Halloween or Hallowon’t

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Halloween during a pandemic. Well, at least everyone’s already wearing masks, right? My kids are in high school, so it’s less of an issue for us. They’re planning on going to friends’ houses and celebrating with a party instead of traditional trick or treating. They’ve already been hanging out with these friends since summer, so it’s equally safe as doing homework together.

On my neighborhood Facebook group, there have been some questions about neighborhood plans as well as some suggestions. One neighbor wants to do treat bags on a table at the end of the driveway, and limit trick or treating to certain hours – from five until eight. I thought that seemed reasonable.

Another thought was of a scavenger hunt with houses providing clues to their kids to find candy. The parents would do all the work and the neighbors who participated would volunteer so the kids weren’t randomly going to people’s houses who had no idea what was going on. I thought this was a great idea.

We usually have a bucket of toys and comic books in addition to candy, so the kids can choose which treat they prefer. They toys are the kind you get from McDonald’s Happy Meals or similar small items. Some are packaged, but some are gently used. We’ve decided to suspend this practice until next year (hopefully). I know our items are safe, but why put the parents in the position of having to say no to a toy if they have (legitimate) concerns.

I also thought that instead of having the kids reach into our candy bowl and choose their preference, we would have more of the same candies and hand it out ourselves. Two candies per child. We can wear gloves and put it right into their basket or bag.

I know some doctors and experts have talked about avoiding family during the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which are closer than we think they are. We haven’t decided our holiday plans, but I also think that Halloween is a different circumstance. I don’t mean it’s more important than our traditional family holidays, but in some ways it kind of is. It’s fun. It’s dressing up. It’s candy. And it can be done in a responsible and socially distant way. Kids can come to the door one or two at a time. The candy givers can wear masks and gloves. There’s no hugging, shaking hands, sitting around a table talking and eating.

To be honest, it really sounds a lot easier.

Maybe we can have a Halloween inspired Thanksgiving. Drive thru. Go to Grandma’s house and she’ll give everyone a Tupperware filled with a portioned out turkey dinner. Same with Christmas; just add presents to the drive thru lane.

I don’t know. I’m still working on that one. In the meantime, let’s enjoy Halloween as best as we can. Teach our kids that we need to make some changes this year to keep everyone safe, and we can do that and still have fun. I’m planning on dressing up as a postal carrier if I can find my parents’ old work shirts.

We’ll find out in one week.

What are your plans for Halloween? Do you have any suggestions for making it fun and safe for kids in this unusual year?

Hen Galan

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Today marks the celebration of Hen Galan or the Welsh New Year. This has been celebrated in Wales on 13 January since 1752 when Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar from the Julian one, making the new year begin on January 1st. This is the Gregorian calendar which we use today. At that time, many people believed that losing those eleven days from the calendar coincided with losing those eleven days from their lives.

The village of Cwn Gwaun continues to celebrate this holiday in modern times. If the day falls on a weekday, school is closed. The town gathers with each other, in houses or more likely in the pub in town. It’s festive, filled with fun and feasting in celebration. Children go door-to-door or farm-to-farm around the valley parish (about 18 miles) singing traditional Welsh songs and receiving calennig from the grown-ups, sweets or money. It was like having two Christmases.

Enjoy the following links and Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Hen Galan: Welsh village celebrates new year on 13 January (first published 2019)

The tiny Welsh village that celebrates New Year’s Eve on this night every year: In Cwn Gwaun they party like it’s 1699! (first published 2018)

Gwaun Valley children mark old New Year (first published 2012)

Snowdon Mountains, North Wales. (c)2020

Inspire. January.

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New Computer. New Calendar. New Creativity. (c)2020

What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.

– Ralph Marston

Getting Through the Holiday Letdown

Nothing in our lives is perfect; nor should it be. No matter how wonderful the holidays are, I feel as though there is still some underlying disappointment. Since Halloween, we’ve been rush-rush-rushing to get everything done: Thanksgiving travel and dinner, cleaning our houses to some perceived perfection for house guests or just answering the door to the mail carrier, who I just realized I never gave a Christmas gift to. *facepalm* We’re shopping, wrapping presents, trying not to eat out too much but not having time to cook, putting up the tree, finding (or not finding) the boxes of ornaments, planning the menu, remembering what times the religious services are, finding the mismatched candles for the menorah and like every other Jewish family across the world, laying down a strip of aluminum foil to catch the wax drippings. When Christmas dinner is over and the dishes are put away, we barely have time to breathe before the year ends, and a new one begins. Will there be parties? Work? Sleep? There will be food, but what kind and how much effort? Or is that just me?

Did I mention that my daughter’s birthday is at the end of the week?

What are some ways that you deal with the holiday letdown and prepare for the excitement and anticipation of the new year? Comment with your best advice. Here are a few of my own:

1. Breathe. I know I said it last week, but it’s true. Breathing is essential. Slowing down, counting to ten (or twenty or one hundred) and breathe. In through your nose; out through your mouth. You can do it; I know you can.

2. Journal. Even if you’re not typically a journal keeper, get a cheap notebook for the next couple of weeks, and write it down. Write down your feelings. Write down a list of what you need to do. For me, if it’s not on a list, it won’t be remembered.

3. Doodle. If you’re not a journaler, doodle in the margins like you did in school. Stick figures. Hearts. Circles, squares, triangles, and more circles. Trees and flowers. Mindless doodling.

4. Water. Have a tall, cool glass of water. It will make your whole body feel better.

5. Music. Listen to something you love. My two go-to’s for getting lost in the sound are the Patrick Doyle’s Henry V soundtrack from the 1989 movie and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. Equally engrossing at loud or soft volume. It pulls me in and keeps me there.

6. Read. Read something new. Read something you love. If I haven’t already, I’ll share my 2019 books to offer what I read and what I recommend.

7. Relax. I do not mean this in that condescending way that people often advise you. I speak from where you are because I’m there right now and have been there before. Take a minute. Most of what we’re worrying and stressing about aren’t as big as we think they are. Step back, relax, and the keep moving forward.

Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays!

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This won’t publish until tomorrow morning, but as I write this it is many things for many people today: it’s the day after Christmas, which makes it the First Day of Christmas. It is also the fifth night of Chanukah. It is Boxing Day. It is the first day of Kwanzaa. Please add your holidays in the comments, and I can add them to my yearly calendar for next year.

I had so many intentions for writing and publishing last week, and part of the week before, including a a reflection on gratitude, a short commentary on something my priest said during a homily about everyday is Thanksgiving or at least the opportunity for thanksgiving, the emotional legacy I feel for the new Star Wars movie as well as something Supernatural finale related, holiday photos of our family’s menorah and Christmas tree as well as other shared instagram-type posts. The one thing I really tried to get done was a special Mental Health Monday before Christmas with ways to avoid holiday stress.

Instead of writing about it, and offering some advice I decided to take my unwritten as of yet advice, and not worry about writing and posting (among a few household things). For one thing, every time I looked at my ever increasing list of writing projects, I blanked. I closed the computer or the Kindle, and I walked away. There were presents to be wrapped, cards to be mailed (which had its own special stress for the lateness that they were received by me and losing my address book), our tree wasn’t up yet, our stove wasn’t working and I wasn’t sure how we were going to prepare Christmas dinner*. I tried to write to avoid the stress of the holidays that were on a timeline, and in making an editorial timeline at this time was really stressing me out. Each time I postponed a day’s planned posting, it increased my stress. And this isn’t why I write. While there is good and valuable stress that comes with my writing choices, this last week and some days was truly giving me bad, debilitating stress.

Once I made the decision to not write until after Christmas Day I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

There are six days left to this year, and it’s been quite a year. It is not only a year ending, but an entire decade. It’s kind of a big deal. I will write again before the New Year and then after as I discover which direction I want to travel in with my writing.

My advice for the rest of this week is:

SLOW DOWN.
BREATHE.
TAKE TIME FOR YOU. If you’re working, spend your break times eating, hydrating, meditating, reading or whatever it is that you do for you. At home, take time for you. You’ve worked hard all year; take a little time for yourself.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and have a Blessed and Peaceful upcoming New Year.

*A quick note on these things:

The presents got wrapped.

The cards we ordered from an online photo card store didn’t come, but we did receive another family’s cards. It took a little longer to get our own cards, but we did. No big deal, and an unavoidable delay. I sent the cards out in waves, and it turned out all good.

I found my address book that has ALL of my addresses.

We got our tree and lights up. My son put his Santa hat on the top, and it looks very cute.

Our oven hasn’t worked for months and we are buying a new stove. Unfortunately, it won’t be delivered until the weekend. (My son is already planning on baking a pizza the first night!) Fortunately, a generous friend offered us her countertop convection oven, and Christmas dinner was saved!

It all works out in the end, doesn’t it.

Travel – Scavenger Hunt

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​Last week, I shared Kids’ Travel Bags for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Today, I am offering some suggestions for one of those items in the bags: the scavenger hunt sheet. It is below the cut, and permission is granted to download and print it for your own use with your family.

One of the things the past seven years of Gishing has taught me is that there are many ways to interpret something. It’s allowed me to rethink my concept of the scavenger hunt for one thing. Rather than collect things only to get rid of them at the end, I’ve really incorporated the idea of re-purposing, finding and documenting, and being a force for good, whether that’s as a Good Samaritan, doing good deeds, or making the world better through my time, talent, and treasure, and of course through civic responsibility. All of those things will be different depending on the hunter’s perspective.

I planned a mini Scavenger hunt for my kids for our most recent vacation. This is not an easy task as they are somewhat spread out in age: 13, 14, and 22, as well as personality and tolerance for this sort of thing.

Some items were be for collection, although not many. Most were photos or videos and journaling. It was a lot of fun, and it kept them busy for our long drive. Hopefully, it will help in your Thanksgiving travels.

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Middle Child’s Day

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Today is the day to celebrate your middle child. Sometimes being the middle child wears them down, so give them a little extra love today. Let them choose something fun to do. Let them choose what’s for dinner. Take them out for ice cream.

Read Mental Floss’s article about middle children we may have heard about, like Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

💚❤💚

What Does the 4th of July Really Mean?

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We celebrate our independence, just before the Revolution, and that was the first step, the birth of this American Experiment. And so today, with so much of our norms being obliterated, and our patriotism being co-opted, our country changing, for the worse, right before our eyes, I thought I would do something different than previous Fourth of Julys. No grilling, no fireworks, no parades.

I started today by sitting quietly and reading the Constitution. It’s not very long. It made my heart smile as the language changed from British Colonial to more modern day parlance, as rights were enshrined and bestowed on those without access to them previously. I say it that way, because rights cannot be given, only recognized. In the reading, I remembered some familiar phrases, some amendments that I’ve read more than a few times, some I’ve never read. I interpreted some a little differently than I had previously.

I share my art and an immigrant’s podcast and a destination that opens up the world to you.

Happy 4th, but more importantly, Happy 243rd Birthday America. I know you’ve got a few more in you. Now, get to work!

I had this in my head for a few days before sitting down to art it. As I wrote it, and as I read the preamble to the Constitution this morning, I sang it Schoolhouse Rock style; it is the only way I remember it even if I’m only singing in my head. Original Art. (c)2019

Podcast: Stay Tuned with Preet (Bharara): What Patriotism Means to You (with Heidi Schreck)   

National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, PA

The United States Constitution 

Direct download of the Constitution 

President Obama’s Speech on the 50th Anniversary of the Selma March, 2015: 

Juneteenth

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Juneteenth is a celebration of African-American Emancipation. It commemorates the day in 1865 in Texas that General Gordon Granger read the proclamation declaring that ALL SLAVES ARE FREE. While Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in his Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 with an effective date of January 1, 1863 that did not include border states not in rebellion or Texas where slaveowners moved to escape the fighting (unless these slaves escaped to non-slave states).

Now, they were all free with all the rights and privileges of all Americans (except of course for the reality of being Black in America in 1865). 

One year later, in 1866, Freedmen celebrated the first anniversary of Juneteenth in Texas.

Contending with whites only spaces that continued for too many years, many pooled their money to buy land of their own in order to congregate and celebrate. Emancipation Park in Houston, Booker T. Washington Park in Mexia, and Emancipation Park in Austin are three of these places.

While celebrated in several states as a recognized holiday or observance, the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation is seeking an official designation of Juneteenth as an observation in all 50 states through Congress.

What is Juneteenth by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Juneteenth Holiday (from Vox)

Slate (from 2015): The Black American Holiday Everyone Should Celebrate But Doesn’t

Juneteenth Honors March to Freedom (from 2008)

From the television series, Black-ish:

Easter Out!

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​Since my mother-in-law passed away, except for Thanksgiving which we spend with my sister-in-law’s family, we spend every holiday at home. We eventually get the dining room table cleaned off. We add a pretty table runner. No one drinks out of a can. Phones get confiscated, kind of. Each meal has its own traditions: Rosh Hashanah is roast chicken, challah bread, yams, apples. Halloween is pizza. Christmas is roast beef, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, caramelized onions, peas & carrots, dinner rolls, one year we had Yorkshire pudding. New Year’s are appetizers as is the Super Bowl. St. Patrick’s Day is corned beef and cabbage, mashed potatoes and carrots and of course, Irish soda bread. Passover is chicken, potato pancakes, carrots, matzo ball soup, matzo and butter, sometimes gefilte fish and/or chopped liver. Easter is roast turkey or chicken, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, carrots, and dinner rolls. We seem to eat a lot of carrots, don’t we?

Our oven hasn’t worked consistently for over six months. We got very lucky for Christmas that it did indeed work and we were able to eek out a delicious Christmas dinner as well as our yearly birthday cheesecake for my son. A few weeks ago we tried to bake cornbread as a side dish to something that I can’t quite remember. After the apportioned hour, it was still gooey. The oven, which had been set for 350 was only about 200 degrees warm, which was not enough to cook it. I scoured Facebook for directions on how long to microwave the cornbread and dinner was saved, but not before realizing we were going to have a problem.

From then on, we have been using our crock pot. Lasagna, meatloaf, roast (not quite roast but fully cooked and tasty) chicken. I intend to try bread in it, but I don’t have the energy quite yet, and either way, it’s Passover for the rest of the week.

On the Monday after Palm Sunday, I told my husband that it was decision time, so what would it be – fix the oven before Good Friday or eat out on Easter? He would fix the oven. He did his research online, found the part he thought was the problem, and went to order it. He thought it was twelve dollars; it turned out it was fifty. We already know we’re going to need to replace this oven in the near future. We’re waiting on a tax refund to see if it’s doable or if we need to go another year on crock pot/stove top meals (which have been working out okay to be honest, if a little more time consuming). We decided to eat out.

My oldest son would come home in the early morning from work before he went to sleep and then back to his next shift for our annual Easter egg hunt. I know they’re old, but they all play along and they get some candy, and I get some pictures and everyone has a fun time and some sugar high donuts and hot chocolate for breakfast. Then we’d nap and have dinner much later.

It felt weird from the moment we decided it. Would any place even be open? I know that Dunkin’ Donuts is open, and several places do a we’ll make the meal, you heat it, but we ignored the situation for a day or so more.Then I got two emails – Applebee’s was open as was Texas Roadhouse for Easter dinner. Hmm…not exactly what we were looking for, but who knows?

We finally settled on Cracker Barrel. We thought that would be the closest to eating at home. We’d allow everyone to get dessert if they liked to make it a little more special than a regular dinner out. I even got a salad. I also mandated no phones at the table. That worked for the most part. Not perfect, but what dinner ever is?

It was a lovely change of pace. I enjoyed it, and I’d consider doing it again, but I don’t know that I’d want to make it a tradition, but it worked out for everyone, and I was actually surprised how busy they were. I thought brunch time wold be busy, but we were there just before traditional dinner time, at around four in the afternoon, and it was busy. No one was waiting but it was crowded and the waitresses were constantly on the move. On our drive there, I was alos surprised at how many other restaurants were open and their parking lots relatively full: Friendly’s, TGIFriday’s, Panera Bread. Starbucks drive-theough was still buzzing, although the supermarket was closed and its parking lot was empty.

All in all, a grateful Easter celebration with most of the family.

It was actually kind of relaxing.

Happy Easter!

National Hot Chocolate Day

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This was the lovely set-up my daughter did for her Secret Santa sleepover. This was the Hot Chocolate buffet: a variety of hot chocolate, peppermint candy canes, a wide range of marshmallows, and festive reindeer napkins. (c)2019

Hot Chocolate Gift Sets I put together for my kids. Penzeys Hot Chocolate Mix and a jar of mini marshmallows. Simple, cute, inexpensive, thoughtful, and delicious. (c)2019