Tuesday, February 26, 2013

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY: Kindergarten Bookworm

The Secret Behind Resilience

What explains resilience?

Am I the only one who's ever wondered why some people are more resilient than others? For example, why is it that in a home where siblings are exposed to some kind of neglect, trauma or abuse, some are able to develop strong coping skills, going on to lead rewarding lives, while others don't?

I found my answer in a New York Times article my first semester of graduate school. It shook me. Prior to reading A Question of Resilience by Emily Bazelon, I'd never really considered the "nature" part of the "nature vs. nurture" argument for human development. Saying that someone was just "born" a certain way seemed too easy an explanation, like voodoo. As far as I was concerned, a person's environment and upbringing explained everything.

What I discovered in the New York Times article is that resilience is born out of both a person's genetics and environment.

"While children of average intelligence or above were more likely to exhibit resilience, the researchers noted that good relationships with adults can exert an effect that is as powerful, if not more, in mitigating the effects of adversity." Emily Bazelon, New York Times

Even though scientists have been able to identify genes that determine physical attributes, such as hair and eye color, genes that explain our psychology had remained a mystery. That is until a group of researchers identified 5-HTT, a gene that regulates the brain's serotonin levels. They discovered that the pair of genes in 5-HTT comes in two variations, two long alleles or two short alleles, with the short allele being the equivalent of getting the genetic "short end of the stick."

"Researchers are discovering that a particular variation of a gene can help promote resilience in the people who have it, acting as a buffer against the ruinous effects of adversity. In the absence of an adverse environment, however, the gene doesn't express itself in this way. It drops out of the psychological picture." Emily Bazelon, New York Times

We should all hope to have the protection of the long version of 5-HTT. Turns out that people carrying the long set are found to be more resilient, while those carrying at least one short allele are prone to developing depression and/or anxiety. The good news is that even if a person carries a short allele, it remains dormant until there's a trigger: stress or trauma.

The end of the New York Times article mentions a genetic test being made available through doctor's offices to test for the gene. What do you think? Would you want to know which set you carry?

Even though I'm fascinated by the topic and will be exploring it more as it relates to children in schools, I'm not sure I'd want to know.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Twin Kermits and Homeless Man Sing Under Pressure

Hope everyone's enjoying their weekend. I spent a little bit of my morning going through some YouTube videos I've favorited and came across one with my favorite Muppet, Kermit the Frog. I hope you take the four minutes to watch it, because this homeless man's creative spirit and display of resilience are an inspiration. And Kermit ... well ... he's always there when someone needs him.

Love you, Kermet.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Film Adaptation of Rudolfo Anaya's BLESS ME, ULTIMA in Theatres

Based on a book that was "banned, forbidden and burned."
The film adaptation of author Rudolfo Anaya's BLESS ME, ULTIMA opens in theaters across the country, today. I only discovered the story a few days, ago, and am looking forward to experiencing both the book and film. In short, the story is about a young boy who struggles with his family's cultural norms and religious beliefs when Ultima, a curandera-healer, comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. 
If you have an opportunity, please watch the two-minute trailer and check-out the BLESS ME, ULTIMA official website where you can find out if the film will be showing near you.
In the meantime, there's always the book. :-)

NOTE: This is an unsponsored post.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Sir Ken Robinson on TEDX: "Do Schools Kill Creativity?

"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to watch a wonderful TEDTalks video about creativity. In the video, Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally reknown thought-leader in creativity, innovation and education, speaks to how public education strips our children of their creative talents, by defining for them what success should look like. 

Sir Ken Robinson contends that we've been conditioned to raise and educate children fearful of being wrong by stigmatizing mistakes both at school and at work. He's also critical of our universities, stating that "academic ability has come to dominate our view of intelligence" and that they [the universities] "design the system in their image."

Something else he said hit pretty close to home. That we should be careful how we toss around labels, such as ADD and ADHD, because what some might consider weaknesses, may in fact be strengths. What's important is that we allow our children to pursue their interests, without their schools' or our interference. I agree.

What do you think?

Creativity is diverse.

                    Creativity is dynamic.

                                    Creative is distinct.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Got a Little #BlogLuv

Valentine's gift exchange I received from Xenia at Raised by Culture

I'm feeling like a lucky girl, tonight. Look at all the goodies I received from Xenia at Raised by Culture! Xenia and I met when I was invited to join BlogLuv, a blog group created by my friend and paisan RubyDW over at Growing Up Blackxican. Thank you, Ruby, for creating the Valentine's Day Gift exchange and for your friendship and support.

I remember being so gun-shy when I first started blogging, then thinking that nobody would be interested in anything I had to say. Well, let me tell you something, blogging has pulled me out of my shell and the experience has transformed me ... I've recovered my voice and have developed friendships with some pretty amazing women who inspire me with their strength and creativity, women who work, have families, homeschool, confront life's challenges and who STILL find the time to express themselves through this medium.

Xenia, you're one of them. Thank you for your thoughtfulness, attention to detail and generosity. Absolutely love the beautiful plate you made, my nails are now painted blue and the Almond Roca didn't make it to sunset. Can't wait to read the Nora Ephron book. Gracias, Amiga. <3 p="">

Custom plate: "Reading is dreaming with open eyes"

Check out some of the other ladies who are members of BlogLuv. :-)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I'm losing my Spanish

A dear friend and neighbor has let me borrow her Spanish Rosetta Stone.

What little bit of Spanish I know has been ebbing a little bit each day since my mom left for California nearly fourteen months ago, and it really bothers me. A lot. I've not directly written about it, rather have tortured you with what were once my regular, but are now sporadic posts on Spanish Friday. I can't tell you how grateful I am to my fellow bloggers and friends who encouraged me two years ago to participate, because had it been left up to me, I would've probably never attempted to express myself in what had once been my mother tongue. Why not? Well, for a few reasons.

I grew up the first six years of my life in a home that was mostly Spanish speaking. You see, although my parents had immigrated several years earlier from Mexico, they still spoke broken English. My father was the only one in the family who had the opportunity to practice thanks to his owning a barber shop in a neighborhood whose residents were mainly English speaking, a demographic that would change within a few years.

If there were classes for English Language Learners, otherwise known as ELL, my sisters and I never saw them. On day one of kindergarten we were plopped into what are considered "mainstream," or "total immersion" classes. Don't ask me how I picked up English. It just happened that one day I understood what the teacher said.

From that day forward everything at home changed. My sisters and I only spoke to each other in English, TV, the movies, almost all our activities were in English. It's what our parents encouraged, even though they continued to speak to us in Spanish, but did not require us to respond in like. They wanted to learn to English that bad. At the expense of our Spanish, because they knew that it was the only way to succeed in this country at a time when it was a stigma to speak any other language but English.

The years went by and I never really thought about whether I spoke "proper" Spanish, especially since I went to schools mostly attended by white students and where I couldn't have spoken Spanish with anybody even if I had wanted to. This is why I find it comical, ironic, really, that years later when my sisters and I were teenagers, our parents would come down hard on us when we mangled our Spanish verbs and pronouns when addressing Spanish-speaking customers and family friends. That's when confusion started to set in for me and I decided that I'd keep my bad Spanish to myself.

Sitting here years later I wish that different decisions had been made and wonder how things might've turned out had we not learned English, or fully assimilated in the seventies. The realization is bittersweet and I regret that they did not preserve the remaining connection I have to my ethnic identity. I try to not be angry with my parents, but I understand.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Slipping and Sliding

Horses grazing on hay

Lately I've felt as though I've been racing after time. Precious, precious time, my friend who reminds me that she cannot and will not stand still. Not for me or anyone else. Except on those rare occasions that she hovers to wrap her arms around me to whisper that looking back will hurt my progress and that worrying about the future is a waste of energy better spent on the present. The here and now are what matter. I know all this, but need to be reminded every now and then, that in my travels, I should only see the road one or two feet ahead ... as if through fog.

I'll get there. What's the rush?

Labradoodle loves to play i the snow

School's started and although I'm nervous and stressed about the new material, a new cohort, new professors, and a practicum, I'm too excited to mind it much. If all goes as planned, I'll be finished by next May. Then on to my job search. Now, to focus!

New England snow storm dumps three feet of snow

We had three feet of snow dumped on us over the weekend and we're bracing ourselves for a little more the end of this week. There's a part of me that's hoping (secretly wishing) to get snowed in so that I can have just a little more time to stand still.

Henry C. Hayden ©1887