Back-to-School? Are You Kidding Me?

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I was an educator for twenty-seven years prior to retiring in 2017. With all the talk about reopening schools this fall, with the current pandemic not yet under control here in the United States, I have to say, it’s never as easy as they make it sound.

The executive branch is threatening to withhold funding, so it seems school bullying has begun at the top. Anyway, on behalf of my fellow educators still on the job, God bless you all. Here is my take on a quick look at the reality of classroom details and management that could be reality this fall. Enjoy!

Stay humorous in the chaos, my friends.

Reinventing the 4th – Conclusion

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Continued from Part 3….

This Fourth of July was quite different for me.

Between the cautions of the pandemic, my greater awareness of what the 4th of July means to Americans with a different experience, and a speech given, I had a quieter celebration with a wider perspective. I learned more and became more thoughtful as a citizen.

We still had a fun at-home holiday. Much of it felt normal. Some of it felt very different. Some of it was new this year. We made the best of it, enjoying it all.

Hamilton

On July 3rd, we had a good time watching the movie, Hamilton, while eating ham(ilton) sandwiches and custom cookies. What a great musical for a variety of reasons! We’d seen it performed live in downtown Los Angeles two years ago. The movie gave us a much better view.

Ham salad sandwiches from Honey Baked Ham
Shortbread cookies from Simply Irresistible Bakery
Cookie Close-up
Hamilton, The Movie (on Disney Plus)

Food and Social Distant Fireworks

Over the weekend, we ate outdoors. My husband cooked great food on the grill several times. We had red, white, and blue strawberry shortcake for dessert while we watched PBS’s A Capitol Fourth and fireworks over Washington, D.C.

Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries with shortcake, ice cream, and whip cream
Hosted by Vanessa Williams and John Stamos
Fireworks over the Lincoln Memorial

Afternoon Virtual Jazz

Earlier that afternoon, we listened to a virtual outdoor concert while seated in the backyard by the pool (see photo below). We relaxed to a few hours of great music using a wireless speaker and my phone. The Front Yard Groove Social Distancing Concert was expertly performed by talented young musicians, via Facebook live, from the front yard of a friend in Inglewood.

The tech set-up – speaker and phone
Our virtual view of the Facebook Live concert on my phone
We watched the concert poolside, dipping our feet in the cool water.

Anyway, the 4th of July, though bright and sunny outside, was clouded for me. I continue to kindly sort it all out. It is a tension to be managed. I was happy to celebrate the 4th of July, but it was a most unusual set of circumstances this year. It will continue to be one of my favorite holidays, but now with the hope to do better for all people who call the USA home.

This concludes this Reinventing the 4th series.

Stay hopeful, my friends.

Reinventing the 4th – Part 3

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Continued from Part 2….

This Fourth of July was quite different for me.

The third component of my quieter, more reflective July 4th pertains to the recent words of our President. I felt sad and disappointed by the speech he gave at Mt. Rushmore on July 3rd. His words were divisive, harsh, and felt too partisan for the context of the evening. That was painful and will not be without consequences. I grieve the many ways on how divided our country is currently. The chasm is growing and dangerous. Leaders have the responsibility to heal, not hurt.

My favorite 4th of July t-shirt

National pride is complicated, layered. Patriotism can be expressed in many ways. I am so glad to be an American, so grateful to live here, to experience this historically young federal republic. But I lament for the broken, bruised, and bleeding flaws, too. For the systemic injustices we have yet to overcome. We have more compassionate and wise work to do.

Continued in the conclusion.

Stay engaged, my friends.

Reinventing the 4th – Part 2

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Continued from Part 1….

This Fourth of July was quite different for me.

The second component that impacted my celebration of Independence Day 2020 relates to my continued choice to respond thoughtfully to the recent social unrest regarding racial injustice. I am listening and learning as stories are shared by the black community. On the weekend of the 4th of July, the historic speech given by Frederick Douglas came to my attention again and in many formats. I was reminded of some harsh truth. That speech impacted me, and I thought more deeply about the experience of others this year. Here is a video of one of the best recitations of that important speech that I saw or read this past weekend.

I lament the power and wealth disparity in our nation that I believe feeds on the suppression of certain groups. I will take steps to change that in the days to come. But for this July 4th, I sat quietly at times, to honor others and their stories.

Continued in Part 3….

Stay compassionate, my friends.

Reinventing the 4th – Part 1

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The 4th of July, traditionally, is one of my two favorite holidays. Here are some of the reasons:

  • Time off work
  • Great food
  • Time outdoors
  • Fun with family and/or friends
  • Community traditions: local fireworks shows, concerts in the park, parades, “taste of” events.
  • No shopping for presents and busting the budget
  • Decorations are minimal – easy to put up, remove, and store.
  • We often have a lazy schedule, waking up without an alarm.
  • It lasts a couple days, not a couple months.
  • It is not a three-month retail event.
  • The red, white, and blue theme are so summery.

This Fourth of July was quite different for me.

This year was a much quieter, more subdued event due to three current events. Maybe yours felt different, too. Between the cautions of the pandemic, my greater awareness of what the 4th of July means to Americans with a different experience, and a speech given, I wasn’t sure what the 4th would look like for us, but I knew it would be different.

First, we are in the middle of a pandemic. I felt sad because this holiday would be different due to the “safe at home” order we are following here in California. But I didn’t know exactly how that would work out. We chose to stay home and celebrate with just the two of us. We did not gather with family or friends, share a great holiday meal with a crowd of loved ones, go to the beach, or watch a fireworks event. We spent the day similar to every day for the last 110 plus days. At home. Simple living.

Though bright, sunny, and hot outside, it was clouded for me emotionally. I realized that was OK. I was happy to celebrate the 4th of July, but it was a most unusual set of circumstances this year. It will continue to be one of my favorite holidays, but now with the hope to do better for all people who call the USA home. We will always make the most of it.

To be continued in Part 2….

Stay thoughtful, my friends.

Flags for the Fourth

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Every July, I like to see the American flags flying from local houses as I drive through the neighborhood. This year, our flag was not out front at our home. Don’t judge! We moved our flag to the backyard this year. In the front yard, I rarely saw it, since we don’t go out front much.

With the flag flying in the backyard, we could see it frequently. We enjoyed it when we sat in the backyard and when we looked out from the kitchen or den windows. It was illuminated at night, too, which is proper flag etiquette.

We started out with it on the gazebo.
We moved it over to the fence near our very large backyard pool. (Ha, ha. Foot bath?)
The moon was almost full on July 4th.

Do you have an American flag? Did you display it at your house for the 4th of July this year? Did you see many on display this weekend in your neighborhood?

Stay charming, my friends.

Life Can Be In Tents

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Here in Southern California, many of us are staying home in response to the “Safe at Home” order from California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, to battle the CoVid19 crisis. I’ve often wished for more time at home to get this project done or do that creative project. Now I do have extra time, and I struggle to figure out what to do next.

I watch the news. Although it is hard for me to conceive, experts say things will get harder in the next weeks. I can feel the anxiety that produces. Focus is fleeting in the midst of the uncertainty outside our front doors.

Last Saturday, I needed a break. I needed to do something for a few hours that could take me away from current reality with an engaging activity. It had to take place at home. I got a silly idea. I decided I was going to build a tent at home inside. I returned to a childhood activity that I loved.

I jumped on that idea, and it filled the afternoon with creative fun and sweet play. I found great joy in a stressful time. I feel a little vulnerable sharing this with you due to the high level of silly. This is not something one would typically do alone at my age.

But I really wanted to try. So I’ll share it with you and perhaps encourage you to play more, too. As a responsible 64-year old adult, I rarely take time to play. I had forgotten how great it can feel.

Here are the details of my unusual afternoon adventure. I was only limited by what I could find around the house, the size of the space selected, and my imagination. Every step was freeing and fun. Just plain fun. It also brought cheer by bringing to mind one of the reasons I loved working with fourth graders as a teacher. To play like a kid.

Step 1: Diagram the plan and make lists of things to include.

Step 2: Collect materials and supplies.

  • Crutches: Support beams
  • Pair of old windows: Small french doors for entrance
  • Sheets, quilt, blanket, and variety of pillows: Ceiling, floor, and supplies to get comfortable and cozy.
  • Things to do in tent: Book to read, craft book on lettering, bag of pens for lettering or writing, note writing bag (note cards), and headphones
  • Gauze curtain panel, shelf: Front entrance valence and snack shelf
  • Magazine: For reading and relaxing

Step 3: Construct the tent using the highly technical engineering skill of trial and error.

I cleared the land in between the bed and dresser.
I put down the foundation. The carpet isn’t that clean. My grandmother’s white quilt went in next. I placed it on top of a clean sheet.
Naturally, I went for the laundry basket lift technique and crutches cross bars. Who wouldn’t? As a graduate of Purdue University, an engineering school, some design sense had rubbed off on me, even though I was an Education major. This design made the ceiling high enough for me to be comfortable. Plus, it provided more natural light and air.
The gauze valance was secured to the crutch with clothespins.
Next, I propped the pair of charming old windows at the opening to simulate tiny French doors, to add class, whimsy, and for a creative touch.
Of course a door mat made the entrance more official. You can also see my grandmother’s quilt now in place on the floor for a soft surface.

Step 4: Prepare some snacks for sustenance.

I rummaged through the kitchen and packed up the kind of things a kid would find to eat. Cashews, mini-marshmallows, Trader Joe’s Baked Cheese Crunchies, pretzels, and a banana. For a beverage, I loaded my small pink canteen with ice and sparkling water. Plus, I took a paper straw for my drink to create more of a party feel, and perhaps save an ocean turtle.

Step 5: Get into the tent and enjoy the afternoon.

My view from the inside looking toward the entrance. Getting my chill on.
The snack shelf with all the random goodies within reach. I found a spare shelf and placed it in a pulled out drawer to create this.
I enjoyed creating from my design, building a fun little tent, and relaxing inside for a few hours. “Safe at home” can be intense. Or…in tents.
I snacked, listened to music, read, and wrote a couple notes. I caught my breath. My body, mind, and emotions took a break from the CoVid19 weirdness.
Many of us are working hard to create interesting things to do at home. This was a big winner in my book. I had a blast in this silly seclusion.
At sunset, the globe lanterns came on and the entry way twinkle lights added a little magic, and signalling the end of a fun afternoon and my little tent.

Perhaps you’ve guessed by now that my inspiration tent was the one in the movie Holiday. If you’ve seen the movie, you know the tent. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t give it away.

Once upon a time, many of us had to stay at home for weeks. Many of us will do our best to make the most of it. Though an odd and difficult time, some memories we create will last far beyond this pandemic. I am grateful for these good moments.

Remember, you’re never too old to make the best of a tough time. Stay home. Stay patient. Stay creative. Stay playful.

And stay charming, my friends.

Bunches of Blossoms

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She made it look fun. She shared the ideas on Instragram. Then I wanted to see what I could do. Inspired and encouraged by my friend, Amy, at Tonality Designs, I took a chance and played with flowers this weekend.

We all know that Valentine’s Day was last Friday. We also know that flowers get overpriced, especially roses, at that time of year. Amy showed me a better way. She bought several bunches of flowers at Trader Joe’s and turned them into pretty arrangements to cheer up her home. She shared that the prices were reasonable.

I light heartedly challenged myself to a Valentine’s flower frenzy. I’ve learned that when I get tempted to compare myself to someone else’s creative ability, someone like Amy who does creative things really well, I tell myself, “Don’t miss out! At least try and see what you can do.” So that was my approach, following Amy’s lead and invitation to see what can happen.

I went to Trader Joe’s and bought five random bunches of flowers. Three at $3.99 each, and two at $2.99 each. I looked for the least expensive bunches, and whatever interested me. I don’t know the names of them, and that fits with my level of expertise and motivation to just try. I did get a burgundy bunch and a funky, pink, waxy, bubble bloom. I also got three bunches of white flowers.

And then things came to a screeching halt. At home, I put them in water, still in the packaging cellophane, and there they sat watching me for days. My schedule was busy and time went by. But tonight I got down to business.

I unwrapped the five bunches, gathered a variety of vases and containers on the table, and got going with a plant cutter and regular scissors. I trimmed them, separated them, and poked them into this vase and that glass. I ended up with about nine big and little bouquets of joy which are now scattered around the house. Those five bunches went a long way!

Dining Room Table
All white for the windowsill
Pop of color on the other windowsill
One big vase full, with a smaller jar in front
Next to the bathroom sink
On my desk
More in the bathroom

And I had a great evening! It didn’t take long. The arrangements came out good enough for me. I only spent about $18 for a house full of color and bloom. Awesome! This little adventure brought some playful creativity to my weekend and delight to our home for the week.

Thank you, Amy at Tonality Designs, for making it seem doable. To me, she is an expert on flowers and arranging bouquets, spending many Saturday mornings at the Los Angeles Flower Mart. Her posts on those outings and the results are enjoyable to read, too. So I finally took a chance on a bunch of blooms myself.

You can’t lose with pretty flowers. And like she says, it is always a good idea to buy yourself flowers! She was right. I am glad I tried. It was affordable and easy, when I viewed it as play and not something to enter at the state fair.

Stay charming, my friends! And remember to try something new soon and see how it goes. You might just be pleased. And so glad you did!

Twenty-first Birthdays – Let’s Do Better

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The twenty-first birthday is a milestone in the life of many young adults. Yet the big reward seems to be drinking legally. And probably drinking a lot in one night. Maybe we can do better.

What are we saying about adult life? Have we lost sight of truly celebrating our next generation as they grow to be adults? Have we taken the easy way out on creating a fun time? Is this what we really want them to look forward to? The legal drinking age seems to keep the celebration of reaching adulthood in the shallow end of the pool.

What kind of celebration would better honor this birthday, this rite of passage?

What if it were connected to life steps of accomplishment, instead of simply turning a page on the calendar. Achieving a goal or set of goals would be worthy of celebrating and instill a feeling of pride as one reaches their twenty-first birthday, like purchasing a car, getting car insurance, landing a job, getting a first apartment, finishing a college degree (not often doable by the twenty-first birthday), building a savings account, successful completion of military service, or volunteering or contributing to society. It is interesting to consider, instead of basically saying, “Now that you’ve survived to age twenty-one, have a brew, bro’!”

However, I think celebrating birthdays is celebrating life. Celebrating accomplishments feels like something separate. When we achieve our goals, that’s an additional reason to celebrate. We celebrate what we do at times, but birthdays celebrate who we are, who we are becoming. We pause to honor “being” over “doing.” So maybe accomplishments should be a separate reason to party.

What about those turning twenty-one who aren’t interested in drinking? Can we offer them anything amazing, beautiful, and empowering for them, too?

This can get more creative, especially considering drinking does not go so well for everyone. We can do better at designing a ritual or honoring celebration as we frame turning twenty-one differently.

Here’s one idea, though I don’t see it as a good one. At Purdue in the early 1980’s, the student turning twenty-one got tossed in the local Wabash River by friends. Hopefully, this did not occur in the winter.

Why is drinking the big buzz at twenty-one? Is reaching the legal drinking age what’s important? Let’s celebrate more than that, and make great memories that honor the birthday person with class and thoughtfulness. I’ll check for a Pinterest board to get more good ideas.

Not helpful. But then it’s not up to me, anyway. I’ve been over twenty-one a long time, and celebrated with a banana split on my big day.

Was your twenty-first birthday special? Have you heard any great celebration ideas?

Stay charming, my friends!

Welcome Back, Friends!

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Long Time No See

I apologize for my absence. My last post is dated Tuesday, January 1, 2019, over one year ago. I disappeared to tend to other family matters. To my returning readers, thank you for your patience! To my new readers, welcome to Wild Chin Hair, where we are looking for growth in unexpected places.

Family Matters

My mom celebrated her ninety-fifth birthday in January 2019. Around that time, I became my sweet mom’s personal assistant, taking on her email, mail, and finances, including gathering papers for tax prep. As expected, that placed a demand on my time, plans, and adjusted priorities. It was a loving way to serve her as the business side of everyday life became complicated for her.

This new role also drained my creative energy, since it was stressful and felt like a part time job. Many of you know what I mean, since you’ve been through this or are in similar seasons right now. I needed to press pause on my weekly post. Now I’m back!

Good Grief

My mom was a great mom and caring friend to many, including me. She graciously left this world in the end of May 2019. Although a bittersweet good-bye and not unexpected, I could now trust her to Heaven and wholeness.

Our big yellow lab, Samson #2, also passed in the spring of 2019 on his fifteenth birthday. That was a tremendous loss. We’d shared a great life with him since he was six weeks old. So, again as many of you can relate to, grief moved in when others moved on.

Grief changes us. I suspect forever. For me, grief is an uninvited friend that both stays too long and brought the gifts of intimate lessons, resetting priorities, and a renewed sense of gratitude, depending on the day. A side effect not listed on the warning label is also the energy drain that impacted the creative part of my mind and heart.

Taking Care of Business

On the business end of loss, settling the will, updating information, contacting businesses she dealt with, and reaching out to her dear friends continued through summer and fall. It is almost all quiet now. I am grateful both to have served her in this way, and to see the paperwork drawing to a close.

Also, I forged through the time and energy demands, physical and emotional, to clean out her apartment. On the up side, that motivates me to clean out my own possessions. There is no time when that will be easier than now.

Back to the Blog

So I took the time I needed to finish tasks, feel the emotions, and process this season of life. I stepped away from my blog. Now I’m happy to be back with lots to share. I hope you find helpful, hopeful, and at times humorous posts along the way, and come back often. It is good to be together again.

Stay charming, my friends!