New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for July/August, 2006

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment


by Anne Osteen Stringer

Here we are facing another July and August in New Orleans. Everyone has their own method for coping with the steamy, sultry weather. Most experts recommend that you pace yourself, take frequent breaks and drink lots of liquids. Some liquids are better than others. As Truman Capote said “There is nothing better than the mint julep to bring relief from the pressures and pains of summertime.” To make a perfect mint julip, put four mint sprigs and a generous spoon of sugar in a tall glass. Crush the mint and mix with the sugar using the handle of a wooden spoon (or some fancy bar gadget, if you have it handy) Add two jiggers of bourbon and fill the glass with crushed ice. Stir well. Garnish with another sprig of mint. Take this to your patio or porch for one of your frequent breaks and you will be able to contemplate your waterlogged house and the approaching hurricane season with equanimity.

Because so many members’ houses are still being repaired, we are taking a summer vacation from NOM Nights. There are still a lot of activities on the calendar and our Loc Sec has something special planned for September.

Cover art by H. The picture of trumpet vines covering a pecan tree that was uprooted by Hurricane Katrina shows both the healing and destructive powers of nature.


NOMs will be sad to learn of the death of Nettie Bertrand. Nettie was born and raised in New Orleans and was a member of New Orleans Mensa for forty years. She and her husband, Henry, were very active members, sponsoring the Poetry SIG, the Astronomy SIG, and organizing the 1990 RG. Nettie was a charming person, petite, with long dark hair and big brown eyes. She added a sparkle to NOM events whenever she appeared. We will miss her.

RVC6 July Report

by Ray O’Connor

We just received word that a dear friend, Jack Oram, has lost his battle with cancer. I missed him at gatherings the last few years. I thought about him and Lilly, but didn’t take the time to locate him. How much do we take for granted our friends? Did you know that the AML web site, has a member directory? I could have looked to discover that Jack was living in East Texas, an easy drive from my home. Jack graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point. I was a cadet at Kings Point, but dropped out to marry Sue. I very much enjoyed talking to Jack about what my life would have been like if I made different choices. How much we miss our friends, when we lose them. In the more than 20 years I have belonged to Mensa, I have made many friends. Mensa is my extended family. Now that I’m retired I plan to spend more time attending Mensa activities to spend more time with my Mensa family. The biggest benefit I receive from my Mensa membership is the opportunity to be with Mensans.

I am serving on the AMC Local Group Funding Committee. We are preparing a report to the AMC with recommendations for possible changes to the local group funding policy. I need your input. What is important to you? What could help you to receive value from your membership that requires additional funding? Remember that it is member dues that are being shared with your group. If we increase the local group funding significantly, it will eventually cause a dues increase. There are expenses that are a must such as your newsletter, test site rental, meeting room rental, member communications and many others. What do I as your representative need to recommend?

I have assumed responsibilities as region 6 testing coordinator. We always need more local proctors. You would be the first person new members meet. I have developed close friendships with several members I met as their proctor. Please email me at if you would like more information about Mensa Admission Testing.

Planning for Sanity

by Kathe Oliver

School’s out for the summer! Families rejoice in the free time and options that summer brings. They have gotten past the time crunch that usually accompanies the school year. Many children list all of the things that they want to do in the summer, things that they didn’t have the time or energy to do during the school year. Sometimes teens simply want to sleep.

As families start to settle into summer routines, they are already being pushed to plan for fall and the pressures that it will bring. Stores began to feature 16-month calendars in June. Family mailboxes bulge with glossy flyers for fall activities. Many of them look interesting, and could be squeezed into the family schedule. Before you register, stop to think. Is squeezing in another activity really a good idea for your child (children) and your family?

Typically, a family’s events calendar starts with school events and religious obligations. Vacations and activities of all sorts go into the calendar squares. Next, monthly events such as Mensa programs are added, followed by the weekly extras: art classes, dance, supplemental gifted &talented classes, language lessons, martial arts, music lessons, Scouts, league sports, theater, and youth groups of all types. Soon just reading the calendar is enough to cause exhaustion.

Gifted children often have varied interests. It is hard to say “no” to an enthusiastic child, and it is tempting to encourage children to participate in many enrichment activities. Peer pressure to sign up for certain activities also has an impact. Consequently, many families find themselves with scheduled activities on every school night, and at least one weekend day with three or more regularly scheduled activities. They may find that they have no days without scheduled events for weeks or even months. Families with more than one child frequently end up with schedules that make it impossible to be together as a family, even in a car driving from one event to another.

Parents spend a lot of time complaining about their complicated schedules and life as operators of “Mom/Dad’s Taxi Service’ . In these complaints, an important point is often missed: parents aren’t the only ones who are frazzled by the non-stop parade of activities. Full calendars drive children to distraction, too. Stress and anxiety have become problems for children of all ages. Kids need kid time, time to be by themselves, to be with their friends, and to be part of a family. Gifted kids need less than average time to learn something new, but they still need time for their brains to process new material, as well as time when they’re free to think about other things, or nothing at all! Overscheduling destroys these opportunities.

According to a study by the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center, the average child has 25% less playtime than they had twenty years ago. Another study shows that while 56% of today’s parents had three or more daily hours of independent playtime as children, only 22 % of today’s children have that much free time. School once offered playtime to elementary school students, but recess is disappearing. Study halls once offered a break to high school students, but now students are routinely urged to take an extra class “for their transcript” . Schedules are changing, but people are not: they still need free time.

Although parents tell themselves that downtime is being sacrificed for worthwhile enrichment, if a child is overscheduled they won’t do better in school. They tend to procrastinate more than they otherwise would, because they are overwhelmed by activities and try to put things off so that they can have some time for themselves. This leads to poorly done homework, and trouble at both school and home.

Children often try to create extra time for themselves by getting up early or going to bed late. It is also increasingly common for evening activities to delay weekday bedtimes, on the theory that missing an hour of sleep isn’t a problem. Unfortunately, it is a problem. Children who stayed up an hour past their bedtimes showed significantly lower scores on measures of learning, attention, and memory the next day,

as well as slower physical reaction times when compared to their normal scores. Losing sleep hurts kids.

Some people believe that students need to have many, many activities on their resumes in order to make them attractive to colleges. However, college admissions officers say that an application overstuffed with activities tells them that while the applicant belonged to many organizations, they didn’t really do anything with them. Huge lists of activities are apt to hurt college applicants, not help them.

The most important thing to suffer from overscheduling is family relationships. A survey taken for the Boys &Girls Clubs of America in 2002 showed that kids define “meaningful time” within the family as time spent on fun-focused activities. 20% of the children who took part in the survey said that they had “too little” or “hardly any” such time with their parents. The survey also showed that the more time that families spent together, the better that the children felt about their parents.

Overscheduling leads to stressed, tired children and parents. There is nothing good in that. It can’t be avoided entirely, as there are occasionally “crazy times” when everything seems to happen at once. However, by being aware of the problem, you can work to minimize it.

Plan ahead for unscheduled time for your family, and limit prescheduled activities. Most experts say that no child under high school age should participate in more than two optional enrichment activities on a regularly scheduled weekly basis. It is best (especially for young children) if they are different types of activities, such as music and a physical activity. They should be chosen according to the child’s interests.

What are your family’s priorities? What are you child’s passions? Try to figure out how to simplify your schedule while making time for the things that are important to you. Consider an activity’s impact on the whole family. Is it good for anyone if one entire day every weekend is spent shuttling a preschooler from class to class? Would you be better off with one scheduled activity, and an afternoon that is free?

Have a family discussion about scheduling options. Does a beginning musician really need private lessons, or are lessons available during the school day? The practice commitment will be the same, but you will have freed up hours every week. Does a young athlete really want to play for the travel team, or would an intramural team be fine? The fun is the same, but the time commitment is much less. Is it necessary to play on two teams in the same sport? Choosing either the school or the town team cuts the chance of injury in half and gives the athlete a lot more time to pursue other interests. Which would be better, an activity which requires participation three days a week, or two activities, each of which requires participation once a week?

By making some tough choices now, your family can avoid tough times later on. Plan ahead for a sane schedule!

(Published in Imprint, the Newsletter of Northern New Jersey Mensa, July, 2006)

Culture Quest-ion of the Day

Are you going through Culture Quest withdrawal? Or are you feeling remorse because you didn’t participate in this year’s annual international test of cultural erudition? Or maybe you did participate and the sight of your score made you vow to practice for next year. Help is at hand. Just sign up at the link at and an actual Culture Quest question will be emailed to you each day. Anyone can sign up for this so this is a great opportunity to share Mensa with others outside the organization. Feel free to forward information about this to your family and friends.

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