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Better living through stickers

Last winter, my friend and colleague Mallory proposed a brilliant replacement for those tired old New Year’s resolutions.

“What if,” she said, “we created a Wellness Challenge? Anyone who wants to participate would choose an activity that will boost their own wellbeing. Maybe they’ll do this thing every day for a month, maybe once a week, heck, maybe only once. Whatever. It’s completely up to each person.

Our colleagues jumped all over it. We printed up calendars for the month of January on bright yellow paper so they’d be easy to find on our desks. Discussions about possible activities rang through hallways and office doors.

“I’m going to try to eat a vegetarian meal once a week,” said a previously committed carnivore.

“I’m going to walk to work three times a week.”

“Less TV, more books.”

My personal challenge was to identify something to look forward to every single day. It might be a spin class at lunchtime or a movie that I’d been wanting to see or a coffee date with a friend…. These weren’t necessarily new things, but mindfully looking forward to them was new. And if there wasn’t such an activity already in the works, I had to think of one. Picking up my current stitching project after dinner, cracking that new library book, researching slogans for my sign for the Women’s March….

It was a welcome and happy point in my day and it was easy to keep up with that cheery yellow calendar to remind me. But in February, well, you know how these things go: After a while I forgot about it a bit. A day or two would go by without my noticing what I was looking forward to. Then a week.

So a few months ago, I started again. Instead of a bright yellow calendar with inky ticks, now I mark my wellbeing successes with one of the bright little stickers that came with my day planner. They make it easy it to see when I’ve done something fun or health and that in itself gives me a little jumpstart of pleasure to go along with the wellbeing boost from the activity.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to decide whether to celebrate my gym workout with the adorable orange sailboat sticker or the sweet blue smiley face.

Green Spirits

“I’m stuck,” Betsy told her daughter, Laurel, as she struggled to pull herself free of the hedge without dropping the carton of her mother-in-law’s dishes that were destined for Laurel’s new apartment.

“Well, yeah.” Laurel held a black plastic bag in one hand while she hoisted the hatchback of her battered old Subaru with the other. “That’s not news, Mom.”

“Don’t be rude.” Betsy worked herself free of one clutching branch only to be hooked by yet another twig. It was almost like the blasted thing didn’t want Laurel to move out, but that was ridiculous. Plants didn’t have wills of their own and if they did, they would know that offspring had to establish new roots just as beloved elders had a lifespan. “Come and take Granny’s dishes before I drop them.”

“On my way.” Laurel shoved the bag in the back of her car, crossed the sidewalk in two strides and took the carton.

“I’ll get this opening widened before Rowan helps you move the furniture next weekend.” Betsy tried to be gentle as she wiggled her sleeve loose but seriously, this was happening way too often and she was fed. Right. Up. “We’ll never get Granny’s dresser through here as it is now.”

For the hundredth or maybe thousandth time in the last two months, Betsy’s eyes flooded as sorrow rose like a tide inside her chest. Her mother-in-law Adele had been a treasure, sharing Betsy’s house, business and whole family life for so many years, and Betsy wasn’t even close to getting a grip on her mourning.

But she had to. It was only a month until the Greening of the Cove festival that jumpstarted the tourist season and Betsy had a daughter to launch, a shop to prepare and a horror of a hedge to trim.

“I don’t know why you love it so much,” Laurel said. “Just cut it down.”

Betsy was shocked. “It was a gift from your dad!”
“You’ve got me and Rowan – I think we’re way better gifts than a monster hedge.” “Of course you are. But the gift wasn’t for me, it was for you.”
Laurel shrugged. “It takes up way too much time and space.”
“I’ll get it under control.” Betsy had been barely managing over the last twenty

years and now it was getting worse. But she would prune it.

Forever?

Apparently.

But Laurel is moving out. She won’t even be living here any more.

Betsy reflected that it would have saved a lot of time and rage over the years if she had simply refused to name her daughter Laurel.

But no-o-o-o. Betsy tugged her sleeve free. Back in her salad days, when she was green in judgment, she had gone along with Glen. He had planted rowan trees at each corner of the property when their son was born and that had seemed sweet. Also, the trees needed no maintenance. But this hedge was a different story. It grew so fast that every year, by the time she turned the final corner and hauled away the last rubbery leaf, it was time to start over. The hedge was the only thing she still begrudged, all these years after Glen had passed away and left her with a couple of small children and a hefty mortgage. But she was stuck with it. And often stuck in it, it seemed. Did shrubs have souls? And could this one be a bad spirit?

No. That was too fanciful, even for Corsair’s Cove.

Betsy sidled carefully through the narrowing opening in the shrubbery, emerging onto the quiet street. On the other side of the pavement, between the budding ornamental plum trees and houses was the view that had made her want to buy their little bungalow all those years ago. The land, with the town’s old wood-framed houses and brick Edwardian businesses, sloped down to the blue harbor which opened before her, promising wind and whitecaps, tides and currents.

Her sailing days were long over and she really didn’t want to revisit them. What she missed, though, was that part of her that had been willing to cast off, ready for new experiences. She missed her mojo. She’d love to get it back, one of these days.

To read the whole story, visit your favourite e-bookseller – you can pre-order now and you’ll be all set when it officially comes out on June 14, 2019.

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