As There are Seasons in a Year, There are Seasons in a Life

And You Know What They Say About Seasons, They Change...

As there are seasons in a year, there are seasons in a life.

Seasons Change

Ever find yourself smack  in the middle of one of life’s “ruts?”  Whether it lasts a couple of weeks or a couple of months, you find yourself wondering what a nice peaceful day would feel like.

Dentist visits, doctor visits, transmission problems, trips to the vet, broken water pipes, dishwashers that go on the fritz (God forbid!)… they’re all part of life, unfortunately, but they’re more tolerable when they come one at a time, aren’t they?  When they double, or even triple team you, that’s when nerves get frazzled.

The problem is, it’s been my experience that these thorns of life aren’t fond of flying solo. They love company, so they almost always bring other thorns with them.

My mom always said things like this came in bunches.  She was never able to pinpoint a number for me, no matter how often I pressed her. My grandmother always believed the magic number was 3. I’d point out instances to her where the 3 was exceeded and she’d always have the same answer, “Oh, the fourth isn’t the fourth – it’s the first of a whole new three.”

Granny logic.

I’ve come up with my own way of looking at the “bunches” and “terrible threes.” I call them “seasons.”

I am utterly obsessed with the seasons of the year. I live in beautiful Kentucky, where we have three very distinct and glorious seasons, complete with all each should bring:

  • Spring with its tree buds, blooming flowers, and greening grass – everything seems to come alive.
  • Summer with its intense greens, yellows, reds, blues, and purples – everything seems to thrive.
  • Autumn with its crisp leaves, colorful trees, and autumn breeze – everything seems to show off!
  • Winter with its blankets of white, bare trees, and peaceful quiet – everything seems to sleep.

Then it starts all over again.

The fact that we have similar seasons in life occurred to me many years ago.  We were going through a rough patch with health issues, moving, elderly/unhealthy parents, and a series of “thorns” that seemed particularly unnecessary and downright mean-spirited.  I don’t know how many times I uttered the words, “Realllllly? On top of everything? Realllllly???

Thorns never answer back, do they?

One morning, as I was packing away pumpkins, ghosts, monsters, and bats and replacing them with the Holy Family, snowmen, reindeer, and Santas – I couldn’t help thinking about the seasons.  Each one brings its own bag of tricks, so to speak.  Each has things I love about them and each has things that I don’t particularly love. But not only can we NOT fast-forward any of the seasons or skip them, altogether, I don’t think many of us would even WANT to.

Putting up with mosquitoes in summer and shoveling snow in winter are all part of the game.  We get through it. Even people who don’t like a particular season somehow get through it.

We endure it.

The same holds true for life. Life also comes with its own seasons – joyous seasons, crazy seasons, peaceful seasons, sick seasons, restful seasons, and seasons when anything that COULD go wrong, DOES go wrong!  You know, the “Reallllly?” seasons.

I guess all I’m trying to say is this: No matter where you are right now – no matter what sort of life season you’re in… whether it’s one you’re enjoying or one you’re just trying to get through – know that it will not last. Another season will come and take it’s place.

What can you do when you’re in a “thorny” season?!

  • Breathe. When under stress, we sometimes hold our breath without even realizing it. Be cognizant of your breathing and make sure to inhale and exhale.  This, alone, can actually make you feel better.
  • Slow everything down – your mind and your body.  When you’re in a bad season, your mind races. It’s trying to figure out how to get out of the rut, how to deal with the rut, how to make everything okay for everyone else… race, race, race. When your mind races, your body tries to keep pace. If your mind treats everything as an emergency, your heart will think you’re under constant attack! Slow everything down and realize that you aren’t under attack from zombies. Save the panic for the walking dead.
  • Remind yourself that you are simply in one of life’s seasons – it will pass and another will come along.  One day the things that are driving you batty right now will be nothing more than memories. Go ahead and remind them of that.
  • If there is anything you can do to make the situation better, don’t just think about it (and don’t ever just wait for someone else to do it) – take action. Very often, the simple act of knowing you’re doing all that you can brings you a measured amount of relief.

Let us be patient, and endure a while; the time may come that God may give us a happy release; but let us not be our own murderers. -John Bunyan

Coming unglued during the bad times is the worst thing you can do. Stay steady. As a commercial once said, “Never let them see you sweat!” You can replace sweat with any description that fits your own style of coming unglued…

  • “Never let them see you cry!”
  • “Never let them see you scream!”
  • “Never let them see you pout!”
  • “Never let them see you sulk!”
  • “Never let them see you lash out!”

Never let them see you anything but in control… riding out the bad season until a better one comes along.

Endure the storm with your dignity intact!

One final thought: If you’re going through rough or challenging waters, odds are that you have loved ones in the boat with you. The calmer you remain – the more “in control” you are – the better it’ll be for everyone else. Many times, our loved ones follow our lead. If we act all kinds of crazy, they’ll do the same.

Bad. Deal. That’s the sort of thing that causes boats to capsize. Don’t be the reason the boat capsizes. Be the reason the boat makes it to calmer waters.

It may sound cliche, but sometimes you really do just have to “hang in there.”

~ Joi


Infographic: 6 Ways to Conquer Your Fears

19 Million People (in the US Alone) Suffer Phobias!

6 Great Ways to Conquer Your Fears

I thought it was deliciously ironic that I received this infographic to share with you on the same day I had the last post (Overcoming Fear: Truth Be Told It’s Pretty Darn Cool) scheduled. Things happen like that so often that I’m really not even surprised any more… I just think, “Meant to be,” and have another drink of coffee.

Credit: 6 Great Ways to Conquer Your Fears [Infographic] by the team at Vegas Extreme Skydiving


Overcoming Fear: Truth Be Told, It’s Just Pretty Darn Cool

How Our Mind Can Both Create and Solve the Same Problem

Canoeing at Sunset

My husband and I recently took a canoe trip on one of Kentucky’s many beautiful lakes.  For most people, this would simply be another beautiful adventure in the great outdoors. But for someone, like me, who has a “nearly” paralyzing fear of bodies of water larger than a bathtub and a “totally” paralyzing fear of snakes, it was like riding a roller-coaster at an old abandoned amusement park… a roller-coaster without seat belts in an old abandoned amusement park.

A roller-coaster without seat belts in an old abandoned amusement park being operated by a clown with an evil laugh.

OK. You get the idea.

When we set off from the safety of the land (I really, really love land) and the canoe started swaying “too far” that way, then overcompensated by swaying “too far” in the other direction, my mind went full on “fight or flight mode.” It started coming up with scenarios that could get my feet right back on the nice safe land. I thought,  “I could say I forgot something…” then, when my husband said, “What?” I could say, “I forgot to stay in the car.”

Then, I thought, “I could say I’m sick… and it won’t be that much of a stretch…”

By the time I was deciding on one approach, I realized we’d gotten too far away from precious land. Frankly, I didn’t have any intention of ruining the husband’s day by making him step in my chicken &$!^.

Just as my brain tried to console itself by thinking, “At least we haven’t seen a s-n-a-k-e yet…” guess what slithered by the canoe with its head held up high, trying to get away from us as fast as possible.

That’s right.  A s-n-a-k-e.  My brain spells it out… makes them seem less real.

Here’s the kicker. I thought he (she???  – how in the heck would you know??) was downright cute.  The whole head up above the water while the body tried frantically to get it to safety made me feel both a kinship and a pity for it.

It was cute. There I said it.

I even somehow managed to raise the camera I was holding in a death-clutch and tried to take a picture of him (her). It was too fast, its fight or flight speed left mine in the dust.

It wasn’t long before I had actually relaxed enough to actually speak. I managed to tell Michael that I was going to need lots and lots of chocolate when we got off that lake.

Chocolate is my adult pacifier.

By the time we’d seen beavers, an epic beaver lodge, herons, eagles, ospreys, geese, and deer (in the distance… they weren’t swimming out there, now THAT would have freaked me out), I was having the time of my life. As the sun began to set, I realized that our canoe trip was nearly over and I actually felt a sense of regret.

Then I remembered the chocolate and all was well.

What I took away from the entire situation was this: Sometimes we tell ourselves SO OFTEN that we’re afraid of this, or we’re afraid of that that we cause the fear to seem larger than it actually is. We make it a huge monstrous two-headed beast when it’s actually usually much smaller, not that monstrous, and has just the one head.

When we allow fear to dominate us, we’re actually giving it too much credit and ourselves not nearly enough.

One thing that helped me fairly early in the canoe trip was a certain little “mental checklist” I did.  I asked myself what was the worst case scenario and what I would do if it came to pass.

I determined that if the canoe flipped and I found myself in deep water approached by a s-n-a-k-e, intent on using my soaked body as a buffet, I would club it with my oar. My brain also reminded me that I could always climb back into the canoe and that, after all, I was wearing a life jacket.

After I saw the you-know-what fleeing the scene, it also occurred to me that a clubbing wouldn’t even be necessary. I’d have to chase it to do so and I have no intention of doing that.

Ironically, I was ITS huge monstrous two-headed beast.

During the canoe trip, I also got a live, up close look at what irrational fear looks like. In a canoe near us, a “football player size” teenage boy nearly turned the canoe he and his girlfriend were in completely over. Seriously, they were inches from landing in the water.

He caused such a commotion, their canoe swayed like Gilligan’s ship in the opening credits and I still have no idea how it kept from wrecking.

Come to find out… he did all of that because he saw a spider. I’m not even kidding you.  As I was laughing at the big ole boy afraid of a tiny little spider, my over-stimulated and shot out mind asked me, “What are YOU laughing at, snake charmer?”

The day was as enlightening as it was entertaining.  My irrational fear came thisclose to ruining it for both me and my husband and I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am that I chose “fight” instead of “flight.”

It’s not an overstatement to say that it made me stronger. Winning battles does that – especially when you’re your own opponent.

Our minds are utterly fascinating and utterly powerful.  While this may seem like a reach, It’s one I’m willing to risk: Our minds determine the world in which we live.

We pretty much create the world we live in all between our ears. If we want something to be beautiful, it will be beautiful.

If we want to find fault in a person or a situation, we will be able to find as many as we’d like.

If we want to make a situation fearful, we won’t have to break a sweat, we can make it horror-story quality.

I’m sure you’re asking the same thing I am… why would we want to create anything negative?  Why would we desire to create anything frightening or ugly?

Unless we’re as crazy as crazy has a right to be, we want our world to be beautiful, peaceful, and infinitely happy. Right? Well, the good news is we have the power to set it on the right track.

This power is our mind.

Next time your mind tells you something is scary, ugly, or even hideous, don’t just take its word for it (especially if it spells it out). Step back from the situation, take a deep breath, and create the world in which you truly want to live.

~ Joi

Your Turn: What are your own personal phobias or fears and what have you done to overcome them? Anyone else “highly cautious” around snakes?!


Dealing With Stress and Stress Triggers

Often Finding Peace Means Making Peace


Sweet Hannah

Hannah: One of the Sweetest Cats to Ever Cat

Have you ever seen an individual in the throes of stress?  They look like they have it worse than anybody on earth. They act like the entire world… and possibly even God, Himself, is out to get them.

Some lash out in a temper tantrum like a 5 year old that’s being forced to leave the McDonald’s playground.  Others sulk like one that never made it to the playground in the first place.    Still others internalize their stress – keeping it all in and under wraps, at least for the time being. I say for the time being because, it’s sure to come out eventually and when it does… you don’t want to be anywhere near the event.

Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness. – Richard Carlson

Stress can be sneaky.  You can think you have a handle on it, but next thing you know,  every little thing seems to set you off.    After a while, you don’t even realize that SO MANY things are getting under your skin. You get so used to the feeling, you think it’s normal.

The saddest thing about this is the fact that you’re wasting precious moments, hours, days, weeks, months, and years of happiness and peace.

As far as I’m concerned, happiness and peace are two of the most beautiful words in the entire world.  Why let anything stand between you and these two beauties?!

If any of this sounds remotely like you, I have good… make that great… news for you. You don’t have to live at stress’ mercy.  You can do something about it and, quite frankly, the fact that you’re still reading means you are WELL on your way.

Coping Techniques for Stress

There are coping techniques for stress that you can experiment with.  Use these techniques in your own life and find the ones that bring more peace into your life and happiness into your days.

There are those beautiful words again.

Blowing up, internalizing, sulking, stressing – these are all things that are causing damage inside your body.  If you could somehow look inside and see what your inability to handle stress is doing, you’d find a way…. make a way… to cope.

I’m not judging and I’m not condemning.  I’m probably the least judgmental person you’ll ever encounter.  I get that everyone is different and I, honestly, love that fact.  I also have read enough, observed enough, and simply know through good old common sense that everyone reacts to things differently.  On any given day, three people can get a flat tire and each will react differently:

  1. One may cuss, pound the steering wheel, and search for the nearest person to blame – the road crew, the city, construction workers, the spouse (always a good one), God (yeah… He’s always home and has nothing better to do than pop tires), etc.  The blamers of life are real pills, aren’t they?  My oldest daughter and I watched a man outside of a coffee shop one afternoon a while back.  Something wasn’t quite right under the hood of his truck and he put on a display unlike anything I’ve seen in a while.  He hit the hood, he screamed at his mortified wife, he stomped, he kicked…  Some people were laughing at him, my daughter said he was “gross” and I just went back to my coffee hoping I never met him face to face.
  2. One may tear up and have a little “poor me, nothing ever goes right for me” cry.
  3. The third one might just say, “Wow, didn’t need that, but at least no one was hurt.  Oh well, if this is the worst thing that happens to me today, I’ve got it made.

One person isn’t OVER ALL any better, smarter, or cooler than the other two.   Each simply copes differently.  The thing is, when we get to the place where we’re able to cope with stress like the individual in the third example, we’ll enjoy life more, we’ll function better, our health will be better, our relationships will be sweeter and we won’t be spectacles for others to laugh at, call gross, or wish we’d never even seen in the first place.

Irregardless of how we react to it, stress is a most unwelcome guest.  Like all unwelcome guests, it boils down to two choices:

  1. Get rid of it. If there is anything within your power to deal with what is stressing you out, do so. Most things are within our control – it’s just easier to “hope” for change than it is to “work” for it.  If you are physically, mentally, or emotionally unable to deal with it – find someone who can help you. There is no shame in asking for help – we all have to every now and then. And if it helps get rid of stress, isn’t it worth it?
  2. Learn to deal with it. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but sometimes you just have to make peace with a situation.  This is especially true when what’s causing your stress within someone else’s hands. You cannot control other people, and shouldn’t even want to, if we’re being honest.

Let’s take a closer look at the second one… learning to deal with it, simply because this is the water most of us will find ourselves wading through.  Often the things that cause us to “stress out” are things that we simply have no control over. The economy, politics, the media, sports, our grown children’s decisions – we’ll simmer over these worries until we’ve worked ourselves into a bundle of stressed out negative energy.

Over things we can’t control! What a waste of time and emotion. When we let things “get to us,” simply realizing it is the first step.  Taking a deep breath (two, if it involves our children), and acknowledging that this is something beyond our reach is the next step.

The third step is where the magic is – make peace with it. Remind yourself, “You don’t have to like it… you certainly don’t have to love it. But you will not let it rob you of another minute of peace.”

As usual, this makes me think of animals… everything makes me think of animals! Recently, a MUCH loved cat of mine (Hannah) had approached old age.

Very old age, to tell you the truth.

During the last months of her life, she lost weight and just wasn’t herself. As someone who has, literally, had cats all of her life, I saw (but hated) the writing on the wall. I found myself getting so stressed out and sad over it that I realized that I wasn’t enjoying the time I had left with her as much as I should have been. When she first began losing weight and looking like the little old lady that she was, I found myself feeling heartbroken and sad when I was around her. Sometimes I’d even start to cry because I knew time was running out.

I caught myself one day, though, and made up my mind to stop focusing on the negative and concentrate on the positive. I’d had this beautiful little cat in my life for many years and whether it was months, weeks, or days that I had left with her – they were going to be happy days.  Days celebrating her living, not days dreading her dying. I made peace with something that was the last thing I wanted to make peace with. However, it was inevitable and you know what fighting with the inevitable causes, right?


I did, of course, lose Hannah to old age. But I chose (and choose) to focus on the fact that I had one of the sweetest-natured, most beautiful, and spoiled rotten cats ever! She was my constant companion when I walked, did yard work, or just sat on the ground with her. She loved having her picture taken and would ALWAYS roll onto her back to show off her belly. She was uncommonly proud of that belly!

We gave her a wonderfully happy life and she brought more sunshine into our lives than you can imagine.

Sometimes if you want find peace, you simply have to make peace.

After all, when you think of peace, what do you think of as its “opposite?” War, right?  If you aren’t living “at peace,” you are living “at war.” How miserable and unhealthy does that sound?!

Stress Triggers

Before you can actually deal with stress, however, you have to identify your triggers.  In the example above, the man in front of the coffee shop obviously couldn’t cope with adversity.  (Good luck with life, buddy.)   I also wonder if a little bit of feeling helpless had something to do with his performance.  After all, if he knew what to do, wouldn’t he have been doing it rather than acting a fool?  The lashing out at his wife was probably somewhat of a defensive reaction to keep from showcasing that he didn’t know what to do.  (Pick up the phone… call someone who does… easy peasy…)

We can’t all know everything and there is no shame in simply smiling and saying, “I know as much about this as I do the mating habits of the blue footed boobie.”  There never has been and there never will be any shame in admitting that you’re human.

Some of my favorite people in the world are human.

Other people are triggered, seemingly, when they think the world isn’t doing enough for them or giving them enough.

My advice for these people is this:   The world doesn’t owe you anything.  If this is your thinking, let me hasten to point out that you’ve got it all twisted…. You owe the world.  Start giving and you won’t have time to throw a pity party.  Also, while you’re at it, stop complaining that others aren’t doing enough for you.  If you want something done, do it. Try this on for a while:  Go out of your way to do things for other people.  Compliment them, smile at them, help them out whenever and however you can.

There’s a great old saying, What goes around comes around – maybe you’ve been living that out and what you’re receiving is what you’ve been giving… or, in this case, haven’t been giving.

Just a thought.

A third stress trigger is feeling overwhelmed – like life is just giving you too much at one time.  We’ve all been there and few of us ever want to go back.

The emotions, turmoil, and so forth that surrounded my mom’s sudden death in 2006 left me feeling like I was completely and totally spent.   If not for prayer and an outstanding family, I might still be in bed with the covers over my head.

I actually remember the day that I “got up,”  emotionally.  I hadn’t physically stayed in bed for days after losing my mom, but my spirit sure did. With the covers pulled tightly around its head.

Then, one day, I was in the back of the house and I heard my husband and our youngest daughter in the front of the house looking for something.  I knew that, not only was this dynamic duo completely helpless when it came to finding anything, they’d make a colossal mess trying.  I flipped a switch that I’d forgotten even existed and, literally, rejoined my family.

Sometimes we have to admit that we’ve “gone under.”  Make no mistake about it, we all do at one time or another – we feel overwhelmed and worn out.  The trick is not to stay there.  Remember Lao-Tzu’s words, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  If relationships, finances, work, or another potent opponent has you on the ropes…. or even if it has knocked you to the mat!… you have a choice to make:  Are you going to stay there or are you going to fight back?

The answer to your triggers, your problems, your adversities, and your stress lies inside of you.  Find someplace quiet and sort things out.  Stop placing blame on anyone, beginning with yourself.  Blame is the most irrelevant and useless expense of energy I can think of.  Forge past blame, forge past self-pity, and forge past anger. Find the solution you need to either remove your personal stress from your life or determine how you’ll learn to deal with it.

Life is too precious and the world is too beautiful to spend any measurable time whatsoever “on edge” or “stressed out.”


How to Read More Often AND How to Get More Out of Reading

Open a Book... Open Your World!

Quote About Books

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to read more, I hope you’re just blazing a trail right through a string of amazing books! If you fell off a little bit over the past few weeks, I  hope I can help you get back on track.

First a few things about reading:

  • Reading is, to the mind, what travel is to the body. It opens up a whole new world!
  • Reading has been proven to help a GREAT deal in the prevention of dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • If you read inspirational books, they can help lift your spirits to new heights.
  • As wonderful as books are, remember that reading is only as valuable as the books you read.  Reading bad books isn’t really much better than not reading any books at all.

 The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read. – Mark Twain

How to Read More Often

If finding time for reading is an issue for you, I have a few suggestions.

  1. Keep a book near one of your favorite spots.  For example, I’m almost always reading more than one book at a time. I’m always (and when I say always, I mean always!) in the middle of an Agatha Christie mystery, so I keep her nearby at all times. I’m also, at any given time, reading a cookbook or book about cooking/food, a historical non-fiction book (history buff), and a self help related book (usually to review for Self Help Daily).  I keep the cookbook or food-related book in the kitchen, so I can read it during lunch or breakfast – sometime during the day when it’s just me and my cat Alexa dining.  I keep the historical non-fiction book near my chair in the den, and the self help related book is kept by my bed.  Wherever I happen to be, during the day, I have a book nearby. It really doesn’t take a lot of time to read a chapter, after all, and they can be slipped in at just about any given time.
  2. Fall in love with reading e-Books! Whether you have a Kindle or download books to your iPad or iPod, this is the ultimate way to keep your book with you at all times. I have a Kindle, but I also download books right to my iPad, so it’s convenient to keep Hercule Poirot with me at all times.  In celebration of National Reading Month, Amazon’s Kindle is just $59, twenty dollars less than the regular price. Amazon is also the perfect spot to order your books – whether they’re physical books or downloadable books. Amazon also has you covered for the next suggestion…
  3. Two words: Audio Books.  Audio books are a dream come true for a lot of people – people who are on the road a lot, people with attention spans that tend to wander, and people who aren’t just busy, but darn busy!  You can listen to your book being read to you while driving, doing dishes, taking a bath, doing chores, etc. It’s still “reading” and it’s still gaining information and, when applicable, inspiration and motivation.
  4. Set goals.  Pick a book you’d really love to read and set a deadline. Map out the number of chapters and the amount of time you’ll devote to each. Most people will rise up to a goal, even if it’s one they set themselves.
  5. Choose a reading buddy.  Plan to begin reading a certain book with a friend or family member, with each grabbing their own copy of the book. People always watch tv shows and discuss them, why not treat books the same way? I’m in the middle of a WONDERFUL book, John Adams, by David McCullough and I often wish someone I knew were reading it as well. The topics of conversation would be epic.  This book is available in every conceivable format on Amazon and, I just can’t possibly say enough good things about it. This is a book to end all books.
  6. Read about what interests you.  I am a huge history buff, so I can’t get enough of historical books, biographies, and autobiographies.  I’m such a history nut, I could read a History text book just for fun. And I have.  Think of a subject (or subjects) that interest you, then search out books relating to this subject(s).
  7. Explore different Fiction niches and authors. If you don’t think you’d enjoy reading fiction, try a few different authors and even niches before you swear off fiction entirely.  You’ll probably come across a particular author and think, “Now I want to read everything this author wrote!”
  8. Get a Library Card and Use it.  Whether you prefer fiction or non-fiction, you’ll probably find that visiting a library is just as fun as an adult as it was when you were a kid. More so, actually, because we actually LIKE quiet now.  Library trips can be the most tranquil and relaxing part of your week – especially if you find a comfy chair or table and dive right in… to the chair and the book.
  9. Make Reading a Personal Retreat.  Set aside a time where you grab a cup of coffee or tea and escape with your book. It’ll become a time that you look forward to each day.
  10. Get great ideas for books to read from book reviews. You can find killer non-fiction book reviews AND fiction book reviews online.

How to Get More Out of What You Read

To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting. – Edmund Burke

I actually asked the biggest book lover in the world to share with you her tips for getting the most out of books.  Below is the advice from author, book reviewer, and book lover extraordinaire Emily Dill:

I have one main tip for non-fiction and one main tip for fiction. When reading non-fiction, my main tip for getting the most out of the material is TAKE NOTES. No matter what kind of non-fiction book, I’m reading, I take notes as I go.

Bob Harper book about exercise or nutrition? I write things down as I go.

A book about how to write an entire novel in the month of November? Take notes.

An Amen Clinics book about keeping your brain healthy? Yep, notes.

My main tip for getting the most out of fiction is to read in a quiet area. I know a lot of people brag about reading while the tv is on, kids are yelling, music is playing, and so on, but that doesn’t work for me. And it probably doesn’t work for most people either, because I can promise you they’re missing a few things in their reading. It has happened to me before – when I try to read in a loud or active room, I’ll end up reading the same page two or three times and still missing things.

So treat yourself and concentrate 100% on your reading – that book deserves your full attention!

I totally agree with the tip about taking notes! I am a note taker from way back. Writing something down helps you retain the information – it can also serve as a fantastic reference point, specially for long books or if you’re reading different books covering the same subject.

This actually brings me to another tip for getting the most out of reading.  If you find a particular subject that you enjoy reading about, search out as many books relating to this subject as possible. Make a list of all the different subjects you want to learn more about.  You can get inspiration for reading subjects anyplace – just pay attention to the things that spike your interest and follow through.

Here’s an example: My husband and I watched a GREAT mini-series on the History Channel, Sons of Liberty. Was this History nut ever in Heaven?!?!  By the time the series ended, I had a LONG list of subjects I wanted to delve further into: John Adams, Abigail Adams, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, The Boston Massacre, the Tea Party, Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin… and on and on.

Suffice to say, I have enough subjects to last several years!

My note-taking will really come in handy while reading through these fascinating subjects. I can cross-reference and see, for example, where George Washington was (and what he was up to) during the Tea Party, or what Abigail Adams thought of Benjamin Franklin… that sort of mentally delicious thing.

You should also pause to reflect on what you’ve read with fiction as well as non-fiction. Think back over the lessons that could be carried away from the characters, their experiences, their choices, etc.

A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it. – William Styron

I hope this article will serve as inspiration to you in your quest for reading more and for getting more from your reading. Thanks again to Emily for her words of wisdom and experience.

If you have any reading tips of your own, please share them with us in the comments!

~ Joi

All the secrets of the world are contained in books. Read at your own risk. – Lemony Snicket

Also See: More quotes about reading.

Top 10 Mood Lifters

Snap Yourself Out of a Bad Mood FAST!

How to Snap Out of a Bad Mood
Ever feel draggy? That’s my word for that feeling you get when you’re not physically sick, not exactly sad, and not remotely mad… you’re just kind of out of sorts. Like your normal, upbeat mood has BEEN beaten with a crowbar.

Bad moods happen to all of us every now and again – and usually we can’t put one single mopey finger on WHAT got us here, WHO did this to us, WHEN we’re going to feel normal again, HOW to snap out of it, or WHERE we can hide in the meantime.  All we know for sure is that, if our mood had a color, it’d be gray.

One of my daughters put her own spin on it once as she came through the kitchen.  I asked her how she was doing and she said, “I think my face has forgotten how to smile today.”  Draggy.

Whenever your face has forgotten how to smile, try one of the Ten Mood Lifters below.  These are 10 sure-fire ways to snap out of your bad mood fast. You’ll get an instant lift and – heck if you do them often enough, your face might just forget how to frown.

  1. Go outside.  A little fresh air, combined with natural sunlight is a sure-fire Pick-Me-Up.  Even if it’s smack in the middle of winter, bundle up and walk around your yard for about 10 minutes.  There’s something invigorating about the outdoors and it’s a quick cure for the droops.
  2. Take a stretching break. Stand up and stretch your hands toward the ceiling, then bend over and touch the floor.  Next, stretch slowly from side to side.  Repeat the entire cycle several times – breathing deeply the entire time.  It’ll refresh your mind and mood. Just be sure to take deep breaths – a lot of the feel-good power in stretching lies  in the breathing.
  3. Spend some time with a pet. There’s something profoundly peaceful and fun about petting a furry loved one. The love you give comes back and, let’s face it, it’s almost impossible to do anything but smile when you’re looking into an animal’s loving eyes.
  4. If possible, elevate your heart with a little exercise.  Aerobic activity is one of the best ways to slap a good mood on your psyche.  Take a walk, pick up sticks in your yard, or clean your house with gusto.  Get mooving and grooving.  If you do it with some really upbeat music, the effects will be even better. My favorite music to listen to when at times like this are 80’s and Motown – you just can’t stay draggy when Smokey Robinson’s Cruisn’. No way, no how.
  5. Recall a time when you couldn’t stop laughing.  It was probably a time when laughter was unacceptable, right?!  That usually seems to be the case.  In high school, my best friend, Randy, and I would break out into fits of laughter all the time.  Sometimes we’d be on the phone and there’d be no sound at all except laughter for 5 minutes.  When we thought we had it under control, one of us would fall victim to the giggles again, then the other would crack up.  I can still hear the sound of his laugh in my head and it still makes me smile. He’d love to make me laugh at the most ridiculous times – in the middle of class was his favorite opportunity.  He got me so bad once during a college lecture that I thought I’d pass out.  Actually, passing out would have been less embarrassing. My youngest daughter, Stephany, may have gotten my ticklebox at THE most inappropriate time, ever, though. When she was around 2, we were listening to a sermon… a long, long sermon mind you… at a church we didn’t normally visit.  She fell asleep halfway through the sermon. After about 30 minutes she sat up, and IN A FRIGHTFULLY quiet auditorium said, “He’s not through yet?!!”  One of her sisters (Brittany) fought giggles off with me – and about 40 other people –  but her other sister (Emily) looked more mortified than anyone has ever looked! When I need a good laugh, I think back to each of their three adorable faces at that moment.
  6.  Watch a favorite sitcom, stand-up routine or movie.  Laughter really is the best medicine, especially when it’s your mood that needs a remedy.  If you can’t get to a television, don’t underestimate YouTube.  Enter the name of a favorite old sitcom, comedian, or bloopers to a favorite show.
  7. Change things up!  If you’re able to, change what you’re wearing.  Brush your hair, brush your teeth, and even wash your face.  Your mind “gets” that you’re trying to start fresh and it welcomes the idea.  If you’re at work, straighten up your desk, readjust your clothes – maybe even untie and tie (or unbuckle and buckle) your shoes.  You know how you “refresh” a webpage if it hasn’t “loaded” properly?  Same premise.  Refresh and try again.
  8. Talk to someone who lifts your spirits.  All of us have at least one person who seems to make our life a better place just by being around. They always seem to know what to say and what not to say. Their attitude and humor act as a tonic.  If you’re feeling low, search them out – take them to lunch or out for coffee. Let them work their magic on you.
  9. Do something special for yourself. Whether it’s a trip to Starbucks or a bouquet of flowers (some days call for both), do something that’ll bring a smile to your face.
  10. Do something special for someone else.  I saved the best for last. When you bring a smile to someone else’s face, it’s impossible to feel anything but joy and happiness.  By the same token, making your cat purr or your dog wag its tail will also bring about great contentment.  When you create happiness for others, you create it for yourself as well.

~ Joi

People Who Talk Behind Your Back

A Couple of Quotes, a Couple of Thoughts, and One Big Question

Quote About People Who Talk Behind Your Back
Sometimes I’ll hear from individuals who are troubled by things that resonate with me. For example, when I hear from people who struggle with eating healthy, I automatically think, “I know, right!?!”  As they go on about how fried food simply tastes better to them than quinoa, my taste buds and brain agree with them completely.

Even if it’s a problem I don’t, myself, associate with (loneliness, for example) – I’ll often be able to empathize with their emotions by putting myself in their place.  I can almost always identify with someone by putting myself in their place. I find their footprints and put my own feet in them.

However, I’ll occasionally hear from someone (or talk with them) who’s going through something that’s so alien to my way of thinking that I struggle to find their footprints… let alone step into them.

Here’s a perfect example:  Girls, boys, women, or men who are heartbroken because their “significant other” talks badly about them to….

  • their best friends
  • their co-workers
  • their own family

Why am I unable to find these particular footprints? Because I can’t figure out what makes this sort of person worthy of being called a “significant” anything.


Think about words for a minute.  As someone who writes (to the tune of all day.. everyday..) and reads a great deal,  I may attach more emphasis, importance, and value to words than the average person. Having said that, I don’t think anyone can or should undermine their importance.  Feelings, emotions, and knowledge are conveyed with words. Whether it’s the spoken language or written language – we convey the essence of our thoughts and feelings with our words.

If we’re hurt, it comes out in our words.

If we’re angry, it comes out in our words.

If we’re bitter, it comes out in our words.

If we’re happy, it comes out in our words.

If we’re grateful, it comes out in our words.

And on and on and on.  Our words, in many ways, identify what we feel inside.

Do you see why I said what I did about some people not being worthy of being called a “significant” anything?

Some people talk about their families in a way that seeks only to build them up. If they call a friend up and happen to mention their wife, girlfriend, or children – the friend knows it’s going to be a positive conversation. The friend (or co-worker) will think this guy’s family is the greatest family in the world! Why? Because the friend feels that they are the greatest!

Other people talk about their families or friends in such a way that others start wondering, “Are they complete losers?” or, worse, “I don’t think this guy /girl really loves her/him.”

After all, if the only thing out of someone’s mouth about someone is negative, after a while, you can only draw one conclusion: This person doesn’t care about them.  IF they did, their words would back it up.

So. What do you do if you KNOW someone is running you down or talking about you behind your back? For what it’s worth, here’s my advice:

  1. Make sure of your facts before you say anything. If an individual who you can trust explicitly tells you that this person has been talking about you OR you have seen or heard the evidence, yourself – then you probably have all the proof you need to confront them. However, when I say “confront,” I’m not talking about an ambush. You’re cooler than that.  Also, don’t ask them if they HAVE BEEN doing it – that only gives them an “out.” Without getting (or at least, without appearing!) angry, tell them, “I just need to know something… why do you talk badly about me to ________?”  Let them know that you know they do – you haven’t run for the hills, you aren’t armed and dangerous – you simply want to know why they feel the need to do this and if there’s anything you can do to make it stop. Please make sure you KNOW the facts before saying anything. Few things are less attractive than a paranoid person on a hunt when there simply isn’t any prey.
  2. If the information they’ve spread is LIES, you have a right to ask them to set things straight.  If they’ve exaggerated the details (in an attempt to garner sympathy, I suppose), tell them it’d mean the world to you if they’d let the person know they were upset when they spoke about you and that they shouldn’t have said the things they said.
  3. If the person gets angry and defensive, just drop it for the time being. You absolutely cannot reason with someone when they’re like this. Simply say, okay, let’s forget it for now. There’s no need in escalating the situation or helping a hot head get even hotter.

In the end, if you have someone in your life who you think of as “special,” yet they continue to run to others anytime you have an altercation or they tend to paint you in a less than positive light to other people, please ask yourself just how “special” they are.  That’s the “big question” I mentioned in the title. Words convey what’s in our heart. There’s a little flow chart:  OUR FEELINGS —> OUR THOUGHTS —> OUR WORDS. If someone’s words are unkind about an individual, their feelings or thoughts are polluting their words.  That’s why you have to talk to them.

I saw a quote graphic on Pinterest one time that encouraged girls to find a guy  with whom “you know your name is safe in his mouth.” I love that. It can go for guys or gals, of course, but the gist is this: You want someone in your life who… whenever your name is on their tongue… it is as safe as a baby in its mother’s arms.

You should seek to surround yourself with people who you KNOW – beyond a doubt – speak highly of you. People who, whenever they speak your name to ANYONE, there is kindness, love, and even pride involved.

That’s what you deserve. Don’t ever forget that!
~ Joi

Sleep On It…. You Just May Thank Yourself in the Morning!

Sleep On It

You are ridiculous.”  Not you. Me.  That’s actually the exact phrase I said to myself recently when I woke up, fresh after a good night’s sleep. The day before I had let something get under my skin that really shouldn’t have gotten near my skin, let alone under it.

I didn’t, however, realize this until I’d “slept on it.”

Most of the time, people use the phrase “Sleep on it” to refer to process of allowing their subconscious mind to come up with a solution to a problem their conscious mind just can’t wrap itself around.  I, myself, have OFTEN relied on my subconscious mind to sort things out for me or help me make a particular decision. When we sleep, we surrender all of our excess thoughts, emotions,”buts…,” “ands…” and “ifs..” to our  subconscious mind.  Our subconscious mind sort of sweeps them to the side and says “Just the facts, please.”

It’s sensible like that.

My recent experience served as a reminder that sleeping on something can be used another way – to reign in our emotions. We are emotional creatures, after all – especially those of us who happen to be female. We’re made that way and fighting it is futile.

Emotions can be a wonderful thing, but… at times…. they can get the better of us. They come charging up the stairs, barreling over the top of common sense, reason, and rational thoughts.

Man, I hate when that happens.

The next time you feel completely out of sorts – before saying anything or “reacting,” sleep on it.  IF, when morning comes, you still feel that something needs to be said – say it. When our subconscious mind is in agreement with our conscious mind, it usually means we have a good leg to stand on.

Chances are, however, when you wake up, your subconscious mind will say, “See there? Don’t you feel better?! Aren’t you glad you didn’t go and act a fool? You’re awesome.”

It’s much better than being called ridiculous.

Sweet dreams!
~ Joi

Learning from Our Mistakes: Turning a Very Old Adage on its Very Old Head

With a Great Quote from Norman Vincent Peale

Norman Vincent Peale Quote About Learning from Mistakes

My name is Joi (“Joy”) and I have a confession to make.  I’m a baseball addict.  There’s nothing about the game I don’t love. The sights, the sounds, the everything. Between the months of April and October, it’s on the tip of my mind and tongue 24/7.

The other 5 long months? Withdrawal.

Love. The.Game. But, I have to confess, I’m not too fond of losing. When my team (the St. Louis Cardinals) loses, I feel it right into the next day.  If it’s the post season, I might even feel it for weeks.

But, even then… it’s still baseball!

Our young  manager has made a few “head scratching” mistakes this season. And last season, but who’s counting?

He’s a first-class, first-rate, top-0f-the-shelf type of human being.  The players love him, everyone in the organization loves him, opposing coaches love him… heck, I suspect even the umps love him.

Great guy. Doesn’t even cuss. But, that’s a misleading stat, given the fact that he has made some bullpen decisions that make everyone else cuss enough for him AND them. So, in a roundabout way…. he turns the air blue, just not with his own mouth.

Anyway, the good man made a bad decision in last night’s game. Well,actually about 7, but – again – who’s counting?  After head-scratcher #4, I thought, “This guy doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes.. instead he seems to take some sort of comfort in them.”

No doubt that’s pushing it – I’m not terribly reasonable when I’m in the midst of a baseball game frenzy.

It made me think about an old adage, “We learn from our mistakes.”

I’m just not so sure that old adage holds a lot of water. Could it be that it’s just a comforting thought that tends to take the sting out of mistakes?

Ironically, when I came to Self Help Daily to add a quote to the page of Norman Vincent Peale quotes, one of the quotes jumped out at me. I loved it so much I actually turned it into the graphic you see at the top. “We’ve all heard that we have to learn from our mistakes, but I think it’s more important to learn from successes. If you learn only from your mistakes, you are inclined to learn only errors.”

Sort of calls the old adage out on the floor and asks it, “What have you got to say to that?!”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m reasonable enough to know that we CAN learn from mistakes.  However, I’m also reasonable enough to know that…

  1. That’s not always the case.
  2. It’s better to slow down, think things out, and not make mistakes in the first place.

That second one brings me right back to the ballgame. If – prior to the mistake (pick one), our manager had simply slowed his world down for a minute and thought things through – I would be a much happier gal today.

Sometimes that’s all any of us have to do. Take a deep breathe. Gather our thoughts around and take a good, close look at them. Remove emotions from the equation and go with what we know is the decision that carries with it the largest probability of a successful outcome.

The alternative is go just go with a particular knee-jerk reaction because….

  • … it’s what I’ve always done.
  • … thinking kind of hurts.
  • …. my heart’s telling me to.

Here’s a fact that’ll never NOT be a fact – our brain is located in our head, not our heart.

If I’m sounding preach-y, I don’t mean to. If I sound like someone who always centers her thoughts and never lets her heart have a vote…. hahaha, sorry, I couldn’t get through that one without laughing. I am THE WORST at thinking things through and THE BEST at jerking reactions out of my knees based upon my heart’s word.

Preachy? No. Just intrigued. Intrigued by Norman Vincent Peale’s words and intrigued by the concept of simply slowing down and engaging all brain cells, memories, and… yes, in the proper pecking order… emotions. The concept of slowing our world down long enough to THINK before we speak or act.

It just might be the secret to winning – games and life.

Please share your thoughts in the comments!
~ Joi

Also See: More Norman Vincent Peale quotes!

How to Make it Through the First Year of Sobriety (Special Article)

Help for Those Re-Covering from Addiction

Below is an article that’s being shared with Self Help Daily’s readers who, quite possibly, find themselves fighting for a better life.  Sometimes you need a little help when fighting worthy opponents – fortunately, help isn’t just out there, it’s readily available! Thank you to the author for sharing the information with Self Help Daily’s readers.

How to Make it Through Sobriety      Sobriety Help
The risk of addiction relapse is highest during the first year of a recovering addict’s sobriety. Acute withdrawal from alcohol or drugs may last only about a week to 10 days, but even after acute withdrawal ends, a recovering addict may continue to struggle with feelings of depression, mental fogginess, memory problems and other symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS. These symptoms may last throughout the first year of sobriety.

Recovering addicts may also struggle in their first year of sobriety because they lack the coping skills they need to deal with normal life challenges and stress — and the first year of recovery is a time of high stress. Most newly sober addicts are still reeling from the loss of what had become their only source of pleasure and comfort — substances. In addition, they’re also dealing with the emotional fallout of their addiction and may be facing, for the first time, the emotional pain that first led them to abuse drugs and alcohol.

In order to make it through the difficult and emotionally fraught first year of recovery, addicts need to attend an inpatient rehab program. However, the work doesn’t end when rehab does — in many ways, it’s just beginning. Addicts leaving rehab need to have a continuing care plan in place that includes the 12-Step program, outpatient counseling and a basic understanding of self-care.

Inpatient Treatment Can Make or Break Your Recovery

For the addict who truly wants to get and stay sober, inpatient treatment should be the first step. In order to be effective, a residential addiction treatment program should last at least four weeks. Many programs last as long as 90 days, and some will allow patients to remain in the facility for as long as they and their counselors see fit. A 90-day stay in an inpatient rehab facility can lay a solid foundation on which you can build a lifetime of sobriety. Not spending enough time in inpatient treatment, or skipping it altogether, however, can derail your recovery before it even has a chance to get under way.

Spend Time in Sober Living

You should think twice about heading straight home and jumping right back into your regular routine the minute you leave your inpatient treatment facility. If you’re like many recovering addicts, you’ll be facing the demands of the world while completely sober for the first time in years. You need some time to adjust to functioning in society again in a sober environment where you can continue to enjoy some protection from temptation.

Entering a sober living facility for a month or two will make it easier for you to focus on re-adjusting to normal life, since you won’t have to worry so much about resisting temptation. It will take the pressure off your loved ones, too, since they won’t have to worry about watching you for signs of substance abuse. Many sober living homes also offer some level of addiction counseling.

Participate in the 12-Step Program

One of the biggest advantages of the 12-Step program is its size — no matter where you are, you will have access to a meeting. Many addiction experts and recovering addicts recommend that people new to recovery attend 90 meetings in 90 days. While this might seem like a lot of meetings, it’s an important way to establish a sober support network for yourself, in the form of sober friends and a sober sponsor and begin learning how you can navigate the ups and downs of life without substances. Once the 90 days are over, you can attend less often as long as it doesn’t compromise your recovery.

Stay in Counseling

While you’ve no doubt made significant progress in uncovering the roots of your substance abuse disorder in counseling during your inpatient treatment program, you will need continued counseling to completely resolve these issues. You may choose an outpatient treatment program, where you continue to go to group and individual counseling at night for three to five days a week. Alternatively, you may begin seeing a counselor who specializes in addiction issues one-on-one. The important thing is that you continue with therapy. Many recovering addicts stay in therapy even after the first year of sobriety is up.

Take Care of Yourself

The most important thing you can do to help yourself through the first year of your sobriety is to learn about the symptoms of PAWS and what to do about them if you recognize them in yourself. Even if you do not develop PAWS symptoms, you need to focus on caring for yourself physically and emotionally from now on. Make getting enough sleep, exercising, eating right and making time for the things you enjoy a priority in your life. As a recovering addict, it’s especially important that you rediscover how to take pleasure in normal, wholesome fun again, so make time every day to do things you enjoy. Keep trying out new things, too — you might just discover your next favorite hobby.

The first year of recovery is the hardest. In order to make it through your first 12 months of sobriety, you’re going to need to commit to working hard at your recovery every day. It won’t be easy, but in the end, it will be worth it.