I plant sweet alyssum in my garden every May, and it always makes me feel peaceful and happy. The blossoms smell lovely—and they’re edible too, as alyssum is related to broccoli. It is native to Mediterranean countries, where it sometimes is used in salads. Alyssum means “without madness,” which comes from the ancient Greeks’ use of the plant as herbal medicine to calm angry feelings and promote emotional balance. They also believed it could prevent rabies. 

White alyssum in my garden next to a large rock. 

In warmer climates alyssum grows year-round, but where I live it gets too cold for that! Having to replant it every spring is okay, though, because working in the garden helps with feeling more centered and (literally) grounded. So, alyssum is good for self-nurturing whether it is eaten or whether it is planted just for its pretty blossoms and pleasant fragrance. Either way, it’s part of a peaceful and calming flower garden!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

May 20, 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

One question that people are regularly asked in opinion polls is whether they believe that their children will have better or worse lives than theirs. Considering how fast technology has been advancing and how many new choices we have in today’s world, one might expect a lot of optimism. But in fact, it’s the other way around—many people have become convinced that their children’s lives will be harder.

Why so much gloom? Don’t we like having plenty of choices? Well, maybe not so much. Although we might not want to go back to the days when there were only three commercial TV networks and playing games meant the cards and board games in the closet, we now have at our fingertips literally millions of ever-changing ways to spend our time. That’s just plain overwhelming. And, who knows what’s happening with the economy and our jobs? When we try to imagine what our children’s lives will be like, we end up with a jumbled mental picture that’s a blur of confusing details. Confusion=bad.

I have to confess that I got distracted while writing this entry, which I meant to post yesterday. My mind filled up with random thoughts about what I might be doing several years from now, how this blog would fit into the life of a future me, and whether or not I would accomplish anything significant in those potential scenarios. And that illustrates a large part of the problem—we’ve gotten so used to thinking in terms of goals and accomplishments, rather than simply enjoying the moment.

Once upon a time, when we were young, it was okay to just sit under a tree and write notes in a journal. If we looked up from the page and watched an ant climbing the rough bark or a hummingbird hovering beside a fragrant flower, we didn’t feel obligated to do something more productive instead. Life felt complete in itself; we didn’t look upon it as consisting of goals and tasks to be worked through according to business principles of efficiency and continuous improvement.

Now we are far removed from those long-ago days when mindfulness came easily to us. It’s hard to imagine either that we’ll find our way back to that peaceful mindset or that our children, having grown up in such a busy world, will ever know what it was like. Of course, any of us could set aside time each day to clear away our worries and distractions—but we overcomplicate that also, and the idea of a simpler life becomes just another to-do that hasn’t gotten done.

That’s probably why bucket lists have become so popular, too. Modern humans lead such regimented lives and are so afraid of not getting things done without a schedule, it seems perfectly normal to plan out every major activity for an entire lifetime. That’s not for me! Just to remind myself that I’ll always have plenty of fun choices, even though there’s no telling what might happen in the future, I keep random notes on things I might want to do someday. If I never get around to them, well, that’s perfectly fine because there are so many other possibilities!

May 17, 2015 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

One of my gifts at Christmas was a toaster, as shown in my New Year’s post. I decided to keep it on the countertop because it was new and pretty, instead of putting it away in a cabinet after every use as I had done with the toaster it replaced. You can probably tell where this post is going. The old toaster stayed on its usual cabinet shelf, just because we’d gotten used to seeing it there and did not notice it was clutter.
 

Old toaster with four narrow slots and a knob to adjust for doneness. 

Taking it out made more space in the cabinet, as well as making me feel that the kitchen has more new and modern stuff in it. I also bought a new electric skillet recently, which I keep in the same cabinet where the old toaster was. The new skillet’s ceramic coating doesn’t have the unhealthy chemicals of older nonstick coatings, and seems like it cooks more evenly too. So my kitchen got a low-cost upgrade this year, yay. I still have an ancient wafflemaker in that cabinet, though…

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!

May 15, 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Stories

This is the second story in what will be a series of three. Click here to read the first.
 

It’s always so pretty in the park when the sun is shining straight down at midday. Julie has been working for the park district as an assistant groundskeeper since she finished high school, and she loves it. Even though the park is in the middle of the city and there are tall buildings all around, Julie can hear birds singing and see the green grass and trees, just like when she lived on the farm with Aunt Kathie and Uncle Hank.

She has a mom and dad, too, but they live in another city far away. Aunt Kathie once told her it was because taking care of a sick baby had been too scary for them. Julie had to have heart surgery when she was very little because she has Down syndrome. That’s also why she needed extra help in school.

“It was never that they didn’t love you, bless their hearts,” Aunt Kathie had said, as her long, callused fingers busily snapped the green beans for supper. “Sometimes people have a hard time dealing with their fears.”

The park’s concrete walkways sparkle as the sun blazes down from a cloudless sky. Julie’s edger hums along, trimming back the grass. She imagines that maybe the grass is afraid it will get hurt, like when she was a little girl and cried about getting her hair cut. Bits of grass are scattered all along the concrete behind her, breaking up its flat white sameness.

“All safe,” she chants softly to the grass, her voice blending with the edger’s low vibration. Somewhere off to her left, there’s a car horn blaring. “All good, all safe.”

Julie knows she’s talking to herself as much as to the grass. Moving to the city and learning how to live in an apartment had been scary. Uncle Hank had told her she would be safe and there was no need to worry. Uncle Hank is a reverend, and he preaches at the old wooden church down the road from the farm. This year he’s been talking a lot about Providence, gratitude, blessings, and things working out for the best. Julie likes that word, Providence—it has such a pretty sound to it.

She also likes the word “reverend,” and once she looked it up in the dictionary, finding that it was part of a set of related words. Revere, reverential, reverence. Sometimes words can be fun. Math, well, not so much; but Aunt Kathie helps with the shopping and bills.

“Rev-er-ence,” Julie chants even more softly, feeling that she is now in perfect tune with the hum of the edger. She’s getting close to the end of the walkway, where orange and yellow daylilies spread out along the side of the park. A woman has set up an easel beside them and is dabbing with a small brush at her canvas, filling it with bright dots of color.

Just beyond the daylilies there’s a sidewalk and street with people busily going by. Most of them aren’t looking this way—they’re watching the traffic or talking on their mobile phones. Only the artist painting the lilies seems like she’s fully here. A pigeon grabs a crumb and hops out of the way of the edger.

Two robins are chattering to one another in the grass. As Julie comes closer they take flight, landing on a low branch of an ornamental plum tree. The thick purplish leaves almost glow in the brilliant sunlight. Looking up farther, above the trees, the sky rises into a clear blue vault full of sparkling treasures—wide open for anyone to reach, and so beautiful.

The artist turns her head, tossing a long dark braid back over her shoulder. For a moment the two women’s eyes meet, and Julie waves a hand before she even thinks about what she’s doing. Overflowing with joy, she imagines that it’s radiating from her in all directions, like the sunlight.

“Reverence,” she says one last time, in a whisper so low that she can barely hear her own voice. She feels certain it’s a blessing from Providence that she has shared.

Recently I’ve been considering how many things in life help to keep us safe as we go through our days. No matter how many we can list, though, it can be hard to let go of worries (most of which have nothing to do with actual present-day events) and to feel safe. So I decided to post a photo of the handrail on the stairway leading up to my second floor to illustrate that there is always something to hold on to, and that’s where the focus needs to be.
 

View of wooden banister looking up from lower handrail to upper portion of stairway. 

Of course, sometimes we miss our grip. Last summer I slipped at the top of the stairs while carrying laundry and bruised my back. But bruises heal, lost or broken property can be replaced, and plans that don’t work out provide useful lessons going forward. What’s important to remember is that we never really have to go through life without help and totally vulnerable to random stuff, even though our worries may trick us into feeling like that sometimes.

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

May 10, 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I keep holiday decorations in the basement when they are out of season. That’s fine for the Christmas stuff, which is neatly boxed up every January and put in the closet under the stairs. Not so good, though, for random Halloween decorations that went to their final resting place long ago in that dim dark crypt…
 

Plastic jack-o-lantern with vampire doll. 

The light bulb in the plastic jack-o-lantern burned out, and then it just sat in the basement for years because nobody ever got around to replacing the bulb. That in turn left us feeling less interested in doing anything with other Halloween decorations. Now, after they’ve been cluttering my basement all this time, I just want them gone. Next time I put a jack-o-lantern on my porch, I’ll get a real pumpkin and a candle, and do it the old-fashioned way. That’s more fun anyhow!

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!

May 8, 2015 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

I recently bought Louise Hay’s book Loving Yourself to Great Health after reading a review on Awaken & Begin. It’s about the interrelationship between our thoughts and what we eat. Not only do we feel better when we eat healthier foods—our bodies also make more efficient use of the nutrients when we feel better about ourselves and thus continue to become healthier, in an ever-improving cycle.

One point that resonated for me was the relationship between gut health and feeling safe. Gut feelings are more than just a metaphor; the brain and gut really do communicate with each other. When we’re overly stressed, we feel it in the gut, and it’s likely to result in digestive issues such as constipation. Conversely, a gut feeling of being safe improves both mood and digestion. The book suggests affirmations and gratitude lists, as well as more nutritious foods, to feel better and become healthier. I decided to be more specific about listing reasons why I am safe, such as:

– I am safe because I have a loving family who will always help me.
– I am safe because I live in a well-built, comfortable home.
– I am safe because I have a low-stress job that provides for my needs.

I hadn’t really thought about it before I read the book, but there is a big difference between appreciating one’s blessings and feeling safe. The first doesn’t necessarily lead to the second; so although gratitude lists can bring about an improved outlook on life generally, they might not be enough to banish old fears.

For the past week I have been reminding myself every day that I am safe, and setting forth some reasons why that is true. I have in fact noticed some improvement in my digestion, in addition to feeling calmer. So, although reasonable minds can differ as to the particulars of the nutritional advice in this (or any other) book, I’d say it was well worth reading.

May 7, 2015 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Deciding what annual flowers to plant is always fun in early spring, before the warm weather arrives. Last month, I had in mind that I was going to plant lantana next to my mailbox. But I looked at two stores, couldn’t find any lantana, and was getting a bit frustrated. Then I ended up buying mandevilla instead—just happened to notice it at the supermarket when I was doing my grocery shopping.
 

Mandevilla with red flowers next to my mailbox. 

It is a climbing plant, and I expect it will look gorgeous toward the end of the summer when it’s all over the mailbox post. I’ll also look upon it as a reminder to “climb” beyond my original expectations and always keep my mind open to finding beautiful things everywhere!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

You know how great it feels when you’re shopping for clothes, and all of a sudden you see something beautiful on the rack next to a bunch of ordinary stuff, and there’s only one and you think “Please, please let it be my size,” and YAY, it is!

I had a memorable shopping trip like that in 1988 when I found a pretty white and gray blouse full of sparkly silver and gold threads, which was love at first sight and the perfect size for me.
 

Old blouse with silver and gold threads. 

The only thing I had to wear with the blouse was a cheap gray suit from Value City, which my mom had bought for me when I was still in school, but I expected that I’d buy a better suit to go with it. That never happened, though, because I spent a few years staying home with my kids when they were little and then got a job where I didn’t need to wear suits. I gave the cheap gray suit to a charity that was helping women on welfare to transition into the workforce, but I kept the blouse just because I remembered how happy I felt when I bought it.

Obviously, I’m never going to wear it again. Even if the material hadn’t gotten yellowed from almost three decades of hanging in my closet, it has 1980s-style shoulder pads, for heaven’s sake, and would look absolutely ridiculous with any of today’s fashions. Also, one thing I’ve learned over the past year while cleaning up my clutter is that holding onto useless stuff just because it has good memories is counterproductive. That causes unhealthy feelings of stagnation and takes up space, both mental and physical, which could be put to much better use! So I’m letting the blouse go, while reminding myself that whatever may come my way in the future, it’s all good.

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!

I’ve had the phrase “let go of the outcome” in my head a lot this past week, when telling myself that uncertain situations would turn out for the best regardless of what might happen at a particular time. In keeping with that thought, and with the “consider the lilies” story that I posted yesterday, I decided to illustrate today’s entry with a photo of the daylilies next to my garage.
 

Row of four daylily plants, not blooming yet, under a gas meter. 

I planted them under the gas meter about 10 years ago, and they’ve been growing robustly ever since. One year the gas company dug them up to put in a new meter, and that left me concerned that they might not recover properly. But they came back the next year as healthy as ever; so, just as with anything else, I shouldn’t have wasted my time and mental energy uselessly worrying about possible outcomes!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.