexican dish, you must try this. It is sooo good. And it leaves lots of leftovers. Speaking of leftovers, I think it’s lunchtime.
Happy cooking, friends!
When I began considering starting my own blog, I knew that I wanted it to have a positive spin. If you have read any of my blog posts thus far, it should be clear that I am by nature an optimist. In fact, the name of my blog “Pollyanna’s Path” was inspired by a former co-worker of mine, who often referred to me as “Pollyanna”. Her motivation to refer to me that way was likely a combination of sarcasm and sheer annoyance of my sunny outlook on life. I chose to see it as a compliment. That’s how I roll.
Now don’t get me wrong-my sunny outlook has it limits. It turns a bit cloudy when I read about our new “fool in chief” ( no need to name names here) tweets outrageous lies that I fear may not be called out and disproven by the press. My outlook can take a dark turn when I read stories on NPR about DACA kids going to college and now having legitimate concerns that their (oftentimes hard-working) parents may be deported back to a country they fled many years ago for the opportunities America could provide them. And stories about hate crimes targeting someone who is different from their attackers, whether it be racially, religiously, or because of their sexual orientation, make me feel less than hopeful.
However, there are lots of good things happening all around us, people. That is why I am announcing my new feature, which is called “Lifting ’em up”. Having this regular feature on my blog serves two purposes-it forces me to seek out people out there who are being brave, kind, emotionally intelligent, creative and compassionate. This helps me to maintain and nurture my optimism. Then when I write a blog post about these people and their positive impacts on the world I get the pleasure of giving them their due credit, which perhaps could inspire both me and my readers to pass on some good juju.
Seems like a good plan to me. Stay tuned!
I love that spring is now afoot. Especially delightful hallmarks of this season for me include more hours of daylight, birds chirping away in the trees in our neighborhood, and the promise of new life. Spring also makes me a little antsy for a good old fashioned road trip. Over the course of my life, I have been fortunate enough to have several memorable road trips in the spring, some with family and some with friends.
My earliest recollection of a spring road trip was in 1974, when I was 7. My parents decided to take me and my siblings, who were 15 and 17 at the time, and my Grandma (aka Pearl Pearl the Party Girl), on a road trip to visit family in Phoenix. We drove from our home in northern Minnesota in a family caravan of sorts, with my aunt and uncle and their kids in their own car. My sister, brother (who was six feet tall with the longest, skinniest legs you have ever seen), and I sat squished together in the backseat of Dad’s sedan ( I think it was a Chevy Impala) for the long trek to Arizona, with the two family’s cars switching out Grandma Pearl for a kid during pit stops along the way. I remember singing along to songs like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, “Knock Three Times”, and “Cracklin’ Rosie” while gazing at the totally foreign-to -me landscape of cacti-infused deserts. As this was long before portable DVD players and Iphones, we played “car games” to prevent boredom. If someone smelled a skunk on the road, we would play “I smell a skunk” with someone responding “I won it”, the someone else would chime in “I two it”, and so on until the last responder would exclaim “I eight it!” (get it? “I ate it!) Or we’d play the “alphabet game” where we’d spy letters from a-z on road signs and license plates. The winner was whoever got to “z” first. Or we’d count how many red, blue, or black cars we could find. Ah, those were simple times! The most memorable part of this trip, however, is when we lost Grandma at Disneyland. What a stellar moment for our family. I can never hope to tell this story in as much glorious detail as my mother could, but suffice it to say that my parents thought my aunt, uncle and cousins transported Grandma back to the motel we were all staying at, and vice versa. Everyone was confused and horrified to learn that Grandma was nowhere to be found. She came back a few hours later in a taxi and she was not a happy woman. Apparently, she made sure to tell the story of her family abandoning her at Disneyland to the motel owner upon her return. This is not a surprise as she tended to be a pretty ornery (I say this with love) broad. According to my mom, several years later, when she and dad went to check into the same motel on a trip to California, the motel owner exclaimed “I know you! You are the ones that lost Grandma in Disneyland”.
My one and only college springtime road trip involved a harrowing drive with my roommate/sorority sister from Minnesota to Pascagoula, Mississippi, during which the driver (not me) decided on a couple of occasions that it was a good idea to read her map whilst speeding down unfamiliar highways. I’m pretty certain that was the first time my life actually flashed before my eyes. Fortunately, we made it to Pascagoula, where we partied the nights away with my friend’s boyfriend and his Marine buddies, and soaked up the Mississippi sun on our plastic loungers during the day.
As a wife and mom through the 90’s and 00’s, I recall many fun family road trips. There was the time when our girls were still in elementary school, and the four of us drove to see my folks, who were staying in Alabama for the winter. The trip down was a blur of crummy fast food, stopping every hour or two for our youngest to use the facilities (mostly out of boredom we suspected), singing along to the radio (before there was Sirius XM), and playing the “alphabet game”. We spent a lot of quality time with my folks and all got to swim in the ocean together for the first time. And my husband bought a (mismarked) surfboard with a “Corona” logo on it for $9.99. He only used it while we were there, since we lived in Minnesota at the time, where of course there are no oceans.
As an empty nester couple for the past 4 years or so, we have enjoyed some really cool road trips as well. Like the times we drove from our home in Wisconsin to visit Colorado, stopping over in places like Omaha and North Platte, where we discovered some great restaurants, wine bars, and tap rooms. With spring upon us, I’m looking forward to some shorter road trips with the hubs to explore parts of Colorado and nearby states. I am relatively confident that these trips will not include crummy fast food, near death driving experiences, or one of us being abandoned at an amusement park. We shall see…
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