For a while there, I thought I was going to be a humorist and that this blog was just the start on my path to becoming the next Erma Bombeck. Or David Sedaris.
Obviously, I have a rich fantasy life.
Now I think it’s more accurate to view myself as a writing enthusiast with a sense of humor.
I say all this because I have some serious shit to say sometimes. Like now.
Because Roe v. Wade could for real be overturned. I was shocked to hear the news of the leaked SCOTUS draft. I suppose I shouldn’t have been, as this has been in the making by the Republicans for some time now.
This is not about me telling you my abortion story. I’ve never had one.
This is me declaring that overturning Roe v. Wade is inhumane. This is me stating that old white men do not deserve to have the power to do this. No one does. This is me saying that I believe (and science backs this up) that an entity that cannot exist outside the womb cannot be “murdered”.
This is me being pissed off and fearful about our future as Americans.
Abortion is health care for women. Women who have underlying health conditions that puts their lives at risk if they carry the fetus to full term. Girls who were sexually assaulted by a male relative that resulted in pregnancy. Single moms who insisted their partner wear a condom but it broke and now they are saddled with the possibility of having a 4th mouth to feed while working 2 jobs.
It is so freaking nuanced, you see? It is not black and white. Every abortion story is unique.
Overturning Roe v. Wade after 50 years is unthinkable to me. The consequences of this would be enormous. Women and girls will die as a result. People will lose their mothers. Their sisters. Their spouses. Their friends.
And then what’s next? Are the Republicans and SCOTUS going to make bi-racial marriage illegal? Are they going to take away the rights of our fellow LGBTQIA Americans to marry?
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?
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.
It truly bothers me that last Wednesday I failed to publish a post as per usual. I don’t have any good reason for that other than that I didn’t feel I had anything new or remotely interesting to say about anything really.
Hence the reason you find yourself reading this post today. I was not willing to skip yet another week. The anxiety would be too much. I’ve committed to this blog like I’ve committed to a relationship (which I suppose this is-between me and all of you wonderful, patient readers). I’m determined not to flake out on you guys.
It’s not like I was feeling depressed. Quite the opposite, really. Life has been peachy as of late. Rabbie has been making more and more sales on their online site and is positioned to take Karl the cat and move on out of here. Like soon. As in we’re heading downtown Denver tomorrow actually to view the first new potential pad.
The other kid, despite being unemployed (directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic) is doing well also. She’s enjoying having more time at home, more time to herself. She’s making ends meet thanks to unemployment benefits and actively searching for solid employment. She had an interview recently for a job that she is very excited about. The pay is higher than her previous job and the benefits are quite outstanding.
Our 7 year old grandson is thriving! He’s been in a new school for a couple of months now and for the first time is excited to go to school every day. His mom held a birthday bash for him last month at the local roller skating rink and it was reported to have been quite the fun bash.
Work at the food pantry is going well. My boss and I are continuously procuring food and distributing it to those in need. I scored us a hefty sum via a state sponsored Covid-19 grant and will be procuring even more food over the next several months.
As far as writing for this blog goes, I’ve gone back to writing whatever it is I’m thinking about each morning directly after I hit the shower. Before I allow myself to go down any social media rabbit holes. And I’ve been writing more at night, after work and before supper. Luckily, my family is agreeable to eating supper as late as 7 p.m.
I am working on a new blog post. It’s the kind where I challenge myself to delve into a topic that piques my curiosity. The kind that takes some actual time and effort, unlike this post you are currently reading. The hope is it’ll be ready for publication next Wednesday.
As Bonnie would say to me over the phone after breathlessly telling me all the latest in her world, “that’s my stories..how are you doing?”
Let me leave you with a new little ditty from one of my all time favorite singer-songwriters, Carole King. Can you believe she is 79?
“It doesn’t matter when you bloom, it matters that you do”. This is a lyric in the song “Late Bloomer” by The Secret Sisters.
Isn’t it powerful? Sweet, comforting, encouraging?
I can relate to the message of this song. I feel that in a lot of ways, I am a “late bloomer”. Especially considering how long it took me to obtain my license as a social worker.
I was 40.
As a freshman English major at a state university in the 1980’s, I took an elective class entitled “Social Welfare”. Within probably a couple of months, I changed my major to Social Work. The idea of getting out there in the world and helping people in a tangible way really appealed to me. Learning more about the injustices in the world made me want to get out there and make a difference in struggling people’s lives. To fight for the rights of the disadvantaged.
I was going to be a Social Worker.
Fast forward about 20 years. I hadn’t achieved that goal yet. Upon graduating with my B.S. in Social Work, I found myself in great need of employment, as Hubs was still in school and only able to work part time. I was unable to find a job in Social Work in our college town, so I found myself working full time as a customer service rep.
Then came my first pregnancy, a short stint in Lubbock, Texas so Hubs could attend grad school, and then a very unexpected second pregnancy. We moved on back to Minnesota at that point so we could be closer to family while we navigated our journey to becoming a family of four.
Life for about the next eight years was a blur of Hubs working rotating shifts forecasting the weather and us doing our best to keep our kids fed, healthy, and safe. The only ambition I had was to earn money to ensure we could maintain a decent standard of living. My dream of becoming a social worker was put on the back burner and I fell into a couple more customer service jobs.
But the dream never really died. After being relocated to Wisconsin for a new job for Hubs, I was hired as a case manager for a non-profit which served adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Finally I had an opportunity to work in the field that meant something to me. I made a lot of great friends and gained valuable experience in the eight years I worked there. The dream truly re-kindled itself during a staffing I attended for one of my clients with their social worker. I had an epiphany: there was nothing this social worker had over me other than a license.
So right around my 40th birthday, I drove to a nearby city and took and passed the test. I had never felt so confident about myself or more in charge of my future than I did in that moment.
I went on to have a great eight years working as a certified Social Worker at a managed care organization, serving adults with physical and intellectual disabilities as well as those with mental health diagnoses. I found myself using the skills and experience I gained in my customer service jobs as well as my case manager job.
I may not be working as a social worker any longer, but I’m blessed to be in a position where I’m connecting people in need to the food they and their families require to thrive, as a food pantry coordinator.
Who else out there identifies as a late bloomer? I’d absolutely love to hear your stories in the comments.
And of course, I’m sharing the song. The video is beyond precious.
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.
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.
I think for those of us that celebrate Christmas, whether in a secular way, a non-secular way, or a combination of both (like me), we can all agree that this year the holiday season is different.
Obviously, the reason it’s different this year is because of Covid-19. No in-person holiday parties like in years past. Worries about loved ones who may be alone for the holiday. The inability to travel and employment uncertainty.
Out of spite, as in “screw you, Covid-19, I’m not going to let you steal my joy”, I’m embracing this Christmas even more than I have in the past. Like it’s a life boat. Doing this, I think, is a healthy coping mechanism for these times.
We here in this house are gorging on all the Christmas movies. Not so much the cheesy, predictable, brainless Hallmark channel varieties (though they do certainly have their place). I’m talking the classics: “A Christmas Story”, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”, “Elf”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Christmas Vacation”, “Love Actually” and more. The ones we all know the best lines to. The ones that fill us with a giddy joy and warm our hearts.
Our little townhome has been properly adorned with all the Christmas decorations inside and soon Hubs will be putting up the lights outside. We’ve even chosen to string multi-colored lights along the periphery of our living room and around the windows. We didn’t do this the previous years we lived here.
All of the Christmas cookies have been made to send to our loved ones in three different states. The presents have been purchased (online) and received. Names have been picked at work for our “Secret Santa” exchange.
Special desserts will be made. A drive through the local holiday light display for charity is happening this year.
One of my blogger friends, Crystal, wrote this lovely post which prompted me to read Luke. I was compelled by the passage in Chapter 3: John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”, to do a quick clean out of my kitchen cupboards to donate to the food pantry I now run. I think it’d be so cool if others did the same.
I’m determined to suck the marrow out of this Christmas season.
Who’s with me?
**Header image circa 1984 posing with a friend as Christmas elves/mannequins in the front window of Bonnie’s Clothes Bar**
Her name is Kelly. Or, as my Dad often called her “Kel-Kel Poo Poo”. She is my one and only big (biological) sister.
I’ve no idea where Dad got the idea to call her this. I think it’ll forever remain a mystery, as Dad unfortunately passed a few years ago. For the record, he often called me “Rhoda-Joda”. I think the silly names he came up with for all of us was one of his many ways of expressing his love for us.
I don’t know where I’d be without Kelly. She is 8 1/2 years older than me (hard to believe that seeing the picture of us here, right?). She was continuously looking out for me and supporting me as I grew up. I was in awe of her as a kid and still am.
She was the one who regularly sent me care packages when I was away at college. They were filled with random, fun things, like candy, holiday window clings, note pads and other doo-dads. It always made me feel so special, so loved, when I opened them up. I doubt that I ever properly thanked her for them at the time.
I started writing this post on her birthday, November 10. Of course she was working that day. The woman is a work horse and always puts others before herself. I’ll be so happy for her, in another year or so, when she’s able to retire and get much-deserved time to relax and pursue all of those things that give her so much joy, like spending time with her beautiful twin grandsons and traveling with her husband.
It could be said that I owe Kelly my life. I remember hearing stories from when she was about 11 and had to baby-sit me sometimes. She dreaded those times, because our brother, who was just shy of 2 years older than her and had ADHD, delighted in teasing me to the point of tears. She was the one who calmed this bawling and sweaty toddler down during those times.
Kelly is the big sister every little sister wishes they had. She let me tag along with her and her girlfriends when she was in high school. She appointed me “junior” bridesmaid when she got married in 1979. She let me spend weekends with her and her new husband (and eventual baby boys) during the summers. At the time, they lived across from a small resort where we would rent paddle boats and cruise around little Lax Lake. She worked as a waitress back then, and sometimes I would get to hang out at the restaurant with her and her funny friend and co-worker Karen. So many sweet memories.
As she lived in closer proximity to them, Kelly was the sibling who took on the role of managing our parents lives as they got older. She was our family’s rock as Bonnie and Babe’s health deteriorated and for that I owe her a debt of gratitude.
Kelly is also my rock. She’s the first one I call when I have news to share, whether it’s good or bad. It’s fair to say she is the brightest Gem in my life.
For any of you that are blessed to have a “Gem” of a sister like I do, you understand that all I’ve expressed in this post honoring her merely scratches the surface. I’m grateful for Kelly and for the opportunity to have this blog where I can express that gratitude.
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.
On the off-chance that you’ve never heard of this fitness craze, let me break it down for you.
Zumba is a group dance workout that utilizes world music. It’s high energy and fun. It gets your heart pumping and tends to cause profuse sweating.
I participated in Zumba classes for a few months back in Wisconsin about 8 years ago (mentioned in this post). I absolutely loved it. That’s not to say that I was “good” at it. I’ve been told that I’m a great dancer-but not on the Zumba floor. Because Zumba requires one to mimic the moves of the instructor. At a very rapid pace. My arms and legs don’t work together very gracefully unless I’m doing my own thing. Free-styling, if you will.
During the few weeks between my last job and my current job, I made a pact with myself that I was going to use that time for some self-improvement. I decided that I would start with improving my physical self by getting in some regular exercise.
So I found some videos of Zumba classes on YouTube, pushed my coffee table back a bit, and got my groove on.
Things did not go as I hoped they would.
There didn’t seem to be as many full class videos on You Tube as I thought there’d be. So I was going from dance to dance, different instructors each time, with ads between. Plus Radar was around, getting in my way. In fact, one time while I was “zumba-ing” I jumped on his paw because I didn’t see him there and he yelped in response.
After three attempts at my in home Zumba experiment, I came to the realization that it was just not gonna work.
But I have hope for my future with Zumba. One of my WIPs (Wildly Improbably Goals, a coined termed by writer Martha Beck) is to become a Zumba instructor. With the caveat that the classes I lead are only for those 50 and up. Who are beginners.
I would include simple choreography. Not too much jumping and not too fast-paced. I would have the best soundtrack, but it would not be dominated by world music. Maybe some, here and there. Mostly we would be zumba-ing to a variety of classic rock with a little adult alternative in the mix. The songs we all grew up with and the cool songs of the moment. The ones that have a good beat, making them easy to dance to.
Free-styling will be part of each number we do.
This WIP of mine is obviously not going to happen anytime soon, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions on group gatherings. But that’s just fine by me. I’ve got my plate just full enough at the moment, with running the new food pantry and this blog.
Lucky for me, I’m able to get in plenty of exercise in my work day at this point in time.