Missing Pets

Pixabay: Gellinger. Free for commercial use; no attribution requiredOn a walk recently, I spotted 2 “Missing Pet” signs posted by different neighbors on the same pole.

One was for a missing cat.

The other for a missing bird.

I hope that ends well.

 

Photo source: Gellinger on Pixabay


 

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What Shakespeare Can Teach Us About PTSD [Things That Go Boom]

Pixabay: Alf-Marty. Free for commercial use; no attribution requiredShakespeare, war, PTSD and healing. This was a brilliant podcast episode that completely grabbed me.  Host Laicie Heeley talks with Stephan Wolfert, an army Vet, about his program, De-cruit, which helps veterans heal through Shakespeare and science.

Wolfert unexpectedly attended a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III in Montana, where the words broke through to him in a way he’d never experienced. It was so profound he had a catharsis and was sobbing in the theater.

Out of this, he redirected his life to study drama and created Shakespeare workshops for vets.  For veterans—trained to operate within the military structure—reconnecting in civilian life often proves hard. But Shakespeare’s words speak to war, human connection and a multitude of emotions and deceits, all relevant topics in the military and in life.

Wolfert’s passion for the subject, and his personal experience of the healing power of Shakespeare’s words, made me grateful for his unique vision and reignited an interest in seeing Shakespeare.

This is an excellent podcast. I love the broad diversity of podcast topics; I love learning about the amazing things people are doing. And because it’s a podcast, we get to hear voices expressing passion, frustration and hope, in an incredibly intimate way.

Things that Go Boom is a “podcast about the ins, outs, and whathaveyous of what keeps us safe.”

Photo source: Alf-Marty on Pixabay


 

SparkNotes as a Writer’s Tool

Writing Resources2-BlogI just discovered SparkNotes.com as a tool for learning about the craft of storytelling. I always thought of SparkNotes—and CliffNotes—as simply being something you turned to in high school if you hadn’t read the assigned book and there was an upcoming test. SparkNotes would give you enough of a summarized story overview to, hopefully, help you pass.

But guess what! SparkNotes delivers much more than just a book summary.

I popped in to see what they had on Victor Hugo’s book, Les Misérables, a t.v. series recently presented by PBS. The plot of the story captivated me; the character arcs and character development were observable.

I wanted to unravel the story; break it down; see if I could learn some writing structure and character development from it. I knew I wouldn’t read the whole book. But jotting down notes from having watched the series felt do-able.

I went to SparkNotes thinking a big-picture summary of the book might help me identify fundamental story concepts: the hero, an inciting incident, in pursuit of something, meeting conflicts that get increasingly complex, conquering them until the hero overcomes all and reaches a final resolution. And in the process, the hero’s character changes; you see their character arc.

When I pulled up the SparkNotes web site for Les Misérables, I felt as if I’d landed on a story structure training page. It’s a way of getting a taste of key aspects of a book. It provided:

SparkNotes

  • Summary
    • A summary of the book’s overall plot
    • Chapter summaries and analysis
  • Characters: A list of characters, with background summaries about relevant characters, plus more in-depth analysis of major ones
  • Main Ideas: themes, motifs, symbols and key facts
  • Quotes: Important quotations with brief analysis regarding their meaning
  • Further study: author background, quizzes, study suggestions and suggested reading
  • Writing Help: Tools to help students write essays on the book

Here are the topics addressed in the Main Ideas section for Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird:

SparkNotes: To Kill a Mockingbird Main Ideas web pageCliffNotes is worth checking out as well; the sites are similar but with differences that make them both working looking at. My first leaning was toward SparkNotes, but each has value, and it likely comes down to personal preference.

This is a totally current discovery, but I’m excited about the possibilities, and stoked to share it. Let me know what you think!

 

Photo source: Walk the Goats


 

Relationship Tip: Don’t Be an Ass

f_ZenCommand-Marriage-edit

The Golden Rule is short and to the point: Treat others as you want them to treat you.  It’s pretty simple, yet we often complicate it.

In his book The Zen Commandments, Dean Sluyter says “our personal relationships can be simpler than we usually make them.” He summarizes the principles he thinks make relationships work.

“Whether in a romance or a marriage or a family, the principles are the same: you take care of one another, you be as kind as you can, you do your share of finding new sources of fun, you quietly pass up opportunities to score points or be a wise guy, you give the benefit of the doubt, and you try to make things less insane rather than more.  If you think the other person is off the program you address the situation gently and with respect. But since the problem is often your own perception, you can save everyone a lot of grief by waiting a little while first to see if your perception changes.”

The Zen Commandments: Ten Suggestions for a Life of Inner Freedom, Dean Sluyter, from Lesson #5: Keep it Simple

Here’s my summary of his Principles

  1. Take care of each other
  2. Be kind
  3. Do your share
  4. Avoid being an ass
  5. Assume the best (not the worst)
  6. Make things better (rather than worse)
  7. Before jumping to a conclusion, wait
  8. If, after waiting, there’s still an issue, address it

Sluyter’s advice resonates for me, both the words and the simplicity of it. If both people in a relationship apply it, a lot of perceived relationship problems disappear.  Did the thing go away or did our thoughts about it change?

I know thoughts in my mind impact my perception of things, and that can affect how I experience stuff. I’ve received new information in situations and been shocked at how quickly my perception has pivoted.

I want to keep #7 in mind. Life promises change; guarantees it. I’ve been amazed at how something that had a hold of me can lose its power simply with the passage of time.

What relationship principles guide you in life?

 

Photo source: RJA1988 on Pixabay


 

Mom in Heels

Dad
Mom circa around 1953

Mom loved wearing heels. I recently wrote about it. I think about mom regularly, but today, on Mother’s Day, I thought about her more. Partially because there were so many societal sign-posts reminding me to think about her. But mostly because it’s my first Mother’s Day without her. I feel a missing about that. And a gratefulness for the many years she had. She nearly made it to 89. That was a dang good run.

Big Mother’s Day wishes to you mommy. I love you.

133_MomInHeels_3-12-19_2.jpeg
A pair of mom’s heels now in my closet.

Photo source: Dad


 

9-Volt Nirvana [RadioLab]

Pixabay: geralt. Free for commercial use; No attribution required

The glory of sudden, instant, effortless personal development.  That was the enticement of RadioLab’s, 9-Volt Nirvana podcast episode.

Juice the brain; no more than a 9-volt battery. And suddenly, bam! You become an invincible sharp-shooter.  Firing away at virtual killers, bringing them down with perfect accuracy. Where minutes before the juice, you’re lying in a pool of virtual blood.

Or maybe your brain suddenly, quickly, picks out a 3D shark from an autostereogram. Where minutes before the juice, your eyes and mind only saw a jumble of colored images, smeared together.

Or maybe, studying vocabulary, you add some juice and the words are suddenly easy.

The episode is about transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a process that promises to help us accelerate our learning, by zapping our scalp—and whatever brain cells lay beneath—with electricity.  According to the podcast, “Researchers claim that juicing the brain with just 2 milliamps…can help with everything from learning languages, to quitting smoking, to overcoming depression.”

RadioLab’s story enticed. Aren’t there places in our lives we’d like to do something better? Quicker? Easier?

Sniper-Training

It was Sally Adee, sniper-in-training, that drew me in.  Sally convinced her editors at New Scientist to fly her from London to Carlsbad, CA to test out tDCS. She went to Advanced Brain Monitoring, a group using tDCS to train snipers.

There, in a room using 360-degree training simulation tools, real sandbags and other props, holding an M4 assault rifle armed with a laser site and CO-2 cartridges to deliver a realistic kick-back, Sally ran through a simulation. First, without tDCS.

The simulation starts off slowly. She has time to react, to take her shots. And then, it gets chaotic. The Humvee in front of her explodes and killers come at her from every direction. It’s all too fast, she can’t decide. And at the end of the simulation, she’s taken down about 3 out of 20 suicide bombers.

Then they wire her up: attach one electrode to her right temple and another electrode to her left arm. They turn on the electric current. She’s put into the simulation again, only starting from the point where the Humvee was being blown up. And with the wires juicing her brain.

Her assessment of this second round is they’ve slowed things down; it’s not difficult, she can clearly see where the dangers are coming from and she picks off her targets. It ends, they unplug her, and she’s confused; she’s only been in the simulation a few minutes. She’s sure they didn’t give her a difficult simulation.

Then she looks at the clock: 20-minutes have passed. And, no, they hadn’t slowed it down or made it easy.

This time, with the juice, she’s scored a perfect 20 out of 20.

Bringing down “bad guys” makes this technology sound good. But what if someone was learning this skill to wreak destruction on an innocent community? Do we want that ability to be easily acquired?

Cheap Cost and Unknown Risks

But there may be no choice. The technology is there. It’s easy and cheap to build your own tDCS device, around $20 for parts at your local electronics store.  It’s hard to regulate. People are out there, self-applying it, experimenting by placing it on different parts of their brain, trying to figure out what helps, what doesn’t.  In reference to one fellow on YouTube talking about doing tDCS, the podcaster comments, “It’s like he’s playing Russian roulette with that thing.”

People have reported “loss of consciousness after using it…feeling burns…there was one report of someone going temporarily blind.”  In the comments posted below a tDCS TEDx talk by Maarten Frens in December 2013, one person warned, “I burned a dime size hole through my scalp today with only 8 aa batteries and eeg pads. This is dangerous!”

The device is a blunt tool, not a scalpel.  And there’s a theory, called “The Zero-Sum Theory of the Brain,” which says our brains and body are a system. If “juice” is sent to one area, it has to come from another area; enhancing one area is “by definition diminishing another.”

Is it Good? Or Bad.

For Sally, who acquired impressive shooting skills using tDCS, she admitted she valued some of the after-affects. She felt more confident driving and some of the critical voices in her head were quiet for several days. Those feelings were powerful and positive. But she was also worried. She was surprised how much she “craved doing it again.  It felt,” she said, “like a drug with no side effects. I don’t know if I’m going to get addicted to electricity…”

A deeper, philosophical question is raised by Soren Wheeler, Jad Abumrad, and Robert Krulwich, the show’s hosts. They ponder those moments when we’re “awake and present,” that feel like a gift from the universe.  What happens, they ask, when we can “order up” a state of mind; when “it’s an expectation” we “can create… on demand?”

“I think that the ‘gift’ versus ‘ordering it up’ is pretty deep to me,” says Soren. “I feel like, in a world where you order things up then you’re in a world where you think you deserve things or you think you’ve earned them or think other people haven’t. That’s a world that’s empty of true gratitude.”

  • Podcast: RadioLab
  • Episode9-Volt Nirvana, June 26, 2014, 27 minutes
  • Hosts: Soren Wheeler, Jad Abumrad, Robert Krulwich

Moving Slowly in a Fast World

Pixabay: nandhukumar. Free for commercial use; no attribution required

The world feels fast: fast food, high-speed trains, supersonic planes. Tech companies move fast and break things. People want things now, resulting in instant Jell-O, instant messaging and Instant Pot.

I’m slow. I read slowly, write slowly, learn slowly. I’m thorough; detail-oriented.

This fault-line between my slow-motion style and the world’s fast-motion expectations sometimes leaves me feeling deficient, concerned I lack a societally-valued trait.

My discomfort intensifies when I try to learn something new. I plod through my learning while images of Neo from The Matrix appear, skills and knowledge insta-loaded into his memory.

I’ve wrestled with this aspect of my personality, being self-critical when I take too long to learn something, aching to speed things up.  Expecting something other than what is.

Continue reading “Moving Slowly in a Fast World”

Prostate Cancer and Gratitude for a Facebook Group

Pixabay: marijana 1 Free for commercial use; no attribution required

Bubba had been monitoring his PSA tests for prostate cancer for a while when things shifted from Active Surveillance (yes, that’s a term) to time-to-act. Bubba is a voracious reader and researcher. He read: books, articles, medical studies. He talked with a friend who’d gone through a prostate cancer diagnosis 10-years earlier. But other than one friend, it was a solitary exploration.

Years ago, I joined a Facebook Group for women going grey. No, it’s nothing like cancer, and yet, it was comforting and helpful to spend time with people going through a shared experience. I appreciated the support and the vulnerability people shared as they dealt with insensitive comments, insecurities, doubts and successes.  I suggested to Bubba there might be a similar group for prostate cancer.

The Prostate Cancer Support Group he joined has over 10,000 people—men and women—from around the world. After joining, reading, asking questions, and commenting, Bubba told me he was glad I’d suggested it; said I might want to join. I’m glad I did.  The group has been a blessing. In appreciation of the group and the people there—all going through an incredibly difficult time—I posted this to the group page.


I’ve told many people how grateful I am for this group. Not for why it exists, but that it does. It helped my partner decide what treatment to select after the doctor told him he could no longer watch and wait. It’s given me a place to gain perspective and wisdom. Not just about prostate cancer, but about life.

The energy here is an energy of “presence” to what’s important. People talk about fears, hopes, sadness and joys with a visceral openness. People share in ways that are raw and funny, sad and heartfelt.  I’m touched by it.

I read posts and know there’s an amazing variety of people here from around the world, people I’d never meet in my day-to-day life. When someone joins this group, no one cares what type of car they drive; what they do for a living; the size of their house.  Members want to know how they can help this new arrival, this person who is trying to navigate a cancer diagnosis that devastates and scares them.

Cancer knows no boundaries.  People with cancer instantly share a connection with every other person with cancer. People of all affiliations and ages and colors and races and income and all other groups are here. Interacting; being kind; compassionate; supportive; loving.

That’s what connects us. That ability to be present to the experience and emotions of others, oblivious to labels.

For all who post and all who simply witness and learn, this group reminds me we’re all connected. For that, I’m immensely grateful. There is hope in that feeling. Thank you.


Bubba chose to have a robotic radical prostatectomy in March. He was pleased with the procedure and is doing well with his recovery. And, it’s cancer. It was surgery. There are side-effects associated with the procedure and further monitoring to be done. He’s in good shape, and he’s still on the recovery path.

And as a Public Service Announcement, don’t tell anyone with prostate cancer they have the easy cancer; per the FB Group, yes, people say that. Some with prostate cancer suffer side-effects that permanently, drastically change their lives and, for others, it’s a death sentence. If you’re a guy or know a guy, tell them to learn about the PSA test (and get theirs tested). There are guys in the FB Group in their 30’s and 40’s with prostate cancer.

 

Photo source: marijana 1 on Pixabay


 

Rapid Rabbit: May Will be Lucky

Pixabay: Alexas_Fotos. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.

I forgot to say it on April 1st. But I successfully remembered to say Rapid Rabbit this morning; along with Rabbit Rabbit. Covered the bases. May will be lucky.

If you forgot this morning, this, it says, will help you set things right. And give you a cute baby bunny video, too.

Happy May Day!!

 

Photo source: Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay