May 1, 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

My daughter drove down from Cleveland with her dog on Friday night and spent the weekend here. We enjoyed her visit and were glad she took the time out of a busy schedule to come and see us. All too soon, she packed up her car to leave this morning. Here’s a photo of the dog eating breakfast just before getting on the road, already wearing the little harness that attaches to the doggie car seat.
 

Small black and white spotted dog eating her breakfast. 

At first I wasn’t sure if I should write about a family visit in a Good Things post, as it was not unexpected. Also, how did it fit into the theme of good stuff replacing clutter and stagnation? Although there was indeed some physical clutter when dog and daughter were living here, my husband often reminded me (when I stepped on a chew toy or something and got cranky about it) that I should appreciate the moment because they would be gone soon enough, and all we’d have would be occasional visits.

So, I would say that what I cleared away to make space for good family visits was not the physical clutter. Rather, it was the bad habit of letting myself get annoyed about stuff that really didn’t matter. That’s all too easy to do; and in truth, it is just mental garbage taking up space where good things could go instead!

* Good Things is a weekly series featuring the many unexpected joyful things that show up when clutter and stagnation have been cleared away. It’s meant as a reminder that life is always full of happy little surprises, when there’s enough space for them!

When I sat down to start my work I knew this would be a long day, both because I usually work later on Thursdays and because I had an annoying computer issue yesterday that wasted time. Also, it was a dark morning and got even darker when some rain blew in, whipping the new leaves on the trees all around.

Then it occurred to me that a window with a nice view of trees next to my desk was something to appreciate, even on a rainy spring morning; after all, a lot of people nowadays work in cubicles far away from outdoor views. So I decided to post a cartoon of a smiling tree for Nurturing Thursday.
 

Cartoon tree with a smiling face in the leaves. 

Okay, this is a totally goofy picture, but I have to admit it cheered me up. And yay, the sun came out just now and the birds are chirping, too. It’s all good!

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.

Over the weekend my husband spent a lot of time doing homeowner stuff. He cut the grass on Saturday and power-washed the deck on Sunday. It all looks good now, though we still have to wait for the wood to dry out before staining the deck, and there was some rain yesterday.
 

My backyard after the grass was cut and the deck power-washed. 

Meanwhile, I was lazy and sat on the couch reading a sci-fi novel, The Martian by Andy Weir. It’s about an astronaut who gets left behind on Mars when his crewmates mistakenly think he was killed in an accident, and then he has to figure out how he’s going to survive until he can be rescued.

The author is such an uber-geek that he actually wrote a program to calculate the orbital dynamics for his fictional spaceship’s paths. But readers don’t need any particular knowledge of math and science to enjoy the story because it’s written in a chatty, wisecracking style that is easy to follow. While I don’t have a hard science background myself, I do appreciate a meticulously plotted novel.

I felt some little twinges of guilt about not having done much writing myself recently. Then I thought, well, I’m just being silly. After all, I write my blog and stories for fun, and to share that fun (and cheerful positive energy) with others. There’s no money involved, and certainly no need to impose a regular production schedule on myself.

In fact, with fun as the metric, I believe it’s fair to say that the more fun I have in life generally, the more successful my blog is likely to be!

April 24, 2016 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

One of my kitchen cabinets always seemed like it filled up with new freebie water bottles faster than I got rid of old ones—there’s a photo in this post. Recently my husband went through them again and pitched most of the water bottles at the back of the cabinet. He pointed out that they hadn’t gotten any use at all since our daughter moved to Cleveland, and she hadn’t used them much anyway.

Then he bought some Polar Bottles, two of which are shown here:
 

polar bottles 

Much better—the Polar Bottles are very well insulated. When we put ice water in them before we go rowing, the ice melts so slowly that there is still some ice left when we get home, even on a warm and sunny afternoon. Even though water bottles are just everyday consumer items and not expensive, they’re a great reminder that the modern world is full of “cool” new stuff to appreciate!

* Good Things is a weekly series featuring the many unexpected joyful things that show up when clutter and stagnation have been cleared away. It’s meant as a reminder that life is always full of happy little surprises, when there’s enough space for them!

I’ve had the windows open much of the week because the spring weather has been just lovely. A pleasant breeze from the north brought the scent of fresh blossoms into my dining room. Setting the digital art frame to display a cheerful beachfront animation made it feel like I’d rented a cottage at a tropical vacation resort, even though I never really left home!
 

My dining room with spring blossoms outside open windows and a beachfront picture on the wall. 

When a few small things are enough to find beauty in the moment, it doesn’t take much to transform everyday life into something magical.

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 started writing weekly Good Things posts last month so that I would notice and appreciate what shows up when clutter goes out. Today’s post is not about material things, however, but about time. Clutter isn’t just physical—when people clutter up their schedules with lots of stuff to do, they often forget that time is an abundant resource.

I have to confess that happened to me a few years ago. When my daughter was playing soccer in college, I felt like I had to save so much time for traveling to soccer matches, I often ended up not taking any vacation time for the entire first half of the year. That left me with the same feeling as physical clutter—bogged down, tired, and overwhelmed.

My daughter graduated two years ago, but I didn’t fully get that time-hoarding mindset out of my head until last week, when my husband said, “The weather on Friday should be warm and sunny—let’s plan to take the afternoon off from work and go down to the river and row.”

Although we’re going into our fourth season as members of our local rowing club, and we enjoy it a lot, we had never before spontaneously taken time off from work just to spend the afternoon rowing. Honestly, it took me a moment just to get the idea through my head that, yes, just doing something fun because I feel like doing it is a perfectly reasonable use of vacation time!

Here’s a photo at the dock early Friday afternoon, just before we got into the boat:
 

Black double scull in the river, next to a white dock. 

Performance sculls are long and very narrow, so I couldn’t take a picture from close enough to show much detail. Even from where I was standing, the photo doesn’t show the ends of the boat, and it’s hard to see a black carbon-fiber scull on dark river water anyway. But, we had fun. This has been a very relaxing weekend—it feels like it’s been going on for a very long time and still isn’t over yet, yay!

* Good Things is a weekly series featuring the many unexpected joyful things that show up when clutter and stagnation have been cleared away. It’s meant as a reminder that life is always full of happy little surprises, when there’s enough space for them!

When my family was living in our starter house in 1998, our old washing machine broke. We decided to give the dryer to charity and buy a new matched set. I stepped outside to the driveway on a warm spring day while I waited for the truck that would collect the old dryer.

The house across the street was a mirror image of ours. They’d both been up for sale at the same time, and we picked the one that had an updated master bathroom (which meant there was a cabinet under the sink, rather than just the original bare sink). The neighborhood in general didn’t have much variety; it was mostly small bi-level homes, and the plat had been only half finished when the developer abandoned it, leaving weedy vacant lots and crumbling sidewalks just a few streets over.

The truck arrived, and the driver loaded the dryer into it. He was middle-aged and looked tired, like every day was a hard day at work for him. When I mentioned that we’d just had a new washer and dryer set delivered, he nodded as if that was what he expected; and then he said, “So you’re rich.”

“No, I’m not,” I said in astonishment, looking around at the cheap cookie-cutter houses and thinking about the rust-bucket Chevy Cavalier that my husband had driven to work until a few months ago, when he started getting overtime work regularly enough to feel comfortable buying another car.

“You’re giving away a dryer that still works,” the guy observed. “That’s what people do when they’re rich. So you’re rich.”

He drove off, and I went back inside to start a load of laundry in the dusty, unfinished utility area of the home’s lower level, which was all the space we had for the new washer and dryer set. “Rich,” I said out loud, almost laughing as I shook my head, looking at the cheap little water heater just a few steps away, under the harsh light of a bare bulb.

The washer and dryer gave us good service, both at that house and after we moved into our current home. By the spring of 2014 our kids were through college, and we bought the fancy front-loading set we’d been jonesing for. We thought at first that our daughter might ask for the old set, so we put it in a corner of the basement, where it looked quite forlorn with a carpet remnant tossed over it.
 

Old washer and dryer, unplugged in a basement corner. 

After a while we realized the old set was nothing but clutter, and we called the thrift store last fall to schedule a donation pickup. My husband put each piece on an appliance dolly and trundled them up the stairs and out to the garage.

A truck with two young guys showed up early in the day. When they saw that the washer and dryer already had been put in the garage, rather than being left in the basement for them to carry up the stairs, one guy turned to the other and said with a big smile, “This is a great start to the day!”

“Yeah,” agreed Dude #2, “it doesn’t get much better!”

They quickly put the washer and dryer in the truck and drove away, grinning like they’d won the lottery. I stood there watching them go, as I thought about how little it really takes to be rich.

If we could go back in time and look at what we’ve accomplished over the years from the perspective of a much younger self, we’d probably think it was awesome. After all, we didn’t expect as much of ourselves back then, since we hadn’t seen as much of the world and didn’t understand how a lot of things worked. But somehow, we managed to bumble along and do many things that we never imagined we could do.

Now our expectations are much higher, and we’ve realized that the world is much more complicated than it once seemed. We notice all those little mistakes we used to be totally clueless about. Some days it feels like everything is going wrong if one little item on the to-do list goes undone. Rather than giving ourselves compliments for having done so much already, we just pile on more tasks.

So, a regular perspective adjustment is much needed!
 

Word-art that says "You are doing a freaking great job." 

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.

April 10, 2016 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Around this time last year, I wanted to buy spring and summer clothes to refresh my closet, which was full of old stuff and felt bogged down in stagnant energy. I couldn’t find anything I liked in the catalogs, though, and never got around to shopping in the stores. So I ended up wearing old things and feeling annoyed about it, as I described here. When I realized that was a big part of the problem, I got rid of the worst offenders, but still didn’t have anything new and fresh to wear.

Later I noticed that although I’d disposed of some clutter, my closet still lacked space to put new clothes. Maybe that was part of the problem, too? I folded up some old sweatshirts (shown in this post) and put them neatly on an upper shelf, out of the way. My closet looked bare for a while; but when the spring catalogs arrived this year, they were full of lovely things I wanted to buy. Here’s a photo of three pretty, colorful blouses I ordered recently, with just a glimpse of the old sweatshirts on the upper shelf.
 

Three pretty new tops in purple and other spring colors, hanging in my closet. 

My husband mentioned that the colors and patterns looked kind of retro, like something I might have worn in the early ’80s when we met. I hadn’t really thought about it when I ordered them, but he is right about that. Maybe there’s something else going on here subconsciously, like giving myself permission to go back to a simpler time when life felt more spontaneous and fun?

* Good Things is a weekly series featuring the many unexpected joyful things that show up when clutter and stagnation have been cleared away. It’s meant as a reminder that life is always full of happy little surprises, when there’s enough space for them!

The cool, windy mornings of early spring have a lonely feeling to them, sometimes, looking up into trees with just a few tiny leaves starting to open on branches that blur into a dark sky. The willows in my backyard have mostly dropped their catkins, as shown in this post from last year, and now they’re outlined in the pale green of new growth. For a moment, a squirrel peeks around a neighbor’s tree. A breath of the damp air carries with it a sense of potential, of bright and wonderful things yet to be imagined. The lonely feeling floats gently away, carried on the wind.
 

Word-art with a squirrel saying "Today is a perfect day to just be happy."

I couldn’t resist illustrating this post with a happy squirrel image that one of my coworkers attached to an email message earlier this week. Enjoy!

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.