Although the modern world is full of amazing opportunities that the people of past generations never could have imagined, it also can be more stressful precisely because we have so many choices. We procrastinate because we feel overwhelmed by all the things we ought to do. Instead of acting on opportunities when they arise, we fill our minds with imaginary scenarios of everything that could go wrong.

Word-art that says "A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties." -Harry S. Truman 

This afternoon I got something taken care of that I’d been putting off for a while. I thought it would be hard to do; but when I actually got around to doing it, I found that it wasn’t nearly as difficult or time-consuming as I had imagined.

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.

June 20, 2016 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

On Wednesday, I tidied my daughter’s room because we are getting the house refinanced and the appraisers were coming on Thursday morning. The room wasn’t too much of a mess, but she does tend to leave shopping bags and other stuff on the floor when she visits from Cleveland because she’s often in a rush. The room looked much neater with the bags in the closet and the carpet vacuumed.

Blue carpet, just vacuumed, with closet doors and a corner of a bed in the background. 

Because our existing mortgage dates back to before the recession, we’d have done better to refinance before now, so as to get more benefit from today’s low interest rates. But when the house was full of clutter a few years ago, we didn’t feel as motivated to get things done generally. There was so much that needed our attention, it left us feeling overwhelmed. Now everything feels like it’s going much more smoothly—not just a better-organized house, but tidy finances too!

* 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!

June 18, 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

Just before waking up this morning, I was dreaming about time travel. In the dream it felt like I could step out of bed and then I’d be in another time and place. Maybe I’d find myself in a place where I lived as a teenager. I could end up anywhere!

When I finally woke up, I wondered for a moment if I had somehow chosen this time and place from many possibilities. It didn’t seem farfetched that I might be able to wander freely from one timeline to another, like a child discovering the magical entrance to fairyland in a storybook garden.

Trumpet vine on my backyard fence. 

And then I realized that it’s a fact—we really do choose the time and place where each day begins. We can start the morning with happy memories of good times. Or, we can “wake up on the wrong side of the bed,” full of grouchy thoughts and old stale grudges!

We revisit the past whenever we look at memories in light of new experiences, sorting them into more useful patterns and updating our mental maps. Sometimes that can be hard to do, but it’s better than getting stuck in outdated thought loops like a computer with obsolete software!

The willows in my backyard (shown in this post last summer) have been somewhat neglected the past few years, I have to confess. Some small branches died in the frigid winter of 2014, and I never got around to pruning them off. My husband carefully maneuvered the push mower around them for the past two summers without complaining, and finally he said, “Hey, Meg, can you prune these willows, there’s always dead stuff poking me when I walk around them.”

So I’ve been going outside to work on them every weekend when he’s mowing, and it makes quite a difference! The ones that have been pruned so far are looking much better. Instead of having small dead branches sticking out all around, they look neat and tidy.

Willow after pruning off small branches. 

Walking around them feels much better, too. There’s an inviting sense of openness that wasn’t there before. The air seems to circulate more freely, even if it hasn’t really changed that much, and it feels more comfortable in general. Sometimes pruning away old dead stuff can make a big difference—both in the yard and in life 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.

June 13, 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

My husband and I rowed our double scull in a regatta over the weekend. This is only our fourth season since we learned to row, and we still have plenty of room for improvement. But, we were happy to come home with bronze medals from our race.

Two bronze rowing medals from Midwest Masters Sprints. 

It’s always fun to go to the regattas with our friends from the rowing club, and we like comparing how we do each year and seeing how we’re getting better. Whether or not we notice much change from one day to the next, regular practice always leads to improvement as time goes by. And of course, the most important thing is simply being open to new adventures!

* 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!

Often when people are too busy, it’s because they’ve gotten the idea that if they don’t do everything, then it won’t get done. Of course, that is not really true. It’s not all on us. Lots of things happen whether we’re involved or not. Most of us are nowhere near indispensable in our jobs and other obligations, however much we might like to think we are; and Mother Nature does as she pleases.

I planted snapdragons in my garden next to some that had survived the winter, as I mentioned in a post a month ago. Here’s a photo showing two large plants on either side (the survivors, now blooming) with the freshly planted ones in between and smaller plants from last year’s seeds popping up all around.

Snapdragons in bloom with two plants larger than the others. 

If I hadn’t gotten impatient for a bit of color in early May, I could easily have waited, and the garden would have filled in with snapdragons naturally. I see it as a good reminder that even though we always have things we want to do, the world is not going to fall apart if we don’t happen to get them done!

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 19; click here to read Breaking the Ice from the beginning.

“Hello,” said Tiny Leaf, her voice low and pleasant, a rich contralto that harmonized beautifully with the distant jingling of sleigh bells in the library program’s soundtrack.

But no, that couldn’t be right. Tiny Leaf was an extraterrestrial marine creature and therefore was highly unlikely to be speaking English, whether telepathically or in any other way. Putting down his stylus, Woods rubbed his tired eyes. It had gotten late in ship’s night while he sat reading about linguistics and cultural anthropology. No doubt he was still feeling the effects of his recent sleep deprivation.

What in fact had happened? He had picked up the stylus, while visualizing the seven-leaved stalk of seaweed-like vegetation that he guessed was a name-image. Then he had felt a wave—yes, that was it, an ocean wave breaking over him. No different from the wave-feeling that he had interpreted as a greeting before, except that this time his subconscious mind evidently had translated that perception into speech, without any intent on his part.

Because his primary mode of thought was in pictures, Woods always had internally translated his mental images to and from words. Whenever he’d learned a word as a child, he had associated it with a familiar image, such as the cracked rock and bare trees that represented his own name. That wouldn’t explain hearing Tiny Leaf speak to him, though—he’d never literally heard voices before now.

Alien conversation, or hallucinations and lack of sleep? He still lacked enough information to draw a conclusion one way or another. Just as with any research project, he would have to proceed on a working assumption while further investigating the facts. Assuming without deciding that this was a real conversation, Woods returned the wave-image, subvocalizing “Hello,” as he did so.

He hesitated, unsure of how to go on. When he’d thought about it earlier, he had decided to use numbers to communicate. It seemed a logical guess that an alien species might count on their tentacles, just as humans counted with fingers. But now he was having second thoughts. There hadn’t been any tentacles in the images he had seen. What if Tiny Leaf’s culture had a taboo against mentioning body parts? Maybe he should try something else instead, such as counting blocks of ice, so as not to be rude by mistake.

While he sat dithering, another image came into his thoughts—an upright stalk of seaweed, with one leaf toward the bottom, on the right. This faded away, to be replaced by another stalk that had two leaves, on opposite sides. The next image added a third leaf, also on the right.

That sequence would have been easy enough to translate even without spoken words. Evidently, he and Tiny Leaf both had decided to test each other’s ability to count. Logs crackled in the library’s faux fireplace, and Woods felt his face relax into a big grin even before he heard Tiny Leaf’s pleasant voice again, saying slowly, “One, two, three.”

Continuing the sequence, he filled in more leaves along the stalk—four, five, six. With three leaves on each side of the stalk, there was no remaining space to add more on either side. Woods found himself wondering what the seven-leaved stalk with a smaller leaf on top might mean—was it also a number? And what about the intricate patterns of veining that looked like calligraphy? So far, the sequence had included only simple leaf-images with rudimentary branching veins, all alike.

Those questions weren’t answered by what he saw next—a leafless upright stalk. Unlike the previous images, it did not fade when another stalk appeared to its left, with one leaf toward the bottom as before. This second stalk was then replaced with another that had two leaves. “Seven, eight, nine,” the spoken words continued, after a few seconds had passed.

“Base seven, right to left,” Woods noted in his tablet. That wasn’t surprising; after all, Tiny Leaf’s species had seven tentacles, not ten fingers. Holding the image clearly in his thoughts, he imagined adding two more leaves to the second stalk—that made ten, eleven—and then began counting backwards, taking away leaves in reverse order until he got down to a single stalk with one leaf.

The familiar image of smooth, unbroken ice that he had taken to mean something unknown appeared. Several seconds went by as he wondered why it was there. Surely there wasn’t anything in his counting that would have caused confusion. Maybe it somehow came next in the sequence? “Zero,” declared Tiny Leaf, confirming his last thought.

Wait, that was zero? How could that be—was it both a number and a metaphor? And why was the translation taking longer each time? Woods filed away these observations on his tablet for later pondering, as he didn’t have much insight into them at present. He decided to see what would happen with a negative number. Negative one—following the same pattern, that would be ice to the right of a stalk with one leaf.

Tiny Leaf returned the plain ice-image, followed by the broken-stalk inverted checkmark that Woods had seen before when he’d tried to introduce himself. The stalk with one leaf came next. “Zero minus one,” she informed him, the English narration lagging even farther behind the images. That lag was starting to make him feel uncomfortable—almost like he was a small boy again, struggling to fit spoken words together into something that made sense, even as they kept coming at him too fast to process.

A broken-stalk image with two horizontal pieces of equal size appeared, to be replaced by a broken-stalk checkmark and a stalk with one leaf to its left. Although the two horizontal pieces resembled an equals sign, they weren’t completely separate but instead were connected on the right side by a short vertical length of torn stalk with jagged edges. “Equals negative one,” he heard, the words slower and farther apart.

Woods dutifully noted all of that on his tablet, but this conversation—if indeed it was one, and not just a string of bizarre hallucinations—had started to feel like it wasn’t as much fun anymore. Instead of a fascinating puzzle for him to solve, it brought to mind all those painful old frustrations about not being able to communicate easily. He wasn’t a linguist, or even particularly good at speaking in his own language—why had he tried to do this?

Maybe it will get better, he tried to tell himself. After all, most things did, if he worked on them enough. The not-fun feeling definitely wasn’t improved, though, when he realized that by choosing three leafless stalks and a checkmark to represent his name yesterday, he had introduced himself not as Mark Woods but as Negative 21.

June 5, 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Yesterday, while I was sitting around the house enjoying a lazy Saturday morning, I started to wonder what I could write about for my Good Things post this week. I looked around, but didn’t immediately spot anything new and fresh. Surely there had to be something. After all, the whole point of writing this series was to appreciate how often good stuff shows up.

And then I realized that I was wearing it! Not long ago, my husband had bought me a pretty new sleeveless dress for the warm weather. It’s very comfortable, and that’s what I put on when I got dressed on Saturday.

Dark purple sleeveless dress with white floral pattern. 

This just goes to show—there’s always something to be happy about because life is full of abundance, and it’s likely to be right on top of us even when we don’t notice it!

* 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!

Even though it’s silly to try to be like celebrities, most of us would have to admit we’ve done it at one time or another. When I was a student, I decided that I wanted hair that looked like Princess Di. The stylist gave me a lecture about how my long hair looked pretty as it was, complained about young people who don’t appreciate the beauty of just being themselves, and reluctantly trimmed it a little after telling me that Princess Di had started wearing her hair longer.

I was young enough that I didn’t appreciate the advice, either; but it did start to make more sense as time went by. If we can’t be comfortable as ourselves, then we’re probably not going to have much success trying to be someone else, either!

Word-art that says "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken." -Oscar Wilde 

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 31, 2016 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

Modern life is so complicated and full of things that need to get done, it can feel overwhelming at times. Not so much because of the existence of the to-do list, which is simply an unavoidable fact. What causes to-do anxiety is the feeling that there’s just too much on the list to ever get it all done.

And, you know what? There probably is. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. Much of the stuff that ends up on the to-do list wouldn’t be a calamity if it never got done. Chances are, nobody would even pay enough attention to notice. It may feel like it’s been hanging around embarrassingly on the list forever; but the fact is, nobody else cares because it’s not a big deal and never was.

So I decided to write a “who needs to do it list” where all the annoying stuff that has been buzzing around on my to-do list for years can go take a nice long nap. Preferably on the ancient couch in my living room that is #1 on the list.

old couch 

When I say ancient, I mean it has been around since my two college-graduate kids were little preschoolers gleefully jumping on it when I wasn’t looking. After they inevitably broke something and left a sagging spot, my daughter (who was full of good practical ideas even as a child) helpfully suggested putting an old pillow under the cushion.

Replacing the couch was something I wanted to do for a very long time. But, even though we are not paying tuition anymore, it still hasn’t gotten done. My husband doesn’t seem to have much interest in looking at furniture—like many guys, he’d rather buy gadgets and do fun stuff.

And I started thinking, well, what difference does it really make? Who needs to do it? After all, my husband is the one who sits on the cushion with the old pillow underneath; my side of the couch is not as broken down. If it doesn’t bother him enough to want a new couch, then why should I care?

I was going to finish this post by listing a few more “who needs to do it” things; but after writing about the couch, while sitting on it with a notepad and pen, I felt like I’d really rather take a nap instead! And of course, the list itself is another “who needs to do it” because it wouldn’t matter one iota if I never wrote it. Ditto on finishing the blog post at a particular time or writing a certain number of words; it’s just for fun and to reflect on whatever’s on my mind. No biggie!