This time of year, many folks in the Northern Hemisphere start feeling like we’ve had enough of winter and are counting the days till spring. But rather than grumbling, we should enjoy and try to make the best of each day instead, even if there happens to be snow in it! So I decided that this word-art image would make a good Nurturing Thursday post.
 

Word-art image that says "Don't count the days. Make the days count." -Muhammad Ali 

This morning I glanced out the window at some flurries and thought about how soft and pretty they looked, and how easy they were to appreciate from the comfortable warmth indoors! When we take the time to look around, there’s always something to turn ordinary days into “days that count.” Wishing all my readers a joyful week full of great days too!

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 had a phone conversation with my dad earlier this week and mentioned that I enjoy blogging. He asked whether I’d been trying to find a literary agent and get my writing published. I said no, and then the conversation moved on to other topics. But I was surprised by the intensity of my gut reaction, which was along the lines of, “No, I don’t need to beg any agents or publishers to validate my writing. I am so totally over that!”

Given that I hadn’t actually submitted any manuscripts to literary agents in a very long time, and not much even then, I wondered why such feelings had popped up all of a sudden. Way back when the Internet Age began, I got involved with online creative writing groups and posted stories to their lists. Many of their members dreamed of being traditionally successful published authors, and they polished their works with great care before submitting to agents.

One guy sold a novel and was thrilled—until the publisher chopped up the story beyond recognition in the editing, while randomly adding the word “Sex” to the title. After he had a few local book-signing appearances, his poor abused novel mercifully expired, going to its literary graveyard with no second printing.
 

Graveyard with green grass and flowers around a fresh grave.

(photo credit: publicdomainpictures.net)
 

After that I didn’t give much thought to conventional book publishing—well, at least not consciously. Something must have been going on beneath the surface, though, or I wouldn’t have reacted to my dad’s question as I did. I ruminated for a while over what it might have been, and finally I put it in the general category of sorting the what-comes-next uncertainty.

That is to say, like many of us, I’ve had my job for years and it is well suited to my temperament and skills; but in today’s fast-paced world, people don’t expect to keep the same job forever. As a result, we’re left feeling unsettled about not having a better idea of what comes next. A lot of subconscious processing goes on as we try to work through all the complicated factors involved, which include cultural views of success.

So, I’d guess that my “so totally over that” reaction meant I had been subconsciously considering whether I might want to be a traditionally published author in the future—or, perhaps, whether I still had much interest in conventional notions of success carried over from many years ago, in general. Apparently, without even being aware of it, I already had answered that question in the negative. I’ll take that as the voice of my intuition offering wise guidance!

While I was tidying a kitchen drawer that holds instruction manuals for appliances, I found a small cookbook that came with the microwave in 2002, entitled “Great Meals From Your Microwave Oven.” After it went in the drawer with the microwave’s instruction manual, it never saw the light of day again because my family just uses the microwave for reheating leftovers and for packaged microwavable snacks, such as popcorn. We’ve never cooked dinner in the microwave.
 

Small cookbook with the title "Great Meals From Your Microwave Oven." 

So, there’s not much point to keeping the cookbook, is there?

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 am writing this post on a desktop computer where the background images are a collection of landscapes with paths, which change automatically from one to another every few minutes. My husband found them last year. They’ve been very good for my soul, inviting me to go for refreshing imaginary walks along those peaceful paths, rather than just sitting in my chair focused entirely on producing words on a white screen.

I’ve also found myself drawn to similar images when I look through the online gallery for the digital art display I got for Christmas. At present, I have it set to display a wooden bridge or walkway leading to a beach, with palm trees and other tropical plants on both sides. This picture makes me feel almost as if I could step into the frame and be somewhere far away on a magical adventure.
 

Digital art display on my dining room wall, showing a wooden walkway leading to a beach. 

We have many stories like that in our culture—the Narnia books and the Myst game come to mind. These familiar stories speak to a truth that our ancestors knew long ago, when they put on animal masks and danced with the tribe’s guardian spirits. Our world really does feel more magical when we surround ourselves with bright, fanciful images that call us to explore it!

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.

When I was a young woman learning to live on my own, my mom bought me a new (1985) copy of her trusty favorite cookbook “Joy of Cooking.” I kept it all these years, and when my daughter went away to college I bought her a new copy too. I thought there might be some recipes she liked in it. But of course, my daughter’s generation would rather look up recipes online than use old-fashioned cookbooks. So she brought her copy home and left it in my kitchen with the older one.
 

An old "Joy of Cooking" next to a newer one. 

To be honest, I haven’t used the cookbook in a long time because I generally cook simple dinners, and my husband and I have given up eating desserts. There’s certainly no reason for me to keep two copies! So, it’s high time for the 1985 version, which has less content anyway, to go bye-bye.

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!

Whether or not we’re consciously listening to ourselves, generally there is an internal dialogue going on as we sort and make sense of our experiences. This dialogue can take many forms—visual images, snippets of popular songs or movie soundtracks, a little voice quietly cataloguing things as they go by, multiple voices debating the best course of action, favorite characters’ lines from TV shows, and just about anything that can be a medium of expression. Which is to say, just about anything.

My inner dialogue mostly sounds like my own voice in a conversational tone, as if explaining a topic or maybe raising a question for others to discuss. It has a text-mode component as well, like a mental display screen where the words scroll along. This is the voice in which I write my blog entries—calm, reflective, and always subject to editing in the interest of greater precision.

When I get into a more fanciful mood, I sometimes imagine that time is not as linear as it seems and that my internal narrative might be the voice of a future self offering helpful advice, or maybe a past self creating an intention for something she’d like to see in her life going forward.

Suspending disbelief (which, of course, one must always do with a story if it’s to be fully enjoyed) in the present moment, I consider how I might have gone back in time and changed the life of a younger self with my words. When had a memorable insight shown up in my thoughts suddenly, for no apparent reason?

That’s when a memory comes to mind. My 35-year-old self didn’t see much to celebrate when she had her birthday. She’d had no luck finding a job when the children started school. Hubby (a software developer) was spending nearly every waking moment at the office doing Y2K remediation, to save the world from poorly written software that couldn’t read dates after 1999—yes, it seems funny now, but there really was a nuclear power plant in Japan that malfunctioned on January 1, 2000, because of the Y2K bug and required an emergency shutdown.
 

Garden with flowers, shrubs, and winding stone paths.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

She had been trying to cheer herself up by looking at flower catalogs and imagining the house surrounded by bright, colorful, well-cultivated gardens; but she just couldn’t shake off depressing self-talk about failure. In a dark, dismal corner of her mind, she felt that she was doomed to end up getting divorced and never having a career, just like what happened to her mother. Of course, social attitudes toward women were very different a generation earlier; and if she had taken the time to critically examine her fears, she’d have realized they made very little sense.

But she didn’t; and so, early in the afternoon of a cloudy winter day, she was sitting alone at home (as usual) feeling tired and hopeless. She closed her eyes, thinking to rest them for a moment. Maybe she dozed off without realizing it; at least, that was the practical explanation she came up with afterward.

Just a little time went by—minutes, or perhaps only seconds. Then she became aware that there was someone else in her quiet mindspace. But, she was alone in the house—could it be a ghost? Surely the house wasn’t haunted; by now the family had been living there for more than five years, and she had never seen strange things happen. Had anyone passed on recently whose spirit might want to send her a message? Well, there was that nice lady who died of lung cancer last year…

“Nancy.” As she thought the name, it sounded like a voice speaking in her mind—an echo, like a question and response.

From my comfortable vantage point in the present day, sipping cinnamon coffee and enjoying a lovely animated landscape on my new digital art display, I also hear the echo in my memories. It doesn’t sound to me like another person’s voice, though—it has the familiar tone of my own internal dialogue. Inventive sci-fi explanations come to mind. Am I creating a resonance across space-time, sending my memories into the thoughts of my younger self?

She certainly didn’t interpret it as such; that idea never crossed her mind. Rather, the mysterious voice sounded to her like it was Nancy’s ghost answering the question in the affirmative. Having no history of talking with spirits, my younger self naturally felt nervous. But the voice in her mind seemed friendly enough that, after a moment, she mustered up enough courage to ask, “Is there something you want to tell me?”

Between my hands, the coffee cup feels warm and comforting as it anchors me solidly in the present. The imagined resonance with my younger self’s time begins to fade. Just before it goes, I speak the words that I remember hearing in my thoughts on that dark winter afternoon, so many years ago. “Cultivate peace.”

And then I leave it at that, making no attempt to say more. After all, it’s where the scene actually ended in real life. My 35-year-old self blinked once, looked around at the empty room, and then shook her head and tried to convince herself she’d just been dreaming. It was a good thing she hadn’t slept too long, she thought. Soon it would be time to go and pick up the kids from school.

I would have liked to tell her that everything would work out for the best, and not to worry. Looking back across the years, though, I know there was no need to say it. Taking the advice to heart, my younger self began writing a page of affirmations every day, working to cultivate a more peaceful mindset. She didn’t yet know the far-reaching effects, but soon she would discover them.

Rather than feeling neglected and resentful in her marriage, she would think more about how stressful all those long overtime hours had been for her husband. She’d appreciate how responsible and hard-working he was, making sure to be especially cheerful in speaking with him. As one might expect, he became more cheerful as well, enjoying her company and wanting to spend more time with her. It wasn’t long before those neglected-wife feelings were a distant memory.

She wouldn’t feel desperate to find work to convince herself she was not a failure, either. Instead she would take the time to visualize a career well suited to her background and skills, along with a hiring manager who would be delighted to find such an ideal candidate. Somehow it didn’t come as a surprise when she found the job posting a few weeks later, soon followed by an interview with the happy hiring manager who really did think she was just what the company needed.

The only loose end that didn’t get tied up was the never-answered question: Where did the mysterious voice saying “Cultivate peace” really come from on that quiet winter afternoon? Was it a dream, a ghost, maybe an angel, or the voice of her future self looking back through time? She would never know—and, though she couldn’t have foreseen it at the time, eventually she would start writing a blog, and on a snowy weekend in January 2016 her readers would be left to wonder about it too.

When I woke up and saw bright sunshine this morning, after a cold and snowy week, it gave me a cheerful smile to start the day. So today I’m wishing sunny smiles to everyone for Nurturing Thursday!
 

smile 

Even (or perhaps especially) in the middle of winter when it seems like there’s not much to look at but snow and ice, we should keep in mind that there are always reasons to smile!

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 year, having resolved to be mindful of the patterns set into motion by my intentional choices, I’ve started keeping a daily list of past intentions that I discover manifesting themselves in the present. One of the list’s first entries was the wonderful supportive community of blogging friends who became part of my life two years ago, when I went looking for positive blogs to brighten my attitude. And shortly after I wrote that entry, Elizabeth at Tea & Paper wrote a post in which she nominated my blog for the Champions Awards.
 

Gold cup with lettering "Champions Awards." 

These are the award’s rules as copied from that post:

“Recipients, if you choose to accept and wish to propagate the CHAMPIONS AWARDS, please do the following:

    1. Post the Award Sticker on your blog, with the hashtag #CHAMPIONSAWARDS
    2. Acknowledge the sponsor of your Awards.
    3. Choose at least five of your own nominees and advise them accordingly, attaching these 5 guidelines.
    4. Keep it simple… no need for explanations for the Awards… we know how great these folks are.
    5. You are free to give out these Awards as frequently as you wish.”

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

    1. Awaken & Begin
    2. Nuggets of Gold
    3. Pocket Perspectives
    4. Chris’ Journaling Journey
    5. Meditation Travelogue

Enjoy! And, even if I don’t have to say how great these folks are, I’m saying it anyway. :)

I sometimes eat dried pitted dates as a healthy snack. They are naturally sweet and have no added sugar. When the supermarket ran out of them last month, I picked up a bag of chopped dates instead. If I had looked at the label I’d have noticed that the chopped dates were sprinkled with sugar, but I just picked them up without paying attention. When I opened the bag later and discovered that they were too sweet to eat as a snack, I tossed them into a drawer in the refrigerator, thinking that maybe they would be okay mixed with something else.
 

Bag of chopped dates in a refrigerator drawer next to butter and cheese. 

Unfortunately, they weren’t. I tried putting them in unsweetened hot cereal, but they still had a weird aftertaste. Then I thought, what the heck was I doing? As kids, we’re taught not to throw away food if it has not spoiled because we don’t want to waste money. But, if the chopped dates had been unsweetened, then I would have eaten them last month and still would have bought more of the pitted dates when the supermarket restocked them; so, I did not spend any extra grocery money on dates as a result of my blunder. As far as I know, I did not spend significantly more because of eating other snacks, either.

And if the chopped dates had tasted okay in hot cereal, they wouldn’t have been ideal because I prefer to mix in berries or other unsweetened fruit. I might have saved a little grocery money buying fewer berries, but then I’d have felt annoyed every time I ate hot cereal until I used up all the chopped dates. It’s also possible that I could have eaten more snacks if the sugary chopped dates left me feeling not quite right—and then, not only would I have made myself feel unhealthy, I wouldn’t have saved any money at all.

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!

Although this week has been snowy here, the season has been warmer than usual. I noticed last weekend that some of my spring bulbs were starting to send up little shoots, as if they’d somehow gotten the idea that winter might already be over. I was going to take a photo, but then it snowed, and all that could be seen was the tip of one hyacinth peeking through the snow cover.
 

Tiny green tips of hyacinth shoots reaching through the snow. 

I have to wonder if I’m going to get any blooms out of them this spring, as early as they’re coming up. But, I have to say I admire their optimism!

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.