Joy… Joi… Joy… Down in My Heart….

Why I Cherish Both the Word and Name

Yesterday I took one of those fun online quizzes that tell you something about yourself after a series of questions. This quiz was called, “What Your Parents Should Have Named You.”

After answering a series of questions, it told me that my parents should have named me… are you ready for it… Joy.

Well done, mom and dad!

My great-grandmother came up with the idea of spelling it with an i instead of a y, but Joy is my name… it’s just spelled with an i.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to say those words in my life, “…spelled with an i.”

Joy is, and always has been, one of my absolute favorite words. It symbolizes happiness, peace, contentment, bliss, and a whole other list of words that (as Andy Griffith might say), “Ain’t nothin’ but good.

Earlier this month, when I wrote a review of the NinkaStudio Theme of the Year Calendars, they graciously told me to pick out one of the words as a thank you. Naturally, I went with Joy.

Because it “Ain’t nothin’ but good.

I’ll let you in on another reason the word and name mean the world to me.

Many years ago (never mind how many, nosy Parker), my mom was a pretty sick 22 year old who’d just found out she was a mother-to-be. Her thyroid was going haywire, and being so long ago, treatments for such things were nowhere near what they are today.

She was told that the baby (me) wouldn’t make it and that, for her health, it was best to terminate the pregnancy. When she vehemently refused, she was assured that her pregnancy would not be an easy one in any sense of the word.  She was also told that her baby would not be “normal” – to which she simply said, “But it’ll be MY baby.”

The pregnancy was especially bad, causing her a great deal of sickness and discomfort – I’d imagine even more so given the grim forecast. As for the baby, I think I turned out normal enough.

On the day I was born, when it came time to name this small pink human that caused so much trouble, my mom chose “Joy.”

Spelled with an i.

That doesn’t just mean the world to me on a personal level (my name was one of the sweetest gifts she ever gave me, right after life, itself). It also means the world to me because, at the end of a battle – one in which she… at such a young age… called the shots – she chose Joy for more than just a name. She chose Joy as the way she’d view the situation.

I’ve had many life lessons in my years. Heck, I’ve even created a few of them along the way. But this one has left a profound effect on my psyche. Maybe it’s why I, without even thinking about it, choose to see the humor in life. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I seldom ever take anything seriously and why I’m always looking for the next reason to smile.

I often sign my name online Joi (“Joy”) to make sure my mom’s chosen name is completely conveyed. Ever since I had a teacher once call me, “Joe-I,” I take no chances.

I believe in positive affirmations, inspirational quotes, and motivational books. I also believe in the power of words. I believe that if you take one very special word and make it your “Spirit Word,” it can be your very own safe haven.

If you’re looking for a word to remind you that there are always reasons to smile…. a word that, itself, if filled with sunshine…. I have a word for you: Joy.

Spelled with a y.

~ Joi

When Blessings Wear Ugly Disguises

Chickens, Morning Sickness, and Labor Pains

Chicken (The Homeplace LBL}

A grandfather was attempting to impress upon his grandchildren that things were not always as they appeared. “When I was your age,” he began, “my daddy raised a beautiful, large vegetable garden. We would sell the produce at a small roadside stand that we built ourselves.

My parents always bought their chickens from Willy Scott.

One day, while our family was working at the vegetable stand, Willy delivered chickens to our house in a crate and left them on our doorstep. When we returned home that evening we discovered the chickens had escaped and were running all over the yard. Each of us began chasing the chickens and putting them back in the crate. Dad was upset and decided to call Willy to express his unhappiness with the situation.

I can still remember Dad telling Willy he didn’t think it was a very good idea to leave the chickens in a crate unattended while we were gone. He told Willy how the family had to round-up chickens from all over the neighborhood and we were only able to find eleven. Then Willy shocked my dad.”

“Eleven chickens isn’t too bad,” exclaimed Willy, “I only delivered six!”

The story, above, is from one of my favorite books, “Speaker’s Sourcebook II: Quotes, Stories, & Anecdotes for Every Occasion,” by Glenn Van Ekeren. Can you imagine the look on the dad’s face? – I’m sure the scowl softened into a smile pretty fast. We’ve all been in his shoes before, right? Something will come along and we’re convinced that fate has kicked us harder than it’s ever kicked anyone. Then, just as we’re in the process of getting what my grandmother always referred to as “worked up,” we realize that fate didn’t kick us.

It kissed us.

Someone once said that opportunities are like roses – they often come with thorns on them. The same is true of blessings. They’re very fond of entering our lives in disguise…. just a little game they like to play.

Pregnancy and childbirth are a couple of great examples.  When I was pregnant with my first daughter (Emily), I thought I was smack in the middle of the most unpleasant experience in the world. Morning sickness? Ha! It was ALL DAY sickness and it didn’t last for the just  first 3 months, either. Nooo, my “morning sickness” lasted each of the nine months.

All day. Every day.

Top that off with incredible back pain, swollen aching feet, heartburn, and shortness of breath and I was one miserable “preggie.”

Then the labor pains came and I just KNEW I was in an inner circle of hell!  But as soon as they handed me this unbelievably beautiful little baby girl with the biggest, bluest eyes in the world – I knew my life would never be the same. I hadn’t been kicked by life, I’b been kissed by life with a little pink angel.

By the time beautiful number 2 (Brittany) and beautiful number 3 (Stephany) came along I knew that the horrors would be completely forgotten as soon as I held my baby in my arms.

Think back over your own life. Some of the best things that ever happened to you may have made an ugly entrance. Maybe they stumbled onto the platform, but rocked your world once they got to center stage. Sometimes it’s best to remember these things, so the next time something ugly comes our way we can ask, “What kind of beauty lies beneath this beast?”

Looking for the good in every bad is, from a self help standpoint, priceless.

Stay positive!
~ Joi

Roadblocks to Positive Thinking

Whether You Think You Can or Think You Can't Quote by Henry Ford

Moods are powerful. Not only do they affect our mindset – that is, our sense of optimism and pessimism – they also play a role in our overall health. Studies have shown that people in depressive states have greater instances of heart disease, and there is also a strong correlation between negative moods and other diseases like autoimmune disorders.
To understand how moods affect health, let’s explore something called the fight-or-flight response.

Stress causes a very specific set of physical symptoms including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shallow breathing
  • Cold sweats
  • Clammy extremities, and
  • Gastro-intestinal distress.

Stress can also trigger your immune system to stop making the antibodies that help you fight disease. That’s because when your brain registers stress, it triggers the fight-or-flight response, which causes the body to direct all its energy toward survival.

Fight-or-flight is only intended to be a temporary response. Once the danger has passed you should release hormones that allow you to relax and return to normal. Unfortunately, many of us live in a constant state of fight-or-flight, and that takes a direct toll on our health.

Interestingly, your body will go into fight-or-flight regardless of the source of stress. So, a saber-toothed tiger will trigger that response, but so will a stressful work environment, riding a rollercoaster, and sexual arousal. The only difference is our perception of the stress, and there are even different words to describe the different perceptions: eustress and distress.

  • Eustress is stress that causes positive emotions. The rollercoaster and sexual arousal are generally considered fun or exciting, and they create a positive association and positive emotions.
  • Distress is stress that causes negative emotions. The tiger and stressful job are generally considered dangerous or unpleasant, and they create negative association and negative emotions.

Eustress doesn’t usually have the same effect on health, even though it triggers the same physiological response as distress. So it appears that the actual emotions, or moods, associated with the stress play an important role.

Improving Mood and Health
Improving your mood is about more than just positive thinking. In fact, positive thinking is really the last part of the process – something that happens after you have overcome other obstacles. For many of us the biggest obstacle could be learning to recognize negative though patters and turn them around. However, there are also those who need a little more help.

Chemical Imbalances
Most human beings are emotional creatures, and those emotions play a large role in how we perceive ourselves and relate to others. While it’s easy to say “just let it go,” it’s often much harder to do. For one thing, much of our emotional response is directly tied to a complex, and delicately balanced, series of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. There are people for whom those neurotransmitters become unbalanced, and no amount of mental exercises can help them release negative emotions. They have to correct the chemical imbalance before they can get their heads into a positive space, and that usually involves taking medication.

Energy Imbalances
There is also the issue of energy. The entire human nervous system is a complex electrical grid that transmits electrical impulses between neurons, and also creates an energy field around your body. This energy field is why machines like the electrocardiogram (EKC) and electroencephalogram (EEG) can read your heart beat and brain waves just by placing electric sensors on your skin. However, the same way that neurotransmitters can become unbalanced, so can the electrical energy field around your body become disrupted, making it difficult to release negative emotions. People with disrupted energy often need an energy healer before they can get their heads into a positive space.

Serious or Chronic Illness
In the introduction we mentioned that there was a correlation between certain diseases and depression. One thing that you have to remember is that correlation does not always mean causation. That is, while it could be said that people with bad mindsets get sick, but it could also be that people who are sick develop bad mindsets as a direct result of their diseases.

For example, stress might trigger heart disease, but heart disease can also cause fatigue, pain, and shortness and other symptoms that can interfere with daily life, which can be emotionally depressing. Autoimmune diseases can also cause fatigue and, depending on the organs affected, can also cause chemical imbalances that lead to depression.

People coping with serious or chronic illnesses often need to focus first on getting a handle on their illnesses before they think about changing their head space. In fact, trying to force positivity might actually create more distress and negative emotions.

The Benefits of Like-Mindedness

Why Birds of a Feather Really Should Flock Together (What's in it for the Birds!)

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

All for one and one for all.”  ― Alexandre DumasThe Three Musketeers

Fraternity. Community. Brethren.  Allies. Team. League. Group. Alliance.  Tribe. Flock. …

These words –  and many more – all describe the same basic premise and the same basic truth: Comfort, and even strength, are often found amongst like-minded individuals.

This isn’t groundbreaking  information, of course. Since the beginning of time, people have realized that there’s strength in numbers. They’ve also known that hanging out with people who have similar interests, goals, and situations to your own provides you with a comforting feeling of normalcy.

Ironically, as I’m typing these words, there are 6 doves on my windowsill.  (I keep birdseed and black sunflower seeds on the windowsill beside my computer desk. This, combined with bird and squirrel feeders in our yard provide me with endless little cuties to distract me throughout the day. Jury’s still out on whether that’s actually a good thing or a bad thing.)   While there are exceptions, generally speaking, doves will show up to dine together.  I’ve never had, say, a cardinal and dove show up together.

Birds of a feather, literally, flock together.  Even nature knows the strength and safety that comes from community.

As I said in a recent post about Finding Silver Linings, my body has decided that it can no longer tolerate gluten (a protein found in… well… many things) in any way what-so-ev-er. It calls the shots, so I’ve had to change my relationship with food entirely – the way I eat, cook, and even think about food is now completely different from the way I had for my entire life.  Suffice to say that “entire” encompasses a healthy number of birthday candles over the years.  And, no, I don’t want to think about the bonfire they could combine to build.

Early on in my Gluten Free world, I found a wonderful key to sanity and happiness:  Surrounding myself with others who trudging along the gluten free trail.

Moving hundreds of these people into our home seemed extreme, so I simply found other ways to build my own private little support group:

  • On Twitter and Pinterest, I searched out Gluten Free Magazines, Gluten Free Food Manufacturers,  authors, and website accounts and followed them.  Then I looked at different accounts that interacted with them and chose certain ones to follow as well.  Soon my Twitter timeline and Pinterest feed were filled with recipes, tips, encouragement, ideas, food reviews, etc.
  • I signed up for different e-newsletters from these same experts – now my inbox is also a wealth of information and inspiration.
  • There are several Gluten Free magazines I want to subscribe to and I’ve started a cool collection of Gluten Free cookbooks.

Doing all of the above had several benefits:

  1. I was able to see scads of smiling people who weren’t only living with their dietary limitations but seemed to love it.
  2. I’ve lost count of the number of great ideas I’ve come across that I would NO WAY have come up with on my own.
  3. There’s a lot to be said for feeling like you’re part of a community.
  4. It’s exhausting to always have to check products and recipes for gluten – when I see e-mails, tweets, and pins from these “safe havens,” it takes the guess work out of it and I feel almost normal. Okay, normal for me.

Naturally  “gluten free”  birds aren’t the only kind of birds available for flocking. Any area of interest, conviction, employment, aspiration, hobbies, dreams, causes, or needs you have can be supported and strengthened by finding like-minded people. Simply replace “gluten free” in the 3 examples above with your own personal subject….

  • parenting
  • cats
  • Christianity
  • dogs
  • self help
  • sales and marketing
  • adoption
  • blogging
  • writing
  • photography
  • empty nest syndrome
  • weight loss
  • vegetarianism
  • loneliness
  • leadership
  • yoga
  • pilates
  • meditation
  • paleo diet
  • wildlife preservation
  • tea reviews
  • bird watching
  • college tips
  • etc. etc. etc…

This is one of those things in life that, while it seems so obvious and  even simple,can make a big difference in your life.

Tip: “Hacks” is a GREAT search term (Google or Twitter) to use behind your area of interest – for example “college hacks,” “weight loss hacks,” “saving money hacks,” etc.

~ Joi

Sometimes You Have to Turn the Corner to See the Silver Lining

It's a View Worth Seeing and a Trip Worth Taking

Buttermilk Biscuits

My World Famous Buttermilk Biscuits – OK, “World Famous” is pushing it but still..

No way….  Are you kidding me?!…..  Talk about a kick in the pants….  SO out of left field… Nah, can’t be… This is a huge deal… My wold just got turned upside down… This might be the worst thing that has happened to me in a while… —-  Okay… Not that big a deal.. Talk about a wake-up call… Should have seen it coming… It is what it is.. This isn’t a huge deal… My world just got turned upside right… This might be the best thing that has happened to me in a while.

Looks, for all the world, like one bi-polar paragraph doesn’t it? It’s sort of a modge podge of my thoughts over the past 7 months, so – in a sense – I guess my emotions were kind of bi-polar for a while.

As I’ve often said on this particular blog as well as my other blogs, I don’t AT ALL like to talk about myself. I guess that’s odd for an only child, but I get nothing out of discussing moi.  Someone’s not doing this “only child” thing right. However, I figure that if anyone can ever be helped (in any way at all) by my personal experiences I won’t just talk about it, I’ll sing about it.

So here we go.

Around the end of the year (2013), my oldest daughter (Emily) began having some pretty frightening health issues. Earlier in the year she’d had gallbladder surgery and, as an over-protective mother, I guess I’d been watching her like a hawk anyway. She began to have insane allergic reactions – to the point of her throat swelling up sometimes when she was eating. This was all on top of stomach issues that were also bothering her, but somehow the upset stomach took a backseat to the feelings of chocking to death.

Like I said, scary stuff.

She and I both suspected she had a gluten intolerance/allergy and it was decided that she’d do an “elimination” diet for a few weeks to see if her symptoms cleared up. I decided to “go along” with her for a couple of weeks – to sort of “get her started on her way” and give her support. I was pretty sure this was a diet that she’d have to stick with for GOOD, so I wanted to walk along with her – at least the first part of the way – to help her find recipes, alternatives on restaurant menus, gluten free products on the market, etc.

Her allergy and digestive problems cleared up almost immediately. It’s actually what we both expected to happen, but we were relieved to know there was something she could do to get better. What no one expected was this: It was exactly two weeks into our gluten elimination that it hit me… I felt better than I had in a long time. I’m the proud (sarcasm emphasized) owner of a hiatal hernia and I have whackadoodle allergies and bronchial asthma…. all of which vastly improved during this two week time. I had more energy, less stomach aches, less gassiness, less bloating, less allergy attacks, fewer asthma episodes, less hunger, etc. Mouth sores healed and vanished, and other “little” things I’d somehow learned to kind of ignore disappeared.

But there’s more. I had experienced stomach and digestive issues for some time – issues that were slowly, but surely, getting worse. I always had an excuse for them, though. It’s the hiatal hernia, it’s my thyroid medicine, it’s all part of aging, etc….

I went back and re-read all the articles I’d read when researching Emily’s symptoms and realized that mine were also listed. But I  hadn’t been looking for them. When a mother hen is on a mission, she sees her chick and only her chick… in this case, a sick chick!

It became obvious to both of us that we had to stop eating gluten – which is, as it turns out, in A LOT of things! A. Lot. Of. Things.  Not only is gluten found in the usual suspect lineup – bread, cornbread, pizza, doughnuts (this one stings the most), fried chicken, fried everything, and anything breaded – it also turns up in soy sauce, a lot of salad dressings, every store-bought soup imaginable, taco seasoning, and 101 other places you wouldn’t even think to look for it… until it means the difference between having pain and not having pain. Then you learn to look everywhere.

Although the whole “going gluten free” thing didn’t shatter my world (by any means), it did feel like an annoying thorn in my finger.

I’ve been an avid cook, food blogger, cookbook collector, restaurant reviewer, Food Network addict, and lover of all things food for too many years to even count.  To add to the misery, guess what some of my favorite things to make have always been – homemade bread, buttermilk biscuits, cornbread, pancakes, cakes, cupcakes, pies, and pastries.  Serious. You can’t make this stuff up. I was so cocky about my buttermilk biscuits that I only allowed real butter to EVER be served with them.  And then I told butter it was an honor it shouldn’t take lightly.

So… yeah…. having to change my entire way of eating and enjoying food disrupted my culinary world.  Kind of turned it on its head, if we’re being honest.

Favorite restaurants had to be scratched off the list, certain cookbooks were handed off to other people, and I had to learn a whole new way of cooking and enjoying food.  I found that even something as simple as enjoying Food Network shows was affected. It’s not a gluten free network, after all, so the frustration of seeing so many things that meant zilch to me anymore became more than I was willing to deal with.  Oh, lovely, she’s making doughnuts today… Fantastic, he’s visiting another burger restaurant… And now he’s in a Pizza dive.. Of course he is.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Turning the Corner

As with just about anything that we’re up against, it finally got to the point where I realized it wasn’t SOMETHING that needed to change, but rather SOMEONE who needed to change.  Besides, I couldn’t change my body’s intolerance to gluten any more than I could change the fact that it’s in so many favorite foods to eat, bake, and cook.

I had a brief, but effective, talk with myself and decided that…. what do you know…. this isn’t the end of the world.  I decided that it really wasn’t the END of anything so much as it was the BEGINNING of something.

Put simply, I turned the corner.

I even decided to stop using “negatives” when I thought or spoke. Instead of saying, “I can’t bake my favorite sourdough bread anymore…” I changed my mindset to, “It’s time to come up with new recipes…. this’ll be fun.”

Instead of dwelling on foods I can’t eat, I’m focusing on the ones I can.  When it comes to traveling through life, Can is a much more pleasant companion than Can’t.

Can sees the rainbow where can’t only sees the storm.

Emily and I were even talking about our new way of eating one day and actually found ourselves being thankful for the change.

No kidding.

We both listed the unhealthy foods we’d recently had to give up, including the frequent fast food trips. Like most people, we’d both found ourselves going through drive-thrus more out of habit than hunger. No longer feasting on fast and fatty foods meant that we were actually eating healthier than ever before – while feeling better than ever before.

Win. Win.

Even more surprising is the fact that, not only was going gluten free a blessing for our health, it has proven to actually be a blessing for my cooking adventures.

I can’t tell you how many meals I’ve made that left my husband and I convinced that the food’s better than ever. From Salmon Patties to Belgian Waffles, I’ve worked with my “gluten free” versions to the point that they’re actually better than the ones I used to make.

Even my meals are better because this way of cooking/eating has opened up a whole new world of flavors and creativity.  It’s bringing out the best in me because it has challenged me.  If I’d just kind of moped around I would have never seen the silver lining.

It’s when I turned the corner that I could finally see it.  It had been there the whole time, but I HAD TO BUDGE to actually see it.

What’s more, when my daughter and I started talking about the benefits of eating gluten free, a benefit we both noticed was an unexpected one: We aren’t as hungry as we once were. I’m not sure if it’s tied in to gluten, itself, or or the intolerance of it, but cutting it out seems to also cut out a lot of hunger.

I’m pretty sure the odds are that you have no intolerance, whatsoever, to gluten. Chances are none of the gluten information is relevant to you in any way. However, I will say this: If you have any unexplained allergies, stomach issues (bloating, pain, frequent gas, a “gnawing” discomfort, etc), unexplained weight gain or loss, excessive tiredness, headaches, or mouth sores – give some serious thought to cutting gluten out of your diet entirely for two weeks. If the way you feel suddenly improves… well, welcome to the club!

If you don’t notice any improvement at all (not even a little), the culprit’s probably something else and a trip to the doctor is probably in order.

Either way, gluten (cursed little demon) isn’t really the main thing here. Silver linings are the star of the show.  Whether it’s in plain sight or you have to “turn a corner” in order to see it, once you see your silver lining, life will never be the same again.

No matter what life hands you, always look for the silver lining and never stop looking until you find it. More times than not, it’s a delicious surprise.

~ Joi


 Pizza with a Gluten Free Crust… Boom!

Quote of the Day: Feelings Come. Feelings Go.

Feelings, by themselves, do not create problems...

Quote About Feelings

Feelings, by themselves, do not create problems. It is rather the tendency to interpret and analyze them. When out of habit you believe those interpretations, it is there that the suffering begins.” – Mooji

Always be on guard for Stinkin’ Thinkin’. Joi

Mooji’s description of the whole process is a lot more elegant than my own, but when all’s said and done, stinkin’ thinkin’ gets the job done, too.

We all know people who would be a lot happier (and, let’s face it, funner to be around) if they stopped allowing their minds to be breeding grounds for worrisome, negative, destructive, and ugly thoughts. Stinkin’ thinkin‘.  As Mooji points out, the feelings we have about other people or situations don’t always create the problems – we do by dwelling on them.

The hundreds of feelings we have throughout the day are just that… feelings.  Like visitors, they come and go. How we deal with them, while in their presence, strongly affects our mindset, and in turn, our happiness.

Thoughts can either be our best companions or our worst – depending entirely upon which ones we entertain.  We should be as mindful of our thoughts as we are the company we keep.  Just as we would never hang around with anyone who did nothing but complain, criticize, and condemn all the time, we should refuse to hang out with thoughts that do so. Because if we aren’t careful, these thoughts will turn us into those people.

~ Joi

If You’re Looking for Normal, You’d Better Lace Up Your Dancing Shoes

Right, Left, Right, Left, Right, Left...


Fist of all…. hello! I’ve been away from Self Help Daily so long I feel like I almost need to introduce myself. Don’t worry, I haven’t been mad at you… you didn’t say or do anything wrong.

In fact, it’s not you. It’s me.

Well,  more to the point – it’s summer. This happens every summer, like clockwork. I get ridiculously busy in the garden, we have 110 places to go, and my Kentucky blog keeps me hopping with SO many events and activities going on.  Granted this year has been worse than ever because not only has all of that been going on, I’ve had more work to do.  Even those of us who have the luxury of working from home can run out of hours at the end of the day.

Not complaining mind you. I am not – and will never be – one of those people who complains about having to do anything whether it’s working in the garden or working at my computer. I thank God every day I’m able to do both.

The next time you feel like complaining about being busy, visit a Nursing Home.

Anyway, I’ve gained on all the craziness and am now ready to get back down to business.  For better or worse, you’re stuck with me.

You know what’s on my mind today? Normal.  I started thinking about this popular, yet elusive, subject about a week ago. An online buddy e-mailed me about some stressful things going on in her life.  Apparently she’s had a great deal of stress and anxiety at work and at home (never any good when life double teams you). Within one paragraph, she mentioned life getting back to normal three times.

Then in the next paragraph she mentioned not knowing what normal felt like two times.

I couldn’t help thinking, by this time, that she was expecting a suitor to show up at her door that just wasn’t going to show.

We’re all like her in a lot of ways, aren’t we? Seriously, how many times have we all wished for things to get back to normal or for our situation to be more normal?  Heck, don’t we even sometimes wish for people in our lives to be more normal?!

The problem is, in our minds, we paint a much grander picture of NORMAL than it actually is. We envision pretty much a modern day Garden of Eden. Everything’s peaceful, beautiful, and totally free of anything remotely stressful. We envision having more money than we can spend, more hours in the day than we can use, and… come to think of it – even though we’re eating more food than usual, we’re losing weight!

That’s not NORMAL, though. That’s a fantasy.

In reality, normal is different things to different people.  When I think of “normal,” I think of everyone in my family feeling good and being happy. No bickering, complaints, or clashing of wills. Everyone has everything they want and more than they need. Health, happiness, and harmony – it’s all I really ask for.  Well, that and a full coffee pot.  My normal may not seem all that ritzy to the next person, but to me it’s Heaven on earth.

Just because there are extra cares, concerns, stresses, or anxieties in your life doesn’t mean it’s suddenly ABNORMAL. It’s just a little to the right or a little to the left of NORMAL.  Your peace of mind will be a lot sounder if you can truly grasp the concept that a great number of your days are going to be spent to the right or to the left of normal. If I were to be completely honest, but we haven’t just had “one of those days” in our family or even “one of those weeks.”  We’ve had “one of those years” – and it’s just July. One broken refrigerator, 1 broken washing machine (3 times), 2 broken lawn mowers, one nasty case of poison ivy, one gall bladder surgery, one dental extraction, 2 broken cars…. the list goes on, but I’m getting a migraine!

We’ve been to the left and to the right of NORMAL so often this year it’s almost like we’re line dancing through life. To the left… to the right.. to the left… to the right…  That’s okay with me, I’ve gotten good at this dance by now.

Waiting for the Inevitable Return to Normal

Some people ride the tide and wait to be carried back to “norm,” while others fight, kick, spit, and try to swim upstream like they’re salmon.

I’ve found that when you’re doing the left/right dance, it’s best to stay busy.  Be proactive.

When we say we want life to be normal, we’re actually saying that we want __________ to be gone or ____________ to be better. We want solutions to problems – and, a lot of times, we want the problems to fix their darn selves. WORK for it? FIGHT for it? CHANGE? You’re kidding, right?!

Your Action Plan when NORMAL is Eluding You:

  • Don’t panic. Keep breathing – in fact breath deeper than normal. It helps keep you calm. Seriously. When in stressful situations, our body kind of has a mini-panic attack. The pulse races, muscles get tense – it’s as though our entire body is ready to take off at any given moment. The fight or flight reaction kicks in and our body is convinced it has to gear up for whichever way we decide to go.  When we calm down and take deep breaths, our mind tells our body, “(S)he’s got this. Cool your heels.”  Your pulse will slow down and the entire body will relax. You’ll feel 110 percent better instantly.
  • If there’s something you can do to actually help bridge the gap back to normal, do it.  Sometimes it’s as simple as making an appointment with a doctor, mechanic, dentist, or (ahem, ahem) washing machine repairman (as in one that knows what he’s doing!). The amazing thing is as soon as we do all that we can possibly do, not only do things start “getting better,” they start “looking better” almost immediately.
  • Keep living. Keep loving. Keep laughing.  If we were to only enjoy life on the days when everything’s going right, we’d be miserable grumps most of the time.

The third point brings me to one last analogy.  I read a wonderful story recently of a farmer who lost his arm in an accident on his farm. The picture accompanying the story showed this farmer showing of his prosthetic arm – smiling ear to ear and looking like the happiest man in the world.  If one were to look at the picture, without reading the story, they’d feel sorry for the man. They might even wonder why he’s smiling so broadly.

Easy! He’s smiling because he’s glad to be alive. He actually came thisclose to dying that day. Closer than thisclose but I have no idea how to illustrate that. At the end of the story, I realized that the start of every single day must seem like an unopened gift to this man.  As I got up from the article and began to cook supper, it hit me – the start of every single day IS an unopened gift.  Not just to him, but to all of us.

Whether that day is filled with exactly what we wanted or filled with things we never asked for, it’s still a gift.  It’s hard to be unhappy when you find yourself smack in the middle of a beautiful gift that’s denied to many.

The farmer said something that really stood out to me. He said, “I do everything I used to do. I just do it differently now.”  Just is the word that seals it for me. It’s so matter-of-fact and so beautifully simplistic.  Almost in a by the way tone, he says he just does things differently now.

This man didn’t just dance his way back to NORMAL, he redesigned the entire dance floor.  He was an inspiration to me and I hope that the thought of him will serve as an inspiration to you.

Keep smiling and, by all means, keep dancing. It’s the only way you’re going to get anywhere…especially if NORMAL is your destination.

~ Joi

So, How Do You Look at Problems?

This Quote Suggests Looking at Them a Whole New Way

Smiling Breakfast

“Expect problems and eat them for breakfast” – Alfred Montapert

In addition to one of my favorite photo opportunities (love it when my food’s in good spirits), you’re looking at one of my favorite quotes of all time.

Simple. Basic. Understated. Golden.

Easiest way to set yourself up for a mad case of the blues?  Expect life to always be in as good a mood as my bacon and eggs were.

People who are completely thrown off their axis by traffic, bad drivers, long lines, and high grocery prices kind of amuse me.  Seriously, man. That’s life.  I’m not sure why we seem to think we should be immune to any sort of inconveniences, but it seems to me that people’s fuses are getting shorter and shorter.

I have absolutely no idea what we could contribute this to. Some people say it’s because people aren’t “conditioned” to be patient any longer.  I guess you could make a case for this theory – we are kind of a drive thru and microwave society, aren’t we?  Give it to me NOW! I have no intention of waiting or being inconvenienced!

The sooner we realize that life doesn’t OWE us anything, whether it’s a carefree day or a new dining room table, the sooner we’ll be at peace.

EXPECT problems… because they are going to come, but instead of letting them eat away at you, plate them and eat them before they even see the fork coming.

~ Joi

A Couple of Thoughts About Thought

Why You Should Choose Your Thoughts Carefully

Alexa looks at the world a little differently than most...

So….. Whatcha Thinking About?

The thought of bearing all the troubles of the past, the troubles of the future AND troubles that have yet to happen is a certain type of death.  Fortunately, we control our minds and, thereby our thoughts. It isn’t as though some mystical little voodoo priestess controls us from an island in the South Pacific (or anywhere else for that matter).

We can decide the thoughts we’ll entertain and we can just as easily chase away the thoughts we refuse to entertain.  Thoughts that are coated in fear and deep fried in anxiety are what that I call “poisonous thoughts.”  Life’s too short and far too beautiful to spend any time whatsoever with these types of thoughts.  It would make as much sense as filling a glass with Tide and guzzling every drop.  The hideous effect that it would have on your stomach is similar to the effect “poisonous thoughts” have on your mind.

Have you ever known anyone who spent far too much time thinking? They can’t seem to find anything constructive to do with their minds for the life of them! So they sit and dwell on things they wish were different. Usually this means sending their thoughts into other people’s lives and focusing on things they wish were different about them. Wow, how productive is that?!?!

A lot of times you can tell a family member has been doing this very thing when you walk in and instead of saying, “Hi!,” they get an accusing look on their face and demand, “So, why DO you buy only name brand food? There’s nothing in the world wrong with off brands.”

Been there. Answered with a straight face, “Because we have more money than we know what to do with.”

You and I are not what we eat; we are what we think. – Walter Anderson

Always, always, always keep a close eye on your thoughts. Whether your thoughts tend to think about problems in the past or problems you think you may one day have – keep reminding yourself to stay in the present.

Know this:  Your thoughts set the stage for the production you call life. They determine so much! For one thing, they determine how many people will want to share center stage with you and how many will exit stage right the minute you show up. Your thoughts also determine how your production (life) will play out. They can either give you an edge, or push you over one.  So the minute a poisonous thought pops up on the scene, grab a hook and pull it off the stage. The longer you let it wander around, the more likely it is to think it’s part of the cast.

Choose your thoughts carefully.  Make your thoughts the kind of thoughts that make your world brighter and happier.  What’s the use of having any other kind of thought? Think about it.

Never bear more than one kind of trouble at a time.  Some people bear three – all they have had, all they have now, and all they expect to have.  – Edward Everett Hale

More Quotes About Thought

A Few Thoughts About Pessimists

Do you FULLY Realize Thier Influence???

Quote about pessimism by Dwight D. Eisenhower  Pessimists are a depressing lot, aren’t they?  Given the way they suck life and energy out of the world, we should call them vacuums. When they ask why, we can say, “Because you suuuuuuuuck.”  Just kidding, of course, it’s never cool to call names. Not even when they fit like a brand new pair of Isotoners.

Pessimists almost seem allergic to positive thought – you can practically see them recoil at the concept.

I am so thankful to be surrounded by optimists.  Everyone in my offline world is a certified optimist.  The cheerful, glass is half full, upbeat, life breathing kind of people you look at and go, “Wow, how did I get so lucky to have you in my life?!”   I did a mental inventory this morning of these amazing people and realized that each and every one is the sort of person that if I said, “Let’s go fight the hounds of hell,” their response would be, “I’ll grab a weapon!”

Except for my oldest daughter (Emily) who’d also want to take a thermos of coffee. Sigh, I raised that girl right.

While I have no intention of clearing my schedule to charge the gates of hell, it’s pretty cool to know I could round up am army in an hour. Two, tops.

I find that I’m even drawn to authors, blogs, newspapers, websites, tv channels, and magazines that are optimistic.  Some people are GREATLY amused by factions of the media that belittle and make fun of celebrities, athletes, politicians, and so on. That bumfuzzles me, to tell you the truth. Think about it – this sort of thing is like a shot of negativity on the rocks.  Why invite negativity and pessimism into your world.  I don’t “get” falling over yourself to view “worst dressed” stars, for example, when the “best dressed” would be so much better for your eyes.

And psyche.

I also don’t understand why so many people want to read negativity. It’s essentially inviting negativity to come into your home, sit down, make itself comfortable, and stay a while.   The problem with making negativity your house guest is this:  After a while, even though you probably won’t realize it , you become as negative and pessimistic as the company you keep.   I like to use the analogy of newspaper ink.   When you’re holding a newspaper in your hands, reading the divisional baseball standings, weather, or (if you have the fortitude) the front page – you don’t realize that the ink is slowly coming off on your hands.

You don’t feel it happening.  At the time, you don’t even see it happening.  But after you’ve laid the paper down, you happen to glance at your hands and, sure enough, they’re ink stained.  Fortunately newspaper ink is a cinch to get rid of.  If only the negative repercussions’ stains were as easily wiped away.

I detest negativity and perennially negative mindsets so much I even unfollow people on Twitter if they start stinking up my twitter stream with too much negativity.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Mary Poppins.  I know there are times when we all have to vent.  I’m not talking about grumbling about a ref’s call or your team’s inexplicable refusal to play defense in the biggest game of the year (what IS up with that???). I”m also not talking about asking what a celebrity was thinking about when she wore a meat dress. Oh that Lady Gaga…

These are things we all do.  And, let’s be honest, sometimes refs beg for it.  But most of us also realize (and publicize) that there are many more things to be happy about.  The good vibes we send out far outweigh the bad. I’m talking about people who never seem to be happy, satisfied, or content with anything.  They gripe about the President, they gripe about prayer in schools (oooooh, that did so much harm <—-SARCASM), they gripe about what they had for lunch, they gripe about what they’re going to have for supper.  Their bad vibes are poisonous and their good vibes? Well, they’re so scarce you never notice them.  You know the type.

But do you avoid the type?

If not, they’re leaving a bit of a stain behind whether you realize it or not – and it doesn’t wipe off easily. We all have to be careful when it comes to our influences because, to a very real extent, they determine the person we see in the mirror each day.

I believe this can be filed under our series of How to Be Happy posts, for obvious reasons.  The people you allow into your world influence you greatly (whether they, physically walk through your living room or simply trample across your thoughts).  If you’re permitting pessimistic grumble guts to keep company with you, you can’t very well complain about not being happy, can you?!  Find a happier, more upbeat and optimistic group of influencers and watch (and feel!) the difference.

Here’s an easy exercise – a great way to measure the amount of negativity you’re allowing into your world.  In the coming days, pay close attention to the people you follow on Twitter, your friends on Facebook, the blogs you read, websites you visit, newspapers and books you read, shows you watch, etc.  Judge each one’s level of negativity vs the level of positivity.   Realize that this is the company you keep… the guests you’re inviting into your home.

Then ask in the immortal words of Dr. Phil… How’s that working for you?