Well, Duuhh…

Remember those times tables we copied and memorized and reproduced in grade school? I was way into adulthood when I discovered the ‘secret’ of the nines, that the sums of the digits in the answers equal nine. ( 9 x 2 = 18, 1 + 8 = 9) Go through two or three more to prove it to yourself. It is discombobulating that I didn’t know this all those years.

Another later-in-life discovery comes to mind. As the ex-wife of a car salesman, driving who-knows-what from day to day, I would have been spared multiple embarrassing trips around pumps had I known that gas gauge designs indicate which side the tank is on. Why all the secrets?

Recently I learned of another that had somehow escaped me as a classroom teacher – what it really means to be dyslexic.

Read here dyslexic Paul Madaule’s take on those affected as expressed in his clinical study.
“…the dyslexic child lives with his dyslexia all of the time: at recess, at home, with his friends,
alone, asleep and in his dreams. The dyslexic is a dyslexic every second of his life…Dyslexics are
often dyslexified throughout their entire body.” ( From Chapter 8 in The Brain’s Way of
Healing, Norman Doidge)

Because it has been characterized as mainly a reading disorder, affected children have been exposed to a shopping cart of gimmicks intended to help them compensate for the malfunction causing the condition. Some approaches worked, some didn’t. If students managed, it was more likely due to their own tireless efforts than to the trendy tricks applied to classroom instruction.

Without the ease of language, written or oral, gaps develop in social ties to friends and family, leading to withdrawl. Many times negative labels such as lazy and inattentive are applied, adding to the isolation. Fortunately, understanding of this disorder is expanding as the research on the plasticity of the brain continues..Genuine helpful treatments are gradually replacing the mixed bag of tactics as research reveals that the brain is a malleable organ that can be re-wired to create new connections to overcome disorders such as dyslexia.

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Spring Signs

Spring Signs

A mosquito, a gnat and a housefly
Made an appearance the other day.
As each performed its fly-by,
I sensed spring is on its way.

The mosquito was so very little
Took no more than a wave of my hand
To cause it to skedaddle.
No bite. It never did land.

Bizarrely the gnat was flying solo.
Usually it is part of a swarm.
Won’t hear me complaining, though.
Will be lots when it gets warm.

The housefly was maneuvering slowly,
As it thought about taking a flight.
No time wasted consoling,
The flies and I will soon fight.

Unlike the mosquito, I’m no longer petite.
Takes a few tugs to make waistbands meet.

Winter’s solitude, just me and the cat,
Makes me feel like the pesky ol’ gnat.

The dreary days means a much slower pace,
The housefly and I might not finish a race.

Robins are praised as the first signs of spring,
Though I haven’t seen one of them yet.
Three pests on a first spring fling
Means warm days are ahead, I bet.

Brighter days and warmer temps are coming,
Luring us to gather outside for fun –
Floating, boating and sunning,
We will greet spring on the run.

This was first published in the April 1st issue of the local weekly paper, the Prospect-News.

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Top 10 Signs I Staged a Snow-In

10.The living room looks like a college dorm room.

9. There is a line-up of miscellaneous necessities just inside the front door: bird seed, boots, lantern, broom, extra pair of fuzzy socks.

8. By my rocking chair, there is a handy stack of books – well, a taller stack of books – along with my stash of extra pens, a book of stamps, postcards and notebook paper.

7. A spare electric heater is sitting in the middle of the floor.

6. The car charger for the phone is in the car and contact numbers are posted by the landline.

5. I scrounged up 7 gloves…only one matching pair.

4. The quilt from an upstairs bedroom is spread over the couch.

3. A basket of snacks I don’t normally eat is the centerpiece of the kitchen table.

2. There are recordings on the DVR of shows I don’t normally watch from channels I don’t normally watch.

And the #1 sign I staged a snow-in, my fridge is so packed I won’t need to do any grocery shopping the rest of March

{This first appeared in the Wednesday, March 11th issue of my local paper, the Prospect-News.}

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A Snow-In

Snowcovered cedars lining driveway 2014

Snowfall settles in

And silent isolation

Tarnishes the joy.

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Brain Changers

(A while back I accepted the offer of a chance to participate in the Correspondence section of our local paper, with the stipulation that my submissions have a 250-word limit.I accepted the offer, and take the word limit challenge seriously. What a challenge that is! In revising and revising to decrease the size and maintain the point, at times the point changes. I fight the feeling that I am losing my style, if that is what it is, all those cute, clever examples to support my opinions. My blog posts don’t have word limits, so maybe I can record my witticisms here to experiment with style/brevity. Can I really say anything impressive and provocative in 250 words or fewer?)

Perhaps you have heard “neurons that fire together wire together.” That explains how we learn the isolated steps of the Achy Breaky then put them together in a sequence resembling a dance.

120 years ago Henry James alluded to the brain’s malleability, but with little fanfare. In 1948 that characteristic received a name – neuroplasticity – thanks to Polish neuroscientist Jerry Konorski. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that it was understood that our brains could adapt in function and structure beyond childhood.

This ability to form new connections is a response to learning, experience and memory-making.
To stimulate our brain cells to be happier folks, here are 4 simple alterations we can make, according to Shawn Achor in his 2011 TED talk.

1.Write 3 things you appreciate for 21 days. It doesn’t have to be complicated journaling;
it can be a 2-minute task writing in the margin of a newspaper headed to recycling. It is the thinking and the doing for 21 days in a row that allows our brains to retain a pattern of looking at our worlds through a positive lens.
2. Exercise. Can’t get around the fact that our brains need movement. Dig out those cassettes and relearn the steps to Achy Breaky for starters.
3. Meditate. That term intimidates me. I understand ‘practice mindfulness’ better. Focus on the moment. Our brains need a break from the multi-tasking chaos that technology creates.
4.Commit random acts of kindness regularly. This requires conscious thought, and done
consistently, it is a brain changer.

(Recommended reads: The Brain that Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing, both by Norman Doidge, MD. Check out this website: brainHQ)

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Perspective Key to Happiness

“You’d better change that attitude, young lady.” How often I heard that growing up, along with, “You will never be happy.” I was a typical teen with the typical thought pattern that whatever was lacking was the one thing that would make me happy, be it straight hair, a certain outfit, an anticipated letter, a date with a particular someone, and a sky blue Plymouth Duster with white interior.

With adulthood came the notion that to catch that elusive happiness I needed to work harder, which would lead to more success, putting happiness in my grasp. Fascinating brain research is proving our brains work contrary to that.

Long-term happiness is predicted by how our brains process our worlds, not by the worlds themselves. Reality is not the determining factor; it is our perception of that reality that is. (Consider my family’s move from St. Louis to Doniphan in 1969. I watched my siblings’ joy and adventure through my lens of misery.)

In a 2011 TED talk, speaker Shawn Achor shared the happiness advantage.“Your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed…Intelligence, creativity and energy levels rise…Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed.”

We work harder, faster and smarter being positive in the present. This has significant implications for productivity in the workplace, learning in the classroom, and managing cabin fever! Mom and Dad were on to something; it’s all in the attitude.

(First appeared in 2/24/2015 issue of Prospect-News)

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Meet Brayden

Meet Brayden.

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