February Feels Like Forever

Another week in 2021 has drawn to a close and what I’m hearing a lot of these days is how the pandemic is beating everyone down. I’m not saying that things in life aren’t sometimes trying but remember that how you approach even the most trying of times determines if you find that silver lining that does exist in the midst of even trying times.

In regions where snowfalls are plentiful, February might feel like it will never allow summer to return. Even Groundhog Day at the beginning of the month can feel like a sentence people will forever live in the land of ice and snow, never to see flowers spring again.  It’s a struggle for some even with Saint Valentine’s Day slipped in the middle of the month.  It’s a short month, too, and some people are of the opinion it’s because it’s a throw-away month in many respects.

Here’s something to think about. February is the month of the Snow Moon, and doesn’t that sound nice? It sounds crisp, for sure, but then again, it’s still winter. But it also sounds romantic, and I don’t necessarily mean the kind of romance that’s built on poorly rhymed poetry meant to create lovelorn looks from across a crowded room.

It brings to mind crackling fires and perhaps beautiful mugs of hot cocoa (or a latte or a cappuccino for those who are inclined to be a little more coffee shop oriented) to warm your hands.

It brings to mind snowfalls with light fluffy flakes floating down from the skies, and making everything look bright and new again, with the occasional hint of color from evergreen trees and red berries in trees beckoning to the birds to stop by and enjoy the feast.

It brings to mind blue skies that are never the blue seen in summer skies, and clouds that glitter and shine in ways that clouds in summer never seem to do.

Yes, the groundhog this year predicted six more weeks of winter, but when you think about it, the first day of Spring actually happens six and a half weeks after Groundhog Day. Knowing that’s true, shouldn’t we just enjoy the fact that Groundhog Day is a nice bit of silliness in the middle of winter meant to help those who are struggling to see an end in sight for what feels like an eternity to them?

So as we close the door on February 2021, remember that it had a charm all its own, and we are now preparing to welcome March 2021 in. Who knows what March will look like, but whatever it looks like, it will have its own specially named moon.

But that Snow Moon coming to a sky near you on the 27th — that belongs to February. Enjoy it because it will be another year before that Snow Moon shows up again.

Elyse Bruce
26 February 2021

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Nothing says cold snap quick like a polar vortex, and the latest one has reached deep into the south taking out Texas and far into Europe’s warmer climes. So what could the silver lining possibly be in something that drags disaster into communities ill-prepared to deal with them?

Education. Compassion. Self-reliance. Resiliency.

First off, because many levels of government from the municipal level on up have been overwhelmed with dealing with providing the basic essentials to residents, this has become a short period of great learning.

People are modifying what they know about camping and applying it to surviving the set of winter storms that have descended upon them.

It’s great to hear that people are learning that setting up a small tent on the largest mattress in the house, and keeping the flap shut can provide a home with an average temperature of just above freezing to a very warm summer-like temperature of 80 degrees.

It’s great to hear that people are learning that pulling their drapes open during daylight hours to let the sun pour in will increase the temperature in their house by quite a few degrees, making the evening hours that much easier to weather.

It’s great to hear that people have taken to grilling food on their backyard grills rather than letting their families go hungry. Until you’ve dealt with serious hunger pangs, you’ll never really know how amazing a hotdog off the grill tastes.

It’s great to hear neighbors are offering to bring warm meals to those without any power at all, and water to those without drinkable water. And it’s great to hear that between storms, people have stocked up on important essentials like drinking water.

It’s great to hear that people are relying on their own creativity to roll with the punches the polar vortex has thrown at them. With no winter clothes to wear, people are learning the art of layering to stay warm, and loving the practical as well as fashionable results.

And as things start to let up, it’s great to see how resilient people are even when government at various levels either aren’t able to provide assistance or aren’t willing to provide assistance in a timely fashion.

There are so many silver linings to the recent unexpected weather conditions, not the last of which is that people are learning what they are made of, and it’s not the fragile, brittle stuff of whiners and complainers. It’s the steely-eyed determination to survive the unexpected.

Elyse Bruce
19 February 2021

Make Every Month February

Valentine’s Day is in two more days, and the entire month of February is tagged as the month of love and romance. It’s a month for those who are infatuated as well as for those who are truly in love. It’s a month for those who are adored and for those who are cherished.

It’s a month where people are showered with cards and chocolate and flowers and jewelry and meals in fine dining establishments and met with marriage proposals.

All of that is wonderful however every year has twelve months to it so let’s look at how we can make every month more like February.

With the pandemic being a year old now and moving into its second year, money may be a problem when it comes to showing affection to others, but it doesn’t have to be. Why? Because showing someone how much they mean to you doesn’t rely on money being spent. It’s completely dependent upon the person making the gesture.

Do you have an empty canning jar at home? There’s nothing stopping you from jotting down something caring and thoughtful on a slip of paper every day: Something that has to do with the one for whom the jar is intended. Keep it in a safe place, and the next time that person needs a quick reminder of what they mean to at least one other person (you), offer them the jar and ask that they pull one slip of paper out and read it.

Only one slip of paper.

Imagine how your words written at some point earlier will impact positively on that person.

Imagine if it’s two adults in love with each other.  Imagine if it’s a parent and a child.  Imagine if it’s two friends.  Imagine if it’s two colleagues with no romantic entanglements.

Beautiful, right?

Does the other person have a list of things they would like to do that can be done without much effort where you live? Without making mention of it, jot down these bucket list items on craft sticks with a permanent marker and slip those into a tall container. The next time the person says they have so much on their bucket list they would like to accomplish, offer them the container and ask that they draw one craft stick from the bunch.

Now do whatever is on that craft stick with them, and upon completion, with a permanent marker, write down how the bucket list item was completed and keep it safe in a second tall container.

Put together a collage of your favorite moments with the other person and turn it into a colorful jpeg. You can print it out or have it printed or just keep it digital so it can be stored on a digital device. When it’s least expected, make a gift of the collage to the other person. It’s a testament to the relationship (whether it’s a friendship or something more romantic) the two of you share.

Whether the person lives in the same house or apartment as you or they live clear across the country from you or even in a completely different country than your own, a good old-fashioned letter delivered by the post office with a very colorful stamp in the upper right hand corner will brighten many people’s day, not just the recipient of the letter’s day.  Imagine how happy everyone involved in that letter’s journey will be as something other than a bill or junk mail passes through their hands en route to its final destination!

It doesn’t take a lot of time and effort to brighten someone’s day and make them feel loved and appreciated.  And since we know it doesn’t take a lot of time and effort to brighten someone’s day, there’s no reason to wait for February to roll around to share that feeling.

Elyse Bruce
12 February 2021

There’s Kindness In The World

Today this article showed up in my Microsoft newsfeed.:  Boston man reunited with $22K flute he lost on Chicago train.

Readers were told of how a 23-year-old music studenta recent graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Berklee — who was travelling with a $22,000 flute he had inherited from his grandmother when she passed in 2016, wound up being separated from this instrument.  The flute which went missing on the Blue Line train while he visiting Chicago while on his way to Boston from St. Louis.  He was so grateful a homeless couple had found his flute — even though they did pawn it — that he donated to a GoFundMe campaign to benefit the couple, and subsequently shared that on his social media.

In a world where so many other scenarios that would have resulted in far more devastating results, this scenario was kind on countless levels from the CNN reporter who found the music student to advise him that a Chicago detective had found the flute that pawnshop owner, Gabe Cocanate, of West Town Jewelry & Loan asked about after loaning a homeless couple $550 USD when they pawned the instrument.

Some will say that the Chicago Police were doing their job so that doesn’t really count.  Other will say the pawnshop owner was doing due diligence which is part of his job so that doesn’t really count.  Some will say the CNN reporter was only doing the job reporters are supposed to do so that doesn’t really count.  Still others will say the homeless couple pawned the flute so that shouldn’t count because they were intent on profiting from the find, not trying to get it back to its rightful owner.  But think about this:  The homeless couple who found the flute also didn’t just leave it where they found it, and they didn’t unintentionally cause any damage to the instrument.

Because all of those people did what they did, the 23-year-old was reunited with an instrument that has far more than a monetary value to him.  It has great sentimental value as well.  So because everyone did what they did, the universe allowed the ebb and flow of kindness to be what it was.

The musician who was reunited with his grandmother’s flute didn’t have to donate anything to the homeless couple.  After all, they tried to pawn the instrument, not return it.  But as is the way with kind people, they pay that kindness forward which is exactly what this young musician did.

No one did anything that was earth-shatteringly over-the-top or even anything of note.  What everyone did was something that could easily have been overlooked or even marginalized.

Think of all the times when you wonder if what you do makes a positive difference in the world.

Think of the police detectives who are “just doing” their jobs as police detectives.  Think of the pawnshop owners who are “just doing” due diligence in keeping with their jobs.  Think of the reporters who are “just doing” what is required of reporters.

At the end of the day, how big a good deed is doesn’t define the effect of that good deed.  Neither does how small a good deed is.  What defines a good deed is the positive impact it has on others.

This week, many good deeds — the majority of which were people “just doing” their jobs — resulted in an amazing wave of kindness where everyone was able to enjoy the feeling that good deeds bring back to those who do those good deeds.

The present and the future are only as bright and promising as each of us chooses to make the present and the future.

Elyse Bruce
5 February 2021

Platypus Life Lessons

People usually think a platypus is made up of other animal leftover parts.

They hatch from eggs thanks to an egg tooth which means they’re not unlike chickens or turtles. They have webbed feet which means they’re not unlike ducks and other birds with webbed feet.

They drink milk from their mother which means they’re not unlike mammals. They also have fur which means they’re not unlike mammals.

They can produce venom which means they’re not unlike lizards and snakes.

They are amphibious.

It’s easy to understand why people might joke around that, at the end of the day, God had a lot of leftover pieces so he threw them all together and created the platypus.

And a baby platypus is known as as a puggle.  Oh my!  Isn’t that a cute thing to call a baby platypus?  I think so!

Do you know what else? When you shine ultraviolet light on a platypus, it glows.  No words of a lie.  Its fur gives of a beautiful blue-green glow under ultraviolet light, just bright enough to be beautiful but not so bright as to be blinding.

I’m serious about that. Platypus glow, and if you don’t believe me, then at least believe National Geographic and its scientists who are making this claim.  Surely no one working with or for National Geographic would come up with such a ridiculous story if it wasn’t proven and factual!

So what’s with all the platypus talk today?

A platypus accepts what a platypus is. It doesn’t go out looking for a fight.  Make no mistake:  I it is attacked, it is masterful in defending itself. It just doesn’t instigate a problem.

And it doesn’t act as if it’s better than any other animal just because it glows.  It accepts the fact that it glows under ultraviolet light and doesn’t seem to pay attention as to whether any other animals it knows also glow under ultraviolet lights.

People could learn a lot from how platypus act and react to what’s going on in their environment, and how platypus act and react to other animals in their environment.  They seem to be pretty accepting of their own shortcomings and accepting of the things that make other animals not a platypus.  That’s how accepting and understanding platypus are!

Can you imagine how much more positive the world would be if people accepted their differences and other people’s differences instead of demonizing those differences? It would certainly make a world of difference for those who are ostracized or ridiculed by segments of society all because they aren’t exactly like those who bully and cyberbully them.

Maybe it’s time people spent more time watching how platypus engage with others and learn some good manners from them. Wouldn’t that be an awesome way to be the change we keep saying we want to see in the world?

Elyse Bruce
29 January 2021

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