On Thursday, April 8, Vivian Lawry will be leading a discussion of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows). Time: 7:30 p.m. Place:Tuckahoe Branch of the Henrico Public Library. The event is free and open to the public.
No, really: for half the earth, the Winter Solstice will begin June 21, 09:13 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). The winter solstice marks the beginning of the return of the sun as the days get progressively longer again—and that’s always worth celebrating! Ceremonies and rituals include purification, ritual sacrifice, dancing, and sometimes gift-giving.
For a chilly celebration, Australians join the nude solstice swim in Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin. Participants strip down and enjoy (?) a swim in waters where temperatures are below zero-degrees. (A cold front in Canberra has caused exceptionally cold temperatures this year, making that nude dip extra refreshing!)
Elsewhere in the region, people in Tasmania celebrate for weeks, from 6 to 23 June this year. In Hobart, the capital city, the Dark Mofo Festival includes music and theater performances, art exhibits, and more.
In New Zealand’s Māori tradition, the Matariki celebration commemorates and signals the triumph of light over darkness. Events often take place at Aotearoa Stonehenge, a modern adaptation of Britain’s Stonehenge. This year, New Zealanders will celebrate Matariki as an official public holiday for the first time, following Māori customs of remembering the dead and celebrating the living.
The Eswatini of Swaziland mark the Winter Solstice with a six-day celebration of kingship called Incwala. Young men, at the direction of the king, cut branches of the lusekwane and imbondvo shrubs, which elders use to build a sanctuary hut for the king.
After days of dancing, feasting, and feats of prowess, the entire community spends a day in fasting and abstinence, including foregoing wearing jewelry, bathing, shaking hands, and sitting on chairs or mats. The elders and the king burn sacrificial objects to symbolize the ending of the old year. The king then remains in seclusion and abstinence for a month.
The Zulu celebration Umkhosi Wokweshwama (“First Fruits“) focuses more directly on the harvest. The king tastes the fruits brought from all over the country and then smashes a calabash to invite everyone to join him in feasting. Harvesting or eating before the king is a sign of disrespect. Young men of the king’s retinue sacrifice a black bull, killing it without any weapons.
One of the biggest Inti Raymi celebrations takes place in Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire, in modern-day Peru. The festival begins with a reenactment of appeasing Inti in the center of Cusco.
Historically, the Incas fasted for three days before the solstice. Before dawn on the fourth day, they went to a ceremonial plaza and waited for the sunrise. When it appeared, they crouched down before it, offering golden cups of chicha (a sacred beer made from fermented corn). Animals—including llamas—were sacrificed during the ceremony, and the Incas used a mirror to focus the sun’s rays and kindle a fire.
After the recreation of the ancient sacrificial rites, the modern celebration continues into the city where dancers dressed in colorful traditional attire march through the narrow streets and plazas. Festivities last for days and concerts continue late into the winter night.
The Ingapirca complex is the largest set of Inca ruins in Ecuador. Here, ceremonies begin as the rising sun shines through the doorway to the Temple of the Sun. Each year nearly 10,000 visitors travel to Ingapirca to witness the coming of the new agricultural year and join the festival.
In Ecuador, ritual purification in springs and rivers is an important component of the Inti Raymi celebration. It is believed to revitalize spiritual energy and their relationship with Pachamama. Members of the indigenous community in Otavalo begin the festivities with a spiritual renewal at the nearby waterfalls at midnight. The celebrations continue with a grand march into the main plaza where members of the community and visitors sing and dance for several days.
In Bolivia, northern Chile, and southern Peru, the winter solstice (Willkakuti) marks the New Year for the Aymara People and is a time to celebrate and bless the land for bountiful harvests. More than thirty thousand people gather every year to welcome the sun at dawn. This June 2022 marks the 5,530th year of the Aymara culture.
At Tiahuanaco, in Bolivia, ceremonies start the day before the Solstice, when pilgrims travel to Quimsa Chata and Aymara priests make offerings to Pachamama, the Earth Goddess. On the as the first rays of sunlight pass through the Sun Gate to the east of the Temple of Kalasaya, celebrants raise their hands to the dawning rays.
Celebrants offer food and other sacrifices to Inti and Pachamama to bring fertility and prosperity during the start of the new agricultural period. Festivities continue throughout the night, with lots of dancing, eating, and drinking of a warm grape liquor known as signani to stay warm.
Even Antarctica gets its share of solstice celebration, thanks to the researchers staying there over the long, dangerously cold season. While the Northern Hemisphere is enjoying the most daylight hours, in the Southern Hemisphere they are celebrating Midwinter. Festivities include special meals, films, and sometimes even handmade gifts.
Bottom Line: Since ancient times, people all over the world have recognized the winter solstice as an important annual occurrence and have celebrated the subsequent “return” of the sun in a variety of ways.
Check a thesaurusfor words related to inertia. You’ll find plenty of alternatives, from attitude to Newtonian physics.
Indeed, the first dictionary definition (n) is a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.
If you ask a physicist (or any one in a beginning physics class) you get a less one-sided view:
In life in general, including one’s writing life, the remaining-at-rest side of inertia is typically a hurdle to overcome. In its simplest form, the longer one goes without writing (or scheduling a doctor’s appointment, sending condolences, making an apology, weeding the garden, etc.) the more effort it takes to make it happen.
Procrastination is a bear of not getting off the mark. Researchers suggest that it takes approximately 18 to 250 days to train yourself to a new habit. The first 21 days are said to be the most difficult, especially for a physical habit (regular exercise, quitting smoking, etc.).
This holds true for habits of thought, too. It’s a little more difficult to get precise numbers in this area, but studies show that you can train yourself to meditate, think positively, stop apologizing to everyone, even improve your memory. The brain, like the body, wants to remain at rest.
For humans, the continuing movement side of inertia, it seems to me, is both rarer and more beneficial. I think of it as being on a roll.
If you are on a roll, you may be having a run of good luck. (This expression, which alludes to success rolling dice, dates from the second half of the 1900s.) Enjoy it while it lasts, but the nature of luck is that it’s beyond one’s control.
Alternatively, being on a roll can mean enjoying a success that seems likely to continue. Continuing in the same habits will likely lead to a series of successes. This is true of everything from an athletic success to the first book in a popular series.
Being on a roll also means a period of intense activity. This building momentum side of inertia comes to the fore when meeting deadlines, whether work or social (like Halloween preparations).
The outside force part of the physicist’s law of inertia is where a writer’s free will comes into play. There are all sorts of things you can do to overcome inertia in your life. Identify and remove triggers for a behavior you want to change. Set reminders on a timer or a note taped to your wall.
Those outside forces can be the basis for a character’s motivation in your writing as well. Perhaps an overheard comment sparks a character’s curiosity to begin a massive research survey. Perhaps a health scare inspires a character to change jobs and move to the opposite side of the globe. Perhaps new of impending alien invasion encourages an entire planet to move all habitations below ground.
BOTTOM LINE: If you understand both sides of inertia, you can make it work for you!
In honor of International Women’s Day (March 8th), check for biases in your life, in your thought patterns, even in your writing. At its core, bias is often just mental inertia.
I’ve never been a big fan of PB&J sandwiches—sacrilege, I know, given that the National Peanut Board estimates that the average child will eat 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before graduating high school—but my earliest peanut butter love was peanut butter on pancakes with a splash of maple syrup. My father ate them that way, as did/do all his children and grandchildren. The last time I was in IHOP, my favorite wasn’t on the menu, which I found incomprehensible.
Today I still avoid PB&J sandwiches, just too sticky and soft. But I willingly eat peanut butter on toasted English muffins with jelly, honey, molasses, or bananas.
Among my other go-to options are smoothies with peanut butter, bananas, and chocolate. And speaking of chocolate, I’ve been known to swirl peanut butter with chocolate syrup for a sweet treat. Peanut butter is also great on Granny Smith apples, when I want to nod toward healthful. And let’s not forget peanut butter fudge, with or without chopped nuts, chocolate chips, etc. And trail mix. And chocolate chip cookies. And smoothies. And, and, and . . .
Writing my recent blog on snacks and snacking (February 1, 2022) I noted the following among favorite snack pairs, in descending order of popularity
Cchocolate and nuts (some of which must have been peanuts)
Peanut butter and jelly
Peanut butter and apples
Chocolate and peanut butter
Surprisingly, peanut butter and bacon wasn’t on the list
What is/are your favorite combination(s)?
In 1996 I bought The Peanut Cookbook by Dorothy C. Frank, a library discard with a copyright date of 1976. But good recipes never die! Recipes are grouped in the usual categories: appetizers and nibbles; soups, salads, main dishes, vegetables; breads, biscuits, and breakfast; desserts and candies. There are dressings for vegetable salads; sauces for poultry and meat; and “syrups” for sweets. Peanut Butter Meatloaf with Sweet Potato Frosting doesn’t appeal to you? Turn the page! Even recipes that don’t tempt you to attempt are interesting to read.
One of the candy recipes is for Jimmy Carter’s favorite peanut brittle recipe.
Have I at least tempted you to check on-line recipes?
Not quite the same kind of peanuts, but I’m sure they’re delicious!
Evolution of Peanut Butter
George Washington Carver was an agricultural scientist. He created more than 300 products from the peanut plant, but peanut butter was not one of them! By 1916 when he published “How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it For Human Consumption” patents related to peanut butter preparations had been granted to various pharmacists, doctors, and food scientists.
If not Carver, then who? And when? According to the National Peanut Board, there is evidence that ancient South American Inca Indians were the first to grind peanuts to make peanut butter. They speculate that the peanut plant originated in Peru or Brazil. People in South America made pottery in the shape of peanuts or decorated jars with peanuts as long 3500 years ago.
As early as 1500 B.C.E. the Incas used peanuts as sacrificial offerings and entombed mummies with peanuts to help them in the afterlife. Central Brazilian tribes ground peanuts with corn to make a drink.
But no version of peanuts or peanut plants made a direct trek north. European explorers took peanuts from South America to Spain. Explorers and traders carried peanuts to Asia and Africa. Africans introduced peanuts to the U.S./North America in the 1700s.
By 1783 Suriname had a food called peanut cheese. More solid than peanut butter, it could be sliced and served like cheese.
In the U.S., peanuts were first grown in Virginia and used for oil, as a cocoa substitute, and as food for livestock and the poor. Peanuts were considered difficult to grow and harvest. Their popularity grew (geographically and otherwise) as a result of Civil War soldiers on both sides subsisting on them (and presumably finding them tasty).
P. T. Barnum’s circus vendors called “hot roasted peanuts” for sale as they traveled across the country in the late 1800s.
Before peanut “butter,” there was peanut paste. In 1884, a Canadian named Marcellus Gilmore Edson was granted a patent for his paste, made from roasted peanuts.
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (of cereal fame) invented a version of peanut butter in 1895, patented in 1898, that he served at his Western Health Reform Institute. Kellogg was a big proponent of plant-based food instead of meat, and for a time it was considered a food for the wealthy because they were the patrons of the expensive health care institutes. Peanut butter, like sushi and lobster, morphed from food for the poor 9and livestock) to food for the elite. But it really burst onto the public stage at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.
Peanut butter became a popular source of protein during the two World Wars, being provided to troops by the Armed Forces. Recently (2020), on average, Americans ate 7.6 pounds of peanuts and peanut products each—probably even more now. In March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, 299.34 million ate peanut butter; retail sales of peanut butter in the U.S. increased by 75% over the level in March 2019.
Although National Peanut Butter Day is past (January 23), there are more chances to celebrate in 2022!
March is National Peanut Month
March 1, National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day
March 8, National Peanut Cluster Day
April 2, National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day
May 18, I Love Reese’s Day
June 12, National Peanut Butter Cookie Day
September 13, National Peanut Day
November, National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month
November 20, National Peanut Butter Fudge Day
Mark your calendars! And there are plenty of days open to create a peanut celebration of your own!
In Western astrology (derived from early Babylonian star charts), your birth sign depends on when during the calendar year you were born. I happen to be an Aries. But the Chinese sign of the zodiac under which one is born depends upon the birth year (based on the Chinese lunar year). I was born under the sign of the Rooster. Many people in the US—most?—are more or less aware of such things.
Similarly, awareness that 2022 is a Tiger year is relatively widespread. But not so many people are aware that Tiger years aren’t all alike: 2022 is the year of the Water Tiger. Say what?! There is a Tiger year every 12 years, but a Water Tiger year cycles every 60 years.
The Five Elements
The Chinese Five Elements (Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth) also cycle in order, so the alignment repeats every 60 years. The basic theory is that the zodiac sign characteristics are affected by/ interact with the elements. The Five Elements are used in Chinese medicine, philosophy, fengshui, fortune-telling, and martial arts.
Because they are less familiar to most Westerners, I’ll start with the qualities of the five elements:
The Chinese Five Elements are a bit like scissors/ paper/ rock in that no one element is always the strongest. In the controlling/ overcoming/ destruction/ restraining/ weakening interactions: Fire melts Metal, Metal chops Wood, Wood breaks up Earth, Earth absorbs Water, Water quenches Fire.
In the generating/ begetting/ engendering/ mothering/ enhancing interactions: Metal carries Water, Water nourishes Wood, Wood feeds Fire, Fire creates Earth/ash, Earth bears Metal.
How Do the Elements and Signs of the Zodiac Interact?
Each Chinese Zodiac Sign has a fixed element. This is the element that carries over from year to year. For the Tiger, the fixed element is Wood—and benevolence fits very well with the overall characteristics of Tigers.
How Do We Get a Water Tiger?
This year aligns a Water year and a Tiger year. A person’s characteristics are said to be determined both by the fixed element of their zodiac sign and the element of the year they were born in. Children born this year are supposed to have characteristics of Tigers, Wood, and Water.
On the positive side, Tiger are energetic, brave, ambitious, and confident, and driven to work for justice and the greater good. Male Tigers are talented and charismatic, driven to achieve their goals both professionally and romantically. Female Tigers are intelligent and strong, fearless natural leaders.
However, Tigers are often arrogant, brash, impetuous, and domineering. Their independence can translate to a lack of communication, leaving Tigers surrounded by acquaintances but still lonely. The Tiger is the king of the jungle, but a human Tiger might come across as a dictator.
Water Tigers are more likely to separate family and work life, with better interpersonal skills than the average Tiger. They are calm, careful, adaptable, and quick learners.
For more in-depth horoscope information on Tigers (including forecasts by blood type), check out Your Chinese Astrology.
Writers Take Note: Consider drawing on the Chinese Zodiac and the related elements when developing your character. The traits often seem to be compatible.
How did the zodiac order come to be?
In Western astrology, the astrological signs are based on constellations of stars that typically light the night sky during that month. They are ordered by the calendar year.
How did the Chinese zodiac years come to be Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig in that order? According to chinahighlights.com, the story of the Chinese zodiac is much more entertaining. I’ll quote it here.
The Heavenly Gate Race Story — Reasons for Zodiac Rankings
Long, long ago, there was no Chinese zodiac. The Jade Emperor wanted to select 12 animals to be his guards. He sent an immortal being into man’s world to spread the message that the earlier one went through the Heavenly Gate, the better the rank one would have.
Early Risers: Quick-Witted Rat and Diligent Ox
Rat ranks first.
The next day, animals set off towards the Heavenly Gate. Rat got up very early. On his way to the gate, he encountered a river. He had to stop there, owing to the swift current. After waiting a long time, Rat noticed Ox about to cross the river and swiftly jumped into Ox’s ear.
The diligent Ox did not mind at all and simply continued. After crossing the river, he raced towards the palace of the Jade Emperor. Suddenly, Rat jumped out of Ox’s ear and dashed to the feet of the Emperor. Rat won first place and Ox was second.
Competitive and Fast: Tiger and Rabbit
Tiger and Rabbit came third and fourth because both are fast and competitive, but Tiger was faster. (Rabbit got across the river by hopping on stepping stones and a floating log.)
Good-Looking Dragon and Crafty Snake
Good-looking Dragon was fifth and was immediately noticed by the Jade Emperor, who said Dragon’s son could be sixth. But Dragon’s son didn’t come with him that day. Just then, Snake came forward and said Dragon was his adoptive father; so Snake ranked sixth.
Kind and Modest Horse and Goat
Horse and Goat arrived. They were very kind and modest and each let the other go first. The Jade Emperor saw how polite they were and ranked them seventh and eighth.
Monkey had fallen well behind. But he jumped between trees and stones, and caught up to be ninth.
Last were Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
These 1twelve animals became guards of the Heavenly Gate.
Why No Cat? — Enmity Between Cat and Rat
Although Cat and Rat were neighbors, the former always bullied the latter, and Rat felt very angry but dared not say it out loud; therefore, he sought revenge on Cat.
Upon hearing the Emperor’s decree Rat chuckled to himself and thought: “This is an opportunity”.
The sleepyhead Cat kicked open Rat’s door, ordering Rat to keep him informed of when he was going to the Emperor’s birthday party, and Rat readily promised that he would.
On the morning, however, Rat left quietly without informing Cat. Cat didn’t wake up until the race was over and it was too late — he was not able to make it into the cycle.
After the party, a great enmity grew between Cat and Rat, so that rats scatter in all directions when a cat appears.
An alternative version of the story says that Cat and Rat got as far as crossing the river together on Ox’s head, but Rat pushed Cat into the water (and Cat was washed away and drowned or didn’t get back to the Heavenly Gate in time to get a ranking).
The ranking story above is made up according to people’s understanding of characteristics of the 12 animals. And when people talk about a person’s zodiac sign, they might think about the zodiac sign’s characteristics.
For example, when talking about Tigers, people think of brave, competitive, unpredictable, and confident people. Oxen are decisive, honest, dependable, and hardworking. There is a wealth of information available online about every aspect of life suggested for each sign, including careers, colors, numbers, flowers, education, and just about anything else a writer might use.
People born under certain zodiac animal signs are also assumed to have varying levels of compatibility with other signs. This goes beyond simple romantic relationships; like the balance of the five elements, each animal offers something different to each other animal. A friend of mine had a daughter in the year of the Fire Monkey and insisted that her sister-in-law (an Earth Rat) be the first person to hold the baby. Rats provide wisdom and guidance to Monkeys, tempering some of their more negative qualities.
How to Behave During Chinese New Year
According to chinesenewyear.net, there is a whole raft of taboo behaviors during this time. The majority of these taboos stem from an overall belief that the year will continue as started – whatever you are doing at the beginning of the year, you will be doing the whole year long.
To prepare for two weeks of partying, traditional “celebrations” can start an entire week before the New Year. Dates vary around the world, but the Laba Festival (腊八, when families pray to their ancestors for luck in the coming year) can be as early as the 8th day of the 12th month of the previous year.
The Little Year (小年) is observed in the days leading up to New Year, generally for about a week. Any festival foods that can be made ahead of time are prepared and stored. Homes, cars, streets, cemeteries, and everything else are scrubbed clean. Hair salons are often extra busy as people rush to fit in a last haircut or manicure before they avoid using sharp instruments. Train and bus stations are nearly overwhelmed when city dwellers travel to their family homes (think American airports on Thanksgiving, but dialed up to 11). New Year’s Markets are popular places to purchase gifts and new clothes in which to start the year.
In 2022, Chinese New Year falls on February 1st. Celebrations continue through February 15th, culminating with the Lantern Festival. Good luck observing all of these taboos for two weeks!
Do not say negative words.
Do not break ceramics or glass.
Do not clean or sweep.
Do not use scissors, knives, or other sharp objects.
Do not demand debt repayment.
Avoid fighting and crying.
Avoid taking medicine, visiting the doctor, perform/undergo surgery, get shots.
Do not give New Year blessings to someone still in bed.
Writers Note: Breaking these taboos could be a source of tension between characters. The lengths a character goes to in order to avoid these taboos could make for interesting tension.
New Year celebrations everywhere include traditions of honoring one’s elders and ancestors, spending time with family, giving gifts, and having a fresh or clean start. Many people make a point of forgiving debts and reconciling with those who have grown distant in the previous year.
Red is considered a lucky color almost everywhere Chinese New Year is celebrated, especially red envelopes. Adults hand out lucky money to children (and sometimes elders) in special red envelopes. Crisp, clean, new bills straight from the bank are preferred, always in an odd number. In America, $2 bills are especially prized!
Because of the Chinese diaspora, the Lunar New Year is celebrated in many countries with large populations of people with Chinese heritage (including America!). Many of these countries have their own traditions and taboos while celebrating. Here are a few examples of different customs:
Celebrations follow the same lunar calendar used for Chinese New Year but usually only last for three days.
Family is a primary focus of celebrations, including offerings to ancestors, visiting elders and other family members. and tending to family graves. The first day of festivities is usually reserved for family gatherings.
Lion dances, setting off fireworks, displays of symbolic fruits and flowers, and “Chinese Markets” are common public forms of celebrating.
Losar celebrations vary according to regional differences in Buddhist practices
The holiday is often celebrated with prayer and temple visits
Decorations incorporate Buddhist signs, such as the Eight Auspicious Symbols marked on walls
The first three days of Losar focus on specific devotions: Lama Losar – dharma teachers and gurus; Kings Losar – community and national leaders, the Dalai Lama offers greetings and blessings to other national leaders; Choe-kyong Losar – gods and divine protectors
Cathedral Christmas concerts, caroling in Jackson Square, parades with Papa Noel, cooking demonstrations, Celebration in the Oaks, tours of 19th century houses decorated for the season, Réveillon dinners, and traditional Creole holiday dishes
Colonial Christmas (Christmastide in Virginia): Jamestown Settlement, Williamsburg and Yorktown, Virginia
17th and 18th century holiday traditions
At Jamestown Settlement, a film and guided tour compare the English customs of the period with how Christmas might have been observed in the early years of the Jamestown colony.
At the Yorktown Victory Center, you can learn about Christmas and winter in a military encampment during the American Revolution ands holiday preparations on a 1780s Virginia farm.
Observances That Have Nothing to Do With Religion!
N.B.: Observances that cross categories are listed only once.
“Matunda ya kwanza” means “first fruits” in Swahili and is the origin of the holiday’s name. Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga, creator of the holiday, wanted to celebrate family, community, and pan-African cultural traditions. The seven days and nights of Kwanzaa are full of significant sevens. The seven Principles (unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and joy) and seven Symbols (Kinara candleholder, seven candles, crops, corn, unity cup, gifts, all on a traditional mat) were celebrated by nearly seven million people last year.
Yes, it’s August 10th, and some events are in the rearview mirror.
Like the anniversary of the Emancipation of 500. On August 1, 1791, Virginia planter Robert Carter III shocked his family and friends by filing a deed of emancipation for his 500 slaves. Not all at once, but the document established a schedule such that 15 slaves would be freed each January 1 over a 21-year period. Children would be freed when they reached adulthood: age 18 for women and 21 for men.
In addition, Carter made legal provisions to care for freed slaves who were elderly or infirm. Before being emancipated, people were taught trades and set up with bank accounts and legal identity papers. The lands that had made up his multiple plantations were rented or sold cheaply to freedmen.
He wrote, “I have for some time past been convinced that to retain them in Slavery is contrary to the true principles of Religion and Justice and therefore it is my duty to manumit them.”
Robert Carter’s “Deed of Gift” is believed to be the largest act of emancipation in US history, and it predates Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation by 70 years.
But some things are celebrated all month long, so there is plenty of time to observe the various “holidays” at your own convenience.
Outdoor adventures are a great way to maintain social distance while we wait for Covid to die out completely. I might add, doing so would raise awareness that the United States is not equivalent to America.
Six months after Black History Month, the point of Black Business Month is to boost awareness of black owned and operated businesses. The month is dedicated to starting, maintaining, and buying from black owned businesses. Maggie Walker (founder of the Penny Bank, among other things) and Oprah Winfrey didn’t start at the top!
This is a relatively new one, dating only to 2010. Many organizations, including the AARP and Senior Living Magazine, arrange events to encourage those in the Boomer generation to volunteer in their communities. Some also celebrate baby boomers who have made special efforts to help others in need improve their lives.
Bystander Awareness Month
The Bystander Effect is a social psychological phenomenon: the more people who witness a person in need, the less likely that person is to get help. Everyone assumes someone else will step in. The purpose of this month’s awareness is to encourage people to be active bystanders and step up when witnessing injustice, sexual assault, domestic violence, etc. Even traffic accidents and house fires cause this effect. It’s far better to have too many people call 911 than to have no one call.
Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month
The American Academy of Ophthalmology encourages parents, doctors, teachers, and anyone working with children to look for signs of poor eyesight or eye health in August. In addition to near-sightedness or far-sightedness, children’s vision development is commonly affected by lazy eye, crossed eyes, color blindness, drooping eyelids, and astigmatism.
This is closely related to Children’s Vision and Learning Month, established in 1995. Because 80% of learning is dependent on vision, parents and educators need to be alert. Just before starting a new school year is the perfect time to schedule an eye exam. Estimates are that 25% of children have an undiagnosed vision problem.
Support the happy transition to Kindergarten. Nearly 2 million children in the US enter kindergarten each year, changing not only their lives but the lives of their parents siblings, and teachers.
This year will be especially challenging for families and teachers making the change back from online school while trying to avoid new Covid outbreaks.
August is a good time to get kids adjusted to a new sleeping and eating schedule, ensure new students are up to date on all their doctor visits and vaccines, and buy a giant pair of sunglasses to hide your tears when your little one skips off to the classroom.
The Secret Society of Happy People breaks their solemn vow of secrecy every year to sponsor this event. The goal is to encourage people to express their happiness and discourage raining on anyone’s parade.
Many people do not realize how their actions affect others. They live their lives selfishly, not realizing the impact of their life choices on present and possibly future generations. So, the point of this month-long celebration is to have people reflect on ways to make make positive changes that will affect generations. Start by planting positive seeds in the children in our lives.
NIAM is part of an outreach program by the CDC, the WHO, local hospitals and health organizations. It’s a chance for researchers and health providers to focus on the critical role immunizations play in preventing life-threatening diseases among people of all ages and cultures. Each year in the US, tens of thousands of people die because of vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications—and that doesn’t include those who suffer pain or disability.
Join The Belly Laugh Bounce Around the World: on January 24 at 1:24 p.m. local time, smile, throw your arms in the air and laugh out loud.
Suggestions for acts and activities can be found at bellylaughday.com. Why bother? Because laughter is good for your physical and mental health!
According to the Mayo Clinic: When it comes to relieving stress, more giggles and guffaws are just what the doctor ordered. Here’s why.
[NB: I’ve changed some formatting and left out some bits, but you can fill those in by going to the Mayo Clinic website.]
A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body.
Stimulate many organs.
Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
Activate and relieve your stress response.
A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up, though. It’s also good for you over the long term.
Improve your immune system.
Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity.
By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
Increase personal satisfaction.
Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations.
It helps you connect with other people.
Improve your mood.
Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.
How’s Your Sense of Humor?
Ask the professionals.
Find a few things that make you chuckle, such as photos, greeting cards or comic strips, and hang them up at home or in your office.
Keep funny movies, books, magazines or comedy videos on hand for when you need an added humor boost.
Look online at joke websites.
Go to a comedy club.
Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away.
Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.
Consider trying laughter yoga: people practice laughter as a group. Laughter is forced at first, but soon turns spontaneous.
Share a laugh.
Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh.
And then return the favor by sharing funny stories or jokes with those around you.
Browse through your local bookstore or library’s selection of joke books and add a few jokes to your list that you can share with friends.
Retelling jokes or anecdotes that are stale or dated could be a good indicator of a character’s age or social awkwardness.
Know what isn’t funny.
Don’t laugh at the expense of others.
Some forms of humor aren’t appropriate.
Use your best judgment to discern a good joke from a bad or hurtful one.
A hurtful sense of humor might indicate a character’s villainous nature before any deliberately villainous acts.
Go ahead and give it a try. Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give a laugh, even if it feels a little forced. Once you’ve had your chuckle, take stock of how you’re feeling. Are your muscles a little less tense? Do you feel more relaxed or buoyant? That’s the natural wonder of laughing at work.
A week ago, I wrote about all the packages that hadn’t arrived before Christmas. Well, as 2021 began, the backlog continued. Again, drawing from my circle of family and friends, the waiting continued.
LJ: I’m SO frustrated. We mailed a box of gifts to Virginia on December 7. It sat in Cuyahoga Falls [Ohio] PO till December 15 before it arrived 7 miles away in Akron regional distribution center, arriving on December 17. It has been sitting there since, no movement shown in the tracking system! I know all the problems they have been having this year, but what is going on now? It only needs to get to Fredericksburg now. Just a little farther…
NP: We’ve had the same problem here. A package G was expecting sat 10(!) miles from our house for more than a week.
KC: My box is still in Akron. No movement. The cookies are stale.
TB: Me too, L! I hope EL finally got hers.
DA: BTW—we were not nearly as happy with UPS & FedEx. Several packages were randomly tossed “somewhere” in the vicinity of the house. One package (of nice chocolates) sat for a day and a half out in the rain before the meter man saw it & alerted us.
LJ: MJ had a photo of a package he sent to his sister in Buffalo. The Amazon guy left it in the snow. M got the delivery photo notice and he sent it to his sister. If they can’t get up to the house because of heavy snow, delivery people should have some way of notifying the recipient. At least Amazon’s photos help with that.
TB: Our son’s pkg took almost 3 weeks from Oregon [to Ohio].
LJ: Weird, since the packages I sent to Florida and Memphis arrived at their destinations in time for Christmas with time to spare. Only my East and West destinations were screwed up. Arizona made it yesterday and Virginia is the one still traveling. That was the shortest journey by road mileage.
LJ: Mine is still at Dulles in Virginia; this is the 31st day. It needs to get to Fredericksburg. I’m happy you got yours before the New Year, however.
KC: I received a message on Dec 20 that my package was to be delivered Dec 3! It arrived on the 22nd!
MH: I think Ohio is the problem! D had an order for pants from LLBean and there were in the center near Columbus for a month! It wasn’t a Christmas present so it didn’t matter. We didn’t realize so many people were having this problem. In Ohio’s defense, I’m sure the diversion of trucks for vaccine delivery and the major storms were a factor.
LJ: There is something wrong with the Ohio to Virginia connection.
SB: Yup, still waiting for mine. Jan 6th now.
DM: My friend ordered a Christmas present for her husband on 12/2 and by 1/4 it still hadn’t arrived!
DA: We must be the only people alive who had no (zero, null, nada) problems with package delivery. Our mailings to California, New Jersey, and Boston were delivered exactly when the tracking said they’d be. On the other hand, “normal” mail is quite another thing: no regular magazine deliveries (New Yorker, etc.), one priority mail that was sent from Hiram to our Hiram PO Box (for $3.80) took seven days. (Simply bizarre.) Not a single package or card from Europe has arrived yet—but Australian mail has exceeded all expectations. Tell me it’s not a plan to destroy the USPS so that it can be privatized….
[You may recall that in my blog about the Great Delivery Debacle posted 12/29, I offered three possible explanations—other than sheer overload—but an effort to privatize wasn’t one of them!]
Since January 1, a dam seems to have broken—but still no rhyme or reason I can find!
January 2-4, I received 11 packages, everything from nutritional supplements to a present I’d ordered to give as a present. Saturday and yesterday packages were delivered morning and afternoon.
Because you must be waiting with bated breath to know about the package from my sister, I won’t keep you in suspense: box of presents she mailed in Lancaster, OH, 12/11, arrived Saturday, 1/2! I was sorry to see that she had paid $20.40 for priority shipping!
Similarly, a standard 8.5X11-inch family calendar mailed from Massachusetts, $9.90 for two-day delivery, arrived after 5 days.
The other packages, mailed from all over the country between December 18 and 28, all arrived together. I noticed that two from Florida on the same day, one priority and one first class arrived together.
Surprise, shock, and awe! An item scheduled for delivery on January 6 arrived January 4!
There is a method to all of this madness… sort of. Several factors combined this year to delay mail and package delivery schedules in every company. The various delivery services—US Postal Service, FedEx, UPS, Amazon, and others—often work together to carry goods to their destinations.
In particular, the Post Office is often responsible for delivering mail to individual residences in less populated areas, regardless of which company began the shipping. This means that a delay in any of the delivery services almost always ripples out.
Holiday delivery surges happen every year, but this year was extra special! You may remember some disruptions in US mail services from this past year, highlighted again at election time. Many of those disruptions are still in place.
Sorting equipment that was removed and destroyed has not been replaced. Delivery trucks have not been serviced and so have broken down. Employees are still exposed to COVID, and many are sick or have passed away.
Kim Frum, a senior public relations representative for USPS, released a statement that read, in part, “While every year the Postal Service carefully plans for peak holiday season, a historic record of holiday volume compounded by a temporary employee shortage due to the COVID-19 surge, and capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking for moving this historic volume of mail are leading to temporary delays.”
Employees at Amazon, FedEx, DHL, Hermes, and UPS also interact regularly with the public and thus are exposed to increased risk of COVID. International service has been disrupted because of travel restrictions. Everyone is dealing with increased volumes because people are ordering things online to comply with quarantine orders.
The madness comes from playing Russian roulette with your packages. Will your box be the one in the back corner of the truck? Will your letter be the one that won’t fit in the bag and has to be left for the next round? Will your parcel be the one that hasn’t been sorted by the end of the shift and must stay in the warehouse until tomorrow? Most chancy of all: whose mail will that shifty new guy take to the TV studio with him?
Bottom line: I’m waiting to see what the new mailing normal will be.
January is named for the Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings and endings. He’s depicted with two faces, looking in opposite directions. In any event, this is the customary time of year for people to take stock of what was and what’s to come.
In the most basic terms, we do know some things about 2021 for an absolute certainty. 2021—MMXXI if you’re particularly old-fashioned— will be a common year (not a Leap Year) starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar. This is the 2021st year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 21st year of the 3rd millennium, the 21st year of the 21st century, and the 2nd year of the 2020s decade.
2021 Chinese Zodiac Predictions
In the Chinese Zodiac, 2021 will be a year of the Metal Ox beginning on February 12th (2020 was a Metal Rat). According to custom, the Ox is very hardworking and methodical. In the year of the Metal Ox, we should all focus on relationships of all kind (so let’s hope we don’t have to keep social distancing too much longer).
The Ox is also associated with hard work and responsibility, so expect lots of that in 2021 as well. The repercussions of previously made decisions will hit this year (oh boy!), but at least all our hard work will be rewarded.
2021 Angel Number Predictions
Angel Numbers are a branch of numerology based on the idea that groups of reappearing numbers or sequences of numbers are coded messages from angelic protectors.
The Angel Number 2021 symbolizes faith, whether it be in your guardian angels, your relationships, or your own intuition. Don’t doubt that your angels have good plans for you and that allowing change will bring progress. Seeing Angel Number 2021 indicates that you need to control your thoughts more, as they can affect your reality.
As per the Numerology Horoscope 2021, this year will be good for you financially. You will have a balanced and flourishing family life. Though you may face some stressful situations in the middle of the year, you will gradually overcome those challenges with your understanding and wisdom.
What about 2020?
In general Numerology, 2020 is like 1616, 1717, 1818, and 1919, because the first two digits match the second two digits. Being alive in 2020 is special because it is the only year you are likely to live through wherein the first two digits will match the second two digits—unless you believe in cryogenics or reincarnation.
The energy represented by the number 2020 has a resonance of focus and relationships. It also resonates with conscientiousness, pragmatism, and teamwork.
Apparently, the Angel Number 2020 was telling us all to be prepared for what is coming our way. Guardian angels were telling us that extreme changes were about to enter our lives. Had we paid attention, perhaps we would have been more prepared, both mentally and physically.
“The year 2020 ushers in the Universal Year 4 – a number representing stability, organisation, industriousness, convention, and a mini-wealth cycle,” said Gracy Yap, a Singaporean numerologist and author of Secrets Of Golden Numbers. Jan 3, 2020
It seems everyone said 2020 would be a year of healing and big changes. Well, that was half right.
Interestingly, no one foretold the COVID-19 pandemic or the upheaval surrounding our presidential (and other) elections. Massive wildfires in Australia and California, murder hornets, flesh-eating bacteria in Mississippi, swarms of locusts in Africa, and wide-spread civil unrest in Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, America, Hong Kong, and Sudan… none of these were mentioned in all those 2020 predictions.
Bottom line: We have every reason to believe that 2021 will be a good year, new president in place and COVID vaccinations injected. But don’t count on it!