My Daily D.O.S.E. by
(58 Stories)

Prompted By Brain Games

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Sure, I do crossword puzzles. Online now instead of ink on print, I do the L.A. Times, the N.Y. Times, and the New Yorker. I stagger them throughout the day…one in the morning, another midday, and another one later in the day, which sometimes means accessing a publication’s archives of years past. The puzzles serve to wake me up, calm me down, or simply entertain me, all the while keeping the cogs (as in cognition) not just turning but meshing. After I’ve successfully completed one, I’m a happy camper.

The reason brain games are so satisfying is purely scientific: chemicals. We get a DOSE of them when we succeed...

The reason brain games are so satisfying? Chemicals. We get a DOSE of them when we succeed — D as in dopamine, O as in oxytocin, S as in serotonin, and E as in endorphins.

I think of anything that requires me to thoughtfully pursue a series of logical steps as a brain game, whether it’s keeping up with a complex murder mystery on TV, learning a new app, or publishing another story here on Retrospect. Here there’s coming up with an idea, writing the draft, adding the images, then editing and laying it all out until I like what I see, then tweaking it endlessly until the day it’s published. In all cases, the pay-off is in “solving” and then enjoying the satisfaction of having done so as my brain emits a hit of dopamine, the chemical of reward.

One of my favorite brain games is processing an illustration or image in Photoshop, another something I have the pleasure of doing here on Retrospect, not only for my own stories but for the occasional prompt. I love coming up with a concept, applying it, figuring out ways to make it more visually appealing by applying the elements of design, often creating multiple versions, then tweaking it to our individual team members’ satisfaction. It’s not only a rewarding creative challenge, but in working as part of a team, I get a bump of oxytocin, the love chemical, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and  connected to my team members. Now I’m in a great mood, and for that I have serotonin, the happy chemical, to thank.

The image within my featured image is one of my faves, and one you might remember from a few weeks back. It started out as a color snapshot that Laurie provided, then I went to work on it in Photoshop. Believe it or not, we went through at least a dozen iterations before deciding on this one! I love the minimalist look, but it took maximum effort to get there. And for that I credit endorphins, the power-through hormones, for pushing me farther towards reaching my goal.

Here’s another DOSE of team spirit. For our first “Pandemic” prompt, we each contributed our own photo, then I put them together to look like we were Zooming. Although we do Zoom on occasion, this wasn’t one of them. I bet we fooled you! Note the use of the Retrospect blue background…our very own color. And that Mare is color coordinated!

Upcoming prompt? Game on.



Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

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Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    Barb, I am so grateful that you think of coming up with images and illustrations for Retrospect as a fun brain game. Perhaps I can be more demanding now that I know it’s good for your mind (LOL).

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Great one, Barb. I love your creativity and DOSE explanation. All true, but I never thought about it that way. I remember you had explained once before that you had created the fauz-Zoom image of the masked Retro admins. Great job. You are a creative wizard.

  3. Suzy says:

    Barb, I love your DOSE acronym to explain why brain games are so satisfying! It’s fun to learn you do three crossword puzzles a day! I have been the lucky recipient of your Photoshop skills, both here on Retrospect and elsewhere, so I’m very appreciative of those, and glad you love doing it. Your brain is wonderfully creative, and we are so lucky to have you!

  4. John Shutkin says:

    Thank you, Barb, for applying some science (and a great acronym) to our brain games. As you know, we can’t have enough science in our lives these days. Plus, it makes for a really interesting read.

    And thanks for the inside info on the Retro photoshopping process. I had absolutely no idea, particularly since my Retro photos tend to be either lousy iPhone photos of old photos, lousy iPhone photos or stock images that I score from googling. Now, if you could just photoshop a picture of me so that I more closely resemble Robert Redford in his prime…..

  5. Marian says:

    Cool, Barb, thanks for showcasing this Retrospect work. Love the science of hormones, but for whatever reason oxytocin in particular works much better for me when I can see others in person, although Zooming does result in a little spike now and then. One of these days …

  6. Thanks for the expanded view of what counts as a “brain game,” which is helping me as I formulate a response to this week’s prompt. Very engaging: you had me hooked from the first DOSE.

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