Ten Kid-Friendly Things to do on the Longest Day of the Year

Today, in the Northern Hemisphere, we'll have about 30 hours of daylight, making it the longest day of the year.  What are you going to do with it?  Here are ten things you can do to make today special.

1.  Take a photo of your shadow at noon.  Save it.  OK, you'll automatically save it but remember that you took it.  Take another at the same time and the same place, or at least in the same hemisphere, on December 21, the Winter Solstice.  Then you can have a picture like this and say, oh, look at that.  I did that.  Cool.

2.  Connect with ancient peoples and dye something.  Natural dyes have been used back in early Mesopotamia.  What we consider as classic American tie-dye is more of a 1950's thing.  What can you dye?  How about a shirt with mystery stains on it?  Or perhaps a towel, canvas shoes, a plain tote bag, cotton sheets-- I went for sleep shirts/bathing suit cover-ups for my kids.  This is what I used.:
  • XXL white cotton t-shirts
  • red Kool-Aid
  • vinegar
  • salt
  • RIT liquid dye
  • rubber bands
  • ziploc bags
  • squeeze bottles
  • my microwave
  • the sun
  • my washer
  • my dryer

The red Kool-Aid will give the white a pale pink wash.  After all the dye was squirted out and the shirts twisted and rubber banded, bag them until the next day.  Then I suggest microwaving them one at a time for 30 seconds.  Then I unravel and let the sun air dry them.  Then I rinse and wash and dry.  That's how I roll. Have fun.  Make a mess.  There is no wrong way to do this.  In the end you will have a shirt with a lot of colors on it.  And you and yours will have made it all on your own.  And that's cool enough. 

3.  Make a frozen treat that is, here's the catch--reasonably healthy.  Take kiwifruit. Please. It's one of those super foods you're probably not eating.  It's full of omega -3 fatty acid, vitamin C, E, and K, plus some fiber and other good-for-you things.  Mix it with the "it's healthy in small doses" dark chocolate and you've got a sneakily healthy frozen snack.  Here's the incredibly easy recipe

4.  Plant something.   Anything.  You don't even have to go and buy something to plant. There's an excellent chance you have maple seedlings on or near your property.  Pull one out and find a place where it can grow 60-80 feet.  You'll be climbing in it before you know it.  And if you're kid-centric in your home activities as I am, my kids are all sorts of attentive over the trees/flowers they have personally planted.

The ones on the left are what
I have all over my yard.
The examples to the right 
should help you identify what's in your yard.

5.  Pick a series of books and start at the very beginning. Then spend the summer reading the series all the way through.  You can do the same with collected works.  One summer I read all of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.  When you read a series in a row you notice things, subtle changes, themes.  If you do choose Sherlock be sure and then commit to the movies and the TV shows so you can compare/contrast/complain/enjoy.  
Other than Sherlock Holmes?  Shakespeare's comedies, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings (if you're really committed start with The Hobbit and include The Silmarillion).  Pick up Rules of Prey by John Sandford, which came out in 1989.  Sue Grafton's A is for Alibi series (she's almost up to Z), or choose a few pieces of classic lit that you just never got around to but should've read such as The Great Gatsby or  Gulliver's Travels.   Annoy your HBO-watching friends and begin George R. R. Martin's series A Song of Fire and Ice.  The first book is A Game of Thrones.  Yeah, that Game of Thrones.  Now you'll be prepared next time there's any sort of celebration on the show.  Those never end well.  

6.  Try a food you've never tried before.  Scrapple,  jellied cow's foot, pig brains, mountain oysters, 
haggis anyone, anyone?

Well, on second thought, maybe you have to be raised eating haggis to truly appreciate it.  How about  really expanding your palate and try non-fried seafood, or a taco (for some, a taco is exotic)? What's the worst thing that could happen?  You spit it out, you have a funny story to tell about that time you tried..., you like it, you'll always remember that you discovered your love of whatever on the longest day of the year.  

7.  Learn a bird song.  Just one.  I guarantee there are birds where you are.  If you can't identify a single one immediately look it up.   Personally, my favorite song comes from the mockingbird.  It mocks you know.  And I have always been more of a mocker than a rocker.  Here's an example.

This poster sums up what's around me.  I can ID them all, but not by song.  Why bother?  I like knowing what's going on in my world.

8.  Test all your fire alarms and carbon monoxide alarms and replace the batteries if needed.  If you don't have such alarms, get them.  Right now.  I'll wait.  

9.  Unplug for an hour.  Yeah, an entire hour.  No TV, no computer (wait until you finish reading this of course), no phone.  Shut it all down and walk away, notice I said walk.   Studies show that just sitting, even if you're working, is taking years off your life.  Yes, I said years.  

10.  Be outside when the fireflies start to rise.  It's the longest day of the year, it'll be worth it.  The further away from a city you can get for this the better.  If you have plenty in your yard you can even get your yard certified by the National Wildlife Federation.  Fireflies can put on quite a show.  They talk to each other with their lights.  Even their eggs can glow.   And they're one of the few members of the insect world that do not freak my kids out.  
There ya go.  Ten things to do today.  The longest day of the year.  Let me know if you got to any of them.  Now who has two thumbs and is unplugging her computer?  This girl!



It was around 9:30 Friday morning, five years ago today, that my Station Manager informed me, "budget cuts, it's your turn, Sharon will go over your paperwork." I laughed.  He left the room. "It wasn't supposed to be you.  This isn't fair."  That's what I heard.  But it didn't matter.  And that was how 15 years at 698 South Willow Avenue ended for me.

I wasn't ushered out with security after being laid off.  I went back into the Magic studio to finish the Friday edition of Jane Magazine.  There was one voice track left to play right before 10am.  I could've gone live to break the news, but I just didn't want to get emotional.  I had been plenty emotional during 9/11, during the Virginia Tech shootings, you name it.  I realized I didn't want to leave my show on a downer.

The problem came when the entire staff came in.  Well, almost the entire staff.  It was touching and I shall treasure it.  Is it relevant that there was behind-the-scenes drama to which I was made privy?  No, not at all.  I knew that radio was dying.  Sure, I wasn't ready to pull the plug at that moment because I loved doing my show.  But I did know it wasn't going to last.

Am I angry that I was laid off?  No.  Can't say that I am.  Once Clear Channel had sold the stations I knew that I had no desire to work with any other company.  When the largest radio broadcasting company owns your home so to speak, you get used to a certain level of benefits that small companies cannot compete with.

Do I still see anyone I used to work with?  Well, Jim Herrin, sure.  We celebrated 20 years of marriage last October.  In 2009 there was a lot of contact with my former co-workers.  But it slowly faded.  Do I have any hard feelings?  Not at all.  Life goes by pretty fast as Ferris Bueller said.  If you don't see someone every single day, it doesn't mean you don't like them, it just means they're not part of your daily life.  That's normal.  Do I listen to the radio?  January 25, 2009 I reactived the Sirius account in my car.  No terrestrial radio for me.

If I had not've been laid off, I would've missed a great deal.  No doubt I would've had to take a leave of absence due to major medical issues and surgeries.  (I'm fine now.)  I wouldn't have been able to just be with my daughters.  Anna Grace will turn 9 in May and Jenna will turn 8 in August.   They are beyond awesome.  They're not only beautiful, but they've been gifted with intelligence, sarcasm, and a great sense of timing.  You just can't learn timing.

The whole door shuts window opens things is true.  Things happen for a reason.  When no one in this town would hire me, let alone interview me, I started my own business.  And it is extraordinarily successful.  Yes, I still dabble in acting and such but we all knew I wasn't going to do that for a living unless I was given my own show.  This Type A doesn't do background or principal extra all that well.

What I get now is, "what do you, uh, do now?"  I haven't gotten , "you used to be Jane Ellen."  Yet.  I am still very much Jane Ellen.  And I am not defined by my job.  In short, I say I make people look good.  No,  not as a makeup artist (I got bored with that), but as a media coach.  I work with branding, marketing, engaging an audience.  Yes, engaging an audience-something at which I excel.

I have several major clients.  I'm not going to name them here because I often ghost as them on their social media accounts.  My specialties are G+ and Pinterest.  G+ has been my favorite place to play since its launch in 2011.  And with YouTube integration, authorship, Local, and Google search, it's the best way to get you or your company noticed and your audience engaged.  Sometimes I just teach G+ because there is a fairly significant learning curve.  But it's like going from a rotary phone to a smart phone.  There are new features to learn and a new way of thinking, but once you grasp how to use it, it empowers you.

I laugh to myself when I use phrases like audience engagement, thought leader, business transparency, and the like.  I can talk tech with the best of them and even understand it.  Whoa! My uber geek is in full swing and I couldn't be happier.

My point in writing this is for anyone who feels their world is ending because of a job or a relationship or a whatever.  Well, it isn't.  That's something I always knew in theory, but now I know it in practice.

I read that most people have five different careers during a lifetime.  Everyone has to make a new normal for themselves.  For the last ten years of my radio career, the new normal was getting up at 3am to prepare for my show.  Since that ended I did national TV, wore iconic fashions, traveled, made new friends and spent a lot of time with my family.  I  took what I knew and adjusted to the current business climate.  Now I'm the one with the right skills at the right time.

Sometimes you have to reinvent yourself in order to succeed.  Reinvention means change and change can be scary.  You just have to have faith that you'll find your way.  I did.


Misophonia and How Can You NOT Have it?

Misophonia.  Ever heard of it?  Yeah, me neither.  Until this weekend.  Not that I need another onia or obia and yet, I have had this since I was a kid.  Now, I admit, I could just be a hyper-sensitive ass who is highly judgmental.  But misophonia is not a judgment call issue, it's a fact issue. And that fact is YOU MAKE SO MUCH NOISE EATING.  

It's true.  Every smack, every slurp, every chomp I hear as hammer blows in my head.  Rationally, I know I make noises when I eat.  I know it is impossible to not make a sound while eating.  But all the noise noise noise NOISE.  

The condition started to be talked about by the people in the white coats in 2001.  That would explain why you've never heard of misophonia (Greek for "extreme dislike of sound").  It's just the type of thing I would feel idiotic telling anyone about, least of all any type of doctor.  But it's nice to know I'm not crazy alone.

From the time I was quite young, my oldest sister would bestow the loving words of "stop smacking your lips, Jane" and, my favorite "you choose the crunchiest cereal on purpose don't you?"  True, it was Cap'n Crunch.  Point taken.  

When I was somewhere in the 10-15 year old range I picked up on it.  With age comes wisdom, and I know that I am friends with many noisy eaters and drinkers.  I could name them, yet, that would be pointless.  And rude.  They don't know that I've heard every sound they've ever made.  And they don't need to.  Because misophonia, why, it sounds even more ludicrous as I write about it.  If you had known misophonia was a thing now, you'd have looked and discovered several books on the subject.

Sound-Rage. A Primer of the Neurobiology and Psychology of a Little Known Anger Disorder posits that misophonia is a neurological condition where triggers, such as gum chewing, will set off the urge to flee.  Or flee really, really angrily away.  For me, I flee in my mind.  Or I scream quite loudly.  In my mind.  

As I've already said, if the sound of someone eating makes you want to scream, why, that makes you a jerk, a lunatic, or a bit of both.  Now, the next time I have been "triggered" to "run screaming out of the room/start punching you in the face" I will simply say, "my misophonia is acting up" and leave it at that.  Whoever I say it to need not know what misophonia is, they just need to know my onia is hurting, so back off.  And while I'm at it, your epidermis is showing.  Do something about that, won't you?


The Art of Bonding

It dawned on me the other day that the people with whom I worked  for 15 years are in another place in my life now.  Friend-wise, I like to keep in touch with people.  I recall my AP English teacher saying to us, the seniors in her class, "Most people only have five good friends their whole life.  Chances are, the people you feel are your five right now, will not be five years from now."  She had a thing for fives apparently. She also said that E.T. was a Christ figure.  But we can discuss that another time.

Most of the class acted in denial, "as if!"  I didn't, because some of my friends from kindergarten were sitting with me in the class.  I still keep up with them.  But keeping up is different from constant contact isn't it?  

Because of social media platforms you can "keep up" with former classmates and co-workers, should you want to.  However, I meant a more active friendship when I started writing this.  If you work with someone, you see them every day.  You know about their families, you know when they're sick, you know what they smell like.
That type of knowledge implies a certain type of intimacy.  And it's that type of intimate give and take that the people with whom I spent 15 years is lost.

Now, is such a drift intentional?  I don't think so.  Am I broken up about it?  Not really.  It just hit me as a little bit sad.  And it hit me as a lot like school.  I wasn't buds with all 700 students in my high school class (class, not school, that was more like 4,000).  Same with the radio station.  I was closer to others, and that is the way of things.

Now, I realize that I will most likely never have that workplace comeraderie again.  As an independent contractor it's just me and my clients.  Going into each relationship I know it could be very short term, or long term.  Same thing with being on a set.  You  gravitate toward other crew members who seem to be someone you'd get along with.  Someone whose about page is not instantly there for you to check and see what they're into.  You have to find out all on your own.

And perhaps that's my point.  Once you discover the person behind the public facade everyone has to some extent or another, you form a different kind of bond.  You create a community.  Some bonds are stronger than others.  Some just come undone and drift away.  
No one knows when the goodbye will be permanent.  

Now am I going to say "be kind to each other"?  No.  will defer to  who says, "don't be a dick."  I think that if everyone, as a whole, realized, just a little more often, that this  contact (in person or online) could be final.  Today you could be saying your last words to someone, or be making your last post, or writing your last witty remark.  If that occurred to the the world's inhabitants more often then perhaps there  would be a little more effort to  do better, to be funnier,to be friendlier,  to succeed.  


And a million voices cried out in agony and said, "don't waste your money."

While I was in Atlanta this weekend, avoiding a HIRL with  ,  and I went with our collective brood of five girls to see an advance screening of Turbo.  The girls are aged 2 to 8.  They like it.  Under further questioning, my 8 year old said, "well, it wasn't actually funny, but good movies don't have to be funny." Damn her powers of reason.  Then she added, "but it was no Despicable Me or Mega-Mind."  

I was mildly amused at the attempt at a salt joke.  I heard Samuel L. Jackson speak of snakes and planes.  But that was just in my head.  If only.  

If I had but a fork I would've gouged out my eyes to prevent the 3D confetti flying into my line of vision.  Yet I would've still been able to hear the dialogue.  

I pretended Paul Giamatti was saying, "W NNNNN B C" and yet.  It.  Still Sucked.

Were the voice actors untalented?  No.  Was the animation shoddy.  No.  Was the story unacceptable?  No--don't give up on your dreams, your true friends and family believe in you and can surprise you, your heroes can be like other people too, and people go to car races to see wrecks.  It just wasn't entertaining.  At all.  To me. Or to Kelly.  So that makes it valid.  

If you are forced to take your offspring.  Fake an illness and pass the chore onto someone else.  Trust me.



Monsters University Movie Review

Took the kids, got the glasses, ate the popcorn.
Monsters, Inc. amused me.  I knew the voice talent, I liked the animation, plus, it was clever.  All those monsters in the closet and under your bed at night were real.  And they were scaring you because the screams of a child powered their world.  Like I said, clever.

Monsters University is a prequel.  Mike was never taken seriously as a monster as a kid, Sully was the BMOC and they become unlikely friends with a rag-tag group of misfits.  

I was expecting more of an Animal House reference but only got them disrupting the mellow guitar player on the grass.  I will just hope/pretend that was a Stephen Bishop homage.  

It's not Revenge of the Nerds, or Animal House, or anything remotely clever or truly funny.  But the voice talent is superb so you can't blame them.  And it looks great.  Sure, I find 3D annoying at best but this one, uh, not so much came hurling out at you.

So you have your misfits, against all odds, etc. etc. clearly cliche-ridden.  I wasn't going expecting a Christopher Nolan twist.  But I thought it would be funny.  Ier.  Funnier.  

Monsters University.  My kids are under the age of 10, they like it.  The soon to be 7-year-old found some of it scary, but just scary because it was a confrontation scene.  It's not riddled with adult references.  The story sends a good message (It's ok to be different.  Just be you.) And it has Helen Mirren.

At its conclusion did I wish I had those 110 minutes back?  Noooooo.  But it left me with no great laughs, no clever catch-phrases (it's so fluffy I could die!)

Monsters University is well worth the wait to see it in your home.  It most likely will not cause you to wish you could gouge out your eyes should you pay to see it in the theater.  Save it for the matinee....or just wait.  It's not going anywhere.  

#review #movie  


I Meant to do That

Have you ever waved back at someone who wasn't waving at you?  And then you responded by laying your forearm across your head to scratch your ear because you meant to do that?  Flop sweat stays with me for a solid 30 minutes when I pull that stunt.

Today was no different.  I got on the elevator with two men.  OK, I got on after a clever remark and then, because they were together, couldn't figure out if I should get on or off first, but I digress.  The taller one hit the buttons.  1 and LL.  They weren't sure at first.  What did I do?

Well, first I suppressed inappropriate laughter in the elevator because I kept hearing, "going down Mr. Tyler?" in my head.  I chose not to say that to two men with whom I was not well-acquainted and was also confined in a moving box.

I got off at LL.  I turned left.  They followed me.  Dammit!   Not my floor.  So I proceeded to walk out the door onto the roof of the parking garage.   Who puts a roof on the first floor?

What would you have done?  Turned around upon realizing your error and get back on the elevator?  No!  It was the Not You Wave on a much larger scale.  Two strangers could see me.  Plus all the hidden cameras I assume were watching.  I didn't see any.  That's why I said hidden.

There I am, on the roof, and immediately I pull out my phone. I meant to do that. Clearly I can't walk to my car, because it's under the roof.  My car knows I avoid direct sunlight at all costs.  I hear the men walk toward their cars as I pretend to check emails.  OK, I was actually checking actual emails.  But it gets better, because I totally commit to this roof charade.  I walk around the roof in the hopes that there was a way down without having to go back into the building.  Of course, no way out.

That's when I start with the impromptu photo session of the graffiti across the street and the tree pictures.  Satisfied, (faking satisfied, oh, I didn't fake it, I'm an actor remember?) I strode back into the building and got back on the elevator.  After I tried to leave via the stairs which only led to a different part of the first floor.  Stupid stupid stupid building design.

One LL later and I'm walking toward my own car.  I meant to do that.