Re-centering: Remembering Your Core

24 Jul

It is important to talk about re-centering as a part of  brain health.  Not just because it is hard to think, process, and problem solve when you feel off balance but also:

  • because some days your heart will wobble;
  • because every now and then you will lose your way or question your own motives in a deeply profound way; and
  • because your body’s systems, including your brain, depend on you pulling out of the things that pull you down — so you can function at health promoting level.

I felt the need to go back to my core this morning and went back to a piece I wrote a couple years ago. It was so important for me to go back and check in with each and every one of these guiding values.  It is staggering how on days like today that I can re-center just by thinking about and trying to live what I learned from my mom.  Pivot with me a bit….

What I Learned From My Mom

In 1972 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and was not expected to survive the year. I was 12 years old. In 2007, at 47, I stood in front of a room packed with people whose lives my mom touched in those stolen 35 years. Her wisdom, passion, and intensity filled our lives and shaped who we all became.

My Mom, My Role Model

My Mom, my role model, my mentor, my friend….

Here, in a nutshell, is what I learned from, with, and because of my mom:

1. Dignity, self-respect, and quality of life should not be reserved for the young, the healthy, and the fortunate — and should certainly not be limited by ability to pay for services.

2. It is our obligation to fight for those not strong enough to fight for themselves and an absolute privilege to a part of that process.

3. Do what you do because it is the right thing to do for the right reason at the right moment in time – not to hear thank you or for the awards or to see your name in the paper.

4. The balance of the world is very delicate so always give more than you take. Whenever possible, leave each place you go and person you meet a little better for you being there.

5. Books are for reading, learning, and cherishing – not banning, burning, or censoring.

6. Good grammar, good manners, and neatness always count.

7. We are all flawed. We all make mistakes. We all miss-step. Those who disagree with that the loudest are most likely the most flawed.

8. Never take away anyone’s choices. Our choices define our lives and no one has the right to rewrite our scripts.

9. Lead by example. If you believe in something, take action. If you wait for someone else to do it, it won’t get done. Actions truly do speak much louder than words.

10. Finally, all meals should include several vegetables of varying colors, a salad, a meat, and a starch.

Think well, live well, and be grateful for those moments because, in the grand scheme of things, they do matter.

It is a good practice to re-center and go back to your core — those things that drive you to do and be.

What drives you to do and be?

Weekly Brain Challenge: World Travel

23 Jul

A little game to help you develop strategies to find things!  Here is one:  if you find you are have difficulty, walk away, come back, and re-focus your eyes.  That item may just jump out at you!

African Boat Find itPark in Chicago Find it

Zooming Out: brain healthy activities, the bigger picture

22 Jul

Let’s zoom out a bit and take a broader look at the benefits of every day brain health…and figure out how that relates to yesterday’s photo slices!

Stress reduction is vital to good brain health because too much stress can cause major problems. The brain kicks off a pretty intricate and hard to stop chain reaction that is, by design, intended to protect your body during the “fight”.  You can read about the whole chain reaction here but the bottom line is that you end up with a chemical state in your brain designed to shut down nourishing systems and build up resistance to change so your body can guard against attack.  The process that protects you in battle, is hard to shut off and can cause damage over the long run if it continues unchecked.

Simple things can help you reduce stress….


There are many effective relaxation techniques that both fit in your life and are good for your body – particularly your brain and your heart. Just by taking a few minutes you can really feel improved memory and increased problem solving skills. Simple actions, like taking a peaceful walk on the beach or going for a hike or practicing breathing techniques, make it possible to lower blood pressure, improve heart functioning, and limit cortisol production — all critical to finding an optimum, healthy, functioning balance.

Left handed hiking


Enhancing everyday experience by learning something new or turning up your senses or diving into an experience more deeply also helps you nourish and keep neural pathways open, functioning, and healthy.

Learning a new task keeps your brain’s circuitry active. All of those things associated with learning activate parts of your brain in ways that doing familiar tasks just don’t — it is the challenge and the stretch that make them so valuable. Maintaining and enhancing your brain health is really about keeping your brain nourished with good chemical and electrical activity — all in the right balance and in the healthy doses. The process of learning sets those nourishing chemical and electrical activities in motion and allows you to maintain.  Take something old, like cooking, a give it a new twist by learning a new technique.  

Books 1


You can also put a twist on something you do everyday.  When is the last time you used a typewriter?  This one is an antique and doesn’t even use English language letters.

Typewriter Dubovik Bulgaria

How about enhancing other everyday experiences like food?  Learning about food origins or experimenting with different varieties of foods are simple ways to vary your routine and add some more information to your daily experience.

This is a cacao bean right of the tree.  Someday it will be incredible chocolate.

cacao beans split 2

Looking to vary your protein sources?  Try out a variety of beans.  Each will change your experience a bit by providing different textures, tastes, and colors.


You can turn every day experiences and activities into brain boosters with very little effort.  What can you change to amplify your life today?

Zooming In: A closer look at what is good for you!

21 Jul

This week’s Zooming In (today) and Zooming Out (tomorrow) puzzles are all about brain healthy activities — those everyday things that you can do to promote good balance and overall health — mind, body, and soul.

Reducing stress is a key factor in maintaining a healthy chemical and electrical balance in your brain.   Can you guess what stress reducing activity this is?

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Or this?

Left handed hiking (2)

Challenging yourself mentally and learning new ways to do things helps you build up the reserve you will need when you find yourself running at “the wall” at full speed with very little gas left in the tank.  Teach your brain that there is more than one way to solve a problem.   What is this a piece of?

Books 1 (2)

Or this?

Typewriter Dubovik Bulgaria (2)

Enhancing experiences by turning up the sensory volume (adding more sensory data or amplifying what is already there) keeps the chemicals flowing and fills in experiences.  Any guesses what this is?

cacao beans split 2 (2)

Or this?


Tomorrow, today’s “slices” will turn into the whole picture!

How Changing Your Perspective Can Change Your View

17 Jul

How you look at a scene or a situation will have a huge impact on how you act, re-act, process, and remember.

Take a few seconds and close your eyes. What do you hear? Now try it again and focus on one sound – maybe the hum of your computer or the cars driving by.

This time with your eyes open, quickly scan the room. What is your general impression of what you see. Now look away from the screen and focus on the first thing your eyes land on. Study that piece of the scene and try to memorize every detail.

Those two methods of honing in on the sensory data that surrounds you every second of every day are great examples of how changing your focus and directing your attention can change how you perceive your immediate surroundings.

Comments from this week’s puzzle posts made these points much more wisely than I could even hope!

On Monday we zoomed in on the tiny details of life and Tuesday we took those same scenes and made them bigger.  Talented writer  and inspiring blogger Carol Cassara said:  “Overall, it sounds like the advice is to be holistic about life–zoom in, zoom out. But don’t zoom!”  Perfectly stated!  Find the perspective that helps you live best right now.  It is about attention and letting information in.  

Then a funny thing happened in yesterday’s puzzles.  The photos in the puzzles were all about words on tee-shirts but the changes were in the words.  The writer’s who are also editors / critical readers found this challenge easier and noted how they flew through this challenge — unlike other types of puzzles.  The rest of us were completely thrown because our brains filled in the correct spelling and absolutely knew what should be there!   Just proves that you can change how you read and turn off  “auto-correct”!  Change your perspective just a bit and change your experience.

Games and puzzles are safe places to practice and master changing your perspective.  Who knows what you might find in the big picture, the tiny details, and everywhere in between!

Weekly Brain Challenge: Blues Festival Shirts

16 Jul

Music inspires, motivates, and activates areas of your brain in very unique and complicated ways. Music makes us feel and move like very few other activities. Music feeds and nourishes and transports us.

Since it is the heart of music festival season and we are talking about perspective this week, we whipped up a One of These Thing is Not Like the Others few puzzles to celebrate music, summer, and commemorative tees.  

Try to pick out the one photo in each set that is different, as quickly as you can. You might need to change your perspective and search a bit differently in these puzzles.  * Hint:  your brain is programmed to make  words and phrases make sense.  Make sure you over ride your brain’s desire to “auto-correct” and fill in what should be there — especially when reading words.

Delta Blues ShirtToo much Soul!


Zoo Bar Blues

Anything in these puzzles trip you up?



















Zooming Out: Take a Broader View on Life

15 Jul

This week we are exploring perspective and the choices we make when navigating our way through life.  Yesterday we zoomed in on some of the small wonders and took a close look at what we miss when don’t stop and examine the little details.

The big picture –  the broader view – carries much different information.  This big picture holds details that we miss when we don’t look up from the small details.

Think about the photos from yesterday’s post. If I had not changed my perspective and looked up from watching the lady bugs living their lives on the back side of a black-eyed Susan, I would have missed all of this…

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As the bees were busy collecting and spreading life sustaining pollen from Eeyore’s favorite snack, another kind of life sustaining  power generation was taking place just on the horizon.   The big difference between bees’ work and wind generators’ work is a matter of scale and perspective. Is it possible to take it all in – big and small?

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I took lots of pictures of Skunk Cabbage.  Native American lore says the tips of the Skunk Cabbage, a delicacy for deer any time of the year, will show above the highest snow drift. According to the stories, you can predict how much snow will fall by the height of the Skunk Cabbage.  Looks like it might be a snowy winter in Colorado….

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Paying attention to the cues and clues from nature is not such a bad idea.

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And now the big reveal!  We moved from photos that screamed Colorado to those that are uniquely Southern California!  Here is the top….


And here is the bottom of the same palm!


Awesome detail on this succulent!


Your daily challenge is to figure out how not to lose the details that will help you lead a better life.

Zooming In: Beauty Up Close

14 Jul

There are so many bits of information buzzing around us, competing for our attention every second of every day. If our goal is to live in the present, we must use what we know and what we sense as a guide to understanding how to sort through today’s barrage of information and pick out those bits of information we want to pick out, process, use, and store.

Perspective is a choice.  There are details in both the big picture view and the zoomed in one.

Attention to the details sometimes means taking a closer look at the scene to see all the little wonders that provide information about the moment.  When you zoom in just a bit here is what you might see.

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When you zoom in a bit more, your perspective changes.  This “lady’s” job is huge in her world and important to the survival of ours.

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So many small things are key to our survival — the things we see when we just zoom in a bit.

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An even closer look reveals even more information about the important work and survival of these two bees….

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Think about this.  Every second of every day you are making choice about what pieces of the world you see.  This is a pretty small view of the world.




But look how all the details are defined when you zoom in just a bit more.  A tree – donning cammo?

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Some pieces of nature tell stories about how to live.  The story up close is one of a thriving species supporting a full of life ecosystem.  When we zoom out tomorrow, you will see that this plant tells another story — one packed with valuable information!  (How was that for a tease to get you coming back for more?)

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All wonders are full of puzzles.  Can you mentally zoom out and guess what this is?

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How about this one?

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Or this?

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Our memory process starts with attention. Seems simplistic but the fact is that you have 0% chance of remembering something that did not get your attention.  Come back tomorrow to zoom out and discover details we missed (and won’t remember) because today we chose to look at the little picture!

Photo Walks: Stories the World Tells When You Pay Close Attention

11 Jul

Sometimes my husband and I set out on a photo walk with no expectations — just see what we can find when we open our minds to paying attention to the details and open our senses to experiencing what is going on around us.   Recently we knew we set out to find very specific details.

approach to Gilla Bend site

The approach to the site…. Do you notice anything yet?

Above is the approach to the Painted Rock Petroglyph site.   If you look closely you can see some etching on the rocks.  Some ancient some not so ancient….  Now a closer look at that rock.

Petroglyph 3

 My initial reaction was disappointment and file this supposed spectacular native American site under “People can be real idiots”.   But after some thought, a quick attitude adjustment and a bit of research, both 1879 and 1907 have historical significance in the area — a different history but history none the less.  We pressed on and look what we found….

petrogly[h 4

Oh my….

And around the next corner….

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Oh the stories on these rocks…. staggering

We have been to quite a few Native American sites across the southwest.  Some absolutely breath taking but we have never seen a site where the carvings tell entire stories.   We follow the story of a hunt and the sun rising/seasons changing and a child growing up…all documented in stone more than 2,00o years ago.   We did not have a modern translator or a book to guide us — the stories were right there for us to see.   No doubt about it….


Here are a few more images from this wonderful Hohokam site.  Enjoy, appreciate, and learn from the stories.  What do you see in these?

6 glyph




Don’t forget to pay attention to the stories the world has waiting for you — right in front of your eyes.

Why Games Do Belong in a Health and Wellness Category

10 Jul

Playing games is good for your brain health in so many ways.

We have known for a long time that the best way to stay mentally sharp is to keep thinking.  The “use it or lose it” principle is pretty sound – firing the electrical and chemical connections in your brain helps keep your brain’s pathways healthy and functioning at a higher level.

The oldest and most common method to keep mental sharpness and improve memory is practice, and even though practice may not make perfect the results sure beats the alternative.   The hotly debated topic right now is what to practice.   Are crossword puzzles and Sudoku enough or should we be doing more?  Do you need to subscribe to a daily service to improve functioning?


My answer is simple:  practice what you need and make it a game!

Try This:  If you are having trouble finding everything you need to start your day successfully – your keys, your cell phone, wallet – practice focusing your attention on one thing and looking for it.   Focused attention is not just blocking out sounds, smells, and other images.   Sometimes focused attention means seeing things through the clutter of everyday life.  Give yourself time, each day, and test strategies (ie. scan the room in a systematic way or try to isolate things of the same shape or color, or look for things out of place) to find what you need.   Pay attention to what works and repeat it.   Pay attention to what doesn’t work and think about why.


I had my keys just a minute ago????

I had my keys just a minute ago????


Try This:   Some days the words to use to describe something is beyond your grasp!  Take the time you spend waiting — on hold on the phone, standing in line at the grocery store, or waiting for your next appointment — to practice.   Look around you, find things — a window, a painting, a shirt, a bus — and try to think of three (3) names or terms for each thing.    Say them out loud, say them in your head or, better yet, write them down.    Practice digging for the right word and fighting until you get the perfect word.   The best way to keep the words coming is to fire those electrical and chemical connections and keep them active.



The Cranium Crunches philosophy is practice what you need and make it play!

Every day is a new puzzle – same basic picture with some slight variations.    The challenge each morning is to:

  • Pay attention to the details.
  • Look for anomalies.
  • Restore order.

Play is always better together!   Invite your friends to join you and find the time to play along every day!


Libby's crew

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