Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Smile for Christmas

Today I read a thought from a young friend of mine.  It was his honesty thought for the day on Facebook.  He said, "A smile seems small to a happy man.  But a smile seems like the sun in a world of darkness to a man who needs it.  Smile."

This struck me because just yesterday I experienced the down side of this thought.  I was the one who felt the darkness and needed the smiles.  I am happy most of the time and it is pretty easy to smile and be friendly.  But yesterday I felt a touch of depression, that old familiar darkness, something I have not struggled with much for a long time.  It reminded me how much most of us struggle at times.  My friend's statement is so very true.  When I feel happy inside it is so easy to smile, and seems so small.  But when I have been struggling, it takes great energy to smile at someone else, and a smile given from someone else impacts so much deeper. 

Years ago I went through a depression that made it hard to keep going every day.  Some of you have had similar struggles.  There are many reasons for people to struggle with depression.  I believe mine was brought on by a combination of chemical and situation.  There were many dark days when even the simplest of stresses felt completely overwhelming.  As I began to heal there were gradually good days mixed with the bad.  Eventually there were more good days than bad days, and much later mostly good days with an occasional hard day.  For those in that dark place right now, this season of the year can magnify those feelings and struggles even more.

If you are in a place where you can share your smiles easily this season, be grateful and share generously.  You will most likely never know the depth of your impact.  If you are not in a place to give in that way, just hang in there and receive generously the smiles that are shared with you.  Let them go in.  Let them shine a sliver of light inside of you. 

Of all the things you will give this season, a smile may mean more than you know.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

How to Make the Season Go Slow

Every year around this time my husband says to me, "This is my favorite time of year.  Let's make the season go slow."  Every year the season does NOT go slow, and on New Year's Day he is always sad that the holidays are over.

Is it possible to slow down the season and make it last?  I would like to suggest that it is.  I have learned a few valuable things to help.

Be aware of what makes this time of year feel special to you.  Take music for example.  One year I discovered that playing Christmas hymns while my children were falling asleep brought that special feeling.  I played hymns on the piano each evening that December, and Christmas felt very special.  The next year I remembered that Christmas music had made the season feel special the year before, so I turned on some Christmas music throughout the day in hopes of recapturing that same feeling.  I quickly discovered that songs like "Santa Baby" and "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" did not bring the same spirit to my home that songs like "O Holy Night" and "Angels We Have Heard On High" did.  I figured out which kinds of Christmas music gave me that magic Christmas feeling, and which did not.

What are the things that you enjoy doing this time of year?  Some people love holiday parties, while other people find them cumbersome and only go out of obligation.  Spend time doing the things that you love and let the rest go.  Most people find there is so much to do that they are scheduled beyond their capacity.  Feel free to pick and choose what is enjoyable and meaningful to you, and don't feel obligated to attend every single event that is offered.

Be very intentional about being present in what you do.  Eat that special holiday treat slowly in small bites and really savor it.  Notice and enjoy the holiday music playing in the stores, and the way the community is decorated.  Enjoy the opportunity to buy people presents.  Take joy in picking them out and wrapping them.  Play Christmas music while wrapping. Soak up and enjoy the moment at music concerts.   Pay attention to people being friendly, and be friendly too.  Appreciate being able to be with friends and family at holiday events, and cherish your time with them.  You will not get these exact moments again.  Children grow and change.  Sometimes people move or pass away.   Cherish this time together.  Take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy.

Finally, at the end of every day when you are laying in bed and before you fall asleep pick a favorite thing about your day.  You may be surprised at the joy this can bring you, and the sweet things about the holidays that you will be able to savor.

It's a wonderful time of year.  Slow down and savor it.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Give Yourself an Energy Boost!

Have you ever noticed that some situations energize you while other situations drain you?  In general, people who are extroverts are energized by social interaction, while people who are introverts are drained by the same situations.  I am an introvert by nature, though I have learned to disguise it well.  Knowing this about myself, I was greatly intrigued by a recent  experience. 

It was nearly 8:00 p.m.  I had had a very busy day and was exhausted and wishing to be done for the day when  I realized that I still needed to go to Costco before they closed in half an hour.  I dragged myself into the car and vowed to get this over with as quickly as possible so I could go home and rest for the evening.  As I was driving I realized that I had not done a goal I had set for myself that day - to do something nice for someone else that I would not normally do.  I decided that while I was in Costco I would try to make eye contact with and smile at as many people as possible. 

As I walked through the store I began making eye contact with and smiling at everyone who would look at me.  I had so much fun doing this that I totally forgot about how tired I was and how much I didn't want to be at the store at 8:00 at night.  By the time I walked out and loaded my car I was very surprised to realize that I no longer felt tired, but instead felt energized; so much so that I decided to go to one more grocery store on the way home that I had originally decided to save for morning. 

As I entered the second store I again made contact with and smiled at everyone I could.  I found that I was not in a rush, did not feel tired, and in fact felt happy and energetic, almost impossible for me at the late hour of now 9:00 at night.  (Yep, I'm a morning person.) 

I have pondered and studied to try to discover the source of this phenomenon.  I have discovered that as we share our energy with others through positive interaction, we also receive energy back from that person.  I still don't completely understand this amazing phenomenon, but what I do know is that it works.  It was a startling discovery for me, and one I intend to keep using.  Who knew that giving your energy away in a positive way would end up giving you more back than you gave AND make you feel happy at the same time?

If you need an energy boost, or you want to feel happier, try making eye contact with and smiling at others and see what happens.  You may be as surprised as I was!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Where the rubber meets the road: "The point at which a theory or idea is put to a practical test."  I have been put to such a test in the last nine days, and I have to say I am not doing as well as I had hoped.

Many times hard things come unexpectedly.  Such was the case with me a week and a half ago when our local church congregation made some huge changes because of how big it had grown, and our family ended up being assigned to attend a different congregation at a different building with people we don't know as well as the ones we had been going to church with for the past 25 years. 

I have worked on becoming more spontaneous and accepting change for years.  Change has never felt comfortable to me, and yet life is always changing.  I thought I had made great strides to becoming more adaptable.  Actually, I HAVE made great strides.  So when news of this major change in congregations came a week ago on Sunday I hoped I would adapt quickly.  I gave myself some time to be sad about it (I cried for two days), then I picked myself up and decided to make the best of it.  I put on a brave face, went through the week and right into our new church congregation on Sunday.  I held up pretty well until it was almost time to go home.  By the time I got home I was melting into tears.....again.

I tried to logic myself out of it.  After all, it's not as if I have been asked to move to another state, or even to another city.  I still have my same house, my same surroundings, everything that I love.  No one else has moved either.  No one has died.  I have simply been asked to attend a different congregation.  There are many bible stories where God required much more of his people than I am being asked to do.  By those standards I have been asked to do practically nothing, and yet here I sit hardly able to talk about this change in my life without a quiver in my voice. 

Sometimes I don't understand myself.  I want to shake myself and say, "This is stupid!"  Luckily for me, God is more patient with me than I am.  In praying and asking for his guidance, I felt impressed with two thoughts:

First, that it would help to consciously think about every good thing and thank God for it specifically.  I talk about and teach about gratitude frequently.  Now I am to learn it on a new level.  I felt impressed that I needed to recognize and be grateful for each and every person that said "hi" to me at my new church, every introduction, every smile, every interaction.  I need to be grateful for the stained glass windows and the rock wall behind the podium and the upholstered pews.  I need to find the good about everything I can think of about my new situation.

Second, I felt prompted to do a "write and burn" every day this week.  I have talked about this in detail in my blogs earlier this year on "Letting Go of the Past".  It is a fabulous tool!  This is where you write your negative emotions down on paper, getting it all out.  You can write about frustration, anger, disappointment, embarrassment, sadness, or any other emotion that is popping up.  Once you have written all you can think of about that emotion, you take your paper outside, read it out loud to get the emotions verbally outside your body, then crumple up the paper and burn it.  The act of burning it both destroys and purifies.  It allows you to let go.  I imagine this as I watch my paper burn.  This exercise helps me to purge my negative emotions.

And so I forgive myself for not being as strong as I thought I was, for not being as adaptable and flexible as I thought I was.  I forgive myself for being weak and easily broken.  I ask God to forgive me too.  Then I ask him to strengthen me so I can get up and move forward - not to another state or city or house, but just to another congregation.  Where the rubber meets the road I realize I still have a long way to go.

Monday, November 6, 2017

My Favorite Thing

One really fun and easy thing I have learned to do that brings me much joy on a daily basis is to lay in bed at the end of every day and think about what my favorite thing about that day was. 

Sometimes I have kept a notebook where I write down my favorite thing from each day.  At other times I just contemplate my day after I have turned off the light but before I fall asleep.  This exercise helps me to feel happy, and feeling happy as you fall asleep is a wonderful thing.  Studies show that your brain works all night on the last thoughts you have before going to sleep.  I like feeding my brain happy thoughts. 

It has been interesting for me to realize that there is practically no correlation between my to-do list that I work on all day and the things that end up being my favorite every night.

As I went back and read over several month's worth of favorites I had written down I noticed a pattern in the kinds of things I chose.  My favorites tended to focus on precious snuggling moments with grand-kids or my husband, working in my yard, one-on-one time spent with a child, teaching classes, and alone time doing something I wanted just for fun (often involving a movie or book and chocolate!)

I have also come to know myself better through doing this fun reflection each night.  I have learned what makes me happy--what brings me joy.  This is especially valuable to know when I need a pick-me-up, feel overwhelmed, or any number of other negative emotions that can bring me down.

I encourage you to take the time to pick a favorite thing each night.  Write it down, or don't write it down.  Get to know yourself better and what makes you happy. 

P.S. If your children are willing to do this exercise they will get to know themselves better and feel happier as well.  If they are willing to share their favorites with you, you will get to learn what means the most to them, and when they need some extra love you will know how to show it to them.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Trials Are Miracles

There are times when life seem to be going along pretty good and things feel, well... maybe not easy, but at least somewhat manageable and happy.  Then there are the times when life is definitely hard, and just getting through each day is a major accomplishment.  I have been blessed enough to have had some of both experiences in my life.  We probably all  know people who always seem to have it easy (which of course is a perception and probably not reality) and people who seem to have every possible thing go wrong for them all of the time.  Most of us land somewhere in the middle where we experience some of both. 

I have noticed there are two ways people generally respond to these hardships.  Either they become humble and learn from their trials and become stronger, OR their hearts become hardened and they become bitter and cynical.  I have noticed that those who become humble and learn from their trials seem happier and grow stronger because of what they have been through.

Last week my 18-year-old daughter Madelynn gave a talk at her church.  She talked about how when we are humble in our difficulty our trials become miracles because they change our hearts.  I had never thought of it like that, but as I reflected back on my life I could think of times this had been true for me.

The summer of 2004 was one of those times.  That summer death seemed to permeate a 3-month period.  First my cousin took her life.  Three weeks later my mother-in-law died somewhat unexpectedly.  The morning after her funeral I received news that my uncle had died the night before.  I felt completely shaken up, yet within the next couple of weeks two children of people we were friends with went missing and were either found dead, or were never found at all.  Five deaths in three months was enough to rock anyone's world.  That three-month period changed my heart to help me be grateful for every moment with those I loved, and to treat each day as if it was our last together.  Trials are miracles because they change our hearts.

A couple of weeks ago I learned that a beautiful and always-smiling young married woman in my neighborhood has lost 16 pregnancies, yes, 16, and still has no baby.  How is she still smiling?  I haven't had a conversation with her about it, but I can see that she has not become bitter and cynical.  She shows love and caring to all around her.

Have you seen the movie "Love, Kennedy"? It is about a young teenage girl with a rare disease who faces a grim prognosis but brings light to all she comes in contact with.  Very inspiring.

Then there is Madelynn, the one who got me thinking about all of this in the first place.  If you have been following my blog, then you already know that my daughter faces joint pain and ever-decreasing mobility on a daily basis.  Some days she can hardly walk, yet surprisingly she is cheerful and optimistic. 

In her talk in church she told us that for years she was in a dark place (she was).  This trial has brought her closer to God, given her inner peace and joy, and she says she would not trade her pain for her healthy body and her dark-feeling life.  In her talk she pointed out that through her trial her body has not been healed, but her soul has.  She taught that when we let our trials change us, humble us, and when we are willing to learn from our difficulties, then those trials become miracles, miracles that change our hearts.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Kindness For a Kindness

My daughter Madelynn is 18 years old.  As you may know, since January of this year her mobility has steadily decreased, and her joint pain has steadily increased.  This last week the rheumatologist we have been seeing for months told us that she does not have any form of arthritis.....back to the drawing board.

Madelynn is a student at Utah Valley University.  Because of her decreasing mobility she now walks with a cane, and her movements are slow and deliberate.  One of the things that keeps her going is how kind others are to her.  She used to hate being served by others.  She likes to be independent, and to have others do things for her used to make her feel uncomfortable.  Then a very wise friend pointed out that it was a selfish way to feel, and that she was robbing others of the chance to help.  This wise friend encouraged her to accept the gifts being extended to her.  This shifted her perspective, and now she has developed a heightened awareness and gratitude for the many small acts of service that others do; things like opening her door, helping her up or down stairs, total strangers offering to carry her backpack for her.  People will walk with her at her pace and have a conversation.  She told me the other day about a mom who was sitting in the parking lot waiting for her son to come out of class.  She watched Madelynn slowly walking down the sidewalk and going down the stairs.  This wonderful mother got out of her car to ask Madelynn if she could help her.  She and her son helped my daughter down the stairs, then gave her a ride to her car, opened her car doors for her and got her safely inside before leaving.  These simple yet enormous acts of kindness help my daughter to feel loved and cared about.

Even so, it is difficult to always be served and never to serve, so recently she decided that she was going to match a kindness for a kindness every day, both in quality and intensity.  Though she cannot physically do things for other people, she realized that there is much she can do.  For example, the greeter at Walmart sees her come in on a regular basis.  He has befriended her, encouraged her and had some meaningful conversations with her.  In return for this thoughtful gesture, Madelynn has vowed to treat other people with as much kindness as she has been treated.  She has challenged herself to keep track of the nice things done to her every day and repay them in her own way before she goes to bed each night.  Many of her kindnesses come in the form of quality conversations with others.  She has taken the time to smile sincerely, give encouraging words, befriend and help those much younger than her, and teach and inspire those around her.  Kindness for a kindness has brought her greater happiness and helped her focus on making other people's day better rather than thinking about herself.

I have found myself learning from this child and striving to reach her level of awareness and giving.

Mahatma Gandi once said, "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind."  

I wonder what a kindness for a kindness ends up making?   

I would like to invite all of us to be more aware of kindnesses being done in our behalf.  What if we were to match that kindness in our own ways each day before going to bed?  Even better, let us be the first to extend kindness.

Not only do you have the power to make the world a little better, but you will feel greater happiness and satisfaction in your own life as well.

Monday, October 9, 2017

21 Days to Happiness

A few weeks ago my daughters and I decided to try an experiment together.  For 21 days six of us agreed that we would all do something kind each day for another human being that we would not normally do.  We wanted to see if "stepping up" our level of kindness to others around us would change us in any way, and if so, how?  We agreed that it didn't need to be anything big, but to be aware and look for opportunities to make someone else's day better.  We also decided that this was a "no guilt" experiment.  If we missed a day, or several days, any amount of stepping it up was an improvement over what we had done previous to the experiment, and therefore a success.  No guilt.  And thus we began.  We had a group text where we reported at the end of the day what we had done.  This helped keep us motivated and accountable.  At the end of the 21 days we met at a local favorite restaurant (Kneaders) for breakfast (french toast, of course!) and to report the results of our experiment.  Here is what we discovered:

We realized how much we already do for others.  Finding some way to serve or do something nice for someone else that we normally would not do was somewhat of a challenge at times.  We realized that we already do a lot that we hadn't even been giving ourselves credit for.  We found that we had things we could have "counted" as service, or a nice thing for someone else, but we had to ask ourselves would we normally have done that anyway?  If we would have, we did not count it.

We noticed that we felt more positive, understanding and loving feelings towards those around us.  The author Richard Paul Evans one said, "You love that whom you serve".  It's true.  The bible teaches this over and over.  Our experiment softened our hearts toward other people, and helped us to love them.

We found that getting outside ourselves and our own problems actually made each day richer and happier.  Scientists would say that these acts of kindness increase our serotonin levels, or hormones in the brain called "happy hormones".  It made life more fun and more fulfilling.

We became more aware of the nice things other people do for us.  One of my daughters said she became much more aware when someone would hold a door open for her or do any other small kind gesture that she might have noticed in the past, but would not have received with as much appreciation as she now felt as she recognized these small gifts from strangers.  Greater awareness and appreciation of other peoples acts of kindness was an unexpected bonus!

"Stepping it up" proved more challenging on some days than others.  Some of my daughters expressed that on especially busy days it was hard to make time to think about someone else.  We all got creative in our desire to serve more than what we normally would have.  Here are some of the ways we found to brighten other people's days:

Spending time with a child when normally that time would have been spent cleaning.
Paying for the drink of the person behind you in the drive-thru.
Bringing someone a treat at work.
Buying a candy bar while going through the grocery line, then giving it to the cashier or person behind you.
Buying a candy bar and then praying who to give it to, then looking for that right person as you go through your day.
Saying "yes" to a child when normally you would have said "no" because you didn't want to do something.
Giving the gift of time to help someone else with their homework when you have your own to do.
Holding the door open for others.
Praying in the morning to know what to say to people you meet that will brighten their day.
Praying for an opportunity to help someone that day, and then paying attention and following through when ideas come.
Being friendly and cheerful to everyone you meet.
Going out of your way to help a coworker.
Doing extra things for family members that you would normally let them do themselves.
Being a nicer-than-usual driver and letting people into your lane.
Letting someone go in front of you in line at the store.
Letting someone else have their way on something and being happy about it.

Did this 21-day experiment change us?  YES!   We all agreed that it made us more aware of what we do in our day.  It helped us be more appreciative of others.  This experiment helped us feel more love for other people, and stepped up our level of kindness to others in a way that we hope to maintain.  As a group, we agreed that it also gave us a good feeling, and helped us to feel happier.

Want to try this experiment? It's so fun! It also worked really well to do it in a group.  The group text kept us accountable, motivated and inspired by each other.    I invite you to put together your own group and please let me know how it goes, or comment below if you want to do this experiment with me.  I would love an opportunity to do it again!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Modern Good Samaritan

We all know the story of the good Samaritan.  He was the one who stopped to help a man who had been beaten, robbed and left on the side of the road to die.  People who ought to have stopped to help crossed to the other side of the road and kept going.  The good Samaritan, whose nation was not friendly with the beaten man's, stopped to help.  I have always thought that had it been me walking down the road, I would have stopped to help.  Yesterday at church we discussed this bible story, and ways that it applies to us in these modern days.  As I contemplated in what ways I figuratively cross the road in our modern world, it was startling for me to realize that I have indeed been guilty of crossing to the other side of the road many times.

For example, in the past people who looked very different from me made me uncomfortable, so I would carefully avoid them.  People who looked like they did drugs, or had a myriad of tattoos, or seemed very different than me would make me uncomfortable and this caused me to figuratively cross the road to the other side.  I basically avoided eye contact and pretended they were not there.  This made me feel more comfortable  This discomfort and behavior eventually changed for me when I became acquainted with clients from a drug and alcohol rehab center and started speaking at their facility as a guest speaker.  I learned that they are wonderful people who are literally fighting for their lives. They are truly heroes.   Every once in a while one of them will thank me for my support of them, and tell me that normally "people like me" don't talk to "people like them".  Most people cross the road.

Another example: My daughter needed to be pushed from class to class at the university she attends this past week because it was so painful for her to walk.  After one day in a wheelchair she expressed strongly that she never wanted to ride in a wheelchair again.  She said that she felt invisible.  No one looked at her or talked to her unless she put forth the first effort.  She said it was a real ding to her self esteem.  She hated the way being ignored felt.  (I know this is not always true.  I have heard from quite a lot of people who have felt treated very kindly in a wheelchair. I have also talked to some who had my daughter's experience.)  As we talked about why people would act this way, we decided that they were probably trying to be kind by not staring, or that they felt uncomfortable.  The results were that she felt ignored and invisible.  I thought back to my own actions when I have seen someone in a wheelchair, or in any other unusual circumstance, and I realized that I have been guilty of the same behavior.  I have been uncomfortable and figuratively crossed the road.

One last example: Another daughter of mine lives in a community where virtually everyone around her prescribes to the predominant religion of the area.  She does not.  As a result she finds that people sometimes seem to mistrust her and her children, or treat her differently.  She at times has felt ostracized or left out in her community.  I have heard other people say that people won't let their children play together.  This is also crossing the road.

I feel that in general most people are good.  We have a desire to love, to be kind, to do good.  When someone is physically hurt most would rush to help.  It is the invisible wounds in our day and age that cause us to sometimes cross the road.  I consider myself a very loving person who wants to be kind to everyone. I painfully acknowledge that I have also had times when I let fear or discomfort make my decisions, causing me to figuratively cross the road.  (Which is different from an impression that you are not safe and need to leave.)  This was a huge and humbling "aha" moment for me.    I have been guilty of crossing the road at times instead of stopping to help, giving eye contact, or even just smiling and saying hi.  These are the simple gestures that bind wounds and make a positive difference.  

I am going to work very hard to reach out to all those I used to cross the road with.  I want to be a good Samaritan.

I invite you to spend a few minutes contemplating how you might be figuratively crossing the road, and what wounds you might bind up if you did something differently, and what positive difference that would make in many tiny ways in the lives of others.  

I invite us all to be good Samaritans.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Unseen Pain

Last week I wrote about my 18-year-old daughter and the shocking challenges she is facing as well as her attitude about those challenges.  I thought of her and of many of us today as I was looking at this beautiful hanging plant on my back deck.  It is thriving and beautiful.....or so it would seem.  As I turned the plant to admire the side that is not visible from where it hangs, I was startled to discover that the other side of this beautiful hanging pot looks nothing like the front.  Instead it is sparse and dead-looking in places.
As I explored this startling discovery further I realized that the pot is hanging slightly at an angle, and the water it has been getting every day has been going mostly to the front of the pot, leaving the back of the pot quite dry, hence the difference.

I can think of quite a few analogies about this pot, but today I was thinking about my daughter, and about you, and challenges we all face in life.  My daughter's challenges are quite obvious now, though she was able to hide them for many months, just like my pot.  She truly has a beautiful spirit about her, and that is what people see, but she is struggling in ways no one knows.  I thought about all the people around us who have heartache and challenges that are not seen, that are not visible.  Many people present a beautiful and healthy front, while struggling and dying in the unseen recesses of their lives.  I suppose this is human nature.

Henry B. Eyring passed on some profound advice:  “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.”  

It is easy to see the sparse and dead-looking parts of our own lives, but only the beautiful and thriving parts of other people's lives.  I think we all have beauty, and we also all have sparse and dead-looking spots that are the unseen challenges and heartache in our lives.  

What if you and I were to take Henry B. Eyring's advise and treated each other as though they needed our love, caring and watering?  Without knowing the pot was a little off balance, maybe we could love each other well enough to reach even the dry and painful parts.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Beautiful Mind

I have written about my 18-year-old daughter before.  She has a debilitating and still-undiagnosed illness that has affected her joints.  Her mobility has steadily decreased while her pain has steadily and gradually increased.  Nine months ago she was a normal healthy teenager.  Today she walks with a cane most of the time, and has a handicapped sticker.  We are still looking for answers. yet she has somehow miraculously kept a positive attitude.  She recently wrote a paper entitled "Limit Without Limits" about her experience with this illness for her English class at UVU.  I wanted to share part of it with you:

"In December of 2016...the pain seemed to creep through my body to every single one of my joints. Not only did the issue spread, but the level of pain became bigger and the intensity increased greatly. The boulder (of pain) that I was dragging behind me with my hand had caught a grasp of all of my limbs, and the boulder started growing larger and larger. It felt bigger than me. Each week was worse than the last. The next week would be even worse. This was, and still is, continuing at a downward slope with no maneuvering up or leveling out.

It’s different now when I try to walk into a room.  I am having a hard time standing or walking because my knees or ankles are so inflamed. Walking into a room includes turning a door handle. That is highly difficult/painful some days for me, especially if it’s one of those days that my hands are unable to straighten out because of the pain. If I have to lift something, screw a lid off, open a fridge, cut cheese, pour milk, etc., mostly it is too painful for me even to think about doing. If there are stairs I have to go up them 5 minutes before everyone else to get to the top at the same time they do. I find this to be humorous because I look like a 90 year old woman in a 18 year old body. I also have a cane that I sometimes bring that helps me.

One of the worst things about walking into a room with people inside is that nobody knows. I can’t open the fridge, and nobody understands why, or they wouldn’t even think of why my hands looks the way they do when I try to lift food to my mouth because I have mastered hiding my pain, or they just don’t care. Some of my family members just found out the other day. Oh, but the people who do know are the doctors that see me so much. They know that I’m in pain, but they don’t know why, what’s causing it, or how to decrease the pain. Medication has never worked on me.

It feels a little odd being in the shaded area of the unknown for my body. But only my body is in the unknown. I’ve learned to pull my mind from that area and have accepted the situation. I don’t have control of my body being stuck. So why would I let my mind, the only thing I can fully control, be stuck too?

People could say that it is limiting. And physically, it is. Sometimes my body can't do even necessary basic tasks. But, there is a huge lesson that I’ve learned with this ongoing experience. Even though my body is limited… My mind is not. And that is where existence changes from just survival to really living. It starts with a beautiful mind. It has transformed my mind into different eyes that never sleep. They have a nature now to gathering beautiful things and learn to value everything, even the ugly. It’s taught me that there is beauty in hideousness, and allowed me to consciously see that and learn from the lesson or story that it tells. It has shown me deep gratitude for everything, a true optimistic outlook, a sincere love for everything. This has increased my mind's strength even if my body is weak, taught me so much care for other people, taught me patience (started with waiting for answers, then turned to more) with time or without time.

Now I see the things which I can control in my life, and I can completely grasp my mind to its fullest with the greatest of light. And it’s fullest has no limit. Which means, while my body continuously gets worse, my mind will continuously get further and further into happiness. This experience has increased my quality of life intensely. This has, and always will, change my life forever. "

The lessons I am learning from watching this child are incredible.  It is SO, SO difficult to watch a child in pain and be helpless to give relief.  I have learned to give my heartache to God, and I am trying to embrace my daughter's attitude in seeing the good all around me, and in being happy no matter the circumstance.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Hike of a Lifetime

A few weeks ago I went to Yosemite National Park in California.  One of the days we were there my son and I climbed the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls.  It was 1,000 feet climb in 1.6 miles --very steep.  After climbing and resting, and climbing and resting, I was quite dismayed to see a stretch ahead of decline.  Although it would be refreshing to go downhill for a bit and catch my breath, I had worked very hard to get to where I was, and I knew any amount of downhill I went would have to be re-climbed in the next section as well as additional feet.  I was okay with walking on level ground, but didn't want to lose the ground I had gained.  Over the course of the rest of the climb there were several areas where we went downhill.  Each time it was a nice change, but we had to re-climb it in the next section.  We finally did reach the stunning Vernal falls, and it was truly worth all the hard work to get there.

I have been mulling over how life is like hiking.  There are varying degrees of uphill climbing and pushing toward what we want in life followed by times of decline.  We work hard to get to a certain point, but then we sometimes end up going downhill for a bit although we don't want to and don't intent to.  For example, we enjoy a period of good health, and then get sick and have to re-build our stamina.  Or we have steady success on a weight loss goal.....until the holidays come, and we must start again.  Or we are going along working and growing emotionally when something bad happens that sends us into a temporary tailspin.  Eventually we get our bearings back,  regain our lost ground and we keep going......and the point is to keep going.  The reward we are pushing toward is definitely worth it.

I guess we cannot always climb steadily upward in life without stopping or occasionally going downhill, or at least most of us can't.  We should expect to have an occasional period of decline here and there.  It's just part of life.  No need to beat ourselves up over it.  Just get rested and keep going!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Treadmill Approach

When I go to the gym I often run on the treadmill.  All the treadmills are lined up in 2 long lines, and many people are running at once.  When I get on the treadmill I have my own goal of how far I am going to run that day, and at what speed.  Everybody else is doing this as well.  We all have our own personal goals for exercising.  I never feel pressured to run at the speed of the person next to me.  I never feel bad because I am not running as far or as fast as someone else.  I have my own personal exercise goals, and I just focus on that.  Everyone else seems to do the same.  

Why is it that I do not tend to do that in other aspects of my life?  Why do I look at others around me and feel like I am less, like I should be doing more, going bigger or better.  Why do I compare myself to others in many aspects of my life when I do not do this at the gym, even though I am surrounded by people all doing varying degrees of what I am doing?  This is a problem that many of us struggle with.  

We tend to look at what other people are doing and feel inadequate in comparison.

As I analyzed this question, I realized that when I am at the gym I am focusing on my own goals, and seeking to stretch my own personal abilities.  I am not comparing myself to those around me.   I realized that if I would focus on myself in other aspects of my life I would be a lot better off.  Focusing on my own goals, my own strengths and abilities and increasing them at my own pace would be far more rewarding and productive than looking at those around me who seem more successful, smarter, capable, wiser, luckier........the list could go on and on!  

What if we all started using the treadmill approach to life?  We would all be working on our own goals and discovering our own abilities instead of comparing ourselves against others.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf once said: "We spend so much time and energy comparing ourselves to others—usually comparing our weaknesses to their strengths. This drives us to create expectations for ourselves that are impossible to meet. As a result, we never celebrate our good efforts because they seem to be less than what someone else does."  

J. Devin Cornish said:  "We must stop comparing ourselves to others. We torture ourselves needlessly by competing and comparing. We falsely judge our self-worth by the things we do or don’t have and by the opinions of others. If we must compare, let us compare how we were in the past to how we are today—and even to how we want to be in the future.  

From now on I am going to take the treadmill approach to my life.  I will work on myself, watch my own progress, and focus on my own abilities and successes.  I hope you will too!

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Reason to Do Something You Hate

A couple of weeks ago my 25-year-old son asked me if I wanted to go to Yosemite Park in California with him to camp for 5 days.  This boy knows I hate camping, and that I would be perfectly happy to never have to go camping again.  Since he was going there on the way to a family vacation, and not coming straight back none of his friends wanted to go and drive separately.  I was the only family member who had the "time off" to go, so he took at chance and asked me to go with him.  My immediate first thought was "heck no!"  My actual response was, "Are you serious?"  After mulling it over for a while and talking to my husband about it, I realized that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I would never get again.  Spend five days one-on-one with my grown son who no longer lives at home?  I would be crazy NOT to accept!  So I told him "yes".  The rest of the family about flipped when they found out, especially since I have spent the last month trying to get everyone to go camping together WITHOUT me so I could be left home alone (a dream I have).  

As I was preparing to go, and packing those hiking boots I was hoping never to take camping again, I was wondering what I had gotten myself into; but as soon as my son showed up, all excited and ready, I knew it was going to be an adventure!  We spent the next 5 days driving, talking, hiking, viewing breathtaking mountains, cliffs, and waterfalls; walking around huge sequoia trees and into cold streams, talking and meeting new people, and vying for the very few camping spots available.  We cooked dinner over an open fire, and made many new friends.  It was a very sweet adventure, and one I would have missed if I had stayed home because I "hate camping".  

Have you ever had times in your life when you didn't want to do something, but then afterward you were glad you did?  I have had this happen many, many times.  I have also had times where I did not do the thing I did not want to do, and ended up regretting it.  

Why would we choose to do things we don't want to do?  I am learning that if the potential positive benefits outweigh the reason we don't want to do something, it is usually worth it to do it.  Like me and camping.  The positive benefit of so much one-on-one time with this child totally outweighed my finicky dislike for getting dirty and smelling like campfire.  

Next time you are faced with something you don't want to do, ask yourself what are the potential positive benefits.  If they outweigh the reasons you don't want to do something, you may want to think twice.

Monday, July 31, 2017

My Life is Like a Fairy Tale

Wouldn't it be nice if your life was like a fairy tale?  After all, fairy tales all end happily......."and they lived happily ever after."  But when you think about it, all fairy tales also have something else in common.  They all have terrible things that happen to the main character.

*Snow White's mother died when she was little, and she was raised by a step-mom who hated her to the point of trying to have her killed.  That must have been a hostile environment to grow up in.

*Belle, in the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, did not have a mother, and was raised by a father in relative poverty.  He and his daughter were not respected by their community, and had no support group except each other.  Belle was held hostage without hope of seeing her loving father again, and she didn't even get to say goodbye!

*Cinderella's mother also died when she was very young.  She was not loved by her step-mom, and when her father also died, leaving her an orphan, she was subjected to abuse and cruelty for the remainder of her growing up years.

*Rapunzel was kidnapped as a baby and raised by a woman who did not love her and only used her, keeping her isolated from society.

These do not sound like the kind of life experiences I would wish for!  Each character goes through very difficult things before their lives finally get better.  They each seem to stay cheerful and make the best of their difficult circumstances.  And do they really live happily ever after because their lives become perfect, or do they live happily ever after because they have a new perspective due to the hard things they have been through?  Maybe instead of becoming bitter about their past, they learned to see clearly and appreciate the good things they now had.  It never says their lives became perfect at the end of the story, only that they were happy.

I have not been through anything even close to these sweet fairy tale characters, but I have been through some extremely difficult times in my own story (which I will spare you from outlining here).  I am sure you have also been through some extremely difficult things in your life.  If we truly want to have our lives be like a fairy tale, let's do as Snow White, Belle, Cinderella , Rapunzel and others did - let's have a better perspective because of the things that we have been through, and see the good things that are all around us!

My life is like a fairy tale.  I live in a free country in the greatest age ever known to mankind.  I have beautiful shelter, plenty of food, clean water at my fingertips, and people who love me.  I am warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  I have access to good medical care.  I travel anywhere I like in a car that covers distance at speeds never heard of in past ages.  I can instantly talk to anyone in the world instead of waiting for weeks/months for letters to go back and forth.  I have access to learning just about anything I set my mind to.  People around me are basically good.  The beauty around me and above me is astounding when I stop to notice.

So you see, your life may really be like a fairy tale.  Even though you have been through hard times in your story, you get to choose your attitude through hard things, have hope for a better future, and make your own happy ending by seeing the sweetness in your life that is all around you.

Monday, July 17, 2017

What I Learned from the Eensie Weensie Spider

I am the person who mows the lawn in our family.  I love to mow the lawn.  It's so rewarding to see the before and after difference every time.  A few weeks ago I was mowing the lawn and I noticed occasional spider webs built right on top of the grass, something I had not really seen before.  I don't really like spiders so it was somewhat satisfying to mow over these spider webs and envision the spiders being sucked up into the lawn mower.  End of problem, or so I thought.  The next week when I got out the lawn mower and began mowing I noticed new spider webs right where the old ones had been.  Apparently I had not sucked up the spiders into the lawn mower after all.  Somehow those spiders had escaped my giant cutting and sucking machine.  The nursery rhyme I have known practically all my life popped in my head.

The eensie weensie spider climbed up the water spout,
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
Up came the sun and dried up all the rain,
And the eensie weensie spider climbed up the spout again.

As I mowed I began to contemplate what the words to that nursery rhyme actually mean.  I realized that the rain did not kill the spider (just as my lawn mower had not sucked it up) and though it had probably had a very unpleasant experience being washing out by the rain, (or run over by the lawn mower) the spider did not give up.  Once the sun came back out (or the lawn mower passed by) that spider climbed back up the water spout to remake its web (or started a new web in the grass).  

I don't know how many times the eensie weensie spider got washed out, but I have mowed over those spiders in my grass quite a few times now and they just keep surviving and rebuilding their little webs.

The lesson that occurred to me from all of this is one of not giving up, but of persevering through unpleasant and possibly even traumatic experiences to rebuild what we have lost, start over, and keep going.  Though I am not thrilled at learning a life lesson from a spider, I must admit that they present a good example of what to do when the going gets tough.  I have a feeling that from now on every time I see a spider web I will be reminded that I must never give up, and when the rain in life falls, or I feel run over by a lawn mower, I need to just climb back up and keep going.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Letting Go of the Past - Because Papers (Tool #3 of 3)

The past could be a short as 5 minutes ago, or it could be years ago.  The first tool I gave you was one you could use relatively quickly and get results.  The second tool was more of a "slow release" technique.  (BTW, if you missed it because of the American holiday, go back and read tool #2.  I have had amazing results with it.)  Tool #3 requires the most emotional work, but also yields deeper healing and understanding.  This tool is for those of you who are ready to get serious about letting go of your negative feelings.  It is called "Because Papers".  Here is how it works:

Pick an issue that is bothering you.  Write it down in as a statement with because at the end.
Here are a few examples:

"So-and-so makes me feel ________because......"
"I feel _______ because......"
"I am having a hard time forgiving so-and-so because.........."
"I can't do such-and-such because......."

It can be about anything that is bothering you and gnawing away at you inside.

After you decide on your topic and write down your statement, put your pen on the paper (or your fingers on the keyboard) and write whatever comes to your mind.  You are going to write any and everything that enters your mind without analyzing it.  Just write down everything that comes.  No filter.  You should be able to fill up at least a page by doing this emotional dump of pent-up feelings and emotions.  Do not stop until you are out of things to say.  Then close your notebook or put your paper away where it will not be found.  Do not read over it.  Do not cross things out and re-write them.  Close it up and put it away for 24 hours.

On day two get your paper out and read it.  As you do, you will get an idea about more to write about.  It might be a different perspective.  It might be additional feelings that were under the ones you had yesterday.  By the time you get to the end of reading your paper, you will have an idea of what to write about on day two's paper.  Begin it the same way with a because statement.

Write everything that comes to your mind.  It will be different from what you wrote yesterday.  Again, do not stop until you cannot think of anything else to write.  Do not read over it.  Do not cross things out and re-write them.  Close it up and put it away for another 24 hours.

On day three get your paper out and read what you wrote the day before.  Again, you will understand things more deeply as you read.  You may get an "aha" moment.  You may get a new perspective on what the real issue is.  Whatever it is, write that as the heading for your third paper, then write everything you can about that topic.

This method helps you get down to the root of your emotions, the root of the problem, the root of the pain that you have not been able to let go of before now.  Occasionally I have had to write a day or two longer, but usually three days is enough to figure it out and let it go.

Here is a personal example of mine:
At one point not so long ago, my husband and I were battling over food issues.  Of course I thought he was the one with the issues, and he thought it was me.  I decided to do because papers about it.

 My first topic was, "I don't want my husband to claim all the Sunday dinner left-overs for his lunch because......"  I wrote down everything I could think of.  Boy, it felt good to get it all out!  When I went back and read it the next day I had some realizations.  My new statement for day two was:  "I am selfish with food because......."  That was a brutally honest realization, ouch!  I wrote everything I could think of.  Some possible solutions actually came to me, as well as a desire to be a better example to the children, and meet my husbands needs with abundance.   By day three, my new topic became, "I have food issues because......"  I was able to get to the root as I wrote, realizing that I had a scarcity mentality with food stemming from some extremely tight financial times when there truly was not enough.  I had held on to that for a very long time, even though there was now plenty of food.   Once I realized what the root of the problem was, I was able to LET IT GO!  I found a new desire to live with an abundance mentality, to shower my husband and family with what they needed and wanted.  It was such a freeing experience!  I now feel completely differently, and it has helped the rest of my family as well.  As you heal, it will also help those around you.

I have heard a couple of people complain about "hating" to write.  Think about it this way: Anything worth having requires some unpleasant work.  Whether it is growing a family, restoring furniture, creating something, or whatever, it all requires some unpleasant work.  For example, if you love a beautiful yard you have to do the unpleasant work.  Digging, weeding, fertilizing.  The end results are so worth it.  The yield is a beautiful yard.  Anything worthwhile requires work, and some of it will be unpleasant.  Keep the goal in mind.  The unpleasant part of the work is WORTH THE RESULTS.

I am anxious for you to try this new tool and find healing for yourself!  This method is the most work, but also yields the deepest results.  Though I am not trained in psychology or counseling I have learned a few wonderful tools that help to heal.  I am simply passing on those tools from others that have helped me to make amazing and healthy changes in my life.  They work, and I know they work!  
I have been able to heal from bad feelings towards others, long-standing grudges, personal and money issues, weight-loss issues and fear issues.  I have had amazing results and so can you.  It's time to let go of the past!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Letting Go of the Past, (Tool #2 of 3)

Letting go of the past is never easy.  Some things are easier to let go of than others.  Today's tool is one that allows you to "slow release" negative feelings from the past.

You know how when you twist the lid of a soda pop bottle just a little ways it lets out a little of the pressure inside of the bottle?  If you open the lid quickly the pressure may allow the contents to overflow, but when the lid is twisted slowly, pausing to release the pressure every few seconds, you are able to release all of the pressure from the soda bottle without the contents spilling out.  Letting go of the past can be done in a similar manner.  Our negative emotions are built up over time, and when released slowly, we can do so without spilling our contents all over and making a mess.  Today's tool is called "Write and Destroy"*

To effectively use this tool, find a time each day that you can have 5-10 minutes of alone time.  I know, I know, finding alone time can be nearly impossible sometimes.  We are too busy, and have too many people around us.  However, if you want to heal you have to get a little creative!  I know you can do it!

Now, what to do with that 5-10 minutes: You will need paper and pen.  (Or you can type and print if that works better for you).  You are going to write about something that you are either frustrated, angry, disappointed, embarrassed,  or sad about.  Put your pen on the paper (or your fingers on the keys).  Write, "I feel frustrated (angry, disappointed, embarrassed or sad) because.......  "
Whatever comes to your mind, that is what you write.  Keep writing until things stop coming to you. The thoughts that come to mind might be about the recent or distant past.  Write whatever comes.    This will probably take about 5-10 minutes, though you are welcome to take longer if you want to.    Next, you read what you have written out loud.  This is how you get those negative emotions outside of the body.  You are releasing the pressure.  The emotions are being released literally into the air just like the carbon dioxide in the soda bottle is released into the air when the lid is turned.  Saying the words out loud literally helps release them from inside of you.

Now for the fun part!  You get to destroy the paper.  You watch as these written feelings are removed from existence.  This can be done in a variety of ways.  My personal favorite is burning the paper in a pie tin on my deck, but you can also tear up and flush your paper, shred it, put it down the garbage disposal, or any other method of destroying the paper that you can think of.  The important thing is to destroy it.  As the paper is being destroyed remind your brain that the negative on the paper is also being destroyed.  You are letting it go.  There is something symbolic and also quite literal about watching those words cease to exist that really and truly releases pressure from our beings.

The great thing about this tool is that it releases the pressure a little at a time.  It is not a big emotional experience.  It is a healing experience done in small doses of time and emotion.  You may not even feel any differently afterward, but done consistently over time, you will be able to look back and see a cumulative difference.

I have found it the easiest to write using the acronym FADES** and follow this pattern:

Monday: Frustration
Tuesday: Anger
Wednesday: Disappointment
Thursday: Embarrassment
Friday: Sadness
Saturday and Sunday just rest:)

On Monday you write, "I feel frustrated because....."  write whatever comes to mind.  Then read out loud and destroy.

On Tuesday you write, "I feel angry because......" write whatever comes to mind.  Then read out loud and destroy.

On Wednesday you write, "I feel disappointed because..............."   You get the picture.

Follow this pattern.  The five emotions make the acronym FADES, and it allows the negative emotions of the past to do just that - fade.

This tool used regularly over time allows you to release the negative pressure that is inside of you and let go of the painful feelings of the past.  It is a wonderful way to let go slowly.  Like I said, you will not feel any great change right off the bat, but as you continue this pattern over time you will be able to look back and see progress and healing.  You will notice that you feel more emotionally healthy  It is a wonderful tool!

*Term coined by Becky Edwards
**Acronym by Kirk Duncan

Monday, June 26, 2017

Letting Go of the Past, (Tool #1 of 3)

This is the first in a series of three articles on how to let go of the past.  Ironically enough (or not), the minute I started thinking about writing this article, I started feeling annoyed and offended with some of the people in my life who mean the most to me.  I guess I needed a little practicum on what I know to be true!

Today I am going to share with you one of the three tools I use in letting go of the past.  Each of these three tools works well for letting go of different types of things, and all are valuable.

The first tool is called "Finishing the conversation".*  Have you ever had things you wanted to say to someone but couldn't or shouldn't for whatever reason?  These unsaid things stay inside of you and take energy to keep inside of you, but they are not good for you.  Sometimes saying them to the person is not good either, so what can you do?  You do need to get your words out, to say them aloud in order for them to be released from inside of you and stop taking your energy.  Here is how to do it without hurting anyone else, but allowing yourself to heal:

You need to be somewhere where NO ONE else can hear you.  For me, most often this is in the car while I am driving with the windows rolled up.  It can also be alone in your house, out in a field with no one around, or anywhere you can be alone.  Imagine that the person you need to talk to is there with you.  You are going to talk to their image, as though they were there.  You ask the image of this person if you may tell them how you feel.  You imagine that they say "yes".  You then say everything that is inside of you, and I mean EVERYTHING that you want to say to them.  There is no need to sugar coat anything, just say it how it is.  You can rant, rave and yell if needed.  Get all of it out in your words, leave nothing unsaid.

Once you have done that, take a deep breath and sit quietly for a moment.  Now for the hard part: you next apologize for your negative feelings, and for pointing your negative energy at them.  Yes, I know it's all their fault.  You were the one wronged.  I get that.  You are not apologizing for anything that they did.  You are not apologizing for something you did not do.  You are simply apologizing for having negative feelings towards them; that is your part.  Of course, if there is more to it than than, by all means apologize for that as well.  You then imagine that they forgive you for your negative feelings.  You then imagine that they leave.  At this point, if you have a higher power, it is also important to address that higher power and apologize for your negative feelings in that way as well.

You will find as you do this exercise that it is somewhat like throwing up.  You get the bad stuff out of you, you get it outside of your body, and you walk away feeling better and more emotionally healthy.  The negative is no longer with you making you "sick" and taking your energy.  It is gone.  (I have found a time or two with really hard feelings that I thought I was done after one time, only to find later that I had more to say and had to repeat this exercise more than once for the same issue, and that is totally fine.  The goal is to get it all out without emotionally throwing up on the real person, although perhaps you would like to, JK!)

I encourage you to think about who you have an unfinished conversation with and try this exercise today in order to let go of the past and be a happier you!

*"Anchors Away", CD by Kirk Duncan

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Upgrade Your Brain

Today I heard a great analogy about how to change your brain. Just like with your home, before you can move something new in, you often have to get the old out; a bed, a couch, chairs, a table.  When you are ready to upgrade to something new and better you have to get the old out first.  It is the same with our minds.  When we are ready to upgrade to better thoughts, new ways of looking at life, a better way of doing things, we must first get the old out.   This allows space for something new and better.

Have you ever been around someone who particularly impressed you?  Maybe they were very intellectual.  Maybe they were very confident.  Maybe they were very happy and positive.  Maybe they were very deep thinking.  You have the ability to move in that same direction by clearing out space and making room for something new and better.

Marelisa Fabrega, author of the blog "Daring to Live Fully" gives 10 ways to clear out space in your mind. (Warning, do not try to implement all 10 today!  Just pick one thing.  When you feel comfortable with that, pick another.  This is not a marathon.)

1.  Declutter your physical space.  Physical clutter leads to mental clutter.  There is a definite connection here.  As you clean out your physical space you will actually feel differently, lighter, more open.

2.  Write it down.  You don't need to keep everything in your brain.  It takes a lot of mental energy to keep it all upstairs.  Use a device or good old fashioned paper and pen to keep some of that information somewhere else, thus freeing up mental space and energy.

3. Keep a journal.  This mental exercise helps you to get out of your brain and onto paper (or screen as the case may be) things you are worried about, hopes, dreams, frustrations.   Often in the writing down of things in a journal I have had "aha" moments, or figured things out that I had not been able to before.  It's like therapy that you give yourself.

4.  Let go of the past.  It actually takes a tremendous amount of energy to hold onto negative from your past.  You won't realize it until you let it go, then all of a sudden you feel more light and free, and you wonder why you waited so long!  I could write a whole series of articles devoted to tools on how to let go of the past.  Tune in next week for a few ideas on how to do this.

5.  Stop multi-tasking.  Just as it is most effective to tackle one room or one pile at a time, so it is with our minds.  Focus on one thing at a time and do it well.  This keeps your mind from being scattered in too many directions at once, like a pile of clutter of which you never get to the bottom.

6.  Limit the amount of trivial information coming in.  Ask yourself this question,  "Do I feel like I am losing time to any kind of social media? Online sites? News programs? Other?  If so, decide how to limit your exposure to this information.  Doing so will also limit the time your brain spends processing it, thus freeing up space for meaningful things that you choose.

7.  Be decisive.  I once had an employer that would put off decisions until the lack of making a decision was in and of itself a decision, and not usually the one she would have chosen.  Lay out your options and make a choice.  Then it can stop weighing on your brain. Using your higher power for tough decisions can be a great benefit in helping you to feel good about the decisions you make.

8.  Put routine decisions on auto-pilot.  In other words, form habits to decrease the amount of brain space you spend on things that are repetitive.  For instance, I have a morning routine that I follow each weekday.  It includes meditation time, breakfast and going to the gym.  I do the same thing every morning.  It is a HABIT.  I do not have to decide every morning whether or not I am going to go to the gym.  I just do it.  It frees up space and energy inside of me.

9.  Prioritize.  Decide on the top 1-3 things that are the most essential in your day.  These may or may not be tasks.  It is whatever is the most important to you.  Ask yourself, "If I could only do one thing today, what would it be?"  That helps narrow it down considerably.  Often my first priority is relationship oriented rather than task oriented, something I have upgraded in my brain.

10. Meditate.  This can take as little as 10 minutes per day, but can be very refreshing or cleansing, like a cool quick shower when you are hot and sweaty.  It just refreshes you and give clarity to your mind.

For Marelisa's full article on this topic, go to

As you use the tools to clear space in your brain, you now have room that can be filled with whatever you choose to fill it with.  Just as you would carefully choose a new piece of furniture for your house, it is wise to also carefully choose how to fill that space inside of you.  There is much to choose from that is good and wonderful.  What do you want to put inside of you?  Give yourself an upgrade!

Monday, June 5, 2017

What is your WHY?

Michelle Gilbert had a goal to learn something new every year.  In 2008 she decided to learn how to make bread at the suggestion of her sister in order to help support her two boys in their missionary service for the church they belong to.  She had lots of wheat stored in the garage as well as a good supply of other ingredients needed for bread making.  At first she gave her bread away to the neighbors.  Soon she began selling it to them.  Before long she was making sweet breads and other baked items for weddings and other events.  Before she knew it she was getting up at 3:00 a.m. every morning and baking about 60 loaves of bread per day in addition to other baked goods.  The project had become huge!  After paying for a total of four years of missionary service for her two sons she decided to close her in-home business.

In 2014 she went to work for a marketing company.  One day she was in a work meeting when a question was posed to the group: "What is your WHY?  Why do you get up in the morning?"  Michelle says it hit her that her "WHY" was not marketing.  In discussing the question later with her husband he pointed out that she had loved having a bakery, so why didn't she do that?  Michelle realized that she indeed did love baking, and it was the WHY that she wanted to get up for in the morning.  That is when the idea for "Vanilla Bean" was born.  Michelle decided to open a bakery, not run it out of her home.  She had a vision of exactly what it would look like, how it would be run, and what would be offered.  She set about to make her vision a reality, and that is just what she did.

When Michelle had trouble finding the decor she was looking for she decided to build much of it herself.  She built everything from the cabinet that the soda fountain dispenser sits on to the artwork on the walls to the big barn door into the kitchen.

 Michelle worked to make everything about The Vanilla Bean the fresh and inviting bakery you encounter when you enter its doors.

Michelle says that making this successful bakery a reality is probably the hardest thing she has ever done because she did not know how to do it.  She had to go through an intense learning period that was difficult and stressful.  But she got her WHY.   She now knows WHY she gets up in the morning.   About her bakery she says, "I walk in here in the mornings and it feels good.  I feel good because I didn't quit.  Keep at it and don't give up.  Keep going, keep trying.  If there is something you want to do, keep trying!  I feel good because I did this!"

What is your WHY?  Why do you get up in the morning?  What motivates you?  What are you passionate about that is worth doing each day?  Don't be afraid to go after your dreams and do hard things.  Figure out your WHY and make it happen.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Gift of Life

Today I want to tell you a story about how my daughter's life was saved this week.  My 23-year-old daughter Heidi gets allergy shots on a weekly basis and has for about six months now.  Last Wednesday after receiving her weekly injection she started feeling sick as she was going out to her car.  Once in her car she turned the air on in hopes that it would help her feel better.  It didn't.  She realized that she was going to throw up so she turned her car off and got out just in time.  After she threw up she was having trouble breathing and passed out.  Though she did not realize it, she was having an anaphylactic reaction--the most severe of allergic reactions which can lead to death within minutes.  Luckily a woman had just pulled into a parking stall next to my daughter as all of this was happening.  She called 911 and ran to the nearest office for help.  By the time the paramedics got there my daughter was blue and having severe difficulty breathing.  After an epi-pen given by the doctor's office and three more given by the paramedics they were finally able to stabilize her and rush her to the hospital.  Two hours later she was able to go home.  Today, five days later she is fine.

What if that woman had not been there?  What if no one had seen her before it was too late?  This Memorial Day weekend would have been very different for my family.  This beautiful daughter has been married for 10 months to a wonderful young man that we adore.  They are set to close on the house they just build this next week.  What "could have been" is almost too painful to think about.  Our lives were very nearly turned completely upside down.

Once again I am given new perspective.  Last week I wrote about how I nearly lost my husband a few years ago and how I have tried never to take his presence in my life for granted since then.  Just one week later I have again been given new perspective of the gift of having this daughter in my life.  I cannot quit wanting to hug her.

I also have questions.  I have a sweet friend whose son was killed in a head-on collision this month.  He was only 21 years old.  Why was my child spared and hers was not?  I do not know the answer.  I only know that we need to cherish the ones we care about while we have got them.  Over the years I have had brushes with death and almost lost a small son (twice, the same child) my husband, and now this daughter.  My new goal is to love and appreciate the people around me more fully.  I don't want to look back with regrets at not having appreciated my time with someone I love while I had the chance.  It reminded me of the song "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw.  In part, the song says:

He said
"I was in my early forties with a lot of life before me
And a moment came tat stopped me on a dime.
I spent most of the next days looking at the x-rays
Talkin' bout the options and talkin' 'bout sweet time."

I asked him, "When it sank in that this might really be the real end
How'd it hit you when you get that kind of news, man, what'd you do?"

He said
"I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu,
And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying"
And he said, "Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying."

He said
"I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn't
And I became a friend a friend would like to have,
And all of a sudden going fishin' wasn't such an imposition
And I went three time that year I lost my dad.
I finally read the Good Book, and I took a good long hard look
At what I'd do if I could do it all again.

...Like tomorrow was a gift and you've got eternity
To think about what you'd do with it,
What could you do with it?
What did you do with it?
What would I do with it?

In the United States we celebrate Memorial Day in honor of those who have died serving our country.  It has also become a day to remember other loved ones who have died.  Today as we remember those we have lost, let us also appreciate those still with us, and give our very best to them while we have the chance.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Being Present and Aware

Have you ever had the experience of eating a food you really enjoyed and suddenly wondered where that last bite went?  Did you finish it or was it sitting somewhere still waiting to be eaten?  You realize that you must have eaten it without noticing, but you are not satisfied since you didn't remember eating it and didn't get to enjoy it, and so you get some more?  This has happened to me multiple times.  When I get distracted I find that I miss out on getting the full enjoyment out of whatever it is that I am experiencing.

This week I was sitting on the couch with my sweet three-year-old granddaughter watching a movie.  She crawled over and cuddled up on my lap.  I was talking to someone at the time, and though I was somewhat aware that she was there, I was not truly present and aware of her.  A few minutes later my conversation ended, allowing me to stop being distracted.  As I sat there with my sweet little one I noticed the connection between us.  I felt how safe and comfortable she was with me, and I with her.  I noticed how fresh and sweet she smelled, and how much I enjoyed this precious moment with her. How easily that time together could have slipped by unnoticed and unappreciated if I had continued talking or been engrossed in the movie. (As it happens I have seen this particular movie over, and over, and over at her request, so it was easy to not pay attention to it.)  All too soon she will be past the cuddling stage with grandma forever.  Our positive experiences here should be treasured. I was so glad I took the time to be present and aware and to enjoy her.

I used to take having my husband with me for granted.  Then unexpectedly one day he had a life-threatening situation and survived.  It happened so quickly.  He could have been gone in the blink of an eye.  It woke me up.  I felt that somehow I had been given a second chance to have him in my life.  Ever since then I try not take him for granted.  I have learned to appreciate his very presence in my world.  When I lay down at night I lay on his chest and listen to his heart beat, and I think about how glad that he is still with me.  I never did that before the accident.  I was not present and aware, but now I am, and my life feels richer and more fulfilled because of my awareness.

The art of truly becoming present and aware brings balance, and adds a richness and fulfillment to life that is very valuable.  In the Balance class that I teach I give each participant a chocolate Hershey's Kiss to eat while I tell them a story.  Because they are focused on my story they are distracted from focusing on what they are eating.  When the story ends I then give them a second chocolate Kiss and have them close their eyes and focus on the taste and how it feels in their mouth while they are eating it.  Without fail, my participants consistently report that the second Hershey's Kiss is much more enjoyable than the first.  Why is this?  They are present and aware of what they are experiencing.

Each of our lives can be more enriched and fulfilled by being more present and aware of our experiences.  It doesn't take any more time to do this in your day, and it makes life so much more enjoyable.  Don't gulp down your day without noticing.  Be present and enjoy all the good that surrounds you.