Category Archives: Hope

Looking Forward

This past year, I found myself in a place where, for the first time in my life, I believe I understood what depression feels like. I put full blame for this on the Covid-19 pandemic. It really threw a wrench in my moods and my attitude.

I think it showed in some of my blog posts. Sorry about that.

Sure, I started a new job back in August and that lifted my spirits, infused me with some energy and ambition. But the days became the same it seemed. While for the most part, I liked (and still do like) having a daily routine, I often felt bored. Uninspired. Unmotivated. My interest in things I historically enjoyed doing waxed and waned.

I believe one reason behind this is that I didn’t have anything to really look forward to. No concrete plans. No fun activities on the immediate horizon. Unlike a post I penned back in 2018.

You can all relate, right?

What helped, especially on those particularly “blah” days, was saying out loud what I am glad about. Sort of like the “Glad Game” I’ve heard about from the “Pollyanna” movie which I have not yet seen (what is wrong with me???!!)

Typically I would spout this out while driving our truck to work. Naturally, doing this was harder some days than others. But once I did it, my spirits lifted. My attitude shifted to one of gratitude. I recognize that sounds cheesy-but it’s the truth, Ruth.

Let me give you an example. As I started backing out of the garage one morning, I said “today I am glad that after work I’m getting a massage. And I had a good night’s sleep last night. And I started a new blog post”. It’s all just simple things, specific to that day. Focusing on what is truly good in the moment and not wishing things were different or thinking that they ought to be.

But now things are really starting to look up for me. For you, too, I think. We’ve got a new administration in the People’s House who is taking this pandemic head-on. Covid-19 cases are starting to plummet. More and more of us are getting vaccinated (for me, as an essential worker, I ought to be getting my first dose by mid-March).

I may be jinxing it, getting ahead of myself…but I think it’s *safe* to begin to think about what there is to look forward to in the near-ish future. You know, those things we couldn’t do because the pandemic kept us home for the most part.

What’s on your list?

Here’s mine:

  • A date with Hubs, the scientist who has been far more informed and conscientious re: Covid-19 than most, to shop at Trader Joe’s in Boulder and have lunch at the nearby Panera.
  • Visiting our favorite local brew pub, Twenty Brew, which I am thankful is still in business. It’s been too long since we’ve been there to try new brews and visit with the owner, Dave, and his charming bartenders.
  • Chatting in person with our church friends at church. Hosting “coffee hour” where I get to share sweet goodies I made in the little kitchen in our townhome the day before.
  • A weekend in Idaho Springs with Hubs. Where we get to soak in the communal hot springs and check out the local cuisine and quirky shops. Maybe we will stay at Ms. Vicki ‘s B&B again.
  • A day trip to Estes Park. Hiking. Taking in the astonishingly beautiful scenery, both on the drive up and while hiking amidst it’s majesty.

Now I know that realistically some of these things will not happen anytime soon. If I’m extraordinarily fortunate, they will all take place before the end of the summer. But if only a portion of them happen, it’s all good.

If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s to appreciate what is and to keep my expectations reasonable.

Late Bloomer

“It doesn’t matter when you bloom, it matters that you do”. This is a lyric in the song “Late Bloomer” by The Secret Sisters.

Isn’t it powerful? Sweet, comforting, encouraging?

I can relate to the message of this song. I feel that in a lot of ways, I am a “late bloomer”. Especially considering how long it took me to obtain my license as a social worker.

I was 40.

As a freshman English major at a state university in the 1980’s, I took an elective class entitled “Social Welfare”. Within probably a couple of months, I changed my major to Social Work. The idea of getting out there in the world and helping people in a tangible way really appealed to me. Learning more about the injustices in the world made me want to get out there and make a difference in struggling people’s lives. To fight for the rights of the disadvantaged.

I was going to be a Social Worker.

Fast forward about 20 years. I hadn’t achieved that goal yet. Upon graduating with my B.S. in Social Work, I found myself in great need of employment, as Hubs was still in school and only able to work part time. I was unable to find a job in Social Work in our college town, so I found myself working full time as a customer service rep.

Then came my first pregnancy, a short stint in Lubbock, Texas so Hubs could attend grad school, and then a very unexpected second pregnancy. We moved on back to Minnesota at that point so we could be closer to family while we navigated our journey to becoming a family of four.

Life for about the next eight years was a blur of Hubs working rotating shifts forecasting the weather and us doing our best to keep our kids fed, healthy, and safe. The only ambition I had was to earn money to ensure we could maintain a decent standard of living. My dream of becoming a social worker was put on the back burner and I fell into a couple more customer service jobs.

But the dream never really died. After being relocated to Wisconsin for a new job for Hubs, I was hired as a case manager for a non-profit which served adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Finally I had an opportunity to work in the field that meant something to me. I made a lot of great friends and gained valuable experience in the eight years I worked there. The dream truly re-kindled itself during a staffing I attended for one of my clients with their social worker. I had an epiphany: there was nothing this social worker had over me other than a license.

So right around my 40th birthday, I drove to a nearby city and took and passed the test. I had never felt so confident about myself or more in charge of my future than I did in that moment.

I went on to have a great eight years working as a certified Social Worker at a managed care organization, serving adults with physical and intellectual disabilities as well as those with mental health diagnoses. I found myself using the skills and experience I gained in my customer service jobs as well as my case manager job.

I may not be working as a social worker any longer, but I’m blessed to be in a position where I’m connecting people in need to the food they and their families require to thrive, as a food pantry coordinator.

Who else out there identifies as a late bloomer? I’d absolutely love to hear your stories in the comments.

And of course, I’m sharing the song. The video is beyond precious.

*****Header image courtesy of https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/do-good-things-come-to-late-bloomers/

About 2021

In years past I have ushered in the new year with gusto. With great big plans, ideas, intentions. Not so much this year.

That said, I do remain an optimist. I don’t foresee that ever changing. However, after 2020, I’m a little wiser. More cautious. More realistic. More measured in how I approach things.

So I’m not going to tell you all about the 4 things I intend am determined to do wish to have the time to master in 2021. I’m keeping that to myself for the moment.

I’m going into this year with my head on straight. As if I’m walking into a dark room I am unfamiliar with. Keeping my wits about me. Taking careful, slow, steps. Lowering my expectations to prevent disappointment. Using all of my senses to navigate this new year.

The one thing I am going to be intentionally focusing on now that the new year is upon us: doing my best each and every day (from the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, which I wrote about here but not about this particular agreement, but whatever).

I think it’s worthwhile, as one who is taking the agreement of “doing your best” seriously, to ponder what that looks like. What does it mean for me personally?

One of my most inexcusable faults is that I am rarely on time for anything. I consistently fall into this weird mind trap, when I’m getting ready to go somewhere, of believing that I have time to do just one more thing before I hit the road. And I’m wrong about that 99% of the time. So I’m ‘fessing up. I know it pisses some people off when I waltz in 5 (or more) minutes late. It calls negative attention to myself and I need to Cut.It.Out. I’ve started focusing on getting places on time for real in the last couple of weeks. I think thus far I’ve made it on time about 25% more frequently than before. Give or take.

There are other areas in my life, well really all areas in my life, where I must do my best each day. Like putting in my best effort at work. Not putting any tasks off until “tomorrow” that I have the time and energy to do today. Listening to others when they speak and not hesitating to ask for clarification to ensure I understood what they meant.

Thing is, doing my best each day is within my control. And if I can look back on my day and agree with myself that I did my best, regardless of my mood, if I felt rested, or if I was tested-well, then I won’t have any regrets. And peace will reign within me.

Inauguration Day and that “U” Word Again

So Wednesdays are typically the day I publish a blog post. Today is Wednesday as well as Inauguration Day for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

It’s a big fucking deal.

I published a post not long ago where I pondered the word “unprecedented” in relation to the year 2020. It is a word that is (to use another “u” word) ubiquitous to that year. A multitude of unprecedented shit went down. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has sadly claimed so many lives. Political unrest. Domestic terrorism in our nation’s capital.

Also unprecedented is the diversity of the individuals chosen for the new White House administration. The state of Georgia turning blue is unprecedented. The number of Americans who voted in this past election is unprecedented.

One of my IRL and Facebook friends, Eldree, posted the other day about this word and how it could be used in a positive manner going forward into 2021. This inspired me to think about all the “unprecedented” positive changes that I am hopeful for as a result of the Biden/Harris administration.

Unprecedented bi-partisan support for an economic stimulus package to address the needs of Americans financially struggling due to the pandemic.

Unprecedented job growth

Unprecedented racial reconciliation

Unprecedented access to quality mental health services

Unprecedented care for our global environment

Unprecedented drop in homelessness

Unprecedented levels of civic engagement

Unprecedented investment in our educational system

Unprecedented overhauls in our nation’s police departments

Unprecedented justice for those who lost their lives due to racism and domestic terrorism

Today is a new day. The beginning of something better.

The late great Ray Charles

***Header image courtesy of https://livewallpaperhd.com/american-flag-wallpaper-hd-16110/***

Embracing The Merry

I think for those of us that celebrate Christmas, whether in a secular way, a non-secular way, or a combination of both (like me), we can all agree that this year the holiday season is different.

Obviously, the reason it’s different this year is because of Covid-19. No in-person holiday parties like in years past. Worries about loved ones who may be alone for the holiday. The inability to travel and employment uncertainty.

Out of spite, as in “screw you, Covid-19, I’m not going to let you steal my joy”, I’m embracing this Christmas even more than I have in the past. Like it’s a life boat. Doing this, I think, is a healthy coping mechanism for these times.

We here in this house are gorging on all the Christmas movies. Not so much the cheesy, predictable, brainless Hallmark channel varieties (though they do certainly have their place). I’m talking the classics: “A Christmas Story”, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”, “Elf”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Christmas Vacation”, “Love Actually” and more. The ones we all know the best lines to. The ones that fill us with a giddy joy and warm our hearts.

Our little townhome has been properly adorned with all the Christmas decorations inside and soon Hubs will be putting up the lights outside. We’ve even chosen to string multi-colored lights along the periphery of our living room and around the windows. We didn’t do this the previous years we lived here.

All of the Christmas cookies have been made to send to our loved ones in three different states. The presents have been purchased (online) and received. Names have been picked at work for our “Secret Santa” exchange.

Special desserts will be made. A drive through the local holiday light display for charity is happening this year.

One of my blogger friends, Crystal, wrote this lovely post which prompted me to read Luke. I was compelled by the passage in Chapter 3:
John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”, to do a quick clean out of my kitchen cupboards to donate to the food pantry I now run. I think it’d be so cool if others did the same.

I’m determined to suck the marrow out of this Christmas season.

Who’s with me?

**Header image circa 1984 posing with a friend as Christmas elves/mannequins in the front window of Bonnie’s Clothes Bar**

How I’m Rolling These Days

I’m in a funk mentally and tired physically. Covid-19 has worn me down. No, I don’t actually have it. Thank God.

Both my eldest and my sister had it though. Both have recovered. Thank God for that too.

Wearing a mask all the time bites the big one. I get overheated and my nose is always itchy beneath it. Working more hours is sapping my energy for all the other things I want and need to do. But I am employed at a place that does amazing things to help those in need and I have wonderful, hard-working co-workers. Thank God for that too.

There are no fun plans on the horizon for me and mine because of Covid-19. But I’m certain there will be fun times further ahead, probably next summer when we have had reasonable adults in the White House for a bit who believe in science and ensure everyone has been vaccinated against this monster. Thank God for that!

I’ve not been as consistent as I like to be with writing and publishing blog posts lately because my energy is going elsewhere. But I managed to write this today. Thank God for that?!

I can’t see my church friends I miss in person because of Covid-19. Yet our pastors and talented musicians and volunteer tech support has come a long way with their ability to put together a virtual service over these past several months. I plan on watching the service this morning cuddled up on the couch with Hubs and Radar. Thank God for that.

Despite not spending as much time blogging these days, I’m still getting views, comments, and followers. I am so grateful for that. It’s heartwarming for me. Thank God for each and every one of you.

I wish all of you a blessed day. I hope you are all well and are able to find things to be thankful for in your lives. Even if you have to work through the things you are not so thankful for first.

Please share with me how you are “rolling” these days. You know I love to hear from you!

Sometimes Gems Are Gents

I knew back in February of this godforsaken year when I watched David Byrne and his crew perform on SNL that I wanted more of it.

It wasn’t until I saw another blogger posting about it then read the Esquire interview with Byrne and Spike Lee and realized they collaborated to bring Byrne’s Broadway show “American Utopia” show to the masses via HBO, that I was able to actually get more of it.

I watched it at home with Rabbie and I was enthralled. I hope you all have the good sense to watch it yourselves. I’m not going to even attempt to explain what it was all about, mainly because I know I’d miss something important.

But I will say this: David Byrne’s “American Utopia” is weird. In the very best of ways. There’s of course the music, which is so jubilant. There is the oddly intriguing interpretive dance. There are the wonderfully talented, multi-cultural musicians and dancers backing it all up. There is much food for thought. It’s cerebral. But it’s not so cerebral that it’d be over anyone’s heads if that makes sense. Ultimately, it’s a celebration of humanity and community.

This phenomenally cool show along with the uplifting and worthy-of-your-time website David heads up, is part of what makes him a “Gem” to me. A national fucking treasure.

Within the website, https://reasonstobecheerful.world/, you will find well-written, thoughtful, fascinating, and inspiring articles. It’s essentially the good news we all need these days. I’ve known of this website for probably a year now, but hadn’t kept up with it. I allowed myself to instead pay attention to Facebook, Twitter, MSNBC, and NPR to keep current on things. That is going to change, as I’m re-committing myself to reading an article or two daily on this website.

Because of David Byrne, I’m also doubling down on focusing on the positive. The good stuff that will expand my understanding of things and leave me feeling more hopeful. While by nature I am an optimist, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take a bit of work to maintain that optimistic outlook, especially with the plethora of bad news and bad attitudes lurking in every corner of the internet and in the news.

I think we need more people in the world like David Byrne. The people who think outside the box. The intelligently quirky ones. The question askers. The forward thinking folks who have a sense of genuine curiousity about the world and the people who inhabit it. The creative problem solvers who generously share their talents and insights to make the world a better place for all of us.

Let me leave you with what is probably my favorite Talking Heads tune.

***Header image art by none other than Mr. Byrne himself courtesy of http://www.davidbyrneart.com/?portfolio=love

What Can We Agree On?

The seed that sparked this post was a comment made recently on one of my blog posts. In that post, I simply stated “Yay-Biden/Harris won”. Now those aren’t fighting words, are they? Yet, another blogger chose to tell me they were glad that I expressed this. Because then they could “block” me.

I found her comment humorous and ridiculous. When I read a blog post and don’t agree with what the blogger is saying, I tend to keep it to myself. Choose in silence to not follow them. It was the first time I can recall that anyone on the interwebs stated they would not follow me because of my political persuasion.

Of course, my response to this blogger was not helpful at all. I said “You do you, Sweetheart!”. That was admittedly snarky of me and later made me feel like a jerk.

But here’s the thing: aren’t we all in this together? Aren’t we all Americans? Aren’t there some basic things we can all agree on?

The extremism is really pissing me off these days.

Yes, I am very pleased that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be our next President and Vice President. I think they are earnest and are going to try their best to unite us and enact policies to put us all on a better path. I’m not going to take that back.

But there are almost half of us that don’t agree with that, which of course is their right. But is it helpful that a percentage of those folks are digging in their heels and refusing to acknowledge that Trump really truly lost this election? Doesn’t it make sense for them to put down their weapons, so to speak, and acknowledge reality?

I sure think it does. I’m hoping that they agree with that before long. It’s in everyone’s best interest, regardless of what particular political party they are aligned with.

For those of us on the other side, many of whom were often spouting re: Trump “well he’s not my President” after he was elected in 2016, they need to stop gloating. It is not helpful. While I was unhappy when he got elected, I didn’t go around saying “well, he’s not my President”, because I did not think it was helpful in any way. And it wasn’t the reality.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this blog is not a political one. It is however, my blog. And since I see my blog as being running commentary of life from my perspective in the here and now, it would not feel right for me to keep my politics completely off the table.

Ultimately, I want to be helpful here. I want to engage with others and lift them up. I want to be radically hospitable and open minded within this blog and in my real day to day life.

So, that leads me to this final question: what do you think we can all, as Americans, agree upon?

I think answering this question is a way to start healing. To start coming together. We have to start somewhere.

I will go first with: I think we can all agree that (more) change is coming in American society, whether we welcome it or not. We are all going to have to accept that. We’re going to have to get off our high horses for the greater good.

You Ought To Know About This Gem

Okay, so here’s the deal: I am anxious as hell right now about what the outcome will be of the Presidential election happening in approximately 48 hours from now.

It’s good that I’ve been busier at work lately, having increased my hours. It was good for my soul to participate in a “Trunk or Treat” event (where everyone wore masks and gloves) yesterday afternoon. Seeing all the kiddos in their costumes really lifted my spirits. Distractions for me right now are a blessing.

Today I am determined to remain positive and share something positive with you all. Maybe it’ll give you some hope for our collective future as it did for me.

I caught this story on the news earlier this week about a 14 year old Indian American girl from Frisco, Texas who just won 3M’s “America’s Top Young Scientist” prize for discovering a key for a possible treatment for Covid-19.

Now, I don’t know what you were doing at 14, but I know I was not winning any contests based on my intelligence. The only “contest” I was trying to win at that time was “girl all the boys want to date”.

This brilliant young woman’s name is Anika Chebrolu and I think she is amazing. She gives me hope for the future. Her parents must be so very proud.

It astounds me that at 14, she has such a massive intellect and she is so well-spoken. So composed and mature beyond her years. She is an example of the kind of “Gem” that we ought to pay attention to and support.

I read a few articles about her and this is the one I found most informative. I’m certain this “Gem” is going places in the scientific world!

***Amazingly perfect header photo courtesy of https://seattleawis.org/awis-events/gems/

After November 3rd 2020

I refer to former Vice President Biden as “The Bridge” because that is how I see him.

Assuming he wins the election, it doesn’t seem likely he will have two terms as POTUS to me, given his age. But I think of him as “The Bridge” that will get us from the shitty place we are in as a country to a better place. He’s going to get the ball rolling, with the help of Kamala and all the other smart and capable people he will put in his cabinet.

Then after his 4 year term is done, the torch will be passed to someone who will continue Joe’s legacy.

Here’s what I’m hoping to see once (fingers and toes crossed) Joe and Kamala are in their new jobs:

Everyone gets masks, hand sanitizer, easy access to free and reliable Covid-19 test kits, a vaccine, and clear health education and guidance (supported by the administration) from the world’s top health experts. Like…Yay Science!

So that’s quite obviously Job #1.

Then we will see them utilize our DNA scientists. To use DNA kits on each one of those over 500 immigrant kids living in detention centers. Get a whole team of smart IT folks to work collaboratively on matching them with the DNA of their relatives. Engage mental health professionals and social workers to be the supports that are needed to reunite the families and guide them through getting set up as a family unit together, whether it be in the U.S. or their home country. Wherever the families choose to begin their lives together anew is where they will land.

They will get “BidenCare” up and running. They will make sure that health insurance does not have to be tied to employment. But if you have health insurance via your employment and you’re happy with your plan and your health care providers, you can keep it. Additionally, our new administration will make sure our out of pocket costs for medical care (including mental health and those complementary services like chiropractic care) are as low as they can possibly be. Whether we keep our health insurance through our employment or we choose the public option.

The new administration will incentivize Americans to pay more attention to climate change. To accept it as fact. To make it easier to recycle, standardizing the process across the whole country. It will bring jobs, man! As will switching to solar energy!

The Biden/Harris administration will address racial injustice and reform how we do policing in this nation. Cops will be partnered w/social work and/or mental health professionals for the majority of calls. President Biden will install a “pit bull” as AG to oversee this.

These are the things I pray for on the daily. You can call me a bleeding heart liberal, a snowflake, whatever. That is not going to stop me from hoping and praying for a better future for all Americans.

****Header image courtesy of https://fourseasons.teleioscn.org/blog/good-grief-1-0-1-0-0-1-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0