I started writing this post on Labor Day. I decided to “labor” at home. Doing just-for-me creative pursuits. I started with updating my vision board. I’ve tons of magazines around here collecting dust and taking up space to be used on this project.
Primarily I found phrases that speak to me (“let curiosity lead” is my new favorite), but no visual depictions of any specific, tangible, thing that I want to manifest. I’ll probably need to hit a thrift store soon to complete my current iteration of this vision board.
I did find some articles in these old magazines that I missed on my first go ’round with them. I will read those this week, before toss them into our recycling bin.
Hubs and I got back from our summer vacation last Wednesday night. It was a long-ass road trip to Minnesota with our camper. We normally go up there to see family and friends in July; this year, however, we went in late August so we could attend the nuptials of my nephew and his gal.
All went well, though Hubs is still quite sore from doing all the driving. Those sweet kids got married (under a tent during a downpour). We spent quality time on the way visiting his parents and sister in Wisconsin, having dinner with our best friends farther north, and lunch with my beautiful niece and her family on our way through Nebraska.
I didn’t want to come home, to be honest. Not just because I wanted more time with family, but because of the beauty and serenity I find at my sister and brother in-laws place. I wanted more of it. Maybe next summer, we’ll fly there so we can spend more time with them in this instead of sitting in the truck. Better yet, we’ll take the camper but extend our vacation by another few days.
I’ve been focusing more these days on home improvement and home decor. Hubs and I are planning some pretty major upgrades for our town home, which will, hopefully, be completed before Thanksgiving. New carpet is going in first, sometime next month.
I’ve got a lot of words on my walls. I may have overdone it. I think, being a 54 year old white woman from the Midwest, having so many pieces of “words as art” on my walls might make me a cliche. At the very least, I ought not to buy any more.
That by no means is me declaring that I don’t on some level enjoy each and every one of my word/art “pieces”. But I also wouldn’t want to fuck up the other scenery inside our empty nest. Overwhelm our space with words which would, no doubt over time, diminish their meanings.
How about you all? You’ve got words adorning your walls in the name of art, right? Perhaps it’s just an American thing? I wonder about that.
I think it all started with the small framed piece of art I bought at one of those home decor parties I attended when we lived in Wisconsin, probably in about 2002. It has the word “Faith” emboldened on it. I felt a bit obligated to purchase something (you know how that goes, right folks?). Seeing it on our wall was a good reminder for me at the time, what with the challenges of raising two kids with Hubs, working full time as a case manager, and managing the stress/anxiety that accompanied those roles. It now lives on the wall above our town home’s staircase. I probably don’t take note of it as much as I should.
One of my most recent “word art” acquisitions was found on Etsy. It’s a slim piece of wood with the words “Everything is Figureoutable” on it. It’s cute, though perhaps overly optimistic. But I like it just the same. It sits on a buffet table in our dining area, in front a lovely plant and next to pictures of our kids and our grandson.
Then there’s the also made-of-wood but glittered up word “Peace” that sits above the gas fireplace in our living room. I bought it at TJ Maxx a few years ago, when I was searching for new Christmas decor. I haven’t been able to bring myself to take it down since. It’s a pretty reminder of my desire to maintain peace within my home. As well as a reminder that outside of these walls, peace is something that is sorely needed and something I must actively cultivate.
In this post, I wrote about the funky sign my dad, Babe, hung in his beloved garage for years. For the longest time, I had it hanging beneath my vision board in our home office. Now that this is Hubs space as he’s working from home full time (and likely for the remainder of his career), I needed to find a new place for it. It’s now hanging downstairs on the wall across from our half bath. I think the words will be a comfort to visiting guests after using the facilities.
Speaking of my vision board, it’s now hanging above my small Ikea dresser in our walk-in closet. It’s a good place for it; however, it needs some new words and/or phrases. Probably another inspiring image or two. Nothing new has been added to it for probably 2 years. I must get on that soon.
But of course I have the “Live, Laugh, Love” phrase on my walls. My sister Kelly gifted that to me several years ago. I guess I wouldn’t be a “words on the wall” kinda gal if these words were not present somewhere in my home, right?
I look forward to hearing about your own (or your take on-maybe that’d be even more fun?) “words on the wall”.
In the meantime, enjoy this little ditty:
***Header image courtesy of yours truly. It might be my favorite . It’s the first one you see when you walk in our front door***
As a melophile, I am an enthusiastic believer in the power of music. It can reach into your soul and capture it, if only for a moment. It can speak to you in a way you can’t put into words. It can set the tone for your day and it can comfort you when the day is done.
Some music has the ability to improve your attitude. Give you a little boost of energy. A little pep in your step. Compel you to do a little jig in your kitchen. Put a smile on your face and leave you humming it’s tune for the rest of the day.
That is what my “Good Vibes” playlist, which I created for myself on Spotify, does for me. When I put it together, I decided to simply go right off the top of my head, thinking of the songs that tickled me and finding them via the search option on Spotify. I told myself to not overthink this playlist, not to judge my choices, especially since it could easily be edited at a later time.
Do you all have something akin to a “Good Vibes” playlist to turn to when you need a pick-me-up? If you do, please do this gal a favor and share what’s on yours. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend you invest a bit of time to create one for yourself. You’ll thank me later.
I would be remiss if I didn’t share what’s on my personal “Good Vibes” playlist. I won’t give you the full list, because that would take away from the time I’d rather you spend making your own custom playlist.
So of course I chose the least dangerous PEW (acronym for “purge emotional writing”) path and wrote all my negative emotions out on a word document and then when the 12 minutes was up, I deleted it. For 5 days, though not in a row. Read further to learn why.
This exercise made me feel emotionally lighter. Though in between PEW sessions I thought about all the things I was angry or sad about, the things and people that piss me off and why, so I would have an idea of what I was going to write about. Not sure if that was a good thing or not. Maybe it just showed me that I tend to keep negative emotions buried deep inside me and they need coaxing. Or maybe it was because I knew I’d be filled with anxiety if I didn’t ponder those unpleasant thoughts and feelings ahead of time. Because then I might eat up half of my 12 minutes staring at a blank page.
Another take away is that unlike other things I have vowed to start and finish, I started and finished this one. I’ve always believed myself to be a very determined person, the kind who hitches themselves to an idea and follows it through to the bitter end. However, as I’ve gotten older, my follow through is lacking. So this exercise gave me a (albeit weird) sense of accomplishment.
I think this is a practice I’m going to come back to in the future. When I’m feeling irritable and negative. But instead I will employ the fire method. Perhaps when we’re camping and Hubs has made a fire. Maybe I won’t do it five days in a row. Maybe just once. Or two times in a row. Whatever feels right at the time, I suppose.
Now back to why I didn’t do my PEW exercise 5 days in a row.
On Day 4, Hubs and I had ourselves the Best. Time. Ever. Purging the emotions that had been disturbing my peace onto a computer screen just wasn’t a priority that day.
On that Saturday, we attended a concert at Red Rocks. We saw The Avett Brothers live. After almost two years of pining for the days when we experienced the joy of live music, we got to see one of my favorite bands play at the best venue of all.
It was spectacular. The temps were perfect, the views spectacular. The crowd was in good spirits and their was such a feeling of love in the air for not only the music, but humanity as well. We chatted with the folks on either side of us, talking about which Avett Brothers songs we were most looking forward to hearing and sharing other music-related recommendations. I am especially looking forward to watching the Avett Brothers documentary the strawberry blond millennial from Los Angeles gushed on about.
Here are some pics:
It doesn’t seem right to not include a bit of The Avett Brothers music with you all in this post, especially for those of you who are not familiar with them. Here’s the tune I was looking forward to hearing live the most:
Header image courtesy of ***https://tenor.com/search/angry-typing-gifs
The latest activity I’m interested in pursuing involves fire.
But I’m chicken shit when it comes to flames. My brain goes to all the bad things that can happen when you play with fire: you could burn your house down. You could burn yourself down.
I suppose this is all on account of being highly over-protected as a kid. I am the youngest by more than 8 years. A favorite story of Bonnie’s was when I was still in diapers, sitting on her lap (back before car seats, people) in the passenger seat of the family car with Babe at the wheel: a semi truck passed us (no doubt because Babe was going under the speed limit, which was his norm as an uber-cautious-in-all-things person), and he hollered at Bonnie to keep a tight hold on me so the draft from the semi would not suck me right out of the open window.
My healthy (or is it unhealthy?) fear of fire is on my mind these days because of Crystal’s blog post. In this post, she talked about a cathartic experience she had, which was found online on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop website. Essentially, as I understand it, you set a timer for 12 minutes. During this period of time, you take pen to paper and write about all the stuff that’s blocking your sense of peace. You are supposed to do this exercise for 5 days in a row. They call it “purge emotional writing”.
This post spoke to me. I started thinking about all the things emotions I’ve been going through these past couple of months on my blogging sabbatical. There’s frustration. Anger. Feelings of helplessness and confusion. You know, the stuff as a “Pollyanna” I tend not to write about, especially in this public platform.
So, I really want to do this exercise. But it involves fire.
I was thinking, maybe there’s an alternate method I could employ to get the same results. Customize it for myself, you know? A method that does not involve fire but provides the emotional release I seek. Then maybe I can relax a bit. Find the fun in blogging again.
One option is I could eat the paper after I’ve done all that emotional writing. I witnessed my kiddo (Rabbie, the artist) do this once during the pandemic. They wrote down something they wanted to manifest in their life, wadded that little piece of paper in a ball and down the hatch it went. Their theory was that consuming the word of the thing they wanted to make manifest would become part of them physically and therefore increase the odds that it would come to fruition.
On account of the fact that not only in my proposed emotional purge writing exercise would I be producing reams of inky paper, I wish to preserve my digestive system and not end up in the emergency room, so eating paper is a no-go for me.
If I had a fire pit along with a back yard, I could ask Hubs to build me a campfire 5 nights in a row in which I could, from a safe distance, toss my emotional writings into. But, alas, we live in a town home community where personal backyards do not exist, so that is not exactly an option here.
But what about those “smash rooms” I’ve heard about? The ones where you pay money to smash shit with a baseball bat while yelling incoherently about everything that pisses you off? That could be an interesting way to release my negative emotions, right?
Instead of obsessing about playing with fire, I could also choose to write all the negative shit in my head in a draft folder and then immediately delete it.
So…I guess I have some choices. Options I can choose to get it all out.
Between now and the next blog post I publish, I will choose one of these options and let it rip.
Blogger Troy Headrick’s recent query, asking others to define what the “good” life is, really got me thinking.
Instead of responding in the comments section of his post, I’ve decided to write about it here on my blog.
If asked this question while I was growing up in middle class northern Minnesota in the 70’s and 80’s, my answer would have been something like this: the “good” life means you have oodles of money at your disposal. It means others envy you, as you sip champagne on your yacht with a perfectly coiffed poodle on your lap. The “good” life means you have connections to powerful people and you live in a luxurious home. Actually, if you’re living the “good” life you have several luxurious homes in multiple locales. You enjoy a globe-trotting existence with not a care in the world. You are unencumbered by any responsibilities.
In other words, the good life was unattainable. A mere fantasy. And, truth be told, pretty damn shallow.
Later in my life, probably somewhere in my 30’s, my definition of the “good” life became sharper, more defined, more personal. I witnessed my parents, after many years of hard work, building a business together even, retire. They were young-ish at the time. Bonnie would have been right about 60, Babe 67-ish. They had the good fortune of living as middle aged adults during a time where the economy was prosperous. They were healthy and possessed strong work ethics and managed their money exceedingly well.
Their retired life consisted of traveling to Europe, purchasing a cabin on a lake, along with a fifth-wheel trailer which they took down to Gulf Shores, Alabama for several months of the year for probably a dozen years or so. They had so much fun. They most certainly were living the “good” life.
Now that I’m in my 50’s and the kids are grown and largely self-sufficient, the “good” life that I envision for me and Hubs is starting to feel within our grasp.
Here’s what it looks like: a nomad-like existence for a year. Selling our town home and hitting the road. Spending time in all 50 states in our camper. As long as there’s wi-fi, as Hubs says, “I can work anywhere”. Without a mortgage to pay, we can surely manage on his salary alone. Then I would be free to explore. Free to express myself creatively. Free to give of my time, energy, and skills to volunteer somewhere.
After that year has concluded, we would travel in Europe for a month or so, then purchase a new home in Colorado. Preferably a solid, well maintained, 50’s era ranch home that needs a little TLC. Make it ours. Maybe I’d find a part time job in another non-profit that could benefit from my years of experience. Or maybe I’d choose to volunteer at a couple different non-profits instead.
If we continue to be smart with our finances, down the road we could buy a plot of land on a small lake with good fishing opportunities. Build our own cabin, complete with a dock, fire pit, and a large deck that overlooks the water. Friends and family would visit on the regular. We’d have a large garden and we’d host lively holiday gatherings. Now, that would be my definition of the final chapter of the “good” life. Fulfilling experiences, eye-opening adventures, and lots of meaningful connections with others.
How about you all? What, specifically, does the term living the “good” life mean for you?
As any of you that read my blog on the regular are aware, I’ve been in a funk for about the last month. Especially blogging-wise.
You may have noticed that I skipped publishing a blog post yet again last week. But this time, I didn’t mentally beat myself up as much as I usually do. That could be due to some of my followers comments on my last post telling me not to berate myself about it. That they also skip a week or two or three every so often.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for that, Christie and Rebecca.
So with that and the increased busyness of my life in general (not complaining here, folks), I’ve working on taking myself off the hook.
I feel like I need to hit the re-set button with this blog. Like in my bones. Because I want to keep blogging, really. But sometimes…not so much.
The overthinking is dragging me down. The indecisiveness about what I want to write about is grating on my nerves. I’ve allowed it to take too much of my mental energy. It’s not as much fun as it used to be.
So I think it might not be the worst idea to ponder why it is that I’m still blogging.
How about you all? Have you ever just thought “Why am I doing this?” Well that’s where I am right now as a blogger.
Bear with me as I share with you the reasons why I blog. I encourage you to share in the comments the reasons why you blog as well. Your honest perspectives would truly interest me.
Blogging helps me to make sense of what I think and how I feel. It’s cathartic for me sometimes. I like the sense of release I feel when I hit that “publish” button.
I selfishly enjoy knowing that when I’m long gone, I will have left words from my heart and brain for my family and friends to access anytime they wish to feel my presence. Kind of like the little notebooks Bonnie wrote in and her recipe box that I nabbed after her funeral. I miss her so much.
The encouraging comments I receive from my readers. They often warm my heart. Often they make me feel understood and validated. Sometimes they make me think of things from a different perspective, which is very valuable to me as a person who strives to enhance my worldview in this crazy world of ours.
Blogging sometimes presents new opportunities for me to pursue. For instance, the newest option of adding a podcast. I’ve always been intrigued at the thought of working as a deejay, and this is a harmless way to give it a shot.
All that being said, the re-set button is being set right now. I’m choosing from this point on to not force myself to publish weekly. But I’m also not quitting this blogging thing.
My hope is that once I stand back and re-assess things for a bit, I’ll come back invigorated and enthusiastic about blogging again.
It truly bothers me that last Wednesday I failed to publish a post as per usual. I don’t have any good reason for that other than that I didn’t feel I had anything new or remotely interesting to say about anything really.
Hence the reason you find yourself reading this post today. I was not willing to skip yet another week. The anxiety would be too much. I’ve committed to this blog like I’ve committed to a relationship (which I suppose this is-between me and all of you wonderful, patient readers). I’m determined not to flake out on you guys.
It’s not like I was feeling depressed. Quite the opposite, really. Life has been peachy as of late. Rabbie has been making more and more sales on their online site and is positioned to take Karl the cat and move on out of here. Like soon. As in we’re heading downtown Denver tomorrow actually to view the first new potential pad.
The other kid, despite being unemployed (directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic) is doing well also. She’s enjoying having more time at home, more time to herself. She’s making ends meet thanks to unemployment benefits and actively searching for solid employment. She had an interview recently for a job that she is very excited about. The pay is higher than her previous job and the benefits are quite outstanding.
Our 7 year old grandson is thriving! He’s been in a new school for a couple of months now and for the first time is excited to go to school every day. His mom held a birthday bash for him last month at the local roller skating rink and it was reported to have been quite the fun bash.
Work at the food pantry is going well. My boss and I are continuously procuring food and distributing it to those in need. I scored us a hefty sum via a state sponsored Covid-19 grant and will be procuring even more food over the next several months.
As far as writing for this blog goes, I’ve gone back to writing whatever it is I’m thinking about each morning directly after I hit the shower. Before I allow myself to go down any social media rabbit holes. And I’ve been writing more at night, after work and before supper. Luckily, my family is agreeable to eating supper as late as 7 p.m.
I am working on a new blog post. It’s the kind where I challenge myself to delve into a topic that piques my curiosity. The kind that takes some actual time and effort, unlike this post you are currently reading. The hope is it’ll be ready for publication next Wednesday.
As Bonnie would say to me over the phone after breathlessly telling me all the latest in her world, “that’s my stories..how are you doing?”
Let me leave you with a new little ditty from one of my all time favorite singer-songwriters, Carole King. Can you believe she is 79?
This past year, I found myself in a place where, for the first time in my life, I believe I understood what depression feels like. I put full blame for this on the Covid-19 pandemic. It really threw a wrench in my moods and my attitude.
I think it showed in some of my blog posts. Sorry about that.
Sure, I started a new job back in August and that lifted my spirits, infused me with some energy and ambition. But the days became the same it seemed. While for the most part, I liked (and still do like) having a daily routine, I often felt bored. Uninspired. Unmotivated. My interest in things I historically enjoyed doing waxed and waned.
I believe one reason behind this is that I didn’t have anything to really look forward to. No concrete plans. No fun activities on the immediate horizon. Unlike a post I penned back in 2018.
You can all relate, right?
What helped, especially on those particularly “blah” days, was saying out loud what I am glad about. Sort of like the “Glad Game” I’ve heard about from the “Pollyanna” movie which I have not yet seen (what is wrong with me???!!)
Typically I would spout this out while driving our truck to work. Naturally, doing this was harder some days than others. But once I did it, my spirits lifted. My attitude shifted to one of gratitude. I recognize that sounds cheesy-but it’s the truth, Ruth.
Let me give you an example. As I started backing out of the garage one morning, I said “today I am glad that after work I’m getting a massage. And I had a good night’s sleep last night. And I started a new blog post”. It’s all just simple things, specific to that day. Focusing on what is truly good in the moment and not wishing things were different or thinking that they ought to be.
But now things are really starting to look up for me. For you, too, I think. We’ve got a new administration in the People’s House who is taking this pandemic head-on. Covid-19 cases are starting to plummet. More and more of us are getting vaccinated (for me, as an essential worker, I ought to be getting my first dose by mid-March).
I may be jinxing it, getting ahead of myself…but I think it’s *safe* to begin to think about what there is to look forward to in the near-ish future. You know, those things we couldn’t do because the pandemic kept us home for the most part.
What’s on your list?
A date with Hubs, the scientist who has been far more informed and conscientious re: Covid-19 than most, to shop at Trader Joe’s in Boulder and have lunch at the nearby Panera.
Visiting our favorite local brew pub, Twenty Brew, which I am thankful is still in business. It’s been too long since we’ve been there to try new brews and visit with the owner, Dave, and his charming bartenders.
Chatting in person with our church friends at church. Hosting “coffee hour” where I get to share sweet goodies I made in the little kitchen in our townhome the day before.
A day trip to Estes Park. Hiking. Taking in the astonishingly beautiful scenery, both on the drive up and while hiking amidst it’s majesty.
Now I know that realistically some of these things will not happen anytime soon. If I’m extraordinarily fortunate, they will all take place before the end of the summer. But if only a portion of them happen, it’s all good.
If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s to appreciate what is and to keep my expectations reasonable.
“It doesn’t matter when you bloom, it matters that you do”. This is a lyric in the song “Late Bloomer” by The Secret Sisters.
Isn’t it powerful? Sweet, comforting, encouraging?
I can relate to the message of this song. I feel that in a lot of ways, I am a “late bloomer”. Especially considering how long it took me to obtain my license as a social worker.
I was 40.
As a freshman English major at a state university in the 1980’s, I took an elective class entitled “Social Welfare”. Within probably a couple of months, I changed my major to Social Work. The idea of getting out there in the world and helping people in a tangible way really appealed to me. Learning more about the injustices in the world made me want to get out there and make a difference in struggling people’s lives. To fight for the rights of the disadvantaged.
I was going to be a Social Worker.
Fast forward about 20 years. I hadn’t achieved that goal yet. Upon graduating with my B.S. in Social Work, I found myself in great need of employment, as Hubs was still in school and only able to work part time. I was unable to find a job in Social Work in our college town, so I found myself working full time as a customer service rep.
Then came my first pregnancy, a short stint in Lubbock, Texas so Hubs could attend grad school, and then a very unexpected second pregnancy. We moved on back to Minnesota at that point so we could be closer to family while we navigated our journey to becoming a family of four.
Life for about the next eight years was a blur of Hubs working rotating shifts forecasting the weather and us doing our best to keep our kids fed, healthy, and safe. The only ambition I had was to earn money to ensure we could maintain a decent standard of living. My dream of becoming a social worker was put on the back burner and I fell into a couple more customer service jobs.
But the dream never really died. After being relocated to Wisconsin for a new job for Hubs, I was hired as a case manager for a non-profit which served adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Finally I had an opportunity to work in the field that meant something to me. I made a lot of great friends and gained valuable experience in the eight years I worked there. The dream truly re-kindled itself during a staffing I attended for one of my clients with their social worker. I had an epiphany: there was nothing this social worker had over me other than a license.
So right around my 40th birthday, I drove to a nearby city and took and passed the test. I had never felt so confident about myself or more in charge of my future than I did in that moment.
I went on to have a great eight years working as a certified Social Worker at a managed care organization, serving adults with physical and intellectual disabilities as well as those with mental health diagnoses. I found myself using the skills and experience I gained in my customer service jobs as well as my case manager job.
I may not be working as a social worker any longer, but I’m blessed to be in a position where I’m connecting people in need to the food they and their families require to thrive, as a food pantry coordinator.
Who else out there identifies as a late bloomer? I’d absolutely love to hear your stories in the comments.
And of course, I’m sharing the song. The video is beyond precious.