Tag Archives: life is so good

True Confessions

I’m a mom.  Mom’s have a way of becoming somewhat psychotic or at least neurotic when it comes to defending and protecting their children.  I am no exception.  I remember when my eldest son Alex was about 3 years old and I dropped him off at the play yard of his preschool.  A couple of 4 year olds came along and wanted to take a little tricycle away from him.  I had to hold myself back to keep from wanting to beat up his 4 year old school mates.

Fast forward to today where I’ve reached a supposed level of maturity, which I have actually but not always when it comes to my kids.  Recently there was a situation involving my younger son Andrew.  I felt like he wasn’t getting the kind of recognition I felt, or rather I KNEW he deserved.  I found myself behaving in a less than attractive way uttering unfortunate descriptions of his competition.  Even while I was doing it, I knew it felt wrong, but I let the criticism roll off my tongue.  At least I had the good sense to do it mostly in private.

And then I went back to reading Cheryl Strayed’s book “Dear Sugar: Advice on love and life”.  While I don’t agree with every single piece of the book, I found it to be generally lovely.  Strayed is a wonderful writer, an old soul and is a human being with more compassion in her bones then should be allowed.  I stumbled upon the following passage that had nothing to do with protecting your kids or permission to be a momma bear.  But here it is:

“When I feel jealous, I tell myself to stop feeling jealous and to stop being a jealous person.  The cure for feeling jealous is to stop being a jealous person.”

Profound rocket science right?  It is incredibly simple, and yet the key is not to simply utter magic words and the behavior stops.  It means to ACTUALLY CHANGE the behavior and then the feelings will stop because there is no behavior for them to take root within.

When I thought about what I was really feeling, I was behaving in my own child (me as a little person- not Andrew) voice.  I was feeling the many times that I didn’t win the prize or get picked for the team.  And by projecting that on to Andrew in that moment, I wasn’t thinking about teaching him that he could not win the prize and still be okay.  More importantly, I wasn’t thinking about how many times I DID win the prize, and did get picked by the team and someone else did not.  I don’t recall times when I got picked and I started feeling how unfair it was that someone else did not.

This realization allowed me to realize that to stop feeling jealous, I needed to stop looking at what the other kids had done or not done.  I needed to consider that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  To not win doesn’t mean that you are a loser.  It simply means you didn’t win this time.  To stop being a jealous person, I needed to focus on Andrew’s many accomplishments and to realize the joy that those bring to both him and me.  With that in mind, it’s hard to behave in a jealous way, because there is nothing to be jealous about.  Jealousy is not a flattering emotion on anyone.  It speaks to a sense of lack, which is a condition created entirely from within rather than externally.

Our little selves are alive and well inside all of us.  We want them to be because they contain many wonderful memories, vulnerabilities, innocence and raw emotion.  But those parts of our selves also need to be parented by our more mature and wise self.  They need to be protected and treated with compassion and they do not like to have their left over wounds ignored or pushed away by our adult parts.

Any time we find ourselves operating in an irrational or overly emotional way, I believe it is our child self that just took the driver’s seat.  Rarely does this prove to be a good strategy. 

Life in the fishbowl

I read what was for me, a rather moving book last week.  Though, as much as I loved it, I recommend it with quite a bit of trepidation.  I listened to the book on Audible and I must say until the last two hours, it was pretty dull.  There was a lot of philosophical rambling.  I nearly quit, but I held on and I was well rewarded by the gems contained within.  I don’t know how well these will come through without the context of the book, and I have to be somewhat cryptic in order to not spoil the story in the event you might wish to read it for yourself.  The book is titled “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”.

There are two concepts that I want to share here that do not give away the story.  The first is the idea of the fishbowl.  This theory is put forward by 12 year old Paloma, an intellectually gifted French girl who lives with her family.  At the start of the story, Paloma is working out her plan to commit suicide on her 13th birthday.  As an intelligent child, she deduces that life is nothing more than the struggle to fulfill a great lie that our parents have thrust upon us and therefore, not worth the effort once you know the truth:

“Apparently now and again adults take the time to sit down and contemplate what a disaster their life is.  They complain without understanding and, like flies constantly banging against the same old windowpane, they buzz around, suffer, waste away, get depressed then wonder how they got caught up in this spiral that is taking them where they don’t want to go…And yet there’s nothing to understand… “Life has no meaning and we grown-ups know what is” is the universal lie that everyone is supposed to believe.  Once you become an adult and you realize that’s not true, it’s too late…. People aim for the stars, and they end up like a goldfish in a bowl”.

Thus, her planning suicide is to suck out what few joyful moments might lie ahead and then save herself the agony of ending up in the fishbowl.

The second thread I want to share is something that Paloma learns at the end of the book.  While we all use the word “never” quite freely, it is something that none of us truly understands until we are faced with a condition in which we experience no ability to transcend a limit regardless of our means and abilities.  A real never occurs when the illusion of our control is shattered beyond repair. Everything becomes clearly defined without the fantasy of “if only or when this, then that”.

The irony however, is that in the midst of Paloma’s “never” experience (I must be vague here to keep from spoiling the book), she experiences a moment in which time as she knows it to be in its linear form gets “interrupted” for lack of a better word.  In her words:

“I have concluded, maybe that’s what life is about:  there’s a lot of despair, but also the odd moment of beauty, where time is no longer the same.  It’s as if those strains of music created a sort of interlude in time, something suspended, an elsewhere that has come to us, an always within never”.

In short, life is filled with so much beyond our control.  The idea that we can and should do X Y and Z and we will be guaranteed the magic answer and life without sorrow, is in fact a lie perpetuated upon us by our parents and our culture.  Most of all it is perpetuated by our childlike naiveté and wish to have a perfect life with a happy ending.

Paloma begins with the understanding that the wish is a lie and attempts to resolve it by quitting the game.  Despite her advanced intelligence, her immaturity and surroundings prevents her from knowing that there is an alternative to both wrestling to live the lie or dying to avoid trying.

That alternative is also known as life.  But it is life that willingly accepts our limitations without shame, fear, denial and insistence that we and others transcend them.  It is life that is open to the moments of beauty that allow us to step out of the Never of time for brief moments and to allow those moments to nourish us and hold us until the next one comes along and to let them go as naturally as they came to us.  It is life that sees its end, not as a failing to hold on and thus succumbing to the fishbowl, but rather the transformation from this existence into something else, even if that something else cannot be definitively determined by the human mind.  And most of all to be open to those moments of beauty in a variety of forms rather than to predetermine allowable examples conjured up by our own ego.

 

 

It started with a penny and turned into a fortune of wealth

 

I met my husband through a personal ad.  Yep,  honest.  Our first face to face meeting was at the St. Louis Science Center.  We met there to watch the movie Everest at the OmniMax.

After enjoying the movie,we walked around a bit and talked.  Okay okay, since it was 17 years ago this month, I can say we walked around and began the process of falling in love.  But while we were there Ben walked over to the squished penny machine and purchased a commemorative Penny.  (Big spender right?).

The next smashed penny we purchased together was at our wedding in Sedona, Arizona.  He made me close my eyes and he guided me over to the machine that he had previously spied.  And since that time we have made a habit of getting a smashed penny on pretty much every adventure.    I don’t know how much money we have spent on smashed penny’s as each one costs .51 cents.  But it’s  been a very wise investment.  Each serves as a reminder not only of the event where we make the purchase, but of the way it all started.  The way building our fortune began.

So let me tell you about our fortune.  Shortly after I had our first son, I was ambivalent about going back to work.  I was concerned that it would be problematic financially if I stayed off for an extended period.  Ben told me at that time in response to my worrying “Mary, we are the wealthiest people I know.”  He was referring of course, to the immense joy that had just come into our lives- a healthy beautiful baby.  We were both healthy, we had a roof over our heads and not much to complain about.  He was right.

Our fortune has continued to grow- both with our second son, and our lives in general.  We have relationships we value, the opportunity to laugh often, and Ben and I are both lucky enough to have work that we both feel passionate about.  Are we lucky?  Sure we are.  And we work at it; somedays more than others.  But more than the presence of any of these gifts, or the absence of any significant tragedy, is the presence of an attitude we both work towards embracing as often as we can.

Whatever is or isn’t we have control only over that, which we think and conclude about, what is and isn’t in our lives.  Every event that occurs is subject to interpretation.  You can feel victimized by events or blessed by them.  It’s always a choice.

Easy to do when the good stuff is happening.  Harder to do when its not.  But growth occurs in BOTH circumstances, and again, good and bad are relative terms, often arbitrarily determined by our own personal filters.  Bad is determined by “I’m not getting things to happen the way I want them to”.  But when we let go of insisting that life result in very precise circumstances as we deem appropriate, we position ourselves to just open up to whatever life actually is.  By removing the pre-determined outcome, we need not be thwarted because something didn’t turn out the way we planned.

This post is redundant if you’ve been reading for a while.  It’s not that I don’t have other things to write about, but rather this is an idea that I feel we all need frequent reminding.  The world is bombarding us minute by minute with the opposite message and so this one is easy to ignore.  Unfortunately, doing so results in our ignoring the tools for creating our own contentment.

I don’t always like Ben and he doesn’t always like me.  The house is often messy, something breaks, I lose my keys.  The kids fight with each other and skip out on their homework.  I don’t think anyone wants to make a reality TV show about us.  We aren’t that interesting.  That said, we are still, as Ben declared “The wealthiest people we know” and it began with one penny.

The City of Lights

The City of Lights

We are a couple of weeks past the tragic attacks on Paris.  Hopefully, those affected more personally have begun the process of healing.  The word process should be emphasized, because it is fact that and not as many expect, an event.  Grief, like many other life circumstances ebbs and flows through many changes and takes time.

Paris is often referred to as the City of Lights.  I would like to take liberty with that title by highlighting one of the stories I heard among those involved, because I believe they shine on the potential of a brighter existence for all of us.

Hélène Muyal-Leiris, left her husband of 12 years and their 17month old son, Melvil to attend a rock concert on Friday evening.  Instead of returning to their lives, she along with 128 other innocent victims lost their life in the massacre.  Upon learning the news, her husband Antoine offered the following powerful message to those responsible for his wife’s death:

“I will not give you the gift of hate.”

Leiris went on to interpret his understanding of the ignorance that leads to such violence, as well as, the limits of which, despite his grief, he will allow this to impact him and his son.  When referring to his child’s future he added “He is only 17 months old, he will eat his afternoon tea as always and then we will go and play as always, and this little boy’s entire life will be an affront to you by being happy and free. For he will not hate you either.”

I am in awe of this truly remarkable posture.  I often write about the accepting the freedom of personal choice in how we respond to what comes towards us in life.  This example is one of the best examples I have seen of application.  Leiris could choose to remain bitter, angry, devastated or immobilized by what has occurred.  Who would judge him harshly for choosing any response?  But instead, he opted to respect his grief, while also honoring the magnitude of love he felt for his wife.   He achieved this by choosing not to tarnish his or his son’s love by being forced into other feelings dictated by the actions of others.

There won’t likely be follow up stories to let us know in 5 or 10 years of this man or his son succumbed to depression, drugs and alcohol or a life of crime of their own.  But I have to hope that his gift of love will touch many people, who will in turn use it as motivation to choose in kind.  I hope that his current posture emerges from a spirit within him that looks towards the good in the world and that as a result; he has surrounded himself with like- minded people who will continue to support him through the days and years which lie ahead.

I often hear people say they can’t choose their feelings.  I’m not sure I agree.  I believe that circumstances appear to us and then we create a story around those circumstances.  How we build the story is predicated on our individual circumstances, both historically and in the present.  Sometimes this information is in consciousness and sometimes not.  But the story we tell is inevitably powerful, because it is the fuel that ignites our feelings.  Thus, while we may not be conscious of choosing our story, we are nonetheless its author.  Even if someone else originated the story, when we reinforce it by retelling it to ourselves, it becomes ours.

The good news is that all of our stories are subject to revision as we acquire new information.  We don’t have to stop editing until we take our final breath.  If you are not comfortable with the feelings generated by your plot lines, you have every right to change them.  I hope you will choose those which allow you to shine at your brightest.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving

Thankful

This is the time of year that we are reminded to be thankful; to count our blessings.  I rarely look at Facebook, but I suspect if I did, or if you have, we would see lists of people posting that for which they are thankful.

For the most part, I’m going to save you from having to read my list.  But as I think about this task for myself, I am reminded of something from the movie American Beauty.  If I remember it correctly, this passage, uttered by Kevin Spacey, is from the final scene of the movie:

 

It’s hard to stay mad when

There is so much beauty in the world.

Sometimes I feel like

I’m seeing it all at once and it’s too much

My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst

And then I remember to relax and stop trying to hold onto it and then it flows through me like rain.

And I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid life.

 

I think perhaps the reason that Gratitude lists get annoying is that most of us treat them like an activity or a single step in the pursuit of how to be happy.   It’s something we sometimes remember to do and sometimes not.  Or, we do it, and then we check it off as done.  Perhaps it might be more useful to think of Gratitude as a philosophy- a lens with which we look at the whole of our lives.  I think that is the intellectual understanding that many of us believe we are utilizing when we make our “lists”. We use our line items to verify the philosophy is intact.  But to truly operate from a stance of gratitude is to realize that it’s all a gift.  That which brings us joy and that which brings us pain is a gift.  The ability to feel all emotion, from sadness to grief, is a gift.  The opportunity to have and to lose is a gift.  The very act of being right here at this moment, no matter how wonderful or dismal, is worthy of gratitude.

It’s hard to feel grateful when the house is a mess and no will help clean it up.  It’s hard to feel grateful when your car breaks or the dog runs away, you get cut off in traffic or you catch yet another cold and feel miserable.  But if one is operating from a philosophy of gratitude, there is less temptation to separate single events into categories of good and bad.

One definition of gratitude is appreciation.  Appreciation is further defined as having a full knowledge and awareness of someone or something.  Often our inability to feel appreciation comes from a limited knowledge of someone or something.  We see only what we see in context to us and what we want in this moment, rather than a more comprehensive picture.  For example, the messy house is viewed by the number of toys on the floor and causes frustration.  But to see that the same house provides a safe shelter where our family can grow is a larger picture with more information, and thus more easily appreciated.  The broken down car is one view, but knowing that one has a job that can manage repair costs, provides for opportunities to consider a more grateful conclusion.

It’s curious that the word gratitude and great attitude sound so similar.  They also have in common the quality of choice.  In the end, there are no prizes for being grateful enough.  But there are rewards.

I began this post by saying I would mostly save you from my list.  But I am going to give you one item from my list.  I am grateful for your patronage, for your time in reading my posts, your encouragement and feedback that helps to keep this blog alive, despite its sometimes rushed, typo filled, over comma’d and under proofread existence.  Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Happy Hallowthankmas

Happy Hallowthankmas

This weekend is Halloween.  And the next day begins the official time where it’s legitimate to start the barrage of holiday ad campaigns.  That’s not to say that others haven’t already intruded into the not really legitimate time to begin because they have.

Come Saturday night doorbells will be rung by ghosts and goblins scarfing up as much candy as they can carry.  They will take home whatever doesn’t get eaten along their route.  Tired, and wired they will drift to sleep and awaken to parents who realize that it’s November and game day is in sight.  Short sight of only 7 ½ weeks and a mere five weeks for my Jewish friends.  Thanksgiving is just a means to an end; a kind of speedbump on the route to holiday shopping.  And with more stores opening on Thanksgiving Day, it’s not a very big speed bump anymore.

Maybe you are one of the wise men who have already done your shopping.  I doubt this makes you immune to the hustle and bustle which lies ahead.  There are outfits to buy, decorating to compete, parties to attend and a whole host of other unplanned for activities including family dynamics to wrestle with.  ‘Tis the season.

I’d like to propose an idea for you (and me) to think about this year.  I’ve noticed in the past that when I try to plan better I don’t get particularly great results.  For example, if I buy my kids gifts early, I usually end up buying a lot more because as the time grows close, their list gets longer.  I feel compelled to get the thing they now know they “really want” in addition to the things I thought they wanted back in August.   If I plan out my schedule, it often doesn’t include all of the spontaneous things that pop up. But there is also an element in my traditional approach to planning the holidays that contains the inherent quality of building expectations that will ultimately yield disappointment when they, are inevitably, unfulfilled.  I might picture in my head the perfectly decorated house because I’ve planned it.  Only to find that the light bulbs for the tree need replacing once it’s all done and putting new ones on after the fact doesn’t give me the look I had imagined.  Or the gravy turns out lumpy.

So my proposal is simply this.  Use this week before the insanity sits in to take a few moments and think about what you want the holidays to mean to you and how you want them to feel.  Write out a different kind of holiday list this year.  Here is an excerpt from mine.

I want to watch a great movie or two with my family over our time off.

I want to spend at least one lazy morning sleeping in and hanging out with my (3) boys in our pajamas.

I want to look at some old photographs from holidays past with them and share stories about their childhood and reflect on how much they have grown.

I want to try and focus more on remembering to be aware of the millions of things I already have to be grateful for, instead of looking towards what I don’t yet have in my life.  I especially want to try and practice this when I want to purchase things.

I want to celebrate that this is the time of year when I met my husband and started down this path of the life I so love.

My list doesn’t include shoes, or jewelry, or even a new toaster.

My list is still in progress.  What I want may be very different than the things you want and I encourage you to make your list a true reflection of your wishes.

So before your dreams of ghosts and goblins turn into sugarplums and fairies, take a little time out while time is still available.  Unplug from the cultural madness that is ready to pounce upon you and armor up with thoughts of a life designed by you rather than a marketing agency.

I’d love to hear some excerpts from your lists.

 

 

 

Time savers

My son asked me today what blood is made of.   Of course, I didn’t know the answer so I did what I always do.  I went to consult the great wizard known as google.   In case you’re curious, the answer is plasma, red and white blood cells, and platelets.  But as I went to find the answer, I thought about how if I had needed to know that answer when I was a kid, I would have had to get someone to take me to the library so I could consult an encyclopedia.  Boy, have times changed, and it’s amazing how many time saving tools we have available today.  These gifts are not just limited to information gathering.  We have modernized and improved every aspect of our world right?

So that got me thinking about the things I now have available to make my world improved.

After I got divorced I lived in a 560 sq. ft. apartment.  Now I live in a 4K plus sq. ft. home.  Of course it used to take me about 45 minutes to clean what now takes about 4 hours to achieve.  But I have a lot of sweepers, cloths and specialty products to make it “easier and faster”.  And each of those gadgets needs batteries or filters or bags that must be replaced from time to time but…

Transportation.  I can’t imagine how people used to get around in a horse and buggy, much less on foot.  Obviously they didn’t travel often or very far.  But we are so lucky because we have jets to go around the world if we choose.  On a smaller scale I have a car that will take me anywhere very quickly.  Now that is a huge time saver over walking to the grocery store.  The interesting twist though is that I seem to spend a LOT of time in the car.  I pick up kids; drop off kids, tote kids to and fro a variety of places.  I pick up food, dry cleaning, household items.  I make a lot of trips to Starbucks.  I drop off a prescription at Walgreens and then go back to Walgreens.  All because I can.  I have a car to save me effort and time.  It just seems to use a lot of that time.

Communication.

It must have been astounding when the Pony Express began delivering mail.  People who had been cut off from loved ones and even substantial news information now finally had a systematic way of being able to communicate from afar.  My maternal grandfather came to America and wrote letters to his future wife to keep her abreast of his plans for their ultimate reunion.  It must have been grueling for her to wait for his words to finally reach her.

In contrast, I can communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world instantaneously with only a click of my mouse.  Sometimes, I have to wait a few hours because of the time zone differences, as someone in Russia may be sleeping when I send my email, but that is about the limit to my hardship.  Since I no longer have to spend time waiting for replies, I can often make plans or decisions much more timely.  However, I have begun trying to reduce the amount of email I receive because I get overwhelmed by the abundance.  I find myself becoming slower on replies, to even important requests because, there is often more in my inbox that requires my attention than there is attention I have available.

Food

My kitchen is well stocked with pots, pans and utensils for faster and improved baking and cooking.  I also have no shortage of gadgets that I’ve never used.  These are for foods I was going to make, but haven’t had time for.  Mostly these days we eat a lot of take out.  That of course, is why it’s so great that I have the car I mentioned above to help me save time.

Personal care-

Boy I shouldn’t even start on this one.  There are 3 products for my hair and an anti-frizz towel, two different contacts, glasses, hearing aids that require frequent batteries.  I have products for softer feet, smoother skin.  I own anti- wrinkling cream and I don’t even wear makeup.  That would require another whole bathroom vanity.  The current one is filled with mouthwash, toothpaste, a rechargeable toothbrush and charger, a water pick.  It also has a magnifying mirror, hair dryer, assorted tweezers, and nail files and…

So all of this is to say that life is what life is.  We can try and “solve” problems, streamline and minimize efforts and there is nothing “wrong” with that approach.  The problem comes in with philosophy of solving or rather illusions of solving.  Some things simply can’t or don’t need to be solved and its okay to live with them the way they are.  Often our efforts to “simplify” a process results in a far more complex system of maintenance our “solving tools”.  Another approach is in learning to let some things go.  There are some areas of life that can’t be made simpler.  They are difficult and we may need to accept that the effort required to have them in our world is significant.  It’s okay if we choose those things, but we have to become willing to let something else go to achieve a balance in the amount of energy required.  In other words, we can’t give 100% to two tasks simultaneously.  The math just doesn’t work.  I know this, because I looked the answer up on google when I couldn’t find one of my three calculators that purchased.

 

 

 

how will you Fall

This is an excerpt from the lyrics of “bring him home” from Les Miserables:

The summers die One by one How soon they fly On and on

I heard this the other day and it seems appropriate for this week’s blog. The kids are back in school (although one could doubt that if you note the plethora of TV commercials advocating the purchase of supplies). The pool is closing and college football begins this weekend. All that remains missing is, a nip in the air to set the tone. But even with the anticipated heat this week, it is undeniable that summer 2015 is ready for the memory book.

How did you spend it? Will you remember anything that stands out positively or negatively or will it blur into the stream of “summer memories” that meld into one vague feeling?

If the latter is true, then this is the perfect opportunity to think about welcoming in fall and the holidays ahead. Why not consider doing so with your eyes wide open and your heart ready to experience the days ahead, rather than to endure or conquer them with a checkmark of completion.

Digital cameras have become so prolific that we often take a million images never to look at them again. I’ve been guilty of hoping a photo will save the memory for me instead of taking the time to actually enjoy the experience in the moment. Try going on a family or personal adventure without taking photos. Consider instead imprinting the memory in your mind. Gather all the surrounding stimulus, sights, sound and smells to help cement a vivid film for future retrieval.

Make it a goal to try something outside your normal activities. Break a routine, check out a new path or route. You might consider taking on a new hobby or more importantly, ending some old practices that no longer serve you, but instead nibble away at all of your time. Facebook anyone? Last week a blog reader commented on the time wasted on funny cat videos. A few days later I caught myself watching a loop of something stupid, remembered his comment and immediately stopped myself. Thank you!

Another suggestion is to think about the company you keep. Are you spending the bulk of your time with the people you would most like to have in your life?  The people that you say are important to you? If not, what is keeping you from that fulfillment? Work, play? Other people? This is a great time to take inventory and reflect.

And last, but not least, is your health, or lack thereof, preventing you from truly enjoying your life at this time? Physically or mentally are you either disconnected from your body or your needs that you remain numb, or overwhelmed to the extent that it preoccupies your every waking thought? This would be a great time to awaken to the life that is yours and begin with one single step at a time to make changes towards greater fulfillment.

Here are two more line from the song that I’d like to share. They follow those listed in my opening:

And I am old And will be gone

So before you are, consider putting forth the effort so you will not only know you were here, but will have enjoyed the ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Damn I broke a nail and other impending life challenges

Regrettably, many of my conversations begin with the words “I saw this on Pinterest”, but here I go again. Recently, I saw a meme satirizing our “First world problems”. Some pinners have entire boards devoted to these. Here are five that I saw:

 

  1. I have more clothes than I have clothes hangers
  2. The phone rang in the middle of my song
  3. My laptop is dying and the charger is in another room
  4. I had to get a new phone and lost all of my Angry birds progress
  5. I ordered a Coke and the waitress asked me if Pepsi would be okay

 

But if you’re not a Pinterest addict (and hopefully you aren’t), I’m going to share with you five of my own that I have said (probably more than once).

  1. The air conditioner isn’t keeping the house cool enough on these hot days
  2. I spent a lot of my summer driving my son to camp
  3. I forgot to pick up dog treats when I went to Walmart and will have to make another trip
  4. I have too many bathrooms to clean
  5. The backup camera on my car isn’t working properly

Now, in my defense, it is HOT in St. Louis and it’s muggy as all get out right now. But there are people in far more physically demanding circumstances from Africa to those living homeless on the streets not all that far from where I live. These folks would never waste energy to think about any air conditioning, much less its efficacy.

Don’t I deserve your pity for 1) having a son (that I was fortunate enough to get pregnant with at age 43), a son that has the ability to have a talent of cello playing, to have the funds to send him to camp and the reliable transportation to get him there. Not to mention a job with the flexibility to take him to and fro. The unfairness of it all.

On a trip to the Bahamas earlier this year our guide mentioned some astronomical number that I’ve since chosen to repress that represents the number of stray dogs that roam in Nassau. There isn’t enough money for the people to have treats, much less the dogs. And while I’m pretty sure they have a Walmart, I doubt dog treats are a big seller.

Okay few people like cleaning bathrooms and I’m on the top of that list. But again, my house is too big? I imagine there are at least a handful of people in the world (including many who still use outdoor plumbing) who might enjoy having a bathroom to clean.

And the final tragedy I’ve listed in my life is the backup camera. I especially like this one because I’ve had my car with a backup camera for all of three out of my 55 years. And while I would like to enjoy the benefit of that for which I’ve paid, I think I can still remember how to back up the car without a camera if I put in just a little effort.

I suspect I’ve said enough to make the point of this blog clear, but just in case it’s simply this: We spend a lot of our energy on “problems” that in fact are not. Yes, they may be things that require a little more time than we might have planned, but they are simply tasks to knock off in a sub-list on the main list called life. They don’t need to be announced, grieved, overwhelmed by and certainly not immobilized by. Everybody else has theirs and they go on about the day of getting them done and many people find a way to do so without complaint, because they realize they have a choice to feel content and satisfied or depressed and deprived. They live by the motto espoused by the great philosopher, Larry the Cable Guy: ‘Git R done!”

The good news is that our brains are malleable and with a little practice, we can change the pathways or ruts we often get into and build new circuitry formed on a more positive outlook.  The practice helps to make this thought process more natural as our “go to “position. I’m not suggesting that I or anyone simply ignore frustrations, but rather that we keep them in perspective that they may not be as big as we sometimes make them out to be.

 

 

Break out the sparklers

It’s been such an odd weather year in St. Louis (and elsewhere), that it hardly seems that summer has begun. Yet, the fourth of July is nearly upon us. Hopefully the rain will enable a few safe celebrations ahead with family and friends for all.

The fourth of July is a time to celebrate the freedom in our country. The freedom that so many of us, myself first on the list, often take for granted.

We are a free nation. And while fifty percent of us disagree with whoever is in political office, we are still free to exercise our voice. I met a young woman from Bulgaria over the weekend who told me she had yearned to attend the camp she and my son were enjoying this year, but had not been able to obtain a visa for the two years prior. To send my son Andrew, all I had to do was write a check.

To camp or not camp is hardly worth dying for. But it is one of the many decisions, from how to educate our children to whether we can or will own property which, we have the right to decide, primarily because someone did die for our choice. Take an extra moment this weekend to thank those who have served and continue to serve for us.

There are many organizations that send cards to active service men. Others that send care packages to troops. These are easily accessible, and help let service men and women know that someone is thinking about them.  Consider passing out small gift cards, even in 5.00 increments at the airport or restaurants to those you see in uniform. At very least, openly express your thanks. Each time I do this (which is not often enough); I’m met with enormous gratitude. It should be the other way around. Whether or not you agree with wars we fight, it is always appropriate to appreciate those who are putting their lives on the line. They are the ones making a sacrifice to fulfill decisions made by the politicians you may or may not agree with.

And how about internal freedom? Are you living a life free to enjoy who and what is around you? Or have you bound yourself by arbitrary rules that keep you confined to a routine, a rut, an outdated self- perception of yourself? Worse still, are you condemned by an outdated perception that you believe someone else decided for you?

How about lighting a sparkler or two this year and taking a moment to celebrate with gratitude the life that is yours? Even if you are not living exactly as you hope to at this moment, consider gratitude for the fact that you have the option to hope, dream and make changes to get you to where you would like to be. Happy Independence Day.

 

 

Reflections from a theme park part 2

Reflections from a theme park part 2:

Last week I discussed looking at amusement parks as a metaphor of life. That entry dealt primarily with the idea that we spend most of life in the “waiting, anticipation” phase working towards the much shorter time of “pleasant experience” portion.   I got a lot of great comments- thank you! I so appreciate your feedback and especially your insights and stories.

In this post, I’d like to take it a step further. How prepared are you for the ride to be over? Could you do it with the feeling that you got your full four minutes of fun and willingly turn your seat over to the next incoming group? Or do you want to keep yourself strapped into that seat demanding that you get another turn because you’re either not yet satisfied, or you weren’t ready to fully participate in the experience when it began. And even if you could have a do-over or second turn, would it give you the same thrill that it did the first time around?

I remember when my children were babies; they were the center of my universe.   I’m sure I was guilty on more than one occasion of sharing their every achievement with the rest of the world.   My boys are older now and I hear similar stories from other younger mothers about their babies. My boys are equally important to me as they once were, but their day to day moments are not share worthy. At least not in the proportion they once were. Now it is someone else’s turn to take the floor and highlight the achievements of cooing, smiling, and going on the potty the first time.

We are a nation obsessed with youth. If we inject enough Botox into ourselves will it let us stay on the ride longer? Does looking 30 when we are 40 make us 30? While age is in many respects just a number, there is still a passing of time that occurs. And in that passing of time there are experiences both positive and negative that accumulate into making us who we are. Is stretching the skin to erase the lines meant to erase the effects of that accumulation as well? If you continue to ride the ride at 40 that you did at 30, does it give you the same sense of thrill?

Kudos to the 90 year old that lives on their own, drives themselves about town and still shovels their own driveway. But I’ll take the risk of being called judgmental when I notice the mature woman dressing in a mini skirt and boots with enough cleavage showing to leave little to the imagination. Sexy at 40 isn’t the same as sexy at 20.   How about the guy with the comb over who is willing to be asked if his date is his daughter? I can’t help wonder what either of these two examples are trying to hold on to or avoid. A man told me once that he stopped dating younger women after a date where he took one to see the movie “Apollo 13”. Upon leaving the theater she asked him “You mean that was based on a true story?”

How about when the ride is really over and its time to leave the park completely?

I have sometimes described life as a game of musical chairs. For now, I can still hear the music playing and I usually feel agile enough to grab a chair when I hear it stop. That said I realize there will come a time when I won’t be the person who gets a chair. I can only hope I will have the grace to let someone else have the chair and step aside. I don’t have a particular need to die anytime soon, but I do hope as I age my way to that point in time, that I will feel the same sense of fulfillment that I do about my life now. The only way I can imagine that being true is to live well now. To live as if this is all there is and ride with my eyes open, taking in every curve and twist as if they are all part of the fun. And if I have to wait in the lines in order to get my 4 minutes…. So be it. It’s all part of the ride. And all part of the fun if I choose to see it that way.

 

 

Go ahead.. make your day

 

The stock market dropped 200 points this morning. On top of yesterday’s big drop. There is another identified Ebola patient in Dallas. Isis took another city this week, despite our efforts with air strikes.

Every other commercial on TV and radio is about the wrong doing of one politician versus another. And, I also saw my first Christmas shopping begins ad earlier today. Unless one considers shopping as an appropriate retail therapy for the woes listed above, the idea of starting to think about Christmas shopping now, does not put me in a mood of cheer and good tidings.

The world does at times seem to be tilting a little funny on its axis. What I mean is that, either a lot of news seems to converge at once, or perhaps there are times for reasons I can’t explain that, the intensity and proportion of bad news to good seems tipped in the direction of despair.

Unless.

Unless you decide to do something different.

You can decide to ignore it.

You can decide to pretend it isn’t true.

You can decide to argue about it.

You can decide to act out about it.

And you can also decide to fall back on some solid principles. Change what you can, live with what you can’t and understand how to tell the difference.

Ebola- If you work in a hospital in Dallas you have different decisions to make than if you currently work in a hospital in St. Louis or anywhere else. If you have Ebola, you certainly can’t decide to ignore it or pretend it isn’t true. But you can choose between believing your life is over, or that you are being punished by God. But you can also opt for putting all of your energy into healing your body, which includes a regiment of fostering hope.

If you’ve lost money in the stock market you can jump out of a window, but I wouldn’t advise you to do so. You can pull out all of your money and blame your advisor or spouse. Or, you can calmly review how and if, this change affects you over the long haul. Is it time to try another strategy? Or is this one to wait out?

Have you ever noticed what happens when a little kid loses a tooth? It can be a range of things. There is often fear because they haven’t experienced parts of their body falling off before and growing back. But as adults, we have and we know what to experience. Sometimes the child has some accompanying pain. That’s never fun. Hopefully, the child will mitigate that pain with a little excitement because they believe something magical will come, take their tooth and leave money behind in its place.

And eventually the hole in their mouth is replaced with a bigger, stronger more reliable tooth that they need to live in the world more easily. But if we told them that news prior to the loss, it may seem too difficult for the child to grasp. This is a metaphor of what happens to us as adults. We tend to hold on to our ideas of comfort, most likely out of familiarity and limited experience with the alternatives. But if we were promised something else down the road that seemed magical, maybe we might be more willing to go with the flow.

Unfortunately, I’m not a tooth fairy, 401K fairy, Ebola elimination fairy, or any other kind of fairy. But I would like to give you the reminder, that you have enormous power within you to choose what thought patterns you are willing to limit yourself with, or which you will use to promote yourself.

If you choose the latter strategy, what I can promise you is that you will create the world you live in, rather than allowing it to create, mold and limit you. The possibilities are nothing short of magical if you’re willing to take some risks

 

 

Nice guys and gals just finish

 

 

 

For an audio version of this post,  click on the link below:

 

f you’ve followed my blog for a while, you may remember that I had a different career prior to becoming a therapist. The job efficiency was largely measured by a matrix of conditions, all of which could be measured by percentages. Each month one of us was awarded darling of the month for coming the closest to our numbers. At the end of the year, the person with the best success was darling of the year.

I think I won one month. It probably had little to do with my effort, and more to do with good fortune that something in my department had become a high demand item that was short lived, and thus not repeated in another month. And this was often the case for most of us in the department. Some were harder workers and received a little more prestige, and others got lucky from time to time as I had. But the interesting part of this for me is the progress of my friend and co-worker, Julie.

Julie, who was smart and a very hard and conscientious worker, never won her 15 minutes of fame at the monthly meeting. She was always a runner-up, but never the queen. And so, all of us were shocked, as Julie, when the coveted Distributor of the year title was bestowed upon her. At first, all of us scratched our heads and then we realized, while she didn’t have peaks… she also didn’t have valleys and therefore, her numbers averaged out to a much higher total than did anyone else’s.   This story isn’t too far off from the tortoise and the hare.

I often think of this memory when I’m at a place in life trying to figure out my own goals and how much I should be achieving at any given moment. In my youth, I was very much the hare- rushing to get as much done as I could. I ran a perpetual race in search of affirmation for my competence and validity. But the older I get, the more I realize the need for a steady pace that is focused not on recognition, but on dependability, consistency and the value of finishing the race in a comfortable position. Comfortable enough, to not be so exhausted, that you can’t enjoy the sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes I have patients who come to therapy expecting that every session will produce an “aha moment” for them. I can appreciate their wish.   Therapy is expensive financially and emotionally. But the aha moments are not actually what therapy is about, any more than vacations are what life is about. Vacations are special because they don’t happen every day. They need everyday life around them in order to stand out. The relationship built in therapy, session to session, is the context needed in order to make an aha moment useful.

But I digress, because this post is more directed at life in general than it is therapy specific. How many people long to be the YouTube discovered star? How many people are playing the lottery? How many people are searching for the latest fashion, the biggest house. How many people stood in line to get one of the first new iphones? The cost of scurrying to be the best is dangerously lethal, yet coveted and promoted in our culture.

When is the last time you saw more than a cursory news story about a little old woman who dies with a million dollars in the bank because she saved and lived a frugal life? Or about the couple who celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary still living happily together, working as best as they can to take care of each other? Or the millions of people in middle America who go to work every day, pay their bills and tend to their responsibility? It’s not exciting news, but its still the standard that many of us could well consider ourselves lucky and fulfilled if we can achieve. It’s also doable and doesn’t require the exhaustive push of trying to be the one who stands out for 15 minutes of fame. Nor is it likely to cause the life of profound disappointment if it doesn’t result in those 15 minutes.

It’s easy though to blame society. What’s harder to remember is that we are society- you and me. We have the choice every day to let mass opinion impact us, or make decisions, one person at a time that impacts society. But be patient, because it takes longer than 15 minutes. And chances are, no one will remember to cite you with the credit.

 

 

 

Bad Hair

 

 

 

For an audio version click on the link below- If you are listening on a smart phone scroll to the end of the message and click on the sound icon.

 

I’m having a bad hair day. I pretty much have bad hair days through most of April and August because these are the months it rains a lot in St. Louis and the humidity makes my hair fat. And occasionally I have bad hair days at other times,  but I also have some really good hair days. Today isn’t one of them,  but I do know the difference.

I didn’t always though. When I was a kid I had this wild mound of super curly black hair. Actually it’s pretty much the same as I have now, just with no gray mixed in. I also didn’t have some of the great hair products I use now to keep my locks from oozing into the personal space of a person standing next to me.

Just about everyone I knew while I was growing up had silky straight blonde or light brown hair. But not me. So I felt like an odd duck. Okay I felt like an ugly duck. An ugly duck with bad untamable hair that had a mind of its own.

My mom, bless her heart, tried to do everything she could. I would lay my head on the ironing board while she tried to flatten it out. Not my head, just my hair. I can pick up the scent of singed hair a mile away. Over the years I tried every imaginable straightener on my own and professionally. I’ve spent a fortune on brushes, hair dryers, curling irons and OMG my retirement fund went entirely for creams, shampoos, conditioners, hot oil treatments and I can’t remember what else.

When I was about 4 my severely mentally retarded brother ran a wind up car through my hair. Cutting it out did not leave pretty results. Try picturing RoseAnn Rosannadanna with chopped out sections.

Along the way of my life, people would say “is it natural?” My answer was always “Who would pay to do this to themselves?” Others, (including my mother with baby fine poker straight hair) would say “oh you are so lucky”. I didn’t feel lucky.

But a few years ago,   I did what the popular movie Frozen says.   I “let it go”.   I let my curls be whatever they wanted to be for the most part plus or minus a little anti frizz stuff.

Ironically, or not so, it’s not that unusual when a stranger says to me, an adult, “I love your hair”.   And now I realize in fact that I AM lucky. My sister told me recently had left the house a couple times recently and realized once she was out and about haven forgotten to comb her hair. I can’t remember the last time I combed my hair. I don’t even own a hairbrush. I used to spend an hour a day blow drying my hair out. Now, my morning routine is pretty much limited to a 3 second glance in the mirror just to make sure no wild animals burrowed in during the night. We live on wooded acreage. It could happen.

Am I really writing an entire post about my hair? Nope. Stay tuned.

Recently, I received contact from a friend from about 30 years ago. Although we’re still trying to catch up on each other’s lives, one thing has become oddly apparent. Who she knew back then and who I knew her to be were two people that clearly did not exist. We both credited the other with possessing skills and strengths that were far from grounded in reality.

Perhaps we are simply blind or too inexperienced in our youth to see things of value properly. Maybe I will learn in 20 years that the things I think I see today are just as misguided. But what I now know is that my hair hasn’t changed much. I just have learned to see it from a very different lens. And similarly, the girl I was, back when my friend knew me, desperately wanted to live a life in which she could feel legitimate. The problem was that she took cues from everyone else to determine what that might/should be. It was only once I began to listen to my own voice somewhere along the way I created a life I recognized. I know today there are still people who see me as something they think I am, rather than who I really am. The difference is that i now understand it is their vision that is off, rather than whatever mask I have put forward.

I stopped wearing masks a long time ago. I found they messed up my hair.

Are there parts of yourself that you could appreciate in someone else, but fail to embrace within yourself?

Do people know you? Or do you let them know who you want them to see? Are you hiding your best attributes in fear that they won’t be good enough?

Do you try to mold parts of yourself into someone else or society’s criteria?

Are you judging yourself by a standard that is far more harsh than you would extend to another?

Is it okay to not be the same as everyone else? Or even the same as everyone expects you to be?

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I’d love to hear your comments. If you found this helpful, I hope you’ll pass it on to someone else.   Until next time, take good care.

Scavenger Hunt

 

 

 

Click below for an audio version.  If you are listening on a smartphone, scroll to the bottom of the message and click on the sound icon.

 

I love a good contest. I love to win things and I’m very competitive. How about you? I’ve been writing a lot about mindfulness and breaking out of your traditional bubble. Now I’d like to go a little crazy with my blog and help you put the words into action with a contest.

To help us with this mission here is what I’ve constructed along with the ground rules.

The contest is available ONLY to subscribers. So if you are a lurker… put your email in the little box that says subscribe, wait for you confirmation from Feedblitz and activate your subscription. You may subscribe anytime up until the contest ends to participate.

This contest is based on the honor system…. So be honorable.

The contest is a scavenger hunt. You find the items and then report back to me with ONE email that details (briefly) your success. Or you can be adventurous and post it directly in the comments section. You must find 10 of the 12 to be complete. I will not announce the winner until the contest period ends. I will not disclose ANYONE’s name publicly on the results, but will incorporate some of the finds into the post concluding the contest. You automatically agree to this by your choice of participation.

The winning prize for the first person who complete 10 with an email or comment is a       20.00 gift card to Bread Co. Yes, its worth the effort so go for it.

Second prize— mystery prize for whatever ends up giving me the biggest smile. And my mystery prizes can be awesome if I get a big smile.

 

All clues must occur during the contest period Monday 8/4 thru Sunday midnight CST 8/17. So don’t get left behind.

Here are the clues I want you to go find/experience:

The smile of a child – not your own child

The wisdom of a person more mature than you (hopefully not the same as the child above)

A sound in nature you don’t normally notice

The brightness of a star that stands out from the others

Witness an act of kindness

Experience and notice an act of kindness done to/for you

The awareness you are experiencing a peaceful feeling

Perform an act of kindness

Experience a moment of tolerating your imperfection

Awareness of a moment where you consciously select optimism when given a choice

Completing something on your list from DO one Thing list (see post May 14, 2014)

Get someone else to subscribe to my blog (you knew this was coming)

That’s it. Now its your turn to run, play, be kind, and be mindful. On your marks, get set go.

 

 

 

Uniquely Yours

 you may need to scroll to the end of the message and click on the sound icon.

 

Today I have another book recommendation for you.  It’s called “The Art of Being Unmistakable” by Srinvas Rao.

The book is currently only available as an E-book, and I purchased it through Kindle. It’s a short, but helpful little book.  I’m going to give you four excerpts to give you a sense of what the book has to offer, each followed with my own commentary. Please keep in mind that these are notes I highlighted out of context of course.  They aren’t sequential and go together only to the extent that they all come from the same book.

 

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

You have to go to another level, new energy, change the paradigm, maybe even do something that doesn’t make sense to find a solution.

Obsession with crossing off the checkboxes of society’s life plan leads to little other than therapy, midlife crises, and depression.

The boxes are determined from the outside rather than the inside. It’s unlikely the inside can feel authentic satisfaction by completing the checks. To use a food metaphor, it’s like having someone on the outside determine what they think YOU are hungry for. If you are past the age of 2, that’s only something you can determine accurately.

3Let’s say you want to be an artist of some sort and for the next 100 days you sit on your ass in front of the television.  Well that’s a completely different direction than the one your dream is pointing you in.  But if you have the habit of sketching, drawing, doodling something every single day and correcting your course just a tiny bit during each step along the way, you’ll eventually end up at your destination.

Check back to my earlier post called Do One Thing- every step towards your goal gets you closer. Some days you can walk further than others.

 

If you planted a tree, would it make any sense to keep digging up the roots to make sure it was growing?  You water it and have a bit of faith that it will grow.

Checking your bank account every day, your email every 10 seconds, waiting for the phone to ring are all examples of letting anxiety drive the process instead of expecting something to work. How might that energy be expended if you relied on faith instead?

 

So what is this book about?  Inspiration to become authentic.  It’s a dare to break the chains one might be living under, imposed by self, or other, or community kind of book. Rao suggests you instead charter a new path dictated by the need to be one’s self rather than by a picture of what the self should be.   The book is written by a blogger and quotes other bloggers.  This may be a little distracting if you aren’t or don’t want to become a blogger.  Ignore that.  The information is equally applicable to other careers and goals as well.  Its primary theme is cultivating your willingness to follow your own beat.

I keep a book on my bookshelf called “Giraffe’s Can’t Dance”. It’s a children’s book full of similar though simpler wisdom.  Basically, anyone can dance if they find the right music.  Rao’s book is an invitation to stop listening to familiar music and find something you genuinely like, even if no one else does.  Make it yours, so that everyone who hears the tune will remember it and associate it with you.

If you like today’s post, please pass it on to someone else and invite them to subscribe as well.  As always, I appreciate your time in reading and comments.

 

 

 

Happy 6th 7th and 8th of July

 

 

 

To hear an audio version of this post,  click on the link below or on a smart phone scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the sound icon.

The fireworks have ended. The sparklers have burned out. The chips are eaten and hopefully by now the trash from holiday celebrations is already out on the curb. 4th of July 2014 is now in the memory files.

Summer is ½ over. Department stores will start to transition this week to fall apparel. We start to think ahead to back to school (my kids go back 8/11).

So is that it? We move from anticipation of event, to event over, to anticipation of the next event. But what is the event? More importantly, WHY is it an event?

The 4th of July is a national holiday. Its ONE day. And sometimes it dribbles into a 3 day weekend. But what the 4th of July represents is not an event. I mean literally it is the marking of signing the constitution, but it represents far more.

The day we elected to become a free nation

What does it mean to be a free nation? Most of us don’t take the time or energy to think about that very often. I am moved by a recent story about a woman in the Sudan was jailed and sentenced to death by stoning and then set on fire because she refused to denounce her Christianity. She was given a temporary stay to give birth to a child and raise it for two years before her sentence would be implemented. She was then released, and detained again as she tried to leave with her family. At the time of this writing she and her family are staying at the U.S Embassy and trying to make their way to the U.S.  Her plight is an example of what it means to not be in a free nation.

We can be Jewish and not persecuted. We can be Christian or anything other religion and not sentenced to death for our beliefs. How many of us ignore our religion?

We can hold property. Property we often complain about the woe’s. I live in Wildwood and we have a septic/well system. The well pump broke this week. I have been without water for 2 ½ days so far. I have complained- a LOT- So this post is to remind me that I am free to hold property. But freedom also has responsibility attached.

We are free to marry who we wish. How often do we complain about our spouse?

We are free to send our children to school. I have spent a lot of this past year complaining about my kids school.

We are free to speak our minds. Are there times when you avoid doing this when it could make a difference to avoid getting involved?

We are free

But do we appreciate these freedoms day in and day out?

We can vote. How many times do you blow off an election because its not that big of one or you don’t know the candidates?   I know I have.

The goal of this post is not to lecture you and I hope it has not come across as such. Rather, it is to remind me along with you that freedom is not something to celebrate one day a year, but every day of the year like a process rather than an event. Considering our freedoms on a regular basis moves us into a spirit of gratitude rather than deprivation and burden. Embracing our freedom on a daily basis promotes a feeling of optimism of what is possible rather than focusing on what is hard about the life you are in. I heard a story this morning about a fund that raises money for returning vets to start their own businesses. The speaker said “Vets make great small business owners. Those guy know what a hard day is and what a hard day is not.”

I don’t wish to minimize any challenges or difficulties that exist in anyone’s world. Dealing with a special needs child, financial worries, an aging parent, a chronic illness or disability is in fact stressful in ways that most of us cannot truly imagine. I am simply saying that even when those traumatic events occur, we live in a society that provides much greater resources to cope with these things than most other people on earth. I also believe we are a nation of people with a mindset to work together to help manage crisis which is exactly how we got our freedom in the first place.

If you are a military vet, or a family member of a vet, please accept my heartfelt gratitude. Last night I watched Lone Survivor. If you have not seen the movie, select any 5 minute clip to get a sense of what the people who serve to make this a free nation for the rest of us are willing to endure, in order to achieve that goal.

So while the last sparkler may have extinguished in this holiday, light one in your heart today and shine for the world with all that you are free to do.

 

 

 

 

Something worth laughing about

 

 

 

 

For an audio version of this post click on the link below or scroll to the end of the message on a smartphone and click on the sound icon-

 

A bear walks into a bar and says to the bartender, “I’ll have a whisky and …… soda”. The bartender says, “Why the big pause?”. “Dunno,” says the bear. “I’ve always had them.”

I wanted to help you burn a few calories.

Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, conducted a small study in which he measured the amount of calories expended in laughing. It turned out that 10-15 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories.

Did you know that laughter triggers the release of endorphins which are our bodies “feel good” chemicals? Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood and increases good cholesterol. Laughter protects the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

The act of laughing Stimulates many organs. It enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles.

 

Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells, as well.

One study of 19 people with diabetes looked at the effects of laughter on blood sugar levels. After eating, the group attended a tedious lecture. On the next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels than they did after the lecture

 

Laughter, along with an active sense of humor, may help protect you against a heart attack, according to a recent study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. The study, which is the first to indicate that laughter may help prevent heart disease, found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease.

 

One of the most powerful “fat-burning” hormones is HGH (Human Growth Hormone).  There is also evidence that HGH aids muscle growth somewhat as well. Laughter, according to one older study, strongly increases (by 80%) HGH levels. That means that “laughing your ass off” may be quite literally true.

So this is actually a serious laughing matter. But please don’t rely on my jokes.

Instead you might

Read a funny book by authors like David Sedaris,

Watch funny TV- Big Bang Theory

Watch Funny movies: I love stupid humor like Christmas Vacation, Airplane, Police Academy. The other night I re-watched the Pink Panther movies with Steve Martin.

Hang out with funny people

Look at pictures of yourself as a kid with big teeth and even bigger hair

Play silly games- the kind that take you outside your comfort zone

Try Laughter Yoga- I am not making this one up- it really does exist.

And if you just can’t find anything funny to laugh at…. Then just laugh for no reason.

Instead of finishing this off with another corny joke, I’ll offer you one of my favorite quotes instead by Marjorie Pay Hinckley:

The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it

You either have to laugh or cry

I prefer to laugh -Crying gives me a headache

 

Happy Easter

Easter

What does it mean to you? Perhaps it is a time of great religious contemplation or absolutely nothing- When I was a kid I remember that my mother often bought each of us a solid chocolate rabbit.  She worked in restaurants and was able to purchase these from a wholesaler making them more affordable.  It would literally take us months to consume them and it often became a kind of game between my  brothers and me.  I’ve eaten my ears… My head is completely gone… and so the race to finish would carry on.

When my own children were small Easter looked like hiding plastic eggs around the yard or going to a Community Easter egg hunt.  The giant and imposing rabbit walking around usually scared my son’s,  and they were consoled only by the colorful plastic ovals filled with candy.

Whether or not you have a religious attachment to the day, Easter is still a day embedded with message of promise yet to come.  Whether it’s unwrapping a chocolate bunny, opening a surprise filled egg or the blossoming of redbuds and spring flowers, there is something of jubilance on the horizon.  Whatever is yet to bloom for you, I hope it is filled with joy, happiness and child-like wonder.

Grrrr

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My blog today begins with a message from my 4 year old self.  I’m cranky, I’m disappointed, the world is unfair.  I did not get my way and I’m not happy about it.  I have been active in my local school board election, supporting a long shot candidate and she/we lost.  People are stupid.  The world is stupid.  I’m going to move to a country that I can’t pronounce the name of and live happily ever after, surviving on natural berries and weaving my own clothing out of the fibers I pick up in the wild.

Fast forward the time machine to my adult self.  Yep, I’m still disappointed.  I don’t even think angry as much as I’m just plain disappointed.  The election loss was not about a personal candidate, but about an agenda and a philosophy chosen, which is different than the one for my family.  But not everyone thinks the way I do.  Namely about 17000 people who voted differently.  I can take a hint.

So now what?  I can try again next time, toilet paper the house of the winners, or move to another district, country, universe.  Or, I can live today just like I did yesterday.  My world hasn’t changed.  I still have the same goals, hopes and aspirations today that I did yesterday.  It’s merely that one of the paths I had hoped to travel down has a “no entrance” sign posted in front of it right now. I think it also has a “no loitering” sign as well, which means, time to let go and move on.

But this post isn’t really about an election- or my mood as much as it is about a way to look at how does one let go and go with a plan b?  I am reminded of one of my very favorite books of all time “Life is Good” by George Dawson.  If you haven’t read it, consider doing so.  George is a black man, grandson of sharecroppers.  As a young boy he witnesses a tremendous injustice and his reaction is similar to the one I started this blog with (although a bit more mature).  But his father instills a wisdom in his son that remains with him throughout his lifetime.  “Life is good and it’s only going to get better”.    The book is a telling of events throughout George’s life that, illustrate his father’s message into a reality.

So today, when I get cranky, I have a list of things I have to work at remembering:

-I have a family I love dearly

-I live in safety, I have a roof over my head, a job I love, food in my belly, friends that are loyal and giving

-I am healthy as is my family

-my life is good… and it’s only going to get better.

-and even this- I moved to this place largely for these schools.  Agree with them or don’t agree with them, they continue to provide an education for my children.  But it is not the only education my children will receive.  I always have the option, as do they to supplement or change that course.   More importantly, my children’s education is one tiny piece of my world- and their K-12 years are actually only a small piece of THEIR world-   Put it in perspective-  it doesn’t deserve this much energy or focus.  Look at the bigger picture.

So, this is my plan B:  working on staying in my adult voice, broadening the perspective, and most of all switching to a posture of gratitude and connection to something larger than me as being in charge of the world.  On that note- I hope you have the same kind of wonderful day, that I’m going to work towards having.