Category Archives: Inspire

How do you do Community?

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Community is the glue that keeps our society together. I’ve been blessed in my life to have been a part of a variety of different communities. These experiences with community have shaped me. They have inspired me. They have taught me so very much. They have most certainly been a source of joy.

Like the community of church folks who came together back in Wisconsin a few years ago to fix up a single mom’s beautiful old house to get it ready to be sold. This was a days long process involving probably 24 of us. We painted. We put up curtains. Some of us did some electrical work and plumbing. While working on these tasks, we also got to know each other better. We ended with a shared experience that benefited not just the single mom and her kids, but all of us.

Like the community of friends, many of whom hadn’t officially met before, who came together to make a home accessible for a friend’s spouse who in her 30’s suffered a stroke while vacationing out of the country and was soon coming out of rehab. We organized closets, we built an accessible ramp, we updated the bathroom and re-arranged the bedroom to accommodate the spouse’s new way of moving through their day to day world.

Like the community at our local brew pub, 3 miles down the road from our townhome here in Colorado. If ever there was a “Cheers”  in real life, this would be that place. The owners and bartenders know our names. The owners regularly schedule events that build community.

And this sign is prominently featured, which I very much appreciate. This one hangs in the ladies’ restroom.

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Then there’s our current church community. Our major fundraiser each year is a lawn mower clinic, held in May. Hubs and I, along with probably 2-3 dozen other church folks came together on three Saturdays this past May to check the oil, change spark plugs, and clean those well used, clunky machines up so they would be in good working condition for their owners when the time came to get back to mowing their lawns again. Each of these Saturdays were nasty, weather-wise. Snow. Rain. Cloudy, cold, and breezy. From my perspective, only experiencing 2 years in Colorado, this weather was a-typical for the time of year. But yet we all bundled up, drank a lot of hot coffee, and got things done as a community.

The Facebook blogging community I’ve recently become a part of is another example of how I like to “do” community in my life. In this group, bloggers often lift each other up. They turn each other on to new ideas, new tricks to improve their writing and their blogs. They  We support each other as best we can. We seem to understand that while we all have our individual blogs, we’re in it (aka the Blogosphere) together. We all want to succeed at what we’re doing and we all love to write. We respect each other. There does not seem to be a sense of “my blog vs. your blog” competitive b.s. going on in this group. We all seem to engage with this group in an effort to build each other, and ourselves at the same time, up. I’m so glad I decided to join this community.

The bottom line, for me, is that being around others, especially with a clear goal in mind, energizes me. It appeals to my social and socially conscious nature. It opens up my world, teaches me things I didn’t know I needed to learn, both about myself and others. It helps me focus on the positive and reminds me that there is good in the world. That the number of good people in our universe far outweighs the number of bad people. It gives me hope.

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Quick post about my mom

Back when I was a freshman in college, when I was busy learning how to share a dorm room with strangers, how to properly do my own laundry, and who my real friends were, my parents decided to take a trip to Europe. England was their first destination, on account of having people to actually visit there (our AFS student, Lisa, and her family).

My mom (aka the local celebrity) has always had a spontaneous nature. She couldn’t help but imagine herself going to England and having tea with the Prime Minister. So she decided to write a letter to Margaret Thatcher to request a meeting.

I like that she did this. It falls into the category of “what’s the worst that could happen?” Ms. Thatcher says no, I’ve got dignitaries to meet and butlers to order around. At least mom could say she tried.

Within a month or so (I’m totally guessing here), she received a letter in the mail. Straight from 10 Downing Street. The Prime Minister was unfortunately unavailable to meet with Bonnie from northern Minnesota. Mom framed it and it continues to be hanging on the wall in the home I grew up in.

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At the time my mom did this, I thought it ridiculous. And really, it was.

However, the take-away here is important: you don’t know what is possible unless you try. And if things don’t pan out the way you wish them to, you might just have a good story to tell about it later.

Thanks for that, Mom.

 

 

Food, how I love Thee

 

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What you see above is a picture of a supper I made a couple of weeks ago. Hang with me here, and I’ll share the oh-so-simple recipe at the end of this post.

For lack of a better term, I am a die-hard “foodie”. I understand that one should not “live to eat”, but rather “eat to live”. Intellectually, I know that is the healthiest way to think about food. In spite of this, however, I lean towards the latter and not the former.

A few years back, I made a decision to adopt healthier eating habits. My weight had grown to an unacceptable level in my view and I believed it was time to make some serious changes in my daily diet.

So after reading a few dieting books, I decided to go low carb. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I found myself mostly missing bread and baked goods, but not much else. I kept a daily food diary, which I think was the best tool I could have employed for this endeavor. I ended up losing 23 lbs over the course of about 5-6 months. I felt great about myself. I got myself down one pants size. People noticed.

However…I slowly but surely started to slip back into my old ways, enjoying bread on a semi-regular basis and increasing my consumption of chocolate. About a month ago, I told myself that while I’d managed to gain approximately half of the weight I’d lost, I was not continuing to gain even more weight. I was not gaining but “maintaining”.

Oh, the things I tell myself to justify poor nutritional choices.

I will at some point, in the not so distant future, purchase myself a brand spanking new notebook in which I will document my daily food intake. After of course I  recover those tried and true low carb recipes I collected back in the day when I was uber motivated to shed the weight.

Hubs and I recently returned from our epic summer road trip to visit family in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  I made the conscious decision to wholeheartedly embrace the “live to eat” method. The “YOLO” diet, if you will. Justified by the fact that I was on vacation. 

My vacay diet consisted of the following: cheeseburgers and french fries. Ice cream treats. Potato chips. Lots of those. Candy. Cinnamon rolls. Cookies. Pancakes. Banana cream pie.  I basically ate like the 10 year old version of myself in the lazy days of summer. And I have no regrets. Though to be honest, I am a good 6 lbs. heavier now as a result of this “no holds barred” foodie fest.  I am verging on the precipice of having to purchase pants in a larger size at this point.

I refuse to purchase larger pants. Even if they are purchased for a pittance at my favorite thrift store. Even if they are far more comfortable and don’t leave red indentations in my mid-section after taking them off. Not. Gonna. Do. It.

Luckily, the recipe for the supper I photographed for your hungry eyes is indeed both low carb and highly delicious. Here it is:

4 chicken breasts

Store-bought pesto (or homemade, if you happen to grow your own basil as I do)

Chopped garlic

Fresh mushrooms

Fresh tomato

Shredded mozzarella

Brown Rice ( I highly recommend Success Rice. Easy-peasy, trust me)

Using a mallet (and some pent up anger), pound chicken breasts between a couple of pieces of parchment paper. Sprinkle the breasts with salt and pepper to your liking.

Heat up some olive oil in a large skillet, then add some chopped up garlic and fry that up a little. Then add the chicken breasts. If it doesn’t appear to be cooking quickly enough, throw in a bit of water and cover the pan for a bit.

In a separate pan, heat up some olive oil and add the mushrooms. Once those are cooked up nicely, add them to the skillet with the chicken in it. Once the chicken is almost done, slather some of that delicious pesto on top of the breasts. Heat that up a bit, then sprinkle as much mozzarella on as you like. Slice up a tomato and put it on top. Cover the pan and heat it up a little more.

I’m going to assume you knew to make the brown rice in between all these steps.

Then simply plop your rice onto plates, and place a chicken breast onto that and chow down.

Enjoy, folks!

The story of the traveling hutch

 

 

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I love this hutch. Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s sort of a family heirloom. Let me tell you the story.

This hutch was housed in the one bedroom “shotgun” cabin my parents purchased on a lake 20 minutes from their house about 25 years ago. The seller of the cabin had no use for this hutch, as he was an elderly gentleman with no family around. He simply left it there, where it sat in a corner in the kitchen/dining space.

My mom has never been a fan of antiques. She much preferred to decorate her home and that little cabin in a more modern fashion, which at the time was a lot of country blues and pink hues on the furniture as well as the walls. She has always been stellar at organizing small spaces (the home 5 of us and a dog lived in for eons was 3 small bedrooms and one bathroom with no shower, just a tub. Yes, I didn’t get regular showers until I moved into my dorm in college). So this hutch served a purpose for her as it was a place to store dishes. She and I, along with all other female family members, also relied on this hutch when visiting the cabin, as a make up and hair styling station. There was an outhouse in the back.

My dad and I, however, had an appreciation for this old hutch. We saw it as a pretty well preserved piece of history, and a beautiful one at that. I remember telling my parents as a young mom and wife that this was likely the only piece of furniture that I would like to be bequeathed to me someday.

Someday happened about 15 years later. My dad, then about 76, asked me during a phone call (back when he could still hear well enough to have at least a short conversation on the phone), if I’d still like to have the hutch. I told him emphatically yes and he said he’d like to deliver it to me the next time they came to Wisconsin for a visit.

So my dear old dad drove himself and my mom over 5 hours one way and delivered the hutch. Hubs and I picked out just the right spot for it between our dining and living area. Hubs served as Dad’s apprentice to move the hutch from the back of dad’s pickup truck, and together they carefully lugged it up the stairs to put it in its’ designated spot. I was in awe that my dad was still the strong man he always was at 76 and appreciated the teamwork it took he and Hubs to get it into the house.

Miraculously, the hutch survived two more moves, one from our family’s home in a more rural area, to our new “empty nester” home in the city of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and the other from La Crosse all the way here to Colorado. I fully expected that the hutch would suffer some type of damage during both of these moves. Perhaps the mirror would crack, or the old glass pane would shatter into a million pieces. But alas, it survived.  I like to think it survived because of the appreciation we had for it. More than likely though it was just dumb luck.

I’m really pleased with where we chose to place it in our townhome. Especially because it was pure happenstance that when you walk towards it, in the mirror you can see the peace sign that we hung on the opposite wall next to our front door. What sweet serendipity.

There are few tangible “things” I treasure in this life. And this old hutch, with the memories that go along with it, is right at the very top of the list.

 

My next random blog post

It’s Tuesday morning and I consciously made the decision to get stuff done around the house instead of spending an hour or more typing up the next blog post. Now I’ve got less than 10 minutes.

I also have not been particularly jazzed about writing about any specific topic this week. There are two ways for me to think about this: procrastination might be my friend. In other words, perhaps penning a post with a finite time limit will propel me to write something of substance, something I can be proud of. Giving myself a time limit will prevent me from over-thinking, which is a talent I sadly excel at. The other take I could have is that this could be an opportunity for me to “chill”. Remind myself that I am not in a race. Remind myself that I will not face any truly negative consequences if I choose to not publish this post on Wednesday, which is my typical publishing day. I could wait till Friday, or heck, even Sunday morning.

So here goes nothing. Or something. More likely something in between.

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My theme of the week

 

The other day at my volunteer gig at a local food bank, Santa donated several crates of Nutella. That kind of thing doesn’t happen every day, right? That’s why I love my job helping senior citizens and volunteering at the food bank. I’m interacting with loads of different people and no two days are the same! But for real, he did look like Santa and he shared that he performs as Santa professionally. Funny thing is, I actually know two other male retirees, both from our old church in Wisconsin, who are also happily enjoying gigs as Santa post-retirement. I love those little happy coincidences that life serves up sometimes, don’t you?

I had to acknowledge my age recently when dining out with Hubs in Denver, prior to the James Taylor concert (which was absolutely fantastic, btw). Unbeknownst to me, the  female servers at this restaurant/bar were essentially costumed as strippers. I’m talking bare midriffs, teeny-tiny short shorts, and heavy make up on their precious baby faces. The experience reminded me of those awful reality shows where the little girls are competing in beauty pageants. It was just really troubling to me as a mom.  I struggled to keep myself from telling these young ladies to put on a sweater, for God’s sake!

Lately, Hubs and I have been binge-watching “The Walking Dead”. I find it terrifically fascinating. We actually started watching it a few years ago, but at that time I only made it to the second episode due to the gore and violence. I surprised myself by agreeing to try watching it again, just a couple of months ago, with Hubs. For some reason, the gore and violence, while certainly disturbing, didn’t impact me as strongly as it had a few years prior. When I started getting a little heebie-jeebie-ish, I decided to remind myself that the scenes weren’t actually real (duh, right?) and instead to focus on the amazing make-up, special effects, and costuming that was being showcased. I got to thinking, how much fun must it be for make-up artists to work on this set? So with that little change in perspective, I found myself drawn into the predicament these folks found themselves in. Intrigued by the characters and how they interacted with each other. I think if I was a high school or college instructor of say, psychology, leadership (that’s a thing right?), or philosophy, I would frequently use clips from this show for my lessons. There’s so much material there.

In closing, and more importantly in the spirit of randomness, I present to you the best thing I saw on NPR this week. While it is indeed sad that Koko is no longer among us earthlings, this video made me smile. And it reminded me of what an awesome individual Robin Williams was.

 

Happy fun-day Sunday, blogging peeps!

Happiness is having something to look forward to

Thinking forward to an upcoming visit with our friends, couple #1, and their two young daughters recently prompted me to peruse the library at work. This library is chock full of donated books for the seniors we serve to take home and enjoy. There is no requirement that the books taken be returned, which I love. Included in this library is a shelf full of children’s books.

That is where I found this little gem, written by Minnesota native and creator of the iconic Peanuts cartoons Charles Schultz, in the year of my birth, 1967.

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The colors and graphics in this little book are quite gorgeous to my eye. But what most tripped my trigger was the words written in the pages. The sentiments. One especially.

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The message that “happiness is having something to look forward to” resonates with me. I believe that all of us, even on our worst days, if we pause to think about it, can imagine something on the horizon to personally look forward to. It doesn’t have to be anything major. In fact, the simpler the better. Because really, isn’t it the simple joys in life that make it enjoyable? Worth continuing?

Maybe it’s the fancy mocha-choca-latte you’re going to buy on your way to work today. Maybe it’s payday. Perhaps it’s the juicy burgers you’re going to grill tonight for supper. Or the book you can’t wait to read. Or the summer vacation you’ve got planned with your family or friends.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, let me share what I am currently looking forward to: visiting the Denver Zoo this weekend with our friends and their sweet, funny, smart little girls (one soon to be 6 and the other soon to be 3). Witnessing their reactions to the animals they see and interact with. Hearing their giggles. Capturing some sweet photos along the way.

How about you all? What are you looking forward to? Surely there’s something.

Thoughts on Self-Care

It feels to me as if the term “self-care” is being tossed around a lot these days. It’s “trending”, which I take to mean the concept will, before long, peter out. It will lose it’s meaning, it’s importance. People will tire of it, finding ways on social media to mock it and render it irrelevant. They’ll find another term to latch onto.

Ironically, I just googled “self-care” and on Merriam Webster, front and center, there is an icon of lightening next to the word “trending”. My point is thus proven. 

Before this concept is indeed no longer trending, I’d like to add my two cents about self- care. I can only speak from my own perspective of course, recognizing that many people in the world are struggling mightily to survive another day, physically and/or mentally, so finding the time and energy to even ponder what self-care means let alone practicing it eludes them. Which really is a damn shame.

Bottom line: I am grateful that I have enough quiet time to myself, along with the mental energy to both identify what self-care looks like to me and the physical and intellectual ability to regularly engage in the activities that promote it. Especially during those times, like right now, when those people near and dear to me are experiencing life challenges that are weighing on my mind and heart, causing me to feel utterly helpless. 

I think that in order to practice self-care in any sort of meaningful way, it’s necessary to define for yourself what it specifically looks like to you. However, taking the time to recognize why practicing self-care is beneficial for you should be your first task. My personal theory is that if I choose to not practice self-care, my ability to be emotionally present for my loved ones will be dwarfed. I will feel put-upon, frustrated, tired, and stressed out. By not practicing self-care, I will lessen my ability to find the silver linings in things as well as hindering my ability to be the best version of myself. By regularly practicing self-care, my chances of being effective at providing emotional support to those I love greatly increase.

Now, while I am admittedly an over-thinker, I cling firmly to the K.I.S.S. mantra (the Keep it Simple, Sister version) when it comes to what self-care looks like for me. I don’t believe any self-improvement endeavor is worth much if there are too many steps.

Let me share some of the self-care tactics that work for me. I urge you to consider what yours are and then share them with me and our blogging friends here in the comments, if you feel comfortable doing so. 

  • I keep a regular sleep schedule and make it a priority to get enough sleep (8.5 hours per night has proven to be ideal for me).
  • I listen to my Soul Song and other playlists daily as they bring me joy. I find that listening to my music each morning puts me in a positive mindset for the day ahead.
  • Regular grooming of fingernails/hands and toenails/feet. As in, at home manicures and pedicures. Taking care of my physical appearance in this way boosts my confidence as I am out and about in my day to day life. And it’s a very relaxing activity for me, especially when I’ve got my favorite tunes playing in the background.
  • I regularly make to do lists, which gives me a sense of order and purpose. This tactic calms my anxious brain and is a valuable tool that boosts my focus on my priorities for the day, or week. I also get a little kick every time I check something off on my to-do lists.
  • I  lay out my yoga mat and stretch my body and do a few strengthening and toning exercises every single morning.  I follow that up with some prayer time. Expressing gratitude and connecting with the Spirit helps me clear my head and gives me good mental energy for the day ahead of me.
  • I ignore people that only have negative things to say as much as I possibly can. You know who they are in your own life. We all do.
  • I strive to remain mindful as I go through my days. For instance, really listening  to people instead of thinking up responses to what I think they are going to say. Also, limiting the amount of times I check my cell phone throughout the day allows me opportunities to see and experience what is going on in my environment. I think it’s healthy to keep FOMO (fear of missing out) at bay.
  • I mentally pull out a phrase or mantra that speaks to me if I’m feeling stressed, such as “This too shall pass”, or “Let it Be” of course in song version because that is how my brain works. 

 

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