Going Straight to Gems

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you may recall me mentioning the term “Gems”. I believe I at least alluded to my plan for writing about “Gems” on an ongoing, regular basis in a recent post.

The reason I’m bringing it up now is because I am ready to start this series.

One small thing that you ought to know about this new endeavor of mine is that I have decided to go against what I said here about who “Gems” are to me. After thinking about it for a bit, I realized there is no good reason to exclude those of the male persuasion from being a “Gem” that I write about in this little blog.

I mean, not everything I think, say or feel (or publish) is written in stone. I’m subject to change (fyi-the original title for this blog). Isn’t that a good thing?

So here I go. I’m going to start with a recent “Gem” story. Diving in here.

I have been a fan of the online shopping site Etsy for several years now. I love the act of thoughtfully purchasing a handmade gift for those I love. Because unfortunately, unlike Bonnie and Rabbie (both Gems to me), I possess little talent with arts and crafts. And I love to support small businesses and artists.

I started shopping for gifts on Etsy back when I lived in Wisconsin, in our “Grandma house” on 30th St.

Fast forward to now. Living in Colorado. Still ordering on Etsy when the moment strikes. So I’ve got some wall space that needed to be filled in my living room. I found the perfect item on Etsy and placed the order.

A couple of weeks passed and I thought to myself “it should be here by now”. Then I got a call from Linda, the realtor who sold us our house on 30th St., then 2 years later sold that house for us to a nice divorced woman named Kathy.

Linda said that Kathy called because she received a large package via Fed Ex for me. Kathy wanted to know our phone number so she could contact us and figure out how to get the package to us in Colorado.

Oh my! I was embarrassed, as it was then I realized that in my excitement about obtaining this particular wall art, I apparently failed to notice that the address box checked for shipping was the one on 30th St. and not the one here in Colorado (that address on my Etsy account has since been deleted). Of course I told Linda to please give my number to Kathy and we’ll work it out from there.

So Kathy calls me. She noted it was a big package and it came from Lithuania! I told her that I loved shopping on Etsy for handmade items like this and apologized for my screw-up. She said she spoke to Fed Ex and they told her the easiest thing to do is just have them ship it to me. I told her she could go ahead and just return it to sender and I’d re-order it. I didn’t want her to go through any hassle.

Her response? She said it was no big deal, she was going somewhere that Friday and she would pass by Fed Ex so she would just send the package to me. I thanked her profusely and told her that I’d reimburse her the cost.

So how nice is this lady? She’s a gem, that is what she is. In our conversation, we talked about how much we both loved that little old house. She updated me on the next door neighbors, who now have a baby who is just starting to walk. She said she regularly sees the neighbors who lived across the street, Larry and Helen, at the assisted living facility where she works. They sold their cute little house, where they lived for 35 years and raised their 5 kids, shortly after we sold ours and moved out to Colorado. Kathy also shared that after seeing *now* her house her friends declared that the large unfinished basement was the perfect party spot. She said every year now she hosts a Euchre tournament there on New Year’s Eve.

I loved hearing all of this. I love knowing how much she loves and appreciates that sweet little house that was once ours.

About a week after our last conversation, I received my lovely new handmade wall art and put it up above our living room couch. I sent Kathy a check to reimburse the $19 she paid to have it sent to me. I included a gift card to Olive Garden that I had won in a silent auction last year. It was the least I could do.

Me, perched on my couch this weekend under my lovely new Etsy wall art

Dear Undecided And Non-Voting Americans

I know some of you personally. That is why I’m writing this letter. Because I care about you. I want good things for you. Sometimes it helps to hear the advice of someone in your life that you didn’t know you needed to hear. The unsolicited variety.

I’m going to cut to the chase here. You need to vote in this election. I know you say you’re not “political”. You tell me that you’re confused. Your ears and eyes pick up bits and pieces of what the candidates are doing and saying but your life so busy you haven’t had time to process it all. You brain is full of other things that feel more important to you. Your kids. Your job (or lack thereof). Your spouse. Trying to follow all the Covid-19 restrictions and maybe worrying about the health of those who are not.

You’re doing the best you can to get through each day. You’ve got a good heart. And you are smart. And you can think for yourself.

But. The man who is elected President in another couple of weeks is going to impact your life. Whether you like it or not.

I know you care about education, for example. You want your kids and your friends kids, and your kids friends and all the kids you don’t even know to have access to a great education.

I also know you care about health care. That’s the number 1 concern in American voters minds right now. You may have have health insurance. Maybe you don’t. If you do, you might think you’re paying too much for your premiums. Or you think your prescriptions or your co-pays are too high. Or maybe, God forbid, you or a loved one were surprised by an astronomically high medical bill because insurance only paid so much. And you have no idea how you’re going to pay that bill. Or you don’t have health insurance at all. So you are not getting the routine care you need. So you have to get yourself to an emergency room and hope it isn’t too late to get the care you need to get better.

I also know you, like the rest of us, want our country’s leaders to do all they can to combat Covid-19. You’re troubled by seeing the cases and the deaths from this monster climb each day. You want to get back to a time where masks are not required everywhere you go. You want this to be dealt with so you and your loved ones can get back to “normal”. You’re just plain sick and tired of it all.

I suspect you also care about our climate. You may not see yourself as educated in scientific matters but maybe you don’t like seeing news coverage of whales dead on the beach from pollution in our waters. You don’t like that this summer was oppressively hot where you live. You don’t think it’s right that big companies pollute our waters to the point where in some places in this country the water is not safe to drink.

I am certain that you worry about how Americans are treating each other these days too. The hatred, the violence, the injustices. The self-righteousness that gets spewed on the daily by extremists on both sides of the political aisle. Everyone thinks they are right but none of us actually are. Everyone seems to be distracted by their own opinions.

I urge each of you to give some serious thought to what you see around you and in this country as a whole and decide what it is you think ought to change for the better. Maybe it’s the topics I mentioned already: education, health care, climate change, violence. Or maybe it’s that and more.

Give yourself the courtesy of thinking about which Presidential candidate is more likely to bring about the changes you believe need to happen going forward. Or the one who you believe will attempt to do so to the best of their ability.

Make a plan. If you’re lucky like I am and live in a state where your ballot is mailed to you, sit down and fill that thing out. Bring it to your nearest drop off place. If you don’t, find out where your nearest polling place is and if and when they are open for early voting. Or look at your calendar and think through what 11/3/20 will look like. When can you get there to vote? After work, before work? Or maybe in the middle of the day, because you are unemployed because of Covid-19?

Then follow through. Don’t let yourself be that person who didn’t exercise their right as an American to vote.

Because I know that you know America is messed up right now. And I hope that you also know, as I do, that the only way to expect anything to change at this point is to vote.

***Header image courtesy of https://www.pine.edu/current-students/student-life/student-senate/get-out-the-vote

Alphabet Soup Challenge: O is for Optimism

Here begins the final entry of my Alphabet Soup Challenge.

There are lots of words that start with the letter “O” that I could have chosen to write about. Like “options”, “objectives”, “opportunities”, “openings”. Which, ironically, all have an optimistic bent-don’t you think?

But this is “Pollyanna’s Path”, right? I chose that title for my blog when I started it about 4 years ago for a reason. Because I am an optimist. And my optimism is what I’ve always aimed to share in this space.

Hey, I’m still publishing posts on this blog despite not having as many followers as oodles of other bloggers, right? I continue in part because I am optimistic that my blogging will get better. I also remain optimistic that this blogging habit will become more interesting with time-with how and what I’m writing and with whom I’m connecting via this platform.

So, for all of us who continue to blog; doesn’t it stand to reason that we are all optimists?

As Noam Chomsky once said: optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.

Doesn’t that make a ton of sense?

It’s important for me that you understand that my optimism is not foolish. I do not shield my eyes and ears from the harsh realities of this world: a warming climate, white nationalists acting upon their (based on fear) hate of the “other” in violent ways, immigrant children held for prolonged periods of time in detention centers, incompetent leadership in the White House. These things and more are happening in real time and it makes me sick; though mostly it makes me angry.

But here’s the thing: I think by and large we Americans are smart. There has been much we have overcome and changed for the better since the establishment of this country. We are problem solvers. My fellow optimists surely see it this way too.

But we have farther to go. We just have to be willing to step it up, imagine something better, and work towards creating that reality.

Because the glass for me is always half full. Key word there is “half”. We need to work collectively to fill that “glass” up to the brim with the good stuff that we all can benefit from: cleaner air, a robust education system, compassionate and smart policing among other things. We must do better and I believe we can and that we will.

Because, as Jennifer Mara Gumer puts it in this article (which I highly encourage you to read), optimism is “the truly rational viewpoint”.

***Header image courtesy of https://www.magiccrate.in/blog/parenting-tips-toddler/teach-child-optimism/

Alphabet Soup Challenge: X Factor Classic Rock From a Gen X Perspective

I think of the term “X Factor” as being the “special sauce”. An indescribable quality in something or someone that you can’t quite put your finger on. Something or someone that is original and delightful. Something or someone who is memorable to you. Something or someone who is super freaking cool.

Last week I was listening to one of my favorite channels on Sirius XM, Classic Rewind, when DJ Kristine Stone announced in her smooth-as-silk voice the “My Perfect 10” challenge. She explained that subscribers were invited to email them their “perfect 10” tunes from the classic rock “cassette era”.

Side note: do you remember those? Those pieces of cheap plastic you could pop into that old cassette player to listen to your favorite tunes? Or maybe you were like me as a Gen X’r who would put a blank cassette in, position it next to your boom box, and tape your favorite songs that played between all those commercials on your local (it was all local in those days, kids) rock station.

Anyway, the idea with Classic Rewind’s “Perfect 10” challenge is that provided you emailed your list to them, you could potentially hear your specially crafted “perfect 10” tunes on the channel on, you guessed it, 10/10.

My first thought upon hearing this was that this was an idea I can get behind. Listening to rock songs during the cassette era (mid-70’s through the 80’s) was what led me to become such an enthusiastic rock and roll fan.

What qualifies these songs as having the “X-Factor” for me is that for every single one of them, I pause my thoughts, crank up the radio and sing along. Until the bitter end. I marinate in these songs. Feel their beats pulsing through my veins. Jam out in my truck to them. Dance around my living room to them.

So here’s my “Perfect 10 X -Factor” classic rock song list:

  1. The Load Out/Stay by Jackson Browne
  2. Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad by Meatloaf
  3. You’re my Best Friend by Queen
  4. Turn the Page by Bob Seger
  5. Young Americans by David Bowie
  6. Life’s Been Good by Joe Walsh
  7. All My Love by Led Zeppelin
  8. Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty
  9. Band on the Run by Paul McCartney and Wings
  10. Carry on Wayward Son by Kansas.

I realize that despite being a teenager in the 80’s, all but one of these songs (Free Fallin’) was produced in the 70’s. I suspect that’s on account of being a Gen X’r who adored her older brother and sister (one graduated high school in ’75 and the other in ’77) and their taste in the music of the day. Perhaps I would have been better off compiling a “Perfect 10 X Factor” list of songs from the Classic Vinyl (another one of my favorite Sirius XM channels)?

But I’ve always been one who tries to stay in the current. I am a big fan of newer and younger musical artists, ones who have put out music during my adult life. Like Jack White.

I think he is absolutely amazing. He commands the stage. He is such a gifted guitar player and performer. As an appreciator of well done rock and roll and cool characters, allow me to share the epic performances by this cool cat, performed last Saturday night on SNL:

So, what musical artists and/or songs possess that “X Factor” according to you?

***Header image courtesy of https://www.quotemaster.org/Rock+And+Roll

Alphabet Soup Challenge: Z Is For Zumba

On the off-chance that you’ve never heard of this fitness craze, let me break it down for you.

Zumba is a group dance workout that utilizes world music. It’s high energy and fun. It gets your heart pumping and tends to cause profuse sweating.

I participated in Zumba classes for a few months back in Wisconsin about 8 years ago (mentioned in this post). I absolutely loved it. That’s not to say that I was “good” at it. I’ve been told that I’m a great dancer-but not on the Zumba floor. Because Zumba requires one to mimic the moves of the instructor. At a very rapid pace. My arms and legs don’t work together very gracefully unless I’m doing my own thing. Free-styling, if you will.

During the few weeks between my last job and my current job, I made a pact with myself that I was going to use that time for some self-improvement. I decided that I would start with improving my physical self by getting in some regular exercise.

So I found some videos of Zumba classes on YouTube, pushed my coffee table back a bit, and got my groove on.

Things did not go as I hoped they would.

There didn’t seem to be as many full class videos on You Tube as I thought there’d be. So I was going from dance to dance, different instructors each time, with ads between. Plus Radar was around, getting in my way. In fact, one time while I was “zumba-ing” I jumped on his paw because I didn’t see him there and he yelped in response.

After three attempts at my in home Zumba experiment, I came to the realization that it was just not gonna work.

But I have hope for my future with Zumba. One of my WIPs (Wildly Improbably Goals, a coined termed by writer Martha Beck) is to become a Zumba instructor. With the caveat that the classes I lead are only for those 50 and up. Who are beginners.

I would include simple choreography. Not too much jumping and not too fast-paced. I would have the best soundtrack, but it would not be dominated by world music. Maybe some, here and there. Mostly we would be zumba-ing to a variety of classic rock with a little adult alternative in the mix. The songs we all grew up with and the cool songs of the moment. The ones that have a good beat, making them easy to dance to.

Free-styling will be part of each number we do.

This WIP of mine is obviously not going to happen anytime soon, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions on group gatherings. But that’s just fine by me. I’ve got my plate just full enough at the moment, with running the new food pantry and this blog.

Lucky for me, I’m able to get in plenty of exercise in my work day at this point in time.

***Header image courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/pin/194006696430951042/

Alphabet Soup Challenge: Q is for Quiet

One of the things I’ve noticed as a result of the slow down of life in general that the Covid-19 pandemic caused is there are more periods of quiet in my days.

I really appreciate that. I savor it. I am better for it.

What I’m referring to here is those snippets of time when there is silence. No t.v., no music, no talking to others. When I am unplugged.

Like when I get home from work in the afternoon. Hubs is working in our home office, cat and dog are milling about. Rabbie is off somewhere working on their latest designs to sell online.

Or in the morning, when I’m enjoying a hot shower, letting the water massage my aching neck and shoulders.

When everyone is still sleeping in my house and the only sound I hear is the gentle tapping of my fingers on the keyboard of my Chromebook as I write my next blog post.

Then there’s the quiet of being out in nature. When Amanda and grandson Christopher were visiting a couple of weeks ago, we got to experience that.

Pic I took of the beautiful fall colors near Morrison, CO

I feel a sense of peace in these moments. Contentment. It’s restorative.

I can hear my thoughts. I can relax my body. I can sit in silence and offer up my prayers to the Universe. No one is asking or expecting me to do anything at all. I can just be.

I can sit next to Karl the cat and pet his soft fur while he slow blinks at me.

Karl, the coolest cockeyed cat around

I say all this as an extrovert. A person who enjoys being busy, accomplishing things. Checking things off my “to do” list.

But being in the quiet centers me. Allows me to relax and think my thoughts. Reflect on my day and consider tomorrow’s options.

I wish all of you the blessing of the quiet in these chaotic times.

***Header image courtesy of https://quotefancy.com/quote/982709/Khaled-Hosseini-Quiet-is-peace-Tranquility-Quiet-is-turning-down-the-volume-knob-on-life