In Praise of Napping

Today is National Napping Day, a day created by Camille and Dr. William Anthony in 1999 to spotlight the healthy benefits of catching up on quality sleep. Dr. Anthony noted: “We chose this particular Monday because Americans (and Canadians) are more ‘nap-ready’ than usual after losing an hour of sleep to daylight saving time.”

The benefits of napping are many, among them improvements in mental health and working memory (the ability to focus on one task while retaining others in memory) and reduction of coronary mortality. In a recent Greek study, researchers discovered that participants taking daily naps had a 37% less chance of contracting a fatal heart condition.

There is, however, one major disadvantage to napping: A nap is not a permanent solution to reaching daily sleep quotas. Sleep specialist Dr. David Dinges notes: “Naps cannot replace adequate recovery sleep over many days.”

Also, long naps (more than 30 minutes) can result in sleep inertia. As these nappers awaken from deep periods of sleep, they can experience grogginess and disorientation. While these feelings will dissipate within thirty minutes, they can affect performance in high-level tasks.

Afraid of being labeled lazy and slothful, some nappers downplay or conceal this daily practice. Non-nappers hesitate to start the practice, fearing they will develop some form of sleep inertia.

Wherever you are on this continuum, take a few minutes and read about ten high-powered historical figures who celebrated their napping and resulting productivity.

Winston Churchill

Sir Winston regarded a nap between lunch and dinner as essential for maintaining the kind of clear thinking he employed during World War II. In The Gathering Storm, he wrote: “Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Coleridge took what can be considered one of the most famous naps in English literature. After waking up from a three-hour nap, he stumbled to his desk and penned the poem, “Kubla Khan.” He believed in seizing the thread of a dream immediately upon awakening and then taking action.

Leonardo Da Vinci

While painting the Mona Lisa, Da Vinci slept only hours each night and took 15-minute naps every four hours. He criticized people who slept long hours each evening, commenting that there’s plenty of time to sleep when we die.

Salvador Dali

The founder of the micro-nap or what he called “slumber with a key,” Catalan artist Salvador Dali napped to stimulate his creativity. He started by sitting upright in an armchair, holding a heavy metal key in his hand. He then placed a metal plate upside down underneath the hand holding the key. Once that was in place, he allowed himself to fall asleep. Once that happened, he dropped the key which hit the plate and made a loud noise. All of this occurred within one-quarter of a second, enough time to revive his physical and psychic being.

Thomas Edison

All that Edison could manage was three to four hours of sleep each night. To compensate and inspire creativity, he power napped throughout the day, adopting a variation of Salvador Dali’s method. Edison held a handful of ball bearings that would clatter to the floor and wake him.

Albert Einstein

Einstein claimed that he needed 10 hours of sleep each night and frequent naps throughout the day. Like Salvador Dali, he practiced micro-napping; each nap lasted only seconds and was designed to boost creativity.

John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy enjoyed a one- to two-hour nap each afternoon. Blinds were drawn, and no interruptions were allowed; his staff had strict orders not to disturb him for any reason.

Napoleon

While Napoleon could go for days without lying down for a full night’s sleep, he had the ability to fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Right before battle, he would sleep like a baby, oblivious to approaching cannons. After the battle was over, he would sleep for eighteen hours.

Eleanor Roosevelt

One of the most influential First Ladies in U.S. history, Mrs. Roosevelt sat on committees and gave speeches. Before each speech or public talk, she would sneak in a nap to refresh her mind and body.

Margaret Thatcher

During her tenure as Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher slept four to five hours each night and had a scheduled one-hour nap each afternoon. No one dared disturb her during that time.

Happy National Napping Day!


Advertisements

Celebrating Our Canadian Flag

Raised for the first time on February 15, 1965, our national flag is 54 years old.

On July 1st of this year, Canada will celebrate its 152nd birthday.

A discrepancy that can be explained by our history…

For almost 100 years after Confederation, Canada flew the Red Ensign, a design based on the flag used by British naval vessels and Canada’s Coat of Arms.

In the early 1960s, Canadians started to voice their concerns about a flag that didn’t recognize our sovereignty. Aware of the public discontent, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson decided to make the creation of a new Canadian flag a priority.

At the time, I was in elementary school. My teacher—and many other teachers across the country— assigned a “Flag Design” project. While there were several artists in the class (not me), I don’t recall any exceptional sketches. I’ve often wondered if any student sketches were part of the thousands of submissions made to Ottawa.

A fifteen-member bipartisan committee was created to pick the most appropriate design. The submitted designs featured union jacks, Fleur-de-lis, maple leaves, and beavers (the most common element). Almost all of these submissions were eliminated, leaving three possibilities.

Here are the two semi-finals:

The winning design (our present flag) came from Dr. George Stanley, a professor at Royal Military College in Kingston.

10 More Interesting Facts…

1. King George V proclaimed red and white as Canada’s official colors in 1921.

2. The flag is twice as long as it is wide. The white square and its maple leaf make up half of the surface of the flag, equal to the two red bars combined.

3. The French nickname for the flag is L’Unifolié, which means one-leafed.

4. In 1982, Canadian mountaineer Laurie Skreslet brought the flag with him to Mount Everest.

5. In 1984, the flag was launched into space by Marc Garneau, the first Canadian astronaut on the NASA space shuttle Challenger.

6. In 1996, February 15 was declared National Flag of Canada Day.

7. The flag at the Peace Tower (Ottawa) flies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s changed daily, usually early in the morning and by a designated employee who has received training on how to perform the task. Flags on the East and West Block are changed weekly. Once a flag is taken down, it is sent to the Ministry of Public Works and Government Services. Canadians can request these flags by emailing minister@pwgsc.gc.ca or faxing (819) 953-1908.

8. Anyone who wishes to receive a flag that has flown on the Peace Tower will be placed on a 10-year waiting list. The wait is five years for a flag that has flown on the East or West Block.

9. The role of flag-bearer for Canadian teams attending international sporting events is a special honor reserved for outstanding athletes like Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who proudly represented Canada at the PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2018.

10. The largest Canadian flag ever made was unveiled at a football game in Hamilton between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts in 2009. The flag was 38 meters by 76 meters and required at least 80 pairs of hands to carry it on the field. The flag cost $15,000.

Happy National Flag of Canada Day!


How Criminals Operated in the Past

I’m happy to welcome Soul Mate author Linda Pennell. Today, Linda hands over the reins to Professor Liz Reams, the protagonist of her novels, who shares interesting insights into how criminals operated in the past.

Here’s Linda!

Thank you, Joanne, for inviting Professor Liz Reams to your blog. With her specialty in the history of American crime, she has a lot to say about how criminals have operated in the past, especially in the early 20th century. She has received accolades and professional recognition for her discoveries about the likes of Al Capone and other Prohibition era gangsters. Without further ado, here are ten things that she believes readers may find of interest.

1. It is the footnotes of history that often make for the most interesting research and reading.

In addition to the “publish or perish” dictum under which most university professors find themselves laboring, Liz has an added level of stress. The dean of the University of Florida’s College of Liberal Arts hired Liz because she had a reputation at her former university of being able to magically attract undergraduates to her classes. On her slim shoulders rests the responsibility of keeping the budgetary ax from the History Department’s neck each academic year.

Teaching was never anything that Liz believed she wanted, but the first time she saw the light click on in a student’s eyes, she was hooked. Teaching has become her special joy.

The secret to her success in the classroom and in her research is her focus on discovering how big events and overpowering individuals affect the lives of ordinary people, those interesting little footnotes of history. She teaches history through the eyes of people caught up in the turmoil and chaos of events beyond their control. So far, the formula has worked very well.

2. Achievement in one’s professional life does not necessarily translate into one’s personal life.

Liz is like some young women you may have known. She is beautiful, talented, successful, accomplished, and smart – all the things a parent could hope for in a daughter save one small habit. She is attracted to the bad boys. If a guy is kind and pleasant, she finds him boring. She craves the glitz and glamor of rock stars and test pilots in her romantic life. It is a failing she works on.

3. Living and working with your boss will complicate one’s life.

How should one introduce the man with whom one lives and works? She could call him her fiancé, but she has yet to accept his proposals. Revealing that he is her boss will certainly raise eyebrows. Alas, another romantic issue she must resolve.

4. Florida has a long history of criminal activity and vice.

Even in pre-Columbian times, Florida was the refuge of the outcast and the outlaw. The Native tribes of present day Georgia and Alabama once exiled their undesirables to the swamps and sand hills of Florida.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Florida development as a tourist destination began. Julia Tuttle settled beside the Miami River and convinced Henry Flagler to extend his railroad to the city she helped found. Flagler and Tuttle are considered the father and mother of Miami respectively. Interestingly, while they worked hard to keep moonshining and prostitution out of their town without any success, they had no problem with gambling, which was a violation of state law. Both of them ran gambling parties in their luxurious mansions.

From its founding, Miami was a wide open city when it came to vices and other human foibles. Prohibition and the city’s proximity to the Bahamas meant that Miami became a major port of entry for contraband booze. Even local law enforcement ignored what went on. It is no surprise, then, that no one batted an eye when the Mob moved to town.

5. Childhood friendships can last a lifetime.

During her research into Al Capone’s brief stay at the Blanche Hotel in north Florida, Liz discovers the friendship between two young boys, Jack and Zeke, which led to the discovery that brought her professional acclaim. Almost by accident, she also found that the boys’ friendship endured despite the realities of segregation, threats from criminals, and finding a parent involved in acts of horror. The boys lived through it all and their love for one another never faltered. The strength of their friendship and what they endured touched Liz deeply friendship.

6. Even gangsters are not always 100% bad.

Liz’s research for her new class entitled Gangsters on the Gold Coast: the Mob in the Sunshine State brings the story of Sam, a young Jewish boy from Brooklyn who witnesses a gangland hit.

At 14, Sam quit school and took a job that paid two dollars more per week than he could make elsewhere. He needed every penny he could earn to help support his widowed mother and younger brothers. Unfortunately, that job was working for a low level Mob boss at the Fulton Fish Market and in the man’s speakeasy. It was in the speakeasy that Sam witnessed the murder of labor organizer William Mack. Under such circumstances, witnesses usually did not have a long life expectancy. Because Sam was young and a hard worker, his Mob boss took pity on him and sent him into exile in Miami. This act of kindness did not come without a price, however.

7. Disentangling oneself from the Mob is difficult.

Forced into working for the Mob in Miami, Sam longs to find a way out. He has fallen in love with the daughter of his devout landlord. Remarkably, the beautiful Rebecca wants only Sam, but they cannot marry until he disentangles himself from his Mob bosses and the debt he owes them.

8. Debts do not always involve money.

Both Liz and Sam discover that some debts do not involve the repayment of money. Whether it is a debt of “friendship” such as Sam owes or an emotional debt such as the one Liz owes, repayment would be so much easier if all they owed was money.

9. It is possible to care deeply for people one has never met.

Liz’s research into Jack, Zeke, and Sam’s lives brings out in her an emotion she is not expecting. She develops maternal feelings for these young boys caught in situations beyond their control. She wishes she could travel back in time and warn them of the dangers to come. In coming to know and care about the boys, she also gains insights into herself.

10. Learning from the past can inform our future in personal ways.

In analyzing the mistakes of the historical figures Liz is investigating, she learns to apply the lessons contained therein to her own life.

Liz can be found solving historical mysteries in Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel and Miami Days Havana Nights.
























Buy Links for Linda Pennell

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Bio

Linda Bennett Pennell is an author of historical fiction set in the American South or about Southerners traveling far from home. While she writes about the land of her birth, anything with a history, whether shabby or regal, ancient or closer to our own day, has fascinated her since early childhood. This love of the past and the desire to create stories of it probably owes much to her Southern roots.

Southern families are filled with storytellers who keep family and community histories alive. It is in their blood and part of their birthright. Linda’s family had many such yarn spinners who entertained the family on cold winter evenings around her grandmother’s fireplace and during long summer afternoons on her wraparound porch. And most important of all, most of those stories were true.

Where to find Linda…

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Newsletter Sign Up


Happy February!

The shortest month of the year, February can be challenging. While many look forward to celebrating Valentine’s Day (February 14th) and participating in winter sports, others may be struggling with the blues.

Millions of us living in Canada and United States like to join in the fun and anticipation surrounding Groundhog Day (February 2nd), hoping our respective groundhogs will predict an early spring.

Here are 10 interesting facts about February…

1. February was added to the Roman calendar in 713 BC. The length of the month changed over time and, at one time, it had as few as 23 days. When Julius Caesar remade the Roman calendar, the month was assigned 28 days during normal years and 29 days during leap years. The next leap year will be 2020.

2. The month is named for the Latin word februum which means purification.

3. February has been designated as Black History Month, American Heart Month, Chocolate Lover’s Month, National Bird Feeding Month, and National Dental Month.

4. The symbols of February include the amethyst (birthstone) and primrose (flower).

5. People born between February 1st and February 18th were born under the star sign of Aquarius while those born later in the month are under Pisces. Aquarians are considered to be original and progressive thinkers with strong humanitarian instincts, while Pisces are often very compassionate and artistic.

6. The Super Bowl, the largest American sporting event of the year, is held in February. The game is scheduled to be played on February 3, 2019, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

7. Family Day is observed on the third Monday of February in Ontario, New Brunswick, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia. Family Day was created to give people time to spend with their families. It also provides a day off between New Years Day and Good Friday as they are approximately three months apart. Popular Family Day activities include skating, playing hockey, snowboarding, skiing, and attending winter festivals. In 2019, Family Day falls on February 18th.

8. February’s full moon is commonly known as the Full Snow Moon in Native American cultures. The ancient tribes named this moon after the way trees cracked in the cold, or how people had to sit shoulder to shoulder around the fire for warmth. The Full Snow Moon is also known by more sinister names, such as the Bone Moon. In 2019, the full moon occurs on February 19th.

9. The following historical figures were born in February: Rosa Parks, February 4, 1913; Laura Ingalls Wilder, February 7, 1867; Thomas Edison, February 11, 1846; Charles Darwin, February 12, 1809; Galileo Galileli, February 15, 1564; George Washington, February 22, 1732.

10. This quotation, from Much Ado About Nothing, is the only time February is mentioned in a Shakespearean play: “You have such a February face, So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness.”


Happy Family Literacy Day!

In 1999, ABC Life Literacy Canada, a non-profit organization, introduced Family Literacy Day to “raise awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.”

This year, ABC Life Literacy is encouraging families to take 15 minutes out of their day to prioritize learning.

Here are ten suggestions on how to achieve this goal:

1. Start reading aloud to your newborn. Children become attuned to the sound of your voice and the tones of the language you speak as their hearing develops.

2. Ask older children questions about the story to ensure comprehension.

3. Encourage oral storytelling by providing prompts: “What did your doll or teddy bear do today?” “Tell us a story about the Christmas/Halloween/Valentine’s Day party at school?”

4. Record or write down your children’s stories. Use an app to convert them into a book, animation, or slide show. While read or watching the end product, point out new words, story structure, and grammar.

5. Turn off the television and use that time to read together.

6. Organize a children’s book club in your neighborhood.

7. Make regular visits to the local library. Check the events calendar for more information about activities and crafts offered.

8. Keep teenagers reading by providing magazines and newspaper articles that appeal to their interests.

9. Invite children to participate in activities such as making shopping lists, sending e-cards, or checking directions on Google Maps.

10. Volunteer your time in local literacy groups. You could read to children, tutor adults, or help with administrative tasks.

Find out more information about ABC Life Literacy Canada here.


How to Manage Your Writing Process

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

A long-time fan of Canadian mystery author Gail Bowen, I was happy to discover she had written Sleuth, a hands-on guide for anyone thinking of writing a whodunit. I highly recommend this informative and entertaining book chock full of solid tips and examples.

Here are ten tips on how to manage your writing process:

1. Write every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes or to jot something down in your notebook or to do a quick edit on your work from the day before. Day-by-day engagement with your work keeps the connection alive and the juices flowing.

2. Never leave your writing in a bad spot. If you know a quagmire awaits you, the temptation not to go back to your laptop can be almost irresistible. Some of my best writing moments have come after I’ve gritted my teeth and stayed at my laptop till I’ve worked through the problem. Ernest Hemingway said, “Always leave the pump primed.” It’s good advice. And novelist Jodi Picoult tartly observed, “You can edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank page.” If you’re in what a writer friend refers to as “suck mode,” then the process will be painful, but take a few breaths and forge ahead.

3. Many writers, and I am among them, believe that two quiet hours at 5 a.m. equal four hours of regular work time. Ignore this advice if you are a night owl.

4. When you’re stuck, leave your desk. Go for a walk. Make tea. Play with your dog or cat. Meditate. Whatever you do, don’t start surfing the net, don’t make a phone call, and don’t get together with friends. If you do, other people’s words will pour in where your words should be. Create a space. Be patient.

5. Use the Pomodoro Technique. Work for twenty-five minutes. Give yourself a five-minute break, and then get back to work. I’ve been doing this since I started writing. Until a couple of years ago, I had no idea this particular strategy had a name, but it does, and by any name the technique works.

6. Trust your instincts. If a character begins to surprise you, follow him to where he takes you.

7. Trust your instincts even when you don’t want to. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a character is lifeless, a plot line is limp, a symbol is leaden, or horror of horrors, your whole manuscript has the vitality of a long-dead mackerel. Give that draft of the manuscript a decent burial and start again. Try some creative recycling of the characters and plot points that didn’t work in the first draft. You might be amazed at how they snap, crackle, and pop the second time around. Remember P.D. James wise counsel: “Nothing is ever wasted.”

8. Never give up.

9. Learn to be your own editor. I begin every day rewriting the last page or so I wrote the day before. I always find something to shift or change. And working on the familiar material helps me to reconnect with the manuscript and gets the juices running again.

10. E. L. Doctorow said that writing “is like driving a car at night: you can never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Keep the faith.

Source: Sleuth by Gail Bowen, pp. 40-42


Embracing Winter

The winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year, as well as the official start of winter. While winter can be a challenging season—especially for those of us living in northern climes—there can be moments of beauty and majesty during those months.

Prepare yourself for winter by reading these inspiring quotes:

“While I relish our warm months, winter forms our character and brings out our best.” — Tom Allen

“Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.” — Pietro Aretino

“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.” — William Blake

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.'” — Lewis Carroll

“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.”
— Anton Chekhov

“Snow was falling, so much like stars filling the dark trees that one could easily imagine its reason for being was nothing more than prettiness.” — Mary Oliver

“A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky, unbidden, and seems like a thing of wonder.” — Susan Orlean

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for a home.”
— Edith Sitwell

“Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.” — Paul Theroux

“The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, bursting forth into unexpected glory.” — Gary Zukav

Happy Winter Solstice!