Deadly Food Allergy: A Blessing?

A question I have pondered recently: are my deadly food allergies (peanuts) really a blessing in disguise?

My first thought, it has given me strength to be different. Standing out, not participating with the group, is regularly required for my survival. A common experience, as long as I can remember is being in a room, usually a cafeteria, full of people eating peanut butter infused food. Peanut butter rice crispy bars were a frequent treat at Santaquin Elementary School. Something I have just realized, these foods that I was unable to eat were considered a treat by most everyone else. I can only imagine my avoidance of the food was even more strange to other people. “Why in the world would I avoid eating a treat?”, they were probably thinking. Getting strange looks and harassment was common.

Living with a life threatening allergy has also increased my ability for attention to technical details. From a young age I needed to ask for food ingredients and how the food was prepared. This is something I took for granted. Until recently I didn’t realize that this was a strange thing to do. From my perspective it is and has always been perfectly reasonable. Like looking both ways when crossing the street. Both cars and peanuts are deadly to me. Avoiding getting hit by a car is common among people, but a deadly food allergy is not. Looking back, I can see that I did realize this on an unconscious level. I learned to avoid asking what was in all food, sure it is risky, but I learned to categorize food. Thinking about the categories, they are: high probability of being safe, probably safe, risky, and high risk foods. The foods with a high probability of being safe, like fresh fruit, or other food where the ingredients are clear, I didn’t need to ask about their ingredients or how they were prepared. Other foods, like anything with chocolate, are high risk for peanuts and peanut butter, those I would ask or just avoid, not being worth the risk. People’s methods of food preparation are also risky, like using the same knife to spread both the jam and the peanut butter on a PB&J sandwich. If I don’t know that a jar of jam hasn’t been contaminated, I don’t even risk eating the jam.

I have discovered that paying attention to details and being OK with looking strange in a group setting, both are useful for eating healthy!
I’ve started eating a wider variety of healthy food the last few years. I’ve never wanted to try Panda Express but my wife enjoys their food, so I thought I’d give it a try. I went into the restaurant and saw how they dished up the food, there is the possibility of them using the same spoon to dish up the peanut food with the non peanut food. Seeing that I decided not to risk eating there. I used to love milk shakes, but peanut butter ingredients are regularly mixed on the same mixer and I have been exposed a few too many times. I now avoid ordering milkshakes (it helps that milk now also gives me congestion and stomach issues…).
Realizing that I was used to this (apparent) strange life of being picky and inquisitive about what I eat, I decided to use it to my advantage and eat more healthily. I currently choose to eat whole grains and avoid sugar based foods. Sure it’s a little awkward turning away cookies, donuts, pie, cake, and candy at social gatherings; but, for me it’s not that weird, I’ve always turned down peanut butter cookies, rice crispy treats, snickers, butter finger, peanut butter sandwiches, and many other foods mixed with peanuts!

Perhaps peanuts will be the death of me someday, but hopefully heart disease and diabetes will not! So it seems, I can look at this allergy and challenge in my life as a blessing and not a curse.

How about you? Any challenges that you could say “why me?” – that seem to have no benefit to your life? Could they really be a blessing?

Talking With Your Hands?

On the fourth of July we went camping and my wife took pictures of me in a serious discussion.

I was having a discussion with my brothers on the definition of a role-playing game. OK, maybe it wasn’t that serious, but the way I was holding my hands one might wonder! This amused me and inspired this post!

I’m one quarter Italian and I’ve been told that talking with your hands is an Italian thing. The questions for today are: is this really an Italian thing or just folk rumor? Is being part Italian the reason I talk with my Hands?

A New York times article states “To Italians, gesturing comes naturally.” Not a scientific publication, but I’m not making major life decisions here, this is good enough for me.

There are some interesting things online about talking with your hands, unrelated to being Italian. Many things I never knew before starting to write this post!

There is a lifehacker “Guide to Talking With Your Hands Without Being Annoying”. Hopefully I can avoid looking like the image a commentator left on that post: Fast Talking Hand Gif


According to a Forbes article “Great Leaders Talk With Their Hands”. My arms open and spread in the pictures should indicate that, I was trying to be open and honest, with nothing to hide. Can’t say I was consciously trying to convey openness or why I’d need honesty in the case of discussing the definition of a role-playing game. Perhaps I thought it would help make my point…?

I discovered that people are researching gestures and the research indicates that we gain cognitive benefits from talking with our hands. Our working memory can more easily use a gesture to communicate, which frees up some mental space for more complex thoughts. This makes sense to me. I enjoy complex discussions that fully utilize my mental capabilities. The more engaged I am in the discussion the more gestures I tend to use.

My takeaway from this little study, on talking with your hands, is: in general it’s a good thing. A caveat, we should take notice of ourselves once and a while and decide if we’re gesturing well or just being annoying.

What do you think? Do you talk with your hands?



The New York Times, When Italians Chat, Hands and Fingers Do the Talking

Lifehacker, A Guide to Talking With Your Hands Without Being Annoying

Forbes, Great Leaders Talk With Their Hands

Discover Magazine, Talk With Your Hands? You’re Doing It Right

Egotistical or Self-Aware?

After writing many posts about myself, a concern crept into my mind, am I being egotistical and selfish or am I becoming more self-aware?
“Know thyself” is generally considered wise.
Being egotistical is not.
Often one seems to be confused with the other.
Is this one of those fine lines where a virtue can turn into a vice?

John D. Mayer Ph.D says “People who display such an ability [to know thyself] understand themselves and know who they are.  They evaluate others more accurately and therefore make more allowances for others’ foibles; they are better at acknowledging their own limitations, too”. Making allowances for others’ weaknesses and acknowledging ones own limitations doesn’t sound like being egotistical!

“Our Ego Is the Enemy of Self-Awareness” states Sara Canaday.  In her article by the same name, she makes several good points. Confronting the reality of yourself, truly looking at our weaknesses and strengths always includes pain.  To our ego the pain isn’t worth the price of genuine self-knowledge.  She provides several good suggestions for improving self-awareness, take a look, if you dare!

Bringing back everything to yourself or relating to yourself can seem self-obsessed, especially if done in a rude way (which is not necessarily selfish, it could be a lack of social skills).  I found an interesting post by Peter Kowalke on where he shares his experience with self-awareness and how it’s different from selfishness.  He does make a point that we should guard against selfishness and there seems to be a risk of it in the unschooling method.

Using this knowledge, my plan is to keep writing and assessing myself. My hope is to improve self-awareness and avoid being egotistical.

What is your plan?


Know Thyself by John D. Mayer Ph.D

Our Ego Is the Enemy of Self-Awareness by Sara Canaday.

The Fine Line Between Self-Awareness and Selfishness By Peter Kowalke

Irrationally Awesome!

Why are some things irrationally awesome? There is much in life we like with no good reason, the answer is simply: “because I like it”. Let’s start with the featured image on this post, a Jedi with a light saber overlooking an amazing scene. Very cool!

Dragons, why is a giant fire-breathing lizard with wings awesome?
Maybe because it’s red! Oh wait, yes, I’m a little irrationally obsessed with red too…

An excellent specimen:

Red-Gold Dragon

Beagles, not sure why but I just like to look at them. I feel like King Haggard in the Last Unicorn. Only if I could command a Red Bull to round all of them up for me…
My beagles had puppies, very cuddly!

The only thing more awesome than a beagle is a beagle ninja! See my dog climbed his fence and is walking the balance beam…


Mongoose, see it take on a Cobra!

I could say it’s from the dozens of times I watched the movie Riki Tiki Tavi as a child, but why did I want to watch it dozens of times…?


Um, not sure…

Swords, so I can stab someone! er, wait… I typically avoid even killing insects if possible…

Trees, see the picture of the house surrounded by trees, a big reason I moved to that house, the trees…

Take a look at me pointing at the Trees on our Vacation to Lake Conroe, TX – awesome trees!
They do give shade, but so does a warehouse (not awesome)…

Praying Mantis, found this critter hanging out on my windshield wipers. Why is this so amazing!?

Rational likes for comparison

  • Food (needed for survival)
  • Fair Maidens (human survival)
  • Winning (helps attract a fair maiden and get food)

What is the point here, not sure, maybe it’s that, even those of us with “Analytical” in our top five strengths can still be irrational!

Or perhaps, the key takeaway from this post is: if you want to sell me something, it should be a red dragon-beagle-mongoose-goat-mantis perched in red-leafed tree wielding a red tinted sword or at least you should find some way to throw that into the deal!

Die To Learner?

From an early age I liked to test the boundaries. My Dad (Pickering), would watch me as a child and I would intentionally roll off the edge in Marble Madness the Original Nintendo Game, to learn just how far I could get to the edge.

Marble Madness (U)
Marble Madness Screen Shot

No, it was not because I liked to lose or “die”, but knowing where the boundary was would allow for increased game performance.

Personalized insights From GALLUP:  Learner

“Instinctively, you enjoy examining books, journals, documents, artifacts, or data. They broaden your knowledge and allow you to acquire new skills. Firsthand experiments and personal experiences contribute mightily to your qualifications and credibility as an expert and specialist. It’s very likely that you thirst for new ideas and knowledge. Often you lose yourself in a book. You pore over the ideas contained on its pages for long stretches of time. Why? You want to absorb as much information as you can. Driven by your talents, you value education and scholarship at any level and at any age. Your thirst for knowledge causes you to explore many topics of study or specialize in one particular subject. You thoroughly enjoy opportunities to acquire additional information, skills, and experiences. Chances are good that you long to gather information about individuals. Your “need to know” is rarely satisfied. The more facts you gather, the easier it is for you to understand the person’s unique strengths, limitations, interests, likes, dislikes, or goals. Unquestionably, you study human beings one by one. Your ongoing observations of selected individuals probably provide you with interesting insights into human nature. By nature, you yearn to know a lot. It makes little sense to you to skim through a book and read only the highlights. You delve more deeply into intriguing subjects than most people do. You love to gather all kinds of information. This explains why you take time to grasp ideas that appear in print.”

GALLUPs insights are generally fitting, except the bit about skimming a book to read the highlights. Some books are only worth skimming, although I prefer the term “inspectional reading” used by Adler in his book, How to Read a Book.  First, a book should be inspectionally read, and then if warranted it can be given an in-depth analytical reading!

Take a look at my post about my study process for more on this strength.

Your Personal Study Process?

My personal study process typically starts with
When I’m interested in a subject I’ll search for and find the top rated books for the subject, then based on some internal formula that balances cost, current time available for study, interest and need, I’ll buy several of the top books and put the rest on a wish list. Often I’m debating starting the study of a subject or purchase of a book, then I’ll either put it in the cart and save “for later” or just add to the appropriate wish list.
I have 58 wish lists, 876 items, average of 15 items per list (yes, there are some no-book items, like software, but mostly books!).

Once I receive the book, if I’m really excited about it, I’ll jump right in and start reading, otherwise it is placed on my to-read queues: top of my desk, family room book shelves, my white throne room, exercise bike, and bedroom dresser. See pictures of locations of my “to-read queues”

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Hutch on my desk
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Family room book shelves
My White Throne Room
My White Throne Room
Bedroom Dresser Queue
Bedroom Dresser
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FitDesk Exercise Bike

While I’m reading a physical book I use 3×5 cards of varying colors as a bookmark and a self-created index. I also index for areas that have personal significance that I would like to return and delve into more deeply. See images (front and back) of 3×5 card for The Gifted Adult book.

personal study wordpress trello-1414357131personal study wordpress trello-1387460416

I also will write down inspiring and “ah ha!” thoughts on various notebooks, binders, paper pads, and/or in computer software (OneNote, Outlook/Remember The Milk tasks and Trello primarily).
See the images of my desk, you’ll see the papers and notebooks (on the hutch).personal study wordpress 20150703_101122

When I’m finished studying them, they make their way to “hope to study more in-depth” study piles or to the “library” bookshelves.

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Library Bookshelf 1
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Library Bookshelf 2
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Library Bookshelf 3

At the gym I listen to educational audio (from audible primarily).
I also use the computer (Kindle, Internet, other eBooks) to learn and study.

Finally, the next fun part about learning is finding and designing opportunities to put into action, and gaining experience related to my studies. Very exciting!

What is your personal study process?

Weirdo, Obsessive, Perfectionist or Gifted?

What makes a person gifted vs just a plain old weirdo? Is having a tendency towards obsessions simply a mental disorder? How about perfectionism? Are these primarily problems of a deranged mind in need of therapy?

An alternate theory provided by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen in her book The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius she claims that there are at least 20 million Gifted American adults, our schools only have 3 million gifted children. How can we have so many more gifted adults? Many gifted adults are misdiagnosed with a disorder. The most common mis-diagnosis are: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (OD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Mood Disorders such as Cyclothymic Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, Depression, and Bi-Polar Disorder.

I have never been diagnosed with any of the above mentioned disorders, but at times I have thought that I was struggling with depression and/or Cyclothymic Disorder (a mild form of bi-polar). After reading The Gifted Adult book and the articles I reference, a much more likely scenario, is being an unidentified Gifted Adult (and child). Our current process for identifying gifted children is an IQ test. As a child I never scored “gifted” as far as an IQ test is concerned. One, I lacked test taking skills (of which I never really mastered until college) and two, I doubt I would have scored high enough to qualify even with lacking in test taking ability. The author of The Gifted Adult makes a strong case for the limitations of IQ only as test for giftedness.

The Gifted Adult is intense, complex and driven. Of this I strongly relate, but we have been taught that our strong personality is excessive,  weird, and therefore wrong. The reason for our intensity is being more sensitive to light, sounds, touch, taste and smell. This increased sensitivity also makes us more complicated, we naturally perceive a complex depth beyond what is on the surface. We’re driven because we have an innate sense of how things should or could be, which gives us the urge to perfect (perfectionism). The author has counseled hundreds of gifted people and the gifted are regularly confused by their own unexplained inner conflicts. The inner conflict is largely due to a loss of identity often identifying with some kind of social stigma or disorder instead of their natural gifts. The key is to manage or balance our giftedness. This enables our strange tendencies to become blessings instead of a curse.

Are You a Gifted Adult? (Questions From the Book)

  • Insatiable curiosity?
  • Own worst critic, due to very high standards (Perfectionist)?
  • Have a powerful need to be a seeker of ultimate truths?
  • Have been criticized for being “too much” of just about everything?
  • Extremely energetic and focused, yet constantly switching gears?
  • Intensely sensitive, able to intuit subtly charged situations and decipher others’ feeling?
  • Criticized for not “sticking with one thing”?
  • Bothered by bright lights, aromas, and noises that others ignore?
  • Can see many sides to nearly every issue and love a good debate?
  • High energy and driven by your own creativity?

There is a test in the book and a longer list. You should get a copy at the library or purchase the book if this sounds like you, or someone you care about!

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children
The Gifted Adult
Self-Knowledge Self-Esteem and the Gifted Adult