We are always looking for reinvention. To march off the edge of our own maps; to ascend summits of our own imaginings. 

Self-improvement is, indeed, an admirable destination.

There comes a moment in most lives, when we seek a different expression of self, one that encompasses the qualities we most admire. We fill up the garage with Pelotons and weights. A sous vide machine shunts aside the toaster on the kitchen counter. Books pile up on the bedside table. We attempt to habla Espanol. 

Self-improvement is, indeed, an admirable destination.

If only it weren’t so hard to get there.

It’s surprising that the laundry gets done let alone the unveiling of the new and improved you. And just as Peloton stockholders learned, the path to self-improvement is fraught with pitfalls. After hitting a 52-week peak of $155.52 per share, Peloton stock crashed 84% in value in a few short months. The super cycle went from being the secret weapon of self-improvement to becoming the thing you pile your dirty clothes on. 

Still and all, the effort is always noble.

… partner up with the most relentless life coach ever – the sun.

Well, here’s a sure-fire way of making radical, positive change in your life. If you want to reinvent your life, ditch your black out drapes. Heck, you don’t have to chuck them out, just leave your curtains open when you go to sleep. The moment you make that choice, you partner up with the most relentless life coach ever – the sun.

At the launch of the pandemic, I was in the process of replacing my bedroom drapes. What these drapes lacked in aesthetics, they made up for in efficacy.  I am not by nature an early riser but find it hard to stay abed when it’s light outside.  Luckily, black out drapes, like a scrim of cast iron, obliterated any beam of light getting from into my bedroom.  

I also discovered that the sun comes up ridiculously early in the summertime.

Given the strictures of lockdown, I discovered I was unable to properly shop for replacements. I also discovered that the sun comes up ridiculously early in the summertime.

Like the infant who wakes at the sound of a car alarm two blocks away, the slightest disruption in ideal conditions can jolt me awake. Chief amongst those ideal conditions is complete and utter darkness. A floor away in the kitchen, if someone opens the fridge door past midnight, I holler, ‘Turn off the lights!

Photo by Scientific

Needless to say, I was helpless to stay asleep once Old Sol had shown his face.

I tried burying my head in pillows. I tried lashing my eyes with the improvised blindfolds. I reached for sleep masks only to discover that I can’t sleep with a tourniquet tied around my head.

What to do?

The morning, I discovered, is a very exclusive club.

So I got up. I got up and I got stuff done. The morning, I discovered, is a very exclusive club. There are people out on the streets. They’re walking dogs.  They’re jogging. They’re getting the best parking spots. I would hear little groups of them in happy, hushed conspiratorials as they passed by my fence. One fine day I found myself returning from a full day of errands by 10:30. In the morning!

I also discovered that dawn can be just as beautiful as sunset. The sight of the sun inching up,  illuminating the underside of clouds is as arresting as the sight of the sun sinking into the ocean.  Admittedly, there tends to be far fewer margaritas accompanying dawn than those for the show at the end of day, but a latte makes a fine accompaniment to the morning spectacle.

It should not go unmentioned that early risers get bragging rights. I’ve only been able to say this once but I still remember feeling imbued with insufferable sanctimony when returning home from completing the Grouse Grind before 9 a.m.  For years I managed to work it into every conversation  … just as I’m doing here.

… early risers are happier, live longer and generally perform better scholastically.

There are measurable benefits to early rising.  A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that going to bed one hour earlier and waking up one hour earlier corresponded to a 23 percent lower risk of depression.  Studies galore cite findings that early risers are happier, live longer and generally perform better scholastically. They also don’t miss the garbage truck.

Photo by Hopkins Cinemaddicts

But don’t beat yourself up if you’re a night owl. It turns out that our degree of ‘morning-ness’ or ‘night-ness’ is genetically based. It comes down to something called your suprachiasmatic nucleus, an oscillator in your brain that sets your personal clock.  In my case, I reset that clock simply by losing my beloved black out drapes. 

This week’s question for readers:


Now, in return, will you do something for me? Will you sign up for The Plain Jane, my newsletter? You can ignore it, if you want, when it shows up in your inbox every few weeks, but my rotten kids will think I’m a star if I have a decent subscriber list. 

Here’s further incentive to sign up: PRIZES!!!

Submissions to last week’s question:

How do you feel about the name you were given and/or the names you bestowed? What are the stories behind those names?

I think I can lay claim to the most simple and unadorned girl’s name known to man – Ann. If you’re talking porridge, it’s the steel-cut oats version with skim milk, no sugar, cream or berries. To think that just adding an e would have made such a difference, or better yet, an a or an i. Even Anne Shirley made it clear that Anne with an e was ever so much better. My only hope was pairing it with my middle name, Margaret, like the actress/sex kitten of the 1960s, but that was quickly nixed by my mother. So it’s Ann, without an e, that’s me.

Ann Diehl

I never had a problem with my name – that is until about a year ago when social media attributed new meaning to the 5 letters, almost making it a 4-letter word.  Ordering coffee, making a reservation or, worst of all being introduced to someone new, I look down as I whisper my name, and then, without fail, comes the double take, a look of pity, and the silent once-over to confirm if I am that “Karen”. Well, I hope not. But I’m not about to hang out with anyone named Chad, but I am considering a name change to Destiny.

Karen Richmond

As the oldest daughter, I was named after my maternal grandparents, Paul and Pauline. In my early school years, I was a fan of Archie comics and wished I was a Veronica and not a Paula. In my early teens, that all changed with the arrival of the Fab Four. Suddenly, I was thrilled with my name, so close to my adolescent crush, Paul McCartney. I thought it might give me an edge over all the other females besotted with the heart-throb. No such luck of course, but the memory makes me laugh, as I recall the feelings of a naive thirteen year old, caught up in the wave of Beatlemania.

Paula Alvaro

On the night our son was born, his father and I still hadn’t agreed on a name.  He was the first (and only) child for both of us and naming was one of many impasses we would face as older parents.  But receiving him into our arms that night melted away anything else but welcoming him into our lives.  As my partner walked the hospital halls he thought about his estranged relationship with his father, Blaire, and about his infamous grandmother, Maisie, realizing there was no escape from the family connection.  Our son’s name, Blaise, was a blend of the two.  

Dianne Milsom

My mother gave me the name Allan. This is the name my father said was his but he quickly vanished when he found out my mother was expecting. So my mother just called me Allan. I searched for over 60 years to find Allan. Three years ago I found who he was through Ancestry and his name was Trevor, not Allan.  He had made this name up. I had  named my son Allan after me.  Oh well, Allan is a good name anyway.

 Allan Craig

My birth first name is Tangerine, after the song by the Tommy Dorsey Band called “Tangerine.” It was challenging in the early years having an unusual name but then I married a man with the surname Twiss. I am now Tangerine Twiss, which has produced  a lot of raised eyebrows, gales of laughter and, of course,  the question “Is that your real name?”  For the persistent I always have my driver’s licence handy!   Funniest comment I have received was “ You must be SUN-KIST”  –  Lots of fun … but I still don’t wear the colour tangerine – enough already!

For all my years past 75 I have always, when hearing my name or seeing it in print,  known that the person is over 75 years of age. My name is Bernice.  It’s a name that has never gone around again.

Bernice Johnson

A dressing room staff asked for my name so she could write it on the little blackboard on the door. I told her my name, then went in to get changed. When I was done, I saw that she had written FETUS. My name is not Fetus –  it’s Fides. It is Latin for FAITH, and I was named after my dad, Fidel. It’s easy to pronounce too, however, people say Fidees or FAYDS, FEDEX, and Fetus, among other iterations. That said, I am happy with the name!  But, I don’t see the need to name my kids after me. 

Fides Madrid

I always wanted any child of mine to have an unusual name. I didn’t get to make a choice, because at 12 years old our daughter came with a beautiful and unusual name, Galya (short for Galina; we adopted her from Siberia). Now she’s having a baby and also wants an unusual name for her wee girl. They’re thinking of Nevaeh (‘heaven’ backwards, “because she’s coming from heaven into our arms and hearts”, she says), but they’re worried people won’t get the spelling and/or pronunciation. Maybe the wee one will let us know what she wants to be called when she arrives.

Marilyn ‘Mare’ Brulhart

Born in Quebec City, I was given the name of Micheline…. a bit long, but not uncommon name; what was unusual is that my surname was Michelin – yes, as in the tires – just one  letter short of my first name. This did not seem acceptable to our parish priest who would be invited to distribute report cards to the students each month.  He simply did not like my name.!  He  would call the students and between each name, he would mumble “Micheline Michelin, Micheline Michelin repeatedly.  Who would give such a name to a child?!”.  It was  so embarrassing for me as a 9 or 10 year-old.  Each month, as the date for him to visit our class approached, I would start feeling sick before I left my home, as I knew what to expect. As an adult, I relocated to Toronto where English speaking people found my name a real mouthful.  So, to some people, I simply became Michele. Oh, how many times I wished for a short name such as Mary or Jane or Tia. Now try to sign your name Micheline Michelin-Darroch??? It will likely spill on the next page….

Micheline Michelin-Darroch

When I was 11, I found a list of names in a book. Mom said the names were proposed names for me. We reviewed the names and I told her my objections to all the names including my own – Irene. I told her I wanted to change my name. She said to think about for three days and tell her what name I would like. I told her later that I chose Karen. She burst out laughing. She said it was just like Irene – a solid name. No “y”s or “ie”s at the end,. Not “feminine-sounding, just solid”. I decided she was right. Irene was a solid name. I did not change my name. 

Irene McNeill

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