March 1, 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I’ve been going through the old Halloween costumes, well-loved baby blankets, and other stuff in the basement closet that left me saying “Awwww!” My daughter was so cute dressed up as a turtle when she was in kindergarten. But rather than keep a jumbled heap of old costumes forever, I’m posting this photo to preserve the memory, and then I’m letting it go.
 

Child's green turtle costume. 

Like the turtle that won the race with the hare in the ancient fable, I’ve been working on my clutter at a slow and steady pace, and one of these days I’ll reach the finish line!

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!

…make an alligator.

That’s what a creative neighbor family did when we had a lot of snow this past weekend, making a snow sculpture of an alligator in their driveway. That gave me a smile when I drove past and saw it, so I took a photo to share for Nurturing Thursday:
 

Snow sculpture of alligator on concrete driveway. 

And in the “be careful what you wish for” category: Last week I was grumbling to myself about needing a new mailbox because the old one was rusty and was hard to open and close in the cold weather. On Monday, the snowplow ran into the mailbox and totally mangled it. My husband bought a new one after he got home from work.
 

New black mailbox on post, with snow all around. 

Though it was no fun for my husband putting the new mailbox on the post in the cold and dark, it definitely looks much better now. So, all’s well that ends well!

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.

I’ve been tagged by JoyRoses13 (thanks much!) to write a post for the Spread the Love Challenge, which started on Valentine’s Day. The rules are: Write 10 four-word sentences about love, share your favorite quote or poem about love from a movie or book, and then nominate 10 more bloggers to spread more love. So, here goes:
 

1. Love serenades the soul.
2. Love refreshes like water.
3. In sunlight, love sparkles.
4. Love dances into eternity.
5. Love’s promises are kept.
6. Remember, you are loved!
7. Love brightens the spirit.
8. With patience, love waits.
9. Love’s touch is gentle.
10. Act from love, always!
 

With so many quotes about love to choose from, it’s hard to pick an all-time favorite; but when I first read the challenge, what came to mind was “Love is patient…” Those verses certainly are a wonderful list of short descriptions of love! Here they are:
 

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails…”

(New American Standard Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
 

I’m passing on the love to the following blogs:

Beauteous Beginnings
Tao of Scrumble
Just Having Fun
Ramblings from Jewels
Productive Changes
Catching Sundust
Yes Rising
Colline’s Blog
That’s So Jacob
Send Sunshine

Enjoy!!

A few days ago, I asked my daughter if she still wanted the stuffed animals in the basement. She took them out of her bedroom when she was in high school, not because she decided that she was too mature for stuffed animals—even now, she still has plenty—but to make more space for clothes after she and her friends discovered the joy of shopping. The old stuffed animals ended up in an overflowing laundry basket in the infamous basement closet.
 

Stuffed animals in a basket. 

Her answer was “What stuffed animals?” They had been sitting in the basement for so long, she totally forgot about them! So, they’re definitely clutter; and off to the thrift store they go. I am sure I’ll discover plenty of other forgotten things like that as the cleanup continues!

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!

Back in October, I posted a photo of the willow hedge that runs along my backyard fence, and I got a comment asking for another photo in the winter showing the bare branches. So here it is—the snow looks quiet and peaceful, but the wind was whipping it up just before I took this picture, and I hurried right back inside to get out of the cold!
 

Willow hedge on a cold sunny day with snow on the ground. 

The hedge looks especially pretty at this time of year, with all the little white catkins unfolding. It doesn’t matter how cold and snowy the weather gets—the willows always put on a show anyway! Our own lives are not so very different. Even though there are times when we may not feel that we’re in the most comfortable and nurturing environment, we are still capable of creating beautiful things; and all kinds of worthwhile lessons go on unfolding when it’s the right season for them.

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.

What does it mean to deserve?

Today’s culture is always telling us that we deserve more. Advertisers deluge us with images of shiny new products, declaring that we should indulge because we’ve earned it. Self-help authors say that we can attract great success by repeating affirmations along the lines of “I deserve to be happy” or “Next year I’m going to earn X amount of money because I am worth it.”

While that’s better than going around with our heads full of negative messages about not being good enough, it still leaves us measuring our worth against what other people have. Because deserving has to do with merit, if one person deserves something and gets it, then by implication others who don’t have it are not as deserving. Maybe they didn’t work as hard or couldn’t stay focused on those happy thoughts. From there it’s just a short step to believing that if someone is poor, unhappy, or sick, it must be their own fault.

Nobody ever wins that blame game, though. It doesn’t matter how many new cars we have in the garage, how well our investments are performing, or how healthy and happy we feel at the moment. Simply put, there is no way anyone can go through life always having more health, wealth, and happiness than the other seven billion people in the world. So if we’ve got the attitude that those who have less are to blame for their own misfortunes, then we naturally end up blaming ourselves for not being as rich and famous as those who have more—and there are always plenty of billionaires and celebrities in the news to make us feel undeserving, if we’re so inclined.

Who needs all that judgmental drama? We’d do better to take the concept of deserving back to its roots—to the original Latin word meaning “serve.” Historically, a deserving person was a good servant. Earning money had nothing to do with it—most servants earned little more than their keep, and many were slaves. Deserving, in its original root meaning, was about being loyal to one’s master and devoted to one’s work.
 

Roots of trees in a forest.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

Although we no longer live in a world of masters and servants, we still spend much of our time serving others. Whether it’s by working for wages, owning a small business, caring for our family members, creating beautiful art, or volunteering with a charity after retirement, there are many ways to be a good servant. Giving our work to others is in our nature as human beings, as members of a social species. That’s how we create meaningful accomplishments and leave the world a better place for having been part of it.

Money measures something else entirely. In a capitalist system, money is supposed to be a means of efficiently allocating resources. When sales of a product or service increase, more people invest in it. Some of the profits go toward developing more advanced technologies; then new industries emerge and create jobs, more people can afford to buy products and invest, and the economy keeps on expanding. Of course, it’s not always as efficient as it could be; but that is generally how it functions.

Most investors, with the notable exception of socially-conscious funds, couldn’t care less about whether a company’s goods provide a benefit to humanity. They just want quick profits. A company may have a wonderfully innovative product that would solve many of the world’s problems; but unless enough buyers can be found at a high enough profit margin, nobody’s going to invest in it just because it is deserving in the abstract. The free market is not about making moral judgments and rewarding those who have faith in their products; it is only about getting bottom-line results.

Doing our work with passion and love—being good servants—is not measurable in terms of money or fame. All other things being equal, a passionate worker would make a better impression on people and would be more successful in the conventional sense. But of course, all other things are never equal. We live in a very complicated world where unexpected stuff happens all the time, so why blame ourselves or anyone else for not reaching some arbitrary level of success? When we stay focused on doing our work of service, other things will fall into place in due course.

When I started cleaning up my basement a few weeks ago and got rid of two worn-out desk chairs, amidst the junk there was also another chair. This one wasn’t in bad enough shape to throw away, but it never had been very useful either. It was just a cheap little task chair, okay for my kids to sit in when they were small, but not comfortable for an adult to use regularly. I donated it at the thrift store; here’s a photo in the parking lot after taking it out of my car.
 

Old desk chair in the parking lot of the thrift store. 

While writing this post, I found myself wondering if there might be some kind of subconscious symbolism in hoarding old chairs. Something like musical chairs, perhaps—a fear that the music will stop and there won’t be enough to go around? Then again, to paraphrase Freud, sometimes a chair is just a chair. And this particular task chair is no longer cluttering my basement, so I’ve made a bit of progress.

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!

Diva Dog didn’t have the best morning today. She has a small irritated area on her belly, so she has been wearing a cone to stop her from picking at it while it heals. Of course, she hates the cone, so she has been making her best efforts to look pitiful and convince us to take it off. She probably could win an award for best actress or blues singer with some of the poor-little-me noises she makes.
 

Sad-looking puppy with a plastic cone on her head. 

All of us have bad days when we feel like singing the blues; but overdoing the self-pity just makes us look silly to others while feeling worse about things ourselves, and that’s not a good way to go through life. Though a dog may not be capable of understanding that a bad day soon will be over, people would do better to keep in mind that “this too shall pass.”

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.

So I’m standing in front of the washing machine on Sunday afternoon, not really thinking about anything besides putting in a load of shirts. It’s a dark day with heavy clouds hanging low. That is all right because I don’t have to go anywhere. It seems like a calm, quiet day with no distractions going on. But when I look a bit deeper, I realize that I’ve got two conflicting lines of subconscious thought running through my head.

#1: What a nice, quiet, peaceful day for relaxing. Just what a Sunday ought to be. No worries. I’m just standing here being myself in the moment. It’s all good.

#2: So where’s all the productive work today? That blog isn’t going to write itself, now is it? And when was the last time anything got done on a story? Writers are supposed to bubble over with fountains of spontaneous creative energy. None of that seems to be around today, so there must be something wrong.

I close the washer door, start the cycle running, and step out of the laundry room. The vertical blinds have been drawn back from the sliding glass door in the kitchen, showing a view of the backyard where the slender branches of the willow hedge are whipping around in the breeze. Pale white catkins are just starting to open.
 

View of my backyard fence and willow branches through the kitchen door. 

Meanwhile, the inner dialogue continues.

#1: This would be a perfect day to curl up on the couch with a good book and a cup of hot tea. Mmm, vanilla caramel tea…

#2: Why waste a quiet day that would be just right for writing? Tomorrow is another busy Monday—always a lot going on. Time is precious! Nothing will get done without seizing the moment!

Walking into the kitchen, out of habit I find myself trying to mediate the internal conflict—how about drinking that cup of vanilla caramel tea while composing a blog post? But then I decide it might be more useful to drag my subconscious assumptions up into the light of day (what light there is on this dark winter afternoon) and take a good look at them.

The first line of thought seems pretty simple—it assumes that I’m not in a hurry today, which the empirical evidence of being in a quiet house on a Sunday afternoon would tend to support. The second line of thought assumes that the time available for creative pursuits is scarce and must be snatched whenever it is found. There is some historical evidence in its favor; in past years when I let myself get too busy, my writing suffered as a result.

But at present I’m just standing in my kitchen with nothing in particular to do, and I can’t see any good reason to hoard time as if it’s a scarce resource. Like anything else, creative energy gets harder to hold when one grabs at it desperately, rather than just letting it flow gently along its natural course. I ought to be able to read a book on a quiet Sunday, while trusting that I’ll find inspiration for stories and blog posts later.

“We’ll see about that,” scoffs Voice #2, “it just sounds like an excuse for laziness. What’s to be done when no inspiration shows up?”

That’s when the muse peeks out and settles the matter by deciding to turn this entire internal conversation into a blog post—but not right away. Truth be told, she’s feeling just a tad miffed about being hurried. Writing the post later will work just as well. At present, there’s a nice comfy couch and a cup of vanilla caramel tea calling my name!

After a dusty smoke detector set off our home alarm, we realized that we had never replaced the smoke detectors. They’re supposed to be replaced every 10 years because after that they become unreliable. So my husband ordered some new smoke detectors (it’s very good that he is handy!) and went around the house with a stepladder replacing them all. This photo shows the old ones on the kitchen table.
 

Seven old smoke detectors on a table. 

Replacing smoke detectors counts as home maintenance rather than clutter cleanup, but I decided to make this Sunday’s post a public service announcement. Gentle readers, if the smoke detectors in your house are as ancient as mine were, get some new ones! Otherwise they might go off when there’s no smoke or, much worse, not go off when there’s a real fire.

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!