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Learning about the differences between right- and left-brain thinking at the conference I described in the last post changed my approach to teaching and parenting.

Experiments in the 80s indicated that the right brain takes on thinking tasks that don’t require words: touch, taste, and smell; art and music; time, space, and distance; mathematics. Right-brain thinkers are musicians and artists and visionaries. They invent things. They tend to view very left-brain dominant people as more rigid, unimaginative, and traditional than they need to be–but they accept them anyway.

The experiments indicated that the left brain deals with sequence, order, cause-and-effect, logic, and particularly words. The left brain likes to name things and  organize the relationships between them. Left-brain thinkers are writers, teachers, leaders in situations in which following rules and order are valued. They tend to think that very right-brain dominant people are too disorganized, illogical, forgetful, and easy-going.

In the photo below, left brainers probably prefer the wallpaper background with a pattern of identical designs in straight rows. Right brainers probably prefer the random colors, sizes, and  arrangement in the tile sample from Lowe’s. What’s your preference?

Backsplash tile Cropped IMG_5839

Now–Imagine a parent or teacher that is a very dominantly right- or left-brain thinker dealing with a child, student, or colleague who is just as strongly the other. Is a situation like that coming to mind? Tell me about it!  I’ll tell you about some of mine in the next post. 


CONTEXT: Right Brain/Left Brain Part 1

Many years ago one speaker at a teachers’ conference changed my life. I learned that people tend to think in styles that were initially termed “right brain” and “left brain.” She said that by acknowledging and taking advantage of those tendencies, teachers can help students learn.

The speaker asked for a volunteer, then handed her a book and asked her to read aloud from it. The teacher tried, but she struggled. Then the speaker took the book, turned it upside down, returned it to the woman, and asked her to read aloud from it that way. The volunteer drew back and frowned, but she started reading, upside down–and fluently.

The speaker explained that a dominantly left-brain thinker naturally moves her eyes from left to right.  A dominantly right-brain thinker finds it easier to move them from right to left.  For a very right-brain-dominant thinker, the right-to-left preference is so strong that reading from right to left can be easier than the normal way, even if the words are upside down.  God did not “hard wire” all our brains alike.

Due to great advances in medical science, the ’90s were termed the “decade of the brain,” and a lot more was learned about how we think than the initial, simplified “right and left brain” designations indicated; but that demonstration at the conference was the beginning of my quest to learn more about how people think and learn.  I earned a master’s in educational leadership: curriculum and supervision. I earned a doctorate in teaching and learning; conducted formal research studies and published them, and taught. I also discovered that applying the principles of how we prefer to think and learn can help parents be more effective, workers more collaborative, relationships be more peaceable, and any of us be more willing to accept our own uniqueness.

Do you know what your thinking/learning preference is?

(To be continued in the next post.)




CONTEXT: Waiting Days

House on Cloudy Feb Day 2-22-16 IMG_5846  A sunny day in the 70s in February in the Midwest delivers a mixed message:  it defies knowledge of what winter is supposed to look like based on experience, yet it confirms the expectation that spring must come.  When the dogwood is dressed in deep pink in the spring, green in the summer, or red in the fall, it is beautiful in the moment–but in the winter its bare branches are all about promise and expectation. God gives us some sunny winter days in our lives for that, too.

CONTEXT: Expecting Something Good

Brian Coaxing Llamas 8-28-11 This photo of my husband and a few of his llamas made me think of what happens when I post online.  He planned a trip to the Colorado Rockies on which he and some of our adult children would lead the llamas.  Highly intelligent and always interested in new things, the llamas would carry light backpacks containing tents and other necessities, and the people would lead them safely along mountain trails. They’d all trek and camp in clear, clean air, alongside gurgling mountain streams, surrounded by breathtaking backdrops.  It would be nothing like some had ever experienced before, here in the Midwest.

But first, our kids had to meet him in Colorado, and the llamas had to trust him enough to step into his trailer. The kids already knew they could trust their dad to deliver what was promised, and the llamas had no reason not to;  but this was all new to them. The first one is strenuously resisting, the others have taken a “wait and see” attitude.  My readers have to trust me a little, too–enough to start reading my posts.  I don’t get to pull them in with a lead rope–I have to draw them in from the first line, before anyone is “in the trailer” except me, then make sure the “ride” to where we’re going is worth taking, so we can share the experience. That’s the plan!

CONTEXT: The Message

Flags at Knapheide 1-30-16 IMG_5791  A writer has a story to tell, or something to say.  She may have a burning desire to share information she thinks is important, or he may want to bring the spine-tingling anticipating that comes with reading a good mystery.  Maybe a new insight came that was so startlingly enlightening, that just claiming an “Aha!” moment isn’t enough–it must be recorded for future consideration.

A few days ago I read a post that challenged the readers (who were writers) to consider WHY they (we) write.  Perhaps we are not finding the type of success we envisioned because we are not writing in a way that suits our purpose.  The idea tickled away in my consciousness and subconsciousness.

Last Saturday I was grateful to be stopped by a traffic light, because it gave me a perfect view of the wall and the flags in this photo I took.  That wall and the flags are large–VERY large, and dominate an intersection where a busy road crosses a multi-lane highway.  But its message is unmistakable, isn’t it?  The large but privately-held company that owns the property devoted great amounts of time and resources to make one particular message clear:  “In God we trust,” proclaimed with nine American flags.

I thought about how many other ways they might have made that statement:  On stationery?  In their advertising?  On a billboard?  How much more private and limited the audience would have been!

I’m challenged to make sure I’m writing to say what I think is truly important, and in a way that will reach the audience for whom it is intended, in a way that represents me as a writer with integrity of purpose. I never would have thought of doing it with a wall and nine flagpoles.


Joseph_Smith,_Jr._portrait_owned_by_Joseph_Smith_IIIJoseph Smith newly found_photo In 1994 a very old photo was discovered and reported to be by far the earliest image of Joseph Smith, Junior, the founder of Mormonism.  Since then, technology has been used to compare the image to a much later daguerreotype, painted portraits such as the one shown above reportedly based on the daguerreotype, and to his death mask.  The measurements appear to indicate that although this image looks very little like Joseph appears in painted portraits copied from earlier portraits, themselves copied from still earlier ones, and others based simply on adoring imagination,  this one appears that it may very well be of Joseph. Some are sure it is, others just as sure it isn’t.

Joseph Smith, Junior, was born in Vermont and grew to manhood in Western New York in an era of population movement, extreme religious questioning, and change. Readers today may be incredulous at the ease with which he found acceptance of his claims to have spoken personally with God the Father, Jesus the Son, and apostles and angels numerous times beginning at the age of about 14.  Perhaps even more surprising was his willingness to declare money digging with the use of a peep stone as his main employment as a young man.  But in that era, he was not alone in proclaiming supernatural news or claiming supernatural powers.

When Jo. was born in 1805, the population of the still-new United States lay almost entirely to the east of the Appalachians–the American Revolution had driven England from the 13 colonies, but not from the vast Great Lakes region beyond the Appalachians.  The British maintained forts and troops there until defeat in the War of 1812.  Then settlers began pouring through the gaps in the mountains and into the “West”:  Western New York and Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky, farther south. Many left behind the old beliefs and constrains of New England:  starting a new life in a place settlers had never come before was a heady freedom, and the freedom was extended to the form of their faith.

Organized religion went through a massive change. From the end of the War of 1812 to Joseph’s publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, Methodists formally split into two distinct parts over the issue of slavery, and more than half a dozen factions of Baptists were organized, including Reformed and Free-Will; in addition, others which had long existed moved West, like the German Baptist Dunkards.  Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers, left New England for New York with her followers.  Also in Western New York, Jemima Wilkinson declared herself to be Christ, and also gained dedicated believers.  Thousands streamed into clearings in the woods to hear itinerant preachers at “camp meetings.” Alexander Campbell came from Scotland to New York, then Philadelphia, then to Western Pennsylvania, where his “restoration” movement to “return to the ancient order of things” had impact on many denominations, and resulted in the formation of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ.

The Smith family also moved west, from Vermont to the Erie Canal town of Palmyra.  Western New York in 1830 was fertile ground for a young man like Jo. Smith, Junior!

Brodie, F. M. (1975).  No man knows my history:  The life of Joseph Smith.  New York: Vintage Books–Random House.

Bronson, Rick.  The Joseph Smith Photograph.  Your Site for LDS Theology.  [web site].

Jackson, Wayne.  Alexander Campbell and Christ’s Church.

Joseph Smith.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [web site].

Photograph Found:  a 20 year perspective.





CONTEXT: Writing Close to Home

Sisters in Time Cover Daria  More than a dozen years ago I saw a display for a book series called “Sisters in Time” in our local Christian bookstore.  I noticed that the cover illustrations all portrayed adolescent girls, and each also displayed a medallion with a year in it.  The girls’ hairstyles and clothing  matched the year shown.  I bought a couple of the books and hurried home to read them and to Google the “Sisters in Time” series to learn more about it.

I discovered that Barbour Publishing in Uhrichsville, Ohio, required that each book be set in a particular place and year in which something of historical significance took place.  The junior-high age heroines had to be fictional, but the events and places must be real. Hmm.  I was a writer; I had a degree in history and teaching fields in geography, sociology, government, and economics, which would all be used in such a project; I had two daughters who had successfully gotten through adolescence; and I had taught girls that age for years.  Was this “a match made in heaven”?  I read the books and loved them, then got very bold and called the editor of the series.  He was gracious and friendly, and we discovered that he even had graduated from the same little Ohio college as I had, ten years later.  He encouraged me to write and send him a book to consider for the series.

I was so excited!  I live only about 20 miles from Hannibal, Missouri, “America’s Home Town,” and home of Mark Twain.  I would write about a girl who lived in Hannibal when Sam Clemens was a boy! I started my research.  Hmm.  I found absolutely NOTHING interesting about historical Hannibal during Sam Clemens’s time there that he hadn’t already written about as Mark Twain.

What I did find, however, was that my city, Quincy, Illinois, had several quite amazing things happen in not only the same year, but the same month of that year:  October, 1838.  That summer the U.S. Army had rounded up the Kickapoo and Potawatomi Indians from their towns of tidy frame houses and the outlying farms in Indiana and Michigan, and force-marched more than 850 of them to a reservation in Kansas.  The trip was known as the Trail of Death.  The soldiers, wagons, and the Native Americans, with their young Catholic priest, reached Quincy the first week of October.  It took three days to ferry them all across the Mississippi.

Also in October, 1828, on the 27th,  Missouri Governor Wilburn Boggs issued what was called the “Extermination Proclamation,” a document that expelled the  Mormons from the state on penalty of death.  They began heading for the closest city in a free state:  Quincy, Illinois.  More than 5000 arrrived in Quincy and Adams County, population 1600,  through the next few months, and were sheltered in every available space until their leader, Jo. Smith, came in the spring and led them an hour north to establish Nauvoo.

AND Quincy was a major center for the Underground Railroad!

I had my place and my year, and I began the research to write my book.  (To be continued)