Friday, March 2, 2018

Spring Forward: How to Acclimate Your Body to the Time Change

Spring brings longer days, and we get to jump the gun a little with the start of Daylight Savings Time (DST). Okay, jokes have been made about how we cut off the top of the blanket and sew it to the bottom and then act like it's a longer blanket, and it's true the day doesn't actually get longer, but it sure does feel great to have an "extra" hour of daylight in the evening.

What doesn't feel so great is losing an hour of sleep on Saturday night. But with a little advance notice and planning, you can adjust your body to the change in just one week of very small, easy steps.

Sometimes we attempt to go to bed an hour early the night of the time change, but that's usually unproductive, as you most likely will be bored and frustrated, unable to fall asleep until your normal time, and so the next day, you'll be up and annoyed because not only did you lose an hour of sleep, you lost an hour lying in bed fruitlessly.

The key to success is an incremental approach that addresses your wake time as well as your sleep time. The week before the time change, start off by going to bed 15 minutes early and waking up at the normal time. The next night, go to bed at the same time as the night before, but get up 15 minutes earlier, then repeat the pattern until you have made the full transition, which will occur the night of the time change.

In other words, if you typically go to bed at 10pm and wake up at 6am, then:

On Saturday night, go to bed at 9:45 and wake up Sunday at the normal time (6:00)
On Sunday night . go to bed at 9:45 and wake up Monday at 5:45.
On Monday night, go to bed at 9:30 and wake up Tuesday at 5:45.
On Tuesday night, go to bed at 9:30 and wake up Wednesday at 5:30.
On Wednesday, go to bed at 9:15 and wake up Thursday at 5:30.
On Thursday, go to bed at 9:15 and wake up on Friday at 5:15.
On Friday, go to bed at 9:00 and wake up at Saturday at 5:15.
On Saturday, go to bed at 9:00 and wake up on Sunday at 6:00 (which will feel like 5:00, but you got your 8 hours!)
From Sunday on, you can go back to your normal times of 10pm - 6am. 

So, always give yourself the 15 minutes first, and then make the adjustment the next night. Don't worry if you can't make yourself sleep the extra time; just getting relaxed and in bed will give your body the signals that it is bedtime and will help you adjust. The second night, you will be more used to it, and the third night, you will have gotten up early, so your body will be ready for that extra sleep! This also works to combat "jet lag" if you are planning to travel. You may want to change your sleep in larger increments, but always give yourself the extra, first; no sense in being exhausted. 

As for getting up earlier than you "need" to for a few days, use the extra time to pack lunches, iron a shirt or two, have a real breakfast instead of a cup of coffee and an energy bar, do some gentle stretches to get limbered up, or hey, just take a little extra time to enjoy not having to rush!

This year the time change will occur Sunday, March 11th at 2:00 am (that's Saturday night to most of us). So hey, live it up tonight--you have an early bedtime tomorrow!

Image from Pixabay

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Osprey, a Beautiful Bird

Ospreys are birds of prey, or raptors, so-called in reference to their powerful, taloned feet, which they use to grab and grip prey to carry aloft. These birds are frequently called sea hawks or sea eagles because they typically live in coastal or wooded areas around either salt water or fresh water. This is because they mainly eat fish, which they catch by diving down to the surface of the water and snatching up with their strong, taloned feet. They are found in all parts of the world except for Antartica.

The birds are a lot like eagles, with bodies about two feet in length but wingspans up to six feet, which is longer than MY wingspan (for the record, a human's outstretched arms, finger-to-fingertip, almost always equals their height, so if you're shorter than six feet tall, the osprey's probably got you beat)!

Image of osprey from Pixabay

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Environmentalism for the Cheap and Lazy

Wow, saving the planet sounds like a big, expensive job, doesn't it? Well, yes and no. When everybody pitches in, it gets done with very little individual effort or expense, which should suit those of us who'd like to make a difference, but have financial or, uh, motivational challenges. For example, here's something simple: If every home in America replaced just one light bulb with a compact fluorescent, in one year it would save enough energy to light three million homes! It's amazing how even little things like that add up, so pick your category and get your cheap, lazy self to your own pace, of course.

Cheap, Not Necessarily Lazy 

1. Volunteer. This might cost a little bit, perhaps, in transportation or meals--or maybe not! I've been fed handsomely and also carted around in exchange for my time and effort, so git in where you fit in, as they say. Your degree of laziness determines what you may choose to do, from spending time on the phone coordinating a streamside cleanup to hosting a fundraiser for a community garden to helping dig holes for a tree-planting project.

2. Agitate for Change. It won't cost you much money to write, call or email local, state and federal authorities and ask them to support eco-friendly initiatives. Get your city's buses running on bio-diesel! Pester your state into allocating funds to fit a proposed new museum for solar power! Make your voice heard in Washington whenever legislation comes up that will effect the environment! Get yourself a soapbox--a blog counts--and start a movement!

3. Walk More. Instead of driving your gas-guzzling car to the artificially-lit gym to walk on the power-sucking treadmill, why not just walk to work, school or on errands? You'll get your exercise and get some fresh air, made fresher by not having your exhaust all up in it.

4. Grow Your Own. Save money and a trip to the grocery store by growing your own produce, from fruit trees to green beans and even corn (be aware, corn takes up a lot of space, but your neighbors won't whine if you give 'em some). If you don't have a back yard, many plants do just fine in containers, like strawberries (yum!) and cherry tomatoes. Follow organic gardening practices for extra green points!

Lazy, Not Necessarily Cheap 

5. Buy the Right Thing. With so many environmentally friendly products out there, you don't have to break a sweat looking for a green buy. Depending on your degree of cheapness, you can purchase anything from organically grown produce to energy-efficient appliances to (woo-hoo!) a houseful of recycled-fiber carpet, low-e windows, and solar panels for the roof (all delivered and installed for you, of course). With eco-minded web stores like, you can order all your green provisions without even leaving the couch!

6. Stock Up. If you buy things you frequently use in bulk at warehouse stores or just when they are on sale, you will be able to save trips to the store for weeks, or possibly months, to come. With prices continuing to rise because of fuel costs, this makes economic sense, too. There is obviously an up-front investment, but you will save time, gasoline, and plenty of money in the long run.

7. Write a Check for a Good Cause. You know, the Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, the Audubon Society and Greenpeace would love to hear from you, and I think you know how little physical effort goes into writing a check.

Cheap as a Thrift-Store Suit and Lazy as a Cat in the Sun 

8. Recycle. It costs nothing and is as easy as tossing your cans, bottles, and papers in the bin beside the wastebasket instead of in the wastebasket. I know you can handle that.

9. Switch Your Light Bulbs. Okay, compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs are still a bit more expensive up front than the regular kind, but they're less expensive than they used to be, and they're way cheaper in the long run. Lighting accounts for almost 20% of a home's electricity bill, and CFs use up to 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs. Not only do they cost less to operate, they last much longer than regular bulbs, so the savings keep coming. You can be lazy about making the switch, too. Do what I'm doing: Buy a big economy pack of CF bulbs and stick 'em in a cabinet. Each time one of your regular bulbs burns out, replace it with a CF. Easy, simple and downright uncomplicated!

10. Do Less. Gosh, does it get any cheaper and lazier? I think not. Yes, my friends, you can do right by the planet by taking it easy. For example, instead of zooming off in the car every day to a different store, combine your errands on one or two days to save time, gas, money and Mother Earth herself. Don't drive or fly somewhere when you can have a nice, relaxing weekend at home in your garden or curled up on the couch with a good book. And buy less stuff, too: Save money and trees by checking books, DVDs and CDs out of your local library. Trade magazines with friends or coworkers. Shop yard sales and thrift stores for used (I mean, recycled!) clothes, toys, furnishings and other bargains. Not only will you save the waste created by the fabrication of new products, you will save things from going to the landfill. Who cares if it's not brand new? It's new to you!

Other easy things to not do:

  1. Don't stand in front of an open refrigerator. You can ponder your next gastric adventure with the door closed, too. 
  2. Don't let the water run pointlessly while you shave or brush your teeth.
  3. Don't let the hose run while you soap down the car. 
  4. Turn off the a/c when the windows are open (seriously)! 
  5. Don't run the dishwasher or the washing machine until they're full. Fewer chores make for a happier planet!
See how easy it is, after all? Now rush right out--okay, mosey right out--and do some planet-saving! 

Cheap and lazy hammock guy from Pixabay, free-use image

Friday, October 27, 2017

Your November Birthday: November Holidays, Traditions and More

Though skies may be getting grey and the days getting chilly, November is warm with family traditions as folks get together to celebrate Thanksgiving. But November babies have much more to celebrate besides this best-known holiday. There’s lots of patriotic stuff going on, such as the Marine Corps birthday on the 10th, Veteran’s Day on the 11th, and of course Election Day (not always the first Tuesday, but the Tuesday after the first Monday). The Great American Smokeout is on the 20th, so give your butts the boot! Here are some other things to celebrate:

Monthly Observances

November is National Adoption Month, and also the national month for AIDS awareness, Alzheimer’s disease, American Indian heritage, COPD awareness, family caregivers, Georgia pecans, home care & hospice, impotency, inspirational role models, life writing, marrow awareness, novel writing, peanut butter lovers, pet cancer awareness, pomegranates, roasting and scholarship (or is it scholarships?)

Furthermore, November has also been chosen the official month of diabetes, aviation history, epilepsy awareness, family stories, gluten-free diet awareness, and military family appreciation, as well as being something called Celebrate Empty Nesters Month, so take some recently unburdened parents out for a night on the town!

Weirdest Holiday: This month, there is a three-way tie: Plan Your Epitaph Day (2nd), Cliché Day (3rd), and Abet and Aid Punsters Day (8th), so plan to include a pun on a cliché in your epitaph, is what I say. Sample: Here lies John, a vegetarian and pacifist. All he was saying is give peas a chance.

November Traditions

Flower: chrysanthemum – cheerfulness, friendship
Birthstone: topaz, citrine - fidelity Scorpio’s gem: smoky quartz

Zodiac sign: Scorpio (1- 22) and Sagittarius (23-30; see December for details). Despite its sometimes fiery nature, Scorpio is a water sign, with the characteristics of intuition and adaptability (think of water quickly taking the shape of its container). Scorpios are passionate and loyal, but tend to be sensitive and oh, that tail has a sting! Try not to take things personally, now. Best friends: Pisces and Cancer. Best love matches: Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn.

Famous Birthdays: Aishwarya Rai (1st), Marie Antoinette (2nd), Adam Ant (3rd), Erasmus James (4th),Vivian Leigh (5th), Sally Field (6th), Marie Curie (7th), Katharine Hepburn (8th), Nick Lachey (9th), Tracy Morgan (10th), Demi Moore (11th), Grace Kelly (12th), Paul Simon (13th), Condoleezza Rice (14th), Kevin Eubanks (15th), Maggie Gyllenhaal (16th), Rock Hudson (17th), Owen Wilson (18th), Indira Gandhi (19th), Robert F Kennedy (20th), Voltaire (21st), Scarlett Johansson (22nd), Billy the Kid (23rd), Katherine Heigl (24th), Tina Turner (25th), Charles M Schulz (26th), Bill Nye (27th), William Blake (28th), Vin Scully (29th). Mark Twain (30th).

Catholic Feast Days

1-Feast of All Saints, St Marcel of Paris, St Mathurin
2 – Feast of All Souls
3- Feast of Ste Alpais, St Hubert, St Malachy O’More, St Martin de Porres, St Pirminus, St Rumwald, Ste Winifred
4 – Feast of St Americus, St Charles Borromeo
5 – Feast of Ste Elizabeth, St Kay
6 – Feast of St Leonard, St Winnoc
7 – Feast of St Florentius, St Willibrord
8 – Feast of The Four Crowned Martyrs
9- Feast of St Benen, St Theodore the Recruit
10- Feast of St Aedh Mac Breic, St Andrew Avellino, St Leo the Great, Ste Nympha
11-Feast of St Martin of Tours, St mennas, St Astericus
12-Feast of St Emilian, St josephat, St lebuin
13-Feast of Ste Agostina Pietrantoni, St Brice, St Diego Alcalá, Ste Francis Cabrini, St Homobonus, St Nicholas I, St Pontian, St Stanislaus Kostka
14-Feast of St Lawrence O’Toole
15-Feast of St Albert the Great, St Leopold, St Zachary
16-Feast of Ste Gertrude the Great, Ste Margaret of Scotland
17-Feast of Ste Elizabeth of Hungary, Ste Hilda, St Gregory the Wonder Worker, St Hugh of Lincoln, Ste Rose Phillippine Duchesne
18-Feast of St Odo of Cluny, the Blessed Miguel Pro
19-Feast of St Nerses I, St Anastasius II
20-Feast of St Bernward
21-Feast of Mary, Queen of Peace (El Salvador); St Gelasius
22-Feast of Ste Cecilia
23-Feast of St Clement, St Columbanus
24-Feast of Stes Flora & Mary
25-Feast of Ste Catherine of Alexandria, St Mercury
26-Feast of St John Berchmans
27-Feast of St Maximus, St Francis Antony Fasani
28-Feast of St James of the Marches, St Stephen the Younger, Ste Catherine Labouré
29-Feast of Dorothy Day
30-Feast of St Andrew

Don’t have a November birthday? Check out these other months:

January -
February -
March -
April -
May - 
June -
July -
August -
October -
December -

Image of chrysanthemum from Pixabay

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Why You Should Never Trust Spell Check

I have a love/hate relationship with Spell Check. I love it because I'm a very good speller, but a horrible typist. Before the days of this brilliant invention, I would have to hunt and peck very slowly to make sure that everything came out correctly, having no instinctive feel for keyboarding, which was a frustrating damper on my creative flow, I'll tell ya. But now I can go hell-bent for leather (I don't even know what that means-did Judas Priest make that up?) and when I come up for air, all of my typos are helpfully underlined in red. 
But here's the hate part: Sometimes typos are still real words. If you leave an 'o' off of 'too', replace the 'c' in 'cough' with a 'd', or transpose the vowels in 'lion', your Spell Check is not going to see it as a mistake. Also, sometimes misspelled words are still real words. If you leave the 'u' out of fourth or have a homophonic brainlapse and write 'accept' when you meant 'except', who is Spell Check to kick about it? Nobody, that's who.
Here's one more reason not to trust it to do your proofreading for you: proper nouns and made-up words. When you know Spell Check won't recognize the spelling of a proper name (Smith, no problem; Nkwoze, problem) or a silly word you made up for 'flavor', it's easy to ignore the red underlines, but what if you still managed to misspell the thing? Mr. Nkwoze might feel slighted if he sees his name as Knowze and people think he's Beyonce's dad. (I know it's Knowles. Don't write in.) For example, I initially typed the non-standard 'brainlapse' as 'brianlapse'. If I had bypassed giving it a once-over simply because I knew Spell Check couldn't handle it, I might have left people with the impression that I would be a better writer but for lack of Brian. (I miss you, Brian! Call me!)
The moral of the story is: Spell Check is a tool, not a contractor. Before you send your creations out into the world, give them a good read or even have someone else read them (frequently we will miss our own mistakes because we already know what we're trying to say, but they will pop out at someone else). Heck, read 'em twice. It's called editing. I know some errors will still get through (I was aghast at seeing a typo in the title of a story I did that was featured on the front page of Yahoo, so I'm no stranger to public humiliation), but we do our best.

Free use image from Pixabay

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Happy Music: The Top Ten Best Songs to Pick You Up When You are Feeling Sad

We all know that music can be a powerful factor in our lives; it's something to which everyone can relate. We all have memories associated with particular songs, and, just like the background music in a movie, the soundtrack we choose for our lives can set the tone. When you are feeling down or troubled, you may be drawn to sad songs to help you let it all out, but if you find yourself stuck in a funk, put on some happy tunes to inspire yourself and shake those blues! Here is a list of ten great songs to cheer you:

1. “Anything Can Happen”, from the Anything Can Happen CD by Leon Russell – This jazzy number washes over you with a sparkling sound and the most hopeful lyrics ever. One of my all-time favorite pick-me-up songs.

2. “Gone!”, originally from the Wild Mood Swings CD, also on the Galore (Greatest Hits) CD by The Cure – Yes, THAT Cure. A band known for goth mopery can also score an inspiring song that tells you to stop moping and “Get up, get out, and get gone!” Other Cure songs in the upbeat vein include “Friday I’m in Love” and “Why Can’t I Be You?”, but “Gone!” has the take-charge lyrics that empower and inspire.

3. “Take it as it Comes” by Milli Vanilli, from their one and only CD, Girl You Know It's True. Regardless of the lip-synching scandal, this CD produced some catchy tunes, including this very inspiring anthem that includes the empowering lyrics, “So take it as it comes, girl/Don't let him bring you down, yeah/Keep your motor runnin'/You know you own this town, yeah”. I don’t care who you are, when you hear that you own this town, it makes you pick that chin up.

4. “Two Hearts”, from the soundtrack for the movie Buster, also available on the …Hits CD by Phil Collins. This gorgeous, blue-skies-forever sounding song will banish a glum mood so effectively, there’s no wonder it won a Golden Globe award in 1988, as well as a number 1 position on the Billboard Hot 100.

5. “Three Little Birds”, from the Legend CD and others by Bob Marley – Okay, it was pointed out by Adam Sandler in Funny People that this song by cancer victim Bob Marley might not necessarily pick up an AML-stricken pessimist who knows the backstory, but if you are suffering a more temporary setback (or at least have a better attitude), this gentle ditty beats the pants off “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” for cheerful optimism set to an island beat. Apologies to Bobby McFerrin; just keepin’ it real. Now sing it with me: “Don’t worry about a thing/ ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right…”

6. “Make it Happen”, from the Emotions CD by Mariah Carey. This is a real you-can-do-it anthem; this autobiographical song describes Carey's life as a young artist struggling to find her big break before she became the famous diva we know today. There are some religious aspects to this song that pertain to her own journey, but overall it is a great inspirational tune for anyone, regardless of denomination.

7. “I Believe”, from the debut CD, Free Yourself, by Fantasia Barrino. This was actually the pre-penned theme song for the American Idol winner of Season Three, whomever that turned out to be, and as we know, those tended toward equal parts treacle and bombast, but this tune, rendered with powerful gospel vocals and incredible emotion by Miss Fantasia, soars to new heights. How can you not be uplifted when you hear her soulful voice avowing, “I believe in the impossible/ If I reach deep within my heart/ Overcome any obstacle/ Won't let this dream fall apart”?

8. “Unwritten”, from the debut CD, Unwritten, by Natasha Bedingfield. Although her song “Pocketful of Sunshine” is a sweet, upbeat little song, I like “Unwritten” for its anything-is-possible, you-write-your-own-destiny message, as well as for its structure, starting off by gently bopping, and then leading up to a full gospel chorus. Cute video, too!

9. and 10. And last but not least, “Fire Burning” by Sean Kingston from the Tomorrow CD
and “Could it be You (Punk Rock Chick)” by H*Wood,
just because I defy anyone to keep from jumping up and shaking it to these hotcha dance tracks! How can you stay sad when you are getting your happy dance on? 

Free use image from Pixabay

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Unauthorized Charges on My Lane Bryant Account Were...Lane Bryant's Own Doing?

Do you have a charge card for Lane Bryant clothing store? If you do, you should check your statement carefully. They seem to have made an agreement for a company called Account Assure to offer "protection" for your account. You know the way it works: Some plan offers to cover your payments if you get fired or disabled or whatnot, for the nominal sum of only $12-$15 a year. Seems reasonable, right? Except that once you enroll, they charge you automatically, year after year, and you almost certainly will never need it. Multiply that by thousands of customers, and it's a pretty sweet deal. The one or two percent of people who really need it will be more than covered by the people who won't.

But see, the operative word here is enroll . I did not enroll in Account Assure. Lane Bryant decided to enroll me, it seems. One day, I received a letter that Account Assure was going to be added to my Lane Bryant account, unless I called to opt out. As soon as I received that letter, I wasted no time in calling to opt out, and also fussing that I do not like getting charged for something I did not order. The man was nice enough and assured me that I would not be charged.

Wouldn't you know it, here comes my Lane Bryant statement with a charge from Account Assure on it. The charge was minimal, only 15 cents, but the point was that I did not order the coverage in the first place, and I furthermore went to the trouble to ensure it would not commence. And yet here was that charge. I called customer service for Lane Bryant and forged my way through their hellish phone tree, upon which I spoke to a person who did not wish to help me. She refused to delete the charge from my account, stating that it was Account Assure's charge and that I would have to call them to take it off. I explained that I had not authorized the charge and that I had called Account Assure already to make sure that I was not enrolled in their program. The Lane Bryant rep steadfastly refused to take off the charge.

Look, the charge was small. No, it was tiny. It would be nothing to them to charge back 15 cents to keep a customer happy, would it not? Apparently it wouldn't. Figuring she just wasn't authorized to help me, I asked to speak to her supervisor, and she told me the supervisor would say the same thing. At that point, I realized my business was not worth fifteen pennies to Lane Bryant, and I told her to close my account. She made no attempt to save the situation whatsoever; I was treated to dead silence on the phone as she apparently closed the account without addressing me further. I finally asked if she needed more information, and she said, "No, I'm just closing your account." Well, that was that. No apology, no explanation, not a hint of friendliness or even understanding, and although angry, I had not been abusive. She just did not care, and honestly, that was the most disturbing part.

I think Lane Bryant's clothing is attractive and comfortable, although I have no idea why it is so expensive, as it seems rather cheaply made. I have always had fun shopping there. However, horrible customer service and ripoff credit "coverage" that I didn't request has ruined our 20-plus-year relationship and ensured I will not darken the door of a Lane Bryant store again. I will be happy to take my business elsewhere, since it means nothing to them. If you do have a Lane Bryant charge and you find an unasked-for Account Assure charge on it, you should probably just close your account. After all, I already called Account Assure not to charge me, and Lane Bryant obviously didn't want to help me. You might find the only way to delete the charge is to delete the card!

Image credit Pixabay