Almost twenty years ago, I was walking through a flea market with some friends when I noticed a display screen with animated art of a moving waterfall. It had no Internet connection and showed only the one image on a big, heavy screen, in the blocky graphics of the time. Still, I thought it would be great to have something like that to hang on my wall; and I decided to buy one after a few years when the technology got better.

Time went by, and I moved to a new house without having found anything similar. I had a spot picked out for it on a wall of my dining room, which is on the north side of the house and always seemed too dark and quiet. Even with a small holiday tree in the corner, it was hard to brighten up that room in December. So I was very happily surprised when my husband’s Christmas gift for me this year was a flat-screen art display connected to an online gallery, which he put on the wall right where I wanted it.

Flat screen digital art hanging on wall, with small Christmas tree in corner. 

For this photo, I set it to display brightly colored abstract art. It can easily be changed to other images, either static or animated, with a phone app. This is a new product by Electric Objects that was rushed into production for the Christmas season and doesn’t yet have a large searchable gallery. Users can upload images, though, so it’s just a matter of finding good ones.

I look at it as a symbol, on this New Year’s Eve, of moving forward in a world where the images and stories we keep in mind become our reality. They may take a while to show up in our everyday lives, they probably won’t look exactly the same as what we first imagined, and they’ll change even more as time goes on—but however it happens, they do find their way into real life. So, it’s up to us to choose our thoughts wisely.

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.

Many thanks to Elesia Ashkenazy for kindly giving me a prompt for this story — a bluebird, a construction worker, and a fresh-baked pie.

Bluebird perched on a branch.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

“Can you imagine anybody ever really buying a car as a Christmas present? Those holiday car commercials are totally ridiculous.”

Scowling at the TV, Marcy picked up another slice of pepperoni and sausage pizza from the box on the coffee table. She leaned back into the sagging old couch, trying to find a spot that was at least halfway comfortable. The coffee table wasn’t in much better shape, full of scratches and dings. That luxury car with its gift bows and ribbons looked as much of an alien scene as if it had been beamed from the moon.

“It’s just advertising,” Joe said calmly, sitting to her right. Not much ever bothered Joe; he was a construction worker who took one day at a time. Whenever Marcy got annoyed about something, he would point out that by next year she probably would have forgotten all about it.

And in truth, Marcy knew they had a lot to be thankful for. Now that the recession was over and the economy was looking up, Joe had steady work again, and Marcy finally had gotten a pay raise after going for years without one. Although they had gone through all their savings just to keep the bills paid, at least they’d had enough savings to get through those years without the house being foreclosed. Not all of their friends had been as lucky.

Take it one day at a time, Marcy reminded herself. Still, she was glad the commercial was over. It was never any fun to see things that made her feel poor.


(Creative Commons image via flickr)

After work the next day, Joe went straight from the construction site to a nearby auto dealership and picked out a new midsize sedan to replace Marcy’s ancient clunker. Blue, of course. That was Marcy’s favorite color. Looking at the state Motor Vehicles website on his mobile phone, he found that the personalized license plate BLUBRD was available. And by donating a small extra fee to support the state park system, he could get a license plate that came with a picture of a bluebird in the corner. Just perfect for Marcy’s Christmas present.

He had told her several times already that the clunker needed replacing; it had stranded her at work not long ago, and he’d been out there in the parking lot replacing the starter motor in the dark while she held the flashlight. But Marcy didn’t feel comfortable with buying a new car after so many years of worrying about money. Whenever Joe mentioned it, her answer always was something like, “First we need to build our savings back up, and then we can think about it.”

Although he couldn’t blame Marcy for being cautious about spending, it just wasn’t healthy to go through life always feeling poor and deprived. So, he had made up his mind that this would be the year Marcy got a new car for Christmas, complete with holiday bows and ribbons just like in the commercials. The monthly payments would be manageable, even without putting any money down. He could live with watching TV on the old couch for a while longer.

Cherry pie with lattice top crust.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Marcy carried a fresh-baked cherry pie to the new coffee table on Christmas Eve and set the pie down carefully on a towel; it was still hot. She’d taken a vacation day and had the table delivered from the furniture store, as part of a fashionable matched set with a new couch and an end table, while Joe was at work. Although Joe had told her the worn-out old couch didn’t bother him at all, Marcy knew better; she had seen him taking ibuprofen for a sore back on mornings after he fell asleep on the couch watching sports. This would be the perfect Christmas gift for him.

Was that Joe’s pickup truck she heard just now? Marcy wasn’t sure. She had already shut the curtains because it was getting dark. She listened for a moment, but the garage door didn’t go up. Probably not Joe; he’d sent a text message a few minutes ago telling her that instead of coming directly home, he was going to do a bit of gift-wrapping with their friends Carol and Kent. Although Marcy wouldn’t have expected that their well-organized friends would still have wrapping to finish on Christmas Eve, she didn’t think much about it; after all, in the holiday rush, anyone could get behind on things.

So it was as much of a surprise as Joe could have wanted, when he came through the door grinning and told Marcy, “Take a look out the window.”

Pulling back the curtains, Marcy saw her new car in the twilight. It was decorated with shiny bright bows and ribbons in all colors, and even a pair of reindeer antlers made of cardboard and tinsel. Joe’s truck was parked on the street, just in front of Carol and Kent’s big SUV. Evidently they’d helped Joe to get the new car and his truck both home. Standing in the driveway next to the new car, they waved cheerfully when they saw Marcy through the window.

“But, but,” Marcy stammered, gesturing toward the furniture set, “I just spent most of the money in our savings account so you’d be comfortable on the couch! What if…”

Joe took a step toward Marcy and put a finger across her lips.

“No more what-ifs! We’re about to start a new year, and everything is going well. It’s time to feel confident about life again. The new furniture looks great, Marcy, and there’s no need to worry about it. Building those savings back up won’t take long at all.” Wrapping her up in a big hug with his strong arms, he went on to say, “Just a few years ago, we believed many things were possible. Such as, the family we were going to start before the recession hit. I want to get back to making those plans again, Marcy. We can’t keep on living in fear of the future.”

The delicious smell of the cherry pie rose from the coffee table, reminding Marcy of those simpler days when happiness had come so easily to her. Then, all at once, many things did indeed seem possible again; and for the first time in a very long time, thinking of the future made her smile.

My husband’s hairline started receding when he was in college. Several years ago, he decided to shave off his fringe and go completely bald. He still left a bottle of men’s shampoo in the middle of our shower caddy, though, in between my hair products. Keeping his shampoo wasn’t totally absurd at first because he used it occasionally, whenever he did not get around to shaving his head for a few days.

Shower caddy with men's shampoo between women's shampoo and conditioner. 

As he got more in the habit of shaving his head regularly, the shampoo got less use. Last week he realized that he hadn’t touched it in ages, and he wondered out loud, “Why do I still have this?” Of course, there was no good answer—that’s always how it goes with clutter!

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 mentioned in a post on Saturday that one of my Christmas decorations is a clock that chimes holiday songs on the hour. The clock has a bright, cheerful winter scene on the face. Last year I got it in a Yankee Swap (also called White Elephant) regifting party, where my husband and I got together with friends after Christmas and everybody brought their unwanted presents.

Analog clock with a red frame and a wintery holiday picture in the middle. 

I suppose the person who didn’t want the holiday clock thought that the chiming songs would be annoying. My daughter complained that when she was watching TV, the clock was too much of an interruption. I like it, though, because it breaks up the holiday rush with a cheerful pause every hour, reminding me to take a moment and appreciate my blessings. We can all benefit from such reminders. Have a very merry Christmas, everyone!

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.

I wrote a post in October about the closet under the basement stairs, which has been much improved since my husband went through his piled-up junk, threw away some old boxing gloves and other things, and put the remaining items neatly in bags (yay). I had thought there wasn’t anything at the back except some old suitcases and freebie sports bags; but when I actually went in there and looked around, I found more stuff.

Three bags of junk in my basement 

The large white plastic bag has leis and other Hawaiian-themed stuff from my daughter’s 21st birthday party; there are old T-shirts in the small white plastic bag; and the other bag has a fold-up tent which, if I recall correctly, was left over from when my son was in Cub Scouts long, long ago.

It all looked pretty useless to me, but I never did get rid of any of it. My husband apparently felt that he had thrown away enough for one day. He said that he wanted to keep his old T-shirts, so I moved them to another closet; and then he said we might as well keep the tent because there was nothing wrong with it.

So, I just put the bag of Hawaiian party stuff in a corner of the basement with some of my daughter’s other things that need to get out of my house. Sometimes cleaning up clutter is slow going! The closet under the stairs looks much tidier now, though, so I would say it’s going well.

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!

Today I commented on a blog entry about the complexity of negative thoughts, as contrasted with the simplicity of feeling good. Negative self-talk can easily get out of control and spiral into persistent nasty thought loops; but when life is going well, people often don’t have much to say about it. In my comment, I suggested a writing exercise for the blog author—imagine that a problem she worries about has gone away, and write at least 750 words about how good everything feels now.

Then it occurred to me that I could benefit from the same exercise, as I’d been guilty of negative self-talk about my writing earlier this week. I started writing a blog post on Tuesday, decided that it totally sucked, and deleted it. Then I had a different idea for a post on Wednesday, but after writing one paragraph I wasn’t sure how to continue, so I saved it for another day. Meanwhile, I had another topic rattling around in my head, but never got started on it.

Of course, I know that’s just the way everyone’s writing goes sometimes, and there is no point in worrying about it. Still, I have to admit that I felt frustrated this week even though I knew better. So I decided that instead of just telling another blogger how to focus her energy on positive thoughts, it was only fair that I should take my own advice and compose a 750-word essay on the subject of feeling good about my writing. As the old saying goes, “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”

Mated pair of Canada geese in green water.

(photo credit:

A GREAT DAY: Today was a great day for blogging. I had lots of creative energy. When I sat down to write this post, the words all flowed easily and organized themselves neatly into paragraphs, with very little effort. Finding an illustration for the post was quick and easy, too. It only took a moment to decide that a photo of geese would look good before this paragraph, and I found an image right away when I searched for one.

I felt comfortable taking a break from my writing because I knew that there was no need to hurry. I had complete confidence that after getting up and walking around, I’d still be able to finish the post just as easily when I got back to it. I did not give any thought to how much time had passed. Nothing else needed my attention in the moment; there would be plenty of time for the to-dos and chores later. A holiday clock chimed a happy Christmas song, and I felt cheerful.

When I imagined other bloggers reading my post and gaining more confidence in their own writing, I felt strong and inspired. I was secure in the certainty that I have the personal power to bring about change in the world, and that I have gained some understanding of how to use that power responsibly. Although I make mistakes just like everyone else, I know that I generally can correct them before they turn into anything major, as long as I take the time to reflect on my actions and consider their potential effects.

Before I started writing the post, while I was still in the process of getting my thoughts organized, I ran four miles on the indoor track at the Recreation Center. It was cold here today—the temperature never got above freezing—but that was okay because the only time I spent outside was to walk through the parking lot. Getting exercise is much easier when it’s part of a regular routine, and staying fit goes a long way toward keeping up both physical and mental energy.

I ate a healthy snack of dried dates while sitting at the desk because I know that staying well-nourished makes everything that I do much easier, including my blog posts and other writing. Taking proper care of my body will help to make sure that I have both the health and the creative inspiration to keep this blog going for many years. Also, I made sure to sit up straight; after all, feeling comfortable when I type my blog entries has a lot to do with paying attention to good posture.

After looking at the monitor for a while, I closed my eyes to rest them for a few minutes and thought about the good fortune of living in modern times. I felt grateful for the technology that allows me to share my writing so easily with friends across the world, while visiting other blogs and gaining insight into many diverse perspectives. I appreciated how wonderful it is to have a blog where I can enjoy social visits, get my thoughts better organized, improve both my writing skills and my understanding of life in general, and just have some good creative fun!

Not being perfect, I did notice the occasional self-doubting thought creeping into my head when I got closer to the end of this post, along the lines of whether I’d be able to get it all finished today or whether I might be running out of steam. But then I told myself that it really didn’t matter what day I got finished—the point of this exercise was simply to feel good about my writing, and that shouldn’t have anything to do with the day when a particular entry might happen to get posted.

I believe it’s fair to say that I accomplished what I set out to do—that is, collecting my good feelings about blogging in this entry to demonstrate (mainly to myself) that these good feelings have plenty of weight and complexity. Whatever worries I might have about finishing my entries promptly and staying on a regular posting schedule are insignificant by comparison. I’m pretty sure that my readers are not overly critical on the subject, nor are they likely to be.

Even though it may sometimes seem as if negative feelings are more powerful and complex than good feelings, that’s not necessarily true. It all comes down to the question of where we choose to focus our thoughts in the here and now.

One of my first Nurturing Thursday entries, which I posted almost two years ago, was about the benefits of having a fruit bowl on my kitchen table. I wrote that I always kept it filled with my favorite varieties of fruit as a symbol of abundance, a reminder that the kitchen table is not a junk shelf, and a prompt for healthy eating.

This year I’m still using the fruit bowl, but I have realized that it’s much healthier to eat a wide variety of foods instead of always buying the same ones, so I’ve made a point of switching things up. At present, the fruit bowl contains Asian pears and large mandarin oranges.

Glass fruit bowl with large mandarin oranges and Asian pears. 

Making small changes to our routines is healthier not only with food, but also with life in general. It’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut, always doing the same old stuff out of inertia or because it seems more comfortable. And then, before we know it, our creative energies have gotten malnourished. Although it’s perfectly natural to have favorites—both in what we eat and what we do—it’s also important to make sure we get plenty of variety!

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 my daughter was a teenager, she bought a comfy plush chair with a sparkly blue fabric. For a while, it was her favorite place to sit and read novels; but then she went away to college, and it didn’t get much use. Later it ended up in the basement, in a corner of the home theater, so that she could fit more friends in there to watch a movie when she came home.

Old blue chair in corner of home theater next to black leather sofa. 

It’s not as plush as it once was, or as bright and sparkly; and it definitely wouldn’t fit the color scheme of the home theater even if it still had the original blue, rather than being faded and dusty. I’ve been meaning to buy some new folding chairs anyway. Even if it was pretty once upon a time, my daughter’s old blue chair has long since outlived its usefulness.

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!

This week it has been fairly warm for December here, but there have been a lot of dark, damp, foggy days to go along with the warm temperatures. Like many people, I sometimes have a hard time staying cheerful and energetic in the depths of winter when it seems the sky is always dark. Christmas lights, candles, and other bright decorations help, as long as I consciously notice them rather than just going about my usual routine.

Word-art with hanging lightbulbs that says "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." -Dumbledore 

There are so many beautiful things available to us in modern times to brighten our days—what’s needed is the mindful appreciation to enjoy them as part of our daily lives!

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.

I read a few blog articles last year about the subconscious emotional stories we tell ourselves regarding money, which can affect our choices and finances in the present even though they generally come from long-ago childhood experiences. That made sense to me; but when I first thought about it, I couldn’t identify any such stories that might have gotten stuck in my head.

My finances seemed okay—both my husband and I had fairly good jobs, which we had been able to keep through the recession, and a nice house. The only issue was that we had spent a lot on our kids’ tuition, room and board, etc., while they were away at college, and before that we had sent them to Catholic schools. As a result, there never had seemed to be quite enough money left over for me to feel comfortable spending it on clothes or other fun shopping for myself.

So I asked myself, what kind of story from my childhood would fit that pattern? The houses where I lived as a child were all good places, with plenty of space for me to run around and play. My parents were divorced in the ’70s, and after that I lived with my mother and stepfather. I often wore hand-me-down clothes from a cousin when I was little, without thinking much about it at the time.

The internal narratives that we rely on to make sense of the world are drawn in large part from archetypes—that is, familiar characters representing various aspects of the culture. When I thought about what character might have taken up residence in my head, Cinderella came to mind. Although Cinderella lives in a nice house, she is a stepchild who doesn’t have much that she can call her own, and the money always gets spent on other family members.

Girl dressed as Cinderella in old-fashioned clothing with a pumpkin.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Whether or not there had been any reasonable basis for such feelings when I was a child, they certainly didn’t need to be part of my life now, especially after my kids had graduated from college. So I decided to have a little chat with my inner Cinderella and explain a few things to her.

I found her playing with a rag doll family she had made to console herself for being left at home, with the village hag as the babysitter, while her stepsisters enjoyed a lavish trip to France. Sitting down on the rug in front of the fireplace with her, I said, “You know what, Cinderella, it’s time for you to grow up and find a place of your own.”

Dropping the dolls, she stared at me fearfully, no doubt imagining herself cast out to be eaten by the hungry wolves of the forest. After all, she wasn’t the Disney Princess version of the character, but instead came out of the old-fashioned books of fairy tales that I had read before modern revisions took out the gruesome and violent stuff.

“Don’t worry, I’ve found a good place for you to live,” I quickly reassured the poor frightened girl. “There is an abandoned village called Channelwood on an island that’s no longer inhabited. It has lots of pretty houses built high in the treetops, safe from wild animals; and you can gather fruit and vegetables from the village’s old overgrown gardens, catch fish and dig clams. All yours, with nobody around to take it from you or bully you, and a lovely ocean view to give you more perspective on the world. I’ll even send you off with a suitcase full of brand-new clothes for the trip. Doesn’t that sound nice?”

She gave me a hesitant half-smile. “But how…”

“Oh, it’s easy to get there!” I told her cheerfully. “I’ve already made arrangements with the captain of a cargo ship that sails past the island regularly. I know him well—he often carries away my shipments of emotional baggage and my consignments of mental clutter. You’ll be in good hands. And there’s no need to worry about getting lonely; I’ll send you a few nice playmates after a while, as soon as I discover where they have been playing hide-and-seek in my psyche.”

The fire crackled loudly, sending up bright sparks. Cinderella stood up, straightened her ankle-length skirts, and began putting on her big wooden shoes. She still looked just a bit worried as she asked, “Please, may I bring my pet mouse?”

“Yes, of course you may. I wouldn’t dream of leaving him behind.”