Saturday, February 25, 2017

What matters is the gray and white matter inside your noggin.

Anyone who's watched the Wizard of Oz knows the scarecrow was short on shingles; all the bulbs were not lit in his chandelier; the elevator didn't go to the top floor... poor guy needed a brain.

There are a lot of people in political office, at all levels of government, who remind me of the scarecrow, and while I'm at it, let me add this, many also need a heart. But that is my expressed opinion, and I'll stop there and tell you about a time I held a human brain.

When I was in grade school, the science teacher posed a question: You cannot move from seats,  speak or do anything without (______?)  Of course, we all had the same answer: teacher's permission. In reality, the answer was without our brain, which is command central for our entire bodies. That was mind boggling to me when I was eight-years-old.

Twenty years ago when my granddaughter, who had a keen interest in science, was about eight, we visited a fascinating exhibit at the Science Center on the human brain. We were instructed to put on latex gloves and prepare for a once in a lifetime experience. It certainly was! We explored a real brain, held it, examined the areas, learned the speech area and so much more.

Here are some interesting facts about the white and gray matter that matters in your own noggin.

 Albert Einstein. Einstein’s brain was similar in size to other humans except in the region that is responsible for math and spatial perception. In that region, his brain was 35% wider than average.

London taxi drivers. Famous for knowing all the London streets by heart, have a larger than normal hippocampus, especially the drivers who have been on the job longest. The study suggests that as people memorize more and more information, this part of their brain continues to grow.

Music. Music lessons have shown to considerably boost brain organization and ability in both children and adults.

      Thoughts. The average number of thoughts that humans are believed to experience each
      day is 70,000.

Ambidexterity. Those who are left-handed or ambidextrous have a corpus collosum (the part of the brain that bridges the two halves) that is about 11% larger than those who are right-handed.

      Weight. The weight of the human brain is about 3 lbs.        
      Cerebrum. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain and makes up 85% of the brain’s
      Skin. Your skin weighs twice as much as your brain.
      Gray matter. The brain’s gray matter, made up of neurons, gather and transmit signals.

White matter. The white matter is made up of dendrites and axons, which create the network by which neurons send their signals.

Gray and white. Your brain is 60% white matter and 40% gray matter.

Water. The brain is made up of about 75% water.

Neurons. Your brain consists of about 100 billion neurons.

Synapses. There are anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 synapses for each neuron.

No pain. There are no pain receptors in the brain, so the brain can feel no pain. My friend's brain surgery was painless.

Largest brain. While an elephant’s brain is physically larger than a human brain, the human brain is 2% of total body weight (compared to 0.15% of an elephant’s brain), meaning humans have the largest brain to body size.

Blood vessels. There are 100,000 miles of blood vessels in the brain.

Fat. The human brain is the fattest organ in the body and may consists of at least 60% fat.

And all the while I thought it was my belly!

I read an article about a woman who knows her unborn child has no brain development. She is carrying her child to term so she can donate the organs. What a priceless and precious gift.

When my grandson was born, there was a mother who gave birth to a little boy who had no brain stem. It was so very sad. 

I am thankful for my brain. I am forgetful at times, but I can write an essay. In fact, one of my stories has made first round selection for Listen to Your Mother, St. Louis. I will audition along with the other 29 folks selected (three of which are my critique group members) and then judges will whittle their selections down to 15. I am thrilled to even be considered.

Just a question: are you better at math or language/ words or numbers?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

You need some characters? I have characters for you!

The ER is a great place to observe people, their conversations and quirks. It helps with fictional characters if you're a short story writer.

Last night I spent almost nine hours in the ER with our neighbors, a couple in their late 60's. He had an infection and was eventually admitted. Real characters came and went all evening while he waited to be seen. I got out my pen and pad and started jotting notes...until 11:30 p.m.

Older woman sitting in a wheel chair, nodding off. Took off her sunglasses and shoved them on top head into wiry hair. Removed pair number 2 and wove them into her nest. She fiddled for five minutes with pair #3 and finally fit them in, too.

Young man, late teens, T shirt imprinted with the word STAPH across his back. Not going near that knucklehead.

Woman with sick kid. Her T-shirt: FLU CREW. Steer clear!

Three generations of limited English-speaking Muslim women. 20-40-60 yrs old. Mother complained of stomach pains. "Baby due March." Young receptionist told her she should be seen by L&D on the 7th floor.
The women said okay, sat down, and waited. An hour later, the 20 year old daughter apporaches receptionist. "My mom, needs doctor."

Receptionist asked,  "Mom's name?" Checked computer. "Sorry, your mom is not here. Maybe she was treated and released."

The poor girl was so flustered and kept trying to explain. The young receptionist said, "She is NOT in my computer."

I finally intervened.  "I know you just came on shift, but the other receptionist said she should go to Labor and Delivery."

"Well maybe that's where she is. No one by her name is in this computer. She is not here!"
I pointed to the waiting area. "I said, "Yes she is. She is right there!"

"Oh, well she should have been sent to L&D."
It took another fifteen minutes to get someone to assist.

Elderly couple, she in wheel chair, bloody, suffering from a fall injury. The tech walked over and said, "I need to get your vitals."
"I'm 5'9" and I weigh 157 pounds..." the MAN said.

Dizzy woman (more than one way) mid-thirties, registered and walked to the waiting area with her hands extended as though she were sleep walking. "Been running into things all day." Few hours later she jumped up, rushed the receptionist and screamed obscenities, "I'm out of here, ain't waiting another four hours! F*** You!" She walked a straight line right out the door arms swinging by her side.

Monday, February 20, 2017

My Malady begins with a "W"

I am suffering from spring fever. We have been oh so blessed with temperatures in the high 60's to mid 70's for the past week, and it is supposed to last all the way into this weekend. Daffodils are blooming, way too soon. I understand their urge.

I feel compelled to go, do, hike, run, and skip through my days, even the rainy ones. Warm weather makes me giddy.

This was published in Sacred Fools Press a few years ago. Someone asked me if the communal bed referred to incest. Not at all. We were poor and we shared the "bed" when we traveled. When Dad tossed a mattress into the bed of his panel truck, I knew we were going on a trip.

These days we travel in comfort and stay in motels.


Spring intoxicates me with memories of a bygone era
when every day was a childish adventure for Dad,
and he ran with wanderlust
when the winds spoke to his Native American soul.
I was along for the ride.

Snake-like Route 66 hummed under my body.
In the back of Dad’s old panel truck 
I lay on bare, blue and white ticking,
mattress buttons and little brother
poking my bony ribs.

Tallied white lines and Guernsey’s 
grazing in pastures as we headed
nowhere, somewhere, anywhere
Dad’s rambling soul would take us.

With a dollar in his pocket and a dream in his heart,
the four winds tugged him hither and yon,
cast us into unknown towns where temporary day jobs, thrift stores
and restrooms with cold water sinks provided vacation basics.

Dad didn’t have a dollar to spare
or a dime’s worth of sense.
We lodged on the run;
my mattress a communal bed.

Mom wrapped herself in a comma
Around Dad’s exclamation point limbs.
I snuggled in a fetal question mark,
My brother scrunched in a period at my feet.

Nowadays, when cherry blossoms blanket the ground, 
Old Route 66 wraps me up in asphalt arms
snakes me down winding roads that lead to long ago.
I feel the hum and I must

Sunday, February 12, 2017

When the dogs came out to play

Celebrating Nicholas'  15th birthday. He's wearing his new LaCrosse gloves in this photo. He and his team won the championship.
I cannot believe how fast the years have flown. He used to be in my preschool class, and now he's in high school and driving on a permit. I am proud of him. He knows how to say yes to many, and he also knows when to say NO. He sets a fine example.

When the temperature hit 74 degrees in St. Louis, as it did on Saturday, February 11th, residents came outside to play. As I walked the two mile trail in the park, I noticed young people wearing shorts, old folks shedding coats, and people of all ages wearing sneakers in every neon and vibrant color imaginable... a rainbow-hued eruption on the pavement.

Joggers, runners, walkers, moms pushing pudgy babies in strollers, grandpas sitting on benches catching their breath, grandmas hoofing it at a clip, then pausing to sit a spell and people watch.

Old dogs lollygagging with their owners, puppies tugging leashes darting left and right. I counted at least two dozen different breeds, from yapping terriers to hulking hounds, loping German Shepherds, and as many cute dogs as there were homely mutts pausing to sniff one another, the promises of a new encounter, or a reminder of an old tail wagger who previously piddled there. The bells of St. Bernadette pealed across the grounds at 3:30 as they do on the half hour all day long. But on this day it was different. There was a feel in the air that rippled with excitement.

The world awakened; those hibernating emerged. Children chased one another, families picnicked on hillsides, and multi generations filled the frisbee "golf" course. Laughter rang out, people smiled and greeted one another.

I walked at my own clip, as more and more young whippersnappers passed me by. I smelled the loamy earth, listened to the rustle in the underbrush, and paused to see if a squirrel was scampering. What a delight to discover a flock of cardinals flitting in the brush. Males in their regal red, and females fluttering to and fro brought a smile and a feeling of gratitude.

I hope you had a good weekend, too. My friends in the Northeast are snowed in, but it's a matter of weeks before the snow melt will bring forth crocuses and natures bounty.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A chuckle and laugh

You know how it is with children, they say the darndest things. Liam 2 1/2 was in his bed at nap time with two stuffed animals. This is what my daughter heard:

Liam was jabbering away to his 2 Arnold pigs. πŸ·πŸ· 
I turned up the video/monitor & heard this conversation. 

"Arnold it IS naptime."
"Why NOT?!"

πŸ˜‚He then tucked them under his arms & closed his baby blues and took his nap.

If you'd like another laugh and you'd like to get to know my mom a little better, check out this post at Click here: