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.

One Word Prompt: Enjoy

When I first started blogging, I often checked the daily word prompt, hoping for inspiration for a fresh and witty blog post. For the most part, I found myself coming up empty with the word of the day. So I would click for a new word. Ponder it for a moment. Nada. Then I’d clicked again, certain the next word would unleash the uber creative writer lurking inside of me. Bupkis. 

Having several sort of “meh” moments this week, it occurred to me that what I most need to do right now, in this moment, is to enjoy life. Savor it. Make the most of the ordinariness of it all. Laugh. Play. Enjoy. 

According to Merriam-Webster, the word “enjoy” is 1) to take pleasure in and 2) to keep, control, or experience as one’s own.

For my purposes this weekend, I’m going to focus on 1) what I’m enjoying, 2) who I’m enjoying it with and 3) how I’m enjoying my chosen subject of enjoyment. With the Christmas holiday upon us, this is surely not too complicated a task.

The what: Our church Christmas pageant rehearsal this afternoon. Hubs and I accepted a request from the mother of the writer/producer of this year’s production to play Mary and Joseph. I find this absolutely hilarious! Here we are, him just a couple of years and a few months from turning 50, and me, careening towards 51, playing Joseph (who I always presumed was in his 30’s when Jesus was born) and Mary (just a teen at the time). Hubs comment upon receiving this request was “I could see us playing Abraham and Sarah-but Joseph and Mary? Really?!”

More of the what: Watching Christmas movies. Eating good food plucked from our beloved crockpot. Making more Christmas cookies whilst jamming out to my favorite Christmas cd (Michael Buble). The simple things. Nothing fancy for this duo this weekend.

The Who: Hubs, of course. Duh. I intend to find that Santa hat he dons when he’s feeling especially merry during the holiday season. I’m going to insist he wear it for my enjoyment. He will tell me that his favorite Christmas song is “Silver and Gold” from “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”. He, the only human in this family of four who doesn’t possess a sweet tooth, will tell me that his favorite Christmas cookies are the spritz ones. He will mimic the character’s lines while we watch Christmas Vacation, telling me his favorite one is at the end, when the policeman tells the grinchy old boss that good old cousin Eddie kidnapped and brought to the Griswold’s with a big red bow tied around his torso, “That’s pretty low, Mister, if I had a rubber hose…”.

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Santa Hubs, circa 2004

The How: With a joyful spirit. With music in the background. Dressed in comfortable clothes (wisdom of being 50 is that comfort trumps fashion). With a sense of playfulness.

What will you be enjoying this weekend? This Christmas season? As one of my Christmas wishes is to receive more comments on this blog, please share with me what you are or will be enjoying!

Inspire yourself with a Vision Board

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Ta-da! It’s my vision board!

Before I hit “publish” on this blog post, I must tell you that I wrote this post a couple of months ago. I was too chicken to post it till now because of my fear that I would come across as being self-absorbed and/or obnoxious. It’s not that I no longer harbor that fear; I have simply decided that 1) since this is my blog and 2) there’s at least a small chance that someone reading this may determine that they also should create a vision board which could improve their state of minds as it has done for me, publishing this is indeed something I should do. 

So there’s that.

Jen Sincero, in her book “You Are a Badass” (which I have mentioned a couple of times in this blog), inspired me to create a vision board. Since I have time on my hands at this point in my life (what a blessing), a desire to express myself creatively, and plenty of notions of what I want my future to look like, creating this was quite a worthwhile pursuit.

Let me give you a tour:

The quote that is smack dab in the middle expresses how I’m choosing to live now. I am sincerely seeking (for meaning, for joy, for good things in the world). And I am sincerely striving to be the best version of myself every day, with the choices I make and how I interact with people. I am also sincerely full of love for this blessed life I’ve been granted and my heart is open.

The picture on top of this is of a mini-camper with just enough room for two. Hubs and I  are enamored with the notion of hitching a little camper to our CRV and taking spontaneous long weekend road trips to parts unknown. We really dig the idea of being able to forego pricey hotel stays and having our own space. We also really love the idea of being able to sit around a campfire at night next to our temporary home on wheels, pondering life while sipping wine or craft beer amongst the stars.

While it may be difficult to make out, there are numerous small pictures of different kinds of dogs. Because dogs make me happy. We no longer have a dog, as our Homer, a bichon we adopted in 2008, passed away in 2013. We both miss him so very much. He brought so much joy to our whole family. And soon I hope to adopt another dog.

Of course I had to include a picture of the cabin that at least sort of looks like the one we will someday live in. It features a decent sized deck and a fireplace. It’s big enough for two, yet could comfortably accommodate up to 4 more people, when we are blessed with company.

Then there are the pics of places I wish to travel with my Hubs. I didn’t buy a big enough vision board to actually include all of the places I want to travel to (I would need to use an entire wall for that!),  but three of them are pictured on my vision board: New York City (that’s why Tina and Amy are also pictured because not only do I admire them both more than anyone else for their comedic work, but I simply must be in the audience at Saturday Night Live if I am going to NYC). There’s Napa Valley, California, aka wine country (though it may be awhile before we can travel there thanks to the recent fires). And there’s Hawaii, where Hubs and I have been wanting to go for years. I picture us around a campfire on the beach at sunset, sipping fruity cocktails out of pineapples while being entertained by traditional Hawaiian dancers.

Perhaps you think it’s juvenile to have a vision board. Perhaps it is. But I don’t think anyone is too old to dream, do you? And seeing my dreams every day on the wall next to our computer desk keeps me in my happy place. And I believe that when you can envision things you want in your life, you are more apt to manifest them in your life.

Do you have a vision board?  I think we can learn about and inspire each other if you are willing to share a picture of yours with me!

Perks of work

I’ve been at my new job for almost three weeks now. It feels so good to be able to type that sentence. I am so very grateful.

I’d like to take a moment to share the perks, some unexpected and some not, of being gainfully employed after a year and four months of being unemployed.

My job is part time, at 25 hours per week. I was always secretly envious of those girlfriends I had back in Wisconsin that worked part time. They seemed to be more relaxed as they had more free time in their lives to pursue other interests, like travel, hosting parties, and book clubs. Meanwhile, for the better part of 20 years, I was working full-time. And still hosting parties and partaking in some travel. I never was able to make time to belong to a book club. But now, thanks to my sweet part time hours, I probably could if I wanted to. “Doing it all” was, well, exhausting. With my new part time gig,  it’s much easier , not to mention more enjoyable because I am not exhausted,  to plan and participate in these extra-curriculars.

I have absolutely no intention of ever working full time again in my life. 

Hubs and I share our one vehicle. I very much appreciate the odd day when he’s chosen to work from home and I have the car all to myself. However, riding the bus or taking Uber to/from work has turned out to not be such a big deal. These modes of transportation involve a little bit of planning, hence,  a bit of extra time; but it sure beats having two car payments, two cars to insure, and two cars to maintain. No need whatsoever to purchase a second vehicle, in my mind.

I am using my knowledge and experience from my former career as a social worker in my day to day work now. I really dig not feeling being responsible for almost every aspect of my clients’ lives-from finding them a new place to live because they (and in one case their dog as well) were evicted, to trying to convince a chronic alcoholic that sobriety was the way to go. In my new position, I help them through the food pantry, respond to calls for handyman referrals, and loan out medical equipment. It’s uncomplicated, straightforward, helping senior citizens and sending them on their way.

I’ve always enjoyed fashion. I have a pretty decent collection of pieces, many of which are mix and match, to wear for work. Only I wasn’t wearing any of them for one year and four months. I didn’t realize how much I missed this simple thing until I started working again. I’m having some real “girly girl” moments these days as I peruse my wardrobe, picking out new combinations of outfits to sport at the office. And I’m so grateful that I didn’t gain a bunch of weight during my “Gap Year” so everything still fits!

During my “Gap Year” (and four months), I found myself often recalling the enjoyable conversations I had with my co-workers at my social work job in Wisconsin. I found myself often missing the little things, like my next door cube mate singing along with her Ipod while she was doing paperwork. And the co-worker who occasionally would bring in delicious homemade cupcakes to share. And just chatting with my nearby cube mates about our caseloads or even what we did last weekend. Now I have that camaraderie back, just with different people. And lucky me, they are a very kind, sociable, and for the most part, cheery bunch of folks.

Lastly, and perhaps oddly, I love the feeling when I get home at the end of my no more than six hour work day and I can get on my favorite comfy clothes, grab a glass of wine or a bottle of beer and sink into the couch with Hubs. I feel relaxed, good about myself, and deserving of the coziness of home.

 

About my DVD collection

I’m not one of those people who has an extensive library of DVD’s. I feel like I’m in the minority, based on the massive DVD collections I’ve seen from friends on Facebook, friends in real life, and even former clients from my days as a social worker.

My reasoning is that I believe there are better things (and experiences) to spend my money on. And seriously, if I’ve seen the movie already, I know how it ends. Why would I spend my precious time  watching something that will not surprise me in the least? And why would I spend $24.99 on a new DVD that I haven’t seen and may or may not even like? Seems like a silly waste of resources to me.

However, that is not to say I don’t have a DVD collection. I do.  It’s just a bit on the small side.

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My DVD collection used to be approximately 3 times this size, but we sold most of them at the garage sale we held prior to moving to Colorado. The only DVD’s that were actually difficult for me to let go of for a pittance of $3 was 2 seasons of Arrested Development. Funniest show ever, IMHO. I could re-watch episodes over again and laugh just as hard each time. Kinda like Seinfeld, Parks and Recreation, and 30 Rock, for me anyway.

You see, I have requirements for buying DVD’s. I will not pay $24.99 or even $14.99 for that matter for a new DVD. I will pay $5 at Target for one I always meant to watch but never got around to. I will pay up to $10 for a DVD that I absolutely, truly loved with my whole heart because I am certain I will watch it again.

The following is a justification/review of my meager DVD collection: 

As Good as it Gets: I think this is such a special movie.  Jack Nicholson is at his best, playing a cantankerous man afflicted with a severe case of OCD who despite everything, Helen Hunt’s character falls in love with. And Greg Kinnear. What an under-appreciated actor he is. I feel such affection for his character and the scene where he is beaten up by a group of punks broke me. And there’s that dog, a brussels griffon. This is the breed that won best in show at the Westminster dog show on Thanksgiving this year.

This is 40: Purchased this fall at Target for $5 (an example of one I had been meaning to see since it came out in the theaters several years ago). After finally seeing it, I can safely say I would have paid $14.99 for it in a heartbeat. It featured the great comedy duo of Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd in very often almost too close for comfort relatable married couple scenes. I loved it so much I tweeted at Judd Apatow.  Much to my chagrin, I got no response.

Forrest Gump: Need I say anything here? I think any right minded American DVD collector worth their salt owns this one, right? Absolutely charming, classic, and thought-provoking.

Love, Actually: This is an especially charming, feel-good Christmas-themed movie which I absolutely adore. And it features some of my favorite British actors speaking in their lovely British accents: Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, and Keira Knightly. It’s a great, heartfelt mix of romance and comedy. Must watch it again soon.

Christmas Vacation: This is Hubs and my favorite Christmas movie. We know all the lines, to the point where we find ourselves quoting from this movie year round. For instance, when I suggest to Hubs that we could adopt a cat, I hear “Well then we’ll have a cat running around the house”. Or when I am utterly shocked at something I just heard, I might say “I wouldn’t be more surprised if I woke up with my head sewn to the carpet”. Or if he can’t hear something I just said, I will channel Uncle Leo by emphatically mouthing “they want you to say the blessing”. One of these Christmases, we’re going to host a “Christmas Vacation” themed holiday party, with guests costumed as characters from the movie. I think, however, that Hubs and I should not do the obvious thing.

It’d be more fun to go as these two, in my opinion.

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Dan in Real Life: I think this is one of those movies I purchased impulsively from a clearance rack at Target or something. It was worth whatever it costed. It features Steve Carrell as a widowed father of three cheeky daughters who finds love during his family’s annual holiday gathering. It is heartfelt, funny, and charming. And the scene where the whole family is playing charades spend makes me wish I could have been there, perhaps as a long lost cousin or niece.

History of the Eagles: Hubs gave me this for one of my 40 something birthdays. I have always been a huge fan of the Eagles and appreciate seeing footage of them playing live and the behind the scenes stories from when they started playing together. Did you know that they lived in the same apartment building as Jackson Browne (who also wrote Take it Easy, which they later recorded)? Well, now you do.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: This is a movie I bought on impulse this fall, with the plan in my head that I would include it in a special Halloween box of treats and whatnots for our 3 year old grandson. I remember enjoying this movie as a kid, but hadn’t seen it since. When I came home and showed Hubs, he commented that this might not be age appropriate for little guy. Then I remembered the scene with the little girl who blew up chewing bubble gum and realized he was probably correct. So I think I’ll hang onto this one for a few more years.

Chocolat: This is the most romantic movie ever! Hubs and I first watched it on a very cold, snowy Wisconsin night several winters ago and we were enthralled. It features a very handsome and charming Johnny Depp. Be sure to have good quality chocolate on hand when you watch it, because I guarantee your chocolate cravings will be activated.

Legends of the Fall: Brad Pitt is looking his very finest in this flick. It’s a beautiful, romantic story about three brothers and one very sought after and beloved woman. I haven’t seen it in years, despite owning it forever, so I need to make time to watch it again soon!

American Hustle: Hubs and I first saw this one in the theater, a rare occurrence for the two of us. It features a great story line and memorable characters with a sweet 70’s soundtrack. I appreciate the detail put into the set designs in every scene as it brings one back in time. And Jennifer Lawrence is an absolute hoot!  I love it so much I’ve seen it twice since I bought it!

Hocus Pocus: This movie seemed to re-surface this fall, whether it be people commenting about it on Facebook or the t-shirts being sold online with quotes from it. I hadn’t seen it in years, but thought it’d be a fun one to watch this Halloween season. And for $5 it was totally worth it. After seeing it again right before Halloween, I realized it is the classic movie to watch every Halloween, just like Christmas Vacation is the one for us to watch every Christmas season.

Blue Planet: I bought this one for Hubs when we bought our first and only blue ray/dvd player. He is a scientist after all so he has an especially keen interest in the topic of climate change. It is quite an amazingly beautiful film.

Grand Torino:  This is a deeply thought provoking movie. Clint Eastwood’s character was so memorable, and it was amazing to see his character’s development from start to finish. This movie blew my mind and made me cry at the end.

So, fellow movie lovers, what’s in your DVD collection?

 

 

 

My Christmas Simplification Experiment

This past year, I’ve come to appreciate simplifying my life. Hubs and I have been operating on a smaller scale, financially, due to me taking my “Gap Year”, which has led me to forgo non-essential purchases I would have otherwise made. We’ve been more frugal when it comes to spending our “disposable” income by eating out much less frequently and taking advantage of any and all opportunities to save money (ex: Target red card: 5% off all purchases) on things we regularly purchase.

Bottom line: a benefit of my “Gap Year” is an increased mindfulness of how we spend our money. This is a good thing. Now, not only are we in a better position to start saving for important things like travel and eventually a plumb spot of land on a smallish but beautiful lake in Minnesota or Wisconsin where we will build our dream cabin, but we have much less stuff to care for and stress about. And now that I am gainfully employed I think it behooves us to continue our frugal ways.

That brings me to Christmas. In years past, I have spent as my mother would say a “pretty penny” not only on gifts, but also on ingredients to make a wide variety of Christmas cookies which I send to friends and family near and far. And the shipping costs for said cookies and gifts is nothing to sneeze at either.

This Christmas is going to be different. Though the cookie baking and shipping is still happening, because, well, I truly enjoy the process. One of my happiest of happy places is in the kitchen, baking and cooking my heart out with a variety of holiday and non-holiday tunes cranked up on my Bluetooth speaker. And the joy these treats brings to the recipients is so worth it. 

What’s going to be different this year is the gift-giving part of it all. I’ve come to the realization that the stress I put on myself not to mention the costs to purchase (whether on line or in actual stores) and ship just the right gift for each and every one of my lovely family members is simply no longer worth it.

I know, Bah-humbug, right? Rhonda has officially become the Grinch!

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Not so fast. I’ve decided that everyone-with perhaps 3 small exceptions-is getting gift cards. 

One could say that gift cards are impersonal. However, I have a different take on it. Every Christmas since like forever, my mom gives me a gift card to Victoria’s Secret (along with other actual gifts). I look forward to this particular gift every year, as this is a store I love but very infrequently shop at as I feel it’s overpriced and generally I am perfectly happy purchasing needed underthings on sale at Kohl’s thankyouverymuch. However, it’s such a treat to waltz into Victoria’s Secret, gift card in hand, with the ability to purchase at least one lovely thing or two with zero guilt.

You see, with gift cards, you are gifting your loved ones with both an experience and an actual thing. The opportunity to take yourself out to a restaurant or a store where you can not only obtain something you truly want, but also experience the joy of not paying for it with your own hard earned money, I think may trump the “thing” a gift-giver would have purchased that may or may not fit or may or may not have a good spot to place in your home, or may or may not be an item you would regularly use and enjoy.

So, delicious cookies and gift cards it is. I’m calling it my Christmas Simplification Experiment.  Please share your comments with me, as I am open to other ideas on how to simplify the holiday season this year!

Gratitudes

It seems fitting to me, with it being November, the month of giving thanks and all, that I share what I’m grateful for, aka my gratitudes.

At this particular moment in time, I thankfully have an abundance of things for which I am sincerely grateful. 

Without any further ado, here we go:

#1: I am grateful for employment.  I started my new job last Wednesday, working part time as a program assistant in a non-profit serving senior citizens. And all signs indicate this is going to be a very good fit for me.

#2:  I am grateful for our early Thanksgiving celebration with our two lovable spawn. We had a wonderful time with them last weekend, when they came out to visit us here in Colorado. We had our traditional Thanksgiving dinner, spent time cracking each other up playing board games, and saw a few local sites. It was all so very good for this mom’s heart.

#3: I am grateful for my friends, both old and new. Like my friend Kevin, who is like a brother to me, who appreciated the Google playlist I made for him when he came for a visit last month. Like my newest girlfriend here in Colorado, who has such a good heart and a fun loving personality. I’m looking forward to spending more time with her.

#4: The mild climate here in Colorado. Let’s just say I don’t recall being overheated in a long sleeved shirt outside in mid-November when I lived in Wisconsin or Minnesota. It’s actually supposed to be 70 degrees here on Thanksgiving!

#5: I am grateful for Hubs’ support of me working again, which he demonstrates by doing things like staying on top of the laundry and the dishes, and cleaning the house.

#6: I am grateful for our church family. They are a kind, welcoming, supportive and faithful bunch.

#7:  I am grateful for nature shows on t.v. Hubs and I have allowed ourselves to consume an unhealthy amount of MSNBC the last couple of months. Nature shows, like the one we watched about sea otters the other night, are such a welcome and delightful respite from all of that bad news.

#8: I am grateful for blogging. Not just the process of writing and publishing, but the community. Lately, when it comes to blogging, I’ve been reading more than writing due to time constraints from having the job I am so grateful for. It is a bit of a Catch-22, so my future posts will not be as frequent as a result. Here’s a few posts from other blogger’s that I particularly enjoyed that I think you should check out:

This one inspired me to sprinkle cinnamon on my hot cocoa and it was fabulous!

Perfect mug of cocoa

This one introduced me to the concept of Hygge, which I really appreciate!

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What are you grateful for? Please comment and share your gratitudes!

 

Where my head’s at: Jobs, Life, and Gun Violence

You may have or may have not noticed that the frequency of my blog posts has declined as of late. It’s because, well…life. Other bloggers are surely familiar with this predicament. You get on a roll, posting with regularity, reading other blogger’s posts and providing commentary. You are in your groove.

Then, life rudely barges in, forcing you to shift your focus and re-assess your priorities. Like when circumstances force you to acknowledge in your core of cores that your parents are aging for real as illnesses and surgeries grow in their frequency and severity. Like when you begin planning for your young adult spawn’s overdue visit to your new-ish home in your new-ish state and potential snafus in this plan begin to emerge, leaving you to ponder an alternate plan. Like when you realize the amount of time and energy spent on blogging will not equal the satisfaction of working outside of the home with real live people and earning actual money.

That said, this is not me declaring that my blogging days are over. What I can declare, however, with relative certainty, is that change is afoot in my life at the moment. For better or worse. 

I have made some headway in my search for employment.  I updated my resume and applied for a job as a para-educator in the special ed department of a local elementary school. I have also applied for another job, for which I have an interview this afternoon.

So as not to jinx it, I’m going to supress my urge to provide details about said job interview and the anxious thoughts rattling through my brain as I mentally prepare myself for the first job interview I’ve have in 10 years. Gulp.

Then there are other happenings that are taking up space in my brain and especially in my heart. One week ago today, I awoke to the news of yet another fatal shooting. Only this time it happened a mere 5 minute drive from our home, at the Wal-Mart in Thornton, Colorado. I can honestly say that for the first time since all of these horrific shootings in this country of ours began, this scared me on a personal level. I’ve been to that Wal-Mart. I’m much more aware of my surroundings when going out and about as a result of this. Three innocent lives lost, for no reason whatsoever.

What angers and sickens me the most about this is that there does not appear to be an end in sight with these shootings. 

I pray, as many others in this country and throughout the world are. I pray for the families left behind but even more importantly, I pray that the jokers representing us in Washington, D.C., will take action, once and for all, to reduce the likelihood that mass shootings will continue to occur. The only way, I believe, for this epidemic to have any chance of being remedied, is for stricter gun regulations to be enacted.

A good friend of mine here in Colorado shared a video on Facebook today with the pictures and stories of all of those folks who lost their lives in the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, last Sunday. I appreciate that, because I think it’s much easier to say our prayers and then get right back to living our own personal lives when we only pay attention to the sound bites offered by the media.

I don’t believe in taking the easy route. Not when it comes to the mass shooting epidemic in this country and not when it comes to how I live my personal life. Because a meaningful life and a more harmonious society is not manifested by making easy choices.

I’m going to go forth and do my best to seize this day. I will count my blessings, which are many. Likely more than I deserve. And tomorrow, I will strive to do the same. Day by day.