My first ever post on this blog was entitled “Ch Ch Ch Changes”.
I wrote it as a way to introduce myself. To share the major life transitions that led me to where I was in that particular moment of my life: unemployed and living the “empty-nester” life with Hubs in a new state.
As of April 1st of this year I again am unemployed (by choice). Because of all the things that need to be done. Addressed. Thrown out or given away. Packed.
Our move back to Wisconsin is slated for late May/early June. Between now and then, my mental and physical energy will be split between reviewing the past, savoring the present, and planning for the future.
I, along with my family, are in the throes of transition. I am a bit freaked out and searching for the balance in all of this.
Reviewing the past will include playing the “should it stay or should it go” game with all of our worldly possessions and the reminiscing this will bring about. There are countless pictures and assorted memorabilia to go through. You can no doubt expect blog posts to come out of this.
This is a good thing, because I’ve got some catching up to do. I’ve all but ignored my blog for the last couple of months. Case in point: my 5 year blogging anniversary came and went with zero fanfare.
The present: practicing self-compassion and actual mindfulness, which I now realize I’m only beginning to grasp after using it as a buzzword willy nilly in the recent past. Making memories with my daughter and grandson, as these two will not be living with us indefinitely. Come summer 2022, they will most likely be living in their own place again. Spending quality time with Kid #2, who intends to remain in Colorado while the rest of us are moving to Wisconsin.
The future: staying on top of the housing market in the area of Wisconsin we plan to settle in. Finding the house that will suit us best. One on the waterfront, large enough to host friends and family on the regular. Familiarizing myself, via the internet, with the area and getting a feel for the job market there.
Time is of the essence for me right now. I aim to use it wisely so I can avoid being overwhelmed.
I have at long last arrived at the point in the holiday season where I am decompressing. The presents and cookies are out the door (and many now received-USPS, you’re doing a good job). The house is as decorated as it is going to be. All the Christmas plans for the three of us have been fleshed out.
How about you? I hope you’re enjoying this holiday season.
We watched “Christmas in Connecticut” together as a family and really enjoyed it. I watched it a few years ago on the recommendation of my mother in law, Alice, aka the woman who is known to give me great advice. I thought it remarkable that in spite of it being made in 1945, Barbara Stanwyck was rocking those trousers and making her own path. I suspected Rabbie and Hubs would find it as charming as I did, and, to my delight, I was right.
On my own, I caught a couple of shows that enchanted me: the totally cheesy yet pleasing “A Castle for Christmas” on Nextflix with Brooke Shields. The fascinatingly-original-for-it’s-time “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (a “must watch” for me every year. It is just so special), and the Oprah-hosted magical “One Night Only” special with Adele. If you can carve out a little time for yourself (please do, you’ve surely earned it), I recommend you watch at least one of these shows. I look forward to hearing your report afterward, friend (s?).
What entertainment have you been enjoying this season?
Sometime around Thanksgiving, my Minnesota born and bred friend, Jill, posted a request on Facebook. She asked that all the friends and family that plan on sending her family a Christmas card include a favorite recipe. Jill and I have bonded many times over our collective foodie tendencies over the years, so I appreciated this request.
Of course, I was concentrating on the baking of the Christmas cookies, the buying of presents, and decorating the house, so her family’s Christmas card arrived well before I had even sent ours out to anyone. For whatever reason, it hadn’t occurred to me that she intended to include a recipe of her own. What a sweet surprise that was for me. Chicken Za-Tar will be on our menu in the new year for sure. I think I ought to steal Jill’s idea next Christmas.
I, in turn, wrote down the recipe for my current favorite Christmas cookie, “Cherry Snowballs”. I just hope it’s not too much of a pain in the ass for her to make these with her two kiddos (ages 6 and 9) when next Christmas rolls around.
With any luck, I will be hearing the whole story of this cookie baking adventure in the years to come.
How are you all celebrating the holidays this year? Any fun and games on the agenda? Or maybe some quiet time with the one you love? Or maybe it’s just the most perfect time to catch up on your sleep? I relate to the latter at this point in time. Not that I’m going to honor that of course.
In a perfect world, I’d have a week off of work and the ability to purchase plane tickets for the three of us to fly to Minnesota and spend the holiday with our extended families. But I have faith that scenario will happen sooner rather than later.
But in my imperfect (yet blessed) world, the three of us are going to enjoy the currently very mild temps here in Colorado and play mini-golf amidst Christmas lights at the Adventure Golf venue 10 minutes away from us. I am going to be making a ton of food, we will watch a Christmas movie or two, attend Christmas Eve services at church, open presents our family has sent us, and play board games. I’m most excited to play “Ransom Notes”, which I bought recently as a family gift. One of the benefits of being a mom to adult children, I suppose.
In other words, in spite of the stress and hard work associated with this Christmas season, I’m still looking forward to it all.
***I spent more time than I am comfortable sharing on saving the “right” photo for my “featured image” on this post. So I chose instead to include a picture in the body of this post of the only cat I’ve really felt love toward, Karl, Rabbie’s “biological son”, taken last year or maybe the year before. But he’s cute and obviously spunky and charming so it fits in my view****
I also ask this because I have a full blown complex about coming across on this blog as self-centered, self-involved and driven solely by self-interest. Like “me me me me me” obnoxiousness.
Please God tell me I am not alone in this.
However, I know the nature of a personal blog is that it is personal. Attached at the hip to who the blogger is as a person. Like, no one is paying me to write news articles here. I am not beholden to anyone other than myself (and you) in this space.
It’s really quite the conundrum, don’t you think?
Also, I am not in the right head space to finish and publish the post I most recently started about work and career and me (of course).
Because of Christmas. Because of Work. Because I have the crud (aka sinus and possible ear infection, and yes I should get my ass to the doctor’s office).
So, tell me, how are you feeling physically these days?
Aside from the crud, my shoulders are aching more than usual. Likely because of the physical activity my upper body has been up to, with all the Christmas cookie baking and packaging I’ve been doing. I am hop Blah .Blah. Blah.
I freaking love baking. Christmas cookies especially. My secret? I keep it simple. No high-falutin Martha Stewart shit going on behind the scenes over here.
Though someday, I think I’d enjoy simply trying some of Martha’s recipes or DIY tricks. Maybe when I have this kitchen to cook and bake in.
How’s your attitude?
Currently, I am waffling between “let’s get Christmas wrapped up, mmmkay?” and “Christmas is my favorite!” Depends on the day. I am very much looking forward to making some merry though. Especially this weekend when I’ll be dressed as an elf while working at my employer’s “Santa Shop”, where donated presents, food, and hygiene products are given out to low income families.
How are you feeling emotionally?
Good question. Hard to answer actually don’t you think? I push those emotions of mine down during times of extreme stress. So much so that I can’t properly answer this question. Once I start seeing the light at the end of this Christmas tunnel I have faith that my body will relax and those emotions will come to the surface. I’ll sit down on my couch with Radar, sip some wine, and let it go.
All of the above and more is why I’ve determined that I’m going to choose one word to focus on in the New Year: “Balance”.
I was totally going to end this post with the loveliest Christmas music video I could find on YouTube.
Instead, I’m going to share two of my newest favorite songs; both of them stick in my head as I go about my day and lift me up. Maybe they’ll do the same for you.
I have been a fan of this dude for about 8 years or so. Can’t wait to see him at Red Rocks (or anywhere else) someday.
I started writing this post on Labor Day. I decided to “labor” at home. Doing just-for-me creative pursuits. I started with updating my vision board. I’ve tons of magazines around here collecting dust and taking up space to be used on this project.
Primarily I found phrases that speak to me (“let curiosity lead” is my new favorite), but no visual depictions of any specific, tangible, thing that I want to manifest. I’ll probably need to hit a thrift store soon to complete my current iteration of this vision board.
I did find some articles in these old magazines that I missed on my first go ’round with them. I will read those this week, before toss them into our recycling bin.
Hubs and I got back from our summer vacation last Wednesday night. It was a long-ass road trip to Minnesota with our camper. We normally go up there to see family and friends in July; this year, however, we went in late August so we could attend the nuptials of my nephew and his gal.
All went well, though Hubs is still quite sore from doing all the driving. Those sweet kids got married (under a tent during a downpour). We spent quality time on the way visiting his parents and sister in Wisconsin, having dinner with our best friends farther north, and lunch with my beautiful niece and her family on our way through Nebraska.
I didn’t want to come home, to be honest. Not just because I wanted more time with family, but because of the beauty and serenity I find at my sister and brother in-laws place. I wanted more of it. Maybe next summer, we’ll fly there so we can spend more time with them in this instead of sitting in the truck. Better yet, we’ll take the camper but extend our vacation by another few days.
I’ve been focusing more these days on home improvement and home decor. Hubs and I are planning some pretty major upgrades for our town home, which will, hopefully, be completed before Thanksgiving. New carpet is going in first, sometime next month.
I’ve got a lot of words on my walls. I may have overdone it. I think, being a 54 year old white woman from the Midwest, having so many pieces of “words as art” on my walls might make me a cliche. At the very least, I ought not to buy any more.
That by no means is me declaring that I don’t on some level enjoy each and every one of my word/art “pieces”. But I also wouldn’t want to fuck up the other scenery inside our empty nest. Overwhelm our space with words which would, no doubt over time, diminish their meanings.
How about you all? You’ve got words adorning your walls in the name of art, right? Perhaps it’s just an American thing? I wonder about that.
I think it all started with the small framed piece of art I bought at one of those home decor parties I attended when we lived in Wisconsin, probably in about 2002. It has the word “Faith” emboldened on it. I felt a bit obligated to purchase something (you know how that goes, right folks?). Seeing it on our wall was a good reminder for me at the time, what with the challenges of raising two kids with Hubs, working full time as a case manager, and managing the stress/anxiety that accompanied those roles. It now lives on the wall above our town home’s staircase. I probably don’t take note of it as much as I should.
One of my most recent “word art” acquisitions was found on Etsy. It’s a slim piece of wood with the words “Everything is Figureoutable” on it. It’s cute, though perhaps overly optimistic. But I like it just the same. It sits on a buffet table in our dining area, in front a lovely plant and next to pictures of our kids and our grandson.
Then there’s the also made-of-wood but glittered up word “Peace” that sits above the gas fireplace in our living room. I bought it at TJ Maxx a few years ago, when I was searching for new Christmas decor. I haven’t been able to bring myself to take it down since. It’s a pretty reminder of my desire to maintain peace within my home. As well as a reminder that outside of these walls, peace is something that is sorely needed and something I must actively cultivate.
In this post, I wrote about the funky sign my dad, Babe, hung in his beloved garage for years. For the longest time, I had it hanging beneath my vision board in our home office. Now that this is Hubs space as he’s working from home full time (and likely for the remainder of his career), I needed to find a new place for it. It’s now hanging downstairs on the wall across from our half bath. I think the words will be a comfort to visiting guests after using the facilities.
Speaking of my vision board, it’s now hanging above my small Ikea dresser in our walk-in closet. It’s a good place for it; however, it needs some new words and/or phrases. Probably another inspiring image or two. Nothing new has been added to it for probably 2 years. I must get on that soon.
But of course I have the “Live, Laugh, Love” phrase on my walls. My sister Kelly gifted that to me several years ago. I guess I wouldn’t be a “words on the wall” kinda gal if these words were not present somewhere in my home, right?
I look forward to hearing about your own (or your take on-maybe that’d be even more fun?) “words on the wall”.
In the meantime, enjoy this little ditty:
***Header image courtesy of yours truly. It might be my favorite . It’s the first one you see when you walk in our front door***
Blogger Troy Headrick’s recent query, asking others to define what the “good” life is, really got me thinking.
Instead of responding in the comments section of his post, I’ve decided to write about it here on my blog.
If asked this question while I was growing up in middle class northern Minnesota in the 70’s and 80’s, my answer would have been something like this: the “good” life means you have oodles of money at your disposal. It means others envy you, as you sip champagne on your yacht with a perfectly coiffed poodle on your lap. The “good” life means you have connections to powerful people and you live in a luxurious home. Actually, if you’re living the “good” life you have several luxurious homes in multiple locales. You enjoy a globe-trotting existence with not a care in the world. You are unencumbered by any responsibilities.
In other words, the good life was unattainable. A mere fantasy. And, truth be told, pretty damn shallow.
Later in my life, probably somewhere in my 30’s, my definition of the “good” life became sharper, more defined, more personal. I witnessed my parents, after many years of hard work, building a business together even, retire. They were young-ish at the time. Bonnie would have been right about 60, Babe 67-ish. They had the good fortune of living as middle aged adults during a time where the economy was prosperous. They were healthy and possessed strong work ethics and managed their money exceedingly well.
Their retired life consisted of traveling to Europe, purchasing a cabin on a lake, along with a fifth-wheel trailer which they took down to Gulf Shores, Alabama for several months of the year for probably a dozen years or so. They had so much fun. They most certainly were living the “good” life.
Now that I’m in my 50’s and the kids are grown and largely self-sufficient, the “good” life that I envision for me and Hubs is starting to feel within our grasp.
Here’s what it looks like: a nomad-like existence for a year. Selling our town home and hitting the road. Spending time in all 50 states in our camper. As long as there’s wi-fi, as Hubs says, “I can work anywhere”. Without a mortgage to pay, we can surely manage on his salary alone. Then I would be free to explore. Free to express myself creatively. Free to give of my time, energy, and skills to volunteer somewhere.
After that year has concluded, we would travel in Europe for a month or so, then purchase a new home in Colorado. Preferably a solid, well maintained, 50’s era ranch home that needs a little TLC. Make it ours. Maybe I’d find a part time job in another non-profit that could benefit from my years of experience. Or maybe I’d choose to volunteer at a couple different non-profits instead.
If we continue to be smart with our finances, down the road we could buy a plot of land on a small lake with good fishing opportunities. Build our own cabin, complete with a dock, fire pit, and a large deck that overlooks the water. Friends and family would visit on the regular. We’d have a large garden and we’d host lively holiday gatherings. Now, that would be my definition of the final chapter of the “good” life. Fulfilling experiences, eye-opening adventures, and lots of meaningful connections with others.
How about you all? What, specifically, does the term living the “good” life mean for you?
It truly bothers me that last Wednesday I failed to publish a post as per usual. I don’t have any good reason for that other than that I didn’t feel I had anything new or remotely interesting to say about anything really.
Hence the reason you find yourself reading this post today. I was not willing to skip yet another week. The anxiety would be too much. I’ve committed to this blog like I’ve committed to a relationship (which I suppose this is-between me and all of you wonderful, patient readers). I’m determined not to flake out on you guys.
It’s not like I was feeling depressed. Quite the opposite, really. Life has been peachy as of late. Rabbie has been making more and more sales on their online site and is positioned to take Karl the cat and move on out of here. Like soon. As in we’re heading downtown Denver tomorrow actually to view the first new potential pad.
The other kid, despite being unemployed (directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic) is doing well also. She’s enjoying having more time at home, more time to herself. She’s making ends meet thanks to unemployment benefits and actively searching for solid employment. She had an interview recently for a job that she is very excited about. The pay is higher than her previous job and the benefits are quite outstanding.
Our 7 year old grandson is thriving! He’s been in a new school for a couple of months now and for the first time is excited to go to school every day. His mom held a birthday bash for him last month at the local roller skating rink and it was reported to have been quite the fun bash.
Work at the food pantry is going well. My boss and I are continuously procuring food and distributing it to those in need. I scored us a hefty sum via a state sponsored Covid-19 grant and will be procuring even more food over the next several months.
As far as writing for this blog goes, I’ve gone back to writing whatever it is I’m thinking about each morning directly after I hit the shower. Before I allow myself to go down any social media rabbit holes. And I’ve been writing more at night, after work and before supper. Luckily, my family is agreeable to eating supper as late as 7 p.m.
I am working on a new blog post. It’s the kind where I challenge myself to delve into a topic that piques my curiosity. The kind that takes some actual time and effort, unlike this post you are currently reading. The hope is it’ll be ready for publication next Wednesday.
As Bonnie would say to me over the phone after breathlessly telling me all the latest in her world, “that’s my stories..how are you doing?”
Let me leave you with a new little ditty from one of my all time favorite singer-songwriters, Carole King. Can you believe she is 79?
“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.
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 intendam 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.
Her name is Stephanie Himango and this is, ironically, the second time I’ve written about her in my life.
Stephanie and I both grew up in the small town of Two Harbors, Minnesota. She was two years below me in school. For that reason and the fact that she was sporty and I was most certainly not, we did not have any real interaction with each other. As far as I can remember anyway (this was like 35 years ago, folks).
As a senior at our long ago demolished high school that sat atop a hill, I was co-editor of the school newspaper. That extra-curricular sparked a passion in me for creating something out of nothing. A passion for written communication. One of my pieces then was about Homecoming. And in that piece I reported that Stephanie, as a sophomore, was in the Homecoming Court. I came upon that long forgotten factoid about a month ago when I was searching through a box of memorabilia, hoping to find pictures of Christmases past.
The reason I mention any of this at all is because in the summer of 2020 she accepted my friend request on Facebook. I had been made aware through mutual friends that over the years that Stephanie had made quite a name for herself career-wise. That she had a long career in the news industry, even winning a couple of Emmys as a writer and producer. She is also a published author.
Shortly after we became Facebook friends, Stephanie announced on social media that she was beginning her first ever podcast, entitled “Another Door Opens with Stephanie Himango”.
Stephanie promoted her podcast as being one in which she would interview a wide array of people from varying backgrounds to share their stories of overcoming life’s struggles and what, and as she says in each episode, “if anything”, the phrase “Another Door Opens” means to them personally. As if anyone she would interview would actually say that phrase means nothing to them! But that little qualifier exemplifies to me the genuine respect she has for her interviewees. She does not make any assumptions about them. She asks interesting questions and her enjoyment of asking them comes across through her voice as real and true.
So, as you can clearly see, I subscribed to Stephanie’s podcast. Stephanie interviewed everyone from a man who works as a sketch artist at SCOTUS to a veterinarian who treats pets of those experiencing homelessness to a woman who owns and runs her family’s pumpkin farm and much more. After listening to all of the episodes via Spotify (as of last week), I can tell you I’ve learned so much. I’ve been inspired. I’ve laughed. My eyes have been opened up about all the good stuff that people are out there doing with their lives. Kind of like David Byrne from the Talking Heads, who I wrote about here. Listening to Stephanie’s podcast brightened my days in the bananas year that was 2020.
Thanks for that, Stephanie. You are a Gem and I look forward to listening and learning from your podcast in the New Year. Maybe someday if we happen to be in our sweet little hometown (which in my opinion is home to lots of other interesting and inspiring people-maybe it’s something about that perfectly ice cold tap wonder we drank, courtesy of Lake Superior) at the same time, we will bump into each other. That’d be cool.
I encourage all of you reading this to check out “Another Door Opens with Stephanie Himango” and listen, learn and gain inspiration along with me.