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Browsing Category "Personal Reflections"
12 Dec
2017

Being Grateful Makes Me Happy

 

“Every day, think as you wake up, ‘I am fortunate to be alive.  I have a precious human life.  I am not going to waste it.’”  The Dalai Lama

baby and father, hands, bev scott author, being grateful makes me happy

being grateful makes me happy, blog, bev scott author

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is the season of gratitude. I express my gratitude for friends and family around the Thanksgiving table. I am grateful for the news and greetings I receive from those who live far away. I enjoy the exchange of gifts and goodies, the fragrance of the beautiful decorated trees and cookies baking in the oven at this holiday time.

Like many of my neighbors, I am concerned about the poverty and homelessness around me. I see strangers huddled in doorways, panhandling on the street, pushing shopping carts of belongings. I whisper a prayer “for the grace of God there go I.” Gratitude allows me to recognize how fortunate I am, to appreciate my life and all that I experience. It gives me an opportunity to shift my perspective toward all the abundance I have in my life instead of feeling sorry for what I lack or the problems I have.

Gratefulness Makes Us Happy

The renowned neurologist and author, Oliver Sacks, wrote shortly before he died,

…my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. Above all, I have been a sentient being a thinking animal on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”[i]

Despite his diagnosis of metastasized cancer Dr. Sacks was grateful for his life and he was happy. Brother Steindl-Rast, a Catholic Benedictine monk and scholar is quoted in The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, saying, “It is not happiness that makes us grateful.  It is gratefulness that makes us happy.”

The Benefits

Indeed, research endorses that perspective and suggests there are many benefits that might motivate us to be grateful more often, even every day. At least forty research studies identify over thirty ways in which gratitude can benefit our lives. Amit Amin categorizes them into Emotional, Health, Social, Personality and Career benefits, all of which contribute to happiness.

Different benefits are probably more appealing to different age cohorts. For me personally, I like the health benefits of improved sleep, living longer, increased energy and feeling good. Since I am retired the benefits for my career are less motivating, but if you are still in the midst of yours the career benefits of gratitude include being a better manager, achieving your goals and being more productive. If you are a young person and concerned if you are well liked in your social circles, consider that being grateful open doors to relationships, deepens friendships, increases your self-esteem, and develops your personality in life changing ways.

orange tabby cat, in lap, bev scott author, being grateful makes me happy

outstretched arms, sunset, bev scott author, blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can all appreciate the emotional benefits of gratitude: being more resilient and bouncing back from stress, reducing aggression and being less likely to retaliate, feeling good, less envious, more relaxed and enjoy happier memories. Many of us also, will like the benefit of improved relationship with partners and spouses. Amazing how many benefits gratitude can bring to our lives! Are you convinced yet?

When and How

Maybe you are wondering how to go about it or how to remember to be grateful as you lead your busy stressful life. Gratitude doesn’t require us to be religious, to have any particular skill nor have a gratitude gene. Feeling grateful can happen in the unexpected moment of seeing a beautiful sunset or getting a hand-written note of thanks from a friend. We might experience gratitude when the health scare turns out to be benign. We can experience gratitude in prayer or meditation. Brother Steindl-Rast leads us through “A Grateful Day,” reminding all of us that this is not just another day in our lives.  “It is the one day that is given to you…today.”

Take five minutes daily to express your gratitude for the day that is given to you, for the abundance in your life, and for the experiences that inspire you by writing in a gratitude journal. Will the demonstrated results of daily gratitude described above motivate us to take that 5 minutes? Maybe it is easier to just to use the first few waking minutes of your day to reflect on what brings you gratitude. Or when you see a beautiful sight, taste a delicious bite of food or hear an inspiring piece of music to pause and express your gratitude.

Another approach is to sign up for a daily gratitude message from Deborah Purdue which comes in on your email to remind you each day. Sign up for these beautiful messages with gorgeous color illustrations at www.graceofgratitude.com.  Being grateful doesn’t cost anything, takes very little time, gives you many benefits and makes you happy.

calendula, single flower, bev scott authororanges, bev scott author, blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am grateful to you who read my blog and support my work as a writer. Thank you.

[i] Oliver Sacks, “My Own Life” in “Gratitude”, Alfred Knopf, 2015.  Also published in New York Times, Feb. 19, 2015.

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17 Oct
2017

Learning More About My White Privilege

Eyes and Perception of the Word

I have opposed discrimination and racism beginning when I was in high school at the time of the lunch counter boycotts in the South. I wanted to ask retail and service establishments if they would serve “Negroes” in our very white town in Montana with only three known African American families. I was conducting this survey because I was afraid it might create problems for those families.

Later in my thirties, living in Detroit, I was confronted daily by the impact of racism on the population in this majority black city. I volunteered with an organization that provided anti-racism education workshops to churches, community groups, non-profit organizations and businesses. Through interactive workshops, deep discussions and sometimes painful feedback from black colleagues, I learned about my white privilege, how much prejudice and racism I carried and the many ways our culture has institutionalized racism. I also learned how much I didn’t know about the African American experience in the United States.

I now live in California and find myself learning more and again. Not only is there so much I don’t know about the black experience, I am pretty ignorant about the experience of being brown (Mexican, Hispanic and Latino/a). Although I did have one personal experience…as a high school student when I was asked to leave a restaurant because the staff thought I was Mexican. (I tanned easily and my hair wasn’t gray as it is now.)

I was reminded of that humiliating experience recently when I attended a one-woman show, performed by Irma Herrera, “Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name.”  She taught the audience the correct pronunciation as “Ear-ma.”  Proud of her Mexican and American heritage, Irma recounted experiences from her life requesting nuns, professors and strangers to accept the Spanish pronunciation of her name. Through poignant stories and humor, she told us how pronouncing her own name had often resulted in insults, pain and the denial of her identity. She recounts experiences of rejection and humiliation which brought back the memory of my lone experience of rejection based on an assumption and stereotype. I remember being so embarrassed and mortified in front of my friends. However, I refused to leave and my friends stood up for me. That experience so many years ago certainly increased my sensitivity to discrimination based on color and stereotypes.

I left Irma Herrera’s show with my own emotional tenderness. But most important, I had a clearer understanding of the historical context of the discrimination and racism experienced when growing up brown in this country. With the mirror she offered, I was forced to re-evaluate my thoughts, actions and biases once again.

Latino woman with catrina

Last weekend, I saw the film “Dolores,” a provocative documentary about the civil rights icon and labor leader, Dolores Huerta. The film provides a personal story of Dolores Huerta’s involvement in the founding of the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez in the context of the economic, social and physical violence experienced by the farm workers in California.

From these two recent experiences, I recognize again how my white privilege contributes to my ignorance of what it is like to be brown or black in the United States (or Native American or Asian American). I am grateful to have financial security, respect and a supportive community. I don’t have to worry about the police response to me because of my color. I grew up with a good education. I have been able to purchase homes without redlining. I have not experienced discrimination based on color in my career.

I continue to learn that my life privileges have protected me from the institutionalization of our country’s racial biases. My experience of gender bias, however, is more direct and personal. But that is a different blog.

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23 Aug
2017

“Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” – Live in San Francisco

A live performance of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, the NPR’s News Quiz Show in San Francisco?Wait Wait Don't Tell Me logo

Rush for Tickets

My friends and I rushed, along with hundreds of others, to get tickets to one of our favorite NPR programs as soon as it was announced. Davies Symphony Hall was sold out for two nights. We roared with laughter as Peter Sagal and his side kick Bill Kurtis entertained us joking about items in the news. They were glad to be here, even though it brought them “two thousand miles closer to North Korea.” We applauded their support of the progressive attitudes in the Bay Area. Peter was glad to be able to come to the Bay Area before he “would need a passport” to get here.

We got tickets for the Friday night performance but we missed seeing Jerry Rice, one of the Forty-Niner’s greats, who appeared the night before in the program as the “Not My Job Guest.” Instead we saw Lars Ulrich, the lead drummer for the heavy metal band Metallica. Not being a heavy metal fan, I would have preferred seeing Jerry Rice.

“Each week on the radio you can test your knowledge against some of the best and brightest in the news and entertainment world while figuring out what’s real news and what’s made up.” The jokes are always a reflection of the current news and Friday was no exception. We have been hearing about the complete solar eclipse on August 21st which will be the last one in our life time. Or as Peter Sagal remarked, “if we all live until the 21st.” He reported that 92% of the counties in the path of the eclipse voted for Trump. He quipped, “That was the last thing they wanted, to make America dark again!”

Laughing It Off

Many of us have lamented the depressing state of our current political news which leaves us dismayed, disappointed and fearful. Given such disheartening responses, I think it is particularly important to find humor and laughter to lighten our hearts and our days. Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me offers all of us an hour with a little respite and some laughter despite the seriousness of the news.

Peter Sagal and Bill Kurtis

photo: Tony Nagelmann

Local news was also a target of the program. Sagal mentioned the Google engineer who wrote a memo explaining why there are so few women in tech. After he was fired, perhaps he went to work for Uber. Sagal reported that Uber also wanted to improve the male-female ratio and were searching for a female CEO. They had narrowed the candidates down to three…three men, “one has tried knitting and one listened once,” according to Sagal.

Sagal mentioned the news story on the $90,000 purchase of the exclusive street in San Francisco by a couple who don’t even live in the City. The private street which includes parking spaces and the sidewalk was sold at an auction for unpaid taxes. The couple seems unsure what they will do with this now controversial property. Peter suggested they consider making it into a trailer park.

Many of us are now terrified of the consequences of Trump’s threat of “fire and fury” raining over North Korea. Despite his reassurance, Guam is now in the cross-hairs between North Korea and Trump. Peter Sagal offered a lighter view by suggesting that Guam would experience an increase in tourism because people would go to Guam “to get a healthy glow.”

Try It, You’ll Like It

If you haven’t listened to and laughed with Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, find it on the schedule of your local NPR station or listen to the podcast.

I want to laugh some more.  Do you have any good jokes about our news???

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21 Jun
2017

Is the U.S. Facing the Same Risks as Ancient Greece?

 

The Ancient World of Greece

I recently returned from a fascinating and educational trip in Greece. We traveled to Athens and four of the islands in The Cyclades–Mykonos, Delos, Paros and Santorini– plus Crete. We also traveled through time back 4000 years as we visited antiquities and ancient excavations of the Bronze Age.

Blue Mediterranean Sea as viewed from Santorini, Greece

Another view of Santorini, coastal hillside dwellings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I am not a historian, I will not go into detail about these ancient civilizations. However, as we visited the ancient sites of the Minoan civilization (2000-1450 BCE), I was impressed by their architecture and expressive culture and the art which decorated their palaces. In these sites on Santorini and Crete we saw “well-appointed, monumental structures with large courts, colonnades, staircases, religious crypts, light-wells, drainage systems, extensive storage magazines and even ‘theatre’ areas for public spectacles.” Amazing architecture created 4000 years ago!

What Can We Learn for Today?

Sign pointing to site of Akrotiri in Greece, destroyed by eruption of volcano Thera in ancient times.

Unfortunately, these magnificent cities were either destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Thera which destroyed Akrotiri on Santorini between 1650-1550 BCE or by the more aggressive and militaristic Mycenaean culture. And, according to our guide, Minoan culture was more creative and expressive, perhaps even advanced. I found myself asking, as we in the U.S.  struggle with our definitions of “greatness” and the role of our leadership in the world, what can we learn from these cultures that have risen and fallen in the past?

Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, have eliminated flourishing civilizations and advanced cultures for millennia around the world. Aggression and militaristic invasions by stronger cultures have undermined societies providing cultural, social or economic leadership, and set back cultural advancement for centuries. During the period we refer to as the “Dark Ages,” European cultures retreated and lost the benefit of many Roman innovations for centuries.

Will We Wither and Fail?

Ancient Greek artifacts, remnants of furniture

Do we face these risks in the U.S now? We are divided about our definitions of “greatness” as well as what our leadership role means. Global warming threatens our planet. Yet, if we don’t take action or don’t take action fast enough, “natural” disasters are likely to weaken and destroy cities and towns in our own country, or bring out international aggressive pursuit of water rights where drought threatens. Or, the mixed signals of the US role in international agreements, diplomacy and world leadership, might result in the use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East or the Korean Peninsula. Many other issues can also be listed. Will the U.S. also wither and fail to maintain our democratic, technological and political leadership in the world?

What is your definition of “greatness” for the U.S.? Will we go the way of other failed or weakened civilizations? Or, will we be able to salvage our leadership and establish a better and more progressive role in the future?

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3 Feb
2017

One Week Later

I am in shock. My head is spinning. I am sick. I am terrified! As a life-long member of the “glass-half-full” club, I keep looking for an optimistic approach to all of the damage to our democracy. There must be a small streak of light behind these enormous dark clouds.

It has been a week!! The man, who shall not be named, along with his Cabinet nominees and the Republican Congressional leadership have taken collective unprecedented action. He and they have frozen, denounced, gagged, lied, censored, defunded, threatened, arrested, discriminated against and destroyed people and programs which serve the vulnerable, defend civil rights, protect our environment, safeguard our Constitutional freedoms, conduct investigative journalism and cooperate with long-time US allies.Dear Mr. President, a Week Later Jan 2017

Then I remember last Saturday. I felt a sense of unity, respect, courtesy, camaraderie, diversity, dedication, enthusiasm. The experience was uplifting and heartwarming…a bright light shining through the clouds. The numbers of cities and towns around the country and even around the world. The latest numbers are between 3.5 and 4.5 million marchers in the U.S. alone. It was a Women’s March. But it wasn’t just women. There were a high percentage of men, and children too,…people of all ages. It wasn’t just white. There were many hues of black, brown and tan. This march suggested, organized and led by women is an expanding streak of light in those dark clouds.

The energy we felt, that we needed to lift our spirits, to focus our resistance and to encourage our actions, is beginning to move us forward. The Women’s March on Washington is encouraging ten actions for the first 100 Days, beginning with sending postcards to our senators. In an effort to mobilize and change the majority in the House, Swing Left is asking us to get involved and organize in swing districts. Senator Warren and Congressman Cummings  of Maryland led an effort to get an audit of T’s finances by requesting emails be sent to the General Accounting Office. The GAO has reportedly responded stating they have accepted the request and will “conduct the work in the same non-partisan, fact-based approach we take with all Congressional requests.” I am sure there are many other efforts underway propelled by the energy that poured into the streets across the country.Women's March Jan 2017 NYC

That streak of light I was looking for is much bigger than I hoped. It is not just in reaction to “him” but he has been the spark that lit the fire that has brought us together in ways we haven’t seen in decades. Winston Churchill said that, “The United States is like a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lit under it, there is no limit to the power it can generate.” The fire has been lit.  We must continue to add fuel to the flames. Let’s use the power of that fire to transform on our country to a more participatory, egalitarian democracy that provides opportunity, education, health care, choice, freedom, protects our environment and respects all of us regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability.

That vision may be a long way in the future, but it is the future I hope for my grandsons and their children. I am going to follow Robert Muller’s advice when he said, “Use every letter you write; every conversation you have; every meeting you attend, to express your fundamental beliefs and dreams. Affirm to others the vision of the world you want.”

I am going to take action, speak out, write, march, stay informed and continue to look for the expanding light to drive the dark clouds away and move toward my vision. What will you do?

(Originally written the week of January 23, 2017, after the Women’s March)

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17 Nov
2016

Hope is Like a Country Road

 

“She Made Him Vote for Hillary!”

The weekend before the election, my friend Barbara and I joined the other 1500 Californians in Reno, Nevada to canvass for Hillary for President and for Catherine Cortez Masto for Harry Reid’s seat in the Senate. Early voting had already captured many votes.  But we were charged with reminding those who hadn’t voted to go to the polls on Tuesday and vote Democratic. Canvassing is discouraging work because many people are not home or won’t answer their doorbells.

Walking on a country road

But we had some good conversations and one of the most memorable was a young man who drove up in his pick-up after I had left some literature at his door. He recognized us as canvassers, asked us to wait a moment while he rummaged in his truck. He emerged with his “I voted” sticker and proceeded to tell us his story. He was a registered Republican but he declared that Trump was too crazy to be our President, so he voted for Hillary. After we thanked him for voting, we encouraged him to tell his friends and family. He laughed and said, “My brother wasn’t going to vote, but my mom told him he had to vote she and made him vote for Hillary.” We shared a common belief in that light-hearted moment before we walked on to the next house.

We Believed His Language But We Did Not Take Him Seriously

I returned from Reno feeling cautiously optimistic. Even as I watched the returns Tuesday evening as the states in the eastern time zones were called for Trump, I continued to be hopeful. But as we all learned by Wednesday morning, my hope and optimism were totally wrong. As former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown mentioned in his column last Sunday, people who voted for Trump did not believe his incendiary language but they took him seriously. The rest of us who voted for Hillary believed his incendiary language but we did not take him seriously.

We now have to take him seriously. He will be the next President of the United States. Many like me are still in shock and disbelief with shattered hopes of seeing Madam President in the White House. I am fearful that the advances we have made for marriage equality will be lost, that the racism, misogyny and xenophobia which Trump gave permission to express will become commonplace, that divisiveness, hostility and attacks on those who are vulnerable and different will be accepted. In fact, I fear that anyone who doesn’t meet or support the standard of the traditional powerful white male will be under siege.

Wondering Where Hope Lies

quote Lin YutangFriends and family in other countries encouraged my spouse and I to consider leaving the US and move to Ireland or Canada. In addition, there are many calls to action from causes and individuals in my email and on social media. I personally am not ready to take action yet. I am still in the process of figuring it out, trying to understand those who believe so differently than I do, wondering where hope lies.

Although I don’t know yet what I will do, I am sure I need to stay here in this country. I will need to gather with other like-minded souls, to speak out, to take action, to take a stand.

I will eventually find hope.  This quote by Lin Yutang touched me. “Hope is like a road in the country:  there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.”

I am beginning to walk the road. Will you join me?

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30 Aug
2016

Choosing to Leave a Legacy

Legacy

(Copyright free photo from Stocksnap.io)

Do you wish you knew more about your grandparents or the generations before them? What do you know about the history of your ancestors? What is their legacy for you?

I have felt regret and wished I had asked more questions, solicited more stories and learned more about the lives of my parents, grandparents and the ancestors before them. That wish has led me to search for the story behind my mysterious grandfather, uncover the rumored family secrets and capture the story of my paternal grandparents’ lives in fictionalized form.

The story title “Sarah’s Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness” is a legacy I want to leave for my daughter, grandsons and extended family. In addition, time with my grandsons, sharing family stories and taking them on adventures is a legacy, too. I hope they remember time spent with Grandma for future guidance and reminiscing.

I learned a few years ago legacy is not necessarily limited to the personal memories others have of us when we die but that we can leave an intentional legacy designed before the end of our lives to support future generations. I updated, as a second edition, a professional book which was a concrete and practical way of providing guidance to future young professionals. It also provided me a way of reflecting on my own years of experience as a consultant, capturing my learning from both the successes and failures and offering some insight and perhaps wisdom based on that experience. That book has served as a professional legacy for my years as an organization and leadership consultant.

collage, Bev Scott Author

(Consulting on the Inside, photo copyright Amazon.com, http://amzn.to/2fBgkGN, used with permission; 3rd Act Logo copyright http://The3rdact.com, used with permission; Sarah’s Secret book cover copyright Beverly Scott, used with permission, http://bevscott.com)

Another intentional professional legacy I am leaving is “The 3rd Act” program I co-created and turned over to my business partner in 2014. As the bulging demographic of baby boomers now reaching 60 continues, they will be responding to the question that poet Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” In researching the work on positive aging for The 3rd Act, we found that investing ourselves in activities or causes outside ourselves, is one of the more significant contributions to healthy aging. Thus I hope The 3rd Act, as one of my legacies, supports the quest of coming mature generations for their intentional legacies.

And finally, there is a will, the document that many of us think of when we hear the term “legacy.” Somehow for me, this is the least significant component of my legacy. My material and financial resources bear little connection to the person I am, to the story inspired by the lives of my grandparents, the contribution I have made to learning, making the world a better place or raising a daughter and influencing her children. For now, I hope my novel, my professional books and articles, The 3rd Act and personal time spent with family and community organizations are all memorable legacies. And there may be more to come.

What is your legacy? Have you given thought to intentional creating your professional or personal legacy? What will you leave for your family and the generations that follow? What is your intentional legacy?

(An earlier version of this blog was posted in February 2014, and a longer version was published in “Seasonings: A Journal of Senior OD Practitioners,” Volume 7, Number 1, Winter 2010.)

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14 Jun
2016

In Honor of My Father

Henry Clay Scott

Henry Clay Scott, 2 years old

I share these memories of my father, Henry Clay Scott, who died almost 50 years ago.  I am also very aware of him and his life since I am writing a novel inspired by the lives of his parents and their children, “Trust, Betrayal and Forgiveness.”

A white-out blizzard roared on the prairie plunging the temperature to below zero.  Clay, as he was called, put the last piece of wood in the wood burning stove.  Although he was a young boy, he saw himself as “the man of the house”.  He prepared to bundle up to go to the barn to look for some other fuel to burn.

His mother, crippled from rheumatoid arthritis stopped him.  “I can’t let you go out in this storm.  With the white-out, you could get disoriented, lose your way and freeze to death.   Let’s wait and see if it lets up.”.

But the blizzard didn’t let up and the white-out thickened.  The temperature in their small two-room house dropped without any heat.  The outside temperature plummeted to an estimated thirty below zero and the wind howled and blustered through the cracks.  My father, his sister and mother were bundled in several layers of clothes and wrapped in blankets but it was not enough.

My grandmother came to a difficult decision.  She believed it was the only choice she had to save them all from freezing to death.  They burned her books to stay warm.  This must have been a painful decision for a woman who was a school teacher and highly valued education.

This is just one of the stories I heard about the sacrifice, deprivation and poverty that shadowed my father in his childhood.  Clay was the fourth son of Ellen and Harvey Depew (HD) Scott, born in 1907 in Dewey County, Oklahoma.  H.D. was thirty years older than Ellen and died in 1911 leaving her with five children including an infant girl born just months before.

Before his father died, Clay had rheumatic fever.  He had barely survived and was so weak he couldn’t stand or walk.  His older brothers doted on him and carried him everywhere.  Their fondness for my father was evident to me when I was growing up even though I knew nothing about this childhood experience.

The older brothers left home early to work and begin their own families.  My father and his younger sister worked too, scrimped and saved, and ultimately managed to get college educations.  My grandmother had given to my father her love of learning and belief in the value of education.  I knew when I was as young as four years old, that I too would go to college one day.  A nickel from my fifteen cent allowance was required to go into my college fund.

Henry Clay Scott

Henry Clay Scott, as a young man

My father was a terrific role model always reading and learning.  He saved articles for me to read, taught me the Latin names of plants when I was five and always answered my questions with another question or “What do you think?” He believed in respecting and accepting all people.  He taught me, “You don’t have to like what someone does, but you must respect who they are as a human being.”

Clay was frugal but not stingy.  He and my mother taught me to appreciate and be grateful for my life and to give back as generously as I could.  The poverty and sacrifice of his early life influenced his actions throughout his life.  He didn’t like waste.  He was sure to get the last drop, eat the last crust of bread or chew every shred of chicken off the bones.  He was friendly and humble with a delightful sense of humor.  He was very handsome with black wavy hair.  When he was courting my blond, blue-eyed mother, her friends called him the “dark prince.”

After I graduated from high school, he suffered from heart disease.  He sold his business and went back to school to get a Master’s degree to teach.  He died in 1967 at the young age of sixty. He was teaching college students to appreciate the amazing wonders of the natural world just as he did for me as a little girl.

His love and guidance will always be with me.  And, I miss him.   Happy Father’s Day!

What are your memories of your father? 

 

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Turning on Your Creative Brain

Our brain is complicated.  It is not as simple as right brain and left brain.  Neuroscience has studied what part of our brain lights up when we exercise our organizational/executive functions.

Ocean gaze, creativity

This author argues that we should pay attention to when it does not light up, for example when we daydream or relax.  For creative thinking, we need some time when we shut down our organization and executive thinking such as in the shower where many of us have experienced our most creative thinking.

As a writer, I am acutely aware of how important it is to turn off the chatter in my brain about dates, tasks and emails.  I find I do some of my most creative time is when I first wake up in the morning.  My mind is unfocused, unorganized and empty.

This article also offers some tips to help us be more creative in any work we are doing.  What are you doing to support your creativity?

Turning on Your Creative Brain

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Who Are Your Family Role Models and Inspiration?

In recognition of International Women’s Day, I honor my grandmothers and my aunts who have inspired me  and served as significant role models.

Schoolhouse, Old West, Plains

 

Years ago, one of my favorite aunts came for a visit when I was in my mid-thirties experiencing a low point in my life. She gave a life-long gift by reminding me of the role models I had in the strong women in my family. It was from them, I could always find inspiration and direction.

Both of my grandmothers had been school teachers. My paternal grandmother, Ellen, also became a school superintendent. Ellen was a great cheerleader and encouraged me to succeed in school, get good grades and go to college. My maternal grandmother, Grace, was disappointed that she had to give up teaching school to become a farmer’s wife. But she continued to read the Atlantic Monthly and other books and periodicals. She wrote letters about what she read and shared her opinions about the news and politics in letters to her daughters.

My aunt pointed out that both Ellen and Grace had significant challenges in their lives: Grace, reluctantly left school teaching which she loved to manage her husband’s family farm which she resented. She worked hard to survive the depression and the dust bowl. Ellen was left a widow when her youngest of five children was a few months old.

Ellen Scott, grandmother,

Ellen Scott, my grandmother, a teacher, and a strong role model.

Ellen, in particular has been an inspiration to me. I am currently writing a fictionalized story of her life. As a widow without a means of support, Ellen applied for widows benefits. The Government Agent who came in April of 1912 to interview her in person, filed a sensitive descriptive report (which I recovered from the National Archives). She was living in a tent south of Thedford, Nebraska where she had filed a land claim. He reports that

“she hopes to establish a home for herself and children; but it looks like a most hazardous undertaking as she is practically an invalid because of rheumatism (sic), and her children are undersized puny looking little fellows, and they are more than a mile from the nearest water….In their present desolate surroundings their condition is pitiable in the extreme.”

This was the occasion when she learned that her husband had a former wife and family. The agent describes,

“until I informed her of the fact, claimant declares she had no knowledge of the existence of a former wife. Her grief and tears were convincing of the truth. She begged me not to tell anyone in her home neighborhood.”

This helps explain why no one in the family knew about a prior family. Ellen shared no information about him with her children. Despite her crippling rheumatoid arthritis, she pulled herself together; returned to teaching school; became a school superintendent; and raised her family. See my blog series, “A Journey to Fiction” on my genealogical journey to learn about my paternal grandparents.

Both Grace and Ellen were also models of strength, resilience and accomplishment for their daughters. All five of my aunts completed college educations at a time when the lack of financial resources and societies’ cultural norms were major deterrents. Yet, they were persistent and resourceful. They found work to pay their way. Between the first wave of feminism and the second, during my young adulthood, all these women had successful careers and raised a family. They worked hard and overcame many obstacles. To me they were pillars of strength and fortitude. They were role models of how to meet challenges and find a satisfying life.

These seven women have been my inspiration and my role models. I honor and pay tribute to them on International Women’s Day.

Who are the women role models in your family? How have they influenced and inspired you? Are there other strong women who have served as role models and inspired you?

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