Blog Post #542 Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice is at 4:23 p.m. on Friday, December 21, 2018, in the Central Time Zone in the United States.  

The Earth’s axis is 23.5 degrees from being straight up-and-down (thank goodness!!!).  If the Earth did not tilt, the Arctic and Antarctic would never see the sun. Daylight in every town would be about the same every day.  Cities on the equator would bake every day. The tilt gives us the four seasons:

Winter – starting with that Winter solstice on December 21, 2018 – the ‘shortest day’ in terms of daylight in the northern hemisphere and the ‘longest’ day of sunlight in the southern hemisphere.  (You want sunshine and heat? Go to Australia!!

Spring Equinox – starting on March 20, 2019, at 4:58 p.m – when there is approximately 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness – EVERYWHERE on the Earth.

Summer Solstice – Friday, June 21st at 10:54 (CDT) – where the northern hemisphere has the most daylight of any day in the year

Fall Equinox – September 23 at 2:50 a.m. (CDT) – approximately 12 hours of sunlight and darkness

Those in the northern hemisphere tend to like the Summer Equinox.  Shakespeare wrote “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”. And Mendelssohn also wrote music for the Shakespeare play (including the more humorous Wedding March). Many older cultures in Europe celebrated Midsummer’s Eve.  (Listen at 

Not many in the northern hemisphere celebrate Winter solstice.  If anything we are glad to get it over and graduate get more daylight (by a few minutes a day).  

Meteorologists tend to call the seasons Winter – from December 1st to February 28th (or 29th); Spring from March 1st to May 31; Summer from June 1st to August 31; and Fall from September 1st to November 30th.  For those in the northern hemisphere who are now going to wait (patiently or not) for spring – there is a difference between the first day of spring and the first spring (or spring-like) day.

According to the linked article, there are some old traditions for the Winter Solstice.  Some Scandinavians have celebrated Yule (or Juul) with Yule logs, bonfires (to symbolize the returning of longer days and heat).  

In England, on Winter Solstice, the sun’s rays go directly through some of the stones at Stonehenge and some will observe that.  

I have friends (Ruth and Tony) that celebrated with a Winter Solstice party at their house.  They are Jewish, so having a true “Christmas” party wasn’t quite in line with their faith, so a Winter Solstice party might cut across their Christian, Jewish and other friends.  

As for me, I am going to start looking for longer days with sunlight – and (also for me) celebrate Christmas and New Years!!!

How about you?


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BlogPost #541 More Holiday Traditions.

Holiday Traditions 2

How about some more Holiday Traditions??

-1 Polar Express (kind of).  Have the kids/family ‘earn’ special tickets for the drive around the neighborhood to see the lights.  If a child gets enough projects or tasks done, they can get the specially drawn up ticket to see the lights.  (Optional – if they do enough tasks, they can earn ice cream or hot cocoa).

-2 Fondue dinner.  I’ve seen this on some different sites – so maybe it is a “thing”.  You can do cheese or chocolate fondue and use the forks to dip in the hot mixture.

-3 Games.  Two of the links are for Christmas Trivia – like songs and other Christmas items.  Can you name all of the reindeer? Or mixed up Christmas lyrics?

-4 Mistakes.  My father loved to change the lyrics.  We learned “Rudolph with your nose so red, won’t you pull my little sled”.  See if you can change songs.

-5 Can you name the gifts from all twelve days of Christmas?  Have teams write them down.

-6 Christmas Pizza?  The first link has the family eating pizza to the light of the Christmas Tree the first evening it is lit.

-7 Can your family sing?  Try caroling your neighbors.  You can use the traditional hymns and carols or the non-religious ones (like Rudolph)

-8 Make cookies for the neighbors.  Okay, a disclaimer. I like cookies, but I don’t like to do all the mixing and work.  So, I got the ‘pre-made’ cookie dough that I popped onto cookies sheets and baked. It made for nice gifts for the neighbors.

– 9 And … of course, making cookies for Santa (with milk)

-10  Christmas and the holidays can be depressing for some.  Try to think of those less fortunate and do things for them

-11 And, love, and forgive, and cherish your family – extended and local.  The ‘babe in the manger’ is love – unconditional love. Make Christmas unstressful and special for all.

Anything else?


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Blog Post #540 New Christmas/Holiday Traditions – part I

How about making new Holiday Traditions?

This link (to Mommy on Purpose) has some interesting suggestions for new Holiday Traditions – like:

HOLIDAY BUCKET LIST: Sit down in early December with the whole family and make a “holiday bucket list” (things like ice skating, various musicals, favorite movies, seeing the holiday lights)

GINGERBREAD HOUSE: Make a gingerbread house.  The author suggests buying a gingerbread house kit after Christmas and saving it for a year.

SLUMBER PARTY: Have a family Slumber Party- get the kids in the jammies, put up blanket forts in the living room, and have a family slumber party.  The author also suggests you can do it in Mom and Dad’s room so ‘we’ can sleep in our own beds!!)

PAPER CHAINS:  For some reason, I always liked making paper chains – even in my college classrooms and office.  Get some construction paper of red and green (or different colors) and make long chains.

FAMILY GAME NIGHT: It seems like we like game night, but we just don’t do it enough.  With the grandchildren almost able to join in the games, have a game night. Could be UNO or Yahtzee or more.  When I was a kid, after Christmas we had a neighborhood Monopoly game for a couple of days (or Risk)

ORNAMENT MAKING:  I still have some ornaments from Cub Scout days (and … that is many years ago).  Make some ornaments every year, use some glue and glitter. Put the dates and names on the ornaments

FORGET GIFTS: And plan a major trip – like Disney, Hawaii or skiing.  Trips will be memories way-beyond the legos and clothes gifts.

I’ll have more tomorrow!!


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Blog Post #539 Holiday Stress Breakers

Christmas and the Holidays can be stressful.

We have talked before about the holidays being stressful.  There is decorating to do, holiday cookies and baking to accomplish, parties to attend (and, that means, of course, picking out the right dress, getting your hair done, and being the prettiest at the ball).  

Forbes Magazine has these suggestions:

-1 Breathe!!  Sometimes we let the stress overwhelm us and we get caught up in the moment.  Take time to breathe. The article has this advice:

“Grace Smith, a hypnotherapist, teaches her clients to wear an elastic hairband around their wrist and when they start to feel triggered, gently pull back the elastic and let go. “This little snap brings us back into the present moment and is a reminder to breathe deeply before we speak or react,” according to Smith.”

-2 Acknowledge the feelings.  Yes, the holidays are to be festive times, but not all are in a festive mood.  Maybe you are depressed this time of year as you miss your parents, others that have been close to you over the years who have passed on.  Not all is light and happiness for all of us. Take some time to reflect and find yourself

-3 Ground yourself.  As the world spirals out-of-control, take time to smell those cookies or the pine scent on the Christmas tree.  Step up on your tiptoes a few times, swing your arms around you, (maybe even give yourself a small pinch). You are not Cinderella at the ball, you are yourself and need to keep a balance on your life.

-4 Although not in the Forbes article, many articles and blogs have suggested some exercise.  Put on your tennis shoes and take a walk. It does have to be fast, but clear your mind and body by letting some endorphins flow as you exercise.

Realize that the world is not depending on you to continue to rotate.  Realize that this too shall pass. In a month, the holidays will be passed, and life will be back to normal (and maybe even boring).  

So, what do you do to relieve stress during the holidays?


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Blog #538 Drones

Drones continue to advance

How about a technology break today.  

In terms of disasters, fires, earthquakes, devastating hurricanes and storms, rescuers have to find survivors.  But in many cases, it is dangerous to enter buildings that have undergone structural damage.

This article in Homeland Security Newswire states:

“Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying robot could look for people trapped inside and guide the rescue team towards them. But the drone would often have to enter the building through a crack in a wall, a partially open window, or through bars – something the typical size of a drone does not allow.”

The drones (with cameras reporting back) can be flown into tight spaces and search for humans caught in the debris.

This article adds a new feature – retractable arms that can fit through small spaces. Again, the article states: “Inspired by birds that fold their wings in mid-air to cross narrow passages, the new drone can squeeze itself to pass through gaps and then go back to its previous shape, all the while continuing to fly. And it can even hold and transport objects along the way.”

Maybe a child has crawled up into a sewage pipe, or fallen through an attic joist, a drone with retractable arms can be flown into the see the position and help rescuers determine the best approach for rescue.

Drones can be used for a lot of things these days.  Drones are used by real estate people to show off remote properties (especially acreages where walking or driving might take too long).  They can record videos for later showing or video that is seen immediately like in a rescue.

Obviously, drones can also do other police work, such as seeking out fugitives hiding out in the woods or when equipped with heat-seeking devices can tell if a person is hiding under a tarp (like in the Boston Marathon bombing of a few years back.  

Drones can be used in traffic analysis and control.  An accident that has backed up traffic for miles can be viewed fairly quickly by drones.  

I’m thinking of my friend and former student, Nate, with his family decorating company – a drone with arms and ‘hands’ can help put decorations in shopping malls faster than putting up ladders and having larger crews.

Larger drones have been used with firefighters on forest fires.  Without exposing a human being to the heat and updrafts of fires, drones can bring water and fire retardant materials to the scene.

And, now, drones can fold their arms/winds and fly into smaller spaces for rescues.

Technology does bring both good and evil.  

Where do you see drones in your future?  Will they be good or not?


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Blog Post #537 Finding your motivation

Lost your motivation?  Some ideas for you.

Success.Com has eleven ideas for those who have lost their motivation.  I’m highlighting five of them today.

-1 Be with those that bring out the best in you; not those who bring out the stress in you
Let’s face it, there are positive, happy people in the world and there are the negative, unhappy people.  It is just plain more fun being with the positive people. Find the people that you like and enjoy and join in!!

-5 The only one who can beat me – is me!!

I’m going to do a few blogs on being the best version of you for the New Year.  You CAN and SHOULD be the best version of you!! (After all, who is a better ‘you’ than ‘you’!!!  Keep improving, keeping moving forward. Look in the mirror – how can you be better physically? More exercise?  Less junk food? How can you be better personally? Read more? Be friendlier? Put a smile on your face, take the first step, introduce yourself,

-7 This is what you came for.  You get one life. Live it. Life is not a spectator sport.  I’m looking at the senior activities in my area for tonight. Let’s see if I can get Connie interested too!!  

-8 Action conquers fear.  Get going!!! Sitting on the sidelines, chewing your fingernails is not what life is like!!  GO!!! Check out events and things in your area. Put a smile on your face, take the first step, introduce yourself.  Strangers are friends that you haven’t met you – so go out and make friends!!

-9 Die with memories not regrets
George HW Bush recently passed away.  One remembrance I have of him is that he went skydiving at the age of 90!!!  He could have said, “Nope – I’m 90, not doing that” – but instead he jumps out of a perfectly good plane!!!  What memories can you be making? What regrets are you going to move away from?

Make some plans to get going!!!  Yeehaw!!!


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Blog Post #536 Sour Grapes

Blog Post #536 Sour Grapes

I remember reading Aesop’s Fables as a child.  One that is on my mind today is the story of the Fox and the Grapes.  

The fox walks by and sees grapes hanging above him. They look fully ripe, juicy and most likely very sweet and satisfying.  But, the vine is quite a ways above the fox. The fox jumps several times but never gets close enough to the grapes. He walks away muttering something like “They were probably sour anyway”.

There are going to be times in our lives when we really want something.  Maybe it is that promotion; maybe it is a great job that pays twice as much as what you are earning now; maybe it is the perfect dream house.  But, there are also times when we can’t get that thing we want. You might have been a finalist for the promotion but the company opted to promote somebody else.  That dream job went to somebody else. You put in your offer for that dream house only to have somebody put in a higher offer.

Losing is part of life – just like winning.  It happens, and sometimes it really hurts.

The fox justified not getting the grapes (aka “losing”) by saying the grapes were sour but most likely deep in his brain (and heart) he still wants them.  

We can justify our loses.  And, then we can refocus our goals and our efforts.  Maybe the fox could have enlisted the help of a squirrel to help pick the grapes and drop them down.  Maybe (since it is a fairy tale) he could have found a ladder to climb the tree/branch to get the grapes.  Maybe he could have planted grape seeds and grown his own grapes – although that would not satisfy him for quite a while.  

If we were passed over for a promotion, we can do an analysis – how could we be a better candidate.  Or why we were not selected. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances we can’t see. Maybe the company wanted somebody who could speak Spanish (although that was not in the position announcement), or maybe the company really wanted a female to balance their male/female ratios (although not in the position announcement) and all other things being equal opted for a female candidate over a male candidate.  

We need to pick ourselves up and go on.  

Maybe saying the grapes were sour can be a good excuse in the short term, but working on improving ourselves might be the option for the future.

How do you handle disappointments like not being able to get the grapes?  How do you recover?


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Blog Post #535 Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

From this article, we have “Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD is a type of recurrent major depressive disorder in which episodes of depression occur during the same season each year. This condition is sometimes called the “winter blues.”

The article also adds “Seasonal affective disorder is estimated to affect 10 million Americans. Another 10 percent to 20 percent may have mild SAD. SAD is four times more common in women than in men.”

At this time of year leading up to the Winter Solstice, the hours of daylight decrease in the northern hemisphere.  If you live in Alaska or Northern Canada, you may be down to only a few hours of sunlight every day, and if you live above the Arctic Circle, you might have NO sunlight during the day.  Of course, that also changes in the summer, when those areas get sunlight almost 24 hours every day around June 21st, the Summer Solstice.

You might think of this as ‘cabin fever’ too.  

Symptoms might include:

-. Depressions

-. Sadness

-. Gaining weight

-. Loss of energy

-. Being always tired

-. Isolation from social activities


Some treatment options include the use of a sunlamp or a lightbox to bring some extra light.  Fairbanks Alaska gets about 3 hours of sunlight at this time of year – so feeling sun-deprived is part of the situation.


Other suggestions to overcome SAD include planning activities for the winter season.  Maybe you can take a vacation to Florida, or be a ‘snow bird’ to Arizona or Texas. Do physical activities.  Many studies suggest that getting exercise does help to brighten one’s attitude when you are depressed. Watch your mood and energy.  If you are having some of the symptoms from above, plan to get activity and plan to get more light into your life through a sun lamp or lightbox.

Know the symptoms and monitor yourself to keep yourself happy and to cut down on depression.

Do you get SAD?  Do you know of others that do?


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Blog Post #534 Special Gifts

Blog post #534 Gifts from your parents

I am thinking about the ‘unusual’ gifts I received from my parents – not really Christmas Presents or Birthday Presents – but just ‘gifts’.

From my parents I received:

-German lessons.  My family has a German (and other) heritage and in our community, there was a Saturday morning session for kids to learn to speak German. I have no idea what was the cost (plus it was across town and one of my parents had to drive me there).  There are a few things I remember. I was about 6th grade and loved to learn. This was a good learning experience for me. Thanks Mom and Dad!!

– Drama classes.  Likewise, about the same age (5th/6th/7th grade), my parents enrolled me in some drama classes.  I learned to act in plays and a bit about drama and plays. This also was a great experience. Thanks Mom and Dad!!

– Music.  My parents also enrolled me in piano lessons.  Fortunately, that was across the street so no driving to get there!!!  I wasn’t ever ‘great’ but did get some good experiences. Fourth years later, I enrolled (really audited) a one-credit piano class on campus.  Those music lessons helped my play tuba. I can still play some simple things on the piano. I even got to play at the Charles De Gaulle/Paris airport on our way home from our Rhine River Cruise as the airport had a piano sitting out with the sign, ‘feel free to play’.  My parents also signed me up for the children’s choir at Church so I could sing as well as play music. I experienced a love of music (and especially classical/romantic music) from that gift. Thanks Mom and Dad!!

– Scouts.  Although I never reached the Eagle Scout rank, I did learn some basic camping and other activities as a Boy Scout.  (And I did pass this on, as I was a Scoutmaster for a while and did encourage our son to be an Eagle Scout and our daughter to be an active Girl Scout).  Thanks Mom and Dad

– Reading.  My parents encouraged my sister and me to read.  I can remember from third grade as the teacher encouraged children to go to the library and she actually took children in her car to the big downtown library on Thursday nights.  On Thursday nights the shops and stores were open late, and I went with my parents to our candy shop and then walked to the library and met up with a few of my classmates. Thanks Mom and Dad (and teachers)

– Games.  While I had some spending money, I was allowed to buy Jigsaw puzzles for 29 cents at Woolworth.  I loved putting those jigsaw puzzles together. I’d like to think that gave me some spatial understanding and artistic appreciation.  We also played games at home. Thanks Mom and Dad.

– Spiritual gifts.  My parents took my sister and myself to Sunday School and Church every Sunday.  (Someplace I have pins for perfect attendance for ten years!!). Thanks Mom and Dad.

In many respects, these gifts from my parents were hard on them.  We were not flush with money (lower middle class), but these gifts kept on giving – and these gifts were really just “LOVE” in a different package.  

As we approach this gift-giving season, are you thinking about those longer lasting gifts of knowledge?  What can you give to your children, grandchildren that they will remember when they are 70 years old?


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Blog Post #533 Simplifying Christmas

Simplifying Christmas

As with the Griswald’s in Christmas Vacation, the Holidays can be stressful.  In that movie, Clark installs enough Christmas lights to take down the city’s power grid, plus many more ‘only in the movies’ scenarios.

The Holidays are hard on people who are alone.  Elvis sang “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you”.  I’ve heard of various churches having ‘Blue Christmas’ services – focusing on reaching out to those who are hurting.  Some of those churches have renamed this as “Longest Night” and hold this service on December 21st – the Winter Solstice (or … the day with the longest darkness in the northern hemisphere).

The article I selected today also gives some hints about simplifying the Holidays:

-1 Shopping for everyone.  Sure, it is nice to get a package to open from Uncle Jack and Aunt Barb, but the authors suggest gift cards (or cash).  For teenagers especially. You could buy them clothes that will never get worn, or give them the gift cards and they can use the money the way they want to.

-2 Be careful about the traditions.  You don’t have to have all the traditions every year.  Do you have two Christmas trees to set up? Maybe this year you can get away with only one tree – or (radical) no Christmas tree!!  You might not need to watch all the old Christmas movies – pick a few to watch and keep the others on hold for next year.

-3 Cut back on traditions.  Maybe there are some traditions that can be thrown away.  We simplified several years ago with an artificial tree. Yes, we don’t ‘waste’ a whole Saturday going to a tree farm, to find the ‘perfect’ tree.  Maybe you host some of your friends from work. You can cut that back a little too. You might even make it better – by doing something different like “This year, instead of having a Christmas Party, we are donating $$$ to the Salvation Army homeless project, or to Alzheimer’s research” or some other charity.  Taking the kids under 8 years old to see Santa might be good, but just try to get your teenagers to sit on Santa’s lap will be too much stress.

-4 Cut down on traveling.  Most younger families have two sets of parents and families.  Unless they live real close it is hard to do to both sets of families every year.  Or, split it up. For Thanksgiving, you can go to his parents and for Christmas, you can go to your parents.  

-5 How about the thoughtful gifts – cookies, breads, and even other homemade things.  Don’t overdo it though, or your December will be spent in the kitchen baking!! The author suggests to only make one or two types of cookies, not the two-hundred variety of cookies in Better Homes and Gardens’ Holiday edition.

-6 Watch your time.  Don’t commit to every event and invitation.  If you have a religious background, you don’t really have to go to all the services and events.  You can explain that you are just trying to get away from the stress of the season.

-7 Learn to say “NO”.  Be reasonable. Make it a season of love, not a season of stress.  

-8 Give back – to charities and others that you support.  Maybe you can even sign up for bell ringing for the Salvation Army’s red kettles.  

How about you?  Cutting back a little this year?  We are!!



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