This week I didn’t have a particular topic in mind that I wanted to focus on for Nurturing Thursday, so I decided to post a word-art image filled with more nurturing advice than might be needed.

An image showing a page filled with words of advice in different fonts, beginning with "Be nicer than is needed." 

Hope you enjoy it, and a happy Thursday to all!

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.

September 19, 2017 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I recently had a dream with some interesting symbols that practically begged for interpretation. My husband and I were staying in a hotel room that had a tiny door—it looked like a doggie door—connecting our room to the next room. A baby kept coming through the door into our room, and each time we had to take the baby back to the parents in the next room.

Baby looking through a doggie door.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Babies in dreams generally represent something new coming into one’s life. Staying in a hotel also has to do with new experiences. Having a baby show up in an unexpected place and then returning the baby—well, that probably means having mixed feelings about the change, whatever it is.

Because our daughter’s upcoming wedding has been on my mind, I’m guessing that it is the source of the mixed feelings. Not quite ready to think about future grandbabies showing up!

I’ve been a bit tired and run down this week, along with not sleeping well, probably because of a virus. There seems to be something going around. My hairdresser was sick on Tuesday and had to reschedule my appointment. I changed it to this morning, and then she forgot about it and was a few minutes late getting to the salon. I told her no worries, I was half asleep myself!

This evening the sun came out for just a little while after two very dark and rainy days. I feel perkier, and I’m looking forward to more fun on the weekend. Even when a few blah days happen, that’s just the way of things. We couldn’t do as much with a coloring book, after all, if the box didn’t have the gray and black crayons to fill in the shadows.

Colorful word-art that says "Life is about using the whole box of crayons." 

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.

September 12, 2017 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

My daughter’s wedding is planned for January. She got her dress a while ago, but I have to admit that by last weekend I still hadn’t yet gotten around to shopping for a mother of the bride dress. Although her fiancé is a great guy and we have no complaints, it’s still hard for both my husband and me to wrap our minds around the idea of giving away our little girl.

So she sent me a text message on Sunday telling me T.J.Maxx had a good sale and including a few links to dresses that she thought would look pretty on me. I suppose that at some point in her youth, I must have given her useful motherly lessons in how to nag people effectively without it being too obvious! I ended up buying this one, as shown on the store’s order page:

Model wearing a lace mother of the bride dress. 

I thought it looked like the dress was on a mannequin rather than a model. That got me thinking about Barbie dolls in wedding dresses and how quickly little girls grow up. It’s probably going to be a while longer before I can get used to seeing myself as the mother of the bride…

My manager is a big fan of Rafael Nadal and has occasionally stayed up most of the night watching tennis. She is also an upbeat, encouraging person who has served well in her position for many years.

People often look upon their work in terms of the particular task that they do, or see it more generally as working for the company. Looking at it even more broadly, though, work is about service—we provide something of value for customers even if we don’t interact directly with them, and we spend part of our time helping our coworkers and others in the company. Of course, earning a paycheck is also part of what work is about; but when we serve others well, money and other things tend to fall into place.

Word-art on a tennis ball that says "Life is like a game of tennis. The player who serves well seldom loses." 

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.

Although I’ve found that having imaginary conversations with my younger selves can give me a better perspective on the past, it does have some limitations. Because modern life is so busy and the human mind, by its nature, wanders randomly from one thought to another, sorting through bothersome memories whenever they pop up is not practicable. Even if it could be done, it wouldn’t be healthy to spend so much time brooding on them. My younger selves might not need long, detailed conversations, anyway—just a little bit of reassurance might be all right.

What was the best way to go about it? A quick “It’s okay now” didn’t seem to be enough, even if it was literally true that the problem or worry no longer existed in present-day time. Something more substantial was needed to make that a solid fact in the shifting, unsettled realm of the psyche. I needed a visual image to go along with the words—a quiet, protected place where my younger selves could feel safe.

Then it occurred to me that I already had imagined such a place when I sent my inner Cinderella away to start a new life in the abandoned village of Channelwood, from the old computer game Myst. I followed that up with another blog post in which she was joined there by Sara Crewe, another character from a classic children’s story. That imaginary village had plenty of space for a troubled younger self—or a few of them—to take a nice, restful vacation. Long walks on the beach, or along the wooden pathways through the bayou, would go a long way to restore their spirits.

Wooden pathway beside water, trees, and bushes. 

When I arrived at the island, traveling on an old-fashioned sailing ship, I brought gifts for Ella and Sara, in the nature of practical household goods. The only item that had any decorative value was a calendar from a London shop, open to the current month—September 1897, which had a picture of horses pulling a farm wagon piled high with the fruits of the harvest. My other gifts were cloth and sewing supplies, sacks of grain, jars of spices, and crates filled with clucking chickens.

That last gift, although certainly not as pleasant-smelling as the spices, was the most well received. Sara clasped her hands together and exclaimed rapturously, “Eggs! How wonderful! And grain too! Now we can bake bread and biscuits!”

“Rice pudding!” declared a less effusive but just as happy Ella, glancing from a sack of rice to a jar of cinnamon. “Just the thing—we’ve been picking grapes and drying most of them to make raisins.”

We started trundling the supplies up from the beach in wooden handcarts. After we reached the shade of the tall trees in the bayou, I let go of my cart’s handles and turned to face the girls.

“I’d like to ask a favor,” I began, doing my best to keep the request simple. “This is a very peaceful little village, with many empty houses. If I send a girl or woman here for a visit, so that she can rest for a while and become healthier, will you take good care of her?”

Sara chewed on her lower lip, considering the question. “Like a sanatorium, you mean? Where they send people with tuberculosis?”

“Well, sort of like that, but it’s for people who have been worrying too much and need a few days to sit quietly in the sun and dream of happier things.”

Water trickled slowly down toward the sea, and a slight breeze stirred the treetops. There was no other sound but a few squawking chickens that seemed anxious to get out of their crates.

“Oh, I understand how that is,” Sara replied, giving me a cheerful smile. “I always feel much better when I can pretend something happy instead of worrying.”

I smiled back at her. “Yes, exactly. But first, I want to set an intention for this village to feel like a safe and protected place. This wooden pathway makes a circle around the houses. I’m going to walk around it, starting here in the east, and look to each of the directions as I say words of blessing.”

Ella, with a very doubtful expression, took firm hold of the little cross that she wore on a simple necklace. “But isn’t that,” and she lowered her voice, though there was nobody else around to hear, “pagan?”

“Not necessarily. There are many rituals that used to be pagan but then became part of ordinary society. Christmas lights, for example. Long ago, pagans had ceremonies of lighting candles at the winter solstice, and then Christians started doing the same.”

Although Ella still didn’t look entirely convinced, Sara gave an understanding nod. “Like maypole dancing. Some people won’t do it because they say it used to be pagan.”

“Just so,” I agreed. “Now, when I look toward the beach, I am facing the east, where the sun rises over the sea. East is the direction of the dawn, of healthy buds and flowers opening in the spring, of the earth filled with green growing plants. May this village be blessed with all these things and feel safe and protected always.”

Then I walked a quarter-circle clockwise until I was under a particularly thick part of the tree canopy where only the indirect light of early afternoon came filtering through. I turned to face outward again.

“South is the direction of the sun, of the heat of midday, the fire that forever brings energy and life to the world. May this village be blessed always and feel safe and protected under the sun.”

I continued around to the west, invoking its late afternoon breezes and its winds of welcome change. In the north, I spoke of nightfall, of a cool rain, of winter and dormancy and a healing silence. Then I returned to my starting point beside the eastern shore and completed the circle by stating my intention that everyone within the village feel safe and protected forever.

“And there is no need to fear being attacked because no enemies can enter here.” I paused for a moment because I wasn’t sure where to send my past selves’ enemies. Maybe they bounced off a protective bubble of white light? No, that wouldn’t fit the Myst computer game. Even an imaginary scenario like this needed a consistent plot.

“They will go into a book,” I finally said, thinking about what had happened in that game. “And there they’ll stay forever—nothing but an old story, with no power to do any harm in the present. So let it be.”

The girls listened politely, Sara with what appeared to be genuine interest, and Ella looking skeptical. When I had finished speaking, we all rolled our carts up to higher ground. After putting the grain and spices away in a shed, the girls started planning how they were going to build their chicken coop.

“A few words before I leave,” I said, breaking into a discussion that quickly had gotten so animated that I wasn’t sure the girls still remembered I was there.

Putting down the sticks they were holding, the girls looked up from the diagram that they had been sketching in the dust beside the shed.

“I don’t expect to bother you too much with visitors,” I told them, “but every now and again, if a worried-looking girl or woman shows up in the village, please give her a kind welcome and a nice hot bowl of chicken soup—or maybe some rice pudding. Let her rest for a while, enjoy the peaceful landscape, and rediscover her joy in life.”

“Rice pudding,” Ella said, in a tone of complete certainty. “It would be just right to drive away melancholy feelings, especially on cool evenings when the wind blows hard against these little houses, carrying the cry of the seabirds.”

“Sometimes it can feel lonely here, especially on nights like that,” Sara confided. “But I’ve made pretty wall hangings from reeds, to brighten up the rooms and keep out the chilly drafts. It never gets as cold here as it does in London.”

“We’ll be glad to have visitors,” Ella finished, “whenever they come!”

The girls turned back to their rough sketch of a chicken coop while the hens went on clucking impatiently in the crates. I said goodbye and walked back down to the beach where my imaginary ship waited for the return journey. When I boarded the ship, I moved easily and felt light and energetic, as if I’d left behind a few worries of my own that I had been carrying around without knowing it.

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.