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.

Time To Write Some Letters

The USPS is likely to collapse unless the feds agree to bail them out in the next few months. This is not a good thing.

The USPS is an American institution that we have relied on all of our lives. Plus I have a very close friend who is a “lifer” at a post office in Wisconsin. He and hundreds of thousands of other postal workers would lose their jobs, and their health insurance. During a pandemic.

Doesn’t seem right to me.

So I was thinking, what can I do to help? What can others do to help? To try to prevent this from happening? To me, it’s a no-brainer.

Let’s all pledge to start writing letters.

I know, I know, it seems like such a small and possibly futile thing to do. But for those of us who consider themselves to be writers, it should feel natural. Enjoyable. Cathartic, even.

I remember being in high school and getting the name and address of another girl in one of those teeny bopper magazines I consumed on the regular. Her name was Liz and she lived in Pennsylvania. We became pen pals. We wrote each other back and forth every couple of weeks for I believe about 2 years. It was fun. I would send her pictures of me and my friends and she would do the same. It was exciting to get her letters in the mail.

Wouldn’t it be fun to try that again, as adults?

Now I’ve got this sorta weird compulsion to purchase greeting cards. Especially if I’m in some kind of cute little gift shop while traveling. Or when I go to Trader Joe’s (did you know they sell fabulous greeting cards for just $1 a pop?).

Sometimes I pick one because of the art. Sometimes it’s the message. Once in a while, it’s both and I have conjured up the image of it’s recipient on the spot. Now that’s a happy moment for me.

Here’s a sample of what I’ve currently got on hand.

You do you, but what I plan on doing this week is picking one of these cards and writing a few lines to someone I care about. Let them know I’m thinking of them and hoping all is well in their corner of the world. And help out the USPS in the process.

Then, the next week, I’ll choose another card and a different person to send it to. Or maybe I will use the pretty stationary I know I have around here somewhere and get out one of my colored pens and have a go at it. Good thing Hubs purchased approximately 2 years of postage stamps on line the other day.

Seems like a worthy pursuit to me. Who’s with me?

A Happy Mom Story

With Mother’s Day approaching (wait..I know it’s next month…let me check) on Sunday, May 10th, and some time on my hands to ponder things, I’ve decided to do some writing about motherhood.

Now, there are so many ways I can approach this topic. I’ve got 27 years of mothering experience under my belt to draw from. As a mom to 2 very different, sometimes challenging, always determined and quite lovable kids to being mothered by Bonnie, to sharing in the joys and concerns of motherhood with the other mothers I’ve known and loved, I’ve got some stories.

Suffice it to say, “Motherhood” is a huge topic for me.

Today, however, I’m going to rely on my basic mantronym of “Keep It Simple Sister” and tell you a recent story about the kiddo that is currently residing with me and Hubs.

Consider this a #proudmommoment, if you will.

So the 26 year old who lives in my house came home from their part time job at the local discount store a couple of weeks ago and relayed the following: They were at their cashier stand ringing customers up when the cops came in response to a call from the kiddo’s supervisor. The call was made due to the behavior of a disheveled, confused and presumably homeless man. He had been wandering around the store, opening up and consuming snacks. Kiddo found the stern tone the officers were using with this man concerning. They were certain the officers were gearing up to arrest him.

The disheveled man made it to my kiddo’s station where they confessed they had no money to purchase the items in their cart. Kiddo felt sorry for the man and believed he didn’t belong in jail. They decided in that moment to pay for the man’s items. The cops relented and the man was able to obtain all the items he had in his cart. Kiddo was told by their supervisor that if this situation happened again, they would be fired. Despite this, I am proud of the kiddo. They did the right thing.

Had I been in their situation I can’t say I would have responded in the same manner. I am not a rule breaker by nature. I like to think I would have at least advocated for the man, pleaded with the officers to be lenient with him. To cut him a break, show him some compassion.

That same day, kiddo brought this home to us, along with a Thank You card for housing and supporting them until they are in a position to get their own pad.

This kiddo is alright.

What happy stories might you have as mothers (or fathers, I am an equal opportunity blogger after all) that made you proud of your kids? Please share in the comments!

Right Now And Write Now: How I’m Rolling

Things have changed in oh so many ways. And I suspect the changes in my life, both at work and at home, are going to continue, in wild and unexpected ways. For better and for worse. As all of ours will due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I was banished from my workplace yesterday. It came to light via email yesterday morning that I may have had contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 last week. Not anyone at work, but an unknown individual (HIPPA prevents the employer of this person from publicly naming them) at a location where I was picking up items for our food bank.

While I donned a face mask during this pick up and am fairly certain did not get any closer than 6 feet from anyone else there, my employer gave me the rest of the week off (with pay, thankfully) as a precaution.

Me in my office last week. Gawd, I need a haircut.

So here I am now, at home, overthinking everything and anything. Unsure what to do next. Determined to maintain continuous virtual contact with my co-workers, at the ready to answer questions or complete other tasks assigned to me that can be done from home (what those tasks might be remains to be seen, but I am determined to roll with it). In other words, I finally broke down and decided it is in my as well as my employers best interest to sync my personal cell phone to my work email account. I suppose I’ll be setting up a Zoom account on this phone shortly too.

All that said, I am, alas, at home today until next Monday (with maybe one trip to the store in the mix). So clearly I ought to take care of our little sanctuary. Do some cleaning. Organizing. It’ll make me feel better and it will increase our collective level of comfort.

But not until I engage in some serious venting lamenting writing. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been fantasizing about just one day during which I inhabit the role of a full-on, at home, creative writer. One who furiously taps away on her Chromebook drinking an array of beverages all the while-starting with coffee and ending with a glass of fine Pinto Grigio. Wearing the comfiest of clothes , making sure to get up and stretch and/or dance to keep those muscles loose and the mental energy high.

So that’s my plan for today. I think anyway. Because I also know this….

Don't You Know I Have Plans for You? - First Churches of ...

I Can’t Not

Let’s face it: As bloggers and readers, right in this moment, we cannot exactly avoid writing or reading about the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has invaded all of our moments to some degree. Whether waking and/or sleeping. It’s getting all nestled into our psyches.

But we can control how we think of it. How we respond to it. Just like anything else (not like there is anything else to quite compare it to). We can control the amount of time and mental energy we spend on it. But we can’t (though I’d be lying if I didn’t say there’s a part of me that just wants to stay in bed and wait for it to blow over) completely avoid this new reality.

Call me Captain Obvious if you must.

Johnny Depp in his finest role

Now, my thoughts and feelings, and I imagine yours too, are subject to change on this matter. Because we are receiving new information on the pandemic faster than we can process it. This is messing with our heads.

We can go from looking at it as a circumstance that is bringing out the ugliness in people to looking at it as an opportunity for self improvement and noticing the good it brings out in others. I choose option #2.

We can go from focusing on our concerns for the well being of the loved ones who live far from us to the ones who are physically with us in the here and now. I, for one, intend to hug the two other humans and at least one of the furry beings I share my home with as often as I can. Once of course we have shed our outside clothes for our inside clothes (am I the only one who is intentionally shopping online for active wear lounge worthy attire right now?) and properly sanitized ourselves.

We can go from feeling sad about the length of time it may be before we can leave our homes and spend time in those public places we are missing so much to feeling enthusiastic about having more time at home to contemplate life and engage in activities that feed our spirits. Or starting to plan, say travel in the mid-summer that is more likely to occur than not, as I will be doing?

I think it’s of utmost importance for all of us to remember that we are all experiencing this together; collectively. Just from different perches.

There’s no doubt that it’s harder for some of us than others. It’s easier for some of us than others. We all have our unique obstacles in this time, but this pandemic is affecting all of us at the same time.

What lessons do you suppose we will learn?

I think we will learn what we truly value. Who we truly value.

I think we will learn what we are made of. How tough we are. How tough others are. What our weaknesses are, individually and as a society. What we’re capable of.

But let’s not forget this truism:

Getting Reacquainted with my Kitchen

As an optimist by nature I’m finding the benefits of this partial quarantine. I have, as a matter of fact, rediscovered the joy of cooking.

Since the kiddo has moved in, I’ve fallen away from cooking our evening meals. It wasn’t intentional. It’s just that it turns out that in the years this kid was not living in our home, they learned the joy of cooking. And not the kind of cooking they learned from me (read: I am, until fairly recently, a strict recipe follower). The kind of cooking that is more organic. More intuitive. No measuring involved. They use more spices and a wider, and sometimes unexpected, variety of them.

And it turns out they are a really good cook. Quite a delightful surprise for this mom. The image of my mom pops in my head actually when I watch them whipping something delicious on the stove. Which always makes me smile. I think Bonnie would appreciate this.

A few weeks ago, before this partial quarantine (I am still going to work, folks), I remembered the meatball recipe I saw on my charming blogger friend Annie’s blog. And I decided we ought to try it.

Now, I wasn’t able to find smoked sea salt at the grocery store, so I used plain old salt. But I did find hamburger and italian sausage there. In fact, I picked up a pound of each, then split them up, putting half in the freezer for later. Because I assumed that they’d be so delicious I’d want to make them again. I assumed right.

Hubs and the kiddo raved about them. I thought they were scrumptious, though next time (despite my family’s opposition) I will cut down on the red pepper flakes just a bit.

Do yourself a favor and try it! Here’s the recipe: https://givememeatloaf.com/2020/01/31/spicy-italian-meatballs-with-classic-marinara-appetizer/

And here’s my picture of the finished product:

Last Friday at work, we received a large donation of home chef bagged meal kits. So many that I ran out of room for them in our refrigerators. I decided to take a couple of them home and try them. On Sunday, as we watched the remainder of the newest “Jumanji” movie (recommend this if you want some true escapism), I planted myself in our little kitchen and got to work.

There was something about doing that that gave me such comfort. I was being productive and useful. As there was no instructions found in these paper bag meal kits, I was forced to use the ingredients as I saw fit. I used all of them except the kale, sweet potatoes (the kid made homemade treats for Radar with them) and something called “cashew crema”, which resembled the tube feeding liquid someone donated to our food bank once. When I asked Hubs how I thought I should cook the kale, his response was that it needed to be thoroughly washed…then put down the garbage disposal.

After an hour or so, we wound up with this fantastic meal of whole wheat linguine with flavorful marinara sauce (which I doctored up with the shallot and garlic cloves supplied in the kit, along with a dash of red pepper flakes). Accompanied by baked and seasoned chicken breasts smothered in the prepared pesto sauce with pine nuts and bursting-with-flavor grape tomatoes. And all of us, as Annie would say,”lurrvved” it!

So on account of Hubs and I not spending money on our planned trip to Florida with our friends, I decided to do a little splurge. I went online and bought an “Instant Pot”. And I’m determined this new toy of mine is not going to go by the way of the air fryer I bought a couple of years ago (which is now referred to as the tater tot maker). This sucker is going to get used, baby!

How about you all? Are you like me, rediscovering the joy of cooking? Or rediscovering something else that gives you joy with all this unexpected time stuck at home?

Silver Linings

You may think I’m delusional, but there are silver linings in this pandemic situation, don’t you think? I imagine if we all gave it some thought (now that we have more time to think) we could all come up with some.

And I propose that we should all do it now, before the novelty of our new normal starts to fade. Because if we’re being honest, it will.

So I am going to strike while the iron is hot and go first:

  • Getting to know my co-workers better. Because we serve low income seniors, many with underlying health conditions, we have to band together to meet their needs in new and different ways. We are finding ourselves problem solving together on a moment to moment basis it seems. Like drive up service, which we started doing last Friday.
  • We are all learning to be more hygienic, washing our hands for longer, and more thoroughly. Did you see the video clip of Gloria Gaynor singing the 20 second chorus to her hit “I Will Survive”? Wouldn’t it be fun (and smart) to take that to the next level and find other 20 second choruses to belt out while hand washing?

Like this guy did:

  • We have more time to get stuff done around the house. The small projects, like cleaning the refrigerator and a bit of re-decorating, organizing file cabinets. Which can all be done at a leisurely pace, because we have the gift of more time.
  • We have more time for reading and expanding our knowledge base. That’s always a good thing, right people?
  • The leaders are emerging, which gives me hope. Not tRump of course, but others. Governor Cuomo comes to mind.
  • We all get to catch up on those favorite shows we have dvr’d and not yet had the time for. Mine include This is Us, Bless this Mess, and Shameless. What might you all have in the DVR hopper?
  • We get to enjoy live virtual performances from our favorite performers in their homes. Please feel free to share your recommendations in the comments.
  • We get to sleep in more. Huge bonus in my opinion!
  • More time to relax (read:cuddle)with our funny, furry companions.

I know there’s more I’m not coming up with. But I’ve got time to figure it out. As we all do at the moment.

This Was Supposed to Be My Post About Our Florida Vacation

Joke’s on me!

We are not in Florida at the moment. We cancelled our trip, as I know many have had to do because of the Covid-19 virus pandemic. The uninvited scourge on the world that has led beaches to be closed. Along with restaurants, bars, and a head spinning amount of other events.

We are all adjusting to this new normal, right?

The other evening, I was in a mood. Found myself sitting in front of my computer in our home office, searching for some good news. Something uplifting. And I found this:

I’m going to trust that you took the time (you know, the free time that has increased for every one of us because Covid-19 has got us stuck at home for the forseeable future) to watch this.

Several of Tom’s insights got my attention. Like how it’s beneficial to not dwell on the negative and focus instead on the task at hand. Like how if we are honest about our weaknesses we can take advantage of them. How we are forced to be students when adapting to new situations (we are all students now). Like how we are merely a “blip on the timeline in the universe” and we should “act accordingly”.

A lot of food for thought here, right, people? If ever there was a time to encourage interaction between people (virtually of course at the moment), I think now is it.

So please share in the comments your take-aways on this TED talk. It is filled with “truisms” I think, but which ones resonated most with you?

Celebrating Friendship In Florida

I’ve got vacation on the brain. It is all I can think about and therefore all I can write about today.

Hubs and I are flying to Tampa next week (Coronavirus be damned), where we will meet up with one of our long time couple friends (Hubs’ first college roommate and his wife, Lynda) and drive a rental car to a 2 bedroom condo in Siesta Key. Where we will stay for 5 days.

Thanks to being a teenager in the 80’s, this song is on a loop in my brain now

There, we will be celebrating Hubs’ 50th and our upcoming 30th wedding anniversary.

Beyond having our flights and VRBO booked, no other plans have been made. Which is what makes me so excited about this trip (the element of surprise, you know). All four of us have agreed on our priorities while there: lounging on the beach, sipping ice cold adult beverages, and fishing in the ocean. That’s it. No further expectations.

The fishing part is all Hubs’ idea. Not that the rest of us goons hate fishing. It’s just that Hubs adores it. He and I went on a charter boat fishing when we traveled to Islamorada in the Florida Keys to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We both enjoyed it tremendously.

Lynda’s husband is wary of the “devil sun”, as he calls it. He will be slathered from head to toe in sunscreen, wearing a Minnesota Twins baseball cap and reading a newspaper. That is how he rolls, and we all know it.

Lynda and I will enjoy ourselves some chit-chat between our spates of attempting to catch “the big one”. Snort-laughing all the while. That is how we roll.

Of course, I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit there are scenarios in my head of what we might do between the fishing, soaking up the sun on that white sand beach, and downing frozen fruity cocktails. Like kayaking, eating fresh seafood, and souvenir shopping (in tribute to my mom, Bonnie, who never failed to bring us all back tchotchkes when she came back from vacations).

And with the time I’ve left before this vacation, I’m going to be working on a playlist. Cool thing is, my office mate gave me a water bottle with a blue tooth speaker implanted in the cap. So I can take my bottle of cold *whatever* with me wherever we go, unscrew the lid and sync it up to my cell phone and together we can all jam out.

Image result for dance party gif
Like this!

First song I will add to this playlist is going to be this David Byrne song that I discovered by accident. I was in awe of his performance with his talented troupe on SNL the other weekend, and it occurred to me that beyond the major “Talking Heads” hits, I wasn’t very familiar with his music. So I used google to grant my wish of listening to his music and this came up. As I was listening to it, I thought to myself that this is a perfect song to sit and listen to while on a beach in Florida with our friends. Then I looked at the name of the song.

I think it’s a good omen.

How I’m Rolling In The Current

At the tail end of 2019, I submitted in this post that 2020 ought to be my year of “Clarity”. I won’t presume that any of you fabulous readers will hold me accountable for this declaration, so I will do the deed myself.

I’ve gained much clarity in my work life in this new year. The dynamics are changing (new boss) and the expectations my employer has for me in the coming year have been clarified. I’m feeling enthusiastic about the new changes to come and the support that I’m experiencing.

I’m also feeling more clarity in terms of what I am paying attention to. As well as what I’m not giving my attention to. For instance, I’ve decided that for Lent, I’m giving up on stalking a certain state’s court website for updates on the legal status of a person who has wreaked havoc on the lives of my family (for the last 6 years, give or take), specifically it’s most beloved members. I’ve come to realize that this stalking I’ve been doing is draining my mental and emotional energy. Not to mention it’s completely pointless. What happens, happens. Checking it obsessively is not going to impact the outcome.

A musical “epiphany” I had recently drives this realization home for me. It’s from the momentous song we all know by heart: “Let it Be” by the Beatles. The line after “Let it be” is “there will be an answer”. And all this time I’ve been focusing on the “let it be” part. I have faith that there will be an answer, not only in this wretched aspect of my family’s life, but in all things. It’s about faith; letting go and trusting the answer will come.

My 2020 soundtrack is providing me with clarity in how I approach things these days. “Listen as your day unfolds”. That is a great line; the first in “You Gotta Be” by Des’Ree. I see it as a directive for me to pay attention to my environment in the day to day. To pay attention to the people I encounter. The feelings I’m feeling, both emotional and physical. The media I consume.

Clarity with what my writing process is happening as well. I’m honing in on what works and what doesn’t. A prime example is that, per David Sedaris’ suggestion, I’m jotting down my daily observations. I find it to be a sort of therapy in that after I’ve done it, I feel refreshed. It’s helping me sort out what it is exactly that I have to say and how I want to say it.

A rare moment in time with pretty kitty Karl and Radar-ling napping peacefully together.

Before I sign off here, I have a question for you all: What are you clear about in your writing and/or personal life? Right here and right now-in the current?

18 Things That Need To Be in My She Shed

Imagine the tune “If I were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof while you read the following:

If I had a she shed

Doodle doodle doodle

Diddy doodle doodle blam!

All day long I’d write and putz and sing

If I had a sheee shed!

I would of be writing and playing hard

Doodle doodle diddy blam!

If I were a righteous bitch

Doodle doodle doddle diddly blam!

Now that I got that out of my system, here’s what I envision will be in my future “she shed”:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is reglips-e1491316418234-1024x748-1.jpg
  • A small fridge/freezer combo in which to store bottles of Pinot Grigio and Merlot, ice, and pints of gelato.
  • A window with a view of lilac bushes.
  • A good sound system and internet access.
  • A large desk for my chromebook adorned with pictures of family and friends and uplifting artwork. Like the image above.
  • A comfy gray or tan love seat with large matching pillows.
  • A large vision board hanging on the wall above the aforementioned (leather) love seat.
  • A sturdy bookshelf that I get from a thrift store and up-cycle.
  • Hearty plants in colorful pots of varying shapes and sizes.
  • A special little table to keep essential oils, diffusers, and candles. This place is going to smell goooood.
  • A comfy yet indestructible dog bed for Radar.
  • A microwave. To heat up my peppermint tea or to make nachos.
  • A Keurig coffee maker with an array of caffeinated options.
  • A pair of bean bag chairs. So when I invite a friend or two over, we have comfy places to sit down and shoot the shit.
  • A dart board. Pictures of OWM to affix to it for when I feel the need to rage against the patriarchal machine.
  • A special basket to house all my fuzzy socks.
  • A ceiling fan for when the hot flashes emerge.
  • A sink, so I can properly clean up when I knock over a glass of wine or the essential oil diffuser.
  • A velour blanket to drape around myself on chilly mornings.
The original version, by the Monkees, is featured on my Soundtrack for 2020. Plan to learn this on my ukulele ASAP.