5 Things Learned Along The Way

Hey all! I’m baaaack! Yipee!

Our big road trip visiting family and friends in Minnesota and Wisconsin came to a close when we landed home last Monday evening. The trip had it’s share of ups and downs. The downs are why I have not posted anything on this blog since our return. I, for lack of a better term, needed a “vacation from my vacation”. I realize that is utterly a “first world problem” but given my emotional/mental state after this two week journey, it is 100% true. I assure you, however, that there were more ups than downs.

Surely this was the biggest and bestest “up” of our vacay!

It is so absolutely flipping awesome to be back home again in my happy bubble in Colorado. Back to our own comfy cozy bed. Back to my wonderful microwave that pops my popcorn to perfection with one small tap on the “popcorn” button. Back to counting bunnies on my (mostly) daily strolls around our neighborhood. Back to my weekly volunteer gig at our local food bank, where I have the pleasure of directly helping those in need while not being responsible for navigating the day to day trials and tribulations of my clients’ lives (as I did as a social worker in Wisconsin for years). Best of all, I’m back to blogging.

Time spent in the car traveling through Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin provided me with ample opportunity to do some personal pondering. I took stock of the varied life experiences I’ve had and how they have informed who I am in the here and now.  That said, here is a by no means comprehensive list of lessons learned during my life as a girl and a woman. These lessons, in small and sometimes big ways, led me to become the 50 year old creative writer/optimist/politically aware and engaged/spiritual/feminist/truth-telling broad/hot mess I am now.

First lesson learned: There are truly good guys out there-you just have to be patient. And I deserve respect, dammit!

Moment: I was the girl in college who, thank-the-good-lord, chose to not stay with and/or marry the boyfriend who referred to my breasts as “clangers” (as in “hey honey, your clangers are looking fine today”). I shit you not. I met Hubs in the nick of time.

Second lesson learned: It’s okay to look like a fool. And you feel better about yourself if you resist the impulse to run away, crying in shame. And it’s okay that you just gave your fellow Zumba pals a funny story to tell over margaritas later. 

Spoiler Alert: I may have learned this lesson from a goofy lady who annoyed Bob Barker.

Moment: I was the woman who at 40-something  decided on a lark to join a Zumba class. Probably 2 classes in, I tripped over my own feet while attempting to keep up with a fast paced number, landing ever so gracefully on the floor with a thud. Shortly thereafter, I popped back up to continue the dancing festivities. I think this was the moment I decided to stop caring if I looked like an idiot in public. I imagine I may have looked a little like this:


Third lesson learned: God is among us.

Moment: I was the UCC’er (United Church of Christ) who experienced the most spiritual moment of my life when, at Hub’s and my one and only year of attending Lay Academy, our group was re-baptized under a sunny blue October sky in Wisconsin while singing the hymn “Here I am Lord”. The connectedness to the spirit and humanity in that place was palpable. Growing up, and as a young adult, I could not have imagined myself in this scenario.

Third lesson learned: You can survive the ultimate embarrassment of your mother doing this:


As a pimple faced, awkward 14 year old with a bad perm,  I miraculously survived this epic mortification. Even in spite of the knowledge that all of my high school classmates got to watch it when it aired during the school day (it was a moment of civic pride for our small Minnesota town), I managed to keep my head held (somewhat) high.   Thankfully I got to stay home with my family for a private viewing. I am ever so grateful my mother’s 15 minutes of fame happened in ye olden times before the advent of social media.

Fourth lesson learned: At the core of true friendship is kindness. 

Moment: I was the 13 year old girl who desperately wanted to follow her big sister’s footsteps and be a cheerleader (Go Agates! Yes, that was our sport teams’ name. You can only imagine how much crap we got for that).  My best friend, Therese, was also trying out for cheerleading. When she was picked and I was not (mind you, I had the voice and enthusiasm but absolutely no other cheerleading skills such as doing the splits or a cartwheel, so this shouldn’t have come as a surprise), she offered to decline the position in order for me to snatch it and bask in the glory of the cheerleading life. I refused her offer. To this day, this may be the single most kind thing another human being has done for me. Did I mention that all of the girls trying out made the team but me? We had a small high school. Don’t judge.

Fifth lesson learned: Choose your friends wisely, and treasure them always.  And cancer sucks the big one.

I was the bride who had the good sense to appoint the best possible personal attendant in my dear friend Gail.  She arrived armed with necessities such as safety pins and kleenex. She was a skilled wedding dress hoister-upper while I peed and smoked a cigarette to calm my nerves in the bathroom at our wedding reception. She passed away from cancer 5 years ago and I think of her often and miss her so so much. Cancer is such a cruel fricking bastard. This is why I will support political candidates who believe in financially supporting medical research. I wish everyone could have a friend as special as Gail was to me.

How about you all? What moments in the timeline of your lives contributed to the life perspectives you have now?



And so it begins

Hubs and I will be leaving this week for a road trip to visit family and friends in our beloved states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. I may or may not have opportunities to do any blog posts while we are away, but I will get right back into it upon our return to our still new Colorado home.

I have quite a mixed bag of emotions heading into this adventure: excitement, anxiety, and guilt are at the top of the list. I’m excited about the opportunities so see all those people I love and miss so much. I’m excited about presenting my mother in law, sister in law, and a dear friend their birthday gifts (all are in the month of July). I’m excited to give my dad a box of his favorite treats when we visit him in his new home. I’m excited to spend time visiting our friends at our favorite watering holes, restaurants, and backyards. I’m beyond excited to see our eldest daughter and our grandson.

I’m anxious knowing that this will be the first time at my parent’s home with mom living there alone.  It’s going to be so strange. I’m anxious about how my dad will react to our presence, as I’ve been made aware that he is farther into dementia than he was when I last saw him in April. I like to think he will know who Hubs and I are, but what if he doesn’t? I don’t know how to prepare emotionally for this possibility. I don’t want to cry in front of him because I think that will be confusing and upsetting for him. I must for his sake keep it together. Dementia is such a bastard.

The guilt will inevitably sneak it’s way into my brain too, I expect. Here I am, living the dream in wonderful, beautiful Colorado while my family is experiencing the hardship of my parents aging and the stress that comes with caregiving. I’m an unemployed (by choice for now anyway) housewife (domestic goddess?) with the time to pursue my love of creative writing via this blog and enjoy a decent social life.  Currently my life is virtually stress-free, which is a new state of being for me. I worry that my family might think “Who does she think she is?”.

But go forth we will. Much time and energy has been spent by Hubs and I in the planning of this vacation. That fact ought to optimize the chance that things will go smoothly.

I will savor the good times, which I have faith will be plentiful. Like having chats with Hubs in the car about the past, the present, and what hopes we have for our future. Listening to Al Franken’s audio book “Giant of the Senate”. Listening to the plethora of channels on our Sirius XM. Sitting in motel hot tubs with a cold beer at the end of a long day in the car. Trying new restaurants. Sitting out on my parent’s front porch reminiscing about the good old times with mom and Hubs. Morning walks along the shores of Lake Superior. Taking the dumpling (our 3 year old grandson) out for ice cream and to the zoo. Splashing in the hotel pool with him and reading him the Sesame Street book I recently bought. Having a nice long, heart to heart chat with my beloved eldest daughter.  Sitting out on my in laws deck, chatting the afternoon away sipping wine and smelling the barbeque my father in law is cooking on the grill. Having girl time with my sweet sister in law, laughing and shopping our way through Stillwater, Mn. Catching up with dear friends while sampling craft beers. Spending time at one of my very favorite places on earth: my sister’s home on the Baptism River. These simple things in life are what makes it worth living.

I am so fortunate to have all these people that I love so much and who love me back. I hope all of you, dear readers, are as blessed as I. Happy summer everyone!

Singing in the Sun

In celebration of our nation’s 241st birthday, Hubs and I attended our first “big name” outdoor concert (since moving to Colorado last year) at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater in Denver. We saw the band Train, with warm up acts Natasha Bedingfield and O.A.R. Now if you’re into seeing live concerts as I am, your first question is likely going to be “how was the show?” I’m going to answer that question first because the concert itself is not going to be the primary focus of this post.

The concert was GREAT! We weren’t terribly familiar with the warm up bands, knowing only a few of their songs from listening to them on Sirius XM over the past couple of years. But both were pleasant surprises. Natasha can really belt it out, and, as Hubs noted, she has quite a knack for “liturgical” dance. I commented that I’d like to hear her rendition of “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin. Her songs are very pro-female, melodic, and catchy as hell (like that earworm known as “Pocketful of Sunshine”). O.A.R. impressed with some really inventive reggae, jazzy beats and strong vocals. And then came Train. Spectacular, people! They played all their best songs (IMO), in addition to pairing up with O.A.R.’s phenomenal horn section for a supercool version of Paul Simon’s Call Me Al. Later on, Pat and the boys performed a stellar rendition of David Bowie/Queen song  “Under Pressure”. Hubs and I agreed that this concert was one of the best we’ve ever seen.

As I alluded to earlier, I have more to say about this event-specifically about the people we encountered.

We got to the venue more than an hour before the gates opened, to improve our chances of getting the best spot on the lawn. We waited in line next to a chatty brother/sister duo. After shooting the breeze for a bit, the sparsely mustacheoed 19 year old brother asked Hubs if his name was Adam. When Hubs replied “no”, this kid said he “had to ask” because he thought Hubs voice sounded like Adam West, the original (and his favorite) Batman. His blond and dimpled 13 year old kid sister told us excitedly about how she recently attended ComicCon and got to meet Dustin from “Stranger Things”. She also shared that she was wearing a “kitty cat” headband because the ears on it were red, and she didn’t have anything else that was red to compliment her otherwise blue and white attire to commemorate the birthday of our nation. Together, the 4 of us talked about our favorite Train songs (hers was “Hey Soul Sister”, mine was “Save me, San Francisco”). What was especially notable about this duo was the sweetness of their interactions with each other. They had not known each other personally for much more than a year from what I understood. This is because as a tot, he had been adopted by another family  in another state and had only come to know his birth family after his birth mom sent him a friend request on Facebook a couple of years ago. He shared that his adoptive parents told him he was adopted from the get go (as a mom, kudos to them). He told us that he told his mom he wasn’t sure how he should respond. But respond he did, because he now lives with his birth dad (a lanky tatooed guy who worked security for this concert). He’s now going to school for welding at a nearby college.  These two kiddos playfully teased each other throughout our little conversation. What a couple of great kids, I thought to myself. Both sets of parents should be so proud.

Once the gates opened, we made a bee line to the grassy seating area. We made the decision to not lug our favorite oversized handmade quilt with us, knowing we had to park the car in the ramp, walk at least a mile to have a late lunch and a couple of adult beverages, then another few blocks in the sweltering 90 something degree heat to the amphitheater. Carrying a heavy quilt held no appeal for either of us.

In retrospect, this may not have been the best decision. We did get ourselves a plumb spot on the grass, directly in front of the fence overlooking the pricier reserved seats and stage. Unfortunately, the grass was quite wet and as I had no interest in standing for what ended up being the better part of 3 hours before Train came on stage, we plopped our arses down anyway. We spent the time people watching, which is a favorite pastime of mine. We saw millenials with their school aged spawn, seeking familiar faces on the lawn. We saw a younger couple with what was most likely a beloved aunt in a wheelchair, positioning her so she had the best possible view of the show. We saw middle aged couples dressed in their best summer attire holding plastic cups of beer while searching for their seats. We saw amped up little kids with goofy headbands festooned with sparkly red, white, and blue ribbons.   We saw numerous middle aged men wearing hawaiian shirts (like Hubs, who has insisted for years that he started the white American male hawaiian shirt trend back in the early 90’s). We saw asian-americans, hispanic americans, mentally disabled americans, LGBTQ americans, older americans, younger americans, african americans. Essentially, we were amidst a sea of American humanity. Which was fitting considering this was the 4th of July, right?

We interacted two more times with the brother/sister duo. The first was prior to the warm up acts. They walked past on the walkway below us and stopped over. They were hungry and complained to us that they couldn’t find anything to eat except hot dogs, and they wanted nachos. We didn’t know precisely where the food vendors were, as we had had ourselves a pretty generous lunch about 2 hours prior, but we suggested they head on down to the area close to the nearest entrance where it seemed it would be more likely they’d find what they were looking for. The boy offered his hand and introduced himself as Nick. He remarked, “maybe we’ll see you again someday” which I thought was terribly unlikely but so very sweet. We saw them much later, as Train was singing their last song prior to the encore. They were presumably leaving to meet up with their dad for the ride home. They waved and smiled enthusiastically at us. The revelation I had in that moment was we have entered a new stage of life where we are not necessarily the fun party-hearty concert going supercouple anymore. Instead we are the couple who random kids look to for guidance and support. We might as well have the word “parent” stamped onto our foreheads. And that’s ok. 

In all honesty, I was going to gripe about the worst of humanity that we encountered during this concert as well. I’ve decided however, to not go down that road, because Mr. Drunkjerkface who chose to squeeze himself in front of me during the encore and proceed to glance over at me and shake the living hell out of the bungey corded fence thing so that I no longer wanted to stand there and jam out deserves my attention on this post as much as Donald Trump does for his asinine tweets. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Now for some pure unadulterated humiliation (you may need to rotate your viewing device for this-sorry!)…..I present to you a clip of a woman who shall not be named but in her defense she is 50 and technologically inept at recording part of a Train concert that is why you don’t see Train here. But at least you can hear them.


Monday Money Musings

There is a multitude of tracks I could take this one on. This may or may not be a regular feature on this blog. But it is a topic on which I have much to say, truth be told. Thoughts in my head re: money right now…..

  1. ) How much do I want and for what? And why? Always remember that how you use money shows what you value, what your priorities are.
  2. ) Smart financial moves/timeline for me and the Hubs.
  3. ) Totally bi-polar thoughts about winning the lottery.
  4. ) Compare current national budget/priorities and what I would change if I had the POWER
  5. ) Money as a means to an end.
  6. ) Somewhere in the Bible it says that money is the root of all evil. And I will not be evil. Spiritual lessons/deep theological thinking of money and it’s place in my life.
  7. Follow the money (you’d be right if you suspected this was related to the current shit show going on in our nation’s capital).
  8. ) I want to have just enough money. Having too much money would just make life unnecessarily complicated.

Okay, I have decided to pick #8. It’s my favorite number for a boatload of reasons. The best version of myself, the one that is emotionally intelligent, humble, and peaceful at heart, fervently wants “just enough” when it comes to the almighty dollar.

But the question is what, for me, is “just enough”? Is it enough for all the monthly bills to be paid with a bit of spare change left over to buy the simple things in life, like a reasonably priced bottle of vino, or a cup of coffee and a cupcake to enjoy while chatting with my new Colorado girlfriends? Is it “just enough” to fund all of my fanciful vacation dreams (Hawaii, Germany, Canada, Cuba, Sonoma, I could go on and on and on)? Is it “just enough” to financially contribute to causes I believe in that need the cash now more than ever (i.e.,Planned Parenthood, the millions of Go Fund Me campaigns for folks who had the misfortune of being poor and sick in Trump’s America)?

These are all questions, for me, to struggle with.

I think it is highly important that I am honest and clear about my privilege when it comes to money.  First off, I am a white American. That is an advantage that I believe I may never fully comprehend.  How I was raised and the trials/tribulations (aka good and bad choices) of “adulting” have informed my relationship to these pieces of green paper. I grew up in a middle class household. Both of my parents worked. Hard. They had iron-clad work ethics. They were great at saving, so much so that they were able to fully fund 4 years of college for me, for which I will be forever indebted to them. I married a guy who is a very smart, hard-working scientist who over the course of about 25 years has worked his way to a very comfortable salary. Because of this, I was able to be a stay at home mom for the better part of the first 5 years of our children’s lives. As a family, we went on a few nice vacations. We have had the financial ability to purchase 5 homes and sell 3 (making a profit each time). My primary reason for obtaining paid employment for myself was because I wanted to. I enjoyed learning new things on the job, making new friends, and my confidence as a woman grew tremendously from bringing home a little extra bacon. I’ve been so, so lucky.

At this point in my life, however, I have the luxury of being unencumbered by paid employment. I get to make my own daily schedule. Essentially, I am time wealthy but not financially wealthy. It’s hard to say which one is better. Honestly, it depends on the day.

Yet, the thought of raking in my own dough again is totally beckoning me right now. I know that sounds gross and greedy. Two things I don’t wish to ever be called. Maybe I should just increase my volunteer hours at the food bank and/or find another volunteer gig. That would be so rewarding.  But then I may not be able to fulfill my vacation fantasies. This is a first world “problem” obviously. I come from a place of privilege in comparison to my peers in most other countries. And that I must not forget.