All posts by Rhonda

I'm a 53 year old lover of life, family, friends, and creative writing (amongst numerous other activities, people, animals, big ideas, and things). I am a native Minnesotan transplanted to the Denver metro area from Wisconsin due to a job transfer for my fabulous husband. I am and always have been in my heart of hearts, a writer. I was a case manager/social worker for many years in Wisconsin and am now ready for my new chapter in life as a writer. I enjoy writing about day to day (mis)adventures I experience in my new Colorado environment, the people I love and those that inspire me, places I've traveled to, music that makes my world go 'round, politics and current affairs, and general observations and ideas about life and ideas on how it could be improved. My hope is that my blog will be interactive, collaborative, and inspiring.

Looking Forward

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?

Here’s mine:

  • 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 weekend in Idaho Springs with Hubs. Where we get to soak in the communal hot springs and check out the local cuisine and quirky shops. Maybe we will stay at Ms. Vicki ‘s B&B again.
  • 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.

Late Bloomer

“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.

*****Header image courtesy of https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/do-good-things-come-to-late-bloomers/

Sweet Toothers Unite

I mentioned in this blog a while back that I had never made my mom Bonnie’s famous “nut goodie bars”. I rectified that over the holidays.

With Valentine’s Day coming in a few days, I figured it’d be a great time to share this recipe and story with you all.

I found the recipe in Bonnie’s recipe box (the best tangible item to take for myself upon her passing). It was written out in her pretty though at times hard to decipher handwriting. It was not completely coherent, but I knew that my sister Kelly could fill in the blanks if necessary.

Here’s the recipe exactly as written:

1-12 oz. real choc. chips

1-12 oz. butterscotch chips

1 oz. sq. unsweetened choc.

Melt over hot water. Add 1 1/2 C. peanut butter. Put 1/4 mixture in jellyroll pan, 11×17-let harden (freezer).

2 sticks marg.

1/4 C. reg. vanilla pudding

1/2 Cup Carnation Milk

Bring to a boil-remove from heat & beat in 2 lb. pkg. powdered sugar (watch so doesn’t scratch)

Spread on bottom layer. Sprinkle 1 1/2 C. spanish peanuts over this & spread remaining mixture over this.

You can imagine I had some questions, no? Funnily enough, when I texted Kelly, she remarked she was also making these bars that day. Gotta love those mysterious sibling soul connections! She clarified for me that “regular” vanilla pudding did not mean “instant”. She said she didn’t think it sets up right using instant. Hubs, good sport that he is, offered to run to the store for “regular” vanilla pudding mix, as I only had the instant variety. Kelly mentioned that “mapleine” flavoring might be hard to find at the store. “Strange”, I texted, “not only have I never heard of “mapleine” flavoring, but it wasn’t listed on the copy of mom’s recipe I had. “

How one can record two different versions of the same dish is beyond me. But then, in looking through Bonnie’s recipe box I found more than a few copies of the same recipes. I think she would write them down from memory and then forget to present them to their intended recipient. People were always asking her for various recipes because she was a phenomenal cook. It’s all such a glimpse into her personality I think, and that’s the beauty of having this sweet little box here in my house now.

Anyway, these bars turned out great. The are very sweet and rich. The perfectly decadent Valentine sweet. I hope you get a chance to make them for you and yours this Valentine’s Day!

Image result for happy valentines day images

About 2021

In years past I have ushered in the new year with gusto. With great big plans, ideas, intentions. Not so much this year.

That said, I do remain an optimist. I don’t foresee that ever changing. However, after 2020, I’m a little wiser. More cautious. More realistic. More measured in how I approach things.

So I’m not going to tell you all about the 4 things I intend am determined to do wish to have the time to master in 2021. I’m keeping that to myself for the moment.

I’m going into this year with my head on straight. As if I’m walking into a dark room I am unfamiliar with. Keeping my wits about me. Taking careful, slow, steps. Lowering my expectations to prevent disappointment. Using all of my senses to navigate this new year.

The one thing I am going to be intentionally focusing on now that the new year is upon us: doing my best each and every day (from the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, which I wrote about here but not about this particular agreement, but whatever).

I think it’s worthwhile, as one who is taking the agreement of “doing your best” seriously, to ponder what that looks like. What does it mean for me personally?

One of my most inexcusable faults is that I am rarely on time for anything. I consistently fall into this weird mind trap, when I’m getting ready to go somewhere, of believing that I have time to do just one more thing before I hit the road. And I’m wrong about that 99% of the time. So I’m ‘fessing up. I know it pisses some people off when I waltz in 5 (or more) minutes late. It calls negative attention to myself and I need to Cut.It.Out. I’ve started focusing on getting places on time for real in the last couple of weeks. I think thus far I’ve made it on time about 25% more frequently than before. Give or take.

There are other areas in my life, well really all areas in my life, where I must do my best each day. Like putting in my best effort at work. Not putting any tasks off until “tomorrow” that I have the time and energy to do today. Listening to others when they speak and not hesitating to ask for clarification to ensure I understood what they meant.

Thing is, doing my best each day is within my control. And if I can look back on my day and agree with myself that I did my best, regardless of my mood, if I felt rested, or if I was tested-well, then I won’t have any regrets. And peace will reign within me.

You Should be Watching This

Quite some time ago, one of my blogger friends suggested I watch “The Umbrella Academy” on Netflix. She shared that it was about a group young adults who all had superpowers who were adopted as babies by an eccentric millionaire and raised together. Christie said she and her husband really enjoyed it, and knowing me, thought it’d be right up my alley.

It took me a while, but I finally got around to checking it out. Of course, Rabbie had already binge-watched and was quite enthusiastic about watching it again, but with me.

Now, in my opinion, the term “binge-worthy” is tossed around far too much these days. But this show is the best example I have found to exemplify the term. I have never watched a series as quickly as I did this one.

It is mind-blowing, terrifically entertaining, quirky as hell, trippy, romantic and comedic at just the right times. If you haven’t caught it yet, do so now. It is the definition of escapism, I swear.

Allow me to attempt to describe this show. “The Umbrella Academy” follows six unique individuals who were all born on the same day: Luther, Vanya, Allison, Klaus, Five, and Diego. There is a seventh, Ben, but he’s actually a ghost who only one character can see and interact with. All born to different women who didn’t know they were pregnant until the day they gave birth. An eccentric rich guy, Reginald Hargraeves, adopts them. He is, mysteriously, aware that each of them possess super powers. He raises them together, creating the “Umbrella Academy” within which all but 1 (not giving you any spoilers) undergoes rigid training to hone their superpowers and beef up their physical and mental capabilities. They are groomed specifically to utilize their powers to fight crime.

The show starts with them as adults, all convening in the creepy mansion in which they grew up, mourning, or should I say, coping with the effects of Reginald’s unexpected demise. The six (or should I say five-that anecdote will make sense once you watch it) are in their late 20’s and have not kept in touch or seen in each other in many years. They have a lot of familial dysfunction to deal with along with solving the mystery of their father’s death as well as why he did what he did in terms of raising them.

One of the six pops in from the future as the rest of them are gathered in the mansion, trying to make sense of Reginald’s sudden death. He tells them that the apocalypse is coming in 5 days and they must work together to change the timeline to prevent it. We soon find that he’s got assassins sent from another dimension to kill him.

There are twists and turns galore throughout the two seasons of this show. The show was created by one of the guys from the emo rock band my kids loved in the 90’s, “My Chemical Romance”. As a result, the soundtrack is killer. There’s even scenes where the characters dance.

If all of the above is not enough to convince you to start watching this show asap, there’s also a talking monkey butler, a robot mother, and wonderfully comedic scenes, many of which feature the actor Kate Walsh (from Grey’s Anatomy and The Practice). She plays a wicked character who looks like she came off the set of “The Hunger Games” movie franchise. She must have an absolute ball playing this character!

See what I mean?

I couldn’t find the actual clip online of two of the characters dancing together to end this nerdy #fangirl blog post, but boy, was it a delightful scene. The video with this song is pretty damn cool though.

As a musicophile, I would like to note that this song is a cover. The original was performed by King Harvest the year that I was 6 years old.

Check it out!

***Header image courtesy of https://filmdaily.co/news/the-umbrella-academy-s2/ ****

Inauguration Day and that “U” Word Again

So Wednesdays are typically the day I publish a blog post. Today is Wednesday as well as Inauguration Day for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

It’s a big fucking deal.

I published a post not long ago where I pondered the word “unprecedented” in relation to the year 2020. It is a word that is (to use another “u” word) ubiquitous to that year. A multitude of unprecedented shit went down. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has sadly claimed so many lives. Political unrest. Domestic terrorism in our nation’s capital.

Also unprecedented is the diversity of the individuals chosen for the new White House administration. The state of Georgia turning blue is unprecedented. The number of Americans who voted in this past election is unprecedented.

One of my IRL and Facebook friends, Eldree, posted the other day about this word and how it could be used in a positive manner going forward into 2021. This inspired me to think about all the “unprecedented” positive changes that I am hopeful for as a result of the Biden/Harris administration.

Unprecedented bi-partisan support for an economic stimulus package to address the needs of Americans financially struggling due to the pandemic.

Unprecedented job growth

Unprecedented racial reconciliation

Unprecedented access to quality mental health services

Unprecedented care for our global environment

Unprecedented drop in homelessness

Unprecedented levels of civic engagement

Unprecedented investment in our educational system

Unprecedented overhauls in our nation’s police departments

Unprecedented justice for those who lost their lives due to racism and domestic terrorism

Today is a new day. The beginning of something better.

The late great Ray Charles

***Header image courtesy of https://livewallpaperhd.com/american-flag-wallpaper-hd-16110/***

Hometown Gem

Her name is Stephanie Himango and this is, ironically, the second time I’ve written about her in my life.

Stephanie and I both grew up in the small town of Two Harbors, Minnesota. She was two years below me in school. For that reason and the fact that she was sporty and I was most certainly not, we did not have any real interaction with each other. As far as I can remember anyway (this was like 35 years ago, folks).

As a senior at our long ago demolished high school that sat atop a hill, I was co-editor of the school newspaper. That extra-curricular sparked a passion in me for creating something out of nothing. A passion for written communication. One of my pieces then was about Homecoming. And in that piece I reported that Stephanie, as a sophomore, was in the Homecoming Court. I came upon that long forgotten factoid about a month ago when I was searching through a box of memorabilia, hoping to find pictures of Christmases past.

The reason I mention any of this at all is because in the summer of 2020 she accepted my friend request on Facebook. I had been made aware through mutual friends that over the years that Stephanie had made quite a name for herself career-wise. That she had a long career in the news industry, even winning a couple of Emmys as a writer and producer. She is also a published author.

Shortly after we became Facebook friends, Stephanie announced on social media that she was beginning her first ever podcast, entitled “Another Door Opens with Stephanie Himango”.

Stephanie promoted her podcast as being one in which she would interview a wide array of people from varying backgrounds to share their stories of overcoming life’s struggles and what, and as she says in each episode, “if anything”, the phrase “Another Door Opens” means to them personally. As if anyone she would interview would actually say that phrase means nothing to them! But that little qualifier exemplifies to me the genuine respect she has for her interviewees. She does not make any assumptions about them. She asks interesting questions and her enjoyment of asking them comes across through her voice as real and true.

So, as you can clearly see, I subscribed to Stephanie’s podcast. Stephanie interviewed everyone from a man who works as a sketch artist at SCOTUS to a veterinarian who treats pets of those experiencing homelessness to a woman who owns and runs her family’s pumpkin farm and much more. After listening to all of the episodes via Spotify (as of last week), I can tell you I’ve learned so much. I’ve been inspired. I’ve laughed. My eyes have been opened up about all the good stuff that people are out there doing with their lives. Kind of like David Byrne from the Talking Heads, who I wrote about here. Listening to Stephanie’s podcast brightened my days in the bananas year that was 2020.

Thanks for that, Stephanie. You are a Gem and I look forward to listening and learning from your podcast in the New Year. Maybe someday if we happen to be in our sweet little hometown (which in my opinion is home to lots of other interesting and inspiring people-maybe it’s something about that perfectly ice cold tap wonder we drank, courtesy of Lake Superior) at the same time, we will bump into each other. That’d be cool.

I encourage all of you reading this to check out “Another Door Opens with Stephanie Himango” and listen, learn and gain inspiration along with me.

I’ve no idea who this pretty young girl is, but I love the beautiful pictures of my home state and remember this song from my youth. Dontcha love the sound of the loons? The Minnesota state bird!

Unsung Heroes Of This Pandemic

What or who is helping you get through this pandemic? What or who is giving you comfort, helping you to remain hopeful, giving you purpose?

I am fortunate in that I have several answers to that question. One of them being my sweet boy, Radar.

It occurred to me recently that within this blog I had been sharing more anecdotes about Karl, our kiddo Rabbie’s sassy cat than I was about Radar. It also occurred to me that for many of us, our pets are the unsung heroes of this strange time.

They are always there for us. Always happy to see us. They don’t judge us for being in a cranky mood. They don’t judge us at all. They don’t ask much of us beyond loving them, ensuring they get outside for fresh air and potty breaks, and feeding them.

I wrote this post back in the summer of 2019, right after we adopted Radar. I loved him then but, amazingly enough, I love him even more now.

I love that he’s such a good boy at night. He fits perfectly into the rocking chair Hubs gave me for my 40th birthday, which now sits in the corner of our bedroom. He sleeps there all night long and when he gets up he offers a big yawn, revealing his extraordinarily long tongue and then he thoroughly stretches out his legs.

I love that when I come home after work, he is the first one to greet me. I only just begin to open the door, and there he is with his nose butting up between the door and the door frame in an effort to get to me as fast as he can.

I love how sometimes when he’s cuddled up with me on the couch at night, I can say his name and he cranks his neck to look at me upside down with his pretty brown eyes.

I love knowing that he is by nature a guard dog (at least half German Shepherd we believe). He would protect us if our house were to be broken into. Any intruders would not have a chance.

Keeping an eye out for the bad guys

I love his puppy playfulness. Hubs and I have never had a dog who loves to play with toys so much. Hubs always told me he wanted to have a dog he could take out into a field and throw around a frisbee with. Radar has gotten some solid training for this through jumping up to catch his favorite, super tough green and blue bone in mid-air at home in the early evenings.

I love Radar’s ears. Sometimes I find them folded back (or I gently fold them back) and I see that sweet black lab in his precious face. Then they will bounce straight back up, revealing his German Shepherd resemblance.

I also love that he’s the kind of dog that everyone loves. Every place we’ve ever taken him he charms all who he meets.

This dog has been such a blessing for me. He reminds me of the importance of playfulness in my day to day routine. He makes me feel appreciated. He comforts me if I’m feeling down. He has increased my general happiness, which has been a huge bonus during this upside down time we are still living in.

He’s my furry, loyal, funny, sweet, smart and loving hero.

The Year That Was

Pardon me for using the most frequently uttered word of 2020 here: but what an unprecedented year this has been. For me, for you, for all of us. All because of a virus, whose name shall not be mentioned because I know we are all sick of hearing it.

I am ready to usher in the new year, as I know we all are.

Beyond (or in some cases because of) this pandemic, plenty of unprecedented things happened in my world the last 12 (or should I say 9?) months:

I unexpectedly lost one job and gained another. Now I’m back to running a food pantry again, a job I never knew I could love so much.

We bought a camper! It was as much as “seizing the moment because we’ve always wanted one and who knows how many moments we have left” as it was “now we have the security of a home on wheels if we need to flee the country”.

I broke my first bone! On account of falling onto the pavement due to a rare combination of poor judgement and general clumsiness. I was fortunate in that the bone healed up pretty darn well after wearing a walking boot for 6 weeks. Who knew that in 2020 I’d gain such an appreciation for wearing two matching shoes?

I learned that sometimes gifts I give to someone can wind up being a gift for myself and both sides of my family as well as my spouses side. Yep, I got Rabbie, that kid of mine who studied history for almost three years at a state university, a subscription to Ancestry.com for Christmas. Now on the daily we are hearing fascinating stories about how my great great great great great great great great Grandmother Mary Chilton came over on the Mayflower. And other stories like how brothers Ira and Samuel Dickenson (Ira being my great great great great Grandfather, on my Dad’s side like Mary), came upon a bear in the woods in 1832 and proceeded to beat it with a cane. Word is their beating of this bear led him to become so docile that he became an exhibit at the zoo.

Don’t be surprised to read more stories of my ancestors adventures as 2021 unfolds.

Then there was the death and resurrection of Karl the cat. Back in November, he came down with a double ear infection. Poor little dude. Shortly thereafter, despite having started antibiotics, he developed pneumonia. Apparently it may be true that cats have 9 lives, because this one actually died on the couch one morning when I was at work. Hubs came to the rescue however and performed mouth to mouth resuscitation on him, inflating his little kitty lungs with enough air to revive him. He was rushed to the pet ER where he spent the night on oxygen. He came back home sassier than before, ready to climb on everything and taunt Radar.

All in all, it wasn’t for me the worst of years I suppose. It surely was an interesting one though. Let’s hope 2021 is interesting too. But in different, better ways, right?

Happy New Year!!

***Header image courtesy of https://cdacmohali.in/goodbye-2020-welcome-2021-images-quotes-wishes-status-whatsapp-dp/

Recuperating from The Christmas Crunch

I realized between Thanksgiving and the first week of December that something had to give. Often after my workdays I was too exhausted to do much of anything. Yet, with Christmas on it’s merry way, I still had things that needed to be done. Like purchasing all the presents. Making the cookies. Sending out the Christmas cards. Sending out the cookies and presents. Coming up with gifts and clues for “Secret Santa” week at work. Decorating the house. Wrapping the gifts. Planning the menu for our holiday feasting.

The “something” that had to give was writing and publishing blog posts. It was time to chill out about blogging. Put it on the back burner for a bit.

I wrote one post where I put a happy spin on it all…because I do sincerely enjoy every part of doing all this. And I wanted to share the merriment. But now it’s over and I’m (I am wincing as I write this) glad. Part of me feels that makes me sound like a horrible person. A bona-fide Grinch. But most of me chocks it up to being human. Putting it all together on top of working full time (yep, I’m up to 32 hours per week now) was exhausting!

The only non-exhausting part was watching all my favorite holiday movies. “Love Actually” continues to be my favorite (not just for Christmas but Of. All. Time.).

Yesterday morning, I did something I haven’t done in godonlyknows how long: I slept in until after 8 a.m. and then thoroughly stretched out all my limbs and laid in bed, my mind going gently from one thought to the next. I marinated in the fact that at least for this one day, time was of no consequence. There was simply nothing that needed to be done beyond a bit of grocery shopping, though certainly no one here was going to starve if I chose to skip that chore.

How delightful this was. Pure, unadulterated lounging. I think this was the Christmas present I needed the most.

So, I’m back, folks. I don’t know that my streak of publishing two posts per week will continue; however, you can expect a weekly post for certain.

For the rest of this weekend and into next week, I shall be thinking about the future. What changes 2021 may hold for me and mine. But it’s also the time to ponder what 2020 meant to me, what it taught me (in spite of the general suckiness of it all thanks to Covid-19). The words I want to focus on in the new year.

Right now, there’s just one in my mind:

Image courtesy of https://www.pixtastock.com/illustration/14556836 It was the best of the few I could find that were not attached to that Disney movie.