Alwine Now…

,,,writing to encourage reflection and inspire action.

A happy little introduction…

The blog is about things that make me happy. I introduce a new topic every other Thursday, or so, and invite you to comment. Some have been prompted by a little book I tell you about in my "Welcome" which you can read by clicking on the tab above. I'll tell you where my other "prompts" come from as they happen.

The book I've recently written with Dwight Storm Halvorsen, "A Tale of a Different Color: Good Lookin' Out" is officially published! Click on "Works in Progress" if you'd like to learn more.

Choose humor over humiliation

Six of us sat around the table at a restaurant.  We were all good friends.

Conversation had been pleasant when one of my friends started to tell a story which I had been a part of.

Early on, he left something out of his “telling” that I thought was important for others to appreciate the context; I interjected those details.

He was instantly indignant and curtly stated with furrowed brow, “If you can tell it better, go ahead!”

I knew I was in deep doo-doo.

I had no interest is telling his story and could appreciate his annoyance.  He saw my interjection as extremely rude.

The mood around the table became tense; all wondered what was next?

Having known this friend a long time, I knew it would do no good to go ahead and tell the story.

Inspiration hit!  Immediately, I put my thumb to my nose, waggled my fingers at him and stuck out my tongue, crinkling my nose with a smile on my lips.

The mood around the table lightened at once as he laughed and we all joined in.  He gave me a knowing look and resumed his story.

What could’ve been a humiliation and discomfort to everyone around that table was changed with one moment of humor.

Look for ways to choose humor over humiliation to be happy.

I Choose Love to be Happy

Our “Pop” – F.W. Canning III – “Wild Bill”

It’s been 9 months since I’ve posted anything in this, my “I-Choose-to-be-Happy” Blog.

My mind and efforts have been concentrated on other areas of importance in my life.

For the last six years, my husband I were primary care-givers for his parents. When it became clear the extra help was needed, they reached out to us with a plan. We were happy and honored to be able to respond affirmatively.  Mom passed four years ago and Pop’s health went downhill quickly in mid-March last year, after which he passed on into eternity on April 1st.

They are both greatly missed.

During April & May, we prepared, with my sisters-in-law, two meaningful celebrations of Pop’s life.  One was held with his Southern California friends.  The other was with extensive friends and family who had known and loved him around Central and Northern California.

 To hear the stories told at each event, of how he’d touched the lives of those who attended, was the most healing of all experiences.

It helped ease my sense of loss.  He had been like a second father to me.

 He lives on in the lives of those who were influenced by his character.  He was a man of deep integrity, calm enthusiasm and quiet generosity.

I’m so grateful to those who participated in celebrating his life with us.  They all spoke openly of the love they felt for and from him.

It brings to my mind a saying:

 “Just one life will soon be past.  Only what’s done in Love with last.”

Let me encourage you to look for ways to love those around you. You’ll be amazed how happy it makes you feel and how deeply you’ll experience love in return.

A Footnote:  Pop was a cattleman and, at play, a man of the mountains, who also helped save some of the “wildness” of the wilderness for future generations.

For years we’d asked him to write down some of the many stories, from his life experiences, which he always told so colorfully around the dinner table or in mixed company.  He finally did, the last 18 months of his life.  He ended up with over 86,000 words woven into his masterfully written stories.

I have the pleasure of helping our family publish them into a hard-covered book, and an e-book.  Complete with many pictures from his real-life experiences, it will be called, “Wild Bill & Other Stories.”  Look for me to highlight it, here, sometime later this year.

 

Life gets sketchy without a plan, 

but don’t

let that fact

keep you

from sketching

plans.

To draw a picture, an artist will start with a sketch.  The sketch helps the artist get started. A sketch has many lines in it that will never be used, but those lines help put form to the idea in the artist’s mind and will help guide the final outcome.

A sketch is an important step in the process of creation, but it is not the creation itself.  It is a shadow, of sorts, of what is yet to come.

So when I say, “Life gets sketchy without a plan,” I’m not telling you to never “sketch.”

A sketch can help us put form to our plan.

Granted, in the final picture we’re not going to use all the lines we originally sketched.  The beauty of the sketch is in how it directs us to the true form of what we want to bring into reality. A sketch can take what is inside our head or heart and help direct us to the realization of that idea or thought.

Remember, the sketch may seem rough, meager, or even crude.  That’s okay, because its imperfect, incomplete or even superficial rendering can direct us to the next step.  Each step we take toward our goal teaches us something we’ll need when we finally arrive at that place of fulfillment.

The sketch helps us take the next step.

When it became clear to me that I wanted to be a writer, it wasn’t clear what kind of writer I wanted to be.  I just knew I loved the power of the written word, and wanted to use that to bring goodness, joy, and happiness to people’s lives.  So what did I do?

I started “sketching.”  I set up a work area for me to write.  I pulled out old files of things I’d written previously, things I’d written when I was busy doing other things but had an idea or story in my head that just HAD to be put down on paper. I started by re-writing some of those previous works.  Then I wrote new works.

One of the “lines” in my sketch took me to seek feedback from other writers. I found the local Writer’s Guild, Writer’s Conferences and joined several Critique Groups to start getting feedback on my work.  As I immersed myself in what writer’s do, it became clearer what kind of writing I enjoy most.

My “happy” story is what I write for this blog.  But I’ve found I also love writing other people’s stories.  Attending Writer’s Guild functions exposed me to my first project writing another person’s story, “A Tale of a Different Color: Good Lookin’ Out” by Dwight Storm Halvorsen, which I highlight here on my website. He so loved my contribution to the writing of his story that he shared his byline with me.

Currently, I’m helping a man I deeply admire, my father-in-law, Bill Canning, write an autobiographical narrative called, “Wild Bill and Other Stories.” What fun!

Being faithful to follow my imperfect, sketchy plans has brought unexpected dimension to the overall picture of my life and happiness that I never could’ve anticipated. 

Sketch those plans!  Then be faithful to yourself and follow your “sketches” wherever they may take you.  You’ll be happier for it!

 

 

 

What’s the last thing you remember savoring?

 

My day’s savoring started early this morning when the first rays of sun hit the San Jacinto Mountains nearby.  Just above them, thin, wispy, ribbons of clouds reflected the sunrise in pinks, yellows and oranges.  Deep shadows accentuated the mountain’s steep, craggy slopes.

My next savory moment was embodied in a thick, foamy latte drink.  I made it myself with my father-in-law’s espresso machine. Aren’t I blessed?!!

Then there were the few moments this morning when I took my husband’s hand in mine as we walked side-by-side to the car…moments I savored.

I’m so much happier when I ease the pace of my life just long enough to observe and savor its more pleasant moments.

Other words for savor include: relish, delight in, take pleasure in, enjoy, appreciate, value, taste, and smell.

One of the greatest delights of my day came with a priceless mini-video-text from our daughter-in-law and son. It was a sweet, simple interview with their 21-month-old first child, Penelope Sue.  Here’s a close rendering of it:

“Mommy has a question for you, Penelope.  Do you want to have a baby sister or brother?

“Uh-huh.”

“You want to have a baby?

“Uh-huh.”

“Are you sure?”

“More baby!”

“More baby?  That’s okay with you?

“Uh-huh.”

Okay, because it’s going to happen…at the end of September or early October.  You’re going to have a baby sister or baby brother.  That’s okay?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Are you happy?”

“Happy, happy, happy, happy!” as Penelope jumps up, down and around.

“Okay, we love you!”

And that’s how our kids told us we’re going to be  Grandparents again!  We are blessed!  Or as Penelope would say, “Happy, happy, happy, happy!”

Savor on!

 

Last bLoG entry I talked about planning PersoNal pLay to be happy.   We gotta have play in our lives in order to feel reLaxed and reFReshed.  [As you can see, I'm having FuN with upper and lower case letters today.]

Today let’s talk about being even HaPpieR.  It happens when we bring that reLaxation and reFreshment to the lives of OtheRs, starting with those we LOVE.

Who are the people you enJoy and care about the mOst?  Do they have enough FuN in their lives?  Are you having eNough FuN with them?

When I’m HaPpy, I’m HaPpy.  When I’ve given someone I LOVE something to be HaPpy about, I’m even HaPpieR.  It’s tHat simple.  It’s like their HaPpiNeSs feeds my own to make me just tHat much HaPpiER.

Let’s say my friend is going along in life, generally content, and basically doing fine, but I haven’t seen a super big sMiLe on their face or heard them ReaLLy laugh for a while.  What might bring that about for them?  PlaN iT!  Set it uP.  Do iT wiTh them, even if it’s not YoUr favorite thing to do.  Do iT wiTh them for tHeir sake, not your own.  Then oBserve them.  WaTch how they reAct.  EnJoy  TheM!  ObServe your oWn reAction.

It dOesN’t have to be exPensive.  It can be as sImple as seRVing a meal on the back patio, for a change.  Or, maybe, an UnexPected picnic lunch at a favorite sPot.  The exPense part is all a matter of deCiding what fits your BudGet.

If you haven’t alReady thought about it, tHink about ways to make FuN for someOne you LOVE.  Then make it HaPpeN, SOON!

True confession: I’m a bit of a work-a-holic. I have to work at taking time to play.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to play.  But all my life I’ve enjoyed my work…not

always the people, but definitely the work. When I take on a job I give it all I have;

anything less than that bores me.

So, for me to play I’ve had to learn to schedule it.

What do you do to play? The verb play, defined, means to engage in an activity for

enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.

Some synonyms for play are relax, frolic, romp, amuse yourself and have fun.

For play to make me happy, relaxation has to be a big part of it.

A little challenge is okay, but I work too hard at work to want to work at play.

So learning to play the cello, for instance, for me wouldn’t be play.

It would be work. But, because I already know how to play the piano,

to learn a new piece of piano music would be a playful challenge for me.

Also, to play a game of cards, to learn a new table-top game,

or play a game of golf is total enjoyment and relaxation for me.

This is what makes play such a personal thing.

What may be relaxing to me may not be to you.

Play needs to come easily to us. No hint of work is allowed.

Challenge is okay, like learning to play a sport, but not work.

Play has to make us feel better, happier, or it’s not worth calling it play.

Do you play enough to keep you happy? If not, schedule play into your calendar.

If you don’t, the tyranny of the urgent will steal it away

…and your happiness with it.

Plan play to be happy.

P.S. I hope your Holidays have been happy and your New Year will carry many blessings with it. Since my last blog entry, our daughter, whom I mentioned, had a healthy baby boy. Nothing is more awe-inspiring to me than new life and the joy which accompanies it.

 

 

 

Are your expectations of life, yourself, and those around you stealing your joy?  Are other’s expectations of you robbing you of your happiness?  Un-expressed expectations can be destructive if we allow them to linger.

 

Let’s start with our own expectations.  What do we expect of ourselves?

 

My daughter is literally “expecting” right now…her second child.  Her due date was Monday.  Last week she found herself “expecting” to go into labor before the due date.  Nothing was happening.  She started getting extremely impatient and unhappy.  Then, she realized what she was doing to herself and stopped!

 

The moment she let go of her expectations, to start an early labor, she was able to enjoy her everyday life and events again. 

 

The baby is now three days over due. Since she let go of these expectations she’s happily finished several projects she’d started, enjoyed a fun movie afternoon with her family and been generally more relaxed and satisfied.

 

She realized it does no good to try to control something we have no control over.

 

So, we agree, we can stop ourselves from setting unrealistic expectations, but how do we manage others’ expectations?

 

What about others’ expectations of us? 

 

That can be a little more challenging.

 

Effective communication is the key. 

I used to get aggravated when my husband and I had an appointment to be somewhere and he’d start rushing me out the door 15 minutes or more before I thought we needed to leave.  It frustrated us both.  Frustration isn’t happiness.

 

Since the only person I can control in this life is me, I asked myself, “What can I say to this man I love (and hate, at times like these) to sort this out?”

 

At first, I tried getting my own way and argued we didn’t need to leave so early.  He couldn’t go there.  He’s a total “early” freak.  So I realized, if I was willing to love him and respect his need to leave/arrive early for appointment, all I needed to do was to ask him a simple question each time.  “What time do you want to leave?”  So simple.

 

Now I simply make sure I’m ready when I know he wants to leave.  It took the guesswork out of the equation.

 

Expectations need to be clearly defined and agreed to by all involved.

 

Effective or successful communication between people is measured by whether all involved end up with a mutual understanding.  Everyone ends up happier because it takes “guessing” or the “unknown” out of the situation.  It minimizes the frustration which accompanies unrealistic, destructive expectations.

 

Are expectations you have of yourself or others making you unhappy?

 

If the answer is yes, ask yourself this question:  “Is this something I actually have any control over?”  If the answer is no, stop expecting it!   If the answer is yes, do what is within your power to do.  Then let it go and be happy you’ve done what you can to make a difference.  This is where the mantra, “Let go and let God” comes into play.  Be willing to be patient and allow time to affect the final result.

 

Are expectations others have of you stealing your happiness?

 

If the answer is yes, consider approaching this person with the following:

 

“I get the feeling you’re expecting me to be………….or expecting me to do…………”  Is that correct?” 

 

No matter what their answer is…

 

…be prepared to simply tell them what you actually ARE WILLING to be………….or actually ARE WILLING TO DO.

 

It’s that simple.  If they accept your response, yes!

 

If they don’t accept your response, and want to negotiate…

 

…once again, be honest about what you’re willing to be or do in that situation.

 

If they become indignant, accusatory, angry or combative, let them. 

 

Don’t react to anything they say, which is the hardest part, because you can be sure they will try to “push your buttons” to get you to react just like them.  When they are done venting, simply restate what you already said you are willing to be or do.

 

If they must vent some more, let them. 

 

Again, don’t react to what they’ve said. Simply restate what you already said you are willing to be or do.  At some point they will either accept your truth or reject it (and, maybe, you) or walk away.

 

When we stand in our truth/reality, others will accept it or reject it, walk away, or simply agree to disagree.

 

It is necessary to manage expectations in our lives to be truly happy.

 

Do you have anything you want to contribute or comment on from your experience?

 

 

 

My professor in Psychology 101 at UCLA was the first one to introduce me to the power of visualization.  Since then I’ve also become an advocate of Napoleon Hill’s statement, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.”

 In our journey into happiness, it helps to visualize who we want to be.

At one point in my life I was much more timid than I am today but wanted to be more assertive.  So I visualized myself speaking my thoughts out loud rather than just thinking them.  I picked a safe topic, and a safe person to begin speaking my thoughts to. The more I did it, the greater confidence I had.  Today I’m much more willing to speak my thoughts.  I’m more assertive.

 To be happy, what do you want to be?

I wanted to be a writer. So I began to visualize myself as one. I asked myself, “What does a writer do?”  Obviously, write!  So I imagined how I might write. It began with setting appointments with myself with pencil and yellow pad in hand. That evolved to seeing me at the computer. So, I worked to get a laptop and, now, my writing goes more quickly and efficiently with the help of marvelous technology, thesaurus and dictionary at a click of the mouse.

 To be happy, where do you want to be?  WhenHow do you plan to get there?

Study that place, visualize yourself there, put pictures of it on your mirrors, your refrigerator, etc. and eventually you’ll get yourself there…

or change your mind along the way, which is okay.

We get what we focus on.  So, sometimes, as we count the cost to get what we want, we realize it might not really make us happy.  So, we change our mind.  Better to change it in mid-stream than it becomes more costly than we can live with happily.

 Visualization is a powerful tool.

The wisdom of the Bible tells us, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”  (Proverbs 23:7)   James Allen, in his book As a Man Thinketh, wrote something much like that which, at first, I didn’t want to accept as true.

 He wrote, “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”

I didn’t want to believe this because I’ve had some crappy stuff in my life. But when I thought about it, looked honestly at myself and my current condition, I had to agree.   I had to take responsibility for my thoughts which had brought me to who, what, where, when and how I am where I am today…the bad with the good.

Beware what you think about; be careful what you visualize.

Focus on things which contribute to your happiness.

 

Think of a white plate of spaghetti with meat balls.  Now, maybe change out the plate, add a sprig of parsley and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese to the image. Not difficult to do, but it makes a world of difference in how the mere look of it makes me feel.

A little creativity goes a long way.

Are you stuck?  All I have to do is look around my place to see a thing or two which has me stuck.

What about that pile of papers which has been sitting on my desk awhile?

Get creative!  Rethink it.

How can I reorganize and, maybe, file them? I usually end up using a basket or making a new file, placing heavy emphasis on that circular file sitting under my desk called the trash can, and, whoa-la!  The desk is clean and I’m happier.

This same principle, of course, applies to any kind of “stuff” which has become a lifeless “pile” in our lives.

Is one of my relationships stuck?  Rethink it.  What can I do differently which might change things up a bit? What carefully thought-out question can I ask to start a meaningful conversation to help us get unstuck?

Any time I’ve asked myself, and the most creative One of all, for a way to make something better, the answer has always been forthcoming.  I just don’t always think to ask.

Look around your life.  What do you want to rethink?

How can you use a little creativity to add a little happiness to your life and the lives of those you love?

Creativity is the spark which ignites. A little creativity will add to your happiness.

 

 

While preparing to write about this, I did an online search and found this question, which echoed my own, on a website called THE STRAIGHT DOPE: Fighting Ignorance Since 1973. This question was asked by kittenblue, a charter member,  on 6/29/12.

 

Here is the question:

“’Use your words.’ When did this phrase become popular? When my kids were toddlers (1982-1988) I don’t recall ever hearing this phrase used to encourage children to verbalize rather than use my son’s favorite method, pointing and grunting. Nowadays, you hear the phrase ‘Use your words’ coming from the lips of every young mother, teacher and comedian across the land. So when did this become a ‘thing’ and who started it?”  No answers were posted.

 

So, I did a further search to find some answers, and here is what I came up with.

 

1998 is the earliest media reference I can find.  It’s from the movie, Stepmom, with Susan Sarandon.  The quote is, “No name-calling.  Use your words.”  My next find is in 2002 with Austin Powers inGoldmember. That quote is, “You want down Mini-Me?  Use your words like a big boy clone.”  I also found it verbatim in the 2005 movie Must Love Dogs and combined with, “Words, Shorty. Use your words” in the 2007 movie Bring It On; In It to Win It.

 

It’s a great line!  I’m so glad parents and teachers across the land have found it and now use it to encourage children of all ages to express themselves more readily.

 

Now, if only the rest of us would get a clue!  Previous generations grew up without such universal encouragement and, I would suggest, therefore, carry many unspoken words bottled up inside just waiting to be expressed.

 

Because the 1st Law of Thermodynamics is just THAT…a law…or inescapable truth, like gravity…those unspoken words are actually being expressed, just not in words per se.  Let me explain.

 

Simplified, the 1st Law of Thermodynamics states energy can neither be created nor destroyed.  It can only change forms.

 

So, for example, when no words are given to the energy created by an emotion, that energy has to go somewhere!

 

If you’re not comfortable expressing your emotion with words, maybe you go shoot some hoops, play some racket-ball, ride your bike, take a walk, sing a song, laugh, cry, or hit a pillow…you get the idea.  For some, those unexpressed words may come out in weeping.  Others put a humorous twist on such difficulties and express their resulting emotions with laughter.  For another, because they’ve found no other outlet, it may come out in violence or inappropriate screaming and shouting.

 

Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “Laugh or cry…it’s the same release!”

 

Again, that energy, that emotion inside of usHASto come out somewhere.  That’s one way great songs, plays and operas are written, symphonies composed, and art created…out of the need to outwardly express that which is within us.

 

I grew up thinking it was unacceptable to speak my negative emotions. I felt it was only okay to let the good ones see the light of day.

 

Sadly, as I became older, I failed to see my need for a positive expression of the negative energy which was building up inside of me. I believe the fact that I was a singer and an athlete in my younger years saved me from what might’ve become deeper difficulties earlier in life.

 

Most of any negative emotional energy was burned up with my singing or with athletics.

 

But later in life I stopped singing and became less active. It would seem my negative thoughts got stored up in my body because I started feeling anxiety, over-concern and worry about things I had no control over and, eventually experienced illness expressed by allergies, asthma, fibromyalgia, etc.

 

Rather than burning up any negative energy outwardly, talking to someone about it, or “using my words,” it’s like it smoldered there, burning up my inner bodily resources instead. It wore my body down into a state of dis-ease or ill-ness which I’ve been working to come back from for 12 years now.

 

Of course, I didn’t have any idea this is what I was doing or I would’ve stopped myself!

 

During this period of my life, I didn’t know I was living in a “sick” house full of hidden mold and mildew which was challenging my immune system. I had allowed myself to get over-busy, working a job full-time and then taking care of aging parents, not taking care of myself, after work hours.  I took my body for granted because it had always been able to keep up with any demands I’d placed on it before.  I failed to allow myself a healthy rhythm of rest and renewal to counterbalance my work and the emotional exhaustion that came from taking care of those who were having difficulty taking care of themselves.

 

I’d stopped taking time to slow down and reflect on what was going on in my life and why.

 

Maybe if I’d talked to a counselor or psychologist I would’ve processed things better and not become so ill. At least, that way, I would’ve been forced to “use my words” about what was happening and possibly, would’ve sorted it all out in a more health-promoting way.

 

But, upon reflection, I wasn’t even in-touch with the fact I had these negative things building up inside.

 

It’s like my ill-ness was my body’s, and God’s, gift to me to force me to slow down and reflect and seek professional healers to help me sort out my self-imposed mess.

 

I recently read something about the regrets of the dying.

 

For many years this woman, Bonnie Ware, worked in palliative care.  Her patients were those who had gone home to die.  When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, five common themes surfaced again and again.

 

One of those is, “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”

 

She writes, “Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others.  As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.  Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

 

Also related to what I wrote in my last blog entry, she continues, “We cannot control the reactions of others.  However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level.  Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from you life.  Either way, you win.”

 

Only as I’ve chosen to “use my words” to speak about what’s bothering me, and found positive ways to express those emotions, have I been able to move away from my ill-ness, overcome my body’s dis-ease, and heal.

 

I’ll end my blog entry this week with Bonnie’s final words on her website: http://www.inspirationandchai.com/Regrets-of-the-Dying.html.
“Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.”

 

“Use your words” to be happy.

 

Last blog entry I wrote how I’ve learned to give “grace” to be happy in life…worked to stop “judging,”… yet it’s still important to exercise discernment.

 

So how have I seen grace versus discernment played out in my own life?

 

It’s usually those closest to us to whom we have to give grace and forgiveness most often.  They are the ones we depend on the most and, therefore, they are the ones most apt to upset us unintentionally.

 

Aside from myself, there’s no question, those closest to me are the ones I’ve had to give grace to and choose to forgive the most throughout my life…usually not for any gross error, but for little sins of omission…for things I thought they ought to have done and didn’t…or for things I wished they’d done but I never told them I needed them to do.  So who’s at fault there?  Me!  Not them.

 

My most immediate inclination is to blame them when, more often, I am the source of my own disappointment…all because I failed to express to them my needs or expectations.

 

The more I’ve chosen to speak up and clearly communicate my needs to those closest to me the less often I’ve had to extend grace and forgiveness.

 

So, I’ve had to learn the hard way how important it is to speak up!  Use your voice!  That’s why God gave it to you!

 

Speak your mind to those you care about!  If they’re truly worth caring about, nothing you can say will drive them away.  They’ll prove, by their response, just how much they care or don’t care.

 

What if they don’t respond kindly or carefully? At first, always give grace.

 

But if a careless response happens over and over again, this is when discernment must partner with grace.  This is when it’s time to evaluate why you’re still hanging around with them.

 

At that point, it’s a matter of discernment as to whether you are truly good for each other.

 

Don’t mistake such decisions for passing judgment upon them.

 

You must always discern what is best for you. That isn’t criticizing.  That’s facing facts!

 

They can go on living just as they always have, offensively, if they so choose…just without you in their life.  Be sad, forgive them and move on.

 

You’ve done your best to love them.  Now it’s time to release them.

 

So it’s really not grace versus discernment.  It’s grace with discernment.

 

Choose both grace and discernment to be happy.  As always, I invite your thoughts in response.

Have you every felt “judged” by someone…judged to be somehow lacking?

It doesn’t seem to matter what you do, they give you the feeling they think they’re better than you.  To feel “judged” is to feel the power of another’s bias…and it’s usually very uncomfortable.

It’s important to be discerning.  But we have to be careful about how we “judge” each other.  Do we exercise good judgment?  Do we form an opinion of people objectively, authoritatively and wisely?  Do we use good sense, and discretion?  Are you a person of discernment and sound judgment?  Or are your judgments weighed down heavily by bias?  Other words for “bias” are prejudice, partiality, unfairness, preconceived notions, and favoritism.

It’s our natural inclination to critically “judge” others, to note how they don’t measure up to our standards in some way.

So why fight nature?

Some would say, “Be careful…what goes around comes around.”  Another would say, “Beware of Karma!”  I prefer these words attributed to Jesus:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5 NIV

 I don’t know about you, but given honest consideration, I wouldn’t want to be judged by the same standard I am inclined to judge others.

So, I work to stop myself when I start to get in that judgmental mode.

All judging does is make me angry and unhappy anyway.  So why bother.

 I’ve become much happier since I started leaving the judging to God.

I’ve plenty on my plate when it comes to simply correcting my own weaknesses.

 So what does “judgment” have to do with “grace?”

“Grace” isn’t a word that we use a great deal in the English language. Most would relate to “Grace” as a woman’s first name or as a prayer asking blessing or giving thanks before we eat a meal.

Another more common use of the word refers to the elegance, beauty or loveliness of a person or thing.

 The “grace” I am referring to is used mostly by Christians when we want to communicate the unmerited love and mercy given freely and undeservedly to us by God…simply because He wants us to have it.

Forgiveness and pardon are two other words which come close to the same meaning.  To give grace could also be considered a form of tolerance.

 Even as we have received this “grace” from the Father of our Spirits, to be at peace and, therefore, happy, I suggest we must also extend it, undeservedly, to each other.

Give “grace” to be happy in life.  For your own peace of mind stop “judging,” but I must add a footnote.  It’s still important to exercise discernment.

 Look for my discussion of “grace versus discernment” next time.

 

 

Stay Young My Friend

This was an email forward which came my way … Thought I would post it here for future reference and for readers of my blog …

============================

Stay Young My Friend


We will lead happier lives if we read this one over and over until it becomes a part of who we are!


HOW TO STAY YOUNG


1. Try everything twice. On one woman’s tombstone she said she wanted this epitaph:

“Tried everything twice. Loved it both times!”


2. Keep only cheerful friends.

The grouches pull you down.
(Keep this in mind if you are one of those grouches!)


3. Keep learning: Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever…

Never let the brain get idle.’An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’ And the devil’s name is Alzheimer’s!

4. Enjoy the simple things.


5. Laugh often, long and loud.

Laugh until you gasp for breath. And if you have a friend who makes you laugh,

spend lots and lots of time with HIM/HER.


6. The tears happen:

 

Endure, grieve, and move on.


The only person who is with us our entire life, is ourselves.

LIVE while you are alive.


7. Surround yourself with what you love:

 

Whether it’s family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever..


Your home is your refuge.


8. Cherish your health:

 

If it is good, preserve it.If it is unstable, improve it.If it is beyond what you can improve,get help.


9. Don’t take guilt trips…

 

Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county,to a foreign country, but NOT to where the guilt is.


10. Tell the people you love that you love them,at every opportunity.I love you, my special friend.


And if you don’t send this to at least 4 people – who cares? But do share this with someone.


Remember! Lost time can never be found.

Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is
fighting some kind of battle.


Wine does not make you FAT …

it makes you LEAN … (Against tables, chairs, floors, walls )


Forgive yourself…to be happy

 It all starts here.

Forgive ME…let go of all the ways I’ve let myself down, let other’s down, or failed to live up to my highest standards.

 It means I have to “lighten up.”

Not to use this as an excuse to be lax, I still have to hold myself to what I have committed to and value

 but, then, forgive myself when I run out of the energy or the time to do it.

That’s when I have to remember “tomorrow is another day.”  So I respect myself and others…I reschedule!

This happened to me while getting my last blog entry together.  I’ve promised myself, and you, I’d do a new blog entry every other Thursday.  I take my promises seriously. It just didn’t come together last time.

 I ran out of both energy and time…so I posted on that Friday instead.

Let me rephrase that.  I HAPPILY posted on Friday instead.

“Happily” wouldn’t have always been the case.

 I used to be so much harder on myself and would “beat myself up” mentally when I failed to fulfill something I set my mind to do.

This subtle form of self-condemnation added up over the years to eventually contribute to my ill health.  I know this, because as I’ve allowed myself to “let go” in healthy ways my well-being has improved.

 I’d have to say it’s a control issue.

We all want to feel like we have some control over our lives but control taken to an extreme was hurting me. So, I had to come to the conclusion to “let go” sometimes.

 Some would say, “Let go and let God.”

The Psalmist in the Bible says it best for me, “Cease striving, and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:9 NAS.  To paraphrase this I say, “Trust life a little more. Life has been going on before I was born, and will continue after I die.  With or without me, Life and God’s role in it continues.

I like this dictionary definition I came across:

To Forgive 1. To give up resentment against or the desire to punish; stop being angry with; pardon 2. To give up all claim to punish or exact penalty for (an offense); overlook 3.  To cancel or remit (a debt)

Applied to myself,

 “I give up all resentment against myself or desire to punish myself; I choose to stop being angry with myself; I pardon myself; I give up all claim to punish myself or exact a penalty for any offense I’ve committed; I choose to overlook and cancel all my failings, my debts are paid in full.”

Paid in full…does that remind you of anything?

 As a Christian, it reminds me of Christ.  Through His sacrifice on the cross and overcoming the power death would hold over us, all my debts, my sins, are “paid in full.”

I don’t know about you, but from the time I was a child and understood this gift He’s given us, it made all the sense in the world. I needed forgiveness.

 Even as a child I understood my attitude “sucked” a good deal of the time.

Accepting His forgiveness helped me start to change my attitude toward others, and made it easier for me to accept people more graciously, without judgment.

 But it never occurred to me, until more recently in life, I might also need to change my attitude toward my SELF.

The Golden Rule is to love your neighbor AS YOURSELF.

 We can only love others as well as we love ourselves.

So love yourself today.  During a quiet moment ask yourself, “Is there anything I’m punishing my self for?”  If so, STOP IT!!!

Forgive yourself.

Forgive yourself…to be happy.

It is undisputed! We are creatures of habit!

The paths we take everyday are paved with our habits, good or bad.

So logic has it we’d best choose good ones. Bad ones cost us too much in the long run… whether it be in illness which can come from poor hygiene, unhealthy psychology or eating habits, clutter that keeps us confused, or even in lost relationships with the people that wouldn’t put up with our crap.

We don’t start out life with good habits unless our parents helped us from an early age to form the discipline that goes with them.

Let’s face it; it’s easier to have bad habits.

Make a mess and don’t pick up after myself…eat a mint rather than brush my teeth…get up and leave the bed disheveled until later, just let those papers pile up rather than make the decision where to file them (most can go in the circular file…you know, the garbage can.)

I say, “Make the decision” because that is what our habits are all about, our moment-by-moment decisions, our power to choose. Our habits are really about how we think. How disciplined are my thoughts? Do I take control of them or just let them walk willy-nilly all over the place…and all over me. Do I make a plan and stick to it (yes, I’m allowed to tweak it as it unfolds) or just wait to see what life brings my way.

The habits which make you happy may be different than mine.

But we can also benefit by looking at what history has proven works. Some fundamental habits have been studied and proven to be universally beneficial. Principles like:

Be kind, Apologize, Be loyal to those not present, Make and keep promises, Forgive.

The late Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” has proven to be instructive to millions. Parallel Covey books for teens, kids, families and military families are also illuminating. If you aren’t one of those millions I encourage you to pick one up and review it. They are uplifting.

In Covey’s books, the purpose of the first three habits is to help us with self-mastery.

Effectiveness begins with taking control of self and the situations we find ourselves in.

The next three habits focus on cooperating with others.

Effective teamwork is critical when our success depends on getting help from others.

Habit seven is all about personal renewal, and is simply good judgment.

We all know what habits we have that hamper us.

The question is what are we willing to do to change our bad habits into good ones?

We are creatures of habit, so let’s give ourselves good ones.

 

So much of my day-to-day happiness or lack thereof, hinges on where I focus my thoughts.

Keep a healthy focus to be happy!

On July 31st my husband, Russ, and I will begin our 37th year of marriage. That’s most of our life’s efforts spent in partnership with each other. Wow. As I reflect on those years from beginning to now, our focus has played a huge role in our highs and lows.

Our focus was totally on each other when we first met.

We were both intrigued. “Who is this other person?” We couldn’t believe how much we had in common…and also saw the many ways we were different, yet valued our differences.

Next, we focused on how we might be able to build a future together.

Our plans fell in place, our families added their support to our choices, job offers supported our partnership, and a mutual agreement to start our married life in the Midwest (2,000 miles from family & familiar territory) cemented our commitment to each other.  All we had was each other and “the goodness of God” to fall back on. New found friends also helped.

Once productive work and our household were established, we were ready to focus on creating our own family.

All three of our children arrived within the first five years of our marriage. Life became more complicated with five lives and personalities in the mix.

Then we entered what I now call the “cauldron of purification.”

I use that phrase as it relates to the purification of gold. Gold is purified with heat. The hotter the heat the more impurities rise to the surface. The impurities are skimmed off the top and the refined gold remains.

Life is a refining process, wouldn’t you agree?

As Russ and I came under the heat of family challenges, plenty of impurities found their way to the surface, by way of attitudes as well as actions. As a consequence, I found it difficult to maintain what I call the 2 “F’s” of healthy focus with Russ.

The first “F” stands for having FAITH, as in having confidence in, trust and belief in.

I started losing my full faith in Russ and in us. It was a subtle shift which I wasn’t even aware of at the time. It snuck in under the radar as I became judgmental of him.

The second “F” stands for being FRIENDLY, as in gracious, open and forthcoming.

I became unfriendly as I started seeing our differences as his responsibility rather than ours. Instead of focusing on all the good things we agreed on I started focusing on our differences as insurmountable and I cooled off toward him.

By year seven we were in a tough place.

All veils had been removed by that point. I remember saying to Russ, in a quiet and difficult moment, I’d lost my respect for him. It was devastating for us both. His immediate question, with pain in his eyes, was if I was asking him for a divorce. I was NOT…and told him so. I still loved him but needed him to examine himself and some of his patterns of behavior. He was faithful to do that over the years which followed and we both were humbled.

 Part of the humbling was realizing it was not a “he” versus “me” issue. It was an “us” issue.

I needed to examine myself also. My attitudes and behaviors had also contributed to our difficulties.

I needed to make some changes…especially when it came to a healthy focus.

I had always been an optimist in how I viewed life. But with regards to Russ, as is often the case with those or that which we allow closest to us, I’d allowed myself to become a pessimist.

I’d failed to have full faith in him and in us…I also failed to maintain a friendly attitude toward him.

Not in all things but in subtle, background attitudes. For instance, while thinking less of him, because of my faulty focus, I COULDN’T SEE how he’d actually become more.

I also couldn’t see how my complaints revealed more about ME than it did about him.

Until I changed my focus to see all the great things in our relationship, and let the petty stuff fall away, I was unhappy.

I was the source of my own unhappiness, not him.

Ask yourself, “Do I have things, or people, in my life where I might be happier if I chose a healthier focus?”

If your answer to this question is, “yes,” then good on ya!

Choose the 2 “F’s” of healthy focus; choose to have faith and be friendly, and you’ll be back on the happiness track.

In honor of this 2013 Independence Day…

I’d like to quote some thoughts on happiness from some

independent thinkers of our time:

 

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”Abraham Lincoln

 “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”Mahatma Gandhi

“Seven Deadly Sins-
Wealth without work
Pleasure without conscience
Science without humanity
Knowledge without character
Politics without principle
Commerce without morality
Worship without sacrifice.”  Mahatma Gandhi

“The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.” Audrey Hepburn

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama XIV

“Sometimes we develop grand concepts of what happiness might look like for us, but if we pay attention, we can see that there are little symbols of happiness in every breath that we take.”His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned or worn. Happiness is the spiritual existence of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude. The treasure is within you. It needs only to be uncovered and discovered.” Dr. Myron Wentz, Invisible Miracles.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Theodor Seuss Geisel – Dr. Seuss

 

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” Mother Teresa

 

Happy Independence Day!

     May you always express your independent thoughts

          with kindness, honesty and grace toward others.

 

 

 

 

Normally I say, “Use it or lose it” to refer to my workouts…use those muscles or lose them. My attitude, energy and overall well-being are better, so I’m happier, when I stay physically active and have regular workouts. But that’s not what I want to talk about here.

This is about STUFF…stuff I’ve added to my life that I thought I really wanted or needed that’s just sitting around un-used…adding CLUTTER.

It could be anything…a magazine subscription, an email newsletter I always delete and never read, those shoes or clothes in my closet and drawers I haven’t worn in over a year, the items I’ve stored away in boxes that I think I’m going to use again SOMEDAY…but haven’t even looked at or even thought about for several years.

Technically it’s clutter. Yet when I genuinely question myself as to why I hold onto these things the answer I come up with is COMFORT.

Somehow having these “extras” sitting around if I ever want them gives me a sense of consolation, solace or security. Maybe it gives me a sense of luxury…like in the Middle Ages when to carry extra fat around on your body denoted your state of abundance, health and wealth.

But when I reflect more deeply on what these extra things amount to, the words, BURDEN, MILLSTONE or EXTRA WEIGHT are more realistic.

They create DEAD SPACE in my life…filling a space that could be used for creative purposes…for things I’ll actually put to good use.

So the time comes for me to decide whether to USE them or LOSE them or LOOSE them…let them go to others who will put them to good use.

To loose them sets free the space in my home…and my brain…to be open to new things.  Out with the oldie moldy and in with the new and true. Think about it. Are there things in your life you want to loose that are no longer of any true use to you? Will you be happier if you do?

Nothing transports me more quickly out of my self-centered musings than to notice someone else when they’ve done something for me.

To say, “Thank you!” is the most immediate way I know to offer someone recognition and respect.

Anyone who does anything for anyone else deserves appreciation for it. When gratefulness is lacking in our relationships love suffers, all the people involved suffer.

When was the last time someone said, “Thank you” to you?

Mine was this morning when I handed my husband his breakfast. I’m blessed to have someone in my life everyday that respects and appreciates the things I do.

When was the last time you said, “Thank you” to someone else?

For me, soon after he’d eaten his breakfast, my husband cleaned up our dishes and the kitchen. When I walked back in the room, and saw the clean kitchen, I turned to him and said, “Thank you for cleaning up our dishes. The kitchen looks great!”

I could’ve let pass the opportunity to compliment him …after all, when I cook, he cleans up…when he cooks, I clean up…that’s our agreement. But very few things in life feel as good to us as appreciation…simple recognition for the kindness we do for each other every day fuels our furnace of self-worth…fuels our mutual and self respect.

Appreciation keeps love alive!

Every time you say “thank you” to someone it’s like placing an investment in their emotional bank account…an account you may need to draw from later when you could do with some support yourself!

Saying, “Thank you” to your waiter, server, bus-boy, family member, friend, deliveryman, clergyman, and business associate…anyone who hands you something or does anything for you…is like planting “love seeds” wherever you go.

The more times you say, “Thank you” to the same person it’s like watering,  giving nourishment and warm sunlight to that “love seed.” The more opportunities you have to thank someone, and do so, the better they’ll feel about you and about themselves.

What happens when we feel good about ourselves?  We’re happy!

We have more “good stuff” to share with those around us…more love, more smiles, more helpfulness, more kindness, and more gentleness…and the list of “good stuff” grows.

How many “Thank You” gifts will you invest in your interactions today?

 

“How do you know for sure there’s a God?”

was the question one of our boys, as a tumultuous teenager, asked me one day at the kitchen table.

“Good question,” I replied, thought a moment and repeated, “REALLY good question.”

If I remember correctly, our conversation went something like this: I began, slowly and thoughtfully, with,

“Well, if there is a God…just by nature of the definition of  ’God’…He’d have to be all knowing…all powerful…and all around us.  So He would know…right now…that you’re curious about Him. Does that stand up to your reasoning?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“So…if He knows everything…which includes YOU…because he’s God, he’d have to know you even better than you know yourself…right?”

“I suppose so.”

“So it would be safe to say, if He’s here, and He’s God, He knows what it’s going to take to convince you He’s real…even if YOU don’t know?”

“Yeah, I guess He would know.”

“So ask Him to show Himself to you in a way which will convince you He’s real…if you don’t get an answer you’ll have to re-think the whole thing. But you’ve got to do your part…we have to look for something in order to find it…we have to ask the question in order to get an answer.”

A week or so later he was smiling when he told me he’d asked the question and gotten answers. He was DEFINITELY convinced God is real and clearly interested in his life and concerned about the choices he was making…which made our son a more thoughtful, clearly happier, young man.

WOW! I love it when we let God come through for us.

As a parent myself, I expect He loves it too.

This reminds me I don’t ask my Lord, God, Abba (means Daddy), Father-of-my-Spirit, enough questions.

I know it’s because I’m not much inclined to slow down…to take the time to be quiet long enough…to not only ask…but to have the presence of mind to watch and wait expectantly for His answers.

What questions do you have for God?

Find the time to ask Him. I guarantee, like our son, you’ll be surprised by His answers.

You might like this video picture of God…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-cv53qH-Sk

 

For many years I procrastinated over doing just about everything…but really didn’t like myself for it. I still catch myself doing it from time-to-time. I struggled against procrastination when it came to writing my blog entry this week.

Whatever bad habits I’ve wanted to overcome throughout my years of living with myself, the only way I’ve been able to confront them is to ask myself “WHY?”

In this case, why do I procrastinate…delay, postpone, put off, dilly dally, drag my feet, about doing certain things?

For me, it’s usually because the task is something that will require some physical, mental or emotional WORK on my part. Don’t get me wrong. I love writing this blog. Writing is mostly PLAY to me. I love to play with words, their meanings and their ability to have an IMPACT. But to do that WELL requires WORK.

Even when I upload my little blog for the week, as I format it, I re-read it as I go, and find myself making last minute changes to clarify my meanings. A well-written piece can bring us to tears, make us laugh, become angry, sad, inspired, make us think…sometimes even get us moving in a better direction for our lives.

 The other reason WHY I procrastinate is the PARALYSIS OF ANALYSIS.

I’m a bit of a detail oriented perfectionist. Sometimes I won’t start a project because I ANALYZE TOO MUCH what I’m going to require of myself before I’m happy with the result. Ever since I decided to settle for EXCELLENCE rather than perfection I’ve experienced less paralysis.

 Why else do I procrastinate? I get distracted. I let other activities take PRIORITY.

Some other words for priority are “main concern,” “precedence,” and “right-of-way.” I have to ask myself,

 “WHAT are you giving the right-of-way in your life that’s keeping you from taking control of your OWN RIGHT OF WAY…your right to have things go your way, according to what you consider important in your life?.

OR sometimes the question is, “WHO? Who else’s wants are you making more important than your own?” Sometimes the answer is legitimate; sometimes we know the answer is just an excuse to not do the work.

 I’d love to hear what questions you ask yourself…questions that help you stay “happy” or “on track” with your life.

Linus had just been struck by a car. He yelped and frantically tried to cross the street to get away from the painful beast that hit him, then slumped up against the curb…and breathed his last breath.

Just the thought of this brings a sob to my chest…and I cry, once again. He was such a dear cocker spaniel friend to us, and litter-mate to his brother, Bugsy, who lived on with us for another 12 years.

Why do I bring up this grief in a discussion of happiness?

Because of what happened AFTER Linus was killed.

All his family were there…Russ and I, Sarah, William, Nate and Bugsy. We had just come off our annual Thanksgiving Day Hike in Phoenix, AZ, when it happened. We were all instantly devastated.

Russ took stock of the situation, lovingly picked up Linus out of the street…then we all stood there on the sidewalk together and cried. We were still a mile from our car so we started to walk. Each of us took turns holding him, carrying him, crying our grief out over him as we walked. We comforted each other too.

By the time we reached the car, and lay his body on towels in the back, the stories had begun…Linus stories of what he was like as a puppy…how he loved to run ahead of us, leave the path and flush the bushes for anything that might be there…and many more.

Those stories lead to telling the funny things he would do and we all shared laughter as our hearts were lifted from our grief to a celebration of his life and how he’d enriched ours by living his in our family.

Life is full of pain. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming that it feels like that’s all there is.

How can we be happy in the midst of so much pain?

By changing our focus.

Today, during a TV news interview, a woman who’d received a broken hip when her home was destroyed by the West Texas Fertilizer Plant explosion expressed gratitude that she was still alive and able to celebrate her grand-daughter’s first birthday today.

When we celebrate the good it takes the power out of the pain…and allows us to remember happiness is always waiting in the wings.

Have you ever tried to open a door?  It’s impossible.  That’s right.  It’s impossible.  Either you open the door or you don’t.  TRYING to open the door doesn’t get it done.
 One dictionary definition for to try is: “to attempt to do or accomplish.” An attempt is defined as: “to make an effort.”
I know to make an effort or attempt to do something is considered admirable.  But because I’ve both attempted and accomplished goals in my life, I’ve learned I much prefer to accomplish my goals.
To accomplish is defined as: “to bring to its goal or conclusion; carry out; perform; finish: to accomplish one’s mission”.
“To accomplish one’s mission” is so much more satisfying than “to attempt one’s mission,” don’t you think?
Accomplishment makes me happy and is meant to be the reward of effort.  But effort without fulfillment frustrates me. So to avoid failure and frustration it makes sense to set goals I can accomplish.  Let’s look at some examples:
“I’ll cut all sugar out of my diet this week” versus “I’ll lose two pounds this week.”
“I’ll walk for 20 minutes this morning” versus “I want to build up my stamina.”
“I’ll write for one hour everyday” versus “I want to be a successful writer.”
“I’ll clean one room a day” versus “I want to keep my house clean.”
“I’ll show & tell five people about my book today” versus “I’ll sell 5 books today.”
All the goals stated on the left are specific and within my power to accomplish.
All the goals stated on the right are out of my power to guarantee fulfillment…and, therefore,  I’ve set myself up, from the start, to fail.
Quit trying…to be happy we have to set goals we can bring to conclusion…then get it done.
Check out this great YouTube link a friend just sent me...http://youtu.be/BQ4yd2W50No

 

“Get lost!” is what I used to shout at other kids in elementary school when they did something I

didn’t  like. At that age I didn’t know any other way to handle my angst.

It’s been a long time since I felt I needed to tell someone to “get lost.”  But it’s what I’m saying to you today.

However, this “lost” is different from the one I’ve referred to above.

This “lost” is about identifying which activities in your life you get lost in, where all sense of time vanishes when you’re doing them.

What pursuits do you get so caught up in that you forget to even eat, at least until your stomach starts growling at you? Usually it’s things that you’re good at.

We don’t get pleasure from doing things we do poorly.

A masochist might, but most don’t. Things we don’t do well cause us to fumble, stumble, bumble, grumble, sometimes even crumble and usually leave us feeling rather humble after we’ve crumbled. Who needs THAT?

The only bummer is we usually have to try to do some of these things first before we realize we aren’t ever going to be proficient in them…therefore the “fumble” that eventually leads to the “humble.” Humility has its place, it’s just that few of us want to visit that place very often…except, maybe, before God.

So in order to “get lost” we have to first “find” what we are naturally predisposed toward, what our God-given abilities are.

In reverse, discovering or finding our inborn aptitude, talent or bent is essential to finding the capacity to get lost or vanish within it.

Happy vanishings!

 

The tyranny of the “shoulds”

“I should be stronger!” “He should be smarter!” “She should’ve…!” “They shouldn’t….”

I remember being with a small group of women when one of the gals brought up this idea to stop should-ing on your self. I accepted it immediately, recognizing how self-destructive it was.

So I was surprised to find it had crept back into my life, only to be snuffed out again by a great little book I read recently called, “Your Thoughts Create Your World” by Don Steckdaub

Steckdaub, having worked in counseling for over forty years, writes about our Self-Talk Triangle to help us understand how our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are connected. To simplify: (1) Our thoughts create feelings (2) Our feelings dictate our behaviors (3) our behaviors reinforce our thoughts.

Then he talks about three destructive thought patterns…the first being “The Shoulds.” He calls it the “tyranny of the shoulds.” He suggests that when we constantly tell our selves how everything, everybody and even our selves should be, we set our selves up for great emotional pain.

If you think about it, isn’t this a core issue of all relationship problems? If I believe things should, must or have to be my way, that I am right and another is wrong, there will be no peace or happiness.

So if I will realize that my old way of thinking, my old “shoulds,” haven’t brought me joy or happiness, and my desire is to live at peace with others, then to create peace in my own head is the first step. I need to create self-talk messages that bring the feelings I want. Here’s a simple example:

Old Message: My parents shouldn’t have screwed up my life (lots of anger there)!
A Better Message: My parents could’ve done much better, but they probably did the best they knew how (still some judging/judgment going on here).
The Best Message: My parents are God’s kids just like me. I forgive them and release them to their own happiness so I can seek mine (freedom and acceptance).

Steckdaub writes, “Acceptance is the starting point of all forward progress.” When I accept what is, rather than demand what should be, I can move on. Acceptance does not necessarily mean approval. Acceptance means to analyze the situation and to get real about the circumstances as they are. Acceptance is a tool to get realistically focused on the now. Accepting you, me, and the situation exactly as it is frees me to start on the change process.

What shoulds do you want to “quit” for your own sake and the happiness of those around you?

Family is central to most of us. It has always been of primary importance to me.

But what if we don’t have a family that supports our happiness and well being? I say, “Create one.” But I’m not just talking about friendships here.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines family in several ways which include the concepts of household, ancestry or clan, common affiliation or fellowship, groups of things related by common characteristics like soils or chemical compounds, and the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children and/or any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family…like a single-parent family.

When Russ and I were first married his work moved us across the country from our families. Russ and I became our own family but knew we needed a larger one to be happy. So we sought out local church families to see which one might be a “fit” for us.

In all of the many communities we’ve lived in over the years we’ve committed to a church or other “family” that had people and couples with like values to provide mutual support mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially and sometimes even physically…like helping each other move or build something.

When my sister-in-law lost all her possessions in the Oakland Hills firestorm of l991 I believe her “created” family did as much, if not more, to support her recovery than her birth family…and she has always had a good relationship with all of us. It’s just that she’s an athlete and outdoors woman so she lost all of her big-girl toys in the fire, like boots & skis, a kayak, roller blades, a mountain bike, expensive hiking equipment and more. Who helped her replace all these items? Her “play-buddies”…the community, the family, of people who loved doing all those activities with her stepped in…

…people with like values who provided mutual support mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially and sometimes even physically…helping her move and rebuild her life.

Some friends of ours who’ve been lovingly married for fourteen + years recently adopted a family of three children who had been in foster care and whose parents were drug addicts. Why? They both have successful careers and have parents and siblings who love and support them. But something was missing. They are unable to have children of their own and these kids needed caring parents to mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially and physically sustain them. They’re doing a great job of parenting and loving those kids and it’s brought a level of happiness into their life that was missing. The benefits are reciprocal.

It’s always a two-way street where loving family is created and sustained. The benefits are always reciprocated.

Who is the family that supports your happiness and what do you do to continually “create” it?

 

Fear is foolishness. Fear is a liar.  Yet even thought I know this, I get afraid, and I’m not happy when I’m afraid.

I like the acronym for F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real

because when I’m afraid it’s because I’ve believed a lie or have failed to understand the truth behind the lie.

Let me relate this to when I was learning to ride my motorcycle at age 50. I experienced a number of fears associated with it. First, I hadn’t chosen a 295 lb. cruiser. It was a 625 lb. touring bike that I wanted to learn to ride. I knew I had to learn to balance that weight and safely handle the 800cc engine designed to power it.

The fear was that I couldn’t handle that much weight. The fear, and therefore the lie, was the idea that I couldn’t keep it balanced. I could and made sure I did. The truth behind the lie was the fact that when that 625 lb. bike was standing still, if it tipped too far to either side I couldn’t hold it up…and it would go down. I was concerned about, and rightfully afraid of, it going down. Understanding that truth, I became very careful to keep the bike balanced when I’m at a stop and put the kickstand down before I get off it.

To handle the 800cc engine was another fear I had…specifically shifting the gears and handling accelerator effectively to control the speed of the bike. The fear, and therefore the lie, was the idea that I wouldn’t be able to coordinate the left hand clutch and gear shift with the right hand accelerator. The truth behind the lie was the fact that if I didn’t coordinate them correctly I’d lose control of the vehicle and crash. After a little bit of instruction and practice I learned to handle all three together at slow speeds. Logic told me if I could do it at slow speeds I’d eventually be able to do it at higher speeds as well, which I did. I had to be very careful at first in coordinating those controls, but after much practice they’ve become second nature, requiring very little concern

Fear is not a bad thing if I listen to what it’s trying to tell me.
It’s telling me to get the facts.

Once I understand the truth behind the fear that allows me to decide the outcome. Then I can chose to do it or not to do it based on the facts, not on F.E.A.R.  I’m happiest when I’ve got the facts.

How do you see fear?  How do you face your fear?

Ooooo…That sounds like drug culture talk. But I assure you it isn’t what I have in mind. Let me give you an example.

Our bathroom door knob is this slippery-smooth little handle that makes it difficult to open the door…EVERY SINGLE TIME! Can you tell it has annoyed me for a while? During the day I’ve been able to tolerate it, but in the middle of the night when I wake up and gotta pee SO BAD I’ve almost lost it several times…as in “almost screamed” and almost “lost it all over the floor” outside the bathroom!

Both my husband and I have mentioned it to each other any number of times over the last few years but have never made it that important…never made it a PRIORITY.

Well, a few days ago I was “creating” at my desk and heard my husband rattling around in the other room. I was really only vaguely aware of it as I was deeply focused on what I was doing . Later, when my body was screaming for a bathroom break I went to turn the handle to the bathroom and it wasn’t a door-knob anymore! It was a door-lever! ALLELUIA & PRAISE MY HUSBAND!

My whole body, mind and spirit had this total rush of HAPPINESS! I was delighted. He’d fixed it!

So what needs fixed in your life? At that moment I realized I need to fix something, for myself, everyday…as a way of bringing greater happiness into my life.

Fix a little “something”  every day…has that cluttered desk been bothering you? Re-organize it. Tomorrow it might be that spot on the rug, the dirty oven, the plant that needs re-potting  the email that needs to be cleaned out, the fan that needs to be taken apart and cleaned…or maybe a relationship needs some repair.

Fix that something that has bugged you for the umpteenth time!

Just do it…only ONE thing. Make it a priority.

To be happy…give yourself the reward of a daily FIX.

Which happiness “prompts” below do you like best?

Stay inspired

Do things you’re good at

Have a sense of wonder

Don’t isolate

Set goals

Finish what you started

Do a one day news fast

Dance

 Face your fears

Go to a museum

Any decision is better than no decision

Exercise

Limit television

Listen to music

Which happiness “prompts” above strike a chord with you?

Your answers will help me decide which ones to write about in the coming weeks.

One professor my first year at UCLA stated, “If you want to be successful in life you have to be a continuous learner.” I bought into that statement right away because as far back as I could remember I’d been a knowledge junky. I loved research. I loved learning new things.

Several years ago I recall one parent expressing sadness to another about their son’s obsession with mechanical engineering. It made her sad because she knew nothing about mechanical engineering and felt she had nothing to talk about with him any more. The wise friend suggested she show interest and learn everything she could about it so she could happily converse with him again. She took his advice and it worked!

But I’ve had to realize that the key to happiness in this continuous learning game is “no judgments.”

Everyone has to be free to pursue continued learning in whatever area(s) intrigue them and, clearly, it’s not going to be the same for everyone.

For instance, Jason Wu, as an eight year old boy was fascinated by fashion and asked his parents for a sewing machine. Some parents might have squelched that interest but not his…to their merit. They allowed him to keep learning everything he could about sewing and fashion design and the world today is a better place because of it.

Jason was recently in the news as the designer of one of Michelle Obama’s inaugural ball dresses. He also designed one she chose 4 years ago when he was only 26 years old. To design these dresses, for her consideration, he studied multitudes of news clips about her, what she liked to do, and how she moved, in order to design them…successfully. He didn’t stop at understanding fashion design. He went further to learn everything he could about his potential client.

Keep learning…to be happy.

Before I take that step, what is the “right” direction for me? It’s up to me to move in that direction today.

That seems obvious, but I know I’ve been guilty of expecting life to serve me up my dreams on a silver platter…if I just wait long enough.

But I’ve learned I’m happier, and things actually start happening the way I want them to, when I take action…when I take at least one step in that “right” direction everyday.

For example, this was true for me in a small home-based business I worked for 5 years in the ‘90′s. I’d tried these surprisingly great products that made my otherwise rough, aging skin feel as soft and supple as a baby’s. I got them from a home-based business distributor who’d experienced success selling these products so I thought I’d see if I could too.

But I didn’t know how to start.

I was reminded of the question, “How to you eat an elephant?” The answer, of course, is “one bite at a time.” So I decided if I was going to have a successful business I’d have to do it one customer at a time. I figured out an approach that worked for me and committed to doing just one thing to build my business everyday while working part-time for someone else. Some days that “one thing” became five because I was having so much fun. Other days it was everything I could do to just show up for myself and accomplish “one thing”.

Results? Over a period of 5 years, I grew my personal & team sales from $10,000/year to over $100,000/year. To be honest I never made very much money. But the personal growth and self-confidence I gained as an individual were irreplaceable. I was a different person at the end of that journey and this “further developed” person was something I valued higher than that money.

I’d set out to make money promoting something I liked. I made some, but ended up richer in other, more lasting ways.

But I wouldn’t know that today if I hadn’t kept taking those steps in my chosen “right” direction every day for those 5 years.

Only in my head, in my imagination, can my dreams come into existence overnight. In reality it requires putting steady pressure, doing the right things, in the “right” direction over a long period of time for dreams to come true.

My reality is what I make it, so unless I’m busy making it what I want it to be, it won’t ever be.

What step in the “right” direction will you take today…and every today hereafter…to make yourself happy… to bring your dreams into reality?

“Are you listening?”

I knew I’d have a better chance of him hearing me if I didn’t try to talk to him while he was watching TV. But it seemed like that was the only time he sat down long enough so we might talk. That was my lack of maturity.

Early in our relationship I felt like Russ was always willing to talk about things and listen to me.

We were discovering each other so we were totally “tuned in.”

It wasn’t until we had our kids that communication became more strained.

I think this is fairly typical. He had one idea of how things should be done and I had another. Neither of us liked confrontation so we’d “let things go” or just avoid bringing up those issues. As a consequence our willingness to be “present” with each other suffered. It was a difficult time for us.

Eventually I learned to wait until his TV program was over and he figured out he had to listen to me sooner or later…and sooner was better if he wanted any peace. :)  So we worked it out.

In some ways it’s taken years for us to be completely emotionally present with each other.

In some areas we’re still chipping away at it.

Being “in the moment” with another person, giving them your presence, being fully engaged in that moment of their life, is sometimes called “listening.” “Listen to me!” “Pay attention to me!”

We all need someone to “hear” us to be happy.

Are you listening? Give those you love your presence before you concern yourself with what kind of present to get them. Getting presents is still nice, but receiving another’s caring attention, their presence, gives us true happiness.

What has your experience been?

“Piles, piles and more piles…” used to be my husband’s complaint. True confessions here…early in our marriage I would start a project, then get distracted by one of the kids or an event I wanted to participate in, put the project aside and never come back to it.

Then I’d be out and about, see something I’d like to try to make, buy all the pieces, start it, then…ta, da…get distracted again, put the project aside and never come back to it. Thus, the piles.

Looking back, it was a reflection of how scattered I was. I was restless. I didn’t know what I wanted.

I was mistaking “busy” for “productive.”

Whatever looked best at the time is what I’d do. It made me feel productive even though I was just being busy.

That is, until I started asking “What, why and for whom?”

“What do I want from this project, why do I want to do it and for whom am I doing it?” At that point I started looking at each pile and if I had a big enough “what, why and for whom” then I’d take it on and finish it.

Finish it. Wow! That felt good…very satisfying.

Happy, I stopped fooling myself with “busy”.

“Productive” made me much happier.

Results matter.

 

What helps you finish what you started?

 

 

Where do I go to find people I might come to love?

I’ve found the people I now love by going places I love to go and doing things I love to do.

What better way to find other people who value and love the same things I do?

I don’t know about you, but without people to love, I find myself lost. Yet I’ve come to realize that to find people I love isn’t the toughest part of this issue. Keeping people I love is the harder part.

Love that lasts takes a real commitment.

It’s easier to understand why this is so difficult when we see that in Greek, the mother of our language, there are four different words for love: Eros, Storge, Phileo, and Agape.

Eros alludes to physical passion; its gratification and fulfillment.

Storge is the natural bond between a mother and infant, father, children, and kin.

Phileo is affection. It is the delight that comes from being in the presence of another, a warm feeling that comes and goes with intensity.

Agape is the only love that is unconditional.

It is God’s kind of love. For us to Agape we have to continuously seek the welfare and betterment of another regardless of how we feel from time-to-time.

For example, Phileo and Eros attracted my husband, Russ and I, to each other. But Agape is what has enabled us to remain committed to each other in marriage for 35 years.

So the trick is in the keeping. How do we keep those people we love?

For me, when Eros and Phileo were drawing me away from my marriage 28 years ago, Agape saved me.

The best definition of Agape I’ve found is in the Bible, in Paul’s first letter to the people of Corinth in the first century A.D. Paraphrased, he says love is patient in that it has a tolerance for and endures trying situations and persons beyond an average standard.

It is kind, being of a friendly nature, generous, hospitable, warm-hearted, and good. God’s love is charitable and helpful, showing sympathy and understanding for others. It is considerate, forbearing, tolerant, courteous, and thoughtful, desiring only to promote another’s welfare. It is generous, liberal, and beneficial, demonstrating itself in kindly acts.

Love doesn’t envy, and therefore does not resent another’s good fortune or desire to have what is another’s. Agape is not jealous and does not deprive another of what is his.

It doesn’t boast, brag, or abound with self-praise. It is not vain or self-righteous.

It isn’t self-important, arrogant, and haughty or puffed up with pride.

Love does not dishonor others. It does not act, react, function, or perform in a manner which is in bad taste, improper, or in violation of what is right.

Agape seeks not her own, does not demand its own way,

It is not easily provoked, annoyed or incited to anger or resentment, nor keeps a record of wrongs.

God’s love thinks no evil, and is capable of no evil. It neither rejoices in evil doers, nor ponders or enjoys wickedness, but rejoices with the truth.

God’s love bears all things. Agape makes it possible to withstand all stress and difficulty. Because God is love He supports, he carries upon His own Person, whatever is placed upon Him.

Agape puts faith in others, believes the best of everyone (without criticizing or looking for fault).

It persists in hoping, against all odds, in confidence and expectation of fulfillment of that which is promised.

God’s love endures all things, causing one to carry on through, despite hardships.

Agape never fails,

neither proves insufficient in duration nor is unsuccessful in effectiveness. It will never disappoint or prove undependable because God’s love goes on forever and will never come to an end.

I am happy to have found people to love in my life. I’m even happier to have found the strength and grace, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, to Agape them.

As Jesus is quoted as saying,

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

1 John 3:18 NIV.

Find people you love…how to you see it?

“Love”, as a verb, is a decision to act in a certain manner.  For example, when we “love” someone or something it means we treat them or it in a certain way…with mindfulness, carefulness and respect.
Then, when we feel someone’s “love” in action it suddenly becomes a noun…something solid.  Take the sentence, “Don’t you love Love?”  The first “love” is a verb, the second, a noun as a direct object.  The things or feelings that come from acts of love are solid, for example, warmth, gratitude, pleasure, self-acceptance, happiness, joy, peace, ease, contentment….
So, if love, the verb, is an action, that must mean we can choose whom and what we love.  That was a large part of my blog entry last week on how I stopped being a victim of my own heart…by making a choice.
So how does this apply to “Love your work?”  I suppose this could be translated either, “Choose to love your work” or “Choose work you love.”
Most of the work I’ve been paid for, over the years, has been of the first sort,   work that I chose to love. It included a few at-home businesses, work in retail, being an executive assistant and a kitchen designer.   I had to do it to pay bills.  I chose to love it because I don’t like choosing to be miserable.  As a consequence I was able to be at least nominally “happy” in my work.
But the work that I truly love I’ve rarely been paid for…teaching my children, for example, and writing, which I now get paid for with greater frequency than ever, happily.
The goal is to choose work we love, of course.  Then we can do it for hours and it feels like minutes.
To be happy, love your work.  What has your experience been?

Wow, overcoming this “victim” thing was a tough one for me, because I didn’t even realize I was being a victim at the time, a victim of my own heartfelt feelings.

We were at the seven year mark in our marriage, had moved 4 times with my husband’s sales territories and our three children were under age six. Frankly, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself with my husband out-of-town on business 4 days of every week, but believed it was what we had to do to survive.

We’d also lived together long enough for me to start getting disenchanted with what I decided were my husband’s less-that-perfectly-suited-to-me qualities.

I didn’t want out of our marriage; I just wanted “things”- that’s code for “him” – to change.

How did I become a victim of my own heart? My heart was quietly becoming disillusioned with my married love while my mind was busy calling my spouse foul names…not a winning combination, I might add. Feeling like my marriage was in a stalemate, I found my heart drawn to another man’s virtues.

When I realized that my heart’s affections were changing, being drawn toward this other man, I was alarmed. This was not what I wanted.

My heart and my head were not tracking together.

Don’t get me wrong…my whole being was being drawn to this other man. It was very physical. But I knew it wasn’t what was right for me, my husband or our kids. So I never allowed there to be any physical exchange between us.

At that moment, when I decided this wasn’t going to go anywhere, I stopped being a victim to my heart.

Logic gained the lead. I made a decision to follow what I knew to be true, honorable and trustworthy. I decided to stop focusing on what I considered my spouse’s failures and started placing value on his many virtues, not the least of which was how selflessly he loved me and our children and how hard he worked at doing what he thought was right for us.

Yes, he and I had to have some “brass tacks” talks…and confession of my faithless heart hurt him deeply. But he also saw his failings that were driving me away.

So we each took responsibility for our actions that were pushing us toward separation.

We both valued each other and our relationship enough to do the hard work for each other.

So as not to sugar-coat this event, I need to tell you it took two years for my heart to feel unfettered love for my husband again…and I had any number of self-pity-parties during that time too…which is another indicator of how I naturally fell into, and had to overcome, that pattern of playing the victim.

He struggled too, especially with trust, I had hurt him deeply. But we continued during this time to lovingly treat each other with respect, build each other up in ways that we could honestly do so, speak frankly about things that were difficult.

Here’s where I learned how important it is to place greater weight on the facts than on my feelings.

I learned I couldn’t feel my way into a new behavior. If I’d followed my feelings I might have ended up in another man’s bed.

I had to behave my way into a new way of feeling…and stop being the victim.

I learned, the hard way, how to stop being a victim. What are your thoughts on the subject?

Personal pampering was an enigma to me until I was well into my forties.

It’s true. My mother never pampered herself or her daughters. My dad never pampered my mother that I was aware of. My mother did take occasional leisure to lay out in the sun by our pool. Interestingly, I learned to take that respite too and like tanning to this day. That’s the only small treat I remember her allowing herself, that is, until I found her stash of dark chocolate high up in the cupboard one day!

It took a visit from an old high school friend, with my own kids in high school at the time, to show me the true value of pampering. She had come to get away from her alcoholic husband for a while and treated my daughter and I to full body massages at the local spa. It was my first taste of pampering heaven!

A massage, growing up in my stoic German family, was taken only for a healing purpose. The tacit message I got was that it was okay to spend money on healing, but to spend money for pampering was unacceptable.

If people spent their hard-earned money on pampering themselves they were somehow flawed. So God forbid that I should be flawed and pamper myself!

Deep down I think I knew I was missing something because I tried a home-based Amera Nail Care business for a while in my thirties. Then I moved on to an Arbonne Skin Care business in my forties which is when I had that first full-bodied, soul-pleasing experience of pampering bliss.

Since then I’ve also learned to pamper myself…

with a good book…a sit-down-and-have-a-cup-of-tea while reading a bit of something inspirational…do Tai-Chi or Qi-Gong for 30 minutes in the morning to open up my joints and get my circulation going…rub my husband’s feet with lotion in the evening. What??? You ask, how is that pampering yourself? Then he’ll rub mine. :)

Pamper yourself to be happy…what’s your story?

To be happy, I have to be happy with what I have. Otherwise I’m always longing or striving for something “more” or what “others” have, or what the ever-incessant media tells me I need to or should have.

Usually we think in terms of “stuff”, especially during the Christmas season, when it comes to wanting what we have versus getting something new.  But I’m going to look at “myself” instead.

I’m a firm advocate of the statement, “Quit should’n on yourself!” But that doesn’t mean I don’t still do it sometimes. In this case, I’m only 57 years old and think I “should” look younger than I do.

Now, I’ve been graying for years. I’ve actually been very happy with how my hair is graying, presenting distinctive silver sweeps around my temples and forehead in a way that I consider to be strategically attractive. Lucky me!

But my skin is a whole other topic. Most recently, I’ve been observing how age and gravity are winning. Everything is starting to wrinkle or sag. Elasticity? What’s that? Oh, you mean that stuff that stretches and returns to its original shape. I’m sorry to say that only applies to my stretch jeans these days…not my skin very much anymore…especially around my eyes.

Now, I could get depressed about it if I wanted to, but pity-parties have never worked very well for me. They just put me deeper into the dump, yuck! I don’t do well living in the dump.

So what are my choices? Do something about it…that’s always my first inclination. But then when I try something that doesn’t work, then I try something else that only kind of works…then I try once more and my age still shows through…well, then I get depressed about it. But, again, I only let myself be depressed about anything for about 5 -10 minutes max, because I hate even more what it feels like to sludge around in the dump. I have zippo tolerance for it. So, I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes acceptance is the only way to happiness.

In acceptance there is peace…and when I let myself accept and receive peace, it’s amazing how quickly thereafter happiness enters the room.

Want what you have…what’s your story?

 

While living in Phoenix, Arizona, two girlfriends and I co-chaired, through Mountain Park Community Church, the Friends of Guadalupe Outreach. Guadalupe is a Native American and Hispanic community of about 5,500 residents between Phoenix, Tempe and Chandler at the base of South Mountain, just across the I10 freeway from where we lived in Ahwatukee.

Our youngest son, while driving over the bridge with us from Ahwatukee to Guadalupe one day, called it “The Magic Bridge” because it was such a stark difference going from our middle-income yet affluent neighborhood to the dismal dirt streets and clapboard houses on the other side.

There were 10-12 families we worked with the most. Some were elderly, some had 10+ children. We assisted them with food, clothing, basic needs, and even helped them build several neighborhood bathroom/shower facilities because many homes had none.

We would just come alongside them to provide support in whatever was challenging them at the time.

During a particularly difficult time in my own life, I was very down-in-the-mouth and disgruntled, but it was a day I was scheduled to go to the food bank and pick up a large load of food & supplies for our Guadalupe families. We had a large Suburban SUV and it was packed to the gills. I was all by myself and still rather depressed even as I drove into Guadalupe to deliver.

Needless-to-say, by the time I’d made all the deliveries and interacted with our families I was so uplifted. Not only were the adults pleased to be receiving the extra assistance that day but the children always had something they wanted to show me that they were excited about…usually some simple toy or a small success at school. I returned home with a healing joy in my heart from just giving a few hours out of my week to help others.

Helping others….what’s your story?

 

My earliest memories are about nature…an inch-worm on a tree branch outside our house on Long Island, NY…the Dogwood blossoms in our backyard next to the swing set…the leaves on the trees suddenly orange, yellow and red. But last I saw them they were green!

When I was five my parents moved us to La Jolla, CA. I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. I was happiest outside, at the beach, riding my bike, or on horseback.

College took me to UCLA and the pretense of Hollywood. My transfer to UC Davis set my soul free again as I was able to get in touch with nature as experienced in agriculture and through the eyes of my cowboy, soon-to-be husband.

Marriage took me to the Midwest, mostly into agricultural communities. When it was time to move back home to California, 12 years and 3 kids later, we were leaving North Platte, NE where I had a large vegetable and flower garden, big trees in our double-lot backyard and lots of trips into the countryside nearby. Moving back to California meant we’d be closer to family again so the kids could know their grandparents and cousins better. We were ready.

Moving into the San Bernardino area with all its smog during the summer months, I didn’t realize how quickly I would get separated from nature. I actually tried to guard against losing that connection by going up to the top of Mt. Baldy, nearby, with the kids as often as possible.

But life has a way of crowding out what is most important to us if we don’t guard it with our steady focus and determination. I became like that frog who hops into a pot of water, not realizing it’s on a hot stove. You start out in cool water and think you’re fine. You don’t even notice the water heating up until your cooked!

That’s what happened to me. I was cooked before I knew it. Life just wasn’t the same. I found myself struggling against a bad attitude all the time and was literally living in a soul-numbing haze. I didn’t realize how cooked I was until we took a family trip north into Sequoia National Park.

As we came up out of the valley and started to be surrounded by pine trees, we decided to stop at one of the view points. When I walked down the path away from the parking area an awe-inspiring panorama of the mountains opened up to me. I guess I wasn’t fully cooked yet because a deep sob rose up from the depths of my being and I wept. Those tears healed me. My tormented soul was set free by the splendor of nature.

To be happy, get in touch with nature….what’s your story?

When something is bugging me, seeking out a new perspective has always been a challenge for me. I’m best at just letting things rattle around in my head…then I’ll chew on them for a while deciding whether to spit them out or actually swallow! Some of the ideas I consume agree with me which makes me truly happy! But some of the stuff I gulp down gives me awful heart burn and indigestion.

It took me years to figure out I didn’t have to just keep my own counsel. There is a reason why Solomon is quoted as saying, “There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors.” Outside perspective can help us sort stuff out.

More recently many perspectives have become available to us on the internet. If you’re willing to do a little research there is a wealth of viewpoints available there on every possible subject. But a word of caution: just because someone’s written it down (including what I write) doesn’t mean it’s the “truth” or what’s best for you.

Having trusted friends who know me, and who have different strengths in various areas, has proven to be a great resource for me to draw from…has provided a wealth of perspective for me. If it’s a financial issue that’s stealing my happiness I’ve learned to seek counsel from someone who has accomplished the financial stability I’m seeking. The same principle applies whether the issue is my parenting, my mental or emotional or spiritual health, my physical health and fitness, or professional success.

For the longest time, sadly, the most difficult person for me to approach was my life partner, my husband. I finally figured out he thought I was coming to him because I wanted him to “fix it”. So if I rejected his “fix” it really upset him and he’d ask why I even bothered to talk to him in the first place. It wasn’t until I began our conversations with, “I’m not looking for an answer here, I’d just like to hear your perspective,” that I really came to appreciate his counsel. He is truly one of the people who knows me best and his perception as an observer helps me step back and see things I wouldn’t see otherwise. I’ve come to respect and value his point of view very highly over the years.

So, to make decisions that bring happiness into my life, especially decisions that might bring substantial change, I’ve found it best if I seek out the perspective of others I respect before I act.

“The buck stops here,” so it is said. Whenever we make a decision…and we make so many every day…metaphorically we have to “swallow it” and will have to live with the consequences…possible indigestion, tummy gurgles, farts and all.

So, consider seeking out another’s perspective.

Finding a new perspective…what’s your story?

 

For some years when we lived in North Platte, Nebraska, I had a Sissy Spacek quote cut-out & posted on my refrigerator.  It said something like, “I’m happiest when I follow my heart.  But my head is never far behind.”  Obviously that rang true for me or I wouldn’t have cut it out & posted it as a reminder to myself.

When I was younger I remember a book called “Hinds Feet in High Places” by Hannah Hurnard.  The title comes from the Bible, a verse in the book of Habakkuk which states, “The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.”  A Hind is a high mountain deer whose back hooves track perfectly with its front hooves allowing it to be sure-footed in even the most difficult terrain.

I don’t remember if it was from that book or some other teaching, but it was suggested to me that when our heart and our mind are tracking together we can be confident that we will be “sure-footed” in our efforts, like hind’s feet in high places.

One of the most dramatic examples from my life was when Russ and I talked intellectually about having children.  We spoke of it as happening “in five years or so” after we married.  I thought that was where my heart was also until my period showed up, as it did every 28 days, about ¾ of the way through our first year of marriage…and I was disappointed.  Hmmmm.  I dismissed it very quickly at the time.

When my mense showed up again, 28 days later, I was disappointed again…at which point I said to myself, “Okay, this isn’t just a passing thing.  Let’s look at this a little closer.”  To make a longer story shorter, Russ and I talked about it and 28 days later I was pregnant with our first child.  Wow, talk about, “I’m happiest when I follow my heart.  But my head is never far behind.”  I was ecstatic!
So whether considering my thoughts or listening to my heart, I’ve always been happiest when I check them against each other and the two are in agreement.

 

Follow your heart…..what’s your story?

How? In my pajamas? In my underwear? Okay, okay…I promise to dress to fit the occasion.

For whom?If not for my self, it had best be for someone it makes me happy to show up for. I love showing up for family, friends and people with similar interests.

When? There are only three options here: late, early or on-time. “Late” makes me frazzled & unhappy. I also realized being late sometimes was me saying, “Clearly, you aren’t that big a priority to me” or “I planned poorly” or “My life & time is more important than yours”…all of which show a lack of respect for you. When I realized those things I decided I didn’t want to be that kind of person. “On-time” works great, but I’ve found being early actually makes me happier. It gives me time to reflect before we meet and helps me feel relaxed when we do.

Where?

Where I want good things to happen.

For me, that means I want to show up wherever I need to be for my dreams & desires to have their best chance of fulfillment…dreams for my marriage, my family, my work. For instance, my dreams to be published weren’t fulfilled until I showed up at my desk at the appointed time to write. I actually blocked out two-hour appointments on my calendar three days a week and showed up ready to write. I also had to show up at my Writer’s Critique Groups to see ways to improve, even though I was a bit scared and nervous the first few times. Then I started to show up at Writer’s meetings & conferences to gain a better understanding of today’s marketplace, talk to published writers and publishers themselves.

Why?

Because, even though it makes me a bit uncomfortable at times to do so, without that risk of putting myself out there, without showing up, there’s no possibility of reward.

For what? Only for what I value. My presence is my vote. I’ve come to realize my presence can lend power and purpose to an event. But only when I’m emotionally and intellectually engaged do I exude any noticeable presence there…i.e. really show up…and then when I walk away I can truly be happy that’s where I spent my time.

“Show Up” to be happy…what’s your story?

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