Movie Review: Mulan 2020

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As is true for many of you, we recently watched Disney’s newly released movie, Mulan, a live action version of the earlier animated film. I don’t have clear memories of the previous Mulan (1998), so I was able to enjoy this movie on its own merits without comparison.

If you’ve seen the first version, you know the story. Disney did a good job refreshing it and keeping it engaging. Likable story. Most of the characters created a level of empathy in me. The conflict and resolution were satisfying. It is predictable to some level. Mulan’s struggle, to be so gifted yet so restricted in her culture at the time, gave it a universal theme. The lead actress in this role, Yifei Liu, brought the character to life.

As with most Disney stories, we watch for some humor and some darkness. Battle scenes and war are never relaxing, never the first choice in a movie for me, but predicting that the good will probably prevail helped. It’s Disney, after all. Not American politics.

Some will want to know what age group this movie would be appropriate for, would appeal to. Those are two different questions. It will depend on the child and the parenting style. The fighting and death might be of concern for younger kids. It is a movie filled with angst with more mature themes of hiding who you really are and the destructive pain of feeling alone. Some children will connect with that on their own level. Some may be too young.

For a better review of what age groups to share it with and major themes to consider first, check out Common Sense Media for their in-depth review and comments.

Common Sense Media Movie Reviews: Mulan (2020)

You’ve probably heard that Mulan (2020) is available on Disney + (Disney Plus) for a fee of $29.99, on top of your fee for channel access. So one has to decide if that is worth it. This streaming movies for a fee on top of subscriptions is new to me, and part of some business models since the pandemic closed the theaters. It could be a win-win. Here in the Los Angeles area, we need the movie industry to survive. It is a major employer in our area and does provide a service, for better or worse. Perhaps this helps the industry create some sort of income.

People have shared that it is cheaper than going to the theater. Perhaps, if you pay regular ticket prices. We are seniors, so we do not. They also mention adding in the cost of popcorn and drinks. True, that boosts the cost of the evening. So in this case, spend $30 and then make your own popcorn, pour your own drinks, and use your own bathroom.

If you have a family of even three or four, you’ve at least broken even by then, and still enjoy the convenience of your own home. Each person will determine if it is worth $30 or not. The cost does go down the bigger the viewing group, so there’s that.

Here’s another great article about Chinese culture captured in the movie, Mulan. For those readers interested in gaining further understanding into other cultures, this is a good article.

Chinese Culture Reflected in Disney’s Mulan (2020)

Here’s a list of some of the information shared in the article that I found interesting:

  • Based on a Chinese folk story created long ago
  • Explanation of Mulan’s make-up in the matchmaker scene
  • Understanding the Chinese characters on her father’s sword – loyal, brave, and true.
  • The meaning of the phoenix in Chinese culture
  • Definition of a “qualified wife” in feudal China

Have you watched the movie? What did you think?

How do you feel about the fee to view?

Did you know being a matchmaker was a serious occupation for women at the time of Mulan’s story? Would you like that as a career choice?

[Spoiler alert] Did you miss the 1998 character, Mushu?

Stay loyal, brave, and true, my friends!

Face Mask Maintenance

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Face masks have become a 2020 thing, thanks to this pandemic. At least for many of us. Perhaps that doesn’t include you. I’d have to say we’d all prefer not to do so, but it is a good thing many of us comply. This post is not to argue that point. If you are anti-mask, this post will not interest you.

For those of us who do comply, have you figured out your face mask habits yet?

  • It all started with buying one, at least for me. Then buying a few more. I’ve gotten one as a gift. We got one free. Now I have a collection. Has your mask supply grown into a collection?
  • One day, I might need to wear one daily, until the community is safer. Like when I return to work, though that is not anytime soon. My supply is ready. I have enough, like underwear, to get through the week or more, when needed.
  • My masks are varied in color and design. I have a Cubs mask, a Stand with Sanchez mask for our local Congresswoman’s campaign, and other designs. The designs were randomly chosen, no strategy. How about you? Did you make any of yours? You have a style strategy?
  • I have cotton masks, silk masks, and synthetic masks. I have not developed a preference. If they fit comfortably around my ears, they are usually comfortable across my nose and mouth, and that is all I ask.
And I do have a favorite mask.
  • I don’t match my face mask to my outfit. Do you?
  • I use a lanyard to hold my mask. Such a geek, though practical. Similar to a Midwest kindergartner’s mittens on a string, I just drop it around my neck. No setting the mask down and losing it. No shoving it in my pocket or purse. It is very convenient on walks. It just rests on the lanyard and I put it on when other people are passing by.
My portable mask lanyard system.
  • We wash the masks weekly. That’s simple enough and now a habit. It is one more tiny chore birthed in this pandemic.
  • How do you store your masks? Do you organize them? I simply put mine on a ring and hang them on the dresser.

It seems like masks will be part of life for a while. Currently we have smokey air, so I’m even more convinced a mask is helpful outside.

Masks care does have multiple steps. Who knew? Now we are experts.

If you only wear are disposable masks, I thought that would be easier. But you do have to have a supply, actually toss them in a trash container, buy more, and store them, too. So even those are not completely low maintenance.

Face masks. They serve us well for now. If only I could master the part that keeps my glasses from steaming-up. So simple, yet one more thing to manage.

I’m laughing as I write this because who knew simply adding face masks to your outer wear would come with all these care components. I didn’t even mention how my husband and I have to keep them separate, like our socks.

Maybe when this is all over we can meet for craft night and make Christmas tree garland out of all of them as a memento of a tough time.

Stay masked, my friends. We are not out of danger yet. Around here anyway.

Another Pandemic Holiday

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Still “safer at home” for yet another holiday.

My simple red, white, and blue Labor Day Weekend view from the kitchen window as “safer at home” orders continue.

Labor Day is here. We’ve watched time pass for nearly six months, along with other holidays including St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and now Labor Day. In my area of the country, we are still restricted since the transmission rate remains too high. I was reflecting back to when this started in March. I assumed we’d miss out on one or possibly two holidays. I cannot believe we are now at Labor Day without much change.

My memories of holidays and celebrations from previous years and familiar traditions fill my 2020 heart. That will have to do. Up until this pandemic, I held to the expectation that these annual holidays would always be enjoyed in familiar ways. Now I don’t know what to think, but I hope and pray we don’t hit another spike in a few weeks following this weekend. Being cautious and careful now will help so much, and move us off the state watch list sooner rather than later.

On top of the pandemic this Labor Day weekend, we are in a season of conflict and conspiracy surrounding so much of our American life. I never imagined there would even be such disagreement on the values so key to who we are as Americans. Concepts of freedom, liberty, and justice don’t just decorate a holiday plate anymore. They are often clouded by debate that I never imagined.

Hopefully we will dodge another holiday weekend transmission spike and do better than we did following Memorial Day weekend and the Fourth of July weekend. Hopefully we will find ways to find unity in all the conflict. Sometimes it feels like siblings are fighting, breaking the house rules, we all get grounded for it, and have to stay home longer.

With Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas up next, I make no claims to know what to expect, and cling to hopes that at least some of the favorite elements can still be a part of those seasons. Plus, we have an important election in that timeframe too. It will be an interesting ride all the way through to New Year’s Eve for sure.

In the meantime, let’s relax, make the most of it, and be grateful for the blessings we do have buried in the challenges. Not much changes for us. We usually spend the weekend at home working on projects and then grill good food. Only the heat is slowing down those activities.

Sparkling water with frozen watermelon cubes fill my glass, as I write on this very hot afternoon.

I look forward to raising a glass in a toast to a happier 2021! And cheers to a happy Labor Day for you! Tell me your Labor Day plans and what is different this year for you.

Stay patient, my friends.

Additional Note: Please continue to keep others in your thoughts and prayers, volunteer if you can, and continue to financially and on social media support organizations equipped to address the needs, for those among us who…

  • Are battling or impacted by all the acres of wild fires
  • Do not have shelter
  • Do not have access to air conditioning
  • Are serving those with CoVid, either family or professionals
  • Are struggling with food insecurity
  • Are looking for work
  • Need health care
  • Live in an abusive home situation
  • Feel isolated, anxious, and/or depressed
  • Experience fear due to disparity in treatment by those who are in power

The One and Only Ivan

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One of the things I enjoy about “safer at home” orders is that movies are released straight to streaming. Saturday night we watched The One and Only Ivan. It was my choice. I’d read and loved the children’s book a while back and was looking forward to the movie recently released.

The One and Only Ivan Book

I was glad I’d forgotten much of the story details so that I was truly free to enjoy the movie without comparing it too closely. For me, the book usually wins as better than the movie.

Here is the trailer for you.

I found the movie sweet and enjoyable. I laughed, teared up, smiled, cheered, and went along for the ride. I loved the characters – all of them. Human and animal. I thought the visual effects were engaging and helped me suspend belief when the animals spoke. Thankfully, they all followed the rule of speaking only to other animals and not to humans. I liked the storyline and the different twists. Though a straight forward plot and familiar dilemma, it was a perfect movie for a relaxing break from reality.

My husband watched it with me. Although not his first choice for a movie genre, he felt it was pleasant enough. This is a good family movie. Remember, I am not a movie critic. I simply know what I like, and that is usually good enough.

Going to movies was a big deal and a rare event when I was a child. Now our TV monitor is large, has clarity and good color, along with the excellent sound. I still enjoy going to the movies, but staying home to stream them is more convenient, cheaper, and just as enjoyable. The popcorn was homemade and deliciously fresh. The bathroom is convenient and clean. No one in the room talked, used their phones, or sat too close to me (hello, introverts!). Well, my husband sat close, but that’s different. The movie experience was without disruption, a win for home viewing.

The One and Only Ivan, based on a true story, was worth watching. Please watch it to the very end. There is some information on the true Ivan, as well as a little surprise. The monkey from Pirates of the Caribbean screams onto the screen. You know that is not true, but don’t stop before the credits.

Stay artistic, my friends!

Heatwave Burning

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Recently, we’ve had a summer heatwave in Southern California. This is par for the course at this time, and I’m grateful the temperatures have been comfortable up to this point. I am longing for cooler weather as I fight my way through August with glistening skin. Glistening. Ha! Sweat is real. And then there’s the smoke factor.

The “Smoke” descriptor on my phone weather app was new to me.

Fires are burning in the greater Los Angeles area. That’s all part of the season. Thankfully, they are not too close to our home. None the less, they have resulted in two weather advisories. “Unhealthy Air Quality” followed by “Very Unhealthy Air Quality” warnings appeared on my phone weather app this week. You can see more of how to respond to that in a photo farther down in this post.

The smoke from the local fires carries dust-sized particles of burned matter for miles. That was a challenging day and added some additional layers of weariness to the pandemic limits, though we were grateful to be safe.

Notice how the day’s high was predicted to be 105 degrees and we busted right through that one. Overachievers.
We moved from “unhealthy” in the previous photo to “very unhealthy” later in the day. Masks actually served a dual purpose that day.
From my Internet search on “very unhealthy air quality,” here are the instructions.

If we closed all the windows and doors, we may suffocate from heat, but at least we’d have more breathable air. Some days you just have to take your chances. We closed up the house briefly and decided to take our chances with pollution and get some air circulating.

By the way, we do not have central air-conditioning. Our home is over 100 years old. With all its quaint and charming ways, it is a difficult (a.k.a. expensive) structure to air condition. We do not have central air. That’s a choice, not a complaint. We have had a strategy.

When the brutally hot days of summer hit, our strategy included working all day in air-conditioned offices, and then going out for dinner in air-conditioned restaurants after work. That might possibly cheaper than air conditioning and more fun. That also included no dishes to clean-up. We’d return home after dark when things were cooling down. We dodged the blistering heat. Not this year.

We both now work remotely, and restaurants do not have indoor dining yet. Thankfully, well-placed fans provide some relief. Our faithful kiddie pool is just enough to cool the feet and provide a break. The cooling power of evaporation has assisted me, too, with a mid-day shower or a damp bandana around my neck. And there’s always ice cream.

Heat and humidity often go hand in hand. As a child and young adult with midwest roots, I cannot complain. Here the humidity does not usually come with the heat. This week we did have some tropical levels of humidity, and I am well trained for that. I remember the days when drying off after a shower was a pointless activity. I am glad that is the exception not the rule in our climate region.

However, it did evaporate all ambition for the week right out of me. This post is late. All I wanted to do was sit still. Anything that required thought felt like a punishment. Today, I’m up on a Sunday morning in the cool of the day, currently 73 degrees, and sending you warm greetings with this quick post.

I hope you are managing the summer weather challenges well wherever you are. We all endure the heat and humidity. Some have more humidity than others. Some of you deal with the threat of storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Some of you have ideal temperatures day and night in the summer, and sit on your deck wondering why everyone doesn’t live where you live. Today, so do I.

And then there’s the fun kind of heatwave!

Stay cool, my friends.

Note: I want to recognize that there are those among us suffering from homelessness or other economic disparities that make these hot days even more crushing and difficult. In light of that, my issues are minimal. Let’s keep them in our prayers and stay open for compassionate ways to assist and also look for action to take to bring justice to community life.

Tears and Apologies

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I’ve said it. I’ve heard it said in various settings. When someone cries in front of others, there is a tendency to apologize. “I’m sorry for crying.”

Can we stop apologizing? Tears are treasure. They are beautiful symbols that something important is going on inside. Why do we sometimes feel the need to apologize? I know it is uncomfortable, but I want to listen to what’s happening as signaled by tears. Mine or yours.

Perhaps, as women, we apologize because we don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. We were often raised to make people happy. Or we don’t want to bring down the mood.

Perhaps we feel embarrassed because we want to appear to be in control of our emotions.

Perhaps, especially for my generation, we got the clear (gender biased) message that women are too emotional, and we won’t get ahead in our male-dominated careers.

Tears come when they want to, don’t they? For joy or in sadness. For a variety of reasons, related or maybe unrelated to the topic of conversation at just that moment. I like to say, “Cry when you need to cry. It is important. When your heart breaks, love leaks out in tears.” If it is tears of joy from a full heart, love leaks out.

When your heart is full of joy, it may also overflow in tears.

May we be safe people for those who need to cry to feel comfortable doing so.

May we be brave enough to let our own tears fall when they come, without embarrassment or apology, embracing our tender heart as we would a friend’s. Let tears bring release in the stress of a season. Let tears share the loss of a loved one or acknowledge a big disappointment. Whatever the reason, tears bring us closer to our authentic selves and one another.

May we all have people we feel safe enough to cry with. And when we cry in an uncomfortable moment, may we go with the flow. Pun intended. Let’s grant others and ourselves that kindness.

Crying deserves a shame free zone.

If someone is uncomfortable when you cry, that is not your responsibility. It could be because they care about you and don’t want you in any pain. It might be because it triggers something in them that brings up their own pain, which will be theirs to work through. It might be because they are insensitive, and again, that is for them to work out.

If someone starts to cry in conversation, be a safe space. None of us has to be cheery all the time. No one took that vow. Be real in what you feel. In this season of great disappointment and loss in a pandemic, we have even more times of tears. Grant grace.

Stay tender, my friends.

“Stay at Home” Get-Away

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Here it is, early August. We are still under a “stay at home” order. Summer is winding down. Did you get out of town for vacation? Some of us did. Some of us did not.

We had reservations at the Blue Lantern Inn, Dana Point, California, to celebrate a milestone birthday with an ocean view. We made the reservations back in January this year, when life was simpler. I didn’t want to cancel until closer to the weekend, hoping for things to improve regarding the pandemic. They did. Briefly, at least.

As the weekend approached, I debated back and forth if it would be a good idea to go or not. It did seem to be a low risk activity. I spoke to the inn personnel. I consulted my doctor. I researched online. We had until seven days prior to cancel for a full refund. So on that day, we decided we’d go. The commitment was made. I totally overthought it, but I wanted to be safe, not sorry.

We had a lovely time. We did practice social distancing by simply relaxing in the room or sitting out on the balcony, except to go pick-up food. We followed the requirement to wear a mask when we were outside our room. We washed our hands. And hoped for the best.

Basically, we went “glamping” – the term for glamorous camping. Not knowing what to quite expect, and basically quarantining ourselves to the room, we packed extra supplies. The inn was not doing housekeeping once guests checked in. There was no food service. Here are some some things we did to make this work.

Our lovely room. It was cleaned prior to our arrival, and left empty for 24-hours before our check-in, according to protocol.
We picked up Friday night dinner at a local restaurant and ate on the balcony of the room. We brought dishes, napkins, and tableware which came in handy.
The view was delightful. If you choose to stay in your room, having a view is a good idea.
We brought our own breakfast buffet: sourdough coffee cake that Glen had made, and slices of cheese. We ate this both Saturday and Sunday with coffee.
Since there was no housekeeping, and we’d brought plates and utensils from home, I did the dishes in the bathroom sink with dish soap, dish cloth, and a drying towel brought from home.
Our drying rack was a place mat from home.
We brought a jar and some tea bags and made sun tea for the afternoon.
We really enjoyed the change of scenery from our home.
Random snacks from home.
Happy hour on the balcony.
We got take-out for dinner, too. It was too cold to eat outside, so we moved the balcony table and chairs in by the little fireplace. The restaurant did no include napkins or tableware, so I was glad we had brought some.

We cancelled our vacation plans for May. We cancelled our vacation plans for this month. With our current uncertain circumstances, it seemed to be the wisest thing for us. I’m glad we did get one weekend away. It wasn’t the get-away we’d had in mind when we made the reservation last January, but we had a good time.

Blue Lantern Inn, Dana Point; Photo Credit: Trip Advisor

Where did you get away to this summer? What did you give up?

Stay charming, my friends.

Lost Art of Letters

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I’m cleaning out my stuff. Partially because of time at home due to the pandemic. Partially because I am simplifying my life. Partially because I’m getting old and want to take care of it now while I have the energy.

As a result, I recently came across this matching stationery.

I really enjoyed writing letters back in the day. I had a weak spot for pretty stationery. I probably spent a small fortune on it and would find little stationery stores in any city to window shop.

Letter writing is almost obsolete in an age of technology. Handwritten communication now carries an extra measure of love for the recipient, especially when a letter comes in snail mail. The writer’s voice, handwriting, time, and affirmation are carried in that note or letter. So personal. Something to hold that doesn’t vaporize as new emails and texts pile on top.

This matching letter paper and envelope, above, represents a by-gone era. Letters were so welcome between friends and me during our summer camp and college years, and then between my parents and me when I moved away from home as a young adult. Soon mobile phones and personal computers shoved those activities aside.

Newer generations won’t have as much of this. I am thankful for the artists, like Erin Vaughan, still creating beauty, like the notepads below. Writing on pretty papers is still something many of us enjoy.

We have more conveniences and less time. Someone explain that to me. I do have less time to write letters. If I spent less time on social media and wrote a quick letter or note instead, I wonder if I could spread a little more love. And my stress level might decrease, too.

Stay in touch, my friends.

Erin Vaughan’s Wild Flower Notepad
Erin Vaughan’s Desert Sunset Notepad

Another Pandemic and I

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Back in the early 1900s, a man was busy with his young wife raising their two little boys. In 1918, reportedly at age 22, that woman tragically lost her life. My dad told me she died of complications of the flu. Now I realize it was probably the Spanish Flu, another pandemic. Such a painful loss of life and love gone too soon.

A few years later, Joseph remarried. Little, lovely Emma became his wife. They gave birth to another boy, his third son. That son grew, and years later he became my dad.

My beloved paternal grandparents
My father (second from right, army uniform), his half-brothers (on both ends), and my grandfather, (second from left).

I cannot quite get my head around it. I might not be here if it were not for a tragic family consequence of the Spanish Flu. I don’t feel good about that, but it is interesting. This connects me in an odd way to another historic, serious, disruptive health crisis and the changes it brought, the impact it had.

The heartache was very real for so many back then, including my own grandfather, and it is today with our pandemic. The frustration is a daily burden, then and now. There are no easy answers. No more shortcuts. But good will come.

Generations from now, when this is history, what story will they tell?

[I don’t know who’s photo this is. If you have copyright information for it, please contact me.]

Stay safe, my friends!

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.