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Going Straight to Gems

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you may recall me mentioning the term “Gems”. I believe I at least alluded to my plan for writing about “Gems” on an ongoing, regular basis in a recent post.

The reason I’m bringing it up now is because I am ready to start this series.

One small thing that you ought to know about this new endeavor of mine is that I have decided to go against what I said here about who “Gems” are to me. After thinking about it for a bit, I realized there is no good reason to exclude those of the male persuasion from being a “Gem” that I write about in this little blog.

I mean, not everything I think, say or feel (or publish) is written in stone. I’m subject to change (fyi-the original title for this blog). Isn’t that a good thing?

So here I go. I’m going to start with a recent “Gem” story. Diving in here.

I have been a fan of the online shopping site Etsy for several years now. I love the act of thoughtfully purchasing a handmade gift for those I love. Because unfortunately, unlike Bonnie and Rabbie (both Gems to me), I possess little talent with arts and crafts. And I love to support small businesses and artists.

I started shopping for gifts on Etsy back when I lived in Wisconsin, in our “Grandma house” on 30th St.

Fast forward to now. Living in Colorado. Still ordering on Etsy when the moment strikes. So I’ve got some wall space that needed to be filled in my living room. I found the perfect item on Etsy and placed the order.

A couple of weeks passed and I thought to myself “it should be here by now”. Then I got a call from Linda, the realtor who sold us our house on 30th St., then 2 years later sold that house for us to a nice divorced woman named Kathy.

Linda said that Kathy called because she received a large package via Fed Ex for me. Kathy wanted to know our phone number so she could contact us and figure out how to get the package to us in Colorado.

Oh my! I was embarrassed, as it was then I realized that in my excitement about obtaining this particular wall art, I apparently failed to notice that the address box checked for shipping was the one on 30th St. and not the one here in Colorado (that address on my Etsy account has since been deleted). Of course I told Linda to please give my number to Kathy and we’ll work it out from there.

So Kathy calls me. She noted it was a big package and it came from Lithuania! I told her that I loved shopping on Etsy for handmade items like this and apologized for my screw-up. She said she spoke to Fed Ex and they told her the easiest thing to do is just have them ship it to me. I told her she could go ahead and just return it to sender and I’d re-order it. I didn’t want her to go through any hassle.

Her response? She said it was no big deal, she was going somewhere that Friday and she would pass by Fed Ex so she would just send the package to me. I thanked her profusely and told her that I’d reimburse her the cost.

So how nice is this lady? She’s a gem, that is what she is. In our conversation, we talked about how much we both loved that little old house. She updated me on the next door neighbors, who now have a baby who is just starting to walk. She said she regularly sees the neighbors who lived across the street, Larry and Helen, at the assisted living facility where she works. They sold their cute little house, where they lived for 35 years and raised their 5 kids, shortly after we sold ours and moved out to Colorado. Kathy also shared that after seeing *now* her house her friends declared that the large unfinished basement was the perfect party spot. She said every year now she hosts a Euchre tournament there on New Year’s Eve.

I loved hearing all of this. I love knowing how much she loves and appreciates that sweet little house that was once ours.

About a week after our last conversation, I received my lovely new handmade wall art and put it up above our living room couch. I sent Kathy a check to reimburse the $19 she paid to have it sent to me. I included a gift card to Olive Garden that I had won in a silent auction last year. It was the least I could do.

Me, perched on my couch this weekend under my lovely new Etsy wall art

Respite Sunday

Happy Sunday (or Saturday or Monday, if you live outside the U.S.)!

I’ve decided just for today I’m taking a break (aka respite) from my Alphabet Soup Challenge.

I wanted to pause for a beat to tell you all that I may skip publishing a time or two in the next couple of weeks, because Eldest and our grandson are coming to visit soon. For a whole week! This is the longest period of time they will have ever been here for. Eldest was furloughed from her job until at least the end of this month due to the slow down in business for her employer thanks to Covid-19.

Despite the fact that our grandson just started 1st grade a few weeks ago (in person) it seemed like the perfect moment to have the two of them come for a visit. This is going to be so much better than when they typically come to see us, in November or May, when the temps are not as pleasant as they are in the beautiful month of September.

So instead of finishing a publishing whatever the next post will be in my “Alphabet Soup Challenge” today, I’m going to give the house a good cleaning, dust off the old Fall/Halloween decor (and set up the new stuff I got yesterday) and decorate the house so it’s all comfy, cozy, and clean for my beloveds.

Please click on the link below to enjoy one of my favorite dancing tunes!

****Header image courtesy of https://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/home-is-where-the-heart-is.html

At Home Retreats

It occurred to me whilst sitting on the toilet in our downstairs half-bath that capturing a photo of this was something I needed to do. It’s a weird display for sure, but it really got me thinking.

Kiddo’s artwork overseeing a book that gives me anxiety.

First though, it got me feeling. Overwhelmed at the concept of visiting 1,000 places before I die. A ridiculously tall order. Fortunately, I have perused this book just enough to know that I don’t actually want to visit all of them, or even most of them. Just a small portion. Maybe 2.5%. So 25 places, right? That might be doable. “Might” being the key word here.

Anyway, then it got me thinking if there were 1,000 places in my house right now that I could “visit” and capture photos of. And make a whole blog post about it. I mean, besides my workplace, right now I’m just here at home, thanks to Covid-19.

Then I realized that would be bonkers, not to mention excruciatingly boring for any of the dear souls who happened to attempt to read that blog post.

So that idea was scrapped.

With my down time these days, I’ve been trying to spruce this joint up. Ordered a few decorative items on Wayfair. Currently pondering a purchase of a cool looking framed map of the world to hang above the futon in our office. Created a list of small home projects for Hubs to do this spring. I’m aiming to give this place some TLC; to make it more “us”. Make it feel more of a sanctuary that induces comfort.

But I’ve also been day-dreaming about how things might be, if instead of living here in our small-ish Colorado townhome, we were living in one of our previous houses during this stay-at-home order. Some of those houses had amenities that I loved but would appreciate so much more right now.

Specifically, the spots in the last two houses we lived in where I could retreat. By myself. To do my own thing. Sit and think. Listen to music or a podcast. Paint my toenails. I think these days, for those of us living with others during this pandemic, having a special spot inside your four walls all to yourself once in a while is necessary for mental well-being.

Maybe it’s your bedroom. Maybe it’s your home office. Maybe it’s your walk-in closet. Maybe it’s whatever space is available when you need it. It’s a place just for you when you need to think your own thoughts without being interrupted. To collect yourself and get reacquainted with your inner self. To indulge in some healthy daydreaming.

This brings to mind the cover of a great old Beach Boys song, which was performed by Fiona Apple and Jakob Dylan for the documentary soundtrack “Echo in The Canyon”, which I had the pleasure of watching a few weeks back.

Do yourself a favor and take a listen:

The first house we purchased in Wisconsin had a massive deck attached to the back. If we lived there right now, I’d be taking regular respites on it to simply soak up the greenery, the peace and quiet, and the sunshine.

Hubs in his happy place, grilling out for friends on the deck of our first house in Wisconsin.

If we lived in the house on 30th Street right now, the fixer-upper “Grandma” ranch style house we bought in Wisconsin after selling the house with the great big deck, I’d enjoy “me” time on that groovy 3-season porch. I’d open the shades up to let the sun in. I’d use the large floor space to do some morning stretches and a few yoga poses. I’d sit on one of those comfy deck chairs with my feet propped up and read a book. And I’d have the option to grab a “zero gravity” lounging chair to catch some rays in the beautiful fenced in back yard.

Our eldest and her beautiful boy with me in the 3 season porch in our house on 30th Street on her first Mother’s Day

How about you all? Do you have a space in your home to retreat to all by your lonesome? I hope that is the case for each and every one of you in this wacky time.

The Upside of The Slow Down

Life has slowed down and I kinda like it.

Don’t get me wrong-I wish Covid-19 and the stay-at-home order that resulted from it didn’t exist.

However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit having my life slow down as a result didn’t have its benefits.

I’d also be lying if I told you I didn’t miss getting a massage every couple of weeks (my shoulders and my right hip are killing me, people!). I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t miss going to church every Sunday and embracing my friends there. I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t miss jumping into the car with Hubs and the kiddo to enjoy a cold brew amongst our neighbors at one of our local brew pubs.

I’d really be lying to you if I said I was not speaking from a place of privilege. My lamentations are merely temporary inconveniences.

So on that note, I’d like to share what I believe have been the positive results of the “stay at home” order since it began, what, 6 weeks ago?

WORK

I have a much deeper appreciation for going into the office Mon-Fri.

I ended up being quarantined at home for 2 full weeks which I wrote about here, due to a possibility that I had contracted Covid-19 from an individual that was present in the same facility as I was who tested positive. I never became symptomatic, thank God.

Because of this, my role at the agency changed essentially overnight. I was tasked to begin a new program, which we had recently acquired grant money for. It involves calling our clients to check in as a “friendly visitor”. Now, making these phone calls was quite enjoyable for me. And with Hubs working from home (until the end of the year actually) and the kiddo for the most part doing their own thing and working part time, the environment in this house was quite conducive for it.

However.

OMG, you guys, I sooo missed seeing the faces of my co-workers. I missed organizing the food bank. Receiving donations. Handing out food (via curb side pick up) to our hungry clients. The damn Keurig machine. I missed dressing in my work clothes, especially as I had gone out clothes shopping prior to everything getting shut down. I had nowhere to wear my new frocks!

I made my triumphant return to the office last Monday. Woo-hoo! Fortunately, things were not in disarray when I returned. My co-workers and our lovely volunteers got the job done in my absence. And while I continued my new work project, I also was able to help with managing the food bank and procuring more food donations. While wearing my new duds and enjoying myself a cup here and there of dark roasted coffee courtesy of our beloved Keurig machine.

HOME

I have embraced my homebody tendencies.

I mentioned in a recent post how I had been getting re-acquainted with my kitchen. That has continued. The jury is out with the Instant Pot, but that is a whole nother story. With the temps increasing, the grill is starting to get more use as is our dear Crockpot. And Sundays have now been declared “Dessert Day” because it gives me something enjoyable to do while I jam out to my Google playlists and well…dessert.

We are also “family-ing” (a coin termed by my MIL) in a more intentional way these days. We have created some silly art:

Paper hearts in our window to show solidarity for the Covid-19 stay at home order.

We have spent time listening to music and strumming along with our guitar (Hubs) and ukulele (now mine). We have played games on the Jackbox TV app (Guesspionage was especially fun). We have played laser pointer games with our furry housemates. We have gotten outside with these darling creatures for neighborhood walks. We are having more meaningful conversations with each other. All things that may not have occurred had it not been for the Covid-19 stay-at-home order.

And seriously, thank the good Lord for the ability we have to video chat with our loved ones. Seeing their faces and hearing their laughter this mom/daughter-in-law/grandma is simply the best.

I am excited about the possibility that once summer is in full swing, we will be safe to venture out into the big wide world again (excuse me while I indulge my optimistic tendencies). But I do hope to maintain this mentally healthier balance between being busy (I dare you to recall the last time you heard anyone tell you how busy they are) and just being. Because this is the lesson I want to have learned from this.

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 ...

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.

Thankfulness Equals Happiness

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Later tonight my spawn and spawn’s spawn will be here in my house. That is my focus. My priority. I am so full of joy that we will all be together for this holiday weekend. I am one flipping fortunate broad.

But first I shall blog.

I think it’s important to count our blessings, whatever they may be. This past Sunday at church, our friend who led the children’s message read a book aloud about thankfulness. It ended with the line “We are not thankful because we are happy. We are happy because we are thankful”. Simple and true. Here’s just a few examples of what I am thankful for in the here and now:

  • The comforts of my Colorado home

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  • My smart, beautiful, capable and kind adult kids

  • Hubs and our wonderful grandson

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  • This guy

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Radar loves his pineapple turned pac-man chew toy

  • My sense of humor. It gets me through a lot. This commercial is SO me.

 

 

  • Meaningful work. In my job, I get to procure nutritious and delicious food for aging adults. And give it to them. What a joy this is for me.

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A Thanksgiving card from an appreciative food bank client

  • Writing my blog. I think back to my much younger self knowing it would blow her mind if she knew then that once she turned 50, she’d be pouring out her feelings, thoughts, and dreams out into the universe via a home computer. And that people would actually choose to read it.
  • That these two were my parents. This will be our first holiday season with both of them gone. It is so bittersweet for me. I’m grateful they are no longer suffering and beyond grateful for all they taught me and the love they gave.

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Life is good! God is good all the time!

 

Please join with me in the spirit of Thanksgiving and share pics of what you are thankful for in the comments!

Happy-Thanksgiving-Quotes

 

 

 

My first Dream house

Hubs and I just got back from spending the better part of a week in the house I grew up in.

Because my mom died.

The last good picture of me and Mom (July 2018)

I’m going to be processing this fact for a good long while.

But for now, let me tell you a little about this special house.

It’s a small house that was filled with a lot of love. It’s very old but well maintained, because of my dad’s abilities with carpentry, plumbing, and virtually everything else.

As the story goes, my grandfather (whom I never met), at the age of 58, had a massive heart attack and died while standing in the archway between the tiny kitchen and the dining area of this house.

Both of my parents had experiences with his presence in that house over the years. It never scared them at all. I think they found it comforting.

This is also the house my father grew up in. He bought it from my grandmother. Between about 1960 and 1985, he and mom raised me, and my older sister and brother in this house.

The kitchen is quite small. I’m always amazed that despite not having more than 5 feet of counter space to work with, my mom always churned out delicious, homemade meals for us each and every night. The woman had a knack for using small spaces as efficiently as possible. It’s too bad she never got an opportunity to visit Ikea, with their mock up small spaces that have cleverly placed nooks and crannies for housing all the necessities for day to day living.

This is the house in which my two teenaged siblings threw a wild party at, in about 1974, while our parents were on a Las Vegas vacation. The party where 7 year old me was slathered with attention and plied with sandwiches and other treats in an attempt to ensure my silence. I, of course, being the bratty little sister, immediately told on them once our parents got home.

This is the house where my dad, fully immersed in his Alzheimer’s fog 2 years ago, gestured towards the corner of the living room, and relived, for me and mom, the delight he experienced in that very space where 75 years prior, his father sat with him and read stories.

This is the house where, back in the 80’s, my best friend burned a hole with her cigarette on the handmade-by-mom quilt that covered my 4 poster bead while my parents were out of town for the weekend. I lived in fear from that day on that mom would notice that little burn hole. But, surprisingly, she never did. 

Yes, the quilt (as our bright 5 year old grandson said: that sounds like it starts with the letter “Q”!) came back home to Colorado with us.

This is the house where people gathered to celebrate. From mom’s bridge club nights to family/friends steak fries during the summer in the backyard to high school graduation parties to wedding present openings.

This is the house where my writing dreams began.

*This post was in response to a prompt from lovely Lorna from Gin & Lemonade: “Dream House”. And in response to the emotions involved in the passing of my one-of-a-kind mother. https://ginlemonade.com/2019/02/13/house-hunting-as-a-wheelchair-user-other-stories/