Fight Brain Fog!

Or, at the very least, give your­self more resources to fight it!

Cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties are like mus­cles, in that they have to be devel­oped and exer­cised reg­u­lar­ly, even stretched to keep them flex­i­ble. We can’t nec­es­sar­i­ly avoid the cog­ni­tive deficits that come with some of our ill­ness­es, or as a side effect of our med­ica­tions. What we can do is improve our fac­ul­ties, giv­ing us a bet­ter lev­el of over­all func­tion­ing despite those deficits.


Ways to Improve Your Men­tal Fit­ness
is an excel­lent arti­cle on the sub­ject. I rec­om­mend read­ing it and not­ing some new things to try.

Per­son­al­ly, I find that doing things like a Sudoku or cross­word puz­zle or a cou­ple of rounds of soli­taire Mahjongg each day help me “wake up” my brain and think bet­ter. I’ve long wished I had access to the Nin­ten­do brain train­ing game (Brain Age? some­thing like that), as it sounds like just the thing.

I real­ly wor­ried about tak­ing col­lege cours­es, because I know that if I had to take an IQ test these days, my score would be marked­ly low­er than it was pre-FMS. Hap­pi­ly, I found that tak­ing the cours­es helped me to regain some men­tal agili­ty. I still have mem­o­ry prob­lems, and all bets are off dur­ing a bad flare—but I def­i­nite­ly feel that I’m cop­ing bet­ter on a day to day basis.

Now that I’m not in school for­mal­ly, I’ve been learn­ing to pro­gram. It’s anoth­er kind of think­ing, and one I’ve thought about acquir­ing for years. It has­n’t been easy, but I’m doing it, and it cer­tain­ly is stretch­ing my men­tal mus­cles.

Mak­ing music is anoth­er thing that works for me. I’ve been re-learn­ing to play the ukulele, some­thing I orig­i­nal­ly learned in the sec­ond grade. I used to know how to play piano, flute, and oth­er instru­ments

I’ve always been a singer, pri­mar­i­ly, though

, and I’m sur­prised at how much I’ve for­got­ten about read­ing music. I “know” the notes, but I’m so slow that I have to stop and think, “Now, wait, that’s two lines below the bass clef, so…” when it used to be as easy as read­ing any Eng­lish text. The more I work with it, though, the more I find the exer­cise of think­ing in anoth­er lan­guage to be use­ful as an exer­cise.

What are you doing to stay sharp? Have you tried any of the activ­i­ties rec­om­mend­ed in the arti­cle?

On Politics

Plinky asked, “Where do you fall on the polit­i­cal spec­trum?”

Pro­gres­sive Gifts

That depends on where you’re stand­ing. In Europe, I’d be con­sid­ered con­ser­v­a­tive, appar­ent­ly. In the U.S., I’m pro­gres­sive, so I’m con­sid­ered a flam­ing lib­er­al.

I agree with the lib­er­tar­i­ans on some issues, like gun con­trol (it means hit­ting what you aim at).

I also think that any decent soci­ety takes care of its peo­ple in far more ways than just hav­ing a strong mil­i­tary force. Uni­ver­sal health care (not insur­ance, CARE), strong con­sumer pro­tec­tions and con­sis­tent, fierce envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion are just a few of the things that need to come from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment with­out inter­fer­ence from any oth­er enti­ty — includ­ing state gov­ern­ments.

I live in Geor­gia, where there’s talk of the state gov­ern­ment cre­at­ing a pan­el to review every fed­er­al law and decide whether or not to allow that law to be effec­tive in Geor­gia. That’s a vio­la­tion of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, as I under­stand things, as fed­er­al law is sup­posed to super­sede state law. Geor­gia’s state gov­ern­ment is pret­ty free and easy about vio­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion, as evi­denced by the state house recent­ly pass­ing a bill to post the ten com­mand­ments in every pub­lic build­ing in the state (includ­ing every pub­lic school). There’s an excel­lent chance that the state sen­ate will pass it, too, because any­body who votes against it will be in trou­ble with the con­ser­v­a­tives in their dis­tricts.

Decent edu­ca­tion is impor­tant, too, and it’s too impor­tant to be left up to states like Geor­gia, Alaba­ma, and Mis­sis­sip­pi. It isn’t pos­si­ble to have an insti­tu­tion­al edu­ca­tion that’s as good as a home edu­ca­tion, since most peo­ple leave the edu­ca­tion of their chil­dren up to the gov­ern­ment, it is espe­cial­ly impor­tant for the future of our coun­try that the job be done right.

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Miscellany

I lost track of who orig­i­nal­ly linked to what, so I can’t cred­it them prop­er­ly. But thank you to who­ev­er they all were, any­way!

Filed under “anoth­er rea­son I’m proud to be a home­school­er”: Cal­i­for­nia court rules that pri­vate school can oust les­bian stu­dents. I do under­stand that it’s a pri­vate reli­gious school, and that their denom­i­na­tion does­n’t approve of homo­sex­u­al­i­ty. On the oth­er hand, the girls’ par­ents chose to send them to that school, not the girls them­selves. And demand­ing that every­body in the school be het­ero­sex­u­al makes every bit as much sense as demand­ing that they all be right-hand­ed! (It also sounds like the school went WAY the hell over­board in inter­pret­ing the “evi­dence.”)

Can I get an “Amen”?! End­ing Weight Bias: The Eas­i­est Way to Tack­le Obe­si­ty in Amer­i­ca

This is news? Read­ers build vivid men­tal sim­u­la­tions of nar­ra­tive sit­u­a­tions, brain scans sug­gest

Not Good News: Mer­cury found in kids’ foods — and in pret­ty much any­thing else that con­tains HFCS. I’m con­fi­dent of my abil­i­ty to kick the soda habit, but total­ly avoid­ing HFCS pret­ty much means avoid­ing all processed foods. GAH!

This is so cool! Implants Tap the Think­ing Brain

No sur­prise to me, at least: Watch out. The Inter­net will cut you

Real­i­ty check: Sor­ry, you don’t have a 200 IQ

Anoth­er no-brain­er: Video Games May Hin­der Rela­tion­ships

TotD: Doris Lessing on Education

The Golden NotebookDoris Less­ing, Intro­duc­tion to The Gold­en Note­book

Ide­al­ly, what should be said to every child, repeat­ed­ly, through­out his or her school life is some­thing like this:

“You are in the process of being indoc­tri­nat­ed. We have not yet evolved a sys­tem of edu­ca­tion that is not a sys­tem of indoc­tri­na­tion. We are sor­ry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amal­gam of cur­rent prej­u­dice and the choic­es of this par­tic­u­lar cul­ture. The slight­est look at his­to­ry will show how imper­ma­nent these must be. You are being taught by peo­ple who have been able to accom­mo­date them­selves to a regime of thought laid down by their pre­de­ces­sors. It is a self-per­pet­u­at­ing sys­tem. Those of you who are more robust and indi­vid­ual than oth­ers will be encour­aged to leave and find ways of edu­cat­ing yourself–educating your own judge­ments. Those that stay must remem­ber, always, and all the time, that they are being mould­ed and pat­terned to fit into the nar­row and par­tic­u­lar needs of this par­tic­u­lar soci­ety.”

Professional Educators say “Trauma is good for kids!”

That’s what their actions say, any­way.

Some El Camino High stu­dents in Ocean­side received the shock of a life­time. School admin­is­tra­tors and offi­cers claimed some of their class­mates died in a drunk dri­ving acci­dent, but it was all a hoax that was intend­ed to be a hard les­son.

They’d bet­ter be damned glad I did­n’t have a kid in that school.

Edit­ed to add:
I’m with Jon Car­roll on this one.

The take­away is: Don’t trust any­one. Grown-ups will lie to you and try to make you feel bad. The world sucks even worse than you thought it did. Guid­ance coun­selor Lori Tauber defend­ed the exer­cise: “They were trau­ma­tized, but we want­ed them to be trau­ma­tized. That’s how they get the mes­sage.”

These are pro­fes­sion­al edu­ca­tors, and they are com­fort­able with the fol­low­ing ped­a­gog­ic the­o­ry: Trau­ma is good for kids. It’s an effec­tive teach­ing tool. Why not teach Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture the same way? Har­poon a real whale and watch it die — “Moby-Dick” brought to life! They’ll remem­ber that.

Maybe they’ll want to join Green­peace too. Two lessons for the price of one dead whale! And then the “dead” whale could wake up and make a mov­ing speech at assem­bly.

Are we that alien­at­ed from the ado­les­cents in our midst? Do we think that their feel­ings don’t mat­ter, that almost any­thing is jus­ti­fied in pur­suit of mak­ing sure they get a Life Les­son? Are we that cru­el? Appar­ent­ly we are — a major­i­ty of the par­ents in Ocean­side thought there was noth­ing wrong with this lit­tle exper­i­ment. Shake those kids up a lit­tle.

Fibrant Living: Chronic Illnesses & Education

I’m most­ly post­ing a note here for ease of record­keep­ing for Blog365, but I also know a fair num­ber of peo­ple who suf­fer from migraines or oth­er chron­ic ill­ness­es and prob­a­bly don’t read Fibrant Liv­ing. Today’s post is over there, and has a point­er to a good resource for any­one who has headaches.

The Value of Education for Chronic Illness Patients

Paula Kamen, author of All In My Head, talks about the val­ue of edu­ca­tion in cop­ing with chron­ic ill­ness in an excel­lent edi­to­r­i­al in the New York Times.
Leav­ing the Rab­bit Hole. This pas­sage, in par­tic­u­lar, spoke to me:

The worst thing, to me, about hav­ing a non-stop mul­ti-year headache isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly the pain. Or the way it tends to dis­rupt inti­mate rela­tion­ships, emp­ty all finan­cial reserves, and sab­o­tage the best-laid career plans. It’s not even the end­less bar­rage of (albeit well-mean­ing) sug­ges­tions for “cures” from every­one you meet, most of which you’ve already tried any­way (except for the colon cleans­ing and the Jews for Jesus con­ver­sion).

No, it’s the emo­tion­al suf­fer­ing – from all the guilt and the shame, of patients like me think­ing it’s our entire fault, and maybe all in our heads.

She also men­tions a good site for any­one who has prob­lems with migraines, Rob­bins Headache Clin­ic.

Reading

So, the Crazy Hip Blog Mamas want me to talk about what read­ing means to me or my child. How about both?
Katie reading
You might have noticed that I talk, a lot, about read­ing. I think Now Read­ing shows at least four five of the books that I’m read­ing right now, and that’s a fair­ly nor­mal num­ber. I don’t include my text­books, because they’d be there too long!

Read­ing is one of the things that I can still do, most of the time, despite the fibro and oth­er crap. I can’t always man­age to read on a screen, or fol­low some­thing like a text­book. For­tu­nate­ly, though, fic­tion by some of my favorite authors—especially an old favorite nov­el, like Part­ners in Necessity—is eas­i­er, and is a very good way to dis­tract myself from the pain for a while.

I haven’t talked about it much, but Katie has had increas­ing health prob­lems over the last year. Her migraines are no longer man­aged, despite tak­ing high lev­els of pre­ven­tive med­ica­tions. The res­cue med­ica­tions aren’t work­ing well because she has to take them too often. She had anoth­er round of sleep stud­ies, too, and a new neu­rol­o­gist has been try­ing dif­fer­ent med­ica­tions to help her get a decent night’s sleep (which should help the migraines and oth­er prob­lems). So far, any­thing that helps her sleep despite severe rest­less leg syn­drome leaves her zomb­i­fied the rest of the time. Provig­il, even tak­en twice a day, can’t keep her awake and aware enough to func­tion in school. She’s lit­er­al­ly sleep­ing like a cat, 14–18 or hours a day, just nev­er deeply. Her dark cir­cles have cir­cles, now.

But she can still read, too. Slow­ly, some days, and going back to re-read some pages, but she gets the same com­fort from it as I do. You know she’s mine when you real­ize that she’s nev­er with­out at least one, and often two, books in her purse.

I start­ed read­ing to her dur­ing my preg­nan­cy, along with talk­ing and singing and play­ing music for her. I read out loud to her from her first week out of the womb, too, some­times while breast­feed­ing, oth­er times while just being with her. She talked at an ear­ly age, and was very clear. She learned to read quick­ly, too, and has always been very opin­ion­at­ed (where did she get that?) about her choice of read­ing mat­ter. One of her favorite things about leav­ing the pub­lic school sys­tem was being free of that damned Accel­er­at­ed Read­er pro­gram and its ridicu­lous restric­tions!

It’s no sur­prise that I hope my nephews and niece are read­ers, too—although that’s far less like­ly, since their par­ents aren’t, real­ly. My broth­er used to brag that he’d nev­er read any whole book, even those assigned for class­es. (I nev­er under­stood that being a point of pride, even if he did get good grades.) My sis­ter has nev­er read any­thing that was­n’t required. I don’t know their spous­es very well, but I’m fair­ly sure they aren’t recre­ation­al read­ers, either. At least the grand­ba­bies have our moth­er (their Nana), who got me start­ed read­ing, and will sit for hours with any child, read­ing book after book (or the same book, over and over) patient­ly.1 I’m not close to my sib­lings, geo­graph­i­cal­ly or oth­er­wise, so I don’t have many chances to influ­ence the babies. I can give them books, though, and hope to catch their fan­cy so they ask to have them read!

Being a flu­ent read­er gives one more of an advan­tage that any oth­er skill you can give your child. Read­ers can use that skill to learn absolute­ly any­thing else. They can explore math, sci­ence, crit­i­cal think­ing, his­to­ry, cur­rent events, art—you name it. If you teach them to read, get them in the habit of doing so, and teach them to judge their sources well, you’ve giv­en them an incred­i­ble start on life.


1 Mom (and I!) did read to my sib­lings, but nei­ther of them ever want­ed to sit still long.

In transition

Katie is going to high school in a few weeks, a 10th grad­er. The school is much larg­er than the one she attend­ed last fall — approx­i­mate­ly the same pop­u­la­tion as my own alma mater when I was there.

I, at least, will con­tin­ue to write here, as I’ve been inter­est­ed in home­school­ing and edu­ca­tion much longer than I’ve had a child at home offi­cial­ly being home­schooled. In fact, I first heard of home­school­ing as a mod­ern real­i­ty right after I grad­u­at­ed in the mid-1980s, and was imme­di­ate­ly intrigued. I read every­thing I could find about it, and have kept up that con­nec­tion since then.

Katie is all excit­ed, of course. I’m excit­ed for her. I fear she may be damp­en­ing that excite­ment down a lit­tle because she knows that I’ll miss her, but she should­n’t. That’s just a nor­mal part of being Mom­my. Let­ting go is in the job description.Trying new things is in hers.