Pausing to Process

I took for granted so much about America.

The election process.

The peaceful transition of power.

The behavior of professional, adult politicians.

Last Wednesday changed everything.

Now I feel the fragility of our democracy is real.

I see the weakness of our nation divided against one another, families and friends.

Trapped in a pandemic that is ripping holes in families.

Bad behavior does not need a group label. Personal choice. Personal responsibility.

We must stop generalizing the actions of a few as the position of an entire party.

Violence is not resolved by blame.

Words matter.

When we talk about rights, we are not all on the same page. Or even in the same book.

I do not have the emotional capacity to process this quickly and easily.

I will write about fun and thoughtful things another day.

Not this week.

My mind is consumed with current events.

Thank you for your understanding.

This was not a bad dream.
Many on both sides of the aisle acted with courage.

Stay prayerful, my friends.

Pandemic Tug Experiment

What? No hugs? For months on end that has been a caution and a challenge for me and many others. I have devised a solution. Pandemic tugs.

It is recommended that we do not hug friends and family at this time. Nor strangers for that matter, but who wants to hug a stranger? That’s creepy. In the combat of the subversive spreading strategy of the current coronavirus, we stay distant. I pondered the fact that many remain without hugs and the deficit in our sense of connection that can create. There must be a short term better way.

There is beauty and purpose in a sweet, safe hug with a loved one or someone you simply want to encourage. I miss that. Maybe you do, too. What can we do instead to stay safe, respect others, and still sense a physical connection? This sent me on a quest. I came up with this idea.

Tugs! Isn’t that what you were thinking, too? No? Well, then, let me explain.

As I thought further, the idea came to me that maybe tugging on a rope would help. Crazy, right? Think about it. In a hug, you touch another person tenderly. You sense they are really out there and you are connected. The second best idea could be a tug when you cannot hug.

Tugs and hugs do have some similarities:

  • Two or more people are usually needed.
  • Some resistance is applied, so physically you know someone is out there for you.
  • There is a sense of connection.
  • Often people feel better afterwards.

So I began to explore with my theory and then found a few friends to experiment, I mean play, with the theory. Let’s see what happened. Here were my next steps.

  1. Find something to tug. A rope came to mind. Knots would be helpful.
  2. Get a rope with knots, or add your own to a plain rope.
  3. Make sure the rope is long enough for social distancing.
  4. Make sure the rope is washable for germ precautions. That, and dirt precautions.

Amazon, naturally, had a dog toy rope long enough for my purposes, and it was also washable. It is knotted and has a tassel, which adds a sense of play and silly. Now, we’re talking!

I ordered two for tugging with friends without passing them around. I don’t feel that is a high risk, but it is courteous.

The ropes arrived. I was very pleased. The experiment was underway, supplies in hand.
Each rope was long enough to provide a measured physical distance. Perfect!
I was prepared and ready to try my fresh idea.

Two friends came over for a physically distant outdoor visit. They were game to test my tug hypothesis which was: Tugging on a rope with a loved one would be fun and provide a sweet physical sense of connection.

Here goes! We all tried it and tugged together. My hypothesis proved true.

The resistance needed to tug on a rope provides a fun sense that someone is out there engaged with you. It worked!
We couldn’t help but smile, but you cannot tell because, well, masks.
This did not feel like a hug, obviously. Yet it did create a sense of connection and play, and that lightened our hearts.

The experiment was a success! The tugs are a cute replacement for hugs while we are in this pandemic. I was so happy we each felt the physical presence of friends in this off-beat way, and that brought joy.

And then we tugged good-bye, with smiles on all faces.

Some of you will find this awesome, too, and may even need to invest in your tug of love rope. Or get a four way tug of love rope to extend to a group tug.

4-Way Tug Tool

Desperate times call for creative solutions! Tug someone soon!

Stay connected, my friends, and may tugs of joy be yours this holiday season.

Face Mask Maintenance

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

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

Heatwave Burning

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

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

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.

Another Pandemic and I

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!

Reinventing the 4th – Part 1

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.