Almost Happy New Year??

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StampaWhy exactly are you buying piles of candy, carving pumpkins, and staying up late sewing children’s costumes every October? For New Year’s, it turns out. Two thousand years ago, October 31st was New Year’s Eve in Europe.

Only it wasn’t called Halloween then; it was called Samhain, the festival that started the night before New Year’s Day, November 1st on the Celtic calendar. Anywhere the Celts were — England, Ireland, Scotland, and France — the festival marked the turn of the season from autumn to winter. It was a big, ancient harvest party, complete with bonfires and lots of treats.

The Druids — Celtic priests — were convinced October 31st was one of those times of the year the line between this world and the spirit world was pretty thin, or disappeared altogether. So the Druids started the tradition of dressing in costumes that night — to outwit the spirits of the dead who were supposed to be hovering around.

Then the Romans conquered the Celts around 43 AD and ran things in France and Britain for the next 400 years or so. They combined their two autumn festivals with Samhain. One of them, Feralia, was held in late October and also honored the dead. The other honored Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees — bringing apples into the Halloween act. Then the Romans folded and went back to Italy, but the October 31st Samhain-Feralia-Pomona festival remained.

When early Christianity took hold of Northern Europe around the 800s, the festival changed. Wild harvest partying was frowned upon. The early church declared November 1 a holy day called All Hallows Day, or All Saints Day to honour saints. Like Halloween, All Saints Day is still on the calendar today.

All Hallows Day started when the sun went down October 31st: All Hallows Eve. Which, when people were saying it, turned into Hallows’eve or Hallow’e’en, then Halloween.

trick_or_treatMeanwhile, kids got into the act — going door-to-door that night. They carried carved beets, potatoes or turnips with candles inside to light the way — the first jack-o-lanterns. They knocked on doors, offering to pray for the dead of the family in the house, in return for food. In some places they got little shortbread cakes or scones or pastries called “soul cakes” in return.   This was the start of trick-or-treating.

Like many American party traditions, Halloween came across the ocean hundreds of years later when the Irish Catholics flocked to North America after the great potato famine of the 1840s and introduced Halloween. In case any of the ghosts had a bone to pick with you, that costume just might fool them. Everyone stuck together in their costumes in big groups by big outdoor bonfires on that spooky night.

Halloween has only grown exponentially from there. Millions are spent on Halloween annually in decorations, costumes, and of course candy. While Halloween isn’t everyone’s favourite holiday, I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.

Hershey’s would never allow it.


Turkey Time

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It’s the burning question for Canada’s federal party partisans this Thanksgiving weekend: who is going to form Canada’s next government?

Advance polls open Friday for voters wishing to get an early jump on the Oct. 19 election, but the real action may take place around dinner tables, TV sets and camp or cottage closings on this long weekend.

Since long before this 78-day election campaign began, the October holiday weekend has been circled on calendars as a crucible where the fortunes of Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair, and Justin Trudeau could be forged: far-flung families gathering together for turkey, just as voters begin focusing on who should form the next government.

This year’s 11-week campaign has encompassed three statutory holidays. It began Sunday Aug. 2 on the Civic Holiday weekend, ambled through Labour Day and now will reach a crescendo on Thanksgiving.

Maybe talk will be around our next government this long weekend… or maybe it will focus on the fact that there is a pumpkin shortage this year due to climate change. I know I’m not a fan of pumpkin pie, but climate change might just bring the conversation back around to politics.

Honestly, I’m not sure that politics are a good topic of conversation during one of the best meals of the year. Perhaps it might be best to stick to hoping the Blue Jays can turn their luck around since the Rangers seem to have Toronto facing an early exit in their first playoffs in 22 years.

Enjoy the long weekend, travel safely, and don’t forget to vote.

Pain in my Neck

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Pain in my NeckSitting at your desk all day can literally be a pain in the neck. I can always tell when I’ve spent a lot of time sitting and typing during the work week. By the end of the week, my shoulders are creeping up around my ears and to complete my horrible posture, I start to hunch, and my shoulders feel like they turn to concrete. Not good.

It all comes down to anatomy and how muscles like the trapezius and the pectoralis minor create a negative domino effect. A tight torso leads to slouching shoulders which in turn batters your back. This leads to all kinds of extra complications including nasty headaches.

There are a couple things you can do to help yourself out:

  1. Make sure your desk and chair are set up for you. Is your computer monitor at the right height? Giving yourself the benefit of an ergonomically-friendly work station is always a good thing.
  2. Don’t stay sitting all day. Stretch it out a bit when you do things like get your coffee/tea/water refills.
  3. Be conscious of your posture. Don’t be your own worst enemy and accept your poor posture since that is something you will likely regret.
  4. Get a message.
  5. Take up yoga and attend regularly.
  6. Have a relaxing weekend!

September is Here.

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Summer is over. Well, not technically, but gone are the carefree days filled with sunlight and late nights. Gone are the summer weekends spent traveling here or there. The daylight hours are shorter, and I’m already starting to feel like wearing scarves and sweaters even though it is a beautiful day today.

Along with the start of September (and the yearning to buy back-to-school supplies!) comes the feeling of focus. Summer is always a time where I have high hopes of doing lots of adventuresome things: visiting outdoor markets, going on picnics in the park or having weekend trips to the beach—no matter the activity, I think of myself feeling relaxed and carefree. The days are longer, schedules are less rigid, and hey, we all grew up with time blocked off for summer vacation. We’re almost conditioned to let loose, especially in July and August.

Then, as summer winds down and fall rolls around, I start to think of what I want to accomplish. Summer is over, and it’s time to go back to school, back to work, and back into a routine, schedule, or your agenda.

Perhaps it is the environment of change that fosters the desire for me to switch gears, but at the end of every season I feel like “turning over a new leaf”.  Something new can’t start until something else ends, and you can’t have fall without the end of summer. As you gear up for a new step, you have to say goodbye to the old.

This fall, I have a lot on my mind, and I’m ready to make a list and cross things off. It’s time to make the transition from the summer to kick it up a notch and focus this fall.

Being motivated helps to shake out the mental cobwebs. So does remembering to get some exercise. Just because the sun is going down earlier doesn’t mean you should skip making time for your preferred workout.

Then, I make lists – I love lists (it is always satisfying to be able to cross something off!). I make a plan, and then I try to remind myself to take all of the baby steps in between. Don’t overwhelm yourself but make an active plan to help you succeed.

If are looking to make a change this fall, take a deep breath. Take a look around you and think about what you’re really interested in, what you truly need, and let yourself take steps on your new journey. Open your eyes and get ready for your mission. Don’t have it all planned out to the final detail? That’s ok. Jump in the right direction and keep swimming until you get where you ultimately need to and want to be.

Say goodbye to relaxing summer, take a deep breath, and jump right into fall. There’s so much to enjoy from pumpkin spice latte to NFL-filled Sundays to cozy sweaters. How can that not help you be ready to tackle the end of the year?

Long Weekend

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Who doesn’t love a long weekend? Doesn’t matter what the time of year is, long weekends are great.  There’s nothing like knowing that there’s an extra day to do… whatever!

Wherever you are and regardless of what you do, be safe and have fun!


Roll with the Punches

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Roll with the Punches

Whether you are talking about a boxing term or about coping with adversity, we’ve all heard this phrase before. I think we can all relate to a moment when something (big or small) didn’t happen the way we hoped. Conditions in life can change in the blink of an eye. Sometimes we have to change our course of action quickly, especially when things don’t go the way we plan.

Here are 8 tips to help you roll with life’s punches:

  1. Change what is in your control. If there is a way you can make your situation better that doesn’t jeopardize you or someone else, try it. What have you got to lose at this point? Sometimes simply changing one or two factors in our lives can turn around many other things.
  2. Don’t get stuck. We need to accept that life does change in an instant, and rather than get caught up in insisting that things stay as they are, we need to get “unstuck” and find a new way of dealing with something. Change is inevitable and the sooner we accept this, the better we will be at rolling with the punches.
  3. Make decisions. Being indecisive is the worst way to deal with life’s blows. We have to make choices. Yes, sometimes those choices turn out to be ones that are difficult. But ultimately, we learn from the decisions we make (whether they are good or bad ones). If you have a hard time, make a pros and cons list.
  4. If something is hard, acknowledge it. It’s okay to admit when we are having a difficult time. Often that is the first step in realizing that we need to be better at rolling with the punches. Acknowledging it is merely a step in the process of moving forward.
  5. Trust your gut. Pay attention to your instincts. We have them for a reason. When facing a crossroads of sorts, evaluate how you feel about the situation. Does it give you a good feeling, or are you feeling cautious and wary? Don’t ignore how you feel.
  6. When something goes wrong, don’t shut down. Don’t give up. If things aren’t turning out the way you’d like them to, don’t see this as the end all be all. Try approaching it differently or getting more tools to help yourself be successful.
  7. Learn from the situation. Rolling with the punches means discovering what went wrong, learning from it, and optimizing future choices to avoid that happening again.
  8. Stay positive. It’s easy to get negative, especially if others around you are negative as well. Avoid putting yourself in a position where you are surrounded by negativity. Life won’t always be sunshine, but by reminding yourself that good times exist (even if the moment is dark and dreary) you are allowing yourself to stay positive.

In the end, rolling with the punches means accepting that life gives us some hard knocks sometimes. How we react in the moment to lessen that blow is what really matters the most.