Quack Quack … I’m A Duck

I think that I am a DUCK!

Stress is an everyday part of my life! I’m sure it is for many of you too.  We all experience stress to some degree … some more than others. How you handle stress inwardly reflects outwardly.  This brings me to today’s blog subject … I am a DUCK!

Have you ever noticed that some people look calm on the outside and yet they talk about how stressed they are?  Sometimes it’s hard to believe what they are saying because they appear to have it all.  That’s because they are ducks.  I remember going out to Weeks Pond with Ken and our two oldest granddaughters Morgan & Maggie, to feed the ducks.  That was actually one of the last outings Ken had with the girls.  It was a really cold day in February and he was afraid there wouldn’t be any ducks out there … but there were!  I remember standing beside the water all bundled up as the girls threw out the old bread Ken had brought.  The ducks all gracefully swam across the water to our side of the pond as if they were gliding effortlessly, or so it seemed. I had no idea then, but now know, that under the water is an entirely different scenario.  Check out this image that demonstrate two very different perspectives:

To borrow a favorite quote from the movie The Replacements:  “Like a duck on the pond. On the surface everything looks calm, but beneath the water those little feet are churning a mile a minute”. So if we were to have poked our heads underneath the cold water that day, we would have seen a very different scenario.  Their little webbed feet were paddling so fast and furious to reach their new destination of where our granddaughters were dishing out vittles of bread.  But we couldn’t see underneath the surface, only what was visible above the surface where they appeared to be sailing smoothly along.

That’s me some days …just another duck on the pond … a duck paddling with all my might to get through my everyday stresses, twists and turns.  I bet many of you can relate.  You too might be someone who is stressed out but doesn’t show it.  On the outside we are Mr. or Mrs. Calm, but on the inside we are stirring up a storm that only we and others who can see beneath us are aware.  Now don’t get me wrong … in some cases stress can be a good thing when it serves as a motivational tool.  

Even though I retired from work last month, I’ve been so busy lately.  I looked at the calendar the other day and thought “Where in the world did this year go??”  It seems like life and living have been getting in my way even though most of it has been in quarantine due to COVID19!  I have been busy:  family activities, working part time, church activities, trying to get my house on the market to sell, being sick, taking care of Henry, yada, yada, yada. Sometimes it seems as if my head is at least a month behind reality and I’m playing a big game of catch-up (and losing!).

I initially had big plans for 2020.  It was going to be so different … I was going to be so organized and be on top of everything.  But life doesn’t stop for anything!  Yep. I’m really a duck … not even a swan … just another duck trying to survive in a world full of ducks!

This past weekend I was watching one of those sappy happy-ever-after “Hallmark” channel movies that I recorded on the DVR last week … what can I say … I love them!   All of a sudden my TV went blank and then cut off.  The movie was at a really good part so I jumped up and immediately turned it on again only to find that the movie reverted back to the beginning.  Oh no! … I had to fast forward it to where I was when the TV turned off.

Have you ever watched a movie in fast forward … it’s quite interesting.  So here was my thought process … WOW … that’s how I live my life … in fast forward mode. While watching the movie in fast forward mode, I saw people running around like maniacs, cars moving as if on a high-speed chase, mouths moving without sound!  The thought came to my mind — stop … slow down … and smell the roses!  My family tells me all the time to slow down. 

Life lived at a fast pace is so hectic … at least mine is. My life is full of events that require my attendance and attention.  It’s a “you better move it along” life!  It’s like what Katie wants the golfer in front of her to do … “play or just move out of the way please!”  Even my fingers are in fast-forward mode by always trying to type faster than my brain can think!  Of course there are times I would like to have a real fast-forward button. Like when it’s Monday, and I can’t wait until Friday afternoon so I could perhaps leave for Topsail Beach … now that sounds like a good plan!

I can’t tell you why I have always made my life into such a race … other than that’s my normal pace!  It could be that my mother used to preach to us girls “idle hands are the devil’s workshop!” I heard those words from her so many times!  Living life in a rush can make life a blur!  It’s a life where we are always headed somewhere, trying to complete something, making our never-ending to-do lists and then trying to check things off.  Then there are the ways that we try to avoid that dreaded boredom so we find ourselves constantly on our smart phones googling random thoughts or checking out our calendars so we don’t forget anything that we have scheduled.  This must be a universal problem because even Kenny Chesney sang a song titled “Living in Fast Forward.”  Maybe we need to follow the advice of Lily Tomlin: “For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.”

Another thing that I learned about myself is that my ability to stay afloat isn’t all about paddling my feet … that just propels me along.  You see if the Duck didn’t spend time preparing its feathers, its body wouldn’t be the watertight body that you see on top.  So it is with life… We need to prepare to not only weather the waves around us but to also stay afloat. We have to learn how to “prepare our feathers”.  I am a big believer in the power of gratitude and how it creates positive changes. Being constantly aware of your many blessings and feeling grateful for them can have a huge impact on the quality of your life. When you are filled with appreciation, it quite literally changes the forces of your life. For me, quite simply it’s my belief in a loving Heavenly Father and that “Families are Forever”.  It is realizing how truly blessed I have been all my life … even with its many trials. It’s also important to show my appreciation by trying to serve others the best I can. It’s having hope and dreams of a better tomorrow …It’s knowing that there is a greater plan for my life than just getting through the day! Take nothing for granted, and believe!  There’s no doubt in my mind that the simple act of gratitude will change your perception in positive ways and help you cope with any stress or trial.

So my newest goal is to ditch the Duck in me. How?  It took me a while today to think of what exactly I want to be (in an analogous way). I know … I want to be a boat! … a sail boat!  They are beautiful and appear so relaxing.  As a sail boat I’ll just pray for the right amount of wind, set my sail and glide through the water, feeling free.  By letting the wind carry me, it will be like letting go of some of the things that control my life … dealing with my stress as it passes by and knowing that everything really will be OK. 

Now don’t get me wrong … a sailboat can be busy and stressful.  But it’s also organized and aware of its many courses and the factors that direct them.  I can do this … I will switch from a duck to a sailboat.  If I can organize my thoughts, beliefs and hopes, then I can focus my intentions on smooth sailing … relaxing on the water … and watching all those ducks bobbing by.  I want to toss out my anchor (sail boats do have anchors … right?) and enjoy every moment I have left in my beautiful life!  No more frantically paddling underneath the surface!

There comes a time when we have to just stop, think and ask ourselves what we are really striving for … what is the purpose of this life? What can truly make us happy?  What can bring us joy? How can we relax and stop stressing?

The bad news is that time flies … but the good news is that I am the pilot!  I believe the time has come for me to head to the shore … to slow down the pace of my life … to be still.  I’m going to take a few deep breaths and look around and see all the wonderful, amazing, and beautiful things that I have in my life now.  I’m not even going to make a list of my next steps until I really see the beauty around me right now.  I know that life is short and in the blink of an eye, it can all be gone! I know this first hand! Quoting and agreeing with Diane Ackerman:  “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it.  I want to have lived the width of it too!

So my advice for this week:  Make a daily ritual to stop paddling for one minute each morning … long enough to think of all the people and things in your life that you are grateful for. You won’t have time enough to think of everything in that one minute, but it will be enough to get you thinking in the right direction. It will instantly set the tone for the rest of your day and help to steer your attention on things to appreciate about your life.

Can you think of a better use of that one minute of your time? … It’s definitely better than paddling! Remember … as the old saying goes … “the happiest people are not the ones who have the best of everything … they are the ones who are grateful for everything they have.”

Just saying …

The Choice is Always Yours

Yesterday was my birthday … September 2 … I’m 74 years old.  What an amazing life I have experienced.  I began my life with Plan One … everything awesome and happy.  Now I’m on Plan Six … and still everything is awesome and happy.  Why?  The only difference between a good life and a bad life is your attitude.  The choice is always yours.  One thing I do know is that I’m truly blessed and thankful for the time I have been given to enjoy a full life. 

The Hispano-Roman Philosopher Seneca once wrote:  “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”

WOW … What a profound statement. The more I read it, the more I am inspired by it.

The phrases that stick out the most to me are:  “It is not that we have a short time to live… but that we waste a lot of it…” “Life is long enough for the highest achievements if it were all well invested…” “It is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity…” “We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it…”

I believe that we have a loving Heavenly Father who designed each of us to achieve great things.  We are each unique in who we are, our abilities, and our talents.  There is also no one else on earth that can live our life and accomplish the good that we can.  You are enough! That’s important … do not forget it.  You are designed to bring some good into this world.  And there are people in your life that you can serve and love better than anyone else.

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It is up to us to decide every day to focus all of our energy on important things with the one life we have been given.  We must let go of all the inessential things in our lives and remove the distractions.  This is not an easy task living in today’s world. 

Your life is too short to be offended all the time. Your life is too short to compare it to others. Your life is too short to not believe in yourself. Your life is too short to not forgive. Your life is too short to regret the past. Your life is too short to live in fear. Your life is too short to be unhappy. Your life is too short to waste time on trivial matters.

I love this quote by Alan Watts:  “Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.”

I Am Enough

I don’t think Mr. Watts was referring to waking up from physical sleep … I believe he is talking about accepting who you are and accepting that it is enough … which leads to a happy life!  I struggled with this many times throughout in my life … Am I Enough? I grew up with this “perfect idea” of who I should be (at least what my mother thought I should be)! Yes … that was my Plan One!   You know those thoughts … the perfect daughter, the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect homemaker, the perfect church member … and the list goes on and on in my head.  In reality too many of us have those feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.  We get discouraged with the things that we haven’t accomplished in life, the lack of education, the family members we feel that we let down, or the situations that we find ourselves in.  We all have this “perfect idea” of who we ought to be.

Why do we treat ourselves so terrible and relentlessly by comparing our life to other people … no matter how many times someone tells us how good enough or lovable we are? I don’t know about you, but I continue to look for evidence that I am not a nobody, or that I’m living up to my full potential.  I’m sure these feeling come from the pressure our society puts on each of us to “stack up to others.” 

We tend to think that our lives would be better if we had done things differently along the way.  I love the quote from the movie “Clouds of Sils Maria” when the character Christopher Giles says:  “We’re not allowed to regret anything.  If we’re sincere in our actions, then we’re the sum total of our experiences – no exceptions – and that is enough!”  You see … changing the past would change who we are … not make us something better or happier … just different.

Changing our circumstances is not the key to true happiness … It’s embracing who we are and knowing that we are enough that brings happiness.  I remember a great quote from the movie “Jurassic World” … “The key to a happy life is to accept you are never actually in control.”  We aren’t in control of the things that happen to us, or many times the circumstances that surround us … but we are in control of our attitude.

How long could the hare sleep and still win the race against the tortoise?  | by Krist Wongsuphasawat | Medium

Recently I read a short internet article about the story of the “Tortoise and the Hare.” It pointed out that living from one milestone to the next often leads us to miss the most important and enjoyable parts of our lives today. You know the story … the slow and steady tortoise won the race.  But this article pointed out that we don’t focus enough on what the tortoise actually gained from the race.  The hare focused solely on his next destination point and he missed everything along the way.  However the tortoise was able to enjoy his journey and everything around his adventure.  Even if the hare had won, the tortoise still would have found joy in his race because he took his time and “stopped to smell the roses” so to speak!

I need to apply this lesson to my own life. I know that my biggest goal in this life is to live a worthy life and return to live with my Heavenly Father and with my family … but I also must have the goal of enjoying the life I have been given … here and now.  I need to realize that “I Am Enough!”  In Thomas Monson’s book “Finding Joy in the Journey” he admonishes us to “relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family.”

Oprah Winfrey said it better than I could ever say it:  “If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

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So if we’re in this “I’m not enough” rut, how can we dig ourselves out? How can we live our lives and be more present to ourselves? How can we realize that we are enough?  I’ve developed a short list that I try to follow, and it just may help you too:

  • Be thankful for all you have and are. Gratitude is powerful because it helps us recognize all the good things around instead of dwelling on all the good things we think we need to be happy.
  • Read inspiring spiritual messages and blogs. I have several blogs that I follow that uplift me and put me in a thankful state of mind. Sometimes it takes someone else’s words to help you see what you actually have to be thankful for.
  • Remember that there is more right with you than wrong with you. This powerful reminder is inspired by one of my favorite quotes from Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Until you stop breathing, there’s more right with you than wrong with you.”  Remind yourself that you are alive and breathing and able to walk new paths whenever you choose.
  • Enjoy the present! Being present means noticing the thousands of things around us that make life interesting. It also means making time for fun.
  • Most importantly, enjoy the person you are right now, exactly as you are!

As Seneca said: “Life is long if you know how to use it.” … and a key to using it is to realize you are enough! … Who you are right now, flaws and all!  Not only are you enough, your Heavenly Father loves you exactly as you are.  No conditions. No boundaries. Unconditionally!  Our Heavenly Father has a plan for all of us … and we will never be who He wants us to be if we are constantly trying to become what others want us to be!

Yes … I am enough … and so are you!

Just Saying …

I Used To Say “I'm Blessed” Until I Asked These 2 Questions | by Josh  Bocanegra | Josh Bocanegra | Medium

Kindness is Free

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Have you ever heard the phrase “kindness is free?”  I actually have 2 tee-shirts, one short sleeve and one long sleeve, which have the phrase written across the front.  They are my favorite tee-shirts, that’s why I have two of them … so I can wear the phrase year-round.  However, my son Paul disagrees with this phrase.  I love to wear it when I know he’s going to be around … just to share words of disagreement … I didn’t want to say argue.

Let me go back several months.  Back before Convid-19, Paul asked if I would be available to house sit for the family while they went on vacation to Cedar Point, Ohio.  The trip was to celebrate my granddaughter Abby’s 16th birthday.  Of course I said yes! I love being kind and helping others … especially my family.  Now fast forward to August 3rd when I traveled to Wilmington to house sit.  This was not your normal house sitting.  It involved not only the home, but a dog named Millie, a cat named Peaches, a dragon lizard named Elliot, a gecko named Leo and seven unnamed chickens.

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The dog and cat were easy to care for.  The lizard and gecko were different.  I hate worms … and I had to gather worms from a large box and feed them both daily.  Yuck … I absolutely hated this part of the job.  Each day I also had to go into the pen to feed the chickens and then collect the eggs.  Not too bad of a job, right?  Well, the night that they left for Ohio happened to be the night that Hurricane Isaias decided to visit Wilmington.  Sitting alone in a dark hallway, with no electricity, was quite scary.  Listening to tree limbs hit the house was very unnerving.  I survived the night only to endure the next two days without power.  No electricity at Paul’s also means no water … which means no toilets.  Sure brought back memories of Hurricane Floyd.  The morning after the storm I also found a dead chicken in the pen.  Thank goodness for Morgan’s hubby coming to my rescue and bagging it up and disposing of it.

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So, what did I learn from this? Kindness might be free of money but definitely not free of time, patience, and inconvenience.  Maybe Paul could be a bit right in his argument.  However, I still believe that kindness can be given freely.  Maybe that’s the idea behind the phrase.

I have been thinking about my life and how many blessings I have enjoyed and all the kindness from others that has enriched my life!  Yes … there are many!  Let me share a story  …  It’s a story about Fiorello LaGuardia who was once the mayor of New York City during the time of the Great Depression. One winter day as he presided at police court, an officer brought in a shabbily dressed man charged with stealing a loaf of bread. The defendant explained that his family was starving. LaGuardia stated that his hands were tied and that he had to punish the man.  He fined the man 10 dollars. The mayor then reached into his pocket, pulled out 10 dollars and paid the fine for the man. Then, looking around the courtroom, he stated that he was fining everyone in the courtroom 50 cents for living in a town where a man had to steal bread to eat. He ordered the bailiff to collect from everyone and to give the money to the defendant. The stunned man left the courtroom with $47.50. That certainly is not much by today’s standards, but the mayor was not just asking for money … he was asking for kindness, compassion and encouragement for the man and his family.

I find that acts of kindness motivate me to pay it forward as best I can, every single day! We ALL can give compassion, encouragement and hope. We can lift and bless others with our smiles, our hugs, compliments, and kindness. We can be generous with our time, treat others like they really do matter, and be sensitive to their feelings and their needs.   More often than not, these are things that do not cost money … they are free.  Rather, they are gifts of our love, and time. Through these simple actions we can ease the difficulties of our neighbors.

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Let’s think about how kindness from others has helped us.  I love using metaphors! Forrest Gump told us that “Life is like a box of chocolates!”   I like to think of “Life as a Puzzle.” My life is one of those tricky 1,000 piece puzzles. When I began my puzzle I came up with a plan on how to put it together and then started on my journey. The pieces were all very small and looked somewhat alike. So at first, I found myself trying to force certain pieces into the wrong position or place. Even though they appeared as if they should fit, they just weren’t meant for that space. It would be so easy to just pick up a pair of scissors and snip – snip – snip in order to make it fit. But life doesn’t work that way.

Several times in my life when I thought things were looking great and things were fitting together beautifully …suddenly I would come to a piece of the puzzle that I didn’t like or that I didn’t want to fill in the space in which it was intended for.  Pieces such as my husband’s untimely death, or my Triple Negative Breast Cancer diagnosis and treatment, and the death of my sister Cathy. That’s just three of many pieces that I was not at all fond of! For some of you it might be pieces representing poor health, loss of a friend or family member, loss of employment, or a family or economic crisis. We all have unattractive and unwanted pieces in our life’s puzzle. We may be sad, frustrated, over-whelmed, or feel as though we would rather give up. We mustn’t do that! That’s when kindness from others enters our lives.  We must simply keep putting those pieces together, along with kindness from others, until we see the bigger picture appear before our eyes.

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During our annual family beach retreat to Topsail Island, we gather around the dining room table and work on a puzzle together. It’s so much fun. Family or friends passing by would jump right in to help! Together we learned a great lesson about patience and persistence and the power of teamwork. The puzzle fell into place much quicker with help from family and friends! Smiles, high-fives and jumps for joy were expressed when one of us located and solved a missing piece that was difficult to find. Someone would stop by to help, looking at the puzzle from a fresh perspective or different angle, or just offering help and encouragement. Isn’t this the way life should be? Others passing by and stopping to help or offer kindness and encouragement.  Remember it goes both ways; we must offer help, kindness and encouragement for others who are solving their own puzzles!

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In my journal I have written several times about showing kindness and how important it is in creating happiness.  My notes remind me of the things I should be doing each day. It’s what I will refer to as puzzle pieces that make other pieces fall into place. It’s a list of five things … Sort of like kindness goals! They are things I believe make my life happier and help others too. Here they are:

  • Make every hug last at least 10 seconds longer! Make them feel loved!
  • Give out at least 3 compliments a day! It makes you feel better and definitely makes them feel better!
  • Serve others daily! “In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these” …
  • Accept help and always remember to show your appreciation! Makes life so much easier!
  • Never … ever … give up! Jim Valvano was so right!

Abraham Lincoln … “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.” To live life to its fullest, you must follow the Savior’s teachings … love one another, service others, and be kind!

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We are all in this together! …So let’s see what we can do! Look around you right now and find someone that needs support, encouragement, hope and above all KINDNESS.  You have it within yourself to give.   If you want to be happy and get your mind off your own problems, do something for someone else!   Real happiness doesn’t come from being selfish, but by being selfless.  Everything you do comes back around.  In life, you get out what you put in.  When you make a positive impact in someone else’s life, you also make a positive impact in your own life.  Kindness is free … share it often!

Eleanor Roosevelt said it best “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”  Remember life is a puzzle and you really do have the very last piece in your possession to bring you happiness! That piece just might be kindness! …

Just saying …

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Baloney Sandwiches Again!

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You can be wise and happy …. or stupid and miserableThe choice is yours!”   ~Gordon B. Hinckley

Let me start by relating a story I once heard … I do not know who wrote it or told it … but I love this story and it’s wisdom!  To begin … Yes, I love fried baloney sandwiches … especially at the beach … Thinking about them brings back memories of growing up and having to take my lunch to school each day! I actually hated baloney sandwiches then.

The Story:  Two construction workers were taking a lunch break and opened up their lunch boxes. One of them looked inside his box and said, “Not baloney sandwiches again! I can’t believe it. I hate baloney.  This is the third time this week I’ve had a baloney sandwich. I can’t stand baloney!”  The other construction worker looked at the co-worker and said, “Why don’t you just ask your wife to make you something different?”  He replied, “I don’t have a wife. I made these baloney sandwiches myself.”

Why is it that the very things that we complain about the most or don’t like about our lives are the things that we put there ourselves.  I know that I do.  I complain about having a messy over-loaded closet … when the remedy is to organize it myself. I complain about no snacks in the house … when I am free to go to the grocery store.  I complain about working every day …. oh … no … I don’t complain about that because I’m so thankful to have something that gets me up and out each day!  Really I love my job.  OK… back to baloney and complaining!  I complain about not seeing my kids enough … when I know it’s a two way street and I can get in my car and drive to visit them.  We complain about many things that we can control.  This is especially true about our attitudes … something that we also have the capacity to control, but so often choose not to.

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We all understand the need to be more positive and have a happier attitude … there are a gazillion books written on the subject.  We even have bible scriptures that teaches and encourages us “to be made new in the attitude of your minds.”  (Ephesians 4:23)  So why do we so often choose to carry around the same old attitudes that have let us down over the years. 

The solution really is simple … We CAN stop packing baloney sandwiches for ourselves and start the process of developing new attitudes that will assist us in our daily lives … to develop attitudes that do not hold us back.  Our attitude can either be our best friends or it can be our worst enemy. I believe my attitude is the biggest determinant to my quality of life … a happy life.  It’s about making the mental shift in attitude that will allow you to power through whatever life throws at you.  Think about it … if you are in a bad mood and something annoying happens … it puts you in what I call the “watch out explosion coming” category.  But if you try your best to be happy .. and something annoying happens … it’s much easier to deal with.  Check out this cartoon … It’s so true … look for the positive … sit in the good seats.

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I’m in no way trying to trivialize life’s tribulations. Let’s face it; some of us have a great deal of pain to deal with. I sure have had plenty to deal with in my short lifetime (yes I consider myself young).   However, it is essential for your well-being that you understand that these circumstances, events or situations are not the final word on your quality of life … no matter how bad it appears. It’s how you respond to them and the fear and other negative emotions they produce that make the difference. And more than anything, it’s about a shift in attitude that will allow you to power through whatever life throws at you. In fact, it’s all about attitude. It’s always been about attitude. And always will be about attitude.

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I love this photo of my great-grandson Henry and the difference in what attitude means. These photos were taken about a minutes apart.  Some days I bet photos resembling these could be taken of me!  Unlike my Henry (who really doesn’t understand life yet) … we are in control of our attitude.

You know what kind of attitude I’m talking about? The kind that no matter the severity of the situation, you not only bounce back, but you thrive with a determination and confidence that defy the odds against you.

Do you want to know how to acquire that kind of attitude? Here’s an analogy that I read from a book by Steve Rizzo using cats as a teaching point.  Observe a cat, any cat. Our family has a cat … it’s actually belongs and lives with my granddaughter Maggie … but we all consider it our cat.  His name is Asha.  OK back to the cat story.  Go ahead observe your cat. Just watch them. They strut around the house, as if they’re God’s gift to the animal kingdom. I swear, if cats could talk, we would hear, “Meow! Meow! Ba-Da-Bing! Meow!”   Our Asha sleeps anywhere he wants and dares us to move him. Yep … Meow! Meow! Ba-Da-Bing! Meow! If you fold clothes on the bed and walk away for five minutes … when you go back Asha has made that nice pile of folded clothes his comfy bed.  Ba-Da-Bing!

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Have you ever wondered why it is said that cats have nine lives? Because they have resilience; they bounce back. Nothing seems to affect them. Once I was brushing Asha (he didn’t like it) and he actually fell off the counter trying to avoid me.  He land on his feet and look at me as if to say, “What? I meant to do that!” and then walk away. “Ba-Da-Bing! Meow!”  Resilience!  Bounced back!

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My family are definitely dog lovers … we have about eight dogs between all family members.  Of course my favorite is my dog “Captain Jack” (he will be 15 years old this year) … he definitely has my heart.  Think about it … have you ever told a cat to go fetch something? It just sits there and gives you another one of those looks. “Hey, let’s get something straight. I don’t do fetch. You want something, you tell your best friend Jack (my dog) to get it. I’m busy. The bottom line is this: Cats live on their own terms. Nobody tells them what to do. They defy the odds. All of us could use that same kind of attitude!  Resilience!  Bouncing back!

There’s a story about two brothers who appeared on a talk show. Again I don’t know what show or when … just read it on the internet.  The first brother came out and told his story. He was divorced, broke, unemployed, angry about life, unable to control his emotions and had problems with alcohol abuse. When asked why he thought he was this way he responded, “What choice do I have?  My father was an abusive alcoholic and I was destined to turn out like this, it’s all his fault!”

Then the second brother came out. He was a successful businessman with a happy marriage and smiling kids.  He lived in a beautiful house, was well-respected in his local church and was a fun guy to be around. When asked why he thought he was this way he responded, “What choice do I have?  My father was an abusive alcoholic and I didn’t want to turn out like him, so I focused on improving myself and becoming the best person I could be.”

I grew up with a very dysfunctional family.  My father committed suicide when I was 11 years old … which turned my family upside down.  After that my family had so many ups and downs.  Many extended family considered us not family anymore.  At some point in my growing up I decided that my family would not define me, my future family, or the choices I made.  I wanted better than I had.  I began to understand that we were not meant to be defined by our circumstances but by our choices regarding these circumstances.  No matter how hard we try, we can’t control what happens to us, but we can choose our attitude and our emotions.  We’ve always have the power to choose, we just need to exercise that choice.  Sometimes those choices are hard … but so worthwhile!

Life is difficult … I can’t lie about that. But if you are like me, sometimes you make it more difficult by focusing only on the burdens.  But life is not all sorrow.  We just need to focus on all of life’s blessings that surround us.  I have found so many blessings to be thankful even in the worst parts of my life.  Remember that with every burden comes the hope of happiness. If we realize that life includes the good and the bad, enjoyment and heartache, pleasure and pain, we might be less likely to feel disheartened when all is not ideal.

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Every morning I remind myself of how blessed I am … to pull my head out of my behind and look around at the beauty that this world has to offer me. Things are never perfect. I accept that.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t find joy and appreciate what I do have. I do have plenty to be thankful for.  As I struggle to carry my own burdens, I try to focus on living with hope … which is a very powerful trait. Realizing that our loving Heavenly Father will not send us more than we can handle.  Life if a test!  It is accepting the fact that all is not perfect but having the strength to show the world that it will not rob me of my joy or my happiness.  No more baloney sandwiches for me!

Just saying …

 

Be a Happifier!

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“The happiest people I know are NOT those who find their golden ticket; they are those who, while in the pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of the everyday moments.”     ~Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Sometimes we are so busy we do not take time to be grateful and be happy.

It is easy to be thankful for sunshine, for laughter, for colorful flowers, and even rain.  Too many times, we fail to think past the obvious.  We are so caught up in our busy schedules and we feel over-whelmed by our sometimes failures that we forget just how much there is in life to be grateful for and to be happy about.

My sister Cathy was known to be a “happifier” … that was her motto!  She loved making people happy.  If you did something for her … you could depend on her doing something to make you happy and show you how grateful she was.  Her funeral was highlighted with many stories of her efforts to make her family and friends happy.  It didn’t stop there … she wanted to make every man or woman on the street that she didn’t know happy too! Her legacy is so positive.  Her grand-children have tattoos to remember Cathy and her legacy of being and making others happy. What an awesome reminder to be happy, make others happy, and to remember my sister!

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Who DOESN’T want to live a healthy and happy life … I think the answer just might be “nobody.” So what are the differences between happy and unhappy people? What is the secret to a happy life? Is it love? Is it money? Is it a big house and fancy car? Is it a important career? Well guess what … I believe simply put, your thoughts have a more powerful effect on your happiness than you might think.

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To illustrate my thoughts … would each of you look around the room you are in and find all the things you can that are blue. Now everyone close your eyes … no cheating.  Now think of the things you saw that were reddish. If you could not think of anything you saw that was reddish was it because you were intent on looking for blue that you did not even notice the beautiful reddish things.

Happiness works much the same way.  When we focus on what we do not have or our problems, soon that is all we can see.  What does this lead to: discontentment, being whiny, unsatisfied and definitely unhappy.  When we focus on our many beautiful reddish things too … the smaller amazing blessings, we become more and more aware of them.  This leads to be more content, grateful and happier.

Life is definitely too short to sit around and wait naively for perfect moments.  Thinking that happiness is going to fall right out of the sky, or walk into our lives is just NOT going to happen.  Being happy is a daily decision and requires commitment.  We must stop looking for happiness and start living happiness.

So today I have a two simple tips for you, for living a happier and healthier life.  It’s about first, choosing to be happy … then thinking about how to be happy!

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#1 Stop Negative Thinking.  A negative mind will never give you a positive life. Stop thoughts that are limiting and self-defeating like “I can’t do that“ or “I’m not good enough.” Don’t believe everything that you think. Negative thinking is unhelpful and will hold you back from achieving your goals and greater self-confidence. Replace negative thoughts with words that are positive and motivating. In the beginning, it may be difficult, but the more you repeatedly send positive messages to yourself, the better and happier you will feel.  I love the quote from Lisa Hayes:  “Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening.”  Stop that half-empty things right now!

#2 Be Grateful.  Gratitude is an attitude and a way of living that has been shown to have many benefits in terms of health and happiness. Feeling and expressing gratitude, instead of wanting more and more, turns our mental focus to the good and happy things in life. Which will create more things to be grateful for. I have a “Gratitude Journal” that I try to write in daily.  I only write positive things.  When I feeling down or sad, I go back and read my journal and realized how blessed I am even with daily trials and problems.  As you awake each morning, give thanks for your blessings and the life that you do have. Life is a gift, never forget that.

The best quote ever by an unknown author:  “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything … they just make the best of everything they have.”  OK … become a happifier too!

Just saying …