Thursday, January 1, 2015

Information Overload and Brain Freeze: The Science of Agency and Decision Making, part II

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and been overwhelmed by the sheer number of menu options? How do you make a selection when perusing a 30-page menu? With decision-making, as well as with dining, more options and information do not necessarily make for better choices.

Today, the process of making choices is becoming ever more complicated. According to neurological research, when making decisions, not only does the brain "replay" our past personal experiences, but also attempts to process all the information we view in social media. If not kept in check, the brain can go into information overload from constant tweets, status updates, breaking news and live streaming content. 

A brain in information overload actually freezes up when trying to make trying to make decisions. It turns out that information is good, but too much information can actually keep a brain from making critical connections related to decision making. In fact, in research studies, the more information participants were flooded with, the less sense their final decisions made. When in information overload, study participants made stupid mistakes and increasingly poor decisions, because their brains stopped relaying properly, much like a blown fuse or overloaded circuit. [1]

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why the First Time is So Important: The Science of Agency and Decision-Making

Photo from:
As part of my personal recovery from my brain tumor, I've spent hours researching the brain, how it functions, regulates our processes and controls our bodies. The more I've learned, the more convinced I am that 

We Are More Powerful Than We Know. 

The brain is nothing short of miraculous. If it were a robot, we would say it has artificial intelligence, that it learns, changes and develops on its own. But even better than artificial intelligence, WE have control and can help determine the vast reaches of our learning and understanding. The brain can turn our daily actions into habits, help re-train paralyzed nerves to perform their tasks in the body, and it can change the body's heart-rate, just by the thoughts we think.

Part one in this series of posts on the brain is on the role of memory on the process of making decisions.

Final Answer

Accompanying every choice is a process of selecting between at least two options, with different potential outcomes. Long before any action is chosen, the brain has gone through a complex process of decision making in order to choose the Who Wants to be a Millionaire “final answer” from the available options. Though scientists and neurologists still have much to learn about the way our brains process information in the course of making a decision, there is enough research for us to understand some of how the brain works. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Intersecting Vines and Lives

Gardening is therapeutic. I love to dig in the dirt, plant, prune and eventually reap a bountiful harvest. This year the pumpkin vines grew long and took over much of the planting bed. I watched throughout the season as blossoms turned into green balls and then into colorful pumpkins.

The vines twisted, stretched and crisscrossed back and forth, wound around other plants, in bushes, down window wells and up small trees. If laid out end to end, the vines would have strewn for hundreds of feet, all contained in a little 20-foot garden.

These vines have a thousand different touch points, sometimes barely intersecting, other times intertwining and twisting together.

Life is like a pumpkin vine. Each touch point can be a meaningful interaction, a lesson learned, a life touched. At times we just brush past each other, while other times we branch out, twist or grow together. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Five Years Later: A Beautiful Messy Life and a First Draft

From living the brain tumor story...
This week marks five years since my first brain surgery and the beginning of my 35-day hospitalization. For years, when I thought about this day, I pictured a day of remembering and celebrating life. The five-year anniversary seemed BIG and noteworthy.

So what did we do when the big day came? Nothing.  
Living life took the place of recalling my brush with death. 
Now that is a wonderful celebration!

We went to the kids' baseball games, end-of-year programs at school, celebrated birthdays and cleaned out the garage. It was a perfectly normal, wonderful week. In a way, it was the perfect celebration of my "new" life. I am not the same person I used to be, nor is my life the same, but even after all the surgeries, side effects, pain and hard days, I wouldn't change a thing.
To sharing it, 5 years later!

This week is special for another reason: I finished the first draft of my book manuscript!! Five years later and I am telling the story instead of living it! I still have much work to do, but I sent it off to the first group of beta readers to begin the next round of the project. Hooray!

Some days in the last five years felt unconquerable. I spent months in bed and added a half dozen more surgeries to the ever-growing list. It seemed if something could go wrong, with a procedure, medication, therapy or treatment—it did. Some hours I thought I could not possibly go on, that my body could take no more, but those moments passed, with the help of loving family, neighbors, friends and an all-knowing God.

Now five years have passed, and I Am Still Here!


If ever I need reminders to be grateful for my messy life, I go to my "brain tumor" blog, ( and remember just how far I've come.

Thank you, from me and my family, for helping us reach this milestone!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Make It Count!

Spring is almost here! The month of March has never been so welcome in our home as it is this year. The end of January and most of February were full of unexpected health challenges, including out-of-state emergency surgery, for complications from my brain tumor. 

I could tally a long list of all the things that went wrong, the things I didn’t plan for, the frustrations, the tears, the medical expenses and the missed opportunities.  However, I could never count all the amazing blessings and realizations that came from these experiences. Here are just a few of the lessons I learned:

The things that can't be counted count more than the things that can be counted. – Boyd Packer

Sunday, January 26, 2014

If at First You Don't Succeed, Join the Club: Wipeouts Required

It is fun to celebrate the successes  of life. But lets be honest, none of the celebrations could take place without the wipeouts that came first. Every basket scored, test passed and jump landed first required practice, hard work—and wipeouts. 


You can see video after video of Epic Fails that seem to indicate fails indicate failure, but the opposite is true. It is only those who have failed, crashed, fallen, wiped out or hit a wrong note that eventually succeed.

The difference between failure and success is simply when you stop trying. 

Here's to the wipeouts, not the failures, simply the "I think I can, I think I can" moments that precede the finish lines of life.  

If a first you don't succeed, join the club.

Enjoy this little Wipeout video that has become one of our family favorites. Thanks to Brandon for teaching us this valuable lesson, and making us laugh. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Connection Speeds & Tech Time Out

"Can you hear me now? What about now?" the man asks, as he moves from spot to spot, proving he has the best phone connections and speed.

Some time in the last few decades, many people stopped living life and started watching "life" on a screen. Screens come in every size now, from minuscule one inch phone screens, to giant 80+ inch TV screens, where you can play games, do business, bank, see videos and watch any one else's life—instead of living your own.

But real Connection Speed has nothing to do with smartphone or cell carriers, it has to do with the time we invest in others, not sitting in the same room playing on phones, but actually connecting with each other, you know, using words.

At our house, we have mandated TECH TIME OUTS every week. Each Sunday and Monday all phones, computers, electronics, and even TV time is out. Instead, we play games together, go for walks, and even talk—to EACH OTHER (in person, not on a phone). Yes, some of the kids complain about it. They think we are the craziest family in the neighborhood, and the meanest parents, no one else would do this to their kids. We even turned off the TV for 2 months, just to see what would happen...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

10 "In" Verbs: How to Get In and Out by Richie Norton

Do you know someone who seems to "produce" more than the average? Someone who is always on the go and doing amazing things? Why is it that certain people are "in" on everything good that is happening? Richie Norton is one of most "go" and "good" people I know. In addition to writing a best-selling book (The Power of Starting Something Stupid), traveling all over the world sharing his knowledge with others and being a wonderful father and husband, he is an entrepreneur extraordinaire. 

Recently he wrote a post on his blog about the Top 10 "In" Verbs: How to Get In and Out. I loved his IN-sights on how we can be IN-volved in all the good things. Check out his IN-credible advice below, or click here to read it on his blog. While you’re there, sign up to get notifications of all his amazing posts.  Read on and get IN on all the best things in life! (Text and design below (C) Richie Norton from .)

10 ways to get “in” on something new (read: improvement) and “out” of something old (read: limited potential)—relationships, habits, thought patterns, circumstance. . .

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fans Vs Friends

When it really counts, who can you count on?

A few years ago I "met" a reality TV personality via email. I was involved in organizing a charitable event for a friend and the celeb had gone to school with my friend, so he wanted to be involved as well. He sent me an email letting me know he wanted to help. I was rather shocked, but I thought it was great that he wanted to help. We exchanged a series of emails and I actually started to feel like I was getting to know him a little.

He made a small contribution to the cause and then offered to help with the fundraiser. It was hard for me not to "judge" his gift, because I imagine that he could have donated a substantial amount, but I realized that was not the point. He did contribute and he wanted to help. So, I thanked him for his effort and gladly listened to his idea. He started by sending out a message "tweet" to all of his online "fans", offering a personally autographed prize for the fan that sent in the biggest donation.

Friday, September 27, 2013

7 Reasons Hard Work Makes Life Easier

"God sells us all things at the price of labor."

  ~Leonardo da Vinci

For literally hundreds of years, man has been trying to find ways to make life easier. With each new invention, life at home, on the farm, became easier. Today life is "so easy" that we no longer live on farms and grow our own food. Many city children don't even know where their food comes from. And yet, are our lives better than they were in times gone by?

At the end of a day, families used to gather together and eat dinner, followed by a candlelight reading from the old family Bible or a "modern" classic of that time. There was time for hard work, but there was also time for quiet reflection.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

All Sales Final: A Painful Lesson in Decision Making

Can You Fix a Non-Refundable Decision?

A few years ago, I was in need of a dress to wear to a formal event. Hours of shopping left me with no dress and few ideas. Online shopping had the chance to save the day. I scoured websites until I found a beautiful dress, just my style.  I had admired it in the pictures all season. Better still, the dress had gone on sale and was now less than 1/2 of the original price!

Excitedly, I selected my size and placed the item in my shopping cart. I hurried to “check out” so I could guarantee the dress would be mine.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Worlds Apart, We Are the Same

Jogging down memory lane yesterday, I remembered a time in my life when I attended college for a semester in a foreign country, the Holy Land, to be exact. The university was nestled into the rocky terraced hills on Mount Scopus and from my room balcony, the Dome of the Rock and the strong walls of the Old City of Jerusalem were visible. 
Aladdin (al-a-deen),
the money changer

The weathered cobblestone on the narrow streets easily supported the thousands of steps taken by street vendors, shop keepers, locals, tourists and those on religious pilgrimage. 

Hundreds of people packed every small pathway in and out of walled City, and thousands more lined up at the gates to gain entrance. Smells of breads and spices wafted through the air at every turn, piquing the interest of my taste buds.   

The hillsides were more than dirt mounds; they were tels, dry grass-covered knolls sitting atop of ruins of homes, towns and cities of once great glory. Passing by, you could see only a few stones, barely visible. Yet, theywere broken remnants of lives as real as my own.