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.