Time to Count My Blessings

Since I left work today and discovered that I no longer needed my fuzzy fur coat because the temperature has finally risen above the freezing mark, I decided this was a good day to count my blessings.

The first one being the temperature today at 4:15ish was about 67 degrees warmer than it was eight days ago.

February25,2015

warming up

I am also appreciative of granddaughters who will play in the snow with their Gramma.

Nat in the snow

Colby in the snow

And granddaughters who share my interests.

sharing interests

Then there is the beauty of red barns in the winter to love.

red barn and birches - Copy

And symbols of love.

love in the snow

And cats. Cats who watch television and pretend they are part of the show and go to meetings with actors.

Midge in a meeting

Cats who know how to tell someone in a meeting to hush up.

Midge says enough talk

Cats who can read text messages.

Midge reading text

And cats who play with virtual string.

Midge plays with virtual string

Not much beats this view from work.

Good Morning LI

Or this view from home.

After the MLK storm

Or these views as I drive around the neighborhood.

lst light on burke 3

ice on trees

Yup. Life is good.

Writing Prompt #147

blog wordle

Today’s prompt is a quote. I don’t know where it came from, but I liked it so here you go:

“The universe will respond to the sound of your song.”

Feb 1 2015 5

Struggling with Ideas

In case you haven’t noticed, the last couple of weeks I have been struggling with my blog posts. I have been grasping for ideas; lacking enthusiasm; generally feeling unmotivated.

As I sit here now, with few ideas in my head, all I can think about is that it’s Tuesday morning at 7:52 and I haven’t posted anything yet because I don’t have anything to post. I mean, I haven’t PREPARED anything to post yet, and that is kinda’ sorta’ not at all like me. I like to be ‘on top of my game’ as they say (whoever they are?)

The truth is, it’s not that I don’t have any ideas, it’s more that I don’t have any sense of organization at the moment. No focus. No direction. At least for my blog posts. Or maybe it’s that I have been otherwise focused temporarily.

Regardless. The other truth is that I don’t lack ideas at all, but have dozens of notebooks and folders on my computer filled with random bits of writing. So I decided I would share a bit from my journals today. Even when it is difficult, writing is one of my favorite things to do. I find it relaxing, inspiring, and enlightening. One of my all time favorite quotes is “How do I know what I’m thinking if I don’t write it down?” Sometimes that process of writing can help to clarify a situation.

Here’s a rant I did several years ago. It was 2009 actually and I was a fellow at the National Writing Project at the University of Vermont at the time. I was writing in response to a prompt.

There are right and wrong ways to right.

NO NO NO. God, I hated those teachers who use to try to force me to write an outline before I wrote anything of substance. How the heck could I do that when I didn’t even know what I was going to write about yet. Geez, don’t you first have to get your thoughts on paper? Make some sense of the jumble in your head before you can begin to organize it on paper? No? Well, I do. Hey, if outlines work for you go for it, but don’t ask me to submit to an arbitrary format simply because YOU think it’s a good idea. Gosh, for me, right now, after two days at National Writing Project I’ve got like a bazillion new ideas. What the heck would I outline?

I would just like to point out that I still feel that way about writing. I have never asked students to make an outline, though I will admit that I have taught them how to organize their writing in many ways. Just saying.

In that same journal I wrote about a dream I’d had:

I had a dream last night that I’d given birth to the tiniest little baby – he couldn’t have been more than five or six inches long and he had a tiny little cap on his head. He was wrapped tightly in a soft fleece blanket and I carried him around carefully, and worried because he was so still and quiet. I think his name was Courtland.
After a bit of time passed – it’s difficult to tell time in dreams – he suddenly came alive. His eyes opened, he nursed, his fingers wiggled and grasped for me. Just this moment I realized that this infant represents my writing – its beginnings. And now? Now the writing is beginning to wake up – to come alive – to become animated. What a blessing!

Maybe the reason I include a prompt on the blog every Wednesday is because using prompts to inspire my writing has been something I’ve found to be essential. I first started using prompts as an educator – to get students writing more fluently – by getting them in the habit of taking an idea and just going with it – allowing the idea to take root in their minds and go wherever it might on the paper. For me, I never know where the next bit of writing is going to come from, or for that matter, where it will go. I find the more opportunities I take to write, the more I have to write about.

It works in other aspects of life to – that concept of once you get going on something it begins to multiply; to expand. Like positive thoughts – the more you create them the more they begin to come into your life more readily and more frequently. Or adventure – the more you seek out adventure the more opportunities to be adventurous present themselves to you.

I guess what that means is that I will get back to writing to prompts – or just taking more time to write every day – about nothing – about everything. . .

. . .which will lead to more ideas for my blog posts.

Hey, thanks for sticking with me while I worked through all that.

Red sky in the morning

Creative Dreaming

It’s not even the full moon and I’ve been having some complicated dreams lately.

These dreams are work related and feel like practice for something I might be doing in the future.
Which is pretty cool.

I once heard that dreams are supposed to be a way of working through problems in our waking lives, but these recent dreams seem to be more than working through problems, so I decided to do a little research. Before I get to that, however, let me explain more about my recent dreams.

There were two that stood out in particular. In the first I was working with two large classes of students modeling some teaching strategies. The interesting part is that my mind had created two classes of students with faces, personalities, names – people not at all from my waking life – instead people that my mind created. Sure, it’s likely they are based on the hundreds of students I’ve known over my 30 years of teaching, but still – new names and faces? All created in a few minutes/hours of dreaming. I find that incredibly amazing.

In the other dream I was collaborating with a varied group of adults, and again, these were people I did not know in my waking life, but rather new faces, new personalities, apparently created for this dream and this dream alone. Again, amazing.

The other amazing idea from these dreams is that what I was doing in them was sound. I’m sure you all know that sometimes we wake up from dreams wondering what the heck was going on because the dreams seem so strange, or even incredibly bizarre. You know, riding an old fashioned big wheeled tricycle through dense forest that suddenly turns into a tropical beach filled with talking Komodo Dragons. (not that I’ve had that dream, ever.) Yet, these recent dreams I’m having result in me waking up and thinking, that was good. That is something I could actually utilize in my work.

So back to the dream research.

It seems that while I’ve been busy dreaming some new theories about dreams have been identified.

One is the Psychoanalytic Theory of Dreams. This theory is the one I was familiar with – the Sigmund Freud theory. Freud’s belief about dreams was that “people are driven by aggressive and sexual instincts that are repressed from conscious awareness. While these thoughts are not consciously expressed. . .dreams are disguised fulfillments of repressed wishes.” He also described two different components of dreams: manifest content and latent content. Manifest content is made up of the actual images, thoughts and content contained within the dream, while the latent content represents the hidden psychological meaning of the dream.

(http://psychology.about.com/od/statesofconsciousness/p/dream-theories.htm)

Another dream theory is the Activation- Synthesis Model of Dreaming. The activation-synthesis model of dreaming was first proposed by J. Allan Hobson and Robert McClarley in 1977. According to this theory, circuits in the brain become activated during REM sleep, which causes areas of the limbic system involved in emotions, sensations and memories, including the amygdala and hippocampus, to become active. The brain synthesizes and interprets this internal activity and attempts to find meaning in these signals, which results in dreaming. This model suggests that dreams are a subjective interpretation of signals generated by the brain during sleep.

While this theory suggests that dreams are the result of internally generated signals, Hobson does not believe that dreams are meaningless. Instead, he suggests that dreaming is “…our most creative conscious state, one in which the chaotic, spontaneous recombination of cognitive elements produces novel configurations of information: new ideas. While many or even most of these ideas may be nonsensical, if even a few of its fanciful products are truly useful, our dream time will not have been wasted.”

(http://psychology.about.com/od/statesofconsciousness/p/dream-theories.htm)

A third set of theories are the Information-Processing Theories.One of the major theories to explain why we sleep is that sleep allows us to consolidate and process all of the information that we have collected during the previous day. Some dream experts suggest that dreaming is simply a by-product or even an active part of this information-processing. As we deal with the multitude of information and memories from the daytime, our sleeping minds create images, impressions, and narratives to manage all of the activity going on inside our heads as we slumber.

(http://psychology.about.com/od/statesofconsciousness/p/dream-theories.htm)

These recent dreams seem to be a combination of the Activiation-Synthesis Model and the Information-Processing Model. Much of what was happening in my dreams – the work I was doing with students and the collaboration with adults was based on previous learning – practices I have used in the past and know to be good educational practices.

What I don’t understand, still, is why these creative yet realistic dreams have come to me recently. What has happened to the bizarre dreams where miraculous and strange things happen? Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. I am actually kind of astounded by these new dreams because they seem like they might prove very useful in my waking life. I simply want to point out that a shift is happening, and my curious mind is wondering. . .

Komodo dragon talking

Writing Prompt #146

blog wordle

It has been awhile since I gave you a story starter prompt, so here goes.

This is last lines from one of the chapters in Wonder – the book I wrote about this week. Your job is to use these lines as a story starter; the impetus for whatever story you decide to create. Be imaginative and have fun!

“She said to tell you she misses you. Quote unquote.”
I nodded.
“Thanks,” I said casually, too embarrassed to let him see how happy that made me feel.