Take A Risk: Look for the Gorilla In The Room

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf
by Julie Seedorf published in The Albert Lea Tribune week of June 12, 2017

I saw the gorilla. I did! I did! Because I saw the gorilla it means I am a highly creative person. That is — according to one source.

I read an article this week that said highly creative people see the world differently. I didn’t necessarily think that the highly creative adjective described me, but I have been known to think out of the box and create something weird.

A video accompanied the article. In the video, people were passing a ball back and forth. In watching the video you were supposed to count the number of times the white shirts passed the ball. They did not tell you in the instructions that a gorilla was going to walk through the group as they were passing the ball. I not only counted the correct number of passes, but I saw the gorilla. According to the test, if you saw the gorilla you are a highly creative person.

I tried the test on someone else. They counted but did not see the gorilla. I was astounded. How could anyone not see the gorilla?

The results and the article made me feel better about myself. I have stated before in this column that I do not always feel comfortable or feel I belong when interacting in some situations. I just do not fit in. I realized I do see the world differently. I look at a wall and see what it can be or I look at a building and always see its creative possibilities. I get more than my fair share of skeptical looks when I put forth an idea. I must admit I am always disappointed when others do not see the possibilities, or when I see a change is needed, others don’t agree with me. I can’t believe they don’t see what I see. And they roll their eyes at my crazy ideas.

While waiting for a friend to get through eye surgery this week, I had one of those visual moments.

I was impressed with everything surrounding the surgery. The doctor, the nursing staff, and the care were excellent and so was the coffee. It was a quiet relaxing atmosphere and the staff did everything above and beyond to make my friend, the patient, comfortable. The surgery went well and was successful.

I was offered coffee and sat back in the outpatient’s surgery room to relax and wait. That is when this problem I have with visual creativity kicked in. The room was dark browns and tan and plain. It made the room feel smaller and was kind of depressing to a person that likes color. It was not cheery; it was drab. I felt someone waiting for minor surgery and was nervous, needed light, calming, cheery colors. I could visualize a positive, calming statement scrolled on the wall. I wanted to feel the ambiance of sunshine in the darkened windowless room.

Granted we weren’t there very long, but it was refreshing to leave the room to open skylight with sunshine pouring down upon us.

That is exactly the reason I get scowling looks at times. I see the visual possibilities when constructing something, which lifts our moods and makes us smile.

I loved the article and the test. It made me feel I was not alone in what I have felt all these years. It gave me permission to be different.

Many of us spend valuable time trying to be like everyone else so we will be accepted. There are those brave individuals who have invented outrageous things we have in our world today who were probably told their creative idea would never work or become a reality. In fact, sitting in the medical facility, our conversation centered around the technology for a vision that is so advanced, eye sight is being improved and saved –procedures that were dreamed of years ago but thought to never be possible in reality.

I like color. Others like tan and gray and others live with what they don’t like because it is more accepted to be tan and gray rather than risk seeing the gorilla in the middle of the room and being branded as different. Accepting those differences in each other would cause all of us less stress.

I have a friend visiting Ireland and Wales. She has been posting pictures of the rows of colorful houses in these countries. The pictures contain pink houses, green houses, yellow houses, purple houses and orange houses situated right next to each other. I envied those people. The last people who tried a purple house in my community were scrutinized and criticized because their purple Victorian house ruined the neighborhood. When they moved, the next owners painted it a neutral color. I was one of the few that was disappointed.

We are surrounded by color right now with the leaves and the trees. I got creative and painted some old dead bushes in my yard a soft green. I like my works of art. They let my light shine.

If you see the quiz, take it. Will you see the gorilla? If you don’t, will you let your neighbor who sees the gorilla, see the world differently and accept them for it?

The Mother’s Day Gift That Keeps On Giving

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

Published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of May 8, 2017

“Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.”  — Sophocles

File May 09, 10 49 34 AMAs a mother, it is hard to let go of my children and let them lead their lives their way. I want to protect them from making the same mistakes I or others have made in the past. I pray for them every day and they are never far from my thoughts. They are always in my heart. Being a mother was the most important career I can have. 

I love to watch my grandchildren grow and see the way they mimic some of their parents’ gestures when their parents were young or how they grow to resemble another family member. I love to see them develop into their own personalities.

I think most mothers feel the same way. I have noticed when talking with other mothers on my writer’s journey there are many lonely mothers out in the world. They are not lonely because their children don’t love them; they are lonely because life for their children has become so busy a phone call or a short visit may only happen occasionally, or on Mother’s Day. But life is busy, perhaps busier than my generation when we were raising our children. Plus, there is also the distance many families now face with children living all over the United States and abroad.

Mother’s Day is next Sunday. The stores are full of flowers, and restaurants are filling the advertising spaces with ideas of gifts for that special mother. While gifts are nice, I have a feeling that what mom wants is to spend quality time with her children, especially if you are a mother whose children no longer live in the area or live at home.

Those of us who have lost our mothers will tell you that perhaps we can give you this advice because of regrets from the past of the things we never did and said while our mothers were alive.

My family wasn’t a hugging family, so I can probably count on my two hands the number of times my mother and I grabbed each other tightly and gave a hug. When we did it always felt awkward because that was not our relationship. But now, I wish I had one more awkward hug I could give her. I wish I listened when she talked about her past. I wish I made it a habit of asking about her day more often.

In conversations with other mothers I have heard the reasons why kids, adult kids, don’t call their moms at least once a week, or if they live close, stop in for a visit. And because we are moms and we love our kids, we accept what is happening with their life because we don’t want to put more pressure on them. We always want to make our kids’ lives easier. We have all heard these words in conversation: “The kids are busy. They run from morning until night between work, household chores and getting their kids to their activities. They say they just get busy and forget to call.”

Every person needs someone in their life to ask them about their day. Every person needs someone to care about how they are feeling. It might take a few minutes for a phone call, but those few minutes may make a difference in the life of a mother, especially if mom is older and less mobile.

I watch as everyone sits in restaurants on their cell phones; I do too. And I wonder if we put away our texting for a few minutes — if we turned off the television or took a five-minute break from the hectic schedule if there would be time for one five-minute phone call to mom.

I am blessed as I already have a Mother’s Day invitation this year. My kids live within two hours, and I visit with them on a regular basis. I hope that continues as I grow older and am less mobile.

Near or far, take the time to give your mother a Mother’s Day gift that lasts all year. Give her a gift certificate with a promise to call her once a week, or if you are close by, stop in occasionally and have a cup of coffee, give her a hug and ask about her day. Let her know that no matter where you are, she is a priority when it comes to keeping in touch. After all, you were a priority of hers from the minute you were born, and she would have it no other way.

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.

Kindergarten Ain’t What It Used To Be

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of May 1, 2017

Kindergarten — I still remember my kindergarten years. Mrs. Lewis was my teacher, and kindergarten in those days was half days. You either were assigned to morning or afternoon kindergarten.

Since I was only 5 at the time, I don’t remember what we had to know before we started that phase of our school life. I probably knew my colors and could count to maybe 100 or not. I don’t remember, but if I did know those things it was because of my mother, being a former teacher, took the time to teach me the basics. But it wasn’t close to anything those entering kindergartens have to know today.

A friend of mine who works in an area school recently showed me the list of desirable skills the kindergarten students of next year need to know before entering kindergarten. She attended school somewhere around the time I did, maybe a few years later, and was astounded at what needed to happen before these tiny little people could enter school.

I would assume today’s young parents know what D’Nealian handwriting is, because a child needs to know how to print their name in D’Nealian handwriting. I had to look it up. D’Nealian is a style of writing and teaching cursive, print and block handwriting, derived from the Palmer Method. How many of you know what the Palmer Method is?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not protesting all of the skills a child needs. Some on the list were: Recognize difference between upper and lowercase letters, shows an interest in learning, can attend to one activity for 10 to 15 minutes independently, has a working understanding of basic vocabulary words, can draw simple figures, can color within a given space, can grip a pencil correctly, stays in own space, can get along with a group, able to express a thought in words, and there are more stipulations. It is quite a list.

I know I did not know all of those things before I went to school. I have a feeling our list was quite short. The one thing I do remember is the rug we had to bring for our naps. Kindergarten was fun. When we first got there it was play time. Then we settled down and had a story. Some days we had show and tell. We did have teaching time but it wasn’t too long. Then we had a snack and a nap. It was a time of learning how to get along with others and learning basics to get us ready for first grade. And it was only three hours. I would say in my day and age the most basic function it served was for us to learn how to interact with each other.

There was no preschool in my day. We were kids. We played outside and played with friends or kids in the neighborhood. Our day was not scheduled with learning. We did learn while playing. We played house. We played cops and robbers. We played school. We had fun with no stress.

I wonder at the importance of coloring within a given space. To me, that says color inside the lines. Coloring inside the lines caused me great stress because I am not a color-inside-the-lines person. Why is it important to learn to color inside the lines in kindergarten? They should be exploring their child creativity, and it shouldn’t be wrong at that age to forget about the lines.

I don’t know if I still know how to hold a pencil correctly. As a parent, would I know how to teach my child to correctly hold a pencil, or would I have to ask someone for help? They probably taught me that in kindergarten, but in the scheme of life it wasn’t important enough to retain that knowledge.

A pre-requisite for attending kindergarten seems to be preschool or early childhood education. Because we didn’t have that in my day, did it hamper our learning experiences in elementary, grade school, high school and college? Were we dumbed down because we didn’t have this advance learning experience?

In spite of all the advances in education, we here in the United States seem to be lagging other countries when it comes to education. According to Pew Research, the United State ranks in the middle of the pack in education, behind many other industrialized nations.

There is a push going on in the Legislature to provide vouchers so children can go to private schools and attend more early childhood education programs so no child is left out. It doesn’t seem to be working to send our kids to school earlier and earlier. Will it work to provide vouchers to families to send more kids to early childhood education or preschool or to make private schools available to those with poor economic status?

I don’t know the answer, but in the rankings, the nations that rank the highest have public education. They pour government money into the public schools to educate all. The schools aren’t funded according to neighborhoods or school districts. They have quality schools and education for all. Perhaps, instead of lowering the age and qualification of what children need to know, or providing vouchers that still might discriminate because of parental choice on seeking them out, it might be better to funnel that money into our public education system and treat all schools equally, no matter where they sit in a geographical area. Perhaps we should put our money toward paying quality teachers who have the future of our children in their hands.

That is just my opinion based on an old person’s view of what could be important for our children. But what do I know? I am not sure how to hold a pencil, and I color outside of the lines and I didn’t know what D’nealian is. It must be because I only had kindergarten three hours a day and then I took naps.