Category Archives: Happiness

The Enchantment of Snow

Why does snow falling have the ability to make us feel so entranced and enchanted?

“Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes,

Silver white winters that melt into springs,

These are a few of my favorite things.”

Aw, I still love those famous lyrics from my favorite movie as a child, Sound of Music.

Family Snow Day

Family Snow Day

Although we live in the California desert, we’re only an hour drive away from the mountains. This weekend my husband, son, grandchildren, and I went up to Idyllwild to play in the snow.

The trip got me to thinking about why snow can make us feel so darn happy.

(And yes, I am aware that I was only visiting the snow and didn’t have to live, shovel, or deal with the slush afterward. But don’t rain – or snow – on my parade!)

Here are my top three reasons snow brings us such unadulterated joy:

The Magic of Nature

snow gate “Silently, like thoughts that come and go, the snowflakes fall, each one a gem.” — William Hamilton Gibson

Actually, I lived in northern California as a child, Idyllwild as a teen, and Washington State for a few years as an adult. I remember well the pure excitement of waking up to a white winter wonderland where the snow gently kisses meadows and trees in a breathtaking way.

I know some of my friends up north and back east may be sick of the snow by now, but let’s not lose that childlike wonderment and genuine delight. No matter how old we are, we can still appreciate the way snow beautifies everything it touches, creating a still and stunning landscape.

Forming those first footprints in a vast white pristine field while breathing in the invigorating fresh cold air allows us to connect with our natural surroundings in a profound way.

Live in the Present

“A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky – unbidden – and seems like a thing of wonder.”   Susan Orlean

Catching snowflakes on their tongues.

Catching snowflakes on their tongues.

A fleeting snowfall forces us to pause and take note of the entrancing beauty. No matter what’s happening in our lives, peaceful falling snow has the serene power to calm us down.

Who can dwell on the past or worry about the future while we’re watching snowflakes gently float soundlessly from the sky?

Who can frown while creating a funny, fat snowman, playfully catching snowflakes on our tongues, or enjoying the thrill of a sled ride? Who can resist screaming with delight during a snowball fight?

And who can stop laughing when you discover your granddaughter is photobombing you in the snowstorm? Not me, as evidenced in the photo below!

snow photo bomb

Time with Your Family

“We build statues out of snow, and weep to see them melt.” — Walter Scott

Ah, so true. Whether you’re skiing, snowboarding, sledding, or creating snow angels, snow forts, or snowmen, or having a raucous snowball fight, snow naturally brings families together. But as the poem notes, all good things have to come to an end. Well, sort of.

Eventually my granddaughter cried because her fingers were painfully cold and it was time to head for the warmth of our home. Luckily, the joy of a snow day continues after you go inside to warm up by a roaring fire with a mug of hot chocolate.  It’s a wonderful chance to snuggle with your loved ones and reminisce about the glory of the day.

So all of you snow haters out there, excuse this Californian’s enthusiasm for the white stuff, but I can’t help feeling the same way as American novelist Candace Bushnell, who eloquently wrote:

“Thank goodness for the first snow. It was a reminder — no matter how old you became and how much you’d seen, things could still be new if you were willing to believe they still mattered.”

 

Five Surefire Ways to Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet

How can you make 2017 your best year yet?

Dump the silly tradition of making a bunch of New Year’s resolutions that make you feel like a failure at the end of the year when things don’t go according to plan. Instead of making an endless list of lofty ambitions, why not take some simple, realistic steps to improve your life in significant ways in 2017?

Are your ready? I certainly am! I’m ready to move forward and make the most of the next 361 days, 8,664 hours of precious time that I can never get back. quote-oprah-year-endI’m ready to continue on my spiritual path. I’m ready to set new goals and create attainable steps to achieve them. I’m ready for new adventures. I’m ready to make my body healthier and stronger.

Want to join me? Here are five simple but effective ways we can all make 2017 an incredible year:

Reflect and Learn

Before jumping into the New Year, take a moment to think about what worked and didn’t work for you last year. What were the highlights? The low points? What were your successes and failures? What made you feel happy and joyful? What made you downright miserable? What life lessons did you learn that you can take into 2017? What changes do you need to make this year even better?

Focus on the Present

Okay, now that you’ve looked over the past year, it’s time to move forward. Forgive and let go of any anger or resentment you’re still carrying over from last year. Resolve to learn from your mistakes and move on. Make the necessary changes to eliminate whatever was making you miserable. Take time to be grateful for all the good things that 2016 granted you. Then, focus on the present. When you wake up in the morning, ask yourself, what would bring me joy and make my day great? Then do your best to make sure it happens. At the end of the day, ask yourself, what could have made my day better? Then make the necessary adjustments. This daily practice will help you create the life you want to live. Another way to live in the present is to savor, appreciate, and revel in seemingly small, ordinary moments that make the day special. Did you feel the warmth of sunshine on your face or enjoy the refreshing smell after a rainstorm today?  Did you hear a bird singing its heart out or enjoy the sound of a child’s laughter? Did you receive a compliment at work or did a stranger say or do something kind? Did your loved one give you a big hug? Take notice and cherish each moment.

write-goalsWrite Down Attainable Goals

According to studies, about half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions but less than 10 percent of people achieve them. I’m not a believer in New Year resolutions which tend to be overwhelming and unrealistic. However, I do think it helps to periodically write down a few specific and realistic goals throughout the year and review them regularly. Doing so will help you remember what you want out of life and set priorities. You can include spiritual goals, health goals, career goals, or personal goals. So you won’t feel overwhelmed, list no more than three at a time in order of importance. Make sure the objectives are attainable. Then write small steps you need to take to achieve those goals. Focus on one goal at a time and give yourself deadlines – as a writer I know this works. Celebrate milestones along the way. Don’t give up too easily and believe in yourself. Start right now. Think of one specific goal you would like to accomplish this year. Okay, now what’s one thing you can do today, right now, to work towards your goal? No excuses – just do it!

Make Your Body Stronger One Month at a Time

Weight loss and going to the gym are popular New Years resolutions that often fail by time February hits and the excitement wears off. So why not take a different tack? Instead of vowing to lose 20 pounds at the beginning of the year, make it a goal to do one simple thing each month of 2017 to make your body healthier. Need some ideas?  In January, find a workout buddy. In February, walk 100 more steps each day. In March, drink less alcohol and more water. In April, get more sleep. In May, eliminate sugar from your diet. In June, sit less and stand more.  In June, explore a new hiking trail. In July, touch your toes every day. In August, try out one new sport or workout. In September, download a free fitness app. In October, eat less meat and more vegetables. In November, try a new healthy recipe each week. In December, take a daily time out and practice deep breathing. You can use these goals or make up your own list. The idea is to practice each goal for one month to make lifestyle changes that will hopefully stick and become good habits.

try-something-newTry Something New 

While it’s good to break free of your comfortable but boring routine, New Year’s resolutions often include intimidating goals like learning a new language, running a marathon, or skydiving. Why not use the method above and promise yourself to try something new each month. You don’t have to choose something difficult, arduous, or life-threatening. Sign up for a class, visit a new city, try a new cuisine or restaurant, change your hairstyle, make a new friend, learn ten phrases in a different language, listen to a different type of music, write a poem or start a journal. Even the smallest change can inspire more adventure and joy.

There you go – five simple steps to make 2017 your best year yet. In addition to the suggestions above, resolve to take time to nurture your spiritual side, to spend time with your loved ones, to laugh and smile, to be generous and help others, and be kind to yourself. Do so and you’ll feel happier throughout the year.

Images in order of appearance courtesy of nuttakit and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

CURRENTLY Fall 2016 Blog Hop: How I’m Finding My Bliss

Back by popular demand: a new CURRENTLY Fall 2016 Blog Hop.

Along with some blogger friends, I’m sharing where I am currently in life, what I’m reading and watching and what I’m loving and dreaming about this fall.

Sit back, have a read, and check out some of my recommendations if you’d like. Then visit the other #Gr8Blogs listed at the end of this post for more Fall 2016 CURRENTLY inspiration.

*Reading…

book-glassesThe last book I read was All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda. The novel caught my eye because of the unusual way it is told in reverse, going backwards in time.

As the book begins, the reader learns about Nicolette’s current life. She’s from a small town in North Carolina and escaped to Philadelphia, but returns home to take care of some family business. Nicolette is quickly pulled back into the mysterious disappearance of her best friend a decade before. Only days after her return, another girl goes missing. The plot thickens.

The novel was a bit confusing, but the story definitely kept my interest. My perspective and suspicions shifted drastically as I moved backwards in time. Not to brag, but I did guess the ending about a quarter way through the book, but maybe because I’m a writer who looks at plot lines very closely. Everyone I know who read this book was surprised by “who done it.” I’d give it four out of five stars.

*Watching…

Just finished Season Five of Longmire. If you haven’t seen this series, you’re missing out. Check it out on Netflix. I love, love it. Robert Taylor plays the charismatic sheriff and is supported by Katee Sackhoff (from Battlestar Galactica) and Lou Diamond Philips, who so marvelously plays my favorite character, Henry Standing Bear.

My husband and I also recently watched the Ron Howard documentary, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, which covers their touring years from 1963 to 1966.

If you’re a baby boomer like me (or even if you’re not!), you’ll love the great footage of the Fab Four’s earliest – and most joyful and optimistic – performances. Howard provides a real feel for these four extremely close young friends on their exhilarating and crazy journey as Beatlemania kicked in and how it affected them.

beatlesThe first wave of baby boomers were reaching their teens and, as the documentary points out, there were more teenagers in the world during that time than any other age group. As you watch the footage, once again, you’ll be amazed by and wonder exactly what inspired such hysterical pandemonium – the massive shrill screaming, fainting, and weeping of completely obsessed girls. Not even The Beatles themselves could figure it out.

The four, only teens themselves when they were starting out, formed a special tight camaraderie. As the documentary shows, they lovingly looked out for each other, as the only ones on earth who truly knew what it was like to experience the insanity that ensued. In fact, The Beatles were so close that decisions had to be unanimous, Paul McCartney explained. That included their brave refusal to perform if the audience was segregated as was typically the case in the Deep South during the 60’s.

The documentary demonstrates brilliantly how the fame and chaos sadly took away The Beatles’ pure and innocent joy of performing their music. And no wonder. Suddenly it took hours to restore a semblance of order at their concerts, people were injured, and the band received death threats as a result of John Lennon’s remarks comparing the group’s popularity to Jesus. The lyrics from their song, “Help!” takes on new meaning in light of these events: “When I was younger, so much younger than today…And now my life has changed in oh so many ways.”

The Beatles swore off touring and went into the studio to experiment with their music a few days after they were forced to perform during a torrential rainstorm in an open-air stadium. Tour roadie Ed Freeman confesses in the documentary: “My job was to sit backstage with my hand on the plug and the instructions were: If anyone fell down, knocked out by the shock, then I would pull the plug and that would stop the show. It was a joke.”

I saw this documentary after attending Desert Trip which featured McCartney. Considering all the challenges this band faced in the past, it was good to see that he has rediscovered the joy of performing in front of a large audience once again.

A nostalgic must-see. The documentary is currently available on Hulu.

*Thinking About…

book-light-bulbMy next book.

As a professional writer, many people encouraged me to share my experiences as a full-time caregiver for my Mom who suffered from Lewy Body dementia (a cruel combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) to help other caregivers and family members with loved ones who have this debilitating disease.

At first, I couldn’t do it. The heartbreaking experience of watching my Mom rapidly deteriorate both physically and mentally before my eyes, the difficulty of taking care of her at the end when she began to lose all bodily functions, as well as her death were all too painful to relive.

Although it still won’t be easy, after a year and a half, I’m ready to tell my story and put all my feelings into words in honor of my dear mother who I loved more than life itself. She faced her disease courageously.

It is my hope that my experiences, my successes, and my mistakes can help other caregivers and all of those who are losing their loved one a little bit at a time like I did. I want to help them cope with the challenges, learn how to take care of themselves during this challenging time, and succeed with their noble and important role as a caregiver.

*Loving…

My God and my refuge, who saw me through the last few challenging years and continues to bless me in so many ways. My loving husband who has supported and loved me for more than 38 years. My children and grandchildren who bring me such joy.

family-visiting-chrisThe above photo of our family was taken at breakfast while visiting my youngest son and his wife who live up near Sequoia National Park. Later, we all visited Kings National Park – my first time there and it was gorgeous. Loved that quick weekend trip too!

*Anticipating…

I live in the California desert where we have long, long hot summers. November is the first month we’ll have temperatures that hopefully are no longer 90 degrees-plus. We planted our fall garden with the grandchildren last weekend. I’m looking forward to many pleasant evenings on the patio with a roaring fire, a good book, and a glass of wine. Also anticipating some relaxing time on our sailboat as the summer crowds at the beach die down and we enjoy our new slip in a quieter area.

*Wishing…

Still wishing for that trip to Africa and it looks like my lifelong dream may become a reality in the next year or so…stay tuned.

*Making Me Happy…

That I am privileged to live another day.

So there you go. Thanks for stopping by and sharing a bit of my life with me. For more Currently Fall 2016 inspiration, visit the #Gr8blogs below.

CURRENTLY Fall 2016 Blog Hop: Finding My Bliss

By Sondra Robbins Rymer

CURRENTLY Fall Blog Hop: Find Your Autumn Inspiration

By Cat Michaels

CURRENTLY Fall 2016 Blog Hop: Autumn Inspirations and Obsessions

By Auden Johnson

CURRENTLY Fall Bog Hop: Autumn Bliss

By Carmela Dutra

CURRENTLY Fall Blog Hop

By Corrina Holyoake

If you are so inclined, please share some of what’s inspiring you these days in the comments below.

Image courtesy of [in order of appearance] everydayplus, artur84, and Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Leisure Time at Home Makes Grandchildren Happy

Can’t afford that pricey vacation to Disney World with the children or grandchildren?

family-vacationA new study from Baylor University points out that family happiness is often found right at home.

If you’re a baby boomer like me, as a kid, you probably spent a lot of time at home eating family dinners, playing board games, and watching “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and “Wonderful World of Disney” every Sunday night.

But have you noticed that today’s exhausted families seem to be constantly on the run dashing from one destination to another?

Turns out our parents may have been on to something back in the day. Sure, it’s fun and exciting to go new places and create memories. But simply hanging around the house enjoying familiar activities also has its benefits.

In fact, this new study points out that leisure time spent at home may actually be a more effective way to foster true, long-lasting happiness.

“When the brain is focused on processing new information—such as taking part in an unfamiliar activity with unfamiliar people in a new location—less ‘brain power’ is available to focus on the family relationships,” lead author Karen K. Melton, PhD., assistant professor of child and family studies, said in a press release.

family-home-drawingIn other words, a quiet evening spent together participating in familiar activities inside the home – while reducing distractions such as cell phones – makes it easier to reap the emotional benefits of quality time together.

There’s another benefit too.

Family members can feel free to “express stress and conflict as well as pleasure during leisure time” if they’re at home, Melton added. This necessary and natural process of blowing off steam that can lead to solving family issues is something that probably won’t happen in public places where people are watching.

Although many experts recommend eating together and discourage watching TV, Melton said there is not a one-size-fits-all schedule for leisure activities that guarantees happiness.

“For some families, quality togetherness is having dinner together or playing games; for others, it may be hobbies, videos or TV, music,” she said. “At the end of the day, what matters is that we are social beings who crave a sense of belonging and connectivity.”

This idea also fits into studies that show children do well with regular, predictable, and consistent routines at home.

That’s good news both for parents and grandparents limited on time and resources.

If you’re a grandparent like me, that means when the grandchildren come to visit, you don’t have to feel the need to run out and do something new and exciting every day. Quit trying so hard, slow down, and enjoy simple activities at home with the children.

Want a few ideas of activities you can try out with your children or grandchildren at your house? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Read a favorite book and have your child or grandchild add his own twist for a unique ending.
  • Have some old-fashioned fun in the backyard. My grandchildren love to play “Eat it or Wear It” with various foods. Want something tamer and less gross? Try good ol’ Freeze Tag, Kick the Can, or Red Light Green Light. They’ll love it! Make an obstacle course. Or pick up a piece of rain gutter at the hardware store, add water and a soap “boat” and voila! You have a race track.
  • Grandma and Grandpa, show the kids some of your groovy moves during the disco era. Dim the lights and give each child a flashlight to turn on and off for that full disco effect. Break out your old Bee Gee, ABBA, and KC and the Sunshine Band albums. Or younger parents, share your favorite dance moves like the Sprinkler, The Macarena, or the Robot with MC Hammer or New Kids on the Block playing in the background. Or choreograph a dance routine to your kids’ current favorite songs.
  • Ready for some quiet time? Lie on a blanket outside and do some star gazing. Do a puzzle together. Make a shoe box dollhouse using cardboard, matchboxes, toilet paper rolls, and scrapbook paper (I spent countless hours doing this as a kid!). Remember string art and play dough? They still work like magic!
  • Kids love to perform. Hold a family karaoke night. Give out “awards” for the silliest performance, best duo, most dramatic voice, or best outfit. Make a “runway” out of folded blankets, play some music, and have a fashion show with exaggerated catwalks and poses. Try a comedy show complete with corny kids jokes, a puppet show based on the children’s favorite story, or a magic show displaying their favorite card tricks.

Save money and take the time to veg out at home. In the long run, your children or grandchildren may be happier!

Images courtesy of digital art and graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Spreading Joy with Inspirational Messages

Are you tired of all the bad news lately? Seems like every time I turn on the TV there is another mass shooting. Then there’s the upcoming election news with all the nasty insults flying and disheartening debates.

Looking for the perfect uplifting anecdote? I read about a fun trend that is SkyROCKeting (hint,hint) across the country.

I found out about this motivational movement in an article about Hannah Barnes. She is 19 years old, lives in Texas, and is battling stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She endured six rounds of chemotherapy.

rocks-laughingBarnes and her cousin were on vacation in Houston and heard about a rock painting trend. People were hand painting stones with inspirational messages and hiding them in public places. Those lucky enough to find the painted rocks either relocated them or made their own to replace it.

They decided to start the tradition in their own community with a “Wilbarger County Rocks” Facebook page. Members post pictures of rocks they’ve found or plan to hide for others to locate.

The two young women claim that the creative act of painting a rock with an inspirational message and hiding it for someone else to find is downright therapeutic. The process took their mind off of negative things as they envisioned the looks of delight as their rocks were discovered.

The good news is that Barnes recently found out she is cancer free.

This idea is marvelously simple and some of the stories behind the movement are touching. The goal is to brighten someone’s day and spread a little happiness, love, and inspiration. Those that participate say the small gesture can make a huge difference in someone’s life.

painted-rocksThink of a less dangerous and more artistic version of Pokémon Go. Or a less complicated type of geocaching. The trend connects people and encourages them to explore their communities without a Smartphone. More like a treasure hunt.

A similar Facebook group was created by Cathy Tomko and Connie Quatermass in Kitsap County, Washington. Quatermass tells the story of how a man with cancer was on his way to a cardiologist appointment when he found a rock painted with a heart. The man was on his way to get his heart checked before beginning treatment. He received good news about his heart and says he’ll be carrying the rock in his pocket during his treatments.

Love it.

Ironically, it seems the rock painting trend began with a tragedy in Oregon. Susan Dieter-Robinson and Tom Robinson got married and their daughters, Anna Dieter-Eckerdt and Abigail Robinson, glued fabric in the shapes of hearts to rocks as decorations for the wedding. Tragically, the two girls were later killed in a hit-and-run crash. Their parents began painting and distributing similar rocks to honor the girls’ memory. In 2014, they launched the Love Rocks Facebook page.

So began a tradition that began spreading to other communities across the country.

Of course, many of these groups have some simple rules. That includes keeping artwork and comments positive and G-rated so children can participate and being respectful of private property, national and state parks, cemeteries, and businesses.

If you want to give this trend a try, you can use acrylic paint found in craft stores or Sharpies. Spray your rocks with a clear gloss spray paint to protect paint from the weather. Community rock groups are easily set up on Facebook if you’re so inclined.

good-job-stickerMessages can be short and simple: Don’t give up. You’re Amazing. Unleash Your Silly. You Are Brave. Live Your Dreams. Take a Moment and Breathe. Create. You Rock. Imagine. Forgive. Thrive. Stop and Smile. Pray. Dance in the Rain. Nurture Hope. Stay Curious. Believe. Be Fearless. Find Joy. Give Freely. Live in the Moment. Laugh Loudly. You Are Enough. Be Blissful. Seek Adventure. Take the Next Step. Let it Go. Relax. Try Something New. You’ve Got This. Have a Grateful Heart. Give Someone a Hug. Take a Chance.

If painting rocks isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other simple ways to brighten someone’s day.

Write down positive quotes and place them in library books for someone to find. Leave a workmate a compliment on a sticky note. Write a love note on the shower door for your spouse to discover. Etch a positive message in the sand. Put a love note in a lunch box for your child to read at school.

I’m sure you can come up with some ideas of your own. Just brighten up someone’s day!

Images, in order of appearance, courtesy of suphakit73, BJWOK, and David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Five Ways Living Frugally Can Make You Happier

Unfortunately, we are a country of  credit card addicts.

On average, an American has $4,717 of credit card debt. Only 35% of credit card users don’t carry a balance. That means if you pay off your bill every month, like you’re supposed to, you are in the minority.

cheapskateFor most of our lives, my husband and I happily fit into that latter category. We lived debt-free with the exception of a mortgage and at times a car loan.

We wisely stayed out of credit card debt which was incredibly freeing.

Perhaps part of that reason is that we’re baby boomers.

Our generation was taught to stay home if we couldn’t pay for a trip with cash. The same goes with buying new furniture, designer clothes, the latest technical gadget, or unnecessary stuff we couldn’t afford. My father, who went through the Depression as a child, always taught me it was a huge no-no to fall into the trap of credit card debt.

In today’s world, however, it’s oh-so-easy to use plastic to pay for things we want. In addition, even with the best of intentions, sometimes debt is unavoidable. Credit card debt isn’t always a result of a lack of budgeting or over-spending. For example, a medical emergency or the loss of a job may leave people no choice. Recently, my husband and I were forced to use our credit cards for legal expenses.

This turn of events in our financial lives has motivated me to take a closer look at living more frugally. If you’re in debt and tired of the stress or just want to save more money for retirement, to travel, or to pay off your mortgage early, living more simple and prudently is certainly worth a look.

Why Live More Simply?

Living frugally or as a “cheapskate” may have a bad rap. Now, I’m not talking about reusing plastic bags, making my own shampoo, dumpster diving, or foraging through the forest for food like some of the cheapskate websites suggest. Kudos to you who have that kind of self-discipline, but I don’t have the time and patience for all that.

Just some simple lifestyle changes, such as eating out less, carefully considering purchases, and setting spending limits.

Still, making changes is never easy. Trying to adjust spending habits without good reasons to motivate you will likely fail, leading you to return to your old ways. So, let’s dig a little deeper on the benefits of living frugally for some inspiration.

Jeff Yeager has been dubbed the “Ultimate Cheapskate.” In his book, “The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means” Yeager personally interviewed 300-plus self-described cheapskates. He noted that, surprisingly, for the vast majority, their decision to live a frugal lifestyle wasn’t based on money.

“Their attitudes and approaches to money were most often grounded in something bigger, such as spiritual, religious, or ethical beliefs,” Yeager writes in his book. “They weren’t hoarders or people intent on amassing a large bank account for the sake of having a large bank account. Rather, they were people who were content, by and large, with what they already had.”

Let’s examine what inspired these cheapskates more closely. What are some significant benefits of living frugally and debt-free?

charityNurture Your Spiritual Side and Help Others

If you live prudently, you’ll have more time and money to help others.

This may surprise you, but frugal people tend to be quite generous when it comes to giving to people in need as well as contributing to charities and other social causes. As you know, helping others is a surefire way to make you happier.

When you’re chasing the almighty dollar and working around the clock to support an extravagant lifestyle, it only stands to reason that your spiritual life will be pushed to the side.

If you’re a Christian, you may be familiar with Bible principles that tout the wisdom of keeping money in its proper place, being humble, content, and grateful, avoiding envy, the value of careful planning, and steering clear of borrowing. Living frugally will help you put all those principles to work in your life.

Living below your means will provide you enough wiggle room to do something meaningful with your money. In addition, when you live frugally you are more appreciative of what you have and learn to make the most of your resources.

Freedom to Live the Life You Want and Retire Early

“Let’s face it- being fashionable and hip is time-consuming,” Brook Raymond points out in his article, Frugal Living: Seven Hidden Benefits. “When you’re intent on always having the best, you have to spend time figuring out what that really means. You have to shop around. You have to read product reviews. You have to flip through consumer magazines to see what other people are wearing, doing, and using in order to get up-to-date on all of the hottest trends.”

True, true. When you’re not trying to keep up with the Joneses, you have more time for what really matters. You’ll be free to follow your dreams.

Debt is a burden that can sink you into despair. It can tie you down to a job you hate or a place you don’t want to live. You can easily become a slave to money and things – spending all your time working to keep up with your neighbors to the detriment of your family and other important relationships.

What’s your perfect day look like? I would bet it’s not slaving at a job all day to pay for things you really didn’t need in the first place. Perhaps it’s waking up without an alarm clock, doing something meaningful with your day, spending time playing with your kids or grandkids, or strolling through nature. Financial freedom is the ticket to do the things you really want out of life.

retireIf you’re older and still saddled with debt, in all likelihood, you’ll watch your retirement dreams slip away.

On the other hand, being frugal now means that you can put more away for retirement. Instead of spending your golden years working, you’ll have the freedom to spend time with your family, volunteer, travel, enjoy hobbies, garden, or any other number of pleasurable activities.

If you learn to live frugally now, you won’t be accustomed to an extravagant lifestyle that you’ll strive to maintain when you’re older. You can live on less and still be happy, which means there’s less to put away.

Sounds good to me!

Benefit the Planet You Live On

Here in California we’re in a severe drought, so our family has saved money and water by using artificial grass in our yard. Oh, I balked at the idea at first, but I adore the low maintenance and the much lower water bill. We also got off the grid with solar power which lowered our electric bill here in the hot desert by about $300 a month during the summer months. We planted our own garden and started a compost pile. Love it. The beauty of all that is it saves us tons of money while we’re helping the environment.

On average, each American creates approximately 4.38 pounds of waste or trash per day. That adds up quickly in an alarming way. If you live frugally, you’ll make fewer purchases which means you’ll throw away less. Instead of automatically tossing out stuff that stockpiles in landfills, you’ll find ways to fix, recycle and re-purpose things. Because you’re grateful for what you have, you’ll refuse to let things go to waste.

You’ll drive your old car for 10 years instead of buying a new fancy one every three years. During that time, you’ll save money so you can buy your next used car without going into debt. You’ll use fuel efficient cars or public transportation, reducing the greenhouse effect and global warming. You’ll find simple ways to use less electricity by turning down the thermostat, flipping lights off when not in use, and planting trees for shade.

You get the picture.

Enjoy the Benefits of Better Health

fit-as-a-fiddleObviously, people who live frugally tend to have lower stress levels, which we all know means better health.

In addition, eating simple, healthy meals at home saves a ton of money and is much healthier than fattening dinners at fancy restaurants. Buying fresh food and produce that is in season tends to be cheaper than packaged junk foods.

While saving money on gas, cheapskates walk or bike whenever possible which provides exercise with all its health benefits.

Using homemade cleaning products instead of all those chemicals is healthier and less expensive.

Be Happier, More Fulfilled, and Content

Spendthrifts, compulsive shoppers, and those trying to impress others often picture frugal people as tightfisted, Grinch-like, miserable types who pensively pinch every penny until the day they die.

However, that’s a misconception. Living frugally does not mean a life of deprivation. Quite the contrary, frugality can lead to happiness and make you more satisfied and fulfilled.

As Yeager writes in his first book, “I’m afraid we live in a culture that’s more concerned about amassing a quantity of stuff rather than amassing a quality of life.”

Studies have repeatedly shown that putting experiences before things fosters long-term feelings of happiness rather than brief bursts of excitement.

What have you got to lose? Try living more frugally and reap the benefits. Become part of the “cheap pride” movement. Make cheap the next cool.

Images in order of appearance, courtesy of Mister GC, hyena reality, and Stuart Miles, at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Five Ways to Keep Positive While You’re Sick

How’s my morning going? I just sneezed out a glob of mucus the size of a ping-pong ball. I’m snot feeling so good.

julie-cold-2

Oh, come on! Don’t look so appalled. Like you’ve never coughed up a loogie before. Even you prim and proper folk have snot – I know it!

So, I’ve caught my first cold of the season and it’s not pretty.

Last night was miserable. While I was trying to eke out five minutes of sleep – every time I rolled over, the phlegm flooded from one nostril to the other in a deluge. How does it do that? Is there some kind of secret tunnel between my nostrils? Now that I think about it, I totally took for granted breathing out of both my nostrils at the same time when I was well.

That was a mistake.

Anyhow, I woke up in the middle of the night and my loyal companion, the Kleenex box, was empty. I have fuzzy memories of squinting through blurry watery eyes at the back of my husband’s pajama shirt which suddenly appeared alluring as a solution to my problem. My beloved was snoring blissfully while I suffered alone, waging my war with all this goo and slime. It just seemed like too much work to get out of bed and find another Kleenex box in the dark. To blow or not to blow – that was the question.

I just can’t quite remember what happened next. I blame the cold medication. Well, whatever.

Getting back to my article, since adults get an average of two to four colds a year, typically between September and May, this is just the first and I have a few more snot fests to look forward to – oh goody!

Men have a reputation of being whiners when they’re sick, but I confess, I’ve done my share of complaining this week. I mean, really, how much snot can one person produce?

A lot, it turns out.

Our bodies make about a liter of mucus a day – and that’s when we’re well. That’s 34 whopping ounces, people! To compare, a Big Gulp has 28 ounces. If you’re sick, you produce even more.

Are you properly grossed out?

I had nothing better to do, so I checked out this article by Everyday Health’s article: Seven Facts About Mucus, Phlegm, and Boogers.

kleenixThe first fact was annoying. Snot and phlegm keep your nasal passages moist for protection and are actually full of all sorts of potent antiviral, antibacterial, and other protective chemicals that work to keep you healthy.

Like that’s supposed to cheer me up. Shut up! I don’t care if mucus is good for me. I hate snot!

Even so, that doesn’t keep me from talking about it – so let’s proceed…

Did you know that sneezes travel 30 to 60 miles an hour, and can fly 30 feet through the air? That fact was kind of fun. But, as soon as you sneeze some of the snot out, the body makes more mucus to replenish it. Bummer.

Okay, so I got off the subject. Don’t ask me why I find this stuff oddly fascinating. Maybe my stuffy head along with the cold medicine is making me a bit deranged.

So how do you stay somewhat positive while you’re sick?

Here are a few ways:

  • I’m guilty of this, but don’t grunge around in your three-day old pajamas and figure that there’s no need to bathe if no one is going to see you anyway. Take that long hot steamy shower and slather on your favorite lotion afterwards. Put on some pretty clothes that make you feel better.
  • Look at beautiful things. Venture out into the backyard if the weather permits and look at your garden. Surround yourself with things that soothe your soul – a pretty potted plant, a picture of happy times, or your favorite knick-knack. Keep the area around you tidy – throw those tissues away instead of allowing them to pile up like Mount Everest.
  • Drink lots of water and eat healthy. It’s good for you. Okay, you can indulge in a few comfort foods, you deserve it. But boundaries. After all, you don’t want to add guilt on top of all your miserable symptoms for eating an entire bag of potato chips that only made your stomach feel worse.
  • Don’t isolate yourself. Call a friend or family member who loves and puts up with you no matter what and have some fun whining. Post that you’re sick on Facebook and enjoy all the sympathy and well wishes you get.
  • Stay away from all those depressing tearjerker books and movies. If you’re lucky and have a day off, enjoy reading or watching something so compelling or funny or uplifting that it takes your mind off your misery.

And one more important tip. if you didn’t get this from the beginning of my blog – don’t lose your sense of humor. Remember, it’s always better to laugh than cry.

And if you thought I was through being gross, you were wrong. To help you chuckle, get ready for some good ol’ booger jokes. Share the cornball jokes with your kids and grandkids. They’ll love them!

Q: What do you call a skinny booger?

A: Slim pickins.

Q: How do you make a tissue dance?

A: You put a boogie in it.

Q: Where does your nose go when it gets hungry?

A: Booger King!

Q: If you were a booger…

A: I’d pick you first.

One more. I saw this funny tweet, you may have seen this before, but it still makes me smile:

tombstone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like the joke goes: I used up all my sick days, so I’m calling in dead.

I know, I know, I have one sick sense of humor! Bahaha-ahchoo!

Image courtesy of khumthong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

How the Recession Changed Our Viewpoint of Happiness

During the recession, our family civil engineering business took a nosedive. We went from 12 employees to two. The two remaining – my husband and my brother – both worked part-time.

recessionThis was a huge adjustment to our finances. The previous boom years provided the most income we’ve ever earned. In fact, our income was cut in half.

Instead of moping about it, my husband and I decided to take advantage of the extra time and became full-time ministers, learned sign language, joined a sign language congregation, and started doing volunteer work with the deaf community.

You know what? We were never happier.

That’s why I found an article, Post-recession Americans Don’t Need Money to Find Happiness, written by Courtney E Martin for the New York Post, last week so fascinating. In the article, Martin pointed out that “the American Dream is being remade in the wake of the Great Recession.”

“Just as necessity is the mother of invention, a recession can be the father of consciousness,” she wrote. “More and more of us are becoming conscious of the ways in which money, and all of the stuff it can buy, doesn’t reliably lead to happiness.”

recession-2Although Martin argues this isn’t a hippie movement, you baby boomers may relate to this concept.

Does it remind you a little bit of the 60s, when many thought society had been corrupted by capitalism and the materialist culture it created? Although a more radical time, during that tumultuous decade it dawned on many young people that while pursuing “success,” people lost sight of the more meaningful experiences life had to offer.

Seems some of those attitudes are with us again after the recession, causing profound changes in the way people work, think, and live.

How so?

Changes in the Workplace

A recent article from Inc. “10 Ways Your Office Will Change in 2016,” pointed out that the top search term in 2015 at Monster.com was “part-time.”

“A growing number of white-collar workers are opting not to return to staff positions in the post-recession economy, working instead as contractors in roles that offer more flexibility but less security and benefits,” Beth Braverman wrote in the article.

And in many cases, less money, I would add.

recession-4In fact, a third of American workers free-lanced last year, with 60 percent of freelancers doing so by choice, according to a study by Upwork.

Once again, I am one of those people. A freelance writer who, in fact, does much of my work through Upwork, I’m apparently part of a growing crowd. In fact, it’s estimated that half of the US workforce will be freelancing by 2020.

I’m not getting rich, but I like the flexibility and the extra time it gives me to concentrate on spiritual matters, volunteer work, the important people in my life, and my health and well-being. Turns out, I’m not alone.

The recession taught many that there is more to life than climbing the ladder, working around the clock, and accumulating things that collect in garages and storage units.

I hope that as the economy recovers we don’t lose that insight.

Changes at Home

recession-3Many bought extravagant homes they could not otherwise afford and lost them during the housing bubble burst.

You know what? Those people learned that life went on. Buying that home they always “dreamed of” turned into a nightmare and many discovered it wasn’t worth all the stress that resulted.

Turns out that owning a fancy home wasn’t the answer to finding contentment, satisfaction, and joy after all.

In fact, home ownership rates are at their lowest since 1995. in the years since the housing bubble burst, many have come to the conclusion that home ownership isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be and are now renting a less expensive apartment instead.

Others opted for home ownership, but decided to downsize. This idea spawned the whole tiny house movement.

These days, more and more people are choosing experiences, adventures, and seeing the world over a big house with a huge mortgage.

recession-4Another popular alternative? Over 50 million Americans are living in multi-generational households and sharing expenses.

Our family fits into that category. For the past year, my husband and I have shared our home with our youngest son and his wife as well as our divorced oldest son and his three children.

Last spring, my youngest son and daughter-in-law moved up north. However, after an extended custody battle that left our oldest son financially devastated,  we still live with him and his three children.

Yes, it was an adjustment after being empty nesters for a couple of years. But you know what? In the end, we liked the arrangement.

After losing my mother as well as my mother-in-law last year, it was nice to have a safe, secure, and loving cocoon of family around us. The grandchildren cheered us up and kept us young.

Three houses down and across the street, my sister and her family live in a main house and my brother and my other sister live in two casitas on the same property. Yup, we got a regular family compound going and you know what? It’s working for us.

We’re not alone.

This multi-generational trend has even reached the White House, with Michelle Obama’s mother living with the President and his wife and often spotted shuttling grandchildren to school. The fact is, studies show that people who live in multi-generational homes actually like it.

Finding Balance

Of course, poverty doesn’t bring happiness either. After analyzing Gallup poll data, the Brookings Institute found that Americans who reported the lowest levels of well-being also made less than $2,000 a month, which coincides closely with the the federal poverty guideline level for a family of four.

However, wealth does not necessarily bring happiness either. An often-cited Princeton study from 2010 found that a salary of $75,000 per year was the level at which security and happiness reached a pinnacle, but that increases beyond that didn’t result in greater happiness.

Experts say being rich brings its own kind of suffering. Wealth can lead to sleepless nights of worrying as well as an unhappy family life and relationship problems. It can lead to comparing yourself to others, jealousy, or, in the language of the tenth commandment, coveting. The love of money can inspire greed and an insatiable appetite for more wealth which results in frustration and a lack of contentment.

Maybe that’s what some of us learned during the recession. Indeed, the old adage that money does not bring happiness turns out to be true.

Now that the economy is beginning to recover, let’s all resolve to remember that fact and I think we’ll all be a lot happier.

Do you agree? Has your attitude about life changed since the recession? Let me know in the comments below.

Images in order of appearancce, courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, scottchan, jk1991,    jscreationzs, and Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Facebook Can Make Us Happier

Want to spread a little happiness to those you love?

FacebookAccording to a new study, simply leaving a personalized comment on a friend or family’s Facebook post can make them feel like they’re walking on sunshine and brighten their day.

New research conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication suggests personal interactions on Facebook could make you just as happy as if you got married or had a baby. The study was based on 1,910 Facebook users from 91 countries during a three month period.

Really? I’ll admit a personal message or comment definitely perks me up, but are they saying it can make you as happy as having a baby?

Apparently. Turns out that some Facebook interaction reminding you of the people you care about in your life is good for you. The researchers found that 60 comments a month from close friends were linked to people reporting satisfaction akin to experiencing major life events.

The research debunks former studies that reported social media makes people depressed and lonely. Perhaps checking Facebook obsessively 300 times a day could be isolating and prevent you from having real relationships. As always, balance people! But the study shows that staying in touch with friends with a few positive comments is a positive thing for everyone involved.

Facebook LikeInterestingly, Facebook “likes” did not have the same power to alleviate negative feelings.

“We’re not talking about anything that’s particularly labor-intensive,” said co-author Moira Burke. “This can be a comment that’s just a sentence or two. The important thing is that someone such as a close friend takes the time to personalize it. The content may be uplifting, and the mere act of communication reminds recipients of the meaningful relationships in their lives.”

So there’s your assignment for the day. Take just a few moments to make an uplifting comment on one of your friends’ Facebook pages. Not a Facebook user? Pick up the phone or send a text to someone you love. You’ll feel happier for bringing some extra joy into someone’s life.

Images courtesy of arztsamui and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

How to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables to Boost Happiness

Your mother told you to eat your veggies. As usual, she was right.

Fruits and VeggiesWe all know that eating more fruits and vegetables makes us healthier, but now a new study from Australia suggests it can make you feel happier as well.

Researchers discovered that people who switched from eating almost no fruit and vegetables to eating eight servings a day felt an increase in life satisfaction similar to how an unemployed person feels after finding a job.

Yippee! I’ll take some of that!

More than 12,000 adults participated in this study and kept food diaries answering questions about their lives and their mental and emotional health. Those that increased their fruit and vegetable portions reported increased happiness within two years of the changes to their diets.

Happy Couple“Eating fruit and vegetables apparently boosts our happiness far more quickly than it improves human health,” study co-author Redzo Mujcic, a health economics research fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia, said in a statement.

The new findings may help doctors convince people to eat more fruits and vegetables, she added. “There is a psychological payoff now from fruit and vegetables, not just a lower health risk decades later,” he said.

Want to get on the happiness train? Here are six easy ways, according to Heather Mangieri, a nutrition consultant and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

#1 Start First Thing in the Morning

Start eating fruits and veggies at breakfast, Mangieri suggests. This is a recommendation I happen to follow already. Super simple. Just toss some frozen blueberries or diced bananas on top of your cereal or add to yogurt. Or add veggies to an omelet.

You can also use fruit to make a smoothie. Mangieri recommends using yogurt with no added sugar. “We have this heightened sense of sweetness just from overdoing it on sugars,” Mangieri says. We should try to get back to basics and let fruit be sweet enough for our taste buds, she adds.

#2 Keep Fruit and Veggies in Sight

Make fruits and vegetables visible to encourage everyone in your family, including yourself, to eat them, Mangieri says. Keep a fruit bowl in your kitchen. Put carrot sticks, snap peas, and celery in the refrigerator where you can see them along with some hummus for dipping. Yum!

#3 Frozen is Fine

Frozen vegetables, such as peas, broccoli, and carrots, are a great way to make sure you always have vegetables in the house, Mangieri says. They are easy to prepare and keep for a long time. Mangieri recommends steaming the vegetables and adding them to casserole dishes.

Frozen vegetables are usually just as nutritious as fresh ones , according to Keri Gans, who is a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Salmon#4 Fill Half Your Plate with Fruits and Veggies

No measuring involved. The new USDA guidelines recommend filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

Center your meals on what vegetables you’ll eat and then think of what grains and protein to add, Mangieri suggests. Make fruits and veggies a focal point and you’ll have an easy time meeting the dietary recommendations.

#5 Add Fruit to Desserts

Let’s face it, we’re all going to indulge in some ice cream or cake sometimes. Of course, it pays to remember portion control when it comes to your sweets. But if you’re going to treat yourself, why not add some fresh berries on top?

“Fruits are nature’s natural candy,” Mangieri says. She recommends pureeing berries and adding them as a sauce to desserts.

So there you go! No time like the present to eat a little happiness. Grab a piece of fruit right now and be on your way to a more joyful day!

Images, in order of appearance, courtesy of Suat Eman, photostock, and mrsiraphol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.