Saturday, April 30, 2011


Am I the only person that is bothered EVERY SINGLE TIME they read Goldilocks and the Three Bears?  First of all, why would anyone walk into another person's house?  I'm afraid to knock on a stranger's door, much less try the knob and let myself in.  Reflecting back on what I learned in abnormal psychology this semester, I'm concerned that Goldi could be on her way to a full-blown case of antisocial personality disorder.  Rules?  Societal conventions?  These things mean nothing to her.

Next.  If Papa Bear's bowl is the biggest, why is his porridge cold?  That makes no sense.  The porridge in the smallest bowl should cool off the fastest, then the medium bowl, and then the biggest bowl.  Papa's porridge, which is always depicted in a giant bowl, should be the hot one, Mama's medium-sized bowl should be just right, and Baby Bear's tiny bowl should be the cold one.

And does Goldilocks weigh that much more than Baby Bear?  I honestly can't imagine a human child being harder on a chair than a bear cub.  I sit on the small chairs at my children's preschool all the time, and I am quite a bit heavier than Goldilocks, and they have never broken, especially not all to pieces.

What do you think of Papa and Mama having separate beds, hmm?  I used to worry about that, but now that I'm not even sharing a room with my spouse, I guess I'd better accept the fact that if one spouse likes a rock hard mattress and the other prefers the sensation of being buried alive, having separate beds makes a lot of sense.  What does not make sense is that, in so many versions of this story, Baby Bear's bed is right there by Papa's and Mama's.  No wonder the little guy has no siblings.

Friday, April 29, 2011

So Happy!

I would just like to announce to the entire world that I got an A in my statistics class.  Yay!!!

We had our final exam yesterday, and I was late, and I took too much time and didn't finish the test.  I was in a very sad and grumpy mood about it, because I had been getting an A in the class, and I was pretty sure I would end up with a B because of that test.  But we got our final grade today, and mine was still an A, in spite of everything.  Now I feel so happy!

Monday at nine I have my first psychology class at the university, and then at eleven I go back to the community college to take my Abnormal Psychology final.  As soon as that is finished, we hit the road.  We are driving to Dan's cousin's house in upstate New York to spend the night, and then on to Boston Tuesday for my brother's wedding.  I am looking forward to spending a few days with my whole family touring the place of my birth, and then a few more days in Newport, Rhode Island, enjoying time with the wedding party.  I am not looking forward to sharing a hotel room with the Tater Tots for five nights, but that is what you get for producing offspring.

Did I mention that I got an A in statistics?


Warning: Before you go clicking away on the links in this post, keep in mind that you may be offended or disturbed by the content of many of these postcards, especially if you are my mother.

Are any of you familiar with PostSecret?  Frank Warren started this community art project in 2004, inviting every single human to make a 4 x 6 postcard, write a secret on it that they have never shared, and mail it to him in Germantown, Maryland.  Warren selects different cards each week  for the PostSecret website, and then every year or two, a new book of postcards is published.  He also tours the country displaying and speaking about the cards he has received. 

I had never heard of PostSecret until recently, when I stumbled upon one of the books at the library. My experience reading through the secrets in that book, and some more on the website, was distinctly uninspiring.  It was a lot like being alone with a bag of potato chips or a box of See's chocolates.  Just one more, just one more, just one more.  In the end you feel sick.  The secrets were not particularly nourishing (maybe the opposite, in fact), but it was hard to stop looking at them.  So I was surprised to read that Frank Warren sees this public, anonymous secret-sharing as uplifting and helpful to both the sharer and the audience. Warren says that it is good for people to read others' darkest secrets, and to realize they are not alone.     

So I'm trying to reconsider my initial reaction to the secrets. What secret would I write on such a postcard?  Would this activity be helpful to me in some way?  How is it helpful for other people to read these secrets?  I wonder if sharing a secret in this way is a bit like offering a prayer, especially for someone who may not believe in or pray to a god.  I keep a few secrets from people, but not from God.  Maybe believing in someone who already knows everything about me diminishes my need to share these things with the world on a postcard.  Or perhaps because I have such a great therapist, who I can share things with that I wouldn't tell normal people, I am already taking advantage of one of the main benefits of the postsecret project--getting the darn thing off your chest.   

Now, if I think of these postsecrets from the perspective of a future psychologist, they become a bit more interesting.  Many of these secrets are things so shameful to the person hiding them, she has never dared share them with anyone else.  As a study in what humans are most ashamed of, what a rich resource.  I wonder if any psychology students have asked to use Warren's collection for dissertation research?  Hmm... 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Read the comments for the Limitless post

The comments for my most recent post on the movie Limitless are particularly fascinating, and expand the post into so much more than what I originally wrote.  Even if you don't usually read comments, please do yourself a favor and read these.  Thank you so much to Suzanne, LL, Aunt Elaine, and Jacqueline/ Lybi for writing.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Warning: This post is one big, gigantic spoiler.

Dan and I went to see Limitless Friday night.  The premise of the movie (based on The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, which I have not yet read) is that a pill has been developed which allows you to access the entirety of your brain (as opposed to the 20% that we currently use).  Within 30 seconds of swallowing, you have a 4-digit IQ. 

The main character is given one pill by a friend of his to help him overcome his writer's block.  Prior to taking the pill, he is depressed.  His hair is long and scraggly, his personal hygiene sketchy at best.  He can't get himself to write even one sentence of the book his publisher has given him an advance for.  He spends a great deal of time drinking.  His girlfriend has just broken up with him, presumably because he is such a loser. Figuring he has nothing more to lose, our hero swallows the mysterious pill.  Within moments his eyes light up.  His countenance changes.  He heads home to work on his manuscript.  When he enters his apartment, he is able to see, for the first time, what a mess it is.  The first thing he does with his increased brain power is wash the dishes.  Once his entire apartment is clean and orderly, he sits down and writes.  He is in the zone, writing all day, and finishing a large chunk of the book he has been unable to work on for months.  He feels amazing. 

The next morning, when he wakes up, he is back to his same old self--depressed and dull.  He wants to feel alive, energized, and powerful again, so he gets himself a much bigger supply of the pills and starts taking them every day.  On the pill, with his brain operating at full capacity, he bathes, gets a haircut, starts exercising.  He finishes his book in four days.  He impresses people with his fascinating insights into basically everything, and makes lots of new friends.  Women can't resist him.  He gets back together with his girlfriend, who is intimidated by him for the first time in her life.  He finds no need to drink alcohol any more. 

He is able to recall, in perfect detail, everything he has ever seen, such as television programs, covers of books, etc.  For instance, he beats up a big group of thugs based on what his brain has learned watching random commercials and martial arts movies.  He becomes fluent in new languages by casually listening to a few tapes.  His senses are heightened.  He sees connections between things and pathways open up that were not visible to him before.   

I take a small handful of pills every night before bed that help with my depression.  Dan and I like to joke that they are my happy pills, and I pretend to be overcome by happiness and joy right after taking them.  They do not really function in this way of course, but I do think they help take the edge off of the worst of my symptoms.  More than an antidepressant, however, the pills in this movie reminded me of the influence of God in our lives. 

Here is a quote Dan found for me by Parley P. Pratt that I think is relevant to the discussion:

"The gift of the Holy Spirit...quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It develops and invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, invigorates and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being."

And another, this one by Ezra Taft Benson:

"Yes, men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace."

I remember when I first heard that we are not using about 80% of our brain's capacity,  I assumed that potential would be unlocked in the eternities.  God, I imagine, is already operating at full capacity.  Perhaps his spirit helps us access regions of our brain that we cannot yet access by ourselves.

How do you imagine that you would be different if you had access to your entire brain's capacity?  Would your emotional state improve?  Would you stop procrastinating?  Would you wash the dishes and keep your house cleaner?  I don't know if having 100% brain power would be enough to overcome certain negative habits that plague me.  It seems like I already know many of the things I need to do, and what is missing is the part where I actually do those things.  Does that part come from our brains?  From our bodies?  From our spirit?  

Lots to think about, and I'd love to hear from you as well.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Group of Seven Fan Club

Once upon a time, I was searching for beautiful artwork.  I was looking specifically for trees, but the search turned up a lot of landscapes as well.  In addition to some amazing things by Van Gogh, Klimt, and other famous artists (famous enough that I had heard of them), I found a number of paintings that I really liked by artists I'd never heard of.  In particular, I found three different images of an evergreen that almost looked like they could be the same tree.  In order to further my art education, I try to look up artists whose work I like and read more about them.  When I did a search for the artists who painted the three similar trees, I read in a Wikipedia article that they worked together, and were part of a group of Canadian landscape painters active in the 1920s called the Group of Seven.  I wrote down the names of all the artists in the group (there were actually 10 by the end) and went back to to find paintings by each of them.  Guess what?  I liked everything I saw by them.  Hey, my new favorite painters!

In a fit of admiration, I put a bunch of their stuff on my wall on Facebook, and I wrote about them in a gratitude email to my family.  Not long after that, I received a book in the mail all about the Group of Seven, a special gift from my sister. As I was reading the book I thought, some day I want to take a road trip to northern Ontario (it borders Michigan, after all) and see the places these guys painted, and their original artwork in the various museums.     

Fast forward to about a week ago, when I started searching for art on  I found a landscape that looked very similar to some of the things I'd seen by the Group of Seven.  When I looked at the information on the artist, I saw that he lives in northern Ontario.  I ended up purchasing something from him, and he sent me an email.  I responded with a question: Are you familiar with the work of the Group of Seven?  Your things remind me of theirs. 

The artist, Brian Holden, wrote me back this great message:

"In answer to your question about being familiar with the Group of Seven...indeed I am. It would be a disservice to both them and yourself  to say I have not been influenced by their vision and ways of looking at landscape. I grew up as a child in the immediate area on Lake Superior made famous by Lawren Harris (Pic Island) and also depicted to a lesser degree by Franklin Carmichael and A.Y. Jackson.

"I would have to say my first visit to the McMichael Gallery in Toronto was where I really developed a sense of connection to their landscapes and perhaps subconsciously now these influences and color palettes emerge to some greater or lesser degree in my own work.

"The group visited Algoma region around Sault Ste. Marie more so as a collective, but as individuals several ventured a little more west along Superior towards Thunder Bay, Lawren Harris in particular to the area I grew up and know so well in my life.

"I have a bit of knowledge on the group and can also recommend places to view works and also spots where they actually painted if you are interested."

This email made my day!  We exchanged a few more messages, and in the end he gave me a great list of places to visit.  One of these days (hopefully this fall), I'm going to hit the road, a bona fide member of the Group of Seven fan club.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maybe I Can

I have some "allowance" ($20 a month, baby) and birthday money saved up, and I've been spending an undisclosable amount of time (too much) browsing for things I want to buy for my room.  It has come down to a search for my favorite wood and linoleum block prints.  I was talking to an artist friend about my search yesterday, and I showed her a few of my favorites.  She said, "oh, you could easily make these yourself."  No, I couldn't.  "Yes, it would not be hard," she assured me.  Later in the day, I continued thinking about this.  She may not realize that I can't draw--that I'm not good with detail work, or with my hands.  It never in a million years would have occurred to me that I could actually make these things which I admire so much.  I have wished I could make such things, but not with any hope of actually being able to do it. 

This morning my thoughts had taken a new direction.  As I drove to school I saw things everywhere I looked that I would like to make prints of.  I was thinking about the print I ordered last night, and how much I love it, and how it is just a simple symbolic, not literal, representation of a beautiful landscape.  I might be able to do symbolic.  The prints that I am most drawn to, besides landscapes, are trees, some flowers, and lots of abstract geometrical designs.  Tonight as I continue my search through the print makers selling on etsy, I can see how willing I am to pay for circles and squares, if they are carved into a block and printed on good paper with vibrant ink.  I am thinking, I can draw circles and squares.  Heck, I doodle designs all the time on my papers.  What I cannot draw is a cat that looks like a cat.  The cats I draw today look exactly like the cats I drew when I was four years old.  Exactly.  Dan sits in church and draw things for the girls that look just like those things.  Not me.  I guess I have been thinking I could only create visual art through photography, since I can't draw.  But I have very little interest in technology and gadgets and figuring out how to use the intricate machine which is a camera.  What I want to be able to do is somehow capture and record the beautiful things I see around me: the forests and beaches in Oregon; all of my favorite trees in Ann Arbor; the high deserts of sagebrush and lava rock in Idaho; glorious sunsets. 

Maybe I can.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Musical Prayers

My dear friend gave a talk in church on Sunday about prayer.  After sharing some of the struggles she has had with prayer, she told us that there is one form of prayer that she has always excelled in, and turned to Doctrine & Covenants 25:12.  "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads."  Music has been her purest form of communication with God.  She has often gone to the piano in times of sorrow and joy to play hymns and sing.  She then shared some of the lyrics from favorite hymns that mean the most to her.  It was such a beautiful expression of her love for God and her faith in him. 

Later in the evening, she and I returned to the church to sing in an Easter concert for the community.  I thought more about what she had said as we performed a beautiful series of pieces about Christ's birth, death, and resurrection.   I, too, have difficulties with prayer.  However, when I'm singing sacred music, which I love to do, I find myself focusing the words toward God, telling him that I agree with the lyrics whole-heartedly.  I love the hymns of enthusiastic praise.  I love many of the somber hymns about Christ's sacrifice for us.  I love the hymns about struggling through hard times and finding strength and comfort in God.  As a child (and still) I loved the primary songs.  I used them to help myself overcome bad feelings.  I remember singing them to my siblings at night to help them sleep.  Perhaps the earliest spiritual feelings I had, my first feelings of connection to a living god, came from singing. 

One of my gifts that brings me the greatest happiness is my ability to sing.  I am not a soloist, by any means--and definitely not a soprano--but I have a clear, sweet, true voice, and I can thank God for that.  I also thank my parents for singing the hymns so enthusiastically at home and at church, and my wonderful junior high choir director, Connie Branton, for giving me a lifetime's worth of vocal training in the three years I sang for her. 

It could not be a coincidence that sacred music brought me and Dan together for the first time.  We first met in a History of Civilization class at BYU.  He was a student, and I was one of the three teaching assistants.  After the first class, Dan came up and introduced himself and we chatted a bit about the hymn that we had listened to that morning, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing."  He wanted to know if I was aware that it had a third verse that was not in our hymnbook?  No, I was not.  He shared the words of the unfamiliar verse with me.  This made quite an impression, because I had never met anyone my age who even knew that hymn, since it was in an older edition of the hymn book which was no longer in active use.  I only knew it because it was one of my dad's favorites, and he had taught it to us. 

I remember a time when we were sitting in his truck talking, and he was upset about something.  I started to sing "Beautiful Savior", another of my favorite hymns, and it was very moving for him to hear it at that moment, as it was a special favorite of his, as well.  People were usually impressed with how many hymns I knew by heart, but it was nothing compared to the hymns Dan knew.  He introduced me to all kinds of great ones that I had never sung before (like, "O Say What is Truth"), for which he knew not only all the verses, but the hymn numbers as well (oh, that math brain of his!).  We have spent many happy hours on road trips singing together, and it is a sweet experience to now see our children learning to love these same songs. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

The benefits are endless!

Here are some of the changes I've noticed since moving into my own room:

1) Nascent ability to decorate
One of the first things I did in my new room was take some of my favorite beautiful things out of storage and put them on top of my dresser.  This includes a Motawi tile by one of my favorite artists, the Japanese kokeshi doll I received as an exchange student, a little blue and white porcelain dish filled with shells I collected in North Carolina and Florida, and the ceramic bowl my sister made for me in high school.  I found my favorite quilt (patchwork flannel in earth tones, made by my mother) in the linen closet and put it on my bed.  I brought my two favorite Persian rugs into my room.

I have never really decorated my home.  I want it to be beautiful, but I have this big mental block about it.  I don't know where to start, I don't feel capable of making decisions in this area, fearing that whatever I decide to do I will get tired of or regret.  But in my room, it feels much easier.  Maybe because it is a smaller space, or because it is just for me, I'm warming up to the idea of putting things up on the walls that I love.  I'm wondering if it will be easier for me to do pretty things in the rest of the house after I've had the chance to work on my own little room.

2) A home for my things
Another thing I've noticed is that when I'm trying to clean up the house, I now take anything that belongs to me and put it in my room.  I don't know why I now feel like gathering all of my possessions to that room, but did not feel that way when I shared a room.  This includes mail.  I have never gotten a system down for dealing with papers, and we have a big paper clutter problem.  Since getting my own room, I take every piece of paper I find that belongs to me and put it in a box in my room.  It is already much easier for me to find things.  I don't know that I ever before thought of papers as being either mine or Dan's, but the distinction is easy to make now that we have separate rooms, and I'm taking responsibility for mine in a way I did not do in the past.

3) More reading and writing
I have longed to have my own desk, but there was not room for one in our other bedroom.  In my new bedroom, with my smaller bed, I can fit a desk, and I found one that I loved at the local consignment shop, Treasure Mart.  I have been reading and writing more.  Dan and I have never done a very good job at going to bed or getting up together.  I usually go to bed a lot later than Dan since I get to take a nap every afternoon.  I really like reading in bed at night, but when Dan was ready to sleep I felt guilty keeping my lamp on because I knew it bothered him.  But I also didn't want to read in the living room because it felt cold and exposed compared to my bed.  Now I can read and write to my heart's content at night without bothering anyone.  I think this new situation has a lot to do with the fact that I have recently started blogging again.

4) More romance
It is more romantic in a lot of ways to have separate rooms.  We are more likely to say good night to each other now, since we know we will not end up in the same bed later.  Dan makes more of an effort to come and find me in my room before he turns in for the night.  We often invite the other to come snuggle and talk with us in our bed.  It makes me feel like I'm in college at BYU again, when boys could only come into the girls' dorm rooms on Sundays for two hours during visiting time.  That was so exciting!  When Dan comes into my room now, I know he wants to be with me.  This is quite different from sharing a room and knowing your spouse may not want to be with you, but just to be in his bedroom, which you happen to share with him.  It is so flattering. 

I also feel better when I'm sleeping knowing that Dan can't hear me snore.  It is very hard on one's ego and feeling of cuteness to be a snorer, especially if your true love is bothered by it every night.  Now I can snore in privacy.  I also like having my own room to change in, especially when we're getting ready for a date, because it is fun to come out all beautified and say, "ta-da"!

5) Private mountain top

For months before getting my own room, I had been thinking about having a mountain top or a wilderness or a closet where I could pray.  I did not feel that there was any private space for me anywhere in the house.  Even when I am in the bathroom, the little girls are either with me, or banging on the door telling me to open  it for them.  I now find myself retreating to my room during the day when I need to time to collect myself.

I have never considered myself a loner, but since this change I have discovered that I really crave some privacy and separateness, perhaps because I am at a stage in life with very little of that.  Dan has a private space in his office at work, which he has decorated, and where he keeps his paperwork.  He spends a large chunk of each day alone.  Just knowing I have my own space in the house makes me feel stronger and my head clearer.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Parting the Waters

This week I got an email from Chris, the graduate student I've been helping with the narcissism study.  He said that Dr. H, the head of the personality disorders lab, wanted to meet me and possibly use me as a research assistant.  Today I met the good doctor for the first time.  His photograph looks rather stern and stuffy, so I was pleasantly surprised to see his office filled with photographs of his wife and children, and pictures that his little girls have drawn for him.  We talked for over an hour, mostly about personality disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Dr. L, the PTSD researcher in the department, walked by just as we were discussing my dad's book about combat vets, and Dr. H invited him in to meet me.  He told us about two papers he read recently about trauma and PTSD suffered by exchange students while living abroad.  This of course lead into a discussion of my experience as an exchange student in Japan.  Both professors were enthusiastic about my background in literature and history, and Dr. H said that this was why he thought I'd be so good for this project.

Would you like to hear about the new research project I get to work on?  This project has to do with predictors for borderline personality disorder.  Dr. H's graduate students (including Chris), have collected four Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) stories from each of 400 participants. What is a TAT story? you may be asking yourself.  The Thematic Apperception Test is a series of up to 31 simple drawings which are shown one at a time to the person being assessed.  For each picture, the test-taker is asked to tell a story about what is going on in the picture.  For instance, one of the pictures is of a person looking down at a violin lying on a table.  The researcher prompts the participant to include in her story what has led up to the event in the picture, what is happening at the moment, what the characters in the picture are thinking and feeling, and what the outcome of the story is.  Everything the test-taker says is recorded and then transcribed. 

Before the stories can be used for research, they must be scored.  There are many different standardized ways of scoring this test.  The method we will be using is the Social Cognition and Object Relations scale (SCOR).  This scale attempts to uncover how the participant thinks of and relates to other people.  I will be in training until I can show, but the way I score a story, that I am "reliable" , i.e. that my scoring is similar enough to everyone elses' that it can be trusted and used for analysis.  Even after I have been deemed reliable, I will check in with my team and Dr. H every 20 stories or so to make sure that we are still scoring in a uniform way.  I am really looking forward to the training, and, most of all, the story reading.

Just a few posts ago I was lamenting the fact that none of the professors had any interest in using me as a research assistant, and now I'm best buddies with two different professors, all thanks to Chris.  Many of the hours we spent in his office were just waiting as one after another participant never showed up.  We have talked and talked about his research interests and my background and dreams.  I am full of questions and he has happily answered them all.  Sometimes I have wondered whether helping in this study has been a good use of my time, especially since I have to leave the girls with a friend during nap time.  Now I can see that it was not the role I played in the study (basically sitting in a room pretending to be a participant), but the relationship I developed with Chris (and his fiancee Danielle), that is valuable.  I probably learned more about psychology and research from picking his brain than I've learned in my class at the community college this semester.  Because of this relationship, when Dr. H said he needed more research assistants to score the TAT stories, Chris recommend me.   

Today was the last day of Chris's narcissism study.  I was the confederate for the 50th and final participant.  I am struck by the fact that today, just as one study ended, I was invited to help with another.  I have felt repeatedly that God is parting the waters for me so that I can follow this path toward becoming a therapist.  This feeling of working toward something uniquely suited to my strengths and experiences, with God's blessing, has brought me a lot of peace and happiness in recent months, and for that I am grateful.  Until we meet again, gentle reader, adieu.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dream Themes

 I have very vivid dreams and usually remember a great deal from them.  Until yesterday, however, I don't think I'd ever really read much about dreaming.  The book I picked up at the library and couldn't put down is The Universal Dream Key: The 12 Most Common Dream Themes Around the World, by Patricia Garfield, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who has kept her own personal dream journal since she was 14 years old (over 50 years now).  Her first book, Creative Dreaming (1974) was a best seller when it came out, has been translated into 13 different languages, is still in print, and is now considered a classic.  She and five colleagues founded the Association for the Study of Dreams.  She is a dream collector.  She is working toward creating a complete classification of dreams, but acknowledges that this may be several lifetimes away.  She compares this effort, both in scope and importance, to mapping the stars, or the human genome, and sees it as a key to understanding the operation of the human mind.

Garfield used four main sources to come up with what she believes are the 12 most common universal dream themes: her own 50+ years' worth of dream journals; the literature on dreaming; the dreams of people which she has been collecting for more than 35 years; and the 500+ dreams that people around the world have submitted to her website.  The twelve themes are all negative/ nightmarish--she says these are more common than positive dreams because they are more useful in helping us identify and solve problems--but she gives the positive version of each theme as well.  So, are you ready to hear what the 12 themes are?  These are listed in order from most to least common, with the positive version of the theme in parenthesis:

1. Being chased or attacked (being embraced or loved)
2. Falling or drowning (flying, swimming, or dancing joyfully)
3. Being lost or trapped (discovering new spaces)
4. Being naked or inappropriately dressed in public (being well dressed)
5. Being accidentally injured, ill, or dying (being healed, born, or reborn)
6. Being in a natural or man-made disaster (natural beauty, miracles, or rituals)
7. Having trouble taking a test or other poor performance (fine performance)
8. Having trouble with a car or other transport (vehicular pleasure)
9. Missing a boat or some other transportation (pleasant travel)
10.  Having a house or property lost or damaged (house or property improvement)
11. Having trouble operating a telephone or machine (smooth operation)
12.  Being menaced by a spirit  (being guided by a spirit)

She addresses each of these themes in its own chapter, going into great detail about the specific motifs you might see.  For instance, within the theme of natural or man-made disaster, the most common motifs are earthquakes, tidal waves or floods, fires, hurricanes, blizzards or cold, et cetera.  If this is at all interesting to you, I recommend you check this book out and do some more in-depth reading on the themes that you recognize.  She explains techniques to help you move from the negative to the positive versions of your dream themes. 

I feel inspired by her plea that we all make a personal dream journal and start recording our dreams each morning.  I actually have a dream journal that I began keeping in high school or college, but it does not have very many entries and I haven't written in it for a long time.  She gives directions for keeping your journal, including the interesting observation that you will be more able to remember your dreams upon waking if you keep your eyes closed and try to stay in the same position you were in when you awoke.  With your eyes still closed, after you have recorded what you can (writing with your eyes closed, or using a voice recorder), she recommends that you gently roll your body into another of your favorite sleeping positions, at which point you may recall even more dreams.  She says that our sleeping position appears to have an impact on the kinds of dreams we have (!)

If you are wondering, why bother recording my dreams? I'll tell you.  You can learn a lot of cool stuff about yourself from your dreams.  If that isn't a good enough reason, try this: reading your old dreams is extremely entertaining.  And if neither of these is compelling, I will simply remind you that Stephanie Meyer's inspiration for Bella and Edward came from a vivid dream that she recorded and then started writing from.  You, too, could make millions and become famous, just by keeping a record of your sleeping stories.  And with that, I bid you not sweet, but lucrative dreams.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Book Junkie

Tonight I had an hour of free time while Dan was with the children at the church for Scouts.  I was already out in the car, and I was trying to decide what to do with my freedom.  The mall?  Target?  Salvation Army?  DSW?  The idea of shopping was not particularly appealing, so I stopped in at the library on my way home.  I thought, I'll just return these two books, pick up the stuff waiting for me on the hold shelf, and be off.  I have so many books already, the last thing I need is to look for more books.  But I meandered over to the stacks anyway, and ended up spending one blissful hour in a single row, leaving with a tower of new books too tall to carry comfortably.

Which row was it? you  may be asking yourself (just pretend).  Our library system uses Dewey decimal call numbers and I was in the first row of nonfiction, so the 000-200 range.  The Dewey system uses numbers, and is divided into ten big categories (as opposed to the Library of Congress system which uses letters followed by numbers and is divided into 21 main categories).  Here are the Dewey categories:

000 Generalities
100 Philosophy & Psychology
200 Religion
300 Social Sciences
400 Language
500 Natural Science & Mathematics
600 Technology (Applies Sciences)
700 The Arts
800 Literature & Rhetoric
900 Geography & History

Within each broad Dewey category, there are 100 sub-categories.  In the 000s, for instance, there is a subcategory for 000, 001, 002 and so on to 099.  Some of the subcategory titles are quite interesting.  007-009 are "not assigned or no longer used," as are 024, 029, and 040-049.  I can't help but wonder, if they are no longer in use, what were they used for originally, and why are they not being used any more?  093 is "Incunabula."  What is that?  (Now that I've asked, I must Google the word to answer my own question)

According to Phil Barber, incunabula refers to all of the printed books of the 15th century, starting with the Gutenberg Bible in 1455 and ending with books made in the year 1500.  This word was created by 17th- century book collectors to replace the synonymous term "fifteeners".  Hmmm.  How many of you already knew that?
For your entertainment (so entertaining!), here is a breakdown of the numbers and the books I brought home today:

011 Bibliographies: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (Peter Boxall, editor)
028 Reading: Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (Anne Fadiman)
154 Subconscious & Altered States: The Universal Dream Key: The 12 Most Common Dream Themes Around the World (Patricia Garfield)
158 Applied Psychology: Dream Big: O's Guide to Discovering Your Best Life (the editors of O, The Oprah Magazine) and Romancing the Ordinary: A Year of Simple Splendor (Sarah Ban Breathnach)

As I sat in the middle of the 100s tonight, Philosophy & Psychology, I just kept reading title after title to myself and thinking, I could not be going into a more perfect field of study.  I just can't get enough of books like this.  I cannot say the same for history, which was the subject of my first (aborted) Ph.D. attempt.  I've honestly never had that much interest in history.  That should have been my first clue...

Each time I browse the shelves and bring home a stack of books, I am filled with excitement.  I wish I could devour the whole stack in one night.  Even getting through one book a night would be lovely.  But, sadly, many of the books end up returned without ever being opened.  This has to do with a common (problematic) theme in my life: all or nothing.  I either read every word and take copious notes, or I don't open the book at all.  I am going to try to skim my books this time, just for practice.  There are so many books, and so little time.

An Experiment

Warning: Please do not judge my marriage by what you are about to read.

If you, like me, enjoy watching BBC adaptations of great British literature, you may have noticed that back in the olden days, if you lived in a nice big house with a servant or two, you and your spouse might have had separate bedrooms.  I remember (before I got married) thinking this was absolutely bizarre; I could not wrap my mind around it.  Why? 

Fast forward.  I was visiting some friends a few years ago, and during a quick tour of the house, there was a casual mention of the fact that one bedroom was the wife's and a different bedroom was the husband's.  I remember thinking, "I had no idea their marriage was in such bad shape!  They seem so happy..." 

It is now December 2010.  We have moved every stick of furniture down to the basement in order to get our hardwood floors refinished.  Our king-sized bed won't fit in our cramped quarters unless it is on its side, so Dan and I, who do not love sharing anything smaller than a king, end up sleeping in separate beds (and rooms) for about a month, until we get the house put back together.  As we prepare to move back upstairs, one of us mentions, so tentatively, that he has gotten significantly better rest since we moved to the basement, and wonders if it is because we've been in different rooms.  That person adds, in a very gentle and kind way, that his spouse may be a bit of a snorer, and this snoring may wake him up throughout the night, and this past month may have been the first time in many moons that he has been able to get a solid night's sleep.  (The snoring person would like to state for the record that, although she knew about the snoring, she did not realize it was actually awakening her spouse).  I would like to add, as a side note, that we are not a couple that likes to snuggle while we are sleeping.  We, in fact, like to have a nice piece of free space between us in order to fall asleep, hence, the king-sized bed.

I have been thinking for some time about having a space of my own--an office, perhaps, where I can study now that I am back in school.  We have also both just read a great book called Mating In Captivity (Esther Perel) which recommends, among other things, that a certain amount of separateness between spouses can have a positive affect on their love life, making "things" more exciting and more like the days before marriage changed everything.  And I do mean everything.

I then remember the friends with separate bedrooms, and the 19th century rich married couples as portrayed by the BBC, and I think to myself, having separate bedrooms might not be such a crazy idea after all.

Since it is mutually appealing (and I would not recommend trying this if it was not), when we move upstairs, I move into the former office and Dan keeps the former master bedroom.  My first clue that this might be a good idea are the feelings I have as my new room comes into being.  I feel giddy.  I feel like it is Christmas.  I feel an inordinate amount of happiness and goodwill toward all.  Dan is feeling the same way.  I do some calculations and realize that, after having my own room for the first 18 years of my life, I have now been sharing a room for about 17 years, first as an undergrad at BYU, then as a missionary in the Philippines, and finally as a married person. It never occurred to me in all this time what a difference having a private space of one's own could make. 

It has been about three months since this experiment began.  I find it heavenly, and I think Dan does, too. 

Stay tuned for my analysis of why this new arrangement is working so well for us, and how these principles could apply to you.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I Heart School

I'm back in school, and loving it.  Last semester I took a night class at the community college--a psychology class on human development over the life span.  This semester I'm taking two morning classes: abnormal psychology and basic statistics.  Five days a week, my little girls and I make the journey down to the college.  I drop them off in their classrooms and then head to my class.  MW is psychology, TTh is statistics, and on Fridays I get three hours of study time in the library.  How I love to be in school again!  This coming spring term I'm registered for a psychology research methods class at the university.  Fall semester I will take experimental psychology.  I am working towards applying to a Ph.D. program in Psychology.  Besides course work, I need to retake the GRE, take the psychology subject test, and keep trying to get research experience. 

In order to get the research experience I need, I sent an email to several professors at the university asking if they could use any unpaid student labor.  Apparently they all have too much of that already.  But luckily for me, one professor passed my request on to the graduate students in his lab, one of whom contacted me.  So on Fridays I am helping out with a study about narcissistic personality disorder by being the confederate.  What is the confederate? you may ask.  The confederate works in cahoots with the person running the study, but pretends to be just a regular research participant. 

Here is what I do.  I wait in the hall for the research participant to arrive, and try to act like I have also just arrived.  The graduate student running the study gives us some instructions, a form to fill out, and sticks us in separate rooms.  We are both supposed to write a personal experience which shows us at our best--something we've done that we're really proud of.  After 10-15 minutes, the researcher collects what we've written and swaps them.  We are supposed to read what the other person has written and then answer five questions about it.  The questions says things like, "Based on what you have just read, do you think this is a person you would like to get to know?"  "Do you think that what this person did is admirable?"  Et cetera.  The researcher tells me how to answer the questions.  Some participants receive high praise from me, and others receive the opposite (low praise?  no praise?  anti-praise?).  The papers and feedback are given back to the original owners, and then the participants fills out 5 questionnaires regarding current feelings of anxiety and anger based on the feedback they have just received.  When they are done, the researcher tells the participant that my feedback was bogus and asks if they suspected.  Then they are free to go and we wait for the next participant.   

According to the graduate student I am working with, professors aren't too eager to take on a research assistant with no prior experience, so I am grateful he has thrown me a bone, as small as it may be.  This study is almost over, but hopefully I will get some more chances to help with research, and eventually do some of my own, as this seems to be a key component in getting into doctoral programs.

I sometimes worry about going back to graduate school.  My first experience was not particularly pleasant, and I only had two children at the time.  But many things reassure me that I am on the right path.  One of those things is my abnormal psychology textbook.  I just can't put it down.  When I run out of children's literature to analyze, you may get to hear some fascinating tidbits about mental disorders.  Stay tuned! 

I was in the car right after class today, talking to my neighbor in her driveway.  After a few minutes she said, "you look so happy!"  The tone of her voice told me that this is unusual.  What can I say?  School makes me happy.

A Troubled Marriage

Although I do quite of bit of my own reading, I never read my own books 40-50 times in a row the way I do the children's.  Tonight's post may be a testament to the fact that I have spent a bit too much time with the Berenstain Bears.  I am troubled by what is happening in Mama and Papa Bear's marriage. 

In the early days, they were both competent and hard-working.  Take The Berenstain Bears' New Baby, first published in 1974.  Papa Bear and Mama Bear seem well-matched in this book.  Papa has made a home for them from a large tree, and furnished it with his own handiwork.  He takes Small Bear out into the woods one morning to make him a bigger bed.  He sharpens his axe on the grinding stone, he tests it to see if it is sharp, he chops down a tree and splits it into boards, he makes a new bed for Small Bear, chipping and shaving it smooth and neat, and finally carrying it back to the house and up to Small Bear's room.  While in the woods, Papa Bear has a man-to-man discussion with his son about the upcoming arrival of a new baby.

Mama, meanwhile, brings the vegetables in from the garden, has breakfast on the table when the men come down the stairs in the morning, and while they are gone for the day, manages to move the small bed to a new room, give birth, and get the baby all dressed, complete with a pink bow, in time for the men's arrival.  There is a comforting image of Papa Bear with his arm wrapped around Mama Bear as they watch Small Bear meeting his new sister for the first time.  Another tender scene is depicted of them saying good night to Small Bear, Mama Bear holding the sleeping baby, Papa Bear still with his arm wrapped lovingly around Mama.  They are a unit.  They are two adults who love each other and work together for the good of the family.

Now it is 1981 and the story is The Berenstain Bears and the Sitter.  They are older now, but Mama and Papa are still working as a team.  While Mama is on the phone trying to find a sitter, Papa is explaining to the cubs why they can't go with them to the town hall meeting.  Now Papa and Mama are walking off together to attend their meeting.  At the town hall, they are on the same page, both worrying about how the cubs are doing back home.  They go together to call home, Papa dialing, ear to the receiver, Mama behind him with her hand resting on his shoulder.  At the end of the book, we see Mama and Papa walking back home from the meeting, arm in arm.

It is still 1981, and now The Berenstain Bears Go To The  Doctor.   Mama and Papa Bear are still working together, tucking the cubs into bed, driving them to the doctor's office the next morning, sitting next to each other in the waiting room.  But Mama is a bit more of the heavy than Papa now, a tad more mature and competent.  She announces tomorrow's visit to the doctor, while Papa assures the cubs that there is nothing to worry about.  Sister asks Mama if she ever gets checkups.  "Yes, I do," Mama answers.  Papa, on the other hand, brags that he doesn't need checkups anymore because he never gets sick.  In the middle of this statement, he sneezes, and Mama comments on what a sneeze it is.  Papa assures the family it is just the dusty road.  The next time he sneezes, Mama says "Bless you!" and Papa blames the bright sunlight.  In the illustration, his eyes are wide and sincere, while Mama looks back at him over her shoulder with a frown on her face and a look of mild disgust.  Papa keeps sneezing and claiming that he never gets sick, but eventually the doctor insists on examining him.  He has a fever, a red throat, and a stuffy nose.  On the final page, Papa is home in bed, the cubs are feeding him some gooey pink medicine, and Mama is standing behind them looking rather satisfied with herself, holding a thermometer.  Papa, smiling weakly, says "Well, I hardly ever get sick."

Here we are just starting to see a subtle shift to what becomes a pervasive pattern in future books.  Over time, Mama becomes the lone parent, while Papa devolves into the incompetent third (or fourth, after Baby Honey is born) child.  Papa gets more and more buffoon-ish, while Mama grows increasingly aloof.  You don't see them touching each other like they used to.  They seem less and less well-matched.  What is the cause of this?  Has Mama never gotten over giving birth to Sister Bear alone while Papa was out in the woods for the day?  Has Papa had an accident we are not aware of, resulting in a closed-head injury that has fundamentally altered his personality?  Is the marriage of Mama & Papa Bear's creators, Stan & Jan, on the rocks?

Mama may have looked cute in her blue and white polka-dotted mumu as a younger bear, but after all these years of marriage and family life, has she completely given up on herself?  Why can't she ever wear anything attractive, sexy even?  It is like she is not a woman anymore.  She is Mama, and that is all.  She doesn't even remember her first name, and neither does Papa.

Papa, on the other hand, has been emasculated.  Mama's low expectations of him over the years have rendered him as incompetent as the cubs, if not more.  She is the voice of authority and reason now, and he is nothing but the comic relief.  I ask you, dear readers: How much longer can a marriage like this survive?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I don't think that will happen for quite a while

I do not love to play with my kids, but I do love to read to them.

For some time now, I have been wanting to write about one of my favorite mothers in all of children's literature.  I don't know her name, but she was created by Russell Hoban in the 1960s and is the mother of Frances the Badger.  She is also, incidentally, the mother of Gloria, but I don't get the sense that Gloria gives her quite the run for her money that Frances does.

My favorite moment in all of her excellent mothering occurs in the story Bread and Jam for Frances.  Frances is singing annoying little songs about and refusing to eat all of the delicious food her mother prepares for her, opting instead for bread and jam at every meal.  After Frances rejects first a soft-boiled egg for breakfast, a chicken-salad sandwich for lunch, and finally breaded veal cutlets with string beans and a baked potato at dinner, her mother tries a new strategy.  The next day, Frances gets bread and jam instead of a poached egg for breakfast, she gets bread and jam (and milk) in her lunchbox at school, and she gets a nice snack of bread and jam after school.  At this point she asks her mother, "Aren't you worried that maybe I will get sick and all my teeth will fall out from eating so much bread and jam?"  To this her mother sweetly replies, "I don't think that will happen for quite a while, so eat it all up and enjoy it."

This is the part of the book where I start laughing and can't stop.  I say this little line to myself throughout the day after reading this book, and it always brings a smile: "I don't think that will happen for quite a while."

That night at dinner, instead of the spaghetti and meatballs the rest of the family is having, Frances gets bread and jam.  When she begins to cry, her mother says, "My goodness!  Frances is crying!"  When Frances asks for spaghetti and meatballs like everyone else, her mother responds, so innocently, "I had no idea you liked spaghetti and meatballs!"  This time when she serves Frances her dinner, Frances eats it all up with no complaints, and, more importantly, no annoying little songs.

This badger mother is a genius: she is devious, she is innocent, she is sincere, she is ruthless.  She is a psychologist and an actress to boot.  Characters like her make reading a pleasure.