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  • Writer's pictureSue Schleifer


I received a letter from Assessor, Phong La with the County of Alameda. I was happily surprised by the words written on the back of the envelope:

“Make time for yourself: Attend to medical appointments you missed; Get outdoors with your loved ones; Get enough sleep; Eat healthy meals; Practice mindfulness and self care; Get your COVID-19 vaccine and boosters.”

All great advice. What surprised me was who was offering these reminders and how: on the back of an envelope containing our property assessment. It made me pay attention and then read the messages to my husband and to friends on a Zoom call. Not something I would normally do after opening a letter from the County Assessor.

One of my friends on the Zoom call, Clare, shared that she had recently purchased a puzzle where all of the frame pieces were the same. Each of the outside pieces could fit anywhere. What?! For those of us who start puzzles by first completing the outside frame, this puzzle presents a problem or challenge. Clare thought about putting the pieces back in the box and giving it away because she knew this was going to be hard. With this puzzle, she’d need to come up with a new strategy. She didn’t give up. She ended up starting in the middle and then worked her way to the frame. She had the satisfaction of thinking outside of the frame and trying a new way toward completion.

Surprises, new experiences, and challenges to the ways we normally do things serve as wake-up calls. They present us with an opportunity to try something new, think about things in a different way, clear away the fog in our brains. When we allow ourselves to be surprised, we are present in the moment and our curiosity may contribute to insights about ourselves and others.


Trying new activities, especially those that challenge your brain and/or body, are supposed to be helpful for brain fitness. If you haven’t yet discovered Wordle, I highly recommend it.


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