Inauguration Day and that “U” Word Again

So Wednesdays are typically the day I publish a blog post. Today is Wednesday as well as Inauguration Day for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

It’s a big fucking deal.

I published a post not long ago where I pondered the word “unprecedented” in relation to the year 2020. It is a word that is (to use another “u” word) ubiquitous to that year. A multitude of unprecedented shit went down. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has sadly claimed so many lives. Political unrest. Domestic terrorism in our nation’s capital.

Also unprecedented is the diversity of the individuals chosen for the new White House administration. The state of Georgia turning blue is unprecedented. The number of Americans who voted in this past election is unprecedented.

One of my IRL and Facebook friends, Eldree, posted the other day about this word and how it could be used in a positive manner going forward into 2021. This inspired me to think about all the “unprecedented” positive changes that I am hopeful for as a result of the Biden/Harris administration.

Unprecedented bi-partisan support for an economic stimulus package to address the needs of Americans financially struggling due to the pandemic.

Unprecedented job growth

Unprecedented racial reconciliation

Unprecedented access to quality mental health services

Unprecedented care for our global environment

Unprecedented drop in homelessness

Unprecedented levels of civic engagement

Unprecedented investment in our educational system

Unprecedented overhauls in our nation’s police departments

Unprecedented justice for those who lost their lives due to racism and domestic terrorism

Today is a new day. The beginning of something better.

The late great Ray Charles

***Header image courtesy of https://livewallpaperhd.com/american-flag-wallpaper-hd-16110/***

Hometown Gem

Her name is Stephanie Himango and this is, ironically, the second time I’ve written about her in my life.

Stephanie and I both grew up in the small town of Two Harbors, Minnesota. She was two years below me in school. For that reason and the fact that she was sporty and I was most certainly not, we did not have any real interaction with each other. As far as I can remember anyway (this was like 35 years ago, folks).

As a senior at our long ago demolished high school that sat atop a hill, I was co-editor of the school newspaper. That extra-curricular sparked a passion in me for creating something out of nothing. A passion for written communication. One of my pieces then was about Homecoming. And in that piece I reported that Stephanie, as a sophomore, was in the Homecoming Court. I came upon that long forgotten factoid about a month ago when I was searching through a box of memorabilia, hoping to find pictures of Christmases past.

The reason I mention any of this at all is because in the summer of 2020 she accepted my friend request on Facebook. I had been made aware through mutual friends that over the years that Stephanie had made quite a name for herself career-wise. That she had a long career in the news industry, even winning a couple of Emmys as a writer and producer. She is also a published author.

Shortly after we became Facebook friends, Stephanie announced on social media that she was beginning her first ever podcast, entitled “Another Door Opens with Stephanie Himango”.

Stephanie promoted her podcast as being one in which she would interview a wide array of people from varying backgrounds to share their stories of overcoming life’s struggles and what, and as she says in each episode, “if anything”, the phrase “Another Door Opens” means to them personally. As if anyone she would interview would actually say that phrase means nothing to them! But that little qualifier exemplifies to me the genuine respect she has for her interviewees. She does not make any assumptions about them. She asks interesting questions and her enjoyment of asking them comes across through her voice as real and true.

So, as you can clearly see, I subscribed to Stephanie’s podcast. Stephanie interviewed everyone from a man who works as a sketch artist at SCOTUS to a veterinarian who treats pets of those experiencing homelessness to a woman who owns and runs her family’s pumpkin farm and much more. After listening to all of the episodes via Spotify (as of last week), I can tell you I’ve learned so much. I’ve been inspired. I’ve laughed. My eyes have been opened up about all the good stuff that people are out there doing with their lives. Kind of like David Byrne from the Talking Heads, who I wrote about here. Listening to Stephanie’s podcast brightened my days in the bananas year that was 2020.

Thanks for that, Stephanie. You are a Gem and I look forward to listening and learning from your podcast in the New Year. Maybe someday if we happen to be in our sweet little hometown (which in my opinion is home to lots of other interesting and inspiring people-maybe it’s something about that perfectly ice cold tap wonder we drank, courtesy of Lake Superior) at the same time, we will bump into each other. That’d be cool.

I encourage all of you reading this to check out “Another Door Opens with Stephanie Himango” and listen, learn and gain inspiration along with me.

I’ve no idea who this pretty young girl is, but I love the beautiful pictures of my home state and remember this song from my youth. Dontcha love the sound of the loons? The Minnesota state bird!

Unsung Heroes Of This Pandemic

What or who is helping you get through this pandemic? What or who is giving you comfort, helping you to remain hopeful, giving you purpose?

I am fortunate in that I have several answers to that question. One of them being my sweet boy, Radar.

It occurred to me recently that within this blog I had been sharing more anecdotes about Karl, our kiddo Rabbie’s sassy cat than I was about Radar. It also occurred to me that for many of us, our pets are the unsung heroes of this strange time.

They are always there for us. Always happy to see us. They don’t judge us for being in a cranky mood. They don’t judge us at all. They don’t ask much of us beyond loving them, ensuring they get outside for fresh air and potty breaks, and feeding them.

I wrote this post back in the summer of 2019, right after we adopted Radar. I loved him then but, amazingly enough, I love him even more now.

I love that he’s such a good boy at night. He fits perfectly into the rocking chair Hubs gave me for my 40th birthday, which now sits in the corner of our bedroom. He sleeps there all night long and when he gets up he offers a big yawn, revealing his extraordinarily long tongue and then he thoroughly stretches out his legs.

I love that when I come home after work, he is the first one to greet me. I only just begin to open the door, and there he is with his nose butting up between the door and the door frame in an effort to get to me as fast as he can.

I love how sometimes when he’s cuddled up with me on the couch at night, I can say his name and he cranks his neck to look at me upside down with his pretty brown eyes.

I love knowing that he is by nature a guard dog (at least half German Shepherd we believe). He would protect us if our house were to be broken into. Any intruders would not have a chance.

Keeping an eye out for the bad guys

I love his puppy playfulness. Hubs and I have never had a dog who loves to play with toys so much. Hubs always told me he wanted to have a dog he could take out into a field and throw around a frisbee with. Radar has gotten some solid training for this through jumping up to catch his favorite, super tough green and blue bone in mid-air at home in the early evenings.

I love Radar’s ears. Sometimes I find them folded back (or I gently fold them back) and I see that sweet black lab in his precious face. Then they will bounce straight back up, revealing his German Shepherd resemblance.

I also love that he’s the kind of dog that everyone loves. Every place we’ve ever taken him he charms all who he meets.

This dog has been such a blessing for me. He reminds me of the importance of playfulness in my day to day routine. He makes me feel appreciated. He comforts me if I’m feeling down. He has increased my general happiness, which has been a huge bonus during this upside down time we are still living in.

He’s my furry, loyal, funny, sweet, smart and loving hero.

The Year That Was

Pardon me for using the most frequently uttered word of 2020 here: but what an unprecedented year this has been. For me, for you, for all of us. All because of a virus, whose name shall not be mentioned because I know we are all sick of hearing it.

I am ready to usher in the new year, as I know we all are.

Beyond (or in some cases because of) this pandemic, plenty of unprecedented things happened in my world the last 12 (or should I say 9?) months:

I unexpectedly lost one job and gained another. Now I’m back to running a food pantry again, a job I never knew I could love so much.

We bought a camper! It was as much as “seizing the moment because we’ve always wanted one and who knows how many moments we have left” as it was “now we have the security of a home on wheels if we need to flee the country”.

I broke my first bone! On account of falling onto the pavement due to a rare combination of poor judgement and general clumsiness. I was fortunate in that the bone healed up pretty darn well after wearing a walking boot for 6 weeks. Who knew that in 2020 I’d gain such an appreciation for wearing two matching shoes?

I learned that sometimes gifts I give to someone can wind up being a gift for myself and both sides of my family as well as my spouses side. Yep, I got Rabbie, that kid of mine who studied history for almost three years at a state university, a subscription to Ancestry.com for Christmas. Now on the daily we are hearing fascinating stories about how my great great great great great great great great Grandmother Mary Chilton came over on the Mayflower. And other stories like how brothers Ira and Samuel Dickenson (Ira being my great great great great Grandfather, on my Dad’s side like Mary), came upon a bear in the woods in 1832 and proceeded to beat it with a cane. Word is their beating of this bear led him to become so docile that he became an exhibit at the zoo.

Don’t be surprised to read more stories of my ancestors adventures as 2021 unfolds.

Then there was the death and resurrection of Karl the cat. Back in November, he came down with a double ear infection. Poor little dude. Shortly thereafter, despite having started antibiotics, he developed pneumonia. Apparently it may be true that cats have 9 lives, because this one actually died on the couch one morning when I was at work. Hubs came to the rescue however and performed mouth to mouth resuscitation on him, inflating his little kitty lungs with enough air to revive him. He was rushed to the pet ER where he spent the night on oxygen. He came back home sassier than before, ready to climb on everything and taunt Radar.

All in all, it wasn’t for me the worst of years I suppose. It surely was an interesting one though. Let’s hope 2021 is interesting too. But in different, better ways, right?

Happy New Year!!

***Header image courtesy of https://cdacmohali.in/goodbye-2020-welcome-2021-images-quotes-wishes-status-whatsapp-dp/

Recuperating from The Christmas Crunch

I realized between Thanksgiving and the first week of December that something had to give. Often after my workdays I was too exhausted to do much of anything. Yet, with Christmas on it’s merry way, I still had things that needed to be done. Like purchasing all the presents. Making the cookies. Sending out the Christmas cards. Sending out the cookies and presents. Coming up with gifts and clues for “Secret Santa” week at work. Decorating the house. Wrapping the gifts. Planning the menu for our holiday feasting.

The “something” that had to give was writing and publishing blog posts. It was time to chill out about blogging. Put it on the back burner for a bit.

I wrote one post where I put a happy spin on it all…because I do sincerely enjoy every part of doing all this. And I wanted to share the merriment. But now it’s over and I’m (I am wincing as I write this) glad. Part of me feels that makes me sound like a horrible person. A bona-fide Grinch. But most of me chocks it up to being human. Putting it all together on top of working full time (yep, I’m up to 32 hours per week now) was exhausting!

The only non-exhausting part was watching all my favorite holiday movies. “Love Actually” continues to be my favorite (not just for Christmas but Of. All. Time.).

Yesterday morning, I did something I haven’t done in godonlyknows how long: I slept in until after 8 a.m. and then thoroughly stretched out all my limbs and laid in bed, my mind going gently from one thought to the next. I marinated in the fact that at least for this one day, time was of no consequence. There was simply nothing that needed to be done beyond a bit of grocery shopping, though certainly no one here was going to starve if I chose to skip that chore.

How delightful this was. Pure, unadulterated lounging. I think this was the Christmas present I needed the most.

So, I’m back, folks. I don’t know that my streak of publishing two posts per week will continue; however, you can expect a weekly post for certain.

For the rest of this weekend and into next week, I shall be thinking about the future. What changes 2021 may hold for me and mine. But it’s also the time to ponder what 2020 meant to me, what it taught me (in spite of the general suckiness of it all thanks to Covid-19). The words I want to focus on in the new year.

Right now, there’s just one in my mind:

Image courtesy of https://www.pixtastock.com/illustration/14556836 It was the best of the few I could find that were not attached to that Disney movie.

Embracing The Merry

I think for those of us that celebrate Christmas, whether in a secular way, a non-secular way, or a combination of both (like me), we can all agree that this year the holiday season is different.

Obviously, the reason it’s different this year is because of Covid-19. No in-person holiday parties like in years past. Worries about loved ones who may be alone for the holiday. The inability to travel and employment uncertainty.

Out of spite, as in “screw you, Covid-19, I’m not going to let you steal my joy”, I’m embracing this Christmas even more than I have in the past. Like it’s a life boat. Doing this, I think, is a healthy coping mechanism for these times.

We here in this house are gorging on all the Christmas movies. Not so much the cheesy, predictable, brainless Hallmark channel varieties (though they do certainly have their place). I’m talking the classics: “A Christmas Story”, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”, “Elf”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Christmas Vacation”, “Love Actually” and more. The ones we all know the best lines to. The ones that fill us with a giddy joy and warm our hearts.

Our little townhome has been properly adorned with all the Christmas decorations inside and soon Hubs will be putting up the lights outside. We’ve even chosen to string multi-colored lights along the periphery of our living room and around the windows. We didn’t do this the previous years we lived here.

All of the Christmas cookies have been made to send to our loved ones in three different states. The presents have been purchased (online) and received. Names have been picked at work for our “Secret Santa” exchange.

Special desserts will be made. A drive through the local holiday light display for charity is happening this year.

One of my blogger friends, Crystal, wrote this lovely post which prompted me to read Luke. I was compelled by the passage in Chapter 3:
John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”, to do a quick clean out of my kitchen cupboards to donate to the food pantry I now run. I think it’d be so cool if others did the same.

I’m determined to suck the marrow out of this Christmas season.

Who’s with me?

**Header image circa 1984 posing with a friend as Christmas elves/mannequins in the front window of Bonnie’s Clothes Bar**

How I’m Rolling These Days

I’m in a funk mentally and tired physically. Covid-19 has worn me down. No, I don’t actually have it. Thank God.

Both my eldest and my sister had it though. Both have recovered. Thank God for that too.

Wearing a mask all the time bites the big one. I get overheated and my nose is always itchy beneath it. Working more hours is sapping my energy for all the other things I want and need to do. But I am employed at a place that does amazing things to help those in need and I have wonderful, hard-working co-workers. Thank God for that too.

There are no fun plans on the horizon for me and mine because of Covid-19. But I’m certain there will be fun times further ahead, probably next summer when we have had reasonable adults in the White House for a bit who believe in science and ensure everyone has been vaccinated against this monster. Thank God for that!

I’ve not been as consistent as I like to be with writing and publishing blog posts lately because my energy is going elsewhere. But I managed to write this today. Thank God for that?!

I can’t see my church friends I miss in person because of Covid-19. Yet our pastors and talented musicians and volunteer tech support has come a long way with their ability to put together a virtual service over these past several months. I plan on watching the service this morning cuddled up on the couch with Hubs and Radar. Thank God for that.

Despite not spending as much time blogging these days, I’m still getting views, comments, and followers. I am so grateful for that. It’s heartwarming for me. Thank God for each and every one of you.

I wish all of you a blessed day. I hope you are all well and are able to find things to be thankful for in your lives. Even if you have to work through the things you are not so thankful for first.

Please share with me how you are “rolling” these days. You know I love to hear from you!

Sometimes Gems Are Gents

I knew back in February of this godforsaken year when I watched David Byrne and his crew perform on SNL that I wanted more of it.

It wasn’t until I saw another blogger posting about it then read the Esquire interview with Byrne and Spike Lee and realized they collaborated to bring Byrne’s Broadway show “American Utopia” show to the masses via HBO, that I was able to actually get more of it.

I watched it at home with Rabbie and I was enthralled. I hope you all have the good sense to watch it yourselves. I’m not going to even attempt to explain what it was all about, mainly because I know I’d miss something important.

But I will say this: David Byrne’s “American Utopia” is weird. In the very best of ways. There’s of course the music, which is so jubilant. There is the oddly intriguing interpretive dance. There are the wonderfully talented, multi-cultural musicians and dancers backing it all up. There is much food for thought. It’s cerebral. But it’s not so cerebral that it’d be over anyone’s heads if that makes sense. Ultimately, it’s a celebration of humanity and community.

This phenomenally cool show along with the uplifting and worthy-of-your-time website David heads up, is part of what makes him a “Gem” to me. A national fucking treasure.

Within the website, https://reasonstobecheerful.world/, you will find well-written, thoughtful, fascinating, and inspiring articles. It’s essentially the good news we all need these days. I’ve known of this website for probably a year now, but hadn’t kept up with it. I allowed myself to instead pay attention to Facebook, Twitter, MSNBC, and NPR to keep current on things. That is going to change, as I’m re-committing myself to reading an article or two daily on this website.

Because of David Byrne, I’m also doubling down on focusing on the positive. The good stuff that will expand my understanding of things and leave me feeling more hopeful. While by nature I am an optimist, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take a bit of work to maintain that optimistic outlook, especially with the plethora of bad news and bad attitudes lurking in every corner of the internet and in the news.

I think we need more people in the world like David Byrne. The people who think outside the box. The intelligently quirky ones. The question askers. The forward thinking folks who have a sense of genuine curiousity about the world and the people who inhabit it. The creative problem solvers who generously share their talents and insights to make the world a better place for all of us.

Let me leave you with what is probably my favorite Talking Heads tune.

***Header image art by none other than Mr. Byrne himself courtesy of http://www.davidbyrneart.com/?portfolio=love

What Can We Agree On?

The seed that sparked this post was a comment made recently on one of my blog posts. In that post, I simply stated “Yay-Biden/Harris won”. Now those aren’t fighting words, are they? Yet, another blogger chose to tell me they were glad that I expressed this. Because then they could “block” me.

I found her comment humorous and ridiculous. When I read a blog post and don’t agree with what the blogger is saying, I tend to keep it to myself. Choose in silence to not follow them. It was the first time I can recall that anyone on the interwebs stated they would not follow me because of my political persuasion.

Of course, my response to this blogger was not helpful at all. I said “You do you, Sweetheart!”. That was admittedly snarky of me and later made me feel like a jerk.

But here’s the thing: aren’t we all in this together? Aren’t we all Americans? Aren’t there some basic things we can all agree on?

The extremism is really pissing me off these days.

Yes, I am very pleased that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be our next President and Vice President. I think they are earnest and are going to try their best to unite us and enact policies to put us all on a better path. I’m not going to take that back.

But there are almost half of us that don’t agree with that, which of course is their right. But is it helpful that a percentage of those folks are digging in their heels and refusing to acknowledge that Trump really truly lost this election? Doesn’t it make sense for them to put down their weapons, so to speak, and acknowledge reality?

I sure think it does. I’m hoping that they agree with that before long. It’s in everyone’s best interest, regardless of what particular political party they are aligned with.

For those of us on the other side, many of whom were often spouting re: Trump “well he’s not my President” after he was elected in 2016, they need to stop gloating. It is not helpful. While I was unhappy when he got elected, I didn’t go around saying “well, he’s not my President”, because I did not think it was helpful in any way. And it wasn’t the reality.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this blog is not a political one. It is however, my blog. And since I see my blog as being running commentary of life from my perspective in the here and now, it would not feel right for me to keep my politics completely off the table.

Ultimately, I want to be helpful here. I want to engage with others and lift them up. I want to be radically hospitable and open minded within this blog and in my real day to day life.

So, that leads me to this final question: what do you think we can all, as Americans, agree upon?

I think answering this question is a way to start healing. To start coming together. We have to start somewhere.

I will go first with: I think we can all agree that (more) change is coming in American society, whether we welcome it or not. We are all going to have to accept that. We’re going to have to get off our high horses for the greater good.

The Brightest Gem

Her name is Kelly. Or, as my Dad often called her “Kel-Kel Poo Poo”. She is my one and only big (biological) sister.

I’ve no idea where Dad got the idea to call her this. I think it’ll forever remain a mystery, as Dad unfortunately passed a few years ago. For the record, he often called me “Rhoda-Joda”. I think the silly names he came up with for all of us was one of his many ways of expressing his love for us.

Kelly and I, ready to partake in the Bloody Mary bar to celebrate our Dad’s second birthday in the afterlife. Babe loved a good Bloody Mary with a “snit” of beer to chase it down.

I don’t know where I’d be without Kelly. She is 8 1/2 years older than me (hard to believe that seeing the picture of us here, right?). She was continuously looking out for me and supporting me as I grew up. I was in awe of her as a kid and still am.

She was the one who regularly sent me care packages when I was away at college. They were filled with random, fun things, like candy, holiday window clings, note pads and other doo-dads. It always made me feel so special, so loved, when I opened them up. I doubt that I ever properly thanked her for them at the time.

I started writing this post on her birthday, November 10. Of course she was working that day. The woman is a work horse and always puts others before herself. I’ll be so happy for her, in another year or so, when she’s able to retire and get much-deserved time to relax and pursue all of those things that give her so much joy, like spending time with her beautiful twin grandsons and traveling with her husband.

It could be said that I owe Kelly my life. I remember hearing stories from when she was about 11 and had to baby-sit me sometimes. She dreaded those times, because our brother, who was just shy of 2 years older than her and had ADHD, delighted in teasing me to the point of tears. She was the one who calmed this bawling and sweaty toddler down during those times.

Kelly is the big sister every little sister wishes they had. She let me tag along with her and her girlfriends when she was in high school. She appointed me “junior” bridesmaid when she got married in 1979. She let me spend weekends with her and her new husband (and eventual baby boys) during the summers. At the time, they lived across from a small resort where we would rent paddle boats and cruise around little Lax Lake. She worked as a waitress back then, and sometimes I would get to hang out at the restaurant with her and her funny friend and co-worker Karen. So many sweet memories.

As she lived in closer proximity to them, Kelly was the sibling who took on the role of managing our parents lives as they got older. She was our family’s rock as Bonnie and Babe’s health deteriorated and for that I owe her a debt of gratitude.

Kelly is also my rock. She’s the first one I call when I have news to share, whether it’s good or bad. It’s fair to say she is the brightest Gem in my life.

For any of you that are blessed to have a “Gem” of a sister like I do, you understand that all I’ve expressed in this post honoring her merely scratches the surface. I’m grateful for Kelly and for the opportunity to have this blog where I can express that gratitude.

Tales from an optimist transplanted from Wisconsin to Colorado. Finding silver linings, lifting others up, sharing positively good stuff

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