Life, family, business


The Dangers of Boredom

The snow flakes shimmer under a dull gray sky, twirling and whirling, and flying up in great swirls of wind.  The leafless trees stretch their naked trunks and branches upwards, into the gray, upon gray, upon gray.  The cold winds deter me from doing anything outside.  Even though outside is my favorite place, the unfavorable temperature and bone-chilling winds make it less bearable this time of year.

Here I remain, trapped indoors. The dogs are sleeping, as are the cats.  The husband and son gone for the morning and early afternoon.  What to do.  What to do…

So honestly, I have a ton of hobbies.  I think I’m one of those people who needs to have something to do.  I can sit and read quietly for only so long, and then I need to do SOMETHING.  Cleaning house is rewarding only to a certain extent.  I have to use my brain, my creativity, and my hands.  I love to paint, but my talent only goes so far.  I have a very large collection of houseplants that only need so much nurturing before they become angry in their winter hibernation.  I can only cook so much food for a small number of people.  I can write only so much before people stop reading it.  I used to enjoy sewing quilts for my children when they were young, but how many quilts does a person need?  I crochet to a certain extent, but its a time consuming process that yields yet another blanket, or set of dishcloths, or a scarf to add to my collection.  I make jewelry, and have a fabulous collection, even though I rarely wear jewelry. I have made rugs, sweaters, greeting cards, curtains, clothing, shelves; all sorts of things.  But what next?  What’s the next thing to do?

I think a lot of people struggle with the winter blahs: trapped indoors with no real sense of purpose.  Our great-grandmothers would probably tell us how lucky we are having all the modern appliances that make life so much easier.  I remember as a child, my grandmother had an old ringer washing machine, and doing the week’s laundry took the entire day.  They washed the clothes, ran them through the ringer-press to get the water out, and then hung them on the line to dry. Once dry, all the clothes had to be brought in, folded or ironed, and put away.  It was a great deal of work to keep their clothes clean.  For me to do a load of laundry, I simply put the clothes in, toss in a gel pack of detergent, close the lid and push the button.  Elapsed time: one minute.  Then I transfer the clothes to the dryer, toss in a softener sheet, close the door and press a button. Sure, I do have to fold them and put them away, but that takes a fraction of the time because I do a load every day or two and then fold and put away as I have time.  In fact, my washer is working right now as I sit and type; there’s nothing hands-on about it.

Our lives of chores have gotten easier, and I won’t complain about having a high efficiency washing machine, but now that the kids are older, I don’t have as much to do at home any more.  Its strange how the hurried days of childhood taper off so quickly.  I now have the time to do the things I always wanted to do, but it seems I’ve forgotten what those things are.  Perhaps I’ll learn a new language, or finally learn to play the piano. (I have one in my living room so I might as well!)  I think its important to always keep learning.  It helps occupy your brain, helps you use your creativity, and maybe its even something to do with your hands.  Never give in to boredom, there’s always something new to discover, or something to create.  I do treasure my time alone, since I don’t get a lot of it. But I still need to have something I want to do.  What are things that you do to occupy your time? I’d love to hear about them in the comment section! And thank you for reading!

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Unsolicited Advice and Political Lies

Its one of the most annoying things in the world to me: unsolicited advice.  But its more than that really, its when people try to tell me what I should do.

What I should think.

What I should believe.

Why would anyone think they have a better strategy than me for living my own life?

Why would anyone think that the way I’m living my life could be improved if only I did what they said?

Or thought the way they think?

Or believe what they believe?

I think that each of us has a burning in our heart, put there by God, to do what is right for ourselves.  I think that there is no other person who can possibly know everything in my heart, who can be a better “me” than I am right now.

Don’t get me wrong, I do ask for advice sometimes, and if I ask, then do please try to help me.  But if I don’t ask, then why on earth would someone decide to just interrupt?  Why would someone try to impose their thoughts and beliefs on my purpose?

I think that humans have a huge ego problem, where we think we know better than others.  We think we’re the smart one.  We think we’re the one with the answers.  I feel that way sometimes too.  But unless someone asks for my advice, or opinion, I try to keep it to myself.  I don’t expect someone to give up their religion because I don’t agree with what they believe, but on that same note, don’t think you can change what I believe.

I don’t expect someone to change their opinions or political beliefs because I don’t agree with them, but don’t have your telemarketers call my house five times a day telling me how I should vote.  I have stopped answering my phone when an unrecognized number calls,  do you think they get the hint?

I believe that each of us needs to make up our own mind, and decide what to believe on our own.  I don’t trust any of the commercials on television anymore, especially the political ones. I need to read about the candidates, and the measures, and decide for myself how I will vote.  So stop calling me.  Stop leaving fliers in my door.  Stop trying to manipulate me into siding with you, because more than likely, I’ll do the opposite of what you keep harassing me to do.  I don’t want your politics, I don’t want your religion, and I don’t want your manipulation.  I just want to live my own life, doing what I believe is right, the way I believe it should be done.  I have my own politics, my own religion, and my own mind full of my own opinions and my own beliefs.  If I ever decide to change them, it will be because of my own reasons, and not because some telemarketer with a terrible accent told to me to vote yes or no.  And seriously, how did you get my cell phone number?


International Peace Garden

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Each year, my husband and I try to go somewhere we haven’t been before.  This year I finally got to go see the Peace Garden.  It truly is a very peaceful place, and you can sit and just listen to nature.  We went on a Sunday, and even though there were quite a few people there, it was quiet and peaceful.

I grew up in the Midwest and surprisingly knew very little about the Peace Garden.  On July 14, 1932, 50,000 people came for the dedication of the garden.  It sits on the border of the United States and Canada, half in each country.  You can see where the border is, and of course I have a picture of it.  The Peace Towers are my favorite, one half in the US and the other half in Canada.   There are so many things to see in this place, and the Peace Chapel is a must visit as well.  I included a picture of the quote by Buddha, but there were so many good ones.  I believe I read them all.

The garden was made to swear an oath made by our two countries.  “To God in His Glory, we two nations dedicate this garden and pledge ourselves that as long as men shall live, we will not take up arms against one another.”  If you ever get the chance to go, its a great place to stop and enjoy the beauty.  I took so many pictures of the plants, the huge succulent collection and the cacti collection, along with the regular gardens and the sunken garden.  I’m a plant person though, so I won’t subject you to all those pictures.  The place is amazing!

You don’t need a passport to get back into the US, but you will need at least a drivers license.  We didn’t have any problems going through customs, in fact we got some fishing pointers that helped out for the rest of our stay at Devils Lake. The fishing was great, the weather was beautiful, and it was a short, but much needed vacation.

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Don’t Be Like This Guy!!

ToadI found this little guy sitting by the garage door, waiting for the door to open.  I opened the door a little, as you see in the photo, and he just sat there.  I had to physically push him out the door.

I think sometimes in our lives, we do this too.  We pray and pray for a door to be opened for us.  But then, when a door is opened, we are either too scared to walk through it, or we’re too comfortable in the place we are to actually do it.  Maybe we think, “Wait, I wanted a different door!”, and then we just sit there and wish for a different door.  Sure, this door opens to a gravel parking lot, but just around the corner is a big grassy area with lots of bugs and hiding places, perfect for a toad.  But he couldn’t see that just looking through, he had to actually GO through the door to see everything that is there waiting for him.  Sure the garage has some food, and some hiding places, and he’s safe from predators; but eventually he would die in there with no water, and nowhere to hibernate if he actually made it to winter.

Look at your life.  Have you already gone through a few doors? Are there doors hanging open, just waiting for you?  Are you in the relative safety of the garage?  Don’t be scared of the door.  The door open in your life is an invitation for you to see and explore and learn.  Of course its uncomfortable at first, especially if you don’t like taking chances.  But if you just stay in the garage, you’re going to have a very unfulfilling life and then probably freeze to death in the corner somewhere.

Don’t be afraid of change, don’t be afraid of doing things differently than you’ve ever done before.  Break free from your mold and live your life with new opportunities and new ideas.  They say when one door closes, another door opens.  But maybe that door was open already, and you just needed to be pushed through it.

Jump through that door!!!

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Die Happy

As I was driving today, I saw an expensive car with the license plate “DIE HAPPY”, written in different letters, but I could read it all the same.  As I contemplated that license, I saw a young mother skipping with her daughter on the sidewalk next to me.  They were laughing and smiling, and having so much fun.  They were happy.

Then I thought about life; about happiness and what makes others happy and what makes me happy.  I drive a older mini-van, nothing fancy, and if I’m still driving a mini-van when I die, I’ll still die happy.  I don’t need an expensive car to make me happy.  What would you need to make you happy?

How much “stuff” actually makes us happy?  I read about miserable rich people, and that makes me wonder why are they so miserable.  I know why though, its because no amount of “stuff” can make anyone happy.  It may make you feel happy for a short time, but in reality, no material item can make anyone truly happy.  Happiness comes from within, and there’s no other way to find it, other than from within yourself.

I think about what makes me happy and its not things, its experiences.  My husband and I went on a short get-away last  summer to see the Tall Ships in Duluth, MN, and that truly made me happy.  I didn’t buy much when I was there, but experiencing the event, and spending quality time with my husband made me very happy.  When I spend time with my kids, it makes me happy. (Well, most of the time, but that’s part of being a parent.)   Also, spending time with my mom and my siblings makes me happy.  My job consists of visiting with many people throughout the day when they come as customers to my store, and that makes me happy.  I love visiting with people and listening to them talk about their families and their lives.  I’ve grown to be a good listener over the years, and its fun to connect with people.

If I won a million dollars, I don’t think I would truly be any happier, my life would just be easier not ever having to worry about money.  So in  hindsight, perhaps the license plate should say “DIE EASY” instead, if it were on my luxury car anyway.

So instead of worrying about dying happy, what if we instead had the goal of living happy?  We could skip down the sidewalk with our child or grandchild or friend, and just be happy to be alive, and able to skip!  If we each do something everyday that makes us feel happy, the world would be a much friendlier, happier place.  What makes you happy?  I’d love it if you left me a comment to let me know what things make other people happy.   Just click on the “leave a comment” button under the title of this post and let me know. Thanks!


Disappointed by Disappointment


I have a problem.  I’m ready to admit it and get it out of my life.  I worry too much about what other people think of me.

It’s really a fear of disappointing people, and this is the issue I’m working on getting out of my life.  When I was a child I was a disappointment to my dad; I was the firstborn and I was a girl and he wanted a boy.  This sounds quite trivial I know, but its something that I’ve been dealing with for quite some time.  I wasn’t what my dad wanted.  My mom was happy with me, my grandparents were all happy with me, so why does this one little thing matter?

I believe that each of us has trials in our lives, and problems that result from all kinds of weird things that happen to us, or untruths that we grow up believing.  But this belief isn’t true for me.  I’m happy that I was a girl.  I’m happy with me, I love me.  And I know that I was created this way, as a female, for a reason.  I believe that God makes each one of us exactly the way He wants us to be for His purpose.  

But I also believe that what we experience in our lives makes us stronger and makes us into who we are as adults.  I consider myself to be a very strong woman, both mentally and physically, and spiritually.  I also get very defensive when someone tries to tell me what to do.  I don’t work that way.  I have to decide to do something, no one can make me do it.  I may be a little stubborn.  (I get that from my dad and his family who were amazingly stubborn.)  But this can be a good thing too.

A good thing? Remember, everything we experience can be a positive thing as long as we believe it is.  My stubbornness manifests in me sticking to my guns, not giving up or giving in, and if I truly believe something in my heart, no one will change that.  It makes me a stronger person, someone not scared to say what I mean, and say what I think.  I can look back and see that me trying not to disappoint people was all in my head.  I can’t disappoint anyone but myself.  Anyone who feels disappointed in you is really just disappointed in the fact that they were wrong about you.  Their idea of what they wanted you to do and what you did, were not the same.  Its their belief system that was wrong, not yours.  You can only satisfy yourself and your own belief system.  The fact that my dad didn’t get what he wanted is not my problem. 

(You can’t always get what you want.  The Rolling Stones were right.) 

So if I can take my own advice and remember this, I will be a much less anxious person, and will have a load off my shoulders.  There’s no reason to worry about disappointing anyone except yourself.  On that  same note, you won’t disappoint God either, because He knows your heart and your desires better than you do, and He loves you no matter what. 

What issues are you dealing with that may be something in your own belief system?  Have you dealt with this in your life?  What did you do to get out of this mindset?

Big Things Can Come in Smaller Packages

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Big Things Can Come in Smaller Packages

To be fair to both my precious pooches, I’ll tell you a little about Rocky this week. Rocky is a 5 year old Yellow Lab/Brittany mix. He thinks he’s a big dog, but he’s just a little 70 pound cuddle-bunny. He’s ferocious though, a natural born hunter. His greatest love is to have someone pat him on the head and tell him he’s a “good boy”, and then don’t forget to rub his tummy. I think that since the dog he sees every day is a giant, he thinks he’s the same size.

And that gets me to the point that, whatever you believe about yourself is what’s true. If you believe you are a valiant warrior, then that’s what you’ll be. If you believe you are smart and beautiful, you are smart and beautiful. But the opposite is true as well, if you believe you are less than, you always will be.

What we believe about ourselves is very important. Listen to your thoughts for a few days and see what your inner voice says about you. If its negative, then you need to make an effort to change that. Start telling yourself good things, positive things, and your whole world will change. Its amazing how much our own perception of ourselves matters in our lives.

Rocky has a killer instinct, he knows what his purpose in life is: to be a best friend, a retriever, and to disassemble anything with a squeaker inside. And he’s good at all of them. What’s your purpose? What are telling yourself about you? Are you a big dog in a smaller body like Rocky? That’s great! Big things can come in small packages, and maybe you notice the things you are lacking instead of the things you have naturally, but you need to step back and see the bigger picture. You can do anything you believe you can do. What do you believe about yourself? What is it that you want to believe? You can be a big dog too, you just need to believe it.

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…just a kid from a small town….

I actually grew up on a farm.  But now I live in a small town.  How small?  223 residents at the time of the last census.

The thing I like best about living in a small town is the sense of community.

When someone get sick or has an accident, or a baby born with a something that needs to be fixed, someone throws a benefit for them, and community shows up and gives large amounts of money to make sure they can pay their medical bills.

When someone’s house burns down, the community comes together and has the benefit, or at least someone collects donations to help them get back on their feet.

I’ll guess that at least half to 75% of the people in our community volunteer their time or money or resources to help others, or donate to their church or the Lions groups and they help others using that money.  The number might even be closer to 100% than I even realize.

There’s at least one person who can do anything you need done, in a small community, from welders and mechanics, EMT’s and paramedics, to firemen and computer programmers, and even that one guy who will climb down in the sewer and snake your septic line if it gets plugged.  There are painters and artists, writers and cooks, organizers and planners, and builders and demolition people.  The funny thing is, once you become a member of that community, you realize that community is just another name for  family.  Sometimes in a community, just like in a family, people fight, and get angry and say bad things about each other.  As long as we forgive each other and learn to forget the sins of those who trespass against us, we will also be forgiven when we mess up.  Because we all do, I have never met one single perfect person, other than perhaps a newborn baby.

Most of the people who live in our small community grew up here, and half of them are related to the other half.  I’m an outsider, as is my husband.  When we first moved here, we weren’t part of the community, we didn’t know many people, and we kept to ourselves, as many others do.  But as time went on, we met neighbors, made friends, and joined a church, and I took some training and joined our volunteer ambulance squad.  We felt like part of the community, but yet we weren’t fully engaged in it.  But once we bought the one little convenience store, the “general store” if you will, we truly became full members of the community.  We know everyone, and everyone knows us.

In a small community like this, the customers soon become your friends.  I know what beer they drink, what pizza they like, and their brand of tobacco if they partake.  I know their car when they pull in the lot, and I usually know if anyone in their family is sick, getting married, having a baby, or dying.  I know their kids, and their kids know me. And they know if I see anything “funny” going on, I’ll let their parents know.  But I hope their kids also know that if they ever needed someone to talk to or to protect them, I’m always available.

Sometimes it makes me think of Mayberry.  Maybe we don’t have Sherriff Andy or Deputy Barney Fife, but we have our own Andys, and our own Barneys, and our own Aunt Bee, maybe even a few Aunt Bees.  Every little town has their own unique personalities, and their celebrities, and their fallen.

I love to listen to the older gentlemen, who come in for coffee in the afternoons, talk about “the good old days” and what they did when they were young and how time flies.  It reminds me of the stories my grandfather used to tell me about when he was a boy playing baseball in Ocheyedan, Iowa.  And the stories my husband’s grandfather, who grew up in that same town in Iowa, would tell about his boyhood, riding trains and playing his guitar and singing for money.  And I realize that not that much has truly changed.  Technology, sure, but that same sense of community existed then, and it still exists today.

We band together, and we help each other.  We criticize each other, gossip about each other, and yet, we feed each other, we protect each other, and we all know that there’s always someone who has our back.  And someday, we’ll be the ones talking about the “good old days” over a cup of coffee at the table, wondering where time went.

You’ve Got A Friend In Me

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You've Got A Friend In Me

Sometimes its the little things that mean the most. This picture was made by my friend Amanda, two years ago in May, right in front of the door to my store. I believe she had just turned seven. I was sad when the rain washed it away, but happy that I had taken this picture when it was fresh.

One of the things I feel is so important is to encourage our children and the children we have in our lives, to use their imagination and their creativity. So many times the arts are brushed aside for things like sports, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I think its important for all of us to have a well-rounded education, in school and in life. Trying different activities is fun, and that’s a great way to see how many talents you truly have. Maybe its painting or drawing, sculpture or carving. Maybe its music, maybe its an eye for design, maybe its a thing with texture. There are many careers where having a bit of an artist in you is very beneficial. (Think architecture, construction and engineering, just to name a few.) There’s nothing wrong with being an artist, its in your heart, and its there for a reason. You can play sports, be a good student, and be an artist all at the same time. And when you grow up, you’ll be a team player, a smart person, and you’ll be able to line your walls with your own art.

Life goes fast, don’t waste it!

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Random Acts of Kindness

This post is inspired once again by something asked of the participants at kickboxing class.  Our instructor, Amy, asked each of us to tell of a random act of kindness done to us, or done by us.  There were some really great comments, and things that people have done for other people.  One lady had even bought another person’s groceries when they didn’t have enough money at the  checkout line.  We were also then asked to think about what we could do for someone else this week.

This led me to think about what I could do that is out of the ordinary.  I do hold the door for people, I help people carry things that are too heavy for them, or if they have more items than they can carry, at the store where I work.  But that’s just customer service.

While shopping, when I go to get a cart, if there is someone with small children or an older person, I will give them a cart and get another for myself.  I will reach things on the top shelf for people who are shorter than me, because I can reach the top shelf and they can’t.  I also try to always have a smile on my face, and I really try hard to never talk on my cell phone while the clerk is checking out my items.  But that’s just good manners.

What can I do that’s out of the ordinary for me?

But this thinking also made me think about how sometimes, the one who needs the biggest act of kindness is our self.

I think most of the time, I am my biggest critic, and I think this is true for most people.  We are too hard on ourselves when we make a mistake, even though we know that everyone makes mistakes.  We find it hard to forgive ourselves, even though we would forgive anyone else who did the same thing in a second.  We expect perfection from ourselves, even though we know no one is perfect.

So perhaps, one of the random acts of kindness I should do, is not to berate myself for getting behind on my paperwork.  Maybe I should walk by the sink full of dishes and go for a walk on a nice day.  The dishes will still be there when I get back! (Unless my dear husband does them, which he does on a regular basis.)

Speaking of Dear Husband, its his birthday on Thursday.  Maybe my random act of kindness will be to have an extra piece of cheesecake with our birthday dinner!  But what I’ll do for someone else, I will keep thinking.  I believe that if I ask The Universe (God) for this opportunity, it will be provided.   I’ll get back to you on what happens.

What are random acts of kindness you have experienced in your life? (Either given or gotten?)  I would love to hear about them in the comment section!