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.

I woke up to a sunny morning and felt cheerful, but the daylight hours felt like they ended all too soon. That got me thinking about the ancient custom of lighting candles at the winter solstice, which I’m sure must have helped our ancestors to trust that light and warmth would return to the world.

My husband came upstairs after working out on the rowing machine and went to take a shower, while chatting about various things that had happened during his workday. He said that if I thought he was talking too much, I should feel free to tell him so. I said no, it wasn’t bothering me at all. Having some cheerful conversation on a dark, cold winter night is a very good thing!

Word-art that says "Trust..."

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 8, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Over the weekend, I had a dream that didn’t make much sense to me at first. I was in a supermarket with a cart full of groceries, but instead of going through the checkout line normally, I was standing at a small counter off to the side. My cart was somewhere behind me, and I was holding a pack of three steaks and arguing with an employee who said I couldn’t buy them. I got angry, threw the steaks down on the counter, and told the employee she could put all the groceries in my cart back on the shelf because I just wanted to leave. Then she said, in an apologetic tone, that she didn’t want me to feel I had to leave with nothing.

No incident like that ever happened to me in real life. Although the supermarkets were limiting their meat sales earlier this year because of the pandemic, my husband was doing almost all of the grocery shopping at that time, and he is enough of a carnivore to make sure we always had meat for dinner. And even if I had been caught trying to buy too much meat when supermarkets were rationing it, which did not happen, I certainly wouldn’t have been obnoxious enough to yell at an employee who was just doing her job by enforcing the rules.

So, I interpreted the steaks in the dream not as actual groceries, but as a symbol of keeping my family well fed and cared for (the steaks were in a family pack). But who, or what, was trying to interfere? I pondered that for some time and finally decided that the employee and the groceries represented this year’s disruptions. If my subconscious mind just wanted to put 2020 back on the shelf, I wouldn’t be the only person with such feelings! Sometimes it felt like an endless walk downward on steps leading nowhere.

Steps leading down through a foggy brown forest.

(Image credit: Philip A. Benyola, Jr.)

But as I understand the dream’s ending, it had a more straightforward, literal meaning—that I shouldn’t feel I was leaving this year with nothing. This has been a year in which I’ve gained more appreciation for the simple comforts of home and family. Also, I feel much better grounded. Last year’s worries have mostly faded to insignificance. As the year comes to an end, I have many reasons to feel blessed.

In the year since my husband and I bought our Hydrow rowing machine in the 2019 Black Friday sale, we have been doing the rowing workouts regularly. The online library also includes Pilates, other flexibility exercises, and yoga, which are all in a category called “On the Mat,” but we hadn’t done anything with those—even though we bought mats when we first set up the machine.

I decided to try some of the pre-row and post-row mobility exercises last week, after the five-mile run for the virtual Turkey Trot left me feeling a bit stiff. I also did a beginner Pilates session today. They both seemed helpful for loosening up my body. Not sure if I’ll be adventurous enough to try the yoga classes, as I can’t quite picture myself standing on my head. Either way, I appreciate having so many options for fitness, health, and connection in today’s world.

Word-art with a dog in a meditation pose that says "Inhale love... exhale gratitude."

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 winter’s first snow started falling in my area on Monday. Very little of it stuck to the roads, and I didn’t have to go out anyway because my husband did the grocery shopping. Still, it looked yucky when I took the trash out to the curb, and the lack of sunlight left me feeling a bit gloomy when I brought in the garbage can after Tuesday’s pickup.

I decided to cheer myself up with an imaginary visit to the small village of Channelwood, which I envision as having a pleasant island climate for my younger selves to enjoy. When I arrived, though, it was plainly late autumn even without the snow. The sky was overcast, and the breeze felt chilly. Brown leaves floated in the still water of the pond, not far from where I’d found Peter skimming stones in June.

Still water on a cloudy autumn day.

(Photo credit: Maja Dumat)

Looking at the quiet landscape, I didn’t see my younger selves—or, for that matter, much life at all. No birds could be heard in the drab brownish trees, and no ducks or geese swam by in the pond. The only sign of wildlife was a pile of rabbit droppings. I suspected that some mischievous gremlin in my subconscious mind was having a good laugh at my expense.

“It’s so peaceful.”

The soft voice came from my younger self Queenie, who had come up behind me while I was gazing out over the pond.

“I love this time of year,” she continued. “Nature is clearing away the distractions and leaving plenty of space for us to breathe, ramble, and dream. You were daydreaming just now, weren’t you? I saw you jump a little when I spoke. I’m sorry about that—I wasn’t meaning to startle you. What fun things were you imagining?”

Queenie sounded so earnest and hopeful that I didn’t want to disappoint her with the mundane truth of my mental grumbling about rabbit doo and a drab landscape. Sifting through my recent thoughts for something more positive—and falling short—I told her simply, “I was looking for ducks and geese, but didn’t see any.”

“There were ducks here yesterday morning,” Queenie informed me. “I saw them just as the fog was lifting. Don’t you love to go for a walk on a foggy morning? Everything looks so mysterious and magical. Sara told me that when she lived in London, it was easy to imagine fairies around every corner in the fog. Sometimes their silvery wings would come clear, just for an instant, and then they would dart away again after realizing they’d been seen.”

Once again, I couldn’t help but to feel that my imagination left a lot to be desired. Although I’d noticed the low clouds and mist on Monday when I took the garbage out to the street, my focus had been entirely on getting the chore finished before the snowstorm blew in. Visions of fairies or anything else had been very far from my mind.

“I like Sara’s way of looking at things,” I said. “She makes ordinary days seem fascinating.”

“Yes, she does.” Queenie glanced toward the pond again. “Look, there’s a pair of ducks coming toward us.”

“Where I came from, there’s snow on the ground today,” I told her, much more cheerfully. “After I go back, I’ll pretend that I’m living in a cozy gingerbread house with vanilla icing all around it.”

Queenie smiled. “Sara would like that.”