I’m getting braver! Here’s a recording of me actually performing the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria in Church for their Jubilee celebration, three nights ago. I got sick a few weeks ago and haven’t quite recovered yet, but now that this celebration is over I can maybe relax and sleep. For a year or so. Or at least until I feel human again. Crappy compromised immune system!
Anyway, this was a “Damn the MS and just do it” situation for me. I had made the commitment, so it didn’t matter how I felt, I just practiced and practiced and then performed, and I’m pretty proud of how it sounds. I wouldn’t want to be in this kind of situation very often, but I proved to myself that… just maybe, I’m more capable than I give myself credit for. Kinda cool!
And yes, it really is snowing at the end of April. It’s been snowing on and off for days. I’d rather have snow than flooding, but I *would* like to see the ground at some point. And, you know, summer and stuff.
Mike Tompkins is amazing – he started out as a beat-boxer and now he does multi-layer a cappella tracks like this – his amazing version of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”
I sent this to my voice teacher, and she pointed out that not only does he sound amazing, but his pitch and tempo are absolutely perfect for each layer that he recorded.
So: my lesson here – don’t layer bad tracks hoping that, blended, no one will notice the errors. Don’t hurry them to just “get it out there” unless there’s a reason to do it. (When I first started blogging, I was told “sloppy success is better than perfect mediocrity” hahaha!) Don’t try to get everything recorded in a single session, your voice won’t like you much after 8 or 9 hours of singing. And most of all, work each layer until you like how it sounds by itself. THEN put everything together and publish it, because THEN you’ll be proud of what you’ve done!
Welcome to Musical Monday! I’ve decided to show a little of what’s possible with A Cappella singing, and why I think it’s an amazing and valid tool for anyone who is interested in developing their voice AND their brain.
First off, here’s an example of a crazy amazing song by a Grammy award winning A Cappella group called the “Swingle Singers.” Notice that even though (obviously) they are ALL amazing singers in their own right, the really important thing here is the vocal blending and harmonization, which makes the whole song a different experience than just a soloist standing up with a microphone. They’re not even using words (although there may be words in a language I don’t know at the very beginning and end?) and it brought tears to my eyes! It’s such a gorgeous arrangement.
I’ve found an article that explains really well exactly *WHY* A Cappella works as a learning tool – not only does it force you to really think about the melody and the music, but simply LISTENING to it will help develop your ear and help create more of those ever-important neural pathways. Since I have MS, I’m *VERY* interested in anything that helps build more pathways. I want to keep exercising my brain, and I’m hopeful that exercises like this, coming up with new ways of thinking about “normal” things like music (or art or ANYTHING creative) will help to replace some of the pathways that I’ve lost. I really feel like I need to pay more attention to lifelong learning than most other people, so it might as well be with something I honestly enjoy doing. THIS IS WHY HOBBIES ARE SO IMPORTANT!!! Creating anything new can actually change the physical landscape of your brain, especially if you make a HABIT of creating new things. Even just doodling a page a day can help.
I’ve talked before about hobbies and singing in a post called Hobbies, Compromise and MS. I finally decided to upload a recording of me singing something! Not opera though. I’m not brave enough for that yet.
I’ve been playing with Audacity (BEST free music editor out there IMO) and came up with this – it’s all me singing, 14 different layers, and although I know there are a LOT of errors in timing and pitch, I’m still pretty proud of it!
So there it is, my proof that hobbies don’t need to end with a medical condition, or going on long term disability. Consider taking up a new hobby that suits your current skill-set, since you NEED to find something enjoyable in your life! Or work with something you’ve always been interested in but haven’t had time to experiment with. I finally have time to play with music and harmony! It’s a learning experience – from this I learned I REALLY REALLY need a metronome because I actually sang each part slightly slower than the last, and I did the lyrics last, so by the time I got to them the timing was incredibly WAY off. But I did my best, and I think it sounds pretty good.
Hobbies are really important for your peace of mind. I made the mistake of cutting myself off from my hobbies for a LONG time, and my confidence and self-concept really suffered as a result. Hobbies help keep you rounded as a person, the opposite of “putting all your eggs in one basket” as I had done with work. I needed to rediscover my hobbies just to feel human after my “basket” suddenly disappeared. It took a long time, but I’m starting to feel better, because my hobbies are things I can actually do! Singing is a reminder that I didn’t suddenly stop being a person, with skills and talents, after becoming unable to work.
I’m going to try and post something music-related every Monday. It may be a description of how to make a video like this, or another song, or a cool tutorial. I am also open to suggestions here, just comment below! Yay for Musical Mondays!
I especially love the first article about small changes leading to big improvement. It’s in the Winter 2013 Issue. I love the idea of baby steps, because they’re small, non-threatening steps you can actually take right now, and baby steps in sequence can still lead to something huge.
REMEMBER: You don’t have to figure out everything right now. You only need to know what you want to do NEXT!
A few posts ago I mentioned that I had joined Weight Watchers and it, along with the Wahls Protocol, was ensuring I got the nutrition I need in my diet. I’d been experimenting with diets and diet modification for years, talking to doctors and nurses and registered holistic nutritionists… and usually came out with more questions than answers. Questions like:
– If I’m eating right, why do I need all these supplements?
– If YOU AGREE I’m eating right, why are you recommending more supplements?
– What do I ACTUALLY need to take, and in what dosage?
– What do I need to eat, and in what amounts, to get the nutrition I need to cut back or eliminate the supplements?
I discovered that if someone is making a living (or part of their living) selling supplements, they will always have a supplement to recommend, no matter what you’re already taking. I also discovered that medical opinions on supplements for MS vary widely. Everyone agrees that I should be taking Vitamin D, but I’ve been told anywhere from 2000 to 5000 IU’s a day, and somewhere I even read up to 8000 or 10000 IU’s. At one point, I was taking something like 14 pills at once, with all the different supplements.
I hate taking pills. I’ve mentioned that before. That was what inspired me to start looking for food-as-medicine type information. There’s nothing extra for these people to sell, no supplements or whatever, although they may push the occasional book. That’s okay, I’m fine with buying a book or two. It’s certainly cheaper than 14 supplements a month.
I was chatting with a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, who mentioned her Mom had been diagnosed with MS, and she’d found this amazing Ted Talk from a woman who had used diet modification to control her symptoms. This woman was Dr. Terry Wahls, and she went from a tilt-recline wheelchair and secondary-progressive MS to horseback and remission in something like a year, purely through diet.
Here was something I could get behind. I was totally willing to change my diet and my eating habits, because I believed from the beginning that the answer to most of my problems was in what I was eating. I just didn’t know what to change. So I toyed with the Wahls diet. I bought her book, “Minding My Mitochondria,” and read it. Not cover to cover, since some of it was a little too scientific for me, but enough to see what she was talking about. And I slowly started eating less processed foods. And more vegetables. And less grains. Then I took the plunge and went gluten-free, which is one of the most painful things I’ve ever done – my Mom’s Italian, Dad’s Dutch, and we survived on pasta and bread. But suddenly, one day it just stopped being so awful. My biggest discovery is that I can’t use substitutes. Gluten free bread is inedible, so I just don’t eat bread anymore. Cookies and muffins, sure, because they’re supposed to be dense and heavy. I can’t do substitutions because I have a very firm opinion on what food SHOULD taste like, and what the texture should be. So I just cut most grains out altogether, and I don’t even miss them. I’m reintroducing some into my diet, on advice from a Registered Dietitian, but it’s quinoa, rice and oats, mostly, and for now only once a week. I really try to eat more nutrient-dense foods, and starches just don’t have as many nutrients.
I also toyed with Dr. John McDougall’s diet, and I tried a Paleo diet, but if something doesn’t make sense to me, or (more importantly) doesn’t FEEL right to me, I won’t embrace it wholeheartedly. No one source of information, or one type of diet, ever felt completely right to me. Until I joined Weight Watchers.
I know, I know, I sound like a recruitment poster or something. But seriously, the new system doesn’t contradict any of the dietary recommendations that I decided to follow over the last few years, and it actually makes it a lot of things easier for me. I use their system to keep track of all the fruits and veggies and animal proteins and other good things I’m SUPPOSED to be eating, and it’s actually LESS restrictive than what I’ve been doing by myself for the last while. I’m eating a lot more now, and a wider variety of food, than I was allowing myself before I had these guidelines.
This is what I’ve done to combine the Weight Watcher tracking with what I got out of Dr. Wahls’ book, and I ran it by a Registered Dietician to make sure that my new planned diet was healthy and safe – she gave me two thumbs up!
– I aim for 9 cups of water. This may sound like a lot, but I make a lot of smoothies and soups, and I count the water I use in those as well. Plus, since starting Modafinil, the persistent dry-mouth makes me WANT even more water!
– I aim for 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which is easy if you like making soups and smoothies. I assume 100 grams is a serving, and I label each serving check-box with a colour: red, orange, yellow, 4 greens, blue, and white. White is NOT starch, it’s the sulfurous veggies like cauliflower and mushrooms and onions. According to Dr. Wahls, keeping track of colours helps to ensure you get a good balance of all the different micro-nutrients you need, maybe not every day, but over the course of the week.
– I aim for two servings of healthy oil; one could be a teaspoon of olive oil or 1/8 avocado.
– I aim for 6 ounces of protein in a day, at least half of which will be animal protein. (If it had a face, it’s animal protein.)
– I aim for three servings of dairy – I react funny to cow milk and cream, so I stick to yogurt and cheese, and I use a LOT of almond milk, which also counts as dairy. Not sure why, but I’ll take it!
– I aim for at least one serving of fish a week, and one serving of a non-gluten grain. I’ll increase those as I learn to cook more with them.
– Last but not least, I aim for 2000 IU’s of Vitamin D, a Calcium-Magnesium supplement, and a multivitamin. That’s it.
THIS HAS MADE MY LIFE SO MUCH EASIER! I just have a little list with check boxes, and I try to check my list off every day. No more fretting about what I can and can’t eat. No more going hungry because I can’t figure out what I should eat, or going crazy and eating EVERYTHING IN THE PANTRY. And believe me, with a fruit and veggie heavy diet, I have more problems eating ENOUGH points worth of food than I do going over my daily allowance. Also, Weight Watchers encourages writing down every little bit of food you put in your mouth, and I’ve expanded that to include EVERYTHING, meds and supplements too, and since I’m writing all that down it’s easy to keep track of energy levels and hunger levels as well.
So there’s my take on food, nutrition and diet. Just remember, what works for me may not work for you, and it took a few years of trial and error to come up with a way of eating that’s healthy and comfortable for me. I hope this inspires you to find a healthy and comfortable way for you – it’s completely worth whatever time you spend on it, in the end!
I have to admit that, even though I don’t have television (gasp!) I do occasionally go on Youtube and watch clips from the talent reality shows, like America’s Got Talent or Britain’s Got Talent or American Idol. I love them because sometimes, something totally unexpected and amazing can happen, completely out of the blue. This was one of those clips for me, and it’s NOT a normal “motivational moment” clip. I’ll explain after the video!
So this girl comes out, dressed in pink latex to get attention, but not for the reason anyone else thinks. Her goal is NOT to get to Vegas or participate in any more reality shows, but to do something very specific: to meet Howard Stern. The REASON she is my hero is that she set a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT goal than anyone expected, AND SHE DID IT! She just dressed up in something crazy and came up with enough of a “talent” to get an audition, because she knew that’s all she needed. She IGNORED the people who said she wasn’t good enough, because they were assuming the obvious, without finding out what her real goal was. And she was 100% successful in her real goal. I may question her general sanity and taste in men, but she did what she needed to get what she wanted, without hurting or demeaning herself or anyone else. And I think THAT’S awesome!
PS Yes, I know some people may accuse her of demeaning herself by pouring herself into that pink latex dress, but I see it as a costume for the character she portrayed to get on the show. I don’t think she took anything about that audition seriously other than meeting Howard Stern. Plus, kudos to her for having the ladyballs to wear latex in public while weighing more than 98 pounds!