Honoring Ray Bradbury

In honor of the great Ray Bradbury who died ten years ago in June 2012, I’m reposting this story about what I learned from him:

I was looking through my book shelves for summer reading. I picked up Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing: Release the Creative Genius Within You. It’s a small paperback book that has sat on my shelf, unread. I opened the cover and on page one the autograph of the author and the date May 1996 stared me in the face.

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That’s the first time I heard Ray Bradbury speak — and the first time I asked him to sign a book. My daughter was three months old, and my son was three years old. That’s a lot of years to have this book sitting on my bookshelf.

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Yes, I’m now reading this collection of essays and remembering how inspiring his talk was. Earlier that same day in May 1996, I recognized Ray Bradbury at Las Casuelas the Original, a small Mexican restaurant a few blocks away from our house and the hotel where he was scheduled to speak at a writer’s conference. I introduced myself to him, as he ate alone, and I said I couldn’t wait to hear his talk.

It was one of the first writer’s conferences I had attended, and I was kind of in a fog, having a newborn child and little sleep.

Ray Bradbury was amazing. He reminded me of a young child, finding wonder in the world. He had the ability to stay young at heart and observe the world as though seeing little things for the first time. I loved his story of how he wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of the UCLA library at a rental typewriter for 10 cents for a half hour. He said he was literally a “dime novelist.” It gave me courage and the belief that we can do anything — if you want it badly enough.

“Garbage in, garbage out,” he said. He advised us to turn off the TV. Don’t watch the news. He said they were selling soap and there was little or no good news and it would rot our minds. Instead, “Read the Bible, a poem and an essay every day.”

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How I’d wish I’d listened more carefully and followed that advice all those years ago. How different would my life be today? The good news is, it’s never too late to start.

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My all time favorite Ray Bradbury book is Fahrenheit 451. My son Robert loves this book, too. I took my son to meet Ray Bradbury during another local speaking engagement years later. Robert has a signed copy of Farenheit 451 that he treasures. Ray Bradbury was a very accessible and kind man, willing to share with all of us enjoying his gift and genius. I’m still striving to be 1/100th the writer that he was. 

“What do you love most in the world? The big and little things, I mean. A trolley car, a pair of tennis shoes? These, at one time when we were children, were invested with magic for us.” — Zen and the Art of Writing

Are you a Ray Bradbury fan? What are your favorite books of his? Who are your favorite authors?

Wordle saves the day!

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Yesterday’s Wordle.

I saw a headline yesterday that grabbed my attention after I finished my daily Wordle:

Chicago woman rescued from naked kidnapper thanks to Wordle

https://nypost.com/2022/02/10/chicago-woman-rescued-from-naked-kidnapper-thanks-to-wordle/

In an article written by Yaron Steinbuch, a woman in Chicago was rescued from a naked man who held her at scissors-point and later knife-point because of Wordle. Her daughter lives in Seattle and was concerned the next morning when her mom didn’t text or contact her about Wordle. That prompted the daughter to call the police.

This reminded me the importance of staying in touch with family members. I wrote a blog post called Inspiration can be a daily, family thing a number of years ago when one of my college roommates was visiting me. She and her two brothers and mom would have a group text each morning to make sure everyone was okay. Their mom was in her 80s and lived alone, and it was the kids way to make sure their mom was ok.

I was doing this with my kids but it went by the wayside. We would share something we’d find inspirational in a group text every morning. My mom is turning 90 next month and she’s in assisted living. Unfortunately she isn’t tech savvy and isn’t good about answering her phone. But she has a staff to check up on her. My dad is 90 and lives alone. He has friends who check up on him and we talk on the phone every few days. Maybe I should start a morning text with him, though.

How do you keep in touch with your family? Do you have a set time to text or call?

Sunrise views

We woke up to a cloudy day, which turned spectacular once the sun peeked over the horizon. My husband and I both ran outside with our iPhones and began snapping away. I was curious to compare our photos because our phones have different cameras. I use an iPhone SE that doesn’t have as advanced camera as my husband’s iPhone 12. His phone is a year old, mine is two year’s old and not as big or fancy.

Two of my photos of sunrise yesterday morning.
I like the reflection in the pool.

I took my photos on firm ground, while my husband stood on a table outside to get his view. We both have our own point of view for our photos.

Sunrise photos from my husband iPhone. Same sunrise but different perspectives.

I think both our iPhones capture the spectacular view. But his iPhone produces photos that look more like a painting than mine. I think he has the ability to zoom in, while I do not.

Post sunrise, we are left with a cloudy day.

Do you use your phone for photos now instead of carrying a camera? Which photos do you like the best? Mine or my husband’s? Be honest, please. Or, can you tell any difference between the two iPhone cameras? Also, can you believe how amazing our sunrises are here? I thought they were gorgeous in California, but Arizona’s are truly breathtaking.

Gratitude has health benefits

Sunset in the Arizona desert.

I started an evening gratitude journal, which includes an exercise known as “Three Blessings.” Every evening, I write three things I’m thankful for that happened during the day. They may be little things, like something beautiful I saw on a walk, or bigger like a new writing job referral. Then after each, I explain why the moment happened. It’s an exercise I learned about from a book called “Flourish” by Martin E.P. Seligman. In his book, Seligman said that this exercise has been proven to be just as effective as taking anti-depressants in fighting depression! I find it as a nice way to get grounded after a busy day and reflect on everything that is going well.

Unfortunately I’m not consistent with the gratitude journal. I’ll start it up for several weeks, and it goes by the wayside.

I didn’t realize how many benefits being grateful brings to your life until I read “Gratitude yields health and social benefits” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Here’s what they had to say in an article published in December 2018. Even though it’s dated, it has some good stuff in it.

Positive emotions such as gratitude open our minds.

With Thanksgiving having passed, we may want a jump start on our New Year’s resolutions. Research shows such a long list of health and social benefits that families might want to focus on cultivating an attitude of gratitude all year long.

Researchers at Northeastern University found that grateful people are more likely to be patient and make wiser decisions.

Gratitude also makes us more likely to take better care of ourselves. In one psychology journal, a study showed that a grateful attitude correlated to a greater willingness to eat healthier foods, exercise more and go to the doctor. Some research even shows that being appreciative boosts willpower.

Counting our blessings before bedtime can also translate to better sleep. One researcher said it may help soothe the nervous system. Not only can gratitude improve our quality of sleep, it can also help us fall asleep faster and sleep longer.

The health benefits of gratitude can’t be overstated. It’s been shown to decrease physical pain, reduce symptoms associated with depression, decrease blood pressure and boost energy levels. In fact, simply cultivating a lifestyle of gratitude can add an average of seven years to your lifespan.

Being grateful also makes us more resilient, less envious, more optimistic, kinder and more social. It’s no wonder that the more grateful a person is, the more likely the person is to have strong social connections, healthier marriages, larger friendship circles and improved networking skills.

Not only does gratitude have the power to transform our health, our social lives and our careers, it can transform our personalities. Research shows that gratitude contributes to a wide range of positive character traits. It makes us humble and it makes us more generous. Together, these traits combat entitlement and self-centeredness. Grateful people are more willing and able to focus on others and can therefore contribute more broadly to their communities.

We the parents have both the opportunity and the obligation to raise children who will have a positive and transformative effect on the future. As we focus on grooming an attitude of gratitude in our kids, we are not only improving their own quality of life but we are helping to change the world one child at a time.

I do believe it’s our duty as parents to instill gratitude as a trait our kids should embrace. One way is to start a gratitude journal. Another tip is to ask your children to name three things they’re grateful for. In the book I’m reading called “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance” by Julia Cameron, has exercises to list 10 things you cherish. Another day there I was asked to write 10 things I’m thankful for. It’s not a bad thing to do. Reading about the benefits of gratitude makes me want to be more consistent with my journaling.

As parents, I think we need to let our kids and family know how much they mean to us. How grateful we are to have them in our lives.

What are you most grateful for in your life? I’m grateful for my family, friends and the pets and beauty surrounding me. I’m grateful for my new blogging friends.

Can we inspire creativity in our kids?

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I’ll be spending the week with both my kids. I’m sitting at the airport on my way there and I was reading about creativity and kids. I’m reflecting back on how I raised my children and if I inspired any creativity.

I’ve always considered creativity to be an innate talent, but according to science it’s a skill that can be fostered. As parents, we can promote the creative spirit by allowing space and time for creativity. That means allowing messes, free time–and getting out of the way.  

I’d let my kids have a tub of large chalk and draw all over our patio. It drove my husband crazy to come home from work and see our kids and their friends drawing all over our back yard patio. It hosed off, though. Also, I’d buy a roll of butcher paper and let them paint or draw across the patio, hoping they’d keep it on the paper.  

At the beach, they’d build villages with drip castles and loved to play chef at a restaurant. I’d patiently taste each creation (pile of wet sand) and tell them how delicious it was.  

I remember taking my kids to a photographer for Christmas pictures. I had them all dressed up in their matching red and green Gymboree outfits. My daughter was a baby and my son three. My son moved all the chairs and benches into two rows all facing forward. We asked him what he was doing and he explained he was building an airplane (the two lines of furniture were the seats and aisle.) The photographer was extremely patient as I tried to put everything back in it’s place.

My mom was big on creativity and she allowed us to destroy our living room with forts of card tables and sheets, dig to China and build a pond for polliwogs in the back yard. I remember making dozens of puppets with Woolite bottles as the heads and swatches of fabric for the clothing. Mom did get annoyed with me for chopping out a chunk of fabric from the center of all the yardage of fabric in her sewing room!  

What exactly is creativity? Here’s a definition:  

  1. the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. “firms are keen to encourage creativity”

Here’s an excerpt from Greater Good Magazine 7 Ways to Foster Creativity in Your Kids by Christine Carter:    

Many people assume that creativity is an inborn talent that their kids either do or do not have: just as all children are not equally intelligent, all children are not equally creative. But actually, creativity is more skill than inborn talent, and it is a skill parents can help their kids develop.

Because it is a key to success in nearly everything we do, creativity is a key component of health and happiness and a core skill to practice with kids. Creativity is not limited to artistic and musical expression—it is also essential for science, math, and even social and emotional intelligence. Creative people are more flexible and better problem solvers, which makes them more able to adapt to technological advances and deal with change—as well as take advantage of new opportunities.

Many researchers believe we have fundamentally changed the experience of childhood in such a way that impairs creative development. Toy and entertainment companies feed kids an endless stream of prefab characters, images, props and plot-lines that allow children to put their imaginations to rest. Children no longer need to imagine a stick is a sword in a game or story they’ve imagined: they can play Star Wars with a specific light-saber in costumes designed for the specific role they are playing.

Carter has a bunch of tips of things we can do to promote creativity that includes giving  kids space and resources for creative play. Also she says it’s important to allow our kids to make mistakes and fail. If they’re afraid of failure their creativity will be stifled. Limiting screen and TV time will give kids a chance for art and reading. Another bit of advice is to not tell our kids what to do. For example, I made my daughter take piano lessons for years against her will. She would have been much better off following her own passions like making mosaics and painting. For years she made gifts for her friends by getting a few supplies from Michaels and using her creativity. For a complete list of her tips, read the article here

I think a lot of the tips for creativity can work for us, too. We need to be less busy, not worry about a mess, give ourselves space and time.

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What are some of your children’s favorite creative things to do? How did you inspire creativity in your kids and how do you find it in your lives?

Christine Carter, Ph.D. is a Senior Fellow at the Greater Good Science Center. She is the author of The New Adolescence: Raising Happy and Successful Teens in an Age of Anxiety and Distraction (BenBella, 2020), The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less (Ballantine Books, 2015), and Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents (Random House, 2010). A former director of the GGSC, she served for many years as author of its parenting blog, Raising Happiness. Find out more about Christine here.

The Power of “Not Yet”

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Hanging out with my daughter in Deer Valley, UT.

My daughter shared a TED Talk with me yesterday about “The power of believing you can improve” by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. I’ve read Dweck’s book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” and am a fan.

In the seven-minute Ted Talk, Dweck explains the word “Yet.” At a high school in Chicago, if kids failed a class, instead of getting an “F” they got a grade of “Not Yet.” Instead of feeling like they were a failure and shutting down, they learned they could improve and they tried harder. Dweck explained, “Not yet opens up a path into the future that creates greater persistence.”

Dweck said people with growth mindsets are open to challenges, they learn from their mistakes and they can actually get smarter. In contrast, those with a fixed mindset are influenced by judgement of the moment. They are stuck in the tyranny of “now.” They tend to run from difficulties.

In studies, she offered tests that were above the children’s level of ability. The kids with a growth mindset were up to the challenge and excited, even when they did poorly. After failing the test, the fixed mindset kids said next time they would cheat or they looked for someone who did worse than they did.

My daughter thought I’d find this Ted Talk useful for writing a SwimSwam parenting tip. Dweck offered one gem to parents on how to raise kids with a growth mindset. She said to “Praise wisely.” Never compliment our children on their natural talent or intelligence. Instead, praise their effort, hard work, perseverance, etc. Don’t praise the outcome. Dweck called it “Process Praise.”

Every time our kids push out of their comfort zones to try something new and hard, the neurons in their brains form new and stronger connections. I think this is true for us older people, too. It’s important to stretch and do something new and challenging.

What have you done to push out of your routines and take on a new challenge? How did it make you feel afterwards?

How prejudice changed in a few generations

Dr. Sammy Lee sitting on diving tower
Dr. Sammy Lee, gold medalist and doctor, on a diving tower.

It’s unbelievable how our world has changed. I’m not talking about the pandemic. I’m talking about how far we’ve travelled away from prejudice and racism in my generation and my parents.

I was working on a story about a swimmer, Paul Jeffers, who grew up in Southern California in the 50’s and 60’s. He swam with a swim school called the Sammy Lee Swim School. He’s working with a friend and fellow swimmer, Bill Brown, who graduated from USC in Cinema on a documentary about the life of Dr. Sammy Lee.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Dr. Sammy Lee, Olympic Gold Medalist and Doctor:

Dr. Lee overcame years of racial prejudice with a positive attitude and hard work. As a young diver aspiring to be an Olympian, he was only allowed to practice diving Wednesdays at the Pasadena’s Brookside Park segregated public pool on “International Day.” The pool was drained after International Day and white children swam the other six days a week. His coach at the time, dug a hole and filled it with sand so Sammy Lee could practice the rest of the week. He believed diving into sand made his legs stronger and was helpful to his Olympic aspirations.

He attended Occidental College where he was able to dive each day in a pool with teammates and pursue his Olympic dreams. His parents, who sacrificed to come to America and start a small business, pressured Sammy to become a doctor. He was able to do both.

Although Dr. Sammy Lee served in the Army during the Korean War, was an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist — and an Olympic Gold Medalist — he encountered more prejudice. He was blocked from buying a home in Orange County.

Simply amazing to me that such an accomplished man would face such prejudice, and it was not that long ago. What’s also remarkable is how he kept positive and succeeded with hard work and grace.

Sammy Lee at the pool with divers Dr. Sammy Lee with other divers.

Do you have any stories to share about how our country has changed for the better in the last five or six decades?