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.

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.