Sunday, March 25, 2012

Am I Just Lazy? Maybe I'm Bored? Or Could It Be PROCRASTINATION?

I've had the most terrible time concentrating on my writing lately. At least that's the way it seems.

Not sure if I'm purposely distracting myself, allowing myself to be distracted by things going on around me, or simply not able to maintain my concentration. And it's not that I'm bored because I don't have anything to do. I have plenty to do. In fact, I'm behind schedule with my to do list. Could it possibly be that I'm just procrastinating.

I currently have four manuscripts in various stages of completion between page one and page last, three projects where I'm working on the storyline and synopsis and haven't actually started writing yet, and two basically completed manuscripts that are in the let them sit for a little while then go through them one last time stage before submitting them to a publisher. And I need to come up with a blog for tomorrow morning (Sunday, March 25).

Being a writer requires self-discipline. Being self-employed and working from home also requires that same discipline. Being a full time writer (no day job) who works from home requires twice the discipline. When the words aren't flowing from the brain directly to the screen, it's very easy to be distracted by anything and everything. So easy to procrastinate. After all, there's always later.

(Oh, look…the mailman is across the street. He'll be at my house in another five minutes. Maybe I should go to the front door and wait. I wouldn't want to have my electric bill sitting in my mailbox any longer than absolutely necessary.)

I was so desperate for something else to do this morning (other than any of the items on my to do list) that I actually started to declutter my office. I went through a huge stack of stuff on my desk, almost all of it printed emails, news stories from online, research information from various websites. That huge stack ended up in two stacks. One was the throw it away because it's no longer relevant for various reasons and the other one was the file it away where it belongs. So, I tossed the first stack and the second stack went into the appropriate hard copy file folders. Unfortunately, that was only one huge stack of stuff out of many. It was the newest stack, so my guess is that all the others will be mostly throw it away things when I finally get around to doing something with it.

(Just finished unloading the dishwasher and putting the clean dishes away, something that obviously needed to be done RIGHT NOW rather than a couple of hours later. Oh, yeah…while I was in the kitchen I got out my Mr. Coffee Iced Tea maker and made a pitcher of iced tea. That's not procrastinating, is it?)

Now, where was I. Oh, yes…my blog. I need to pick a topic for my blog and then get it written. I print out interesting articles and news stories when I come across them online and set them aside as possible topics for a blog. Hmmm…it seems to me that I just went through a huge stack of paper that included some printouts of articles and news stories. Maybe I should go and take another look at the ones I kept.

Or not.

(It's about dinner time and I'm getting hungry. Good thing I took those dishes out of the dishwasher. Now I can use them.)

Maybe I'm just bored in general and need a break like being able to get out of town, take a trip somewhere. Yeah…that's it! I can transfer all my work in progress files to my laptop and take it with me. I'll be able to get lots of work done while I'm gone because there won't be anything around to distract me like there is in my own house. Now where did I put that U.S. Atlas?

Oh, wait a minute. I need to do laundry before I can go out of town. And I have a breakfast meeting on Tuesday, and something else on my schedule for Wednesday night. I guess I don't need that Atlas after all.

So…I might as well get back to work. (Hmmm…I wonder what I should fix for dinner.)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Vernal Equinox—It's Officially Spring

Equinox translates literally to "equal night."

On March 20, 2012, at precisely 1:14am Eastern Daylight Time the sun crosses directly over the Earth's equator. That moment is known as the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere announcing the arrival of spring and the autumnal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere announcing the arrival of fall. A second equinox will occur on September 22 at 10:49am Eastern Daylight Time.

The fact that the Earth has distinctive seasons is due to the 23.4 degree tilt of the Earth's axis. The Earth receives more sunlight (longer daylight hours) in the summer and less sunlight (fewer daylight hours) in the winter. The tilt of the axis makes the seasons opposite in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. At the north pole summer gives six months of daylight while at the same time the south pole is experiencing six months of darkness. The closer you are to the equator, the daily hours of daylight and darkness become more equal.

The fall and spring equinoxes are the only two times during the year when the sun rises due east and sets due west. Modern astronomy aside, people have recognized the astronomical connection to the season changes for thousands of years. The ancients of various civilizations all over the world built structures that illustrate this—temples dedicated to their various gods that modern man recognize as observatories. Not only the spring and fall equinox days, but also the summer and winter solstice days.

I think it's also interesting to note a connection between the spring equinox and Groundhog Day (another holiday derived from the practices and celebrations of the ancients). If the groundhog sees his shadow on February 2, we have six more weeks of winter. And by "coincidence" that six weeks takes us to within a few days of the spring equinox.

A little bit of equinox trivia: According to folklore, you can stand a raw egg on its end on the equinox. One spring, a few minutes before the vernal equinox, twenty-four almanac editors tested the theory. For a full work day, seventeen out of twenty-four eggs stood up on the large end. Then three days following the equinox, they tried the same test again. And guess what? The results were similar. Perhaps the second test was still too close to the equinox? :)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Busy Week--Daylight Savings and St. Patrick's Day

This is a busy week…Sunday, March 11, we go on Daylight Savings Time and Saturday, March 17, is St. Patrick's Day.

Here in the U.S., at 2am on the second Sunday in March we set our clocks ahead one hour for the start of Daylight Savings Time. This year, the second Sunday fell on March 11, 2012. And on the first Sunday in November at 2am we reverse that process by setting our clocks back one hour. In 2012, that first Sunday is November 4th.

Standard time—the creation of time zones—was instituted in the U.S. and Canada by the railroads in 1883. Due to the vast width of the two countries stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, it was necessary to establish some method of standardizing train schedules. However, it was not established in the U.S. law until the Act of March 19, 1918. The Act also established Daylight Savings Time which was repealed in 1919 while standard time in time zones remained the law. Daylight Savings Time was re-established in World War II. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 brought standardization of start and stop dates but allowed for local exemptions from its observance. Since then the official beginning and ending dates have changed several times, the most recent being in 2007.


St. Patrick's Day—history, symbols, traditions, green beer, and Irish coffee.

March 17—St. Patrick's religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. A date that falls during the Christian season of Lent. The Irish have observed this date as a religious holiday for over a thousand years. Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon.

The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place in the U.S., not in Ireland. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762, (when we were still a British colony). In 1848, several New York Irish aid societies united their parades to form one New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade. Today, that parade is the world's oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States with over 150,000 participants.

Today, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by people of all backgrounds in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Although North America is home to the largest celebrations, it has been celebrated in other locations far from Ireland, including Japan, Singapore, and Russia.

In modern day Ireland, St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. Until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated pubs be closed on March 17. In 1995, the Irish government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to promote tourism.

Symbols and Traditions

The shamrock was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland, symbolizing the rebirth of spring. By the seventeenth century, it became a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism.

Music is often associated with St. Patrick's Day and Irish culture in general. Since the ancient days of the Celts, music has always been an important part of Irish life. The Celts had an oral culture where religion, legend, and history were passed from one generation to the next through stories and songs.

Banishing snakes from Ireland has been associated with St. Patrick. A long held belief says St. Patrick once stood on a hilltop and with only a wooden staff managed to drive all the snakes from Ireland. The fact is the island nation of Ireland has never had snakes.

Every year on St. Patrick's Day the traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage is consumed. Cabbage has long been an Irish food, but corned beef only began to be associated with St. Patrick's Day at the turn of the century.

Belief in leprechauns probably comes from Celtic belief in fairies, tiny men and women who could use their magical powers to serve good or evil. Leprechauns are only minor figures in Celtic folklore, cantankerous little men known for their trickery which they often used to protect their fabled treasure. The cheerful, friendly image of the leprechaun is a purely American invention created by Walt Disney in his 1959 movie, Darby O'Gill and the Little People.

Chicago is famous for a somewhat peculiar annual event: dyeing the Chicago River green. The tradition started in 1962, when city pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and realized that the green dye might provide a unique way to celebrate the holiday. That year, they released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river—enough to keep it green for a week. Today, in order to minimize environmental damage, only forty pounds of dye are used, making the river green for only several hours.

Green beer, certainly associated with St. Patrick's Day here in the United States, is NOT an Irish creation. Purists claim that Arthur Guinness would turn over in his grave if anyone attempted to add green food coloring to the traditional Irish brew. Green beer is most likely of American origins.

And Irish coffee? The forerunner of today's Irish coffee was said to have originated at Foynes' port (the precursor to Shannon International Airport on the west coast of Ireland near the town of Limerick) one miserable winter night in the 1940s. Joseph Sheridan added some whiskey to the coffee to warm the arriving American passengers, proclaiming it to be Irish coffee.

A travel writer named Stanton Delaplane brought Irish coffee to the U.S. after drinking it at Shannon Airport. He worked with the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco to develop the perfect drink. The Buena Vista Cafe started serving Irish coffee on November 10, 1952, and continues to serve large quantities of it to this day starting from the time they open in the morning for breakfast until they close at night.

So, here's to everyone celebrating on March 17 whether Irish or not. Enjoy your corned beef and cabbage, green beer, and Irish coffee.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

7 Mood Busting Foods

To go along with last week's blog about scents and tastes that relieve stress, this week let's talk about foods that help change your bad moods. And as it so happens, I recently read an article about just that!

According to a noted clinical dietitian, skipping meals and snacks can lead to mood slumps due to the brain's continuous need for fuel. We've all experienced that point where we're low on energy, grouchy, and our stomach is growling. If we don't get something to eat real soon we just know we're going to scream.

Satisfying our hunger can help level off that crankiness, but it doesn't mean just any snack will do. Recent research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry states that people who feast on junk food have a higher risk for low mood and depression than those with a healthier diet.

Certain foods help battle certain bad moods.

1) Hunger is one of the biggest of the bad mood culprits. If you're hungry and also angry about it, that makes you hangry. Carbohydrates can solve this problem. Go with whole grain or a complex carbohydrate like brown rice.

2) Down in the dumps? Depressed? The food you eat for dinner can make a difference, specifically foods containing an abundance of the B vitamin folate. Excellent sources of folate are leafy green vegetables, beans, citrus fruits, and fortified grain products.

3) Feeling anxious? Try a food that will calm you down and number one of that list is turkey which is high in tryptophan. Other good sources of tryptophan are chicken, eggs, cheese, nuts, and seeds.

4) Irritable? Try some Greek yogurt. Irritability and anxiety are usually a result of low blood sugar. Have that Greek yogurt with berries or a small handful of almonds and a piece of fruit.

5) Stress getting to you? Sip black tea, either hot or ice will do the trick. Black tea has also been shown to improve memory and help get rid of headaches.

6) PMS mood swings? Consider eating dark chocolate which can stimulate neutral activity in that part of the brain associated with pleasure and reward. But you need to make sure your dark chocolate is 75 percent cocoa.

7) Feeling foggy? Think about some fish. Or specifically, Omega-3 which makes cell membranes more fluid, improving communication between brain cells. It helps things run smoothly.

And there you have it, a list of foods that can help with bad moods making you a more pleasant person to be around and as a result making those who are around you happier, too.  :)