This summer I haven’t been blogging as much as usual because I’ve spent more time rowing with my husband. He signed us up this spring for online coaching from Christine Cavallo, who works for Tagalong. Christine is well suited to us because of her experience with the lightweight double, which is our preferred race. The training plan she created for us includes both rowing workouts on the water and indoor exercises on our rowing machine.

I have to admit that it felt exhausting when we were getting started, but now we’re definitely rowing faster and more smoothly together. My strength and endurance have improved noticeably, and my husband is looking better as well. The Masters regattas where we compete are just for fun—no prize money or anything other than cute little medals. But it’s a fun activity that we can do together and a good way to stay fit, and I am thankful to have something that we can work on improving every year.

Word-art that says "Do something today that your future self will thank you for."

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.

August 10, 2021 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I’ve had some dreams recently about moving on with life. On Monday morning, I dreamed that I had moved out of a house and that the new owners changed everything around, so that it became almost unrecognizable. They planted ivy that grew to cover the walls.

Photo of house with ivy on the front walls.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Then I had the “first day in a new school” dream this morning. You know, the one where you’re walking through a big crowded hall just before the first class starts, and feeling like you’ll never find your way to the classroom and will be doomed to wander around forever like a ghost.

Dreams like that always have to do with getting used to change. We’ve all had to contend with far too many disorienting events over the past year, and there is no magic wand to put things back to normal. Instead, like a student at a new school or a homeowner who has moved to a different house, we just have to learn what we can, in the place where we are—however strange it feels.

I’ve been amusing myself this week playing with an app that turns photos of faces into cartoon images. My current Gravatar/Wordpress photo is from 2018, which now seems like a very long time ago; so I’ll probably change it to a cartoon of me soon, just for fun. We all could use more fun these days, right? And more reminders that the world is full of beautiful things just waiting for us—or, perhaps, waiting to be us.

Word-art that says "Be YOU tiful."

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 later than usual on a cloudy morning. In part, that was good because I needed more sleep, but it also left me feeling like I was behind schedule and would have no free time to rest and relax during the day. There wasn’t actually much going on at work today—no meetings or anything, and no particular schedule to keep, so it was mainly in my mind.

As the day went on, though, it got to me. Usually I get groceries on Thursday around noon, which doesn’t take that long, but today I felt like it just wasn’t possible to have a few quiet minutes for myself. By the time I finished my workday, I was feeling tired and blah, even though I hadn’t really done anything much. It was all because I started the day with the expectation of having no downtime.

I did a workout on the rowing machine, took a shower, and put on my pajamas, still feeling like the day had gotten away from me. Then my husband came into the bedroom just after I finished drying my hair, and we started to chat about nothing in particular. Only a minute or so had passed, but I felt much more cheerful and relaxed. Then it occurred to me that—of course!—I would have felt much better earlier if I had started the day expecting to find plenty of small relaxing moments.

Word-art that says "Today is full of possible."

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 sat down to write my usual Thursday post, I wasn’t sure what to say because this seemed like a very ordinary day. I got up, worked half the day in my home office with my husband also working from home on the other side of the room, took a break and went to buy groceries, got some exercise on the rowing machine in the basement, took a shower, and finished my workday as usual.

Then it occurred to me that this ordinary day looked magical if I just took the time to notice. Working from home with my husband to keep me company is nice and mellow, buying groceries in a well-stocked supermarket means that I am blessed with abundance, and the rowing machine makes it easier to stay healthy and fit. Worth writing about, after all!

Word-art with a cloud of words like "magical" and "inspire."

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.

July 18, 2021 · 2 comments · Categories: Stories

This is the third story in a series. Click here to read all parts from the beginning.

To all appearances, the Transylvanian forest had returned to normal immediately after the dragon’s departure. Birds chirped peacefully, branches stirred in a gentle summer breeze, and the sound of water steadily flowing nearby would’ve been soothing if I hadn’t known the road was flooded ahead. And if the flickering square of sky that the Romanian woman had called a sorcerers’ portal hadn’t still been parked, ominously, right above my head.

I looked around for the woman, but she was long gone already. For just a moment, I caught a glimpse of her bright dress and shawl through the trees, moving a lot faster than I’d have thought possible for an old lady with a walking stick. That set off my mental alarm bells, but I had no time to act. Only a fraction of a second later, I heard a shout from Shay, who was standing a few paces away.

“Chris, watch out!”

A huge shadow fell over me. Of course, my first thought was that the dragon had swooped back down through the portal and that I was about to be roasted, since I’d taken off the headgear of my fire suit. But no, the shadow was mostly round, not dragon-shaped.

The shape reaching toward me resolved into a giant hand, apparently connected to an arm on the other side of the portal. Its dull grayish-brown surface looked like stone rather than flesh. Before I could run away or do anything halfway sensible, the hand grabbed me firmly and lifted me through the portal into the sky.

Except that it wasn’t sky on the other side—it was water. And it was clear enough to see that I was just above the rocky bottom of a lake or bay. For an instant, the green forest flickered beneath me, and then it winked out as the portal closed. There was nothing besides rock under me now.

The hand raised me smoothly through the water and then deposited me, gasping for air, on what looked like the top of a granite boulder forming part of the lakeshore. When I looked down, though, I realized it wasn’t a boulder. The outline of a stone troll was clearly visible in the water, and the hand that had captured me was now resting on the bottom of the lake. I was standing on the troll’s head, under a dark and gloomy sky, with jagged mountains behind me and cliff dwellings cut into the rock.

Image of a stone troll crouched on the bottom of a lake.

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

And it was HOT. Wouldn’t you think a lakeshore with low, heavy clouds would have a cool breeze? Well, maybe that would’ve been true back home in Tennessee; but this sweltering, stagnant air felt like it came straight out of the gates of hell. It even smelled faintly of sulfur, which meant that there had to be dragons not far away.

I didn’t see any dragons close by, though, which was about all that had gone right today. My fire suit, with the headgear unfastened, was now full of icky lake water. Taking the suit off to shake it out, I kept careful watch for dragons or other potential perils. There didn’t seem to be anything alive nearby, except a few clumps of straggly brownish grass pushing up through cracks in the rock. When I looked more closely, I realized that the cracks were wrinkles in the skin of the troll’s head and that there were ridges running through the granite like veins. The grass was hair growing out of the troll’s mostly bald dome.

My fire suit already was almost dry in the unnaturally hot air, as were the rumpled business-casual shirt and pants I’d been wearing underneath it. That didn’t leave me feeling much better. I stomped savagely on the nearest clump of grass and then yanked it up by the roots. Although I would’ve liked to say this was a brave, calculated plan to provoke the troll into throwing me back where I’d come from, it was nothing of the sort. I just hadn’t thought about the much more likely possibility of the troll smacking me like a bug.

What actually happened, of course, was nothing at all. The troll never moved. Smelly ichor dripped from the twisted roots of the grass clump I was holding, and in disgust, I threw it as far as I could into the lake. There wasn’t even a ripple in the still water when it sank. Everything around me, including the troll’s massive figure in the water, looked and felt dead.

I only hoped that I wasn’t about to end up stone troll dead, too.

When I woke up this morning, I felt calmer than I’d been in a long time. Nothing had changed much since yesterday, but I felt more peaceful anyway, as if my own perspective had somehow shifted overnight. Whatever concerns I’d had were farther away, distant enough that they no longer felt threatening but were just little specks in my internal landscape, without much emotional content. I began the day feeling as if I had made more space to invite happiness into my life.

Word-art that says "Let peace begin with me."

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.

While I was driving to the supermarket this morning, I heard Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” and it brought back memories of jumping rope on the playground at recess while listening to that song on someone’s cassette player. So, because I was in a retro kind of mood today, this image seemed just right for Nurturing Thursday. I hope it gives you a smile too!

Word-art that says "Love, peace, joy."

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.

July 8, 2021 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

Although I’m feeling much more relaxed because of taking vacation this week, all of that unscheduled time has been provoking what-comes-next thoughts. Everybody seems to be having them now, according to a news article I came across, which reported on a survey that found 95 percent of workers were thinking about quitting and 92 percent might change careers. Burnout was cited as the main reason.

The survey came from a jobs website, so it’s obviously a skewed sample and the real numbers are lower. Also, just thinking about doing something different does not necessarily mean that a person will take the leap and actually do it. The U.S. Department of Labor has calculated the number of quits for May 2021 at 3.6 million, which is down from April’s record high of 4 million, though still much higher than in past years.

I took a short break from writing this post to bring in a package from the porch, addressed to my husband. He opened it to find an unexpected gift from his employer—a little toy helicopter to commemorate the successful launch of the project he has been working on. Once upon a time, I used to get small gifts like that too. After a while, it started to feel like ancient history, and seeing them on my desk felt demotivating because management plainly didn’t care enough about the workers to ever do it again. So I boxed them up and put them in the basement.

Since then I still haven’t found an intuitive sense of direction. As my fictional 76-year-old future self Kass pointed out in an imaginary chat on this blog last summer, that turned out to be fortunate because most people who changed careers two years ago ended up in very different circumstances than what they expected. Now that the world feels like it’s settling down into a more recognizable pattern, I feel that my subconscious mind ought to be able to sift through the details and come up with something meaningful.

So I decided to take a virtual stroll down to the stream where I’d found Kass casting a net for symbolic images last year. The low water was murky and full of lily pads, and at first I didn’t see her.

Photo of a lake with lily pads.

(Image credit: James St. John)

After I went a little farther upstream, around a wide bend, I spotted Kass standing knee-deep in the water. She had on wading boots and some kind of drab uniform, and the curly hair under her cap had been dyed a darker shade of brown since I last saw her. A gloved hand carefully tucked away a test tube into a backpack.

“I’m taking microbial samples,” Kass explained, in response to my curious look. “The river of time needs regular monitoring, you know, just like any other body of water does. Can’t have it getting polluted with all kinds of random garbage, can we? And didn’t you have a few thoughts about going back to college to study biochemistry?”

“Not that seriously. And the last time I was here, you said this was the stream of consciousness.”

Kass shrugged. “It’s whatever it needs to be.”

A fly bit my right arm and zoomed mockingly away before I could smack it. The failed attempt left me off balance, and I took a step backward into squishy, smelly muck in which the geese had left their calling cards.

“I’m really not seeing myself in this job you’ve got.” Scowling at my future self, I scratched my arm while wiping off an icky shoe in the grass as best I could.

“That’s what imaginary scenarios like this are for, you know—narrowing down the possibilities. If this one won’t suit, how about I’m happily retired and living in a beachfront cottage in Aruba with the money you saved, snapping my fingers at the cabana boy to bring me another margarita.” Kass raised a hand before frowning slightly and dropping her arm again. “Except that you never learned how to snap your fingers properly, which is a bit annoying; and that margarita is much more likely to be delivered by a cabana robot. Workers are hard to come by in the future economy, what with the low birthrates.”

“Retirement never had much appeal to me anyway. Sitting around for decades with nothing productive to do sounds like it would be awfully boring and unhealthy.”

“Doing the same work forever, without trying out other possibilities because it seems too hard to pick one, wouldn’t be ideal either.” Kass took a few steps and came up on the shore, her boots dripping. “It’s best not to judge. Everyone in the modern world is struggling with the same issue—so much change, so many decision points—how can we have any idea where we’re going? My advice, at this point, isn’t so much about picking careers, but simply about discovering what the world has to offer. You’ll know what makes you happy when you come across it. And, be sure to set aside enough time for minding the river’s health.”

Every time my daughter comes home for a visit and brings her dogs, as she did two weeks ago, I’m reminded of how much we can learn from our furry friends. As humans, we tend to get stuck in our own heads and overcomplicate everything. But, often things are a lot simpler than we make them out to be.

Word-art with "dog lessons for people."

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.