Music Monday | Music and Memories

I was listening to Here & Now this morning, a news program hosted by my local NPR (National Public Radio) station, which was discussing the power of using music therapy to aid the vast numbers of elderly who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It seems that music stimulates connections in older brains, allowing them to become more mentally active.

From the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America website:

“When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements … Most people associate music with important events and a wide array of emotions. The connection can be so strong that hearing a tune long after the occurrence evokes a memory of it.”

This made me wonder, if the day should come when my short-term and/or long-term memories have all but disappeared, what song would I choose to generate memories of a happier time. Since Christmastime has held many loving, happy, and magical moments for me over the years, I tend to believe that my trigger song would be a holiday tune. However, I have so many favorites, it’s truly difficult to choose just one!

After careful thought and reflection, I believe, if there was just one song that could evoke memories of my loved ones and happier times long passed, it would be “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”. In particular, it would be the version sung by Elvis Presley.

“Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional. It has no power to represent anything particular or external, but it has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation.” 
— Oliver Sacks (Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain)

Music Monday (469x288)Happy Monday, everyone! <3

Call Me Catwoman!

My son called me this morning as he was driving to work. “How’s the kitten?” he asked.

Like any new mommy, I cheerfully shared all the “Little Man’s” newest accomplishments and how absolutely, undeniably adorable he is!

My son laughed, “You know mom, it’s now official – if you outlive dad, you will become the crazy cat lady!”

I guess I can’t disagree with him either. This is the second kitty that I have rescued in the past four months… However, I prefer the moniker “Catwoman” over “crazy cat lady” – thank you very much!

It’s been nearly a week since the “Little Man” has come into our lives (we’re still working on giving him a proper name).  I have never rescued a kitten so young before; all of my cats have been about 5- 6 months—not 5-6 weeks—when they’ve come into my life.

This is all new territory for me, and as any “new” mother will tell you, I have huge doubts about whether I am doing any of this correctly. He seems healthy, happy, and full of energy; safely nestled in a large washing machine box (which should have made it into the recycling bin months ago but thankfully didn’t) in his own room away from his older and much rougher “siblings.” He is blissfully unaware that outside his door, Olive, Marlowe, and Eevee (trouble times three) are hovering like vultures, awaiting a quick glimpse of this newest intruder who has invaded their territory!

For now though, “Little Man” is content to enjoy his brief reign as the top kitty of his own secluded kingdom!

Meanwhile… in another part of the house, mayhem is the rule :D

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From left: Olive, Eevee, and Marlowe. They decided the garland looked better on the floor than on the tree!

 

Featured image: DC Comic

Music Monday | John Lennon

34 years ago today, John Lennon was shot dead outside of his New York City apartment.

I remember learning of Lennon’s death on the radio as my mother and I headed home from a long evening of Christmas shopping in Buffalo, New York. Both of us were shocked and dismayed by the senselessness of his murder.

My mom never cared much for The Beatles. Consequently, I wasn’t exposed to their music during the height of their fame in the 1960s. It wasn’t until long after the group’s demise that I acquired a fondness for their music. However, one of my mother’s all-time favorite songs was “Imagine”, written and performed by John Lennon. Growing up, I remember this song being played over and again in our home.

I think “Imagine” is the perfect song to pay tribute to a peaceful man whose life was cut far too short by a senseless act of violence. A song whose message is still as relevant today as it was in 1971.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky

Imagine all the people
Living for today
Aha-ahh

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
Yoohoo-ooh

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
Yoohoo-ooh

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

“My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.”
John Lennon (October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980)

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Wishing everyone a happy Monday! <3

Lyrics courtesy LyricWikia

The best laid schemes

I had big plans for December! I really did! I was going to spend the month blogging with a zealous fervor; sharing holiday music, cookie recipes, some seasonal poetry, and perhaps a few photos squeezed in for good measure.

Then he showed up at my backdoor.

His little eyes caked shut with dirty, goopy, yellowish pus, he wandered aimlessly around my yard, mewing for his mommy. She came, and went, and came and went, and then finally she leapt over the wall, leaving him staring up into the sky with his tiny sightless eyes crying for her return.

I couldn’t help myself—I just couldn’t leave him out there all alone.

We live in a rural area, which means there is no county help for sheltering feral cats or their kittens. I called our local veterinarian, explained this little fellow’s dire circumstances, and they arranged for an emergency visit at reduced rates.

We learned that he was a boy, around 5-6 weeks of age. He had a nasty eye infection, but after a few days of washing the area around his eyes with cotton balls soaked in saline, and applying antibiotic drops every eight hours, he looks so much better! He is so small; he fits neatly into the palm of my hand. A little fluffy ball of white with the brightest of blue eyes, which the vet seems quite sure will remain blue.

So… instead of decorating my home for the holidays, and blogging with wild abandon, my days are now filled with feeding, socializing, and teaching this little man the basics of polite kitty etiquette (such as how to use a litter box).

I hope you all will forgive me for what seems to be an endless stream of reasons why I am becoming an absentee blogger.

With the limited free time I have (which seems to be dwindling with each passing day) I’ll do my best to decorate my home and my blog for the holidays!

At the moment though, I have a baby that needs tending to. ;)

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Enjoy your Friday, everyone! <3

Music Monday | Andy Williams

Yay, it’s December! A month long celebration of festive holidays—both religious and secular—all observing the ideals of kinship, enlightenment, community, and goodwill. I must admit, it is my favorite month of the year! Twinkling lights, mistletoe, the smell of pine and baking cookies, gift giving, eggnog, feasting with family—all of these things and more, fill me with delight.

What better way to kick off this first Monday in December than by sharing a holiday song for #MusicMonday!

For me, nothing marks the beginning of the season better than listening to Andy Williams singing, “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.”

In whatever way you celebrate the season, I send heartfelt wishes for a month of holiday merrymaking and happy memory-making moments! <3

“I like to compare the holiday season with the way a child listens to a favorite story. The pleasure is in the familiar way the story begins, the anticipation of familiar turns it takes, the familiar moments of suspense, and the familiar climax and ending.”
Fred Rogers 

 

Music Monday (469x288)Happy Monday! Happy December! Happy Holidays! :D

National Family Caregivers Month

As we head into the last remaining days of this month, it would be remiss of me not to take a moment to mention that November is National Family Caregivers Month. As a caregiver, I welcome the opportunity to draw attention to the estimated 90 million family caregivers who have accepted the challenges and rewards of caring for our loved ones whose lives are affected by illness, disability, or simply aging.

My personal journey into caregiving began in November 1999, when my husband, at age 37, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I still remember the overwhelming fear and confusion he and I both felt as we attended that first MS support group meeting for the newly diagnosed. The group’s speaker detailed the many questions and concerns associated with the disease—how to manage symptoms, treatment options, improving function and quality of life, as well as meeting the many challenges of living with MS. As the speaker recited a litany of what to expect from this life-altering disease, what my husband and I both found most disturbing, was her caution that many of those newly diagnosed with MS could also expect to lose their spouse to the disease. I was astounded by the thought that anyone could leave their loved one at this most vulnerable point in their life. I remember thinking, “So much for the vow of being a faithful partner in sickness and in health!” Fast forward 15 years and I will be honest, I am now better able to empathize with those healthy partners who abandon the fight; not all of us have the strength and tenacity to weather the vicissitudes of caregiving.

I have since learned that men are much less capable of supporting their sick wives than the other way around. “The divorce rate for marriages in which the man had MS was as low as 3%, while nearly 21% of couples in which the woman had MS ended in divorce.” Since “Multiple Sclerosis is universally found to be more prevalent in women than men” this fact alone seems to support the speaker’s foreboding message of an elevated divorce rate for MS sufferers. Regardless, I found it to be an ominous message for a group of people (and their partners) recently diagnosed with a life-changing disease to learn early on.

Personally, I prefer to concentrate on the knowledge that there are 79% of husbands, and 97% of wives—as well as a multitude of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and others—who selflessly devote their lives, each and every day, to caring for their loved ones suffering from this chronic condition.

On November 1st, President Obama recognized the importance of National Family Caregivers Month in a Presidential Proclamation:

“Each day, courageous individuals step forward to help care for family members in need, their quiet acts of selflessness and sacrifice telling a story of love and devotion. Across our country, parents and children, siblings and spouses, friends and neighbors heroically give of themselves to support those in their lives affected by illness, injury, or disability. During National Family Caregivers Month, we salute the people who play difficult and exhausting roles, and we recommit to lifting up these Americans as they care for their loved ones while protecting their dignity and individuality.”

While I sincerely welcome the President’s acknowledgement of my “quiet acts of selflessness and sacrifice” I think I can safely speak on behalf of the millions of family caregivers across our nation when I say, family caregivers would do without all the accolades in exchange for greater support, resources, and services being made available to us in order to meet the challenges of caregiving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
—John Fitzgerald Kennedy [Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1963]

<3 Wishing everyone a Thanksgiving Day filled with reasons to be grateful <3

Music Monday | 3 Doors Down

Wow! I cannot believe that November is almost at an end. That means this will be the last #MusicMonday song courtesy of my personal shuffle list on Pandora. :D

This week’s random pick is “Kryptonite,” a song by the American rock band 3 Doors Down.

Released in 2000, this song hit the #3 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100.

 

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”
― Confucius, The Book of Rites

I apologize for the short post. I know I’ve been a little absent this month but I hope to make it up to y’all in December! :)

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Have a great Monday, everyone! <3

Iced Pumpkin Spice Cookies

I love November! It is the perfect month for baking! And I love to bake! Nearly as much as I enjoy eating the sweet treats of my labor. I simply cannot resist the opportunity to bake anything that contains my favorite spice, cinnamon—add in a little nutmeg and cloves, and I’m on cloud nine! So imagine my utter delight in discovering a delectable cookie recipe that combines all three: cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. :)

Iced Pumpkin Spice Cookies! These cookies really are to die for. Combined with a steaming cup of black coffee, it makes for a perfect November treat!

I baked up a batch of these cookies yesterday morning as my 3-year-old granddaughter was visiting. As I pulled the first pan of cookies from the oven, she walked into the kitchen, breathed deeply, and said, “Hmmm, grandma, those smell soooo good!” :D There is no higher praise in my estimation! <3

Iced Pumpkin Spice Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1-teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients.

Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls (not teaspoonfuls as normally suggested); flatten slightly.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool cookies, then drizzle glaze with fork.

To Make Glaze: Combine confectioners’ sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed, to achieve drizzling consistency.

This recipe makes approximately 2 dozen scrumptious cookies.
Enjoy! :D

Featured image and recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com

Music Monday | a-ha

Next up for November’s #MusicMonday shuffle is the Norwegian band a-ha, and their 1985 hit song “Take on Me”. A catchy tune, combined with a clever music video that ran incessantly on MTV, this particular song won a-ha a handful of awards at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, as well as a nomination for Favorite Pop/Rock Video at the 13th American Music Awards.

I really hate to admit to ever liking 80’s technopop, buuut there’s a reason why it popped up in my Pandora shuffle! :D

 

“Music cleanses the understanding, inspires it, and lifts it into a realm which it would not reach if it were left to itself.”
Henry Ward Beecher—Sermons, “Plymouth Pulpit,” Second Series: The Right and the Wrong Way of Giving Pleasure.

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Wishing all of you a wonderful start to your new week! <3