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.

After I packed off my inner Cinderella to find a new home last month, I considered what other stories from my childhood might still be affecting my life in the present. No other fairy tales came to mind. Then it occurred to me that my bookshelf would be a good place to investigate, on the premise that any books I’d kept that long probably had a significant impact on my worldview, even if I wasn’t consciously aware of it.

I found two paperback novels that I had bought from a used book store as a teenager. One of them was The Left Hand of Darkness, a sci-fi adventure by Ursula K. LeGuin. The other was Marnie, a psychological drama by Winston Graham that became a Hitchcock movie.
 

Two paperback novels, The Left Hand of Darkness and Marnie, on top of my bookshelf. 

Marnie’s influence on my teenage mind could easily take up a whole long post in itself, so I’ll save that for another day and briefly sum up the plot of The Left Hand of Darkness. An envoy from Earth visits an alien world seeking to establish diplomatic relations on behalf of an interplanetary alliance. This world is deep in an Ice Age, inhabited by a genderless species, and on the brink of war between its two major nations.

The narrative is told alternately through the envoy’s report and through the journals of Estraven, who is the prime minister of one of the feuding nations when the story begins. Estraven hopes to prevent a war by supporting the envoy’s mission, but instead is declared a traitor for doing so and must flee in disgrace to the other nation. The envoy then visits the other nation and gets seized by the secret police and sent to a labor camp to die.

Estraven stages a heroic rescue, guiding the envoy to safety across a glacier in winter. The mission ultimately succeeds and war is averted, but the cost is Estraven’s life; a friend’s betrayal leads to Estraven being shot to death at the hands of the pro-war faction.

A defining trait of Estraven’s character, and the one that made a lasting impression on me, was a strong reliance on intuition. Estraven had faith in being able to recognize moments when taking action can change the world. This led both to extraordinary political success and to the unhesitating sacrifice of that success to the greater good.

When I got involved in social activism over a decade ago, I felt confident—like Estraven—that I had the power to change the culture and that I could trust my intuition to guide me. Although my efforts succeeded, I got overly stressed out by thinking in terms of going into battle, as I described here. Consistent with Estraven’s fate, I expected that success would mean enemies were out to get me.

Last week, in the interest of banishing that residual fear, I decided to charter an imaginary spaceship for a social visit with Estraven on that icy, unforgiving planet.
 

Landscape with snow-covered trees and hills.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

I brought down my spaceship behind a farmhouse on a hill, where Estraven was in hiding after the glacier adventure. Not long before sunset, a pale light stretched across the horizon; thin clouds looked like distant islands in a frozen sea. After putting on heavy winter clothes and tall boots, I trudged through the deep snowdrifts and up a wide stairway to a thick wooden door set high above the ground.

The door opened into a cheerful parlor where a fire blazed brightly on a red stone hearth. The room was otherwise unheated and felt very chilly to me; the people of this world had a much different idea of comfortable room temperature. Estraven, dark eyes glittering in a gaunt face scarred by the bitter cold of the glacier, hospitably offered me a mug of hot beer poured from a jug on the hearth.

Taking note of my unusual clothing and alien appearance, Estraven spoke calmly, in a voice higher than a man’s but lower than a woman’s. “You are one of the Envoy’s colleagues, newly arrived?”

Sipping my hot beer, I decided that this peculiar drink suited the frozen surroundings well. “No, I’m just a spectator who happened to get caught up in the story.”

Eyes gleaming with curiosity beneath a mat of dark hair, Estraven politely remained silent, waiting for me to explain. I still wasn’t quite sure how to phrase my question, although I’d thought about several alternative wordings while on my way here.

“One thing I’ve been wondering,” I finally said, “is what makes it possible to act from intuition without fear of the consequences. Although you have enemies, somehow that doesn’t seem to trouble you…”

The firelight glinted from even white teeth as Estraven smiled. “At present, what I have is this comfortable shelter and a mug of hot beer.”

“Mindfulness—just being in the moment,” I said softly to myself; and then my voice rose in mild annoyance with my own cluelessness, although I didn’t consciously notice at first. “Well, doggone it, I should have known that!”

Estraven smiled even more broadly, raising the beer mug in a friendly toast. “Often, it’s not the new insights that do us the most good, but rediscovering the truths we already know.”

I’ve been discovering all sorts of random stuff in odd places since my daughter moved out of the house in November. My latest discovery is a pair of small speakers tucked away in a corner of an otherwise empty cabinet. Presumably they still work, but I have no idea what they might have been connected to when they were last used. I asked my husband, who didn’t know anything about them either.
 

Pair of speakers in a cabinet. 

Oh, well, there’s no need to test whether they work or otherwise concern myself with them. I’ll just bag them up and toss them in that heap in the basement that my daughter was supposed to take with her. So far, I haven’t bugged her too much about it because she took most of her stuff, and she has had a lot on her mind—starting a new job, moving into her own place, and getting her anxious little dog to feel comfortable in a new place. Eventually, though, all that stuff will have to go!

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!