What Holiday do you Celebrate?

What holiday do you celebrate?  Is yours a home that celebrates Christmas? Kwanzaa? Hanukkah? Whether the candles are red, green, black, or blue, the message of our Winter holidays is the same. The message is one of kindness, caring, and human connection. Those flickering candles remind us to spread a message of love and light.

Today’s political climate makes this time of year even more valuable; we all desperately need to hear Winter’s message of kindness and to act upon it. I have realized that patience with an elderly person in the checkout line, a kind word for the young sales clerk, a warm smile for a stranger…each of these costs me nothing and yet could be of great value to the recipient. 

I love the holidays; I am excited for December to arrive so that I can decorate the house, trim the tree, bake warm cookies laced with warm, wintry spices, listen to favorite carols, and wrap packages for gift-giving.  In my mind, the Winter holidays reflect what our Earth is telling us; it is time to slow down and stay warm. I love long Winter nights when I can snuggle in front of a fire, eat a big bowl of soup with crusty homemade bread, and sip hot cocoa or warm wassail. I like to get busy baking cookies and smelling the pungent spices of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.  Indeed, Yes,I love the holiday season!

Sitting by the fire staring at the flickering flames is the perfect time for me to focus on how my life fits into the Universe. It is a time of reflection, self-examination, and goal setting.  How can my life make the world a gentler place for the people with whom I come in contact?  What can I do to improve the person I see looking back at me in the mirror each morning?  How can I keep my focus on the true meaning of Christmas?

The world I live in is media-driven; advertisers pour millions into ad campaigns to promote “stuff”.  The challenge is for me to keep my mind on what matters. I remember a Psychology Today magazine cover about 45 years ago.  It showed a child surrounded by a mountain of crumpled wrapping paper, bows, and toys tossed about the room.  The child was not impressed with any of the new toys, rather he was happily playing in one of the empty cardboard boxes!  The message was loud and clear. Running up a credit card bill was not going to make Christmas a success. 

I sat and really thought about what I wanted; it was very clear to me that what I wanted was for my son to be happy.  So the real question was, what could I give him that would make him happy?  I quickly realized that a new toy was not the answer; what he wanted was time spent with mequality time…put-your-phone-away-and-focus-entirely-on-me time.

Guess what? That is what we all want.  Your husband, wife, sister, parent, and the young person at the checkout all want a moment of your undivided attention. And that is really all it takes for them to feel valued. I have learned that simple things make people feel valued: making eye contact, smiling, listening, and replying.  All free!  

So, what I know for sure is that the message of Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah is not “spend”.  The message is “stop”…notice the people around you, count your blessings, value the time we have with those we love, spread kindness, create precious memories, and celebrate life.  So, from my home to yours, Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa!

Lucky Me!

I want to share my excitement at winning a free logo from Ashley McCulloch, the creator of ThistleGirl Designs. I am a member of her website and use her clipart almost exclusively in my work with Chalk Dust and Apples.  She creates clipart that is multicultural, and that is very important to me.  I think it is critical for young students to see themselves reflected in the displays around the classroom.  

Anyway, I was sooooo excited to win her free logo and she didn’t disappoint.  It has been a wonderful collaboration and I am very pleased with the end result.  She provided me a couple of banners and a small logo to use in my products.  

So, thank you so much, Ashley!  I will proudly display the logo everywhere.  

Golden Globes + Black Dress = Big Deal?

I have been reading and seeing on the news that several high powered Hollywood actresses, the movers and shakers, are planning to wear black dresses to awards events such as the Golden Globes and the Oscars. Their purpose is to draw attention to the ME TOO movement that is sweeping the nation. Keep reading to find out why I think the black dress protest is definitely NOT a big deal.

The Facts:

  1.  I definitely want the men and women of Hollywood to use their fame in positive ways that support needed social and environmental changes. Today, an important issue is that of female empowerment!
  2. I am a 69 year old female, a retired teacher, and certainly not an expert on life in Hollywood.
  3. I was a young woman who fought for women’s rights throughout the 1960s.  During summer breaks from college I worked as an office temp; I remember the “girls” at my first office job had to threaten a walk-out to be allowed to wear a PANTS SUIT to work!
  4. I support the “ME TOO” initiative; no one should be forced to compromise her/his dignity in order to get or keep a job.

The Problem:

The women of Hollywood are beautiful.  We all love seeing them close up on the big screen; they are who many young girls aspire to become.  Female empowerment is a serious issue, not just for women of Hollywood, but across our country. Serious issues need serious solutions.  Now is the perfect time to take a stand for this issue, while it is in the public eye.

My Questions:

Many of us watch the pre-show and the Awards ceremony because we want to see what everyone is wearing.  The  iconic Red Carpet question is always: “Who are you wearing?” Does it matter that the gorgeous, incredibly expensive dress being worn is black instead of red or blue? Is wearing a black dress to a glamorous awards ceremony a SERIOUS SOLUTION?

My Answer:  No!

My Solution:  

As I said, Hollywood actresses are beautiful!  They would be beautiful if they showed up in a burlap sack.  So, instead of wearing a $75,000 black dress to the ceremony, wear a $1,000 dress and donate the other $74,000 to a program that supports women’s shelters.  When asked “Who are you wearing?”, I would love the answer to be Kohl’s or Belk’s, or any average department store in the area.

OR, how about wearing the same dress you wore last year and donate the entire $75,000 you would have spent to women’s shelters. We need to make it less frightening for women and their children to escape from abusive situations.

Not interested in women’s shelters?  There are plenty of single mothers and their children living in homeless shelters or on the streets.  All I am saying is that women need to stand up for women in a meaningful way. Change is a possibility that resides within each of us.

 

Rose Parade: Is it really “Making a Difference”?

imagesIt is that time of year, so I am posting my annual ROSE BOWL PARADE REFLECTION…

Now don’t get me wrong…I live in Georgia and I am so excited that our team is competing this year in the Rose Bowl.  My issue has nothing at all to do with the actual Rose Bowl game; my problem is with the Rose Bowl Parade associated with the game.

This year the theme of the parade is “Making a Difference”; I find that quite interesting since I think there are better ways to make a difference than a parade. Here’s why…

MY CONCERN:

  1. The estimated base cost to a corporation for one of the big floats is $250,000; there will be 44 floats this year. According to the official Rose Parade website, “float building is a multi-million dollar business.”
  2. Calculate the cost of transporting the marching bands. There will be 21 bands in this year’s parade. I know that the students are so excited to have a chance to march in this parade, but the money the school system will spend on transportation, meals, and lodging really adds up.
  3. Can you imagine how much it costs to outfit and transport the 20 equestrian units?
  4. The official cost of a ticket ranges from $60.00 to $180.00; however, scalping of tickets has raised the average price of a ticket this year to $480.00! YIKES!!!!  They expect 1,000,000 attendees to line the streets for the 2018 parade.
  5. Now figure in the cost to sponsors for advertising during the televised parade.
  6. Let’s not forget the huge cost of security…even higher in light of the terrorist attacks around the world.
  7. Then when it is all over, we have to add in the cost of post-parade clean-up.  That will be hefty.

Add this up…it is ASTRONOMICAL!

MY QUESTION:

How many homeless and hungry children could we feed and clothe with the money spent on flowers that will be wilted in the trash the next day?

MY SUGGESTION:

Corporations, Universities, and Schools donate the money they would have spent on the parade to a charity of their choice in exchange for a huge, positive promotional campaign of their product, service, or school. Companies will still have lots of positive publicity and children will be fed. I would be much more willing to spend money with a company who is actively contributing to helping hungry and homeless people during these cold winter months than I am to a company who spends $500,000 on a float.

So, no, I will not be watching the parade again this year. #sixtieschick #stillprotesting

Santa Claus is Coming: Please Consider This!

dec10_button1This is a letter to parents of young children who are so excited that Santa is coming to visit.  Santa is just amazing, isn’t he?.  He allows us to focus on the spirit of Christmas: kindness, giving, and some old fashioned magic.  But, this is a letter to parents asking that we look at Santa through different eyes.

This is such a busy time of year, I hate to even suggest that you think of one more thing. However, this is important to me and has been weighing on my heart.  I just want to join my teacher friends in raising awareness and sensitivity.  Every community and every school, no matter how affluent or how poor, has children living in homes from a variety of financial levels.

I live and work in a community where about 75% of children live in poverty.  However, that leaves 25% who are not living in poverty.  Now, I want you to think about this scenario: Johnny, Luis, and Latricia are in the same class.  They all celebrate Christmas and Santa visits each of their homes.

Luis is an only child; his family has a lovely, decorated tree. Under the tree there are lots of presents from family and extended family.  Santa will come to the house, and as is their tradition, Santa will leave just one gift.  Santa has an iPadPro and an Apple Pencil (cost = around $1000) for Luis this year.

Latricia is one of three children. Her mom and dad both work, but money is always tight.  Nevertheless, there are presents under the tree for all of the children. Under the tree, there are lots of little presents for the children from mom and dad (pajamas, books, dolls, crayons, action figures).  This year, the three children will have a visit from Santa and he will leave an expensive gaming system for them to share along with some games (cost = $550.00).

Johnny is our third student. He is one of four children living with a single mom who is out of work and depends on welfare and occasional part time work to make ends meet.  They have a small tree and a few presents.  Santa is coming to Johnny’s house too. However, Johnny will find a new pair of much needed sneakers from Santa (cost = $20.00).

Now, travel forward with me to January 4, 2018.  The children are back at school and excited to share about what they got from Santa. There is a big difference between what Luis got and what Johnny got.  My fear is that Johnny is left wondering why Santa likes Luis so much more than he likes him.  He worries that he was not a good boy or that his is not smart enough or didn’t do a good enough job helping his mom around the house. How sad!  We know that Santa loves all children equally.

So, here is my request.  Please think about all the Johnnys in your child’s school.  When it is time to put out the cookies and milk for Santa, please leave a note asking him to leave small gifts for your child.  This will not diminish your Christmas morning at all since you can proudly put your name on the big ticket items for your child. I promise that Santa will appreciate how you are helping him look out for the happiness of all his boys and girls.

Merry Christmas from my home to yours.

Holiday Lights: More than just Twinkle!

Screen Shot 2017-12-19 at 4.37.56 PMWhat is it about the lights? At this time of year, I love driving around the streets to see the holiday light displays.  The minute I wake up in the morning, I turn on the Christmas tree lights and the lights across the mantle above the fireplace.  My house is filled with candles that flicker during these long winter nights. I can sit in a trance for hours in front of the fireplace watching until the last ember dies. Yes, I admit it; I am a light junkie.

Lights can brighten even the darkest times in our lives; they have always figured into human history. Our ancestors lit candles and fires to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Today, candles and lights play an important role in Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa celebrations. Lights, twinkling like stars, remind us that we are part of the Universal Spirit; they remind us to find ways to light the world around us, bringing joy to others.

As I enjoy the Christmas lights scattered across my community and throughout my home, I realize that each light flickers to remind me of treasured past memories, but also with the promise of precious memories still to come. And so today, as I sit sipping hot chocolate by the fire, I can’t help glancing at the twinking Christmas tree lights. They remind me to think about those who are gone, of their love for me and mine for them. But I am also mindful of how blessed I am to be surrounded by loving family and friends and of the wonderful memories we will continue to make together.  So thank you all for being the light in my life; my days are brighter because of you. Merry Christmas! I love you.

Choose Kindness

When children are “given”, it can create a sense of entitlement. When children “give”, psychologists tell us that human bonds are strengthened. There is greater joy in giving than in receiving and this is a lesson we should allow our children to learn.

This activity works for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa; actually it works any month of the year! Here is my proposal: Give your child a blank calendar page. This simple page becomes a journal or record of kindnesses. Each night at bedtime, ask your child to record an intentional kindness they performed that day. This few moments allows your child to savor joy in the kindness they performed. It also allows you a moment to look your child in the eyes and genuinely say, “I am proud of you!”

That moment when you really look at your child and tell him or her you are proud is powerful and profound…this is a message that helps forge a strong, resilient, loving, lifelong bond.

Here are a few ideas to get you and your child started on this journey of giving:

  1. Do a chore for a family member.
  2. Hold the door open for someone.
  3. Recycle.
  4. Pick up litter.
  5. Feed the birds.
  6. Give someone a compliment.
  7. Let someone get in front of you in line.
  8. Set the table.
  9. Send a Thank You note to a service member or first responder.
  10. Say, “I love you!” first.
  11. Read to your little brother or sister.
  12. Play with someone new on the playground.
  13. Write a Thank You note to your teacher.
  14. Help make dinner.
  15. Donate a toy so a less fortunate child can receive a gift.
  16. Bake cookies for a nursing home.
  17. Clear the table after dinner.
  18. Load the dishwasher or wash the dishes.
  19. Clean your room without being asked.
  20. Give a compliment.
  21. Offer to play with your little brother or sister.
  22. Write a Thank You note to your postal worker and leave it in the mailbox.
  23. Share a toy with your brother or sister.
  24. Help carry in groceries and put them away.
  25. Fold the laundry.
  26. Help your little brother or sister with homework.
  27. Share your umbrella space.
  28. Listen to your little brother or sister read out loud.
  29. Get a haircut for Locks of Love.
  30. Use sidewalk chalk to leave a positive message for others.
  31. Smile!!

 

KINDNESS CALENDAR

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10

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29

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