Critical Thinking – 5 Easy Steps

think

crit·i·cal think·ing

noun
noun: critical thinking
  1. the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.

Five easy steps to critical thinking and reading critically

Now more than ever, it matters that we all think critically and apply that to what information we ingest. In light of recent exposure of false news being shared that has had an impact on national elections, believing everything we read comes with extreme consequences. To that end, I am more convinced than ever that one thing I can do is to apply what I learned in my schooling about reading critically.

The internet is a source of a lot of information and misinformation. A data point from meetings I attended this week – over 90% of the content that is on the Internet has been created in the past 2 years. It will continue to proliferate and grow, making it harder and harder to filter and fact check. We all want to believe that what we read is true, but that can’t be the case. To quote my mom (and many others), fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me.

Here are my suggestions – I’m sure there are many others, but I wanted to keep this brief. Feel free to add your own to the list.

  1. Read broadly. If you only get your news from a single source, you run the risk of getting tunnel vision.
  2. If a topic or story seems ludicrous, fact check it. Look at other sites to see if they are reporting it as well. Select sites that have conflicting views and see how it’s being reported from their perspective.
  3. Know who is behind your news. Look at who the publishers and editors are – you can very quickly get a sense of bias or point of view by doing this. Many media sources use names in ways that make them seem like other sources – this can be intentional or not, but it is important to understand what you are reading and who is sharing it.
  4. If you find yourself only ever saying “Yeah – that’s my kind of news” you are probably in an echo chamber. News that is based on the basic journalistic principle of “Who, What, Where, Why, and How” will often give you news that makes you uncomfortable because it runs counter to your personal beliefs or bias.
  5. Synthesize what you read – get the various sources, look for themes, and then THINK. I can’t stress this enough. News should not tell you how to think or feel. It should inform and you need to draw your own conclusions. It’s why I stopped watching any local or network news. I can’t abide being told how I should feel or think. I use my brain every day to do this. The minute I stop, I become part of the problem. And that’s not OK with me.

Friday Flash Fiction

Courtesdy of Sandra Crook
Photo Courtesy of Sandra Crook

This rooftop reminded me of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow.  I’ve been looking at photos from my travels as I put together a photo book, and my thoughts went immediately there. I am certain the election results are shaping my thoughts as I write this. Worry is the word of the day as things change here in the US. I worry about my son, living in the shadow of Russia. I worry about my daughter and the lessons this election has for women. I worry about my son, who is a part of the queer community. And I can’t help but feel sad about what is now at risk.

I apologize to Sandra for taking her happy photo and making it an icon for my angst. Things will get better. I’ll find a way to live in this new world and continue to shine my own light against the darkness.

Word count: 100

Changes

Weak sunlight filtered through the trees, illuminating the mosaic roof. It appeared from nowhere, an omen in this once tranquil village. Townspeople questioned what it signified.

The answer came in the form of an army marching into Lovisa the following morning. The battle was brief, and the message was clear. The west would not know peace – this new order meant change.

Watching from her attic window, Emilia wiped a tear away. The Finnish border had been breached before when she was a girl. As her granddaughter toddled into sight, her heart winced, knowing she could no longer guarantee her future.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.
© Erin Leary

Dear Jan

janDear Jan,

You’ve been on my mind lately, flitting about the edges of thought, leaving a trail of light, a little like Tinkerbell. You had that pixie quality about you – but in fact, you were more like Peter Pan than Tinkerbell. A tomboy through and through, until you became a girly girl, determined to acquire boyfriends like some of us collected coins.

My memories of you are suffused with this late September light – golden, warm, with the knowledge that the days are getting shorter. This is my favorite time of year, a time when I feel closest to you. You left us too soon, but we’ve been over all that before. I miss you, but that’s been covered, too. After 5 years, there really isn’t a lot more I can say on that topic that I haven’t already screamed about, cried over, or painfully accepted. You are a missing piece I have to go on without and most of the time, I do just that. But today, on September 27, I get to take that piece out and look at it, marvel at it and remember how well we fit into the picture we’d created together. Me without you is still an equation I can’t solve for – the one algebra problem that has no answer. I’ll have to skip this assignment and take the F. And you know I never like failing.

I talk to you in my head a lot. I have these long conversations with you that are full of deep meaning, then I forget what I was thinking before I can write them down. You are with me when I walk the dog or I need to process something or want to share a thought. You don’t talk back – just so you know, it’s still one-sided – I haven’t gone completely nutso. It’s hard to change a half century of habit just because you’re gone.

Did you know we moved? I sent change of address notes, but didn’t have a place to send yours. We completely disrupted our family by selling our home. It felt like the right thing to do and most of the time, I’m still sure. But I wanted to talk to you or mom or dad about it many times, to be reassured I was making a good decision, but I had to pull myself up by my own bootstraps and soldier on. There’s nothing like really feeling you are the grown up when your backup team is gone.. I still miss hearing you tell me you are sure I’m doing the right thing. You made me feel invincible and brave and capable, like I had superpowers. I need to go cape shopping, I guess, because I still feel like the little sister who wants approval.

Sometimes I worry that I’ve forgotten where your final resting place is. I know I have it somewhere, but I worry I’ve lost you beyond the metaphysical loss. It’s funny how these details come back and haunt me in a way you never do. You are everywhere and nowhere – you are a philosophy, a memory, a way of being. You are the dappled light I dance in on the water’s edge, the nutmeg aroma that means something delicious is baking, the smile from a stranger that makes my heart full.

I’ve lived longer than you now. I guess that makes me the older sister, doesn’t it? I passed you on April 1. I really intend to make every day count, but some days, I’m just a lump on a couch being lazy. I hope you understand – while I appreciate each day, I’m just not tearing things up all the time. Let’s pretend I’m thinking deep thoughts while I sit there. That might make me feel better.

I miss you, Jannie. Thanks for being my sister, my friend, my confidante, and my cheerleader.  You will be in my heart until my last breath.

Your sis,

Erin

jankeverin

Friday Flash Fiction

Photo Courtesy of Sandra Crook

Photo Courtesy of Sandra Crook

My mom had an old Singer sewing machine that had the knee activated treadle. It was quite a sight – she’d sit and sew, needle clicking through the fabric evenly as she made clothes for all of us kids.

I learned to sew early, making my own clothes to stretch my allowance further. I can remember the time I started to see clothes being sold for cheaper than I could ever make and sewing became a thing of the past. I never made any clothes for my own kids – blankets, maybe, but why bother when you can buy clothes ready-made for less?

I donated my sewing machine to a charity when I moved last month. It sat in a closet for 20 years, only being pulled out to hem something or fix a seam. It felt like a betrayal of my past, leaving behind a skill that was no longer necessary, something passed down from mother to daughter for generations.

Word count: 100

A Stitch in Time

Time was, I sewed clothes to save money, a skill I learned from my mama on a machine like this one here. Now they’re all made for me, cheaper than buying the yardage even. Disposable world we live in – nothing made to last.

Mama’s machine served her to the end, no need for an electrical one or fancy stitches. Just her foot steady on the treadle and the patience to stitch straight.

Feeling disposable myself these days, waiting out death in the home. Maybe my kids’ll come today. Been a few weeks, but patience was never my strongest virtue.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.
© Erin Leary

Friday Flash Fiction

Adam Ickes

Photo Courtesy of Adam Ickes

A boardwalk to some destination, floating above the reedy water…A summer day, but with dark clouds hovering just above the horizon…what story does this picture tell? And where the heck have I been all summer? Busy, busy, busy.  If you need to know more about my summer vacation, read here.  Good to be back – I’ll buckle down and write more often.

Adam, this one is for you.  Enjoy.

Word count: 100

Full Circle

Every step was an effort, Adam’s feet scraping the boardwalk. Mindlessly, he shuffled forward, unsure what drew him on.

His last memory – a pop, then searing pain, then nothing. Trying to piece together more, it was as though his past had vanished.

A red drop hit the wood, a shimmering dot. Adam felt nothing, only knew he had to reach the end. After what felt like years or maybe no time at all, he arrived at the red awning. “Styx Shuttle” was stenciled on the boat that awaited. Adam knew then this was his final trip. He’d come full circle.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.
© Erin Leary

Home

For all practical purposes, the words ‘house’ and ‘home’ are interchangeable. They both bring to mind a place where you live, typically with your family. For me, the word home feels warm – it evokes a sense of coziness that house does not. The old saying “A family makes a house a home” is true – the house contains the family, the love, the spirit which truly makes it a home.

We are selling our home. After 21 years here, we have decided to downsize while the market is good, moving away from the place that gave us shelter and held us together. It’s just a building, but it’s been so much more for our family – it is the place I staked my independence following my divorce. It’s where I embarked on a new marriage with hope and joy. We brought home our son a few years later, adding a third child to our already busy home. He’s lived here all his life and now faces a move to a smaller room in a smaller place that I hope will become a home to him.

When I think about the years we’ve been here, I feel like I have touched just about every wall in every part of this house. We have been actively improving it year after year, adding on, remodeling, redecorating, doing the regular maintenance a house needs. I have loved making my yard the garden I’d dreamed of – and feel connected to it at my very roots. I can walk through the garden and touch my plants, seeing the results of years of work come to fruition. All of this has been a labor of love, with an eye toward ‘someday when we sell, we want it to look good’. And we made it look really good – so good, in fact, we began to question why we wanted to sell. But the fact remains – two of our three children have married and moved into homes of their own. A big house is no longer something we really need. It feels empty and unused for much of the year with our youngest now in college. It’s time to let someone else love it.

The sales process was swift. Houses in our area are being snapped up quickly and within a day of listing, we had multiple offers. We wanted to pass our home on to someone who wanted to be a part of the neighborhood and raise a family here. One couple stood out to us as those people. They told us about their love for gardening and art – they could see themselves here, tending the garden, working in the art studio upstairs. It felt right – and we quickly accepted their offer. What it meant to us was the stark reality that we would really be leaving our home. No more ‘someday when we sell’ – that day was here.

A house contains us – a home nurtures us. All the tears, the laughter, the sleepless nights – every emotion under the sun has taken place here. So much love has passed through this place – so many of my memories are rooted here. It will always be a part of me, in a way no other home has been.

This is the longest I have ever lived anywhere. We moved a lot when I was a kid – the longest in any one place was ten years in our Golden Gardens home in Seattle. Giving my kids a stable place to call home was a big priority for me. I think I learned a lot of resilience moving around growing up, but it was hard being the new kid over and over again.

Starting soon, we will enjoy being condo dwellers for the next few years. We’ll work on building our next home and making the move to Whidbey Island one of these days. For now, we’ll say a loving goodbye to the place that kept us warm and safe and dry all these years, leaving behind the good memories and good karma that has come from the joy, the pain, the happiness and sadness every family shares.

Friday Flash Fiction

JHardyCarroll

Photo Courtesy of J. Hardy Carroll

These benches tell a story – of the people who’ve come and gone, the talented hands of the person who made them, their silent watch over time passing by. This reminds me of Ellis Island, or a train station – some place from the past, where life passed through and time has passed by.

Word count: 99

Waiting at the Station

Passengers streamed off the train, waving at their loved ones. Reunions took place on the platform — kisses and hugs, handshakes and hellos, chaos and commotion.

Sarah waited patiently. He’d be on the train. Watching the joy on the faces around her, she smiled to herself. A mother greeted her returning soldier with tears of joy. Sarah felt her own eyes well up. So much joy.

After the rush, she made her way to the luggage car where a black draped coffin waited on a cart. She let her tears fall silently then. Her love was home at last.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.
© Erin Leary