Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Jumpstart Your Brain Challenge: Week 3

It’s the Getting There That Counts


Here we are in week three of strengthening the brain. By now you have a list of dreams and possibilities. Some of my readers are anxious to jump in to “get things done.” It’s okay if you’ve started tackling some of those goals. I understand. Some readers want to take this one-step at a time. That’s okay, too. 


All I ask is that you read each week’s challenge and mull it over. Let it soak into your being. Write it down. In fact, I recommend you journal your way through the rest of this experience. It need not be a fancy, leather bound journal. A spiral notebook will do. You have already listed the items on your bucket list and organized them in a meaningful way. You are already “journaling.” 


This Week’s Challenge:

In this quest to strengthen our brain function, we started week one by listing dreams we would like to see fulfilled and ideas we wanted to see come to life. Last week I asked you to organize and assess the items on your list. It is a valuable first step. 


Too often I see people try to skip that step. They have one idea they feel so passionate about they jump in only to discover they were missing valuable resources to make it happen. Instead of trying to grow or learn or tackle the project from a different direction, they lose steam and give up. 


The simple truth is this: You are not going to be perfect at anything on the first try. You need to plan, work at it, learn from it, and grow in it. 


In fact, if you really want a healthy and active brain, the key is the process. Not the product.


It is in learning to paint a picture, not in a blue ribbon at the art show. It is in crafting the story, not sunning in the glory of a best seller. Don’t misunderstand. I would love to paint a frame worthy picture. I would be thrilled to have a best seller. I’m not saying the product isn’t important. I’m saying the process to get there is what keeps your brain healthy and strong. 


When I lived in Florida, I would drive by the same house nearly every day on my way to college. The small dwelling was on a busy intersection. Busy by country road standards. I watched as day-by-day, month-by-month, and yes, year-by-year the man living in that house built a boat outside. It was a big boat. Every piece of wood in that beautiful vessel was lovingly and painstakingly added over a period of several years. I was told that when the man finally finished the boat, he sailed it one time. 


Then he sold it. 


It was the process of building it that challenged him. It was the process that brought him joy.


Process is indicative of action. Product is a final outcome.


One of the items on my list is to play the piano. As a young child, I took piano lessons. I had a smack-your-knuckles-when-you-missed-a-note kind of teacher. She also dozed off sometimes during our half-hour lesson. I never told my parents. It was my first experience with a teacher outside of school and she came highly recommended. 


I love music. I love to sing and I would be thrilled at being able to play the piano. Knowing this, my husband gave me a piano for Christmas one year. I enjoy my attempts with the instrument, but cringe at the thought of playing in front of others.


I’ve decided that’s okay. I don’t have to play for anyone else. I don’t need to perform at a recital or play hymns in church. Engaging with music and translating those notes to action in my fingers make me use parts of my brain I don’t ordinarily access. 


The gift is in the process. 


For these next few weeks I am working on two items on my list. I am playing my piano every morning and I popped a Spanish language CD in my car CD player. I also asked Alexa to teach me Spanish. She not only gives me a new word each day, but directed me to a free website to practice the language. 


Now it’s your turn. What is on your list? What one item seems slightly out of reach? Which items on your list will stretch you? What will you do to engage in the process of making your dreams come true?


Let me know. I’ll be cheering for you.


From my Bio:

Rebecca Waters, EdD, completed her undergraduate work at the University of South Florida and her graduate studies at the University of Cincinnati. She served as both a public school teacher and as a professor of teacher education. Rebecca taught for a year in a private school in Kosovo where she also served as the elementary principal and the school’s liaison to the American Embassy. Rebecca is the author of two novels, Breathing on Her Ownand Libby’s Cuppa Joe. All of her books, including three books on writing, are available on Amazon.


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Jumpstart Your Brain Challenge: Organizing and Assessing Your Goals

 Last week I invited you to join me in increasing your brainpower. I’ve been referring to it on Twitter as the Jumpstart Your Brain Challenge. I asked you to “write down any and every dream you have.”


Any and Every. It’s why it was the only assignment. Write them down, even if they seem a bit out of reach. A bit.


I created my list. We’ll talk about that later. First, I want to address why this is important to have dreams and goals in order to build and sustain brainpower. 


Our brains are wired to problem solve. We need challenges to continue to strengthen our brainpower. There is evidence that strengthening our brainpower serves us in many ways including maintaining memory function. If you’re interested in the synapses of the brain and more scientific explanations, CLICK HERE. For this exercise, I prefer to keep it at the more pragmatic level.


We were created with the ability to think and create. We can see new uses for objects. Think, “sock puppet.” Or consider the flat sheet of paper intended for writing a letter that, once in the hands of a ten-year-old, will be folded into an airplane flying across the room. 


Left unchallenged, our brains lose strength. Just as an unused arm muscle makes it hard for someone to lift a gallon of milk, the unused brain makes it hard to think. Remember. Create. Solve problems. Imagine.


You get the idea.


So now you have a list of dreams and opportunities to flex that muscle between your ears. How will you do it?


First, I suggest you sort the items in your list. Put them in meaningful groups. You decide which ones belong together.


I have fourteen items on my list. I sorted mine into three groups: 1) Things I want to learn, 2) Life experiences I would enjoy, and 3) Hobbies and Crafts. 


Your list will likely look different from mine. Not to worry. It should. We are all different. You are not enrolled in a class here. You will not be graded. This is your individual plan. 


The exercise of sorting and grouping  in itself stretches your thinking skills. 


You may choose to sort each list into sub categories as well. For example, in the section I call Life Experiences, I have a few places listed I’d like to visit and things I’d like to do. I also have “space travel” in there. I gave it a special place of it’s own.


Okay, now that you’ve stopped laughing, let me explain. 


My husband and I grew up in the space age. We were in awe when astronauts circled the earth in rocket propelled capsules. We watched with our families as Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. We were addicted to Star Trek. We took our daughters to the space center in Florida and camped on the beach so they could witness the launch of a shuttle. I even went so far as to request the application for the Teacher in Space program. Tom and I read through it. The mission itself didn’t bother me. The only reason I wouldn’t apply was because of the time it would require away from my family. 


Does all this mean I have to give up the experience? Not at all. I recently checked into the Space Camp options NASA offers. I can still challenge myself in this life experience by enrolling in the three day/ two night space camp for adults.  


This leads me to the next part of our quest. 


Once you have organized the list to your liking, what should you do next? This next week, look over each item in each category and consider what you have and what you yet need to make it happen. Write it down. Everything.


For example, in the “Things I want to learn” section, I have listed play the piano and play the guitar along with several other avenues of interest. I have a piano. I no longer have a guitar. It makes sense to assess my resources before I tackle one of my dreams. That means I can put “play the piano” above “play the guitar.”


“Learn to speak Spanish” is above “Learn Albanian” since one, I no longer live in Kosovo where Albanian is the language of the land and two, my youngest granddaughter is learning Spanish.


Be aware as you go through this exercise, not everything will fit nicely into one category or the other. I came up with numerous items in what I call hobbies and crafts. Drawing, painting, gardening, finishing a scrapbook, and many other items fell into this category. 


One of my dreams is woodworking. I would love to build a few items for my house and yard. Woodworking fits in the hobbies and crafts section, but to make it happen I need to learn how to use the tools Tom left me. So technically, that item could fit in either the category on learning or the hobbies and crafts category.


Now it’s your turn. Assess your list of dreams and possibilities. What is within reach? What could be reimagined? What resources do you have available to help you in reaching your goals? 


Be sure to let me know. I’d love to dream with you.


Next week we’ll look at the process vs. the product. 





Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Shaping Up...Your Brain

I’m seeing a plethora of advertisements on television and social media for gym memberships, online physical training apps, weight loss programs, and in-home exercise machinery. I get it. It’s January and with the New Year (along with the guilt from too much holiday candy) comes the resolve to get in shape. 


A New Day. A New Year.

People long to become physically fit. They want to feel better and look better. It’s a given. So much so, the companies selling these products and services know this is a peak sales season for the fitness world.


This year I am launching my own fitness program free of charge. It is a program to exercise that muscle you may have been neglecting: Your Brain. 


Why listen to me? Certainly many of my readers know me as an author. In truth, I have this "other life." My doctoral work at the University of Cincinnati was in Educational Foundations with an emphasis in Psychological Foundations. I have served as both a teacher in public education and as a professor at a small Christian university. There I worked with both undergraduates and graduate students in areas of education, psychology and counseling.


Exercising our brains is important. It is perhaps more important now than ever.  I’m serious. Months of COVID fatigue, endless hours of television, and growing concerns about our future as a united nation have taken a serious toll on our mental well being. 


And now it is winter. 


Creativity, inventing, and problem solving are in our DNA as Americans. I have traveled extensively. I’ve lived abroad. Very few nations offer the freedom and resources to their citizenry as we do in the United States to achieve our dreams. 


Yes, I know not everyone in our nation has equal access to everything. But we all have access to dream, create, and to strive for a better world. Trust me, I have known people who lived in places where they were told what to think, when to think it, and when to stop thinking it.


If you exercise your brain, you’ll feel better for it and stand a bit taller among your friends and family. You’ll be more confident, more thoughtful (or at least thought-filled), more creative, a better problem solver, and happier.


I could guarantee it, but then again, I’m not charging you anything for it. These benefits are true. Proven. Of course to make the program work, you’ll need to do a few things yourself. 


You may need to withdraw from some television and social media. You may have to read something. And if you go with me on this journey, you will be required at one point to try something new. 


Over the next couple of months, I’ll be sharing success stories, tips, games, activities, resources, and a bit of research evidence for you to use to dazzle your friends.


Your first assignment?

Create a list of all those items on your “to do before I die” list. You know what I’m talking about. I hear them all the time. Some call it their "bucket list."


“I would love to write a book.”

“I would love to read a book.”


“I wish I could play the piano.”

“I wish I could speak Spanish.”


“One day, I’d like to paint a picture.”

“Someday, I’m going to …” For that one I’ll let you fill in the blank. 


Write them all down. You aren’t going to do them all. Yet. 


Write down any and every dream you have. 


Make note of everything you feel would stretch you to that place where you feel a sense of accomplishment, that height where indeed you stand a little taller. And make note of this: You can always add to the list and nobody will ding you for not doing everything on it!


So are you ready? Invite your friends. Let’s get started. Together we can make 2021 the best year ever! Make that list and I'll see you here next week.

For ideas and encouragement you can

 follow me on Twitter: @WatersAuthor 

or check in on my FaceBook Author Page: Rebecca Waters Author

I can't wait to hear from you.


From my Bio:

Rebecca Waters, EdD, completed her undergraduate work at the University of South Florida and her graduate studies at the University of Cincinnati. She served as a public school teacher for 18.5 years and as a professor of teacher education for 14.5 years. Rebecca taught for a year in a private school in Kosovo where she also served as the elementary principal and the school’s liaison to the American Embassy. Rebecca is the author of two novels, Breathing on Her Own and Libby’s Cuppa Joe. Her novella, Courtesy Turn appears in the anthology, From the Lake to the River. You will also find her work in the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul books. All of her books, including three books on writing, are available HERE on Amazon.







Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Choosing the Word for 2021

 The Word for the 2021 is ….


My readers know I choose a word for each year. A single word. 


It doesn’t have to be a special word when I choose it. It may be a word I keep bumping into in various places. Sometimes I’ve chosen a word from my morning Bible reading. On occasion it has been a word I heard on television or a word that met my mood at the time.


I never actually have a clue how that word will play out through the year. It is always different. It is always a time of learning and growing for me.


Sometimes my blog posts or journal entries reflect how the word is surfacing in my life. I don’t keep a daily journal about it, though. Somehow doing so would sort of box in the word; kill it. 


I would be forever mindful of that singular word. Intentional. I am sure it wouldn’t be the same experience I’ve enjoyed for the past several years. No, choosing the word and letting it take its own shape and meaning is best for me. 


And it’s fun. 


Mostly. Last year my word was “QUIET.” I’ve promised my family I won’t choose that word again. Although the year was anything but quiet, the word will forever be connected to other words such as “isolation” and “quarantine.”


As 2020 was drawing to an end, I started thinking about choosing my word. I jotted down random words I found intriguing or ran into repeatedly. I considered words such as “resilience,” “determination,” or “health.” 


I realized those were the 2020 words I’d lived through. The words spoke of me doing something. The onus was on me to make those words happen. It sounded like work and I was tired. 


I have found the best words I’ve chosen are words that take on a life of their own instead of ones I throw around like a motto. 


It was mid December when I woke up one morning with the thought of the word I chose for this year. I let it roll around in my head for a few days before saying it out loud. 


I hesitated to share it. It was too simple. 


Yet there it was. It popped up in my Bible reading. It showed up in music I played. The word seemed to be ever present, but not one I had noticed or considered before.


It isn’t that I have a notion of how that word will play out in 2021. I can’t wrap my head around that yet. I know from past experiences it will take on a shape of its own and in turn shape me as a person. It will influence me as a daughter, mother, grandmother, friend, and yes, as a writer. 


My writing group gathers on Zoom the first Saturday of the month. We met on January 2, the month still fresh and clean and mostly unscathed. The year loomed full of promise ahead of us. In our planning for the January meeting, we decided to allow those who choose a word for each year to share it.


Some members of the group shared not only the word for the year but their thinking behind it. Others held onto the notion of the surprise the word will bring. They said they don’t know what’s in store, but this was the word to capture it. 


Members of the group had great words. 


They shared words such as “Believe” and “Restore” and “Rely.” To me those words lean into a sense of trust and hope. 


Some offered words I associate with action. Words like “Lead” or “Priority.”


Of course none of us know how any of those words will play out in the coming year, but they were strong words; Words that didn’t need an introduction. Not like the word I chose.


I shared my word. It seemed small. Inconsequential. Weak. Yet it was mine. 


“Be.” I said. “B-E.” 


Though small, I’ve decided my word for the year is mighty. It doesn’t require anything of me except to BE the person God made me to BE. I don’t need to be what others think I should be. Be/Say/Do. I can simply BE me. 


I find rest in that. And after a year of  “quiet” such as this past one, I need it.


Do you have a word for the year? Please share it. I’d love to hear from you.