Monthly Archives: December 2012

Sunday Morning Shout Out

The first real snow fall hit Western New York this past week and it made for a perfect ‘White Christmas’. Most of this happiness about snow will be dashed in about two weeks though as the snow piles accumulate, we don’t get enough sunlight, the cold gets to our cores and boredom or cabin craziness starts to settle in for many of us adults and parents. Unfortunately, our dour winter persona often gets transferred to our children because we don’t let them enjoy the winter outdoors as much as we could.

To help overcome your winter blues before they get to your children you might try looking around the web for ways to avoid winter depression. One article I continually find really useful is “12 Winter Depression Busters” by Therese J. Borchard. Her 12 points and comments as taken from the article are:

1. Watch the sugar.

I think our body gets the cue just before Thanksgiving that it will be hibernating for a few months, so it needs to ingest everything edible in sight. And I’m convinced the snow somehow communicates to the human brain the need to consume every kind of chocolate available in the house.

Depressives and addicts need to be especially careful with sweets because the addiction to sugar and white-flour products is very real and physiological, affecting the same biochemical systems in your body as other drugs like heroin. According to Kathleen DesMaisons, author of “Potatoes Not Prozac”: Your relationship to sweet things is operating on a cellular level. It is more powerful than you have realized….What you eat can have a huge effect on how you feel.”

2. Stock up on Omega-3′s.

During the winter I’m religious about stocking in my medicine cabinet a Noah’s Ark supply of Omega-3 capsules because leading physicians at Harvard Medical School confirmed the positive effects of this natural, anti-inflammatory molecule on emotional health. I treat my brain like royalty–hoping that it will be kind to me in return–so I fork over about $30 a month for the Mac Daddy of the Omega-3s, capsules that contain 70 percent EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid). One 500mg softgel capsule meets the doctor-formulated 7:1 EPA to DHA ratio, needed to elevate and stabilize mood.

3. Give back.

Gandhi once wrote that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Positive psychologists like University of Pennsylvania’s Martin Seligman and Dan Baker, Ph.D., director of the Life Enhancement Program at Canyon Ranch, believe that a sense of purpose–committing oneself to a noble mission–and acts of altruism are strong antidotes to depression.

4. Join the gym.

Don’t let the cold weather be an excuse not to sweat. We have centers today called “gyms” where people exercise inside! Granted, it’s not the same–watching the news or listening to the soundtrack from “Rocky” as you run in place as opposed to jogging along wooded paths with a view of the bay. But you accomplish the goal: a heart rate over 140 beats a minute.

5. Use a light lamp.

Bright-light therapy–involving sitting in front of a fluorescent light box that delivers an intensity of 10,000 lux–can be as effect as antidepressant medication for mild and moderate depression and can yield substantial relief for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
I usually turn on my mammoth HappyLite in November, just after my least favorite day of the year: when Daylight Saving Time ends and we “fall back” an hour, which means that I have about an hour of sunlight to enjoy after I pick up the kids from school.

6. Wear bright colors.

I have no research supporting this theory, but I’m quite convinced there is a link between feeling optimistic and sporting bright colors. It’s in line with “faking it ’til you make it,” desperate attempts to trick your brain into thinking that it’s sunny and beautiful outside–time to celebrate Spring!–even though it’s a blizzard with sleet causing some major traffic jams.

Personally, I tend to wear black everyday in the winter. It’s supposed to make you look thinner. But the result is that I appear as if and feel like I’m going to a funeral every afternoon between the months of November and March. This isn’t good. Not for a person hardwired to stress and worry and get depressed when it’s cold. So I make a conscious effort to wear bright green, purple, blue, and pink, and sometimes–if I’m in a rush–all of them together!

7. Force yourself outside.

I realize that the last thing you want to do when it’s 20 degrees outside and the roads are slushy is to head outside for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. It’s much more fun to cuddle up with a good novel or make chocolate chip cookies and enjoy them with a hot cup of joe.

On many winter days–especially in late January and early February when my brain is done with the darkness–I have to literally force myself outside, however brief. Because even on cloudy and overcast days, your mood can benefit from exposure to sunlight. Midday light, especially, provides Vitamin D to help boost your limbic system, the emotional center of the brain. And there is something so healing about connecting with nature, even if it’s covered in snow.

8. Hang out with friends.

This seems like an obvious depression buster. Of course you get together with your buddies when your mood starts to go south. But that’s exactly when many of us tend to isolate. I believe that it takes a village to keep a person sane and happy. That’s why we need so many support groups today. People need to be validated and encouraged and inspired by persons on the same journey. And with all the technology today, folks don’t even have to throw on their slippers to get to a support group. Online communities provide a village of friendship right at your computer.

9. Head south.

Granted, this solution isn’t free, especially if you live in Maine. But you need not travel like the Kennedys to transplant your body and mind to a sunny spot for a few days. I try to schedule our yearly vacation the last week of January or the first week of February so that it breaks up the winter and so that I have something to look forward to in those depressing weeks following the holidays.

10. Take up a project.

There’s no time like winter to start a home project, like decluttering the house or purging all the old clothes in your kids’ closets. When a friend of mine was going through a tough time, she painted her entire house–every room downstairs with two different colors. And it looked professional! Not only did it help distract her from her problems, but it provided her with a sense of accomplishment that she desperately needed those months, something to feel good about as she saw other things crumble around her. Projects like organizing bookshelves, shredding old tax returns, and cleaning out the garage are perfect activities for the dreary months of the year.

11. Challenge yourself.

My mood can often be lifted by meeting a new challenge–an activity that is formidable enough to keep my attention, but easy enough to do when my brain is muddied. Learning how to record and edit video blogs, for this girl who hates technology, turned out to be great fun. Friends of mine get the same boost by joining Jenny Craig and losing the 25 pounds of baby fat, or exploring a new hobby–like scrapbooking. I try to stretch myself in a small way every winter–whether it be taking a writing class, researching the genetics of mood disorders, or trying to build myself a website. It keeps my brain from freezing, like the rest of my body.

12. Light a candle.

If I counted up all the minutes I’ve spent staring into a flame, I wonder how many years of my life that would be. Certainly more than the hours I’ve spent brushing my teeth or combing my hair. It would probably even surpass the combination of bath and shower time. But I just feel better if I stick my face in a hot glowing body of flame.


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Share a Laugh…2012 Is Finally Almost Over!

The other night our family was lucky enough to catch the Kennedy Center’s annual entertainers honors ceremony. It is a unique format they use where the honorees all sit together on the same level as the President and his wife and hear reflections of their lives and portraits of their works. Recipients honored at this 35th annual national celebration of the arts were: bluesman Buddy Guy, actor and director Dustin Hoffman, comedian and television host David Letterman, ballerina Natalia Makarova, and rock band Led Zeppelin.

As stated by Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein on the Kennedy Center Web site “With their extraordinary talent, creativity and tenacity, the seven 2012 Kennedy Center Honorees have contributed significantly to the cultural life of our nation and the world.” Nice little plug for the arts and their importance to the education of our children as we attempt to revamp our education system and the arts tend to get cut in favor of Math, Science and Language Arts. Perhaps the arts would be served better in school if we allowed students to practice some formal comedy, blues and rock music, creative dance and or some cinematic ventures?

…oh but that is not the soapbox I want to get on today. Why I bring up the Honorees is that mention of Led Zeppelin tend to bring up a line from the live version of Stairway to Heaven on The Song Remains the Same Album (aka CD, or MP3). On it there is a point where Robert Plant asks “Does anyone remember laughter?” and closing the door on the dour and sad year of 2012 I thought ‘it is a bit hard to remember what laughter is or even was’. With that I found the slips of paper from holiday crackers we did Christmas day and now believe it might be fitting to share a few clean Jokes you can pass along to your children, family and friends. Lets hope we have more to laugh about in 2013 as we strive to improve our society, economy and educational institutions!

Q. Why did the doughnut seller retire?
A. He was fed up of the hole business

Q. What do you get if you eat all the Christmas decorations?
A. Tinselitus

Q. Why did the scarecrow win so many awards?
A. Because he was outstanding in his field

Q. Why did the bacon laugh?
A. Because the egg cracked a yoke

Q. Why did the man sleep in his car?
A. So he could wake up oily in the morning

Q. What did the alien say to the garden?
A. Take me to your weeder

Q. What do you get if you cross a snowman with a vampire?
A. Frostbite

Q. Why did the tomato turn red?
A. It saw the salad dressing

Q. What is the best thing about deadly snakes?
A. They’ve got personality

Q. What do you get if you cross a pig with a centipede?
A. Bacon and legs

Remember laughter is the best medicine. Good riddance 2012!

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Holiday Reads for High School Students

Now that we are half way through the winter holiday recess it might be a good time to check on your children and what they have been doing to maintain and develop their academic skills. High school students require good reading skills the most as they have the largest volume of texts to work through during the school year. Not only will excellent reading skills make studying faster and easier in high school, it will also be a very valuable asset at work and in college. Here are some excellent reads that are sure to be a hit with high school students.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
911 had an immeasurable impact on the psyche of the people of New York, not least for nine-year-old Oskar Schell who lost his father in the tragedy. When he finds a mysterious key among his father’s belongings, he sets out to find its matching lock on an adventure that will take him through the five boroughs of the city.

If you have ever wanted to be a super hero, then this amazing little book is for you. This is the story of teens brave enough to don capes and fight crime despite having no superpowers at all. Bullied in their own lives, they overcome their fears to fight crime and, well, kick ass.

Life at these Speeds: A Novel
Kevin Schuler was a pretty good athlete before the accident, but when a bus crash claims the lives of his fellow students and his girlfriend, he finds the track the only place that makes sense anymore.

The Six most Important Decisions you’ll ever Make: A Guide for Teens
Teens face several important decisions that impact the rest of their lives, but few have been taught the skills on how to make the decision that right for them. Sean Covey’s book will help to equip teens with the skills they need to make decisions that will positively impact their lives.

Angela’s Ashes
Frank McCourt’s luminous memoire of his childhood as a poor Irish Catholic raised in the Limerick slums. Although the setting is bleak and the children poor, McCourt’s humour, forgiveness and exuberance for life makes this a glorious book. The book is from the late ‘9os so you can probably find a copy at a local 2nd hand book store.

Flowers for Algernon
Charlie Gordon is a mentally challenged custodian who, through an experimental operation, becomes a genius. This poignant and powerful novel has been made into a movie by the same name.

Tuesdays with Morrie
This is a touching and inspiring novel written by Mitch Albom about his interviews with Morrie Schwartz. This illuminating novel is a wonderful tale of a life well lived. Inspiring, touching and luminous, it’s a must-read for everyone who wants to live a full life.

The Perks of being a Wallflower
This insightful trip through the troubled life of a depressed teen is a wild ride that touches on many difficulties of being an awkward teen. Its deep, funny and fun and anyone who has ever been in loved or shared a kiss with a crush will enjoy this crazy little book.

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Christmas is…

So the day has finally come that millions of children around the world have waited for all year. For us parents it is also a special time when we can interact with our children. Whether it is putting batteries in a toy, opening those clam shells (and not drawing blood), putting together some legos, dressing a doll, trying to compete on a video game or setting up a tablet it is all time you get to spend with your child. It is time you are interacting with your child and ideally you are both teaching and learning through the experience. We here at Tutor Doctor hope you have a great day and create memories you will cherish in the future.

Percy Faith with Spence Maxwell wrote and first recorded one of the holiday songs that captures some of the magic of the day. Here are a bit of the lyrics:

“Christmas is …”

Christmas is sleigh bells

Christmas is sharing

Christmas is holly

Christmas is caring


Christmas is children who just can’t go to sleep

Christmas is memories, the kind you always keep

Deck the Halls and give a cheer

For all the things that Christmas is each year

Christmas Merry Christmas

May all your wishes come true


Christmas is carols to warm you in the snow

Christmas is bedtime when no one wants to go

All the world is tinsel bright

So glad to know that Christmas is tonight


Christmas Merry Christmas

When all your wishes come true

Christmas Merry Christmas

May all your wishes come true


Merry Christmas


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Sunday Morning Shout Out

I think it was one of my worst moments of parenting. I had to answer to a set of big brown eight year old eyes about the Sandy
Hook school tragedy. I tried to follow what I read was the appropriate response, affirming their safety, while giving a young grade school child simple facts. Yet there are some things that should go unseen and unheard of by an eight year-old. More and more these mass killings are becoming everyday items in the news. There is no reason why this has to be our children and our country’s new normal!

Our children have limited access to all media. I know they cannot be shielded forever from such events, but this is a guarded door at the moment. Our daughter happened to be at a friend’s house when she heard about the tragedy. Yet no doubt, my intellectually curious little girl would have heard about it one way or another. Better the facts from Mom and Dad, but I cannot help but wish better not at all. Perhaps she should not have been at a friend’s house that night. Perhaps that is naïve.

For many, there are the obvious social, cultural, political, and moral implications of these events; the shooting that proceeded it days earlier in Oregon;  and all the mass shootings in recent years. It is disgusting to me that we have to form federal commissions to analyze and react to these occurrences, for this just speaks to the volume of events. Rural, suburban, small town, large city, no one is immune from these occurrences. While the Mother bear in me wants to shield, protect, and draw our children closer to the nest, the realist knows that you can never fully do this today. I know that we have a personal set of moral, political, and social values we are transmitting to our children. But nothing is a full proof shield for a victim.

No doubt, a wide range of forces have spurred every shooter to harm, maim, and kill others. We have an individual and collective responsibility in this country to examine our lives, our communities, and our country to prevent further tragedy.  It is simply irresponsible not to act and ignore these occurrences, now and whenever they occur….

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Volunteer Recruitment

Things I’ve learned about volunteer recruitment:
1.) Volunteers have very specific ideas about what they want to do, and trying to make them do something that does not fit within that very narrow guideline is almost impossible, which brings me to point
2.), which is that volunteering is, for most people, less about the organization they are ‘helping’ and more about themselves. Therefore, it may come as little surprise that
3.) the best volunteers are friends and family.

So the next time you feel like volunteering, why not try asking the organization what they actually need instead of immediately imposing your own idea of what they need on them? This public service announcement is in no way intended to discourage people from volunteering in any capacity. It is ALWAYS better to volunteer than to not volunteer.

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Books Also Make Great ‘Tween’ Gifts

A couple of days ago we put out a post that suggested some books for younger children (4-8). The holiday season is also the perfect time for middle school students to get some reading in before the new semester. The weather is cool and they have a bit of time to catch up on some fun reading. Here are some books you can gift to your student to help encourage holiday reading. Some of the books Tutor Doctor and I’d recommend (most have been tested on my daughter the English Lit. Masters student) are:

The Mysterious Benedict Society
Students reply to a newspaper advert and have to pass a series of tests in order to qualify for the team which embarks on a mysterious investigation. The students go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened where they discover all manner of secrets.

The Harry Potter Box Set
If your student hasn’t experienced the joys of the Hogwart’s School of Wizardry, then this will make a gift of epic proportions. It doesn’t matter if they have already watched the movies; the books are far more action-packed and intricate and will still be a thrilling read.

The Giver
This coming-of-age novel investigates the world where Jonas lives free of choices, pain or war, until (at the age of 12) he is exposed to these elements by the Giver. This is a great novel and your student will not be able to put it down!

The Hobbit
Try to get your student to read this before going to see the movie. The Hobbit is a classic for good reason as readers are taken on scintillatinly exciting adventures with Bilbo Baggins as he sets off from the Shire with Gandalf the wizard to battle dragons for stolen treasure.

When Stanley Yelnats goes to Camp Green Lakes for the summer, he is transported to a desert devoid of any greenery at all. As Stanley’s summer takes a turn for the worse, he is accused of stealing a pair of shoes and made to dig holes in the desert sand. He soon figures out that the dastardly camp leader is searching for a hidden treasure…

Twilight Saga
This is a favorite that will have your student sitting on the edge of their seats as they enter the intriguing world of vampires and werewolves and follow the tales of Isabella Swan and her romance with 100 year-old vampire Edward Cullen.

Esperanza Rising
Esperanza lived on her affluent family ranch in Mexico until the Great Depression forces her and her mother to flee to California. Esperanza must learn to face life as a farm worker, as well as overcome the hardships of their new financial difficulties to carve out a life in her new home.

Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl is a twelve year old with a difference; millionaire, genius and criminal mastermind. Artemis bites off more than he can chew when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit.

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