Mood boosters

The Difference

June 30, 2023

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

“If ever I am feeling sad … or lazy, or tired, or lonely I just go outside pick a flower or two, bring it in, put it in a vase, walk around the house finding the perfect place for it, and my mood gets an instant lift. Something about the garden, the sunshine, the birds, smells, and sounds, and the small gesture makes the difference.”
—Susan Branch


Less Do. More Be.

June 16, 2023

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

“After a breakup or a breakdown, be willing to feel the emptiness and wait for the lessons. Stop filling all the spaces with busyness, shopping, food, booze, or other numbing devices. They won’t prevent the pain, only delay it….

“If find yourself waiting in line or sitting in traffic, or are simply settling down after a long day, take a few deep breaths and reflect. Stop filling all the spaces with digital distractions and mindless scrolling. Just let there be space.

“When an appointment cancels or something falls off your to-do list don’t replace it. Enjoy the margin. Stop filling all the spaces with more to-do items. Less do. More be.”

—Courtney Carver, Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Is Really So Much More


The Summer of Kathy

June 09, 2023

In one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, after George Costanza gets fired from the Yankees, he receives a severance package equal to three months’ pay. He decides he won’t work for three months, instead indulging in “The Summer of George,” which for him means wallowing in idleness, trying never to leave his apartment. Hmm… 

Let it be known I’m indulging in “The Summer of Kathy.”

My well is dry. I’m exhausted mentally and emotionally from digging deep to deal with such hard issues as terminal illness of loved ones, losing a parent, and trying to decide what to do with all of my mom’s belongings (including her cats) during two extended stays in California. I’m still not done with all of that, but the most urgent matters are being handled. After the horrifying whirlwind of the past four months, I’m definitely taking my activity level down a notch this summer.

Actually, that’s not quite true. What I’m planning to do, along with getting extra rest and taking time to contemplate what’s next now that my caregiving duties have ended, is catch up on the simple pleasures and everyday adventures I had to put aside temporarily. Therefore, I have a more ambitious than usual Summer Fun List this year. I’ve already checked off a couple of these (noted in red), so I think I’m off to a good start!

  • Paint my toenails a color other than pink. (With dubious results, but at least I did it. The jury is still out on whether or not I like teal toenails.)
  • Have a bubble tea.
  • Try a new obedience training program with Luna (started).
  • Make key lime pie ice cream.
  • Plant a small, potted herb garden.
  • Read a lot.
  • Take a horseback riding lesson. Tank is semi-retired and off for the summer, but there’s a new horse at the barn available for lessons. I haven’t taken a lesson in more than five years, so I need a tune up. 
  • Work at least one jigsaw puzzle.
  • Have a massage. I’ve been trying to do this since the beginning of the year, but I’ve had to cancel two appointments because of my moms’ failing health.
  • Go to a movie with my husband.
  • Bake something from my grandma’s baking book (inherited from my mom).
  • Get together with friends—I’ve been mostly unavailable in 2023, so we have some catching up to do.·  

Mainly what I want to do is rest and regroup and slow down. I’ve been rushing for so long. This list gives me some things to look forward to during my least favorite season, and who knows? Maybe by the end of The Summer of Kathy, new and exciting opportunities will show themselves—and maybe I’ll have the energy to take advantage of them. My goal is to combine emotional healing with gentle adventure. We shall see how it goes.

What are your summer fun plans?

More summer fun lists:

Laura Vanderkam’s 2023 Summer Fun List (I originally heard of the summer fun list from Laura)

Cup of Jo’s Low-Key Summer Check List

My Summer Fun List from 2022



Links to Comfort and Inspire

May 19, 2023

Even though there is So Much to Do, I’m taking it slow, allowing for extra rest and quiet time, easing back into “normal” life (whatever that is). Since the end of January, I’ve been pushing myself well beyond my comfort zone and digging deeper into and draining my emotional reserves. Over the past few months, I’ve found some solace and distraction in wise words and entertaining videos on the Internet. Here are some of the things I’ve been turning to for comfort and encouragement.

Courtney Carver’s words often resonate with me. Since I’m definitely feeling overwhelmed, this post was comforting. I’m especially taking to heart number 4.

Microjoys, glimmers, simple pleasures…whatever you call them, these little bursts of joy keep me going in tough times. There is always joy to be found.

And speaking of microjoys, some thoughts on happiness from an 80-year-old.

Rather than mindlessly scroll, try one of the suggestions from “7 Productive Distractions to Effectively Reduce Stress” when you’re feeling frazzled.

This is so great—I’d love to open a bookstore with a friend.

Since going through my own hard times, I’m learning how better to support others who are grieving or otherwise suffering. “How to offer help when you don’t know what to say” offers some helpful suggestions.

Rediscovering the joy of play—I’ll have more to say about the power of fun in a future blog post.

I’ve been watching The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning on Peacock and (no surprise) it’s hitting me in all the feels…in a good way. Each episode so far has offered me at least one tiny insight into the process of grief, decluttering, or living life to the fullest. 

One of my favorite Broadway touring shows of all time was the first show we saw during the 2022-2023 season: Six. To round off today’s post, here’s a link to the first number of the show:  

What have you found online that has boosted your mood lately?


Walking My Mother Home*

April 28, 2023

About six weeks ago, my mom’s Hospice nurse called to let me know that they’d noticed a marked decline in my mom’s condition and that she had stopped eating. In end-of-life terminology, she was probably “transitioning.” After a day or two of phone calls and a flurry of actions to try to set up my life to function without me for an unknown period, I flew to California on a one-way ticket to spend what would be the last two weeks of her life with my mom.

She passed away April 8.

“It’s been a great ride”

When I first arrived, she knew who I was and could respond with a few words or a facial expression, and she could hold my hand. Every day I came to the nursing home where she was being cared for, spending most of the day by her side. This was one of the most emotionally grueling things I’ve ever done, but I wanted to pour into her some of the lifetime of love she’d given me. I had plenty of time to reflect on our relationship, cry, begin the grieving process, and try to say everything I needed to say before saying good-bye.

The staff found a comfortable rocker/recliner for me, and I positioned myself where I could look out a window. My mother-in-law always said it helped her during hard times to find a patch of blue sky to look at, and I found myself doing that often.

One of the nurses showed me how to find soothing music videos on YouTube, and every day I chose a new one. The music calmed me, and perhaps my mom, too.

I’d leave every day wondering if I’d see her again. By the end, I’d lost my mom in every way that mattered and all that remained was the shell of her body. Still, the finality of her death crushed me.  My heart still breaks at the idea of never being able to hug my mom again.

One of the last pictures I have of us together

My mother taught me to love books, to sew, and to put aside doing chores when you’re exhausted and need to recharge. She read me bedtime stories and took me horseback riding even though she was afraid of horses. She was proud of me and didn’t try to change me, even when she didn’t understand me. For so many years it was just the two of us (my parents divorced when I was three), and it wasn’t until I was a mother myself that I realized how challenging it must have been for my mom to support us financially and take care of me at the same time. My father didn’t live in the same town and it wasn’t until I was older that I was able to spend significant time with him.

When I moved to Florida, we didn’t get to see each other nearly as much as we wanted. I missed the everyday simple pleasures of being able to meet for a meal or go shopping together, and as she got older, I hated being across the country from her. She had troubles and challenges in life, but she’d tell you, as she told a nurse, “It’s been a great ride.”

One last loving act

I think my mom performed one last, loving act as a mother. My friend Kerri arrived on the afternoon of April 8 to spend her spring break with me, and no more than an hour later, my mom was gone. I don’t know how I would have coped if I’d been alone and I think my mom waited until my friend was with me.

As I went through some of her belongings, I found old date books filled with dinners out, church activities, and family visits, and literal drawers filled with cards and letters from loved ones. I found notebooks with lists of goals, art and craft supplies, and file folders with decorating ideas and places she wanted to go. (I do the same thing: fill notebooks with ideas and folders with cut out pictures and articles!) I found awards she’d won in 4-H, lists of books she read in high school, and a medal from the Arthur Murray Dance Studio. My mom loved to dance, and I like to think of her dancing again now that she’s no longer in pain.

I have more family articles to sort through, and more memories to explore as I begin the task of living without my mom. I am slowly looking at a few of these at a time, to avoid being swamped by grief. Recent memories like playing cutthroat games of chicken foot dominoes, and older ones, like the day when I was a teenager that she came home driving a brand new, electric blue Camaro, a gift she'd given herself. 

I’m home again briefly before we return for a graveside service next month.  The last thing I can do for my mom is to fulfill her wish to be buried with my stepfather.

I miss my mom already. This Mother’s Day will be painful, since I’ve lost two of my three moms this year. Even when grief squeezes me like a giant hand, or my eyes well with tears at odd moments, I know that even though it hurts, I was lucky to have Judith Allen Weingarten as my mom.

*One of my friends used this phrase when I told her my mom was declining and I was going to be with her. I thought it perfectly described the situation.