Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Times Square New Year's Eve Celebration.

Living way out west, I get to watch the different New Year's Eve celebrations beginning with the most famous one from Times Square and ending with a local fireworks display.  Each time zone with it's own flavor and celebrities who help ring in the New Year.  It boils down to over 6 hours of entertainment while waiting for each countdown until I get a chance to celebrate that magical hour.

I had a friend who for years would sprint into New York City a couple days before the new year to help put together the ball for the televised ceremony with Dick Clark and others.  Rather than give you a history of the ball, I'm sharing some interesting facts about the Times Square celebration.  

First of all, they have dropped a ball in Times Square something like 111 times beginning in 1907.  As with any tradition, they were unable to drop the ball in 1942 and 1943 due to the lighting restrictions of World War II.  Although, the ball didn't drop, people still assembled to ring in the new year and remember those who had given their lives to the war.

Next, the ball currently weighs a whopping 11,875 pounds but when the first ball fell in 1907, it only weighed 700 pounds.  Over time, there was the 400 pound iron ball used during the 1920's, a 150 pound ball used from 1955 to 1998 and the diameter grew from 5 feet to 12 feet. 

The current ball is covered with 2688 hand made Waterford crystals imported from Ireland. In addition, the ball has 32,256 LED lights spread across the ball which are capable of creating over 16 million colors and effects.  The colors are created by the type of lighting chamber created to use some of the light reflected off the crystals. The ball requires 50,000 Watts of power. Although that seems like a lot of power, the city uses 161 megawatts to light up Times Square. 

Normally between between 300,000 and 450,000 people visit Times Square every single day but on New Year's Eve, the number jumped to more than 500,000 pedestrians back in 1998 and last year, over a million people ventured out to watch the ball drop in person. In addition, it is estimated that over one billion people watch the event via television world wide. 

Once the ball drops, the city then releases over 3000 pounds of confetti from 7 different buildings.  It is estimated that 3000 pounds of confetti is equal to about 30,000,000 pieces of colored paper and it takes over 100 people to make it all.  

On New Year's eve at 6 pm, the city raises the ball to the top of it's 77 foot pole in preparation for the drop 6 hours later.  Those 32,000 lights I mentioned earlier?  They are used to help create a light show to entertain people until the ball is dropped. The shows are preprogrammed and each hour follows a different theme as a way of building anticipation for the drop. The ball is designed to take a full minute to descend.

The city of New York used around 1200 cameras to monitor the crowds in addition to thousands of police officers who are on duty. At the end of the celebration, the city will clean up over 48 tons of trash from confetti, hats, balloons, pizza boxes, bottles, and other things.  This takes about 200 sanitation workers close to 7 hours to fully clean the area and for it to open up again for normal business.

Quite the celebration. I am one of the people who watch the celebration from the comfort of my house.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.

Monday, December 28, 2020

After Christmas Traditions

I have many friends who check out sales for the day after Christmas so they can plan who will go where and purchase certain items.  They are willing to get up early, rush to the store and be there when they open before the crack of dawn.  This is a tradition for them but not for everyone. 

In the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations, they have Boxing Day.  This is celebrated the day after Christmas and has become a shopping day, but it started out as a day when Lords and Ladies passed out Christmas boxes filled with goodies to their servants. It was also the day that Clergy gave out boxes to the poor in honor of St. Stephen.

In addition, parts of Ireland, Wales, and the Isle of Man celebrated Wren day on December 26th. Young boys would catch and kill a wren, hang it off a pole before going house to house to sing the Wren song in the hopes of collecting donations. It is believed to have originally been associated with St. Stephen,  Fortunately, over time, this celebration is fading into obscurity.  Speaking of St. Stephen, December 26th is the day to celebrate him.  He is the one mentioned in a couple of Christmas carols as giving to the poor. 

Then there is the Kwanzaa celebration which goes from December 26th to January 1st.  This relatively new holiday began in 1966 to celebrate African traditions. It has uses a Kinara or special candle holder with one black, three red, and three green candles representing the future, the people, and the struggle.  In addition the candles represent the seven principles of unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.  Each day of Kwanzaa focuses on one of those principles. On December 31st, one celebrates with a feast and at the end, there is gift giving.

Remember the famous "12 days of Christmas" song which is heavily associated with Christmas?  Well, it is actually talking about giving gifts beginning on Christmas and ending in January.  The first day, Christmas Day, is when the person give his love a "Partridge in a Pear tree" and each day gives something else. It ends on Epiphany, January 6th. 

Epiphany is another celebration which is also known as Three Kings day.  This is said to be the day that the three wisemen first saw Jesus and presented him with gifts.  This is also the day where children in Spain receive their gifts.  In Puerto Rico, children go to bed on January 5th after sliding a box filled with hay under their beds so the three wisemen will leave good gifts and in France, people bake a King cake with a hidden coin, toy, or jewel.

Then on December 31st, we have New Year's Eve where we ring in the New Year by watching television, having Champagne or just enjoying a quiet night at home.  In Japan, they celebrate it by having small family celebrations with bowls of Udon or Soba noodles.  The idea is the long noodles bridge the old year to the new year.  In addition, Shinto shrines prepare Amazaki (a fermented rice drink) for visitors at midnight while the Buddists strike bells 108 times to celebrate each desire that causes human suffering.

Other interesting New Years traditions include jumping off a chair to the floor at midnight in Denmark as a way of jumping into the New Year.  The people in this country also go around breaking dishes on people's front steps because the more shards one has on New Year's day, the more luck they'll have in the coming year.  In Columbia, people grab an empty suitcase to run around the block as fast as they can to ensure they have a year full of travel.  The fast they run, the more travel they'll do.

In other places, they open the door and window to let the New Year's out but that can be difficult when it is -40 outside with a strong wind blowing.  Then in certain Latin American countries you want to choose the color of your underwear based on if you want love (yellow), romance (red), or luck (white).  In Puerto Rico, they believe in throwing a bucket of water out the window to get rid of bad luck and they sprinkle sugar outside to invite good luck in. 

So there are still several traditions to enjoy over the next week or so.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Even The 12 Days of Christmas Is Affected By The Pandemic!

This Christmas is quite different from previous ones due to the pandemic.  Personally, I decided not to travel to visit my family because of various travel restrictions from the state I live in.  I have to have a negative test to show when I arrive and it can't be older than 72 hours.  I also have to have to obtain permission to travel back into the village I live in and have a negative test, again no older than 72 hours, in hand to board the plane to fly back to the village. 

Usually, the music department at the local primary/middle/high school has a concert where everyone performs in front of the parents but this year, it happened virtually.  The music teacher recorded every one's performance from ECE to the school band before posting them on the school facebook page for the community to enjoy.

Every year, I check out the current price for the total cost of gifts mentioned in the 12 days of Christmas.  This year's list only covered the first eight but couldn't give costs for the lords-a-leaping, ladies dancing, pipers piping and drummers drumming because most musicians and dancers are not working due to Covid-19.  I forgot most places shut down their broadway shows, musical and dramatic performances, and even many movie theaters.  This made the cost of the presents drop because about a third of the gifts couldn't be included due to the virus.

Then there are the usual Christmas events that have had to become virtual or have switched to drive by to protect so many people.  For instance, many of the places one see's Santa have had to either change things so Santa can only wave at kids or everyone is masked, and observing social distancing or they've been eliminated this year.  Many of the people who play Santa or Mrs Clause at this time of year are in the high risk category and they've struggled with how to carry on throughout the season.  

Even the traditional parades are undergoing changes such having the floats parked in a public location with families driving through to enjoy the event while others are being cancelled and some have had the routes cut back so people can observe social distancing and masks.  In fact, many publications that list Christmas parades will also publish the cravat to check with organizers before heading out.  As we know, Southern California locked down so it is possible many previously advertised.  I don't even know if my village will have anything, only time will tell.

One group that is doing well during the pandemic is the online e-commerce people.  Since they are strictly  virtual, they do not have to observe distancing or masks for actual shoppers and many have noted increased orders.  I tend to shop virtually due to my location but since I'm not going anywhere at Christmas, I'll be sending gifts to my parents rather than going down and taking them shopping because they are at the highest risk.

Even the traditional classroom parties are not happening since so many schools are meeting virtually.  It is hard to have the same level of celebration when your class is spread out around the community.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day and a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanza.  

Monday, December 21, 2020

Christmas Carols

It's that time of the year again when one can find hours and hours and hours of Christmas carols on the radio, Youtube, and in shopping malls.  Many carols have a religious association while others are pure entertainment.  In addition, many of these carols have travelled across the world becoming popular with everyone.

The earliest record of a Christmas carol goes back to the 4th century when St. Hillary of Pointiers composed "Jesus Refulsit Omnium" or "Jesus Illuminates All".  The carols that most of us are familiar with, did not appear until much later.

One of the first ones of the more modern ones is "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" which appeared in the 16th century but not with the familiar words.  The version we now sing didn't make an appearance until the 19th century.  The first printed version of "Hark the Heralds Angles Sing" can be traced back to 1739 and by the 20th century, many more had been written.

In fact, many of our holiday carols have been changed, adjusted, and adapted to the season.  "Hark the Harold Angles Sing" started out as a hymn written by Charles Wesley, co-founder of the Methodist church meant to focus on God but about 20 years after he wrote it, another preacher took it and changed the words to make it the version we know today.  Another interesting fact about this song is that the tune was originally written by Mendelssohn to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Gutenberg.  He said he didn't mind if others wrote new words to the tune but they were not to be religious based.  I guess someone didn't listen.

On the other hand, the person who composed Good King Wenceslas, paired up an obscure Finnish tune with the fictionalized story of a Bohemian Duke and published it in 1853.  King Wenceslas was not really a king and wasn't even named Wenceslas but was actually a Bohemian Duke who lived a rather unique life in the 10th century.  When he was young, his father died and he was raised by his mother and grandmother who hated each other.  Eventually his mother had his grandmother killed off.  Supposedly, the duke gave alms to the poor to help them out but he didn't live to a ripe old age because his only brother killed him off.

Then if you look at the 20th century, you'll find all sorts of "classics" that are quite young.  The movie industry is responsible for many of the modern ones.  For instance, "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" comes to us from the 1944 movie Meet Me In Saint Louis starry Judy Garland, or "Silver Bells" sung by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in the 1951 movie The Lemon Drop Kid.  Then there is the famous "White Christmas" sung by Bing Crosby in the 1942 movie White Christmas.

In addition, you'll find songs we think of as age old carols, having been penned in the last century such as "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "Winter Wonderland" from 1934, or even more modern from the 1950's are "Jingle Bell Rock", "Little Drummer Boy", or "Rockin Around The Christmas Tree."  

Others such as "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" have an interesting history.  Rudolph started out as a short story penned by Robert L. May for Montgomery Wards.  The store sent it out as a free book for children in 1939 for Christmas.  Later on, May got together with his brother-in-law who was a songwriter to create the song of the same name based on the book.  The song was recorded by Gene Autry and became a hit in 1949.  Shortly afterwards, the song was turned into an animated movie for children to enjoy. 

Just one year later, two songwriters penned "Frosty the Snowman" to capitalize on the success of Rudolf the red nosed reindeer.  Although it wasn't as much of a hit as Rudolf, it was well received due to the book versions produced by Little Golden Books and Dell Comics.  In 1954, United Productions of America created a 3 minute black and white music video of a jazzy version of the Frosty Song.  This version became a tradition in many markets but in 1969, the animated version most of us know was released.

Every year, pop stars release their own new Christmas carol in the hopes it will stay such as "All I want for Christmas is you" by Mariah Carey.  Her song has become a Christmas classic, joining so many others.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Regular versus Hypoallergenic Makeup.


It took me a while to find a foundation I could wear without wanting to scratch my face or breaking out.  Originally, I thought I was allergic to most foundations but then discovered I needed light ones with lots of hydration associated.  Consequently, I wondered if there was a big difference between regular and hypoallergenic makeup.

According to the FDA, there are no Federal standards or definitions associated with the term "Hypoallergenic". Normally manufacturers and companies use the term to claim their product has fewer ingredients that have been found to cause allergenic reactions in them than the regular version.At one point the FDA required companies to prove their claims of being "Hypoallergenic" but that was struck down by the court system back in 2000 because makeup companies fought back.  

Since the term "Hypoallergenic" has no legal teeth, manufacturers can use it as a marketing ploy because the term suggests that the products are not as likely to cause allergenic reactions.  At this point in time, most ingredients used in makeup are the same because the ones that caused issues have been removed.  Furthermore, there are not enough studies to prove certain products cause fewer reactions.  

Some companies run patch tests to see if their product causes reactions of any type but they use volunteers.  Unfortunately, there is not guarantee the volunteer has allergies or sensitivities to certain ingredients which makes the patch tests not necessarily as accurate. This was especially true between 2000 and about 2010.

You may wonder how to tell if you can use something safely, especially since the term hypoallergenic is not regulated.  Fortunately the FDA requires all products to list ingredients making it easier to determine if something you are allergic to has been used to formulate it.  It is also possible to be allergic to almost anything so it is strongly recommended that if you have a history of multiple allergies, sensitive skin, or reacting to skin-care products, you should do spot test using the new product several days before using it over the face or body.

If you check the internet out you will find lists of recommended hypoallergenic brands.  Some brands use formulations with fewer or limiting known ingredients that cause skin irritation while others rely on natural ingredients so they do not have parabens, chemical sunscreens, or mineral oils.  In addition, many companies have started working with dermatologists to make sure the formulas are less likely to cause reactions and many are doing better testing.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is that no one brand is totally hypoallergenic.  If you find yourself suddenly reacting to your makeup, you might want to be tested to see which ingredients you are allergic to so you can find one that works.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Why Change Out Your Exercises Regularly?

Most of us have that favorite exercise or routine we love and would rather do than switching out to something else.  I love walking but hate exercises that use weights, or machines but I won't skip them because I know how important they are. 

As much as many of us would prefer to stick with our favorite routines, it is important to switch up exercises for a more effective workout.  By switching up exercises, it stimulates different body groups and eliminates the chance of boredom.  There are so many ways to continue doing your favorite exercise while switching things up at the same time.

For instance, if you regularly walk, run, or jog in the gym on a treadmill or on the road, look to change it up by running on a wooded path or through a local park.The change makes your body work differently, making it a challenge. 

If you do the same exercise every time, your body becomes used to it and your weight goes into a plateau should you be trying to lose weight. This is because your body becomes efficient, thus you use fewer calories while doing the same amount of exercise.  When you change out your exercise, your body has to work harder and you burn more calories. 

Another reason for changing out exercises is to cut down on the possibility of over use injuries associated with repetitive motion.  This type of injury is more common with people who run, or play tennis all the time.  When you switch up the types of exercises, it gives your muscles, joints, and ligaments a chance to rest and prevent overuse.  Should you suffer an injury, doing other exercises allows you to continue working out without placing additional strain on the injured part of the body.

In addition, changing out exercises allows the body to develop overall rather than just one set of muscles if you do only one.  This way, you build the heart, and a body that can do any type of activity. The variety of exercises keeps you from getting bored doing the same thing every day. If you are someone who loves to run everyday and isn't as interested in doing other things, you can do things like create intervals of increased speed, or change to hills rather than flatlands.

It is well known the exercise has a positive effect on brain health but when you add in new exercises or exercise routines, the brain has to learn something new which improves the way your neurons fire.  Choose an activity such as dancing that requires you to memorize new steps or acquire a new skill.  Do not look at anything you can perform while on autopilot. 

Sometimes it is hard to exercise when you are on your own.  Look for others who want to work out so you can partner up.  When you have a partner, you have an inbuilt support system and someone who will help motivate you.  If you suddenly start wanting to skip exercising, look around for something new such as ballet, ballroom dancing, playing on the jungle gym, or Zumba.  Taking up a new exercise can energize you again.  

I love trying new routines and switching out things but there are certain types of activities I won't try.  I don't like those hard core workouts where you get up and down all the time and the people leading you have 8 packs.  I prefer gentler workout.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Restaurants Are Getting Creative For Winter Dining.

Winter is pretty much here and due to the increasing Covid virus, many cities and states have brought back restrictions from eliminating inside dining to cutting the number of people who may be inside a building or at a gathering.  This can make it so much harder for restaurants to survive. Back in the summer, it was easy to open up outside to observe social distancing but with winter comes snow, cold weather, ice, and other issues that makes outdoor dining so much harder.

This has made restaurant owners think creatively to solve the problem.  I read of one restaurant that pitched individual clear tents outdoors that look like those plastic greenhouses you put in the living room.  Each tent was large enough for a two or three people plus chairs and tables.  The idea is for dinners to  enjoy a meal inside while still being able to enjoy the view outside.  

This idea is great in areas where winters are mild and do not get extremely cold. It reminds me of when my parents pitched the tent in the back yard so we could camp out without going anywhere.  You enjoy the experience without going out of your way.  

Another idea I've seen implemented is really creative.  Several restaurants have gotten together with various hotels to create a dining experience.  The idea is that the hotel has several empty rooms they have changed into private dining rooms.  The restaurant takes reservations from people, notifies the hotel who prepares the room for that evening.  The restaurant provides the food, waiters, and everything else that is needed for a full meal. The diners arrive, head straight to the room, orders their meals, enjoys the meal, and leaves.  When the people have left, the restaurant cleans up the food, dishes, etc while the hotel cleans the room.

One restaurant quoted the cost of this type of meal as $65 plus another $50 for the use of the hotel room for three hours.  The hotel added in the offer that if a couple decides to stay overnight they can take the $50 charge and apply it against the $250 cost of the room for the whole night. This offer allows both the restaurant and the hotel to get business.

Some places have redone the interior to create individual pods by breaking up the area.  The smaller pods provides distance from other eaters while creating an intimate dining experience.  In addition, restaurants redesign the air circulation to provide better ventilation making the whole eating experience safer.  Other restaurants decided to build exterior structures such as barns to provide space, distance, and the ability to eat outside safely.  

Several restauranteurs created family style meal kits that people purchase and cook at home.  The kits have instructions and everything needed to make the same dishes they'd get at the restaurant. In addition, they offer take out and pick-up for people who prefer not to cook.  Another step many restaurants have taken, is to create apps so people can place orders ahead of time for pickup rather than calling in.  

Unfortunately, not every restaurant has been able to adjust to the coronavirus restrictions and are already out of business while other are expected to fold because they will be unable to get the amount of business necessary to stay open.  It is sad when your favorite places go out of business due to the Covid.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Recommended Drinks To Help You Sleep.

Many people in modern society have trouble sleeping.  I know I have difficulty some nights, especially when my mind is figuring out how to do something. I have a friend who swore by melatonin but I hate relying on something like that because it's a hormone.  On days I couldn't sleep my mother always made us a nice hot cup of milk as it was her remedy but my grandmother preferred a strong cup of Chamomile. I tend to rely on either a nice hot cup of plum tea or a nice hot cup of chocolate because I do not like plain milk.

There are several recommended drinks to take should you need a bit of help finding sleep.  We'll with the old standby of Chamomile tea.  This tea is made out of flowers infused in hot water.  In addition to improving the quality of sleep, Chamomile tea is said to help decrease cold symptoms, improve skin health and decrease inflammation.  

Another recommended liquid is Cherry juice.  Cherry juice has enough tryptophan to help you sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps regulate when you fall asleep and when you wake up because it is a precursor to Melatonin.  Both sweet cherry juice and sour cherry juice both have it but sour cherry juice has more tryptophan.  There is some research to indicate that drinking 2 cups of Cherry juice every day for two weeks can increase the amount of time you sleep by over an hour.

Warm milk is another old standby that has some scientific research behind it.  Milk is another one that contains tryptophan.  Tryptophan can increase your levels of serotonin levels which in turn raises your levels of melatonin which helps you sleep.  It is recommended you drink a warm cup of milk before bedtime to help you sleep.  If you are lactose intolerant, there is research to indicate Almond milk can provide the same soothing, relaxing, abilities as regular milk.  

Check out decaffeinated green tea as one to enjoy before bed.  Once the caffeine is removed, green tea has some benefits that can help someone sleep better because it contains theanine which helps reduce stress and increases restful sleep patterns.  Unfortunately, the caffeine in regular green tea overrides these benefits so it needs to be the decaffeinated version.  

If you don't like any of the above, check out pure coconut water which is filled with lots of minerals and vitamins that can help you sleep better by relaxing your muscles and reduce stress levels.  Another surprising suggestion is to have a banana smoothie made out of bananas, almond butter, and almond milk because most of the minerals and vitamins help you relax and sleep, just like those in pure coconut water.

 I've seen other recommendations for things such as Valarian tea but I hesitate to suggest them because I've seen them used for anxiety and such and do not know if they have any associated side effects that could be harmful.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Movie And Television Rating Systems.


Anytime you watch a movie on television, via streaming, or DVD, they all have some sort of rating to notify you of the type of content found within the film. Most of us are familiar with the current system that started in 1968 but there was something in place long before then.

Way back in 1922, William Hays created the Motion Pictures Distributors Association of America also known as the MPAA as a way to protect the fledgling film industry.  This was when Hollywood began blossoming and making it's mark on the world.

About eight years later, in 1930, William Hays created the Motion Picture Production Code or Hays Code which stated what could and could not be done in movies from a moral standpoint. The Hays code came about after the public complained about the "lewd"content of various films.  Consequently, there is an obvious difference between movies made before the code and those completed after due to the new regulations.  

Basically the code said that any criminal or immoral acts shown on screen had to be punished showing that karma got them.  In addition films could only show the proper standards of life for the time, the law had to be upheld, and there was to be no nudity or sexual encounters shown and so many other things.  Consequently, everything shown had been cleans so nothing real showed.  At first the code was voluntary but in 1934, it became mandatory.  

Although the Supreme Court ruled that the content of movies were covered by the first amendment, the Hays code also known as the production code remained as written  until 1968 when a huge change was made.  The ratings changed from monitoring the moral content of films into one to inform parents about the content contained in the film.  The new system became voluntary rather than mandated as the old one.  

The new rating system had G indicating anyone could go see the film, M telling people the content was for the mature watchers but this was changed to PG indicating parents should decide if their child should take it, R for movies that no one under the age of 17 should see without a parent, or X for adults only.  Some of theses ratings  were changed later on such as NC-17 replacing the X rating because X gained the reputation of being pornographic while the PG was split into PG-13 and PG.  The PG -13 indicated the movie is not appropriate for anyone under the age of 13 should not see it due to the content while PG is simply saying parents should decide if the movie is appropriate for their children.  

In recent years, many cable channels have instituted a television content rating system.  The television content rating system was designed by the television industry to give parents a better idea of the type of material each show has.  It was modeled after the movie rating system so people are semi familiar with the concept already.  These ratings tend to use certain letters to give additional information on the content such as D for suggestive dialog, L for crude language, S for sexual situations, V for violence, and FV or fantasy violence for children's programming.  

These letters are used in addition to a general rating such as TV-Y which means it is good for all children  and does not contain frightening material for very young children while TV-Y7 is recommended for children over the age of 7.  Then there is the TV-G which is good for everyone, while TV-PG recommends parental guidance suggesting it may have material that is not appropriate for the younger ones.  TV-14 means that the material contained in the program is not recommended for anyone under the age of 14 while TV-M states the show is best for mature audiences. 

So both the movie and television rating systems are designed to provide parents with information to make an informed decision about letter their children watch or if they want to watch something.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Remembering December 7, 1941

It was a quiet Sunday morning, when out of nowhere, the Japanese arrived and bombed the ships at Pearl Harbor.  Everyone was shocked and it was described the the president at the time as "A day that would live in infamy." Too many died at Pearl Harbor and at other military bases across Hawaii.  When all was said and done, just over 2,400 people were dead and 19 navel ships were either damaged or destroyed.

I grew up where the family would talk about December 7th as if it had happened yesterday.  One of the grand or great grand parents swore that Roosevelt knew about the Japanese attack before it happened but wanted us to get involved in the war so the American economy could recover from the depression.  

According to most things I've read, the United States didn't know about the attack, they just suspected the possibility because diplomatic negotiations with Japan were in the process of breaking down.  Japan took advantage of the situation by sending a squad of 360 planes to attack the United States.  It appears that radar operators saw the planes approaching from the north but were told not to alert anyone because they thought it was the fleet of B-17's they'd been expecting.

Another family member said that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in the hopes of discouraging American involvement in the Pacific Theater.  According to things I've read, that was almost correct.  The Japanese planned to bomb Pearl Harbor in the hopes they'd destroy most of the Naval fleet and demoralize the American military so they wouldn't stop Japan's march across the Pacific.  In addition, they missed many of their targets so they left Pearl Harbor with its fuel and repair facilities Fortunately for the United States, much of their fleet was out on maneuvers so the attack was not as devastating as it cold have been.

In addition, this same person and family lived in Honolulu at the time of the bombing.  They said it was quiet and all the sudden the bombing began.  She said civilians died because not all the bombs landed on the Pearl Harbor or Hickam Field.  She left Honolulu on Christmas Day, taking her family to Washington, or Oregon so her sons could finish school.   After graduating from high school, one of her sons joined the Navy.  

She spent most of World War II working for Boeing as one of the women who helped build bombers for the war effort.  One of her sons helped build bombers too because he could not enlist due to a medical condition while the other did his part fighting in the war.  I don't think she ever forgot the bombing.  She lived to the ripe age of 97 and her younger son is 96 years old.

Although several installations were attacked that day, only Pearl Harbor is remember, perhaps because it was the hardest hit.  Other installations hit include Hickam Field on Oahu and one of the American bases in the Philippines but people only remember Pearl Harbor.  Unfortunately, people who remember Pearl Harbor are dying and an no longer share their stores.  In another 20 or 30 years, people will talk about the bombing of the World Trade Center because that became the world jarring event that changed people's lives in the same way Pearl Harbor did.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Advent calendars

It is the time of year when people pull out their Advent calendars to keep track of the coming of Christmas.  My family never used them so until I ran into them at someone else’s house, I didn’t even know they existed.  Since I knew very little about them, I had to look them up on the internet.  

An Advent calendar both similar and different to a regular calendar.  It is similar in that it has numbers on it but only from 1 to 24 but it is different because it doesn't have any months, days, or years.  

First a bit of background information on Advent itself.  Advent is a four week period beginning on the first Sunday after the feast day of St. Andrew the apostle on November 30th.  It is believed that Advent has been celebrated since the 4th century.  In the early days, Advent allowed those who had decided to convert to Christianity to prepare for baptism but now it is a way of preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Most Advent calendars to not follow the same time period as Advent proper. Instead, it begins counting on December first through the 24th.  Each number is on a small door that when opened offers a bible verse, small toy, or piece of chocolate.  The tradition of marking the 24 days leading to Christmas began in the mid 1800's by German Protestants but it wasn't until the early 1900's that Gerhard Lang created the first Advent calendar as we know it today.

The first advent calendars were nothing more than 24 colored pictures attached to some cardboard but he based it on the one his mother made for him.  He also made small changes so the pictures became small doors that could be opened. This small change caused them to become quite popular in Germany.  In fact, Advent calendars were made almost continuously since then except for World War II when there was a cardboard shortage.

President Eisenhower is credited with making them popular in the United States.  Media photographed him with his grandchildren opening doors on Advent Calendars and of course everyone wanted one after those photos appeared.  Since then, Advent calendars have become quite popular and a few have even set records.  

In 2007, Harrods sold a 4 foot tall, Christmas tree shaped calendar made out of Burr Elm and Walnut wood.  It ran $50,000 and each compartment held a piece of organic chocolate made by Green and Black chocolatiers. The money raised was designated to help farmers in Belize.  In the same year, people decided to build the world's largest Advent Calendar at the St. Pancras station in London.  The completed calendar was almost 233 feet tall by just over 75 feet wide and it was done to celebrate the reopening of the station.

It's nice to know a bit more about these calendars, their history, and their popularity.  I now know more than I used to.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  have a great day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Medicines Could Kill!


I don't know about you, but I end up relying on over the counter medicines to keep me healthy.  I keep cough syrup, pain reliever, and cold tablets.  No, I don't use them everyday.  I have them should I need them since there is no drug store in town.  Fortunately, most medicines today, even the over the counter varieties, are controlled by the government but this was not always true.  Back before the 20th century, medicines were not regulated and you never knew what was in it.

One wonder drug discovered by scientists and used by pharmaceutical companies is now extremely illegal.  Back in the 1880's, scientists isolated the active ingredients in the coca leaf and soon cocaine hit the markets.  For instance, an ophthalmologist discovered he could use drops of a cocaine solution in a person's eye to cut down on bleeding, make the eye immobile, and cut down on the pain experienced, making eye surgery safer and easier. Pretty soon, cocaine, was marketed to treat everything from toothaches, to depression, to sinusitis, lethargy, and so much more.  It was sold as a powder, tonic, lozenges, and even in cigarettes and it was sold everywhere including the Sears and Roebuck catalog.  

Unfortunately, it was extremely addictive and often caused the symptoms it was said to treat. One didn't need a prescription or to visit a doctor.  Due to the ease of obtaining it, people used it and by 1902, it is estimated that over 200,000 people were addicted to it.  The government had to pass a law in 1914, prohibited it.

During the same time period, scientists introduced heroine as a nonaddictive and save substitute for morphine.  Although, heroine had actually been formulated in 1870, it didn't reach the market until 1895 when a chemist working for Bayer aspirin discovered the paper on it and helped create heroine laced aspirin. Bayer believed it was five times more effective than morphine and much safer so they marketed the heroin laced aspirin as a way to treat sore throats, coughs, and colds.  In the process, children became addicted to the heroin laced aspirins and doctors became concerned.  Eventually, Bayer eliminated this particular product in 1913 and it was eventually prohibited by the government.

Arsenic was used to treat external ulcers and cancer since ancient times.  It was also used to treat V.D by medical personal before the availability of penicillin.  By the 19th century, arsenic was being prescribed to treat diseases such as asthma, eczema, anemia, leukemia, and other diseases.  It could be administered as a vapor, injected, or given as an enema.It also appeared in patent medicines sold over the counter to people who wanted to cure malaria, arthritis, or diabetes. Unfortunately,  arsenic could kill a person just as soon as cure them.  

Another popular ingredient in medicines was mercury.  It often appeared in powders to help babies during teething. It was also advertised as a way of relieve bowel troubles and to make children nice and plump.  Often children displayed symptoms such as running a high fever, banging their heads, having skin peel off after taking teething powders.  These symptoms were used to identify "Pink's disease" but it took a long time to determine mercury was responsible. In addition, it was said to relieve a variety of ailments including constipation, influenza, and parasites and many famous people used it.

Once the United States began controlling over the counter medicines, most of these ingredients disappeared, making life safer and better.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Will Mardi Gras Happen In 2021?

If you say "Mardi Gras" to anyone, they will instantly think of the parade that weaves through New Orleans with people in costumes and beads galore.  The "Mardi Gras" celebration has been around a very long time,  Long before New Orleans but the 2021 celebration will be different.

Marti Gras has been traced back to medieval times as it moved through Rome into France and from there to France by the 18th century.  When the  French-Canadian explorer, Bienville, arrived in 1699, he named a bit of land 60 miles south of New Orleans "Point du Mardi Gras" because it was the evening before the "Fatted Calf" holiday.

Just four years later, Mobile had their first "Beouf Gras" celebrations and in 1710 people there formed the "Beouf Gras Society which sponsored parades from 1711 to 1861.  In the Mobile parade, they had a huge bulls head, 16 men pushed down the route on a wagon but this was replaced with a real bull dressed in white signaling the beginning of lent.  It was always held on Fat Tuesday.

Bienville went on to found New Orleans in 1718.  By the 1730's the Mardi Gras tradition had been established in New Orleans but not with parades.  Instead, the Governor celebrated with society balls upon which today's Mardi Gras balls are based. It wasn't until 1781, that the first reference to a Mardi Gras "carnival" appeared in written reports. 

Celebrations expanded so by the late 1830's there are records of possessions or parades of maskers with carriages and on horseback made their way down torch lit routes in a festive mood. Within 30 years, the annual parades had floats also known as "tableau cars". Then in 1870, newspapers began printing information about events ahead of time while printing a "Carnival" edition filled with lithographs of the fantastic floats after the event because it was imperative to keep the design of your float secret until it hit the streets. Although newspapers published pictures of the floats, it wasn't until 1886, they were able to print the pictures in full detail and in color thus sharing all of the beauty and genius of the designers of the day.  

The first real King of the Mardi Gras appeared in 1872 to preside over the parade. They declared  purple, gold, and green as the official carnival colors in honor of the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff. In addition, they added the song "If Ever I Cease To Love" as the official Mardi Gras song again in honor of the Grand Duke.

Then in 1873, for the first time, all floats were constructed in New Orleans, rather than in France thus eliminating shipping and transport.  In 1875, the Governor declared Fat Tuesday as a legal holiday in the state and it remains one even to today.  The parade has had few interruptions including the pandemic back in 1918 in addition to both World Wars.  It has been stated that due to Covid-19, the parade for 2021 will not happen since it is seen as a possible "super spreader event" but the celebration will remain because Mardi Gras is a religious holiday and cannot be cancelled.

At this point in time, no one is quite sure the form 2021 Mardi Gras celebration will take as they are still working out the details.  One thing is they will most likely require social distancing, and masks.  It is important to keep an eye out to see what the final form takes.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Football + Parades = Thanksgiving Activities

As I mentioned Wednesday, my dad and brothers spent much of Thanksgiving day watching either parades, football games, or both.  I think many other houses share the same tradition and it's gotten to the point, it isn't Thanksgiving without either.  Historically, football has gone hand in hand with Thanksgiving.

President Abraham Lincoln designated Thanksgiving as a National Holiday back in 1863 and in 1876 the very first Thanksgiving day football game took place when Yale went up against Princeton.  At this point, the game was moving from rugby to what we see now.

By 1900 as perfect for the Intercollegiate Football Association scheduled their playoff games for the Thanksgiving weekend.  This weekend has a history of famous clashes such as the University of Michigan versus the University of Chicago or Boston Latin versus the English High School of Boston which continue to today.  Furthermore, there were hundreds of games played over the Thanksgiving day weekend.

Around 1900, professional football started developing and they chose this weekend for their games, often scheduling games for championship titles or for big rivalry games.  When the National Football League got it's start in 1920, it chose this weekend to host up to 6 games for the population.  In 1934, the owner of the Detroit Lions began hosting games as a way to bring attention to his new franchise and this team plays one of the three games every Thanksgiving even today.  

In addition, the owner of the Detroit Lions also owned a radio station and he arranged for the first game between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears to be broadcast to 94 other stations when his team lost but it began a new tradition.  The Dallas Cowboys followed this idea by arranging to have their holiday game broadcast in 1966 and they became the second team to play on Thanksgiving. 

As far as parades, Macy's held their parade back in 1924 to celebrate their flagship store and remind people that Christmas was coming.  In fact, the first parade took place first thing in the morning so spectators could head off later in the day to watch the huge Syracuse versus Columbia game.  The parade was a success and took place every year.  At first, in 1932, a local radio station began broadcasting commentary on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade but it wasn't until 1946, they switched to broadcasting it via a television.

Due to the coronavirus, Macy's will have their parade but it will only have the last part of the route just in front of Macy's store.  The parade will be broadcast as usual but place over a 3 day period so all participants are able to observe normal social distancing.  The store has cut back on the number or participants to make it easier to meet all recommendations for safety. 

As you enjoy watching you football games or the parade, remember how long these two have been broadcast and become entrenched and associated with Thanksgiving.  They are as much a part of the celebration as turkey and having relatives visit.  Enjoy your weekend.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  have a great day. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Memories of Thanksgiving.

We all know what you should have for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  It should include turkey, ham, goose, pumpkin pie, apple pie, stuffing, potatoes, candied yams, rolls, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and some sort of salad.  Every family has developed their own variations for each item or might have something non-traditional. 

For instance, my aunt would serve a stuffing filled with the usual onions, celery, spices, bread crumbs, along with added chopped apples and sweet potatoes. I really enjoyed the additions so I adopted it for me.   Other people prefer a rice stuffing with apples, pecans, or cranberries.  

As for cranberry sauce, I love picking wild cranberries and using those to make my own sauce.  The local ones are much smaller and a bit tarter and make a really awesome sauce.  Around here, they wait for the first frost before picking the cranberries because the frost makes them a bit softer and sweeter.  My parents on the other hand, always bought the cranberry sauce with and without cranberries.  

Then there is the traditional pumpkin pie which most people bake and then serve with whipped cream or cool whip but I prefer a haupia topping.  Haupia is a coconut pudding you can make from scratch or find a packaged mix.  Once the pie is out of the oven, top the pie with the haupia pudding and let everything cool together.  It adds a nice twist to the pie and if you have any folks with either dairy allergies or are vegan, the haupia meets their dietary needs. 

Dad always made the mashed potatoes.  He'd cook the potatoes with the skins till they were really soft before draining them and popping them into a bowl.  Dad then used a ton of butter as he mashed the potatoes.  Instead of milk, he used heavy cream because he felt we needed to make the mashed potatoes more festive.  At the end, he added salt and pepper to taste.  Mom always told us the skins added roughage and was healthier for us.

Mom took care of the turkey.  Since she wasn't the best cook, she always bought one of the one turkeys with the pop up sensor and she wrapped it in the bag to catch juices and steam the turkey at the same time.  She was also up quite early to get the turkey started so it'd be ready in time.  I took care of the gravy because mom could never make it without lumps, lumps, and more lumps.  I tended to melt butter in a pan, add a bit of flour before browning it, and then adding the juice to make a really awesome gravy.  The gravy always seemed to mesh perfectly with the potatoes.  

Of course they had to make the candied sweet potatoes made up of those canned yams that seem to have no taste mixed with brown sugar, spices and butter.  I think it was another aunt who used marshmallow cream in hers while one of my grandmothers tossed chopped pecans on hers.  I think this is one dish, every woman hand her own version of this recipe.  When I left home, I started with fresh sweet potatoes instead of canned because I preferred the flavor and taste.

My other grandmother always contributed a veggie dish made with celery jello and canned mixed vegetables cured in a bundt like pan.  It was what it was and everyone dutifully ate it. Dad's only contribution to the meal was the mashed potatoes since he and my brothers preferred watching football and various parades while all the women did the preparation.

If you think back to your childhood, I'm sure you have memories like this.  I'm lucky in that I never had the drunk relative who came to all the celebrations. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving day tomorrow whether you stay home and head off elsewhere.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Fitting Exercise Into A Busy Day


My days can get quite busy.  I still leave my apartment every morning, spend several hours teaching students, run a couple study halls, and spend extra time in my room so students can get caught up on things.  This means I often get home after 6 at night and I do not feel like working out but I've modified the Nike saying of "Just do it! and changed it to "Just get started!"

I purchased several DVD's with exercise routines that run between 10 and 20 minutes long.  I've discovered on the days I do not want to get started, it is so much easier to talk myself into something that is 10 minutes long than a 40 minute work out.

You might be thinking that 10 minutes is not long enough to get sweaty or get much or a workout but I ended up buying a Jillian Michaels DVD and those workouts make me wish they were shorter. You can find them using weights, resistance bands, yoga, Pilates, stretching, dancing, cardio, and so many more.

From personal experience, it is so much easier to talk myself into doing just one routine.  Just one routine and once it's done, I'm ready to put on a longer one.  Sometimes, I choose a short high impact followed by a 20 or 30 minute dance or yoga routine so I get a well rounded session.  Due to the spread of the virus, many gym facilities are closed or are at half the capacity.  Having the DVD's helps me continue exercising.

If you don't want to go that route, there are things you can do to slip exercise in here and there.  Since it is recommended you get around 30 minutes a day, it is often easier to fit it in using smaller chunks such as parking your car as far away from your place of work and walking to and from.  At lunch, walk around the building multiple times for a 10 minute stint.  I work in a building that is long and thin, so I often walk from one end to the other end a few times.

On the other hand, you might have to work from home but that won't preclude you from managing some exercise.  If you have a two story home, stairs are great for providing an all round workout by just going up and down at a quick pace. Pick up a jump rope and return to your childhood by jumping rope or buy a couple of weights for strength training. When you were a teenager, did you ever put music on and just dance to it? You can do that now.  It provides a good cardio workout but if the weather is nice, head out for long walks around the neighborhood or over to a park and use the gym equipment there.

Unfortunately due to the spread of the coronavirus, it is highly recommended that you do most of your exercising outside while observing social distancing of at least 6 feet or at home.  If you must go to a gym,  see if you can virtually check-in and try to maintain social distancing while wearing a mask if possible to provide that extra layer of protection.

Go modern and down load a workout app for your phone. They have apps for yoga, home gym workouts with no equipment, Tabata, seven minute, etc.  You have a wide choice of which one or ones you want to try.  If you don't like it, delete it and try a different one until you find the one that works for you.  

It is important to include exercise in your daily routine, even during these stressful times.  Do not put it off till tomorrow because it can turn into a habit and soon you don't exercise at all.  As I said earlier, it is sometimes easier to put a short workout on just to get you started and you can ease into longer sessions. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day. 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Friday, November 20, 2020

History Of Freeze Dried Foods

Growing up, my dad loved to take us camping.  Sometimes we'd backpack into some area, other times, we settled in a campground but no matter what, my dad never purchased those "Hiking" or "Backpacking" foods.  Everything was made from scratch except for the milk and tang.  It wasn't until I got to college that I learned about freeze dried foods designed for camping or backpacking.  Imagine, a whole meal in a small package you just added water to and heated.  

I've often wondered how freeze drying foods all began because they have been around in the form of coffee or tea for a very long time.  There is a bit of conflicting information concerning who invented it and when but most agree that the Incas and Buddist monks who lived high in the mountains used the elevation and cold nights to freeze dry their foods.  As far as the modern freeze drying techniques, it appears that several different people had something to do with it.

According to an article in the Food Technology Magazine, freeze drying was invented in 1906 by Jacques-Arsene d'Arsonval who worked at the College de France in Paris. Yet according a different source, Benedict and Manning created the first freeze dryer in 1905 which was used to dry blood tissues using a chemical pump. A third source attributes the modern process was invented by Mr. Richard Altmann in 1890.  What is clear is that the first freeze drying techniques were designed to preserve organs and tissues. 

For the most part, freeze drying was used primarily in the medical field to preserve organs, tissues, and vaccines. Freeze drying played an important part during World War II because it allowed blood to be preserved without refrigeration so medical units could take care of the wounded.  

The application of the freeze drying process wasn't used on foods until after World War II.  The first freeze dried foods began appearing during the 1950's when companies began drying foods for commercial use but it was the space program in the 1960's that provided a boost to the market.  NASA explored the use of freeze dried foods for space flights and in the process created a public desire for freeze dried ice cream.  

Until NASA requested dried foods for their program and the freeze dried ice cream which they used as a way of letting people taste "Astronaut" foods, only groups like the Boy and Girl Scouts, other outdoor groups used freeze dried foods.

Then in the early 1970's, companies utilized advertising to increase the need for freeze dried foods.  One area was to appeal to people who spent a lot of time backpacking or away from civilization because freeze dried foods were extremely light.  The move created more demand because backpacker could haul a weeks worth of foods in less space and with less weight. These companies developed products like stews, lasagna, and such  for campers and backpackers who wanted "real" foods.  Eventually, you could get just about any type of meal from breakfast to dinner.   

Now you can find freeze dried foods in your local grocery store where you can find it in those #10 cans.  These appeal to people who are prepping for various disasters or want it due to their locations.  I keep freeze dried eggs for baking because the local stores are often out and most people tend to have dried milk which is milk that has actually been freeze dried.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  have a great day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Bizarre Beliefs About Sleep.


Throughout time and across the world, various groups have developed some rather weird and bizarre beliefs about sleep. My mother always told us not to eat after 7 pm or we'd never be able to sleep because our bodies were too busy digesting food and would keep us awake.  

The word nightmare is believed to have evolved from "Mara" who was an evil Germanic spirit who brought bad dreams to those it visited.  Russian and Slavic mothers put knives in the cradles of their infants to protect them from a nasty night creature.  

In ancient Egypt, the Egyptians believed they could banish nightmares by placing four statues of cobras at the four corners of the room while chanting an incantation at the same time.  They believed these statues would spit venom at any invading nightmare or creature who tried to bring a nightmare.

Furthermore, it was also believed that the gods communicated with certain people such as the Oracle of Delphi via their dreams.  In ancient mythology, Hypos was the god of sleep and brother to Thantos the god of death because it was believed that sleep and death were similar. 

In Ancient Greece, some believed that two people who slept in the same bed could experience the same dream.  The idea behind this belief was if one person was asleep in bed and had a dream, they could wake up and another person then fell asleep in the same bed, they would experience the same dream of the other person.  Interesting idea?

In addition, Plato believed that dreams originated in the liver.  He believed the liver was sensitive to changes in the body and would change shape to become sweet or bitter and would influence dreams but Aristotle thought the soul left the body and could interpret information contained in breezes.  

Early Christians believed that demons could invade a person's sleep and tempt them into sinful behavior by creating erotic dreams.  Later, beginning in the 12th century, they thought these same demons could take over a woman's body and cause her to become pregnant. The demons in this case were incubus (male) and succubus (female) and it was a strong belief.  Along the way, others began to believe that nightmares were caused by the Devil and a person having too much blood in their body.  It was recommended that people pray every night to protect them from the Devil and it's influence. 

A century or two later, people believed that wearing rubies, coral and diamonds to bed provided protection from bad dreams.  It wasn't long before opals, topaz,  and emeralds joined the list of protective jewels.  For people who could not afford these jewels, they could drink wine that had had dragons tongue or gallbladder boiled in it. If you couldn't find a dragon, you could rub the blood of a mink on your forehead for protection.

As time has passed and scientists have been able to research various beliefs, we have learned more about sleep, dreams, and nightmares.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Melatonin And Sleep.


I know we've all had one of those nights where we try to sleep but can't so we take melatonin because someone you know has recommended it.  I've got friends who say I should take it every night and others who tell you it shouldn't be taken every night.  I use it occasionally but not often because I hate relying on anything to help me sleep.

First of all, melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland found in the brain.  Normally, this hormone is responsible for when you sleep and when you wake-up. Your body begins producing melatonin when the sun sets so around bedtime you are ready to sleep and then the amount decreases around sunrise so you wake up.

Unfortunately, when one is exposed to too much light, it can interfere with the production of melatonin in the body. The modern household has lots of light that is high voltage and almost imitates day. Between all the lights, the devices, street lamps, lights in the yard to protect us, we are exposed to enough light that many of us have difficulty getting to sleep at night.  

One can take a supplemental dose to help get to sleep especially if one has trouble getting to sleep at night.  It can also be taken to help get over jet lag, or sleep when a person works odd hours. It is recommended that one take melatonin one to two hours prior to going to bed.  

Although, most of the melatonin sold on the market is synthetically made, there are some possible  side effects  such as dizziness, headaches, nausea, or sleepiness when taking melatonin and it is recommended that people should not take it without consulting a doctor first because it can interact badly with certain meds. Furthermore, it is said to be safe to take melatonin every night for a short time but one should not use it for months.  

Rather than relying on melatonin, there are things one can do to help make it easier to sleep.  For instance, replace some of the light bulbs with ones that are lower wattage and begin using these about two hours before yo want to go to bed.  The lower wattage signals your brain that it is getting darker outside and your body begins to produce more melatonin.

In addition, be sure to exercise at least 30 minutes each and every day along with making sure you get outside to get a dose of natural sunlight. If the exercise is of a vigorous nature, plan to do it earlier in the day to give time for the body to calm down. One should also take a nice warm bath or shower to help relax before bed time.  If you are a person who needs a quick nap during the day, make sure it is no longer than 30 minutes in the early afternoon.  If a person takes a nap too late in the day, it can interfere with getting to sleep at night.

When you are getting ready for bed, put your electronics to bed so you have less exposure to blue light and you don't get lost checking your e-mail or social media.  In addition, make sure your bedroom is cooler than the rest of the house, preferably in the 60 to 65 degree range.  If the room is too warm, you won't sleep as well.

Try to only sleep in your bed rather than watching television, listening to music, or reading, otherwise you might find it harder to relax.  Finally, look at trying some meditation so as to calm your mind and body.  It is hard to sleep when your mind is active.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Living Through The Pandemic With Your Mind Intact.

This week, I've looked at changing our mood by smiling, working on cultivating happiness and today I'm looking at ways to survive being home with everyone due to lockdowns and other issues directly tied to the pandemic.

One major event that changed everyones lives was when schools closed and adults ended up working from home or ended up at home due to their work disappearing.  With everyone home, it is important to create sustainable routine for everyone. This schedule ranges from when to get up, have meals, attend school sessions via distance, clean rooms, etc.

Another thing to do is to not to think about all the what if's based on rising numbers in many states.  It is important to focus on where you are now rather than looking at what might be if something changes.  This type of thinking sends us away from reality and our actual situation into a fictional realm.  When you focus on what is happening in your life right now, it helps you feel more under control so you on longer feel helpless. 

In addition to looking at facts, it is important to stay flexible due to the constantly changing demands of your situation.  Look at schools who one day are meeting in person and then the next, everyone is learning from home.  This leads to a perception of loosing control which is what most people hate to face.  One way around it is to look at all the facts while staying flexible. When you look at scenarios, look at them with an objective point of view rather than the worst case so as to not lose sight of reality.  Look at the possibilities your family has for the current situation.  Furthermore, give yourself permission to change your mind as the data changes because it will always be changing. 

One should also find continuing purpose in this time of uncertainty. One should sit down and determine which personal values are most important at this time. Those are the values to focus on and share with your family.  In addition, what things do you want your kids to remember when this is over and what values do you want them to experience.  

Make sure your whole family gets physical since physical movement helps us relieve stress and feel better.   Physical movement can be as simple as walking around the backyard, or around the office or practice some Tai Chi or yoga, maybe throw some music on and just dance, or move.  Perhaps, the physical movement might be going up and down stairs multiple times.  

Finally, it is ok to be disappointed or to mourn the things that didn't happen such as your annual family holiday, a wedding, your weekly visits to a relative in a retirement home.  The thing is that we look forward to these events and are disappointed when they are taken away from us.  During this time, we have to make hard decisions to not go places and we experience disappointment but we have to accept that we are disappointed.  Then think about why we were going to the event and how we could still do it or find something else.  For instance, if you have to miss a wedding, maybe you can still attend via Zoom, or instead of going to Europe for that long awaited holiday, find videos of the place and enjoy it that way.

Our lives have changed for the past few months and will stay changed.  If we don't  make some choices, we will become depressed and that is not good.  We have to take steps to survive this pandemic intact so when it is over, we will be able to move forward.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Cultivating Happiness

We are in a time of uncertainty as we watch numbers of those infected by the coronavirus climb while many of us are worried.  If you are deemed an essential worker, you worry about being exposed to the virus because you have to work but if you are one whose job disappeared, you worry about unemployment, about surviving.  Through all this, stress levels are growing and happiness seems hard to find but it is possible to cultivate happiness in the midst of all of this.

It might seem hard to cultivate happiness or even wonder why one should try to be happy but it has been found that happiness has some real benefits.  It appears that when a person has a positive attitude, the immune system is boosted, and protection from respiratory viruses is built.

There are ways to cultivate happiness and none of them takes much.  First,  it is imperative to take extra good care of yourself and make sure to include some form of exercise.  Research has shown that taking a 12 minute walk can produce a much lighter and happier mood.  Exercise can be as simple as walking or doing light yoga if you aren't much for doing a 45 minute cardio workout.  

Next, one should begin to meditate because it fosters inner happiness by slowing down to meditate.  Meditation causes the neurochemicals that makes us feel better. In addition, it also helps reduce stress activated such as cortisol and adrenaline.  If you don't know where to start, there are several apps one could download or check the internet for websites. 

Third, work on getting enough good sleep at night.  This can be especially hard during the pandemic because you're worried about so many things but sleep is important to both physical and mental well being.  One way to regulate sleep is to set an alarm to remind you to go to bed so you go to bed at the same time every night.  I've found going to bed with a book about an hour before I want to go to sleep, helps me ease into being tired enough to sleep.  

Fourth, take advantage to technology to stay in contact with others.  Social interaction is important to staying happy because most of us have a need to interact with others.  Most humans are not made to be alone.  If any member of your family is not good with technology, teach them so they can use technology to stay in touch or make a point of calling them on a regular basis.

Then work on decluttering your house because too much clutter can get in the way of positive feelings.  In addition, one should take time to make the bed and clean up regularly so the house shines so you feel happier.  Since many offices and schools are closed, there are often more people in the house than normal and it can get cluttered quite rapidly but it is important to take the time to clean everything up.

It has been shown that when we connect with nature, we undergo less stress and have better general health.  Being in natural environments helps lower brain activity in the frontal lobes thus helping our brains to relax. Unfortunately, many of the national parks and forests are closed and one isn't able to travel due to restrictions so how do you interact with nature?  Pull up pictures!  There is research to indicate that just looking at pictures of nature can do the same thing as actually being outside. 

Finally one should be thankful for what they have.  In addition to writing down the things you are grateful for, it is important to thank everyone you interact with because you feel happier when you thank people. I realize this can be extremely difficult when life doesn't seem to be going well but when we do these small things, we can feel so much better and happier.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.