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Our words of wisdom for this week: Clogged with yesterday’s excess, the body drags the mind down with it.– Horace
So what sort of Thanksgiving excess did the Quotophiles indulge in?
Colette: It probably goes without saying that I overdid it on brown food items (turkey, dressing, gravy, pecan pie). I much prefer the unhealthy tan food family to anything red or green or yellow. Healthy foods just don’t give that Tryptophan rush so essential to the third quarter, Thanksgiving Day football nap. We went to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving, so we cooked a second turkey and all the brown fixings on Friday, so we’d have leftovers. Since Friday, I’ve been overdoing it on turkey sandwiches made with the kind of white bread little kids like.
In addition to eating, I crafted my hump off over the break, spending probably 20 hours over 3 days with papers, soaps, wax, felt, clay, beads, etc…I have a craft sale coming up and needed to finalize my inventory. My house is now packed to its Martha Stewart gills.
Emily: Okay, I confess. It was Thanksgiving. I ate a lot of food. All in one course. A lot of brown foods. A lot of butter. Then pies.
Pam: Mashed potatoes…My sister made the most delicious mashed potatoes this year. I had three servings. I told her about how it seems that here in the south folks make them more ‘watery’— “creamed potatoes” they call them – and they aren’t nearly as delicious as my mom’s and grandma’s, and now, my sister’s! I don’t know if the southern recipe uses water instead of milk, buuutt, may I suggest…if you are going to overindulge, go for lumpy, puffy delicious mashed potatoes whipped with milk and real butter, for goodness sake! This year I truly did not stuff myself to the usual miserable level, I am pleased to say. It seems that misery just isn’t worth it anymore. I’m sure it is many colliding factors such as being this ‘middle’ age (keeping in mind it is middle if I plan to live to be 107), along with and having kept the last 5+ pounds off for a year now. I just won’t go back…I’ve peddled up too many hard hills. Too, it is the lost health I see when I look at my overweight relatives, that it truly seems it is now or never that I stay on this road to trying to hold on to my health. Lastly, I would like to just say that MY WORST over indulgence, sadly, IS ALWAYS HERE IN THE LIBRARY! I simply canNOT turn down cookies or little chocolate snacky things like bridge mix or M&Ms. So, thank God I was in charge of desserts at home this year. Granted, Costco’s coffeecake for breakfast EVERY SINGLE MORNING while up home (heated and topped with whipped cream) was a bit of a stray, buuuttt….Oh, good grief, God help us all as the holidays come on. I will leave you with this thought. It’s not so much what you eat that is bad, but what we DON’T, eat, I think. Just keep coming back to balancing with veggies and lots and lots of fresh water. And last but not least, I leave you with my now-cancer-free, handsome, slender 7- year old uncle’s advice to me as we walked a mile and a half after dinner last year at Christmas…”Eat less, and move more”. Perhaps that is simply the key, after all.
Sally: My Thanksgiving overindulgence is probably that I ride my bike too much (but it is so much fun and good exercise, too)! The Thanksgiving food that I like the most is jellied cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. My new favorite quote is, “Those who wish to control their own lives and move beyond existence as mere clients and consumers – those people ride a bike.” ~ Wolfgang Sachs
Jolly Librarian: When a person who doesn’t cook visits someone who does, then a certain amount of overeating will occur. For example, the non-cooking person will be sitting on the sofa and think that a snack would be just the thing. But how to choose? There’s some leftover pork roast; there are sausage balls; there is pumpkin pie; there’s homemade chili. The only rational choice is to have some of each. And repeat several times a day.
The Alabama/Auburn game is such a tradition in my home state that even people who pay no attention to football still use it as a reference to make that point, as in “I will not be watching the Iron Bowl. I will be solving the pesky world hunger problem this Saturday.” You may care deeply about the outcome, you may not care at all, but it’s impossible to be ignorant of the existence of the game.
Last week, I read an article about the wife of the Alabama coach, Nick Saban. (For those of you who don’t know, Saban has a reputation of not staying too long at any one place and has expressed his dissatisfaction with students who have left games early this season. This has made some fans anxious about his future plans.) While his wife was allaying those fears, she made a point about the complacency that can creep in when a team is just expected to win.
I think she’s right. I can just imagine the students at the beginning of the 4th quarter: “Well, we’re going to win any way, so let’s take a break from imbibing beverages here in the stand and let’s go back to our fraternity house where we can imbibe different beverages.”
Unluckily, or luckily, for Alabama, that complacency was smashed at the end of the game on Saturday. Perhaps they’ve not been knocked to the bottom of the mountain, but far enough down that the easy assumption of success has been shattered.
Having a lazy nature myself, I’ve always been a little in awe of the people who are always looking for new challenges, the people who, after reaching a summit, look and say, “My goodness, there’s a mountain over there as well. Let’s go climb it.” Or “Well, I’ve climbed a mountain. Let’s see if I can now swim to the bottom of the sea.” Or even, “Well, I’ve climbed a mountain. Let’s see if I can do it again, faster and better.”
Of course, we can’t all be the giant risk takers of the world, but we can all look at areas of our lives where complacency has set in. And we can shake things up a bit.
Our quotation for this week:
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.–Tecumseh
Colette: I am truly thankful for the same things for which most people are thankful – good health and the love and support of family and friends. Those are the only things, at the end of the day, which truly matter. I’m also thankful my son is soaring, out in the world and away from the nest. All in all, I have led a pretty cushy life, and I thank the universe, often, for that. On a lesser note, I’m also thankful for Ben and Jerry, heated bed pads, a reliable car, the sweetest dog this side of the Mississippi and strong coffee.
Emily: It’s a given that most people are thankful for the three f’s: family, friends, freedom. Therefore, I’d like to recognize some of the oft forgotten things that help make Thanksgiving possible:
- Turkey: Let us be thankful the pilgrims weren’t whalers, so that Thanksgiving create not an ethical quandary.
- Butter: Let us be thankful for the foundation of every Thanksgiving side dish.
- Zantac : Let us be thankful it works fast, lasts longer.
- Splendid Table’s euphoric Thanksgiving episode: Let us be thankful for Lynne Rossetto Kasper.
- The National Dog Show: Let us be thankful Great Aunt Martha can’t tear herself away.
- Tryptophan: Let us give thanks for a peaceful Thanksgiving afternoon.
Pam: It takes me only one second to know what I am most thankful for: My mom still being here with me. It has been one rough year. We all struggle, I know, with personal conflicts and sadness the older we get. But this year has been particularly tough. I flew home to be with Mom in the hospital back in the early summer when I was informed that she had gone into total renal failure. I noticed while there that she was having trouble putting the merest of thoughts together. After two weeks there and her kidneys now fully functioning, she was sent to a rehabilitation center to help rebuild her strength, but her mind seemed to go farther away. With no explanation for her confusion, within days she could no longer feed herself or form sentences. I am thankful for so many things, but perhaps the five most important things I can cut-to-the-chase and say here are: I am thankful #1. that my mom is back to her ‘real self’, (and not the ‘sweet, little, old, confused lady” the nurses all thought was her true personality), and has a good chance to be around for many years to come. – BECAUSE #2. My co-worker and friend, Colette Strassburg’s sister, Gina, one of NSCC’s 2 yr. nursing graduates, actually made the correct diagnosis when she used her critical thinking skills and stated to Colette that, “It sounds like she has too much ammonia in her blood”, and Colette then shared this with me, and my sister then had the doctors test her for this. She was INSTANTLY brought back to her right mind when this was addressed! #3. My sister and Mom have grown closer throughout this ordeal, and a deeper healing has taken place. #4. Mom is eating nutritiously and taking terrific care of herself after such a scare. What MORE could I possibly be thankful for? #5. The small family that I cherish so much is going to spend Thanksgiving together. I am so, so grateful to have them with me.
Sally: I am thankful for my parents being in good health, my husband, son and his family, and for my health. If you what to get a smile on your face check out the app “Smile Epidemic”.
Jolly Librarian: While this is a year I will not be sorry to see the back of, there are still many things for which I am grateful: my family, my friends, my home, my job, my colleagues, and memories of better times. I am also grateful for the following: ice cream, any episode of Mad Men where Pete Campbell gets his comeuppance, the fact that Kate Atkinson is still writing wonderful novels, and the leftover desserts that Librarian Emily brings to work on Mondays.
Fall seven times and stand up eight– Japanese proverb
There is a basic fact to be faced in working towards a goal: There will be failure. After that failure, you decide to give up or keep going. That’s what resiliency is all about: learning from troubles and continuing on.
So how do we build our resiliency skills? The American Psychological Association has some tips:
- Have a support system (friends, family).
- Take care of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs.
- Trust in your ability to solve problems.
- Set realistic goals and break them down into small action plans.
- Try to solve problems instead of avoiding them.
- Focus on what you can do in the present, instead of possible future catastrophes.
Perhaps the key lesson here, and to all the ‘Getting Gritty’ posts is best summed up by Ken Bain in his book, What the Best College Students Do: “In part, success comes simply from taking control over your own education, from realizing you are in charge.”
The same can be said for life.
Many of my friends who actually cook and host holiday gatherings have been making lists for the past week. They have lists of things to buy, things to clean, things to cook, and so on.
I’d like to recommend one more list: the gratitude list.
Take a few moments to jot down items that make you thankful. And I recommend going beyond the obvious ones, such as family, friends, shelter, and health to take note of the little, eccentric things that somehow put a smile on your face and make you glad you’re alive. (Because let’s face it: When the turkey is still an unappealing red color and Uncle Jack and Cousin Fred are arguing over politics, it may only be the small oddity that can put a smile on your face.)
Here’s a sample from my gratitude list (besides the big stuff):
- Some of the wittiest colleagues in the universe.
- Facebook (Luckily, I have a core group of friends who have the same offbeat sense of humor. And I recently discovered that I can hide the political rants and the overly-saccharine memes.)
- Always having at least five books on my to-read list so I have a choice when I finish the current one.
- Raspberry frozen yogurt.
- Snow Patrol.
- Tulips. When I grow them, they last about a day, but still there is something so cheerful about them, I am glad they are in the world.
- Cats. One should always be reminded of one’s place in the universe–as a cat’s servant.
- Dogs. How can one not be grateful for such unconditional love?
What’s on your list?
A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.– Ernest Hemingway
This week’s question: What animal would you be and why?
Colette: It’s hard to shed my human brain and assume the singular mindset of another animal. I rather like my opposable thumbs. I’m too lazy to be a predator (or at least one that lives past its first couple seasons) and too easily bored to be myopically fixed on getting food from sun up until sun down. How dreadful. I also can’t imagine eating only leaves and twigs. I wouldn’t want to mate with amphibians or fish or insects, or be the mom of a snake, so I’m not left with much in the animal kingdom from which to choose.
I guess I’d be a domesticated dog, with the added qualifier that I have a really good owner. My ideal owner would let me be a dog, which means I’d be smelly on occasion and I’d be allowed to get dirty when I rolled in something grossly wonderful. I’d live in a house with a big yard, which I’d have free, roaming access to, in case I saw a squirrel I needed to run down and/or bark at before I took a nap in the sun spot on the bed. I’d get treats, but not for doing parlor tricks; I’d get them just because I’m so wonderful. I wouldn’t be forced to wear sweaters or Halloween costumes or get toted around in some ridiculous purse. My toenails would be dog colored, not pink. I’d be big, and smiley and smart and allowed to take up more than my share of space on the furniture. My owner would not chain me, cage me, give me an embarrassing name, like Mr. Smoochums, talk baby talk to me, or deny me ear and belly scratches. Our love affair would be gloriously mutual.
Emily: Well, I’m pretty pleased with being human, but if I had to pick another animal I’d go with the giant octopus. They’re clever, get to mostly keep to themselves in the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean, and have a good sense of humor.
Pam: Ah, to have the honesty of a cat…to not be afraid of seeming unkind or aloof if my mind is somehow not in tune with another’s needs or I am perhaps distracted with something and not as patient and caring as I should be. But I do not know how to just be intentionally, uh, stuck-up, for lack of a better word. And, being a cat-mother of 4, they can sure be royal hairballs! It pains me to hurt anyone’s feelings (and this doesn’t even count the possible end result of making someone mad or upset with me). Hark! Ah, to be a cat for a day and escape caring what others may think of me. I think not. Lest I become a comfortably selfish, less than likable prima donna.
Sally: The animal I would be is a Polar Bear, because I love snow and cold weather and they are cute animals. I am looking forward to mountain biking to work in the snow.
Jolly Librarian: I would be a hedgehog. In fact, after reading this list of hedgehog characteristics, I think I already may be part hedgie:
- Hedgehogs are prickly!! Your hedgehog will poke you. When you first begin learning to handle your hedgehog it may seem as if you are handling a critter cactus.
- The average hedgehog is naturally shy, nervous, and does not come when called, display outward affection, or perform tricks.
- They are nocturnal in nature and may appear to do nothing except “stay balled up all day.”
- You may need to work through the grouchy quilling stage, and a grouchy hedgehog may always be grouchy.
- Hedgehogs do have teeth and have the potential to bite. Biting is typically not done out of aggression but as a way of communication. (Source: http://hedgehogheadquarters.com/secure/aspets.htm)
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have been trying to master some Christmas songs on my keyboard for, oh, about two years now. It has not gone well for several reasons: One, I tend to give up when things get hard and two, I am teaching myself from scratch.
Anyway, the past weekend, I was giving “Good King Wenceslas” the old college try again, and I found myself getting stuck at the same place over and over. It’s at the end of the song where there is a quick chord change from C to G7 to F. These changes turn my version of the song into a dirge since it takes about two minutes for me to get my fingers in the right spot.
But this time, things were different. I actually used some of the skills I’d learned in researching grit, practice, and student success. Usually, when I’d get to this hard part, I’d play on and then start over from the beginning. But this time, I stopped, isolated where I was going wrong, and practiced that section several times until I was more comfortable with making the chords. Now, no one is going to be asking me to accompany their Christmas cantata, but progress was made.
So, according to researchers, what are some of the things to keep in mind when practicing, whether it’s music, math, composition, or anything at all? Here are some tips:
- Correct as quickly as you can. (My problem in practicing the piano was that, instead of correcting my mistake at the end of the song, I returned and started over where it was easier. The result was that I got really good at the beginning, but the ending didn’t seem to improve. Now, I focus on where I went wrong and fixing that spot before I move on.) This is one of the advantages of the flipped classroom where practice is done in class; there is less practicing of the wrong way.
- As much as drill is a dirty word in some educational settings, it’s important to learn some skills to the point of automatic functioning. (Sports coaches know this.) It’s not a lot of fun practicing chords (or multiplication tables or orders of operations or comma placement). But the less you have to think about basic skills, the more energy you can put into more advanced ones.
- Have a specific purpose for each homework or practice session. (And getting them finished so that you can watch cat videos online doesn’t count.)
- Don’t repeat. Redo differently. One of the mistakes that beginning college students make (or people in general) is that we redouble our efforts instead of analyzing where we went wrong. That’s often why the same mistakes show up again and again.
- Isolate the skills. Students are often in a hurry to get finished with an assignment. When I’ve asked students where they went wrong on a homework assignment, they are often puzzled by the question. But we are not totally ignorant of what we’re doing. We start out fine and then something goes wrong. Being able to isolate what the problem is and when it occurs in the process is very helpful in solving that problem.
- Practice on a regular basis. You’ve heard it all your lives, and it’s true: Shorter, regular practice/study sessions are more effective than cramming.
- Put the skills in context. Sure, you may practice chords or commas in isolation, but if they stay there, they’re not much good in the real world. (I’ve had more than one student who could place commas correctly in sentences in worksheets, but could never transfer that skill into actual essays.)
Here’s the bad news: If you’re one of those folks who find homework something to be endured and done with the purpose of getting a check mark in a teacher’s grade book, then you’re going to have a harder time truly learning a subject.
Here’s the good news: If you start to view homework and practice as a chance to really learn something and improve your skills, you will be amazed at how much more interesting the subject can be and how much better you’ll perform.
If you want to know more about improving your skills, here are some good books:
Daniel Coyle. The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills.
Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, and Katie Yezzi. Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better.
Ken Bain. What the Best College Students Do.