Surveys and studies in developed countries around the world have investigated the relationship between age and happiness. Psychologists measure happiness by looking at “emotional well-being”—i.e., when a person consistently reports more positive than negative feelings. They have discovered that, by this measure, seniors are happier than their juniors, as a Scientific American study explains.

Better With Age

Plenty of recent research agrees. For example, the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry published a study in 2016, in which researchers analyzed data collected from a random sample of 1,546 people from ages 21 to 99 in San Diego.

Older people were physically more disabled and had more cognitive impairment than younger ones—the natural deterioration of aging—but in mental health, the advantage flipped. People in their 20s and 30s reported having the highest levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. They also report the lowest levels of happiness, satisfaction and wellbeing.

Older people, surprisingly, were the happiest, as Mandy Oaklander writes in Time.

The U Shape of Happiness

Yew-Kwang Ng, an economist at Monash University in Australia, compared research from the past twenty years in his 2021 paper “Age and Happiness.” He found that overall happiness throughout life tends to follow a U shape. Younger children are generally fairly happy; the beginning of adolescence coincides with a decline in “subjective well-being.” Yew-Kwang Ng theorizes that this may result from changes in sleep patterns adolescents experience.

Many factors impact the timing and shape of this U-shaped happiness curve: gender; health; lifestyle; income; national per-capita income; the overall happiness of the country; formative events in early life; and early self-esteem. Still, studies in multiple countries and internationally agree that most people start to experience a decline in overall happiness in their late teen years or early twenties. A Chinese study found that the lowest point for most people occurs around age 34.

After a period of low happiness in middle age (roughly ages 40 to 65), the majority of people begin to feel an uptick in overall happiness later in life. Over time, this upward trend plateaus again, and reported happiness levels don’t reach the same heights as those from earlier ages. An Australian study found that many people experience another decline in happiness in the last years of their lives.

The following chart illustrates this relationship, starting during teen years.

Happiness and Age, World 2012
Happiness and Age from the Brookings Institute

Maximizing Happy Aging

Margie Zable Fisher wrote a great overview for Fortune Magazine – The 3 Habits That Can Help Boost Your Happiness As You Age. She included the work of several acknowledged experts, including Laura Carstensen, Katharine Esty, and Robert Waldinger.

Elders’ happiness has to do with what Laura Carstensen, professor of psychology and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity calls emotional wisdom.

“As we age, our time horizons grow shorter and our goals change. When we recognize that we don’t have all the time in the world, we see our priorities most clearly. We take less notice of trivial matters. We savor life. We’re more appreciative, more open to reconciliation. We invest in more emotionally important parts of life, and life gets better, so we’re happier day-to-day.”

TED Talk: Older People Are Happier

Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents and help to delay mental and physical decline. Research at Harvard suggests these ties are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes. That finding proved true across the board among both Harvard men and the inner-city participants.

I’ve taken these recommendations from the Fortune article cited above.

1. Maintain Friendships

Consider spending more or all your time with people who make you feel good. Try to maintain friendships with people in a range of ages, some older, some younger, some the same age. Esty suggests that we all need three different types of friends to really thrive:

  • Neighbors and others who provide practical help when we need it, such as running errands or watching pets.
  • Confidants with whom we can have open, honest communication about feelings or inner conflicts. We shouldn’t have to hide major parts of ourselves from good friends.
  • Friends who are fun to be with and with whom we can do fun activities.

2. Ask for Help

Although help is often easier to give than to receive, “The best relationships are two-way—where we give and receive help,” says Waldinger.

For midlifers thinking about retirement, “… many people aren’t certain what they want to do with their lives after retirement. They need to have a sense of purpose,” Esty says. “It works well to form a small group of friends who meet on a regular basis to discuss the issues in their lives and talk about their dreams for the future.”

3. Take on Responsibility

Many people consider shedding personal responsibilities and work duties to be one of the perks of growing older. However, this gift may come with unexpected pitfalls.

As Esty explains, a study of elderly residents in a nursing home showed that “more choices, more decision-making possibilities, and more responsibility raise the level of happiness in older people.” The key, she says, is to take on only responsibilities that you enjoy and to say no to other requests.

It may help to take on responsibilities related to an activity you enjoy. You might join a book club and offer to host meetings. If you enjoy a sport, consider becoming involved in a local league or even coaching a youth team.

And one more happy note: Although studies find that satisfaction with life and positive emotions decline with mobility problems and the deaths of spouses and other loved ones, research by Anthony Bardo of the University of Kentucky and Scott Lynch of Duke University shows that the cognitive impairment that can accompany aging does not preclude happiness and a high quality of life.

Note: age and happiness are correlated; however, getting older doesn’t cause happiness. We can all name several causes of (un)happiness, everything from not having enough money to an unsatisfying marriage/partnership. But all that is beyond the scope of this blog.

Bottom Line: Nobody will be happy all of the time, but we can expect to be more happy than not with age, especially if we lay a good foundation.


A marriage annulment is a legal ruling that deems a marriage null and void — as if it never happened in the first place. Annulments effectively erase the marriage.

There are two main ways to formally end a marriage: annulment and divorce. An annulment declares that a marriage was never valid, while a divorce legally concludes a valid marriage. A divorce is more common and easier to attain. Annulment requires specific circumstances and evidence.

Most people are fairly familiar with divorce, personally or observationally, so this blog focuses on annulment, both civil and religious.

“The Civil Wedding” (1887)
Albrecht Samuel Anker

Civil Annulment

Because an annulled marriage was never considered legally valid, any prenuptial agreements are also invalid. Plus, neither partner has a right to the other’s personal property or finances the way they would in the case of a divorce.

Getting the courts to grant an annulment can be difficult. At least one party must believe the marriage shouldn’t have happened, and they have to provide grounds to a judge in order to have it annulled. To qualify for an annulment of marriage, you must meet certain circumstances. The following situations typically qualify:

  • False pretenses: One or both parties were tricked into getting married.
  • Mental incompetence: One or both parties weren’t legally able to make the decision to get married because of a mental disability or being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Underage marriage: One or both parties were under the legal age of consent (typically 18) at the time of the marriage.
  • Concealment: One or both parties failed to disclose important details about themselves and their lives prior to the marriage, like having a child, criminal conviction, or serious illness.
  • Failure to consummate the marriage: One or both parties are unable to be physically intimate in the marriage.
  • Concealed Infertility: One spouse might be physically incapable of having children, and that spouse might have lied about it to the other spouse. This would involve both fraud and lack of consummation.
  • Consanguinity: Incest is defined as a relationship between two blood relatives who would be banned from legal marriage in their state. This typically means more closely related than first cousins.
  • Bigamy happens when one person is already married at the time of marrying someone else.
  • Underage without parental consent: Lack of consent can happen when one spouse is too young to consent on his or her own behalf, and the other spouse did not get proper consent from the parents of the underage spouse.
  • Unsound mind: You may be able to show unsound mind if you or your spouse was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of your marriage. If you were prevented by intoxication or by a mental disorder from understanding what you were doing, you may be able to get an annulment.
  • Finally, a marriage can be annulled if one spouse threatened, blackmailed, or coerced the other spouse into marriage.

In an annulment where there are children, it’s as if the parents were never married. That means both parents can individually seek custody or work out an agreement for shared custody, much like they would if the child had been born to unmarried parents in the first place.

“Le Jugement de Salomon” (1649)
Nicolas Poussin

States’ Rights

Just as the requirements for marriage and divorce vary by state, so do some aspects of annulment. Someone interested in an annulment—whether for personal, family, or literary reasons—should investigate requirements of the relevant state.

Sometimes there are time limits on filing for an annulment. According to the Nathan Law Offices, in general, you have four years from the date of the marriage to file for an annulment. However, there are exceptions depending on the reason for the annulment.

And the time limit varies by state. For example, in Michigan, Virginia, and Ohio—and many others—the marriage may be annulled if a case is brought to court within two years of the marriage date.

However, there is no time frame to get an annulment in New York City. You can ask the Court for an annulment whether you have been married for 2 years or for 25 years as long as some of the grounds for annulment are met. Ditto Georgia, and several other states.

In Oklahoma a marriage that takes place before the expiration of six months from the date either spouse was divorced is a voidable marriage. In order to annul such a remarriage, an annulment action must be brought within the six-month period.

In North Carolina, the marriage can be annulled if it was performed under the representation that one of the parties was pregnant, but the couple separates within 45 days of their marriage and no child is born within the 10 months following the separation. Many states allow annulment on a much greater number of fraud-related grounds, but in North Carolina this is the only fraudulent ground available for an annulment.

“The Marriage Settlement” (1745)
William Hogarth


This is a totally separate action. People who don’t qualify for a civil annulment may still be able to obtain a religious annulment, but this will have no effect on legal responsibilities as spouses. This process is not a part of the court system but, rather, a part of the church or institution to which the person(s) belong. However, it serves a similar purpose in that a religious annulment of a marriage typically decrees that the marriage was invalid from the beginning.

Pope Francis I

In religious annulment, the Church recognizes that a valid marriage never existed under the laws of the Church. Although some other religious institutions provide annulments, the Catholic Church is by far the most commonly used. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll stick with Catholic annulments here.

In 2015, Pope Francis issued a motu proprio, which is essentially an amendment to existing Catholic canon. These two documents, the Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus and Mitis et Misericors Iesus (one for the Western Catholic Church and one for the Eastern Catholic Church), make the process of obtaining an annulment more efficient.

Without an annulment, a Catholic cannot remarry, even if they divorce. A divorced Catholic who remarries without obtaining an annulment cannot receive any other sacraments.

The short of it is that to obtain a Church annulment, the person seeking the annulment must satisfy the Church that one or more of the requirements for a valid marriage was missing or abridged. The long of it is—well—long. (These are quoted directly from the Vatican library of canon law online.)

  • Insufficient use of reason (Canon 1095, 10): You or your spouse did not know what was happening during the marriage ceremony because of insanity, mental illness, or a lack of consciousness.
  • Grave lack of discretionary judgment concerning essential matrimonial rights and duties (Canon 1095, 20): You or your spouse was affected by some serious circumstances or factors that made you unable to judge or evaluate either the decision to marry or the ability to create a true marital relationship.
  • Psychic-natured incapacity to assume marital obligations (Canon 1095, 30): You or your spouse, at the time of consent, was unable to fulfill the obligations of marriage because of a serious psychological disorder or other condition.
  • Ignorance about the nature of marriage (Canon 1096, sec. 1): You or your spouse did not know that marriage is a permanent relationship between a man and a woman ordered toward the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation.
  • Error of person (Canon 1097, sec. 1): You or your spouse intended to marry a specific individual who was not the individual with whom marriage was celebrated. (For example, mail order brides; otherwise, this rarely occurs in the United States.)
  • Error about a quality of a person (Canon 1097, sec. 2): You or your spouse intended to marry someone who either possessed or did not possess a certain quality, e.g., social status, marital status, education, religious conviction, freedom from disease, or arrest record. That quality must have been directly and principally intended.
  • Fraud (Canon 1098): You or your spouse was intentionally deceived about the presence or absence of a quality in the other. The reason for this deception was to obtain consent to marriage.
  • Total willful exclusion of marriage (Canon 1101, sec. 2): You or your spouse did not intend to contract marriage as the law of the Catholic Church understands marriage. Rather, the ceremony was observed solely as a means of obtaining something other than marriage itself, e.g., to obtain legal status in the country or to legitimize a child.
  • Willful exclusion of children (Canon 1101, sec. 2): You or your spouse married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, to deny the other’s right to sexual acts open to procreation.
  • Willful exclusion of marital fidelity (Canon 1101, 12): You or your spouse married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, not to remain faithful.
  • Willful exclusion of marital permanence (Canon 1101, sec. 2): You or your spouse married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, not to create a permanent relationship, retaining an option to divorce.
  • Future condition (Canon 1102, sec. 2): You or your spouse attached a future condition to your decision to marry, e.g., you will complete your education, your income will be at a certain level, you will remain in this area.
  • Past condition (Canon 1102, sec. 2): You or your spouse attached a past condition so your decision to marry and that condition did not exist; e.g., I will marry you provided that you have never been married before, I will marry you provided that you have graduated from college.
  • Present condition (Canon 1102, sec. 2): You or your spouse attached a present condition to your decision to marry and that condition did not exist, e.g., I will marry you provided you don’t have any debt.
  • Force (Canon 1103): You or your spouse married because of an external physical or moral force that you could not resist.
  • Fear (1103): You or your spouse chose to marry because of fear that was grave and inescapable and was caused by an outside source.
  • Error regarding marital unity that determined the will (1099): You or your spouse married believing that marriage was not necessarily an exclusive relationship.
  • Error regarding marital indissolubility that determined the will (Canon 1099): You or your spouse married believing that civil law had the power to dissolve marriage and that remarriage was acceptable after civil divorce.
  • Error regarding marital sacramental dignity that determined the will (Canon 1099): You and your spouse married believing that marriage is not a religious or sacred relationship but merely a civil contract or arrangement.
  • Lack of new consent during convalidation (Canons 1157,1160): After your civil marriage, you and your spouse participated in a Catholic ceremony and you or your spouse believed that (1) you were already married, (2) the Catholic ceremony was merely a blessing, and (3) the consent given during. the Catholic ceremony had no real effect.
One of the most famous “annullers” of all time—King Henry the VIII—created a new religion so he’d be allowed to marry all of these women.


Unless otherwise specified, there is no limit on the passage of time between marriage and annulment.

Glynn (Scotty) Wolfe, an American Baptist minister is known for having the largest number of monogamous marriages. He married 31 different times. One marriage was annulled.

A Catholic couple who obtain a divorce can subsequently apply for an annulment when one or both parties want to be members of the church in good standing and/or be remarried in the church.

If one member of a couple applies for an annulment, the other member has the option of agreeing, disagreeing, or (in the case of a couple previously divorced) simply not responding.

If each spouse/former spouse completes the fact-finding forms (done independently), their answers are compared and discrepancies resolved. This process can go on for months!

“Mariage de Louis de France, Duc de Bourgogne et de Marie-Adélaïde de Savoie” (1715)
Antoine Dieu

Bottom Line: Civil and religious annulments are two distinctly different actions and one cannot replace the other. Be clear about your rights and responsibilities, which vary by state in Civil annulments.


That pretty much sums up an optimist’s way of life. More formally, an optimist tends to be hopeful and confident about the future or the success of something. But is optimism truly a good thing? Or is it just for suckers?

Optimist optimism
“Optimist: Someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s a cha-cha.”
~ Robert Brault

I recently blogged about pessimism, and found that, indeed, entrepreneurial pessimists earn lots more money than optimistic ones. Pessimists tend to avoid risks, and in finances, that’s a good thing. Why? Because being overly optimistic can blind you to the costs and consequences of a situation. You can overestimate the benefits, and underestimate the costs. And you can make poor decisions because you fail to make an accurate assessment of the number and magnitude of the risks.

But Overall?

fortune cookie optimism

It turns out that optimism is a good thing. An optimistic attitude helps us be happier, more successful, and healthier. Optimism can protect against depression — even for people who are at risk for it. An optimistic outlook makes people more resistant to stress.

Research tells us that people who are optimistic are more committed to their goals, are more successful in achieving their goals, are more satisfied with their lives, and have better mental and physical health when compared to more pessimistic people. Optimistic people live longer.

The Bethany School in the UK published detailing The Benefits of Optimism:

1. Optimists feel healthier.

  • A 2013 study of 150,000 people in 142 countries found that optimists feel healthier overall. The research shows that, if people think the world is inherently good and things will generally turn out well, they will rate their personal sense of well-being higher.

2. Optimists are healthier.

  • Not only do optimists feel healthier, a study by the Harvard School of Public Heath shows that optimists really are healthier. They have fewer heart problems, better cholesterol readings, and (as another study found) lower levels of triglycerides in the blood.

“Lifestyle factors, such as regular exercise and healthy eating, accounted for less than a quarter of the optimism-lifespan association in the study, indicating that other factors may be at play.”
The Harvard Gazette

3. Optimists live longer.

Dalai Lama
“Choose to be optimistic; it feels better.”
~The 14th Dalai Lama
  • Those feelings of well-being and improved health outcomes carry over into longevity. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that optimists tend to live, on average, 11% to 15% longer than cynics. People who expect to live longer wind up actually living longer!

4. Optimists are better at fighting illness.

  • Suzanne Segerstrom and Sandra Sephton demonstrated that students who received positive news were better able to fight off infection than students who were given negative news. Optimism may not miraculously cure cancer, but research shows that optimists are generally better at shrugging off illness and then recovering if they do get sick.

5. Optimists experience less stress.

  • Optimists tend not to bother too much about minor mishaps and — when they do — they don’t bother as much as pessimists. Researchers at Concordia University in Quebec found that people with optimistic outlooks produce less of the stress hormone cortisol when they are in stressful situations. In addition to regulating stress better than pessimists, optimists don’t subconsciously perceive as many situations to be stressful and worthy of releasing cortisol.

6. Optimists form better relationships.

  • Sanjay Srivastava at the University of Oregon found that optimists tend to have happier and longer intimate relationships. In a 2006 study, researchers found that optimists report receiving more support, encountering fewer incidences of conflict, and resolving conflict more quickly than pessimists. Even relationships between an optimist and a pessimist were happier and lasted longer than those between two pessimists.

7. Optimists enjoy working more.

8. Optimists get more job offers and promotions.

  • Optimists also have an better experience when they look for jobs. Research from Duke University shows that optimistic MBA graduates found jobs more quickly and with less effort than their pessimistic peers. Employees who expect good things to happen also earn higher starting salaries and receive more frequent promotions.

9. Optimists adapt better.

  • During times of change, optimists are better able to adapt to new circumstances. Incoming students at the Queensland University of Technology participated in a study showing that more optimistic students reported lower levels of stress, depression, and anxiety while transitioning from high school to university life. A study of students at three universities in Ghana found that participants who more successfully overcame obstacles also reported higher levels of optimism, among other factors. Another study in Ghana reported that optimistic students in an MBA course better adapted to changes later in their careers and displayed stronger leadership skills.

10. Optimists make better athletes.

  • The University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center ran an experiment on college-level varsity swim teams, adding several seconds when they told swimmers how well they had performed in timed trials. In subsequent swims, optimistic athletes responded to the negative feedback by performing even faster; pessimistic athletes swam more slowly than they had initially. In another study, collegiate soccer and basketball players who had an optimistic outlook performed significantly better even when losing than their more pessimistic teammates. Athletes of any age who display optimistic personality traits tend to be better at planning effective exercise strategies and experience lower rates of athletic burnout.

Surprise Benefits of Optimism

Happiness is a sign of high intelligence, research finds. People who are more satisfied with their life and their job score higher on tests of general mental ability.

Colin Powell
“To think in terms of either pessimism or optimism oversimplifies the truth. The problem is to see reality as it is.”
Thich Nhat Ha

And then there is attractiveness: research indicates that most people find optimists more socially attractive. However, people who were themselves optimists liked the other optimist even more. On the other hand, people who were pessimists were not quite as keen on the optimist, but still preferred them to the pessimist.

Optimism, as opposed to blind positivity, equips us to face our problems, recognizing the dangers and difficulties, which makes us much more likely to avoid them, and achieve a positive outcome.

So how do you spot an optimist? Jason Wachob, CEO of MindBodyGreen, and David Mezzapelle, author of Contagious Optimism, identify seven traits optimists share:

  • They Express Gratitude.
  • They Donate Their Time And Energy.
  • They’re Interested In Others.
  • They Surround Themselves With Upbeat People.
  • They Don’t Listen To Naysayers.
  • They Forgive Others.
  • They Smile.

“To be strong so that nothing can disturb your peace of mind, to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own, to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.”
The Optimist Creed
~Jake Fratangelo

Optimists are bred, not born. Although optimism almost always starts early, it is cultivated from childhood— usually the result of having positive relationships with optimistic parents. But, as in Pretty is as pretty does, you can cultivate your own optimism by adopting the habits listed above.

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”
~Colin Powell

You might also join an Optimist Club. Founded in 1919, Optimist International connects 80,000 members across 20 countries in local Optimist Clubs. Their mission statement: “By providing hope and positive vision, Optimists bring out the best in youth, our communities and ourselves.”

Antonyms for optimistic include dejected, depressed, doubtful, gloomy, hopeless, pessimistic, and sorrowful—and who wants that?

Bottom Line: Curb your financial risk taking but choose optimism!


Pretty much everyone talks. And pretty much everyone writes, whether it’s a novel, a report, or an email. Probably you have realized that one of the limitations of spellcheck is that it doesn’t notice missed words or stray extraneous words. Perhaps more problematic is that it doesn’t do away with word confusions.

Although you might get by with some of these in conversation, even verbally, a speaker misusing these words is like fingernails on a chalkboard! And word confusion calls into question the speaker/writer’s intelligence, education, and/or attention.

For each of the following word pairs, read the following sentences using each word correctly.

Spoken and Written Word Confusion

They may behave similarly, but they’re actually quite different on the inside!
  • Farther/Further (“farther” has “far” in it and only refers to distances)
    • Don’t go any farther—there’s a cliff ahead!
    • We’ll discuss this further at next month’s meeting.
  • Who/Whom (remember the M—if you can substitute “him” or “them” for the word in question, use “whom”)
    • Who is coming to the party tonight?
    • You gave the award to whom?
  • Anxious/Eager (anxious is akin to nervous, much less pleasant than eager)
    • I’m anxious about catching a cold before the concert.
    • My dog eagerly awaits breakfast every morning.
  • Between/Among (between distinguishes separate items; among refers to elements within a group)
    • The difference between an amateur and a professional musician might make your ears bleed.
    • The disease spread among the flowers and wiped out all the roses.
  • Bemuse/Amuse (to “bemuse” is to bewilder; to “amuse” is to entertain)
    • The conflicting signs completely bemused the lost tourist.
    • She can amuse herself for hours with a few crayons.
  • Sit/Set (to “sit” is an action of one’s body; to “set” is to act on an object)
    • The dog sits for treats.
    • I set the candle in the candle holder when I set the table for dinner.
  • Can/May (even the Oxford English Dictionary has admitted that, in informal settings, “can” is acceptable when asking permission, but technically/ formally “can” is a matter of ability while “may” is matter of permission)
    • The parrot can imitate the dog barking.
    • You may keep any fossils you may find in the sand.
  • Accept/Except (“except” has an X for all the things it excludes)
    • My landlord accepts pumpkin pie in lieu of rent every fall.
    • He liked everything about the shirt except the size, shape, cut, color, style, fabric, and price.
  • Affect/Effect (“affect” is a verb; “effect” is a noun)
    • The arrow affected the aardvark.
    • The effect was extraordinary.
  • Adverse/Averse (“adverse” is a modifier meaning negative, while “averse” is a feeling)
    • The medication had adverse side effects.
    • I’m not averse to a little risk with my pizza.
  • Elicit/Illicit (“elicit” is a verb; “illicit” is an adjective)
    • The professor tried to elicit some kind of response from the class.
    • The student’s illicit behavior resulted in his expulsion.
  • Advice/Advise (“advice” is a noun; “advise” is a verb)
    • My advice to you is to start drinking heavily. ~Animal House
    • I’ve advised my client not to answer that question, Your Honor.
  • Eminent/Imminent (“imminent” is very similar to “immediate”)
    • The eminent researcher commands respect in her field.
    • I’m afraid your demise is imminent.
  • Fewer/Less (“fewer” is a number; “less” is an amount)
    • My mother made fewer deviled eggs for last month’s potluck.
    • My father made less potato salad for this month’s potluck.
  • If/Whether (use “whether” when showing that two alternatives are possible)
    • If you leave the door open, the dog might run out.
    • Let me know whether or not you’re going to come next week.
  • Imply/Infer (Sherlock Holmes infers information from what clients imply)
    • My dog yawned, implying that she was tired.
    • I inferred that it was time for everyone to go to bed.
  • Nauseous/Nauseated (something “nauseous” causes a feeling of nausea)
    • I was so nauseous that no one would sit near me on the bus.
    • I felt nauseated after drinking a gallon of water in one sitting.
  • Morale/Moral (“morale” is a way of expressing enthusiasm, and it has an e)
    • Reducing working hours instantly raised staff morale.
    • The doctor recommended a treatment in keeping with her moral code.
  • Precede/Proceed (pre means before; pro means forward)
    • A loud rumbling noise preceded the earthquake.
    • Everyone, please proceed to the designated earthquake safety zones.
  • That/Which (if you can change the meaning of the sentence by removing the words that follow, use “that”)
    • Dogs that learn how to dance are always fun at parties.
    • Boxes of books, which can be very heavy, are not fun when moving house.

Triple Word Confusion

A triple threat!
  • Apt/Liable/Likely
    • “Apt” suggests that the subject has a natural tendency to the outcome
      • The cookies are apt to run out before the party even starts.
    • “Liable” has a negative connotation for the subject
      • He’s liable to fail the class if he shows up drunk for the final exam.
    • “Likely” is more neutral
      • They’re likely to be early for the appointment.
  • Lie/Lay/Lie
    • In the present tense, “lay” requires an object and “lie” does not
      • I lay the book on the table as I take off my shoes.
      • I lie on the sofa when I have a headache.
    • In the past tense, “lie” becomes “lay”
      • Last week, I had a headache, so I lay on the sofa all afternoon.
    • To tell an untruth is also to lie.
      • Father, I cannot tell a lie; I chopped down the cherry tree. ~George Washington (apocryphally)
  • Raise/Rear/Rise (determine what is being moved and who is doing the moving)
    • Use “rise” when the subject is lifting itself
      • My dog rises early every morning and loudly demands breakfast.
    • Use “raise” when one thing lifts another
      • If we all work together, we can raise this barn before the rain comes.
    • Use “rear” to mean caring for children
      • Often royal nannies rear the noble princes and princesses, rather than their parents.

Written Word Confusion

They might look similar, but they behave very differently!
Don’t mix them up!
  • Mantel/Mantle (“mantel” can only refer to the structure above a fireplace)
    • My grandmother has pictures of all her grand-dogs displayed on her mantel.
    • The storm last night left the lawn covered in a mantle of fresh snow.
  • Stationary/Stationery (“stationary” has an a because it is an adjective)
    • I ride my stationary bike every day, but I never seem to get anywhere.
    • The boss just ordered new stationery with the company logo on the letterhead.
  • Complement/Compliment (“complement” a thing to make it complete)
    • My doctor suggested I take a multivitamin to complement my prescriptions.
    • The teacher complimented the student on her lovely handwriting.
  • Principal/Principle (a principal is either an adjective or a pal)
    • Principal Trunchbull was the principal bully at Matilda’s school.
    • My dog has no principles; she’ll do anything for a treat.

Try your hand at creating the sentences. Check your sentences against a dictionary. Learn the differences. Even one misuse from this list is likely to elicit eye-rolls from at least some (more knowledgeable) people.

There are plenty of resources online to help you figure out which word you should be using in a given situation. One of my favorites in Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips. The Merriam Webster Dictionary and Cambridge Dictionary also have helpful guides to avoiding word confusion.

If you have pet peeves about word confusions, let me know!

Bottom line: Make sure you’re saying what you mean!


I’m not talking crazy or aberrant or clownish. No, I’m talking about the paranormal, events or phenomena that are beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding.

Storytellers have always been fascinated by characters with superhuman abilities. Throughout human history, such paranormal abilities have appeared in nearly every culture in the world. They are sometimes attributed to historical figures and sometimes relegated to mythical figures (though history and myth often overlap).

Mind Over Matter

Telekinesis or psychokinesis is the (supposed, or hypothetical) psychic ability to move objects at a distance by mental power or other nonphysical means. A 2006 survey of American adults found that 28% of male and 31% of female respondents believe in the possibility of telekinesis. (WikiHow offers a 14 step guide to developing your own telekinetic abilities here!)

Rama, avatar of Vishnu, in battle against Ravana

In ancient myths, characters often had paranormal control over elements of the natural world (such as storms or animals) rather than direct control of materials. There are a few notable exceptions. The Norse god Thor and the Greek hero Perseus controlled their weapons through limited telekinesis. Thor could make his hammer Mjölnir fly around, entirely independent of gravity. Perseus was able to make his sword fly further and more accurately than he could throw it to strike Medusa. Vishnu had broader telekinetic abilities, which he used to control the movement of his enemies in battle.

Franklin Richards (Ultraman) with parents Sue Storm (Invisible Woman) and Reed Richard (Mr Fantastic)

In the comic book world (specifically, in Marvel comics), Franklin Richards, omega-level mutant and son of Reed and Sue, is probably one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe let alone just the most powerful telekinetic.

Extra Sensing

By definition, clairvoyance is the ability to predict future events. If you are clairvoyant, you know about things that you did not actually see happen or hear about.  Some clairvoyants even claim to be able to speak to the dead. 

Psychics, palm readers and fortune tellers all claim to have clairvoyant power. Some use a crystal ball for information. Others read tea leaves, tarot cards, marked sticks, bird movements, animal entrails, clouds, stars, bones or dice, dreams, water, smoke, and almost anything else they encounter to tell the future.

Extrasensory perception, or ESP, means the ability to “know” or “experience” something one isn’t able to see, hear, touch, smell, or taste in the usual way.  So, such people are said to have an extra sense, a “sixth sense” to perceive the world. 

Sometimes people refer to this paranormal ability as second sight. People use their eyes to see the world around them. But those with “second sight” claim to see things that are not there (remote viewing), or to see future objects or events.

ESP in History

The Oracle
Camillo Miola (1880)

Many leaders have consulted those with paranormal abilities throughout history. The ancient Greeks communed with the gods through the oracles. Priests in the Mali Empire advised emperors and military leaders on the wishes of the ancestors. Vedic astrologers read complex charts of the stars to provide Hindu rulers with specific dates and times on which to hold major events.

Joan Quigley

But our ancient ancestors are not the only ones who consulted clairvoyant experts when making decisions.

Nancy Reagan frequently consulted with Joan Quigley throughout Ronald Reagan’s presidency. After John Hinckley Jr shot and nearly killed her husband in 1981, Nancy Reagan enlisted Quigley’s help to prevent future assassination attempts. Quigley used astrology charts to determine the best times for public appearances, traveling, and even signing the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty with Mikhail Gorbachev.

About ten years ago, a scandal erupted in China when Liu Zhijun, the Railway Minister, confessed to consulting a feng shui master to determine the most auspicious days to break ground on new projects.

Nechung Oracle in Ladakh, 2014
Christpher Michele

Tibet has a State Oracle, the Nechung Oracle, whom the Dalai Lama consults before making major decisions. The Oracle enters a trance state to act as a medium between the natural world and the spirit world. While in this trance state, the Nechung Oracle provides guidance to observers, sharing the knowledge and wishes of kuten, the spirit world.

In the US, one of the most famous psychics in recent history is Youree Dell Harris, better known as Miss Cleo, spokeswoman for the Psychic Readers Network. On late-night infomercials for the pay-per-view paranormal service promised millions of insomniacs psychic help.

ESP in Fiction

Paranormal abilities present a world of possibilities to fiction writers as well. Stephen King’s books are full of characters with psychic talents, such as reading minds (The Shining), predicting the future (Doctor Sleep), pyrokinesis (Firestarter), psychic surgery (Green Mile), and necromancy (Pet Semetary).

Macbeth and the Witches
Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741–1825)

Clairvoyants abound in Shakespeare’s plays, warning characters about things that will come and providing foreshadowing to the audience. Three witches guide Macbeth in his quest to become king, ultimately causing his downfall. A soothsayer tries to warn Julius Caesar of his impending death.

Jean Grey as Phoenix
Alan Davis, 2019

Comic books frequently star characters with a wide variety of paranormal abilities, some more useful than others. Nearly every character in Marvel’s X-Men universe has some form of psychic or telekinetic ability. They range from the extremely powerful telepath Jean Grey (Phoenix) to Eye Scream, a mutant with the amazing ability to turn himself into any flavor of ice cream.

Types of ESP

Wikipedia breaks down Extra Sensory Perception into specific categories, though there is some overlap.

Clairvoyance — The ability to see things and events that are happening far away, and locate objects, places, people, using a sixth sense.

Divination – The ability to gain insight into a situation using occult lists.

Dowsing for metal ore, from 1556 “De re metallica libri XII” book

Dowsing – The ability to locate water or other resources underground, sometimes using a tool called a dowsing rod.

Dream telepathy – The ability to telepathically communicate with another person through dreams.

Dermo-optical perception – The ability to perceive unusual sensory stimuli through one’s own skin.

Psychometry or psychoscopy – The ability to obtain information about a person or an object by touch.

Precognition (including psychic premonitions) – The ability to perceive or gain knowledge about future events, without using induction or deduction from known facts.

Remote viewingtelesthesia or remote sensing – The ability to see a distant or unseen target using extrasensory perception.

Retrocognition or postcognition – The ability to supernaturally perceive past events.

Telepathy – The ability to transmit or receive thoughts supernaturally.

And so we come to psychics, people who have one or more of these paranormal mental powers and abilities (such as the ability to predict the future, to know what other people are thinking, or to receive messages from dead people.)

Psychic Abilities

Wikipedia presents a list of alleged psychic abilities that real-world people have claimed to possess. 

“The Separation of the Spirit Body” from The Secret of the Golden Flower, a Chinese handbook on alchemy and meditation
  • Astral projection or mental projection – The ability to voluntarily project an astral body or mental body, being associated with the out-of-body experience, in which one’s consciousness is felt to separate from the physical body temporarily.
  • Atmokinesis – The ability to control the weather such as calling rainfall or storms.
  • Automatic writing – The ability to draw or write without conscious intent.
  • Bilocation — The ability to be present in two different places at the same time, usually attributed to a saint.
  • Energy medicine – The ability to heal with one’s own empathic, etheric, astral, mental or spiritual energy.
  • Ergokinesis – The ability to influence the movement of energy, such as electricity, without direct interaction.
  • Iddhi – Psychic abilities gained through Buddhist meditation.
  • Inedia – The ability to survive without eating or drinking, multiple cases have resulted in starvation or dehydration.
An advertising poster depicting magician Harry Kellar performing the “Levitation of Princess Karnac” illusion, 1894
  • Levitation or transvection – The ability to float or fly by mystical means.
  • Materialization — The creation of objects and materials or the appearance of matter from unknown sources.
  • Mediumship or channeling – The ability to communicate with spirits.
  • Petrification — The power to turn a living being to stone by looking them in the eye.
  • Prophecy (also predictionpremonition, or prognostication) — the ability to foretell events, without using induction or deduction from known facts.
  • Psychic surgery – The ability to remove disease or disorder within or over the body tissue via an “energetic” incision that heals immediately afterwards.
  • Psychokinesis or telekinesis – The ability to influence a physical system without physical interaction, typically manifesting as being able to exert force, control objects and move matter with one’s mind.
  • Pyrokinesis – The ability to control flames, fire, or heat using one’s mind.
  • Shapeshifting or transformation — The ability to physically transform the user’s body into anything.
  • Thoughtography – The ability to impress an image by ‘burning’ it on a surface using one’s own mind only.
  • Xenoglossy — The ability of a person to suddenly learn to write and speak a foreign language without any natural means such as studying or research, but that is often rather bestowed by divine agents.
  • Witnessing – The gift of being visited by high profile spiritual beings such as Mary, Jesus or Fudosama (Acala) from Buddhist Traditions.

BOTTOM LINE: Who knew there were so many ways to be not normal? Surely one appeals to you—or maybe more than one!


Imposter Syndrome
(not to be confused with Syndrome, the imposter superhero from Disney’s The Incredibles)

Imposter syndrome is that gnawing feeling of self-doubt and incompetence coupled with the dread of being exposed as a fraud. Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, or perceived fraudulence), involves feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite education, experience, and accomplishments.

Famous “Imposters”

Phoenix Performance Partners listed 18 famous people who suffer imposter syndrome. They discussed it openly, and I’ve quoted them here.

“The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”
Albert Einstein: Nobel Prize-winning Physicist

“I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”
Maya Angelou: Nobel Laureate, poet, author

“I still have a little impostor syndrome… It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously. What do I know? I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.”
Michelle Obama: lawyer, author, former First Lady

“Very few people, whether you’ve been in that job before or not, get into the seat and believe today that they are now qualified to be the CEO. They’re not going to tell you that, but it’s true.” 
Howard Schultz: former CEO of Starbucks

“Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself — or even excelled — I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up.”
Sheryl Sandberg: Harvard graduate, Facebook COO, author of Lean In

“There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert. How do these people believe all this about me? I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.”
Dr. Margaret Chan: former Director General of the World Health Organization

“Today, I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999. I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”
Natalie Portman: Harvard graduate, Academy Award winning actress

“No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?’”
Tom Hanks: Academy Award winning actor and filmmaker

“I’d been obsessed with going to Cambridge even before I’d learned English, and my mother had somehow helped make it happen from our one-bedroom apartment in Athens. I felt like there I finally was, but the minute I opened my mouth, people would know I didn’t really belong. My mother taught me that fearlessness isn’t the absence of fear, but the mastery of it. I leaned into my fear by trying to get into the Cambridge Union (the debating society,) where I eventually became the first foreign president. What I learned was that what you have to say is more important than how you sound, which is to say that that feeling that we don’t belong is much more likely to come from us — from that obnoxious roommate inside our heads — than it is from someone else (who is likely dealing with their own forms of imposter syndrome).”
Arianna Huffington: author, columnist, founder of Huffington Post

“Yes, you’re an impostor. So am I and so is everyone else. Superman still lives on Krypton and the rest of us are just doing our best.”
Seth Godin: author, lecturer, teacher, business owner

“The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania, and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh god, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.”
Tina Fey: comedian, author, and actor, winner of Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, and the youngest ever recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

“I have spent my years since Princeton, while at law school and in my various professional jobs, not feeling completely a part of the worlds I inhabit. I am always looking over my shoulder wondering if I measure up.”
Sonia Sotomayor: Supreme Court justice

“I go through acute imposter syndrome with every role. I think winning an Oscar may in fact have made it worse. Now I’ve achieved this, what am I going to do next? What do I strive for? Then I remember that I didn’t get into acting for the accolades, I got into it for the joy of telling stories.”
Lupita Nyong’o: Academy Award winning actress

“It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved.”
Emma Watson: actress, UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, founder of the United Nations HeForShe campaign

“On the first season of Top Chef, I suffered from impostor syndrome.”
Padma Lakshmi: author, model, host of Top Chef, UN Goodwill Ambassador, founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America

“I think even being an actress for over a decade now, I still have imposter syndrome. Where you’re asking yourself, ‘Oh, is this really what I’m supposed to be doing?’”
Maisie Williams: award winning actress and producer

“Who doesn’t suffer from imposter syndrome? Even when I sold my business for $66 Million, I felt like an absolute fraud!”
Barbara Corcoran‍:‍‍ real estate mogul and long-time judge on Shark Tank

“There were two Venus Williamses in our family. It was crazy… my parents would make me order first, but once she ordered, I’d change my mind. It was tough for me to stop being Venus and become the person I am.”
Serena Williams: considered the grestest women’s tennis player of all time, winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles


Conclusion: how one sees oneself may defy all sorts of external validation.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

According to a 2020 review featured in Medical News Today, 9%–82% of people experience impostor syndrome— a range so broad as to be almost meaningless! But whatever.  The numbers vary depending on who participates in a study. 

Imposter syndrome is prevalent within the tech industry, with about 58% of tech employees stating that they currently experience some form of the condition within their careers. It’s especially common in software engineers, developers, and designers.

Many people experience symptoms for a limited time, such as in the first few weeks of a new job.  For others, the experience can be lifelong.

Imposter syndrome is likely the result of multiple factors, including personality traits (such as perfectionism) and family background. One theory is that imposter syndrome is rooted in families that value achievement above all else.

Women Beware!

In their Women’s Leadership Summit Report (2022), international financial auditing firm network KPMG announced some interesting findings

  • 75% of executive women report having personally experienced imposter syndrome at certain points in their career 
  • 85% believe imposter syndrome is commonly experienced by women in corporate America 
  • 74% percent of executive women believe that their male counterparts do not experience feelings of self-doubt as much as female leaders do 
  • 81% believe they put more pressure on themselves not to fail than men do

What might explain these gender differences? In studies of how women and men explain their successes and failures, women tend to attribute their successes to luck or other external factors while blaming themselves for failures. Men are the opposite: they attribute their successes to talent and hard work and blame failures on luck or other external factors.

Some women are genuinely imposters!

However, a report published in Harvard Business Review suggests that women experiencing self-doubt in the workplace may be facing systemic discrimination and exclusion rather than imposter syndrome. When accomplished, capable, intelligent women are consistently reminded, both subtly and overtly, that they do not belong in the upper echelons of power, it is inevitable that some of them will begin to internalize this message.

Recognizing Imposter Syndrome

Symptoms of impostor syndrome can look different for different people, though there are some consistent and tell-tale red flags. Symptoms might include

Holy stunt doubles, Bat Man! …er, Spider Man!
  • Extreme lack of self confidence
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Constant comparison to other people
  • Anxiety
  • Self doubt
  • Distrust in one’s own intuition and capabilities
  • Negative self-talk
  • Irrational fears of the future

In professional settings, efforts to counter these feelings might include taking on extra work to make sure you’re “doing it all”; shrugging off accolades; not responding to job postings unless you meet every single requirement; working harder and holding yourself to ever higher standards.

Though the impostor phenomenon isn’t an official diagnosis listed in the DSM, psychologists and others acknowledge that it is a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt. Besides anxiety, impostor feelings are often accompanied by depression. FYI, women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. 

The Flip Side of Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome
Coach and NASM trainer Ben Meer

On the opposite side of imposter syndrome sits overconfidence, otherwise known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It derives its name from a study published in 1999 by David Dunning and Justin Kruger in the Journal of Economic Psychology. While imposter syndrome develops when one underestimates their own values, skills, and accomplishments, those experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect do the reverse. Some say this syndrome is much more harmful because people without competence are extremely confident.

Bottom line: Note your own tendencies toward imposter syndrome and stay in touch with reality.

Something tells me these Disney heroines may be imposters.


AKA Butterflies. When my grandson was two, I took him to a butterfly garden. I carried him for the entire visit hiding his eyes against my neck, whimpering. I guess the flashes of color were too surprising, too unfamiliar.

Butterfly garden in Union, NJ
Butterfly Garden in Union, New Jersey
Dirce Beauty Butterfly
Dirce Beauty Butterfly

Fortunately, he didn’t become lepidopterophobic.  However, there are people with an irrational fear of butterflies and moths.

For those of us who welcome butterflies, their season is coming. June is the main flight period for many butterfly beauties, including swallowtail, black hairstreak, large blue, marsh fritillary, and glanville fritillary.  There are almost 20,000 butterfly species.

Butterflies are Fascinating!

Butterfly anatomy
Butterfly Anatomy
Butterfly puddling
Dryas Lulias butterfly puddling in the tears of a turtle
  • Butterflies use chemoreceptors on their feet to taste. 
  • Adult butterflies of most species only live for a few weeks, although the caterpillar may take months to develop.
    • Exceptions include migratory species, which may live up to 10 months.
    • In warm climates there are continuous generations, producing adult butterflies year-round. 
  • Butterflies have a liquid diet using a flexible tongue called the proboscis, which resembles a tube.
  • In addition to nectar, butterflies seek out nutrients in moist environments, such as mud, tears, and puddles. Scientists call this behavior “puddling.”
Black hairstreak butterfly
Black Hairstreak Butterfly
  • Butterflies will happily drink blood if they come across it, though they do not seek it out.
  • Nectar-filled plants naturally attract butterflies:
    • Joe-Pye weed
    • Ironweed
    • Coneflowers
    • Goldenrod
    • Brightly-hued asters
  • Butterflies actually have four wings, not two.
  • Butterflies can perceive ultraviolet light.
  • Butterflies have three body sections- head, thorax and abdomen. Other than this, they have two antennae, complex eyes, and an exoskeleton just like all other insects.
Pink Cottontail Butterfly
Pink Cottontail Butterfly
  • Butterfly wings are transparent.
  • Scales called lamellar cover a butterfly’s wings, giving them the patterns and colors we see.
  • The dust you may see on your finger after touching a lepidopteran wing is actually made up of tiny wing scales (modified hairs). If too many scales are rubbed away, the wing is more likely to tear or fail.
  • At night, or when the day is cloudy, adult butterflies rest by hanging upside down from leaves or twigs, where they are hidden among the foliage.
    • They become quiescent but do not sleep like mammals do.
  • Butterflies are able to learn signs that nectar is present.
  • Adult butterflies communicate mostly through chemical cues—the males produce chemicals called pheromones to seduce the females.
Tiger swallowtail butterfly
Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
  • Size varies greatly:
    • One of the smallest butterflies is the Eastern Pygmy Blue (Brephidium isophthalma), from the coastal southeastern United States, with a wingspan of about 5/8 of an inch.
    • Among the largest are the Queen Alexandra Birdwing butterflies (Ornithoptera alexandrae) from New Guinea, with wingspans of up to 12 inches.
  • Butterflies have the ability to go through a full metamorphosis; their life cycle includes four stages – egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
  • If you see two adult butterflies with their abdomens linked tail-to-tail, they are mating. The male grasps the female and deposits a sperm packet, which fertilizes the female’s eggs.
    • Butterflies can fly while mating, but they usually avoid moving unless they are disturbed.
Blue Spotted Butterfly
Blue Spotted Butterfly
  • Tiny sensory hairs called tactile setae cover a butterfly’s body.
  • Butterflies have huge compound eyes with numerous light-sensitive lenses, both of which have their own refractive systems and which together contribute to the formation of the image.
  • Butterflies have a long chambered heart that runs the length of its body on the upper side.
  • Butterflies must have a body temperature of 86F or above in order to fly.
  • Some species of butterflies can fly at speeds of up to 3, 4.9-12.4, 25,or 30 mph depending on the source cited.
  • According to entomologists, butterflies do not feel pain.
  • Butterflies (and moths) can remember what they learned as caterpillars.
  • Some butterflies protect themselves through camouflage—by folding up their wings, they reveal the undersides and blend in with their surroundings. 
  • If you want a butterfly to land on you, stand still and don’t wear perfume, aftershave, etc.

Facts About Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly
Monarch Butterfly
  • They’re bright orange and poisonous.
  • They weigh less than a paperclip.
  • Pilots have reported seeing monarch butterflies as high as two miles up.
  • Monarch larvae are picky eaters, thriving on a diet of milkweed, which is poisonous to most animals.
  • Males release pheromones from scent glands on their back wings to attract females.
  • They migrate from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, a distance of about 2,000 miles, and return to the north again in the spring. 
  • Overwintering monarchs live up to eight months, while other generations only live about two to six weeks.

Save the Flutterbies!

Aile Violette Butterfly
Aile Violette Butterfly

So why am I writing about butterflies in January? Because the Environmental Defense Fund sent a flyer, “Butterflies are disappearing,” that cites pretty alarming statistics. 

“Across the country, the entire monarch butterfly population has collapsed by nearly 1 billion since 1990.” It is now officially endangered.  Many species of butterflies have already gone extinct.

Of course the point was to solicit donations to help restore butterfly habitats. But besides being eye candy, why bother about butterflies

  • Like bees, they are plant pollinators for many veggies and herbs, such as carrots, legumes, and mint
  • About 1/3 of our food supply depends on butterflies as well as other pollinators 
  • They control the populations of insects like aphids
  • They are food for birds and small mammals
Rhetus Butterfly
Rhetus Butterfly

Butterfly personality is a thing! We all know the social butterfly! This personality is social and influencing. They need to interact with others and are friendly, charming, persuasive, talkative, impulsive, and optimistic. They are usually good leaders and can motivate others.

Butterflies represent new beginnings, giving us hope for what the future has to bring.  Their fluttering wings bring beauty to many! All across the globe, butterflies are viewed as symbols of rebirth, representing change, hope, endurance, and life!

“[Butterflies] represent strength, endurance, spirituality, trust, sustaining what they believe, transformation, and evolution.”

Cristina Panescu

BOTTOM LINE: What’s not to love about about butterflies?


Why eyelashes? Why not? They’re more interesting than you might think. For one thing, they are functional.  Eyelashes protect the eye from dust or other debris. They are very sensitive to touch, and may close reflexively if an insect or whatever is too close. In addition, they contain sebaceous glands at the base that lubricates and protect from dryness and irritation.  Babies are born with eyelashes. 

Eyelash Information

Eye and eyelash parts

The lifespan of an average eyelash is three to five months, compared to the rest of your hair, which lasts two to four years. 

Baby eyelashes
Photo by Carlos ZGZ

For all that they look fine, lashes are the thickest hair on the human body—which I find hard to believe, but whatever. 

Most people have 150-250 individual lashes on the top of the eyelid and between 50-100 on the lower lid. They grow in uneven rows, 5 to 6 on top and 3 to 5 on the bottom. Just like head hair, eyelashes naturally fall out and replace themselves in a natural cycle every six to 10 weeks, so it’s totally normal to lose between one and five lashes each day.  The older people are, the slower the growth process becomes. This is how/why lashes start to thin out.

You Jianxia
World's longest eyelashes
You Jianxia

In addition, aging and menopause are considered to be leading factors that cause shorter eyelashes due to certain hormonal imbalances that affect the growth cycle of hair follicles. Other factors include stress, lack of sleep, and allergic reactions to medications.

In high school, I knew a girl whose lashes were so long that they brushed the lenses of her glasses.  According to the Guinness Book of Records, the longest eyelash measured 20.5 cm (8.0 in) long, grown on You Jianxia’s (China) left upper lid.

Feather eyelashes

The lashes on the top eyelid are usually between 7-13mm in length while the lashes on the bottom usually never grow longer than 7mm.  The average length of the normal lashes is 10mm-12mm  The researchers, led by Farid Pazhoohi of the University of British Columbia in Canada, estimate that the optimal eyelash length for women is about one-quarter to one-third of the width of one’s eye. The optimal eyelash length for men is a bit less, about one-fifth of the width of one’s eye.

Ethnicity does not have an impact on eyelash length. However, Asian people and those of Spanish and Eastern European descent commonly have straight lashes while others have curlier lashes.

Ideal Eyelashes

False eyelashes
Performers in Jakarta applying false eyelashes

Does eyelash length really matter? It depends on who you ask. According to ancient Chinese face reading tradition, long lashes are for the sensitive and imaginative. Long lashes indicate more fire chi presence and it means that people who have them are extra sensitive.

Pliny the Elder, a Roman scholar born 79BCE, claimed that long eyelashes were a sign of purity and chastity. He claimed, “Eyelashes fell out from excessive sex, and so it was especially important for women to keep their eyelashes long to prove their chastity.”


People have been darkening their eyelashes with soot, kohl, berry juice, oil, ink, or lead for millennia. The Algerian town of Mascara produced great quantities of antimony, which the locals applied to their lashes for beautification as well as to provide protection from trachoma and eye diseases. Ancient Egyptians combined galena, malachite, soot, crocodile dung, and honey to create the kohl they used to darken their eyelids and lashes.

Lash Lure

In 1933, Lash Lure promised consumers that a “new and improved mascara will give you a radiating personality, with a before and after.” Unfortunately, the permanent eyelash and brow dye contained para-phenylenediamine, which caused dermatitis, conjunctival edema, keratitis, corneal ulceration, and necrosis. The damage permanently blinded fifteen women and killed one.

Eyelash extensions have been a fashion trend for more time than most people think. The desire to have luscious lashes has transformed dramatically since their beginning in 3500 B.C. While the reasons to have long eyelashes were more symbolic back then, today, they are an indication of beauty.

According to an article in the Dundee Courier in 1899, fashionable women in Paris could have hair from their own heads sewn “through the extreme edges of the eyelid between the epidermis and the lower border of the cartilage of the tragus.” Doctors would rub the patient’s eyelids with a solution of cocaine before taking a needle to them, so I’m sure it didn’t hurt a bit!

Early false eyelashes
Peggy Hyland applying false lashes, 1917

The darkness of eyelashes is related to (natural) hair color. 

For all that eyelashes are functional, we often associate them with beauty, the ideal being long, curved, and dark. There are actually eyelash salons! Who knew? (Not me, obviously.)

False eyelashes? One can get single lashes or strips. And fake lashes can be anything from mink to velour to real human hair.

A surprising number of people make and wear false eyelashes cut from paper. They design intricate patterns in strips of thick, waxy paper and attach them to their lids, just like false lashes made from hair or feathers.

Mink eyelashes

Gorgeous as they can be, fake eyelashes may cause temporary or even permanent loss of one’s natural eyelashes.  Taking the fakes off can break natural lashes, and possibly damage the hair follicle, causing lash regrowth to fail.

Problem Eyelashes

There are a number of diseases or disorders involving the eyelashes:

Ingrown Eyelashes
Demodex folliculorum
Demodex folliculorum

Eyelash and eyebrow transplant surgeries may help to reconstruct or thicken lashes or eyebrow hair.

On the stranger side, the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages linked the exposure of any hair (including eyelashes) to having an excessively erotic disposition. To demonstrate their modesty, Medieval women covered their hair and plucked their brows and lashes.

Animal Kingdom Eyelashes

People share eyelashes with other animals.  Lashes, being hair, are found in all mammals except the aquatic ones (dolphins and whales). 

Hornbill Eyelashes
  • Classically long and elegant, elephant lashes have been making history since the days of the woolly mammoth.
  • Camels‘ lashes are remarkably long and thick. 
  • Horses and cows feature lashes as well, as do dogs cats, and mice.
  • Lashes differ in length and density depending on where the animal lives 
  • Inherited eyelash problems are common in some breeds of dogs as well as horses. 
Eyelash viper
Eyelash Viper

Eyelashes are an uncommon but not unknown feature in birds.  Hornbills have prominent lashes (vestigial feathers with no barbs), as do ostriches. Among reptiles, only Eyelash vipers show a set of modified scales over the eyes which look much like eyelashes.

As best I can determine, the function of eyelashes for animals is the same as for humans: protection.  For animals that live in dusty areas, their lashes stop them getting specks of dust in their eyes. This is why camels, kangaroos, elephants, and giraffes have several rows of long eyelashes, not just one row.

Bottom line: There’s more to eyelashes than meets the eye!


Unless you’re a writer, you probably don’t think of yourself as a storyteller. But consider this: Whether face-to-face, by phone, by letter (for the few old-schoolers out there)—even by text, though that tends to be a tad disjointed—every time you “catch up” or spread news to family or friends, you are telling a story.

Some cultures consider oral storytelling to be an integral part of society and honor the storyteller as an esteemed member of the community. (World Storytelling Day is celebrated every year on or near the Spring Equinox, March 20th.) Storytellers still play in important role in Inuit, Irish, Indian, Iranian, … perhaps it’s something to do with the I. West African, Such storytellers hone their craft by training, practicing their skills, sometimes even undergoing formal apprenticeships. Pass on history, teach survival skills, warn about social taboos, and entertain.

Want to do it better? Check these tips!


Don’t always depend on what you see or hear.  Sometimes focus on what you feel, smell, or taste.  Use all your senses. Were you dizzy? Hot or cold?


Be specific.  When you report on fall foliage, say whether you’re talking about oaks or maples. What flowers are in the garden or bouquet? Is that Christmas tree a white pine or a blue spruce?


We tend to talk about telling a story, but it’s better to show. “My boss really  pissed me off” versus “My face must have been rage red, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from yelling back.”


Actions can be interpreted many ways. Your listener/reader wants to know why it happened. The more drastic the action, the stronger the motivation.  Even something as simple as slamming a door means little unless you set the stage for anger, fear, time pressure, etc.


Conflict makes for a good story. Do people want different things? It could be as simple as dinner in vs. dinner out. Or it could be as important as whether to adopt a child. Or maybe you are talking about someone who has to overcome an obstacle—pay off a loan, recover from an injury, etc. But sometimes people are in conflict with themselves: whether to buy a car or a truck; whether to find a second job or cut spending; whether to break up for good this time.


People want to know when and where things are happening. Is this news or a review of past events? When did the theft happen? And where? And where is the speaker now? 


And stay focused. Is what you were wearing when your spouse went to the ER important?  Does it matter that the food was similar to what you ate at Auntie Milicent’s retirement dinner?

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Maya Angelou

At this time off year, we often see or at least talk to people not privy to our daily lives. Good luck holding your own in those conversations!

BOTTOM LINE: We’re all storytellers. Be the magnet, not the bore!

Ashlee Wilson Photography

The Principle of Least Interest

The Principle of Least Interest for Writers quote

Sociologists, economists, therapists, and every other sort of -ists have studied The Principle of Least Interest, but it’s incredibly important for writers as well. This is one of those areas in which science has confirmed what common sense has long maintained: the person who cares the least has the most power. This principle works everywhere from the housing market to the marriage market. (I wrote about this topic previously in 2015.)

That’s definitely a selling point.

If the buyer is more eager to buy than the seller is to sell, the seller will determine the selling price. If he loves her more than she loves him, he could end up the proverbial hen-pecked husband of so many comedies; vice versa and she is a candidate for the downtrodden foot-wipe—perhaps abused—wife of so many tragedies.

This principle is so well understood that sometimes people try to disguise their true levels of caring/interest (talk of other great offers forthcoming, flirting with or dating a rival). Inherent in disguise is the understanding that what counts is often the perception of least interest.

The First Take-Away for Writers:

For your characters, know who has the power (the least interest) and who is perceived to have it. And if your work has more than two characters, you need to understand the power relationships for each pair.

The elephant has the least interest in this relationship.

Unlike a credit score, people can’t go on-line and check out their power ratings. The primary reason that power relationships are often unclear is that the bases of power are virtually limitless: expertise, physical attractiveness, intelligence, wealth, athletic ability, knowledge of secrets, ability to make the other’s life miserable, being popular, great sense of humor—anything and everything that is important to that pair. Knowing the facts doesn’t tell you/the reader who has the power.

If she married him for the money and he married her for the Green Card, who cares more? What if we add in that she is beautiful and he’s a great problem-solver; she’s moody and he’s uncommunicative; he’s a natural athlete and she manages their money; they’re both extremely intelligent and care mightily for their two children. As the author, you can determine who has the power by giving weight to these factors based on the characters’ perceptions of what is important.

The Second Take-Away for Writers:

Anytime you think humans have total power over dogs, just remember which one is picking up the other’s poop.

Power is seldom one-dimensional, and if you don’t recognize the complexity, your characters will be flat and unrealistic.

In many relationships—for example, boss/employee, parent/child, older sibling/younger sibling, teacher/student—the general expectation would be that the total power package would favor the former. But my guess is that most readers don’t read to confirm the norm; they like to be surprised.

The Third Take-Away for Writers:

You should at least consider writing against common power expectations.

And just to end on a high-brow note: according to Lord Acton, “Power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Consider how less-than-absolute power might corrupt your character(s).

Bottom Line

  • Know who has the power and who is perceived to have it.
  • Power is seldom one-dimensional, and if you don’t recognize the complexity, your characters will be flat and unrealistic.
  • You should at least consider writing against common power expectations.

Learn more

“Who Has the Upper Hand? Power, Sex, and Seinfeld” by Dr. Benjamin Le

The Personal Use of Social Psychology by Michael J. Lovaglia (2007)

Social Psychology and Human Sexuality: Essential Readings by Roy F. Baumeister (2001)