Challenges – Gifts?

The sticky kitchen floor needs to be mopped. Not a big deal–except this is my way of celebrating 6 weeks since my knee surgery. Nothing is easy anymore. Cleaning most anything while using a walker is a challenge, but it needs to be done. Learning new ways to do daily tasks frustrates me, but it also puts my brain through its challenges, making it stronger and creating new connections.

The brain loves novelty, doing ordinary things in new ways. That’s exactly the story of my life now that I’ve returned home after a month at the rehab center. No need for creativity to generate new brain pathways; that used to mean coming up with a new route to the grocery store or brushing my teeth with my non-dominant hand. Now they ambush me many times every day. Positive focus tells me to be grateful for the challenges. They will indeed help me to learn and keep my brain active–this time with physical rather than mental tasks.  In a couple of weeks, my surgeon will lift the weight restrictions and I’ll be able to go back to my habitual approaches–or not. I’ve discovered I actually enjoy setting up my “office” in a bookcase next to my recliner rather than climbing the stairs to my working desk. Maybe that’s how progress happens.

Snorkeling Sensory Peace

Senses were our gateway to fully enjoying each present moment during our pre-Christmas family vacation to Puerto Morales, Riviera Maya, Mexico. The 100 degree difference in temperature was our first clue that something was different. We left -20, and arrived to 80+ with high humidity. Once at our resort the children discovered coconut ice cream, fresh lemonade, and could still get the hamburgers they loved. Brightly colored flowers, deep blue sea and lazily waving trees and thatched roofs helped us enter a wonderful peace.

My personal sensory smorgasbord awaited in our snorkeling excursion. It brought a brand new kind of peace, helping me overcome the panic I experienced the last  time I donned the mask several years ago. Amancio, our tour guide, noticed my less-than-elegant attempts to manage my life vest, flippers, mask and mouthpiece and took me on as a special project. He recommended that I use the vest as a raft instead of being strangled by it. He put a film of toothpaste—yes toothpaste!—on the inside surface of my swim mask to prevent the fogging that messed me up the last time. He suggested that I just hold on—eventually I relaxed my death grip–and he towed me around the beautiful inlet. I would have missed the colorful fish along the way without his pointing them out. Entire schools of fish swam just beneath us. I reached out to touch them, but they slipped out of reach.

When I relaxed enough to rest in the water, face down and ears in the water, a new sort of tranquility wrapped around my body and spirit. Interesting that most of my body was still above water, but my senses took in only the underwater world. I was able to inhale peace and exhale joy. The experience reminded me of the central role of senses in our existence. Stress melted away when I heard and felt only the unhurried world under the water’s surface. I did “run the tape” to save the experience to recall during future meditations at home.

We also snorkeled in an ancient cave, with only natural light through the cave’s ceiling. Again, unusual sights, sounds and sensations filled my brain and spirit with unusual gifts that I was able to bring home with me. Amancio helped me overcome my apprehesion to again put my face with mask and mouthpiece into the water. My fear melted away as I entered the soothing world below me. He photographed the moment, and our driver photobombed the event. What a blessing this trip was for me.  I thank God for this gift!

Max Your Mind with Chippewa Valley Local Authors on WEAU TV



EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)– “Max Your Mind It’s a Faith Based book written to give hope. To help maturing individuals recognize and appreciate the gifts of growing older. It’s not all downhill from here,” says author Sandra Stanton.

Searching since age 13 for an explanation of how the brain works, Stanton began her research during her Master’s Counseling program at UW Stout in 1977.

“I explain it as ‘a good friend on my bookshelf’ type of a book. It’s meant to be a conversation piece that incorporates a humorous side of science,” says Stanton.

The book is made up of 4 parts; brain, body, spirit and relationships. It’s available on, and in Eau Claire from the Local Store, BAM, and through for a signed copy.



Max Your Mind on WEAU-TV

mym_cover_240Max Your Mind was featured on WEAU-TV’s Today Show. Special thanks to Noelle for promoting the literary art of Chippewa Valley Local Authors!


WOGO Interview – Max Your Mind with Mark Halvorsen

shutterstock_7455493 suspended brainThanks to Mark Halvorsen of WOGO/WWIB FM for interviewing me on his June 22 radio show to let his listeners know about Max Your Mind.  We whizzed through lots of material in what seemed like a very short time. God go with him and his family on their mission visit to Liberia. Chippewa Valley Local Authors appreciates his support as we celebrate our first anniversary.

Coloring Books, Grown-Up Style: the Trend and Brain Benefits

Special thanks to Sarah Stokes, the author of this article, originally published in the April 2016 Queen of the Castle Magazine.

If you’ve walked into a bookstore in the past year, you’ve
probably run right into the displays of adult coloring books. They
are everywhere! The swirls, mandalas, paisleys and flowers are
just waiting for you, the black and white designs next to the
boxes of tempting vibrant-colored pencil options.
Growing up, we knew coloring was a great activity as we learned
to choose colors and create a finished product that was sure to
have mom grab a magnet for the fridge. We learned to move from
scribbling to coloring inside the lines. We could gaze lovingly at
our favorite cartoon characters, brought to life by our crayons
and sign our names to the pages. Now, as grown women, we
are using colored pencils and markers to design beautiful pages.
Coloring books are cool again.

Here’s what some of our readers said about adult coloring books:
“So relaxing, and I wish we would have had these available as
kids!” – Nikki Chetwood
“It helps to color when you’re bored, stressed, have a headache,
decompress from a long day. I would recommend to anyone.” —
“[It] brings peace and solitude after a long and rough day.” —

But what are the benefits behind the books? We went in search
of answers from brain expert, Sandra Sunquist Stanton, author
of “Max Your Mind: An Owner’s Guide to Your Strong Brain.”
Sandra referenced the constant state of “go go go” in our lives
and said coloring can slow us down, almost like a mindful
meditation. “It captures the focus of many parts of the brain
and keeps them busy creating beautiful pictures that ‘stay done’
unlike most household tasks.”

Sandra said these are some other benefits for your brain when
you’re coloring:
• Repetitive motion is soothing for the brain, as in knitting,
crocheting, sewing, rocking, and walking.
• Using our senses activates the parts of the brain where they’re
processed. Creating the pages triggers the kinesthetic sense as
well as the visual.
• What fun for the right brain to choose color and design for the
over-all picture—unlike the old prescribed colors in paint by
number projects!
• The left brain works to create visually pleasing balance,
sequence and detail.
• It’s a perfect self-soothing activity to help us shift from the
amygdala’s worry, planning and regret to the prefrontal
cortex’s positive focus.
• Occupational therapists and psychologists have prescribed
them for people with stress disorders, anxiety, anger
management issues and substance abuse issues.
• Coloring pages are a treatment modality accessible to
anyone—without a prescription, huge expense for equipment
or need for an appointment with someone else. They sit on
your table ready when you are. How cool is that?

Several organizations are hosting coloring groups, to add a
social element to the stress-busting activity. Personal growth
centers like Silver Springs Wellness in Whitehall and Equine
Inspired Wellness in Cadott are hosting coloring events and
senior care non-profits like American Lutheran Communities
in Menomonie, Willowbrook Assisted Living in Eau Claire and
Pioneer Nursing Home in Prairie Farm are welcoming seniors
from the community into their buildings to enjoy the brain boost
along with a cup of coffee.

“We do activities all the time with our residents, but realized
seniors who live at home may not have access to the same
opportunities, so we started hosting a free public coloring
group for people who live in our area,” Angela Greger, the
administrator of Pioneer Nursing Home, said. “It’s a wonderful
thing to see a group of people enjoying themselves and tapping
into their young hearts.”

No matter why you color, just go for it! Find this article on for a selection of free printable
coloring pages and a listing of some area coloring groups.

L.E. Phillips Senior Center – 5 class series Max Your Mind class

We’d love to have you come and join our Max Your Mind class

$40 will hold your spot and get you a signed copy of the book!

Register at L.E.Phillips Senior Center

Thursday April 7-May 5 2016  1-3:00 PM



Not Your Mother’s Parenting

shutterstock_98703734Parenting for Your Baby’s Brain- Then and Now

Do you sometimes wonder what’s going on in babies’ precious little heads? The experiences parents choose for their baby shape her. What a responsibility! It’s always been a daunting task, one for which we don’t even get an operation manual. We have to figure it out for ourselves, often with the help of our own parents who learned long ago how to navigate in very different “waters”. Let’s look at some of the ways parenting has changed from the 70’s and 80’s to 2015.

Today’s parents have the benefit of recent neuroscience research. We now know that full term babies have 100 Billion brain cells of which only 25% are connected to each other and functioning. The rest of the connections grow through the child’s experiences—engineered by parents and caregivers. When little ones feel safe and know that they are loved, they are eager to learn. Touch and loving eye contact create a sense of safety, giving them freedom to try new things. Don’t worry about spoiling a baby. They grow and develop best when they know that they matter to the grownups who care for them.

“Children should be seen and not heard”


We used to hear this from adults who were frustrated with noisy, distracting children. This philosophy downplayed the importance of interaction for babies’ brains. Ignored by their adults, many little ones felt isolated. Without interaction, children’s brains become stressed, restricting the formation of connections. Playpens were common in the 70’s and 80’s.  With baby playing in an enclosed space, moms could get their work done, and they could still watch, talk and listen to the kids.  Children were safe and entertained, but they couldn’t explore their world.


Babies now often spend their time in carriers, experiencing their parents’ movements and activities. This is a far better way to create connections between the child’s brain cells. Parent and child are able to enjoy each other singing, dancing, and sharing activities.  Parents are better able to become their child’s favorite “toy”. They love to study Mom’s or Dad’s face, and learn how to get smiles.  Climbing into his world on the floor develops his brain and helps him learn about relationships.

Entertaining Children


Children across time have learned by playing. In the 70’s they liked, trucks, dolls, and other toys. An entire generation grew up watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. Sitting and reading the same book over and over together in a rocking chair has always been a wonderful way to help them explore relationships and learn about their world.


In the past ten years, electronic options with bright moving visuals and engaging sounds keep children occupied and quiet, tempting busy parents to rely on them.

Unfortunately, screen time develops mostly passive connections in their brain at the expense of active skills. According to the American Academy of Pediatricians, “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”[i]

For more “bang for the brain”, babies and toddlers need face-to-face interaction with a parent or consistent responsive caregiver. Examining a real leaf, empty boxes, plastic containers and other real-live experiences with their adults awakens their creativity, wonder, and teaches them to play. When either the parent or the child is focused on TV or other screens rather than each other, children miss out on critical development opportunities. Most important, the screen doesn’t respond to the child’s communication, so they learn they don’t matter.

Babies are gifts—even when they keep us from sleeping. Find joy in your time together, and everyone will have a stronger brain.


(footnote i)


Building Baby’s Brain Class:

Contact Family Resource Center at 715-833 1735 to register for Building Baby’s Brain class on  June 16, 2016 5:30-7:00.


First published in Queen of the Castle Magazine, Nov. 2015

Eight Great Ways to Max Your Mind

We’ve been given one mind with 100 billion brain cells. It performs 400 trillion processes every second, so it needs our help. These eight Fade-Fighting tips will help keep it sharp and humming along at its best.

1. Relationships with the People we “Do Life” with are gifts we give ourselves. They keep our minds healthy. Sharing hugs and fist bumps boost our brains and emotions.

2. Exercising Body and Brain Active muscles stimulate the brain and release healthy growth hormones. Brain chemicals or Neurotransmitter help us manage stress and mood. Our body generates natural feel good chemicals, endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin.
Exercising our brains with crossword puzzles, Sudoku, or video brain training software help keep it sharp. Try Neurobics—switching up a regular activity by doing it with the other hand, or backwards, or finding a new way to do it. The brain loves novelty which creates new connections.

3. Humor, Laughter and Joy
Laughter can dissolve stress and heal our bodies, even without jokes. 8000 Laughter Yoga groups have formed around the world to enjoy its benefits. They fake laughing on purpose until the body takes over and makes it real.

4. Trust
Knowing our world is in God’s hands frees our brain to fully experience the present moment and its gifts. Rest, knowing that fixing things isn’t your main job. Just be.

5. Gratitude
Focusing on the positive counteracts the brain’s default mode looking for threats to keep us alive. Choose to be grateful and the entire body will benefit. The brain’s main job is to keep us alive, so its default mode is looking for threats. We can over-ride the negative focus and choose to be grateful and our entire body will be healthier and happier. Research shows the brain releases dopamine while expressing gratitude. It’s like enjoying a glass of wine without the chemical downside.

6. Creative Juices Go Ahead! Sing, Paint, Write! Your mind will love it!
Always wanted to make something beautiful? Painting, drawing, or even coloring books exercise your creative juices. A bonus-they stay done unlike many of our daily chores. Music gives the brain a workout. Sing, dance, listen, or make your own music for a healthy “rush” and mental exercise. Writing either with a computer or with pen in hand is a great way to explore your thoughts.

7. Sleep
Let the “Night Crew” clear the clutter while you sleep. While our bodies are at rest, the brain’s glial cells are very busy getting rid of byproducts of converting our food to fuel. During sleep the brain gets a chance to sort information we’ve taken in throughout the day. It files away things that we’re motivated to keep and gets rid of things that aren’t connected to what we’ve used before.
Note: Electronic screens before bed can interrupt the brain’s sleep cycle.

8. Nutrition
The brain runs on a steady supply of fuel delivered by the blood. Since the brain is 80% water, we need to keep it hydrated. When the water supply gets low, headaches or fading function might show up. Healthy Omega 3-6-9 fats from fish, avocados, and oils keep the axon’s myelin wrap in good shape o brain cells can communicate with each other.
Carbs become Glucose, feeding our brain. Choose healthy ones to keep everything working smoothly.

Want more? Order your personalized and signed copy of Max Your Mind: The Owner’s Guide for a Strong Brain from her website, or your favorite book store.
Contact Sandra for Brain Coaching to help you create your own best life through applying everyday neuroscience. As your thinking partner, she can help you discover many more ways to be kind to your brain, giving it what it needs to stay healthy. You’ll find information about booking a series of individual Brain Coaching sessions, conference presentations, or consultation tailored to your needs at

Max Your Mind Class Series

class ad !cid_A2307E72-2880-4841-8CF6-4A4D1291627F@eau_wi_charter

Why did I come into this room? If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, we’d like you to join us at the Center-Eau Claire for a combination book signing/brain chat on Sunday, July 19.

Our four session class series will follow on Thursdays from 12:30-2:30 pm, beginning July 23 to Aug 13. We will laugh, learn and try out activities that have helped others “Fight the Fade” and “Bless the Boost”, celebrating the mental skills that improve with age. !

A copy of Max Your Mind: The Owner’s Guide for a Strong Brain is included

Register by emailing Your reply will include the address to send payment.
Cost: $100 for Early Bird payments received by July 16. After that date, the cost will be $150.