Rise and Shine

Rise and Shine

Photo by Norma Thatcher

Non-English speakers learning our language face a common hurdle: idioms.

A strange word in and of itself, an idiom is defined as “a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.”

So cats and dogs are not literally falling from the sky with the raindrops, when I want you to wait you don’t actually have to hold the reins of horses, and great-aunt Matilda didn’t physically kick any bucket as she took her last breath.

Growing up hearing these phrases, we understand what they mean, but we don’t usually stop to think about how these odd phrasings came to be an accepted part of our language.

One of my personal favorites is rise and shine. In researching its origin, I discovered several theories. One source says it originated as a military order in the late 1800s and was considered an order to soldiers to get out of bed quickly and shine their boots; in order words, get up and get ready! Or as Dictionary.com says, shine here means “act lively, do well.”

Bloomsbury International figures the origin is from “18th-century sailor speak.” Back then, the life of a sailor could be harrowing. Besides dealing with hard-to-maneuver equipment, they often faced life-threatening weather, a lack of food supplies, and unsanitary living conditions. The sailors no sooner got to bed than it was time to get up. So the captain coined the phrase rise and shine to “inject positivity and cheer” upon waking.

I wonder how well that worked.

On The Phrase Finder, the experts believe that the phrase alludes to the Biblical reference in the 60th chapter of Isaiah, verse 1. We often hear this verse used at Christmas: Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

Since that verse from Isaiah has always been one of my favorites, I’m voting for this version of the origin.

And as recommended on KingsEnglish.Info:  So in the morning, just as you let the sun rise and shine upon you to brighten your face and give you warmth, so let Christ rise and shine upon you to give you hope and peace.

Stay tuned for Saturday’s post which is a follow-up to this one.


It turns out other languages use idioms as well. Check it out here.


Who’s Afraid of the Dark?

Afraid of the dark

Photo by DhivakaranS on Pexels.com

Fictional character Jack Reacher said something like this when looking out into the dark: It’s what everyone fears, whether they realize it or not…that thought that just maybe there’s something out there that’s going to get them.

Being afraid of the dark is usually a childhood manifestation that appears around the age of two and usually departs by the age of ten.

But sometimes it never goes away.

A 2016 British study showed that 64% of the country’s adults admitted to being afraid of the dark. 36% of the participants said they sense someone or something in the room with them. Many cited fearing something was hiding under their beds. Others said they never left their feet uncovered for fear that something would grab them.

It appears Brits are more afraid of the dark than are Americans; a study noted by Dr. John Mayer indicated around 11% of American adults admit to being afraid of the dark.

Still, that’s a lot of grown-ups sleeping with the lights on and their toes covered.

Although some people use the terms interchangeably, Nyctophobia is the psychological term for having an extreme fear of the night, and Achluophobia is the term for fearing darkness. The differentiation in my brain is that there can be darkness without night. Think of a trunk, a closet, or a basement without windows. Scared yet?

Why ARE we afraid of the dark? It goes back to our earliest beginnings. When the caveman poked out his head by dawn’s early light, he could see if any danger was lurking. During the day he could answer the Big Question: “Is that something I can eat or is it something that can eat me?”

So evolutionarily-wise, fear of the dark was an advantage in that it helped us stay alive for another day.

Even today the oldest part of our brain (referred to as the lizard brain or reptilian brain) assigns a negative connotation to something new or unfamiliar. THAT is why so many of us are uncomfortable with trying something new, whether it’s tasting something we’ve not had before, or taking a class where we don’t know anyone, or interviewing for a different job.

So darkness represents a terrifying unknown because, well, who knows what’s out there? There is very likely nothing, but we may imagine unlimited frightening possibilities.

Sometimes the darkness is in our heads and our hearts. We may have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one or a terrible blow to our self-esteem by a cheating spouse or from losing a job. A debilitating illness of our own or a family member may send us into a downward spiral. We’re frightened of this dark, terrifying unknown and we are fearful of what may be coming after us next.

Just as in actual darkness, we need a spark of light to help us see. The spark may be small, even perhaps short-lived, lasting long enough for us to venture one first step.

That spark is named hope.

Heart-and-head darkness is a prime breeding ground for despair and powerlessness. We simply can’t see any way for our situation to improve. We’re afraid to move for fear of making things worse. We don’t even try to feel our way to safer ground.

But someone sharing a spark of hope can be a lifeline in the darkness.


A former post of mine on the Lizard Brain

Article on childhood fears sticking with us

CNN Health article on hope


Let’s Give The Hands A Hand


Photo by Di Lewis on Pexels.com

A friend was recently lamenting that her hands look older than her face does. She’s in her late 50s. “How did THIS (holding up the backs of her hands to me) happen?!”

We may not consciously think much about our hands. But our hands are out there, taking the brunt of sun exposure, wind, cold weather, hot weather, cleaning solutions, dish liquid, and water. Women especially may have excellent routines for taking care of our faces, but our hands are most often forgotten.

Even if we take preventive methods to care for our hands, aging by itself wreaks havoc with them. To quote Amos Lavian (found of Dermelect Cosmeceuticals), “As you age, the elasticity of the skin on your hands as well as the abundance of collagen begins to dissipate, making the skin on your hands look and feel more fragile.”

It turns out that the skin on the backs of our hands is thinner so it is more prone to wrinkle anyhow. And our hands have fewer sebum-producing sebaceous glands than our faces do. Sebum is the oily stuff that helps keep the skin moisturized. How ironic, right? There are those of us who complain about our faces being too oily, when in fact we could use that extra oil on our hands.

Here’s the advice from experts on keeping our hands looking their best:

  • Use sunscreen on the backs of your hands and wrists year-round. Remember to reapply throughout the day. Although I do this now, I wish I had known that advice when I was 20. Currently, I use Aveeno Protect+Hydrate Face, SPF 50 on my hands.

  • Choose a hand cream that contains ceramides. These are molecules that help to retain moisture by creating a protective barrier. CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream (about $11) is a good choice.

  • Use a mild exfoliant once or twice a week. I am crazy about the product Aveeno Positively Radiant 60 Second in-shower Facial. So twice a week after I apply it to my face, I use it on the backs of my hands and my elbows. A minute later I massage it off as I rinse.

  • Use a hand cream just as you’re getting into bed when you know it won’t be washed off. Because my nails currently need some attention, I just started using Vaseline Healthy Hands Stronger Nails with Keratin. Too soon to tell any effect, but it feels luxurious going on and I really like the calming fragrance.

You’ll notice I don’t spend hundreds of dollars on any of these products. They can be bought at most drug stores or places like Target or Walmart.

My husband says that should I ever be noted for offering advice on a subject, it would be this: There isn’t much that a good cream can’t cure. Since I do sound rather zealous on today’s topic, maybe he’s right. Please don’t tell him I said that.


A Real Simple magazine article on the topic

Sticking Out Your Neck (or Head) Isn’t The Best Idea

Neck forward head

Image by Amandad on Pixabay.com

Sometimes when I’m driving, I suddenly realize that my head is sticking out in a forward position, almost as if there is something stuck on the windshield that I’m trying to see. I’ll pull my chin back in and straighten my posture. That lasts for a few minutes until I realize I’m doing it again.

It turns out that I’m not alone in this bad habit.

The condition is called Forward Head Posture and driving is only one of the areas where it becomes apparent.

Several experts have commented that this is becoming nearly an epidemic since the effect has origins other than driving. Typing, whether on a phone or keyboard, and texting are huge causes. Looking down while reading or scrolling on a phone also causes trouble. Even reading a book with your head tilted down is problematic.

Correct posture would have our ears positioned directly above the shoulders with our shoulders back and our chests open. This is the neutral position where the head’s weight is resting on the cervical spine. Here’s a good analogy: think of a golf ball resting on a tee, perfectly balanced.

Have you ever thought about the weight of your head? It turns out that the average human adult head weighs around ten pounds. The brain accounts for approximately three pounds, then we have the skull, the eyes, the teeth, the facial muscles, and the skin that holds it all together.

Consider a bowling ball. The lightest one weighs 6 pounds and the heaviest legal bowling ball weighs 16 pounds.

Yes, you have a mid-sized bowling ball being carried on the top of your spine.

So as I incorrectly hold my neck and head forward, my cervical spine has to support an increasing weight. Some spine experts say that for each inch the head is held forward, an additional 10 pounds of weight is added to the burden of the cervical spine. This causes many physical problems when some muscles in the neck and upper back are forced to overwork to counterbalance the pull of gravity on the shifted-forward head.

Mayo Clinic states that forward head posture leads to “long-term muscle strain, disc herniation, arthritis, and pinched nerves.”


Letting our heads lurch forward typically also has effects elsewhere. We hunch up our shoulders and round our upper backs which just adds to the pain and stiffness.

And newer research shows that poor posture not only impacts our physical health but also our mental health such as our mood, memory, and feelings of stress.

I am going to work on correcting this bad posture habit in myself. Like anything else that we want to change about ourselves, the awareness that we’re doing it is the very first step.


One chiropractor’s suggested exercises to correct the problem

NIH article on rounded shoulders and forward head position

Information from Spine-Health.com

USNews.com article on poor posture in general


A Book By Any Name


Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

My little town has been blessed with an independent book store on Main Street. The Old Town Open Book had a soft opening last Friday.

They sold 1700 volumes in six hours! The store was so busy it couldn’t even close on time; the local online paper reported the store stayed open an additional 90 minutes to finish ringing up customers.

What a wonderful problem!

The actual grand opening occurs this Friday evening and over 1000 people on Facebook have indicated they’re going.

I love my Virginia town of Warrenton and its people. Frankly, I’m not in the least surprised by the outpouring of support for our new bookstore.

On the site SeriousReading.com, there is a post called 30 Reasons to Read Books. Check out their post (link below) to read the other 27 benefits of reading a book besides figuring out a new skill, reducing stress, improving vocabulary.

When I used to interview job applicants, I consistently slipped in the question, “What was the last book you read?” Typically, I’d get the deer in headlight stare as a response. Occasionally, someone would answer “Uh, the Bible?” But they would phrase it in such a way to indicate they weren’t quite sure, and perhaps I knew the correct answer.

My public speaking students receive instruction from me on where and how to research a presentation topic. When I reach the point where I include a public library, I’ve actually had people laugh. Recently someone blurted out, “Do they still have those around?” That is just sad.

I encourage students to check out their local library because not only are there books, magazines, and DVDs to help with their research, but also modern libraries have an amazing array of electronic resources to help the public.

Many people, it seems, believe the only way to research a topic is by typing G-O-O-G-L-E.

Having just finished a recently published book titled I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel, I was reminded how vital books are to the human race. Maybe the lack of reading is one of the issues causing so many problems in our world. I wonder how many members of Congress read as a pastime? Mr. President?

Please…get a copy of this book and read it. But no—put down that phone or computer mouse. I don’t want you to order a copy online. I want you to find a bookstore, the smaller the better. If they don’t have it in stock, very likely they’ll be happy to order it for you. And yes, you can tell them Norma sent you.


SeriousReading.com link

The I’d Rather Be Reading book site


So Noted: Grab a Pen and Take Some Notes

Taking notes

Photo courtesy of difisher on Pixabay.com

I’m a note-taker. When I attend a meeting, presentation, or class, you can bet that pen and paper go with me. When I teach a class, within the first five minutes I am recommending note-taking to my students.

Studies show that we’re more likely to have long-term retention of new information if we write notes during the event and then periodically review those notes. Science tells us that taking notes by hand is better than via electronically.

And if we teach others the new information, our retention rate can jump as high as 90%.

When I find notes on an event I really enjoyed, reading those notes brings back a sense of my initial happiness.

Such was the case with Leadercast Women 2018. Last October I attended this simulcast with a group of local women as we joined thirty thousand women watching from around the world.

Here’s a paraphrased quote or idea from each of the nine speakers:

Jess Ekstrom: Failures legitimize quitting only if we let them.

Marilyn Tam: Ask yourself, what am I holding on to that is holding me back?

Ritu Bhasin:  What is one attribute you are not sharing due to fear of judgment?

Celeste Headlee: A computer’s operating system can multi-task, but a human being cannot.

Julia Landauer:  Pursue what’s terrifying and amazing.

Clemantine Wamariya: Be the storyteller of your life; create your own ending.

Sisters Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush: When you know someone has your back, you can be braver and take more chances.

Molly Fletcher: My personal philosophy is, “What a gift—I’m different!”

Had I not taken notes during this day-long presentation, it is highly unlikely I could be sharing ANY of these bits of wisdom.

And just think: Now that I’ve shared them, I have a 90% chance of remembering them forever!


Daniel Pink less-than-2-minute podcast on taking notes by hand

Estimated percentages for retaining new information based on how passively or actively we take in the new ideas


An Obsession is Born


Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Since I don’t watch the news or live television, I’m not the person to turn to for pop culture information or the latest show business buzz. But I couldn’t avoid seeing the online much-ado about Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper singing their nominated song Shallow live at the Oscars. So I pulled up YouTube and watched the two main characters from A Star is Born sing to each other. The rest of the world didn’t exist.

And that led me to watch the movie clip. And then I listened to the soundtrack. Soon I was viewing interviews and finding other clips from the movie to devour. Finally, I saw the movie at the theater.

Don’t think I’ve gone off the deep end. I’m just kidding about this post’s title; I’ve never been easy to impress and certainly am not star struck.

But I am impressed with the authenticity behind the making of the movie.

In case you don’t know the storyline, Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a seasoned musician with serious drug and alcohol addictions. He hears Gaga’s character Ally singing in a bar, and they begin a friendship. She’s a plain-Jane singer/songwriter with raw talent oozing from her pores. Jackson coaxes her on stage to sing Shallow with him at a concert. The two fall in love and join their musical talents and lives. As Ally’s career begins to soar as a solo artist, Jackson’s begins to slide as he struggles with his demons. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I’ll just remind you to have tissues or a hankie with you when you watch the movie.

Here are a few of the tactics employed to make the movie authentic:

  • They sang and played everything LIVE. There was NO lip-synching to a pre-recorded track as in most other films that feature singing.

  • The concert segments were filmed in front of actual concert goers. Cooper “borrowed” the stage just before several real concerts started. So those scenes of concert venues, with people screaming, clapping, and waving with outstretched arms, feel real because they ARE real.

  • Willie Nelson’s son Lukas and his Promise of the Real band were Jackson Maine’s band. Lukas co-wrote some of the music in the film.

  • Veteran actor Sam Elliott, playing Maine’s much older half-brother Bobby, said that everyone involved with the movie struck a real and deep relationship with each other. That’s why the chemistry worked in this movie; it wasn’t just acting. They felt it. One word that came up in most interviews was “trust.” They trusted Cooper as director and each other as actors. One comment was, “We lived as a family of trust.”

  • While the movie was filmed in less than two months, Cooper spent several years getting ready for the role. He trained with a dialect coach for twenty hours a week for a year on voice exercises and lowering his voice by an octave. Cooper knew who he wanted his character to sound like:  Sam Elliott. So he listened to recordings of Elliott’s voice and ended up with a gravelly, sort-of-mild-country-Texas accent. The movie uses this as an inside joke when Bobby accuses Jackson of “stealing his voice.”

  • How did actor/not musician Cooper enhance his musical talent? He spent eighteen months in vocal lessons and six months of guitar and piano lessons to prepare for his role.

  • There were many moments of raw emotion and real tears. One of the most touching scenes was brief and silent. An interviewer summed it up this way: “If a man can make you cry by backing up a pickup truck…”

So yes, bring a hankie.


Shallow, the movie clip

Good Morning America interview with Cooper and Elliott 

Color My World

Color my world with snow

Photo by Norma Thatcher

My spot of Virginia had an end-of-winter snowfall on Friday. The temperature was just right to produce picture-perfect snow; every single tree branch and bush was deliciously and thickly coated in white. The soggy marsh that’s supposed to be my yard was painted a pristine pearl except, of course, for the tracks of Mr. Fox who came by to see what I had left out for him.

Winter can be so dreary. The brief interlude of snow made everything bright again—for one day. Now we’re back to the blah sameness of grey.

I know Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real illness, a type of depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, the specific cause is unknown but it’s believed that reduced sunlight is a major factor. I’m wondering if it’s not just the diminished light but also the lack of color that depresses people in the bleak winter.

According to the website Regain.us, there is an Eastern medicine field called Color Therapy. While it’s not recognized as valid in the West, some people swear by it. The site says, Color therapy has been around at least since the time of Ancient Egypt. Egyptians believed in the power of light and used different colors of light to promote healing. Color therapy has continued to be important in some cultures. Even in Western societies that tend to prefer modern, institutionalized medicine, natural healers have continued to use colors to help people improve their physical and emotional health.”

What if rain actually looked like this card by American Craft?

Color is important to me. I rarely wear neutral shades any longer, and when I do, you can count on sparkly jewelry or a bright scarf to offset it.

Seeing designer all-white kitchens in magazines makes me break out in a sweat. To me, these look more like a sterile operating room instead of a home’s kitchen. I can never envision a family cooking, baking, doing dishes, leaning against the counters laughing at something in that environment. Well, maybe if they were masked and gloved. I can’t imagine making a mess in an all-white kitchen. The thought of my bright red homemade spaghetti sauce bubbling up and splatting against a white wall is enough to keep me up at night.

Nope. I need my colors.

Do-it-yourself coloring card by American Craft


Color My World song by Chicago

Color Therapy website


Show Me The Money…Or At Least How To Handle It

Money doesn't grow on trees

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

When my husband and I have finished a restaurant meal and the server attempts to hand my husband the check, he has a standard response as he gestures toward me: “Please give it to the Vice President of Finance.”

My husband is perfectly capable of reviewing the bill, calculating a tip, and pulling out a credit card. But for whatever reason, I just do it. And although hubby is our tax preparer, I’m the person in charge of our family finances as in paying the bills, reviewing medical statement charges, and balancing the checkbook.

According to an article in financial advisor Ric Edelman’s Inside Personal Finance, that puts me in the minority. Citing a study by the Journal of Consumer Research, Ric says, “The partner who has been responsible for the household finances has kept current with the family’s finances. He—it’s almost always the husband, according to the study—has continually expanded his knowledge about personal finance, because he’s constantly dealing with these issues. Meanwhile, the wife’s financial literacy stagnates. And the longer they are married, the greater this gap grows.”

This is a problem when the “financial” spouse dies or becomes incapacitated. Because along with grieving, the survivor may not be aware of how or when to pay the bills.

I became aware of the issue of financial illiteracy a couple of decades ago when I was a member of the Business and Professional Women. We held financial classes in the basics such as balancing a checkbook. It was amazing how many working women didn’t know how to do this because their spouses handled it.

Of course, online banking and bill paying have made this easier IF you are computer literate. For those who are not, I imagine that suddenly having to take on learning about and understanding the computer and the household financial management at the same time might be downright terrifying.

I’ve made it super easy for my husband to step in should something happen to me. All financial obligations are maintained on a spreadsheet, and each one is paid online except my annual trash collection expense. Categories are divided into pay monthly / quarterly / annually, and they’re set up in order of the due date. Most of the expenses are set to autopay; those few that don’t carry that option are highlighted to pay manually online. The websites are noted along with the user ID and the unique 12+ character passwords. (NOTE: If you use the same password for all of your accounts, please take the time to change that. And don’t make your password PASSWORD or 1password or something similar. You’re not a lazy person so why be lazy about your passwords?)

The bottom of the spreadsheet contains information on our mortgage and car loan so that all the pertinent information is immediately available such as interest rate, the original amount of loan, and the current balance.

As Jack Reacher says, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” Our adult daughter is aware of how to access all this same information should something happen to both her parents.

I encourage you to take the steps to make sure your financial matters can be handled easily when someone else needs to step in. If your spouse handles the responsibility, learn about it now. If your parents are living, talk to them about this topic. Should you have adult children, pass along the wisdom of being financially literate.

It’s never too soon to be smart about money. But it can be too late.


Journal of Consumer Research information

Inside Personal Finance


A Vision of American Womanhood

Vision of womanhood

Photo courtesy of Laura Seaton on Unsplash.com

If I ever wanted to be someone else, it was when I was twelve.

My mother must have cut my poker-straight hair for my school picture that year. It’s uh, how should I describe it, a bit uneven. Not just the bangs but all over. My face was bare of makeup, of course. I’m wearing this cheap nylon button-down sweater the same color as my hair. The photo could be titled Monochromatic with butchered hair.

Who I wanted to be that year was a Breck girl.

Edward Breck joined his father’s firm in 1929. Up to that time, the Breck Company sold tonics and creams. Edward developed a golden shampoo and soon hired commercial artist Charles Sheldon to create an image of the ideal girl-next-door woman.  Who naturally used Breck Shampoo to give her a gorgeous mane of hair.

Since the shampoo came in versions of dry, oily, and normal, the ad copy read, “One of them is all you need to be a Breck girl.”

The drawings were pastels in a soft focus. The girls/women looked angelic with halos of light and color surrounding them. The ads usually appeared on the back covers of women’s magazines. Originally, the women were average people, some of whom worked in the company’s offices.

In 1958 Ralph Williams took over as the artist. He later used models and actress such as Farrah Fawcett and Christie Brinkley as the visions for Breck.

But my favorite Breck Girls were the wholesome ones who looked as though they had never had a pimple or gotten dirt under their fingernails in their entire lives.

The Breck Girls were phased out in the late 70s. But in 1987 they brought her back in the form of a Georgia secretary because they wanted to be more in touch with the modern woman. Here’s how they described Cecilia Gouge in the Kentucky New Era newspaper of June 26, 1987:

Then the new owner (Dial Corporation) thought about bringing back a Breck girl in 1994. Over 3000 women showed up to audition. But I guess it fizzled out because I can’t find any news about the “winner.”

Keeping with the original premise likely wouldn’t work. I suppose the wholesome look is rather passé these days. What sells is sex; women in too tight, too short, too low-cut, too revealing clothes. Since the Breck girl images I was able to find were all copyright protected, I had to try to find a comparable look on the photo websites I use.  Using “girls with long wavy hair” as my search category, I found very few that would have been appropriate.

The photo I used at the top of this post is actually one that came up in the search, and I figured, Heck ya, why not? My readers know I have a strange sense of humor.

Links below will take you to some Breck girl images and related articles.

And to show you just how brave I am, here is my 6th-grade photo.


Smithsonian Magazine article from 2000 

Chicago Tribune article from 1994

Pictures of Breck girls on Flickr