I Wish I Had Learned This Sooner!

pomodoro timer

Do you find yourself procrastinating when there is a deadline approaching, or something unpleasant needs doing?  Welcome to the club!

However, in Learning How To Learn, a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through Coursera.org, taught by Dr. Barbara Oakley, and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, through, UC San Diego, I learned that procrastination can be overcome!  Understanding why procrastination happens, and what to do about it, has helped me enormously.

The pain center in our brain lights up when we’re faced with something we’d rather not do, so your brain experiences procrastination as a form of pain.  Staying in the process of what you’re working on, rather than focusing on the finish, or result, helps eliminate the ‘pain’ associated with what needs doing.

A great technique described in the course is setting a timer for 25 minutes, or perhaps a reasonable amount of time to complete, or make good progress, on the task, and rewarding yourself.  Maybe it’s a nap, a walk, or some other, healthy, bonus for working through your allotted time.  Known as, the Pomodoro Technique, this helps to focus on working, as well as setting a limit, while knowing you’ll give yourself a treat for work well done.

Another important aspect of the Learning How To Learn course, was understanding our two modes of thinking and learning.  We all know about the focused mode, but I didn’t know about the diffuse mode of learning and thinking.  This relaxed mode occurs when your attention is on other things like when you’re walking, or other exercise, or when you’re taking a shower, or just ‘spacing out’, as well as during sleep – as long as you were focusing on the problem(s) before going to sleep. Your brain works on problems when you’re not consciously focusing on them.

We sometimes gain insight into a difficult problem, or come up with seemingly random solutions, by letting go of our focused mode of attack, and giving our free-form, unconscious mind a chance to work on it.

Spaced-practice, or spaced-repetition, is another concept I learned that helped me a lot.  In learning how to play my guitar, I began by practicing for hours, going over notes, chords, theory, and playing, which got me bleeding fingers and not really much gelling in my head. When my fingers healed, I applied spaced learning by taking a break for a day, then returning to practicing no more than a half-hour a day (understand that it was super tough for me to let go of trying to master the guitar in a month…), and to my delight, I’ve begun understanding more, and next week I’ll be at Carnegie Hall!

OK, I’ll be cleaning Carnegie Hall, but one day I could be playing there!

There is so much more I gained through this course that this could be the longest blog post I’ve ever written, but I suggest Dr. Oakley’s wonderful book:

A Mind For Numbers, as well as taking Learning How To Learn, Dr. Oakley, and Dr. Sejnowski’s, 4-week MOOC, where they include lots of excellent guest-speaker videos that further illuminate their subject.

Happy learning all!

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

 

 

Trouble, Trouble, Trouble

UNDATED FILE PHOTO: Fred Rogers, the host of the children's television series, "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," sits for a promotional portrait in this picture from the 1980's. (Photo by Family Communications Inc./Getty Images)
UNDATED FILE PHOTO: Fred Rogers, the host of the children’s television series, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” sits for a promotional portrait in this picture from the 1980’s. (Photo by Family Communications Inc./Getty Images)

I keep remembering what Fred Rogers, (Mr. Rogers), said about times of trouble – to look for the helpers.  There are so many helpers everywhere.  We should take in all the refugees we can – they are desperate to leave their homeland.

Their HOMELAND.

There is nothing there for them but desperation, sickness, torture, and death.  They want to live.

Will they bite the hand that feeds them?  Would you?  Maybe someone will, but that’s a sick soul, and maybe those sick souls will find healing instead of more ways to hurt.  We have many sick souls born here – children killing children, men and women shooting up schools, theaters, restaurants – all seemingly random – or told to them by terrible voices in their head.

We’re not going to rid the world of evil, but we can minimize it with goodness.  It’s the only advantage in the face of evil – our way to ‘light a candle instead of cursing the darkness’.

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It takes logistics, money, volunteers – or paid workers – to help house, feed, clothe, and educate refugees – so much that is beyond my abilities – but that will be good use of government.  Accepting refugees will put more people to work, give more people purpose, and certainly give those tired, hungry, and poor, some hope.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Have A Fabulous Halloween

What type are you?  Like to throw lavish parties, or perhaps a more intimate gathering?  Whatever your festivity profile is, here are some simple steps to make this Halloween fabulously fun!

If you like lavish costume parties, or unhooked dance-a-thons, you’re a planner, so you have nearly everything ready; but, if you’re like me, it seems party day comes up all too soon.

Don’t have that scarecrow you were going to have made yet?  Neither do I!  Dig out some balloons, if you can find them, or if you have them – or go buy a package at a dollar store.  Long skinny balloons fill the arms and legs nicely, and round balloons will fill the body.   * Tip: Bigger balloons are better to fill the main body, but you might like a variety of sizes – experiment!

If you don’t fill the balloons too much, they’ll be less likely to pop when you’re stuffing, or moving your scarecrow into position.  You can use a pumpkin-shaped bucket with a straw hat for the head, decorate a large balloon, and tie a hat on it, or sew a head-shaped pattern, draw your scarecrow’s face, put a balloon in the opening you left for stuffing, and then blow the balloon up, or stuff  your scarecrow’s head with fiber-fill or some other suitable material, and add some straw coming out of the hat, as well as straw sticking out from the cuffs of the sleeves and the pant legs.

Scarecrow

This year, I shoved a bunch of cornstalks up against the garage, meaning to make an artistic arrangement later, but I never got to that either, so putting a pumpkin next to it makes it look rustic – and I saved myself a bunch of time!

Photo credit: Jerri Higgins
Photo credit: Jerri Higgins

Making your home festive is a snap too!  Press a few vinyl clings on your window, or glass door, get a Halloween or fall-themed dish towel, some pumpkins, gourds, and a few pots of mums, and you’re done!

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Photo credit: Jerri Higgins
Photo credit: Jerri Higgins

Now for the invites.  If you’re a planner, you’ve already sent them, and because your parties are always fab, you’ve gotten RSVP’s too.  However, if you’re like me, you’ll have to contact everyone by phone, email, and social media to alert them of your event.

Of course, they all already have plans, so they won’t make it, but I can freeze my Harvest Pumpkin Soup, my Cinnamon-Nutmeg Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, and my roasted Brussels’ sprouts, carrots, and sweet potatoes, for another day.

The pumpkin pie, and meticulously made (ordered) graveyard cake will last forever in pictures, even though the scent of the hot-buttered rum cider can’t be captured, and it will be drunk – and I’ll be drunk – by myself, as my S. O. rarely drinks, and doesn’t like rum.  Yo, ho, ho…

It’s too bad I ran out of time to carve the pumpkin, it really was the perfect shape.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Season’s Greetings

August is the beginning of Druid autumn, I found out several years ago when telling a friend that I feel mournful in August, even though it’s still summer.  Learning that the Druids considered August the beginning of autumn resonated with me, and gave me a place for my sadness this time of year.

It’s now September, and the physical signs of change are showing.  Red and yellow veined green leaves began spotting the road under the maples about a week ago.  Some are fully red now, and although a harbinger of the coming cold season, they are so pretty.

I picked up several of my favorites, and as my mother showed me when I was little, I placed them between sheets of waxed paper and ironed them together.  I put a rag underneath and on top of the waxed paper, and kept checking to make sure it was working.

Photo by Jerri Higgins
Pressed autumn maple leaves

My S.O. wasn’t all that impressed when I showed him later, but its a simple craft helping me ease into autumn.  I’m sure I could have created something more sophisticated, but I also enjoyed its childhood link.

As the earth has moved in its orbit, the garden is now burgeoning with tomatoes, green beans, squash, carrots, and late corn – harvest time well under way.  Maybe I’ll learn to can food this year, but it feels too much like work… 🙂

I suppose we could dry the tomatoes, freeze some of the corn, carrots, and green beans, as well as what we’re doing, which is making as many recipes possible with all the fresh food.

It’s also nice to know where and how our food was grown, and I feel more connected to our land than before I started gardening.

The cooler breezes are more welcome than the humid dog days we’re leaving behind, and sleep is more restful with cooler air too.

I’m not ready to give up summer, and wish it lasted at least another month, but I’ll savor all the warm days ahead, and do my best to accept rather than resist – or figure out how to move to warmer climes!

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Birthday Wishes

Cinderellacakecandles

Tomorrow is my birthday.  Birthdays were so exciting when I was younger.  Getting older was somehow an achievement, and I suppose it was, depending on how many risks were taken, or accidents met and survived the previous year.

Celebrating someone for their birthday is a wonderful time for connection, reflection, and, especially, festivity!

Time’s passage is tough the older I get because I want to keep the problems of the relatively young and not get any problems of aging.  Too bad, I know.  Perspective is a perk as time moves on, as well as caring less about how I’m received, but this ship of life I’m sailing leaves a wider berth the further I get from port, leaving some things smaller, although not less significant, as they recede and I travel on.

Even though I often feel that I’ve not accomplished anything, or much of what I wish I had done, I have traveled.  I won a ten-day tour of Switzerland, with a side trip to Liechtenstein.  I made it to Australia, where I stayed with my childhood pen-pal, and her family, and we met each other’s children (child in my case), and saw lots of Victoria, including a day in Melbourne, hiking in the Dandenong Mountain Ranges, a rain forest walk in the Yarra ranges, and a gorgeous trip down the Great Ocean Road, ending in Warrnembool, and the site of the Twelve Apostles rock formations, during our stay.

I’ve driven through or visited at least half of the United States, including Hawaii, but not Alaska. I’ve been to Canada, and Mexico, though not extensively in either country.  I brought my son to Ireland for his high school graduation present, but really because I’d wanted to go my whole life and that justified the expense well enough – or at least, it did – until I just wrote that.

Pilgrimage to Haifa, Israel, was the last big journey I took, a gift that I’ve not well repaid seeing as I’m now an atheistic-leaning agnostic.

I’ve climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty, back when you could do that, and have been on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, when it was free. (It’s hard to believe that anyone would pay $57 for the dubious privilege nowadays).

Contentment with my lot is the message I try to embrace, but my adventurous spirit doesn’t understand that sentiment.  There are so many more places to see, things to do, and the beautiful aspects of life on Earth that I’ll never have again.

As long as I can get through the rough patches, the pain, suffering, and challenges we all endure, and hopefully, surmount,  I will add more sweet than bitter to each year that I’m graced with, have more meaningful time with those I like and love, and be glad for what’s been given.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current