All posts by Rhonda

I'm a 50 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 recently transplanted to the Denver metro area from Wisconsin due to a job transfer for my fabulous husband. We are empty nesters, with two terrific adult children living their own lives, one in Indianapolis and the other near Green Bay, WI. 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 travelled 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.

Pondering my playlists

I’ve mentioned in at least one previous post that, inspired by a different sort of self-help book entitled “Soul Song Playlist”, I started to create my own soul-soothing, uplifting, personal playlist. What I’ve discovered along the way is that this playlist is a work in progress. For me, it isn’t something I could just put together in one fell swoop.

I’ve added songs that I later removed, because they didn’t speak to me on a soul level like I presumed they would (“Let it Go” from the animated movie Frozen is a prime example) when I initially chose them. I’ve heard songs while driving that jumped out at me as the perfect additions to this very personal playlist of mine. I think I will continue adding and subtracting songs over the course of a good long time.

That said, I found myself last week itching to hear full cd’s of my favorite artists. The ones I cherish the most, to give myself a needed break from the overthinking I’d been doing with creating my soul song playlist. I listened to my very favorite cd of all time, Raising Sand, with Robert Plant and Allison Kraus. I listened to Alanis Morissette’s “The Collection” cd. So many rocking tunes on that one with very thoughtful, purposeful lyrics. And I listened to Sheryl Crowe’s “C’mon, C’mon” cd, which is one of those that I thoroughly enjoy singing along with. Raising Sand is not one I sing along with, for the record, because the sheer beauty of the songs on this cd compel me to simply listen. Few cd’s are like that for me.

That brings me to the new playlist I’m going to start creating this week, in preparation for our big summer road trip to visit family in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Hubs and I will be strapped in for two full days so I figure a rocking playlist is in order. We can listen to it as we wish, interspersing it with catching up on national and world news on NPR and various podcasts.

The genre of our road trip playlist is primarily classic rock. With a few summery  pop hits added in to enhance our freewheeling, relaxed summer vacation attitudes.

Here’s a few songs that are going to be “musts” on this epic summer road trip playlist.

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A depiction of Hubs and I on our epic summer road trip
  • “2 out of 3 Ain’t Bad”, by Meatloaf (I feel I should know his real name, being kind of a music trivia buff. But more importantly, how did he acquire the name “Meatloaf”?)
  • “Walkin’ on the Sun”, by Smash Mouth (interestingly, at least to me anyway, was that this is the band Hubs named recently when I asked him what band he most wants to see live before he croaks. Didn’t see that one coming.)
  • “American Pie”, by Don McClean. A classic sing along song we always turn up when it comes on the radio. Doesn’t every American, at least over the age of 40, do the same thing?
  • “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, by Twisted Sister. A classic song of rebellion that begs to be sung out loud with righteous indignation, which is wholly appropriate in our current political climate.
  • “Layla”, by Derek and the Dominoes (for me, never the one put out by Eric Clapton years later…it’s just not the same, man).
  • “Margaritaville”, by Jimmy Buffett. A carefree summer driving sing-along classic.
  • “We Built This City”, by Starship. I know that many, perhaps most, people hate this song with a passion. But for Hubs and I, it’s a rollicking tune that reminds us of our younger days.
  • “You’re my Best Friend”, by Queen. Hubs is my best friend and I am his. I used to think it was sappy and unoriginal to proclaim this. But over time I have come to realize that it’s the simple truth. Me and my best friend are bound to have ourselves a great time on this road trip of ours. And now we will have a soundtrack that will set the tone.

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The story of the traveling hutch

 

 

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I love this hutch. Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s sort of a family heirloom. Let me tell you the story.

This hutch was housed in the one bedroom “shotgun” cabin my parents purchased on a lake 20 minutes from their house about 25 years ago. The seller of the cabin had no use for this hutch, as he was an elderly gentleman with no family around. He simply left it there, where it sat in a corner in the kitchen/dining space.

My mom has never been a fan of antiques. She much preferred to decorate her home and that little cabin in a more modern fashion, which at the time was a lot of country blues and pink hues on the furniture as well as the walls. She has always been stellar at organizing small spaces (the home 5 of us and a dog lived in for eons was 3 small bedrooms and one bathroom with no shower, just a tub. Yes, I didn’t get regular showers until I moved into my dorm in college). So this hutch served a purpose for her as it was a place to store dishes. She and I, along with all other female family members, also relied on this hutch when visiting the cabin, as a make up and hair styling station. There was an outhouse in the back.

My dad and I, however, had an appreciation for this old hutch. We saw it as a pretty well preserved piece of history, and a beautiful one at that. I remember telling my parents as a young mom and wife that this was likely the only piece of furniture that I would like to be bequeathed to me someday.

Someday happened about 15 years later. My dad, then about 76, asked me during a phone call (back when he could still hear well enough to have at least a short conversation on the phone), if I’d still like to have the hutch. I told him emphatically yes and he said he’d like to deliver it to me the next time they came to Wisconsin for a visit.

So my dear old dad drove himself and my mom over 5 hours one way and delivered the hutch. Hubs and I picked out just the right spot for it between our dining and living area. Hubs served as Dad’s apprentice to move the hutch from the back of dad’s pickup truck, and together they carefully lugged it up the stairs to put it in its’ designated spot. I was in awe that my dad was still the strong man he always was at 76 and appreciated the teamwork it took he and Hubs to get it into the house.

Miraculously, the hutch survived two more moves, one from our family’s home in a more rural area, to our new “empty nester” home in the city of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and the other from La Crosse all the way here to Colorado. I fully expected that the hutch would suffer some type of damage during both of these moves. Perhaps the mirror would crack, or the old glass pane would shatter into a million pieces. But alas, it survived.  I like to think it survived because of the appreciation we had for it. More than likely though it was just dumb luck.

I’m really pleased with where we chose to place it in our townhome. Especially because it was pure happenstance that when you walk towards it, in the mirror you can see the peace sign that we hung on the opposite wall next to our front door. What sweet serendipity.

There are few tangible “things” I treasure in this life. And this old hutch, with the memories that go along with it, is right at the very top of the list.

 

My next random blog post

It’s Tuesday morning and I consciously made the decision to get stuff done around the house instead of spending an hour or more typing up the next blog post. Now I’ve got less than 10 minutes.

I also have not been particularly jazzed about writing about any specific topic this week. There are two ways for me to think about this: procrastination might be my friend. In other words, perhaps penning a post with a finite time limit will propel me to write something of substance, something I can be proud of. Giving myself a time limit will prevent me from over-thinking, which is a talent I sadly excel at. The other take I could have is that this could be an opportunity for me to “chill”. Remind myself that I am not in a race. Remind myself that I will not face any truly negative consequences if I choose to not publish this post on Wednesday, which is my typical publishing day. I could wait till Friday, or heck, even Sunday morning.

So here goes nothing. Or something. More likely something in between.

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My theme of the week

 

The other day at my volunteer gig at a local food bank, Santa donated several crates of Nutella. That kind of thing doesn’t happen every day, right? That’s why I love my job helping senior citizens and volunteering at the food bank. I’m interacting with loads of different people and no two days are the same! But for real, he did look like Santa and he shared that he performs as Santa professionally. Funny thing is, I actually know two other male retirees, both from our old church in Wisconsin, who are also happily enjoying gigs as Santa post-retirement. I love those little happy coincidences that life serves up sometimes, don’t you?

I had to acknowledge my age recently when dining out with Hubs in Denver, prior to the James Taylor concert (which was absolutely fantastic, btw). Unbeknownst to me, the  female servers at this restaurant/bar were essentially costumed as strippers. I’m talking bare midriffs, teeny-tiny short shorts, and heavy make up on their precious baby faces. The experience reminded me of those awful reality shows where the little girls are competing in beauty pageants. It was just really troubling to me as a mom.  I struggled to keep myself from telling these young ladies to put on a sweater, for God’s sake!

Lately, Hubs and I have been binge-watching “The Walking Dead”. I find it terrifically fascinating. We actually started watching it a few years ago, but at that time I only made it to the second episode due to the gore and violence. I surprised myself by agreeing to try watching it again, just a couple of months ago, with Hubs. For some reason, the gore and violence, while certainly disturbing, didn’t impact me as strongly as it had a few years prior. When I started getting a little heebie-jeebie-ish, I decided to remind myself that the scenes weren’t actually real (duh, right?) and instead to focus on the amazing make-up, special effects, and costuming that was being showcased. I got to thinking, how much fun must it be for make-up artists to work on this set? So with that little change in perspective, I found myself drawn into the predicament these folks found themselves in. Intrigued by the characters and how they interacted with each other. I think if I was a high school or college instructor of say, psychology, leadership (that’s a thing right?), or philosophy, I would frequently use clips from this show for my lessons. There’s so much material there.

In closing, and more importantly in the spirit of randomness, I present to you the best thing I saw on NPR this week. While it is indeed sad that Koko is no longer among us earthlings, this video made me smile. And it reminded me of what an awesome individual Robin Williams was.

 

Happy fun-day Sunday, blogging peeps!

Happiness is having something to look forward to

Thinking forward to an upcoming visit with our friends, couple #1, and their two young daughters recently prompted me to peruse the library at work. This library is chock full of donated books for the seniors we serve to take home and enjoy. There is no requirement that the books taken be returned, which I love. Included in this library is a shelf full of children’s books.

That is where I found this little gem, written by Minnesota native and creator of the iconic Peanuts cartoons Charles Schultz, in the year of my birth, 1967.

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The colors and graphics in this little book are quite gorgeous to my eye. But what most tripped my trigger was the words written in the pages. The sentiments. One especially.

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The message that “happiness is having something to look forward to” resonates with me. I believe that all of us, even on our worst days, if we pause to think about it, can imagine something on the horizon to personally look forward to. It doesn’t have to be anything major. In fact, the simpler the better. Because really, isn’t it the simple joys in life that make it enjoyable? Worth continuing?

Maybe it’s the fancy mocha-choca-latte you’re going to buy on your way to work today. Maybe it’s payday. Perhaps it’s the juicy burgers you’re going to grill tonight for supper. Or the book you can’t wait to read. Or the summer vacation you’ve got planned with your family or friends.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, let me share what I am currently looking forward to: visiting the Denver Zoo this weekend with our friends and their sweet, funny, smart little girls (one soon to be 6 and the other soon to be 3). Witnessing their reactions to the animals they see and interact with. Hearing their giggles. Capturing some sweet photos along the way.

How about you all? What are you looking forward to? Surely there’s something.

Thoughts on Self-Care

It feels to me as if the term “self-care” is being tossed around a lot these days. It’s “trending”, which I take to mean the concept will, before long, peter out. It will lose it’s meaning, it’s importance. People will tire of it, finding ways on social media to mock it and render it irrelevant. They’ll find another term to latch onto.

Ironically, I just googled “self-care” and on Merriam Webster, front and center, there is an icon of lightening next to the word “trending”. My point is thus proven. 

Before this concept is indeed no longer trending, I’d like to add my two cents about self- care. I can only speak from my own perspective of course, recognizing that many people in the world are struggling mightily to survive another day, physically and/or mentally, so finding the time and energy to even ponder what self-care means let alone practicing it eludes them. Which really is a damn shame.

Bottom line: I am grateful that I have enough quiet time to myself, along with the mental energy to both identify what self-care looks like to me and the physical and intellectual ability to regularly engage in the activities that promote it. Especially during those times, like right now, when those people near and dear to me are experiencing life challenges that are weighing on my mind and heart, causing me to feel utterly helpless. 

I think that in order to practice self-care in any sort of meaningful way, it’s necessary to define for yourself what it specifically looks like to you. However, taking the time to recognize why practicing self-care is beneficial for you should be your first task. My personal theory is that if I choose to not practice self-care, my ability to be emotionally present for my loved ones will be dwarfed. I will feel put-upon, frustrated, tired, and stressed out. By not practicing self-care, I will lessen my ability to find the silver linings in things as well as hindering my ability to be the best version of myself. By regularly practicing self-care, my chances of being effective at providing emotional support to those I love greatly increase.

Now, while I am admittedly an over-thinker, I cling firmly to the K.I.S.S. mantra (the Keep it Simple, Sister version) when it comes to what self-care looks like for me. I don’t believe any self-improvement endeavor is worth much if there are too many steps.

Let me share some of the self-care tactics that work for me. I urge you to consider what yours are and then share them with me and our blogging friends here in the comments, if you feel comfortable doing so. 

  • I keep a regular sleep schedule and make it a priority to get enough sleep (8.5 hours per night has proven to be ideal for me).
  • I listen to my Soul Song and other playlists daily as they bring me joy. I find that listening to my music each morning puts me in a positive mindset for the day ahead.
  • Regular grooming of fingernails/hands and toenails/feet. As in, at home manicures and pedicures. Taking care of my physical appearance in this way boosts my confidence as I am out and about in my day to day life. And it’s a very relaxing activity for me, especially when I’ve got my favorite tunes playing in the background.
  • I regularly make to do lists, which gives me a sense of order and purpose. This tactic calms my anxious brain and is a valuable tool that boosts my focus on my priorities for the day, or week. I also get a little kick every time I check something off on my to-do lists.
  • I  lay out my yoga mat and stretch my body and do a few strengthening and toning exercises every single morning.  I follow that up with some prayer time. Expressing gratitude and connecting with the Spirit helps me clear my head and gives me good mental energy for the day ahead of me.
  • I ignore people that only have negative things to say as much as I possibly can. You know who they are in your own life. We all do.
  • I strive to remain mindful as I go through my days. For instance, really listening  to people instead of thinking up responses to what I think they are going to say. Also, limiting the amount of times I check my cell phone throughout the day allows me opportunities to see and experience what is going on in my environment. I think it’s healthy to keep FOMO (fear of missing out) at bay.
  • I mentally pull out a phrase or mantra that speaks to me if I’m feeling stressed, such as “This too shall pass”, or “Let it Be” of course in song version because that is how my brain works. 

 

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When I grow up

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I’ve gotten to know a lot of people since moving to Colorado with Hubs almost 2 years ago. I’m appreciative of this. I’m especially appreciative of the older women I have come to know, as they inspire me to strive for graceful, healthy aging. Like the women I volunteer with each week at the food bank. Or the women with whom we attend church.  And the women I work with along with the female senior citizens I serve in my job.

These women I’ve come to know don’t seem to let their age impede them in any significant way. They generally seem to take life in stride and their feathers are not easily ruffled. They have a strong sense of self  and understand they still have the ability to help and inspire others. Their ages do not define them, which I believe is how it should be. They embrace the lives they have and do not wallow in the physical or mental changes that aging has foisted upon them.

One 80 year old lady I know gives me the impression that who she is now is who she’s always been. She is open-minded, witty, and her fingers and toes are always immaculately manicured.  She once expressed a combination of confusion and frustration when a client referred to her as “cute”. She recognized this was an ageist statement and rightly took offense to it. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Another older woman I know is exceptionally loving and caring. She never had children, by choice, which makes her a rare bird in her generation. However, that doesn’t prevent her from looking out for people younger and less wise than she, as she has the ability to embrace and appreciate one and all. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Another female senior I know is a fun loving social butterfly.  She readily strikes up conversations with anyone and peppers them with “dear” or “dear-heart”. She is a snappy dresser and tells great stories about her life as a wife to a Vietnam vet and mother to her now grown children. She recently visited Disneyland with friends and their teenage granddaughter and shared stories about how she and the teen rode almost every single ride together in the park. What other almost 80 year old woman do you know who does that? I want to be like her when I grow up.

Another woman I’ve come to know here is savvy and smart. She takes no shit from anyone. You know where you stand with her. She is not a word-mincer, which is a quality I sort of envy. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Yet another lady I’ve gotten to know, at our church, is adventurous. She travels frequently with girlfriends she has had since she was in college in the 60’s. She is big-hearted and a great listener. She happily donates her time and money to causes she believes in, but she is never showy about it. One time at church, I asked for prayers for someone I love very much who was experiencing a lot of struggles in a personal relationship. This wonderful lady called me a couple of weeks later to check in and see if things had improved with my loved one. I also want to be like her when I grow up.

Then there are the two retired women, who I believe are sisters, who come into our food bank at work about every other week and donate several bags of just purchased food. They look over the shelves and ask me questions about the types of foods our seniors seem to especially enjoy, so they know what to buy at the grocery store the next time. They do this out of the sheer goodness of their hearts. I want to be like them too when I grow up.

I also have a food bank client with bright blue eyes that do not betray her age. This lovely lady once struck up a conversation with me about cooking, which is a common occurrence when running a food bank, and promised to one day bring me her recipe for pork green chili (a Colorado staple). Lo and behold, a couple of months later, she gifted me with her handwritten recipe for this tasty dish. I think I want to be like her when I grow up too.

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Not so sure about buying that lard, though!

The thing is, we are all aging. Day by day. There’s nothing besides death of course, that is going to stop this process. I think that we all have the ability to choose how we are going to age. Some older women are preoccupied by their health problems, or the health problems of others, and seem to be stuck in a never-ending loop of worrying what illness will strike next. This negatively impacts their relationships and their quality of life.

However, these dynamic, older, and wiser women of Colorado that I’ve been fortunate to come to know give me hope and inspiration for my future as a female senior citizen.

About my About Page

I’ve been thinking for a while now about my “About” page.  I notice that readers often peruse it when they’re checking out my blog. Now that I have been blogging for over a year (101 posts so far!), I realize that my “About” page no longer captures who I am as a blogger, at least to my satisfaction .

It needs some tweaking; perhaps a complete overhaul. 

My about Page in it’s current state:

Psych! My name is not actually Pollyanna. My name is Rhonda, and I’m so appreciative that you are taking the time to read this. My goal is to simultaneously amuse, inspire, and empower you with tales from my life as an optimist striving to become the most authentic  version of myself through creative writing.

Some topics I blog about are my devotion to music (from blues to 70’s and 80’s hits and artists, new adult alternative, singer/songwriters, past and present, motown, and classic rock and roll),  love (of food, people, and dogs),  relationships, religion and spirituality, and (at least once in awhile), and politics (warning: I unapologetically lean towards the left). I also very much enjoy highlighting people in the spotlight who are putting good out there in the world.

So that’s me in the smallest of nutshell I can muster. With a little luck, as Sir Paul sings,  I “can make this whole damn thing work out”.

Here is my critique of my “About” page, from my subjective perspective: 

Okay…starting with the first line. “Psych”?! Kind of dorky. It’s not really ground breaking to have a blog title that is not one’s actual given name. Maybe I need to explain why I call this blog “Pollyanna’s Path”. It’s not because I read the Pollyanna books as a child. It’s not because I wish my actual name was Pollyanna. It has  more to do with being an optimist, sometimes to the annoyance of others. A former co-worker often referred to me as “Pollyanna” presumably due to my tendency to walk with a slight bounce in my step and my generally cheery disposition. I like to think she called me that because she secretly wished she could be cheery like me.

Second line….expressing appreciation for those taking the time to read my blog. That is true; I do very much appreciate when anyone reads my blog. The point of having a blog (heck every blogger would agree, right?) is to get people to read it. And while this line objectively sounds a bit meek and mousy, it is sincere. I think I’ll keep it in.

Next line…my goals are to simultaneously amuse, inspire, and empower my readers through my creative writing. Lofty goals indeed. Too much perhaps. Too eager. Biting off more than I can chew. This line is going to need some work.

About that second paragraph: “some” of the topics I write about?! That’s a lot of topics! Some of which I have not been writing much if anything about at all these days, if I’m being honest.  I am all over the place with my writing, as anyone following my blog can plainly see. And why am I saying that I “unapolagetically lean towards the left”? It is true, but what purpose does it serve to share it on my about page? I’m not sure. Perhaps when I came up with that line, I was subconsciously trying to protect myself from some random reader who might feel deceived while reading one of my political posts and get all hateful on me. Anyway, it’s clear that particular line will cease to exist on my about page.

Next line…I enjoy highlighting people in the spotlight who are putting good out there in the world. I continue to concur with this sentiment, but it ought to be re-worded. And “people in the spotlight”? That part may need to go. If I’m “highlighting” someone who I feel is Bad Ass, awesome, and worthy of attention, it shouldn’t, exclusively anyway, be someone who is actually already smack dab in the spotlight. Because everyone else is writing about them too. And many of those writers are expressing exactly what I think or feel about the person being “highlighted”. I think it’s more interesting to “highlight” people who are not already trending, with their images plastered everywhere for all to see day in and day out.

Final two lines: First one is right on, as I have a tendency to be verbose and I did feel a sense of pride for summing up what I’m “about” as a blogger in the space of 3 short paragraphs. I added the “Sir Paul” line in an effort to be clever and to emphasize the influence of music on me as a writer. I just may keep that in.

So, I’ve got some work to do around here. Stay tuned…..