Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Feature: Tricks for Making the Most of Your Short-Term Memory

Sophomore year in college, I took a cognitive psychology class. It was, perhaps, my least favorite psych class. The professor was interesting, but the material (and thus, the textbook) was dry. One of the few things I remember about this class is that researchers found that our short-term memories hold 7 ± 2 (5 to 9) pieces of information. We can maximize that by storing things in chunks but, sooner rather than later, short term memory (also called "working memory") reaches capacity. When it comes to new information, last minute bits of information don't stand a chance of making it into long-term memory.

Memory researchers continue to debate the ± 2 pieces of information theory; some believe our working memory holds even less information. Its name, however, also tells us what we need to do to keep important information front and center: we need to work with it.

In her piece, "This Common Mistake is Sabotaging Your Memory," Dr. Dani Gordon shares some tips on making the most of your short-term memory in an age of information overload. If you, like me, feel as though your memory is getting worse instead of better, it's worth a read, even if only for the reassurance that there's a reason that information, no matter how important, doesn't always seem to stick.

So, whether it's notepads or apps, your need for those memory aids isn't a sign that your memory is failing -- just that it needs the right tools to keep it working at peak efficiency.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Pass the Post-it Notes, please.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Efraimstochter via Pixabay
This morning, a photo I took at JFK airport last summer at this time popped up on my Facebook timeline. After saying goodbye to my daughter, who was set to board a plane to London three days after the attacks in Manchester, my husband and I ate at a diner in the airport, and I took a picture on my phone. It was, as I recall, a quiet dinner, both of us trying to be excited for her while being simultaneously terrified.

Next weekend, we'll be sending her off again -- within the contiguous United States this time -- back to school where she'll live while she does a summer internship. Instead of flying in a plane, she'll be driving a car, one that she'll keep at school. We're going with her this time to help her settle into yet another dorm room, then taking the train back. The assistance is, as you've probably guessed, more for our benefit than hers. While she'll appreciate a navigator (we think) and some extra help for the move-in, we need this bridge to her next leap of independence.

When she left for college two summers ago, my head knew what my heart wasn't yet ready to accept -- that this house, the home in which she's spent her entire life -- would no longer be a place she'd inhabit in quite the same way ever again. There'd be holidays and summer vacations -- or parts of them, anyway -- where things would feel almost the same. There'd be mornings I'd wake up and she'd be asleep in her room across the hall, but for every one of those, there'd be many more where that room lay empty, just waiting for her whenever she might need it.

The empty room was sad at first -- or it made me sad -- but I was determined not to avoid it. Acknowledging its emptiness was, on some level, both marking time until she came back and the first step to accepting the changes that lay ahead.

I'm so proud of how independent she has become, and thrilled that she keeps finding new ways to expand her horizons. When she's home, I do my best to make the most of the time we have without being cloying or maudlin (if you asked her, though, I suspect she'd say I've crossed the line a time or two), but the next departure always looms.

These departures don't make her sad, and that's a good thing. And, though I'm rarely as terrified as I was when I put her on that plane to London, I can't say I always share her enthusiasm for moving on.

Photo via Pixabay
Still, it is as it should be. New opportunities fill her with excitement and pave the path on the journey to the person she'll become. I'll meet her anywhere on that path at any time, but now it is my daughter who determines the where and the when of these meetings. She might not know what lies at the far end of the path, but no matter how short the visit, I'm certain that she knows what lies at the other end.


And for that, I am grateful.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Post Pennwriters

Photo via Pixabay
As I write this, I'm sitting in the hospitality suite at the Pennwriters Conference as the weekend winds down. Jack is at his perch behind the raffle table, where baskets of prizes sit waiting for winners to collect them. The bookstore has been dismantled, boxed books now atop the tables, waiting for authors to collect them and, they hope, checks that mean their books are now in the hands of new readers. Four large, round tables fill the center of the room, populated with people chatting, texting or extracting one last bit of wisdom from the authors and mentors who will soon disperse, returning to their homes, their laptops and their lives. In a few minutes, the last workshop will let out and this room will fill with attendees waiting to see if they won a basket or a contest before saying their final goodbyes.

This was, once again, a great weekend. I sold some books, gathered some wisdom, taught two workshops, connected with friends and made a few new connections as well. Each conference takes on a personality of its own. Though there are similarities from one conference to the next in structure and even attendees, no two experiences are quite the same, in part because we are never quite the same from one conference to the next.

We approach each conference differently with different needs and strengths, having grown since the last time we attended. Each time, we look for different answers, seeking workshops that will build a bridge from where we are to where we want to go. A successful conference (from the perspective of the conference goer) builds that bridge, giving us concrete things we can work on until the next conference arrives.

And so now, it's time to get to work.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday Feature: 10 Rules for Writing Fiction

Since I'm attending the Pennwriters Conference this weekend, I thought it'd be fun to share a writing-related article for today's feature. Entitled "10 Rules for Writing Fiction," it's actually much more than that: 
"Inspired by Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, we (The Guardian) asked authors for their personal do's and don'ts."
I went in search of a fun piece and found the mother lode: a two-part piece crammed with great advice, suitable for savoring by readers and writers alike.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

5 Things I'm Looking Forward to at Pennwriters

Photo: Mohamed Hassan via Pixabay

Tomorrow, I leave for my favorite writing conference: Pennwriters. Here are five things I'm especially looking forward to:
  • Catching up with my sister. My sister is also a writer, and we share a room at Pennwriters conferences. We get to catch up on everything from writing stuff to personal stuff and everything in between, as well as dishing about...
  • Workshops to attend. Thanks to a wide variety of great workshops, I never go home uninspired.
  • Workshops to present. I love going to workshops, but I'm really looking forward to teaching at Pennwriters for the first time. I'm hoping for "just-right" sized groups for my workshops on Organization for Writers and Facebook Party Basics.
  • A hotel stay. I really love the Eden Resort Inn, where the conference is held. Though I spend most of my time in meeting rooms, I always manage to spend some time by the fireplace in the lobby and in the Courtyard with its greenery and fountains.
  • A change of pace. It's been a very hectic couple of weeks and I'm looking forward to a weekend that's heavy on learning and fun and light on responsibilities, as well as connecting with friends I see only at these conferences.
Guess I'd better think about packing! I'm sure I'll have lots to share when I get back.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Welcome to Summer Vacation?

Today is the first day of summer vacation.

My daughter is home, I've posted my grades and, in three days, I leave for my favorite writing conference.

#1 on the Summer Vacation, Part I
hit parade? Writing, of course.

Photo: Naturalpastels via Pixabay
Today is the first day of summer vacation.

It's 58 degrees out, my daughter leaves in less than three weeks and, almost immediately after flipping the calendar page to June, I start teaching a summer session class.

Today is the first day of summer vacation?

Yes. It is. Okay, so maybe the outside temperature begs to differ, maybe summer vacation looks more like a block schedule than three months of smooth sailing and maybe my mudroom has disappeared beneath piles of young adult possessions and stacks of things for the conference this weekend, but I can work with this.

My daughter is home.

The conference is coming.

58 and cloudy beats hazy, hot and humid.

As with everything else in life, I can live in the clouds (all too easy to do today), or I can look for the silver lining. Since living in the clouds would be a tremendous waste of the three weeks of unscheduled, sleep-in, read what I like, hang with my kid gift of time that May promises, the choice is easy.

Today is the first day of summer vacation, Part I. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Feature: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Today, we are bringing my daughter home from college, so I thought it might be fun to look in Quinnipiac (her college) Magazine for today's Friday Feature. The print copy has been sitting on the table in our family room for a couple of weeks, waiting for me to have time to read it but, with five hours in the car yesterday, I had time to browse the online edition. I expected to find something interesting, but was surprised to find something of particular personal relevance.

I first heard of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome years ago when my then-boyfriend's aunt was struggling with it. Around the same time, there was a two-episode arc on The Golden Girls where Dorothy was struggling with an illness doctors couldn't seem to diagnose, which turned out to be CFS. Ironically, the episodes had the same title as the article in Quinnipiac Magazine: "Sick and Tired."

My dad suffers from CFS -- or at least I think he does. I have no medical degree but, the more I read, the more I wonder. Since my dad recently moved to Pennsylvania, I want to raise this question with his new doctors. I struck out with the first one but, after reading that patients go to an average of twenty doctors before receiving the diagnosis, I wonder if perhaps Dad and I should keep asking.

CFS was featured in Quinnipiac Magazine thanks to a donation made to the University by Carol Sirot, herself afflicted with CFS. She opted to do so "because the Frank H. Netter School of Medicine focuses on training primary care doctors." Sirot wants to increase awareness of this disease and she believes primary care physicians in training are a good place to start.

I couldn't agree more.