Category Archives: Lifestyle

It’s Wednesday and I’m Still Here

I’m neurotic.

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?

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.

Hometown Gem

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.

I’ve no idea who this pretty young girl is, but I love the beautiful pictures of my home state and remember this song from my youth. Dontcha love the sound of the loons? The Minnesota state bird!

Unsung Heroes Of This Pandemic

What or who is helping you get through this pandemic? What or who is giving you comfort, helping you to remain hopeful, giving you purpose?

I am fortunate in that I have several answers to that question. One of them being my sweet boy, Radar.

It occurred to me recently that within this blog I had been sharing more anecdotes about Karl, our kiddo Rabbie’s sassy cat than I was about Radar. It also occurred to me that for many of us, our pets are the unsung heroes of this strange time.

They are always there for us. Always happy to see us. They don’t judge us for being in a cranky mood. They don’t judge us at all. They don’t ask much of us beyond loving them, ensuring they get outside for fresh air and potty breaks, and feeding them.

I wrote this post back in the summer of 2019, right after we adopted Radar. I loved him then but, amazingly enough, I love him even more now.

I love that he’s such a good boy at night. He fits perfectly into the rocking chair Hubs gave me for my 40th birthday, which now sits in the corner of our bedroom. He sleeps there all night long and when he gets up he offers a big yawn, revealing his extraordinarily long tongue and then he thoroughly stretches out his legs.

I love that when I come home after work, he is the first one to greet me. I only just begin to open the door, and there he is with his nose butting up between the door and the door frame in an effort to get to me as fast as he can.

I love how sometimes when he’s cuddled up with me on the couch at night, I can say his name and he cranks his neck to look at me upside down with his pretty brown eyes.

I love knowing that he is by nature a guard dog (at least half German Shepherd we believe). He would protect us if our house were to be broken into. Any intruders would not have a chance.

Keeping an eye out for the bad guys

I love his puppy playfulness. Hubs and I have never had a dog who loves to play with toys so much. Hubs always told me he wanted to have a dog he could take out into a field and throw around a frisbee with. Radar has gotten some solid training for this through jumping up to catch his favorite, super tough green and blue bone in mid-air at home in the early evenings.

I love Radar’s ears. Sometimes I find them folded back (or I gently fold them back) and I see that sweet black lab in his precious face. Then they will bounce straight back up, revealing his German Shepherd resemblance.

I also love that he’s the kind of dog that everyone loves. Every place we’ve ever taken him he charms all who he meets.

This dog has been such a blessing for me. He reminds me of the importance of playfulness in my day to day routine. He makes me feel appreciated. He comforts me if I’m feeling down. He has increased my general happiness, which has been a huge bonus during this upside down time we are still living in.

He’s my furry, loyal, funny, sweet, smart and loving hero.

About Bangs

So this is my attempt to produce a blog post after having written very little in the last week.

There’s lots of reasons I haven’t been engaged with blogging. 1) I broke my left foot last week and am adjusting to this unexpected temporary reality 2) the election (Yay Biden-Harris won!).

Photographic evidence

But I don’t want to focus on all that right now.

I feel like I have a lot to say on the subject of bangs and it would no doubt be of great interest to all of my followers.

I’m a fan of them. For myself. I have little tolerance for when they start invading my field of vision, and staying at home due to Covid-19 made me realize that I can trim them myself without completely destroying my “look”.

Rocking my Toni Tenille inspired bangs in 5th grade

Not like I have a “signature look”, mind you. I guess I just surprised myself because I always assumed if I tried trimming them myself, they’d end up way too short. To avoid coming across as idiotic, I’d have to make up some lie about how it happened, like I got too close to my glue gun while crafting and had no choice but to chop them off super short. And I am a terrible liar, so that would have not gone well for me at all.

When my bangs get too long and I’ve had a more physical kind of day that results in semi-profuse sweating on my brow, they do something really odd. They curl up towards the ceiling. Like straight up. Like the only way I can rectify the situation is to completely wet and then blow dry my hair. Something I only care to do once a day, thankyouverymuch.

Years ago, I found a website that allowed me to put a head shot of myself up and choose all sorts of different hairstyles to see how they would look on my face. It surprised me how many of the ones that didn’t involve bangs actually looked pretty darn good on me. Of course that website didn’t account for the type of hair one has, which was a major downside. It didn’t factor in my hair being relatively thin and naturally wavy. So how the do’s with no bangs would look in real life on me would most certainly not be flattering.

Despite my hairdresser and both my kids (all bang-less individuals) telling me that I most certainly could pull off the “no bang” look, I don’t think I have the wherewithal to allow my bangs to grow out. They would be in my eyeballs as they grew. I’d be forced to use bobby pins to hold them back, which would look quite strange. Or I’d be doing that thing where I’m alternating blowing air upwards out of the side of my mouth so I can get the hair out of my way and see what’s in front of me and swiping my fingers over my forehead to brush those growing bangs out of my line of vision.

So I think for the rest of my life I’ll be wearing bangs.

Going Straight to Gems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alphabet Soup Challenge: Q is for Quiet

One of the things I’ve noticed as a result of the slow down of life in general that the Covid-19 pandemic caused is there are more periods of quiet in my days.

I really appreciate that. I savor it. I am better for it.

What I’m referring to here is those snippets of time when there is silence. No t.v., no music, no talking to others. When I am unplugged.

Like when I get home from work in the afternoon. Hubs is working in our home office, cat and dog are milling about. Rabbie is off somewhere working on their latest designs to sell online.

Or in the morning, when I’m enjoying a hot shower, letting the water massage my aching neck and shoulders.

When everyone is still sleeping in my house and the only sound I hear is the gentle tapping of my fingers on the keyboard of my Chromebook as I write my next blog post.

Then there’s the quiet of being out in nature. When Amanda and grandson Christopher were visiting a couple of weeks ago, we got to experience that.

Pic I took of the beautiful fall colors near Morrison, CO

I feel a sense of peace in these moments. Contentment. It’s restorative.

I can hear my thoughts. I can relax my body. I can sit in silence and offer up my prayers to the Universe. No one is asking or expecting me to do anything at all. I can just be.

I can sit next to Karl the cat and pet his soft fur while he slow blinks at me.

Karl, the coolest cockeyed cat around

I say all this as an extrovert. A person who enjoys being busy, accomplishing things. Checking things off my “to do” list.

But being in the quiet centers me. Allows me to relax and think my thoughts. Reflect on my day and consider tomorrow’s options.

I wish all of you the blessing of the quiet in these chaotic times.

***Header image courtesy of https://quotefancy.com/quote/982709/Khaled-Hosseini-Quiet-is-peace-Tranquility-Quiet-is-turning-down-the-volume-knob-on-life

Alphabet Soup Challenge: P is for Pets

Karl the cockeyed cat and Radar-ling

They touched noses. Two nights in a row. And I have yet to witness it. Hubs said it is a lightening fast interaction that intimates a handshake.

They have of late been engaging in rowdy chasing shenanigans. It’s not clear who is leading this activity nor does it matter. It’s not for us mere mortals to understand.

They are simultaneously interested in each other and the humans they live with. But there’s an underlying fact: they are in competition with each other.

They both know they are very cute. They both have pretty eyes. That is their secret weapon. They are aware that we believe they are both very cute with pretty eyes. And they use that to their advantage, because at the end of most days, they get a special moment to enjoy treats together on the kitchen floor.

Hubs perspective: he has trained Radar very well. Specifically to “leave it” when eyeing a smaller creature, such as a squirrel or a bunny. Radar’s response is a comprehensive lick of the chops.

They like to eat together. Radar waits patiently next to his bowl of food each morning for Karl to come downstairs. He won’t start eating until his friend is present.

In the evenings, they eat together and when one of them is finished, always leaving a little bit in the bowl, the other saunters over to finish. Neither gets pissy with the other-no possessiveness to speak of. It is beyond cute.

Some of us in this house are of the opinion that there will come a time, sooner rather than later, when these two will be cuddling up and grooming each other. I’m cautiously optimistic about that.

While Hubs were on our Great American Road Trip (3,300 miles over 2 weeks), kiddo said Karl missed us. He didn’t eat for the first 24 hours after we left and when we came home he expressed his disgust with our temporary abandonment by sneaking into the shower and peeing all over the shower curtain. Cats are so weird.

Radar spent the better part of the 72 hours of our time at my sister and her husband’s place in far northern Minnesota bonding with his new best friend, Sis’s dog Dingo (a rescue pup just like Radar).

Here they are (bear in mind this is the first time I’ve uploaded video onto YouTube and embedded it in a blog post. I’m learning!)

Alphabet Soup Challenge: V is for Vacation

Hubs and I are on one right now. A great American summer road trip, complete with camper and dog. Traveling Northeast to visit family, biological and otherwise, in both Wisconsin and Minnesota.

I am so grateful to be doing this. After missing out on our Florida vacation back in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic and starting a brand new project at work, I really needed a distraction from reality.

And I’m so relaxed. Like itdoesntmatterifwedonthavesuppertill8pm and noalarmsareset relaxed. Like any vacation ought to be.

We set out on our journey on the 4th. Getting onto the entrance of I-25, Hubs turned on the “Road Trip Radio” channel on Sirius XM. At the beginning of “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago (first band we saw live as a couple back in the spring of 1989).

We smiled at each other, taking it as a good omen.

Radar is still a puppy. He panted, tongue hanging out of his mouth, while scurrying from window to window in the backseat. If I only had a dollar for each time we had to gently push him to the backseat. Dude doesn’t want to miss anything. He did settle after a bit, for intermittent spurts of time. The best thing is he didn’t puke. He’s been known to do that on the shorter car rides he’s taken thus far in his life.

Upon arriving to our first KOA in Rapid City, South Dakota and cracking open a semi cold beer (the camper fridge wasn’t fully chilled yet), I mused that I had little recollection of the last few 4th of July’s. I suppose that’s not unusual for older couples like us, ones who are done raising kids.

I added that it seemed this particular 4th of July was going to be a memorable one.

After having a very simple supper and walking around a bit (95 degrees in the shade is why I say a bit) with Radar, we got back in the camper and turned on the t.v. Something I really dig when Hubs and I are on vacation is watching t.v. Now don’t get me wrong; we don’t become total couch potatoes during our vacations. But it’s special in a weird way: we don’t have Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu in our camper (or in a motel when we stay there), like we do at home. We don’t have our “go to’s” or shows we dvr’d. We are at the mercy of whatever channels are available at the campground we are staying at.

That means we watch completely different things than we do at home. And we have fun with it. On the 4th, after clicking through the 8 (?) channels available, we came upon a channel featuring the 60th birthday celebration of a true American icon-Willie Nelson. It was taped probably 25 years ago and to my delight, featured interviews and performances of other icons that where there to celebrate Willie. Ray Charles. B.B. King. Johnny Cash. All no longer with us.

One of my favorite parts was hearing B.B. King talking about how much he loved Willie. Like a true fan. He said that “Always on my Mind” was his very favorite song. B.B. and Bonnie Raitt later jammed together, singing a blues tune I don’t think I ever heard before. It was spectacular. If you can find this show out there on whatever platform you have, I urge you to watch it. Assuming you love music. But, who doesn’t?

The cherry on the top of this 4th of July was the fireworks. I had zero expectations, beyond the anxiety I believed Radar was going to express about them. And we were at a campground, a place we have never been on the 4th of July. Didn’t even know or take the time to find out if they were happening there or if we would see them from wherever they might be shooting them off.

But around 9 something p.m. we started hearing them. Fortunately, Radar was tuckered out from all the excitement and we had the sound of the a/c buffering it. So I went outside to check it out. Wow!! They were lighting up the sky in all directions. People were milling about in small groups, no one too close to each other, looking up at the sheer beauty of the colors and patterns popping up in the sky. I slowly moved in a circle, cell phone in hand, anticipating where the next brilliant display was coming from, attempting to capture it. It was magical and made me feel hopeful for the future.