Music Therapy

So here’s the thing: I haven’t written a post in a while because I’ve been in an emotional funk. Between worrying about my aging parents way far away in Northern Minnesota and the struggles my young adult children are facing, I haven’t been feeling my usual “pollyannish” self. Plus I came down with a nasty upper respiratory infection which didn’t help matters. My primary purpose for keeping this blog is to put positive energy out there. I’ve hesitated to post this last week or so because of my crummy mood as of late. But today I did something just for me. Something that feeds my soul like nothing else. That “something” is music therapy.

I’ve always been into music. Growing up, I remember spending large chunks of time in my bedroom, listening to my favorite albums on my turntable. Just listening, and pondering the lyrics and delighting in the melodies.  Like the Eagles Greatest Hits. Or the Beatles. Or even the old 70’s mellow tunes from the band Bread. Sometimes, I’d sing along to the Grease soundtrack. Or I’d dance around my room listening to the Kinks, Men at Work, or Michael Jackson.  The best thing about all of this music is that it made me feel. It made me stop overthinking everything and calmed my soul. Music continues to have that magical power over me.

A couple of months ago, I discovered how to create my own playlists via Google Play. I have created several playlists for myself since then. I have them categorized according to the moods I wish to create. Today, I chose to listen to my “CFO” (Chill the F out) playlist. I chose the songs on this playlist for the memories they evoke, the way they soothe me to the core. Now, on this particular playlist, there are a total of 27 songs. I respect my readers time, so I will choose to not gush over each and every one of them. I will simply highlight the ones that sang to my heart most deeply today.

“Way Over Yonder” is a beautiful song by the fabulous singer/songwriter Carole King. My oh my, how I love her songwriting abilities. This song can be found on her iconic “Tapestry” album. When I listen to this song, it makes me think of what “The Great Beyond” (aka heaven) would be like. One of the best lines (IMHO) is in the song is “Maybe tomorrow I’ll find my way to the land where the honey runs in rivers each day”.  This song is like the musical version of butter to me: soft, real, and smooth.

Likely John Denver’s most well known and loved songs is “Rocky Mountain High”. It has special meaning to me, having moved from Wisconsin to Colorado 7 months ago. The line “He was born in the summer of his 27th year, coming home to a place he’d never been before”. Wow. The simple beauty of that line and this entire song always brings tears of joy to my eyes.

Then there’s Jackson Browne’s “Pretender”. I believe Jackson Browne is right at the top of the best American singer/songwriters. I love how the melody of this song draws me in right away, making me feel as if I want to physically move forward and walk alongside him as he tells me this story. He sings this song from the perspective of an American blue collar worker and weaves details in his lyrics (like “when the morning sun comes streaming in, I get up and do it again. Amen” or “caught between the longing for love and the struggle for the legal tender”) that bring to my mind all of the hardworking men I know, such as the hubs, our dad’s, brothers in law, nephews, cousins and old friends. And then there’s the sweet, romantic, authentic line of “I’m gonna find myself a girl who can show me what laughter means, and we’ll fill in the missing colors in each other’s paint by number schemes”. This is just a classic American song and it will always be one of my favorites.

Please do yourself a favor and listen to “Flower” by Amos Lee. Simply gorgeous. The melody is so smooth and silky. It is, to me, the perfect song to listen to while driving around on a warm spring or summer day with the windows rolled down. It reminds me of when I was working as a social worker in La Crosse, jamming out in my good old Honda CRV between visits with my clients. My favorite line in the song is “my heart is a flower that blooms every hour, I believe in the power of love”. This is a song that will most certainly brighten up my mood no matter the circumstances.

Then there’s a Paul Simon (oh how I adore him) classic: Still Crazy After All These Years. The line he sings “and we talked about some old times and drank ourselves some beers, still crazy after all these years” brings back so many happy memories spending time with those special, treasured friends I’ve known since forever. Makes me wax nostalgic about shenanigans we engaged in together, often after drinking ourselves some beers (and not the delicious craft beers we drink now, more like Pabst Blue Ribbon or Schmidt “pseudo” beer).

“A Little Bit of Everything” is a most special song which is also on my CFO playlist. It’s written and performed by Dawes, a band out of California whom I discovered probably 4 years ago. This one for me is right up there with “Pretender” , with it’s emotionally honest lyrics. I have forced many people in my life to stop what they are doing and simply listen to this song. It always brings on the waterworks for me. It even made my mom cry.  It tells the story of different people going through their lives and declaring what’s important to them at the soul level. Every time I listen to it, I get a mental image of the story. That’s some powerful songwriting. I only wish Dawes would have made a video for this song. It would have been epic. Possibly the best line is ” I think that love is so much easier than you realize, if you can give yourself to someone, then you should”. Then there’s the line “I want a little bit of everything. The biscuits and the beans. Whatever helps me to forget about the things that brought me to my knees”.

All I can say is I am grateful I have working ears, a beating heart, and the blessing of time to listen to and appreciate my music. It fills my soul like nothing else. 20170329_143953


Put some yummy in your tummy

20170321_125009 (1)My name is Rhonda and I am a foodie. I love shopping for it, making it, and especially eating it. For over a week, I was craving mexican food. Now, the hubs and I are within walking distance of a fabulous mexican restaurant (El Mirador), but I had the urge to slip into “domestic goddess” mode, so I came up with my own mexican dish last night. I found a recipe for a chicken enchilada bake on Pinterest which I tweaked to suit our palates in the best way possible. And here it is….

Ingredients first:

2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts

Taco seasoning mix

1 can Ro-tel tomatoes (should always have this in your pantry IMHO)

So…put the chicken breasts in your crockpot. Sprinkle them with a generous amount of taco seasoning mix. Crack open your can of Ro-Tel and pour it over the chicken. Add a little bit of water. Cook on low for 6 hours or so. Be sure to enjoy the aroma.

Take chicken out of crockpot. Shred it with forks.

Now for the rest of the ingredients:

2 cans black beans

1 can green chilies (more if you like)

2 cups of shredded mexican cheese

2 cans red enchilada sauce

Green onions (I used a couple of bunches of them)

1/2 package or so of corn tortillas

Then you take a 9×13 baking pan and do some layering, like you’re making lasagna. Start with pouring about half  a can of enchilada sauce into the pan. Rip up some corn tortillas in half and lay them on top. Then 1/3 of the black beans (rinse and drain them first), 1/3 of the green chilies and green onions, then 1/3 of the chicken and 1/3 of the shredded cheese. Then do another layer of the tortillas, 1/3 of the enchilada sauce, beans, chilies, green onions, chicken, then more cheese. Do a third layer of all, then top with more tortillas and pour the remaining enchilada sauce over all. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Then take the foil off, cover with some more shredded cheese and bake another 10 minutes. Once it’s out of the oven, you can top it with whatever you like. I used some diced up avocado, sour cream and salsa.

If you enjoy a good mexican dish, you must try this. It is sooo good. And it leaves lots of leftovers. Speaking of leftovers, I think it’s lunchtime.

Happy cooking, friends!


Lifting ’em up

When I began considering starting my own blog, I knew that I wanted it to have a positive spin. If you have read any of my blog posts thus far, it should be clear that I am by nature an optimist. In fact, the name of my blog “Pollyanna’s Path” was inspired by a former co-worker of mine, who often referred to me as “Pollyanna”. Her  motivation to refer to me that way was likely a combination of sarcasm  and sheer annoyance of my sunny outlook on life. I chose to see it as a compliment. That’s how I roll.

Now don’t get me wrong-my sunny outlook has it limits. It turns a bit cloudy when I read about our new “fool in chief” ( no need to name names here) tweets outrageous lies that I fear may not be called out and disproven by the press. My outlook can take a dark turn when I read stories on NPR about DACA kids going to college and now having legitimate concerns that their (oftentimes hard-working) parents may be deported back to a country they fled many years ago for the opportunities America could provide them. And stories about hate crimes targeting someone who is different from their attackers, whether it be racially, religiously, or because of their sexual orientation, make me feel less than hopeful.

However, there are lots of good things happening all around us, people. That is why I am announcing my new feature, which is called “Lifting ’em up”. Having this regular feature on my blog serves two purposes-it forces me to seek out people out there who are being brave, kind, emotionally intelligent, creative and compassionate. This helps me to maintain and nurture my optimism. Then when I write a blog post about these people and their positive impacts on the world I get the pleasure of giving them their due credit, which perhaps could inspire both me and my readers to pass on some good juju.

Seems like a good plan to me. Stay tuned!

It’s that time of the year

I love that spring is now afoot. Especially delightful hallmarks of this season for me include more hours of daylight, birds chirping away in the trees in our neighborhood, and the promise of new life. Spring also makes me a little antsy for a good old fashioned road trip. Over the course of my life, I have been fortunate enough to have several memorable road trips in the spring, some with family and some with friends.

My earliest recollection of a spring road trip was in 1974, when I was 7. My parents decided to take me and my siblings, who were 15 and 17 at the time, and my Grandma (aka Pearl Pearl the Party Girl), on a road trip to visit family in Phoenix. We drove from our home in northern Minnesota in a family caravan of sorts, with my aunt and uncle and their kids in their own car. My sister, brother (who was six feet tall with the longest, skinniest legs you have ever seen), and I sat squished together in the backseat of Dad’s sedan ( I think it was a Chevy Impala) for the long trek to Arizona, with the two family’s cars switching out Grandma Pearl for a kid during pit stops along the way. I remember singing along to songs like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, “Knock Three Times”, and “Cracklin’ Rosie” while gazing at the totally foreign-to -me landscape of cacti-infused deserts. As this was long before portable DVD players and Iphones, we played “car games” to prevent boredom. If someone smelled a skunk on the road, we would play “I smell a skunk” with someone responding “I won it”, the someone else would chime in “I two it”, and so on until the last responder would exclaim “I eight it!” (get it? “I ate it!) Or we’d play the “alphabet game” where we’d spy letters from a-z on road signs and license plates. The winner was whoever got to “z” first. Or we’d count how many red, blue, or black cars we could find. Ah, those were simple times!  The most memorable part of this trip, however, is when we lost Grandma at Disneyland. What a stellar moment for our family.  I can never hope to tell this story in as much glorious detail as my mother could, but suffice it to say that my parents thought my aunt, uncle and cousins transported Grandma back to the motel we were all staying at, and vice versa. Everyone was confused and horrified to learn that Grandma was nowhere to be found. She came back a few hours later in a taxi and she was not a happy woman. Apparently, she made sure to tell the story of her family abandoning her at Disneyland to the motel owner upon her return. This is not a surprise as she tended to be a pretty ornery (I say this with love) broad. According to my mom,  several years later, when she and dad  went to check into the same motel on a trip to California, the motel owner exclaimed “I know you! You are the ones that lost Grandma in Disneyland”.

My one and only college springtime road trip involved a harrowing drive with my roommate/sorority sister from Minnesota to Pascagoula, Mississippi, during which the driver (not me) decided on a couple of occasions that it was a good idea to read her map whilst speeding down unfamiliar highways. I’m pretty certain that was the first time my life actually flashed before my eyes. Fortunately, we made it to Pascagoula, where we partied the nights away with my friend’s boyfriend and his Marine buddies, and soaked up the Mississippi sun on our plastic loungers during the day.

Alabama 2002

As a wife and mom through the 90’s and 00’s, I recall many fun family road trips. There was the time when our girls were still in elementary school, and the four of us drove to see my folks, who were staying in Alabama for the winter. The trip down was a blur of crummy fast food, stopping every hour or two for our youngest to use the facilities (mostly out of boredom we suspected), singing along to the radio (before there was Sirius XM), and playing the “alphabet game”. We spent a lot of quality time with my folks and all got to swim in the ocean together for the first time. And my husband bought a (mismarked) surfboard with a “Corona” logo on it for $9.99. He only used it while we were there, since we lived in Minnesota at the time, where of course there are no oceans.

As an empty nester couple for the past 4 years or so, we have enjoyed some really cool road trips as well. Like the times we drove from our home in Wisconsin to visit Colorado, stopping over in places like Omaha and North Platte, where we discovered some great restaurants, wine bars, and tap rooms. With spring upon us, I’m looking forward to some shorter road trips with the hubs to explore parts of Colorado and nearby states. I am relatively confident that these trips will not include crummy fast food, near death driving experiences, or one of us being abandoned at an amusement park. We shall see…

Road Tripping

Lesson #4: How to be gracious

Earlier this week, I read a great post from another blogger, who pointed out lessons to be learned from the major flub with the announcement of the Best Picture Oscar last Sunday night. Now, I did watch the entire event live but clicked off the t.v. right after Faye Dunaway announced that La La Land had won. So I was quite surprised the next morning to read about this mishap. When I watched the clip of what went down, I was struck by the gracious way the filmmaker of La La Land conducted himself.

I imagine myself in a similar (but yet totally different) scenario: I’ve just won the “Best Blogger” award at a fancy schmancy award ceremony. I’m absolutely gobsmacked and floating on air as I glide onto the stage and thank all of those who have supported me. Then I sense some commotion going on behind me. There’s a sense of confusion in the air. I can’t quite make out what exactly is off here. As I’ve finished blubbering all over my beautifully ornate rented jewelry and figure flattering ball gown and hand the mike over to one of my associates (by this point I must have one or two of these right?),  I step over to the side of the stage and begin to understand that I didn’t actually win. I freeze in my tracks. My heart is pounding in my ears, I feel nauseous, and I just want to run off the stage like a madwoman, crawl into a hole and die. Now, the description of how I would very likely feel in this precise circumstance, I realize, is not necessarily how the filmmaker of La La Land felt. But I think it’s safe to assume he had some measure of uncomfortable emotions going on under that tuxedo.

The deal is, just like in my fictional version of winning then losing a very prestigious award, once the initial shock and horror subsided, this filmmaker had a choice to make about how he would respond. And he chose to be gracious. He chose to grab that envelope and proclaim that “Moonlight” actually won Best Picture. He then went on to say that he was going to be “proud to give this award to my friends from Moonlight”. He could have chosen to storm off the stage. He could have chosen to punch someone’s lights out. He could have chosen to go on a diatribe about how unfair or unprofessional this all was. Many of us would have on some level at least understood if he had chosen to react in any of those ways. However, he chose to be gracious. What a tremendous example of how to handle yourself in public in an emotionally intelligent way. I hope that if I’m ever in this type of circumstance myself (like when I win that coveted “Best Blogger” award), I will remember his example of how to respond.