Things I Wish I Knew Back Then

Mistakes in my past litter my path like leaves in the fall. For those of us that “know” we’re right, the first thing I wish I knew in my youth was that other people’s ideas are just that — other people’s ideas. They aren’t wrong if they disagree with me. They just have a different viewpoint. The reverse is true, as well. My ideas are not wrong just because I disagree with someone else. On the other hand, I have a right to my opinions and don’t have to be flexible to the point of changing my opinion to please others. I can voice my opinion and drop it. Even more radical, I can keep my opinion to myself.

Other things I wish I had known:

  1. I am gifted and that gifted people often have intensity of emotions. My temper has been a pitfall throughout my life. Every hobby I take up becomes more of an obsession. Also, being gifted does not make me better than other people, just different.
  2. I came to Dabrowski’s theory late in life and had been through several positive disintegrations by then: divorce, death, depression, and empty nest. Looking back, I can see them clearly as signs of emotional growth, but at the time it felt like disaster.
  3. Being stimulated is a need in gifted individuals, not a fault. It’s okay to have lots of interests, although it does make for a messy house. I am ashamed of bad behavior I exhibited in school because of under-challenging teachers and wish I had asked the teacher for some extra projects to work on in my spare time. I also would have understood my mother better when she needed to move the furniture every few months or paint a room in the house every year.
  4. Perfectionism can be harmful. I was so discouraged with my drawing ability, I never gave it a try. The same is true of my writing. My children have inherited some perfectionism, for better or worse. My oldest recently did an Ironman triathlon. My daughter works out regardless of her schedule. My middle child has trouble sleeping if he can’t get all the computers ready for the start of school.
  5. Perfectionism can be good. We can use our ideals to lead a better life than if we just give up. We can hold ourselves to a higherstandard and be happy if we make progress in that direction. We can improve our skills if we so choose.
  6. Family stories can give us insights into our personalities. I wish I had known how much I would want to learn about my family. I would have listened to my father and mother more and talked less. Depression, anxiety, alcoholism, religion, dementia, poverty and wealth all influenced my genetic script.
  7. Music, writing, reading, and art are essential to my life. Time alone is good. Time with friends is good. Time with relatives is priceless.
  8. Pets are like children, especially when your nest is empty.
  9. Being sensitive is not always a strength.
  10. The worth of a human being is unrelated to their intelligence.hoagiesiwishiknew

This blog is part of Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop. Please click on the link to see the next post.

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The Strength of the Mind

Because they need stimulation and variety in their everyday life, many gifted adults have a hard time meeting life partners. They also have a hard time making friends who are intellectually and creatively stimulating. They are passionate about a cause and single-minded in their pursuit of that cause. Often, their feelings of being right makes them appear stubborn or opinionated. Existential depression can occur when life events pile up or a situation becomes untenable.

In work, they are aware of nuances that their superiors can’t see and have a hard time with bosses who can’t even imagine what they are talking about. Emotional sensitivity may cause them to be hurt by the slights of others. Sensory awareness may make it hard to concentrate when the room is too hot, noisy or tense. Perfectionism is often another characteristic of gifted adults, causing them to demand excellence from themselves and others.

Appreciation of the fine arts often causes them to reject popular music or media, becoming out-of-sync with popular culture. Reading is an essential pastime, with piles of books waiting to be read about a multitude of topics.

Activity in many organizations may or may not be balanced. Individuals who are gifted may not be aware of it. Others just think they are odd.

Gifted children are asynchronous in their development, exhibiting cognitive skills far in advance of their physical and emotional abilities. So too, are gifted adults, often appearing much younger than their age. Language and memory in these individuals may test as average, when it actually has declined. Depression can occur in the early stages of dementia when the individual realizes they are losing their memory.

Here are some further resources if you would like to learn more or think you may be gifted.

The Davidson Institute

High Ability

Daily Worth

SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted)

hoagiesgiftedadults

This blog is part of the May 2018 Hoagies Bloghop, You may access this Bloghop by clicking on the graphic or here: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_gifted_adults.htm.

Academics Are Important, But…

There is so much more to life than academic learning. I have been studying creativity this year on my blog, Wallin’s Wave, and I am always amazed at how much of life is made up of routines. If it were just routines that met our needs, we would all be happy most of the time. What brings great joy into our lives is change; changing stimulation to be precise. The more gifted a person is, the greater their need for stimulation that is challenging.  “An extreme need for constant mental stimulation is one important difference.” (1)

In addition, Lovecky notes, “The thought processes of extraordinarily gifted children tend to be more complex than those of other gifted children. “ This can become a problem when our children try to establish a relationship with same-age peers. My son’s best friend said my son’s problem was that he was too smart. He could explain that he was always thinking too much and that caused problems. Luckily, for my son, there was a gifted program in our school district that did meet his needs.

Finally Lovecky writes, “Exceptionally gifted children usually show early and unusual perceptiveness about issues and other people.” To those who have a sensitive and caring nature, such events as school massacres, war scenes, weather catastrophes, and death can cause crippling anxiety. Parents need to help students find a way to contribute to the healing and feel reassured that they will be safe most of the time.

With such intense needs, parents can feel overwhelmed and under-prepared. I have posted before about the traits of a healthy family (https://lwallin.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/intelligence-and-emotions/). For my family, there were many traits of giftedness: perfectionism, “unusual alertness, even in infancy, rapid learner; puts thoughts together quickly, excellent memory, unusually large vocabulary and complex sentence structure for age, advanced comprehension of word nuances, metaphors and abstract ideas, enjoys solving problems, especially with numbers and puzzles, often self-taught reading and writing skills as preschooler, deep, intense feelings and reactions, highly sensitive, thinking is abstract, complex, logical, and insightful, idealism and sense of justice at early age, concern with social and political issues and injustices, longer attention span and intense concentration, preoccupied with own thoughts—daydreamer, learn basic skills quickly and with little practice, asks probing questions, wide range of interests (or extreme focus in one area), highly developed curiosity, interest in experimenting and doing things differently, puts idea or things together that are not typical, keen and/or unusual sense of humor, desire to organize people/things through games or complex schemas, vivid imaginations (and imaginary playmates when in preschool).” (2)

Without such knowledge, most of us make mistakes in meeting our children’s needs. I thought my first child would be happy rocking in an infant seat while I canned food from the garden. Yeah, for about 10 minutes! Trying to make the second to conform to expectations was not what I should have done either. My third never experienced quiet times without business because, well, third, but also I went back to work half time.

What would I teach them now? To get enough sleep, not take life too seriously, tell others what you need, take time out for just thinking, and follow your bliss, as Joseph Campbell would say. Stand up for yourself. You may or may not enjoy school, but it will teach you how to tolerate boredom, which may occur in your job later. You may or may not have a lot of friends your age, also preparing you for work. Read everything you can about social skills, especially dealing with difficult people. Forgive, forgive, forgive.

hoagiesbeyondacademics

 

This post is part of Hoagies Blog http://www.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_beyond_academics.htm

  1. Lovecky, D. V., “Hidden gifted learner: The exceptionally gifted child,” Understanding Our Gifted, Open Space Communications. March/April 1992, May/June 1992. http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10130 accessed 2/23/18.
  2. Common Characteristics of Gifted Individuals, https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/my-child-gifted/common-characteristics-gifted-individuals, accessed 2/23/18. Reproduced there by permission from: Webb, J., Gore, J., Amend, E., DeVries, A. (2007). A parent’s guide to gifted children.Tuscon, AZ:  Great Potential Press, www.greatpotentialpress.com.

 

 

Life and its Many Stages

As a teacher, I have taught every age group from preschool to grad school. I can honestly say, I love them all. I have also read Gail Sheehy’s books and helped my aging gifted parents in the twilight of their lives. As an elder myself, now, I can look back and see how each stage of life has characteristics that are true for most people. I am also a fan of Dabrowski, who clearly delineated different levels of psycho-motor development. For the gifted individual, however, many problems are similar throughout life.

In childhood, gifted individuals often seek older friends, feel out of sync with their age peers, seek intellectual stimulation, have intensity, may focus on a topic until they have thoroughly explored every aspect. My informal diagnosis of giftedness was if I felt like I was listening to a very small adult. I remember significant events, but one of my favorite moments was my father and my son on Dad’s back porch. I began to speak and my father hushed me. “You’re interrupting the soliloquy,” he said. As the middle child, Colin probably didn’t have someone listen to him very often.

In teenage years, emotions are key. Tempers in my house flared regularly. Shyness prevented some of us from approaching the beloveds. Embarrassment was intense. Schoolwork was too easy. My oldest wasn’t really challenged until his senior year, and my middle child admitted he did his Spanish homework in the passing period before class. My youngest discovered sports, theater, and dance, which complemented her musical ability. We sometimes wondered if she would find someone to date that would last more than two weeks. (She did.)

College was a challenge for the first two kids. My opinion is that issues of perfectionism, depression and being over-extended were possible and led to their return home. Both were able to successfully navigate the system later and found careers in their favorite field. The youngest was more successful and completed two degrees in five years, even though she had struggled with some subjects in elementary and secondary school. She went on to get a Masters. As adults, they have found careers that they like, but continue to develop emotionally, physically, and mentally. As adults, they still face frustrations such as supervisors who cannot understand their point of view and demanding work environments. I have learned to let them solve their own problems, and they do. I hope to be around throughout their adulthood to see them age and become mellower and wiser.

The only issue I remember from my elderly mother was that she began to lose her memory around 80, but memory tests didn’t show it, because her memory had been so good before. The loss of friends increased her isolation as she approached the end of her life with dignity and grace. In my present stage of life, I am grateful for it all.

 

ages and stages

This post is a part of Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop.

Creativity and Productivity

When I first saw the topic for this month, I thought, “Oh, goodie! Creativity!” Then I saw the word productivity. Uh. These two are not related. The more I thought about it however, the more I could see a link between the two.

But first, let me expound about my experience with creativity. When I was young (1950s), I was told, “You’re just like your mother. You can’t draw at all.” This was from my mom, so I figured she should know. When I was skipped from early first grade to late second grade, I was put into a classroom with a girl who could draw like a professional. In second grade. This only reinforced my belief in my ineptitude. Fast forward to 1974. In an attempt to add elementary education to my list of certificates, I took a reading class and a drawing class. Guess what? I could draw! It was perfectionism that interfered with my developing that skill. I could never make it look the way I wanted. With the right instruction, however, I could make it look the way it really was. I think creativity is similar. My mom taught me to sew when I was nine, and I have sewn ever since. She told me her mom could make her own patterns and create anything. On my father’s side, my great-great-grandfather was a tailor. This kind of creativity was highly valued in the days before patterns. My grandmother learned to quilt from her grandmother and aunts who ran a boarding house after the tailor died. I have inherited the obsession with cutting up fabric and sewing it back together. It is more environmental than genetic, although it tends to skip a generation.

As a teacher of children with behavior issues, I found the need for creativity. A friendly psychologist, Tom Mabee, once said, “We find out they don’t like oatmeal, so we serve it with raisins or put sugar on it, or bake it in a cake. They aren’t going to learn if we just keep serving them the same food.” He was referring to reading. Luckily, I began to attend conferences and I learned about learning disabilities. I began to teach everything differently.

As a stay-at-home parent, I found my children loved anything to do with crafts, cooking, and painting. So we pretty much did it every day. I didn’t care what their products looked like. I loved them because they reflected each personality so distinctively. We made Christmas ornaments in the fall, play dough in the winter, and painting as often as I was willing to clean up  the mess. I wasn’t really trying to encourage creativity, but their behavior was so much better when they had something specific to do. I had not yet realized that any of my children were gifted.

I returned to school and learned about computer programming. Here was another demand for creativity. There was not just one answer to every problem. The more I could think like a machine, the more my programs ran. I taught high school for two years with students who kept wanting me to give them the “right” answer. I refused.

I finally landed in early childhood special education. I love preschool kids because you can see changes within weeks. Whenever we did an art project, I would make a point of complimenting each kid on something different. “You have such strong lines in your painting. I love the colors you chose. Look at those circles!” The children realized I wasn’t looking for a certain result and they responded. I could do the same with behavior. One year, I gave them green and blue paint and played La Mer by Debussy. Without any comments from me, the paintings all looked like ocean waves. That was a real eye-opener.

Late in my teaching career, I began to write. I needed a lot of encouragement, but I got it from teachers and mentors. I realized this week that I am a writer now, five years after retirement. Education will always be a love of mine, but writing requires tremendous creativity and support. Regardless of the mode they choose, the best support we can give our gifted children is noticing their creativity.

Productivity can be unrelated to creativity, such as my productivity making cathode ray tubes at the Methode factory south of town. A group of college kids worked there in the summer, making the tubes and computer parts that probably don’t exist now. We were very productive, but I wouldn’t say it involved any creativity. And I come from family of people who started lots of things they didn’t finish. Is it productivity if it is something that never gets used?

However, productivity is important in the workplace of ideas. We need lots of new ideas to solve some of the problems that have plagued humanity for ages; waste, pollution, inequality, prejudice, and poverty, to name just a few. We can only draw upon the ideas that are out in the world at the time we are trying to solve these problems. If your child has a passion for Legos, for example, she might be the adult who solves affordable housing. An artist may grow up to illuminate some dark corners of our psyche. Musicians are already trying to create sounds of the universe. Will they help us understand chaos theory? Reading the biographies of famous scientists can show just how they were inspired and changed the world.

I think the best way to encourage creativity and productivity is to notice it. Call attention to it. Discourage perfectionism. Allow messes. Keep an open mind. Read about it. Practice it yourself and you will think of many more ways.

 

This blog is part of a blog hop by Hoagies Gifted Education Page.

www.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_creativity_productivity.htm

 

hoagiescreativityjproductivity

Spiritual Intelligence and Anxiety

I was privileged to see Dorothy Sisk present at a gifted conference in Louisville, Kentucky on Spiritual Giftedness. She had begun studying spiritual intelligence many decades ago. I had kept one of her articles and found it after I got back from the conference. My notes from that conference can be found here.

Kathleen D. Noble (1) defines spiritual intelligence as containing “the capacity to think, to plan, to create, to translate ideas into reality, to adapt to changing circumstances, to find and solve problems, to reflect upon and communicate well with self and others, and to grow from mistakes.” She goes on to cite Emmons’ five characteristics and added two more of her own. To my friends and relatives who are atheists, this is hogwash. What you see is what you get (wysiwyg) in their worlds. Even those people who consider themselves spiritual but not religious have a hard time accepting the concept of God, Allah, Nirvana, or divine guidance.

Personal experience, however, has led me to believe that there is a spiritual world beyond the physical, however ill-defined. Some individuals are more keenly attuned to it. My first experiences came from the church, the First United Church of Palatine, to be exact. As a youth, I sang in the choir and attended youth activities. The lofty ideals I learned there have led me to have a better life, free of the negative emotions that eat up so much of our time and energy. I then proceeded to reject the church and all things religious for fifteen years. I learned that God will let me do whatever I want and suffer the consequences for it.

My second experience was hearing a lecture by J. Krishnamurti in Saanen, Switzerland. My younger brother had given me one of his books and I was staying in a dormitory. Up walked a friend from college and told me of Krishnamurti’s visit to a nearby town. He had been raised to be a famous guru, and rejected it all to tell people not to be followers, to follow their own path. He talked about experiencing life without mental filters. At the time, I couldn’t even imagine such a thing. Now I struggle to be aware of my filters.

Fortunately, circumstances led me back to church and to twelve-step groups. They provided the support I needed to get to know myself and extricate myself from all the trouble I was in.

That’s where my anxiety comes in. I know there is a loving power that wants good things for me, but that power will allow people to be selfish and cruel, hateful and crazy. It also allows nature toact according to natural laws. Young gifted children can be overwhelmed by the horrors they see on television, from floods and fires to refugees and war. Parents can and must reassure them that they are safe, but many people are at a loss to explain something as simple and profound as death. I have heard it said many times that we are spiritual beings in a material world. The spiritual dimension helps me accept reality as it is and do good things with my life. It doesn’t prevent difficulties from happening, but it helps me get through life.

This post is part of the bloghop hosted by Hoagies Gifted Education Page.

hoagies philosophical and spiritual anxietywww.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_philosophical_anxiety.htm

(1) Noble, Kathleen, Spiritual Intelligence: A New Frame of Mind (Advanced Development: Journal on Adult Giftedness, page 1, The Institute for the Study of Advanced Development, Inc., Volume 9, 2000)

Balance Isn’t Everything

Most people think of balance as being “all things in moderation” but the balance for a gifted child may be going completely wholehog (as we say in Illinois) into their latest passion. I was so relieved the first time I heard it was okay to have a passion for something. It made sense, of course, when I thought about Picasso or Beethoven. However, gifted individuals can get lots of negative feedback if they only have one topic to talk about, or if they are talking about some phenomenon that occurs in space because of an advanced physics concept. Being intense is the nature of gifted people. Expecting them to conform to outside expectations is a disappointment waiting to happen. Giving them time to do what they want does not usually result in boredom.

In my experience, boredom usually occurred when my children were tired or not feeling well. If they said they were bored, I would tell them to take a nap. No one is ever bored when they wake up from a nap. This is, of course, in the summer when they are not confined to a single room for hours. In summer school this year, I have had some students express feelings of boredom. I wasn’t sure if it was tiredness, a lack of interest in the projects, or just peer pressure (think middle school). I gave them choices and didn’t hear any complaints, even if one of the choices was “Do you just want to watch others?”

In the school my children attended their first few years, there was no gifted program. I was so worried about one child being bored, I took in a stack of things for him to do if he got done with the schoolwork early. Unfortunately, he was too social for that. He got up and talked to others when he was done. Luckily for him, his teacher didn’t mind. The previous year, his teacher had folders of fun activities to do if he was done with required work. My favorite was to research about Hersey’s chocolate. He got to eat a chocolate bar when he finished it.

What can you do if your child is telling you he/she is bored? I have found it often doesn’t help to list off things you think they might like to do. Perhaps asking them what they would like to do might help. If they can’t come up with anything, a walk outside might refresh and get oxygen flowing to the brain. One of the most effective ways to get my children to find another activity was to ask them to help me with mine.

My children are grown and gone now. My task is to keep myself from being bored. Down time actually helps my creativity. A period of rest from any activity usually gives me a bank of ideas to draw on, whether it’s writing, quilting, reading or cooking. When I begin again, I am refreshed and full of energy for the task at hand. This blog post is part of the Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop. Click on the link below to see the other posts.

hoagiesboredomwww.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_balancing_boredom_burnout.htm