Values and life. A good life is being true to our values.

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Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without it. Confucius

Yesterday was day two for me on the Soul Coaching journey. It took me two days to get through day one. Day two level two was select your core values and realize as you go through Soul Coaching you can change those values if you don’t think they reflect the true you.

The two I chose are courage and faith. I believe you can’t do much in life without courage, how do you stand up to your convictions without courage? How do you be honest without courage? How do you do the things you know you want to do, must do, to fulfill yourself as a person but feel afraid because what if I fail, what will people think, what if I look stupid?

I chose faith because unless you have faith in other people how can you love them; trust they will do what they need to do? Sometimes faith is all we have, in God, in ourselves, in our choices, in our family, in the world. It takes faith to trust the process of life. It takes faith to go into business, move away from home, drive on a highway. It takes faith to try not to control other people, letting them make their own decisions and build their own life.

There are long lists of values but here are a few:

Love, peace, loyalty, happiness, security, knowledge, joy, passion, enthusiasm, adventure, intelligence, connection to family, integrity, graciousness, creativity, commitment to career, courage, wisdom, abundance, determination

Denise Linn gives an example of someone who chose their top values like peace and relaxation, but they love day trading. She suggests changing their value to correspond with the real them, suggesting adventure as a more fitting value. There are no wrong values, only the values that are right for us. The more we embrace our core values in each moment of our life we become more of who we want to be. Choosing a value that is not congruent with whom we really are may be a way of trying to be what someone else wants us to be. We need to be who we really are, it is better to disappoint someone else than to disappoint our self.

There are some values that you should never compromise on to stay true to yourself; you should be brave to stand up for what you truly believe in even if you stand alone. Roy T. Bennett

Level one of day two is choosing one empowering action to take on a daily basis. I thought about this, should I choose something to make me more fit, should I choose something to make me eat better? I chose Laura Doyle’s recommendation of doing three things each day to make myself happy.

Her idea is we can’t expect other people to make ourselves happy. She says husbands want to make their wives happy. A wife’s attitude has a huge impact on her husband and the family. A happy wife makes a happy life. My big sacrifice for my husband and family is to make myself happy.

Level three of day two is to write down all the things we’ve been putting off, and do today some small thing we’ve been putting off. What have we been avoiding, procrastinating, and delaying? We were supposed to make a feasible plan for tackling each item on the list.

Making the list was hard enough. If I knew I had to tackle each thing on the list I wouldn’t have been so honest. The thing is if we tackle things like the Side Tracked Sisters from yesterdays post, we don’t have to do everything at once. We can schedule over a year some of those things we’ve been avoiding. After all, some of them are over a year old now.

Maybe we say to ourselves or write it down. I’ll clean the cupboards in March for spring cleaning. I’ll make phone calls to old friends and relatives before Christmas. Meal planning might not get done till next November when it comes back on the Fly Lady’s schedule, or I put it on mine.

One of the problems that make us put off things is we think we have to do everything and it is so overwhelming we do nothing. If we take our list and try to cross off one thing a month, guess what in 12 months that’s 12 things.

If we looked at every month and said, what is the one thing we can concentrate on that will make our life, relationship, home, work, finances, happiness, family, retirement, fitness, health, or self-image better. Pick just one, we can do one, we can’t do everything.

The Fly Lady has 11 commandments.

Keep your sink clean and shiny is her first commandment. One I break all the time. I go to the gym because I know the dishes will get done at some point. A missed gym visit can never be gotten back, and I find reasons to miss them on a regular basis. I do understand why she feels we should keep our sink clean and shiny because then you don’t start filling it with dirty dishes. I might have to rethink this. The kitchen is shared with the newlyweds, and meal prep is more pleasant when the kitchen is clean and neat with everything in its place. This is definitely a possibility for the January improvement project.

When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier. Roy E. Disney

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The Book of Values: An Inspirational Guide to Our Moral Dilemmas Paperback – Jun 7 2014

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Your habits can make you a star!

Your Habits Can Make You A Star - Starfish photo by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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Habits are important. Up to 90 percent of our everyday behavior is based on a habit. Nearly all of what we do each day, every day, is simply habit. Jack D. Hodge

We build our life through our habits. We usually don’t think when we go to bed, what time am I getting up? It’s a habit. We don’t wonder if we’ll brush our teeth tonight or this morning, it’s a habit.

Many parts of our life we put on autopilot through habits. Good habits build a good life, bad habits create chaos. We only have a few times in the day when we have to make decisions. When it comes to going to the gym if my husband doesn’t go right after work he usually doesn’t go. If I don’t go right after dinner before 7:00 I usually don’t go. There is a window of about one-half hour when we decide if we are going.

The more we systemize our lives the more likely things will be put in their proper place and get done. Years ago I found a book The Sidetracked Home Executives. Two sisters needed to get their lives and homes in order and they created a system. Flexibility is built into the system. They had systems and schedules for everything. If you didn’t get the kitchen stove cleaned in this round you left it for the next scheduled cleaning. They divided cleaning and household maintenance into daily, weekly, monthly and yearly chores. The Fly Lady Marla Cilley wrote Sink Reflections and credits the Sidetracked Sisters for the system. It’s a system worth checking out. The Fly Lady has a website at

This isn’t new. My mother told me laundry on Monday, ironing on Tuesday was the way to keep your laundry under control. On a farm there was a lot of laundry. Mom always washed clothes on Monday. It wasn’t how it is now, just throw a load in the washer and then throw it in the dryer.

The white clothes were washed then the less dirty, then the dirtiest. She had ringer washers and an old spin dryer at the time. All the laundry was hung on the line until she got a dryer when I was a teenager. Laundry was a big deal, an all-day affair. On cold winter days the sheets came in the house frozen stiff. Laundry smelled fresh because of fresh air and the Sun.

You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. John C. Maxwell

The secret to creating habits is to start small and forgive our self when we fail, falter, and procrastinate. It isn’t doing things perfectly that builds a good life, it’s doing them consistently not all the time but enough of the time that life is good, orderly, and fun.

The Fly Lady has monthly habits to concentrate on.

January – Shining your sink.

February – Decluttering for 15 minutes a day.

March – Getting dressed to shoes

April – Making the bed

May – Moving

June- Drinking water

July – Swish and swipe

August – Laundry

September – Before bed routine

October – Paper Clutter

November – Menu planning

December – Pampering

I didn’t look at this site for a long time until today. Menu planning, I’ve worked on it but it is always a challenge. When we ate meat with every dinner I had a rotation of dinners. I menu planned with plant-based meals when we first went plant-based. Now it‘s mostly my husband and I eating dinner together, and I don’t have a plan. Often Saturday soups and Sunday dinners lead to enough leftovers for the week.

Life changes and what worked for years no longer works. We have to change the way we do things. We have to adapt. New habits need to be created. We can give up habits that don’t serve us. How we live our life is our choice. Not making a choice is a choice.  I don’t know what we’ll have for dinner tonight because I don’t have a plan. Having a plan simplifies our life. It is easier to eat healthily and economically. There is less food wasted, less money spent, and less time wondering, what will I make for dinner. I need to get back to menu planning, it is so easy when you know what’s for dinner and you have all the ingredients.

There are always improvements we can make in our life. Start small, baby steps is the way forward. Do you have something in your life you want to change? Can you turn it into a habit?

Consciously create habits because habits unconsciously dictate your life. Anonymous

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Saving Dinner: The Menus, Recipes, and Shopping Lists to Bring Your Family Back to the Table Paperback – Aug 25 2009

Know thyself by asking questions, and finding answers.

Know Thyself - photo by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. Aristotle

Soul Coaching 28 Days to discover your authentic self by Denise Linn jumped out at me at Value Village yesterday. I love browsing through used books. At the back of the book, she says “If you could really hear a message from your soul, what would it be telling you?”

She is telling us this book is for us if we want to know:

Who we are

Why we are here

What our mission is

It’s also for us if we are ready to start:

Putting our needs before everyone else’s

Living life at a peaceful moderate pace

Loving our self

She says by utilizing the elements of nature – air, water, fire, and earth – this program allows us to clear away old blockages so that we can truly begin to hear the secret messages of our soul.

She promises a lot, can she deliver? I have 28 days, she says each day do as much or as little as you feel like or can fit in your day.

Day 1 (Air) Life Assessment – We need an honest self-appraisal

Our Affirmation for the day is – My evaluation of myself is not who I am.

Today we are to take deep breathes throughout the day, visualizing the life-giving energy filling our lungs and body. I take a deep breath as I write this.

She gives us three levels for today.

Level 1 Assess our life. Assess where we are in our life right now. Write down our thoughts in a journal on where we are in our health, relationships, finances, career, creativity, and spiritual fulfillment, and write out our intention for the next 28 days.

Level 2 Steps and leaps – Bridging the breach

In our journal write down the steps or leaps it would take to bridge the breach between where we are and where we would like to be in each of the areas we wrote about in level 1.

Then she asks where we are and where would we like to be in the following areas and note where the difference is the greatest.

Self-esteem, resentment/bitterness, putting the needs of others before our own, shame/guilt, anger/irritation, worry/frustration, fear of failure/success/intimacy/commitment/taking risks etc., relationship with spouse (lover), relationship with family members, being busy/overwhelmed, relationship with creator, self motivation, forgiving our self and others, creativity, sexuality, joy/enthusiasm, our past, inner peace/contentment/fulfillment, job/work/career, finances/abundance, relationships with friends, physical health.

Level 3 Assess your physical environment and life questions.

Assess your house – bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, living/family room, dining room, garage/basement/attic, general home, automobile, work.

Then she gives us a series of life questions.

Where are we now in our life mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually? What does the purpose of our life seem to be?

What would we like our purpose to be?

What are we passionate about?

What gives us immense joy?

What is our spiritual source?

Is our life consistent or in alignment with our values?

How do other people see us? How do we see our self?

What qualities would we use to describe our self now?

What qualities describe the person we would like to be?

What have we been putting off doing?

What do we need to forgive our self/others for doing?

What do we want to do with the remainder of our life?

What is really important to us?

What are our goals?

We have been blessed with skills/gifts. What are they?

Are we using those skills?

She ends day 1 by saying we fail to make changes in our life because of frustration, which is then followed by procrastination. When we feel frustrated we need to see this as an opportunity to strengthen our soul. Breathe deeply, take a risk, and vigorously plunge ahead. On the other side, we find clarity – this is the breakthrough moment.

It takes courage… to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives. Marianne Williamson

Wow, that is level one. I started doing it last night. I didn’t get through all the questions of level two so today I will continue and answer the questions through level three. She does say day one is the heaviest day. I hope so, we all have a life to live. We can’t stop what we need to do to take a 28-day hiatus.

I’m intrigued by her program. I already keep a daily journal and I have a journal of self-discovery I started when I found two books The Fire Starter Sessions and The Desire Map by Danielle Laporte. The journal isn’t dated at the start of it, but in the middle, I have a date of June 25, 2015.

I love looking through journals and seeing where I was and what I was thinking. We think we were where we are now, but when we look back in our journals we know exactly what we were thinking then. There are things we can’t work through by talking to other people, but we can work through them by asking our self questions and answering them.

My husband will ask me what I am thinking. I often answer “nothing” because even though I would write something in my journal, at that moment no big thoughts are going through my head.

I was once afraid of people saying, “Who does she think she is?” Now I have the courage to stand and say, “This is who I am.” Oprah Winfrey

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Soul Coaching: 28 Days to Discover Your Authentic Self Paperback – May 1 2011

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Soul Coaching Oracle Cards: What Your Soul Wants You to Know Cards – Jun 1 2006

Negative framing. Is the glass half empty?

The Power of Negative Framing - Photo of Pink Geranium by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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Anything that annoys you is teaching you patience. Anyone who abandons you is teaching you how to stand on your own two feet. Anything that angers you is teaching you forgiveness and compassion. Anything that has power over you is teaching you how to take your power back. Anything you hate is teaching you, unconditional love. Anything you fear is teaching you courage to overcome your fear. Anything you can’t control is teaching you how to let go. Unknown

Is it easier to be negative than positive? Is it easier to see the glass as half empty instead of half full? I watched a You tube video. Social Psychologist Alison Ledgerwood was saying in a study they told one group they had a forty percent chance of failure and another group they had a sixty percent chance of success. The group with the sixty percent chance of success was happy, but the group with the forty percent failure rate was not. When it was explained to the side with the forty percent failure rate it’s really a sixty percent success rate it made no difference. When it was explained to the sixty percent success rate it’s really a forty percent failure rate they weren’t happy either. Once the loss frame gets in our mind we can’t go back to the positive frame.

She showed a graph of how the consumer confidence fell along with the economy in 2008. It did not, however, rise with the economy. This shows it may be easier to fix the economy than consumer confidence.

This may be why when something good happens we feel really good for a short period of time. When something bad happens we feel bad for a longer period of time and if something good happens we enjoy it but we can’t quit thinking about the bad thing that happened.

We have a fundamental tilt towards the negative. It seems our brains are wired to be more sensitive to the negative bias. Our very survival depended on keeping out of harm’s way, our brain developed a system that makes it unavoidable to notice danger, and hopefully respond to it.

This was a light bulb moment for me. It makes sense we are affected more by a negative situation than a positive one. Telling someone to just get over it, doesn’t work and isn’t helpful. It is probably why we are told that it is easy to lose trust but hard to rebuild it. A negative situation has more power than positive situations and for good reason. Maya Angelou told us, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Things were whispered in our ear that put someone in a bad light. Miscommunication, misunderstandings, and unmet expectations converge to create a negative image. Even if the negative image is not warranted, it is there. It needs to be dealt with, it will take time. Pretending it isn’t there and doesn’t need to be dealt with is not helpful. Trust, love, and security, in that trust and love, will need to be rebuilt. It will take time, it will take commitment.

It is during this rebuilding stage we need to be more loving, bring more positives into the relationship to balance the negative we are overcoming. Negativity can easily build on itself like a snowball. Someone feels judged, someone feels hurt. This is not the time to develop a hard shell and be invulnerable. If things are to work out we have to get our feelings out into the open and love each other through the pain, shame, hurt, and regret. We can’t prove what our intentions were after the fact. If actions are misinterpreted we have to deal with the misinterpretation. Just because something didn’t happen doesn’t change how someone feels about what they think happened.

A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure. Henry Kissinger

Numerous researchers have found there is an ideal balance between positivity and negativity in our intimate relationships. Even couples who argue a lot and are volatile balance their frequent arguments with demonstrations of love and passion. The ratio in positive relationships seems to be about five to one positive to negative reactions. Couples who were heading for divorce were doing too few positive things to compensate for the growing negativity between them.

The same ratio is important in all areas of our life. It is the frequency of small positive acts in a ratio of about five to one that matters the most. We can use this knowledge in our workplace, groups we belong to, relationships with our children, friends and other family members. Negativity spirals out of control we need to bring in positives to counteract it.

This means when we hit a rough spot we need to make an effort to have more fun, laugh, eat out, go out with friends, and celebrate the highs to compensate for the negatives we are going through. Find ways to fill the love tanks and bring fun and frivolity into our lives.

This may explain why during good economic times the music is more depressing and during tough economic times, the music is happier, uplifting and positive. Do people dance more during tough economic times than in happy times? Perhaps this is why we perceive the poor having more fun than the rich, and why people look fondly on the tougher times in their lives when they made more of an effort to socialize and have fun.

Tough times never last, but tough people do.  Robert H. Schuller

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Think and Make It Happen: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Overcoming Negative Thoughts, and Discovering Your True Potential Hardcover – Dec 30 2008










Reach out and touch someone.

Photo of Peach Day Lillies by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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The hardest of all is learning to be a well of affection, and not a fountain, to show them that we love them not when we feel like it, but when they do. Nan Fairbrother

Cuddling comes up as one of the best ways to make someone feel loved. It not only boosts loving feelings, but it also lowers stress and boosts immunity.

Babies do not do well if they are not touched. Infant monkeys that had direct contact with their mothers grew up to be friendly, patient, social, happy and physically healthier than baby monkeys who were provided with indirect sustenance such as bottled milk but no direct physical affection and comfort from their mothers.

Too often we underestimate the power of touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

Our need for touch doesn’t go away as we become adults. Touch is nonverbal communication which can communicate tenderness, compassion, anger, love, gratitude, happiness and fear within seconds.

Touch can be influential. Studies show individuals who have been touched are more likely to agree to participate in mall interviews. Waitresses get bigger tips if they slightly touch the patrons, bus drivers are more likely to give a free ride if the passenger touches them while making the request.

The physical act of a kind and warm touch lowers one’s blood pressure and releases the “love hormone” oxytocin. We get the same benefit if we give or receive hugs.

Studies show the most successful married couples touch often. Touch outranks sex in the characteristics of a successful marriage. Touch comes in many forms, cuddling, backrubs, hand holding, hugs, foot massages, nuzzling, stroking hair, side of face, and ears.

Tips to bring more touch into your relationship:

Hug at least once a day more is preferable. Six is given as the magic number to increase intimacy in How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking about it.

When in a low-level disagreement add some kind of physical touch to potentially diffuse the situation and connect with each other.

Flirt with your partner. Give a peck on the cheek, tousle your partner’s hair, caress their shoulders, touch their arm, tickle them in a light and playful way, or reach for their hand. Sit close together on the couch while you watch TV.

Be willing to make the first move after a disagreement. It is easy to let coldness descend into our marriage. Coldness begets coldness. We need to be vulnerable and reach for our partner. Touch is a part of new relationships we need to keep it part of our relationship as we go forward. We use the healing power of touch to remind each other how much we care and are cared for. Without touch, we may feel we are not loved or cared for. Reach out and touch someone.

Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language, and the last, and it always tells the truth. Margaret Atwood

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Lasting Love, Healing Touch Paperback – Oct 17 2014

The truth will set you free, but what is truth?

The Truth Will Set You Free photo by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. Charles Spurgeon

I have been thinking for quite a while feminism and I parted ways. I heard about some men’s rights groups and thought really? I’ve known men haven’t been treated fairly in custody cases, been made to pay child support for children they didn’t father, pay alimony to women and end up living in basements themselves.

My son told me about The Red Pill Movie a Cassie Jaye documentary. A feminist woman sat down and talked with men in the men’s rights movement and came away realizing they have a point. This is so controversial the movie is not carried on Netflix and has divided University campuses. Are not Universities supposed to be bastions of free speech? Her movie was so controversial she lost her funding. Who do you think came to her rescue and funded the movie?  People who believe in free speech, not necessarily her subject matter.

Brene Brown author of Braving The Wilderness tells of being assumed to be pro-NRA because she grew up with guns, and knows how to use them. You can’t be pro-hunting rifle and not pro-NRA, who says?

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is. Winston Churchill

It seems to me some people believe they are on such high moral ground we have no right to not believe what they do. Isn’t this dangerous? I got a message from MADD, how did they get my number? They are jumping on the cannabis bandwagon. Did I support them yes or no? I told him I used to support MADD when they were reasonable. It is not lowering the drinking limit that will prevent accidents, but they aren’t effective about the people who drink way, way, way too much and drive. Do they want to criminalize all of us?

People will not always agree with our views, and that needs to be okay in a free society. If everyone has to agree with our view how is that freedom? If we can’t look at problems from another view how will anything get better?

I don’t want your truths rammed down my throat, and I don’t want to ram mine down yours. I do want to hear them, I do want to think about them, and if they make more sense than what I’ve been thinking I want to implement them to the degree that makes sense to me.

It was heresy at one time to say the world was round. Is it much better what is considered heresy is different subjects? We need to be strong enough to discuss some really big, deep, hurtful subjects. Don’t we need to expect people to take personal responsibility for their lives and not have it considered hate speech?

Shouldn’t we be able to at least put forward family culture is part of the social problems of our time? Shouldn’t we be able to say Christian values shaped the Western World and not apologize for it? Shouldn’t we be able to be proud of the culture we come from without that being taken as hate against someone else?

Don’t we need more dialogue, not less? Don’t we need to look at more sides of issues, consider other people’s views?

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. John F. Kennedy

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An attitude of gratitude. Eating together creates happy, positive families.

Ask More Questions - butterfly photo taken by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melody Beattie

As I sit writing today I do so with a grateful heart. Mom and Dad always said grace at meals and my husband and I implemented this in our family. Eating together is one of the best things we can do as families. A family therapist says she often has the impulse to tell families to go home and eat dinner together.

Sitting down for a nightly meal is great for the brain, body, and spirit. Dinner conversation boosts young children’s vocabulary more than being read aloud to. Researchers found young children learned 1,000 rare words at the dinner table, compared to only 143 from parents reading storybooks.

Regular mealtime is a higher predictor of high achievement scores than time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports or doing art. Children who eat regular family dinners consume more fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and micronutrients, as well as fewer fried foods and soft drinks. The dividends keep paying off as children get older, teens are less likely to be obese and more likely to eat healthily once they live on their own.

Studies show family dinners are a more powerful deterrent against high-risk teen behaviors than church attendance and good grades. Researchers find regular family dinners are associated with lower rates of depression and suicidal thoughts.  In a recent study victims of cyberbullying bounced back more readily if they had regular family dinners.

In a survey American teens were asked when they were most likely to talk to their parents. Dinner was the answer. When children eat dinner with their parents they have a better relationship and less stress with them.

Of course, the real power of these dinners lies in their interpersonal quality. If we sit in stony silence, yell at each other, or scold our kids there won’t be as positive of an outcome. It isn’t sharing the roast beef that makes it magical. It is the time we can share a positive experience, a joke, an achievement, a concern, a point of view, these small moments gain momentum and create stronger connections over time.

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. Denis Waitley

If we start our dinners with Grace we can create an attitude of gratitude in our children. A regular time to be grateful is part of learning to be grateful. Reverend Ed Bacon says “If you don’t learn gratitude as a child, you can grow up to be an ingrate and that is one of the worst possible human conditions. The essence of life is a gift. What do you do when you receive a gift? It is a diminishment of the human soul not to know that life is a gift.”

When we recognize the importance of all the blessings small and large that come our way every day we are grateful. Unexpressed gratitude is like a hug never given.

Somedays it is hard to be grateful, we can at least be grateful for the farmer that planted the seed that bore the grain that became the bread, pasta, etc. There is always something to be grateful for, even if it is just to get through the hardest day of your life. Another day, another gift.

Our children are no longer children. We still have family dinners, but not so often. When we do we have added members we are grateful for. Some of the highlights of our week are sitting around the table talking and laughing.

I think one of the things growing up eating dinner together gives us is an ease of getting together as adults. We pick up where we left off easily. If we didn’t develop closeness at family dinners how would it be getting together with siblings as adults?

If TV is on during dinner kindergartners are more likely to be overweight by the time they are in third grade. The association with TV watching during dinner and overweight children has also been reported in Sweden, Finland, and Portugal.

I am so grateful my parents said grace at mealtimes and we always ate together. It is a tradition I hope my children implement as they begin their lives. Being grateful and eating together is a great way to start building a happy, healthy, grateful, family culture.

In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Come and Eat: A Celebration of Love and Grace Around the Everyday Table Paperback – Sep 5 2017

It’s the little things. Happily ever after, doesn’t just happen.

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We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement. Hermann Hesse

“I went from Baby Duck to Dom Perignon”. Wouldn’t you like that to be how your spouse describes their relationship with you? A fellow Toastmaster said he heard an older gentleman describe his relationship with his late wife this way. They had forty-three years together.

I’m assuming from the story this gentleman didn’t meet her in his youth. It is a great thing to be lucky in love. To love and be loved is what we search for. The songs, poems, and stories are about finding and sometimes keeping love. The happy ever after is promised but no one tells us how to do it.

Women’s deepest fundamental desire is to feel secure. Men’s deepest fundamental desire is to feel respected. In How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It the author tells us the worst thing a man does to a woman is leave her alone but married. The worst thing a woman does to a man is to shame him.

Research author, Jo Robinson of Hot Monogamy interviewed fifteen hundred couples she found surprising pieces of information.

Most women do not understand how much it pleases a man to please a woman. Women see the threat of physical abuse from men but not their ability to evoke shame in men. Women often interpret withdrawn men as uncaring when the men are overwhelmed by the criticism and unhappiness of their partners.

What do you think brings out the best in your man? Do you think it’s encouraging, uplifting, complimenting, appreciating, being grateful and happy, or criticizing, finding fault, and nagging him? It is much easier to cause shame than we think. Tearing down someone is easy, building them up is what we need to do if we want them to become what we and they know, they should be.

Men don’t realize when they leave women out of important decisions she feels alone and isolated. An example in the book is a man comes home from work one day and says, “that’s it, I’m opening up a distributorship with Jim.” He thought he was just making a business decision, one that would be good for his family, wife, everyone. His wife felt this was the beginning of the end. Her input was not important. He risked everything without talking to her. His wife was left alone in her dreams, instead of being part of their dreams.

The truest form of love is how you behave toward someone, not how you feel about them. Steve Hall

Relationship expert John Gottman says when he was trying to get a book deal the man he was talking to said: “give me your best advice in one minute”. John Gottman said, “talk to your wife about her dreams.” The man hurried out of the office, to talk to his wife about her dreams and John Gottman got the book deal.

My mother said, “it’s the little things.” I’ve reflected on that a lot since she said it. It applies to everything. If we look after the little things the big things look after themselves. Every marriage breakdown can probably be traced back to some little thing that wasn’t dealt with, that grew, morphed and became the elephant in the room. It takes courage to deal with things.

We may feel attacked when our partner wants to deal with a “little thing” which quickly morphs into a bigger thing until once resolved becomes a “little thing” again. A marriage that works will have many of these. We may look back and see a defining moment, it could have gone either way. Not dealing with it doesn’t make it better. Dealing with things as they arise, in our marriage, with our children, with the tax man is the only way through. We pull the covers over our head at our peril.

I’m betting the gentleman that said his relationships went from Baby Duck to Dom Perignon had a few things to deal with in forty-three years. Part of happily ever after is dealing with things as they come up, meeting each other’s fundamental needs, and keeping each other’s love tanks full. Loving someone fully is not for the faint of heart, it isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it.

“When you find a guy who calls you beautiful instead of hot, who calls you back when you hang up on him, who will stand in front of you when other’s cast stones, or will stay awake just to watch you sleep, who wants to show you off to the world when you are in sweats, who will hold your hand when your sick, who thinks your pretty without makeup, the one who turns to his friends and say, ‘that’s her’, the one that would bear your rejection because losing you means losing his will to live, who kisses you when you screw up, watches the stars and names one for you and will hold and rock that baby for hours so you can sleep… marry him all over again.”
― Shannon Alder

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Hot Monogamy: Essential Steps to More Passionate, Intimate Lovemaking Paperback – Large Print, Jun 6 2012

Love is kind. Love is encouraging.

2019 A Year Of Possibilities - photo of coral rose by Belynda Wilson Thomas

There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved. George Sand

Love makes requests, not demands. Love doesn’t keep a score of wrongs. Love doesn’t bring up our failures.

Gary Chapman the author of The Five Love Languages was sitting in his airplane seat when his seatmate said. “What happens to love after the wedding?” His seatmate had been married three times, each time he was in love.

Keeping love alive according to Gary Chapman is serious business. We speak different love languages. The wife of an alcoholic picks up the pieces and calls it love, the psychologist calls it co-dependence. The parents indulge their children calling it love; the family therapist calls it irresponsible parenting. The Politician calls his affair love, the minister calls it sin. I did it for love is given for all kinds of actions.

Child psychologists tell us children have basic emotional needs. They have a love tank that needs to be filled. When the love tank is empty the child will misbehave.  The problem seems to be we want to love people the way we want to be loved, not necessarily the way that makes them feel loved.

In every deeply hurting person, could there be a love tank on empty?

The five love languages are:

Words of affirmation: You look good. Thank you for… You can always make me laugh. Verbal compliments are better motivators than nagging words. We should use kind words, encouraging words, humble words.

Quality Time spent together: If you feel people or your husband or wife doesn’t spend enough time with you, this could be your love language. Focused attention, quality conversation, learning to talk, learning to listen, quality activities are examples of time spent together.

Receiving gifts: Visual symbols of love are more important to some people than others. It is a reminder of love. Some people especially women whose love language is gifts are being called grabilicious. Men sometimes feel these women only see them as a wallet. It is possible to give someone gifts without breaking the bank. I think of the song “I’ll Give You a Daisy a Day.”

Acts of service: Doing things for others that pleases them, makes them comfortable. Cooking, cleaning, and washing the dishes, folding laundry, fixing the car, shoveling the snow before someone goes to work. Many people say “what do I have to do to make you happy?” The partners love language is probably not acts of service.

Physical touch: I’m not sure if this includes sex. I worked with a guy years ago he was very touchy-feely, not in a gross way. He was young and handsome then, now it might be taken a completely different way. We see couples holding hands; it is especially sweet when it’s an older couple. Back rubs are a way to offer touch, hugs, and holding hands.

If we are lucky and we have a partner or child that has the same love language as us life is probably pretty easy. We give what we want and they give what they want, we are as happy as can be.

Some of us have no clue what would make our partner or children happy, we don’t even know what makes our self, happy. One way to figure it out is to figure out what makes us unhappy.

Immature love says: I love you because I need you. Mature love says: I need you because I love you. Erich Fromm

According to Gary Chapman, we fall in love and that lasts a certain period of time. If we are adept at keeping each other’s love tanks full we don’t notice the euphoric “in love stage” has passed. If we don’t keep each other’s love tanks full we run on empty, and we can only do that for so long before the relationship falls apart. Many times when people feel they will never get the love they need at home, they give themselves permission to look elsewhere. An affair often ensues.

Compatibility may actually mean we speak the same love language; we easily fulfill each other’s needs. Even if this is true we may need a tune-up in our marriage as children, finances, responsibilities, and aging take their toll. If we can’t or don’t do the things we used to do that filled our love tanks, what can we replace it with that will fill the tanks again?

As our children become adults I believe is an especially sensitive time for couples. Our lives are changing and we are reaching new stages, but not stages we necessarily want to be entering. Our children are now living the life we enjoyed the most. It is easy to think that love is one of those things behind us too. When we look around there are happy couples that have enduring happy marriages. We can make an effort to be one of them by filling our own and our spouses love tanks.

Little kids know the importance of small gifts. Every year they pick my flowers on their way home from school to give to their mothers. I smile as I watch them do it. I remember picking Queen Anne ’s lace to give to mine.

Whatever the quality of our marriage, it can probably be better. If we hone in on the ways our spouse feels special, we can make our efforts count. If they would feel better if we sat down and had a conversation or held their hand instead of slaving in the kitchen we might both be happier. We can relax, they feel loved. There is nothing worse than feeling we are slaving away and feeling unappreciated. We need to get off the treadmill and figure out what our partner wants and find ways to give it to them.

Many of us keep doing more of what we think we should do and don’t see any improvement. Try something from each category and see what works. Life is an experiment. If the first thing we try doesn’t work we should try something else. We may feel we are risking further pain and rejection if we try. We are guaranteed more pain if we don’t. Be brave, be courageous, even be a fool for love. In six months we might be in a completely different relationship because we dared to take a chance on love.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu

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Love tanks, full or empty?

Keep Love Tanks Full Hibiscus photo taken by Belynda Wilson Thomas

A mother who radiates self love and self acceptance actually vaccinates her daughter against low self-esteem. Naomi Wolf

I bought the book The 5 Love Languages The Secret To Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman. It was on sale at 30% off a one day sale. How could I resist. A friend recommended the book.

As I sat down to write this morning I was thinking about the Love Tank theory I read about first in one of John Gray’s books How to Get What You Want and Want What You Have.

The Ten Love Tanks                                                                                        

Spirituality – Love and support from God.                                               

Love and support from parents.                                                              

Love and support from family, friends and having fun.                             

Peer support from others like us with similar goals.

Self-love, love and support from ourselves. Be true to yourself, say no to things that don’t make you happy. Know who you are.       

Relationships, partnerships, and romance. Love and support from intimate relationships.                                                                               

Loving and supporting someone, or something depending on us. Raising children or pets fill this love tank.                                                     

Giving to the community, volunteer work, we need to make sure we don’t neglect our family while we do this.                                               

Giving back to the world, broaden our horizons, volunteer to help a political candidate, run for office.                                                                 

Serving God. Finding the ultimate purpose for our life.

Love according to John Gray is the key to appreciating what we have be it our job, money, relationships. Each type of love is a tank that is between full and empty but can only be filled by the corresponding type of love.

I think of women with too many cats and I wonder what “love tank” are all those cats trying to fill?

Our needs for love vary according to our unique deficiencies. John Gray

Are we putting too much emphasis on the romantic love aspect of our life? Do we expect our relationship to fill more tanks than it is possible for it to fill?

Laura Doyle in The Surrendered Wife tells us to do three things daily to make ourselves happy. I’m trying; it’s harder than you’d think. It’s so easy to get to the end of the day and not have three things to reflect on that did that made me happy. Am I alone in this?

If I can’t think of three things I did to make myself happy, are there things I did to make anyone else happy? It is so easy to walk through our life on autopilot. Being mindful of the steps we are taking is part of the journey.

I need to do some soul searching to see what levels my love tanks are at. If spirituality plays a bigger part in our life than we want to believe, we may be trying to fill a love tank we won’t acknowledge with other things. As I look online it seems even atheists grapple with spirituality. The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by Andre Compte-Sponville is one of many. Many books have been written on the subject. One of the classics is Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking.

This is our life, whatever we want to do with we best get doing. A life of no regrets has been my motto for a long time. If it’s just a motto, it isn’t worth much.

By wanting more but appreciating everything they had, many have unlimited success in life. John Gray

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