Telling the truth to young wives and mothers….

The Truth About Balancing Work, Family, Community

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone


The Truth About Balancing Work, Family, Community

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone



  1. There is no such thing as BALANCE. There are only CHOICES. Choose wisely.
  2. Sometimes you need to CHECK OUT of the social media race and CHECK IN to what matters.
  3. Whenever you can, do things in BATCHES. If you are making lasagna or chicken pot pie…make 2. Freeze one or give one away. When you buy gift bags, buy a dozen, not one and keep them generic.
  4. Do the UNEXPECTED and make it your SIGNATURE. If you bake beautiful cakes, then use that. Give them as gifts. Make them the centerpiece of an event. Then cater or share the rest of the event.
  5. Take care of your HEALTH. Mental, physical, and spiritual.
  6. Maintain healthy BOUNDARIES.
  7. Learn to say NO graciously. Try this…Pause, make eye contact, smile and say….I would like to be able to help but cannot give it my full attention, but I can do this…..
  8. Make TRADES. If you cannot do lunch, do coffee. If you cannot help, send a gift.



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Lessons Learned from 40 Autumns of Marriage…

Fall Into An Organized Home-Life

By : Dr. Linda Karges-Bone

As the writer and host of a series of “parenting minutes” heard on Christian Radio,

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I am often surprised by the messages that provoke a larger numbers of responses. It is not the “heavy” stuff related to morals or medicine that kindle a reaction from listeners. Rather, the practical ideas about home and family seem to matter.  Recently, I heard from a slew of folks who wanted more information about research showing a relationship between neat, organized homes and kids who performed better in school. Obviously, this message struck a chord.

Why? Home-making is more than cleanliness. It is the creation of a setting for living, learning, playing, and thinking. During this time of year, the Autumn Equinox and subsequent time change offer a natural ‘pause button” in the rhythm of family life and can be an ideal time to take care of details and duties that can easily be overlooked. These ten tasks can help you to “fall into a more organized home life”.


Task One: At the time change in fall and spring, run white vinegar through  coffee and tea makers. Vinegar is a natural cleanser and you will be surprised at how much better your beverages taste when brewed in a fresh pot. Be sure to run 3-4 cycles of distilled water through the pot afterward to flush the vinegar.


Task Two: Take time to purge  closets of sweaters, coats, and shoes. Why these particular items? As the autumn temperatures plunge, homeless and less fortunate friends in the community require warm clothing, and may not be able to afford what they need.  How many navy blazers or red ski jackets does one need? Drop by Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or a church outreach closet and exchange these treasures for a tax deductible receipt.


Task Three: The Autumn Equinox happens to intersect with the first grading period in k-12 schools and the dreaded “mid-term” reports in college. Parents can make a good assessment of their students’ progress at this benchmark in the academic year.  Is it time for a tutor?  Is your child placed in the appropriately challenging set of courses? Are there too many distracting activities or friends that may be interfering with progress?


Task Four: Clean out the attic. It is finally cool enough to brave the eaves and closets upstairs. In the same spirit as task two, look for items that might be useful to those in need and go ahead and pull holiday decorating boxes to the front. You will want them handy in about a month.


Task Five: Swap closets. Many folks keep winter clothes in a separate closet or set of boxes during the summer. It is time to pull those winter garments out and put the summer things away. The week after the equinox is a good time to swap if you have been putting it off.


Task Six: Check out your fireplace, furnace, and filters. The three F’s of fending off winter chills are best attended to before the bitter winds blow. While filter-changing can be done by most sensible adults, a good inspection of fireplace, chimney, and furnace is the domain of an expert.


Task Seven: Plant bulbs now for beauty later. The first chill of autumn is a signal to begin scouring the aisles of the nursery and home improvement store for the best bulbs. One of the most meaningful experiences in the outdoor memories of my children came when they chose and planted daffodil and tulip bulbs in the autumn and then observed in sheer amazement when the flowers popped up in March.


Task Eight: Take down curtains and blinds if you can and give them a good cleaning. Air conditioning is marvelous, but it keeps the house closed up and dust finds a natural nesting place in fabrics and crevices. With so many children suffering from allergies, this kind of home maintenance is almost a prescription.


Task Nine: Clean out magazines and paperbacks that have piled up through the year. Ask the local hospital, assisted living home or library if they would like your literary treasures. Many libraries hold a tag sale around this time of year and will gladly glean the paperback books for resale.


Task Ten: Make a family calendar for holiday activities. Believe it or not, the winter holidays are just six to eight weeks away. If you want good seats for a special ballet or show or a babysitter for the night of your festive office party, now is the time to make reservations and phone calls.


With the exception of task number three, these little duties are hardly the stuff of life changing magnitude. Why do they matter? As I go about them, they give me a chance to pause and enjoy my home and to deconstruct some of the clutter that presses in mercilessly. It is as much a mental process as a physical one. There is research suggesting that homes that are clean and organized offer children a respite from the clutter and messiness of the world. Will it produce a higher SAT score or an honor roll report card? Maybe. Maybe not. But at least your coffee will taste better when you get up on those brisk Autumn mornings.




Balancing Work, Family, and Community

Take 5 To Balance Your Relationship

*First published 8 years ago.

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Dr. Linda Karges-Bone

     We had not long returned from a restful, romantic cruise to the West Indies. No, we are not newlyweds. Quite the contrary. This trip marked our 30th Wedding Anniversary.

     I was having a cup of coffee with one of my graduate students, who wanted to discuss a planned summer study trip to Costa Rica. I figured I had better lead this trip requiring a zip-line through the rainforest canopy before my 51 year old back became too cranky to be hoisted up, but more on that in a future discussion.

     “You know, Dr. B.” said my young grad student, “I am really glad that I signed up for the trip.”

     “That’s great,” I nodded, sipping my skinny, skinny mocha latte. “Study abroad is something one should be passionate about.”

     “Well,” she continued, “I actually want to get away for a while. The whole “getting engaged” situation is getting on my nerves. “

     “Already?” I laughed. “It has been just a few months.”

     “I know,” she sighed and lowered her head to confide an important and perhaps shocking bit of information, “but I am beginning to see that he isn’t perfect. Not at all. And, how can I marry someone who isn’t perfect?”

     I grabbed the coffee and began to sip, hoping to hide my laughter. “Not perfect? However will they manage?”

Lessons Learned: A Reflection

     Thirty years ahead of my young protégé, one finds a bit of perspective, just a bit. In honor of Valentine’s Day and all of that, perhaps a note on the “5 Truths About Balance in Marriage” would be in order. Have I learned anything about relationships in 30 years? You decide.

Truth #1…..There is more balance in marriage when one realizes that it doesn’t have to be “perfect” to be perfectly acceptable. In spite of what reality TV and even “Disney” cartoons suggest, there is no perfect mate nor a perfect relationship. Comparing one’s marriage to an idealized image or one’s partner to an imaginary mate is a recipe for disaster. The modern concept of a “starter marriage” that supposedly prepares one for the “perfect” second marriage seems wasteful and misguided. Giving oneself and one’s spouse the gift of acceptance is the mark of adulthood and the first step in balancing a marriage or committed relationship.

Truth #2….Balance is more accessible in the home when one chooses to live simply. Too many bills; too many commitments; and too much clutter drain one’s energy and distracts one’s thoughts. From this kind of waste and complexity comes exhaustion and from exhaustion….frustration. And so it goes until the frustration becomes directed at one another, instead of at the “stuff” that is keeping you from spending time together.  

Truth #3….Sometimes, the only way to keep one’s balance in life is to do nothing. Keep this in mind when real disaster, temptation, or disappointment  threaten. Our culture and our egos compel us to “make it right” when we feel wronged. For many couples, a separation seems like the only thing to do when times get tough. Unfortunately, I have seen most couples who separate drift further apart rather than repairing damage. Sometimes, doing nothing is the right answer, at least for a time.

Truth #4…..Doing nothing doesn’t mean ignoring real issues that are keeping one’s relationship from growing in a healthy, balanced direction. The three “A’s”….addiction, adultery, and abuse of any kind must be confronted and “cured” if possible, with all of the professional assistance and personal support available. Love can survive in spite of these painful, dangerous circumstances, but only when the spouse who needs to change is responsible, reliable, and repentant as he or she works to become whole. In three decades of marriage, I have seen couples emerge stronger and more in love after infidelity and other painful threats, but it wasn’t easy. Much better to adhere to the 5th and final truth…

Truth #5….Guard your hearts. Don’t ever think that boredom, temptation, or simply “growing apart” won’t happen in your relationship. Keep your eyes open and on one another. Those trite messages about “date nights” and “keeping yourself in shape” aren’t actually wrong. Keeping one’s health: physical, mental, and spiritual in the best shape possible is a gift to oneself and ones’ spouse. Over the long haul, if one is in it for the long haul, it is more fun to be with a person who shares some interests, has energy and enthusiasm, and who thinks that his or her spouse is funny, fascinating, and fun to be with. That doesn’t just happen, not for anyone. It takes energy, planning, and passion.

     So, we are going to Costa Rica in a few months…leading a group of 35 educators on a trek that includes kayaking, hiking, and that zip-line mentioned earlier. It will be fun and different, and though it probably won’t be perfect, like most of the past 30 years, it will not be dull.

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone is a wife, mother, professor, and writer. Her latest book is Rich Brain-Poor Brain, Bridging Social and Synaptic Gaps in Schools. Her messages on family life can be heard on the “WKCL Radio” in Charleston, SC.


Comfort in the Familiar

The Comfort of Familiar Tasks

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone

I’ll admit it. I’m a vintage hippie, a child of the 60’s, a little wacky when it comes to emotional issues. My favorite Beatle’s tune is John Lennon’s “Let it Be”. You may remember the song…”In times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Singing words of wisdom. Let it be. Let it be.” (The Beatles, 1971)

When times are troubled and I feel overwhelmed with sadness or confusion, it is “Grandma Anna” who comes to me as I find myself intuitively adopting my Italian Nona’s behaviors and habits, finding comfort and solace and sometimes a glimpse of an answer in her simple ways.  Anna Peretti Laporta never made it past 2nd grade and English was her 2nd language, but that petite powerhouse of a woman showed me how to persist with dignity. I have come to see that her sophisticated coping skills were often hidden among simple, familiar tasks. Perhaps you too, find comfort in the familiar. Here are some life lessons.

#1. “Sweeping the stoop”.  Grandma Anna went out to sweep the leaves and dust and detritus from the steps, and stoop, and sidewalk of her two family brick home in Queens, NY several times a week. She took her time and did it well. No cobwebs, no dead leaves, no random cigarette butts in her domain. It was ritualistic and important to her and now I think I understand. As I swept the autumn leaves from my own front porch this afternoon, after a very stressful week of difficult national and family news, a peace came over me. I was outside. I was alive. I was doing something deliberate to “sweep away” the clutter of life and attempting to bring order in the space between my home and the outside world. In my mind, I saw Grandma Anna in her housedress and apron wielding the broom as a weapon, one woman against the universe claiming “leave my house in peace”. I get it.

#2. “A pan of peppers every day”. Grandma Anna cleared the breakfast dishes and set the percolator for the second pot of strong black coffee of the day and then began what I remember as a sacred culinary ritual: cooking peppers, onions, and a liberal dose of garlic in a heavy, cast-iron pan. She did this every day.  The pungent mix didn’t necessarily have a goal each day. It would eventually be used in something delicious for lunch or dinner, but at the time of preparation around 8:30 in the morning if she wasn’t headed out to daily Mass, later if she was doing a Rosary and bingo at the church, the trifecta of Italian essentials simply waited for her decision. I now believe that the deliberate act of washing, cutting, splashing olive oil, and simmering the mix was a form of Sicilian aromatherapy. Filling her basement kitchen with the rich scents was akin to incense in a high Mass. It was a way to maintain the energy that she wanted in her home and a way to comfort those around her, with foods that we now know to be the “Mediterranean Diet”, associated with longevity and wellness. When times are troubled, I find myself dicing and browning the trifecta myself. It became lentil soup on Sunday and I see a large pan of lasagna in the near future. I may not be able to fix everyone’s problems, but I can feed them well.

#3…..Fix your hair and “Look Nice.” When she died at the age of 91, my Grandma Anna’s hair was as black as it had been at the age of 19, when she married my grandfather. Now, this required a serious commitment to boxes of color and trips to the beauty salon, but no matter. Anna LaPorta had standards and a vision for what mattered in her personal appearance. No matter what life dished out…husbands who had strokes; working the night shift in a factory that made cookies; fighting with the produce man for the best peppers and tomatoes….she was ready. In Italian, we call this “La Bella Figura”…the good face or looking the part. Even when you feel like…..well you know what….if your hair is set and you splash on some cologne and a dash of red lipstick there is a sense of control. So, when she refused to leave the house until she “looked nice”, I realize that she was girding herself for the battles of life. I get it now. Time and age and illness might take their toll, but fighting back with a box of Lady Clairol and a spritz of Jean Nate’ can give a lady power.

#4…Always give a little something.  A visit with Grandma Anna always ended with a treasure bag.  As a child and even into young adulthood, I loved her gifts of colored rosary beads, ornate cards with pictures of saints, tiny bottles of holy water, and protective icons for the car or nursery. I now realize that they were cheap and plastic and abundant because she steadfastly gave small monetary gifts to every order of nuns, missionary, orphanage, hospital, or handicapped children’s service that approached her for help. In return for her support, the agencies and nunneries sent her tokens of appreciation, which she shared with her granddaughters. Her resolute faith and deep, abiding love for her oldest granddaughter, my cousin Irma, born with Down syndrome in the early 1950’s gave her great empathy for children who suffered in any way. She would say: “Give a little something. Get me my purse. God sees this.”  Grandma Anna did not have a lot, but she gave a lot. Isn’t that the way of things? I see now that the terrible tragedies of this broken world, the sickness, the famines, the sorrow can only conquer us if we stop caring and giving. She wasn’t going to let that happen. I have found, on a dark day, that adding my support to one of my former student’s  “Donors Choose” classroom projects lifts my spirits and restores my hope. We push back the darkness with our light and our dollars.

#5…Make a pot of coffee

            The coffee pot or “percolator” as Grandma Anna called it, was more a focal point of her home than any piece of important art or ostentatious vase of flowers. Making a pot of coffee carried subliminal messages. It meant “sit down and talk to me” or simply “sit down”. Whatever was troubling you, haunting you, chasing your spirit, a cup of coffee in a pink, flowered cup from Woolworths was surely the tonic. I get it now. A cup of coffee with my sisters, my best friend, a worried student, a tired colleague restores balance in the universe. Is it the caffeine? I’m sure it helps. But, I’m betting on the ritual and restorative powers of sharing a warm drink with a warm and supportive friend. Making the coffee really meant making a time and place to gather. It never hurt to bring out the white pastry box from La Guli’s Bakery on the avenue, but that’s another story. I carry on the tradition, typically with a fancy coffee pod unit, but I’ll tell you this…I have the old percolator or closest thing to it in my pantry. You never know when a crowd will need coffee.

The familiar comforts and rituals of life can easily be taken for granted and in doing so, one might miss the sacred among the ordinary.  That would be a mistake. As I channel my grandmother’s folkways at a point in my life when I am a grandmother myself, the wisdom and blessing are not lost on me. The small things, done with deliberate and careful hands and an open and optimistic heart, and a robust dose of garlic can work magic in a dark and troubled time.“Let it be” says the song and there is truth in that message, but according to my grandmother, it would be better with a cup of coffee on a freshly swept stoop.


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The author with Grandma Anna when she received her Doctor of Education degree in 1994. Grandma Anna at the Shrine of St. Anne in Quebec, 1961.


A Brainy Holiday Craft for Kids or Seniors

A Brain Treat for the Holidays
By: Dr. Linda Karges-Bone…this “brain treat in a jar” is fun, easy, and actually useful!

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Can you imagine a more welcome holiday treat than one that might actually help to make children more alert during the learning process or more reflective during the creative process? How about a simple gift that could help parents curb the effects of stress during this busy season? Read on to discover a fun to make “Brain Treat” that doubles as a holiday craft for children and to find important information about how the brain works.

Brain Background

Cognitive science is the study of how the brain works during the teaching and learning process. Researchers now know that the limbic system is a critical part of the learning process. Though cognition or thinking occur in the pre-frontal cortex or gray matter, information must first filter through the limbic system, and that is where color, scent, and taste can help to play an important role in facilitating the learning process.
Here’s how it works. The limbic system includes the amygdala and the hippocampus. The amygdala signals the brain to deal with stress. The hippocampus sends information into memory. We now know that certain colors, scents, and tastes can help to alleviate stress and facilitate memory. Though it is not clear exactly how this works, it is likely that:

  • Colors and scents act like “Velcro” for information passing through the limbic system.
  • Scents pair up with information to trigger memory
  • Colors, scents, and tastes stimulate attention and give pleasure which make the brain “want” to remember the situation or information that accompanied the pleasurable experience

What’s more, it now seems that the hippocampus does not act alone in processing memory. The olfactory bulb, which is responsible for interpreting scent messages, is also a player in sealing and sifting memories! So, it makes sense to use scents in learning!

Which Colors, Tastes, and Scents?

In my book Beyond Hands On: Techniques for Using Color, Scent, Taste, Touch, and Music to Enhance Learning, (Teaching and Learning Co. 1996), I provide charts that show the relationships between specific stimuli and responses.
Here are some examples:

  • Green evokes a creative response
  • Red makes you alert
  • The scent of peppermint or wintergreen alleviate pain and tension and bring about alertness
  • The scent and taste of cinnamon or ginger bring about a creative response and feelings of well-being
  • Scents and tastes with a decidedly “ginger” or spice flavor evoke creativity and warmth. Butterscotch or root beer would be a good fit.

So, how do you pull this all together in a fun holiday craft?

The Holiday Craft

You will need:

  • Clean, recycled large jelly or canning jars with lids
  • Bags of wrapped mints, cinnamon disks, root beer barrels, and butterscotch disks
  • Decorating materials for the lids. Small scented pine cones and color calico “skirts” can be effective.
  • Large labels on which to print the accompanying poem


  1. Layer clean glass jars with 2 inches of candy. It works best with a distinct layer of colors. For example:
    Red and white mints, followed by butterscotch, followed by green and white mints, followed by root beer barrels.
  2. Print out the poem on the self-sticking labels and apply to the front of each jar.
  3. Decorate the lids with holiday ribbons, raffia, yarn, buttons, or even small pine cones with glitter. The scent of pine is a stress reducer!
  4. Screw the lids onto the jars after the glue has dried.

The Poem

Your labels will convey the brain-friendly message explaining why this is no ordinary jar of candy!

A Holiday Brain Treat for You

Peppermint and wintergreen
Can soothe away where stress has been.
Refreshing scents to calm the brain-
And make you want to think again.

Smell the charm of ginger and spice.
Your brain thinks this is very nice!
Cinnamon to ease the fray.
Butterscotch to calm the day.

Colors like red to energize-
Calming green to fertilize.
A mind too tired from holiday stress
Needs nature’s palette to give it rest.

Warm colors and scents lend creative spark
A light for the mind in the wintery dark.
So reach in your hand and pull out a treat-
Minty or spicy, tangy or sweet.

Teaching children how to manage stress so that their brains can work more effectively is a lesson that will improve their physical and mental well being. A simple craft and poem can effect gray matter and other things that matter in children’s lives.



My Fitness Tracker Addiction: Healthy or Crazy? A Humorous Story by Dr Linda Karges-Bone


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When the university’s appointed wellness czar announced that faculty and staff who agreed to partake in an organized, healthy lifestyle plan would receive a significant discount in health insurance rates, I was one of the first to sign up. Not only do I love to save a green dollar, I enjoy getting free stuff. And, this wellness program promised many free treasures…..flu shots, nifty water bottles, drawings for prizes, and my favorite…the brand-new fitness tracker of the moment. The step tracking gadget could be attached to my person and would track every step, every day.

According to the latest research on aging and wellness, a target of 10,000 steps a day promised longevity, lucidity, and lots of other desirable outcomes. All I had to do was walk, and I love to walk. For a professor who loves data and new ideas and controlling situations, this fitness tracker was the ticket. I was immediately hooked. In no time at all, I was a self-proclaimed fitness tracker fanatic. It seemed so easy and I guess that’s how I was lured into the fitness web. 10,000 steps a day? How hard could it be?

Well, for starters, I had grievously overestimated my actual fitness level. I thought I was walking more like 8,000 steps already and would simply tack on a brisk walk with my beast in the evening and hit the golden number of 10K. Not so. My beta test days showed an actual count of closer to 5K, even when I parked my car far from my university lair! I’d need to double my steps to reach the desired 10K a day. Yikes! Never one to shirk a challenge, I began to plan my day around a mandatory one hour walk, the time I’d figured out to be the additional steps to reach my goal. So, I’d hit the treadmill at 7 AM on a rainy day before my afternoon classes or come in an hour early and set a “walking meeting” with a faculty friend or do a “Walking Date” with my bemused husband and our rescue dog.

The daily walk became the centerpiece of each day. Lord help us if something got in the way! A highly unusual ice and snow storm in South Carolina, where I have lived for years? I bundled up and crunched through a foot of icy snow, almost wiping out a number of times. Meetings and travel getting in the way of my walking goals? I’d put on my sneakers and walk around the cul de sac at home or through the deserted terminal ramparts at an airport or around the parking lot at a conference center where I’d given a speech. Nothing would deter me. Not even annoying things like a bladder infection, a minor case of pneumonia, or a badly broken arm when a rogue wave knocked me over on vacation in the islands ( another story). I mean, it was my arm that was broken, not my leg. Right? Once the pain killers kicked in and the surgery to put a rod and three pins in my shoulder had settled down to a manageable level, I’d hit the road to get those steps. I found myself checking the tracker constantly, ten or more times every hour.

At first, I had a simple device that showed me the steps in a little window. Then, I graduated to a wrist band that magically synced itself to an iPhone. That really fed my competitive spirit. I could monitor not only the steps, but the daily miles and the “active steps”, those requiring a bit more cardiovascular effort. I was a walking data center. It was a high that didn’t require substances, only my personal energy. And, I had plenty of that. It seemed ideal, this fitness plan of mine, until I realized that it had taken over my life.

On a trip to Charlotte, NC to do a teacher training workshop, I realized that the three hour drive up from SC had left me 6000 steps under the daily goal and it was already 5:00 on a darkening Autumn evening. I noticed a sign in the hotel lobby promising a lovely outdoor walking trail adjacent to the hotel and quickly slipped into attractive purple and pink trackers. The first mile was pleasant and the steps quickly added up. A great decision, I reflected! I was outdoors and getting my steps and using my time wisely. That euphoria quickly faded as the sun inconveniently set on the trail right as I encountered a makeshift homeless shelter of tents and grocery carts and rough looking men who were looking right back at me. A few were sipping from brown bottles of liquor and one appeared to be injecting something into his arm. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t his insulin.

This was not good. I turned around and headed back, thinking fast. I took out the cell phone and attempted to ring up my best friend, just to let someone know where I was and to let anyone who might be in pursuit that I was connected with civilization. Wouldn’t you know it, I was on low battery and it was draining fast. I decided to pick up the past and scampered back to the parking hot of the Hampton Inn like I was on whatever drug that poor homeless fellow had been shooting up in his arm. Out of breath and sweaty, I took stock of the situation. Perhaps I had taken this fitness plan a bit too far? How important was it to hit the 10K mark every single day?

I wish I could say that I learned my lesson that memorable evening in Charlotte? Not exactly. A few weeks later, speaking at a conference in Houston, I had to call 911 when my evening steps got me lost in a sketchy neighborhood and I was almost mugged. That cured me. I resorted to walking in circles in my bathrobe and slippers watching “House Hunters International” in the hotel room. I know there are treadmills available in most hotels, but a few unfortunate incidents in which a fancy treadmill and I crossed paths and the treadmill won have made me wary.

My fitness tracker addiction has kept me fit, but it has also taken a mental toll. I find myself constantly checking the magic phone to assess my progress instead of enjoying the beauty of nature or taking time to call my sister and check in on the family. I’ve walked when my cranky hip protested mightily and ended up in physical therapy. I’ve run from vagrants and scary dogs and almost been hit by lightning on a number of occasions when I pushed my luck too far thinking….just 1000 more steps.

So, I stand before you today a recovering fitness tracker addict. I still wear my device, but I’ve dialed the daily goal back to 8K a day while awaiting my hip replacement surgery. I’ve learned to ignore the feelings of panic when the daily report says 7, 577 and not 8,000 and it’s time to rest. I’m still struggling not to post on social media when I hit 20,000 steps hiking in Yellowstone. Who really wants to hear me crow? I walked. I saw some antelope and deer and a lovely waterfall in the park. Isn’t that what really matters?

It is journey of recovery, this fitness tracker addiction. Like many struggles in life, it began with the best of intentions. My personal nature and the immediate gratification of seeing progress on a phone screen lured me in. I’m warier now. I’m more careful. Yesterday was 8, 558 steps. I couldn’t help but think that if I just took the dog out for one more stroll before bedtime….What do you think I did?

Discussion Questions 1. Why do you think the writer became so “addicted” to her fitness trackers? 2. Is there ever a case for a “good” addiction? 3. If you had been the writer’s best friend whom she called when she walked into trouble, what would you have said? 4. Did you see any of your life choices in this story? 5. What advice would you give this writer?

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Secrets of Dark Chocolate: A Brain Tonic

chocolate chips on mug

Secrets of Dark Chocolate

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone

It was used as a currency. It was the stuff of legend and a staple in trade. Pastry chefs make their fortunes with it and mixed with milk, it is the ultimate comfort beverage…chocolate. But did you know that chocolate is actually a brain food? In fact, one nurse who had worked in Germany told me that instead of writing a prescription for mild anxiety or depression, doctors may choose to recommend “mood foods” and daily exercise, and the “mood foods” include dark chocolate.  Forget the too sweet milk chocolate, it is good for the taste buds, but it won’t give you a cognitive boost! All of the research on the benefits of chocolate centers on dark, bitter chocolate.  Did you know that?

* One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than any other fruits tested, which included blueberries and acai berries.

*There is a National “Chocolate Day” in November and a National Chocolate Ice Cream Day in June?

*Americans eats 11 pounds of chocolate per year, making us only the 8th larges consumer of chocolate in the world. We can’t keep up with our Swiss friends, who consume 21 pounds per year!

*A two-ounce piece of chocolate can be fatal to a dog because it can not digest one compound in chocolate called theobromine. Chocolate can also make some small children sick for the same reason.

*Dark chocolate is an antioxidant that traps free radicals and can help prevent disease?

*Dark chocolate boosts mood with they same chemical found in marijuana? Yep. Minute amounts of cannaboids help you to get that soothing chocolate high!

*Chocolate  contains phenylethylamine, a chemical related to amphetamines that raises blood pressure and blood-sugar. You may feel more alert and content because of this!

*Chocolate is for “lovers” because it causes your pulse rate to rise, those phenylethylamines again!

*A Harvard study showed that dark chocolate eaters live a year longer than those who do not indulge.

*Heart patients can benefit from the flavenols in dark chocolate that help to dilate blood vessels.

In fact, Dr. Alan Drewnowski at the University of Michigan researched whether or not dark chocolate could trigger the production of opioids in the brain. Guess what? It can. Opioids are those chemicals found in Opium, which trigger feelings of euphoria….feeling really good!

The researchers found that eating dark chocolate releases opioids in the brain, leading to feelings of well being.

So, there you have it. A bit of history and neuroscience about chocolate. How might activity directors harness the secrets of dark chocolate in their work?

  1. The simple, yet eerily accurate “Chocolate Personality Quiz” featured in the box below is a staple for activity directors and team building professionals. Each participant chooses his or her favorite mini chocolate bar and then the “secrets” are revealed.
  2. Then, encourage verbal exchange by pairing clients or students and having them describe how the selected chocolate and related analysis “fits” or not.
  3. Chocolate bars have taken on their own personalities in our culture. Ask participants to “finish the sentence” with the name of a popular chocolate bar. You can even give away a bar as a prize!
  • The taste is “Out of this world”…a ________bar.
  • This chocolate bar’s name rhymes with spackle.
  • Think of the 3 Amigos ________________.
  • If you want to turn a bad boy around, give him a ____________.
  • Pick up a bar that honors a president’s daughter_________.
  • Another word for giggling is a ___________.
  • Savor a bar named after a town in Pennsylvania.____________.
  • If you are feeling a kind of nutty euphoria it must be an_________.


Answers to Questions:



Three Musketeers™

Mr. Goodbar™

Baby Ruth™



Almond Joy™

  1. Build listening skills and evoke good energy with a chocolate themed book: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. One might read a chapter each day and then wrap up with a special event such as renting a video or DVD of the original movie. Serving hot chocolate or chocolate milk and chocolate cookies could be fun for this event, or if the situation permits, make an excursion of it and take in the new film starring Johnny Depp and make a stop for a fancy chocolate torte or a flavored latte.
  2. Fill a jar with chocolate eggs and have participants estimate how many are in the jar. Write the guess-timates on slips of paper with individual’s names and then count them out together. This is good for auditory memory. The person who comes closest to the correct amount “wins” the jar to take home!
  3. Invite participants to create a wrapper for a new chocolate bar that advertises its brain friendly qualities. What textures, tastes, and treats will they put into their creations? You can do this with craft supplies or drawing tools on iPads for the technology touch.
  4. Build critical thinking skills with another piece of children’s literature that is cunning and useful for stimulating thinking is A Chocolate Moose for Dinner, by the late television “Munster” turned author, Fred Gwynne. This friendly book reminds us of the correct use of homonyms and idioms, a good practice for brains that need some flexibility!

Activity directors look for unique ways to stimulate their participants’ brains and senses and concurrently need strategies to increase their own focus and creativity. Dark chocolate may be that “brain tonic”…accessible, aesthetically pleasing, and affordable…the perfect addition to one’s activity table.

You can use the following “Miniature Personality Test” that harnesses the appeal of tasty, tactile miniature candy bars to get participants thinking about how a particular chocolate  bar reveals an element of personality. Put a bag of Hersheys™ Miniatures and a bag of Chocolate kisses into a basket and instruct each participant to select the one kind of candy that is their favorite. Once each person has selected a piece, read aloud from the personality test below. Amid the laughter that is sure to follow, ask participants if the assessments are close to the truth. The results are often surprisingly on target!

A “Miniature” Personality Test

After choosing your favorite miniature chocolate bar, use the following to analyze what the choice says about your personality!

“Krackle”….You are fun-filled, full of life, love to laugh, don’t take life too seriously.

“Mr. Goodbar”….You are a goody two-shoes, always follow the rules, do the “right thing”, strive for approval.

“Special Dark”…. You are a deep, mysterious individual, have many facets which no one person may ever really fathom.

“Hershey Bar”….You are the “All American” type, like baseball, hot dogs, shopping, your mom, and CAN make apple pie!

“Hershey Kiss”…You crave affection, love to snuggle, are nurturing, the touchy-feely type.


Photo by Snapwire on

For more information:

Adam Drewnowski
Human Nutrition Program
School of Public Health
University of Michigan
1420 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Susan Smith
Chocolate Manufacturers Association
7900 W. Park Drive, Suite A320
McLean, VA 22102
WEB: For more activities

The Science of “Love”: Why We Love Chocolate