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.
Since my last post, I’ve been gradually recovering from the chaos that was December 2021.
I’ve also been reflecting a lot lately. Reflecting on my recent past as a blogger, my current work life, and what I’ve learned and accomplished, not only in 2021, but since moving to Colorado with Hubs in 2016.
I am in a better frame of mind than I was when I wrote the last post of 2021. Time and the quiet space of my home have made that possible.
Checking some major things off my “to do” list at work has also made that possible. Grant submitted. Inventory done.
I guess you could say that right now, I’m breathing a long sigh of relief.
And I’m ready to begin to share in this space what I’ve learned so far: as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result of living, loving, and working in Colorado since 2016. As a result of parenting adults and being someone’s grandma. As a result of the meaningful friendships I’ve had (and still have) in my life. As a result of this being the year in which I turn 55.
Not to be dramatic or anything.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into all of that right here and now. I think it’s safe to say that I’ll get into it when I get into it. In 2022.
Because I have had a big old pin in something I’ve wanted to tell you all for the last couple of months.
If I was going to be dramatic and ridiculous here, I would show you this image before I spat out what it is that is housing (ha ha) the pin. Was that a pun?
Okay, so here it is:
I’m certain that for at least part of this year I will reside in Colorado. I will have a new zip code before the end of 2022. The license plates on the truck will be changing.
You get where I’m going with this?
Yes, of course you do. I know you all are not morons.
Hubs and I are moving. Our time in the great state of Colorado will come to, what feels to me, while not entirely pleasant and actually sad in some important ways, a natural end.
In 2022. To either Minnesota or Wisconsin; closer to both of our families and life-long friends. We are making some updates to our town home here, selling it and heading north.
So that’s my big news. I couldn’t just write a regular old post this week and ignore this major life decision I was holding in.
I’m going to buckle up, and if I was going to be dramatic, I’d tell you, as a reader, that you may want to as well.
I feel all of this, written by Rachel Hackenberg for the United Church of Christ’s daily devotional on 12/28/21:
“If you are eager to throw your 2021 calendar in the trash, and you have all of your incense and candles and rituals prepared to sweep out 2021 and bless 2022, remember that even when the year is new: there is still rage and death and dreadful absence that haunts our collective spirit and needs to be healed.
Make room for the rage.
Welcome it like a weary traveler who can’t find a room in the inn.
Give it space where it can cry and groan.
Light a candle if it labors through the night.
Do not be quick to console it, only keep it company to be sure it doesn’t harm others.
Amplify its voice.
Let it be messy and imperfect”
I appreciate this devotional because 2021 threw me for a loop (especially that last month or so). The events in my personal orbit as well as events in this country and world in 2021 have left me feeling older, feistier, and tired.
I don’t know of a better way of putting it, but I feel messy. I need time to process it all because of the emotional whiplash. I need time to recuperate.
There were happy moments for me, however. Photographic evidence:
A truly inspiring and prolific blogger who I follow, Jenny, of Jenny’s Lark, asked a question on her blog recently. I have been pondering it ever since.
Here is my paraphrased version of it: if there is ONE lesson you learned in 2021 that you can keep for yourself, while all of the other lessons disappear into thin air, what would it be?
A tough, yet interesting question to consider, don’t you think?
I’m going to make a list of the lessons I’ve learned in 2021 right now. I will edit this down to just one however.
I realized in 2021 that my life was out of balance: too much working in all it’s forms and not enough writing and publishing.
And this is exactly why, for me, 2022 is going to be all about one word.
Here’s the song of the year for me. I’m pretty sure you all will appreciate it, going into the new year.
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****
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?
Don’t you think that with age many of us handle the unexpected circumstances in our lives better? I think it’s a result of having more time here on earth than others. We’ve simply had a larger number of unexpected things occur in our lives. We’re wiser.
And I think that is awesome.
Not that when a curve ball presents itself we don’t freak out a little. We’re still human after all.
It’s just that we’ve got experiences behind us that tells us we’ve gotten through some shit. We’ve survived. Heck, sometimes we have even thrived after the unexpected invades our realities.
I had two unexpected pregnancies. In the span of two years. I feel like an idiot when I tell people this, but it’s true. And I wouldn’t change a thing about how it all played out.
I was on the pill when I got pregnant both times. First pregnancy was a pleasant surprise. Sure, we (as my mom would say), didn’t have a pot to piss in; but we were newlyweds in love. We made enough money between the two of us to pay our rent and buy groceries and we had the love and emotional support of both sets of parents.
Then, after living in Texas with our baby girl Amanda while Hubs took graduate courses in meteorology and did some student teaching for a few months, I missed my period. Scared out of my mind, I took a pregnancy test and sure enough, it was positive. As Clark Griswold would say, I was more shocked than if I woke up with my head sewn to the carpet.
Decisions had to be made. Staying in Texas would have meant that Hubs would have finished his Masters and put himself in a position to work at his (then) dream job: Professor of Meteorology at a major university. With people, the guy has the patience of Job, so I was confident he would rock that career path. The flip side, however, is that I would have to apply for Medicaid (we were poor, young,and dumb and had no health insurance at the time) for myself and baby Amanda. Then we’d be there in Texas, knowing only a small handful of people (and not very well), raising two babies under 2.
The decision we made was to move back to Minnesota. Where we’d have the support of two loving sets of grandparents to cope with this unexpected turn of events. The guilt I felt (in hindsight, this was wasted energy as it does take two to create new life) for “making” Hubs quit grad school to move back to Minnesota and find employment in his field lasted for years.
While the three of us bunked with his folks and his teenage sister in (thankfully) a 3 bedroom apartment for a month or so, Hubs managed to get a job with a private weather forecasting company and we found ourselves a nice two bedroom apartment.
After Rabbie made their arrival during that hot as hell summer, Hubs got connected with a supervisor in the National Weather Service who hired him as an “intern” (a position that no longer exists) making $18,000 per year. This was sooo exciting! At the time. $18,000 to us in the early 90’s felt like a pretty good darn chunk of change. Only thing was, we had to move to International Falls, Minnesota. The “Icebox of the Nation”. Another unwelcome and unexpected thing.
Nevertheless, we made the best of it. Struggled, stressed out, but we pressed on as a team. As a family.
And now, here we are, married for over 30 years with two great kids in their 20’s and a smart as heck 6 year old grandson. Living in Colorado and as ready as we can be for whatever unexpected thing comes next.
What unexpected circumstances have happened in the course of your lives that changed everything? Please share in the comments.
I think it’s funny that when we read the word “aging” we picture older people. Maybe you think of your parents who are in their 70’s or 80’s. But really, we are all aging. Babies, kindergartners, 30 somethings. All of us who are alive–we are aging.
What’s the big deal? Even more importantly, what’s the alternative?
As I age beyond 50, I see many benefits. Sure, there’s the drawback of not being able to as quickly recall names or past events. The drawback of seeing little gray hairs sprouting in my eyebrows and along my hairline. The drawback of more aches and pains and possibly some arthritis.
However, if I knew 20 years ago what I know now about how edging closer to senior citizen status would feel for my spirit, I wouldn’t have dreaded it.
Because I’m 53:
I have a lot of funny stories about mistakes I made when I was younger. You know, the shit I survived.
I am much better at self-care because I have developed more self-respect.
I communicate more directly, as I now know that it’s better in the long run if I ask what may be perceived as a stupid question instead of assuming the answer and acting upon that assumption.
I am less fearful of failure.
I am more accepting of my personal faults.
I am more willing to ask for help; not seeing it any longer as a sign of weakness, but rather an acknowledgment that what I’m trying to achieve is more likely to become reality if I enlist the help of the right people at the right time.
I’m more accepting of my limitations and more comfortable saying “no” or taking a break from an activity that is stressing me out.
Those are some monumental benefits, right? I don’t believe in actively fighting the aging process, you see. I believe in embracing it with the right attitude and keeping in mind what the alternative is.
So, fellow upper-middle-agers: what did I miss? What benefits have you experienced from aging?
Don’t get me wrong-I wish Covid-19 and the stay-at-home order that resulted from it didn’t exist.
However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit having my life slow down as a result didn’t have its benefits.
I’d also be lying if I told you I didn’t miss getting a massage every couple of weeks (my shoulders and my right hip are killing me, people!). I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t miss going to church every Sunday and embracing my friends there. I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t miss jumping into the car with Hubs and the kiddo to enjoy a cold brew amongst our neighbors at one of our local brew pubs.
I’d really be lying to you if I said I was not speaking from a place of privilege. My lamentations are merely temporary inconveniences.
So on that note, I’d like to share what I believe have been the positive results of the “stay at home” order since it began, what, 6 weeks ago?
I have a much deeper appreciation for going into the office Mon-Fri.
I ended up being quarantined at home for 2 full weeks which I wrote about here, due to a possibility that I had contracted Covid-19 from an individual that was present in the same facility as I was who tested positive. I never became symptomatic, thank God.
Because of this, my role at the agency changed essentially overnight. I was tasked to begin a new program, which we had recently acquired grant money for. It involves calling our clients to check in as a “friendly visitor”. Now, making these phone calls was quite enjoyable for me. And with Hubs working from home (until the end of the year actually) and the kiddo for the most part doing their own thing and working part time, the environment in this house was quite conducive for it.
OMG, you guys, I sooo missed seeing the faces of my co-workers. I missed organizing the food bank. Receiving donations. Handing out food (via curb side pick up) to our hungry clients. The damn Keurig machine. I missed dressing in my work clothes, especially as I had gone out clothes shopping prior to everything getting shut down. I had nowhere to wear my new frocks!
I made my triumphant return to the office last Monday. Woo-hoo! Fortunately, things were not in disarray when I returned. My co-workers and our lovely volunteers got the job done in my absence. And while I continued my new work project, I also was able to help with managing the food bank and procuring more food donations. While wearing my new duds and enjoying myself a cup here and there of dark roasted coffee courtesy of our beloved Keurig machine.
I have embraced my homebody tendencies.
I mentioned in a recent post how I had been getting re-acquainted with my kitchen. That has continued. The jury is out with the Instant Pot, but that is a whole nother story. With the temps increasing, the grill is starting to get more use as is our dear Crockpot. And Sundays have now been declared “Dessert Day” because it gives me something enjoyable to do while I jam out to my Google playlists and well…dessert.
We are also “family-ing” (a coin termed by my MIL) in a more intentional way these days. We have created some silly art:
We have spent time listening to music and strumming along with our guitar (Hubs) and ukulele (now mine). We have played games on the Jackbox TV app (Guesspionage was especially fun). We have played laser pointer games with our furry housemates. We have gotten outside with these darling creatures for neighborhood walks. We are having more meaningful conversations with each other. All things that may not have occurred had it not been for the Covid-19 stay-at-home order.
And seriously, thank the good Lord for the ability we have to video chat with our loved ones. Seeing their faces and hearing their laughter this mom/daughter-in-law/grandma is simply the best.
I am excited about the possibility that once summer is in full swing, we will be safe to venture out into the big wide world again (excuse me while I indulge my optimistic tendencies). But I do hope to maintain this mentally healthier balance between being busy (I dare you to recall the last time you heard anyone tell you how busy they are) and just being. Because this is the lesson I want to have learned from this.
Let’s face it: As bloggers and readers, right in this moment, we cannot exactly avoid writing or reading about the Covid-19 pandemic.
It has invaded all of our moments to some degree. Whether waking and/or sleeping. It’s getting all nestled into our psyches.
But we can control how we think of it. How we respond to it. Just like anything else (not like there is anything else to quite compare it to). We can control the amount of time and mental energy we spend on it. But we can’t (though I’d be lying if I didn’t say there’s a part of me that just wants to stay in bed and wait for it to blow over) completely avoid this new reality.
Call me Captain Obvious if you must.
Now, my thoughts and feelings, and I imagine yours too, are subject to change on this matter. Because we are receiving new information on the pandemic faster than we can process it. This is messing with our heads.
We can go from looking at it as a circumstance that is bringing out the ugliness in people to looking at it as an opportunity for self improvement and noticing the good it brings out in others. I choose option #2.
We can go from focusing on our concerns for the well being of the loved ones who live far from us to the ones who are physically with us in the here and now. I, for one, intend to hug the two other humans and at least one of the furry beings I share my home with as often as I can. Once of course we have shed our outside clothes for our inside clothes (am I the only one who is intentionally shopping online for active wear lounge worthy attire right now?) and properly sanitized ourselves.
We can go from feeling sad about the length of time it may be before we can leave our homes and spend time in those public places we are missing so much to feeling enthusiastic about having more time at home to contemplate life and engage in activities that feed our spirits. Or starting to plan, say travel in the mid-summer that is more likely to occur than not, as I will be doing?
I think it’s of utmost importance for all of us to remember that we are all experiencing this together; collectively. Just from different perches.
There’s no doubt that it’s harder for some of us than others. It’s easier for some of us than others. We all have our unique obstacles in this time, but this pandemic is affecting all of us at the same time.
What lessons do you suppose we will learn?
I think we will learn what we truly value. Who we truly value.
I think we will learn what we are made of. How tough we are. How tough others are. What our weaknesses are, individually and as a society. What we’re capable of.
As an optimist by nature I’m finding the benefits of this partial quarantine. I have, as a matter of fact, rediscovered the joy of cooking.
Since the kiddo has moved in, I’ve fallen away from cooking our evening meals. It wasn’t intentional. It’s just that it turns out that in the years this kid was not living in our home, they learned the joy of cooking. And not the kind of cooking they learned from me (read: I am, until fairly recently, a strict recipe follower). The kind of cooking that is more organic. More intuitive. No measuring involved. They use more spices and a wider, and sometimes unexpected, variety of them.
And it turns out they are a really good cook. Quite a delightful surprise for this mom. The image of my mom pops in my head actually when I watch them whipping something delicious on the stove. Which always makes me smile. I think Bonnie would appreciate this.
A few weeks ago, before this partial quarantine (I am still going to work, folks), I remembered the meatball recipe I saw on my charming blogger friend Annie’s blog. And I decided we ought to try it.
Now, I wasn’t able to find smoked sea salt at the grocery store, so I used plain old salt. But I did find hamburger and italian sausage there. In fact, I picked up a pound of each, then split them up, putting half in the freezer for later. Because I assumed that they’d be so delicious I’d want to make them again. I assumed right.
Hubs and the kiddo raved about them. I thought they were scrumptious, though next time (despite my family’s opposition) I will cut down on the red pepper flakes just a bit.
Last Friday at work, we received a large donation of home chef bagged meal kits. So many that I ran out of room for them in our refrigerators. I decided to take a couple of them home and try them. On Sunday, as we watched the remainder of the newest “Jumanji” movie (recommend this if you want some true escapism), I planted myself in our little kitchen and got to work.
There was something about doing that that gave me such comfort. I was being productive and useful. As there was no instructions found in these paper bag meal kits, I was forced to use the ingredients as I saw fit. I used all of them except the kale, sweet potatoes (the kid made homemade treats for Radar with them) and something called “cashew crema”, which resembled the tube feeding liquid someone donated to our food bank once. When I asked Hubs how I thought I should cook the kale, his response was that it needed to be thoroughly washed…then put down the garbage disposal.
After an hour or so, we wound up with this fantastic meal of whole wheat linguine with flavorful marinara sauce (which I doctored up with the shallot and garlic cloves supplied in the kit, along with a dash of red pepper flakes). Accompanied by baked and seasoned chicken breasts smothered in the prepared pesto sauce with pine nuts and bursting-with-flavor grape tomatoes. And all of us, as Annie would say,”lurrvved” it!
So on account of Hubs and I not spending money on our planned trip to Florida with our friends, I decided to do a little splurge. I went online and bought an “Instant Pot”. And I’m determined this new toy of mine is not going to go by the way of the air fryer I bought a couple of years ago (which is now referred to as the tater tot maker). This sucker is going to get used, baby!
How about you all? Are you like me, rediscovering the joy of cooking? Or rediscovering something else that gives you joy with all this unexpected time stuck at home?