Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Inauguration Day 2021


January 20th every 4 years we have the American tradition of transferring (or continuing) power based on public elections every four years. The reason: we are a Constitutional Federal Republic, with state and national governments where we elect representatives to exercise the power of the people and our laws are based on the US Constitution. The 20th Amendment (adopted January 23, 1933) moved the Inauguration date from March 4th to January 20th every 4 years. 

Dating back to 1801 and our second president John Adams, we have had a peaceful transition of power at the heart of our government, national election, and inauguration. The reason it fell on our second president is that our first president, George Washington served his two terms and then opted out of presidential limelight. John Adams, former friend and now political rival to 3rd president Thomas Jefferson, was not a fan of his predecessor at this point; however, he set the stage for a peaceful transfer of power in our country. Based on his example, it is now a lasting piece of our democratic history for this political "passing of the torch" to be peaceful for the sake of our country.

While this year (more than ever before) has been fraught with drama and controversy in this department after a volatile, partisan election season and sadly the insurrection in January 6th. Not everyone comes to today as happy campers, however in the events from two weeks ago, we are more wide-eyed and aware of what can happen when people get out of control. 

Ready or not, Inauguration Day is here. It is on Inaguration Day today that we watch President-Elect Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. become President Biden; and, we make history as we have confirm our first African American, Asian American, female Vice President Kamala Harris. Together they pledge to be a Presidential team that unifies rather than divides

Watching it via multiple channels on the TV, live stream, and Internet will be easy here this Inauguration Day, where crowds in DC will be kept down due to both health concerns of the pandemic and the invasion of the Capitol on January 6th.

In the meantime, here are some fast facts on the Inauguration that you might not have known.


Saturday, January 16, 2021

In Schoolhouse Rock Style: "I'm A Vaccine"

As a product of the '70's, I grew up as a Schoolhouse Rock kind of girl. I knew them all and could sing along: "Conjunction Junction," "Interplanet Janet," "Figure 8," "Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here," "Elbow Room".... I could go on and on. 

Perhaps that's why the folks at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health decided to consult their inner Schoolhouse Rockstar element when creating their new "I'm a Vaccine" in the style of "I'm Just a Bill." (This was an all-time classic Schoolhouse rock favorite, on the tip of everyone tongue who grew up in the 1970's and sat glued to Saturday morning TV. Given that, this is an incredibly smart move on the part of the creative geniuses over at JHU!)

"I'm a Vaccine" is a cartoon created by Johns Hopkins to explain the steps through the Phase 3 clinical trials. Just like "I'm Just a Bill" goes through the hypothetical process of how a bill becomes a law, "I'm a Vaccine" does the same thing, showcasing the innovation it takes to get through he processes of creating a vaccine for a virus we're all on a first name basis with. 

As with anything new, potentially scary, and somewhat controversial, it takes education. Additionally, it's necessary to make that information accessible to all in an easy to take dose. We've all seen in the last year how many vantage points there are on both Covid & the speedy creation of this necessary vaccine. Speaking the common, familiar, comfort language of Schoolhouse Rock is a good place to start.

To learn more about Covid, the vaccine, and more, check out the Covid page at JHU's Bloomberg School of Public Health portal.

To trek further down memory lane to other favorites in the Schoolhouse Rock genre, check out their Disney Wiki Page.

Video from https://youtu.be/ITIF-i40dto, Schoolhouse Rock image from https://disney.fandom.com/wiki/Schoolhouse_Rock_Songs

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Sauntering & Wandering In The Woods

One of the best parts of being a teacher is the rest and rejuvenation that comes during the Winter Break. This year I definitely felt it more than ever before with the exhaustion that has come from 2020, pandemic restrictions, the election, racial noise, hybrid teaching and more. 

Winter Break for me also took on an almost "supporting character" role, as we had to do a lot of rethinking about how best to celebrate the holidays in a physically distanced way. Plus, with more time on our hands due to not doing our traditional Christmas travel to visit my family, the 4 walls sometimes close in. After 9 months of pandemic restrictions and quarantining, we all know a little bit about that!

Of course, with it being winter, escaping the 4 walls becomes more difficult as the weather dictates what you can and can't do outside in a different way. With 40 degree weather dictating most of break, I found that you had to get more creative--or at least dress the part when going outside. Bundling up for bonfires & walks & other outdoor adventures was the way to go. For those of us who aren't fans of the cold, this provides some challenges. 

But, sunny days dressed accordingly made for good days for walkabouts, either alone or with friends. I had a couple of really great, rewarding, masked walking adventures with friends which served as a great way to unplug, catch up, soak in community, and commune with nature. I, too, personally agree with John Muir.

Take some time to reverently saunter and wander the woods this winter.




Saturday, January 9, 2021

Creativity & Connection In the Time of Covid


During my Winter Break, I had a grand opportunity to catch up with my college roommate from our senior year. (Side note: College was over half a life time ago!!) Facebook of course has been doing a fabulous job of connecting everyone for the last dozen years, but I haven't "seen seen" her in probably 2 decades--if not more! This time, however, it was "live and in person." Well, as "live and in person" as you can in the middle of the pandemic when you live on opposite coasts. We met up in a Zoom creative workshop that she was hosting on collage making. With a whole lot of extra holiday time on my hands due to not traveling, taking part seemed to be a no-brainer.

In former days gone by, I was a big time scrapbooker.... but these days, most of my art and photographs tends to be digital. Canva.com is how I make a lot of my GTG art. I live on my computer! But, I still have a lot of good supplies, and I know my way around scissors and a glue stick. As I suspected, the hands-on, physical nature (tied in with the open forum to let my creative juices flow) did this girl's body and mind some good that afternoon!

Our 3-hour class was intimate with only two other folks (whom I had never met before)--one from the upper Northwest and one from Mexico. But truly, with Zoom, less is more! Too many people becomes hard to jockey for conversation. And, those 3 hours easily turned to 4 as we all parallel played with our creating in true quilting bee fashion. My old former roommate (Old?! We're not old!!) and I picking up without ever missing a beat AND she got drive-bys of my kids--something you don't get in Facebook photos alone! Plus, I got to meet two amazing new people. We all chatted of our own personal pandemic pandemoniums, covering a range of 2020 topics, trials, & tribulations, as well as the upcoming new year. 

My college collage pal was open and flexible in her facilitating, and it ebbed into each of the 4 of us having our own approach to the workshop. I went in with an open mind, not really sure what I was going to create... and sometimes that is the very best way to do it. I loosely went with my One Word "Heal" ponderings, and as I went to retrieve some material to slice-and-dice for collage making, my 2020 wall calendar (along with a holiday catalog) seemed like the absolute perfect medium to chop to bits. There certainly was something cathartic and healing about destroying such a rough year--then rebuilding it to something better. An excellent creative use in repurposing!

My final product ended up being a poster of sorts, with a pocket of motivational cards that I could switch up or revisit as needed. For right now, I'm not sure where I'm going to hang it, but I'm feeling like it will land on the wall of my office at school. Here's my "collage-a-majiggy poster-y thingy."


And here are my cards which live in their 2021 pocket:



One of the things that was particularly satisfying at the end of our collage quilting bee was the variety of the everyone's outcome. One of our collage-mates had a wonderful board book where her creations could live. Another fellow artisan had drawings mixed with paint and collage. My style was probably somewhere in the quirky eclectic contemporary neighborhood (or something like that). Our fearless leader's style rests heavily in vintage--a wonderful way to repurpose items and tap "into the rich history that was." In fact, you can learn more over at her hooray4lala Etsy shop. Be sure to click her "Read more" which definitely delights my heart!

Catching up with old longtime friends AND meeting new, inspiring, interesting people definitely does a heart good. So too does a dose of creativity layered on top. Perhaps that right there is the best collage yet, and just perfect in the time of Covid!

Banner screenshot for @hooray4lala's Etsy shop from https://www.etsy.com/shop/lrobinson?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=913405222; Other photos of my handiwork from this collage workshop!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

One Word 2021

One of my traditional first posts of the new year for the last several years has always focused "One Word" of the year. I will admit, I'm a bit mixed about it. Just like New Year's resolutions, I always start strong and it flitters and fizzles somewhere by mid year.

Last year's word of "Vitality" seems rather ironic in a 365 day retrospect on all the mysteries that I didn't know then about 2020 but certainly know now. "Vitaliy" was a hard bargain sometimes in the age of Covid, remote & hybrid Learning, civil unrest, and a very contentious election. Much of 2020 for me was mind numbing, which is quite the opposite of vitality. But thats said, I did have 243 days of exercising, mainly on my real or my stationary bike. This rounds out to 4-5 times a week. This is by far a first for me to have a continued year long maintenance of an exercise program. Some pounds were dropped--not as many as I would have liked, and it offered some good escape & bingewatching time during a harsh year. Schitt's Creek, Downtown Abbey, the entire West Wing series, Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, Hollywood, and Virgin River were some of my favorites. (Sorry, no Tiger King for this kid!!)

So clearly this one-word business isn't an exact science with me, but it does offer the glimmer of hope and direction.

It reminds me of memories of curling up with my journal as a kid and writing lists of resolutions and plans for the year ahead. I appreciate that midwinter reflection after all the gifts are unwrapped, time to sit and think about what is really important, and the ability to ponder ways I need to shift going forward. It's at least a good exercise for me in January.

In thinking about the year ahead, one can't do so without thinking on everything we endured. I saw a meme of 2020 that had January and February calendars at the top, a whole mix and mingle of the in between months, and then December. 2020 in so many ways feels like this exact jumble--one perhaps of about 700 days long. I alluded to some of the highlights of the year in my last post.

However, in thinking about words for the year ahead, in relation to the year prior, "Heal" keeps coming to mind. I think we all have walked away from 2020 a bit broken. I think we all may have a collective case of PTSD. Watching shows, I feel like people are too close. I can shut my eyes and hear the air scrubbers in my school. Masks are part of our fashionwear. Hand washing & sanitizing feels a little obsessive compulsive. It's going to take a long time to feel "normal" again.

Teachers and healthcare workers are tired from the demands of the pandemic. Mental health is more of a concern than ever before. Entire sports seasons and prom events and college & high school rites of passage like prom and graduation have disappeared. We have an Innaguration ahead in a few weeks with the entire country more angry than ever. Stress is high on all levels, and many of us feel beaten down in our own homes due to sacrifices to families, jobs, economy, and more. As a planet, we are literally trying to heal pandemic populations through newly released and administered vaccinations.

2020 was such a hard year for so many.

I ran across this poem by Christine Evangelou from "Beating Hearts & Butterflies" and was struck. May we all be these stronger people in 2021, better now than before. Richer due to surviving hard experiences. Healed.  

One Day

One day, you will heal
One day, you will be grateful for the deepest cuts of pain
One day, you will glance at yourself
And see a stronger person through your reflection
One day, you will kiss away your hurt… gently, and with grace 
Until then, use it all to propel you forward
Like a white-hot pyre through your star-spangled eyes
A fire to regenerate every shadowy cell
And open your heart to every experience
Knowing that one day
You will search your heart
And understand that love is the only thing to ever hold onto


*This was written and scheduled to post on January 6 well before the events in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. Certainly, glued to my television watching events unfold as people overtook one of our most sacred governmental buildings, it certainly reiterates my choice and our collective need to "heal." 

Calendar meme from https://i.pinimg.com/originals/ba/42/63/ba4263676eeb071f5872d38be58e8a3d.jpg, One word image for 2020 & 2021 created at Canva.com

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Repurposing Your Christmas Tree

Depending on when you take your tree down, this post may be in the category of "day late & dollar short." Or maybe it's perfectly-timed given you decided this was the year to hang on to holiday cheer and keep your tree up a little longer, because, well...you know...2020. Or, it could happen that the point is mute due to having an artificial tree which just goes back in the box until next year. Or perhaps this post will serve as inspiration for next year's Christmas season. 

Whichever it may be, at some point your holiday decorations come down, as does your Christmas tree. If you had a real one, you have to do something once it's stripped bare of ornaments and lights. In the past when we have had a live tree (versus the artificial one we have now that will ultimately go back into the garage), we have pulled our tree curbside for recycling & the making of mulch. Repurposing the tree in that way is a good use of resources, and be sure to watch your local municipality for its curbside-tree-dates if you decide to go that route. 

However, the thought of returning the tree to nature as a gift of the season as a respite and home for wildlife struck me as a warm one this year. Kudos goes to The Nature Conservancy of Canada for posting the idea of leaving your old Christmas tree in your backyard. In doing this, you've taken a circular loop  approach. In fact, more things should come with this kind of closed loop (or circular economy) concept. Here, instead of the "throw away and replace culture we've become used to, we'd adopt a return and renew one, where products and components are designed to be disassembled and regenerated." 


In nature, with a Christmas tree, the closed loop is simple: bring it outside. By leaving it in your backyard, especially during the winter, you've now created a habitat for birds and other backyard wildlife. You've also widened your own backyard biodiversity. All the more so if you decorate it with peanut butter and bird seed covered pine cone ornaments. 

As the tree looses the needles and starts to decompose, not only will it continue to provide shelter to animals, it also will start to break down, which ultimately will add nutrients to the soil. According to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, many fir trees break fairly quickly given the makeup of the wood. You can speed up that process by drilling holes in the tree trunk. 

If your backyard doesn't accommodate that, PickYourOwnChristmasTree.org has some other suggestions for ways to repurpose your tree. Check in with your local community to see if you can find places that would take your tree to use in these ways:
  • Fish feeders in private fish ponds
  • Soil erosion barriers to assist with shore stabilization 
  • Hiking trail path material
Like I said, ours will be going back in the box for the next 11 months, living it's own level of closed loop here at our house. But if you have the ability to give it back to nature, the birds and your local wildlife will thank you!



Thursday, December 31, 2020

Ringing In, Bringing In 2021

2020.

For many, this year has become synonymous with a 4-letter word. 

This week between Christmas and New Years is always the week where we hash over all of the wins and losses, the highs and lows of the year.

We started the year with Australian wildfires of enormous environmental impact. Also in January, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped down from the royal family and Kobe Bryant died in a tragic car accident. For many of us, that seems like it was eons ago.

Covid has been a defining factor of the year, as the United States saw its growth in February, its ultimate cause for national shutdown in March, and its horrific impact over the summer and growth again this fall. Meanwhile, in the middle of a very contention election season (which led to a controversial new presidency), we also had major racial injustice and strife following the death of George Floyd. On top of all of that, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away mid-September causing a quick replacement of that seat right before the election with Amy Coney Barrett. All the while, more wildfires raged in western United States as did more cases of Covid, which we as a country just could not kick.

When you look at all of this and think of it in terms of a movie plot, it'd all be way too much for one film. It wouldn't be believable. It wouldn't feel realistic. And yet, it has all been our reality.

For many, they were ready to wash their hands of 2020 months ago. 

The start of a new year always holds so much hope and promise. Many of us are a little gun-shy this year, saying silent prayers of "Please dear Lord, don't let it get worse. There are no more shoes to drop! We can't take any more."

In thinking over the passage of the year, I scrolled back to my New Year's 2019 GTG post. I hoped for a year of innovation and excitement. Innovation certainly was necessary as we all moved in and out of remote or hybrid learning; as we quarantined during pandemic and had to creatively stay in touch with loved ones; and as scientists developed Covid vaccines and medical personnel started to administer them.. I've said before, innovation will be the answer to all of our environmental issues. Health and education too, so we've seen. And far more excitement than we ever wanted. Yes, be careful what you ask for.

So 2021, we greet you. You are here. May you be kind to as and help us turn that corner on Covid. We are all collectively crossing our fingers, and hoping for the best. 

Images created by me on Canva.com

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Simon Beck: Snow Drawings

'Tis the season for wintery wonderlands here in the week between Christmas & New Years, and snowy beauty was calling my name--perhaps because we don't have a lot of snow to show for it right here and now. Maybe soon. Fingers crossed for January.

Simon Beck's Snow Drawings can give you a flavor and feel for snow. He takes a total hands-on approach. Or rather, a feet-on approach. No machinery to make it happen--only rope, an anchor, snow shoes, a ski stick, some markers to organize the space, and probably a good winter coat. Pretty impressive when these snow drawings are the size of soccer fields when finished.. Also, it's no surprise that he's a former engineer with a background in cartography (mapmaking). I think you'd have to be in order to think of something on that grand of a scale and to have the vision of how to do it with such a precision-level outcome. 

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I'd imagine that it'd be such a meditative moment, going out in the snowy, quiet world. The wintery wonderland actually is as quiet as it seems because the snow, which is porous due to the open spaces in the individual 6-sided, crystalized snowflakes. It's this porous-ness which absorbs the sound & surrounding sound waves. The world in this setting is literally blanketed in snowy silence. And there is Simon Beck, systematically moving about, mindfully creating his snow art. Some of his greater works of art can take up to 12 hours of outdoor trekking. 

Perhaps this could serve as inspiration for all of us to up our snowman or snow angel game! I'd imagine the step count would be pretty phenomenal on my Fitbit to create something like this! What a creative way to stay in shape in the winter!

To learn more about Simon Beck and see more of his his dynamic designs and snowy installations, check out the following:



Friday, December 25, 2020

Wishing You A Joyous Season

My typical Christmas greeting is always a simple wish of wellness to all to have a joyous season. 

After a hard year, may your holidays be filled with hope, health, and happiness.

As always, sending you my best during this time of year!

Created on Canva.com

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

December 23rd: Christmas Eve Eve

When I was little, growing up in the Midwest, our Christmas holiday season had a definite routine and rhythm, and it became a 3-day Christmas Festivus every year:

December 23: Christmas Eve Eve
That night, after dressing up in our finest Christmas fashion-wear and having a wonderful home- dressy dinner at the decked out dining room table, we opened gifts my original family of 4 with my mom, dad, and brother. We went around the circle one at a time opening gifts, with it being a full magical, memorable event of savoring everyone's presents to each other. We'd chuckle over the silly names we'd put on the package tags. Sometimes the names would hold clues about what was inside, and sometimes they were silly like "Mickey Mouse,""Snoopy," or "Holly Hobby." Sometimes the gifts would involve antics like boxes inside of boxes, or cans of corn or bricks that were wrapped to add additional weight and humor and disguise. (Some of those traditions have migrated into my own family now that I'm an adult.) With the gifts being from our nuclear family, often these were the best gifts of our entire Christmas!!

December 24 Christmas Eve: 
That morning of the 24th would be filled with loads of excitement because that was the morning Santa visited. It made perfect sense to our young minds that Santa needed to come to our house a day early because he had such a heavy job load the next evening--we were helping him out by being available the morning of Christmas Eve. That afternoon we'd usually travel the 45 minutes to my maternal grandparents so that we could have Christmas with them. Dinner was always chili because it was quick and easy and ultimately tradition. My grandpa, a Methodist minister, had a pretty busy evening that night or the next morning with Christmas services (up until he retired). We'd go to church, then often stay the night at my grandparents, opening gifts at night with the lights all a-glow, and laughter would usually ensue with all with my uncles, aunts, and 2 cousins.

December 25: Christmas Day
Christmas morning we'd ready ourselves to head the opposite direction about an hour and a half away to see my Dad's family (although every few years it'd be hosted at our house). Dad's family was bigger than Mom's, and with my grandparents being Lithuanian, we had a lot of ethnic and cultural flair in the air.  Dad's siblings (my aunts and uncles) would often talk to my grandparents in Lithuanian. We had more cousins on that side, so there was always a lot of rabble rousing at "the kids' table," the family togetherness, and all that comes with being part of a bigger family. Especially the annual family group photo by my one uncle--it was his self-appointed job. It was alway heavy with orchestration and getting us all in order, a lot of pomp and circumstance for photos I'm not sure any of us ever saw!

As an adult, the holiday season always has that wistful element of days and Christmas gone by and memories filtering around. Its' in the noticing the changes over time as grandparents and others passed away. Kids get older and eventually start our own families and family traditions. The timetables of fitting in everyone and everything had to become more flexible, especially since my family is still in the Midwest, but my husband's family and our now-nuclear family are both out East. So the timing of Christmas in my house has always been a little bit different every year now. In part, some of this contributes to Christmas as an adult not having the same magic as it once did due to things having an added layer of complication. 

And then there's this year. 2020.

The melodic tune of "Have Yourself a Covid Little Christmas" is ringing through my ears this year. PNC Banking, who for 37 years has been doing the true price of "The 12 Days of Christmas" is strikingly cheaper this year as the 12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 ladies dancing, 9 lords a-leaping are all unavailable due to Covid cancelations of large group gatherings. As numbers climb, the recommended travel and extended family restrictions of Thanksgiving continue even moreso. Our plans have modified and we won't be doing our typical Christmas break trek to my Midwestern Mama, who I have now not seen in person since last Christmas--the two times we were planning to this past year, numbers started climbing and it once again felt unsafe. Of course, in retrospect, both times, the numbers were no where near this high. I'll be honest, it's wearing on me. But prudence and a sense of caution are what's navigating all this year. We have our family unit and our lights on our Christmas tree, and gifts have been mailed and will be opened while FaceTiming. Locally with the inlaws it's beginning to look like the only safe and comfortable option for all is a Christmas Day outdoor bonfire (with prayers for warmish winter days in our future).

I know this holiday season is going to be very different for a lot of people. It's of course bittersweet as many of us aren't going to be able to be with our loved ones in the same way we've traditionally been. But if you don't have health, you have nothing. My hope for the world is that we all have faith & respect in each other to take care of each other through these hard days of the pandemic. Likewise, I hope the vaccine distribution and administration will be swift and successful and bring us brighter, healthier days for everyone of us. These are the items on my Grown Up Christmas List.... right next to world peace, an end to climate change, a world with no pollution and hatred, and no one cold, hungry or homeless. 

May you have a wonderful December 23rd & Christmas Eve Eve, steeped in memories and anticipation and seasonal glow, filled with love, laughter, good health, and family togetherness (even if it's via technology). 

Pictures created on Canva.com.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Winter Solstice 2020

A few years ago a friend of mine shared Susan Cooper's poem "The Shortest Day" on Winter Solstice. Since I shared it on my Facebook page, it comes up every year, and it strikes me annually of its beauty. Last year, during Winter Solstice, we were in the mountains of Western Maryland and spent the day in winter wonderland, making it even more strikingly beautiful. In fact, this photo is the sunrise following up 2019's shortest day.

"The Shortest Day" 
by Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us — listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.


For more about Susan Cooper, this interview with WTVF Virginia Public Radio from December 21, 2019 is very good. It details the poem she wrote in the 1970s, the inspiration of light versus dark, and the picture book it ultimately became in the fall of 2019.

Have a lovely Winter Solstice this December 21st.

Photo from my camera, book image from https://www.amazon.com/Shortest-Day-Susan-Cooper/dp/0763686980poem from https://medium.com/@MariaRyanMS/this-beautiful-poem-by-susan-cooper-is-a-perfect-one-for-the-time-of-year-ec283d25ddad 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Textile Recycling

Socks with holes?
Shirts with worn elbow spots or deepened stains?
Clothing remnants that won't serve as hand-me-downs?
What do you do with all of these? 

Luckily, our county has returned to Textile Recycling.

Old clothes don't need to live in the landfill, and they certainly can't be recycled in traditional recycling measures. But, they can be taken in if sorted by reusable & non-resusable items. Clothing that can be reworn is sent to developing countries for sale in open-air markets and bazaars as affordable clothing. This in turn opens up jobs. The non-reusable items can be used in a multitude of ways too. From the Mid-Atlantic Clothing Recycling LLC: "About 50% of the clothing collected is recycled as second-hand clothing. 20% is made into cleaning and polishing cloths for industrial use. 26% is recycled for use as fiber for insulation products, mattresses, fiberboard, upholstery, and even re-woven into new textiles."

So as you are readying up for the holidays ahead and bringing in new items by way of gifts this holiday season, think about doing some in-house clothing & textile recycling if your municipality allows for it! 

To learn more about our Clothing & Textile Recycling, check out this link.
Earth911 is another place to go to find out more about this type of recycling and use their recycling locator to find what specific services are available near you.


Saturday, December 12, 2020

Cork Recycling


My husband and I are wine drinkers. 

I discovered today, we may also possibly be wine cork hoarders. We had a drawer-full of them. I went to go move them to our typical place we stockpile them, and it, too, was full and we needed to find another place to stash our surplus. Yes, we may be cork-hoarders.

My son, who was there for the cork-relocation-project, mentioned that there has got to be something we could do with them. Certainly, they are all there because I cannot bear to throw them away and add to the landfill. Yes, there are Pinterest pages dedicated to arts and crafts projects, but I don't see that happening over here. But, as a natural product, there has got to be some way to recycle corks. 

So, I started digging.

And what do you know. There is! More than one, in fact.

ReCork is North America's largest cork recycling program. They have a number of drop off and retail locations where you can recycle your corks in order to close the loop of waste. The corks they get back from you will get ground up to make new products, many of which you can buy from their website. This includes the shoe company SOLE and their cork soles. (Most of their drop off sites are closed currently due to Covid, there is a location finder on their website. However, you can also ship individually--however, they no longer provide shipping labels so you need to fund it yourself. In my mind, it's worth a few dollars when you consider the good it can do! To learn more, visit ReCork's website or read this article about them on SOLE's website.









Cork Forest Conservation Alliance also is involved in cork recycling through their Cork ReHarvest program. They too have cork collection boxes in multiple stores. (You can find their list here.) Part of their mission statement is to protect the cork forests in the Mediterranean area and promote the biodiversity of the area. They feel that it is through education and the promotion of sustainability that they can help make a difference.

If you are still looking for some way to repurpose them at home outside the arts and crafts arena, you could also do this, from Napa Recycling

Whatever you opt to do, I hope your corks just don't land in the landfill! 

Cheers! I'll drink to that!


Image from https://www.christiesrealestate.com/blog/3-reasons-why-wine-corks-are-making-a-welcome-comeback/, ReCork screenshot taken on 11/15/2020 from their website showcasing the number of recycled corks to date https://recork.com/us/en/story, ReCork logo from http://www.corkforest.org/find-a-dropbox/, Cork ReHarvest from http://www.corkforest.org/media-resources/, Napa Recycling screenshot https://naparecycling.com/guide/corks/

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Patrick Dougherty Environmental Sculptures

When it comes to sculptures, we've all seen them created out of clay, stone, metal, plaster, glass, wood, even wax.

It's more rare to encounter one made out of sticks. But that is exactly the medium of choice of Patrick Dougherty, stick sculptor. His work will be showcased at Maryland Hall in Annapolis, Maryland May 3-21, 2021

A carpenter who loves nature, Patrick created his first piece, the Maple Body Wrap, in 1982. Since then, he has created over 300 large scale works which required truckloads of saplings on at least 3 continents.

From his website, between now and then (and for the remainder of 2021), here are the planned installations ahead. Sounds like they would be worth checking out if they are in your neighborhood: 
  • 01/2021 Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA
  • 02/2021 BRIT, Fort Worth, TX
  • 03/2021 Biltmore, Asheville, NC
  • 04/2021 Patterson School, Lenore, NC
  • 05/2021 Maryland Hall, Annapolis, MD
  • 06/2021 Sandhills Community College, Pinehurst, NC
  • 07/2021 The Wild Center, Tupper Lake, NY
  • 09/2021 Sidewalk Detroit, Detroit, MI
  • 10/2021 Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA
  • 11/2021 Naples Botanical Garden, Naples, FL
To learn more about Patrick Dougherty and see some of his stick sculptures, check out his website or watch the videos below. May his inspiration from nature help inspire creativity within you. Nature and art abound!! 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Nature Advent Calendar

I ran across a post on 1000 Hours Outside's Facebook page for a free outdoor Advent Calendar that I not only loved but it also got my creative juices stirring. Author Ginny Yurich created a post and beautiful cards for a month of outdoor adventures to take advantage of this December. I love her idea of cutting them up, placing them in envelopes, and doing one a day.

I started thinking about how this could become a creative digital, clickable advent calendar as well. It reminded me of the clickable Bitmoji boards that are all the rage this remote learning season, and I got the urge to put my edtech skills to work with Google Slides. 

I envisioned the traditional Advent calendars with windows that opened, but how with a nature Advent Calendar, you would open your doors to go outside--almost like reverse windows. Here's where my creativity led me: to the clickable calendar below. By clicking the windows, you will get a link to another slide within the presentation which will detail the advent event for your day. Whether you start the 12 days before Christmas or as a lead in to Winter Solstice (or whatever winter holiday you celebrate), may you take time this season to embrace the beauty that surrounds, getting. yourself out there, unplugged, when you can. Additionally, may it bring you seasonal joy!

Clickable Nature Advent Calendar: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/18OkFyCIy7B-hjE5idfBLsH6BOtkDtcbrOz_t5kO333s/edit?usp=sharing (photos via Google Slides "from the web" photos)

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Hacking Your YouTube Links

Teachers (whether full in school, in hybrid settings, or full-on remote) have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves to build interest and engagement. Interactives, games, music, breakout rooms, and asynchronous activities are many of the ways to do that. Another way is to share engaging videos. But, the videos with their advertisements and comments definitely get in the way. There's Video.Link (formerly SafeYoutube) and SafeShareTV, both of which people may have heard of, which help solve the problem

But this may just be the easiest way yet! I'm totally on board!

Screenshot of Seesaw's Twitter account with shoutout to both them (@Seesaw) and Heidi Neltner @heidinelt. 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Go Find Some Place New

Last weekend, my son had an outdoor adventure with a buddy that took me to a regional area I don’t frequently go. It got me off my regular path, and given it was possibly one of the last nice days of before the weather shifts, I decided to find my way to a nearby nature park. 

My sights & senses included a multitude of scampering squirrels, crunchy leaves beneath my feet, the earth smell of wetlands, the color contrast of red berries on green vines against the mostly-barren trees at this point in the season. My trail led me beside a tidal marsh, a view of Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and barefoot in the sandy beach shore (where a few youngsters were building a sandcastle). Toe dipping in, the water of the Chesapeake Bay was certainly chilly!

While walking, I was also reflecting, ruminating, and pondering the last several months and the bulk of this past year. It reminded me how much I get from this nature connection, and how surprisingly infrequently I make time for these novel experiences... even in a year of novel coronavirus when calendars have opened to time I could spend this way, if I so choose. The hunkering down of quarantine doesn’t actually have to mean "hunker down." I think sometimes we forget that. We don’t just need to stay safe indoors. And this is coming from someone who has said it before: nature is the foil to all our technology. It’s our mental, spiritual, and emotional chiropractor. We just need to remember to go.

One observation from this year is that it’s the novelty of things is what seems to be missing thanks to Covid, where every day is Groundhog’s Day. There’s nothing new and different outside of possibly carryout and the different pair of sweatpants. But that’s what my meandering about showed me: that it's wrong. There is different everywhere. We just need to make the time to find it. Sometimes that seems to take energy and creativity, and when stretched to our bandwidth, those are hard to access. But what trekking the trail showed me, it was really just a matter of turning the car down a different road. Maybe surprise adventures like a day in a different park are the exact thing necessary for opening our creative and expanding our bandwidth.

Don’t be your own worst indoor enemy. Go find some new place to go—preferably outdoors. May just be the best thing to do this Thanksgiving weekend!

Photos from my camera at Terrapin Beach Park.


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020

With another holiday here in a pandemic year, things might be a tad different from your typical Turkey Day Traditions. 

Regardless of how Thanksgiving finds you this year, take time to connect with your loved ones, friends, and family as creatively as you can. Take time to be grateful for all that's in your life, even if it seems hard to find during difficult times. 

Here's some turkey tidbits and Thanksgiving fun facts to enjoy this holiday season. (And, if you need a smile, feel free to flashback to my GTG Thanksgiving tribute & annual tradition that I posted last year.)

Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving! 



Videos from https://youtu.be/i0qFGC-U9mI and https://youtu.be/sZjV7klZDCI, Image from https://www.the1thing.com/blog/the-one-thing/this-thanksgiving-make-gratitude-your-highest-priority/(which is an excellent article as well in helping you revisit the importance of perspective!)

Saturday, November 21, 2020

School Decisions in the Time of Covid

This week—midweek—for a multitude of reasons including a few Covid cases, our Head of School & the Board of Trustees decided that yesterday (the Friday before Thanksgiving) we would “put a pause” on our hybrid school schedule. We have been in hybrid since the beginning of the school year, which has looked like this:

- Preschool to Grade 1 have been fully in session with the exception of a handful of families that opted to go remote. 

- Grade 2-5 have been in either as  Monday-Wednesday cohorts or Tuesday-Thursday cohorts, with every-other-Fridays (again, with some opting to go full remote)

- Grade 6-12 have been strict every-other-day cohorts of A & B in addition to the few full-remote-ers.

My colleagues and I (along with much of America) have been watching the Covid curve and the counts. Many of us educators who have been "going in" daily gave a little “hallelujah” when the decision was made--mainly because we are slightly "Covid-creeped out." Additionally, our few positive Covid cases combined with the contract tracing has really hit our teacher coverage hard, as some teachers were forced into quarantine along with students. Looking at the curve/case count now versus where we were in March  when everything shut down, our country has frighteningly surpassed where we were in lockdown by at least three-fold!

I will admit in my house, we are a science-following family & we “trend cautious” when it comes to Covid, mask wearing, distancing, & the like. Thanksgiving is less than a week away. (Mind-boggling!) As a family, we have already canceled our traditional, larger FamFest gathering due to the numbers & the late-breaking regional restrictions which are calling for indoor gatherings of less than 10. 

As I was leaving school both Thursday (with one of our Lower School hybrid cohorts) and Friday (with the other), knowing that Friday would be our last in-house day for awhile, I was struck in many ways. I glanced at my wall calendar, reminded of how it felt to walk in this August and see my wall calendar still welcoming March. As students were leaving both days this week, I wondered when they truly would be returning. As faculty and staff, we have been scurrying the last two days to prep the kids with all of those last minute tech skills and send the kids home with copious learning packets, ready for the unknown.

As teachers, we will be using our two pre-Thanksgiving days as planning for full-time remote, and (as of now) we are planning to be remote for the week following Turkey Day. Sadly, with Covid and the jadedness that comes with age, I have become a cynic. I do not trust people to do the right thing at Thanksgiving.... just as my social media thread has shown me “they” didn’t do the right thing at Halloween. I predict we will be in remote learning longer than just that week. I feel the Covid numbers in general will grow--in the same way we saw our local cases crop up following Halloween, largely due to rumored out-of-school events, often unmasked. Luckily, I have remained “quarantine-free”—though some of my colleagues who had to enter their second bout of quarantine based solely on the behavior of others to whom they were exposed. For some, the late timing of their "quarantine sentence" has now affected their own personal, family Thanksgiving.

This fall has already been so hard, exhausting, and often very much up in the air for teachers. For those of us physically in school, we were juggling our students zooming in from home with those masked in class around us--all while feeling like we were in the middle of a hot zone. My heart goes out to our health care professionals who are facing a similar situation as essential workers, though made more difficult to matters being ones of  life and death. As a very divided country where mask wearing has become political, it’s frustrating to those of us who are following every rule carefully to flatten the curve. But not everyone is. I found it is especially striking recently while discussing the Bill of Rights with our fourth graders. We looked at those first 10 Amendments through the relevant lens of recent news... including mask wearing in the time of Covid. 

I'm reminded of our transition to the remote learning of the spring, when it was so hard then. And yet, now we see, hybrid teaching is even harder, and we have chuckled upon that realization--who would have  thought in March we would ever have said anything could be harder! Now, 8 months later, at the end of our Fall trimester, we realize how lucky (and surprised) we have been to have made it to this point of the school year--making it all the way to Thanksgiving! We managed to stay in session with our hybrid format and our protocols far longer than many of us ever thought we could. Many schools were not able to open in person to any degree this fall. THAT certainly garners some gratitude. 

I pray for grace for us all for the winter ahead with Covid and its germs looming here in the middle of cold and flu season. May the verminous germs stay at bay. And, may we collectively make decisions that take us all into account, helping us all take care of each other until the vaccine goes into effect!

Stay safe out there!


Crossroads meme created at https://imgflip.com/i/4ncxhc, mask cartoon https://momentousinstitute.org/blog/how-to-help-students-adapt-to-wearing-a-mask, Covid curve https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/09/01/816707182/map-tracking-the-spread-of-the-coronavirus-in-the-u-s, mask from https://www.pagodaapparel.com/product/give-thanks-mask/

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Planning For a Zero Waste Thanksgiving

Food waste in America accounts for approximately 30-40% of our food supply. With Thanksgiving ahead and while you are planning your feast for 1 to 21, here are some great thoughts for shooting for a zero waste Thanksgiving this year.


For more ideas on this, check out my GTG post from 2 years ago.


An additional note on Thanksgiving:
In many communities, Covid cases are at record levels (as they are for us in America as a nation). In my local area, our county council has limited indoor events to 10 or under (outdoor events to 25) due to Covid counts. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, please go forward as safe as possible. Masks, distancing, and maybe even rethinking your typical traditions to follow suit to your own local restrictions. Let's go forward thinking about our over-saturated hospitals overloaded with too many Covid cases and weighing down our health care workers. Let's do it thinking about our loved ones, who hopefully we can see at Christmas rather than risking them. Part of Thanksgiving is being grateful for all we have--let's be thankful for our freedoms while also taking caring of each other. That's what our Veterans, who we just celebrated last week, would do.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Pixton EDU

Bitmoji classrooms have been all the rage since the start of remote learning this spring. 

From there, teachers started looking into avatar-izing their students to create more digital fun for everyone. But, Bitmoji, with it's tie in to SnapChat, creates some issues with teachers of the under-13-year-old set. That's where Pixton comes in for the rescue. Not only is it a great way to have students build their own avatars, but it also opens up the creation of a comic classroom or digital storytelling. 


Might be a fun way to have students create a digital citizenship comics, illustrate their writing, make visual signs of your classroom, or more.