Thankful Thursday 11-19-20

My brother and sister-in-law gave me a gratitude journal for my birthday this summer and I got it out the other night to write. After I’d filled three pages, I thought “y’know, this would make a great Thankful Thursday post and besides, it’s time I got back to writing.” So here I am, after six months’ silence.

Simply Grateful: A journal to reflect on the good things in life
The cover of my gratitude journal

There have been some significant changes in my life since I wrote last. The economic fallout of the pandemic happened to me – I was laid off at the end of September. I haven’t found a new job yet. (That phrase from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie comes to mind; when someone asks Captain Jack about his ship, and he says “I’m in the market. As it were.”) Part of why I haven’t is because I’ve been doing a number of other things. Including my other significant change: moving.

This is my third evening in my new home. I’m just under half an hour away from where I used to live, renting a room from a very nice lady. I lived in my previous apartment for five years and four months, which I believe is the longest I’ve lived in one place in my entire life. Thus I spent many hours over the last week sorting and packing and getting rid of things and more sorting and dusting and finding things I was looking for just after I’d taped up the box the rest of the matching things went in and taking out yet another load of trash and on and on.

I am so thankful, though, for so many people:

  • For my friend A, who connected me with my new housemate/land lady, and who came and spent several hours helping me sort stacks of paper things I’d kept but didn’t need all of
  • For my friend M, who took the car seats out of her vehicle (no small undertaking) so we could use it to put my furniture in, and who helped load and unload all of said furniture on Saturday, and also loaned me her cooler to transport my fridge and freezer stuff
  • For my friend C, who helped with the heavy lifting, carrying my small but heavy filing cabinet all by himself
  • For my friend R, who came early on Saturday and packed my printer and toaster oven and wall map and helped with the loading and unloading
  • For my friend L, who helped pack my pantry and my under-sink things and encouraged me – oh, and dealt with the things I felt needed shredding
  • For my friend C, who came after her babies were in bed to make a second run on Saturday, providing motivation to keep going at the end of a tiring day
  • For my friend S, who spent six hours on Tuesday helping me with the final things, loaded both cars while I packed, helped unload, and then reassembled my lamp while I put the cold food away
  • For the authorities where I used to live, who were kind enough to give me extra time
  • For the many people who have been and are praying for me, encouraging me along the way

I am thankful for boxes and tape and trash bags. I am thankful for fun memories and solid goodbye hugs and tissues. I’m thankful for four days of beautiful fall weather (the last time I moved, we loaded the trailer in the rain.) I’m thankful for clean sheets and warm blankets. I’m thankful for this place and all the people who helped me get here.

I am thankful for so many things.


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Thankful Thursday 4-30-20

I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been a great week. I’ve continued to be hit or miss on sleep. The monthly hormones came and messed with me. I had a monster headache pretty much all day Wednesday and another headache most of the day Thursday (today), though it was closer to pint-sized. There is ambiguity about the reopening process because the state level and the county level aren’t in agreement (or weren’t the last time I had enough brain power to check), not to mention that the community I live in is unique and doesn’t fit in easy boxes, and ambiguity causes its own kind of stress. I could go on.

But, deliberate thankfulness remains a positive exercise. So. This week I am thankful:

Microflowers, 4-10-20

  • that our house did not sustain any damage in either of the severe storms that rolled through this week
  • that both of said storms were overnight, which has meant mostly sunny warm days
  • that, from my perspective as an observer, the online graduation for the school in my community went well tonight. This was the first digital graduation in the twenty year history of the school. They had department based breakout rooms afterwards and I was able to pop into several and say congratulations to most of the people I had wanted to (almost all of whom are not here anymore, having gone back home due to the change in schooling because of the pandemic.)
  • for things that make me smile, including pictures of cute nephews and tiny flowers in the grass. With all the rain earlier this month, and I’m assuming a reduced staff, the landscaping folks have not been as punctual as usual in cutting the grass. This has resulted in hundreds and hundreds of tiny flowers scattered across the grassy areas and they make me smile on my way to work. Pictured is one of several kinds.
  • for friendly neighbors to trade movies with (from a distance)
  • for a nice long, in-person chat with my friend L. It was through her screen door and I still had my mask on from my pharmacy trip, but it was good to talk face to face.

Well, it took longer than I thought it would, but I did make it to my traditional half dozen items, so I’l take it. I don’t have much of a wrap up this week, my brain is running out of juice. But that’s okay, sometimes life happens that way.

Did you have a good week or a tough one? Do you have things to be thankful for whichever way it went? You could put them in the comments below, if you wanted.

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Minesweeper: A Story

The following story is true. It takes place in late April, 2020.

A friend and I used to play Minesweeper somewhat obsessively in college. Well, last week I got nostalgic and went to find it online (Microsoft, unintelligently in my opinion, changed the game and stopped bundling the classic version with Windows.)

I solved the beginner level easily a couple of times, did the intermediate with a little more effort, and then decided to solve the expert and be done. Ha.

I spent far too long trying; but you know that’s the beauty of the game, every new minefield has the chance of being solved and that hope sucks you in… eventually, after getting it below twenty mines left several times with no success, I made myself stop and move on.

Tonight I was wrapping up something on my computer and thought “I should give it another go…”

The very first expert level game, I got it down to thirty-ish mines. I was thinking “if I solve this on the first try, that’s going to be insane.” But then I came to one of those situations where there’s an isolated string along one wall and the only way to solve it is to guess one. I could have gone to work on the other third of the field, but I thought “that forced guess isn’t going to go away if I spend time on the rest of it, so I might as well guess now.” Which I did and got it wrong, boom. X’s for eyes, game over.

Then I had a couple of games that didn’t last more than a few clicks, couldn’t find an opening.

I found one on the next game, though it was a slow break. After several minutes careful work I had it down to 18 mines left, all along the right wall, and no obvious choices.

So I took a deep breath and then thought of the logic skills I’d honed playing a game called Fill-a-Pix (which is much lower stakes!). So I spent nearly five minutes carefully logic-ing it – ‘this square has two of its three mines, which means the other mine has to be one of these two squares; if it’s the left one, then the next two squares can’t be mines because of that one-square. Which means the next square over from those would have to be a mine. Which means the three below that can’t be, which doesn’t work because that leaves that two-square with not enough mines. Therefore it cannot be the left one at the beginning, it has to be the right.’ I had to guess at one point about midway through, but it wasn’t a choice of one or the other, it was two of five.

The mines remaining counter in the top left kept slowly dropping; 18… 13… 11… 5… until at last: one left.

I stopped and looked at the counter again and had to laugh. All that work, over 500 seconds into the game at this point, and it comes down to one fifty/fifty choice. There was a four-square, a two-square, and a five-square all in the lower right corner. The 4 was to the bottom left and it had all four mines accounted for. The 2 was to the top right, against the wall, and it had both mines marked off. The 5, sharing with them, had four of its five covered. And right in the corner, a square too far for either the 4 or the 2 to help, two unknown squares. One the 5’s fifth mine, one clear. And no way to know which was which.

I hesitated. I hovered my mouse over first one, then the other. All that careful thought, and it might come to nothing on the very last mine.

I thought about how when I start the game and I’m looking for that initial opening, it feels like a better chance to start with one of the very corner squares. There is really no way to know… but I decided to go with that feeling.

I clicked the corner square.

A mine flag appeared in the other square, the little smiley face at the top put his sunglasses on, and a popup announced I’d done it – I won!

579 seconds, 237 clicks, my second real game of the night after trying for forever last week, and I won on a blind guess!

I laughed, shook my head, and just grinned while I closed down my computer. It’s only a grid of little gray squares, with just over a 20% chance of a mine in each, but that feeling when you win… That’s why we love games.

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Thankful Thursday 4-23-20

See, now that I’m back into this blogging weekly-ish pattern, I’m remembering the eternal struggle: what to say for an opening line? You don’t want to say the same thing all the time, but there are also only so many ways to start a post that’s essentially about the same thing every time (same general idea, anyway.) ๐Ÿ˜› At any rate, I’ve got this one started for now; I’ll worry about next week when it’s next week. ๐Ÿ™‚

After a very rainy March and a very cloudy/rainy April so far, we finally have only two days out of the next ten forecast to have 20 or 30% rain chance and they’re not even consecutive. It makes me happy. ๐Ÿ™‚ Unfortunately I’m struggling with my sleep for complicated reasons right now, so that’s hampering my enjoyment a bit. But I’m doing what I can. Today, sunny and 83 (28 C), I went and sat on a bench in a little glade instead of going for a walk. I just sat and looked at the sun on the leaves and watched the bees and the butterflies and listened to the shwooshing of the car tires along the road nearby… it was very pleasantly peaceful until the mosquitoes found me. ๐Ÿ˜› There is a definite downside to being the mosquito equivalent of chocolate flavored. ๐Ÿ˜

So then I got up and went a little way down the trail. I saw a beautiful branch in a sunbeam, brilliant green against the darker background, but my phone camera couldn’t get the light right. I did take this week’s picture a little farther along, some honeysuckle blooming in a clear spot by the trail. Then I turned around and made my way home to leftover pizza – much better when done in the toaster oven rather than the microwave.

Along with the chance to rest in a beautiful spot, I am thankful this week:

  • For lotion to help my hands recover from all the necessary extra washing.
  • For old friends who can give you the giggles even by text from several thousand miles away (thanks M! :-).)

    Honeysuckle, 4-23-20

  • How, under the right conditions, the forest in Spring smells like the jungle I grew up in.
  • That eventually I did find all the things on my list on my first grocery shopping trip in a month yesterday (even though the inconsistent, or complete lack of, adherence to current guidelines by other people was stressful and I wound up exhausted. ๐Ÿ˜› ) I am also thankful that I am pretty sure I got enough to be able to stay out of the grocery stores for the next two or three weeks.
  • For the discovery that half sticks of butter is a thing you can buy. I don’t use butter much generally, but as I’m going through the pantry, I’m discovering things I need it for (like instant mashed potatoes.) I know you can buy a four-pack of full sticks and just freeze them, but I already have quite a few things in my freezer and didn’t want to add much more. Then I discovered that it is possible to buy a four-pack of wrapped half sticks (and the price per ounce wasn’t bad), so you can have just a half in the fridge and only a two stick sized box in your freezer. That solved my problem neatly. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • For fresh – free! – bright green apples and the video of a friend’s children eating some that made me laugh ๐Ÿ™‚
  • For an unanticipated side-effect of cloth masks – because I don’t feel like hand washing them all the time, I’ve been throwing them in with some laundry every few days, which means that I’m more caught up on laundry than I have been in forever. ๐Ÿ˜›

Bonus honeysuckle because I couldn’t decide which picture to use

In fact, I’ve got a small load in the dryer now, and I need to get this wrapped up by the time that’s done, because after that I’m taking my tired self to bed (and hoping I sleep; which is not actually a given, in spite of the small amount of sleep last night…). There’s a similar conundrum with the closing paragraph, like the opening line, though it’s a little easier because by this point I have the body of the post I can play off of. Last week I got profound about moments of beauty (I liked that one ๐Ÿ™‚ ) but this week I’m just tired and listening to the dryer rumble. So I think I’m going to leave this without the profundity. [side note: ha! I didn’t think that was a real word, but spell check let me have it! ๐Ÿ™‚ ]

I do want to do the thing I always do, though, which is invite you to contribute by adding anything you’re thankful for this week in the comments. Maybe you’re thankful your sleep has been better than mine? For your sake, I sure hope it hasn’t been worse…

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Thankful Thursday 4-16-20

It’s Thursday again, even though I had my days confused this week. ๐Ÿ˜› I’m a bit late getting this out and I worked on this intro paragraph last, so I’m thinking I’ll just keep it simple this time.

This week I am thankful:

  • That both our AC and our heat work, as we’ve needed them both in the past two weeks. On April 4th we tied a hundred year old record (for that specific date in this area) for the lowest maximum temperature that day, with a high of 48 degrees (9 C). Then, four days later on April 8th, we set a new record for the highest temperature on that date with a high of 97 (36 C), breaking the record of 93 degrees set nearly thirty years ago in ’91. On Easter Sunday we had a warm but rainy high of 82 (28 C), followed by two days ofย  brightly sunny 55 (13 C) which is more than fifteen degrees colder than average for this time of year. I’m glad our system works, but it is a bit of a pain figuring out what to wear. ๐Ÿ˜›
  • For my friend L, who generously shared some Easter candy with me after I revealed I’d forgotten to buy any (and a pleasant visit at the exchange, carefully distanced.)

    Relaxing 4-15-20

  • For my friend M, who has hung her hammock by the side of our triplex and gave me an open invitation to use it, which I enjoyed doing yesterday and today after work.
  • That my lungs do still work and I can indeed still take a deep breath on my own, even when a mask makes that harder.
  • For the positive response to last week’s post, which made me smile. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • For good food that I didn’t have to cook – our chef at work made taquitos today, along with made-from-scratch salsa with just the right amount of bite, and it was a delicious lunch. I know a lot of people are having the adventure of needing to provide three meals a day for themselves, every day now, instead of being able to have dinner out or have lunch at that place next to the office or whatever they were used to. I am glad that at least five meals a week are not my responsibility. (And that our chef L is such a good cook!)
  • That the slower pace of life has given me a chance to notice the little things again – the path of a snail after the rain, a bunny in the grass, sunlight on the curve of a branch, the layers and shades of green you can see looking up from under a tree (and how they change as the light shifts), the texture in the ridges on the edge of a tiny leaf the vigorous wind landed in my lap…

    So tiny, yet intricate 4-16-20

I’m not going to act like things are easy – things like not being able to give my friend a goodbye hug two weeks ago are definitely hard and the longer this goes on the more I miss being able to touch people – but being thankful and noticing the little pieces of beauty help. Hopefully at some point the weather will settle down and we won’t have this wild swinging to deal with on top of everything else. For now, though, I’m grateful for good forecasting and I know that someday I’ll be sweltering and look back on the cool days with fondness.

Have you had time to notice little things in your slowing down? I know not everyone has extra time – especially stay at home moms with fewer options to get out of the house now and perhaps more children with them all day than before. But in the moments you do have, look around at what you can see. What small pieces of beauty can you find?

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Thankful Thursday 4-9-20

Well, I had a funny post planned about my discovery a while ago of the joy of topping your plain cheesecake with Nutella, but with the state of the world these days due to the coronavirus that seems a little off. (Honestly, though, it is delicious and if you have the opportunity you should try it.) A friend recently reminded me about deliberately finding something to be grateful for each day in this time of isolation, which reminded me of when I used to do these Thankful Thursday posts every week. So, here I am again.

Just a quick update for folks who read this that I may not be in text contact with: my job at the Dining Hall is still currently open, though we are taking it one day at a time on that and are take-out only with significantly reduced customer numbers. The place where I live is on stay-at-home restrictions, which matches with the county we are in. It is currently ‘stay at home except for grocery/gas runs, essential medical things, and if you work at an essential business or service’ and not a full on lockdown-don’t-go-out-of-your-house. I am hoping that doesn’t come, but will do my best to comply if it does. My heart goes out to folks in the really hard hit areas of the country and the world.

With that taken care of, back to the objective of this post, which is to be intentional about finding things to be thankful for. This week, in no particular order, I am thankful:

  • for the fact that I still have a paying job
  • that and the fact that I have a housemate means I can still see and talk to people in person, even if I am choosing not to touch anyone for the sake of the people I work with. Some people who live alone and now work from home don’t have that. Digital contact most certainly helps, but it is not the same.
  • that someone offered to help us by looking for toilet paper on their early morning shopping run a couple weeks ago and so now we have enough to last us a little while, instead of “only one on the roll and one in the cabinet” that we were down to for several days. That was just bad timing with us running out of what we’d been using right when everyone else was using buying toilet paper to help themselves feel in control of at least something in all this upending.

    Yellow iris in the sun

    Yellow iris, 3-24-20

  • that last week the sun finally came out after ten days of rain and clouds and my reduced hours at work meant I could get out with my camera and enjoy myself taking pictures of the flowers that are flourishing as a result of all that rain (hopefully a Spring pictures post is coming, we’ll see.) We had two sunny days this week as well, between the cloudy ones.
  • that I have good enough internet connection to be able to stay in touch with people from my church by group online meetings
  • that, strange as it currently feels, we are still able to go forward with a digital/online Easter observance – we are not under persecution of the sort where we could not do what we are doing
  • that a global pandemic does not change the Truth we celebrate at Easter
  • that, now that cloth face masks are recommended for the general public, several ladies in the community have been kindly sewing and donating them, so I haven’t had to struggle through making some myself (I could do it, eventually, as long as I was okay with none of the seams being straight, but it’s been nice to not have to.) As a bonus, I got some pretty blue ones. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am not a fan of actually wearing them – I don’t like the hard to breathe feeling, not to mention that said stuffy air gets routed up between my glasses and my face, often fogging my glasses up unless I’ve got them positioned just right… but I know that, like the other sacrifices we’re being asked to make, this is for our collective good and hopefully won’t last forever. So I am choosing to look on the bright side – I didn’t have to make the ones I have and they are colors I like – and remembering that it is a small suffering in the grand scale of things.

Okay, I am going to stop there or else I’ll never get this posted (it’s been almost two weeks in the draft stage as it is.) As I said, hopefully there will be more posts coming – I have a lot of pictures (currently all still unsorted on my camera) and I think continuing to be deliberately thankful will be good for me – but I am also giving myself the option not to write, to have freedom from the internal pressure. If I do have the time and energy, I’ll be happy to share with anyone who is still reading after over a year of silence here.

If you’ve made it this far – thank you! Assuming that you’re being affected by this virus too, have you been able to find things to be thankful for in spite of all the changes? Would you mind sharing in the comments below?

Oh, also – Happy Easter! I hope, whatever it looks like for you and yours this year, that it is good.

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