Monday, April 14, 2014

From Zen Habits: On Making It Through Tough Journeys

I subscribe to this blog and receive great posts regularly.  This one in particular came today and it really resonated with me so I wanted to share it with you.  I have linked to the blog in the title so you can read more of Leo's writing.

Have wonderful day my friends.

On Making It Through Tough Journeys

By Leo Babauta

A reader wrote to me about a very tough journey he and his wife are setting out upon, and asked for some words of advice or motivation though this tough time.

Difficult times can be a test of our souls, and as such can be some of the most instructive times possible.

It’s easy to be happy and motivated when things are going well. But what happens when they fall apart, or unexpected troubles come your way, or things go exactly as you don’t want them to? What do you do then?

I’ll share some things I’ve been learning about personally, and give you a word of encouragement: you are stronger than you think.

You’ll go through difficult times, and suffer, and learn. And come out stronger and better at the other side.

There are four things that I’ve been learning about that help me through tough times:

1. Happiness isn’t outside of us
We often seek happiness outside of ourselves, through pleasure (food, shopping, video games, TV, Internet, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs) or other people (the person of our dreams, approval of others, social networks) or big life goals (travel, creating a business, art).

But I’ve learned that none of those things actually makes you happy. Sure, they can give you a boost of pleasure or joy, but it’s temporary and soon you’re looking for the next thing that will make you happy. This leaves you in a constant state of seeking pleasure, distraction, approval, comparisons to others, and so on. And it doesn’t result in contentment.

However, if we realize that happiness isn’t outside of us, but actually comes from within … then we can always access it. What is the source of this inner happiness? I find that I can do certain things that make me happy: being grateful for who I am and what I have, learning about myself and the world, playing and being curious, thinking about others and wishing them happiness … these things might be tied to external things (what I have, other people), but they are available no matter where I am, what I have, who is in the world.

And they can help during a tough journey. If you can find happiness inside you, then no matter what’s happening externally, you can access this source of happiness. You might lose your job, get sick, lose a loved one, have to go through a difficult medical procedure, go through a divorce … and you can still find this happiness. It’s there if you choose to use it. The external circumstances of your life matter, but they don’t take away your true source of happiness.

2. Embrace your entire range of experiences
Too often we want just a small range of experiences — the good things, the comfortable things, the experiences that make us feel good about ourselves. And yet, reality is different. It gives us a lot of different kinds of experiences, from anger and frustration to joy to pleasure to coldness to loneliness and grief. These are all part of our human condition, unavoidable.

So we can rail against the injustice of having to lose something we love, having to go through difficulty, having to be lonely and sad, having to be treated unfairly. That will just lead to more unhappiness.

Or we can embrace the entire range of our experiences. That will include all our emotions, all our joyful moments and painful ones and everything in between. Life is not just the warm and beautiful. It’s all of it.

Embracing these experiences means taking everything in with open arms, being vulnerable to whatever happens, being compassionate with ourselves when things are hard, giving ourselves some kindness and love and gratitude no matter what happens. It means accepting what is, and accepting ourselves as we are, not trying to mold ourselves into the perfect human, whatever we think that may be. Not trying to mold our lives into the perfect lives, whatever we think that may be.

This isn’t easy, I’ll admit, but this kind of openness leads to much greater happiness with life.

3. Renew your gratitude
Our lives are filled with miraculous gifts, and we are constantly taking them for granted, and complaining that life isn’t better. I do it myself, all the time. But when I catch myself doing this, and remember to be grateful, life is suddenly so much better.

Is your job boring? You might be grateful you have a job at all, a roof over your head, food on the table. Are you unappreciated? You might be grateful you have anyone in your life at all, perhaps some loved ones.

You have life. This is such an incredible gift.

You might be grateful for your health, if you have it. Or you might not have perfect health, but you have legs to walk on. If you have no legs, perhaps you have eyes to enjoy the sight of a cherry blossom or sunset. If you have no eyes, perhaps you can hear music. If you have none of these, perhaps you can still learn things from reading in Braille. Imagine being without the joy of Tolstoy and Shakespeare and Cervantes! We live in an amazing world, no matter what our circumstances.

And for anyone reading this (myself included), we need to think about how incredible it is that we have computers, and smart phones, connected to a powerful thing called the Internet. We have comfortable homes, great food, fairly good health, books to read, gorgeous nature all around us, people who love us. That’s quite miraculous, and yet we take it all for granted.

When times get tough, you might not have all of this. But you still have a lot to be grateful for.

4. Find Lovingkindness to yourself
As we work on embracing the entire range of our experiences, there will be some difficulty. It’s not always easy to allow ourselves to be sad, scared, frustrated, or grieving.

How do we live through these experiences without giving up?

We find compassion for ourselves, kindness, love.

Suffering in all kinds of ways is part of our experiences as humans. We suffer, in ways small and large, and we want to be happy. We all have that in common.

And so accepting our suffering and desire to be happy as a part of being human … we then turn to wanting our suffering to end. Wishing ourselves happiness and wellbeing.

This is kindness and compassion for our suffering selves. It’s not feeling sorry for ourselves, but wanting ourselves to be happy.

Whenever we see pain and fear in ourselves, we can recognize it, and wish ourselves happiness. Wish an end to the suffering. Be kind to ourselves.

And then, having given ourselves this kindness, we can turn to the person next to us, and recognize they are also suffering and just want to be happy. If they lash out at us in anger, recognize that they are just suffering like us. And wish them happiness, wish an end to their suffering.

In doing so, we can melt our own hardened hearts, open ourselves to others, embrace them with love. And the journey, as hard as it may be, becomes better.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Brick and Mortar Guys

This little "ditty" was written by a bookseller at one of our stores.  Every one of us who's come across it is sharing it.  It feels SO very true.

Brick and Mortar Guys
by Jason Michael Howe
Barnes & Noble Store #02814
Pembroke Pines, FL
(And apologies again for unintentionally hijacking the other thread.)
A long, long time ago...
I can still remember how
those book stores used to make me smile.
And I know if I could go back,
I'd buy books there by the stack,
no matter if I had to walk a mile.
But Amazon, they made me quiver...
with every order they delivered.
Brown boxes on my doorstep,
I didn't have to take one more step...
I can't remember if I cried,
the first time I found one just outside...
I opened the box and looked inside...
the day... the book stores... died.
So bye bye brick and mortar guys,
it's just not fair with next day air and a lower online price.
Having people who would help me, man it sure was nice.
But online shopping has become my vice...
online shopping has become my vice...
Were you there in their store,
reading books while lying on the floor,
when an employee asked you to move?
Did you ask to charge your phone?
Leave a pile of books in cafe and only buy a scone?
Do you ever wonder why you're alone?
Well, I know that you loved their place,
high-end boutiques now fills their space,
What other stores are left to choose?
You should be singin' the blues!
All you had to do was spend a buck,
drive to their store in your pickup truck,
but now you're out of luck.
The day the book stores died.
You started singin'
Bye bye brick and mortar guys,
it's just not fair with next day air and a lower online price.
Having people who would help me, man it sure was nice.
But online shopping has become my vice...
online shopping has become my vice...
Now, for ten years we've been on our own
clicking Buy from the comfort of our home
But that's not how it used to be!
Employees sang for storytime,
an author signing didn't cost a dime,
and then they'd sit and talk with you and me.
But to kick them while they're down,
Amazon had to steal their crown,
No worries of tax evasion,
they've got bribes and other persuasion.
And while book stores closed up shop,
employees wished they could make them stop,
but now they're at Employment One Stop.
The day the book stores died.
Bye bye brick and mortar guys,
it's just not fair with next day air and a lower online price.
Having people who would help me, man it sure was nice.
But online shopping has become my vice...
online shopping has become my vice...
Helter Skelter up on Capitol Hill
Congress had submitted a bill
about collecting online tax.
It's odds were better than legal grass
The bill now looked for sure to pass
With Amazon, on the sidelines, all aghast.
Now poetic justice came to mind
What legal recourse could they find?
Former employees nearly danced with joy,
but Amazon had one more ploy!
They tried to open brick and mortar stores
thinking they'd do better than those before
Do you recall the final score
The day the book stores died?
We started singin'
Bye bye brick and mortar guys,
it's just not fair with next day air and a lower online price.
Having people who would help me, man it sure was nice.
But online shopping has become my vice...
online shopping has become my vice...
Oh, and there we were all in one time
A generation lost online
With no way to go back again.
C'mon Amazon, sell those books!
Amazon, you're just a crook.
Complacency is your best friend!
And as I watched on their newsfeed
Smiling faces filled with greed
No company born online
Could catch their lead this time.
And as flames spread on the forum sites
Booksellers read them on lonely nights
While Amazon laughed with delight.
The day the book stores died.
They were singin'
Bye bye brick and mortar guys,
it's just not fair with next day air and a lower online price.
Having people who would help me, man it sure was nice.
But online shopping has become my vice...
online shopping has become my vice...
I met a girl who had shelved their stacks
And I asked if they'd ever come back
But she just cried and ran away
I went down to my local store
Where I'd purchased books years before
A homeless man there said they took his restroom away.
And down the streets the parents walked,
their children cried, their tweens all balked.
But not a word was spoken;
their spirits had been broken.
Now no one comes at my behest
But I shop for books without getting dressed
If I think too hard I'll get depressed
The day the book stores died.
And we're all singing...
Bye bye brick and mortar guys,
it's just not fair with next day air and a lower online price.
Having people who would help me, man it sure was nice.
But online shopping has become my vice...
online shopping has become my vice...
Bye bye brick and mortar guys,
it's just not fair with next day air and a lower online price.
Having people who would help me, man it sure was nice.
But online shopping has become my vice...

Monday, March 3, 2014

Flitting Visions of Hope


     It has been a seemingly VERY long winter here in Kentuckiana.  It's the third of March.  I know the whole "In like a lion" thing.  It was a mere two years ago we had the horrible tornadoes that demolished Henryville and this year- ice and snow in the form of Winter Storm "Titan".  What in the world is going on with Mother Nature?  Have we finally ticked her off to the point that she's become irrational?

    That said- an extra day off with my puppies is always welcome, especially when I can get a little cleaning done around the house in the process.  I have been slowly spot cleaning my carpet over the last few weekends.  I can't do the whole thing at once because I can't cordon the dogs off from the entire carpeted world.  I am using the vinegar and baking soda method (works GREAT!) and so I apply it at night and let it dry overnight then vacuum in the morning- or vice versa.  The dogs want nothing to do with the vinegar smell so they leave the area alone.  I had noticed that the vacuum was getting sluggish but the husband has always dealt with all things vacuum related.  Not knowing when he will be by again, I decided to figure it out by myself.  Well- apparently I have waited too long and the canister (it's a bag-less vacuum) was overly full.  I pulled the canister of and stuff flew everywhere.  I let out a deep sigh, considered banging my head against a wall for a few minutes and then proceeded to empty out the canister, take it apart, clean all of the filters with hot soapy water and then sweep up the biggest part of the mess  and then lay down on the couch for a bit (hoping to take a nap) while I waited for the filters to dry.

It was still a bit early so the pups were still in their "morning wired" phase.  One was perched on one couch, one on the back of the loveseat watching the world through the living room window.  Both went crazy when the mailman came by and then we all settled down again and both of them were giving off occasional happy little "boofs" so I gave up on sleep and looked out to see what was interesting them.  At first I just saw birds.  Not unusual at all as they have been making their homes in the trees for weeks.

Then I saw them.  Against the background of the snow and ice, little glimpses of color.  Against the bricks of the adjacent buildings, little pops of white.  I went outside and there they were- butterflies!  Flitting from shrub to shrub, in between the buildings and back again.  The sun was coming out and the ice glazing the shrubs and trees was giving off a glare but there were the butterflies, swooping and streaming and chasing one another with abandon.  A sure sign of spring while we are covered in a blanket of snow and ice.  With a smile, I went back inside knowing that no matter how cold it is now, soon it will all be over for another eight or nine months and we can all get back to normal routines.  I know the pups are more than ready to be able to go outside without scrambling across the ice or being up to their bellies in snow.  I know I am ready to take them for nice long walks again.  I don't know how many snow days we have had thus far but I would happily give them up for the warmer climate and now I have hope that Spring will be here soon.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Daily Good

I want to share a website with you that was passed to me inadvertently from a friend.  I have signed up for their newsletter and have really enjoyed spending time reading the wonderful stories of what normal, every day folks are doing just for the sake of making their part of the world a little better. The site curates stories from all over the world.  With the daily news being 98% bad news can't we all use some good news?  As I have said before, I have found that with all of the uncertainty in my life these last months it has been harder to find my gratitude place but stories like this help tremendously.  The story below was in my inbox on Saturday.  This is an example of their regular site content:

Chai and Love

--by Soma Basu, syndicated from, Feb 15, 2014

R.Sekar is extremely reluctant to even put on a shirt for the photograph. I point out to the hole in his vest. “That’s me,” he says bluntly.
I spot the frown on his face. He doesn’t like talking about himself, his family or the work he does. Extremely reticent, he sticks to his schedule of opening his tea shop on the Ponmeni Narayanan Street in S.S.Colony at 4.30 a.m. sharp and serves the day’s first round of steaming chai to about two-dozen watchmen who do night duty in the area. He runs the shop till 11 p.m. selling over 300 cups of tea, coffee and milk besides biscuits, cakes, laddus, murukkus and other savouries. Communication with customers is restricted to business only.
Yet the Meenakshi Coffee Bar which he runs with his two brothers in S.S.Colony is popular. Not for the knick-knack items it sells. Not even for the hundreds of cups of tea and coffee for which it is known. But for Sekar and his kind heartedness.
Daily morning Esaki, affected by leprosy, comes in a tricycle and stops by the tea shop. Sekar gives him tea in a disposable glass and some biscuits. The two never speak. In fact, they have never exchanged a word, except for once when Sekar asked him his name and age.
Eight years ago when he came the first time, says Sekar, I sensed he wanted to drink tea but did not have the money. “From that day, this appointment has continued uninterrupted,” he says.
If Sekar meets somebody who can not afford something, he reaches out wherever possible. For instance, he was moved by the plight of eight-year-old Sivatharini, diagnosed with blood cancer. Her poor parents cannot arrange nutritious meal for her as advised by the doctor. For the last three years, ever since Sekar was introduced to the little girl by a friend in the locality, he has been supplying milk and fruits to her whenever she is admitted to the hospital for treatment or is recuperating at home.
“I am reminded of my difficult childhood when my parents couldn’t manage even one meal a day for the family. I know what it means to starve and how difficult it is when your basic needs are not met,” he says.
Every Friday he unfailingly sends five litres of milk each along with buns and other savouries to three different Homes for special and orphaned children. The tea shop is 35 years old and is known to every resident of the area. But the silent service Sekar renders is not known to many.
“I am a simple man who wants to do little bit of charity because it gives happiness,” he insists. From days of nothing, Sekar says he has come to a position when he can give no matter how small. “There are so many people with so much money but either do not have the time or the inclination to help. God gives us in his own way and we find our ways to help others,” he says.
Quite regularly a motley group of school students gathers at his shop in the evenings. The children usually come asking for stationery items, notebooks and books. “I make a note of their requirements and get it for them.” Sekar never hands over cash but buys the item a person needs.
During the new academic session every summer, lot of poor parents turn to him for help. The soft-spoken Sekar never turns them down and helps them with the purchase of school bags, uniforms, lunch box, water bottles and any other item.
The earnings from the shop are divided among the three brothers. Sekar doesn’t keep an account of how much of his money he uses to help others.
“I am happy with what I have and can do with even less. I do not need more. What will I do?” he asks. He shows you only have to have a heart to help others.  
You can find The Daily Good here.   I hope you enjoy it as much as I have and a big Thank You to Amy Dixon for linking one of their stories on your Facebook page and leading me here.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Just a quick note

It's almost Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Day.  What type of post would YOU like to see for this event?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hello 2014- What do you have planned for me?

     I am one of those people that treats the new year as a new start and always make resolutions.  For example, for many years now I have resolved to quit smoking, lose weight, take more time for myself.  Pretty standard and non-specific resolutions.  Well- it took until December 17th but I finally, Finally, FINALLY quit smoking. 

      I am using e-cigarettes to do so.  I hate typing that because I feel that the name "e-cigarette" is a misnomer.  We who use the product are not, in fact, smoking.  The battery heats the "juice" to create a water vapor.  Much like we all do when we walk outside on a cold morning and create "steam".  For those that don't know, the e-cigarette juice is made of exactly four (compared to the estimated 600 in cigarettes which create over 4000 chemical compounds when burned) ingredients:  Propylene Glycol, Vegetable Glycerine, Food Flavoring and Nicotine.  Yes- industrial grade propylene glycol is found in anti-freeze- but we are talking pharmaceutical grade here which is used in the following foods:

- Most cake/cupcake mixes
- Some frostings
- Lots of ice cream brands - Cold Stone Creamery and Graeter's Ice Cream both contain this, plus supermarket brands
- Many McDonald's sauces - including Big Mac sauce and their mayonnaise
- Some flavoring syrups
- Most beers use it as a foaming agent
- Cornbread and muffin mixes
- Coffee (specifically Folgers -- probably others)
- Candy
- Fast Food
- Many salad dressings
- Biscuits in the can that you bake at home
- All flavored coffee's of any brand use PG as a solvent/emulsifier to get the "flavoring" into the bean..... it's part of their manufacturing process.   

Sorry- I didn't mean to go off on a tangent but the biggest objections that I have heard was that people are worried about the vapor in the air- Second-hand vapor?  There's a recent study from Drexel University (found here) that refutes any safety concerns completely- making the bans on e-cigarettes in different place all the more ridiculous.  Especially since so very many of us are using them to quit smoking.  

To get back on track- this is the first time in 31 years that "quit smoking" hasn't been on my resolutions list.  This year my resolution list includes (but is not limited to):

  • Take better care of ME overall.
  • Make sure I take all of my meds daily (I tend to get busy and forget).
  • WALK!  I have gotten lazy about taking the puppies for long walks-it's time to get back to it.
  • Read a minimum of 1 book a week.
  • Complete 50% of the next book I am writing.
  • Drink 4 bottles of water daily.  
  • Get back into the blogging habit.
  • Get back to the habit of using my blessings box.  

So what about you?  Do you make resolutions?  Do you generally keep them?  Do you treat the new year as a fresh start or is it just another day for you?  

Monday, December 9, 2013

It's a long and winding road

     It's been quite some time since I have written here and a long road back.  I have been essentially avoiding my blog all summer because it's been a very rough six months both physically and personally and I have been having tough time with gratitude through it all.  Every time I open a page I stare at it and stare at it until I finally give up and go back to something else.  I have discovered during all of this that in order to not be a "whiner" and to not feel like I am constantly complaining I have held everything in.  That has impeded my gratitude journey in a very, very big way and that is not good for me.  In the interest of full disclosure, because I hate cryptic posts and status updates that seem to just beg for attention, it's time to just put it out there.  That being said, once I do I will leave the personal "stuff" alone for a while and probably circle around to the medical side before too long.

     So let's get the personal issues out of the way first.  Back in the end of April, my husband of 27 years decided that he wanted to separate.  Much of it was about things that he was going through following the death of his father back in February and was (is?) not handling well but I contributed too because we had fallen into a rut and had become too complacent.  I am not sure where we stand at the moment which has been a very large part of me not discussing it unless necessary. I hate being in limbo and not having any answers.  I can only say that we are cordial and that we are working on getting on an even ground before we make any big decisions.  It's been very difficult because in addition to dealing with the dynamics between us I have been learning to live on my own for the first time in my life.  That has been an eye-opening experience to say the least and some days are easier than others, but I am doing it and making my way through.

     Now for the medical.  As I mentioned back in August, we discovered that I have 5 discs that are in rough shape.  I have been griping about lower back pain and neck pain for years and one little MRI gave us the answer.  Conservative treatment is NSAIDS, pain meds, muscle relaxers.  All of which I am already on for the RA and Fibro so I am taking a wait and see attitude toward the back issues.  If we go for aggressive treatment it would mean a combined total of about 24 weeks out of work with no guarantee that I could go back afterward.  And that's a risk that I am just not willing to take right now.  When they told me about my back and the treatment options I went into a funk and basically asked "What more can possibly happen?"  I also told my family "That's it!  ONE more thing wrong with me and I am taking to my bed and not coming out!"  I meant it at the time.  I was just feeling so very sorry for myself that I was ready for a giant pity party.

     Well- we got confirmation of that "one more thing" last month.  My Rheumy sent me for my routine chest x-ray in June and at my September appointment referred me to a Pulmonary specialist.  He did breathing tests (I am fine there) and sent me for a CT scan.  It seems the RA has decided to invade my lungs as well.  Because it's not really having an effect on my breathing at the moment, we are taking a "wait and see" approach here too.  I will go back in March for another CT scan to see if there is any change in my lungs, then back for another breathing test and visit with the pulmonologist to discuss any treatment plan.  The only way that this has manifested so far is that each time I have gotten sick in the last few months, what starts as a cold rapidly turns into bronchitis and stays forever.  I have discovered on my own (by accident) that a big contributor to the length of the illness is the Orencia.  I figured it out over Thanksgiving when I had been sick for 4 weeks already and went to my folks for a two week vacation.  In packing the car, I forgot to pack my cooler and left my Orencia sitting in the fridge.  After the first week off of it I started to get better and by the second week I was back to normal.  The previous illness (after my Back to School rush) had been less intense and had lasted almost 2 months so there's no telling how long this one would have lasted had I not gone off the immunosuppressant.

     We also discovered in all of this that because of my previous liver problems with Methorexate- I cannot take Tylenol products any longer.  My first bout of illness late this summer I had been taking Mucinex and during that time I went to the Rheumy for my routine visit. My blood work came back with elevated liver enzymes and so she had me repeat the blood work after being off of it and they went back to normal.     I will discuss this with my Rheumatologist in February along with all of the other issues to try to get a handle on the comprehensive overview.

     I am glad to say that the newest incurable diagnosis did not send me into the tailspin I expected and did not cause me to take to my bed.  Though I reiterate- one more thing could be the one.  As anyone who lives with a chronic illness knows, it's difficult to know that you have a disease with no cure.  As the illnesses add up it can be so very overwhelming.  I think that had I been symptomatic  when we found out it might have put me in a different head space but I just took a deep breath (figuratively) and pressed on.

    As crazy as it sounds, each of these things sounds bad enough on their own and cumulatively they have made for a really bad few months.  That said, I have found that if I compartmentalize each issue and deal with one at a time I am far better at handling it all.  I have learned that I can do that without too much trouble and that if I focus on one problem at a time not only can I deal with them but, if it starts to overwhelm me I can switch focus and move to the next issue.  As crazy as it sounds, I have learned be grateful that I have so many things going on because I can't allow myself to obsess over any one thing.  It keeps me balanced in a way.

     I have also discovered an overwhelming amount of support out there.  As word of our separation has come out to some and my medical issue have been discussed with others, people have reached out that I never would have expected and have been there.  That is something for which I am really grateful!

     In order to get back on track, I am currently reading two pretty terrific books.  The first is a non-fiction book by one of my favorite romance authors, Debbie Macomber.  It is called One Simple Act  and is a faith based book about committing one small act of generosity in order to make the world a better place.  The second is Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik who tells about using simple Thank You Notes to find his way out of the lowest point in his life and to a life of gratitude.  Each is calling to me in a different way and I am thoroughly enjoying both of them.  I think the will help both in the short and long term.

    Before I go, I wanted to bring your attention to the resources section for RA on the right hand side.  I have added a couple that you might want to check out.  Finally, I want to thank you for baring with me during my silent months.  I appreciate it greatly.  Have a wonderful Monday!