Happiness is having something to look forward to

Thinking forward to an upcoming visit with our friends, couple #1, and their two young daughters recently prompted me to peruse the library at work. This library is chock full of donated books for the seniors we serve to take home and enjoy. There is no requirement that the books taken be returned, which I love. Included in this library is a shelf full of children’s books.

That is where I found this little gem, written by Minnesota native and creator of the iconic Peanuts cartoons Charles Schultz, in the year of my birth, 1967.

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The colors and graphics in this little book are quite gorgeous to my eye. But what most tripped my trigger was the words written in the pages. The sentiments. One especially.

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The message that “happiness is having something to look forward to” resonates with me. I believe that all of us, even on our worst days, if we pause to think about it, can imagine something on the horizon to personally look forward to. It doesn’t have to be anything major. In fact, the simpler the better. Because really, isn’t it the simple joys in life that make it enjoyable? Worth continuing?

Maybe it’s the fancy mocha-choca-latte you’re going to buy on your way to work today. Maybe it’s payday. Perhaps it’s the juicy burgers you’re going to grill tonight for supper. Or the book you can’t wait to read. Or the summer vacation you’ve got planned with your family or friends.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, let me share what I am currently looking forward to: visiting the Denver Zoo this weekend with our friends and their sweet, funny, smart little girls (one soon to be 6 and the other soon to be 3). Witnessing their reactions to the animals they see and interact with. Hearing their giggles. Capturing some sweet photos along the way.

How about you all? What are you looking forward to? Surely there’s something.

Thoughts on Self-Care

It feels to me as if the term “self-care” is being tossed around a lot these days. It’s “trending”, which I take to mean the concept will, before long, peter out. It will lose it’s meaning, it’s importance. People will tire of it, finding ways on social media to mock it and render it irrelevant. They’ll find another term to latch onto.

Ironically, I just googled “self-care” and on Merriam Webster, front and center, there is an icon of lightening next to the word “trending”. My point is thus proven. 

Before this concept is indeed no longer trending, I’d like to add my two cents about self- care. I can only speak from my own perspective of course, recognizing that many people in the world are struggling mightily to survive another day, physically and/or mentally, so finding the time and energy to even ponder what self-care means let alone practicing it eludes them. Which really is a damn shame.

Bottom line: I am grateful that I have enough quiet time to myself, along with the mental energy to both identify what self-care looks like to me and the physical and intellectual ability to regularly engage in the activities that promote it. Especially during those times, like right now, when those people near and dear to me are experiencing life challenges that are weighing on my mind and heart, causing me to feel utterly helpless. 

I think that in order to practice self-care in any sort of meaningful way, it’s necessary to define for yourself what it specifically looks like to you. However, taking the time to recognize why practicing self-care is beneficial for you should be your first task. My personal theory is that if I choose to not practice self-care, my ability to be emotionally present for my loved ones will be dwarfed. I will feel put-upon, frustrated, tired, and stressed out. By not practicing self-care, I will lessen my ability to find the silver linings in things as well as hindering my ability to be the best version of myself. By regularly practicing self-care, my chances of being effective at providing emotional support to those I love greatly increase.

Now, while I am admittedly an over-thinker, I cling firmly to the K.I.S.S. mantra (the Keep it Simple, Sister version) when it comes to what self-care looks like for me. I don’t believe any self-improvement endeavor is worth much if there are too many steps.

Let me share some of the self-care tactics that work for me. I urge you to consider what yours are and then share them with me and our blogging friends here in the comments, if you feel comfortable doing so. 

  • I keep a regular sleep schedule and make it a priority to get enough sleep (8.5 hours per night has proven to be ideal for me).
  • I listen to my Soul Song and other playlists daily as they bring me joy. I find that listening to my music each morning puts me in a positive mindset for the day ahead.
  • Regular grooming of fingernails/hands and toenails/feet. As in, at home manicures and pedicures. Taking care of my physical appearance in this way boosts my confidence as I am out and about in my day to day life. And it’s a very relaxing activity for me, especially when I’ve got my favorite tunes playing in the background.
  • I regularly make to do lists, which gives me a sense of order and purpose. This tactic calms my anxious brain and is a valuable tool that boosts my focus on my priorities for the day, or week. I also get a little kick every time I check something off on my to-do lists.
  • I  lay out my yoga mat and stretch my body and do a few strengthening and toning exercises every single morning.  I follow that up with some prayer time. Expressing gratitude and connecting with the Spirit helps me clear my head and gives me good mental energy for the day ahead of me.
  • I ignore people that only have negative things to say as much as I possibly can. You know who they are in your own life. We all do.
  • I strive to remain mindful as I go through my days. For instance, really listening  to people instead of thinking up responses to what I think they are going to say. Also, limiting the amount of times I check my cell phone throughout the day allows me opportunities to see and experience what is going on in my environment. I think it’s healthy to keep FOMO (fear of missing out) at bay.
  • I mentally pull out a phrase or mantra that speaks to me if I’m feeling stressed, such as “This too shall pass”, or “Let it Be” of course in song version because that is how my brain works. 

 

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When I grow up

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I’ve gotten to know a lot of people since moving to Colorado with Hubs almost 2 years ago. I’m appreciative of this. I’m especially appreciative of the older women I have come to know, as they inspire me to strive for graceful, healthy aging. Like the women I volunteer with each week at the food bank. Or the women with whom we attend church.  And the women I work with along with the female senior citizens I serve in my job.

These women I’ve come to know don’t seem to let their age impede them in any significant way. They generally seem to take life in stride and their feathers are not easily ruffled. They have a strong sense of self  and understand they still have the ability to help and inspire others. Their ages do not define them, which I believe is how it should be. They embrace the lives they have and do not wallow in the physical or mental changes that aging has foisted upon them.

One 80 year old lady I know gives me the impression that who she is now is who she’s always been. She is open-minded, witty, and her fingers and toes are always immaculately manicured.  She once expressed a combination of confusion and frustration when a client referred to her as “cute”. She recognized this was an ageist statement and rightly took offense to it. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Another older woman I know is exceptionally loving and caring. She never had children, by choice, which makes her a rare bird in her generation. However, that doesn’t prevent her from looking out for people younger and less wise than she, as she has the ability to embrace and appreciate one and all. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Another female senior I know is a fun loving social butterfly.  She readily strikes up conversations with anyone and peppers them with “dear” or “dear-heart”. She is a snappy dresser and tells great stories about her life as a wife to a Vietnam vet and mother to her now grown children. She recently visited Disneyland with friends and their teenage granddaughter and shared stories about how she and the teen rode almost every single ride together in the park. What other almost 80 year old woman do you know who does that? I want to be like her when I grow up.

Another woman I’ve come to know here is savvy and smart. She takes no shit from anyone. You know where you stand with her. She is not a word-mincer, which is a quality I sort of envy. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Yet another lady I’ve gotten to know, at our church, is adventurous. She travels frequently with girlfriends she has had since she was in college in the 60’s. She is big-hearted and a great listener. She happily donates her time and money to causes she believes in, but she is never showy about it. One time at church, I asked for prayers for someone I love very much who was experiencing a lot of struggles in a personal relationship. This wonderful lady called me a couple of weeks later to check in and see if things had improved with my loved one. I also want to be like her when I grow up.

Then there are the two retired women, who I believe are sisters, who come into our food bank at work about every other week and donate several bags of just purchased food. They look over the shelves and ask me questions about the types of foods our seniors seem to especially enjoy, so they know what to buy at the grocery store the next time. They do this out of the sheer goodness of their hearts. I want to be like them too when I grow up.

I also have a food bank client with bright blue eyes that do not betray her age. This lovely lady once struck up a conversation with me about cooking, which is a common occurrence when running a food bank, and promised to one day bring me her recipe for pork green chili (a Colorado staple). Lo and behold, a couple of months later, she gifted me with her handwritten recipe for this tasty dish. I think I want to be like her when I grow up too.

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Not so sure about buying that lard, though!

The thing is, we are all aging. Day by day. There’s nothing besides death of course, that is going to stop this process. I think that we all have the ability to choose how we are going to age. Some older women are preoccupied by their health problems, or the health problems of others, and seem to be stuck in a never-ending loop of worrying what illness will strike next. This negatively impacts their relationships and their quality of life.

However, these dynamic, older, and wiser women of Colorado that I’ve been fortunate to come to know give me hope and inspiration for my future as a female senior citizen.

About my About Page

I’ve been thinking for a while now about my “About” page.  I notice that readers often peruse it when they’re checking out my blog. Now that I have been blogging for over a year (101 posts so far!), I realize that my “About” page no longer captures who I am as a blogger, at least to my satisfaction .

It needs some tweaking; perhaps a complete overhaul. 

My about Page in it’s current state:

Psych! My name is not actually Pollyanna. My name is Rhonda, and I’m so appreciative that you are taking the time to read this. My goal is to simultaneously amuse, inspire, and empower you with tales from my life as an optimist striving to become the most authentic  version of myself through creative writing.

Some topics I blog about are my devotion to music (from blues to 70’s and 80’s hits and artists, new adult alternative, singer/songwriters, past and present, motown, and classic rock and roll),  love (of food, people, and dogs),  relationships, religion and spirituality, and (at least once in awhile), and politics (warning: I unapologetically lean towards the left). I also very much enjoy highlighting people in the spotlight who are putting good out there in the world.

So that’s me in the smallest of nutshell I can muster. With a little luck, as Sir Paul sings,  I “can make this whole damn thing work out”.

Here is my critique of my “About” page, from my subjective perspective: 

Okay…starting with the first line. “Psych”?! Kind of dorky. It’s not really ground breaking to have a blog title that is not one’s actual given name. Maybe I need to explain why I call this blog “Pollyanna’s Path”. It’s not because I read the Pollyanna books as a child. It’s not because I wish my actual name was Pollyanna. It has  more to do with being an optimist, sometimes to the annoyance of others. A former co-worker often referred to me as “Pollyanna” presumably due to my tendency to walk with a slight bounce in my step and my generally cheery disposition. I like to think she called me that because she secretly wished she could be cheery like me.

Second line….expressing appreciation for those taking the time to read my blog. That is true; I do very much appreciate when anyone reads my blog. The point of having a blog (heck every blogger would agree, right?) is to get people to read it. And while this line objectively sounds a bit meek and mousy, it is sincere. I think I’ll keep it in.

Next line…my goals are to simultaneously amuse, inspire, and empower my readers through my creative writing. Lofty goals indeed. Too much perhaps. Too eager. Biting off more than I can chew. This line is going to need some work.

About that second paragraph: “some” of the topics I write about?! That’s a lot of topics! Some of which I have not been writing much if anything about at all these days, if I’m being honest.  I am all over the place with my writing, as anyone following my blog can plainly see. And why am I saying that I “unapolagetically lean towards the left”? It is true, but what purpose does it serve to share it on my about page? I’m not sure. Perhaps when I came up with that line, I was subconsciously trying to protect myself from some random reader who might feel deceived while reading one of my political posts and get all hateful on me. Anyway, it’s clear that particular line will cease to exist on my about page.

Next line…I enjoy highlighting people in the spotlight who are putting good out there in the world. I continue to concur with this sentiment, but it ought to be re-worded. And “people in the spotlight”? That part may need to go. If I’m “highlighting” someone who I feel is Bad Ass, awesome, and worthy of attention, it shouldn’t, exclusively anyway, be someone who is actually already smack dab in the spotlight. Because everyone else is writing about them too. And many of those writers are expressing exactly what I think or feel about the person being “highlighted”. I think it’s more interesting to “highlight” people who are not already trending, with their images plastered everywhere for all to see day in and day out.

Final two lines: First one is right on, as I have a tendency to be verbose and I did feel a sense of pride for summing up what I’m “about” as a blogger in the space of 3 short paragraphs. I added the “Sir Paul” line in an effort to be clever and to emphasize the influence of music on me as a writer. I just may keep that in.

So, I’ve got some work to do around here. Stay tuned…..

 

The Joys of Motherhood

Motherhood is such a trip. It is adventurous, scary, and fraught with unforeseen obstacles. It is not for sissies, as they say. Motherhood is also very wonderful. My life is much fuller because I chose to be a mom. My heart grew exponentially the day I became a mom-June 1, 1992.

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In honor of Mother’s Day this year, I’d like to share with you a random though by no means comprehensive list of the joys of motherhood, according to me.

  • Cuddling my babies. Stroking their rose-petal soft skin and kissing their chubby little feet. Rocking them to sleep was the best.
  • Being present during their “firsts”. It never failed to be  awe-inspiring to witness my children, these little tiny humans that me and Hubs created and I housed inside of me for 9 months, reach milestones like their first words, first steps, or the first time riding their bikes without training wheels.
  • Enjoying the free, spontaneous entertainment our kids provided us. Like when they would raid my underwear drawer as toddlers and prance around with my bloomers on top of their heads and my bras over their pajamas.
  • Pancakes: if I did not have my kids, I would hard pressed to justify making a batch of pancakes (12-14 according to the Bisquick box from what I recall). We enjoyed ourselves a lot of pancakes when they were growing up.
  • Planning and executing great celebrations: whether it be  birthdays, graduations, or a wedding-I took great enjoyment in planning them in a way that honored them and lifted them up. Seeing my kids happy was always worth it, whatever amount of stress it entailed.
  • Companionship. Having kids meant I always had company. I love how my relationships with them have morphed into something new and special now that they are all grown up. I’ve never related to those mother/child relationships where either party proclaims the other is their “best friend”. I am their mother, which to me is a higher honor than “best friend”. Yet, now that they are both grown, I find that I appreciate and enjoy their company on a different level. I’m no longer there to ride them about doing their homework, cleaning up their rooms, or using the bathroom before we get in the car. That sense of responsibility for them is gone. Which makes room for more meaningful conversations and new experiences to enjoy together.
  • Being a part of the journey into their own motherhood. Our oldest daughter was never so beautiful as she was after giving birth to our beautiful grandson. Seeing her with no makeup and messy, sweaty hair with the biggest smile courtesy of her having just fallen in love with this precious boy was a sight to behold for me as a mom and a new grandma. Such a very special moment that will be forever etched in my memory.

Suffice it to say that I can’t imagine not being a mother. My kids mean the world to me. Tell me, fellow moms, what have you found to be the most joyful aspects of motherhood?

Happy Mother’s Day!

A taste of Colorado this weekend

Notes made to myself prior to embarking on a weekend exploring a part of Colorado we had yet to visit: Grand Junction!

The title of this blog post could just as well be “We make plans, and God laughs”. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Nothing completely horrible happened. It’s just that, because this is life, my plans didn’t fully pan out. Not complaining here, just reflecting.

Ahem…now onto my so called “plans” vs. reality:

Experiences to manifest this weekend in Grand Junction:

Morning coffee at a local coffee shop.

This was a super simple intention that didn’t materialize. No good reason why, other than the coffee at the hotel hit the spot good enough for me. 

A hike or two.

Check-big check, in fact! We hiked the Cap Trail, which was truly spectacular. We encountered different terrain, various members of the lizard family, and outstanding views of the mesas. Hubs got some great shots with his Nikon, too. Like this one. And we encountered 3 different types of lizards (see above). 

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Brew pub and winery and buying swag there

I didn’t come across any swag worthy of purchasing, but we sampled a couple of new beers at area brew pubs and enjoyed a lovely chardonnay at Two Rivers Winery following our hike. 

Hot tub:

Damn stinking kids were piled into the hot tub- that was about half the size of your typical hotel hot tub, mind you-every single time we tried to use it. So that made me a little grumpy. 

Lavender farm/store:

Not what I expected. But what did I expect? Turns out the place was a distillery too. Should visit again. Have a cocktail next time. Amongst the myriad lavender infused products was a full bar serving bloody mary’s and the like. 

Peach Distillery:

So this was “planned” for the second day, on our way home. Unfortunately, Hubs caught food poisoning somewhere along the way so peach infused alcohol and other peach what-nots were not exactly appealing to him, so we hightailed it home, enjoying the stunning views of rock formations and the Colorado River along the way. We decided to visit the area again, when it’s actually peach season. That’d be a better deal anyway. 

Shopping/keep my eyes out for:

Hats and bow ties.

I know, weird things to be looking for, right?! To explain, Hubs and I will be attending a church fundraiser on 5/5 called “Cinco de Derby”. It’s a combo of a Mexican shindig and Kentucky derby party. We discussed it and decided to forage for these items later in the week at Target and the Michael’s craft store that is conveniently located next to it. I’m sure we’ll come up with something. 

Greeting cards.

Ding Ding Ding! I scored 4 awesome ones for $1 each at a downtown book store. Lord knows who I will be sending them to, but no doubt figuring that out will be fun for me.  I felt good about spending money at this independent book store on “Independent Book Store Day”. I also snagged a book there entitled “The Kindness of Strangers”. Thought it may provide inspiration for my “Kindness Jar” project.

Visit the hotel bar.

Why, yes we did. And we got some great advice there from Annette Bening. Lemme explain: She was approximately the same age as Ms. Bening, dressed casually in denim, drinking a beer and wearing reading glasses. She was situated at the end of the bar, but not the very last seat; the one next to that one. So she had two empty seats on either side of her. She motioned for us to come and sit, scooching down a seat to allow us to sit side by side. She then engaged us in a lively conversation of all things Colorado. She laughed easily and urged us to check out Mount Princeton for our next Anniversary celebration. She shared that it’s pricey, but there are awesome views of the mountains and wonderful hot springs to soak in. She also enthusiastically encouraged us to check out Telluride for their music festivals and good vibes. She spoke lovingly of her son, who was playing in La Crosse tournaments in Grand Junction this weekend. Hence the reason she was chilling at the bar for a bit. Such a cool lady. 

Interesting that earlier in the day,  I had purchased the book about the kindness of strangers, no?

I now can’t wait for our next Colorado adventure! Maybe a George Clooney look alike will make an appearance at a winery or distillery.  You never know…..

I Feel Pretty?

There’s a movie out now with this title. It stars Amy Schumer and I fully intend to see it. I’ve read about it and understand it to be a story of a woman, played by Schumer, who has a clutzy accident in spin class which causes her to hit her head, which leads to a TBI that makes her  believe that she is the prettiest woman on earth. This turn of events leads her to operate on the day to day with a newfound sense of confidence, and hilarity no doubt ensues.

While I am certain, as a fan of Amy Schumer and her sharp wit, I will thoroughly enjoy this movie, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to relate to it on a personal level.

I think it’s because I am not caught up with the notion of being “pretty”. At least not now anyway, being a somewhat fledged grown woman of 51. I’ve made peace with how I look. I don’t have illusions that I am some great beauty (which is perfectly fine by me), but I have confidence in my ability to make the most of my features with make up. And I know how to dress myself in a flattering way. It’s pretty simple, really.

I prefer the notion of feeling funny (though “I Feel Funny” is not the best title for a film-but perhaps a new pharmaceutical commercial for vertigo), because I fancy myself as a humorist. However, what I would really prefer, instead of feeling “pretty” or “funny” is to feel smart.

True confession: I’ve struggled all my life with the feeling that I am not smart. I’m the one who doesn’t get the punch line while everyone else is laughing their asses off. I’m the one that needs to try, try, try when learning something new before it clicks. I’m the one who was an average student, grade-wise, throughout my education (with the exception of my senior year in college when I earned almost exclusively A’s and B’s). Up until I hit about 48, 9 times out of 10 in social situations, I believed that I was the least smart person in the room, reminiscent of those times in middle school where I was always the second or third to last to be picked for whatever team sport was being played.

But I digress.

One of the gifts of aging, for me, is that I feel smarter than I did, say 10 years ago. Experience does that to a person. Trial and error. Figuring out what works for you and what just simply doesn’t, and what your learning style is comes with age. Not taking yourself so seriously. All of these things are the silver linings to getting older.

In my take on this movie genre, entitled “I Feel Smart”, obviously written in collaboration with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, I would successfully put together IKEA furniture by myself, present TED talks on how to harness female intuition for the betterment of society, and use my Kohl’s cash and coupons to save 150% on my shopping sprees. I would breeze through my days offering useful advice to those I come in contact with and I would be asked to become a partner in a think tank (I’ve always been curious about those-I assume it’s a bunch of high tech smarty pants people hanging out in a state of the art, pristine facility collaborating all day to solve society’s problems. So if I’m feeling so smart, I ought to fit in just fine there).

That would give me a much larger helping of confidence than believing I am the prettiest (or funniest) woman on earth.

So, Amy and Tina….you in?

Tales from a 50 year old optimist recently transplanted from Wisconsin to Colorado. Finding silver linings, lifting others up, sharing positively good stuff

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