“H” is for “Habit”

Habits are those recurring things you do, often without even thinking about it. Get up in the morning and brush your teeth. Turn right at the intersection, even though turning left would get you there faster. Forks on the left; knives, right. After a few repetitions, you’re pretty much on autopilot. Common wisdom says you’ll have created a habit and turned on autopilot after repeating the same behavior for 21 days. Common wisdom is trite and not always right.

A 2019 article on Healthline.com points out: “According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit. The study also concluded that, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.” That’s not to say no one develops a habit in 21 days. When you got your first job and had to be there by 9:00 a.m., you likely developed that habit far sooner than in 21 days. On the other hand, years of New Year’s Resolutions broken by February 1 tend to support the postulation that habit development generally takes more than 21 days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about habits lately, probably because I’ve developed so many bad ones. Well, let’s say “unproductive.” For example, I’m a night person. Always have been. I never quite got the hang of the “get to work by 9:00 a.m.” habit. Mine was more like “as long as I’m there by 9:30 I probably won’t get fired.” That seems to have worked, since I retired under my own steam six years ago. Not only did I no longer have to even try to get anywhere by 9:00 a.m., I didn’t even need to get out of bed before 9:00 a.m. That also meant I didn’t need a fixed bedtime. Yay, me! My natural sleep patterns kicked in and kicked me out of whack with most of the rest of world, even other retirees. I got so used to my new habits, I was always surprised to discover how much people did before noon — going to the gym, out to breakfast, to doctor’s appointments, shopping. And since my days started later and later, I had fewer hours left to fit in all the stuff other people did before noon.

Then came 2020 bringing “senior hours.” When going to the grocery store became a potential matter of life and death, I had to get up even earlier than when I was working if I wanted to shop with fewer potentially contagious people. It was a struggle and definitely didn’t become a habit after 21 days. However, I found that, once up and caffeinated, I was less stressed and got a lot done before noon. Most important, I wrote more on those days, earlier in the day, than on the days I slept to … well, let’s say “close to noon.”

Writing makes me feel good, like a whole person. And I need to figure out a way to have more of those days. It has finally dawned on me that being retired doesn’t really mean I can do whatever, whenever, I want. Without some sort of schedule, the days just drift along, and I realistically don’t have an awful lot of days left to waste. I need to develop some better habits, starting with a set sleep schedule. I just hope it doesn’t take any longer than 21 days to get to autopilot.


written to include Your Daily Word Prompt “trite”


“C” is for “Caledonia”

Caledonia is the name the Romans gave to the northern part of what was then called Britannia. Although that land is now officially Scotland, Caledonia is still used in a poetic, sentimental sense. When I think of Caledonia, I am engulfed by emotion. I think of my Scottish grandmother, who passed away when my mother was only 13. I think of singer-songwriter Dougie McLean’s beautiful song “Caledonia,” written in his early 20s when he was living in France and homesick for Scotland. The first notes of the song always bring tears for other reasons as well.

I first heard “Caledonia” when the Irish group, Celtic Thunder, first appeared on PBS early in 2008. My husband found them when channel surfing one night, and we were hooked. We saw them live for the first time later that year and at least once every year until my husband passed in 2012. A staple of their show, “Caledonia” was a fan favorite both for the kilts and because the only Scotsman in the group, George Donaldson, was beloved by all. Naturally, he had a central role whenever Celtic Thunder performed it. George tragically passed away suddenly in 2014 at the age of 46, leaving his wife and young daughter.

In the first video that follows, Dougie McLean performs the song that some consider to be Scotland’s unofficial national anthem. The second is George Donaldson performing a solo acoustic version of “Caledonia.” Enjoy!





“B” is for “Blueberry”

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter B

Blueberries are native to North America, consumed for roughly 13,000 years before European colonists arrived. Although Europe has its own native “blueberries,” theirs are a closely-related species called “bilberries.” Luckily for Europeans, we let them have some of ours during the 1930s for cultivation. The North American blueberry was first cultivated in New Jersey, where it is the official state berry. I can personally attest that “the New Jersey blueberry” (Vaccinium caesariense) is the best. (I am not from New Jersey and have not been compensated for my opinion.)

I love fresh blueberries; blueberry pie, not so much. My father, on the other hand, LOVED blueberry pie. I think his taste for it developed sometime in the mid to late 1960s, when he learned he was allergic to coconut, among other things. Before that, he LOVED coconut custard pie. Now, when I say he LOVED those pies, each in its turn, I mean he rarely ate anything else for dessert. (Except zeppoles, which he LOVED during his birthday week. I was going to explain zeppoles further, but I think I’ll save it for “Z” on April 30th.)

My late husband also loved blueberry pie, albeit not to the obsessive extent that my (late) father did. You’d think that might have been a bonding point for them. That would be a stretch. I’m not sure if my father even liked my husband, who had three strikes against him in my father’s eyes. Jerry was my second husband, wasn’t Catholic, and was twenty-three years older than I. Just about the only thing he had going for him was that he liked blueberry pie. In their relationship, blueberry pie was a polite meeting in no-mans-land. Definitely not a “bonding.”

Dear WordPress

Completely agree with this!

This, That, and The Other

I just sent this screed below to the “too bad, so sad” response I got from the Happiness Engineers at WordPress. I know it won’t do any good, and that I’m shouting into deaf ears, but I had to get it off my chest. If you’re a fan of the block editor, if you don’t use or don’t care about the hassle that the block editor is causing for those of us who blog using our smartphones, or if you are just sick and tired of  bloggers like me whining about being forced to use it, feel free to skip this post. I won’t be offended.

Dear WordPress,

I’m having trouble wrapping my head around WordPress’ strategy. You say that the classic editor available on the plugin in the Business Plan is the same one that is available at the wp-admin site. And you say that it was “built with…

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Story Fest: A Celebration of Story A Day May

StoryFest is live today on StoryADay.org . Check it out! And read my story here.

J.E.M. Wildfire

Every May and September, award-winning writer’s site StoryADay.org hosts a challenge to write a short story every day. Founder Julie Duffy issues the challenge to writers at any level from beginning amateurs through published professionals. Regardless of the writer’s experience, the thought-provoking prompts exercise and challenge participants’ writing chops. June is a celebration of their accomplishments, culminating in StoryFest on the last weekend.

Head on over to StoryADay.org on Saturday, June 27, or Sunday, June 28, and discover a new writer or a new genre.

(Full disclosure: I accepted the challenge for the first time last year. Loved it so much, I came back for more this year. My submission to StoryFest is my next post.)

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