Valentine’s Day and unmet expectations.

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Two of the ways of dealing with Expectations are whether they are spoken or unspoken and whether they are realistic or unrealistic. Dr. Kim

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be cards, hearts, roses, chocolate and celebrating love. For many people, Valentine’s Day magnifies what they don’t have, for some it highlights what they’ve lost. At its worst Valentine’s Day creates expectations that can’t be met.

According to a study of divorce filings by Attorney and two legal sites that both claim February is the busiest month for divorce filings. The biggest spike is after Valentine’s Day and February divorce filings are about 40% higher than other months. A number of websites for married people seeking affairs report the day after Valentine’s Day is their biggest sign-up day.

How can this be we might say? Love makes the world go round, and don’t we all want more love? It seems we do want more love and when who we are with doesn’t live up to the hype, the expectation, or the promise of romance adds we are constantly comparing ourselves to, we take drastic measures.

My husband and I saw it when we were out last weekend. A couple, and not a young one, couldn’t keep their hands off each other; they were kissing passionately, endlessly on the dance floor. We all silently said “Get a room”, and wondered what the rest of their life was like when they weren’t necking on the dance floor.

Maybe we can minimize our expectations and maximize what we can do for our partner. We can spend more time with them, compliment them, offer them a back rub, and have a laugh together. Try not to react to anything that rubs us the wrong way. Ouch, is a good word to use and then go on as if everything is good. Be in a happy mood, because life is good, and don’t expect romance to come out of thin air. Do our best to not expect one romantic thing to happen on Valentine’s Day. Lower our expectations.

If things haven’t been going that well, don’t take out all the stops and go to the most expensive romantic restaurant we can think of. It will be awkward, it will be budget breaking, and it will be disappointing. Instead go to a little coffee shop or dessert place, share a piece of cake. Take a walk, hold hands, talk about the mundane, but talk. Show someone we love them, without an expectation that they know how to respond in the way we want.

This is where we get in trouble. We want a certain response. Our partner often has no clue what that response is. We are hurt, they are completely mystified as to what they’ve done, said, didn’t do, or didn’t say.

The first step is always the most difficult but nothing will ever change until you take it. Dr. Kim

We have different love languages, many people do what they would like to have done for them. Many people do acts of service when their partner wants them to whisper sweet nothings in their ear. Other people’s partner’s whisper sweet nothings and it means nothing because where is the service and action that backs it up. Some people buy gifts and all the partner sees is the unnecessary credit card bill.

We have to be detectives to figure out what love looks like to our partner. Maybe we could do all five. Make them dinner, buy them a single rose, box of chocolates or a card, give them a back rub, give them a compliment, ask them to go for a walk, hold their hand and talk, and wrap up the evening with some steamy sex.

Oh, there we go with the specter of expectations. It’s so easy to expect more than something can be, and give. Can we love our partner for whom they are, and not expect them to be something they are not? Can we enjoy what they do, and not wish they were doing something else? Can we keep our expectations low enough that regular loving partners can meet them? Can we make it so our life is not one unmet expectation after another, because it would take more than a reasonable loving husband or wife to meet them?

Maybe we should just ignore Valentine’s Day? I think it’s best to embrace it with low expectations and think of what we can do for someone we love, instead of thinking about what they can do for us. If we can buy a card and not expect one in return, give a compliment and not expect one in return, give a gift and not expect one in return. I love the quote by Jessamyn West, “It is the loving, not the loved woman who feels loveable.

Love is a verb, the more we love, the more loving we feel. The more we expect from someone else the emptier we feel. We are in control of how much love we show, give, and the ways we show and give it. We can feel more loveable by being more loving.

The antidote to Valentine’s Day may be to see how much we can give instead of how much we can receive. If we give all we have and expect nothing in return we may find it is the best Valentine’s Day ever.

Expectations in marriage need to be shared. Dr. Kim

A strong marriage requires two people who choose to love each other even on those days when they struggle to like each other. Unknown

A wife needs to know that her husband is completely committed to her and to their marriage. Dr. Kim

Never stop being your husband’s girlfriend. Dr. Laura

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Life is a journey, stop and smell the roses, and give a hand when you can.

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Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. Lao Tzu

Yesterday my brother called me and we had a lovely long conversation.

We talked about anything and everything. He told me about two books he’s been reading about sailing around the world. The authors of one of the books met a man sailing solely around the world who said, “I’m going to be the first person that sailed around the world and didn’t write a book.” It’s a shame he didn’t because people who love armchair adventures are missing out on his.

My brother tells me “the girls” at the library he goes to want to read my novel. It isn’t published yet but he has a printed copy. How great is that? Like Drake said last night at the Emmys, “if you can get people out in the cold and the rain to hear you perform, you don’t need an Emmy.”

It may be, some of the artists and writers that remain connected with their fans, who never become famous enjoy their experience more. My writer’s group would probably love to have a famous author join. It would change the dynamic, would J.K. Rowling, Daniele Steele, or Stephen King fit into our writer’s group? Probably not, but not because of them, but because of how the rest of us would react toward them. The feeling of being trapped by our own talent is a phenomenon written about in the Harvard Business Review May/June issue in 2017.

Once talent turns into a set of expectations is where people feel trapped. When stars can no longer live normal lives it is isolating. They become defined by one small part of who they are. This also happens in organizations where someone becomes “the star employee.”

The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique. Walt Disney

Some people quit at the top of their game or on the way to the top because somehow their success is robbing them of being themselves. They are becoming only what their talent is and they are no longer seen as a rounded human being.

Once you become a star by definition you don’t fit into the group. Most of us think it would be a good problem to have, but a lot of us spend a lifetime feeling like outsiders. Belonging is important; not wanting to rise above the pack may be something we unconsciously engineer into our lives.

I just took a quiz on my wolf personality. I came up as “the wild one”. ‘You are almost always happy and optimistic. You would fit easily into a pack but would also do fine by yourself. You like to cheer and help whenever you get the chance. You are a fragile flower and easily swayed by love, though you don’t let it rule you.’

It doesn’t mean anything, but it’s interesting. The more we learn about our self, what feeds our spirit, what motivates us, the more we can become the best us. Learning to love our selves, how we are, embracing our talents, our gifts, and our contributions. We have our contribution to make to the world. Someone else’s contribution we may envy, but it is not our contribution.

If all of humanity is like an entity, a body so to speak. We can’t all perform the same task. We can’t all be hearts, or brains, or fingers, or toes. Whatever we are to do, we can do it to the best of our ability. Embracing who we are, loving our self and others, this I believe is our task. Finding our place in the world and making our contribution is the journey we are on. Where are we on the path?

I told my brother I would recommend the books he told me about. He especially liked that they talked about what was going on in the world during their adventure. He was young and remembers that time as well. We can’t find all the great books out there by our self. It is through other people’s recommendations we find some of the books that speak to us. It is one of the great joys in life to recommend a book that touched us and have it touch someone else too.

The journey is never-ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment. Antonio Brown

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Finding inspiration and creating our life with mind, body, and spirit.

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What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. Henry David Thoreau

Where do we get our inspiration? Where do we get the resilience to keep on going, creating, doing what needs to be done?

We create a life with mind, body, and spirit. It takes energy to be the mother, father, partner, employee, entrepreneur, politician, artist, writer, musician, athlete, we want to be. Where do we get the inspiration and energy to build the life we want? We can’t just make withdrawals, we have to make deposits.

What we eat is a deposit, what we think is a deposit, how we exercise is a deposit, what we think about and what we read is a deposit. If we are alive we are depositing enough to stay alive. Are we depositing enough to create the life we want?

Are we eating the best food to fuel our body? Do we move, exercise, walk, and stretch? It will be hard to live our best life creatively if we can’t move because of pain, and stiffness.

Do we get enough sleep? Research tells us hardly any of us get enough quality sleep. Are there things we can do to improve this? Do we watch what we eat and drink before bed? Have we created a good bedtime routine? Do we have a good morning routine?

Everything we do supports everything we do. On days we don’t bother to cook or eat nutritious meals we won’t feel as well, we won’t have as much energy, we won’t have as much to give.

If we stay away from exercise our energy flags, we get stiff; we develop aches and pains caused by inactivity.

It takes discipline to create the life we want, to cook the food we need, to read the books to feed our mind and to stay away from negative thoughts. We need to create positive habits to create the life we want.

Small daily improvements over time lead to stunning results. Robin Sharma

We can start at any point in our life to be the person we feel we should be. It all starts with a decision, and the easiest way to change our life is in small increments, hanging a new habit on something we already do.

We need to congratulate ourselves for something we start doing that is good for us. Today at The Writers Group a new person attended and she had never read her poetry out loud to an audience. She was encouraged to do so by my friend, she got up and read a poem when she sat down she looked like she had conquered a fear, and taken a step. She says she will be back. None of us know if that was a huge step for her or just a small step. It was a step. If we keep taking steps, big and small we accomplish things.

If we put ourselves out there we need to be able to accept criticism and grow from it. A friend’s daughter performed a one-woman show recently. I had another engagement and couldn’t attend. Last night at an event I ran into her, she started going after her dream years ago of acting and singing. As she was leaving she said, “The work of being self-employed never stops.”  I think she understands cultivating one thousand true fans. She is doing what she loves; it isn’t about fame and fortune so much as following our path, creating something meaningful and living the dream.

Last night at the event a performer sang, she isn’t an artist I recognize. She has a powerful voice, put on a good show and I heard a guy in the audience say to my husband, “finally, the song I came to hear.” This was another example of someone who has a following of true fans. We went because our friend was one of the DJ’s.

Someone I grew up with is promoting a Country Festival in my hometown; I have never had the pleasure of attending, yet. I hope the stars align and one year we can attend. She and others are building something. It takes work to create and promote an event year after year.

It might seem like a leap to think of yourself doing what you dream of. After you start doing it, it becomes part of you. You grow and morph into the goal and dream you’ve set for yourself.

At the writer’s group yesterday one of the members had her photographs on the cover of two anthologies put out by the writer’s group. The speaker suggested she get a picture taken of her holding the two books and find a space on a wall where she could hang other pictures of her accomplishments and see what pictures end up populating her wall. What a great suggestion for all of us. Isn’t this why we take graduation pictures, and wedding photos, we are celebrating the beginning of something.

What accomplishment can we congratulate our self on? What picture could we frame that will continue to inspire us as we continue on our journey? My daughter gave me two framed pictures for Christmas; one was me holding her when she was about three. The second was her and I on her wedding day with foreheads touching. It was a lovely, thoughtful gift.

Celebrating our achievements is part of the journey. We should acknowledge the moments that build our life, big and small. It may be a big or small step that leads us somewhere we want to go. Every journey starts with a single step. Aren’t we all on a journey? Don’t we all have something to celebrate?  Can we find inspiration if we look around us? Is it other people, nature, other great works of art, writing, or music? Many of the great works of art were created by depicting Biblical scenes. Finding what inspires us is part of our creative journey.

When the awareness of what is achievable brushes your life, your journey has begun. Lorii Myers

Inspiration: Your Ultimate Calling by [Dyer, Wayne W.]
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Love is a decision. Love fully, truly, deeply.

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The human race is like a bunch of porcupines huddling together on a cold winters night. “The colder it gets outside, the more we huddle together for warmth; but the closer we get to one another, the more we hurt one another with our sharp quills. And in the lonely night of earth’s winter eventually, we begin to drift apart and wander out on our own and freeze to death in our loneliness.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Does anyone want conditional love? Is anyone capable of unconditional love?

Do we feel capable of loving absolutely unconditionally? People who are religious feel they have unconditional love. Sometimes they pull away from God because they feel too unlovable. Do we feel unlovable and pull away from those who love us. Do we make it almost impossible for them to love us?

Even porcupines huddle together for warmth but they must be careful to not get too close or they prick each other. Do they do a dance like we humans, drifting too close and then too far from each other? Do they find a happy medium, do we?

A study from Princeton University tells us four out of ten infants born in the United States do not form a strong bond with either parent. The main problem according to the Princeton study is forty percent of infants in the US ‘live in fear or distrust of their parents’, and this will translate into aggressiveness, defiance, and hyperactivity as they grow into adults.

I was reading that parents of newborns that are not compatible with life, who do not bond with them. Have a harder time accepting the loss than those parents who loved without caution the little time they had. We may think we are inoculating our self from pain by guarding our heart. It doesn’t seem to work that way, the more we love, truly, fully, deeply, the more at peace we are with the inevitable. This also seems to play a part with the death of a spouse. The better the relationship the easier it is for the remaining spouse to deal with the loss.  When everything was said, that needed to be said there are no regrets for what could have been or should have been. When Dad died I don’t think any of us had anything left unsaid.

A husband and wife may disagree on many things but they must absolutely agree on this, to never, ever give up. Unknown

Marriage is on the upswing it seems for the over sixty-five-year-olds. Dr. Kate Davidson co-author of Intimacy in Later Life says older men and women said: “they never thought they would feel like that again, and it was lovely.” It seems men want someone to come home to, and women want someone to go out with. Widows tend to marry widowers. Widowed men marry women, single, widowed and divorced. Davidson tells a story about a wealthy man of 75 who married a divorced woman in her early 60s. “She used Botox, went to the gym twice a week, a real dish. “How did you get someone so scrumptious?’ his friends asked. ‘I lied about my age’,” he replied. ‘I told her I was 90.’

Couples in their sixties-plus see a much longer term future for themselves; it’s another adventure to be had in life. Older couples have more time, some have more money, they no longer have childcare commitments, and they are free of stress from work. There are boulders to be dealt with, grown children are not always ecstatic for their parents. The children sometimes worry about inheritance, sometimes rightly, sometimes not.

Love at every age is a minefield. If we worry too much about what could happen, we miss what is happening. We need to love fully, truly, deeply, knowing what will happen, will happen, and we will deal with it when it does. Worrying about what might happen doesn’t change it; all it does is keep us from enjoying what is to be enjoyed now.

We don’t need to wonder if pain will find us. It will, but we won’t feel less pain by loving less, we will feel more pain because we will look back with regret at what we can no longer change. Can we live without regret, and  love without caution? We can only do our best, but when we know we’ve truly done the best we could, gave all there was, we feel the loss but not the regret for what we could of, should of, but didn’t.

Love is a decision, we make it every day. Sometimes it is like loving a porcupine, sometimes it is like loving a puppy. We don’t get to love during the good times if we can’t love through the cold, dark, winter of our lives. As they say in Game of Thrones, winter is coming, but then again so is spring. If we give up when it is cold, windy, stormy, then the spring sun will not smile on us.

This may be why widows tend to marry widowers, they know about getting through the stages of marriage and they feel divorcees do not.

Whatever stage we are in, another stage is coming. We may be looking forward to the next stage or enjoying the stage we are in. If change is the only constant? Can we hold on for the wild ride?

My husband has made me laugh. Wiped my tears. Hugged me tight. Watched me succeed. Seen me fail. Kept me strong. My husband is a promise that I will have a friend forever. Unknown

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Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs Hardcover – Sep 5 2004

My quest to become a good pack leader.

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All fear must be cast out; it should never exist in the human mind and is only possible when we lose sight of our Divinity. It is foreign to us because as Sons of the Creator, Sparks of Divine Live, we are invincible, indestructible and unconquerable. Dr. Bach

Dogs are good at picking up on our emotions. It’s one of the things we love about them. Can our emotions affect our dogs?

Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come.

My little dog makes a big fuss every time she hears the basement door open. She barks at the newest member of our family when she sees him. If someone is home whenever someone else comes in, she barks, and she doesn’t like to see people leave.

She starts waiting for my son and daughter to get home at about four o’clock. I’m sure we are part of the problem, are we the whole problem? Yesterday I bought Bach’s Flower Remedy for animals.

I do not consider myself an anxious person. Yet somehow I do believe my little dog is a mirror. I don’t sit on the step waiting in anticipation until my kids come home, yet I always feel a little easier when I know they made it home safe and sound. Is this being anxious?

I’m reading an anxious mind is a strong, powerful mind. An anxious mind can outrun, out power and outwit rationality and logic. Can we harness the strength and power of our fiercely protective mind to work for us instead of against us?

When the brain is oversensitive to a threat, it puts us on high alert even when there is no need to be. This is when anxiety becomes intrusive and hard to live with. It turns from the gentle security guard who shows up when needed, to the crasher who steals our joy and tells stories about nameless dangers.

Part of my dog’s problem is a habit. I wish I could just tell my dog, you are safe, you are secure. This behavior of hers is the excitement in her life. Why would she want to give it up?

Paradoxically it seems the more we try to change something the more energy we give it. It is very hard to ignore a barking dog. I believe she would protect us with her life. We don’t need the kind of protection she wants to give. She loves to have something to patrol. All twelve pounds of her protect us. She doesn’t know she’s a little dog. She is fiercely loyal, protective, gentle and loving. All she wants is a little love and attention, to be constantly at our side, a bit of cheese, and a potato chip now and then.

I’m looking up Cesar’s Way, Dealing with dog separation anxiety. He says there is real separation anxiety and simulated separation anxiety. I think we have a problem with simulated separation anxiety. If my husband and I go out and come back in together she doesn’t bark or act badly. If I come in alone and my husband comes in after I’ve shut the door. She barks and carries on.

Cesar says we need to let our dog know what is expected of them. Our dogs are not happy if they believe they are in control. This may be part of the problem we have. Perhaps we need to get in the habit of making her do something before she gets something? Maybe I need to get her crate out and put her in it when people are expected home? Maybe I haven’t been a good pack leader?

Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made. Roger A. Caras

Cesar says the goal is to have our dog accept all the normal everyday movements, noises, and happenings within our home. It is not necessary for her to be involved in everything because we are the ones in charge.

Learned behavior is probably what we are dealing with. I have allowed her to develop bad habits. She gets attention and even bad attention is rewarding because she gets noticed.

I was talking with my brother who just acquired a new puppy. He said, “it’s bad when a dog is smarter than its owner.” This is my problem, I have to fix it. It is hard to believe we cause the problems in our life. When we accept the truth we can change them.

My dog is teaching me things I didn’t want to know. Many of the lessons we get in life are not welcome. Only after dealing with what we can no longer ignore do we understand the worth of the lesson.

Maybe next year or next month I will be looking at this opportunity and challenge with gratitude. Being a good pack leader is an ongoing challenge. I have to step up and be the pack leader my dog needs. I owe it to her, myself, and the rest of the family.

I’ve seen a look in dog’s eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically, dogs think humans are nuts. John Steinbeck

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Are we comfortable with compliments?

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Sincerity is the highest compliment you can pay. Emerson

Last night I was listening to the radio as I came home from the gym. The radio personality was talking about how we don’t seem to be very good at receiving compliments. He was talking about an interview with quarterback Tom Brady being called the Goat (greatest of all time). Tom Brady said, “It makes me cringe, I guess I take compliments worse than I take, ‘you’re too old, you’re too slow, you can’t get it done no more.’  And I would say, ‘Thank you very much, I’m gonna go prove you wrong.’”

There are four reasons given why we are uncomfortable with compliments:

We have low self-esteem. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found people with low self-esteem have the most difficulty accepting compliments. According to the study, compliments aren’t likely to improve our self-image. Sometimes people feel they are being lied to, that the compliment is not genuine.

Our self-image doesn’t line up. The compliment doesn’t line up with the way we see our self.

We are uncomfortable with big expectations. Studies show people with self-worth issues prefer to set the bar low. If they meet the expectations they are pleasantly surprised. High expectations may make self-doubt creep in and cause anxiety. We may feel it is only a matter of time before we disappoint someone.

We want to be humble. It’s hard to know how to react when someone showers us with accolades. Saying “Yeah, I know,” puts you in jerk territory. Even a simple “Thank you” can feel awkward. Studies link humility to a variety of positive outcomes, increased self-control, and effective leadership.

We need to learn how to accept a compliment gracefully. The best response is a simple “Thank you”. We need to resist the urge to criticize our self, and if others have helped in our success we should be sure to spread the limelight.

Next, to a sincere compliment, I think I like a well-deserved and honest rebuke. Unknown

When we read self-help books we are often advised to look in the mirror and say good things about our self. If we get used to being able to say good things about our self, we may be more comfortable when someone says them to us.

Maya Angelou said, “Others will not remember what you did or said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.” When someone gives us a compliment it isn’t only about us, we need to be careful not to make them feel diminished for saying it. If we brush off their compliment we may make them feel stupid, awkward, or like they’ve done something wrong.

Learning to give and receive compliments is a skill worth developing. When we say “Thank you” to a compliment we are acknowledging what the other person sees in us.

It may be “Thank you” for recognizing our individuality.

It may be “Thank you” for acknowledging our contribution to something.

It may be “Thank you” for offering space for our purpose to serve the world.

It may be “Thank you” for allowing us a chance to shine our light in their life.

It may be “Thank you” for seeing something in us we are only starting to see in our self.

It may be “Thank you” that our vision is worth striving for.

It may be “Thank you” that they too see the world how we do.

It may be “Thank you” we’ve found a group, a friend, or space where we feel we belong.

Being fueled by wanting to prove things isn’t necessarily bad. Not wanting to rest on our accomplishments but wanting to continue to move forward is inspiring. Genuine humbleness is a great quality, so is being able to accept a genuine compliment.

Are we comfortable giving and receiving compliments? Not all compliments are sincere. How should we handle the insincere compliment?

Do not offer a compliment and ask a favor at the same time. A compliment that is charged for is not valuable. Mark Twain

Simply Charming: Compliments and Kindness for All Occasions by [Matheson, Christie]
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Our thoughts create our life.

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Change your thoughts and you change your world. Norman Vincent Peale

Do old hurts run through our mind? Do we chew on them like a cow with its cud? Ruminating, going over the same old thing, over and over again. We are told there are two things we can control, our thoughts and our behavior.  It doesn’t always feel like we have control of these. Our mind is flooded with thoughts we don’t want to think. We don’t want to keep thinking about that hurtful event, those hurtful words, our fears, but they won’t go and stay away.

Why do we appear to have a problem trying to stop thoughts? Why don’t we have an off button in our brain? Our feelings follow our thoughts so negative ruminating generates negative emotions. When we worry we become anxious. Could we change our negative emotions by doing something that elevates our mood? What if we choose to go for a run, exercise, dance, or call a friend who always makes us laugh? When we do things that elevate our mood we feel better, and it can also distract our brain from the problem we’ve been ruminating about.

Are we worried about something happening and we can’t let go of the worry? Maybe we should sink as deep into that worry as possible and write down what we would do if the worst happened. If we look at the worst that can happen and realize we can handle it because when the worst happens we do handle it. We may handle it well or poorly but we handle it. Digging deep into the worst that can happen may show us we could handle it well. We may think we couldn’t possibly ever be happy again if the worst happened, but that is rarely true. Research tells us we are as happy in six months after something happens as we were before. Even if that something is our wildest dream coming true, or catastrophic our level of happiness is back to what it was in about six months.

Can we turn that thought around in our head? Is there another way to look at it? Do we have a part to play in it we do not want to acknowledge? If we take one hundred percent responsibility for the situation bothering us, what could we do, and what could we change?

Chewing gum research tells us helps eliminate “earworms” those thoughts that go round and round and round.

Maybe we don’t have enough going on in our life if we keep going over the same old thoughts. Maybe we need to feed our mind something else to think about. Do we need to find a project, a plan, something we could focus on that is positive? Could we memorize bible verses or great quotations to ponder? Would keeping a journal help? Sometimes getting our thoughts on paper helps to figure things out. We could ask our self-questions, then we could ask our self more questions.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin

Studies show devout people have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as a better ability to cope with stress. A 2005 study of older adults in San Francisco Bay area found being religious served as a buffer against depression among people in poorer health, with the highest levels of depression among those who were in poor health and not religious. A 2013 study found patients who were treated for mental health issues such as depression or anxiety responded better to treatment if they believed in God. Another study by Dr. Harold G. Koenig director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University Medical Center, found that more religious people had fewer depressive symptoms.

One of the reasons given is because religion gives people a sense of purpose and meaning in life, and that helps them to make sense of negative thoughts that happen to them. Religious communities also provide support and encouragement through hard times.

Studies suggest that meditation and meditative prayer activate areas of the brain involved in regulating emotional responses, including the frontal lobes. A 2010 study by Dr. Andrew Newberg that included brain scans of Tibetan Buddhists and Franciscan nuns found that these long term meditators had more activity in frontal-lobe areas such as the prefrontal cortex, compared with people who were not long-term meditators.

It could be possible that the beliefs and teachings advocated by religion like forgiveness, love, and compassion – may become integrated into the way the brain works. The more certain neural connections in the brain are used, the stronger they become. Some religions also advocate staying away from high-risk behaviors like smoking, drinking, or overindulging in food. Could staying away from these unhealthy behaviors also be beneficial for brain function?

We have choices to make, about what we think, what we do, what changes we will make in our life. Our life will be built on what we focus on. Are there thoughts we need to reduce our focus on, so we can focus on better more positive thoughts? Does our thinking make it so? Is it true when we change our thoughts, we change our life?

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. Anais Nin

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The Power Of Positive Thinking: A Practical Guide To Mastering The Problems Of Everyday Living Hardcover – May 26 2002

Moving forward, trying new things.

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We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we are curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. Walt Disney

Last night I went down to my art studio and looked at my bookshelf. There I saw a book I bought years ago. Take The Step The Bridge Will Be There by Grace Cirocco. I was listening to the radio in the office one day quite a few years ago, and I heard a voice I recognized. We’d met when our daughters were in ballet.

She was on the radio promoting her book. The book is inspirational. I picked it up last night and started reading it again. I didn’t pick up my paintbrush. Instead, I read and started doing some of the exercises, answering some of the questions.

This morning I looked her up on the internet and she has a YouTube video. It’s a compilation of interviews. She’s talking about believing in our self, taking the step and knowing we are enough. She offers couples retreats and the reviews look good. I’ve never been to a couples retreat. I just looked her up on facebook and she does a Goddess Club workshop near here. There is one on February 13th, I’m thinking of going.

This is our life, it might be hard to fit everything in we want to do. We can fit in a lot if we put our mind to it. Is it time to pick up that guitar again? Or did you never put it down? If it feeds our soul it is worth doing. Visit an art store, a music store, a book store. Maybe it’s time to join a pickup band, an art group, a group of like-minded people. Is it time to attend seminars, take a class, buy a book and learn something on our own?

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. Steve Jobs

What is something that would bring a new dimension into your life? Is there something old that if you picked it back up would feed your soul? What did you not have time for while the kids were being raised, or you focused on other important things?

We build our lives with moments; moments spent with people, pets, artistic pursuits, traveling, enjoying the outdoors, and reflecting on life. This is our life, is our life too exciting, we don’t have time to stop and smell the roses, or not exciting enough? Is our circle enlarging, or shrinking? Are we looking forward to the next stage in life? Are we afraid the best is behind us?

We don’t know whose life we will touch, or who will touch ours? We need to be open to new experiences, widening our circle, learning new things, rekindling old interests. Are we worried we won’t look as cool with our guitar as we once did? Get over it. Enjoying life is cool, at any age.

I’m reminded of the advertisement of grandparents looking cool and enjoying life, but when the family is coming over they get into their grandpa and grandma clothes so they look like what their kids and grandkids expect of them.

What do we need to add to our lives to spice it up? Is there a dream we would go for if we knew we couldn’t fail? What chance would we take? Is there an adventure that never fit into our life, still calling to us?

We can take the step at any time, the bridge will be there. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. If something calls to us we can explore it in small or big ways? It may become a hobby, or play a larger role in our life, we won’t know if we don’t try.

Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have. Louis E. Boone

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Planning productive lives. Our choices make our life.

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A goal without a plan is just a wish. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Yesterday was a productive day for me. I opened an Instagram account, but I couldn’t figure out how to post anything on it. I also opened a Pinterest account. Last night I finally made it down to my art studio.

The background is painted and the subject is chosen. I’ve decided to do two paintings simultaneously of the same subject using different techniques.

It’s always exciting to have a project on the go. Part of the anticipation is knowing they can become a success or a disaster. Sometimes they are one until they turn into the other. It goes both ways.

Did we get everything accomplished in January we wanted to? If not February is a reboot. As one of my book buddies says, “she likes monthly goals.” Monthly goals are more doable, we can do anything for a month. They are measurable, and we aren’t likely to forget them. We can focus on one or two goals instead of everything we want to change in our life.

I looked up Fly she shows us how to get our house out of chaos. She breaks our cleaning and organizing into daily, weekly, monthly tasks.

Today is Renew our spirit day. Cleaning zone is zone 2 the kitchen. This month’s habit is decluttering for 15 minutes a day.

Each month she has a new habit of the month:

January – shining our sink.

February – decluttering for 15 minutes per day.

March – getting dressed to the shoes.

April – making our bed.

May – moving. I think this means our bodies.

June – drinking water.

July – swish and swipe.

August – laundry.

September –  before bed routine.

October – paper clutter.

November – menu planning.

December – pampering.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin

It is easy to focus on one habit, but trying to do all twelve of them every month would be hard. Of course, the idea is to develop a new habit and keep doing it every month. She breaks everything into small doable projects. I remember my efforts early on of cleaning the pantry. I would empty the whole pantry onto the kitchen table and it would take a day and a half to sort everything, discard or find a home for things.

This happened to me not long ago. We have a cupboard over the fridge which is not convenient to use. Over the years that is where the school pictures, soccer pictures, appliance instruction manuals, report cards, and paint we got for touch up when we bought our house as well as other sundry items were stored.

My son asked if he could have the cupboard over the fridge for his food. He’s six-three so it’s useful to him. I said yes, and to my horror, I came home from a writer’s group meeting to find all the contents of that cupboard on the kitchen table. “I looked after what I could, Mom. You’ll have to do the rest.”

I don’t empty the complete contents of cupboards anymore. Now I do a shelf at a time. I’ve learned to break it down into doable tasks. It’s frightening to have all the contents of your kitchen out of the cupboards and hear a knock at the door.

I started meal planning and I keep track of our dinners in a monthly calendar. It makes it easy to look back when I don’t know what to cook or see what we haven’t eaten in a while.

One of the things I’ve done this year is purchased numerous planners for different projects so I can keep all my notes and thoughts about that subject in one place. I’m forever making little notes and wondering what happened to it when I want to find it a week or a month later. It might be overkill, I’ll see what I think as the year goes by.

Being organized is a skill we need to learn and even when we know what to do it is easy to let a little pile, become a big pile. My daughter’s wedding dress is still hanging in the spare room, waiting for something to be done with it. No matter how much storage we have, we can always have it full to overflowing.

I have an aunt who has air between her clothes in her closet. I can’t imagine emptying my clothes closet enough to have air between the items. They tell us less is more, but we have a hard time believing that.

Capsule wardrobes are a thing. I even pretend I’m building one. My closet is still overstuffed with items. Maybe March – getting dressed to your shoes is a good month to declutter, revamp, and plan a wardrobe.

It makes us feel we’ve accomplished something just scheduling when to look at the situation. The journal I didn’t buy, is for home care. Could a trip to the book store be on my agenda today?

What are our February goals? If we haven’t made any, a whole month awaits. What can we plan? What can we implement?

Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. Gloria Steinem

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up) by [Kondō, Marie]
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Book clubs and belonging, friendship and laughter.

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There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books. Irving Stone

Last night my book club finally had our Christmas dinner. We couldn’t make December work and when our January plans fizzled down to just two of us we rescheduled for February. We still ended up with only four out of six of us.

It is hard to schedule, everyone is busy, and life gets in the way. We had a lovely time, one of our members googled to see if there was a coupon for the restaurant we went to. There was a two for one coupon but our Masala Tea didn’t count as the beverage, we had to have a cocktail or mocktail as well. I chose the mango mint mocktail.  It was so good.

We laughed and our youngest member said when she first came out to the book club her husband asked her how was it? I got the impression he thought this would be a one-time thing. That she would not be impressed by boring old biddies drinking tea. To his surprise, she was impressed and loves it.

I’m looking at a post about book clubs, she says everyone has a vague idea what a book club is.  A bunch of suburban moms wearing white jeans, drinking white wine spritzers, and discussing The Help by Kathryn Stockett. She must have been stocking us, we read The Help, we sometimes wear white jeans, and we’ve been known to have a cocktail or two.

If you’ve ever read a book where you thought I wish I could discuss this with someone. You are a candidate for a book club. If you like to laugh with people and talk about life, you are a candidate for a book club. If you feel you don’t get together with people enough because nobody organizes anything, then you are a candidate for a book club.

If you’ve ever wondered what you should read next, you are a candidate for a book club. If you’ve ever wanted to sit and talk to an author about a book, you are a candidate for a book club. If you’ve ever wanted to talk to people about issues, small and big, personal and what affects the world, you are a candidate for a book club.

Some books you read some books you enjoy. But some books just swallow you up, heart and soul. Joanne Harris

If you’ve ever felt you start books but don’t finish them because you’d do better with a deadline, then you are a candidate for a book club. If you’ve ever felt you would like a more diverse group of friends, you are a candidate for a book club.

If you’ve ever thought you wish you could talk to someone who would understand, then you are a candidate for a book club. There are books on every topic; we get to know characters better than our own family. We see issues and situations at deeper levels than real life. Books are lies that tell the truth. They tell the truth about family secrets, dysfunctional marriages, raising children, cultures and belief systems, human frailties, accomplishments, bravery, overcoming great odds, becoming who we want to be with courage.

Anything we’ve felt, done, wanted to do, want to know more about, it’s in a book. Sharing that with a group of people who share a love of reading, a love of talking, thinking, questioning, laughing, will add a lot more to our lives than we would think possible.

We now have a membership of six if we all show up it is a small enough group to congregate in a coffee shop, restaurant, or each other’s home. We can all fit in someone’s family room if we want to watch the movie. If a few people can’t come to the meeting we still have enough to meet most of the time.

Our book club started in 2000, I joined in 2001. We have had a lot of members come and go; we have one original member left. No two book clubs will be the same; each member will change it in some way. Not every member who joins will find it fits with what they are looking for. This is okay, the book club will grow and morph over the years. We grow and morph over the years, what worked for us once may not work for us now.

We may have been able to attend every meeting but now can only come sporadically, that’s okay. Book clubs should fit into our lives, if they become a burden we might be taking them too seriously. Or maybe everything else in our life is crazy, but our book club is what is staying the same and becomes our anchor. We get a lot more out of being a member of a book club than just reading books.

If this is a year you wanted to bring something more into your life and you aren’t sure what that is. Have you thought about joining a book club? It might be the answer you are looking for.

Some members want a formal, academic book club, they are out there. Libraries have book clubs and if you want to join a book club that might be the easiest way to become part of one.

Keep reading it’s one of the most marvelous adventures anyone can have. Lloyd Alexander


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Girls’ Club: Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World Paperback – Feb 5 2019