Autumn is, among other things, the season when holiday food gift catalogs show up in the mail. The cookies and cakes are so creatively decorated, looking at them can be as much fun as eating them! My sister bought Christmas cookies for my family one year, which were shipped in a holiday tin decorated like a delivery truck.

 

Cookie tin decorated like a delivery truck.

 

The cookies were yummy, and the tin was just too cute to throw away—well, you know how that goes. For more than a decade, the empty cookie tin sat on the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet. It never got in the way because the shelf is too high to reach without standing on a stepstool, and there wasn’t anything else we wanted to put there; so, at the time, it just seemed like a cheerful decoration.

But in the past few years, my husband and I have been eating better, cutting out the unhealthy sugary stuff. So it’s probably not the best idea to keep an old holiday tin in the kitchen that makes us think about cookies! Someone else might like it, though; so maybe what I’ll do is fill it with something tasty and take it to a picnic or bonfire or other potluck event, along with a sign, “Tin free to good home.”

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!

Last year I bought a Hamsa charm, handmade by an artist in Israel, to decorate an interior wall and bring peaceful feelings to my house.  The wall, which never gets direct sunlight, looked like it could use some brightening up!  I also hung a small suncatcher in a window, consisting of an angel and a crystal teardrop (shown in this post on a gray winter day).  The suncatcher makes tiny rainbows, mostly on the floor.  This morning I noticed that there was a rainbow directly on the Hamsa, and took a photo to share.

 

Hamsa wall hanging with rainbow light.

 

Although it may not seem like much, I’ve found that having little bright cheerful things around the house can go a long way toward keeping me in a good mood generally!

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.

This is Part 15; click here to read Breaking the Ice from the beginning.

 

A large brown suitcase stood next to the open door of the dormitory room, bulging with things that hadn’t been on the original list. When he’d started packing, Mark had expected to go home as usual for Christmas vacation, just as he’d done in past years. But then Dr. Ghorbanifar—the principal herself!—had come to his room and told him to pack everything; he wouldn’t be returning to the school.

“Why?” The unexplained announcement left him in such fear that he could speak only that one word. Where would he go? And what could he have done that was so wrong the school would put him out? He always got high marks in his classwork, and months had gone by since the last time he had lost behavior points for looking weird. He had even been allowed to grow his hair again because he’d stopped fidgeting with it.

Dr. Ghorbanifar kept her gaze fixed on him, a piercing dark-eyed stare that left him feeling like a bug in a researcher’s collection. Her reedy, accented voice filled the room. “Your parents will tell you more when they arrive. They are on the way. Pack now.” And off she’d gone again, her ankle-length black dress swishing in counterpoint to the thumping of her orthopedic shoes on the hard floor.

After he’d finished packing, Mark stood in the middle of the room, unsure of what he should do next. Would his parents come up to the room as they’d done before? Or should he wait in the lobby, now that it wasn’t his room anymore? He realized that he had started pacing from one side of the room to the other, and he quickly made himself stop before anyone could walk by and see him. Especially his parents. If they saw him doing something weird, they might send him to another school that was much worse. Someplace where he wouldn’t have any real classes or any chance to become a scientist.

Maybe that was going to happen anyway. Mark had heard plenty from his teachers about the horrible fate that awaited anyone who didn’t learn how to behave in society, how lucky the students were because the school was teaching them what they needed to know, and why they shouldn’t take their good fortune for granted—there was such a long waiting list for new students. Maybe he hadn’t learned enough about how to behave, and now he was being put out to make room for someone else. Maybe his parents had decided he wasn’t worth the cost of keeping him at the school. But what had he done that was so awful?

His toes twitched inside his shoes, now that he had stopped pacing. That was okay because nobody could see his toes in there. Even if one of his toenails dug into the next toe and made it bleed, which happened sometimes, he didn’t worry about that because it couldn’t be seen and the dark uniform socks hid the blood. Doing something weird wasn’t so bad if there was a way to hide it.

More footsteps echoed along the hallway, coming toward his room. Two people—had his parents arrived? He took a step toward the door, but then stopped to think about it. Would he look too anxious if he hurried out of the room? Maybe his parents would see that as abnormal. Better not to risk it. And he should rehearse a few greeting phrases in his mind, quickly, or else he might end up being able to say only one word again…

“Mark, it’s so wonderful to see you!” His mother breezed into the room, her steps lighter and quicker than he ever remembered them being. She carried a red coat over her arm and wore a tailored gray suit, which matched the dark gray of her eyes. Today her eyes crinkled with cheerful lines at the corners, and she didn’t have her usual deep furrows between the brows. She certainly didn’t look like she was angry with him about anything, so why had he been told he wasn’t coming back to the school?

Seeking more clues, Mark glanced toward his father, just now entering the room a few steps behind his mother. Under his father’s balding scalp, the brows also looked smoother than usual; and his father spoke gruffly, as though he couldn’t quite keep his voice under control. “Son, we’re both so very proud of you. So glad.”

“It’s such amazing, wonderful news,” his mother burbled. “Dr. Ghorbanifar is a brilliant woman, a true miracle worker. She says you have completely recovered from autism because of your behavioral therapy, and now you can go to a regular high school like everyone else. And after that, college.”

She went on talking, but Mark couldn’t understand any more of it because his thoughts had turned into such a jumble. College, to learn how to be a scientist? Could he really? Although his mother’s lips were still moving, his brain couldn’t make sense of the input. The next thing he heard was his own voice saying, “Wonderful—so glad!”

Although this didn’t happen as often as when he’d been younger, sometimes Mark still found himself repeating words when there was a glitch in his speech processing. The way to hide it was to smile, make eye contact, look as normal as possible, and say something else that made sense.

He decided he’d better hug his mother too, although her strong floral perfume always made him feel nauseous when he got that close. It was worth it today; he couldn’t risk her seeing anything that might make her change her mind.

“Mom, I love you!” Putting as much enthusiasm into his voice as he could manage, Mark gave his mother a big smile and looked into her eyes before hugging her—he had to reach down for the hug, now that he’d grown so much taller. He spoke quickly, before the perfume had time to affect him much. “I’m so glad to be going home!”

We all know how this story goes—exercise equipment is bought with the best of intentions, only to end up in the back of a closet gathering dust. Then we tell ourselves a fairy tale about how it’s still worth keeping because we’re going to use it again someday.

 

Two 8-pound weights.

Maybe the last time I used these weights was in 2006; I honestly can’t remember, it was so many years ago. And I have no need to keep them because I took up rowing last year, which does a good job of keeping my arms toned. I like getting out on the river and seeing the wildlife—there are herons, ducks, and beavers all along the course.

So I’m getting rid of the weights. And I would say there’s a more general lesson here: Why keep old exercise stuff that just gets in the way and gives us bad feelings about not having used it, when the world is so full of other fitness activities we might enjoy a lot more?

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 never had any furniture in my great room, other than a rocking chair in the corner, and the Christmas tree when in season (it’s artificial, so I suppose it can be counted in the furniture category). The chair matches the woodwork pretty well, but that is just by coincidence.  It’s left over from when my kids were babies; I never could bring myself to give it up after they outgrew the need for a nursery rocking chair.

 

Rocking chair in corner between fireplace and window.

 

The window shown in this photo is part of a set of lovely tall windows along the back of the house, facing south-southeast. I didn’t want to put any furniture on that wall and block the gorgeous morning light. On the side of the room opposite the fireplace, there is a partial wall dividing the great room from the kitchen; it’s too short to put any sizable furniture along it. The only other wall is the one across from the windows, and we always walk close to that wall when going to and from the kitchen, so putting any furniture there would seriously disrupt our usual traffic pattern.

The room always felt perfectly comfortable without furniture. On winter nights, we sat on the floor playing Monopoly next to the cheerful lights of the Christmas tree. In the summer, when we had cookouts, there was plenty of space for guests to walk around. Projects could easily be spread out on the floor and assembled. But in the back of my mind, I felt guilty for having failed at decorating because I didn’t have a properly furnished house like my mom always had.

This year, I’ve put a higher priority on self-nurturing, along with reading some blogs and books about minimalism. And I have decided to give myself permission to keep my house a comfortable place for my family, even if it might not look like a decorator’s showplace. What really matters is how we feel when we’re at home!

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.

To read all posts in this series from the beginning, click here.

 

We have awesome personal power, even though we may not fully realize its extent. The small choices that we make as we go through our days ripple outward, touching others around us—and indirectly, others around them—in a cascade of consequences. With this power comes responsibility.

In today’s busy world, where we encounter so many decision points, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by anxiety about making wrong choices. Having to foresee all the consequences of our everyday actions seems like a huge burden; and we know there’s no way we could do it perfectly, no matter how hard we might try.

So, all too often, we punt. Instead of doing the hard work of making decisions, we let things pile up while we distract ourselves with habitual comfort behaviors, which turn into addictions when they reach the point of seriously interfering with our responsibilities. When we’re addicted to negative thinking, it’s much easier to complain about what others are doing wrong, rather than taking a hard look at ourselves and becoming aware of our own shortcomings.

But when we commit to being honest with ourselves, we understand that we are nowhere near blameless and that failing to make a decision is itself a decision. Then we’re faced with the big job of fixing the damage we’ve done to our relationships, which a traditional 12-step program refers to as making amends. At Step Nine, after having put together a list of people to whom amends are due, we move on to making “direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

That basically boils down to not being a wuss. A past incident of acting like a jerk generally calls for a direct apology for acting like a jerk, as opposed to leaving an anonymous note in the person’s mailbox or asking a mutual friend to pass on a message.

Sometimes it’s not possible to make amends, especially in the context of online negativity. We may regret having treated someone unkindly in a forum discussion several years ago, for instance; but the forum has been closed for a long time, and we have no idea how to contact the person anywhere else.

Or maybe it was the sort of online community that’s always full of flame wars and random nastiness. If so, it’s probably best avoided regardless of who might still be there, for much the same reasons that an alcoholic probably shouldn’t go into a bar to apologize for having been rude to a drinking buddy. Good intentions tend to get overcome by familiar bad influences, which is why judges imposing probation conditions generally hand down a long list of bad influences to avoid.

And sometimes people are so suspicious that an unexpected kind message can cause more harm than good. I know a woman who tried to smooth things over after an online argument by sending a friendly email to one of the people involved, mentioning that she had noticed he lived very close by and their families were neighbors. Instead of giving her a neighborly reply, he publicly accused her of stalking him and threatening his family.

I’m not suggesting that it is always best to be exceedingly cautious online, avoiding all contact with anyone who might possibly hold a grudge. Still, it’s wise to exercise a healthy degree of caution.

When my husband had to get something out of the attic a few days ago, he took the opportunity to get rid of the clutter too. It wasn’t that bad, but he found two random things we had totally forgotten were up there—an old green hose and a folded-up air mattress.

 

Old green hose and folded-up deflated air mattress.

 

The mattress might have been left over from a Cub Scout camping trip; but it was so long ago, we really can’t remember. All I can say for sure is that we haven’t done any camping in at least the past 15 years. And we wouldn’t have any use for the hose either because we just bought three new hoses of different lengths this spring. So—hasta la vista, clutter.

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!

Last September, I bought three lavender mums from a Junior Rowers fundraiser and planted them in my front garden.  When we had such a bitterly cold winter, I thought there was no chance any of them would come up this year.  But much to my surprise, I discovered that there was one survivor.

 

Small lavender mum with buds starting to open.

 

It’s tiny—about the size of my hand, and I have small hands. But it’s thriving anyway, with plenty of buds getting ready to open. I see it as a reminder of how life goes on. Even when we feel that we’re too stressed and overwhelmed to do anything, we may still find ourselves blossoming in unexpected and beautiful ways.

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.

In the moment between sleep and waking, Woods flew on powerful wings through the luminous seascape of Europa, with an endless seaweed forest superimposed on the ocean of his recurring dream. Then reality took shape around him… [This is Part 14. Continue reading this installment, or read the story from the beginning.]

August 31, 2014 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I’m sure it was just last year that I took inventory of the plastic water bottles in my kitchen cabinets and got rid of the ones that nobody was using anymore.  Then I organized the remaining bottles in three neat rows, and they all fit on the bottom shelf of one cabinet without any problem. So how did I end up with the shelf crammed full and one too many water bottles to fit?

 

Water bottles in a cabinet, with one on top of the others.

 

Those things always multiply. They’re given away at road races and plenty of other events. Although they seem like useful little freebies that shouldn’t take up much space, before you know it they’re all over the kitchen. Not to mention the ones my daughter forgets to bring in from her car after her workouts. Fitness is great, but water bottles spilling out of the cabinet are nothing but clutter! Once again, it’s time to look through them and pitch the old, unused ones at the back.

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!