How to Rewire Our Brain for JOY in 2022

Happy New Year! Best wishes to everyone for a safe, healthy, abundant, and JOYFUL 2022.

Since my DIL is a neuroscientist, anything that relates to the brain and how it works is a topic of conversation around Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

According to Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Health, Happiness, and Wisdom, we can change our mind–to change our brain–to change our mind.

The beauty of self-directed neuroplasticity means we really can teach old dogs new tricks.

Author Rick Hanson’s premise is that if we intentionally choose positive thoughts, we can change our life for the better.

Here’s an excerpt about JOY:

Internalizing the Positive

1. Turn positive facts into positive experiences. Good things keep happening all around us, but much of the time we don’t notice them; even when we do, we often hardly feel them. Someone is nice to you, you see an admirable quality in yourself, a flower is blooming, you finish a difficult project — and it all just rolls by. Instead, actively look for good news, particularly the little stuff of daily life: the faces of children, the smell of an orange, a memory from a happy vacation, a minor success at work, and so on. Whatever positive facts you find, bring a mindful awareness to them — open up to them and let them affect you. It’s like sitting down to a banquet: don’t just look at it — dig in!

2. Savor the experience. It’s delicious! Make it last by staying with it for 5, 10, even 20 seconds; don’t let your attention skitter off to something else. The longer that something is held in awareness and the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neurons that fire and thus wire together, and the stronger the trace in memory.

“Focus on your emotions and body sensations, since these are the essence of implicit memory. Let the experience fill your body and be as intense as possible. For example, if someone is good to you, let the feeling of being cared about bring warmth to your whole chest.

“Pay particular attention to the rewarding aspects of the experience — for example, how good it feels to get a great big hug from someone you love. Focusing on these rewards increases dopamine release, which makes it easier to keep giving the experience your attention, and strengthens its neural associations in implicit memory. You’re not doing this to cling to the rewards — which would eventually make you suffer — but rather to internalize them so that you carry them inside you and don’t need to reach for them in the outer world.

“You can also intensify an experience by deliberately enriching it. For example, if you are savoring a relationship experience, you could call up other feelings of being loved by others, which will help stimulate oxytocin — the ‘bonding hormone’ — and thus deepen your sense of connection. Or you could strengthen your feelings of satisfaction after completing a demanding project by thinking about some of the challenges you had to overcome.

3. Imagine or feel that the experience is entering deeply into your mind and body, like the sun’s warmth into a T-shirt, water into a sponge, or a jewel placed in a treasure chest in your heart. Keep relaxing your body and absorbing the emotions, sensations, and thoughts of the experience.”

Looking For a Great Read? Here’s One: The Lost Girls of Paris

If you’re searching for something to read, here’s a suggestion…

From Pam Jenoff, author of The Orphan’s Tale, The Lost Girls of Paris is a remarkable yet tragic story of friendship and resolute spirit by a ring of female spies trained in Britain during World War II.

Way more brave than I could ever hope to become, this book is vividly rendered and inspired by true events. Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of these spies and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood, and the great strength of women to survive almost anything in the face of danger.

But really, who knows how we might answer the call to save our children from another Nazi-like regime, right? As we all aware, mama bears are tenacious and fierce!

Side by Side | Cormac McCarthy vs Sophie Kinsella

This time I was unlucky enough to be in the middle although in sniffing distance of first class. I cherished the almost princess moment with my wistful view of the curtains that separated THEM in their rarified air from US, the hoi polloi.

To my left was an older-than-me male; slightly obnoxious. He moved around a lot, didn’t settle down, and then THIS: he attempted to man-usurp the shared armrest.

OH NO HE DINT.

I might be all of five feet tall and my feet might BARELY reach the floor, but NOBODY has the right to hog the shared armrest. Bad form, lack of etiquette, and not on my watch, buddy.

I strategically waited until he reached down to get something from his under-the-seat bag and I FIRMLY planted MY arm on the arm rest. HAH! I thought to myself, that’ll teach him. I let him have it back after I felt my point had been made and received.

He finally decided to nap and covered himself with his jacket which invaded MY territory, so I shoved it back over to his side- that’s when I got “Sorry.” After about fifteen minutes or twenty minutes, I must confess that I took a certain amount of pleasure in waking him up so I could use the restroom. Just a CERTAIN amount of joy, not a lot. Not too much. (Tee hee.)

Harrumph. Don’t ever mess with a short curly haired girl, old man.

To my right was a young guy who had an edition of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian wedged in the little pocket attached to the seat in front. It stared at him, unblinking, willing him to pick it up and read, but for two hours he resisted the allure of McCarthy and the urge to absorb those tortuous words. First he tweeted A LOT and then he fell asleep, woke up, and cracked open the novel. I wonder if he had any idea what he was getting himself into, and felt like telling him this might NOT the best time to read McCarthy as he’s the antithesis of a light, not-too-demanding author, but I kept my own counsel this time. His mistake, though. Cormac is the stuff of nightmares.

On the other hand, I was firmly immersed in one of my fave authors, Sophie Kinsella. This time it was her 2017 book, My Not So Perfect Life. It was like drinking the perfect cocktail on a balmy summer evening. Kinsella rarely disappoints and I was immediately drawn into the characters, their situations, and relationships. Like all great reads (in my opinion) it ended with the main character finding her happily-ever-after true love.

I read nonstop until we landed.

Home. There’s no place like it.

Trees and Coffee

TreeGrowsInBrooklyn.jpg

Every single time I pour out a half drunk cup of cold coffee, I am reminded of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Each and every time, I become Francie in her belief that this is what rich people do; to waste coffee is a luxurious act of defiance against personal poverty. I didn’t grow up like Francie but I hate waste, so it’s become a conscious act of extravagance.

I first read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was about ten; I had a VERY active imagination combined with an overabundance of empathy and I would take on the persona–I BECAME the character I most identified with–and so I became poor Francie.

Just like I became Laura Ingalls Wilder in Little House on the Prairie or Anne Frank or Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden.

In my case, these multiple personalities weren’t anything more than trying on a new dress or pair of shoes; I always returned to my own authentic self–wolf lover, nature lover, underdog defender, wearer of rose-colored glasses—but it was part of the process of individuation to slip on these other personas and feel as if I was walking in another’s shoes to learn about how other people live and think.

Mom Katie Nolan believes that Francie is entitled to throw her coffee down the drain if she wishes, saying that it’s good for poor people like them to be able to waste something.

“There was a special Nolan idea about the coffee. It was their one great luxury. Mama made a big potful each morning and reheated it for dinner and supper and it got stronger as the day wore on. It was an awful lot of water and very little coffee but mama put a lump of chicory in it which made it taste strong and bitter. Each one was allowed three cups a day with milk. Other times you could help yourself to a cup of black coffee anytime you felt like it. Sometimes when you had nothing at all and it was raining and you were alone in the flat, it was wonderful to know that you could have something even though it was only a cup of black and bitter coffee.

Neeley and Francie loved coffee but seldom drank it. Today, as usual, Neeley let his coffee stand black and ate his condensed milk spread on bread. He sipped a little of the black coffee for the sake of formality. Mama poured out Francie’s coffee and put the milk in it even though she knew that the child wouldn’t drink it.”

“Francie loved the smell of coffee and the way it was hot. As she ate her bread and meat, she kept one hand curved about the cup enjoying its warmth. From time to time, she’d smell the bitter sweetness of it. That was better than drinking it. At the end of the meal, it went down the sink.”

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn–Betty Smith

Did you ever read this classic? What did you like about it?

Happy Birthday to MEEEEE!

Today blog is my not-so-humble brag about the original Angel Boy. I am so very proud of him.

I talk an awful lot about the second boy who stole my heart, AB 2.0, my curly haired free spirit/sprite, but there is still the one who owns MOST of my heart, his daddy…

fullsizeoutput_db0…WHO WROTE A BOOK THAT GOT PUBLISHED!!!

Here’s the deets:

Title: THE GEOLOGICAL UNCONSCIOUS
GERMAN LITERATURE AND THE MINERAL IMAGINARY

https://www.fordhampress.com/9780823288113/the-geological-unconscious/

From the author…

“Already in the nineteenth century, German-language writers were contending with the challenge of imagining and accounting for a planet whose volatility bore little resemblance to the images of the Earth then in circulation. The Geological Unconscious traces the withdrawal of the lithosphere as a reliable setting, unobtrusive backdrop, and stable point of reference for literature written well before the current climate breakdown.”

“Through a series of careful readings of romantic, realist, and modernist works by Tieck, Goethe, Stifter, Benjamin, and Brecht, Groves elaborates a geological unconscious—unthought and sometimes actively repressed geological knowledge—in European literature and environmental thought. This inhuman horizon of reading and interpretation offers a new literary history of the Anthropocene in a period before it was named.”

“These close readings show the entanglement of the human and the lithic in periods well before the geological turn of contemporary cultural studies. In those depictions of human-mineral encounters, the minerality of the human and the minerality of the imagination become apparent. In registering libidinal investments in the lithosphere that extend beyond Carboniferous deposits and beyond any carbon imaginary, The Geological Unconscious points toward alternative relations with, and less destructive mobilizations of, the geologic.”

It might take me as long to read it as it took him to write it ‘cos it’s definitely going to stretch all of my working brain cells which are more used to reading chicklit by Jennifer Weiner or Sophie Kinsella, but it’s IMPORTANT to read things that are outside our comfort zone. WAY OUT.

This is the kind of book you need to read with a dictionary and Thesaurus very close by.

Sample page 121:

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Editorial Reviews:

“An impressive and accomplished study that delves deep into the layers of German mineralogical imagination from Goethe to Benjamin. Stones may not be able to speak, but they have found their spokesman. A pleasure to read.” (Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, University of British Columbia)

The Geological Unconscious offers subtle close readings of several canonical texts that receive provocative illumination from ecocriticism. The book’s focus on the instability of ground is insightfully paired with a consideration of how already in the nineteenth century literary style and narrative register geological time and planetary wounding.” (Catriona MacLeod, University of Chicago)

The author, Dr. Jason Groves, is Assistant Professor of Germanics at the University of Washington. He is cotranslator of Werner Hamacher’s Minima Philologica.

 

What’s NOT the best choice for a bedtime story? Ballad of the Harp-Weaver.

There sat my mother
   With the harp against her shoulder
Looking nineteen
   And not a day older,
A smile about her lips,
   And a light about her head,
And her hands in the harp-strings
   Frozen dead.

 

Since I was lucky enough to become a grandma (thank you DIL!) I’m always searching for new and interesting books to tempt Angel Boy 2.0 and his voracious appetite for words and pictures and language. One of my favorite photos was of AB 2.0 at around two months looking intently at AB 1.0 while he read a story. We swear he was paying attention. Maybe/maybe not, but we like to think so.

I went to our local library where they have a store staffed by volunteers and always find great books-sadly some never even cracked open-and grabbed an armful.

I parked myself in a little child-sized chair and briefly skimmed through my treasures. I found a book by one of my son’s favorite authors, James Herriot, who wrote All Creatures Great and Small and Moses the Kitten, along with about a dozen other really good stories, mostly about animals (my personal interests shining through).

Somehow, though, this book slipped by…

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver by Edna St. Vincent Millay, illustrated by Beth Peek.

Visually stunning, I anticipated a lovely illustrated poem that Theo would enjoy, but waited until I had already driven home to fully read this one.

UH OH, thank goodness I read it first and I’m even more grateful that Theo can’t read at all.

I know I initially read it in high school, because as soon as I saw this page, the horror I had initially felt–returned.

A bedtime story? I think not. Not unless you want to seed some traumatic nightmares! I can’t imagine what kind of positive life lesson there could be here, can you?

I didn’t remember that it ended with the mom dying, having sacrificed her life for her son, and it’s not even that I DISAGREE with that concept because I believe a good parent should place her/his needs beneath those of the innocents we bring into this universe, BUT the guilt trip that little guy will most likely endure isn’t an equivalent value for having his loving mother ALIVE.

No wonder it appeared that this book looked as if it had never been touched.

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver

“Son,” said my mother,
   When I was knee-high,
“You’ve need of clothes to cover you,
   And not a rag have I.
“There’s nothing in the house
   To make a boy breeches,
Nor shears to cut a cloth with
   Nor thread to take stitches.
“There’s nothing in the house
   But a loaf-end of rye,
And a harp with a woman’s head
   Nobody will buy,”
   And she began to cry.
That was in the early fall.
   When came the late fall,
“Son,” she said, “the sight of you
   Makes your mother’s blood crawl,—
“Little skinny shoulder-blades
   Sticking through your clothes!
And where you’ll get a jacket from
   God above knows.
“It’s lucky for me, lad,
   Your daddy’s in the ground,
And can’t see the way I let
   His son go around!”
   And she made a queer sound.
That was in the late fall.
   When the winter came,
I’d not a pair of breeches
   Nor a shirt to my name.
I couldn’t go to school,
   Or out of doors to play.
And all the other little boys
   Passed our way.
“Son,” said my mother,
   “Come, climb into my lap,
And I’ll chafe your little bones
   While you take a nap.”
And, oh, but we were silly
   For half an hour or more,
Me with my long legs
   Dragging on the floor,
A-rock-rock-rocking
   To a mother-goose rhyme!
Oh, but we were happy
   For half an hour’s time!
But there was I, a great boy,
   And what would folks say
To hear my mother singing me
   To sleep all day,
   In such a daft way?
Men say the winter
   Was bad that year;
Fuel was scarce,
   And food was dear.
A wind with a wolf’s head
   Howled about our door,
And we burned up the chairs
   And sat on the floor.
All that was left us
   Was a chair we couldn’t break,
And the harp with a woman’s head
   Nobody would take,
   For song or pity’s sake.
The night before Christmas
   I cried with the cold,
I cried myself to sleep
   Like a two-year-old.
And in the deep night
   I felt my mother rise,
And stare down upon me
   With love in her eyes.
I saw my mother sitting
   On the one good chair,
A light falling on her
   From I couldn’t tell where,
Looking nineteen,
   And not a day older,
And the harp with a woman’s head
   Leaned against her shoulder.
Her thin fingers, moving
   In the thin, tall strings,
Were weav-weav-weaving
   Wonderful things.
Many bright threads,
   From where I couldn’t see,
Were running through the harp-strings
  Rapidly,
And gold threads whistling
   Through my mother’s hand.
I saw the web grow,
   And the pattern expand.
She wove a child’s jacket,
   And when it was done
She laid it on the floor
   And wove another one.
She wove a red cloak
   So regal to see,
“She’s made it for a king’s son,”
   I said, “and not for me.”
   But I knew it was for me.
She wove a pair of breeches
   Quicker than that!
She wove a pair of boots
   And a little cocked hat.
She wove a pair of mittens,
   She wove a little blouse,
She wove all night
   In the still, cold house.
She sang as she worked,
   And the harp-strings spoke;
Her voice never faltered,
   And the thread never broke.
   And when I awoke,—
There sat my mother
   With the harp against her shoulder
Looking nineteen
   And not a day older,
A smile about her lips,
   And a light about her head,
And her hands in the harp-strings
   Frozen dead.
And piled up beside her
   And toppling to the skies,
Were the clothes of a king’s son,
   Just my size.

The Best Books to Read This Summer

If you’re fascinated (like I am) about the what goes on behind the scenes in Hollywood with BIG DEALS and BIG MONEY, you will love these books.

I’m talking about the kind of book you can’t put down; the kind where you’re in limbo-time, in a trancelike state — and where you are so invested in the characters that you hope the book never ends — but you can’t wait to get to the last page to see how the author ties everything up — only to discover that there’s a sequel to the first book.

And it’s just as awesome.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I live an Enchanted Life on the edge of fantasy. Reality for me is, at best, a road not taken.

Although reality can and does rear its ugly head at odd and unexpected moments, that’s the best time for a well-written chick lit novel or two to transport me on a magic carpet ride back to the Land of Princess Rosebud and all that is sparkly.

According to Wikipedia, Chick lit is genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.

Although this is definitely chick lit, it’s so well written and the characters are so well fleshed out and alive, you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

(My Ph.D. DIL was as obsessed as I was, so it’s not just me.)

Clare Naylor and Mimi Hare met and became a fantastic writing team. Clare is the author of Love: A User’s Guide and Catching Alice.

Mimi was the director of development at Gracie Films, the company responsible for Jerry Maguire and As Good As It Gets.

They draw upon their own real life experiences for a riveting behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in Hollywood.

I loved reading these novels and I hope you will enjoy them too. Even though they came out a few years ago, it’s still fresh and relevant.

Read The Second Assistant FIRST:

thesecondassistant

Read The First Assistant NEXT:

First Assstant