Category Archives: Joy

Let the merriment begin

 

Now that Christmas is a mere few days away, and the major tasks of purchasing gifts, sending out our Christmas cards, wrapping the gifts, and sending them on their way to their hopefully delighted recipients is over, I’ve got myself a minute to reflect. To share my thoughts and feelings about this crazy and magical time of year and why I love it so. 

Baking Christmas cookies and related treats is one of the few traditions I have maintained over the years. Mind you, I am no Martha Stewart (unlike an old co-worker who brought snowflake cookies to our holiday potluck that were decorated so exquisitely it felt wrong to consume them not like I didn’t anyway). I focus on simple cookies. Actually, several of them are the “no bake” kind. I think that’s a wise choice as I make a fricking ton of them. I send these Christmas treats in holiday themed tins purchased at the Dollar Store or my local thrift store to friends and family from northern Minnesota to Missouri. I shan’t ever end this tradition as at this point our loved ones expect them each and every year. I kind of set myself up for that.

But it’s all good. Baking cookies while listening to my favorite Christmas tunes puts me in the spirit. For several years, while still living in Wisconsin, I hosted a cookie baking party with 3 of my closest co-workers. The wine flowed, the kitchen was essentially destroyed, and much fun was had by all. Good times. 

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Christmas cookies, circa 2008 ish

Then there’s the music of this season. I’m not the type to turn on the Christmas music as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are stored in the fridge, but I do enjoy it quite a bit. I am a traditionalist, as I mostly prefer the classics, sung by the original artists. Though there are a few exceptions. Like this version of “Baby it’s Cold Outside” by “She and Him” (I will admit the video is not exactly what I expected).  I’m not going to get into the controversy over this particular song and how it is “rape-y” (I don’t exactly see it that way). I was delighted when I first saw the movie “Elf” and heard Zooey Deschanel’s pure and beautiful singing voice.  I was even more delighted when I discovered that there was a “She and Him” and that they had produced a sweet little cd covering classic Christmas tunes. I of course purchased this cd and enjoy listening to it every single Christmas since then. The only other two Christmas cd’s on repeat in our house this time of year are Michael Buble’s “Christmas” and the Carpenter’s “Christmas Portrait”.  The songs “All I want for Christmas” by Mariah Carey, “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano, and Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka” always put a smile on my face when I hear them this time of year.

I’m excited that Hubs is working on “Mele Kalikimaka” on his yuke these days. With any luck, he and I will collaborate on this one and may even perform it via video for our daughter and grandson via videochat yet this season. Or next Christmas, at least.

The most arduous tasks for me during the Christmas season are 1) purchasing gifts, 2) wrapping said gifts (not my forte; thankfully Hubs has my back on this one), and 3) shipping all the packages to hither and yon. Yet, there’s such a great joy I feel inside when I find just the right gift for the right person. I don’t know that I’ll ever in my livelong life, however, create such excitement with my Christmas gift-giving as my sweet Hubs did for me one Christmas about 7 years ago. I could not have been more surprised. 

Here’s the story: we are at my sister and brother in law’s house way up in northern Minnesota, where we have spent many Christmases. We are in the middle of opening all of our gifts, a tad liquored up and sitting in the cozy family room by the beautiful Christmas tree. I open the shirt sized box, assuming it’s a new sweater or some other practical piece of clothing (which I was totally fine with). However, it’s a fancy black dress. I look at Hubs a bit quizzically, and assume in my head that this is a dress I’ll be wearing for a nice dinner out with him on New Year’s Eve. Wow, I’m thinking. So thoughtful and how fun is it that he’s planning to take me out on New Year’s (that doesn’t happen every year, you see). Then I see there’s a sheet of paper underneath. I open it up and it’s an ITINERARY. An itinerary, no less, for a New Year’s weekend in Chicago! An itinerary mapping out our Amtrak train ride, dinner reservations at a very chi-chi seafood place in downtown Chicago, a fancy hotel, and tickets to see “The Adams Family Musical”. I was, for once in my life, utterly speechless. I think I actually cried with joy. It ended up being the best New Year’s Eve (weekend) of our entire married life despite the massive hangover I foolishly gifted myself. 

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Our New Year’s Eve in Chicago circa 2011 ish

 

This year, I was given the opportunity to shop for a little girl. I haven’t had the opportunity to partake in this activity since my spawn were youngins. You see, instead of doing the “Secret Santa” thing at work (you know the one-where you rack your brain to figure out what to buy for that one person you don’t know as well as all the others), someone came up with the brilliant idea of doing “Secret Santa” for the offspring of our co-workers. I grabbed a “wish list” for the daughter of one of my co-workers, and proceeded to have a ball at Target finding things for this kiddo. I suspect she will be pleased that Santa stuffed her new shiny star-shaped purse with Snickers and a $10 bill. I know I would be!

I wish each and every one of you a blessed, joyful, fun-filled holiday season. May your stockings be full with all your favorite goodies, may your travels be safe, and may your hearts be full. 

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Photo by Jameel Hassan on Pexels.com

What do you have to be thankful for?

I was going to resist the urge to be “basic” and write a post expressing what I am thankful for on this Thanksgiving season. I mean, it’s kind of a no brainer really, and my hunch is that there will be multitudes of other bloggers penning their own posts about what they are thankful for.

In my last blog post, I shared those things that delight me, those simple pleasures of life. After publishing that, I figured it wouldn’t be terribly original for me to write about what I am grateful for.

But, alas, I have changed my mind. I seem to do that a lot.

Thing is, I genuinely have so very much for which I am thankful and it feels good and right for me to share this with now, with Thanksgiving upon us.

I am thankful for recent visits with our adult spawn and the now 4 year old boy who owns my heart. It was so gratifying to spend quality time earlier this month talking about life, laughing about their childhood shenanigans, playing umpteen games of “Hungry Hungry Hippo”, and sharing some great meals with them.

I am thankful for the blessings of November. By happenstance, each job I’ve had in the last 17 years started in November. And each of these jobs have suited me very well and taught me so much about people, including myself.

I am thankful for my best girlfriends. The one who I’ve known for the majority of my adult life, who accepts and appreciates me in spite of my flaws. The one I have here in Colorado who’s always up for showing this Minnesota girl what makes Colorado colorful. The one who passed away 6 years ago who always had my back.

I am thankful for this guy, my sweet Hubs. I truly hit the jackpot when I found him 30 years ago.

I am thankful for the community we are building here in Colorado. From our church family, to my fellow volunteers at the food bank, to the owner and staff of our favorite brew pub. After moving to the north Denver metro over two years ago, not knowing a soul here, we have slowly but surely developed lasting friendships here. What a blessing this has been.

Thankful readers, I wish you the best Thanksgiving holiday. I hope it’s filled with good conversation, laughter, fun, and plenty of delicious food!

What delights you?

This post is largely inspired by a great blog post penned by Caitlin Kelly  who has a wonderful way with words. I came up with my own title because I didn’t want to be too much of a copy-cat.

Now that the mid-term elections are over and we can all breathe a sigh of relief (if only because for the time being we have a respite from political ads on t.v. and all of that godforsaken political junk mail), I think it’s time to reflect inwards a bit.

Thanksgiving will be here before you know it, with Christmas shortly behind. I’m just not quite ready to start all the planning and shopping yet. Let’s take a minute or two to relax and consider those things in life which we may take for granted that give us pleasure. Those things that soothe us. Those things that give us a sense of contentment. Those things that simply delight us.

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Here’s but a few of mine:

The feel of my favorite fuzzy socks on my bare feet.

Peering out the window of our warm, cozy townhome at the magical, silent, slow-falling snow.

A solid cup of coffee with a bit of cinnamon sprinkled on top.

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The “P” is for Polly!

A heart to heart conversation via phone or in person with a good friend.

The mouth-watering aroma of a home-cooked meal in my crockpot at the end of a long work day. And the sense of self-satisfaction I feel for having the good sense to put it together in the morning before work.

Waking up naturally, without hearing that silly alarm coming from my cell phone. Ahhh…weekends!

Sipping a complex glass of merlot. Savoring the hints of dark cherry, chocolate, and spice.

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A good, long,  luxurious shower. The way those hot, wet, pellets of water feel on my tense shoulders.

Interacting with dogs in public. Petting and scratching them, telling them they are a “good girl” or “good boy”. Listening to their human parent or parents telling me about their breed, their adoption stories, their personality quirks.

At work: sharing a laugh or two with a senior client over the phone.

When just the right song comes on my Sirius XM, while I’m tooling around in my CRV. Like the Pina Colada song  song (don’t judge me, I realize the couple in the song has a completely f’d up relationship as both are willing to cheat on each other and escape to an exotic island with someone they just met at a bar called O’Malley’s). It’s just such a chilled out, easy-breezy, sing-a-long song though, right? Let’s not overthink this.

How a November day in Colorado reminds me of one of those sweet February days in Wisconsin when the sky is bright blue, dotted with a few fluffy clouds, the snow is melting on the pavement, the air is chilly but mild and there is no wind to speak of.

Glorious pictures of the sunrise in the foothills, taken by Hubs, when the moment strikes, upon his arrival at work.

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Please share in the comments what delights you, my delightful blogging community!

 

Pondering my playlists

I’ve mentioned in at least one previous post that, inspired by a different sort of self-help book entitled “Soul Song Playlist”, I started to create my own soul-soothing, uplifting, personal playlist. What I’ve discovered along the way is that this playlist is a work in progress. For me, it isn’t something I could just put together in one fell swoop.

I’ve added songs that I later removed, because they didn’t speak to me on a soul level like I presumed they would (“Let it Go” from the animated movie Frozen is a prime example) when I initially chose them. I’ve heard songs while driving that jumped out at me as the perfect additions to this very personal playlist of mine. I think I will continue adding and subtracting songs over the course of a good long time.

That said, I found myself last week itching to hear full cd’s of my favorite artists. The ones I cherish the most, to give myself a needed break from the overthinking I’d been doing with creating my soul song playlist. I listened to my very favorite cd of all time, Raising Sand, with Robert Plant and Allison Kraus. I listened to Alanis Morissette’s “The Collection” cd. So many rocking tunes on that one with very thoughtful, purposeful lyrics. And I listened to Sheryl Crowe’s “C’mon, C’mon” cd, which is one of those that I thoroughly enjoy singing along with. Raising Sand is not one I sing along with, for the record, because the sheer beauty of the songs on this cd compel me to simply listen. Few cd’s are like that for me.

That brings me to the new playlist I’m going to start creating this week, in preparation for our big summer road trip to visit family in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Hubs and I will be strapped in for two full days so I figure a rocking playlist is in order. We can listen to it as we wish, interspersing it with catching up on national and world news on NPR and various podcasts.

The genre of our road trip playlist is primarily classic rock. With a few summery  pop hits added in to enhance our freewheeling, relaxed summer vacation attitudes.

Here’s a few songs that are going to be “musts” on this epic summer road trip playlist.

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A depiction of Hubs and I on our epic summer road trip

  • “2 out of 3 Ain’t Bad”, by Meatloaf (I feel I should know his real name, being kind of a music trivia buff. But more importantly, how did he acquire the name “Meatloaf”?)
  • “Walkin’ on the Sun”, by Smash Mouth (interestingly, at least to me anyway, was that this is the band Hubs named recently when I asked him what band he most wants to see live before he croaks. Didn’t see that one coming.)
  • “American Pie”, by Don McClean. A classic sing along song we always turn up when it comes on the radio. Doesn’t every American, at least over the age of 40, do the same thing?
  • “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, by Twisted Sister. A classic song of rebellion that begs to be sung out loud with righteous indignation, which is wholly appropriate in our current political climate.
  • “Layla”, by Derek and the Dominoes (for me, never the one put out by Eric Clapton years later…it’s just not the same, man).
  • “Margaritaville”, by Jimmy Buffett. A carefree summer driving sing-along classic.
  • “We Built This City”, by Starship. I know that many, perhaps most, people hate this song with a passion. But for Hubs and I, it’s a rollicking tune that reminds us of our younger days.
  • “You’re my Best Friend”, by Queen. Hubs is my best friend and I am his. I used to think it was sappy and unoriginal to proclaim this. But over time I have come to realize that it’s the simple truth. Me and my best friend are bound to have ourselves a great time on this road trip of ours. And now we will have a soundtrack that will set the tone.

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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.