Joyful Simplicity

Growing up in the country as a child in the 70’s the electricity would go out frequently. Sometimes it took hours or even days to go back on. That meant no TV which forced our family to rely on simpler entertainment. Our home would be lit by candlelight. My scratchpad and pencils next to a nearby flame allowed enough light to trace images from my coloring book for hours. Oftentimes my family would agree to play board games and cards. Those family stories shared during those moments of darkness with just little flames of light are still cherished. 

While reflecting on those simpler days thinking of all the special moments where very little money was required to be happy, I remember:

  • Climbing our large apple trees and enjoying the fragrance filling the Spring air of the apple blossoms that were in full bloom.
  • Waking up to the birds’ singing in the morning with a slight breeze coming through the open farmhouse window making the sheer curtains dance peacefully in my room.
  • Being taught how to put a worm on a hook by my Dad and getting to cast my line all by myself. Even if no fish would bite during those fishing trips, I still have fond memories of getting to enjoy a picnic lunch in the peaceful silence of nature with maybe an occasional sound of cows mooing in the distance.
  • Picking wild strawberries on the side of a country road and running back home to share my exciting harvest of a handful. Or more accurately the remains of the leftovers after I ate the largest ones even before they could be washed.
  • Walking down to our nearby pond/mudhole and catching tadpoles with my sisters.
  • Going in the hay mile to play and finding a surprise litter of kittens.
  • Watching the amazing ability of an ant carry food more than twice his size for what could have been hours.
  • Getting to go along with my older brothers and sisters to pick up large rocks out of a field before my Dad and older brothers and sisters could plow the fields.
  • The satisfaction of touching a cute brown little piglet through the fence long enough to feel his coarse hair and admiring his pretty long-eyelashes.
  • Pushing the bubbles of pitch on the tar country road on a hot summer day.
  • Getting to grill out and eat with the family on a picnic table in the barnyard.
  • Watching Mom make apple pies and getting to play with the leftover dough

Making mud pies, finding toads, and embracing the feeling of grass on our bare feet while dancing around in the yard are some of the simple things of childhood that brought many of us joy. 

Now in adulthood with larger houses, entertainment at our fingertips, no time for hobbies or board games, many of us have begun taking the ordinary things for granted. Usually, when unfortunate circumstances occur, it can become a wake-up call to a larger life lesson that leads us to appreciate each other and the simplest of life’s pleasures once more.

Whatever obstacles that could be in front of us with economic uncertainty, one thing remains in our control, our attitude and outlook to overcome our struggles.  Remember tough moments too shall pass.  Meanwhile, whether it is memories of your youth or simple pleasures from today, share your favorite moments where it was the simple things that brought you joy.  Hope and optimism can conquer all fear.

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“Discover a Better Life” By a Farmer’s Daughter

As I was replenishing the rabbits’ food supply the smell of hay brought me back to the days with my sisters being in that barn every day.

Growing up on a farm I learned dedication at an early age. The animals had to be fed and watered every day regardless of how of cold it was outside. In the winter my sisters and I would pile on the overalls, winter hats, gloves, boots, and make our way to the barn. If the animals’ water had turned to ice we had to break it up and provide new water. It required carrying two ten gallon buckets across the long graveled barnyard which was quite heavy for a little girl. Filled with horses, rabbits, a couple of dogs and often a new litter of kittens, rabbit poop and hay, that barn seemed impossible to keep clean. When you opened the barn doors there was always work to be done.

In order to free ourselves from the daily feedings and massive poop clean up, one Spring day my sisters and I had taken all our rabbits in the middle of the alfalfa field to run free (in our minds).  While I have fond memories growing up on a farm and am thankful for the values it taught me like hard work and dependability, I did NOT miss the chores.  After shedding many tears due to pets “going missing”, I also learned not to grow too close to the animals on the farm.

I had thought that Spring day was the last time I would ever be cleaning up after rabbits. Now years later, my daughter’s desire convinced me to agree to be part of the Bunny Brigade at the Human Society. Typically it was my daughter that handled the rabbits. I typically just went through the cleanup motions as an obligation to my daughter. Yet this morning was different.

When I started the task of removing the first bunny from its cage I could still hear my daughter’s response to my unhealthy comment the night before.

“Why do you feel I owe you for helping out animals?” She had wisely replied.

Her come-back had left me in silence and in thought. Even though it was not her fault she had another obligation, I had been irritated that it was her idea. I was once again stuck.  It wasn’t right to reschedule as they had counted on us showing up.

Over the course of the morning, smelling that hay brought back memories. After petting and holding that rabbit I started to realize my core issues.  My daughter was innocent. The truth is I had built up a blockade to not feel anything for those rabbits. I had left myself cry too hard too many times when I lost them and quit seeing them as something to love and enjoy.  By resisting vulnerability I killed my own joy.  The experience became an unwanted task because I resorted to just going through the motions.

Can you relate? Are you currently stuck and find something you used to enjoy has now turned into something you dread? Have you let yourself become bitter for feeling out of control of something in your life? Or have you even become detached to someone or something to prevent yourself from being vulnerable?

When you experience yourself feeling irritable, examine the root of it? Dig deep and ask yourself, “why do you feel that way?” Randy Creamer the lead teaching counselor at Southbrook Church then says to ask, “How are you going to find your joy if nothing changes?”

What is holding you back from experiencing joy? What is it you have control over? What can you change to become unstuck?  What are you going to do about it?

Until we dig deep about what it is that is really leaving us annoyed about our life, we will keep living each day as a daily ritual and soon our life will have passed us by. We can choose to live with a dark cloud over us or we can choose to live in the light. It is our choice.

For me, after working through the answers to those questions I began to see again. I was able to see those rabbits as God’s creations who needed care. The bitterness was replaced with delight. I also could see the positive…at least those rabbits were not in my old barn, it was not the dead of winter, and no ice needed to be broken. It was only me who needed to warm up inside.

What can you do right now to enjoy this very moment? Examine the beauty around you right now!  It is there, you just need to look for it.  Begin truly seeing again like you are experiencing whatever it is in front of you for the first time. Let your appreciation be known. Focus on the blue sky rather than the work required. It is amazing what doors will begin to open!  Doors to a more enjoyable life!

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Barn Photograph was taken near Terre Haute, IN in 2019

How to Turn Anger into Inner Peace

Compassion is the road to forgiveness and turns anger into inner peace.

So often we get caught up in our own jealousies and anger of other people and forget what they may be feeling or facing. If you are someone who feels weight caused by others and wish everyone else would change, then start looking inside yourself. Realize the solution may be within you.

If you find yourself being quick to anger, think about why that situation made you blow up. In the psychology lessons I continue to study in order to counsel myself and others, I have learned anger comes from unexpressed communication, a hurt from our past or the lack of the ability to forgive either yourself or someone else.

What is it for you? Likely you deal with something that makes you quick to anger as it seems everyone does. For me, it is in the evil parts of perfectionism. As a perfectionist, I beat myself up and always try to do the right things. I work so hard at it that it can lead to harboring resentment for others who seem careless. I can grow bitter for the endless work and strict rules I have worked to try and follow, especially when I let myself be a pessimist. I can get swallowed by my self-pity when someone else is rewarded for their little effort.

However, in reality, no one else has put those rules on me. That is me putting those strict guidelines up thinking if I just follow all the rules nothing will go wrong. By recognizing my anger is coming from how I am viewing the situation and not because of the other person, I realize I can do something about dealing with the bitterness. I have no right to build up resentment or force change on those who are more carefree. What I need to be doing is learning from them. The more I strive for excellence, not perfection and more importantly remember to have fun, the happier I become. Also laughing at myself could do me some good!

For you, it could be something much worse. Many people have shared stories with me where I can’t help but get mad with them. If you have deep-rooted anger due to the cruelty of the unimaginable, please seek professional counseling. Get coaching on how you can write letters without sending them to express the hurt those people caused you. Just admitting the source of my anger in writing draws my attention to working on it. It will help you heal too. Begin to write out the anger directed toward the appropriate parties. Then work through a process of understanding the situation from their viewpoint. It helps you to be compassionate. Forgiveness is not excusing what was done. It is instead a way for you to find healing for yourself.

In most cases, when you identify who or what it is you are blaming or directing that anger towards, it brings an awareness that makes it easier to bring light to a solution for peace within yourself. There may be cases where it makes you realize the root cause for someone else being hurtful to you was the aftermath of someone else not dealing with their pain in a healthy way.

Maybe they are dealing with a trauma that is unfathomable to you. Doesn’t that change your perspective of your anger towards them? When you dig deeper and see that person’s hurt or your own struggle from other perspectives you can take ownership of controlling the anger and finding your peace.

If you are someone who experiences a lot of road rage, and a driver around you does something stupid, rather than cussing at them for their carelessness, ask “I wonder what is going through that person’s mind?”. That person could have just found out their parent passed away or received various other amounts of bad news. Or they could have made a mistake and maybe apologizing in their own car to you right now. It doesn’t excuse their bad driving. However, when we look at options rather than first assuming the worst, doesn’t that make for a healthier version of you? Also, Randy Creamer at Southbrook Church teaches counselors to ask those with road rage, what is it about others driving that makes you angry? Is it you putting your own expectations on them to be perfect? Is it their carelessness? Realize everyone is fighting their own battle. Mistakes happen.

If it is a person that makes you angry, instead of getting angry or frustrated Kyle Maynard a mixed martial arts athlete, Mountain Climber, Author, and Speaker who is quadruple amputee says to ask yourself to look deep within them as if you are looking into their soul and ask yourself what it is they need? What great inspiration to start YOUR compassionate journey to forgiveness.

Giving Up Your Right Arm

Sometimes it takes a negative life event to appreciate the simple things.  When you no longer have something that you used to take for granted, it changes your perspective on what satisfies you.

March 2, as I was turning 45 an accident during a ski trip led to an AC joint injury and rotator cuff surgery.  In other words, I am unable to use my right arm for several weeks and I am told I have a year-long journey ahead to get used of my arm back to close to normal.

Normally I am an active person who loves hiking, bicycling, and most of all kayaking.  My career also drives me to work 50-60 hours a week.  All of which including keeping up with the household chores like folding laundry is very reliant on my right arm.  I have spent a lot of time with family, reading, and realizing how hard it is for me to shut down and be patient and control my mind.  The days where I’ve had breakdowns of frustration coincide with the days I have not practiced what I have read and studied for so many years.

I picked up my first self-help book at the age of 18.  That’s where my journey for self-transformation really began.  It was a book I read the summer before entering college on overcoming test anxiety through self-hypnosis.  It taught me to imagine myself doing well, through first relaxing my body, controlled breathing, and visualization.  It helped me go from a 2.6 GPA student in high school to a 3.4 student in college.  More importantly, it helped me change my self-image from someone incapable of someone capable.  Through even more personal development I went from a poor shy backward farm girl that battled lots of depression to a high performing sales professional and household breadwinner that has persevered.

Even while surpassing my income goals and material possessions the relentless drive for checking off the accomplishments wasn’t leaving me feeling satisfied.  With the combination of teachings from others wiser than me and my halftime break at 45 this year, the reality of needing to concentrate on the daily rituals of filling the soul is even more glaring.

No matter who you are, we all have a story.  Some are just better than others at hiding their struggles and some are better at coping.  Others will admit they need all the help they can get to be present and fight off negative self-talk and depression.

What is consistent in all the studies for learning to be grateful, finding your joy, life satisfaction, or as I would like to call it having your soul feel fulfilled, boils down to doing the list of things below that all encompass “Everything for the Soul.”  Beyond the natural highs, nothing will leave you fulfilled.

  • Daily gratitude journal
  • Discover new things
  • Establish a positive streak
  • Exercise
  • Read something positive
  • Create something
  • Get Sunshine
  • Connection

As you review the list of what it takes, you may recognize they aren’t material things, food, alcohol, drugs, sex or any other unhealthy addiction.  It is purely a list of things you can do to reframe your way of thinking.  All of us encounter negative self-talk.  Those happiest have been able to reprogram for the positive.  It is up to you to use the tools and resources provided to put them into your own daily practice.  Once you have recognized how the tools have helped you find satisfaction in your abilities to control your thinking please share your story in the comments section of any of the posts.

On the scale of life events for many, my temporary set back of having the use of my right arm taken away is a small price to pay for appreciation of my health.  During my recovery, I have learned of others facing even more serious health scares.  A mother, friend, and wife is battling stage four cancer, a father, son, and brother facing news of a discovered brain tumor.  Another person grieves over their lost loved one who chose to end his daily mind battle through taking his own life.

No matter our struggle, there is always someone facing something worse.  By sharing my story and findings and encouraging others to tell their stories through may it inspire more people to use these daily practices to reframe their mind and live a more fulfilled life.  What better life purpose than to fulfill souls!

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Photograph take at Diamond Peak Ski Resort