These dark autumn afternoons have put me in mind of childhood days when I would go out to play after school, no matter what the season or the weather. Paths in the woods were always an adventure, and sometimes I would go off the path and imagine myself to be a famous explorer in the wilderness. Even if I got burrs in my stockings (that was back before girls wore pants), it was fun anyway.

As adults, we spend most of our time following the well-worn paths of our everyday activities. This time of year, it’s probably dark when we get finished with our work, and we have other things to do and wouldn’t be interested in getting mud on our shoes wandering in the woods anyway. Still, it’s good to keep the spirit of exploration alive, such as by learning something new or visiting blogs we haven’t read before. When we get off the path, there’s no telling what discoveries we might make!

Word-art that says "Do not go where the path may lead; go where there is no path and leave a trail." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.

November 14, 2017 · 6 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Probably because of the time change, I’ve been feeling low on creative energy this past week and haven’t been much inclined to blog. I did come across a cute graphic recently that seems well suited to the short days of late autumn, though, so I decided to share it:

Word-art with a yawning cartoon mouse that says "Always end the day with a positive thought. No matter how hard things were, tomorrow's a fresh opportunity to make it better."

Even when we’re like this poor sleepy mouse and don’t feel motivated to do much besides quietly yawning while we keep warm in winter pajamas and comfy slippers, it’s good to keep in mind that something better will come along in the future!

One of the assistant coaches for our local rowing club’s junior program, who had been driving the boat trailer to regattas and scrimmages, quit recently because he got too busy with other things. That left the junior program without a trailer driver for the rest of the fall season because a parent who often had volunteered to tow the trailer also was no longer available.

My husband, who had gotten some practice driving the adult trailer, volunteered to take the junior trailer to the final regatta of the season last weekend. That was not much fun because the junior trailer is old, heavy, and poorly balanced, so towing it required a large rental truck; my husband couldn’t use his SUV like he had been doing with the adult program’s nice new trailer. Also, he had to drive through a major thunderstorm on the way back.

The juniors showed their appreciation by buying his dinner and giving him a thank-you note and an Amazon gift card. Meanwhile, I had mostly used up an old gift card that I had been buying Kindle books with, and it was a nice surprise for me when my husband asked if I would like to have the Amazon gift card. It all goes to show—there’s no way of telling how far our simple acts of kindness and appreciation can keep on going!

Word-art that says "Anytime you can have a positive impact on someone else's life, don't think about it, just do 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.

The furnace in my house was having some problems Wednesday afternoon, and my husband spent some time tracing wires and checking circuits. He never did find out which one of the switches was faulty—all of them tested okay, and the furnace just came back on spontaneously.

That left me thinking about how we often can’t trace the events that happen in our everyday lives. Even if something looks like it is small and unimportant, that is not necessarily the case; it could turn out to be much more significant than we realize at the time.

Word-art that says "Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end." -Scott Adams

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.

Over the weekend, the weather turned rainy, dark, and chilly here. It’s starting to feel like winter is not far away. Before I sat down at the computer to write this post, I put on my fluffy winter socks and comfy pajamas with a matching scarf.

But I’m not quite ready to give up summertime feelings of adventure and settle into long months of quiet hibernation, so I put this photo taken in Japan’s Yakushima Forest on my digital art display:

Mossy rocks in a stream in Yakushima Forest, Japan.

Doesn’t it look like an illustration of an enchanted forest from an old-fashioned book of fairy tales, where anyone who followed the stream far enough would discover a magical cottage full of hidden treasures?

And with that picture on my wall, it’s almost like my house is the fairy cottage and I am looking out the window at the path I followed to reach it, after bravely daring to walk in the front door and finding no witches or goblins lurking there. Just right for the day before Halloween!

My husband deserves a shout-out for going above and beyond the call of duty on Sunday afternoon when he cleaned the shower and mowed the lawn at the same time. First he sprayed on some shower cleaner, then he went outside and mowed for a while, then he took a break from mowing and came back in to spray the shower some more. After he finished mowing, he hosed off the mower so that the garage wouldn’t smell like decaying grass clumps, which got him wet and splashed all over with grass goo, and finally he went inside and scrubbed the shower thoroughly while also cleaning himself up. What a guy.

When our family members and other people in our lives do something that’s worthy of appreciation, we should take a little time to compliment them for it. There’s always something nice that we can say!

Cartoon with a ruler saying "You rock!" and a rock saying "You rule!"

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.

October 25, 2017 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

Now that the weather has turned chilly, I’ve decided that until the winter is over, I won’t be doing any more of what has seemed like an endless chore of pruning my backyard willow hedge. It’s mostly under control and not as much in my husband’s way when he mows, but it still has a few dead and dying branches here and there. Winter isn’t far away, though, and the leaves are falling.

Willows after pruning in October.

As well as getting back the weekend time that won’t be sucked up by those trees, I’m also going to take some half-days off from work just because I feel like it, even if there is nothing in particular that I need to do. My vacation days do not roll over from one year to the next, so there’s nothing to save. I already scheduled taking off Thanksgiving week and Christmas week, and I still have a little time left over.

When my husband and I were younger, we had a judgmental attitude toward people who took “mental health days.” We thought that they were wasting valuable vacation time and might regret it later, if something unexpected came up, and that they needed to do a better job of managing their time.

After many years of rushing from one activity to another, though, we can better appreciate the value of having a more relaxed attitude toward time. As with anything else, when time is treated as a scarce resource that has to be hoarded and carefully managed, it never feels like there is enough. Best to be more easygoing, within reason of course, and not worry about it.

Sometimes it seems like the more effort we put into letting things go, the more we look around and discover there’s still a lot to be done. When clutter gets cleared away, another heap of it turns up somewhere; and when those dusty old mental storerooms full of sad memories and wrong assumptions get a good sorting and sweeping, there are plenty more to be found. After a while, it starts to feel like too much effort and a never-ending chore.

That generally means it’s time to stop pushing and simply be present in the moment. We can learn a lot from nature in that regard, especially this time of year. When the trees let go of their bright autumn leaves, they don’t have to make any effort. Cool winds blow through the branches, and the leaves just fall naturally. Sometimes, as autumn shows us, letting things go doesn’t have to be hard.

Word-art that says "Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go."

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 came across the word “postliminary” while reading, not long ago, and it left me thinking about how rarely that word is used. (The spell checker didn’t even recognize it when I wrote this post.) It refers to things that people do after finishing an activity, like cleaning up and putting tools away. In employment law, it means a worker’s necessary tasks at the end of a shift, such as taking off protective gear and hanging it up, which are counted as work time for purposes of calculating overtime pay.

Rows of hard hats hanging on a wall.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

It is closely related to “preliminary.” Both words come from the same Latin root meaning a threshold or a boundary. “Post” means after, and “pre” means before. So, “postliminary” literally means after the boundary. That’s all fairly straightforward as word origins go. What I find interesting about it is that although “postliminary” gets almost no use except as a specialized legal term, we’re always using “preliminary” in ordinary conversation. That word has become so common that it even gets abbreviated, such as when we talk about an athletic event’s prelims. (The spell checker recognized prelims.)

I’m thinking that maybe this difference in word usage reflects a culture with a strong focus on planning and carrying out plans, but with very little consideration given to what comes afterward. Companies have been doing better in recent years, using continuous-improvement processes to measure and analyze project results; but as individuals, we often don’t have a good sense of what comes next when we reach transition points in our own lives. We haven’t thought much about what we might find after the boundary.

That’s understandable because people never really needed to think about it before the modern era. Our ancestors’ little villages didn’t change much from one year to the next. When something changed, it generally was simple enough that everyone knew how to deal with it—a good harvest or a bad one, a birth or a death in the village, a flood or a drought. If someone invented a better tool or returned from a long voyage with new knowledge to share, this was such a rare event that the villagers had plenty of time to learn all about it before any other surprises turned up.

Now, in the Information Age, we find something new just about every day, which means our brains are always on overload trying to cram huge amounts of unexpected new stuff into our existing mental maps. It’s no wonder that we spend so much time and energy planning how we’re going to manage each day in this busy, competitive, confusing world. We might realize in the abstract that it would be a good idea to consider our next steps, too; but because today’s society is so free-flowing, we often don’t know how to go about it.

We no longer have the predictability of life in those long-ago villages. While that’s good in some ways because we have so many choices and opportunities that our ancestors couldn’t have imagined, we also have more challenges to navigate. Sometimes we just need to step back from our busy plans for a moment and think about how we’re going to clean things up afterward!

Last weekend my family went on a one-mile “fun run.” Many people brought their dogs, and my daughter pushed her little dog in a stroller. The morning was a bit chilly, so we wore light jackets as we walked to the start line. I didn’t press the stopwatch button on my sports watch because I thought it would just be a nice easy run, with no reason to time it.

I ran with my husband at first, but then he speeded up and got ahead of me. After a little while my daughter’s fiancé passed me with his Labradoodle puppy, Ziggy, loping happily by on legs that looked like they’d gotten much longer since I last saw him. A few other guys passed me too, but most of my attention was on the puppy, who looked very excited about being taken to such a big event.

After I finished the race, I got a cup of water and a freebie sugar cookie (yum) contributed by a sponsor bakery. Then I put on my jacket, but I soon took it off again because the sleeves felt sweaty enough to be uncomfortable. That seemed kind of peculiar when I hadn’t done anything other than a one-mile fun run, but then we all went out to brunch and my thoughts moved on to other things.

I washed the jacket along with the workout clothes after I got home, and I didn’t think anything more about it until my husband looked up the race results online and said, “Hey, Meg, did you know that you ran an eight-minute mile and were the first woman to finish the race?”

My first thought was, well, that explains the jacket! And my second thought was, dang, I hadn’t run that fast in, what, 14 or 15 years, maybe?

That left me wondering how much I had been subconsciously limiting myself through low expectations all those years. Back in August, I wrote a blog post about my imaginary adventures in 2083. Some of the adventures were pretty silly, but the post had a more serious aim; I wrote in it that I wanted to plant healthy ideas in my subconscious to crowd out negative views of aging. After running so fast in a fun sprint without even realizing it, I’m beginning to wonder if some of those healthy ideas are now taking root!

Word-art that says "The only way that we can live is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way that we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself." -C. JoyBell C

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.