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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Face the Light

Without searching, the lie surfaced.
You cried all night
And dreaded the light.

Because he lied
Your life’s in disarray,
You seem to have lost your way.
Because he lied
You search all eyes,
Sifting truth from lies.
Because he lied
Your plans are scattered
As if they, and you, no longer mattered.

Because he lied
You contemplate leaving him behind.
For too long your love was blind.

For months he said it wasn’t so;
Meaning you kept on trying, continually denying
You lost your way long ago.

Truth or lies? From him you’ll never know.
You’re a pawn in a game
He can’t admit he’s playing; it has no name.
But she does. To all this she too is blind.
Dry your eyes, face the light. To yourself be kind.

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A shuffling of memories tugged at my thoughts as I began frying the bacon, supporting research that the sense of smell is a strong memory trigger. As the aroma strengthened, so did the nostalgic tugs. By the time I placed the bacon and eggs on my plate and sat down to eat, I was compelled to turn off the television and leave the cell phone in the living room to allow the memories full stage during my breakfast. This was a conscious effort to practice mindfulness, to clear my space of all distractions and focus on the task at hand.

The varied memories included half-way waking to the sounds of Momma in the kitchen cooking for Dad before daylight – quiet muffled voices, the spatter of grease popping in the skillet as the smell of bacon made it up the stairs; weekends with gravy and biscuits added to the menu, summer afternoon BLT’s chowed down before afternoon naps, and pancake stacks slathered with syrup that sweetened the bacon, too.

More memories tagged along. Chatter, questions, laughter, clinks of silverware, dishes sliding along the table, the occasional scolding, and the reminder of whose turn it was to scrape the dishes or wash and dry, sure to fire up negotiations between siblings bent on altering the schedule, filled the kitchen.

My parents needed no reminders to be mindful. Tablets and phones did not diminish gazes, smiles and dialogues from the rich tapestry of ordinary life evident in all those childhood times.

(This first appeared in the Wednesday, March 18th issue of the Prospect-News in Doniphan, MO.)

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