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Vulnerable to Distraction

In the middle of when I was supposed to be writing last summer, I saw these bees and decided to run out and try to get a picture!

Well, today, I’m sorry to say that in the middle of doing an “Open Ended Writing” about the book, my hands suddenly went AWOL, started typing the keys to open my email and the next thing you know… I was checking email.  Even as I asked myself what in the world I was doing.

Worse, they went on to type in the commands to open Internet Explorer and…. alas.

Half an hour later I recovered from my fit of rebellion. Even then I had to ask myself if it was really bad. I am very interested in the news these days, and I’m not exactly sure why. If it was just some military guy committing adultery I know I would not be interesting. But this thing with Generals Petraeus and Allen and the Lebanese socialite who has a psychologically unhinged identical twin sister, and the FBI and drop boxes… all erupting three days after Obama was elected to his second term… is so weird, so bizarre, so… unbelievable on the surface… there just has to be more behind it…

But I digress. Sort of. Because all this is perhaps an example of behavior the post I’m about to reblog gives explanation for. Finally!

I was searching my old blog to see if I’d already posted something on a related subject, and found the following post, dated 2007. Since it specifically applies to the need to reduce the distractions in my life, I found it helpful to revisit and decided to put it up again, as another step in the movement I’m making back to seriously working on the book.

Vulnerable to Distraction

Over the vacation, my friend Ed Willett’s science column noted an article on how older adults are more vulnerable to distraction from irrelevant information. Well, being an older adult, that caught my eye at once, though I don’t think it was irrelevant information!

Aha! So there is a reason why I’m so distractable these days. The study, conduced by Canadian scientists at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest and the University of Toronto, “has identified changes in brain activity that begin gradually in middle age – and which may explain why older adults find it difficult to concentrate in busy environments and filter out irrelevant information.”

So it really is age that allows my son to concentrate with music blaring, and me to be totally distracted by it. I used to be able to write with music, but only if there were no words. In the last few words I’ve had to go to total silence, because even the notes distract me. Or worse, sometimes the music generates “scenes”, which seems like it would be a good thing, but isn’t because it’s usually not a scene anywhere near to what I’m currently writing, and it’s always the same scene. So even if I write it down, every time I hear the music, I go back to the same scene and whatever I was doing breaks off.

I digress. Apparently there are two regions in the brain’s frontal lobes that shift into a “seesaw imbalance” (not sure what that is) — causing older adults to become less efficient in inhibiting distracting information.” Instead of focusing on the task at hand — reading, for example, or, writing one’s book — we are unable to resist the sudden thought that we need to go check the mail, or we should see what is on so and so’s blog today, or how dare such and such reviewer make those comments about my books last year.

As younger people concentrate on a task, activity in the region that is associated with concentration increases while activity in the region associated with thoughts about yourself, what happened yesterday, or what’s going on around you decreases. As people age, the activity in the second region doesn’t turn off so easily, and the activity in the region that governs concentration decreases.

By the time we reach 65, it gets really pronounced. So the researchers recommend that “Older adults should try to reduce distractions in their environment and concentrate on one key attentional task at a time. It may be as easy as turning down the radio when reading, or staying off the cell phone when driving a car.”

A cell phone would be a disaster. I can’t even talk to my passengers when driving a car, because I get way too engrossed and who knows where I’ll end up. On more than one occasion I’ve found myself driving home when I’m supposed to be driving somewhere else.

But this does affirm the importance of reducing external distractions and internal ones as well, since it’s not just external monitoring that happens in the region that won’t turn off. Which fits right in with my decisions to start simplifying my life again.

You can read the full article about the study here.

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White Mountain Memorial

Last weekend, as I mentioned in an earlier post, we gathered together with my son and his family, and my sister up in the White Mountains.

When my son was growing up and we were home schooling, we used to take an annual trip up to the White Mountains to a place called Big Lake where we camped for about three days, enjoying the changing of the aspen. My mother always went with us and my sister drove in from New Mexico to join us.

We have all sorts of good memories associated with these trips, and my mother especially enjoyed them, so we decided to have a trip in memorium for her.

Originally we were going to do it last fall, but after the Wallow Fire  blazed through there last summer, we decided to wait a year.

We had never camped in an official campground, but in our “own” special spot off the road to Big Lake. There was a pipe spring there, an old cabin, and a glorious stand of aspen — in addition to expansive views of the open range, which my husband glassed morning and evening for antelope and elk. (Click to enlarge all photos)

It was a place far enough away from the roads we could let our dogs roam free, and they loved it, too. We camped, roasted marshmallows, took hikes, sketched, painted, and took lots of photos. Sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, we even heard the elk bugle as they came out in the fields below us to challenge one another.

Though I had prayed the Lord would spare it, we had no way of knowing if the place was even still standing, for the fires had raged right through that area…

Given my son and his wife had Lily, only a little over a year old and would be coming from California, we opted for staying in a condo in Pinetop and driving out to spend the day at our spot rather than camping as in the past. I think it was the right decision.  We had a wonderful time.

Here are a few more pictures:

View from our cabin in Pinetop. I love the way the aspen leaves flutter to the ground in the wind which you can almost see in this picture.

Lily walking like a pro. She and Quigley became friends and cohorts in making trouble. She opened the drawers and doors and he took full advantage!

En route to our “spot”: the fire had raged through much of the forest, leaving skeletons of burned out trees

Thankfully we found our spot mostly untouched, complete with the cabin my mother, sister and I had sketched many times

The trees nearby were also still standing unharmed, and the aspen were midway through their autumn display

Lily was fascinated by the gold aspen leaves quivering in the wind

We saw this guy at the end of the day as we were driving out. Great finish to a wonderful day.

Time to Do God’s Will

There’s always time to do the will of God.

But all the things that present themselves for you to do in a day are not all His will.

˜˜˜

Weekly Photo Challenge: Mine

No, he’s not solely mine, he belongs to my hubby as well, but that doesn’t matter. He is still “mine” as far as I’m concerned: a wonderful blessing from God that I enjoy every single day.

We were doing tricks this morning (he rolls himself up in the blue blanket) and when he looked up at me,  I just had to get the camera!

So I told him to stay and went off to get it, and he stayed. Then I told him, again, “head down” and he did it and click. 🙂

Grace and Truth Ministries Conference

Willamette River, Salem, Oregon

Just back from attending the Grace and Truth Ministries 1st Annual Oregon Conference in Salem, Oregon, taught by Pastor Joseph Sugrue of Grace and Truth Ministries and Pastor John Farley of Lighthouse Bible Church in Florida.

Both men were mentored, trained and ordained by Pastor Robert McLaughlin of Grace Bible Church Somerset Mass, and now have their own congregations in Oregon and Florida.

It was an incredible trip and conference, maybe the best ever for me, despite how discombobulated I was.  SOOOO much happened during those 5 days that my introvert brain was — and still is — on overload. At times I felt like pieces of me were flying off in different directions.  I never seemed to know where any of my stuff was. Where was my camera? The rental car keys? My purse?  Where did I put my comb? My Bible? The sunglasses clip for my glasses…?

And last night, when I went looking for the folder where my Important Papers were, like the documentation for the car rental and, more important, the confirmation number for my flight today… I couldn’t find them. Though I looked in the car several times, and in my suitcase several times, and the drawers and under the bed…

Yes. Doing that very thing I just mentioned of going back to a place you know full well you already looked in and found nothing.

Well, it was late… And I was exhausted. And sleep-deprived. And, as I said, overwhelmed with input. I need time to process it all, and so far, it’s been a continuous stream of input.

As it turned out, I didn’t need a single one of those papers. And losing the sunglasses will finally force me to make an appointment with the eye doctor that I’ve put off for almost 2 years now. So, even in that, everything is just fine.

I’ll post more tomorrow when I find my brain…

Silver Linings

Graced Out in Our Sleep

He gives to His beloved, even in her sleep…

The following is another of the articles I wrote for one of the editions of the email newsletter I used to send out before I started blogging. This one is a little embarrassing, because the things I, myself, wrote, are the things I, myself, still struggle to recall — and more important believe — way more than I’d like to admit.

♦♦♦

 Graced out in Our Sleep (From 2003 Newsletter)

I love the fact that none of this depends on me, that even though I do the work, it really doesn’t depend on me–not the publication, not the awards, none of it.

That’s been the lesson of the year–that I don’t need to get all frantic about getting everything done because my Lord will see that what needs to be done, is done. That the work I do is done for Him, and He will see to its disposition in accordance with HIS plan–and His timing–not mine.

Yet there seems to be this whole hierarchy of activities that we can get caught up in, thinking that if our work isn’t done in time or isn’t good enough or there isn’t enough of it, or whatever, that the whole thing will fail and happiness will elude us.

But true happiness does not spring from success in the world. Success may be stimulating and fun, but it doesn’t last. Because whatever work you accomplish or goal you achieve or award you win, there’ll always come a time when that gets to be old hat and you’ll need another accomplishment or another award.

And yet, as when we’ve lost our keys and go back to look in the same place over and over again, even though we know the keys aren’t there, in the same way we focus on this accomplishment thing. Thinking that if only we can get this next thing, that will provide the lasting satisfaction we crave.

And so we step onto that treadmill of running and working to achieve, getting up early, staying up late, trying to get ahead, looking for that pleasure or satisfaction or sense of contentment we think will be ours if we can just get “It.” Whatever “It” may be.

But it’s a lie and, as David says in the Psalms, it’s vain. True happiness is stable and eternal. It isn’t an emotion, but a state of mind independent of circumstances and arising out of one’s relationship with God.

Every good gift comes from Him, and true contentment lies in our fellowship with Him, in getting to know Him through His word, and seeing His grace and goodness and faithfulness as they work out in our daily lives. It’s believing Him when he says…

“Except the lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for he gives to His beloved even in his sleep. ~ Psalm 127: 1,2


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