Dr. Sonna's Writing Samples

 

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Sample Column

Bringing Homework out of the Bedroom

Copyright 2007
All rights reserved
Copying & distribution of copyrighted material without express permission from the author is prohibited. Contact Dr.Sonna for information.

What's wrong with letting kids study in their bedrooms? Nothing. Or maybe everything!

For some students the environment is irrelevant. They do their work whether seated in front of their favorite television show or secluded in a barren, sound-proof bedroom. Other children are, well, children. If sent to their bedroom, they are likely to do anything and everything--except homework. The toy box, telephone, and TV pose irresistible distractions to which they succumb again and again. Meanwhile, a single muffled syllable from a sibling lures them "where the action is"--out with the rest of the family.

Sending youngsters to their rooms to study is tantamount to giving them free reign to do their own thing. If their "thing" happens to be homework, there's no problem. However, if reading, writing, and arithmetic chores are just that--chores, allowing them to study unsupervised could be an educational disaster waiting to happen.

Countless parents respond to complaints of, "I can't study in my room!" by making the bedroom a more attractive space. They select kid-sized desks and chairs, install bright, glare-free lighting, and cover the walls with images of Donald Duck or Pocahontas. To solve concentration problems and help focus attention, they install carrels or room dividers to section off clutter and screen out distracting stimuli.
Unfortunately, even vast improvements in design and decor rarely pay off. Liking the bedroom and liking to do homework in the bedroom are very different matters. So, too, are being able to concentrate on enjoyable activities, such as playing Nintendo or Barbie dolls, and being able to concentrate on unenjoyable ones, such as a page of math problems or a science report.

The ideal study setting offers few opportunities to romp and roam, piddle, and play--which are rampant in every bedroom. This is as true for adolescents as for younger children. Many teenagers confess that although they know they are SUPPOSED to study when sent to their rooms, and even though they PROMISE to get started, and while they truly INTEND to study, and though they aren't lying when they claim to be "busy," they resist the isolation. They socialize by talking on the phone if they can, or by writing notes to their friends if they can't. Most teens are mature enough to know what they SHOULD DO, but aren't mature enough to make themselves do it. Which means they still need adult supervision.


The practice of secluding youngsters at homework time is a recent development. Until just two generations ago the kitchen was the preferred location. Sitting together at the table made studying a sociable affair, yet parents could keep a watchful eye and provide reminders if conversations strayed from the task at hand.

Times have changed. Families have grown smaller. The standard of living has increased, and more youngsters have a bedroom of their own. Although few question the modern practice of confining students, many children resist being isolated even in lavishly appointed rooms. Others who go willingly accomplish little or nothing in the way of homework.

If your children are working up to their potential, leave well enough alone. But if you have a sluggard in your midst, try a kitchen or dining room table, the den or living room. There's much to be said for bringing homework out of the bedroom and placing it smack dab in the center of your family. That is, after all, where education--and children--belong.

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Available Column Titles

"Militant Mamas"
"New School Year Resolutions"
"Parents, Have You Done Your Homework?"
"Bringing Homework Out Of The Bedroom"
"What The Kids Say"
"Teaching Time Management"
"Summer Time Management for Kids"
"Goal Setting for Kids"
"Kids Who Lose Their Cool"
"Mom's Reading Method"
"Math Mania"
"Straight Talk About Retention"
"Holidays & Homework"
"The Carrot And The Stick"

"Homework: The Job Kids Love To Hate"
"Just Say 'No' To TV"
"Overcoming Student Burn-out"
"Homework Fanatics"
"The Case Of The Disappearing Homework Papers"
"Homework Survival Strategies"
"Taking Charge"
"Helping A Budding Author to Blossom"
"Sit Still & Concentrate!"
"Helping a Troubled Child"
"A Case of Puppy Love"
"Thanks, Teach"
"An Educational Bon Voyage"
"Homework Do's and Don'ts"
"Pre-School Homework Readiness"
"College Homework Solutions"
"Wanda for President"
"Abolish Homework?"
"Gourmet Academics," Dallas Child, 1989.


Sample Poetry - Serious

Love at Noon

As sun shines full, let us embrace

This golden day, for love is best begun at noon,

When gilded skies fade crown of moon.

Then on toward dawning, silvered face

For heavenís rise. In starry light

Weíll dance the twilit dance of love

And sing beneath darkís canopy above.

When binds fall loose, weíll soar in flight,

To gentled arms of lingering night.

Desert Bloom

My heartís story lies open to you:

A tale of cloud fire

Rising from purple mountains,

Of floods

Sweeping through desert canyons,

Of yearning deep

As the big river's great gorge,

And hope vast

As the red stone mesasĖ

But fragile, too, as a desert flower

Bowing to the gentle touch

Of summered breeze.

 

Tread softly as you enter these,

My secret chambers.

Through them flows

My life my love,

And more:

The me

I am giving

To you.


Sample Poetry - Spanish

By Linda Sonna

Copyright 2007
All rights reserved
Copying & distribution of copyrighted material without express permission from the author is prohibited. Contact Dr.Sonna for information.

 

El Valle Mio

Aquí en el valle bendito

Cuando digo que es valle mio

Es porque las aguas vivas

Cayendo de los brazos

De los Sangre de Cristos

Me dan a mí la vida

También.

 

Aquí en el valle bendito

Digo que es valle mio,

Porque cuando Dios escribe

los crepúsculos ensangrentados

Yo leo los mensajes

También

 

Digo que el valle es mio

Porque aquí fuí nacido

Caminando las tierras anaranjadas

Inhalando los misterios verdes

De chamisa y piñón

 

Digo que es valle mio

Porque aquí he vivido

Y cuando los cañones silban

Y las mesas verdes susurran

Mi alma reconoce las voces del viento

Y canta, yo canto, también.

My Valley

Here, in this sacred valley

When I say that itís my valley

Itís because the living waters

Falling from the shoulders

Of the Sangre de Cristos

Give life to me,

Too.

 

Here, in this sacred valley,

I say it is my valley,

Because when God inscribes

The bleeding sunsets,

I read the messages,

Too.

 

I say that the valley is mine

Because it was here that I was birthed

Walking the orange earth,

Inhaling the green mysteries

Of mountain sage and piñon.

 

I say that this is my valley

Because I have lived here.

And when the canyons whistle

And the green mesas sigh

My soul recognizes the windís many voices

And it sings, too.

 


Sample Free-lance Article

The White-Knuckle Syndrome

By Linda Sonna

Copyright 2007
All rights reserved
Copying & distribution of copyrighted material without express permission from the author is prohibited. Contact Dr.Sonna for information.

1475 words
Whenever an aircraft's engines scream to life and a jet hurtles toward the sky, even seasoned travelers are vulnerable to an attack of that gut-wrenching, arm-rest-clenching malady known as the White-Knuckle Syndrome.


American Airline's public relations department has worked hard to inoculate the flying public against airborne anxiety. Its vaccines, consisting of ads emphasizing reliability and efficiency, have proved no more potent than a placebo. As soon as the bone-rattling vibrations and ear-splitting screeches of take-off and landing begin, passenger stop worrying about arriving on time. They're too busy worrying about arriving in one piece.

It's during those unsettling moments that mechanical ignoramuses on board are apt to be infected by some terrifying realizations: Those mysterious groans are undoubtedly coming from the engines, which are falling off because the mechanic didn't tighten the bolts. The creaks are emanating from the wings, which are about to self-destruct because the hurried crew didn't have time to weld the cracks and instead settled for duct tape. The whooshes are from the cockpit door, which is sliding open because the attendant forgot to report the broken latch.

The Rookie Rules

Now American Airlines has developed a new salve for the faint of heart. Its latest advertising campaign tries to assuage fears about mechanical risk--or at least, about the risk that a mechanic's safety concerns might be ignored. Its commercial states, "Even the most junior mechanic can keep an airplane in the hanger if there's a hint of a problem."

The inherent unbelievability of that claim has made some passengers more worried than ever. "We're supposed to believe a supervisor won't pressure a rookie mechanic to keep the dollars flowing?" wonders Paula Howard, a Hurst, Texas housewife and mother of two. "Who are they kidding?"
Given the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant scandal in which welders' shoddy work was given the seal of approval by government inspectors, such cynicism seems warranted. But it turns out that American Airline's dedication to safety isn't a figment of an advertising writer's imagination.
Journeyman mechanic Charles Calvert of Arlington, Texas, who has 27 years with the company, says, "No one at American is about to compromise safety. The mechanic's word is law."

His son David Calvert, currently maintaining United Postal Service's aircraft, has worked for a number of major passenger airlines over the last seventeen years. "All the airlines are extraordinarily concerned about safety. But of the passenger transport companies, American is the most conscientious," he maintains.

Managing Director of Aircraft Maintenance John Judge admits that it is theoretically possible for a supervisor to override a mechanic's advice to ground a plane. In reality, he insists that it just doesn't happen.

Even Bill Newell agrees. As Section Chairman of the American Transport Workers Union Local 513, Newell isn't disposed to trust management. He notes that until the latest financial crunch, supervisors earned bonuses for good on-time flight records. That's an incentive that could certainly lead them to pressure mechanics who try to ground an iffy plane. Indeed, Newell is sure a rogue supervisor or two must have tried to override a mechanic's signature in order to stick to the schedule.

Still, Newell can't point to any specific incidents and admits, "No supervisor who tries to pressure a mechanic is going to last. When it comes to safety at American, the mechanics are in charge." If a conflict arises, a mechanic can turn to his or her crew chief--or go straight to the CEO. Mechanics have an open invitation to go over their supervisors' heads if they disagree about any safety decision, no matter how small.

Newell noted, however, "When economic times get tough, there's a tendency for teetering companies to cut corners. Airlines facing bankruptcy are the ones to watch out for. They do stupid things. It's a miracle that hasn't caused a crash."

Asked whether American Airline's current financial straights were compromising safety, he added ominously, "Not so far." Two days later, financially beleaguered American Eagle Airlines had a major fatal crash. Although owned by the same holding company as American Airlines, it is a separate entity with its own policies, procedures, and employees.

A Risk Manager's Dream

If the potential for a safety slip-up at American is a frequent flyer's nightmare, it's actual record is a risk manager's dream. With approximately 900,000 flights and 80-85 million boardings per year, the company has managed over thirteen million consecutive trips and a billion boardings without a major mishap. Flying American isn't only safer than driving a car--it's also safer than crossing the street.

To be certified as a mechanic requires a high school diploma, two years of technical course work, 1,875 hours of hands-on training, passing grades on oral and written tests, and Power Plant and Airframe Licenses from the FAA. Both an FAA license and at least five years of work experience are required to land a job with American Airlines anywhere in the world. To keep it, mechanics must accept that taking courses and passing tests are as basic a requirement as showing up for work.

They must also accept that they are always on stage, and the curtain is always up. All new hires are considered rookies--no matter that they arrive with a decade of military training on their resumes. Journeymen Calvert says, "We take new employees under our wings, give them easy jobs, watch their every move, and help them every inch of the way. We wouldn't saddle them with more than they could handle. It wouldn't be fair."

That's not to suggest that mechanics ever graduate from having their every move scrutinized. It's an industry-wide practice for mechanics to work in teams. At American, everyone rotates through all maintenance jobs on a regular basis. When conducting visual inspections of their co-workers, mechanics have the kind of ability to check for errors that comes with having done the very same job themselves.

Then there's the FAA. "First, their manuals spell out every detail in black and white. There's never any question about what needs to be done or whether something is up to standard," Calvert explains. "If anyone notes any problems whatsoever, they enter them into the log book. Before a plane can go, each entry must have a balancing report explaining how the problem was handled, and must be checked by another mechanic.

The FAA is a hovering presence at American terminals in the U.S. where inspectors work around the clock, checking the men who are checking the planes.

In fact, the time spent maintaining and inspecting aircraft is mind-boggling. The daily visual checks (the actual frequency is a combination of elapsed flight hours, number of take offs and landings, and aircraft age) are actually double checks, since two mechanics must approve each item contained in the routine maintenance and special repairs' lists. Each jet also undergoes weekly checks that take ten to twenty man-hours to complete.

Next come monthly checks, which take from 100 man-hours for narrow-body aircraft to 300 man-hours for wide-bodies. Every fifteen to eighteen months, wide-bodied jets are brought the U.S. for a "C" check, which takes from 20-30,000 man-hours. That brings the grand total to eleven man-hours of maintenance for each hour flown, according to American Airlines spokesperson Tim Smith.

Which doesn't count the pre-flight checks made by the pilots. They fastidiously review the log books and are expected to personally inspect repairs.

Secret Statistics

What these impressive statistics can't capture is the nature of the profession itself. As a group, aircraft mechanics seem actually to like their jobs. Despite the misery of shift-work, and despite layoffs that have run in ten-year cycles, hardly anyone ever quits. The work ethic and its correlates (liking one's job, taking pride in one's work) which have all but disappeared from the U.S. work force are alive and well--at least at American's Dallas-Fort Worth headquarters and at the Tulsa and Alliance-Fort Worth Maintenance and Engineering bases where aircraft are overhauled.

So why doesn't American wipe out the last vestiges of the White Knuckle Syndrome by giving passengers the information that would allow them to relax and enjoy the friendly skies? All the pilots have to do is drop a few facts into the cabin during take off. With 2,500 flights per day, it wouldn't take long for word to spread.

"We really don't like to disturb the passengers with a lot of talk," spokesperson Tim Smith explains. "They've got other things on their minds."
Like whether that awful vibration is coming from the stalled engine or the falling off wing?

"Whatever. We just don't like to bother them."

Do us a favor, Mr. Smith. Tell the crew to be more of a bother!-end-

Dr. Sonna is a psychologist and author who was cured of the White-Knuckle Syndrome while researching this article.


Sample Newspaper Article

Alternatives to War Sought in Northern New Mexico

by Linda Sonna

for the Taos News

"An eye for an eye and the whole world will be blind."

Mahatma Ghandiís wisdom provided the theme for the gathering for peaceful alternatives sponsored by Peace Action NM held in Santa Fe September 22.

Following a march 400 strong from the Capitol to the Plaza, an assembly of 250 met to share concerns about the impending war and develop non-violent responses to the September 11th attack on America. Five Taosenos were in attendance.

Individuals stepped to the mic to rue the wave of bellicosity sweeping the country and cited the likely outcome of military strikes against countries thought to be harboring terrorists: heavy civilian casualties, the creation of martyrs, and the entrenchment of hate toward our country from abroad.

Participants in the Media and Communication group noted that balanced information is hard to come by given the current level of corporate control of the media, including PBS. They recommended tuning into NPR and checking out www.peace-action.org.

The Political Action group recommended that the US honor the rule of law by turning to international criminal courts for justice.

The Right Action group acknowledged Americaís shared outrage but urged restraint, noting that even non-action is better than wrong action. The Education group emphasized the need to understand the negative feelings toward the US that have taken such a destructive and devastating form.

To make their desire for peaceful alternatives known, participants were urged by event Peace Action New Mexico board member Peggy Prince to send letters to the editor to the US and foreign media. They can also contact President Bush at 202-456-1111 or president@whitehouse.gov, Senator Pete Domenici at (202) 224-6621 or senator_domenici@domenici.senate.gov, and Senator Jeff Bingaman at (202) 224-5521 or senator_bingaman@bingamen.senate.gov.

When asked who might be willing to go to Afghanistan to prevent bombing of innocent women and children by serving as a human shield, about 20 raised their hands.

Several activities to further the cause of international peace are scheduled in Northern New Mexico.

C A group will meet at the Plaza near the post office in Espanola Thursday, September 27th from 11-1 to gather signatures for a petition urging peaceful alternatives. Contact Mauna Richardson at 583-9134 for information.

C Those interested in helping to organize a petition drive in Taos can call 751-0782 or sign the Citizenís Appeal for Restraint in the Wake of Violence at www.lasg.org.

C Those interested in meeting to formulate alternative actions to war can contact Beryl Schwartz at 751-3634 or berylls@laplaza.org, Linda Sonna at 737-9092 or LSonna@yahoo.commailto:dhedges@laplazaa.org..

C The Clearlight Worship Group of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), whose members are particularly concerned with peace, will hold services Sunday at 10:30 followed by a pot-luck. Contact Jane Robinson at 751-1778.

-end-

Sample Column

Art Lessons from Augie:  How to Raise a Creative Kid

By Dr. Linda Sonna

Copyright 2007
All rights reserved


Copying & distribution of copyrighted material without express permission from the author is prohibited. Contact Dr.Sonna for information.

          Creative kids can be a handful for teachers.  Like round, oval, and octagon pegs, they don't fit well in square classrooms. 

           Even parents who appreciate their exceptionally creative children's talent may try to hone their jagged edges and alter their course in hopes of readying them for adult life.  After all, who wants their youngster to become yet another starving artist?

           Artist Augie N'kele knows a lot about the troubles of creative kids and the adults they become.  His life serves as a lesson for them--and for the parents struggling to raise them.

           The up-and-coming sculptor who experts expect to achieve world-fame began life in the impoverished African Belgian Congo (renamed Zaire).  As a toddler, he was an obedient, well-behaved child.   But when he trudged off to first grade carrying his new school supplies--a notebook and pencil--the images that had crowded his mind for as long as he could remember found an outlet.  They spilled from his pencil onto the paper, ruining the notebook that was supposed to be for school work.

           Augie's older sister delivered daily spankings and reprimands to stop him from wasting valuable school supplies and admonished to pay attention to his lessons in class.   When his first grade teacher found out what was happening at home, he strove to rectify the situation.  "Tell your parents I don't think Augie should be spanked for this," he told the sister.  "I think he might have some talent.  Maybe when he is older your parents can send him to study art."

           Augie doesn't remember whether the spankings stopped or whether his parents ever received the teacher's message.  But he was stunned by the news:  the pictures in his notebooks were called "art";  somewhere, there was a school where people studied it.

           His determination to find such a school sustained him through the many classrooms where teachers were less understanding.  Those who strove to discourage him hadn't a chance. 

           "Art has never been a choice for me," Augie says.  "It comes from inside."  He thinks it's a God-given blessing.  He knows it's an obsession.  In the end, it doesn't really matter.  Augie expresses the feelings of many artistic children who can't deny what's inside them when, with a sigh and a shrug he says, "It's just something I have to do." 

           At Fine Art's Academies in Zaire and Belgium , teachers confirmed his talent and praised his work.  After receiving his bachelor's degree, Augie moved to Texas and fufilled many parent's worst nightmare:  he held body and soul together working sixty hours a week as a dishwasher. 

           That wasn't what Augie had hoped for himself, either.  Still, he  considered it a dream come true.  As long as he could devote the balance of his waking hours to whatever creative endeavor inspired him at the moment, he was happy.  Drawing.  Painting.  Making jewelry.  Even sewing. 

           Like many artists, thoughts and feelings appear in Augie's mind as pictures.  They are expressed not through the usual medium of words, but through his hands.  To speak,  he must create.

           As the needs of Augie's family outgrew his income, he searched for a better job.  He found work waiting tables in a restaurant and applied his boundless creativity to finding inexpensive art supplies.  Soon, he was exploring the possibilities of refuse and junk.  What society might see as a poor man reduced to picking through garbage, Augie saw as an artist recycling. 

           What he needed next, he decided, were techniques to better utilize his new art supplies:  squashed soda cans, old metal screens, rusty nails, and bailing wire.  Unable to afford another European art academy, he again used his environment creatively by signing up for a sculpture course at Tarrant County Junior College in Fort Worth .   

           There Augie discovered the vehicle he'd been looking for--the one he could use to express his feelings about prejudice.  He had long wished to reply to the racial slurs he'd suffered from white Americans who hated blacks.  And to the ethnic slurs he'd suffered from black Americans who hated Africans.  Until his sculpture course, he'd not known how. 

           His initial project, five powerful wire sculptures depicting scenes from African and African-American history, soon grew into a major library research project.  As he poured through everything he could find on black history in the small Irving library, he was continually inspired with ideas for new pieces.

          Within two years his project evolved into a two-hundred piece historically-accurate visual journey entitled "Forgotten Heritage:  Slavery from the Motherland to the New World." 

          And that is only the beginning.  Augie expects his project ultimately  to contain 500 pieces covering pre-slave history in Africa to post-slave history in America .  The historical truths the sculptures contain come from textbooks.  Their emotional power comes from Augie's own intense feelings about his subject.

            Still, artistic acclaim hasn't eliminated Augie's real-life problems.  He's still a round peg in society's square hole.  He lacks wire and screen--to finish this project, he needs the good stuff--the kind that comes from Home Depot.   In fact, he lacks money to keep a roof over his family's head. 

            Parents who think even the most talented child may end up as a starving artist do have reason to worry about their financial prospects.   Augie works fifty and sixty hours a week to pay the bills for his tiny Irving apartment.  Since the birth of his third child, he is in violation of the lease.  He must move into a three-bedroom apartment or be evicted. 

            That could mean losing not only his home but his art studio--the 2' x 4' coffee table sandwiched between the TV, couch, and three frolicking kids where he does what he knows to be his truly important life's work.  Dreams of  having a real studio persist ("a garage would be fabulous").  That way, he could fulfill his wife's wish for a real living room. 

            Now that Augie's work is in demand at art exhibits, economic doors are creeking open.  Some visitors to his shows (which are so moving, even youngsters break out in goose bumps) have commissioned private sculptures.  Even his tiny exhibit at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History (showing through Labor Day) has brought in some orders.

            Parents and teachers of creative kids might do well to remember Augie.   Somehow, he's transformed racial slurs, poverty, cultural ignorance, and junk into rich, compelling sculptures that nurture ethnic pride and bring history to life--while earning a place in history for himself.  

            If our schools had encouraged creativity, today's adults might apply it to stopping Augie from having to sell museum-quality sculptures to wealthy individuals while his historical retrospective languishes for lack of  wire and screen.

            The life of an overly creative kid may never be easy.  But as Augie says, "I can't help what I am.  And I love it."

-end-

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