Friday morning was unusually warm for midwinter, so my husband and I went rowing in our double scull. We had the boathouse and the river all to ourselves. When the sun came out, it felt like a pleasant early spring day. Although we weren’t rowing fast, my hands got a little blistered because my calluses go away quickly when the rowing season ends. My husband, who has tougher hands, was fine.

The blisters didn’t really bother me because we had such a good time getting outdoors in the lovely weather. Of course, it did not last long. Soon after we returned home, the temperature started to drop, and by evening we were back to ordinary winter weather.

I spent the afternoon playing a computer game with my husband and then re-reading The Princess Bride on my Kindle. Nothing came to mind that had to be done. That left me with an odd feeling, as if the mainspring on some kind of mental machinery had gotten close to winding down, like a mechanical toy or music box with a winding key. This wasn’t the same as my lack of energy before Christmas vacation—I had gotten plenty of sleep all week, and rowing had not left me physically tired.

Wind-up toy with a large key at the top.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Rather than spend any time pondering this oddity, I decided that whatever tasks might need to be done could wait a day or two. Surely I would think of them in the morning. In the meanwhile, this seemed like a good night to stay in and watch one of the movies that my husband had just bought. I went to bed afterward and slept well.

When I woke up, there was no doubt something had changed. In the mental space where the imaginary wind-up machinery had been, there was only silence. After a minute or two, I realized what had happened—my internal to-do generator had shut down. You know, the one that switches itself on sometime in the teenage years, or perhaps even sooner, and chugs along continuously forever.

How could this be? I’d had vacations for a week or two before—plenty of them, in fact—but the to-do list never had spontaneously evaporated like this. Was it even possible for a modern-day adult to function without having a long list of tasks automatically load itself into the brain at boot-up?

Most likely, it would come back sometime later in the morning, I decided. Kind of like a brief power outage. No reason to worry. So I got my breakfast and opened my Kindle to the page where I’d left off yesterday. There was certainly nothing wrong with a nice relaxing morning while on vacation.

Afternoon came and I still didn’t have anything in mind to do. That was when I began seriously wondering what the heck was going on. Maybe I was coming down with some strange new disease. I hadn’t noticed any changes in my health this week, though, so I didn’t rate that as likely. As far as I could tell, I was generally healthy—about the same as always, but for the mysterious disappearance of the to-do list.

Meanwhile, my husband was sitting at the computer writing programs, which he likes to do when he’s on vacation to keep his skills sharp. Ordinarily when he does this, I’ll spend some time writing stories and blog posts, or maybe work on some other creative project. When that thought came to mind, it left me worrying—what if the disappearing to-do list might be a variation on the dreaded Writer’s Block? What if all my creative energy had drained away, too?

That, at least, could be tested. I got a notepad and pen, sat down on the couch, and started writing the first draft of this blog entry. I didn’t have any problems getting my thoughts organized on the page, which was a relief. Once I took a break when I wasn’t sure how to end a sentence, but that was nothing out of the ordinary. Apparently, my brain is still functioning much the same as before, except that the day is almost over and I still haven’t seen hide nor hair of the vanishing to-dos. Maybe they decided to take a vacation too.

I’ve been getting more rest while on vacation this week, and because of that I’m feeling more relaxed. Tuesday night my Fitbit said that I slept for 10 straight hours. That wasn’t quite accurate, as I remember waking up a few times. Once I dreamed of wandering around in a hotel with confusing passages, where I wasn’t sure if I could find the way back to my room. Apparently I didn’t move enough when I woke up for the device to register it, though, and I must have fallen back to sleep soon.

This morning my husband was sound asleep for a long time. Usually he gets up pretty early. After a while, I thought I’d better check and make sure he was still breathing, although he is healthy and there was no cause for concern. He was fine, of course—just needed a little more rest, the same as I did.

The holidays won’t last forever, and we’ll get back to busy days soon enough. That is not a problem in itself—everyone needs both rest and adventure. What’s important is to find a good balance between them.

Word-art that says "Every morning you have two choices: continue to sleep with your dreams, or wake up and chase them."

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.

December 26, 2018 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

This year we had Christmas dinner at our house, for the first time. My husband’s parents always hosted it before now. Although everyone liked their home-cooked meals, this year our daughter offered to do the cooking to give them a break. (She actually bought the macaroni and cheese from Sam’s Club and the green beans and pie from Bob Evans, but it was all pretty good and I didn’t have to cook, so I’m not complaining.)

One advantage of having everyone come here was more space. Because my in-laws couldn’t fit all the Christmas dinner guests in the same room, one group would sit in the dining room, while the others sat around the kitchen table. Our son always got relegated to the living room recliner with his dinner on a TV tray. He didn’t object to that, but obviously it was not the ideal situation.

Our house has more space because the great room always was left empty, with the exception of a rocking chair in the corner (as shown in this post), which we relocate every year when we set up the Christmas tree. Truth be told, our first few years in this house, we simply couldn’t figure out a good way to furnish the room. Then we decided it made a good place for parties and get-togethers as it was, bare and minimalist—with plenty of room to set up temporary tables.

For Christmas dinner we set up the folding tables in an L-shape around the tree, and our daughter cheerfully decorated them with holiday tablecloths and placemats from the dollar store. The photo below was taken while she was still experimenting—the tablecloths ended up being in a different arrangement.

Tables pushed together, with holiday tablecloths, around the Christmas tree.

The chairs were totally mismatched because they came from the dining room set, the kitchen table set, other random chairs that we had around the house, and one that we borrowed for the occasion. Everyone had a comfortable place, though, and that was the main point.

After all the plates had been cleared away, we could easily open the gifts while still gathered at the table around the tree. My husband got me one present that was too big and heavy to lift up to the table, so it had to be opened on the floor. (I’ll post a photo of it another time.)

Overall, the holiday dinner went well, and it was very good to see our daughter’s thoughtfulness in offering to make Christmas easier for her grandparents. We are proud of how well she has grown up!

One of my husband’s relatives, if asked what he wants for Christmas, will generally answer by saying “I have everything I need.” Other family members often find that answer a bit annoying, as if he is being a Grinch or a party pooper by not getting into the Christmas-gift spirit of frivolous wants. What do you get for a guy who doesn’t seem to want anything? Another ugly holiday sweater?

I do have to give him some credit, though, for keeping a positive focus. In that regard, I’ve reposted the word-art below (with permission) from an article on money quotes and affirmations, which can be helpful at this time of year when we’re all likely to spend more than usual.

Word-art that says "If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough." -Vicki Robin

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’ve had a tiring week because of the upcoming holidays, overtime work, and catching a cold, all of which have left me feeling very low on energy. As a result, I haven’t felt much inclined toward blogging. Rather than skip Nurturing Thursday, though, I’m posting this little cartoon I came across recently. As with all things, this too shall pass…

Cat picture that says "One day things will get better. Until then here is a drawing of a cat."

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’ve been doing overtime work the past two weeks. That is good both because it’s extra money—which I can use, in a year when my refrigerator and air conditioner both had to be replaced—and because it means the company values my workgroup’s production enough to pay for more of it, which is always a positive sign.

When I noticed today that the house was colder than it should have been, my first thought was that the furnace wasn’t working. That left me worrying that all my overtime money might end up having to go toward buying a new furnace, and what bad luck that would be, and why couldn’t I be rich and have plenty of money for new stuff like some luckier people do.

As it turned out, what really happened was that the door to the garage had been open, letting cold air into the house, and I hadn’t noticed (probably because I wasn’t as alert as usual, with extra work hours taking up more of my mental energy). That was all. And, no need to worry—it’s all good.

Word-art that says "Remember, being happy doesn't mean you have it all. It simply means you're thankful for all you have."

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.

December 5, 2018 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

One day last week I found myself thinking about a time, many years ago, when I got stressed beyond my tolerance. It wasn’t easy to believe things would get better. After a while, everything worked out reasonably well; but I still feel as if I have that stressed-out past self worrying endlessly in the back of my mind.

Trying to cheer her up, I invited her to spend some time in my imaginary village of Channelwood. As soon as she materialized in one of the village’s tiny houses, though, it was obvious that there would be no uplifting conversation taking place. Younger-Me didn’t even seem to notice my presence as she sat on the bed with her arms wrapped tightly around herself, staring blankly out the window at a gentle rain while birds chirped and twittered in the trees.

“I’m cold, so very cold—I am always so cold,” she kept repeating.

The air temperature in this scenario wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; I was imagining a pleasant breeze from the window. Regardless, my past self didn’t seem to be talking about the actual surroundings, but rather about feeling that the world was a cold, inhospitable place in general.

What could I say to that? No words came to mind. Instead, I thought of a blanket I keep in my living room, which was a gift from my mother-in-law. I like it for staying comfy on the couch, especially on these long December nights.

Blanket with floral pattern on couch. 

I pictured myself wrapping the blanket around my younger self’s shoulders and telling her, “It’s all right. Everything will be okay,” just as if I were comforting a distressed toddler in need of a nap.

She still didn’t look at me or say anything in response. Instead, the scene ended abruptly when she faded out of it. For the next few days, I turned it over in my mind looking for profound life lessons, but didn’t come up with anything that would qualify as new or perceptive. I finally decided that its meaning might be as simple as just acknowledging the fact that, sometimes, we all need a little more warmth.

This time of year, when I walk outside to get the mail on a dark afternoon, I sometimes catch myself thinking that the front garden looks ugly. There’s not much in it right now except dead leaves of hostas and other perennials, which I should clean up but haven’t yet gotten around to doing, and some junipers and a yew that haven’t been trimmed in a while and are starting to look raggedy.

So, rather than thinking of it as ugly, I decided to make something cheerful out of it. I snipped off a few of those overgrown branches, brought them inside, tied holiday bows on them, and put them on a countertop next to a little candle in a jar. Now my kitchen looks much brighter and has a fresh evergreen scent, and it didn’t cost me anything. (I already had the green vase in one of the cabinets, and the supermarket was giving away free candles this week.)

Juniper and yew branches with red holiday bows.

Soon enough, the days will get longer again, and the garden will bloom with new spring growth; but until that time comes, there’s no reason to settle for ugly.

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 chose a horn of plenty image for my Nurturing Thursday post because, right now, I have plenty of reasons to be thankful. All of my family are in reasonably good health and good spirits. I had some fun adventures this year traveling to rowing regattas with my husband. Everything at work is going pretty well. Although I had a few unplanned expenses this year, such as having to replace my old refrigerator and air conditioner, anything that can be fixed with money is not really that much of a problem. Besides, I like the new refrigerator and air conditioner much better than the old ones.

Wishing plenty of Thanksgiving blessings to all!

Happy Thanksgiving image with a pumpkin and horn of plenty.

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 20, 2018 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

My house is generally comfortable, but one issue it always had was that the closet in the master bedroom was cold all winter. Although that closet is on top of the garage, it didn’t seem as if it should have been so chilly—there is a register in the ceiling, but it never seemed like we got much warm air from it. For lack of better ideas, we put a space heater in the closet during the winter.

When we replaced our air conditioner with a larger and more modern unit over the summer, we also had to start buying air filters in a larger size. We noticed that the air flow seemed better, but we didn’t think much about it. When the weather turned colder, we were surprised to discover that the closet in the master bedroom stayed nice and toasty. Apparently, all it needed was a better air filter to improve the flow.

There’s a useful lesson in that. Even when annoying issues seem as if they’re going to be around forever, sometimes they’ll just vanish suddenly when other things get improved.

I deliberated for a while on what sort of image I could add to this post to represent both cold and flow. I finally settled on this photo of people rowing in icy water.

Black and white image of people rowing in icy water.

(Photo credit: Bianca Overree)

That is definitely not something I would ever do, regardless of how adventurous I might otherwise get in rowing! The people in the photo look like they’re enjoying it, though, so I would say it’s good flow for them—well, as long as their boat stays right side up, that is!