Make Me Think Monday

28 10, 2019

Reading Together

By |2019-10-26T13:58:38-05:00October 28th, 2019|Make Me Think Monday|2 Comments

I saw a fun meme recently of two people reading while sitting in the back of an SUV with piles of books around them. It made me think about how we interact with other book lovers.

We talk about the books, we  share books, and we belong to book clubs. But how often do we actually sit quietly together and read ?

I’m picturing the old silent reading days where on certain school days all the students brought a book to read. I loved those days. Silent Reading days are probably why I’m such a voracious reader today.

My writer’s heart speeds up when I see someone reading like I am in a waiting room. That’s kinda like reading together. But I’m picturing the days before television and radio when evenings were spent reading.

Nowadays that would mean turning off all the electronics and television, but it’s doable. Sometimes, Hubby-dear and I do just that.

Think about it, reading together could be the best response to this noisy world.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

21 10, 2019

Egrets, Egrets

By |2019-10-20T12:32:15-05:00October 21st, 2019|Make Me Think Monday|2 Comments

The blog title might suggest I’m blogging about how to respond to an e-invite or invitation. I’m not.

I’m talking about are the small white herons that are seen in fields with cows. They’re about 20 inches long with a 36-inch wingspan when they fly and stand in a hunched position.

Recently, I spotted the white birds wandering in and out of cattle  at the edge of a friend and fellow writer’s pasture pond.

“Oh, those are cowbirds,” she said.

We begin to discuss how we always see cowbirds but had no idea why the name. or anything about the bird. That led to some research. Writers do love their research.

Cattle Egrets are native to Africa but somehow reached South American in the 1870s and migrated up. By the 1960s the white birds were documented as far north as Canada, west as far as California and east as far as Florida. Since Texas is about in the middle of those three, that would explain why we see so many of the birds in our cow pastures.

Sometimes the birds can be confused with Snowy Egrets. If you look closely, you’ll see a thicker neck, an orange or yellow bill, and dirty yellow legs and feet. Snowy Egrets like wet, water feeding.

Cowbird egrets prefer foraging field grass and pastures for the crickets, grasshoppers, and other insects the cattle hoofs stir up. They also clean the cows’ hide of ticks and fleas. That’s why you’ll see them on the cows’ backs and pecking the legs.

Their name comes from the grazing animals they team up with to forage. In other places, they are known as cow cranes, cow herons, cow birds, elephant birds, rhinoceros egrets, and hippopotamus egrets.

Breeding season runs April through September and depending on the arrival of fall even into October. Fall is running late here in southeast Texas and that’s why there are still so many cattle egrets this year.

My romance writer heart fluttered to learn they pair up and nest in established heronries year after year.

Now the next time you’re driving and spot a long-legged white bird on a cow’s back, you can wow your audience with tidbits of trivia.

If you really want to impress, throw in this little fact.

The oldest Cattle Egret on record was at least 17 years old when it was captured and released in Pennsylvania in 1979. It had been banded in Maryland in 1962.

14 10, 2019

Wearing of the Pink

By |2019-10-05T16:10:38-05:00October 14th, 2019|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

October brings a flood of pink, specifically pink ribbons. Since 1992, the wearing of a pink ribbon has been the international symbol of breast cancer awareness.

Ever wonder where ribbons and symbolism all started?

Penney Laingen, wife of a hostage who’d been taken prisoner in Iran in 1979 started the trend. Inspired by the song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” she tied yellow ribbons around the trees in her front yard to await her husband’s return.

Yellow ribbons were used again to remember soldiers fighting and dying in the Gulf War. AIDS activists piggybacked on that, turned the ribbon red, and sent it on stage Jeremy Irons’ chest for the Tony Awards.

That propelled charitable organizations to begin using colored ribbon campaigns for their causes.

The first ribbon for breast cancer awareness was a peach-colored loop handmade by Charlotte Haley whose granddaughter, sister, and mother had battled breast cancer. She passed out sets of five along with a card that read: “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.”

Evelyn Lauder wanted to enhance upon Haley’s idea. Lauder had her lawyers approach Haley, who refused to relinquish her grassroots, word-of-mouth project. Lauder’s lawyers advised her to come up with a different color and she did.

She traded peach for pink and put pink grosgrain ribbons on cosmetics counters across the country promoting her Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).

Pink is playful, life-affirming and studies show it has a calming, quietening effect and lessens stress, according to the Color Association of the United States. It’s perfect to symbolize everything breast cancer is not.

Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation gave a pink ribbon to runners in its New York City Race in 1991. The origins of the Run for the Cure ribbon is here.

And, so the pink ribbons we wear every October became the icon for awareness and and show moral support for those with breast cancer.

If you’re like me, you have one or more friends or family members who have been affected by breast cancer. I’ll be wearing a pink ribbon this month.

How about you?

7 10, 2019

Breast Cancer Awareness and the Women Who Fostered It

By |2019-10-07T07:33:20-05:00October 7th, 2019|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

Unless you live under a rock you know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it hasn’t always been that way.  Historically breast cancer was a taboo topic. Women with breast cancer didn’t discuss the topic publicly.

It was former First Lady Betty Ford who played a major role in bringing breast cancer out of the shadows when she allowed the press into her hospital room to discuss her diagnosis. Her openness increased the number of women willing to talk about it and, even more important, their open discussions led more women to have breast exams for early detection.

Ford’s actions were a catalyst for the 1985 partnership between the American Cancer Society and Imperial Chemical Industries, producer of anti-breast cancer drugs, to designate October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM).

Two other women also shared a major role in increasing public awareness.

  1. When Evelyn Lauder, senior corporate vice president of the Estée Lauder Companies, received a breast cancer diagnosis, she made breast cancer awareness an Estee Lauder brand staple. Her companies continue to do so today through her Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).
  2. In 2013, Angelina Jolie publicly shared her decision to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA gene. That catapulted BRCA gene mutation into the spotlight and encouraged research funding for genetic cancer.

These three women were forerunners in changing the prevailing attitude. These days we are keenly aware of breast cancer, but are the millions of marketing and advertising dollars spent to raise funds for awareness missing the mark?

Yes according to Paige More, a woman personally affected by breast cancer and co-founder of The Breasties.

She suggests money spent on awareness marketing efforts and advertising materials might be more beneficial if directed to a nonprofit, a hospital, or breast cancer research.

Statistics from The American Cancer Society estimate there will be 271,270 new cases of breast cancer in 2019, 99% of which will be diagnosed in women.

We still don’t have a cure . More research might fix that. Maybe Paige More is right, more funds should be divert to research and not so much to awareness.

What do you think?

26 08, 2019

Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My Dogs

By |2019-08-26T09:02:43-05:00August 26th, 2019|A Writer's Life, Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

I’m 100% a dog person and proud of it. My dogs are a constant source of love and amusement.

My breed of choice is Old English Sheepdogs who are natural clowns and always make me smile. In addition to all the smiles and unconditional love, my dogs have offered some great life lessons.

  1. When your loved one comes home, run to greet him.
  2. Eat with gusto.
  3. When it’s hot, drink lots of water.
  4. Take naps.
  5. Don’t bite, just growl.
  6. Give unconditional love.
  7. Stay close to your loved ones in times of distress.

This list appeared in an Ann Landers’ newspaper column years and years ago. It’s still great advice and important lessons to learn. You can find dozens of other longer lists with equally as important things dogs teach us.

My Finnegan turned three this year and his brother Buster, twelve years. Every birthday means another year less with my best friend. As every dog lover knows our time with our four-legged best friends is all too short.

And because I know no matter how long they live, it will never be long enough, all my dogs have taught me the most important and hardest lesson of life:

Enjoy every single moment we have with our loved ones.

Knowing Finnegan and Buster and all the others who’ve gone before will only be with me a short time reminds me to soak up every second because life is too short to do anything less.

Get off the couch. Go for a walk or chase a squirrel. Have fun. Love. Laugh. Dance in the rain. Time is too short.

12 08, 2019

Summer Dog Days and Back-to-school Time

By |2019-08-11T21:09:03-05:00August 12th, 2019|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

It’s August. It’s hot, it’s humid in Texas. There doesn’t seem to be any relief from this year’s record setting summer heat. We’re having realio, trulio dog days of summer.

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

The term comes from the Egyptians who believed the Dog Star Sirius added heat to the sun and produced a long stretch of sultry weather during the forty days beginning July 3 and ending August 11.

Those of us who live in Texas know that dog days can (and do) begin well before July 3 and extend long after August 11 no matter how bright Dog Star Sirius shines. And, like our dogs, in this extreme heat, all we want to do is nothing but lounge around.

This year triple digit heat warnings of dog days are competing with all the excitement of back-to-school preparations.

Tax-free shopping days add to the frenzy for school clothing and supplies. Even though it’s been years since I’ve taught, I find caught of the eagerness and stocking up on pens and pads and folders.

Teachers are braving the temperatures and getting ready for the new school year. Not just public schoolteachers but also all those moms and dads who undertake to homeschool. To all of you, thank you.

Soon, let us hope, these dog days will be a memory. Fall will bring cooler weather and colorful leaves, pumpkins, and holiday bazaars.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready!

15 07, 2019

Hoarding Memories

By |2019-07-14T16:44:05-05:00July 15th, 2019|A Writer's Life, Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

Recently Chicken Wrangler Sara blogged about a relic she’d uncovered from her past. If you didn’t read that blog, you can here.

She comes by her hoarding of things with fond memories honestly. Her father and I have downsized four times now and I still have personal things I just can’t bring myself to discard.

I’m piggy backing on her post to share a couple of items we’ve hoarded that, some day, she and her siblings will be forced to deal with.

Back when my husband and I were in junior high and high school in Texas, girls and boys were required to take home economics and shop classes. Even if your master plan was to go to college, before you graduated, you had to have classes in both.

He made a little stand in metal shop class.

I’ve used the stand for plants. Sometimes a circular piece of plywood sat on top and we used it as a little side table.

For the last thirty plus years, it’s held our gazing ball.

I made a little bowl in wood shop class. It hides in the closet holding safety pins, but it’s still around, too.

We’ve hauled both things through fifteen moves to nine different states, some states more than once. Does that make  us hoarders?

I don’t think so. Like Chicken Wrangler Sara’s talent show sign, the stand and wooden dish bring a smile whenever I look at them.And that’s the real reason I keep things, I mean hoard things. Don’t we all?

8 07, 2019

Deviled Eggs or Angel Eggs

By |2019-07-07T15:30:37-05:00July 8th, 2019|A Writer's Life, Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

Deviled eggs and cookouts go together like PB&J. They are a mainstay at our cookouts.

I use my mother’s recipe. She never wrote it down, but I watched her enough to know to mix enough egg yolks, mustard, mayonnaise, and sweet relish to fill the hollowed whites. Sometimes I use dill relish instead of the sweet. Don’t tell Mother, she’d be appalled.

We serve our deviled eggs on a plate that belonged to my husband’s sister. Most of the time, cookouts around our house also include my aunt’s baked beans, my mother-in-law’s chocolate cake (the one with the secret coffee ingredient that we never told my father-in-law about) and my daddy’s homemade ice cream. It’s a way to include those who have gone before.

On July 4th, as we sat around munching deviled eggs, our conversation turned to why the eggs are called deviled.

Fingers of techno-device-loaded guests raced on iPhones, iPads, and Androids for the answer. In one click Google came to the rescue, revealing interesting things about deviled eggs.

  • Deviled eggs have been around since the first century.
  • The recipe was first compiled sometime between the fourth and fifth century A.D.
  • By the 15th century, stuffed eggs had made their way across much of Europe.
  • By 1800, deviling became a verb to describe the process of making food spicy.

You can read more fascinating details about the origin here

Google also provided the answer to our original question. The term deviled is assumed to come from the heat level of the stuffing ingredients. Spices such as mustard, paprika, cayenne and wasabi add spicy heat. That lends itself to the association between the devil and the excessive heat in Hell, hence deviled.

When served at church functions, deviled egg hors d’oeuvres are called mimosa eggs, stuffed eggs, dressed eggs, salad eggs, or angel eggs. To avoid an association with Satan, of course.

So, do you make deviled eggs? More importantly, do you call them angel eggs?

24 06, 2019

Summer Solstice Fun & Facts

By |2019-06-24T06:16:11-05:00June 24th, 2019|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

Summer officially arrived June 21. Short nights, long days begin.

Kinda of hard to wrap my head around the idea that the Summer Solstice marked the beginning of summer. Around here we’ve been experiencing heat indexes in triple digits for weeks. Where we lived in Colorado, twenty-four inches of snow fell over the weekend.

Me thinks Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.

Still summer solstice has been around since the world begin. Ancient cultures recognized the sun’s path across the sky, the changes in the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset.

Stonehenge stands as a testament to their knowledge.

Stones are arranged so that the summer solstice sun rises directly above the heel stone. Access inside the stones is granted every year on the two solstice days-winter and summer.

Winter is considered more important than its summer counterpart because Druids believe it marks the ‘re-birth’ of the sun.

Those ancient cultures weren’t wrong in acknowledging the hours of daylight. Scientists have long suspected a link between the level of happiness and the amount of sunlight in the day.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a syndrome characterized by recurrent depressions related to the amount of light at the same time each year. What studies by psychologists have discovered about SAD is it’s not the absolute amount of daylight but the relative change in that daylight.

In other words, the issue is whether a day is longer or shorter than the day that came before?

When daylight hours increase as the summer solstice approaches people expressed significantly higher positive affect than they did when the days move toward the winter solstice.

Therefore, the summer solstice produces a happiness up-slope for half the year whereas the winter solstice does the opposite.

Next year maybe I’ll try this ancient tradition I uncovered while researching the Summer Solstice:

Place a piece of gold jewelry in the sunlight on the Summer Solstice and let it soak in the sun’s power. When you wear the jewelry later, that power will transfer to your own life in the coming year.

Maybe. Seems to me, the heat might be too much on the skin. At least in Texas.

3 06, 2019

My Zinnias Are Blooming

By |2019-06-01T07:48:40-05:00June 3rd, 2019|A Writer's Life, Make Me Think Monday|2 Comments

I love the bright, daisy-like flower heads of Zinnias. They’re easy to grow, bloom profusely, and provide a great splash of color in a pot or flowerbed.

A primarily warm weather flower, I missed seeing them when we lived in the mountains. The blooms are fun to cut and bring inside to my kitchen table vase. The flowers also attract butterflies.

This year I decided to plant seeds in the large clay pot by our backyard pond and discovered lots of stuff I didn’t know about the flowers I enjoy as I read the seed packets.

Zinnias grow in a variety of shapes – beehive, button, and cactus, and have distinct kind of blooms – single, double, and semi-double. I selected two different seed kinds and planted in the big pot.

Within a week, I had little green seedlings poking through the potting soil. All the rain slowed the blooming process, but once we finally had some sunny days, buds formed then my Zinnias bloomed with a burst of color.

Both seed packets went into the same pot so I’m having fun deciding which blooms are what. What do you think-beehive, button, or cactus?

I can’t decide.

The plant is an annual, so the plants will die off in January or February. I’m thinking next year I’ll plant single varieties in multiple pots.

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