Why that’s good news for your brain and your body

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An engrossing book can offer a much-needed escape. Photo by Taryn Elliott from Pexels

I looked forward to the latest book in a long-running series of action thrillers and couldn’t wait to download it.

A little more than halfway through, I pushed my iPad aside.

Even though I’d read every book in the series, this time, the intrigue, the conspiracies, and the violence were too much. If I wanted to set my pulse racing, I could just as easily turn on the news.

Ever since then, historical fiction, self-improvement books, and light-hearted romances are my mainstays. …

You’re probably not great at giving them, either

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Guaranteeing that your compliments ring true takes just a little extra effort. Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Think about the last compliment you received.

Did it make you smile or squirm?

Just a third of us welcome compliments. And while research indicates that 88 percent of people associate a compliment with feeling valued, 70 percent also associate that recognition with embarrassment.

When compliments fail

For some, the go-to response to a compliment is to brush it off or respond with a long list of why they don’t deserve it.

Others barely acknowledge a compliment before immediately lobbing one back.

People who struggle with low self-esteem assume their negative view of themselves is shared by others and consider…

Delaying a decision is often the smartest move you can make

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Buying a home doesn’t have to be a painful process. Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash

As brand new empty-nesters, my husband and I thought we were setting off on a big adventure.

Instead, our journey started with weeks of needless worry and stress.

Pushed along by a competitive housing market and self-imposed pressure to make a purchase, we very nearly blew our budget on the wrong home.

Ready for a new life

With all four of our sons out of the house, I retired from my media job in the spring of 2019 and downsizing moved to the top of our agenda.

The home where we’d lived as a family of six suddenly seemed cavernous with just the two of…

Pandemic pet names are signs of the times

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Movies, music, video games, and current events inspire pandemic pet names. Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

The coronavirus pandemic brought a wave of pet adoptions and, along with it, pet names that reflect the times.

Americans adopted 750,000 pets from shelters in 2020, split almost evenly between cats, 55 percent, and dogs, 54 percent.

Many people were inspired to adopt by the companionship and health benefits pets provide. Spending time with pets reduces owners’ stress and helps them manage anxiety and depression.

And, for some, naming a new pet offered a light moment during a dark time. An annual listing of the most popular pet names shows that Covi, Rona, Corona, and Covie are trending.


Overcome the unbearable.

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A short walk can give your spirits a lift. Photo by Anton Uniqueton from Pexels

A year after the United States declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, Americans’ stress levels have hit new heights.

A new survey of more than 2,000 adults found that 84 percent of them feel at least one emotion associated with prolonged stress.

That’s the highest rate reported since last April when COVID-19 deaths surged to 62,557. Today, deaths total more than 460,000.

Survey respondents most commonly experience anxiety, 47 percent, sadness, 44 percent, and anger, 39 percent.

Two out of three people surveyed feel overwhelmed by the issues facing the country, including political unrest in the wake of the presidential…

Everyone’s got an opinion on the controversial candy

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Peeps inspire both disdain and delight. Photo purchased from Dreamstime.

Whether you love them or hate them, Peeps are back.

The pandemic forced candy maker Just Born Quality Confections to pause production for Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day last year.

That meant no sugar-coated marshmallow pumpkins, Christmas trees, or hearts for those holidays.

But, just in time for Easter, yellow chicks and pink bunnies are rolling off the production line and are back in stock nationwide.

A perennial bestseller

Easter generates the most seasonal candy sales and that’s when Peeps rule the roost: Americans buy more than 700 million every year.

In fact, the Easter season accounts for about 75 percent of…

Let your loving thoughts spark unforgettable words

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You don’t need a big budget to touch someone’s heart. Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Shoppers are splashing out on Valentine’s Day this year, planning to spend a total of $21.8 billion.

Just over half of Americans will celebrate Valentine’s Day, February 14, according to the National Retail Federation.

Among those who do, 73 percent say it’s especially important to show their love as the pandemic rages on.

They’ll drop an average of nearly $165 each on Valentine’s Day classics like chocolates, flowers, and jewelry.

But you can touch someone’s heart for a lot less cash.

Simply buy some stamps and a box of beautiful valentine cards that are blank inside.

Then, fill each one…

How to help those who feel alone and unheard.

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Photo by Matilda Wormwood from Pexels

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is bringing hope to many, but we’ll be feeling the effects of the virus for years to come.

The World Economic Forum says that “though the physical symptoms will blessedly pass for most who contract the virus, the shared psychological damage of social distancing may not be so quick to heal.”

One of the most significant points of pain is loneliness. Lack of social connection can lead to depression, which exacerbates feelings of loneliness.

Chronic loneliness is also linked to heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, suicide, and even death.

Fears about infection, feelings of hopelessness, lack of…

Nostalgia, novelty and necessity drive demand for pastry stouts

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Instead of a drink with dessert, some brewers recommend pastry stouts, which combine the flavors of both. Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

My state of North Carolina is awash with beer.

With more than 340 breweries and brewpubs, it’s reportedly home to the largest number of craft breweries in the South.

My own little town at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains has three breweries, all popular stops for hikers, climbers and campers on their way to or from the nearby Linville Gorge Wilderness area.

North Carolina is also a bastion of barbecue, so my beer consumption tends to run toward pairing an ice-cold brew with a pulled-pork sandwich.

If I want something sugary to wash it down, it’s going to…

Why this 247-year-old company was a standout success in 2020

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2020 was a banner year for Birkenstock. Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

My much-loved felt clogs were in tatters when my husband, Buzz, asked what I wanted for Christmas.

I sent him a link to a pair of Birkenstock’s closed-toe Boston clogs.

I’d never owned a pair, but the leather shoes looked comfortable and durable, so I figured I’d give Birkenstock a try.

It turns out that I was far from alone.

In a year when funky footwear made a comeback, Birkenstock was 2020’s standout success.

Pointing to the shoes’ practicality, comfort, and no-fuss simplicity, fashion arbiter Vogue declared Birkenstock “the ideal shoe for 2020.”

Cosmopolitan named Birkenstock one of the top…


Former reporter and editor now freelancing from the base of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.

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