Posts by Joy Thomas


Exploring the Enneagram: Discover Your Superpower and Your Kryptonite

Learn about the 9 different personality types of the enneagram, and identify your superpower, which is also your kryptonite. The job of every good superhero is to conquer evil in their universe, and the enneagram essentially helps individuals find and maintain order in their own personal universe through awareness. Dating back to the fourth century BC, the enneagram is an ancient personality type model — illustrated by a nine-pointed geometric figure to show nine types        …read more


Inspiration or Ableism? How to Tell the Difference

Some thoughts on distinguishing true inspiration from exploitation. When I was in eighth grade I was recognized publicly at my middle school’s annual awards assembly. My parents came to the school gymnasium to see me receive accolades, and my friends cheered loudly as I walked up to the stage. But I didn’t feel proud of the award. In fact, it actually evoked a sense of shame in me, for one simple reason: I had no        …read more


From 'Atypical' to 'The Good Doctor': A Look at Autism On-Screen

With shows like ‘The A Word,’ ‘The Good Doctor’ and ‘Atypical,’ how do people with autism and their families feel about media representations of their lives? Carlos Lopez remembers how it felt to watch his son, Sammy, stand on the sidelines at a birthday party, terrified to move even an inch, for fear one of the many colorful, floating balloons might make a loud pop. Lopez has learned to problem-solve on the spot, stuffing tissue        …read more


Older, Wiser and Happier? Why Older People Excel in Happiness

Research shows that older adults outpace young adults in the quest for happiness. What can we learn from them? From Saturday Night Live’s “Grumpy Old Man” to the clichéd, oddball elderly characters in some literature, stereotypes of older adults permeate our perception of aging. Contrary to cultural commentary and our obsession with youth, a growing body of research shows that older adults are happier than both middle agers and young adults. And considering that adults over 65        …read more

animal communication

Does Fido Have a Sixth Sense? What Animal Communication Reveals

From earthquakes to paranormal activity, our furry friends may sense much more than we do. What does animal communication research reveal about their extrasensory perception? The phenomenon is sometimes reported by pet owners: dogs gazing at the ceiling or wagging their tails as if someone is petting them, though there’s no one in sight; cats staring intently at nothing, purring and playing with what appears to be thin air. Animal Planet even has a series        …read more

I am poem

The Power of an ‘I Am’ Poem: How and Why to Write One

Who are you, and what do you want out of life? You don’t have to be a poet to experience the empowering effects of writing an ‘I am’ poem. I am not a poet, but I recently glimpsed the cadenced magic while attending a retreat based on Brené Brown’s Rising Strong. There’s a reason several of Brené’s TED Talks have gone viral. Her research on using vulnerability to overcome shame is life-altering. The four-day retreat        …read more

8 Gift Ideas for the Minimalist in Your Life

The minimalist in your life may not want much, but a unique gift will show how much you care. What do you get that person on your list who has everything? Easy. More things. People who have lots of stuff tend to crave more stuff. But what do you get that person who has nothing and wants nothing? No thing (not to be confused with “nothing”). Most people know gifts don’t have to be tangible        …read more

Wonder movie

‘Wonder’ Infuses Kindness into Culture

Featuring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, the ‘Wonder’ movie based on R.J. Palacio’s best-selling book could shift our daily interactions. “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably much worse,” says 10-year-old August Pullman, the protagonist in the New York Times best-selling middle grade novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Auggie, the main character born with a severe facial deformity, tells his story, and then the perspective shifts to his classmates, sister        …read more

How Hiring a Qualified Person with a Disability Serves Everyone

October is National Disability Employment Month (NDEAM). Here’s what everyone should know about the value differently abled people bring to the workplace. I recently returned to the field of education after an eight-year stay-at-home-mom hiatus. In addition to the typical reentry jitters and pondering over whether my favorite coral blazer is still in style, some more significant questions surfaced as I signed my contract: How will I travel to trainings and meetings after the closest        …read more

dream work

Dream Work with Jung: What’s Your Unconscious Saying?

Jungian analysts offer insight about dream work and what our unconscious minds can tell us about ourselves. Everybody dreams, whether we remember our nighttime visions or not. Some dreams are so clear we’re shocked to wake and realize they weren’t real; others are so foggy we can barely make sense of them. Some dreams are quickly forgotten; others linger for years. Some dreams come up at the breakfast table in casual discussion; others feel too        …read more

twin facts, fraternal twins, identical twins

Twinning 101: Sorting Twin Facts from Folklore

Identical twins have piqued curiosity for centuries: secret twin languages, ESP, twin trickery. Let’s dig into some twin facts as we attempt to tell the world’s most infamous pair apart: fact and fiction. “They like the same clothes. They like the same food. They like the same boys. But they need different doctors.” This was the 1990 Health Chicago ad campaign that my identical twin sister and I posed for at age 12. It was        …read more

social contagion

Social Contagion: Are Our Simple Choices Really Our Own?

We like to think we’re making our own decisions, but ‘social contagion’ studies suggest we’re more impressionable than we know. You’re sitting in an airplane munching some almonds and veggies from home and you’re just about to start reading the book you bought specifically for the flight, when the flight attendant stops at your row. He asks if you’d like to purchase any food or movies for the flight. You hold up your book and snack        …read more

service animals

Service Animals: A ‘Chosen’ Career Path or a Life of Servitude?

Many people see the relationship between service dog and handler as a beautiful, symbiotic bond, but some animal rights activists view it as harmful. Are service animals ‘happy’ working? We asked the experts. Amanda Bagwell-Chase, a self-proclaimed animal rights activist, proudly wears a T-shirt displaying a lion’s paw print next to a human handprint, referring to Cecil the Lion and symbolizing unity between animals and humans. But on several occasions Bagwell-Chase has been the target        …read more

outdoor games

5 Outdoor Games the Whole Neighborhood Used to Play

Get your family unplugged this summer with these favorite old-school outdoor games. Summer evenings growing up in the Midwest were as magical and fleeting as the fireflies we chased. Late bedtime. Chirping cicadas. Bright, deep-blue moonlit skies. Scents of fresh-cut grass and bug repellant. Sweaty, sticky fingers sandwiching sweet, smoky marshmallows and Hershey squares between honey grahams. All in the backdrop of the joyful screams signaling the main event: outdoor games. We played a hundred        …read more

the ’80s

The Purple Flag and Other Stuff Parents Didn't Worry about in the '80s

Has the world become more dangerous since the ’80s, or have parents become more paranoid? Sometimes I long for the carefree days growing up in the ’80s, sitting around in my Umbros eating SpaghettiOs and Ho Hos with my 5th grade best friend discussing the latest Babysitters Club book as the toddlers we were babysitting sat watching Mister Rogers and drinking Tang. As a parent of young children today, I sometimes find myself feeling envious        …read more


Acquired Savant Syndrome: Meet an Accidental Genius

An accident unlocked Jason Padgett’s mathematical and artistic potential, making him one of only 40 people in the world with Acquired Savant Syndrome. Jason Padgett, who has acquired savant syndrome, says he wouldn’t change any of the pain he underwent after being beaten, as he now sees the world in an overlay of geometric fractals that he believes hold answers to some of life’s biggest questions. With the popularity of shows like The OA, The        …read more

A Dog's Purpose

A Guide Dog and Her Handler Review 'A Dog's Purpose'

My guide dog Roja and I watched a screening of ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ before that controversial video was released. Here’s what we thought of the movie. The message of the recently released film A Dog’s Purpose is clear: there is an unquestionable, magical bond between humans and animals. Unfortunately, the handling of the animals in the film has been in question. In case you’ve been on a media hiatus for a few weeks, here’s the        …read more

6 Adventurous Valentine’s Date Ideas

Spice up your Valentine’s date this year with an evening that’s a little out of the ordinary. Candlelit Italian dinners, clinking Cabernets, chocolate-covered strawberries, long walks on the beach.... You get the picture. These are all lovely, romantic Valentine’s dates, albeit a bit clichéd. But here’s the thing: sometimes romance is a tad overrated and innovation is slightly underrated. If you and your Valentine want to try something different and more spontaneous this year, consider taking a hiatus        …read more

funny podcasts

7 Funny Podcasts That’ll Make You Pee Your Pants

Ready for a post-holiday pick-me-up? Listen to these top 7 funny podcasts! I have a problem. It involves my phone, the gym, laundry, dishes and earbuds. Basically, in order to exercise or perform household chores, I must be listening to a podcast at all times. If my phone dies, I automatically leave the gym. If my podcast app crashes, I ditch the dishes immediately. I’ve turned into an audio info junkie, which would be useful        …read more


6 Daily Gratitude Practices That Can Change Your Life

Gratitude can make you healthier and happier. It’s science. Does the simple act of saying “thanks” affect our well-being? Researchers say yes. Studies show that people who report higher levels of gratitude in their daily lives are more hopeful and physically healthy overall, feel fewer aches and pains, sleep better and have higher levels of self-esteem. Some may wonder if the people in these studies simply have happier, better lives to begin with and are        …read more

Thanksgiving holiday

In Defense of Our Middle Child, Thanksgiving Holiday

Dear, it’s time to tell Halloween and Christmas to stop stealing the limelight from our precious Thanksgiving Holiday. Hey, honey, Sorry for the long email while you’re at work, but I have something urgent to discuss and want to give you a heads-up. I’m calling an emergency family meeting tonight about the safety and well-being of one of our kids. It’s about our middle child: Thanksgiving Holiday. I know this may come as a surprise since it’s        …read more

9 Myths about Blindness Dispelled (By Someone Who Knows Firsthand)

Let’s clear up some assumptions about blindness. When people see me with my white cane or guide dog, the average bystander operates under a certain set of assumptions to interact with me. While I’m not offended by these assumptions, I do feel a responsibility as a member of the blind community to debunk a few myths about blindness. Myth #1: We can’t see. Joy Thomas. Photo by Morry Angell, Guide Dogs for the Blind. People are often puzzled when        …read more