This week got off to a slow start because I woke up later than usual on a cloudy Monday, and then I went to get groceries mid-morning, while the supermarket was still reasonably well stocked. So I didn’t get in a full day of work on Monday and felt like I was catching up all week.

Looking at it from the perspective of gratitude, though, it was a very good week. Working at home allowed me to get plenty of sleep and be well refreshed on Monday, the supermarket had almost everything on my list, and my home is a warm and comfortable place.

Word-art that says "Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude." -A.A. Milne

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.

Sunshine on Wednesday morning left me feeling cheerful, especially after I went outside to get the mail around noon. The air felt warmer, and the sun was noticeably getting higher in the sky and farther north. Spring didn’t seem that far away, even though the calendar clearly says winter is not nearly over.

Of course, we’ve also had our share of cloudy mornings. Still, I feel much better than last year, when a long string of dark winter days left me so blah that I ordered a sparkly sleeveless top from a catalog to cheer myself up (much to my daughter’s amusement). This year, the winter blues have mostly stayed away. To match a hopeful mood, I chose an image of a peaceful landscape for my art display, showing trees with leaf buds opening at winter’s end.

River in winter with brown grass and budding trees.

For whatever reason, though, I couldn’t manage to shake off a persistent feeling that my energy level is not where it should be. I have to confess, I started ruminating about how long it might take me to improve it (which, of course, broke my New Year’s resolution to stifle my unhelpful mental chatter).

“Do you really want an answer to that question?”

Oh, great—my snarky future self Kass had chosen that moment to pop out of my subconscious mind and lecture me on my lack of mental discipline. I sighed.

“I have a feeling I’ll get one regardless.”

Kass grinned cheerfully in response. I pictured her wearing faded jeans and a matching denim jacket, ambling lazily along beside the stream in the art display image.

“Not necessarily. If you told me no, you didn’t want to hear it, then I would leave you alone. But, of course, you are a past me, which means you wouldn’t be that much of a wuss. So, I can feel confident that you do want an answer—right?”

After mentally unpacking the various parts of that statement, I sighed once more and grudgingly told her, “Yeah, I guess so.”

“Okay. Well, since you’re expecting to get criticism, and life has a way of giving us what we expect to get, I’ll start by saying that you asked the wrong question. Energy level isn’t something that stays constant until you improve it. Rather, it changes all the time because it’s a reflection of everything coming into, and going out of, your life. It’s sort of like water level,” and Kass gestured toward the stream, “which can go up or down very quickly, depending on how much rain falls upstream and whatever happens downstream. So, what you really want to consider is flow, rather than level. Does that make sense?”

“Sort of.” I looked at the quiet little stream, which didn’t seem to be moving at all. “When I row on the river, a low water level isn’t necessarily a problem if there is enough flow to prevent weeds from clogging the riverbed. And when there is heavy rain, the water level can go from low to high in a matter of hours.”

“Yes, exactly—it’s those pesky weeds that are the problem.” Kass snapped off a long blade of dry brown grass and tossed it into the stream, where it sank very slowly. “Weeds in the mind are all those distractions that interfere with the flow. Such as, wasting your time worrying about expectations and whether you measure up to them. Just do something fun, rather than feeding the weeds. It really is that simple.”

“Thanks.” Just to troll her a little in return for her unsolicited criticism, even though I had to admit to myself it was helpful, I asked, “Are you something fun, or are you a weed?”

Kass laughed out loud. “Either or both, of course!”

In difficult and traumatic times such as we’ve been through recently, it takes more effort to stay confident and move toward a better future. Even so, that’s when we most need to make the effort.

Word-art that says "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." -Henry David Thoreau

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 last year got started, I thought my New Year’s resolution was pretty simple. Instead of loading myself up with daily self-improvement obligations, I just wanted to focus on developing clarity in my life. I didn’t anticipate much change to my everyday routine.

Of course, we all know what kind of year 2020 turned out to be. Not much needs to be said there, except that it definitely gave me a lot more clarity as to what matters and what doesn’t.

One thing I’d had in mind to do during the summer was to get my lower front teeth straightened with Invisalign. The teeth had moved a bit out of place in recent years, and I thought it made sense to get that taken care of now, rather than waiting. I didn’t get started until September, but that seemed okay because the expected 13-week treatment plan would end before the holidays and, of course, I wouldn’t be traveling.

Invisalign uses plastic alignment forms that are changed once a week, gradually pulling the teeth into their optimal position as the sequence progresses. The aligner is supposed to be worn at least 20 hours per day, and it must be removed before eating or drinking anything but water. Needless to say, that puts quite a crimp in most people’s habits of snacking and coffee drinking.

Photo of a coffee cup with steam rising from it.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Probably in a more normal year it wouldn’t have bothered me much, but in 2020 it felt like another big disruption in a year of disruptions. Having to gulp my morning coffee took the comfort out of it. And I wanted my comfort, waaaah! So, although my teeth seemed to be moving into place well, I didn’t feel as positive as I might otherwise have felt. Instead, I was counting down the days left in the treatment schedule and telling myself stuff like “It’s okay, just six more weeks until I’m out of these things.”

That wasn’t the best attitude, obviously—and I got my comeuppance for it when one tooth remained stubbornly crooked at the end of the projected treatment period. It wasn’t all that far out of place and would be simple enough to fix; but by then, I felt like having my teeth covered in plastic for even one day longer was miserable rotten luck and an awful way to start the holidays.

After a few days on vacation, I settled down enough to realize that my own bad attitude had made the situation feel a lot worse than it actually was. What I needed to focus on instead was that my teeth soon would be nice and straight, along with gratitude for being able to get the Invisalign treatment, which was much quicker and easier than old-fashioned braces.

That line of thinking led to a word of intention for 2021—Alignment—and an accompanying New Year’s resolution to monitor my internal chatter more closely, putting a stop to pointless mental grumbling and anything else that is not in alignment with a joyful future. Although it’s not realistic to expect negative thoughts won’t ever show up, they don’t have to be indulged when that happens, but can instead be recognized for what they are and sent packing.

Yesterday was dark and rainy, but I decided to go for a run outside anyway because my husband’s Christmas gifts for me included thick winter hats, which looked very comfy, and a pair of tights (both by UnderArmour). So I tried them out, running around the block a few times. I came home when my shoes got wet enough to make my socks feel damp. The hat kept my head warm and dry, the tights were a good fit, and a jacket kept me otherwise dry, so I was comfortable except for the wet shoes.

This year has reminded us all to be thankful for having so many ordinary, comfortable things which, in past years, often got taken for granted. And even if much of 2020 felt like slogging through puddles on a dark winter day with wet feet, it also put such small inconveniences in perspective.

Word-art that says "Resilience."

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.

Father Time had a problem. Today was New Year’s Eve, and the world was more than ready to say goodbye to 2020—but Baby New Year wasn’t in a mood to cooperate.

Cartoon image of a baby with a Happy New Year sash.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

The photographer only got one good picture before Baby New Year threw his creamed spinach at the camera. That was after he had tossed his toys all over the floor, pulled the dog’s tail, and unrolled every sheet of carefully hoarded T.P. in the closet.

“Son, you need to settle down,” said Father Time. “We’re only a few hours away from the big moment.”

“I don’t care!” Baby New Year wailed, kicking a plush unicorn with a chubby little foot. “It’s not going to be any fun. There will be no crowds in the streets, and no parties—or, if people have parties, then they’ll spread the virus, and I’ll get blamed for it. Even though I am just a baby, everyone will say it’s my fault when grown-ups don’t want to be responsible. Oh, it’s all such a mess, and so unfair. Why did I have the bad luck to be Baby New Year 2021, instead of a better year?”

Father Time stroked his silver beard thoughtfully as he considered how to answer. Pacing from one end of the kitchen to the other, he stepped on a Cheerio. This misfortune was to both his annoyance and that of the dog, who had been just about to nab it.

“Well, son, you’re right that it is unfair,” he finally replied. “Many New Year’s celebrations have been better—but some have been worse, such as during the world wars, or plagues that happened before people knew how to make vaccines. No matter how bad it got, though, everyone just kept on going as best they could. As time went on, there was more to celebrate. That’s how life goes.”

Baby New Year still looked sulky. “Well, okay, if I can’t throw this year back and get a different year instead, how about returning the world and ordering another one?”

“No, you can’t do that either. Absolutely not,” Father Time declared firmly. “I think you’ve gotten some very unrealistic ideas from all the online shopping we do nowadays, son.”

December 25, 2020 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Feeling much refreshed, I woke this morning to find a light snow falling steadily, covering the ground. A merry white Christmas! I hadn’t expected it because some flakes fell yesterday, but everything stayed stubbornly bare. The temperature dropped quite a lot overnight, though, and evidently the ground got cold enough for the snow to stick around for a while.

Word-art that says "Merry Christmas."

Best holiday wishes for a wonderful day, whether or not it’s snowing in your part of the world.

Unlike some (well, okay, most) previous years, I got all my Christmas shopping and wrapping finished two weeks early. Instead of hurrying to wrap the presents on the last day, I expected that I’d have a nice, lazy, peaceful Christmas Eve with nothing to do.

But my husband, who has been working a lot of late nights and weekends recently to finish up a project, still hadn’t gotten started on his wrapping. So, instead of sitting around all day being lazy, I helped wrap some of his gifts (not the ones for me, of course). It went quickly and didn’t feel at all like hurrying. In fact, with a better mindset going into the holiday, I still felt very much at peace.

Word-art that says "Peace on Earth."

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 woke up, it was quite a dark morning even for midwinter, with wind gusts and the occasional snow shower. Until I checked the time, I wasn’t altogether sure that it was morning at all.

With Christmas Eve being a holiday from work for me, the hour didn’t really matter; but I can’t often fall back to sleep after waking at my usual time, so it seemed not worth trying. After getting my breakfast and coffee, I sat on the couch and changed the image on my art display to a sparkly Christmas tree. Then I switched on a daylight lamp, which took away enough of the gloom to make it look like an ordinary cloudy morning.

I decided to exercise my imagination by visiting my younger selves and their fictional companions in Channelwood village. Although the sky looked brighter there as I pictured it, the trees were still mostly bare, and muddy paths stretched away into a windy woods.

Muddy path through winter woods.

(Image credit: Garry Knight)

The scene looked more cheerful when I opened the door to the kitchen outbuilding, which is my younger selves’ usual gathering place. They had just finished breakfast, judging by the crumb-strewn plates on the central table, along with one remaining pumpkin muffin on a serving platter (which I nabbed, yum).

Evergreen wreaths with bright red berries adorned the walls. Fragrant candles glowed on shelves and tabletops. Embroidered ornaments hung from the branches of a potted pine sapling in a corner, along with shiny strands of dried grass that served as icicles. A nativity scene with wooden figurines occupied a table beside the tree.

The children’s faces, when I looked closely, were not as festive. Even Sara, known for her unquenchable optimism, couldn’t entirely repress a sigh as she gazed at the merry decorations.

“Sometimes I miss the crowds of London,” she confided. “It’s lovely and peaceful here in this tiny village—but when Christmas is almost here, I want to see the busy shops and bright lights again. Oh, I’m longing to hear the carolers.”

“Yes, I remember,” said Peter, who was sitting cross-legged on a forest-green rug by the tree. “The city lights always looked so jolly when I flew over with the fairies on my way back to Neverland.”

Ella, never idle for long, had started gathering up the breakfast dishes. “I used to dream that someday I would go to the holiday ball and dance with the prince.”

Still sitting at the breakfast table, Queenie sipped from a half-full mug and stared at the little tree as if oblivious to her companions. The silence lengthened until I thought she wasn’t going to join the conversation, but then she spoke.

“I miss store-bought tinsel, sparkling like fresh snow on Christmas morning. And shortbread cookies in a holiday tin. And, and,” her voice quavered as if about to break, “getting together with family.”

Sara nodded, her small face unusually grave.

Although I wanted to say something that would cheer up this somber little group, I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Truth be told, I’d had many of the same feelings myself this year, and whether I had dealt with them any better was debatable. So I stayed quiet, just looking around the room at the holiday decorations, until my glance fell on the nativity scene.

“In my time it’s a lonely year, too,” I said. “But as you know, Baby Jesus had nothing but a manger with the sheep and goats for company. It was enough.”

Sara responded with just a hint of a smile. “Ella carved our nativity scene. She’s a talented artist, though she won’t admit it.”

“It’s nicely done,” I agreed.

“And Peter put the straw on the floor, while Queenie painted the figurines. It all came together very well.”

I turned to say a few words to Queenie, who was just now getting up from the table.

“Next time I visit, I’ll be sure to bring a cookie assortment in a decorated tin.”

Yesterday’s major snowstorm, which was mostly to the east of my area, did not leave much snow here because the ground was warm enough that almost all of it melted. It’s not snowing at all today, but the dark clouds still haven’t shown any sign of moving on.

This time of year, staying cheerful can be a struggle because the lack of sunlight makes everything look so gloomy. Old limiting thoughts and their associated feelings are quick to pop up. But, one good thing about the long nights is that when the clouds blow away and the stars come out, the universe in all its glory reminds us that we have many wonders yet to discover.

Word-art that says "Reach for the Stars."

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.