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.
Recently I changed my primary work password to “GOODJuJu!!”
And I don’t care that you all know it now. What on earth would you do with it anyway? Break into my office, type it in and read my totally uninteresting emails? Go ahead, knock yourself out.
I think this is the best password I’ve ever come up with. Every time I type it in, I remind myself that my daily goal is to spread light in all my interactions with others. Not like I achieve that goal on the regular. But I try nevertheless.
Since I’ve shared my work password, it makes sense to follow the thread of spilling secrets. Tell you about the stuff that I’ve been doing to gain clarity for myself as an ambitious and creative writer.
Don’t get too excited. It’s all really just baby steps. But I think they still count for something.
First secret: I partook in David Sedaris’ Master Class online for Storytelling and Humor. Truth be told, I signed up for this class because of the “storytelling and humor” part-not so much for David Sedaris. I can’t say that I don’t like him, I do; it’s just that I knew of him but hadn’t read anything he has written. Still haven’t, actually.
Signing up for this class was something I did to help me learn in more detail how I can improve my creative writing. My ability to tell humorous stories that people can relate to and appreciate. It was a purely selfish investment that I decided to make in myself. And I have no regrets.
I had have great interest in interacting with the “community” within this online class. I’ve introduced myself, entered a piece of my writing in a contest even. The prize in this contest is David’s feedback on your piece. I think it’s safe for me to assume that I’m not going to win. And this is not me feeling sorry for myself or me being fake humble. My life is too good and blessed for that shit.
I’m not a great writer. I might be, someday. Or not. Either way, the joy writing gives me will not be overtaken by feelings of self-doubt about my ability to grow my readership on this blog or elsewhere.
I would estimate that it took me 3 hours, within the span of 5 days, to decide which piece I should enter for this contest. That’s how I found “Grammerly”, because in order for my piece to be accepted for consideration, it had to be under 600 words.
“Grammerly” also informed me that my piece was at an 11th to 12th grade level. So clearly, there’s room for improvement.
After doing a bit of editing on the piece I chose, I gave it a couple of days, then went back in to see the one comment made on my piece. It was “I feel like there’s too much information in this piece. I’d like to see it pared down to it’s bare bones”. He was spot on. I veer into the rabbit hole of verbosity in both my speech and my writing.
Whether or not I go back in, make some major edits and re-submit is up in the air. I honestly don’t know if that’s even allowed or appropriate. Or maybe it’s expected?
For now, though, I just want to share what struck me most from being a student of this class. The following is taken directly from the notes I made to myself as I participated in this class and worked through the accompanying workbook.
David’s “work spaces”. Loved the imagery. Made me think that I could write about my ideal work space. Like a “she shed” type deal.
Tuning into your surroundings will open you up to moments that could become stories and the parts of your world that belong in your writing.
“I don’t like to write about people I don’t like”. I concur, David. Neither do I. So I won’t. Period. Hopefully this declaration doesn’t come and bite me in the ass later.
David has a conversation with every person in line at his book signings. He also writes thank you letters. He’s such a nice boy.
Take incidents and stitch them together for a story. I love the creative reference of stitching. Also, following threads. And rabbit holes.
Paint a mental picture in a readers head. Go to readings?? David said he learned a lot from doing this. A lot about what not to do, that is.
Now onto my second secret (or is it my third? That’s subjective, I suppose): During the time I was taking this class, I received an email announcing spring 2020 dates for the Listen to Your Mother shows.
Let me back up for a sec: I first heard about this annual event in 2016 from a local-ish “mommy” blogger named Stephanie. Essentially, LTYM is a franchise that is locally produced in various cities in the U.S. Primarily women get up on a stage and read original pieces on the theme of “Motherhood”. A percentage of the proceeds from ticket sales goes to charity.
I instantly loved this whole concept. The idea of others sharing their personal stories about motherhood, a topic dear to my heart and which I have much to say about, really intrigues me. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, someway, somehow.
So, with David encouraging me to do readings, I started considering applying to be part of the cast. I congratulated myself recently when I realized that I could simply click on the “word cloud” I have featured on my blog’s front page and read all the posts I have written on one particular topic.
But then after reading the few posts I have published that featured “Motherhood” and then proceeded to view video clips of past LTYM speakers, I was overcome with self-doubt. I mean, if this is is all I’ve got to offer and these are examples of my potential “competition” why the hell should I proceed?
Now is the part of this post where you might expect me to say something along the lines of “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” or “What’s the worst that could happen?”. Both of which are 100% true.
However, while I’m not closing the door to auditioning for LTYM, I’m also not necessarily doing it this year. At least not with any of the pieces about motherhood I have published on this blog.
I think it’d be wise to heed David’s advice: attend readings. For me, it’ll be the LTYM show this spring. See what it’s like. Take notes. Make some connections.
I’m just going to jump right in with the “Right Now” part.
Anyone who read my last blog post knows that our youngest kiddo moved in with Hubs and I recently. With their cat in tow. In my almost 53 years (yes, my birthday is just literally around the corner), I have never shared my living space with such a creature.
Despite my initial misgivings (potential allergies, Radar maiming poor little kitty in a clumsy attempt to play with him, the smell), it isn’t so bad having him around.
I haven’t detected any majorly offensive odors yet. Not sneezing my head off or scratching my already dry (thanks Colorado) skin. Radar hasn’t inflicted any injuries on him. Yet anyway.
It’s been entertaining as hell watching Karl the cat and Radar interact with each other. At this point, I’d say they are solid “frenemies”. Like cool with being within a foot of each other. They are establishing their personal boundaries (Karl seems to have a good deal more of them, but apparently that’s cats for you). One of these days, who knows when, I envision there will be long enough a moment to snap a picture of the two of them together. When that happens, I’ll be sure to share it on this here blog.
For now, here’s a sweet pic of Karl I recently took:
As far as our other new roomie goes, things are going well. It’s been nice to have another human around to hang with. One who shares my love of quirky, colorful, fem-positive, musical theater type movies and shows. One who provides me with original art for my blog (featured at the end of this post). One with plenty of new, fresh ideas of things to do and places to go.
Now, kiddo is hard at work searching for gainful employment. Which means that this arrangement is temporary-ish. So I’m going to appreciate their lively presence in my daily life as much as I can between now and the time when they fly out of the coop again and into their own place. Which, if I have my way, will be a less than 10 minute drive from us.
Well, as you can see, I am writing. Feeling squishy about it though. I have three potentially legit blog posts in my draft folder. Just haven’t felt compelled to get back to them to make them publishable. I will, I know. Just not today.
What I’m tempted to write about is a book I recently finished: The Four Agreements. If I did tell you about it, I’d say this: it gives one a lot to think about. Like, a whole lot. About how one moves through the world as a human. How essentially we are programmed to believe stuff about ourselves and the world we inhabit based on what our parental figures told us. And how all of that is a lie. Not sure I am behind that particular concept. Not 100% anyway.
Okay, so I’m going to just get on with it and give into my temptation for a hot second or two.
There are, according to the author (Don Miguel Ruiz), 4 agreements one should live by in order to have a truly happy life. They are ginormous agreements and if you overthink them (which of course I have been doing), your head might explode.
First agreement: Be impeccable with your word. I take this to mean “say what you mean and mean what you say”. That may be a gross simplification of this agreement, to be sure; going deeper it’s also about not gossiping with others about others. That’s a tough one, right?
Not because I intentionally gossip. I’m not a total monster.
It’s just that when someone you know, like, and trust, starts sharing their beefs about another someone you know, but don’t like, and don’t trust, it’s hard to resist joining in. To get sucked into the rabbit hole.
I tell myself that I’m “just venting”, and for a short bit of time I enjoy the camaraderie. I feel that sense of self-satisfaction that comes with the realization that my negative opinion of the one we are bitching about is shared with others. Which I always see in hindsight is not useful or helpful. Certainly not for the target of the gossip session. And not for those of us gossipers. It doesn’t move anything forward in a positive direction in any way.
I guess I just need to figure out how to get myself out of situations where active participation in gossiping is tempting me. That, I believe, is where the challenge lies. Because, ultimately, I don’t want to wind up as the one being gossiped about because I chose not to participate.
That leads me to consider one of the other 4 agreements, which is this: Don’t take things personally. I guess where I could take that in the scenario where I’m the odd one out, turning on my heel and marching away once the gossiping starts, is that what I assume those people have to say about me not engaging in the gossip is on them. Not on me. It has no reflection on me whatsoever.
Sorry for the “psychobabble” folks. That was not my intention when I began writing this post. It’s just where it went. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have more to say about this mind trip of a book. There are, after all, 2 more agreements I didn’t even touch on.
So there you have it. My life is changing and my attitude towards it is evolving. I think all I can really do is just write through it.
Man, I love myself a good acronym. Almost as much as a finely crafted mantronym (for those of you new to this blog, that’s a mantra that presents as an acronym).
The first time I saw “ISO” it was on a work email. One of the other social workers was “ISO” something or other. Probably a way to get rid of bed bugs, because that is the type of shit we had to help our clients with on a disturbingly regular basis. I had to read the body of the email before I understood that “ISO” was “in search of”.
My personal theory is that we are all “ISO” pretty much all the time. It might be a lost sock or cell phone. It might be recommendations for a dog walker. It might be for the best cheesecake recipe. Or it might be something deeper; like meaning, purpose, or peace. Or maybe a little bit of all of the above and more.
This song comes to mind as I’m writing this. I happened to hear a truly awesome version of it recently as I was tooling around in my CRV. Here it is:
I have gratitude for the fact that in this life I have found what I was looking for: a happy marriage, a place to call home, two awesome adult children, a grandson, a dog, and a career that have all brought me a lot of happiness.
But there’s still more I’m ISO.
What might that be? Well, a whole bunch of things honestly. But what it boils down to more than anything is balance.
Balance between writing/doing/connecting is what I’m searching for in 2020. Maybe I should christen 2020 as my year of Clarity.I need to avoid the “overwhelm” and remain rooted in the present, in my writing life, professional life, and personal life.
One of the major take-aways for me from 2019 is that working is highly important to me. Working at my part time job running the food bank. Working on my writing; improving my blogging skills. Working on strengthening the connections I have with the people I love and making new connections with those people I have yet to meet. I like staying busy, moving forward, accomplishing things.
What I know for sure about 2020 is that it’s incumbent upon me to work even harder that I did in 2019. Up my game at work. Find ways to improve myself professionally. So that I can contribute more to the team, to our clients, to our mission.
Another thing I know for sure about 2020 is that I will need to hyper-focus on my writing via this blog (and otherwise, but that is currently a batch of baby WIPS that will need some careful coaxing to show themselves to the world).
Suffice it to say: I have much to say about a variety of things-from my personal history, my current reality and the (hopefully) fabulous future. I have stories to tell. I have more to say about some of the topics I brought up on this blog in 2019. I have more to do and say in and about the present. And I have a freaking ton to say about the future.
While all of the above is true and right and good for me personally, I recognize that I can’t blow off taking care of myself. Because in real day to day life of the year 2020, there’s gonna be obstacles. Some I am fully cognizant of and others will be new and uninvited. So while I don’t anticipate becoming a self-care guru (because really, we have so many of them we can refer to on the internets and in real life if we are so fortunate), behind the scenes of this here blog, I will be aiming to practice a healthy amount of it.
I sincerely hope you stay tuned.
But first, please indulge me and answer this question in the comments:
What are you ISO in 2020? This particularly curious mind would love to know.
I’m feeling experimental with my writing these days. Like I want to see what I can get away with; but not in a naughty way. Not in a way that’s going to get me arrested or shunned in the blogosphere. I just want to put something out there into the universe that surprises some people but resonates with others. #Goals, right?
I’m also feeling some serious writing angst these days. At the same time, I’ve been writing a whole lot. Like every chance I get. While I know this is a good thing, it’s left me feeling anxious. Like a hot mess. Because there’s so much I want to say and I want to put it out there on this blog in just the right way.
The indecision within me about what to finish and publish is really messing with me right now.
The only right thing for me to do, because I’m anal about consistency when it comes to my blog is to just Cut. It. Out. And publish something.
So off I go.
Proof of my anal retentiveness as it relates to this blog of mine: An excerpt from my “planning” draft folder (is this a thing for you too?) from 2018.
Review both current WIPs. Decide quickly if either is worthy of being published on Wednesday morning. Morning, dear. If not, don’t sweat it. It’s the small stuff, as cliche as that sounds. But it’s almost completely true. Then just do your best to use this Chromebook during the vacay. Whenever the moment strikes. And maybe the moment won’t strike. It will by 5/28 though. So at most you’ve skipped one week of posting. Don’t get your undies in a bunch over this. Yes, that did remind me that I need new undies as a matter of fact.
Items to look for while on vacation:
Also, Amanda’s birthday presents.
Now back to the current moment: In keeping with the thread of this loopy post from the indecisive, high strung hot mess that I am right now, I’m going to just copy and paste some of the random thoughts I’ve been expressing in various draft folders of this blog and call it a day. I’m going to re-type a few random thoughts I captured in various draft folders and call it a day (I can at least make the effort to make it look nice, right?).
Maybe that seems lazy to you. Maybe it seems crazy to me. Maybe it’s a combination of both. I dunno. But I’m going to do it nonetheless.
In no particular order whatsoever, I give you Rhonda’s random writing thoughts found within the vaults of my blog:
Notions or Quotes that I’m fond of:
You get what you give.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
This too shall pass.
“The most effective way to do it, is to just do it” Amelia Earhart. That resonates for me writing wise. That’s what I’m doing right now actually, so there.
I’m really curious about something. Well, many things really. But today I’m thinking about how I read or heard somewhere that it takes 7 days (or two weeks or six years?) to form a new habit. It’s actually 66 days. Ughh! Which, from today, is 12/25-Christmas Day!
The new habit I am going to start to form in earnest as of today is writing first thing in the morning. I like to say I do that now, but that’s not true. It’s writing before I check the forecast, read the UCC Daily Devotional, check Facebook. It’ll be an experiment. And just for fun, I think I’ll add in a new habit of writing every night too. Just for a little bit. 15 minutes even. The more I write, the more I have to publish. The more I publish, the more likely it is that I will get the attention I’m looking for.
Current moment commentary: I have stuck to this. That’s why there’s so much content within my draft folders now. And also why I’m so damn indecisive today about what to publish.
One last snippet from my draft folders:
Right now, I am so tired. Need to get ready for bed. Yet need to capture a few thoughts. Random though they may be. K.I.S.S. It’s mostly Keep. It. Specific. Sister. But it can vary. Mantras, phrases, acronyms, names are all very important to me as a writer. Who am I writing for? Who do I actually want to appreciate my writing? To benefit from it in some small but positive way? I want to make an impact. Push someone else forward so they can push another person forward and so on and so forth. Spread good vibes. Good juju. Good karma.
Okay, now I suppose it’s time to conclude this post. Thanks for sticking with me, people (am I being a tad presumptuous? Probably.)
My aim for my next post is to focus on one topic, or one general idea. I promise!
Somewhere between starting to write the first (of hopefully many) blog posts for my work’s website, reading and commenting on other blogger’s posts, and well, just the normal busyness of summer (please know I am not complaining here), I decided to take a week off from publishing a blog post.
Sorta like (ok, not really) the youths that had community service hours to complete at my food bank, who I found sipping lemonade in the staff break room a couple of weeks ago. These two pubescent boys had put in approximately 52 minutes of “work” (aka putting plastic grocery bags in their receptacles and a small bit of re-stocking shelves) and informed me they were “on break”.
I am not the supervisor so I chose not to tell them that this was not an “authorized” break and they needed to get back into the food bank and break down those damn boxes.
This is probably not the sort of anecdote to include on the work blog. Snark has no place there.
Okay, so back to the original point of this post. What did I do during this break?
Well, quite a bit of pondering. And writing in dribs and drabs. That’s kind of how I work with this blogging thing of mine. I sneak a few moments here and there and write a few words. I wish I had a whole day to do this though. I have this image of myself pounding away, fully bereft of a sense of time and possibly place, penning post after post after post. Banking them, if you will. Which is what my boss’s boss wants me to do with the work blog.
Wish me luck.
But I’m so prone to distraction. Radar is a major distraction for me. And it’s not because he’s continuously nudging my arms with his wet nose as I’m typing or that he’s ripping the house apart (though he’s fond of using the bath mat as a chew toy when I’m not paying attention). It’s because I want to be a great dog parent (I almost typed “owner” but that just seems wrong to me. He’s not my slave, after all. Not like I’m expecting him to make dinner for us or anything. Can you imagine?). But I digress. I did mention that I’m prone to distraction, correct? Bottom line-I believe he deserves as much care and attention as I can possibly give him, don’t you all agree?
I will soon have a spate of days where I’ll be the only human in my house. Hubs has a work trip then shortly after that, he’ll be flying to Wisconsin to help his parents with home repairs. This will be my time. My time to 1) edit my blog’s draft folder (so much in the hopper, people!), 2) write like the fiend I am and 3) finally update my vision board.
I will of course, during this time, catch up on my favorite shows (you know, the ones Hubs does not appreciate). Like finishing where I left off on the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Finally watching “Wine Country” on Netflix (highly recommended to me by Spawn #2 plus it’s an Amy Poehler creation!). Season 9 of Shameless (gotta keep up with the godforsaken Gallagher’s).
May my t.v. watching not become too big a distraction.
But writing during this time will be my #2 priority after Radar.
Let me start by saying I don’t have enough time to write or read these days. This is the bottom line, so I’m going to cut to the chase.
I have been using what time and mental energy I have this past week working on my first blog post for the non-profit I work for. I just submitted it to our Executive Director today. This is a gamble for me as I haven’t worked for her for too long a time so I don’t have a good read on how she will respond to it: aka if it’s good enough to be published on our website.
But it’s not in my hands anymore so I’m going to do my best to just let. it. be.
Hubs and I will be leaving soon to spend a few days in Minnesota with my side of the family. First “activity” on the agenda upon our arrival is to attend the burial of my mom’s ashes at the cemetery. It felt so weird to write that sentence. Mom passed back in late February. I’ve accepted this. Yet this will be the first time since that we’ve gone back to my hometown. Suffice it to say I’m feeling emotional about it. Unsettled.
On the up side, I am thoroughly enjoying the companionship of our new pup, Radar. He’s so very smart and is now doing very well at our weekly obedience training sessions (likely because they are being conducted on a one-on-one basis with the trainer). I’m anticipating missing the hell out of this mutt while we are away. And anxious about how he’ll do amongst the other dogs where he’ll be boarded.
Summer is nearly half over. I can hardly believe it. It’s truly been great so far however, for which I am grateful. We have many activities to look forward to between now and the end of August. The one I am probably most looking forward to is the Wisconsin cabin getaway, where we’ll be bunking with my in laws, my sister in law, and our beautiful, smart, curious, funny, delightful 5 year old grandson. There’s a couple of concerts and a visit here in Colorado with Spawn #2 in the mix as well.
I could say that due to all this busyness the frequency of my blog posts may decrease. I don’t intend for that to be the case, and in fact my fear that this blog will suffer as a result of blogging for my work website, may very well ensure that I will indeed continue to publish a post each and every week.
Often, as a matter of fact, because I have so much I want to write about on this blog, I can envision increasing my posts to twice weekly.
But…time. Right? There never seems to be enough of that stuff.
That is precisely why this particular post is not being posted today, which is Wednesday (my usual time slot). I’m aiming for a post next Wednesday where I will share in more detail where my head is at regarding writing/blogging. Hint: it’s all over the fucking place.
My draft folder has 18 sorta started blog posts at the moment. Makes me wish I could take a whole day (or 5 or 8) to go into “boss bitch” mode and edit the crap out of it. I would feel so much more settled if I could somehow make that happen.
Maybe this time when I’m on vacation, I will actually use the chromebook instead of just slugging it from airport to airport, to the motel and to my sister’s house. Now that’s an idea. One of so, so, so many.
I hope you all hang in there with me.
In the meantime, enjoy a little flashback in time from my teenage years!