My daughter and her fiancé got a new puppy recently, a brown Labrador/poodle mix, also known as a Labradoodle. She already has a very friendly little black-and-white Cavachon (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel/Bichon Frise mix). The breeders and pet stores call these little mixed-breed companion dogs “designer hybrids.” In less flowery language, they might be called expensive mutts; but they are carefully bred to be loving pets, and there’s something to be said for that.

She sent me some photos of the puppy and of the dogs getting acquainted. The picture below looked to me like an older friend being helpful and showing a younger one around. That left me thinking that even dogs help each other—it shouldn’t be so hard for humans to find time for kind acts, either.
 

Black and white Cavachon making friends with brown Labradoodle puppy. 

On the topic of finding ways to be kinder in everyday life, I recently came across a site that is worth checking out—it contains a list of acts of service ideas, with cute graphics such as the one below, which I’ve reposted with the author’s permission. That is quite a long-suffering look on the dog’s face!
 

Wet dog photo captioned "Bathe the dog." 

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.

The division of labor for yard work around my house is that my husband mows the lawn and puts down mulch, while I plant and weed the flowers and prune the shrubs, and we pay a lawn service company to do the fertilizer. I mostly use small pruning shears and cut small branches, which hasn’t been a problem except that when we had an unusually cold winter a few years ago, some of the larger branches on the backyard willows started dying. I cut them off with my husband’s lumber saw from the tool chest in the garage, but it was kind of big and awkward.

My husband didn’t say anything about it for a while, but last weekend he took me along on a trip to the hardware store and pointed out that they make long, thin saws especially for pruning. I bought one that folds up neatly and is just the right size to fit in my basket of small garden tools. It is much easier to use and does a better job of cutting branches, too, since that is what it was designed to do.
 

Folding pruning saw on garage shelf. 

I took two useful lessons away from that: (1) In the modern world, if something is an awkward chore, there is likely to be a better tool for it; and (2) even if I don’t know what that tool might be, it’s probably not that hard to find out what it is, either by doing research or by asking someone who knows more about it.

Finding useful new things isn’t the hard part—what takes a bit of mental effort is cultivating the mindset to look for them, rather than habitually using the same old stuff just because it’s what happens to be there.

I started writing this post last weekend when my rowing club went to the US Rowing Masters National Championship regatta, which was in Oak Ridge, Tennessee this year. The club has only one member who rows fast enough to win medals in such a competitive event, but the rest of us had fun anyway. My husband volunteered to tow the boat trailer with his SUV. Going through the mountains with it was an adventure; but he is a good driver, and all went well.

We have rowed at Oak Ridge before in smaller events. It is a beautiful course and very well maintained. The only problem I have is that being outdoors for a long time in the hot, humid Southern air gets to me after a while. So, while my husband watched some races on Saturday in the heat, I sat in a lounge chair by the hotel pool and stayed comfortable in the air conditioning.
 

Hotel pool and my tanned legs on a lounge chair. 

Masters athletic events are interesting because they are such an attitude adjustment with regard to society’s views about aging. Little old ladies in rowing shorts and tank tops were walking around with 30-foot boats on their shoulders. The boats are made of carbon fiber, so they’re not all that heavy; but rowers do need to be reasonably fit.

While I sat by the pool daydreaming, I thought about what the world might be like in a future where older people could expect to stay fit and healthy. By that I don’t mean some amazing new scientific discovery to prevent aging, but just incremental advances on where we are now: better nutrition, exercise, and medical care, along with a shift in cultural expectations so that older people wouldn’t assume poor health was normal and would take better care of themselves accordingly.

Like all of us, I have my share of aging myths that grow like thorny weeds in the subconscious, whispering that every little ache or twinge is a symptom of decline. In today’s culture it may not be possible to root them all out entirely, given how pervasive they are. Still, as with any garden, a thriving mix of tall flowers and thick shrubs can overshadow the pesky weeds enough to keep them tiny and insignificant.

So—what healthy ideas could I plant in my subconscious to crowd out negative views of aging? After giving that question some thought, I decided to visualize what I’ll be doing in 2083. I picked that year because it will be a full century from when my husband and I met in college. Because some people really do live that long in the here and now, it wouldn’t require major advances in longevity science.

I wasn’t composing a bucket list or anything that I really planned to do; it was just a few random, stream-of-consciousness imaginary adventures. Because I already had rowing on my mind, I first pictured myself traveling to Australia with my husband to row a new boat with the latest 2080s technology at a regatta in Sydney. Then I thought, well, this is far enough in the future that maybe we’re booking a vacation at a hotel in a colony on Mars. Or traveling to California in a flying RV. Or working on interesting projects that involve very cool futuristic technology, getting paid lots of money to work part-time hours because of the future economy’s labor shortage.

As I see it, there’s no downside to imagining myself fit, healthy, and adventurous many decades from now. Maybe it won’t happen, and instead I will have been in the grave for a long time by then; but if it turns out that my imaginary adventures were too farfetched, I don’t suppose my ghost will care.

The title of this post comes from Reiki meditation. I took a beginner-level Reiki class in March and have found it to be very helpful and calming. The first two lines of the traditional mantra are “Just for today, do not be angry. Just for today, do not worry.”

When I meditate, I generally imagine pictures to go along with the words. Trying to visualize anger and worry in the negative wasn’t working too well, though, so I changed a few words and made it “Just for today, set aside anger. Just for today, set aside worry.” Then I pictured two cardboard boxes labeled “Anger” and “Worry” sitting on shelves in a dim, quiet storage area because they weren’t needed.

At first, I didn’t notice a whole lot of difference. Then, a few days ago, I woke up feeling like I had a calm, peaceful center where everything had been nicely tidied up. I wondered what might have been occupying that space before—and then I realized “Oh, that must have been the anger and worry that are hanging out somewhere else today!”

I thought about illustrating this post with a photo of the storage shelves in my basement, but I decided that would be way too boring; so, here’s a cat picture instead. Happy Thursday!
 

Cat picture that says "Reiki cat is balancin ur energy." 

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.

August 22, 2017 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

I went rowing with my husband during the eclipse, along with a few other people in the rowing club. That made it feel more like an adventure. We brought our eclipse glasses into the boat and, as the light faded, we stopped rowing from time to time and watched the eclipse’s progress. it wasn’t total where I live, but it got dark enough to look almost like nightfall was approaching. There will be a total eclipse in this area in 2024, so we’re saving the glasses.
 

Two pairs of eclipse glasses on a wooden table. 

On the river, we had a great view of how confused the wildlife got during the eclipse. Birds flew up to trees and wires to roost, cicadas started singing, and ducks and geese climbed out of the river and started waddling off to wherever they go at night. Then the light started coming back and many of the birds just flew around in circles looking totally befuddled. Their little bird brains couldn’t deal with the fact that it had been getting dark, but all of a sudden it wasn’t anymore.

As civilized humans who spend most of our time indoors, we don’t have that sensitivity to the natural world—at least not consciously. If we hadn’t known there was an eclipse, we might easily have looked out the window and assumed the dark sky was just some clouds blowing over. Then we’d have gone back to work and thought nothing more about it.

I wonder, though, if maybe there’s a primitive part of our brains that gets just as confused as those birds about all the unnatural things in our modern environment. Maybe our inner troglodyte peeks out every now and again, muttering to itself in a very worried tone, “Hey, what are all these bright lights in the middle of the night when it’s supposed to be dark? And why are we all staring at little glowing screens instead of looking at normal stuff like trees and fields? Eek! Too freaky! I can’t cope!”

Of course, there are many other reasons why we have so much anxiety nowadays. Mainly I think it’s because the world has been changing so fast that it can be hard to keep track of what’s going on around us, whether natural or otherwise. More time spent in nature surely would do us all some good, though.

As I mentioned in a blog post recently, my work responsibilities this month include reviewing and commenting on the work of new trainees in the Philippines. It has been going well. I did feel a bit nervous, though, about attending a roundtable session via phone and computer on Sunday evening (which was Monday morning in Manila) with the trainees, their manager, my manager, and a few of my coworkers here in the United States who are also involved in the training.

In general, I am not much of a talker and do better with written language. I am very comfortable with giving written feedback, not just at work, but also in creative writers’ groups and on blogs. Question-and-answer sessions over the phone are something that I don’t have as much experience doing, however.

It all turned out okay, though. The trainees obviously were much more nervous than I was. When my manager coaxed them into coming forward with their questions, my first instinct was to go into reassuring-mom mode and tell them everyone has a tough time at first, but it doesn’t take long to get used to the work, and they would all feel comfortable with it soon. I wondered at first if maybe I overdid that a little, but my manager and coworkers thought it sounded pretty good.

I decided to post this ocean word-art for Nurturing Thursday because it seemed to fit the theme:
 

Word-art that says "You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore." 

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.

Now that the summer is winding down, my subconscious mind seems to be telling me that it’s about time for a vacation. Instead of the nature scenes I often post on my digital art display, I’ve found myself picking images like this quaint, narrow street:
 

Narrow street with cobblestones and tall old buildings. 

I don’t know where the photo was taken, but it looks like an older area of a city somewhere in Europe. The next day, I displayed an image of a ship with tall sails bravely crossing a storm-tossed sea. Then I chose a photo of a waterfront resort, and the next picture was a sunlit staircase with old-fashioned décor in Barcelona. So, adding up those clues, I would say they’re telling me it’s adventure time!

I have to confess that I didn’t feel particularly inspired or creative today. Instead, it was one of those days where it all felt like a long, repetitive, energy-draining slog, and no thoughts came to mind for a Nurturing Thursday blog post. So, after work and laundry, I spent a little time browsing through word-art images in the hope that something inspiring would turn up. What I found was this timely reminder:
 

Word-art that says "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle 

Life may have its dull moments, but because character is formed in large part by everyday habits, just going through the day and getting things done without drama is not a bad thing. Even on days that feel less than inspired, it’s good to keep in mind that in a few years, we may look back and realize that we accomplished much more than we knew at the time.

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.

August 9, 2017 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

For those who enjoy dream analysis, I expect you’ll have lots of fun trying to make sense of this one! I saw time as made up of peaceful little moments that looked like tendrils or tentacles on marine animals, moving gently in the currents. The colors matched the ocean theme, in vibrant shades of blue, green, and purple. The time-creatures resembled this jellyfish image:
 

Jellyfish in shades of blue, green, and purple.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

They left me feeling that there was no need to worry about anything from the past because time was not fixed in place, but was always moving into new patterns. While I can’t say exactly where that idea might have come from, I would guess that all the blog posts I’ve written about time and imaginary conversations with my younger selves had something to do with it.

Maybe I’ve started to feel that time really is not as linear as it seems. The subconscious is always adding new context to past events and changing their meaning, even if it’s not by much, whenever they come to mind. So, in that sense, we really do wander around in time by moving past events into different arrangements, just like the sea creatures I imagined.

My employer is a multinational company, and for the next few weeks I’ll be helping to train a group of new hires in the Philippines. Because of the time difference, that works out very efficiently—they upload their completed training exercises during their workday, which is nighttime here in the United States. Their assignments can then be completely reviewed and all the comments written during U.S. business hours, before the trainees return to their office the next day.

Although writing reviewer comments on training exercises may not be the most exciting task on the planet, when a coworker sent me the little cartoon that I’ve posted below, it left me thinking about the “epic” nature of the changes going on in the modern world and how many interesting opportunities are likely to develop as time goes on.
 

Word-art with an animated sticky note writing on itself "Today be epic!" 

As Becca’s blog entry for today points out, there are useful lessons to be found everywhere. Even though our fast-paced modern world can feel disruptive and unsettling at times, often what that really means is that we’re learning at a much faster pace, and we haven’t yet gotten used to it. I expect that things will settle down after a while—it just takes time to reflect on those lessons.

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.