Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. What Are You Proud Of?

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. What Are You Proud Of?

What Are You Proud Of?

Have you noticed, like me, how easy it is to get so caught up in what you need to do next, all of the things you either want to accomplish or simply need to get done, that you forget to pat yourself on the back for a job well done?

It’s important to congratulate ourselves. Even while sitting here at the computer, writing, I’ll stop myself for a moment. “Hey, Laura, that was an awesome paragraph!” I stop typing and reach my right hand to the back of my left shoulder, giving myself a good ol’ pat on the back.

It’s silly to wait and receive our accolades from somebody else – clients, family members, friends. They have enough problems of their own and are focusing on what they need to accomplish and get done. We need to be our own biggest cheerleaders.

While writing this post, I went to the kitchen to check on dinner. Sometimes George cooks; sometimes I do. Tonight, I offered to make dinner. I browned sliced chicken breasts and baked them in the oven with a simple sauce (built-in gravy) using a can of cream of celery soup with milk and seasonings. Boiled russet potatoes with the skins on to make mashed potatoes. Opened a couple cans of green beans, and baked a cut acorn squash brushed with butter, a sprinkling of brown sugar, and freshly ground four pepper blend and pink Himalayan sea salt. It was a relatively simple meal.

George said, “I am so grateful for your cooking. I’ve eaten at some places lately that my stomach just did not want to tolerate. I don’t have a cast iron stomach like I used to, and my body is so used to your good cooking, it doesn’t like greasy, fast-food type meals anymore.”

I am proud of that!

In previous homes, I developed a knack for sponge-painting the walls in different rooms for a “faux” look. Some walls turned out better than others, but I would often take the time to look at the walls in different lights, at different times of the day, and congratulate myself for making a beautiful piece of artwork from a simple wall.

Here’s another thing I’m very proud of.

When I moved to Oregon in 1990, I found work as a Claims Adjuster at SAIF Corporation, and was in their holiday choir three years in a row, singing and playing the piano. In high school, I was in a trio called The Cadets, and we won the talent portion of the local Snow Queen contest two years in a row. The first year, when I was 16, we sang the Andrew Sisters’ Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.

I re-wrote the Boogie Woogie lyrics: Santa’s Comin’ to Willamette Valley and formed a trio for the SAIF Corporation Holiday Choir. To this day, I feel very proud of this accomplishment. You can see the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHFod5snl3M&feature=youtu.be

What are you most proud of? Let us know on the blog, where we can support each other in bringing our voices out in the world.

HONE Your Message is coming to Toastmasters for Speaking Professionals October 17th.

If peaceful conflict resolution is in your wheelhouse, come to the Oregon Mediation Associations’ 31st Annual Conference November 3rd & 4th in Portland, where I will be presenting HONE Your Message.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

To Your Voice, Laura

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. What Are You Known For?

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. What Are You Known For?

What Are You Known For?

One of the greatest among the many aha teachings seared into my soul by my mentor-mother-friend Maya Angelou is the one about legacy.

I’d just returned from the opening of my school in South Africa and was regaling her with all the details.

“This school will be my greatest legacy,” I said. “It will make such a profound difference. It will change the trajectory of girls’ lives. It will impact generations to come.”

I was pretty confident making those statements. And time has proved them true, as I witness the members of the first classes now blossomed into young women graduating from college and venturing into new areas of service and achievement.

But Maya wasn’t hearing it. She stopped me cold. “You have no idea what your legacy will be!” she exclaimed. “Your legacy is every life you touch! It’s every person who ever watched your show and felt something. Was moved to do something. Go back to school, leave an abusive marriage, stop hitting their kids, no longer remain silent, not be a victim. It’s not one thing – it’s everything!”

-Oprah Winfrey, O Magazine, September, 2017

I finished reading the September issue of O Magazine a day before this text came in from my friend, Michelle: “You need to watch Worst Cooks in America—Celebrity Edition on the Food Network. Erik Estrada is on it.”

Michelle, one of my best high school friends, knows about my Erik Estrada thing. As you can see in this blog entry, http://laurahandke.com/happy-63rd-birthday-erik-estrada/ I finally met the man at the age of 33. That’s one thing I’m known for. Likely also that I only watch one television show, The Young and the Restless, on CBS. I’ve been watching since age 15, and am not about to stop now. Whenever possible, I eat my lunch while learning the latest gossip from Genoa City. (Yes, I know. Don’t even…) My biggest acting goal is not to earn an Academy Award, but to have a six-to-eight-week stint on Y&R. I admit it. It’s true.

Many colleagues and friends know about my thing for author and famous life coach, Martha Beck. I quote her like preachers quote the Bible.

Yet what else I am known for?

What are you known for?

This is where a rather somber, yet also fun, exercise comes in. Some call it the “grave stone” exercise.

How do you want to be remembered? What is your legacy?

It is, indeed, as Maya Angelou told Oprah, everything you say, and everything you do. Every person you reach. Every life you touch.

My ex-husband might say I drank too much wine during our marriage, yet when I called to let him know the divorce papers were coming, what he said was, “I will never say a bad thing about you.”

Okay, it might have been self-serving, because he didn’t want me to say a bad thing about him, but still…

My cat Lady Jane might say after a year and a half in the shelter, I have given her a happy and loving home for a decade. She tells me this every day in her cat language I’ve somewhat learned to understand. (Except for the pooping on the floor six inches from the litter box part.)

Friends over the years have thanked me for many things, and called me out on others (thank God for both!)

Students and clients have given me both accolades and constructive feedback. I’ve given workshops where I felt I wasn’t reaching people and wasn’t able to help them. Where I felt I totally bombed. I’ve given others I was certain changed people’s lives for the better and I walked out soaring on angels’ wings. (Yet I don’t know how even when I felt I bombed, what came through to the students.)

My partner told me, in our first year, this is the most loving relationship he’s ever had. He says this now, in our fifth.

I have done some stupid and selfish things. I’ve acted rashly at times. I’ve said things I’ve regretted.

I’ve also been loving in situations when I could have chosen otherwise. I’ve risen to the task when I didn’t think I could. I have found secret fortitudes of patience and wisdom I didn’t know were there.

Haven’t we all?

Reflect on similar experiences you’ve had over the years, and when grace popped in when you least expected it. Aren’t those the most spectacular moments of all? Those graceful moments are always upmost in our legacy.

When I pass, I don’t want to take up space in our precious planet with a coffin and a grave stone. I think cremation and my ashes scattered is a better route.

Yet this is my response to the grave stone exercise.

She took risks to grow. She opened her heart. She shared love.

What is yours? Let us know on the blog!

Unleash and HONE Your Authentic Message: Four steps to delivering a memorable speech that will engage your audience for maximum impact and results. 

HONE Your Message is coming to Toastmasters for Speaking Professionals October 17th.

If peaceful conflict resolution is in your wheelhouse, come to the Oregon Mediation Associations’ 31st Annual Conference November 3rd & 4th in Portland, where I will be presenting HONE Your Message.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura

Simply Authentic: Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking, Part 3

Simply Authentic: Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking, Part 3

The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking

Part Three of Three: How to Create Vocal Resonance

©Laura Handke, 2017

You’ve worked up the courage to give a speech. You’ve written, edited, and re-edited. You’ve rehearsed until you don’t want to listen to your own speech one more time. You’re at the podium, breathing deeply, which calms your nerves and lessens the shaking of your hands. You open your mouth, and…wonder where your voice went.

What you hoped would be a roar is more like a squeak. You can see people leaning in, straining to hear you, at the back of the room. You would like to be hauled out of there with a hook, like in an old vaudeville act.

What happened? You didn’t notice this pitiful, stuck-behind-the-podium, voice while rehearsing in the privacy of your living room with Betty the Boxer dog. Betty heard you just fine, and, in fact, barked her approval. Not one growl did Betty give.

The culprit here may just be a lack of resonance in your voice.

One of the most naturally resonant voices I’ve ever heard belongs to James Earl Jones. (Oh, how the memories are flooding in from 1980’s Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. “No, I am your father.” Now you know my age bracket! Fun fact: it really is “No,” instead of “Luke.”)

We may not all have been born with voices as resonant as James Earl Jones. Yet regardless of our body structure and voice type, we can all create resonance in our voices.

Resonance is that deep, full, reverberating characteristic which allows your voice to carry and be heard at the back of the room, even without a microphone.

Picture, as best you can, the inside of your skull and nasal cavities. They provide a space for sound to bounce around in. Train yourself to aim your voice into that “mask” or “buzzy spot.”

Close your mouth tightly, and say, “Mmmm,” like a cow would. You should feel vibrations inside your mouth and nasal cavities. You want this, as a speaker or performer. Open your mouth now, say, “My,” and exaggerate the vibrating tone; be overly nasal, like a Brooklynite, like Fran Drescher in The Nanny.

You get that feeling, right? Perfect.

Now, I don’t want you to stand up in front of your audience and try and fake a Brooklyn accent. (Unless you are, of course, from Brooklyn, in which case you should milk it for all it’s worth.)

What I do want you to do is get used to the feeling of projecting your voice into that buzzy spot so your voice will carry, and you’ll be heard at the back of the room. Say “back of the room” with a nasal tone right now. Doesn’t that feel good? Yes, it does! And resonance also helps singers stay on pitch.

Warm up before you go on stage by using M (Money is always good) and N (Naaa) words, while projecting into the buzzy spot.

People need to hear what you have to say…otherwise you wouldn’t be drawn on stage, even if it’s behind the podium, in the first place.

Avoid glottal onsets. Breathe starting with your nose and belly, not the upper chest. Aim your voice into the buzzy spot so you can be heard. Speak with resonance and passion, with healthy vocal technique! Your throat will thank you, and so will your audience.

Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and be inspirational. 

HONE Your Message is coming to Toastmasters for Speaking Professionals October 17th. Stay tuned for details.

If peaceful conflict resolution is in your wheelhouse, come to the Oregon Mediation Associations’ 31st Annual Conference November 3rd & 4th in Portland, where I will be presenting HONE Your Message.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking, Part 2

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking, Part 2

The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking

Part Two of Three: Breath-Based Vocalization

©Laura Handke, 2017

Stop what you’re doing right now (including reading this article), close your eyes, and take three deep breaths.

Upon opening your eyes, you will likely feel more calm, relaxed and present. That’s what conscious, deep breathing does; it’s one of the best ways to combat performance anxiety, otherwise known as “stage fright”, a regular companion of many speakers. I’ve been known to start a speech in my home Toastmasters club by saying, “Please join me in taking three deep breaths.” I received feedback like, “I have no idea what that had to do with your speech, but it sure relaxed me!”

Please humor me and, again, close your eyes, and take three deep breaths – this time being consciously aware of what’s happening within your body as you breathe. If you’re in a physical environment where you can lay down on your back (grab a yoga mat if you have one handy) before you begin to breathe.

Did your shoulders move up while you inhaled? They shouldn’t, at least not too much. Tense, upward shoulder movement is an indicator of what I’ll call “chest breathing”, trying to breathe engaging mainly the upper part of your chest, which substantially limits lung capacity.

Your stomach should expand when you inhale, while your rib cage is stretched and expanded, and your shoulders straight and relaxed. (You can see a video demonstration at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjUERjaRIv8&t=489s; or just Google “YouTube Laura Handke Mini Voice Lesson”.) It’s easiest to experience this while lying down…your stomach should rise towards the ceiling or sky as you inhale, and then come down as you exhale while vocalizing. Once you get the hang of it on the floor, you can incorporate the same breathing process while up standing and speaking.

If you’re not accustomed to breathing this way, it may take a while before it’s solidified in muscle memory and becomes second nature…but the practice is worth it for anyone who gets up in front of a room full of people and speaks.

It’s also worth it for everyone who doesn’t, now that I think about it! Deep belly breathing has many benefits, including:

  • The relaxing, calming effect I mentioned earlier, and a relaxed speaker rubs off on the audience
  • A more fully oxygenated body, releasing endorphins in the brain
  • Improved air flow through the vocal folds, which reduces vocal fatigue, and improves the sound quality of your voice
  • Lowers the heart rate, and you’re less likely to feel dizzy

Deep breathing is recommended for everything from quitting smoking, to reducing physical pain, to increasing mental clarity. I venture to say deep breathing supports literally everything in our physical bodies, and emotional and mental states as well.

Avoid glottal onsets. Breathe starting with your nose and belly, not the upper chest. Speak with passion, with healthy vocal technique! Your throat will thank you, and so will your audience.

Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and be inspirational. 

HONE Your Message is coming to Toastmasters for Speaking Professionals October 17th. Stay tuned for details.

If peaceful conflict resolution is in your wheelhouse, come to the Oregon Mediation Associations’ 31st Annual Conference November 3rd & 4th in Portland, where I will be presenting HONE Your Message.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking, Part I

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking, Part I

The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking 

Part One of Three: The Glottal Onset

©Laura Handke, 2017

Do you know who Adele is?

Of course, you do. (Unless you’ve been living on an uncharted south Pacific island with iguanas, parrots, and not a single electronic device to keep you company for the last decade. In which case, if you Google, you’ll find a lovely, 29-year old English singer-songwriter who has won 15 Grammy awards and sold over 150 million albums.)

Did you know Adele needed vocal cord surgery in 2011?

In a 2012 interview on 60 Minutes, Adele said it was “’Like someone put a curtain over my throat…and I could feel it. It felt like something popped in my throat.’ She found out she had a polyp on her vocal cord that had hemorrhaged. She said, ‘I had laser surgery. [They] put lasers down your throat, cut off the polyp, and kind of laser your hemorrhage back together and fix it.’”

By all media accounts, the surgery was a great success.

But perhaps the real question is, why did Adele need surgery in the first place?

Which leads to my next question. Do you know what a “glottal onset” is?

Probably not. I wonder if Adele does. I’ll ask her if I meet her. Her home base is in England when she’s not on tour, and mine is in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and I’ve never been on tour, so I’m not sure how likely our paths are to cross.

All the same, I was first on stage in an operetta in fifth grade, at the age of 10, so I’ve been vocalizing and performing virtually my entire life. However, I didn’t meet my voice teacher and founder of the Transformational Voice® system, Linda Brice, until I was in my 40’s. It was from Linda I learned about the three kinds of onsets: Glottal, aspirated and coordinated. A glottal onset is the one you don’t want. Avoiding those could have helped Adele avoid vocal cord surgery.

Google Adele’s live performance of her wonderful song, Someone Like You, from the 2011 Brit Awards. The lyrics are “I heard that you settled down, that you found a girl, that you’re married now. I heard that your dreams came true…”

Before you listen, let me explain the mechanics of a glottal onset.

Our voices start with the breath. We inhale before we speak. (Have you ever noticed you can’t talk while you’re inhaling?) We always exhale as we’re vocalizing.

Ideally, our vocal folds or cords (interchangeable terms) are open and relaxed before we start to speak or sing. If the vocal folds are together and vibrating too early (because of stress, improper breathing, abdominal clenching) and we start to speak, the air forces them apart…and you get the gravelly kind of sound you’ll hear in this Adele video. It also causes mucus on the vocal folds, and clearing your throat leads to more of that. You really don’t want that.

One last thing to keep in mind: You’re prone to glottal onsets when you open a phrase with a vowel sound as opposed to a consonant.

Now you’re ready. Listen to the Adele video from the 2011 Brit Awards. Listen particularly to I heard that you settled down, that you found a girl, that you’re married now. I heard that your dreams came true…”

The first onset is aspirated. The second is glottal. Can you hear the gravelly sound?

That gravelly sound is very popular in radio music these days. But it’s not healthy for your voice.

You don’t want vocal polyps or vocal surgery.

And, readers, since I wrote this article several weeks ago, I heard Adele is having the same issue again right now.

Avoid the glottal onset – breathe deeply as you speak. Speak with passion, with healthy vocal technique! Your throat will thank you, and so will your audience.

Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and be inspirational. 

HONE Your Message is coming to Toastmasters for Speaking Professionals October 17th. Stay tuned for details.

If peaceful conflict resolution is in your wheelhouse, come to the Oregon Mediation Associations’ 31st Annual Conference November 3rd & 4th in Portland, where I will be presenting HONE Your Message.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. A Week of Eclipse

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. A Week of Eclipse

A Week of Eclipse

Did you experience the solar eclipse? Through special glasses or through the media? Some people told me it was awesome. Others said it was disappointing. The darkest point, dusk-like, where we are in Lake Oswego, happened while I was in the shower, actually, with my schedule that day.

I like the word eclipse, as it’s also a verb. My shower with hand-made soap by Wandering Goods http://www.wanderinggoods.com/ eclipsed the eclipse, for example.

Yet my week of eclipse has more to do with something else. What’s happening next will eclipse my previous skill as a vocal teacher. (All right, enough with the eclipse theme already.)

My voice teacher, Linda Brice, has asked me to be the assistant teacher for the next Transformational Voice® apprenticeship class, beginning mid-September.

Here’s the back story, my friends. I used to be terrified of driving in Portland. Oregon has been my home now for longer than the state I was born in, South Dakota, yet I lived with an inability to drive in the city of Portland for – oh, a dozen years or so.

I tried a few times, got horribly lost, and going over all those quick interchanges, especially in four lanes of heavy traffic, over bridges (I’ve had dreams of almost dying because of bridges!) gave me the closest I have come to anxiety attacks. My hands were clenched on the steering wheel, palms sweaty, heart palpitating, brow growing moist, and my mental process went like: Please just let me make it off this bridge alive, don’t let me hit a car, don’t let a car hit me, please tell me where I need to go to get off this *&@#’g road, please let me park, please let me get out of this car and never ever have to *#%$’g drive again!!! Please!!

Yep, that’s pretty much how it went. Every time. Until I gave up. I wasn’t going to do that to myself anymore.

Looking back, it’s a miracle I kept any friends during this time period, because every friend who asked me to do something outside of Lake Oswego (“my” Portland suburb) had to drive. They had to pick me up, meet me in my neighborhood, or we simply didn’t meet. There were a few cab rides thrown in, but I imagine my friendships survived in large part because I invited people for dinner, cooked them a tasty meal, and plied them with wine.

And then…I became involved with the Transformational Voice® Institute…first as a student, and then as an apprentice teacher.

This changed the game. My voice teacher, Linda Brice, had been recommended by someone I implicitly trust, and I longed to start singing again so badly that I vowed to myself I would do whatever it took to find my way to that first class, without relying on anyone else.

I started with practice driving to the location of the first class ahead of time, when I knew the traffic would be light and it wasn’t raining. I managed to find someone to carpool with to the first class term (because I asked) and Margaret and I became great friends during those drives.

Slowly, I drove to more classes on my own, while I was learning the Transformational Voice® breathing technique and was eventually asked to join the very first apprentice teacher training class. The more I learned the breathing technique, the better I was able to relax and drive. The more I drove, the more comfortable I became with the driving process, and the more my voice relaxed in the voice classes and lessons.

Now, especially since we all have GPS devices readily available on our phones, I can navigate all over Portland comfortably. Driving is still not my favorite thing to do, but I’ve relaxed into it, in large part because of the breathing techniques I learned as a Transformational Voice® teacher: Expand your rib cage. Relax your belly. Breathe like a new born baby, deep belly breaths, and allow your voice to come out and forward on the breath.

Deep belly breathing brings you back to center and is the best way I know to practice being fully and authentically present, something everyone around you will thank you for. But most importantly, your authentic self will thank you.

So…current and future voice students…I wanted you to know that going through the apprenticeship program again, this time as an assistant teacher, will way up my skill level and presence with you.

I’m super excited to…won’t say that word again.

It’s doubtful that the other creatures waste the present in thoughts of past and future. A beaver only does beaver, and he does it right in the moment. He doesn’t spend his days wishing he were a young beaver again, or ruminating over the fact that his beaver siblings received more attention, or his father beaver ran off with a younger beaver when he was growing up. He’s always in the now. We can learn much from God’s creatures about enjoying the present moment rather than using it consumed up with guilt over the past or worry about the future. Practice living in the moment, and refuse to allow any thoughts based on your past to define you. –Dr. Wayne Dyer, 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace

Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and be inspirational. 

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura