All posts by Rhonda

I'm a 51 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. 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 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.

This darn dog

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In my most recent post, I introduced you to this guy. His name is Radar and I am in love with him.

He’s approximately 18 months old (no way to verify as he was rescued as a stray in Houston, Texas this past April). He’s a German Shepherd mix, and we suspect part of that mix is black lab (which to me is a very very good thing as I’ve always thought they were the best breeds ever. Besides Bichon Frises of course: RIP Homer. He passed just before Christmas 2013).

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I can only surmise this photo was taken prior to bathtime. Or else he was embarrassed because he needed a grooming!

Now, if you have been following my blog for a while, you may recall this post, nearly a year ago, where I whined about how I was yearning for something new in my life. I was mostly referring to my wish to adopt a dog.

It took more time than expected for Hubs to truly come around to the idea of becoming dog owners again, but I am grateful that it did.  If we had rushed into it, say 3 or 6 months ago, we wouldn’t have wound up with this pup.

Let me tell you the story of how he came to be ours.

We stalked petfinder.com for a couple of weeks. We discussed the type of dog we both wanted: medium sized, on the younger side but not a puppy; friendly, smart, and trainable. We thought we were going to adopt a similar looking dog named Kodiak; alas, he was adopted by another family before we got a chance to meet him.

But then! An email appeared from the foster mom telling us there was a chance that Kodiak would be relinquished due to the child in the family possibly having allergies to him. After a couple of days and no updates, we decided to resume our search and found another GSD mix named Finn who we thought would be a perfect fit.

On 6/1 (coincidentally, eldest spawn’s 27th birthday), we drove out to the mountains to meet Finn. It turned out that there were two other dogs up for adoption at this same home for us to meet. We visited with the foster parents for a good long while, the whole time Finn checking us out from afar but never getting very close. While handsome, healthy, and playful, he was quite the skittish pup.

Then the foster mom brought out “Leroy”. He was also a German Shepherd mix, but with much more prominent “radar” ears (you do know where this is going, right?). He ran up to us immediately, tail wagging. He gave us kisses then ran off to play with the other two dogs.

It was abundantly clear that we had found our canine match.

So we brought “Leroy” home that same day. His foster parents told us that the folks at the shelter he was at named him “Leroy”. On the drive home (of course with a trip to PetSmart first for a crate-which was nylon and is already destroyed but that’s another story), we pondered changing his name. We didn’t settle on anything really, and figured we would just go with “Leroy”. But after about 24 hours and my MIL stating he didn’t look like a “Leroy” and the fact that the old song “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown” was stuck in my head, which felt like a bad omen to me, we decided “Ringo” was going to be his name.

You know, after my favorite Beatle (only sorta-what right minded Beatles fan could pick just one favorite?)

So the following Monday we took “Ringo” to his first vet appointment (where he barked so loud, tail wagging mind you, that we had to be placed in an exam room as to not scare the other dogs and people any longer). We presented him as “Ringo” though the vet tech referred to him as “Boogaloo” (which truly endeared me to her).

Then we came home. Hubs started tossing around the idea of re-naming him once again. After all, he hadn’t had enough time to get his doggy self accustomed to any one particular name by this point in time. Hubs suggested “Doppler”. Seriously. Did I mention he was a meteorologist? I countered with “Radar”. We agreed with those awesome ears, which point in opposite directions at times when there are new sounds to process, this was a fitting name. So we are sticking with it.

Now we just need to call the vet’s office to let them know we are big ‘ol flakes who tried out three different names for their new dog.

 

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Nerding out on playlists and a new friend

I appreciate a good song. Just like when I was a teenager and I would tape the top 40 countdown directly from the radio (anyone remember Kasey Kasem?), I’ve got loads of thoughtfully put together playlists on my tablet.

One such playlist I titled “Current Faves”. It is a work in progress, but so far I’ve got 18 songs on it. It’s my way of staying current. But not so current that it’s loaded with pop hits from BTS or FXY or whatever the youths are listening to on their Ipods. This playlist is mostly focused on a genre I have been digging for the bulk of my adult life: Adult Alternative. While most of my other playlists are chock full of songs that would be considered “classic rock” or “pop hits from the 80’s and 90’s”, my “Current Faves” playlist is comprised of songs that were put out in the 2000’s.

Such as:

Informer by Snow. I heard this song for the first time while listening to “The Current” on the MPR station out of the Twin Cities. I often listen to this program on my tablet as they always play a solidly eclectic mix of upcoming and formerly upcoming artists, and I often hear songs I have never heard before.

Now onto my “Current Faves” playlist. 

I’m not necessarily what one would refer to as a fan of rap or hip-hop, but this song has such a catchy melody. It reminds me of songs by the artist “Shaggy”. I think my friend CJ at Feeding on Folly would concur.

Take a listen and you may see what I mean:

I defy you to not shake your booty to this!

A couple of months ago, Hubs and I caught the band Greta Van Fleet on SNL. We really dug them. They, to me, are reminiscent of classic rock bands from the 70’s (Led Zeppelin especially comes to mind). I’m always intrigued by band names, including of course this one. It’s not like there’s a lead singer by the name of Greta. The band is comprised of male millenials, after all. Turns out, the band was named after one of the band members grandmothers. Isn’t that the sweetest?

Don’t you just love how this band looks like it just walked out of a 70’s supergroup album cover? And the lead singer! What a pretty face he has, right? He kinda reminds me of Marcia Brady’s crush, Davy Jones.

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I’ve also got a couple of Elle King’s songs on this playlist. She is something else! Feisty, talented, and entertaining! She makes no apologies for who she is and what she represents.

Check this out:

 

Next month, Hubs and I are finally going to see a show at Red Rocks, after living about an hour from there for almost 3 years. Honestly, our decision to purchase tickets to see the Head and the Heart there was more directed by cost (some of those shows are ridiculously expensive!) than anything else. However, I knew a couple of their songs and since purchasing the tickets have been listening to them more and more.

I have so far added their songs “Rhythm and Blues” and “Missed Connections” to this awesome playlist.

Now, there’s one song I’m going to be putting on a new playlist I’ll be creating: The Ultimate Classic Rock Jam playlist. It’s inspired by our new housemate, Radar.

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Prepare to read anecdotes about this dude, folks!

 

 

Foodie Food Pics

So I’ve got a gazillion pictures on my cell phone of food with no place to go. Yes, I am one of those people. 

I tend to not post these pics on social media because, well…they are not necessarily well received. People find it silly. Annoying. Pointless. 

Truth be told, they are probably right. 

But the thing is, I have a blog. And I am a foodie. And I love to cook. Well, most days anyway. When I’m not feeling the cooking mojo, I like to eat out. Try new foods, new places. And on top of it all, a large chunk of my job is running a food bank.

Thankfully, my dear Hubs is also a foodie (though he isn’t necessarily a fan of this particular term-don’t ask me why). He and I quite enjoy partnering up in our cozy (aka small) townhome kitchen and whipping up tasty meals on a pretty regular basis. 

What makes it, um..interesting, is that I have a tendency to want to follow recipes to a “T” and he is a little more free-wheeling. He tells me that cooking this way indulges his creative side, which as an IT professional during the daylight hours, is a beneficial exercise. So, for the most part, I go with it. We decide which tasks each of us will do and we carry on with it. 

Now for my food pictures. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t include this pic of the nachos we made, which were loosely based on Chrissy Tiegen’s recipe in her new “Hungry for More” cookbook. 

Pay no mind to my naked foot and focus on this beautiful plate of nachos. I never said that I was particularly skilled at taking pictures of food, people. They were scrumptious! Fresh mushrooms on nachos was a revelation for us. As I recall, the primary difference in our version of this recipe was we added chunks of pre-cooked chicken breasts. It was a meal unto itself. 

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Below I present you with Food pic #2. It’s a chicken breast sauteed in olive oil, slathered with homemade pesto sauce and mozzarella cheese with brown rice and succulent mushrooms on the side. Super simple to make, healthy, and delicious! This is actually on the menu for tonight. 

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Then there’s this gorgeous plate of authentic hummus I enjoyed with warm, fresh pita bread at a middle eastern restaurant in Kansas City when we visited friends there in February. 

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I recently made a pineapple upside down cake and brought it to work. I couldn’t resist snapping this pic below of the jar of maraschino cherries used in this recipe. “Real Cherries * May Contain Pits”. Quite the metaphor for life, don’t ya think?

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Come on, fellow foodies-share your food pics in the comments!

 

 

Grandmother’s Day

In honor of Mother’s Day, I wrote this post last year.

This year, of course, was different for me. On account of  my mom passing away at the end of February.

If I’m being honest, I didn’t miss her this Mother’s Day any more than I miss her every day. Even though she drove me crazy for much of my life.

Finding a Mother’s Day card for my mom each year was a challenge to say the least.  So many of those cards contain gooey messages  about how “you are my  best friend” or “you are my whole world”. Those cards made me want to hurl. They just didn’t capture how I honestly felt. Suffice it to say that my relationship with my mom was complicated.

I usually went with cards that had a simple message and would hand write “I love you, Mom”, because I did. And I always will love her.

So instead of publishing a blog post about Mother’s Day this year, I opted out. I decided that the role that has become more and more important for me personally, is that of Grandma. At this point in my life, I find it a much more positive pursuit.

And just look at this little guy, who I blogged about here.

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So I googled “Grandmother’s Day” and found this:

This July 23, we celebrate National Gorgeous Grandma Day.

NATIONAL GORGEOUS GRANDMA DAY – July 23, 2019 | National …

 

Christopher turned 5 in February. He’s a smart, loving, funny kid. Hubs and I were fortunate enough to celebrate his 4th birthday with him and his mom here in Colorado. As we were about to dive into the birthday cake, Hubs commented with a sparkle in his eye that “someone is going to sleep very good tonight”. Christopher’s response? “That would be me”. So he’s witty too.

During a recent video chat with this little guy, Hubs told him how this summer when we see him he’s going to teach him how to fish. His eyes became wide and a big smile formed on his cherubic face. I asked him what he liked to eat these days, after which we embarked on a silly conversation about cheese pizza covered in frosting.

You see, there is a humongous difference between parenting and grand-parenting. If someone had convinced me way back when, while I was in the throes of mothering my lovely teenage terrors (you know, our spawn are a mere 14 months apart), that I would be rewarded for that feat with a wonderful grandson, it would have made things So. Much. Easier.

But that’s what makes life interesting in my view. The surprises.

So, on Tuesday, July 23rd, I’ll be celebrating grandmotherhood. How? That’s a question I’ll have to ponder for a bit. While it’s more likely that I will not be in the actual company of Christopher that day, maybe I’ll make a special pizza with extra frosting.

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Mother’s Day flowers from my boss in my beautiful new vase. Turtle candle holder courtesy of my mom.

 

 

Political Ponderings on the 2020 Race

When it comes to politics in America right now, I just have so many thoughts and opinions. And I probably watch too much MSNBC. I agree with the many people who have recently said that it’s too early to pick a candidate for 2020. After all, there are over 20 people who have put their hats into the ring for the democratic nomination. I get it.

That said, I still find it interesting from a socially/politically curious standpoint, to pay attention to what the candidates are saying. And what they’re not saying. Follow their campaigns. Call me a political nerd, but seeing how things play out for the Dems fascinates me.

Let me start with some thoughts about  Joe Biden. Now, I think he’d make a fine POTUS. He’s certainly got the experience necessary for the job. The temperament. The skills. But I don’t know that I’m likely to vote for him. I found his YouTube announcement of his candidacy to be earnest, yet lacking. Earnest as he was emphatically and unequivocally stating that he is running to get Trump out of office. Fair enough. I agree with this 100%. But he forgot the part about what he’s aiming to accomplish once he’s (conceivably) the actual Commander-in-Chief.

But as we are all aware, there’s still plenty of time for him to articulate to the American public what he’s going to do for us to improve the state of affairs in this country.  Coming out of the gate identifying himself as the “one” who can defeat Trump in 2020 may have been a genius move on his part. It got everyone talking. It got our attention. Perhaps now that he’s clearly stated that he wants to be the one to evict the Con-Man-in-Chief from the White House, he can move on to substantive issues, such as how he’s going to address the #1 issue (according to me anyway, and for god’s sake hopefully multitudes of other voters), which is climate change. How he’s going to fix our health care system so people are no longer losing their homes and their life savings over medical diagnoses that are out of their control. How he’s going to address immigration, the opiod epidemic, our crumbling infrastructure, our broken educational system, income inequality…I could go on.

Do not take what I have said thus far as an endorsement of Joe Biden. Because there are numerous other viable contenders. Right now, and certainly this is completely subject to change, I’m paying a little extra attention to what Kamala Harris has to say. And Elizabeth Warren. And Jay Inslee. Cory Booker and Mayor Pete of course. There can only be one candidate for the democratic nomination, and by God the Dems better pick a good one. The one who can actually defeat Trump. The one who will move us forward as a nation.

My advice to the Dems is this: work together, people. Be smart. Don’t run each other down. Focus on the issues. Lift each other up when one of you drops out of the race. Communicate to the American public who would be on your cabinet. I think an argument can be made for appointing most of the current democratic contenders a cabinet position, in fact. Examples: Jay Inslee as Secretary of Energy. Cory Booker as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Amy Klobuchar as Attorney General. Joe Biden as Secretary of State. Elizabeth Warren as Secretary of Treasury. Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of the Veterans Affairs.

Bottom line: the Dems need to use the skills, passions, and experience these folks possess and put them in the right positions for this time in our country. No matter who ends up as POTUS.

 

Babblings on Beverages

Kind of like the bag of peppermint tea I sometimes have later in the evenings (to soothe my tummy and chill myself out), an idea has been seeping in my brain about publishing a post about beverages.

Really, ever since I found the groovy blog, Gin & Lemonade…with a twist.  I liked that the first question asked upon joining this delightful blogger’s group on Facebook was “what is your favorite beverage?” My response was “Trader Joe’s mango lemonade with vodka”. Bums me out that this lovely liquid has not been on the shelves at TJ’s the last 4 times I have been there.

So, let’s talk bevvies. Or as my mother in law calls them (the only person I know who uses this word on a regular basis): Beverages.

Here’s a few I would be pleased as punch to serve you if you came over for a visit:

Craft beer. Hey, I live in Colorado, so it’s a given that I’d offer you a beer. There’s so many choices here! If I can assume that you are not a craft-beer aficionado, I’d offer you this one, though it is likely not available at our local liquor store. We’d probably have to get in the car and take a short jaunt to this brewery together, where we could enjoy this fruity, tasty concoction on the lovely deck at Rail’s End.

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Bloody Mary’s. Not the kind with an entire meal perched precariously on top of it. The simple version: tomato juice, vodka, a generous sprinkling of celery salt. Green olives and a celery stick for garnish. It was one of my dad’s favorites.

Colorado Bulldogs. Most people know it as a White Russian.  The only difference really is the splash of coke. It was my parent’s signature cocktail when folks would come to visit them at their cabin. One time, someone’s puppy got into one and got a little squirrely. We all had a good laugh over that.

Chardonnay-ZD. This is a superb wine that Hubs and I discovered during our first UCC Synod (for those not in the know, this is essentially a bi-annual conference for members and delegates of the United Church of Christ, the denomination Hubs and I belong to). No, they weren’t serving it during plenary. Ha! It was at a dockside restaurant in California, where we ate fish and chips with other UCC peeps. We look for it every time we travel somewhere. We found it once and bought it; however it’s got a pretty hefty price tag, so it probably wouldn’t be our go-to wine if it was available here anyway. But of course, I’d find a way to get a bottle or two if you came over!

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Now for the non-alcoholic options: 

Water. I know in some places in this country, heck this world, the tap water isn’t so great. In Two Harbors, Minnesota, however, it comes out of the tap ice cold, clear, and perfect. Here in Colorado, the water is of good quality but it’s not TH water. I don’t understand the people who say they hate the taste of water. It’s like, c’mon, it has no “taste”, no flavor. It’s wet and thirst quenching. And I don’t think I’d get any arguments by saying it goes with everything. Personally, I drink it with most every meal.

Iced tea. Not a beverage I grew up with at all. Hubs did however, so along with those other things one adopts in their married lives, making pitchers of tea with just the right amount of sugar (or in our case, Truvia), is something we do.

Coffee. Hubs and I are both devoted coffee drinkers, like both sets of our parents. We like it dark, roasty, and bold. High-test, if you will. And while I usually keep fresh half and half in my fridge to add to my morning coffee, if you were visiting, I’d spring for a couple of flavored creams so you would have options.

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What’s your favorite beverage choice? Perhaps it depends on your mood, the weather, the time of day. Tell me about it in the comments!

 

Let’s talk characters

When you think about it, all of our lives are filled with characters. Humans with personalities, opinions, and quirks. These characters can energize us, amuse us, and teach us things we otherwise would never have learned. 

To me, the best kind of entertainment, whether it be on the stage, the big screen in a dark movie theater, on the good old boob tube, or within the pages of a novel, incorporates interesting characters. Characters that intrigue us, make us laugh,  and make us wish they were real people in our own very real lives. 

As I ponder publishing the little bit of fiction I began a few months ago, I find it unavoidable to not consider characters I love or have loved, both in real life and in the media.

Those characters that speak to my heart and compel me to write about them. I just can’t imagine coming up with completely original fictional characters without infusing them with at least some pieces of the non-fictional characters I have known.

So let me tell you about a few characters I’ve known. Those who are long gone from this earth who impacted my life in ways they likely never knew.

For instance, the man who taught me how to swim. He was full of life and always had a good joke (some of them quite inappropriate) to tell us. He loved my mom’s cooking and I believe that is one of the main things that endeared him to her. I remember him leading a pack of kids (his grandkids, my nephews) in the “Macarena” dance at my parent’s cabin in the early 90’s. He was a husband, father, teacher, swim coach, and an artist. I have a beautiful piece of his artwork hanging in my guest bedroom in fact. In his spare time, which it doesn’t seem he could possibly had too much of, he did some clowning around with the Shriners. He lived for those times when he could don his wacky rainbow wig and cherry colored nose and delight the children (young and old) in small town parades in the summertime. His funeral was epic, as was the party for his closest family and friends that was held afterwards. He was my godfather.

Then there’s the woman who always had yellow cake, from a box, with chocolate frosting on top sitting in her pantry, waiting for us to devour it when we came to visit. She was terribly hard of hearing and once called Hubs “Cobb” because she thought he was my old boyfriend “Todd”. She loved playing cards and always had the latest National Enquirers and TV guide magazines sitting in racks next to her plastic covered “davenport”. She was a massive fan of wigs, as she found it fun to be able to change her look whenever she damn well pleased. She kept these wigs perched on styrofoam heads on the top shelves of her walk in closet. As a kid, that always scared the shit out of me. She enjoyed herself a cocktail or two and as a result, my cousins christened with the nickname “Pearl Pearl the Party Girl”. She was my grandma.

And finally, there was woman who always had a wonderful rapport with the children she loved, but for reasons only known to her always believed she would not make a good mother, so she remained childless. She had a silly sense of humor as well as a way with the wisecracks. She always said she would have made an excellent boy scout, which everyone who knew her agreed with. She was always prepared, often anticipating the needs of others. She made an awesome Pillsbury dough-boy costume she wore for Halloween. She was a take-charge-but-in-a-kind and loving way sort of person. She paid attention to people and had the very biggest heart. Some of her favorite songs were “Werewolves in London” by Warren Zevon and “Fancy” by Reba McIntire. Every time I hear either of those songs the corners of my mouth do an automatic upturn. She was my (non-biological) sister, my guardian angel, and my best friend.

Tell me, big-hearted readers, who are the characters in your life that have shaped you and informed you as a writer?