Make Me Think Monday

6 11, 2023

Choosing Words for a November Attitude

By |2023-11-05T12:22:25-06:00November 6th, 2023|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” ― J.K. Rowling

I agree with J.K. Rowling. Words are magic and that magic is found in how we choose to use them.

The ability to “create meaning from words” –– wordsmithing–– is such a wonderful gift.

As a writer, I consider myself a wordsmith and I spend my days wordsmithing. I look for not just any word but the perfect word to convey my meaning. For example, when describing a character’s departure, I could say.

He left.

He stormed out.

He ambled away.

He darted away.

He wandered away.

Each sentence suggests a different departure. I make the right choice based on the contextual meaning I want to convey to my reader.

We are all wordsmiths whether we’re writers or not.

Sometimes we do not give much care to what’s written or said. If you spend much time on social media, I’m sure you’ve noticed this.

Being a wise wordsmith is a choice. And we can only control our choices, not the choices others make.

We need to make our word selections carefully. Poor or careless word choices can inflict damage both physically and emotionally.

November is all about being appreciative. Good wordsmithing promotes good gratitude.

Try these four things to improve your wordsmithing skills and help cultivate a November attitude:

  1. Filter your thoughts before you speak. Drop thoughts that might bring negative feelings or trouble.
  1. Commit to no complaints and no gossip about anything or anyone, including yourself.
  1. Choose words to express appreciation first, no matter how small, if a complaint is unavoidable.
  1. Make a concerted effort to say thank you more often. Kind words generate happy feelings in you and those to whom you are speaking.

Can you add anything else to the list?

30 10, 2023

Halloween Decorations

By |2023-10-12T15:37:58-05:00October 30th, 2023|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

Halloween yard decorations have become as popular as Christmas decorating.

Ghosts swing from trees to greet early morning walkers in neighborhoods. Jack-o-lanterns light the way in the late afternoon. Witches crashed into trees and giant spiders in spidery webs crawl on the shrubbery.

In the 1900s, Halloween wasn’t so much about zombies and gruesome headless monsters, tombstones and skeletons, or other scary, scary things like spook houses and ghost tours. Back then, crepe paper pumpkins, plastic candy containers, painted tin noisemakers, and paper lanterns were the items of choice for a happy Halloween.

Not many of these items are around today because people used them and then threw them away. Last week, I dug out what’s left of my vintage decorations.

Only a few things are still around:

Pumpkins constructed from honeycomb tissue.

A gauze mask

A paper-mache jack-o-lantern

A tin noisemaker

A couple of black cats I used for old bulletin board posters and chalk tray decorations in classrooms

Check out Kovels’ Pinterest page here to see other vintage Halloween collectibles

Do you have a future Halloween collectible among your Halloween decorations?

Antique experts predict these items might be a future collectible:

  1. Special holiday bottles and cans with special holiday flavors like Gruesome Grape, Spooky Strawberry, and Orange Ogre. Look for other limited-edition plastic bottles with scary faces.
  2. Plastic candy containers either reproductions of the 1950s and ’60s figures and jack-o-lanterns or contemporary plastic decorations with clever designs.
  3. Zombies and vampires of plastic, rubber, or resin-like zombie-hand candleholders.
  4. Charm bracelets with pumpkins, bats, and black cats; jointed skeleton earrings decorated with rhinestones and spider rings.
  5. Motion, or voice, activated figures that light up or emit scary sounds and music. Look for pumpkin men, witches, vampires, black cats, and body parts like crawly hands.
  6. Paper or plastic masks, costumes, treat bags, and dolls.

If you’re thinking about increasing your collection, there’ll be some good buys at reduced prices after Halloween, and don’t throw away the items you have. You might have some vintage treasures like mine one day.

23 10, 2023

Change is Coming

By |2023-10-22T17:59:30-05:00October 23rd, 2023|A Writer's Life, Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

You can feel it in the air.

You can see it in the shifting of colors on the trees–shading from green to red to brown.

Shadows are lengthening as the sun shifts.

I’m sitting on my swing porch with a  cup of tea. I can feel the change and at the same time dread it.

The constancy of seasonal changes can be comforting. If you live where leaves put on a show of color, nature supplies a master class in how change can be beautiful.

I definitely welcome the cooler temperatures after the sweltering summer we had.

The annual shift from Daylight Savings Time–that’s a major problem for me. My body protests the loss of an hour’s sleep and takes weeks to adjust.

I’m not a tree willingly changing color and shedding foliage. I’m a Texas tree that slowly fades to ugly, boring brown instead of glowing with reds, yellows, and oranges.

Grumbling and complaining, I  remind myself there’s not much I can do about the weather or the time change except adjust my clothing, our thermostat, and our clocks.

I know Spring will roll around again and I will get back that hour of rest I lost. But the change tends to steal my peacefulness. It doesn’t have to.

A better approach to the change is with pliancy instead of frustration. Flexibility keeps our happiness steady. That’s why I take a cup of tea to the porch swing and relax.

Others recommend these three things when any change is stressful.

  • Breathe –By breathing slower and more deeply from your stomach, you signal your nervous system to calm down when you can’t control the situation. Purposeful breathing allows you to calm down and think rationally.
  • Smile – Smile even if whatever change has thrown your way is not funny. You’ll find a certain amount of detachment can lead to acceptance.
  • Pray or Meditate – To refocus the mind.

Most importantly,  remember that change is the only constant in this world. Whatever the catastrophe or circumstance, eventually it will change.

What about you? What strategies do you use when change stresses you?

18 09, 2023

Hummingbird Watch

By |2023-09-17T16:48:39-05:00September 18th, 2023|A Writer's Life, Make Me Think Monday, Writer's Life|1 Comment

SOURCE: David Dilbert

Hummingbirds – those tiny, colorful, thin-beaked birds, called hummers from the noise that occurs when they flap their wings – are back at our feeders.

Fall migration is from mid-July through August or early September, so they’re migrating. That usually means we fill our feeders every day instead of once a week like we do for the little flock that winters over with us.

There are lots more hummingbirds than usual this year and we’re filling the feeders twice a day!

We watch their shenanigans at the feeders and have learned a lot about the fascinating tiny birds . . .

  • They cannot walk or hop on their tiny feet. They can scoot sideways while perched at feeders. Their small feet have evolved for more efficient flying.
  • Their long beak does not work like a straw but they have a fringed, forked tongue to lick nectar up into their throat.
  • A hummingbird egg is smaller than a jellybean.
  • The average lifespan is three to five years.
  • They have no sense of smell but very keen eyesight.

About their migration . . .

  1. The ruby-throated hummingbird flies five hundred miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during migrations. They do not hitch rides on other birds.
  2. Their maximum forward flight speed is thirty miles per hour but can reach up to sixty miles per hour in a dive.
  3. Their wings beat between 50 and 200 flaps per second depending on the direction of flight, the purpose of their flight, and the surrounding air conditions.
  4. Their wings rotate 180 degrees, enabling backward flight and stationary hovering.

About their behavior . . .

  • They have superior memories and will return to the same feeders and gardens every year.
  • They’re not always docile creatures and will regularly attack jays, crows, and hawks that infringe on their territory.
  • They consume one-half of their weight in sugar daily and feed on average five to eight times per hour, which explains why we have to fill the feeders so often.
  • One hummingbird will guard all the feeders, chasing intruders away. Here’s our little guard hummer protecting one feeder.

The most important thing we’ve learned is hummingbirds prefer plain, clear homemade nectar to red dye which may be dangerous.  When we tested the claim, our hummers refused to drink the red stuff and disappeared until clear nectar reappeared.


My homemade nectar recipe: One cup of sugar dissolved in four cups of boiling water and then cooled before filling feeders. I store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Your hummers will love it too and you can enjoy a hummingbird show like we do.

4 09, 2023

Celebrating Labor Day

By |2023-09-02T09:48:26-05:00September 4th, 2023|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

Happy Labor Day!

Unlike most U.S. holidays, Labor Day is a strange celebration without rituals, well, except for shopping and barbecuing.

Peter J. McGuire, United Brotherhood of Carpenters founder, and Matthew Maguire, secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York, are considered founders of the U.S. Labor Day.

Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal in 1882 and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic. Workers agreed and staged a strike to get a day off work on the first Monday in September.

Twelve years later, in 1894, Labor Day became an official federal holiday though the bill did not give everyone a holiday. Only federal employees were authorized the day off by the law.

Over the years, emphasis changed from protests and demands and Labor Day shifted to honoring the labor movement and the social and economic achievements of all American workers.

Though the holiday has no rituals, addresses by union officials, industrialists, government officials, and others do receive coverage in social media, newspapers, and television.

Labor Day mostly signifies a three-day weekend filled with retail sales, an extra day away from work, and the unofficial end of summer.

Unless you work in retail then you’ll have some long working hours. Police, firefighters, nurses, and doctors will also experience heavy workloads because Labor Day is the second most dangerous holiday to drive on U.S. highways.

I’ll not be driving. I’ll be following Douglas Pagels’ advice.

“Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it’s essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.”

Why not join me? Relax, grab one last hot dog, and slide down your rainbow beam.

31 07, 2023


By |2023-07-30T12:22:06-05:00July 31st, 2023|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment


Simply put a big word that means attaching human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities.

This Calvin and Hobbs cartoon is a great explanation.

“Historically, anthropomorphizing has been treated as a sign of childishness or stupidity, but it’s actually a natural byproduct of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart on this planet. No other species has this tendency.” —Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago and anthropomorphism expert

Why and how humans have this ability can’t be fully explained because our brains are so very complicated. Finding human characteristics in inanimate objects signals the brain’s creativity at work.

We are social animals. We want to befriend everyone we meet, give them a name, and talk to them.

If you saw the movie Castaway Tom Hanks’ beloved best friend was Wilson, a volleyball with a face. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s a great film.

Aesop’s fables personified the wind and sun. Beauty and the Beast brought knives and forks to life. Personification is a literary technique like anthropomorphizing, but not the same.

When I talk to my dogs, my plants, my car, and lots of things that can’t talk back, I’m anthropomorphizing. Naming non-human things is another example.

Our downstairs iRobot vacuum is CP3O, upstairs iRobot is R2D2. The canning strainer that we use to make applesauce and tomato juice is Shirley. The metal art dragon guarding our backyard is Custard.

Houseplants have names too and sometimes they even perk up when I talk to them.

Violet needs a pep talk. The summer heat is taking a toll.

My Old English sheepdog Finnegan MacCool and I communicate well. Not that he’s thinking, it’s more hours and hours of training.

Because he has more understanding than Violet or Custard, I use facial expressions and key phrases when talking to him.

Fellow anthropomorphizing pet owners will relate. Others think I’ve gone cuckoo.

That’s okay.

I take comfort in Nicolas Epley’s words that anthropomorphizing demonstrates superior intellect and creativity.

Do you have any inanimate friends you have anthropomorphized?

17 07, 2023

Hot? Blame the stars!

By |2023-07-13T08:40:41-05:00July 17th, 2023|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

Summer’s hottest days , better known as the “dog days of summer” are officially upon us.

According to the National Weather Service, Dog days can be traced back thousands of years to the days of the Roman Empire. The dates July 3 through August 11 are the twenty days prior and twenty days after the star Sirius rises and falls in conjunction with the sun.


Sirius is nicknamed the “Dog Star” and the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). The name Sirius comes from the ancient Greek word for “scorching” or “glowing.”

Ancient Egyptians were star watchers and noted Sirius rising in the morning sky then traveling across the sky with the sun all day and blamed the double-whammy from Sirius and the sun for the heat in July and August.

Greeks and Romans believed Dog Days to be a time of drought, bad luck, unrest, and sickness where the extreme heat would drive dogs and men mad.

They might have been on to something.

An Old Farmers’ article says: “A 2009 Finnish study tested the traditional claim that the rate of infections is higher during the Dog Days. The authors wrote, ‘This study was conducted to challenge the myth that the rate of infections is higher during the dog days. To our surprise, the myth was found to be true.'”

Truth is, Sirius doesn’t affect seasonal weather here on Earth. The tilt of the earth on its axis is what makes it so much warmer in the summer and the Dog Day dates change along with the sky shifts.

But, as long as Sirius the dog star continues to appear during the hottest part of summer, the Dog Days of summer will live on.

26 06, 2023

Summer, Full Moon Solstice, and Celebrations

By |2023-06-20T15:25:08-05:00June 26th, 2023|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

With apologies to those who have been melting in excessive heat since the beginning of May. Summer has officially arrived.

The Northern Hemisphere summer solstice began on June 21 when the sun reached its highest point and signaled the longest day of the year.

From now on, we go to bed later as daylight shifts to early dawns, long days, late sunsets, and short nights.

Psychologists say there’s a link between our level of happiness and the amount of sunlight in the day. The extra daylight is supposed to make us feel happier. The heat on the other hand, not so much

For millennia, many cultures celebrated the summer solstice, especially when it occurred with a full moon. One such celebration was California’s Summer of Love in 1967.

Scores of hippies converged of San Francisco to celebrate the solstice and Hippie Life about being happy. By the end of 1967, the Summer of Love and most of the Hippie Movement had moved on, leaving lingering misgivings about the hippie culture.

I missed the Summer of Love—something about hubby’s Army duty. If you missed out too, here’s a link to fabulous photos of the event.

There was another full moon summer solstice in 2016. I did celebrate that one because we won’t see another until June 21, 2062.  I won’t be around. I even blogged about what I saw.

This year reported a cosmic trio for summer solstice. If you watched the sky, you saw a waxing crescent moon next to a brilliant Venus with the much, much dimmer Mars nearby and Regulus in Leo the Lion above. And below the twin stars, Castor and Pollux, in the constellation Gemini. Did you see it? If you got a great photo of this solstice sky, send to EarthSky Community Photos.


Lastly, summer always calls for a celebration well before the solstice occurs. The last day of school signals the lazy, hazy days of summer with freedom from homework and lesson plans for three glorious months.

Enjoy your Summer!

19 06, 2023

What is Juneteenth?

By |2023-06-17T18:17:20-05:00June 19th, 2023|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

Today marks the third time Juneteenth will be observed nationally as a federal holiday.

Also known as Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Black Independence Day the date marks the day enslaved people in the United States learned they were free.

In case you’re wondering where the name comes from, it’s a blending of June and nineteenth.

Growing up in Texas, there were always celebrations on Juneteenth. According to Para LaNell Agboga, museum site coordinator at the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural and Genealogy Center in Austin, Texas early celebrations revolved around the church with speeches and picnics.

As Black Texans moved away from Texas, the observances slowly spread.

But I must confess that as our family moved around the United States, I met many who had never heard of Juneteenth.

Or Laura Smalley, a freed slave from a plantation very near where I live now. Or, her story about how her former master went off to fight in the Civil War, and when he came home he never told his slaves what had happened.

“Old master didn’t tell, you know, they was free. I think now they say they worked them, six months after that. Six months. And turn them loose on the 19th of June. That’s why, you know, we celebrate that day.” Smalley’s 1941 interview can still be found on YouTube.

Juneteenth officially began June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his Union troops delivered General Order No. 3, to the residents of Galveston, Texas. The order said:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

The next year, 1866, the now-freed slaves started celebrating, and the celebration has continued ever since.

One hundred and fifty-five years later in 2021, President Biden signed a bill designating Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Another 96-year-old Texan, Opal Lee is credited with successfully championing that legislation.

The Proclamation states clearly why we should celebrate the day:

“As we observe Juneteenth, we remind ourselves of the sacred proposition rooted in Scripture and enshrined in our Declaration of Independence:  that we are all created equal in the image of God and each of us deserves to be treated equally throughout our lives.  That is the promise of America that every generation is charged to keep alive.  While the opposition may seem fierce and the fire of conflict may be intense, the story of Juneteenth reveals that freedom, justice, and equality will always prevail.”

Today’s celebrations will include parades, concerts, and reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. Like most holidays, Juneteenth is seeing its fair share of commercialism.

Supporters work hard to make sure Juneteenth celebrators don’t forget why. Check here for events offered through JuneteenthFTW.

29 05, 2023

Recognizing the Roots of Memorial Day

By |2023-05-26T12:00:13-05:00May 29th, 2023|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

For most, Memorial Day signals the start of summer where burgers and cakes iced with American flags are the order of the day.

But Memorial Day began as a way to honor scores of dead from the Civil War called  “Decoration Day.”

In 1971, the name changed but the day remained a time to visit and spruce up final resting places of all who lost their lives in service to this country.  Read how Decoration Day became Memorial Day here

Such tradition might seem macabre or morbid.

At the same time, the Memorial Day tradition serves as a gentle means of passing history from generation to generation.

Here are three ways to recognize the roots of Memorial Day along with all the burgers and fun.

Pause for A Moment of Silence

In 2000 the House and Senate passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act to “remember and renew the legacy of Memorial Day, which was established in 1868 to pay tribute to individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the United States and their families.”

According to that law at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, we should stop eating, chatting, and swimming, for one full minute to remember those who didn’t make it home to celebrate.

Display the American Flag Properly

Memorial Day has specific rules for where and when the American flag is raised and lowered. It’s the only day that observes both positions on the flagpole.

The Stars and Stripes should be raised briskly first thing in the morning and then lowered to half-staff.

At noon, the flag should be returned to full staff until it’s taken down at sunset.

Don’t have a flagpole? If you fly a flag from your porch and can’t lower it, simply attach a black mourning streamer to the top for when it’s supposed to be lowered.

Remember It’s Not Veterans Day

A lot of people will confuse the days of military recognition.

Most veterans don’t expect to be thanked for their service. This is especially true on Memorial Day.

While vets will accept the extra attention on Veterans Day, such thanks are not appropriate on Memorial Day.  To them, it’s a somber day of remembering those who didn’t come home with them.

If we recognize the roots of Memorial Day, we can keep the day from being just another holiday with an extra day off.

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