Category Archives: Self-Reflection

Defining The “Good” Life

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?

***Header image courtesy of https://zaiderrr.medium.com/the-pleasant-life-vs-the-good-life-808021808469

Reasons Why I Blog

As any of you that read my blog on the regular are aware, I’ve been in a funk for about the last month. Especially blogging-wise.

You may have noticed that I skipped publishing a blog post yet again last week. But this time, I didn’t mentally beat myself up as much as I usually do. That could be due to some of my followers comments on my last post telling me not to berate myself about it. That they also skip a week or two or three every so often.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for that, Christie and Rebecca.

So with that and the increased busyness of my life in general (not complaining here, folks), I’ve working on taking myself off the hook.

I feel like I need to hit the re-set button with this blog. Like in my bones. Because I want to keep blogging, really. But sometimes…not so much.

The overthinking is dragging me down. The indecisiveness about what I want to write about is grating on my nerves. I’ve allowed it to take too much of my mental energy. It’s not as much fun as it used to be.

So I think it might not be the worst idea to ponder why it is that I’m still blogging.

How about you all? Have you ever just thought “Why am I doing this?” Well that’s where I am right now as a blogger.

Bear with me as I share with you the reasons why I blog. I encourage you to share in the comments the reasons why you blog as well. Your honest perspectives would truly interest me.

  • Blogging helps me to make sense of what I think and how I feel. It’s cathartic for me sometimes. I like the sense of release I feel when I hit that “publish” button.
  • I selfishly enjoy knowing that when I’m long gone, I will have left words from my heart and brain for my family and friends to access anytime they wish to feel my presence. Kind of like the little notebooks Bonnie wrote in and her recipe box that I nabbed after her funeral. I miss her so much.
  • The encouraging comments I receive from my readers. They often warm my heart. Often they make me feel understood and validated. Sometimes they make me think of things from a different perspective, which is very valuable to me as a person who strives to enhance my worldview in this crazy world of ours.
  • Blogging sometimes presents new opportunities for me to pursue. For instance, the newest option of adding a podcast. I’ve always been intrigued at the thought of working as a deejay, and this is a harmless way to give it a shot.

All that being said, the re-set button is being set right now. I’m choosing from this point on to not force myself to publish weekly. But I’m also not quitting this blogging thing.

My hope is that once I stand back and re-assess things for a bit, I’ll come back invigorated and enthusiastic about blogging again.

****Header image courtesy of https://rhondawilliamsnow.com/how-god-uses-an-interruption-to-reset-your-life/

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/

The Year That Was

Pardon me for using the most frequently uttered word of 2020 here: but what an unprecedented year this has been. For me, for you, for all of us. All because of a virus, whose name shall not be mentioned because I know we are all sick of hearing it.

I am ready to usher in the new year, as I know we all are.

Beyond (or in some cases because of) this pandemic, plenty of unprecedented things happened in my world the last 12 (or should I say 9?) months:

I unexpectedly lost one job and gained another. Now I’m back to running a food pantry again, a job I never knew I could love so much.

We bought a camper! It was as much as “seizing the moment because we’ve always wanted one and who knows how many moments we have left” as it was “now we have the security of a home on wheels if we need to flee the country”.

I broke my first bone! On account of falling onto the pavement due to a rare combination of poor judgement and general clumsiness. I was fortunate in that the bone healed up pretty darn well after wearing a walking boot for 6 weeks. Who knew that in 2020 I’d gain such an appreciation for wearing two matching shoes?

I learned that sometimes gifts I give to someone can wind up being a gift for myself and both sides of my family as well as my spouses side. Yep, I got Rabbie, that kid of mine who studied history for almost three years at a state university, a subscription to Ancestry.com for Christmas. Now on the daily we are hearing fascinating stories about how my great great great great great great great great Grandmother Mary Chilton came over on the Mayflower. And other stories like how brothers Ira and Samuel Dickenson (Ira being my great great great great Grandfather, on my Dad’s side like Mary), came upon a bear in the woods in 1832 and proceeded to beat it with a cane. Word is their beating of this bear led him to become so docile that he became an exhibit at the zoo.

Don’t be surprised to read more stories of my ancestors adventures as 2021 unfolds.

Then there was the death and resurrection of Karl the cat. Back in November, he came down with a double ear infection. Poor little dude. Shortly thereafter, despite having started antibiotics, he developed pneumonia. Apparently it may be true that cats have 9 lives, because this one actually died on the couch one morning when I was at work. Hubs came to the rescue however and performed mouth to mouth resuscitation on him, inflating his little kitty lungs with enough air to revive him. He was rushed to the pet ER where he spent the night on oxygen. He came back home sassier than before, ready to climb on everything and taunt Radar.

All in all, it wasn’t for me the worst of years I suppose. It surely was an interesting one though. Let’s hope 2021 is interesting too. But in different, better ways, right?

Happy New Year!!

***Header image courtesy of https://cdacmohali.in/goodbye-2020-welcome-2021-images-quotes-wishes-status-whatsapp-dp/

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.

Alphabet Soup Challenge: N is for Names

27 years ago, I gave birth to my second child. Hubs and I named “her” Marissa. A lovely name for a lively child.

Approximately 7 years ago, “Marissa”, who had by then come out as queer and non-binary (the queer part was easier to get my head around at first than the non-binary part) announced that they would now be referred to as “Rabbie”.

Say what?! I thought to myself. Why? What’s wrong with “Marissa”? It’s a damn beautiful name, right people?

I told Bonnie over the phone. She “misheard” me and said “Rabbit?” I laughed nervously and told her to think of it as a nickname. I reminded her that Rabbie was romantically attracted to both genders and this was one expression of that (though now I realize it’s much more nuanced). She responded by saying she was going to be praying that “Marissa” found herself a nice boy to fall in love with and marry someday.

My mom never did “get” it. I never held it against her however. Fact of the matter is, I wasn’t necessarily “getting it” back then either.

Hubs and I struggled with this for a good long while. I was offended that the kid was rejecting the name we lovingly chose for them. I felt anxious about how to explain it to others. So many times when talking about how our kids were doing to friends and acquaintances, I found myself referring to “Marissa” as “Rabbie” and got the most confused looks in exchange.

Recent pic of my “Rabs”

But time is an interesting thing. The more I referred to her them as “Rabbie” the more natural it seemed to come to me. The less I felt the need to explain it to myself or others. I even shortened it to “Rabs” when I was speaking to them directly.

I realized over time is that it’s not about me. It’s about the kid not feeling “girly” inside. It’s about them not embracing traditional Americanized gender roles. It’s about the kid expressing their true selves and asserting their independence. It’s about the kid asserting their right to be seen as who they really are, not someone who we as their parents and society at large thinks they should be.

***Header image courtesy of https://locallove.ca/issues/your-guide-to-non-binary-pronouns/#.X1UnmN7YqWw

Alphabet Soup Challenge: I is for Indecisiveness

I have an almost finished post about how “I” is for “Investment”. It’s about how I’ve been trying to do a better job of investing in myself. Using my time, emotional, physical, and spiritual energy to improve myself.

Investing in myself translates to intentionally going out for walks most mornings, which gives me a lift and helps to collect my thoughts about the day ahead. This investment also includes talk therapy via telephone with a behavioral health counselor. As well as doing more personal journaling and intentionally consuming entertainment that gives me the good feels. I’m feeling better about myself these days. That’s the gist of it.

The it occurred to me that dedicating an entire post to how I, as a privileged white upper-middle aged woman, was “investing” in myself was a bit too much. Too self involved.

That’s when the anxiety I experience on the daily crept into my brain and manifested itself into another “I” word of which I am quite familiar: “indecisiveness”. Because now what “I ” word am I going to pontificate about? There’s so many choices, I can’t possibly decide on which one.

There’s “irony”, which I have a little story about. I mentioned in a recent post how I was reading “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle in which I found some pearls of wisdom that resonated with me. Well, I finished that book several weeks ago. In one of the two all female Facebook groups I belong to, one of the admins posted a picture of herself looking all cute and holding up “Untamed”, notifying us that there was going to be a Facebook live video discussion of the book on Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. In a moment of impulsivity, I replied that I would plan on attending.

I had been thinking for a while that I wanted to gain more experience with using video communication, both with friends and family, but also with people that I only know online, not IRL as they say. Zoom and Facebook Live are the tools du jour in the age of Covid-19, and I suspect that will only grow just like the amount of time we will be compelled to stick close to home.

Wednesday rolled around. I remembered about this “happening” about 5:30 p.m., after imbibing in a couple of cocktails. Supper wasn’t quite ready. Kid #2 was out at the local Hookah bar and about to come home soon. I was anticipating Kid #1 calling me at any time based on a message she had sent me earlier in the day. I had taken all my make up off, revealing just how “53” I looked. I hemmed and hawed, thinking about putting on some makeup, fluffing up my hair, grabbing “Untamed” and just doing it anyway.

Then Kid #2 came in the door, greeted by a very happy Radar-ling and his slinky sidekick Karl the cockeyed cat. I felt happy. Relaxed. I let myself off the hook and decided “Nah”.

After having intermittent pangs of guilt mixed with a side of regret about flaking out on this experience throughout that evening and into the next morning, I checked Facebook and learned that the admin hadn’t been feeling well the night before so she cancelled the event. Whew!

Now that’s irony. All that worry for nothing. Ha!

I am very tempted to continue this post with anecdotes on other “I” words that I have a lot to say about like “imagination”, “inspiration”, and “intention”.

However, I’m going to instead head on back to my “A-Z” draft folder and work through my indecisiveness surrounding the remaining letters of the alphabet I have to write about to complete this self-imposed challenge.

And leave you with one of my favorite Alanis Morrisette tunes.

**Header image courtesy of http://www.uniquelyandbrilliantlyadorned.com/2015/10/lets-talk-about-indecisiveness.html

Alphabet Soup Challenge: E is for Ears and a little bit of Everything Else

I have a bit of a complex about my ears.

They stick out too much. They are too big for my head.

This complex was reinforced by my mom.

Before leaving for my high school graduation photo shoot, Bonnie put scotch tape in her purse along with the little sticks of spearmint flavored gum and lipstick stained tissues I would always find in there when I was being snoopy.

Her plan was to use the tape to secure my ears closer to my head.

My badly permed hair was cut short around my ears, but with just enough hair to cover the top of each ear, as was the style back in 1984.

Bonnie’s perspective was that not MacGyvering my ears with scotch tape for this once in a lifetime photo opportunity would mean that I wouldn’t look as pretty as I could. Having friends and relatives see a photo with my natural ears sticking out as they did (and still do) would in some way be offensive.

I of course was humiliated to have this attention paid to my over-sized auditory appendages but I went along with it. “Mom knows best” and all that I guess.

Now I can look back at this story and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

It doesn’t matter if my ears are too big and stick out. It never did. They serve a great purpose for me. They work. They allow me to listen to the music I love. They allow me to hear my kids’ and Hubs’ voices. Our 6 year old grandson’s sweet voice. They alert me of danger. And they allow me to wear pretty, dangly, sparkly earrings whenever I want to.

My goofy looking ears allow me to do the one thing I enjoy doing the very most: Engage. And that is Everything.

Speaking of “Everything”, here’s a clip of a favorite song of mine and Hubs’ which we had the pleasure of listening to via the NPR channel on our Sirius XM during our road trip to the Midwest last month.

ENJOY!

How I’m Rolling In The Current

At the tail end of 2019, I submitted in this post that 2020 ought to be my year of “Clarity”. I won’t presume that any of you fabulous readers will hold me accountable for this declaration, so I will do the deed myself.

I’ve gained much clarity in my work life in this new year. The dynamics are changing (new boss) and the expectations my employer has for me in the coming year have been clarified. I’m feeling enthusiastic about the new changes to come and the support that I’m experiencing.

I’m also feeling more clarity in terms of what I am paying attention to. As well as what I’m not giving my attention to. For instance, I’ve decided that for Lent, I’m giving up on stalking a certain state’s court website for updates on the legal status of a person who has wreaked havoc on the lives of my family (for the last 6 years, give or take), specifically it’s most beloved members. I’ve come to realize that this stalking I’ve been doing is draining my mental and emotional energy. Not to mention it’s completely pointless. What happens, happens. Checking it obsessively is not going to impact the outcome.

A musical “epiphany” I had recently drives this realization home for me. It’s from the momentous song we all know by heart: “Let it Be” by the Beatles. The line after “Let it be” is “there will be an answer”. And all this time I’ve been focusing on the “let it be” part. I have faith that there will be an answer, not only in this wretched aspect of my family’s life, but in all things. It’s about faith; letting go and trusting the answer will come.

My 2020 soundtrack is providing me with clarity in how I approach things these days. “Listen as your day unfolds”. That is a great line; the first in “You Gotta Be” by Des’Ree. I see it as a directive for me to pay attention to my environment in the day to day. To pay attention to the people I encounter. The feelings I’m feeling, both emotional and physical. The media I consume.

Clarity with what my writing process is happening as well. I’m honing in on what works and what doesn’t. A prime example is that, per David Sedaris’ suggestion, I’m jotting down my daily observations. I find it to be a sort of therapy in that after I’ve done it, I feel refreshed. It’s helping me sort out what it is exactly that I have to say and how I want to say it.

A rare moment in time with pretty kitty Karl and Radar-ling napping peacefully together.

Before I sign off here, I have a question for you all: What are you clear about in your writing and/or personal life? Right here and right now-in the current?

Hot Mess revisits an old post

I find it annoying when my Facebook friends post something vague that intimates there is some major shit going on in their lives. Examples: “I just can’t anymore”, or “FML”, or “I give up!”. Oh, the drama.

Right now, I legit could be one of these people, based on how I’m feeling about a couple of different, unrelated circumstances going on with people I love dearly. But I am not going to do it.

I am also not here writing this post wishing and hoping that one of you readers will take the bait and ask me to spill the beans. I don’t want to spill the beans. Truthfully, they are not my beans to spill. And there’s nothing more I can do or say to effect the outcomes for the loved ones I am referencing.

That’s where faith comes in. And the Indigo Girls. And some hard liquor.

Okay, enough of that.

Everything will be fine. Eventually. This is life. There are ups and there are downs, right? Dwelling on the downs is not going to get me anywhere.

In the process of starting (this is the key word folks) several new blog posts last week, when things were going along rather swimmingly for me, I stumbled upon an an older post of mine. One I published in my first year of blogging (side note: I just hit my 2 year anniversary with WordPress!).

Please bear with me, kind and gentle readers,  while I take a moment to reflect on this particular post.

I mentioned at the outset in that post that I was lacking focus. Well, what with the number of started and now paused posts in my draft folder (it is getting crowded in there!) from last week and the other stuff I alluded to earlier, I am once again unable to focus on just one topic, one opinion, area of concern.

I am still a work in progress. Especially as a writer. With each post I publish, I feel that I’m working out what kind of writer I am. Sorting out who I’m writing for and why.  Am I just an optimist who is occasionally humorous? Am I an advice giver? Am I a teacher? Or am I just a student of life with her hand up in the air, waiting to be called on to ask or answer a question?

It just might be that I am a little bit of all of those things and perhaps more (to be determined, but I’m hopeful). It depends on what the post is about, I suppose. It also depends on what kind of mood I’m in as I am writing a post.

Clearly, my mood right now is “reflective”.

In that vein, let me just say that since publishing that post back in 2017, I have determined the most important bits of wisdom, aka the things I know for sure, are that, as a writer, curiosity and imagination are my friends.

Curiosity, because I value learning and I don’t believe just because a person reaches a certain age they should stop learning. Curiosity pushes me forward and gives me energy and compels me to keep learning, keep growing.

Imagination, because it takes me out of my funky moods and makes writing so much darn fun. Using my imagination when writing, as opposed to spouting off my opinions or shelling out advice on this blog, brings me back mentally to moments as a pre-teen writing funny stories and terrible poetry in my bedroom. Essentially, my happy place.

Thanks for indulging me, folks. If you got through this entire post, you will understand why I labeled myself a “hot mess” in the title. Because it’s clearly true at this particular moment. I just wouldn’t be true to myself if I had chosen to publish a cheery, upbeat, quirky sorta post like I often do.

As I said, I am a work in progress.