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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)

CONTEXT: Becoming Who You Are

Desk image for online  When I was in sixth grade, the primary social media tool was a stenographer’s pad with spiral wire at the top that we called a “Slan” book.  I don’t know if I was misunderstanding that and it was actually “Slam,” as in “slam shut,” or if, perhaps, “slan” was actually short for “slander,” which I now realize actually describes a lot of what was written in the books. ;-D Each page had one question at the top, with the innocuous “What is your name?” on the first page, and numbers down the left side.  Each person who signed it kept the same line number throughout the book. As one flipped through the pages, the questions became more and more personal, ultimately seeking the revelation of the “deepest thoughts” about the most important issues to us 11- and 12-year-olds at the time: our own appearances and the opposite sex.  We added questions all the time, as social situations changed, each at the top of its own page, and continually passed them around, getting our classmates, friends, and enemies, to comment. (Adding a Comment isn’t new ;-D)  It was a big coup to get a BOY to sign your book, but often the boy just did it to write the most shocking things he could. (The owner was then properly mortified. :-D)

Even then, my own life context included being a writer. To the question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I wrote, “Write and illustrate books.”

In junior high, I won a writing contest that included a cash prize. In high school, my poems were published in a “literary magazine.”  (In college I wrote course papers, and little else.) After graduating with bachelor’s degrees in history and in comprehensive social studies education, I became a teacher. Writing lesson plans soon morphed into writing curriculum.  I liked writing lesson plans, and I LOVED writing curriculum. Soon it was used by other teachers in my school, then adopted at the district level. When I chose a field for my master’s degree, it was educational leadership: curriculum and supervision.

In succeeding years, I taught every grade from fifth through college, and continued to write curriculum. I conducted and published research in education. Some of my non-fiction articles were also published in magazines. I went back to school and earned a doctorate in teaching and learning. That process included a dissertation that was published.  In the past few years, I started taking turns writing a column for the local newspaper. I started a business helping people write dissertations and books. In the past few months, I started several blogs. I even get to illustrate, in a sense, because I help my doctoral scholar clients design the charts and graphs they use to display their data. I think of myself as a writer–well, sort of.

Sometimes I feel like I’m still waiting to “write and illustrate my own books when I grow up,” because NONE of the seven or eight books I’ve written, including the two that I illustrated at a publisher’s request, has actually been published. The publisher that committed to purchase and publish two of them backed out, so nope, not one in print.

But as I wrote this post today, I found that at this point, I needed to take the narrative in a completely different direction from the one I had planned. I actually had to delete a paragraph and go back!  I realized that in the context truest to my deepest values, “Grammie” may have replaced both “Writer” and “Author”  as the most meaningful literary title I have.  Who knew???  I remembered that I did write and illustrate one more complete book, and printed it myself.  It is in a ring binder that sits on the bed shelf of my oldest granddaughter, and it was my very personal gift to her.  It is entitled, Two Kinds of Mommies, and I wrote it several years ago to explain her birth and adoption process to her in a way that would help her young mind understand and reinforce what her parents had always been so open about.  I wanted to help her tender heart be warmed and feel the deepest sense of belonging in her/our family, because we all prayed for her, and in a completely illogical and totally inexplicable chain of circumstances on two continents and several states, God placed her–only and exactly her–in our arms and hearts in His perfect time. Her experience of being adopted into our family is a picture of how all of us who believe get adopted into God’s family.  I guess I have accomplished the “when I grow up” goal after all!

What do you think makes a person a “writer” or an “author”–writing, or having what you’ve written published, or something else?  When and how did YOU know when you had become what YOU are now?

CONTEXT: Blue in the Eye of the Beholder

Carriage House from South (2) 9-5-15

Behind our 1892 red brick house and back yard, we have a two story, three-bay building I have usually called the carriage house, and sometimes called the barn. There weren’t any stalls in it when we bought it, and it had a wide, red brick driveway under the concrete one. The bricks extend from the street to all the way across the front of the three big doors, then on out under the fence and under the vegetable garden. A long, strong metal rail runs across the front where large doors once hung and slid. The wide doorways on the front–now filled in with overhead garage doors hung slightly off-line from each other, and a set of tall, original, hinged, double doors facing the alley on the back, indicated to me that horse-drawn vehicles came and went on all that brick in the 1890s, rather than farm animals, on this corner in the city.

The outside of the carriage house has always been a well-weathered gray–both the exposed wood and the remnants of paint left on them. I liked how it looked. But decade after decade of weathering takes a toll on wood, and we finally decided it had to be painted. It’s the custom in our neighborhood to paint the wooden outbuildings red to match the big old brick houses; but it was easy to see that our carriage house had never been red. So I brought home paint swatches until I matched the remnants of the original paint, and bought that dark, slate gray for the carriage house. The color was called “Silent Night.”  I liked the color and its name.

The painters finished the job yesterday.  As I watched their progress, first scraping down to bare wood, then brushing on the tinted light gray primer, then painting on the Silent Night, I was soon alarmed to notice that all the sides of the building were not the same color.  I double checked the paint cans, then I went back to the paint store with a just-taken photo, and pointed out that while the west-facing wall virtually always in full shadow was exactly the color I had chosen–the deep slate gray, the east and south sides appeared to be a color that could only be described as blue–and quite an assertive blue!  The paint man wasn’t a bit surprised.  He said that grays ALWAYS tend toward either blue or green in bright sunlight.  Obviously Silent Night tends toward blue!

One  neighbor who only sees the south and east sides from her house told me she liked the color of the light gray primer better than the dark blue paint. Another on the east and south side told me she did not like that blue on the barn–her garage was red, like everyone else’s. Me?  I love the Silent Night. 🙂 The color is perfect for that building in that context:  It’s the color it’s always been.  And I’m guessing that in all the years since 1892 in which there was much paint on that building, the four sides of our carriage house have always appeared to be completely different colors, depending on the direction they faced, whether it was sunny or not, and if there was shade from that overhanging maple tree on the west side.

I think there’s a good chance that I appear to be different when viewed from different sides, too.  It doesn’t mean that I am, it just means that observers have different vantage points: Some see primer, some see gray in the shade, and in the sunshine, some see bright blue. I’m not necessarily changing–their contexts are.  My job isn’t to work at appearing to be the same on all sides all the time, or convincing others that I am, in spite of appearances.  My job is to be true to the integrity of who I am.  I need to be just as content if that’s a nice, rich gray that sort of melts in to the surroundings sometimes, as I would be if it were a just-like-everyone-else red, or an intense bright blue that shouts, “I’m different, and I’m here!” Silent Night. Yep. I can live with that. What do you think?

CONTEXT: Waiting

Life roles provide contexts about which we often have little input at all, and they don’t occur on the schedules we would choose.  Sometimes we have to wait, and we only get to choose how we will respond.

One of the great joys of my life is being a grandmother, and one of the great things about being a grandmother is that it is a value-added role.  First a wife, then a mother, then a grandmother–each added on to the other, but waiting was involved at each step.

Having each baby required at least nine months of waiting, followed by a few hours of frantic activity; and when our kids started having babies, we eagerly waited for that phone call indicating we needed to finish packing the car and head for another state. Once, we got from Illinois to Michigan in time to spend several hours in the family waiting room waiting for the announcement that the baby had been born.  For another, I had made plane reservations to be in California for two weeks to be present for the arrival; but my time there came and went, and we were still waiting for that baby.  I had to fly home and let the next family member in the relay arrive. For still another grandchild’s birth, we drove from Illinois to Georgia the day before the scheduled big moment to stay with the older kids, but that baby had arrived, in the car, in the hospital parking lot, about five minutes before we got there!  We don’t always accurately guess how long we’re going to wait.

When I taught college classes, I had to wait until exams, to see if I my teaching had been effective.  When I taught piano, I had to wait ’til the next week’s lesson to see if progress had been made.  Right now, I’m waiting to hear from a godly literary agent who is taking a couple months to decide, based on a proposal and chapters I sent her, if she would like to represent me and try to sell my books. This feels like backwards waiting: The anticipation is tempered with relief that every day without an answer means she hasn’t yet said “No” yet! 😀

But none of that was or is really significant waiting, in the great scheme of life. I follow a young mother on Facebook whose little boy is fighting advanced cancer, undergoing unbelievably painful and exhausting treatments.  She is praying for his healing, and waiting, and thousands are joining her. That is some very serious waiting!

This summer my husband and I had the opportunity to have seven of our young grandchildren visit our home, in fluctuating groups, for several weeks (hence, a delay in blog posts!). One sibling group of four was to stay with us without their parents for a few days. The first night after they were left with Grammie and Grandpa, one had a physical and emotional meltdown, wanting Mommy.  I could only explain that their mother would return for them in a mere three days, but logic didn’t help, and it wasn’t a time for discipline. Our grandchild was devastated with loss, and at that moment had no willingness to wait at all. All I could do was hurt with that precious child, and pray, and wait for the pain to ease. The only way to learn to wait is to wait.

The second day I prayed all day that the scene wouldn’t be repeated that night, and that was the day I read Jennifer Rothschild’s story lesson in my Bible study workbook.  Jennifer, a gifted singer, composer, pianist, and Bible teacher, lost her sight at 15, and has been praying and waiting for 30 years that it will be restored.  That evening, before bedtime, I gathered the children and told them all about Jennifer waiting for 30 years, to see again.  I asked if they knew anyone who had waited a long time.  The oldest quickly volunteered that Hannah waited for baby Samuel for a long time, then gave him back to God.  We also recalled Sarah and Abraham waiting decades for Isaac.  Then I reminded them that the reason God gave us those records was not just so we could memorize the stories, but so we could use them in our own lives.  So we compared those women’s years of waiting to waiting only two more days for their mother to return. Suddenly it seemed manageable, with God’s help, even to the one who was missing Mommy so much. We prayed together, and they all went right to sleep.

That grandchild couldn’t experientially comprehend Hannah’s years of waiting for Samuel, Jennifer waiting 30 years for sight, or Sarah waiting more than twice that long for Isaac; but within the NOW context of waiting for Mommy, it became clear that sometimes God allows us to wait so that He can show us that He can get us through it, and He will answer our prayers, in His time. Hannah didn’t even know if her waiting would end with what she wanted, and Jennifer is still waiting!  Our grandchildren’s mom definitely planned to be back in time for lunch in two days. In the meantime, those urban children got to play in the creek, ride behind Grandpa’s tractor, catch frogs, collect rocks, and eat goodies only Grammies can get away with providing. Put in its true context, the wait became not only manageable, but special.

That experience expanded my understandings within my own context, too.  Waiting is part of the Plan.  Waiting can be a faith-builder.  Others are impacted, directly or indirectly, by how I choose to wait.  God’s Word gives me models and promises that can demonstrate the purposes of waiting, and I can grow stronger from remembering their choices as well as making my own.