Father’s Day in the United States

A History of the Origins of Dad’s Holiday and Some Father’s Day Gift Suggestions

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Happy Father's Day!
Happy Father’s Day!
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Here in the US, Father’s Day follows close on the heels of Mother’s Day. And, like that day of maternal honor, it has its own history. Actually, there are two commonly accepted stories of when Father’s Day in the US had its debut. Which one you subscribe to is fine. Both if you prefer; it’s a big tent. Let’s look at the left coast story first.

Founder: Sonora Smart Dodd

Date: 1910. Place: Washington state. Dodd was attending Mother’s Day sermon at church in 1909 when she reflected that mothers were on the receiving end of all the acclaim but fathers were getting short-changed with respect to a day of praise.

No wonder this rankled her. Her own father– William Smart, a Civil War veteran–became a widower–when his wife died as she gave birth to their sixth child. He went on to raise the six children by himself on their Washington homestead.

Her preferred date was June 5th. This was the anniversary of her father’s passing so it was the obvious choice to designate to celebrate Father’s Day, but because of faulty planning, the initial celebration located in Spokane, Washington was shifted to the third Sunday in June. Close enough. Now, let’s look at the second story.



Founder: Grace Golden Clayton

Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908–a deadly mine explosion had just killed 361 men. Clayton suggested to the minister of the local Methodist church that they hold services to celebrate fathers. Those taking up the banner of support, such as memory lasts longer than a doo-dad. Now that the Covid-19 lockdown has eased, I suppose we can do that again. Here are some popular gifts.

  • Tools. Always a favorite, tools are essential for hobbies and DIY projects. I’m a big proponent of the Ryobi 18V ONE+ family of power tools. Since all the tools operate off the same battery type, compatibility is guaranteed. Hand tools are always a good choice as well.
  • Sports watch. Most fathers are into some kind of fitness today. It can be running, like me, golf, cycling, hiking, etc. Whatever it is, chances are there’s a specific Garmin GPS sports watch for it. I’ve been using Garmin watches for years. Today’s watches do so much.
  • Personal weather station. Is dad a weather geek? Does he like gadgets? I recently installed an Ambient weather station in my front yard. I have the display console on my desk in my home office. The Weather Channel is fine but now I know what’s happening right at my house, not just what is happening generically in the general area. When I step out the front door for a run, I need to know not only the heat but also the humidity.
  • Is dad a reader? I’m a big Kindle fan. I still have my Kindle Paperwhite but I’ve upgraded to the Fire HD 10 Tablet. It’s got the Kindle plus all the functionality to keep up with social platforms, email, and more. I wish I had this when I was making the long commute to work on the Metro bus and train.
  • Cold Brew coffee maker. I love my piping hot coffee in the morning but nothing beats a glass of cold brew in the afternoon. It’s available in the grocery store but my issue is that it’s too expensive because it is currently trendy with hipsters. My solution? I brew my own in the fridge. Read my review of the Zulay Cold Brew Coffee Maker.

Although many other countries have their own customs to pay homage to dad, Father’s Day in the United States is really a great holiday. Even during these trying times when we are pelted with such juvenile bromides as “patriarchy,” “old white men,” and “male oppression,” there still lingers a core of reverence for the traditional family unit.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

History of Mother’s Day

Celebrating Mom in America and the Curious Case of Anna Jarvis

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Happy Mother's Day
Happy Mother’s Day!
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Mother’s Day here in the U.S. is celebrated at just the right time of year — spring, a time of hope, renewal, and new life. In the United States, Mother’s Day 2021 will occur on Sunday, May 9. Many other countries around the world celebrate their version of Mother’s Day on traditional dates with their individual customs.

Early History of Mother’s Day

Those in the know tell us that the origins of Mother’s Day stretch back to the ancient Roman and Greek civilizations. They staged festivals to honor the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. The most modern precedent for our model of Mother’s Day is the old Christian festival called “Mothering Sunday.”

This was at one time a major celebration in the United Kingdom and some areas of Europe. This celebration was held on the fourth Sunday during Lent. It was viewed as a time when the faithful folks would visit their “mother church.” This was the main church closest to their home. There, a special service would be held.



Evolving over time, the Mothering Sunday tradition became a more secular holiday, much as St. Patrick’s Day has. Children would gift their mothers flowers and a variety of other tokens of their appreciation. Eventually, this custom bowed out of popularity before forming the basis of the American version of Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.

Mother’s Day in America

The traditions of Mother’s Day as celebrated in the United States date back to the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped create what were called “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.

The clubs turned out to be an important unifying force in an area of the country that was still at odds over the Civil War. Then in 1868 Jarvis created “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers joined with prior Union and Confederate soldiers in order to promote reconciliation.

Another player in the development of the holiday was the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe. Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870. It asked mothers to unite to promote world peace. (Sound familiar?) In 1873 She pushed for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated on June 2.

There were others. Juliet Calhoun Blakely, for one. She was a temperance activist who conceived of a local Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan, in the 1870s. Mary Towles Sasseen and Frank Hering collaborated to organize a Mothers’ Day in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hering has been dubbed “the father of Mothers’ Day.”



Enter Anna Jarvis

What we know today as the official Mother’s Day holiday came about in the 1900s resulting from the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. After her mother’s death in 1905, Anna Jarvis developed Mother’s Day to commemorate the sacrifices mothers typically make for the sake of their children.

She organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. She funded this by securing financial support from Philadelphia department store owner John Wanamaker in May 1908. Coincidentally, on that same day, thousands of people attended another Mother’s Day event held at one of Wanamaker’s stores located in Philadelphia. Should this use of a department store have been a foreshadowing event for Jarvis?

After the overwhelming success of the first Mother’s Day, Jarvis was determined to see that her holiday was appended to the existing national calendar. She contended that U.S. holidays were skewed toward the achievements of men. She initiated a huge letter-writing campaign to newspapers and politicians recommending the adoption of a unique day to honor motherhood.

A great number of states, towns, and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday by 1912. Jarvis had put in place the Mother’s Day International Association as a means to promote the cause. Her persistence bore fruit in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed off on a measure that officially established the second Sunday each May as Mother’s Day.



Jarvis is Conflicted

Jarvis had imagined Mother’s Day to be a day of happiness between mothers, children, and families. Wearing a white carnation as an emblem was to be part of the tradition. Visiting with one’s mother or going to church services were to be standard protocol. However, as soon as Mother’s Day was recognized as a national holiday, florist vendors, greeting card companies, and other commercial interests jumped on its popularity. This all went against Jarvis’ grain.

Ironically, Jarvis had worked with the floral industry initially to assist in promoting the Mother’s Day’s concept. Now she had become disillusioned with how the day had been turned into such a commercial machine. She outspokenly repudiated the way things had turned out and urged people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards, and candies.



Eventually, Jarvis mounted an open campaign against these interests. She spoke out against candy companies, florists, and yes, even charities. Additionally, she launched a slew of lawsuits against organizations that used the term “Mother’s Day.” In the end, she exhausted the bulk of her personal wealth in legal fees. By the time she died in 1948, Jarvis had disowned the holiday lock, stock, and barrel, and she even lobbied the government to see it removed from the American calendar. Altogether a sad bit of American history.

On the bright side, we still have a wonderful Mother’s Day holiday, commercial warts and all.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Valentine’s Day Outdoor Space Ideas

Romantic Gestures That Keep on Giving (Unlike Cut Flowers)

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Lilies blooming in the flower bed
Lilies blooming in the flower bed
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Valentine’s Day is a perfect example of a holiday that inspires us to redesign spaces inside and outside our homes. Designing an outdoor space for a Valentine’s Day gift or parties and celebrations can be a lasting surprise for someone that you care about pleasing. Many gardeners remind us that Valentine’s Day is the time to trim our rose bushes so that choice makes perfect sense.

Any climate-appropriate plants are a great way to improve the look of your yard, flower bed, garden, or outdoor living space. Here are a few plant, seating, and lighting ideas that can help you design the space of your dreams at this time of year when nature is just busting out. Just think of it as the opportunity to tackle that list of new year’s DIY projects!

Choosing the Perfect Flower

Almost every woman that I’ve ever met loves to get flowers on Valentine’s Day, and some would far rather receive something living that will bloom on more than just that one day. After all, why limit yourself to a wilting bouquet when you can have cut flowers on a regular basis?



Many of us don’t mind caring for the flower or floral arrangement minimally, either, especially during the mild spring and fall months. Annuals, such as the coriopsis below, are very hardy and come back year after year once established. Our bird friends help to distribute the thistle seeds so keep those bird feeders full.

Coriopsis flowers in full bloom
Coriopsis flowers in full bloom

It goes without saying that the perfect flower species should be designed to suit your climate, sunlight requirements, and of course, soil conditions. If you are unsure of this type of information, talk to someone in a garden center, nursery, or plant retailer for more details. If your community is lucky enough to have a Master Gardener group, they are very knowledgeable about local plants and are generally very free with their information. Most even conduct indigenous plant and tree sales in the spring.

One useful tip is to find out her favorite color, and keep in mind how much time and energy will need to be devoted to caring for the plant. Design your outdoor Valentine’s Day surprise with this basic information in mind, so that you can be sure that your significant other will appreciate what you have created.

Find accents and accessories for the space in the favorite color if you cannot find in-season plants that are blooming for this special occasion, such as lighting, flags, decorations, water features (ponds, fountains), and similar items designed for outdoor use. These all are animal-friendly and count towards your nature-conservation efforts.

Choosing Outdoor Seating Arrangements

If the space is large enough, why not consider adding seating to your outdoor space to create the romantic environment this day is known for inspiring.

A great garden bench is a wonderful idea, so that two can sit comfortably, but be sure that any seating arrangement you choose is intended for use outdoors, including fabric choices. Marketing claims are not always what they seem. If you have a homeowners association, check to ensure that your project falls under their (often unreasonable) guidelines. A garden bench with storage such as the one shown below, doubles as a spot to keep your gardening tools.

High-quality and functional furniture will ensure that your gift lasts much longer, and the durable and beautiful addition will add monetary and aesthetic value to your home. We can’t say enough about home equity, can we?

Your seating needs to strike a balance; make it comfortable without presenting health risks. Select fabrics that are specifically designed and treated for outdoor use, so that the fabric does not mildew or mold after the first hint of condensation or dew.



Choosing Exterior Lighting

You may or may not be spending a significant amount of time in your space outdoors after the sun sets, but adding exterior lighting changes that parameter and gives you that opportunity should you desire to sit, entertain, and relax after the sun has gone down. A simple lantern, LED spotlight, or a couple of Tiki torches for the space is ideal for most arrangements.

The right combination and choice of illumination will add that perfect touch of light for a romantic rendezvous, this Valentine’s Day and into the foreseeable future. Certain lighting resembles candlelight, which is the most popular lighting for romance, so you can’t go wrong with a hint of light that doesn’t cost you an abundance of time, energy, or money to purchase or install.

Finally, if you really want to go big when you consider Valentine’s Day outdoor space ideas, think about a relaxing backyard deck. Springtime and income tax returns are coming; hint, hint.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Philosophy of Martin Luther King

Non-Violence in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi

by Kelly R. Smith

Martin Luther King and Barack Obama
Martin Luther King and Barack Obama
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Martin Luther King Jr., whose birth name was Michael King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He died on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. He was a Baptist minister and social activist who led the civil rights movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968. The central theme of his teachings and leadership was his philosophy of non-violence in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi.

The King Center explains the Triple Evils that MLK defined, “The Triple Evils of POVERTY, RACISM and MILITARISM are forms of violence that exist in a vicious cycle. They are interrelated, all-inclusive, and stand as barriers to our living in the Beloved Community. When we work to remedy one evil, we affect all evils. To work against the Triple Evils, you must develop a nonviolent frame of mind as described in the ‘Six Principles of Nonviolence’ and use the Kingian model for social action outlined in the ‘Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change’.”1

The Triple Evils

  1. Poverty. This Evil encompasses unemployment, homelessness, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, infant mortality, and slums. Poverty is not something new but we now have the resources to get rid of it. “The well off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for the least of these.”1
  2. Racism. This Evil refers to prejudicial mindsets, South Africa style apartheid, continuing ethnic conflict, anti-Semitism, sexism, colonialism (the one that Obama is frenetic about), homophobia, ageism, discrimination against disabled groups, stereotypes.
  3. Militarism. This Evil concerns war, imperialism, domestic violence, rape, domestic terrorism (Antifa, BLM), human trafficking from undocumented illegal aliens to sex workers, media violence, drug proliferation, child abuse, and violent crime.


King’s Six Principals of Non-Violence

MLK defined these fundamental principals in his book Stride Toward Freedom.

  1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and like happiness, emotionally.
  2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.
  3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people. The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.
  4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
  5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body. Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.
  6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win. Nonviolence believes that our righteous God is a God of justice.


Fact: Today over 700 streets in the Unites States are named after Martin Luther King Jr., with one such street in almost every major city.

King’s Six Steps of Nonviolent Social Change

  1. Information gathering. To understand and articulate an issue, problem or injustice facing a person, community, or institution you must do research. You must investigate and gather all vital information from all sides of the argument or issue so as to increase your understanding of the problem. You must become an expert on your opponent’s position in order to have empathy.
  2. Education. It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support and sympathy.
  3. Personal commitment. Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice.
  4. Discussion/negotiation. Using grace, humor and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. Look for what is positive in every action and statement the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but to call forth the good in the opponent.
  5. Direct action. These are actions taken when the opponent is unwilling to enter into, or remain in, discussion/negotiation. These actions impose a “creative tension” into the conflict, supplying moral pressure on your opponent to work with you in resolving the injustice.
  6. Reconciliation. Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step close to the ‘Beloved Community.’

The philosophy of Martin Luther King is sound and timeless. Unfortunately, his concepts are sadly lacking in today’s society. Instead, the mainstream media, social media, and the monied few seek to indulge in social engineering through fake news, censorship, and rigged elections. We can do better, can’t we?

Others are Reading

Reference

  1. The King Center, https://thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy/#:~:text=Fundamental%20tenets%20of%20Dr.%20King%E2%80%99s%20philosophy%20of%20nonviolence,to%20evil.It%20is%20aggressive%20spiritually%2C%20mentally%20and%20emotionally.


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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Will You be Visited by Krampus this Christmas?

by Kelly R. Smith

Impending doom at the hands of Krampus
Impending doom at the hands of Krampus
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When the holiday season begins to unfold, we begin to indulge in our favorite Christmas traditions. These vary greatly depending on locale and culture, but they’re all fun and grounded in tradition. Everybody is familiar with Santa Claus and his cohort, Rudolf, he of the illuminating red nose. But if you’ve been naughty this year, don’t be surprised if you get a visit from Krampus. Pity you.

Who is Krampus?

The malevolent and mythological Krampus is represented in the form of a hairy half-goat, half-demon. His job? To discipline wee children in the weeks prior to Christmas. His primary stomping grounds are in Germany, Austria, and neighboring Slovakian countries.

While the various Santa Claus representations are jolly old blokes who instill good behavior with the promise of gifts and candy, Krampus punishes naughty kids with whips and birch branches. He threatens to pull them down to his underworld in the event that they misbehave. St. Nicholas, a traditional Santa Claus figure, and Krampus, often work together, with St. Nicholas tending to the good children and Krampus menacing the naughty ones. It’s kind of a “good cop, bad cop” thing. To further increase anxiety, the Krampus goat-demon is traditionally depicted as a devil having a long, prehensile tongue and his feet are a curious mixture of human and hoof.

The History of Krampus

The term Krampus originates from the German word krampen which means “claw,” and the legend is old, pre-Christian in fact. During the 12th century, the Catholic Church not surprisingly tried to ban Krampus celebrations around the Christmas holiday because of the horned character’s resemblance to the devil. Krampus was also booted out of Austria during the 1930s at a time when the country suffered under fascist rule, as the Christian Social Party contended that the character, as represented, was unholy.

Modern Day Krampus

But in the end, it is hard to fight the will of the people and Krampus persisted in popular seasonal lore, with contemporary traditions featuring parades folks dressed in demonic-looking Krampus outfits in some European countries during December. In some countries Krampusnacht or “Krampus Night” is celebrated on December 5.

Today, the proliferation of the internet has exposed the traditional, and unusual-seeming Krampus lore to a multitude of people all over the world, giving Krampus a greater and more international presence during the Christmas season. Because of the figure’s pre-Christian roots, many neopaganists have come to embrace Krampus as one of their own.

So will you be visited by Krampus this Christmas? There might still be time to correct your naughty behavior. He’s watching; you can run but you can’t hide.

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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

How to Stop Overeating

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Everyday Feasting to Excess

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

The results of chronic overeating
The results of chronic overeating
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This post was updated on 04/17/21.

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It may seem odd — many of us eat way too much at Thanksgiving dinner. And then again on December 25th as if it was a Christmas tradition. And then what? According to the site Wild Simple Joy, the number 1 New Years resolution is to practice intuitive eating. This means, “Make a resolution to sit down and focus on your eating instead of multitasking. Practice listening to your body when you are thirsty, ACTUALLY hungry, and full (or something else, like just tired!)”1 Basically, pay attention and stop overeating!

Strategies to Stop Overeating

  • Don’t wait until you are starving. Many of us are not very good at knowing when we’re hungry until it’s too late. This leads to overeating by over-filling the feed bag and then scarfing it down, going past our fullness level before we realize it.
  • Pose the question — am I hungry enough for an apple? Why? Most of us can always find room for more desert but a piece of fruit? Not so much.
  • Drink a glass of water, ice tea, or cold brew coffee. This will partially fill your gut and trigger the “full” signal sooner. It will also begin to kick in your digestion process.
  • Enjoy your first few bites of your meal. Really tune in to the first few mouthfuls. “Your taste buds desensitize to food within the first few minutes, which make food not taste as good after that last bite threshold,” explains Stephanie Grasso, RDN. “Chewing slowly during those first few bites will not only delay overeating, but also allow you to appreciate the flavor of food at its peak.”
  • Remember that your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Swedish researchers found that, “When blindfolded, subjects ate 22% less food (p < 0.05), had shorter meal durations (p < 0.05), and had less decelerated eating curves (p < 0.05). Despite a smaller amount of food consumed when blindfolded, the reported feeling of fullness was identical to that reported after the larger meal consumed without blindfold.”2 This is most likely because when blindfolded, eaters relied more on internal satiety signals.
  • Eliminate distractions. Turn off your TV, get away from your computer, put your cell phone on silent. It’s difficult to tune into your body’s quiet taste and satiety cues when digital distractions take our focus off of the task at hand: simply eating. It’s easy; just sit at your table with a chair and a plate. This will ground you in a good environment and mind-set for eating intuitively.



  • Balance your meal. The ideal meal includes a mix of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. This is more likely to satiate you more rapidly and keep you feeling full longer. When meals are balanced, we get shorter-term energy from starchy veggies and grains and longer-term energy from healthy fat and protein. Furthermore, healthy fats (olive oil, avocados) and proteins slow your digestion process, giving your satiety hormones a chance to multiply, signaling that you are getting full. As far as carbohydrates go, shoot for a mixture of whole grains, starchy vegetables, and non-starchy vegetables.
  • Take your time already. As you eat your meal, take time to pause and put your fork down. This will give you an opportunity to pace yourself and determine how full you are. Engage in conversation if you’re dining with someone. Take deep breaths, and have a sip of water or wine. Repeat this process as you eat. Allow yourself visual reminders; after you’ve finished a quarter of your food, to set the fork down and so forth.
  • Manage your stress in other ways. Many of us eat as a reaction to stress as much as we do when we are hungry. The solution? Siphon off that stress at regular intervals. Take myself for example. Here I sit all day long producing hopefully interesting content for you, esteemed reader. My Garmin 235 watch sends me a “move” signal when I’ve had too much butt-time. So I go for a stroll and listen to Audible.com audio books on my iPhone. Sometimes a quarter mile, sometimes a mile and a half. When I get back, bingo! Stress gone, the well of creativity duly refreshed.


  • Avoid “The Last Supper Effect.” Whenever we put a particular food on the banned list, the desire for it goes up. That’s just human nature. If you forbid yourself from eating certain things, you are very likely to overindulge in them while you still can, a phenomenon also known as the “last supper effect.” This can also carry over after you stop eating a given food, during those furtive sneaking episodes.
  • Be aware of and manage trigger foods. We all have foods that trigger overeating and avoiding them can help minimize your chances of overeating. For example, if you know ice cream is likely to trigger a late-night binge or a ravenous episode of overeating, it’s not a good idea to keep it stocked in your freezer. The more difficult it is to get at something, the less likely you will be be to overeat that particular item.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you to stop overeating, during the holiday season and beyond. Get a head start on those New Years resolutions and get a handle on that weight management program you keep telling yourself about.

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References

  1. Dawn Perez, Wild Simple Joy, New Year’s Resolution Ideas for Your Best Life in 2021!, https://wildsimplejoy.com/new-years-resolution-ideas-for-personal-development/
  2. Dr. Yvonne Linné, Britta Barkeling, Stephan Rössner, Pål Rooth, Wiley Online Library, Vision and Eating Behavior, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1038/oby.2002.15

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Birthday and Christmas Gifts for Runners and Fitness Enthusiasts

by Kelly R. Smith

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Best Christmas gifts for runners and fitness enthusiasts
Best Christmas gifts for runners and fitness enthusiasts

Everyone loves gifts. It’s better to give than to receive. What do you give the person that has everything? All very true, but when it comes to birthday and Christmas gifts for runners and fitness enthusiasts, there’s always something new on the market. Marketers know that running gear and gadgets are powerful motivators and that is a good thing for gift-givers. So, how to choose?

Cold Weather running Gear

The weather outside is frightful, as the song says. Well, maybe not so much here in South Texas, but there’s the odd 40° morning here and there. Given that many runners are smack dab in the middle of training for a winter marathon, some cold weather gear is in order.

  • Compression Arm sleeves. You might have heard them called sports sleeves. They’re really getting to be a thing for those of us who are thermally challenged. They might look odd, but so were Bluetooth ear buds when they first came out; go figure. Compression arm sleeves can be handy when a runner’s core temperature doesn’t warrant a long-sleeved shirt isn’t needed; just go with a singlet and sleeves.
  • Technical running gloves or mittens. These work in our area since you can wear them when you head out in cold running weather, and then take them off and tuck them into your waistband when you warm up or catch a tailwind.
  • Running jacket. Although any windbreaker will do the job, a specialized running jacket is preferable because it’s engineered for the job — pockets, detachable hood, water-repellent, etc. I bought the Adidas Men’s Running Supernova Tokyo Jacket last winter; here is my running jacket review.

Christmas Gifts that Keep on Giving all Year Long

Some fitness gear spans all the seasons. that’s a good thing. Check these out.

  • Water bottles and hydration devices. Hydrate or die is the phrase that springs to mind. This market has really expanded with customers involved in all sports. The most basic variety is the hand-held. Then there’s the one I like, the Fuelbelt Sprint 10-ounce Palm Holder with Pocket. It’s a regular bottle but it comes with a cushioned strap. This means you don’t have to keep a tight grip on it as the miles roll by. CamelBak “backpacks” used to be just a cycling thing, but more and more runners are wearing them. I suppose they would be handy for fastpacking, but it seems a little extreme otherwise. Plus, in the summer it reduces available exposed skin area for cooling by evaporation.
  • Running safety gear. This is one item that’s isn’t used as much as it should be. We train on the roads and we sometimes get out there in the dark; people drive disconnected, what with texting and such behavior. Obviously, despite all cautions taken, runners and cyclists do get hit. At the very least have your contact information available. I’ve been wearing a Road ID emergency information bracelet for years now. Its got a metal tag stamped with my name, address, two contact phone numbers, and my blood pressure medication.
  • Technical running socks. Unless you’re a barefoot runner, you’re always going to need a pair or two in the drawer and one on your feet. Shop for socks that are specifically designed for running to minimize the chance of blisters.
  • Body Glide or another anti-chafe lubricant. Back in the day we had to settle for Vaseline. It worked but was temperamental on very cold or very hot days and what ratio of days does that constitute in your world? And, it stained clothes. No more; now we’ve got Body Glide, possibly the most effective anti-chafing product available. It comes in a handy applicator resembling a deodorant stick. No more dipping your fingers into the Vaseline tub.


Hopefully, this article provided a good jumping off point in terms of ideas for birthday and Christmas gifts for the runners and fitness enthusiasts in your life. The good thing is that they are all functional and sure to be appreciated.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Who Was Halloween’s Jack-o’-Lantern?

The History Behind this Holiday’s Spooky, Eldritch Icon

by Kelly R. Smith

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Spooky Halloween Jack o' Lanterns
Spooky Halloween Jack o’ Lanterns

This Halloween season, like many that have come before, people far and wide will be carving Jack o’ Lanterns and putting their creations on displays. For this, farmers all over the country thank you. You likely know of Halloween’s Irish origin, but where did this festive fellow come from?

Who are Jack-o’-Lanterns Named For?

Jack has been a generic term for a lad since the 1500s and because of this, it found its way into a number of children’s songs and rhymes. The English own the original use of the phrase jack-o’-lantern. During the 17th century, it meant a night watchman who carried a lantern as he made his rounds.

But as it turns out, jack-o’-lantern was also a name for bizarre, flickering lights that were seen at night lingering over wetlands or peat bogs and thought to be fairies or ghosts. Actually, it’s natural phenomenon that is known as ignis fatuus, or “foolish fire,” friar’s lantern, and will-o’-the-wisp.

Fast Forward to the mid-1800s

What is known as a turnip lantern became known as a jack-o’-lantern. Young boys fashioned these hollowed-out and lit-up root veggies and used them to spook people. One Irish legend in particular says that this use of jack-o’-lantern was named after a fellow named Stingy Jack.

Fun fact: One quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween.

Dictionary.com

This legend has it that Stingy Jack believed that he had tricked the devil, however in fact the devil had the last laugh. Ever vindictive, the devil condemned Jack to a lonely eternity wandering over the earth with only an ember of hellfire to light his way. Jack’s lanterns were carved out of potatoes, turnips in Scotland and Ireland, but beets were the vegetable of choice in England. When immigrants brought along this custom with them to North America, for some reason pumpkins eventually became the vegetable of choice. But it makes sense; they are easier to carve.

Pumpkin carving taken to the next level

A More Sinister Jack o’ Lantern

There is also a more dangerous rather than spooky version of a jack-o’-lantern. A poisonous glowing orange fungus known as Omphalotus olearius is commonly known by the layman as the jack-o’-lantern mushroom! It’s found in wooded areas across Europe, this glowing growth forms clusters at the base of decomposing tree stumps. Don’t eat it; try a Shiitake mushroom growing kit instead.

There’s your daily dose of Halloween history. There’s a lot more to Jack o’ Lantern than most people think.



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Classic Halloween Movies for a Scary Evening In

by Kelly R. Smith

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Halloween movies -- a timeless, spooky genre
Halloween movies — a timeless, spooky genre

In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III declared November 1 as a day to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the Irish traditions of Samhain (Oíche Shamhna). The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween.

Today, of course, Halloween is known as a secular holiday. Trick or treating is one of the biggest forms of hoopla for kids but as far as adult parties go, this is one of biggest nights of the year. CBS News, in 2014, said, “One new survey says the typical American will shell out over $250 this Halloween, and another says the total will be a cool $7.4 billion, with the bulk of it going toward costumes, candy, decorations and either throwing or attending a Halloween party.”

This year will be a little different because of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing. In a sense, we are already in costume, what with the face mask mandate. This year, many of us will be staying in (please participate in the poll on the right-hand side of this page). That is not such a bad thing, since we have so many Halloween movies to watch. Let’s look at some of the best. Don’t forget to wear your blue-light glasses.

Scream (1996)

A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game. You’ll Scream.

Beetlejuice (1988)

Beetlejuice is Tim Burton’s horror/comedy classic. It follows a ghostly couple who haunt their prior residence, alongside a devious poltergeist named Beetlejuice. Get ready for the laughs and the famous striped suit.

Get Out (2017)

Chris Washington is a talented young black photographer who prepares to meet his Caucasian girlfriend Rose Armitage’s parents during a weekend in their Lake Pontaco home, a secluded estate in the woods. Why is there an off-limits, locked room that leads to the basement? The question is, can he Get Out in time?

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

An artificial man, who was incompletely constructed and has scissors for hands and is quite adept with power tools, leads a solitary life. Then one day, a suburban lady meets him and introduces him to her world. Brought to you by Tim Burton.

Halloween (1978)

The name Halloween says it all, doesn’t it? This slasher flick stars the lovely Jamie Lee Curtis and follows a mental patient and murderer who has fled from a sanitarium and returns to his hometown to stalk innocent people.

Carrie (1976)

Nobody does horror quite like Stephen King. If you don’t find the prom scary, you soon will. The novel adaptation has become a cult classic, and Carrie really is one of the all-time creepiest teen movies of all time.

The Exorcist (1973)

Regan, who had been an average child, is showing signs of unusual behavior, such as hyperactivity, swearing, lying, and lack of concentration. Things go from bad to worse until the decision is made to have her exorcised by Father Damien Karras who is a psychiatric counselor for the Catholic church. In The Exorcist, it’s going to get ugly.

Hocus Pocus (1993)

OK, Hocus Pocus is more of a comedy, from Walt Disney of course. It stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. They are three Salem, Massachusetts witches who are resurrected just in time for Halloween.

Child’s Play (1988)

For his sixth birthday, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) requests that his mother, Karen (Catherine Hicks), buy him a Good Guys doll that he wants. When a peddler has one for a reasonable price, Karen buys the doll. Mayhem ensues.

Mother! (2017)

This psychological thriller features a young husband and wife. Their lives are disrupted by the unexpected arrival of a strange and mysterious couple. The cast includes Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Casper (1995)

Casper is voiced by Malachi Pearson. He’s a kindly young ghost who peacefully haunts a home up in Maine. When James Harvey (Bill Pullman) shows up to communicate with Casper and his fellow spirits, he brings along his teenage daughter, Kat (Christina Ricci). Casper falls in love with Kat, but their relationship is complicated not only by his ghostly state, but also by his trouble-making apparition uncles and their mischievous goings-on.

Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the longest running theatrical release in history and is a cult-favorite musical. Why? Because of its frequent, interactive showings around Halloween in particular and every week in some places. Feel free to karaoke.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

This horror movie served as the inspiration for countless films that followed, like Paranormal Activity. The movie revolves around three hikers who go to find the legend of Blair Witch and disappear—the movie entirely consists of “found footage,” supposedly recovered from the hikers.

The Craft (1996)

A new girl moves to a new city with her family to embrace a new life. There she meets up with other girls who are very drawn to the occult and together the four of them have seemingly unstoppable power. They can do anything, from getting their dream guys to like them to… the possibilities are limitless.

Paranormal Activity (2007)

This is the initial movie in the hyper-successful Paranormal Activity franchise. It uses “found footage” to follow a couple being haunted in their own home. If you like the movie, you’re in luck: there are six films in the franchise.

Halloweentown (1998)

This one is great for the whole family so if you’ve got little ones… go for it. When a young girl living with her good-witch grandmother learns she too is a witch, she must help her grandmother save Halloweentown from evil forces.

The Sixth Sense (1999)

Very few movie lines are as well known as The Sixth Sense‘s famed, “I see dead people.” This psychological thriller centers on a young boy who can communicate with the dead, and the psychologist who tries to help him. One of Bruce Willis’ finest performances.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Another offering from Tim Burton, this film is equal parts Halloween and Christmas movie, so you can just keep watching this animated feature from October through December. Who can resist following the King of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, as he makes his accidental journey into Christmas Town? Kids and adults alike will love the animation and the musical score.

So there you have it, a great lineup of movies for a Halloween video-binge with family and friends. We may have to forego trick n’ treating this year but we can still have fun and prank out favorite people.


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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


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Halloween is Based on the Irish Myths of Samhain

by Kelly R. Smith

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Irish Samhain became Halloween
Irish Samhain became Halloween

We tend to think of Halloween as a holiday of its own accord. But that is simply not true. Just as Christmas traditions and celebrations have connections to the winter solstice and Easter has merged with pagan spring celebrations and has connections to the Jewish Passover, Halloween is based on the Irish myths of Samhain. It is called Oíche Shamhna in Irish Gaelic.

What is Samhain?

As the the Celts understood it, the year was divided into two parts. The “lighter” part was in the summer and the darker part was in the winter. Samhain, or Halloween as it is now called, was the separation between these parts. They believed that the veil betwixt our world and the otherworld was at its thinnest just then. Oíche Shamhna (October 31) is Halloween and Lá na Marbh (November 1) is the Day of the Dead, or All Saints Day when those who have passed away are remembered.

Irish Myths of Samhain

  • Fionn MacCool. According to one of the several tales told in the “Tales of the Elders,” each year at Samhain for twenty-three years the fire-breathing creature Aillen would lull the men of Tara to slumber and then burn the court to the ground during the night. The young hero Fionn MacCumhail avoided sleep. He stuck the sharp end of his spear into his forehead (ouch!) and killed Aillen with that spear. Because of this act, he was made the head of the Fianna.
  • Queen Maeve. As written in In the ancient Irish epic poem “Tain Bo Cualigne,” the legendary Queen Maeve of Connacht waits until Samhain to begin the Cattle Raid of Cooley. In the course of her raid, which drives the plot of the epic, she tries to catch a prize bull of Ulster in order to equal the possessions of her husband Aillel. The hero Cu Chulainn single-handedly protects Ulster until the Ulster men’s birth pangs finish and they can do battle.
  • Lugh. Arguably best known as Cu Chulainn’s father, the god of light arrives the court at Tara to join the Tuatha de Dannan at Samhain. According to Whitney Stokes’ 1891 volume “The Second Battle of Moytura,” as soon as Lugh enters the court, the Tuatha de Danann are oppressed by the Fomorians. After the high king gives him command over the Tuatha de Danna, Lugh begins preparations to overthrow them. After days of battle, Lugh and the Tuatha de Danna are victorious.
  • Nera. The hero that calls Cruachan home undergoes a bravery test ordered by King Ailill. For the king’s own gold-hilted sword, a man must leave Ailill’s hall and go to the gallows where a man had been hung and then tie a twig around the dead man’s ankle. Others had attempted this and given up when spirits harried them. But on Samhain night, Nera finishes the task and the man comes alive and asks for a cup of water. When Nera fetches him the water, he sees the royal buildings burned to the ground and a woman from the fairy mounds informs him it is a vision that will happen if the people of the court are not warned. In one version of the myth cited in Patricia Monaghan’s “Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore,” he is captured by the fairies and held in a fairy mound until next Samhain.
  • Emer. John T. Koch notes in “The Celts: History, Life, and Culture,” in the myth “The Wooing of Emer” Samhain is discussed a couple of times. The tale describes the courtship of the beautiful Emer, who is transformed into a variety of creatures before reuniting with her husband. Samhain is the first of the four “quarter days” mentioned by the titled heroine. Also in this story, Oengus claims the kingship of Bru na Boinne, what is today Newgrange, on Samhain.

So, these Irish myths of Samhain played a large part in the formation of we know today as Halloween. The celebration and traditions may have changed quite a bit, but it just goes to show the malleability of history and tradition. It’s a small world after all. Please participate in the poll located on the right-hand sidebar of this page.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.