Life, family, business


How to be Happy: Dis-Courage-ment or En-Courage-ment?

Have you ever felt discouraged?  Have you ever felt encouraged? Did either make you feel happy?

What does that even mean?

Discouragement, as defined by Google, is the loss of confidence or enthusiasm. Or hope.

Encouragement, defined by Merriam-Webster, is the act of making something more appealing or more likely to happen.

That makes me ask: what is courage?  Courage is the root of the words discourage and encourage.  Courage is the ability to do something that frightens you.

So now I ask, what frightens you?  What frightens you so much that you would be too scared to do it?  That’s dis-courage.

What is frightening to you that you have done anyway?  That’s en-courage.

I think sometimes we use the word “discourage” to mean sad.  I felt discouraged when the rain came.  I felt discouraged when I didn’t win the contest. We have lost our hope, our enthusiasm, and we feel sad about it.

How can we be happy?

There’s so many discouraging things going on in our world, and it seems like it just gets worse.  How can we have hope?  How can we get our enthusiasm back, or maybe even just a little to start with?  Some people always see the worst in everyone and everything.  They have discouraged themselves, and that makes them spread discouragement everywhere they go.  Why keep trying if its never going to get any better? If you let this continue, it can turn into depression.

Others see the best in everything, the eternal optimist, and they spread that joy and hope to others around them.  They may fall and they may lose, but they get right back in there with a smile on their face, ready for the next challenge.  They never seem depressed, even when they have every right to be.

Which of those people would you like to be?  I consider myself to be a realistic optimist.  I know there are bad things going on in the world that I myself am not able to change.  But I know there is a lot of good going on in the world too.  And maybe I can’t change the world for everyone, but I can change the world for myself.  I can be the encourager.   I can be the one to help change myself and my mindset so that I can see the good in people, and see the opportunities all around me.  And then, once I have changed myself, I can start changing the world for others.  I can be a better mother, I can be a better wife.  I can sponsor a child from a third world country, or I can spend time with the kids in my neighborhood and give them some attention that maybe their parents don’t have time or energy to give.  I can spend time with my elderly neighbors who maybe don’t get out much, or don’t have much company.

I can also spend my time learning new things or discovering new places.  Sometimes it takes a little courage to get out of our recliner and take a hike up that new trail, or take the different route, or the road less traveled.  Its takes courage to get out of our comfort zone and try something new.  Fear, dis-courage, can keep you from trying new things or going to new places.  Don’t be afraid.  Have courage!!

There are so many opportunities to help others, to encourage them to be happier people.  But you have to fill your heart with happiness in order to spread that happiness around.  I believe that God fills me with hope and love and peace, and that is my happiness.  Not everyone believes in God, and that’s up to each person to decide.  But either way, when you stop focusing so much on yourself, you are able to focus on others.  And by helping others, each of us can be an encourager.  Each of us can give help and hope to others, and that is infectious.

Helping others is a sure way to feel happy.  You don’t have to spend any money, but it will cost you some time.  But time spent helping is much better spent than time spent wallowing in our sorrow and unhappiness.  Again I tell you, don’t be afraid; have courage!!

Can you tell me about a time when you did something that really made you happy?  Or a time when you were encouraged, or discouraged?

Leave a comment

The First Day of Spring

The first day of spring is something I look forward to all winter.

Spring is baby ducklings, chicks, kittens, sprouts and buds and the early flowers turning the gray dull sky of winter into the blue sky of summer.  Its the old crusty snow retreating into the ground to make way for new blades of grass. Its about the rebirth of creation, like the death and resurrection. The old goes away and the new is born of the earth, fresh and green.  Its about babies of every species being born.

cardoon seedlings

Its about potential.  Its like New Year’s Day, with no pressure for a resolution. Its just you and nature and the awakening in your heart.

Here in my neck of the woods we are expecting our first rain tonight, like waking up to a clean house after a winter of hibernation. The dust and mold and dirt from the snow will disappear and the new growth will appear, and take over.

The potential to grow; it is something granted to each of us regardless of our age, gender, income, or anything else really.  If you are alive, you have the potential to become more than you are now.  You have the potential to learn new things, new crafts, new emotions, new affirmations.  You have the potential to be anyone you want to make yourself into.  You have a heart and a brain and a body.  You get to choose what you do with them.

I pray that you will choose the positive, the good, the smiles and the hugs.

I hope that you will choose freedom, forgiveness, optimism and joy.

I want you to choose that voice inside you that sings at the top of your lungs every time a good song comes on the radio.

Choose you, choose love, but always choose wisely.

What will you choose for your life today?  Happy Spring!

Leave a comment

Be True to Yourself

I was at a workshop for which I had volunteered. I was there to help things go smoothly and to help with introducing speakers and cleaning up after it was finished. Near the kitchen door there were two garbage cans; one was for garbage, and one boasted a sign that it was intended for recycling. As I was waiting in line to discard my things into the trash, the man in front of me dumped his items into the correct cans, and then he reached into the garbage can, pulled out a plastic bottle, and put it into the recycling can. He didn’t pause, he didn’t debate, he didn’t make a snide comment about how ignorant some people are, he just reached in and grabbed it.

Now this may not sound very exciting, but the truth of the matter is; I noticed his act of environmentalism and I mentally applauded him for this. I could tell something about this man just from his actions. He is concerned about our planet, about our world, and he is smart enough to realize that our actions make a big difference to our surroundings.

Actions speak louder than words. We can all get on our soapboxes and say anything we want, but what do people see when they see us? What do our actions tell others about what’s important in our lives? If I say one thing and do another, do as I say not as I do, what does that really tell others about me?

Most people would call that a hypocrite.  A hypocrite is basically a liar; a liar who claims they are something they are not.  Now, don’t get me wrong, every one of us has been guilty of this in our lives.  No human is perfect.  But for most of us, its a rare occurrence.  But if its not a rare occurrence in your life, perhaps you need to sit down and decide what it really is that you are.  Who are you truly?

Sometimes we are placed into certain mindsets by other people; our parents, teachers, friends, peers, and even the media.  There are so many people trying to live up to stuff that they don’t even care about! But they have been told that its important, and they believe it.  We are told that if we aren’t successful, we are losers.  But what is success?  What does success look like in your mind?  That’s what’s important.  Perhaps you aren’t wealthy, but if you only see successfulness as wealth, you will have a low self-worth until you have made a lot of money.  If you see successfulness as having a spouse and children, and you’re still single, then you’re also not going to be happy until you have that in your life.

But what if we saw successfulness as just being our true selves?  What if we acknowledged that successfulness is different for each person?

Each of us is born with talents and abilities that are unique to ourselves. I like to call that our spiritual nature.   We are all very different in that nature, but yet very similar in our human nature.  We all have similar human needs; air, food, and water.  But we all have different spiritual needs.  We all have a purpose in life, a higher calling, an internal power that needs to be fed and nurtured.

Think back to when you were a small child.  What did you want to be when you grew up?  My mom kept this journal for each of her kids where she recorded different events in our lives; our first words, when we got our first tooth, and what we wanted to be when we grew up, among many other things.  I wanted to be a farmer.  My dad was a farmer, and so were both my grandfathers, and all my uncles.  So what made a little girl want to be a farmer?  I loved animals, and I loved being outdoors.  I had my own row in the garden where I planted lots of seeds of different varieties and grew all sorts of things.  I can remember beans, and zinnias, and melons, all growing in the same row in “my garden”.  My parents always had a garden, and even though I hated weeding with a passion, I loved eating fresh produce right from the plant.

As I got older my preferred occupation changed many times.  I held many different jobs, learned a lot about many different professions, and met hundreds of people.  But do you know what I want to be when I grow up?  A farmer.  Isn’t that ridiculous?  My children were both in their teens when I realized that I want to be a farmer.  Not just live on a farm,  I want to be an organic vegetable farmer.

I have a large garden, and that is my “farm”.  I love to talk with people about health and food, and the importance of nutrition.  How would I look if I talked like this but ate a bunch of junk food?  I have a small convenience store, and its filled with processed food of every kind.  But I have been putting what I eat on those shelves as well.  I’ve been adding the organic foods, and the healthy snacks and treats.  It will never be the organic grocery store, but its an improvement over what it was.

Once you figure out who you are in your heart, then you can start making the changes necessary to be true to yourself.  As long as you know in your heart that you are true to yourself, then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you!  That is a great feeling!!  And once you no longer are worried about what other people think of you, you can start being yourself and stop trying to live up to the expectations of others.

Being yourself is the most successful person you can be.  Who are you?  Who are you really?

  I would love to hear from others who are learning about themselves, please leave me a comment!



Finding My Purpose in Life

How many times have you wondered about your life’s purpose?  Have you figured it out yet?

It amazes me that we expect every 18 year old to know what it is that they want to do for the rest of their lives. How often does a college student change their major, or question their choice, or quit.  One of my friends has always known she was destined to be a doctor, and she’s a great doctor.  Another friend told me she’s always wanted to be a mother, and she’s a great mother.  Yet others, like me, work a bunch of different jobs, always trying to figure out what we were meant to do, what we were meant to be.  I love being a mother, and I love my kids more than I ever thought possible.  But I still have that nagging thought:  If I ever figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  I have thought that thought so many times over my life.  (I did figure out what I want to do, just not how to do it.)

When you see your life’s purpose, do see goals?  Or do you see purpose?  Do you see a mountain of stuff you’re going to buy with your piles of money, or do you see how you’ll feel, and who you’ve become?  Do you see how many people you have helped?

Everyone wants money, it makes life easier when there’s enough to pay all the bills and still have some left over. But money is a material thing that buys material things.  Once you’ve traded it for something, its no longer money, its stuff.  And I know you’ve heard the phrase, “You can’t take it with you.”  Its true, you can’t.  But what then, can you take with you?  Is there anything you can take with you?

I know the older I get , the wiser I get.  I realize that there’s so much more to life than just things.  I could have a millions dollars worth of things, and it might make me feel happy for a short time, but no things can actually keep you happy.  I believe that in order for us to be happy, we need a heart full of love.  And that’s something you can’t buy.  There’s no drug you can take that will fill your heart with love and keep it full.  And surprisingly, there is no person that can make you feel this way except yourself.  If you are miserable and depressed, knowing the people around you love you doesn’t fill your own heart with love.  You can have the best family, and the best spouse, and the best kids, but they can’t fill your heart with love.  You have to be willing to open your heart to love in order to make that happen.

And once you have done that, your heart will slowly fill.  It doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t make you feel like a different person right away.  But it does happen, and eventually one day, you’ll realize that instead of being miserable, you’re full of love!  You’re happy!  You’re glad!  You have a smile on your face that no one can take away.  It’s a love and joy that permeates your soul.

And that is something you’ll be able to take with you; your soul.  In fact, that’s who you are.

Once you are happy in your soul, perhaps you will see that your purpose in life isn’t necessarily a job, or a career path.  Perhaps, your purpose is to use your talent, your gifts,to give what you have to others.  Perhaps all of our life’s purposes are to give ourselves away to those around us.  My doctor friend uses her talent to bring healing to others.  Mothers use their talents to lovingly raise children into responsible adults.  So many of us have talents that we use everyday to help others, and we may not even realize it.  Maybe its not a paying position, but its a very important job.  Maybe it is a paying position, and we are able to make a living using our talents to help others.  I feel that as long as we are using our God-given talents to help others, and we use those talents in love, we truly are fulfilling our life’s purpose.

What talents do you have?  How do they play into your life’s purpose?

If you haven’t figured out your purpose yet, what things are you good at?  What things do you enjoy doing?

Leave a comment >

“My father told me I was a disgrace to the family.”  With tear-filled eyes, a young woman told me this today.

In my line of work, I often have people telling me their life’s stories.  No, I’m not a bar tender, I’m the local convenience store clerk.  I must have an sympathetic look about me, because over the years I have heard more stories than I can even fathom.  Many times, people talk to me because I do try very hard to just listen. I try not to offer advice unless they ask, I listen and sympathize.  That’s it. I’m empathetic.

Listening can be hard.  Our brains jump to conclusions, come up with strategy and advice, organize and plan.  Our brains think they know everything, what’s right, and what’s wrong, with us and other people.  Our brains say that we are right and the other person is wrong, we know what we’re talking about and we know the correct thing to do next, or say, or retaliate.

But our hearts, if we can learn to listen to our hearts, know truth much more than our brains.  Our hearts can imagine these scenarios with “us” as the main character.  Our hearts can see and hear heart break, pain, worry, fear, but also joy, love, happiness, and all the things in between.

Shame.  This girl felt shame when she told me what her dad said to her.  But she also felt abandonment.  This dad who loved her said these cutting remarks in front of her whole family in a moment of anger.  This shaking young woman became a teary abandoned little girl right in front of my eyes as she told me this story. My heart broke for her.  I know how it feels when you don’t meet the expectations of those you love and respect.

I know this woman, and I know her dad, who loves her very much.  But all those years of love and care, and hard work for your family, and the respect a parent has built up can come crashing down with just one word.  Words are very important, and very dangerous.  You have to be very careful using words, and think about the words that you choose and how they will affect the people you are giving those words to.  Words can build you up, or words can cut into your heart like a dagger and leave horrible wounds and scars that last forever.


Is it unfair for me to expect unconditional love from my dad or my mom?  What if I’ve never had that kind of a relationship with my parents?  What if my parents were the kind who were selfish or absent, unloving or uncaring?

Regardless of how our parents treated us, we all need to remember that we are who we choose to be.  If you choose to live in your despair, you will always feel the negative things in life.  But if you choose to live in your happiness, you will feel the the positive things in life.  Some of the happiest people I know had some of the worst childhoods.  Some of the most depressed people I know grew up in higher class families with attentive parents and had all the material things they could ask for.  How can this be?

You have to choose which words you believe.  And always remember that you don’t have to take the words that other people try to give you.  Its a learning process, but saying “no, thank you”, to the words you don’t want is much better than taking those words anyway and trying to figure out what to do with them later.  Once you’ve taken the words as your own, its much harder to get rid of them, than if you just refused to take them in the first place.

Only you have that power.  Only you can choose what to believe about yourself, which words you choose to keep, that you feel define you, who you are to yourself. Those are the words that mean the most, the words that live in your heart.  If you can find a peaceful place to listen to your heart, which words would your heart say you are?

1 Comment

Hindsight’s 20/20

If hindsight is 20/20, what is foresight?  Can I get some glasses for that?

Hindsight can be useful, don’t make the same mistakes twice.  But we need to remember not to dwell on those mistakes too much.  What would happen if you stared into the rearview mirror for the whole trip?  You’d never get anywhere!  Its impossible to move forward if you’re dwelling too much on the past.

Life can be tough.

We all make mistakes.  Sometimes, forgiving ourselves is the hardest forgiveness there is.  I should have known better.  I can’t believe I did that! What was I thinking?  The past is the past. We can’t go back and change things, so instead, we need to forgive and move on.  Maybe you messed up, but you learned something.  You learned what you shouldn’t do, so next time you will know better, you won’t do that, and you’ll think about what you do or say before you do it or say it.

We all need to learn from those mistakes and move on.  Stop looking in the rearview mirror and start looking out the windshield instead! There are so many opportunities out there, and we need to be looking forward to find them.  So many people seem to walk through life in a trance, just barely getting by, just barely noticing life passing them by.  Its so easy to operate on autopilot, we don’t even notice what’s going on.

The kids are growing up way too fast.  The person in the mirror is looking older by the year.  Our friends and family members are moving away, losing touch, or maybe even passing on.  We all need to learn to slow down, take the time to have that conversation with grandma, that cup of coffee with your dad, or that beer with your friends.  Block an hour out of your schedule to play a game with your kids, or take your daughter shopping, or grab a burger with your son.   Shut off the TV and your cell phone and have a meal with your spouse, in the quiet of your kitchen with no one but each other.  Ask how their day was, how’s the new guy at work working out, how the drive home was. And when they answer, actually listen as if there will be a quiz later!

A relationship with good communication is a great relationship.  The guesswork is taken care of.  I know what you want, and you know what I want.  Face it, most spouses are no good at reading minds or taking hints!  So say it like it is, say what you mean, don’t expect your spouse to magically read your thoughts.  That advice alone is enough to save a lot of marriages (and friendships)!

So what I want you to take from this is: don’t dwell too much on the past, and don’t worry too much about the future.  Live life here and now, because when this moment is gone, its gone forever.  Make every moment count!