Are You Caught in a Monkey Trap?

If a monkey discovers a treat in a gourd, it will reach in, grasp it, and refuse to let go even if it cannot pull the treat-filled fist back out of the hole.

It’s a common way of trapping them, I gather.

Humans are prone to making the exact same mistake. We grasp onto things that do not serve us, to the point where it traps us into situations that make us miserable.

Part of that is due to habit and identity. For instance, I spent so many years living on as little money as I could that I had problems breaking myself out of that mindset when it was time to move on.

Another part could be societal programming. We hold on to things like clothes, furniture, food, and possessions because society tells us that it is horribly wasteful and bad for the environment to just toss that shit and move on. We’ll tell ourselves that we’re going to find someone to pass the items onto or place them in a donation bin but we never get around to it–and when we do, we ignore the cognitive dissonance of handing off the problem of “too much stuff” to someone else.

There are several reasons we could be holding onto something that doesn’t suit us. We could have been taught that divorce is wrong so we stay with an abusive mate. We may have heard that only sluts and “bad girls” wear cosmetics and actively dress in a certain manner.

Sometimes, we simply lack the courage to experiment. While we tend to experiment routinely while young, time can lock us into habits that we hesitate to change. “Why fix it if it’s not broke?”

There is a danger to this. If we refuse to change, to evolve with the times, we can become old and bitter before our time. If you’ve ever had a conversation with an elder who insisted upon complaining about technology, shifting societal mores, “kids these days,” and so forth, pay attention.

That is your future if refuse to let go and embrace change.

Monkey traps can sneak up on you. That outfit you wore when you were twelve. The furniture that belonged to your dead relative. The hairstyle you haven’t changed since high school. The types of movies you watch. The books you read. The places you go. The thoughts you think.

When was the last time you mixed it up, made an effort to do things in a different way? Have you ever looked around and realized that you keep the things that you keep and use the things that you use out of habit?

Did you decide to do things differently? What happened? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

The Art of Evolution

When the economy tanked in 2009, I found myself laid off with bills to pay and a child to support.

Instead of becoming bitter at the fact that the world was changing, I evolved instead.

I threw all of my energy into a free blog I’d created to toy with, mastered the fledgling online-publishing field, then I wrote and published my very first book.

When it became obvious that I wouldn’t be able to afford to continue living in the house I rented, instead of fighting the inevitable I evolved again. I cast about for cheaper housing, traded for an older mobile home, and settled into a life where I would continue to evolve for some time.

I realized that, by helping others help themselves, that I could help myself achieve my goal of being a stay-at-home single mother. To better facilitate the process, I shifted my spending patterns, cutting my expenses down to a level I’d not anticipated.

I didn’t do it all at once; the evolution from Average American to Minimalist Frugalista was a slow process. I evolved by making one small, single change, allowing myself to grow comfortable with that change, then moving on to the next item of transformation.

By evolving, I turned a situation that was considered disastrous by many into an opportunity to achieve a dream. I thrived where many struggled simply because I adapted to the situation.

We are now facing a similar era of change. Covid has upended our daily lives. People are dropping dead around us. Employers are severely understaffed, and childcare is not only dangerous, it’s prohibitively expensive if you have access to it.

If you attempt to maintain your status quo, the chances are high that it won’t work out so well. But if you allow yourself to roll with the changes, to evolve, then you can come out on top of the situation.

Remember:

How can you evolve to better prepare for the future? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Chapter’s End

“I hope you hate your new job!” Gemma’s eyes flashed as she flounced up to me.

I smiled. “I’ll miss you too.” I had heard that sentiment several times over the past two weeks; managers and coworkers alike were upset when I had given notice. While on the outside the statements seem harsh, they are actually the highest compliment one can receive in the restaurant industry.

That is the statement you receive when you are truly loved.

So many people pass through the restaurant industry. Few stay. They become a blip on the radar to the crew who sticks it out long-term. Many times the old-timers don’t even bother learning the names of the new ones. Why bother when they’ll be gone in a few days?

While I’d never planned to stay when I started working at that restaurant, I’d lingered long enough for the crew to get attached. I’d gotten attached, too, so when I turned in my notice I quietly began to say my farewells.

While it was bittersweet to work that last day, this was something I had to do. Now that all of my children are grown, it is time to work on me for a change and for my next adventure I’ve decided to continue my exploration of finance and life. I’ve spent the last two decades actively exploring frugality (most of my life due to circumstances, to be honest). Now I want to see how far I can go in the opposite direction.

The job offer I’ve accepted is part of that process.

This new adventure is a continuation of the experiment I began with the purchase of a journal a while back. I gave myself permission to buy something luxurious to explore the Diderot Effect. I’d taken a good hard look at my home and realized that my personal environment had changed in a way that did not please me. I did not enjoy having my home look like something out of Deliverance, so I decided to change it.

I am still working on that.

I asked myself what I would own if money were not an object and I didn’t have to count my pennies. I asked myself what my ideal home would look like if finances were not a concern, then bit by tiny bit I began making changes, but I didn’t stop there. I also asked myself what I could see myself doing in my ideal life.

Once I adapted to Katie moving out, the answers shifted. I discovered that I needed the face-to-face interaction that a public job provides. Few things give me more joy than watching my coworkers smile when I sing out my greetings each morning. That said, I didn’t see myself remaining in the restaurant industry. I saw myself in a position that not only provided a stable schedule, but provided a larger income and insurance benefits as well.

I start that new job on Monday.

I will miss my old friends, so after that last day at my old job I took the evening to mourn.

Now it is time to move on. I will make more friends starting Monday.

Change can be scary, but change is also the way that we evolve. Like the butterfly, we have to dissolve ourselves in order to become something better. We have to pare down to the bones of who we are deep down and rebuild ourselves from scratch if we want to grow.

Have you ever decided to change your life, to evolve and explore something new? If so, what did you do? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Discovery And Change

It has been a long time since I’ve allowed myself to refresh my environment. As a habit, I’ve always discounted things like wall colors, furniture styles and other decorative touches. I was raised in a world where only the vain and shallow concerned themselves with such things.

I didn’t understand until recently how deeply that was embedded within my soul, but as I painted on Katie’s room the programming surfaced:

What a waste of money, my inner voice complained. And for what, so you can have a pretty little house and be a snob? Who do you think you are?

I couldn’t determine if the deep-seated emotions surrounding the thought of fixing up my home were based upon a poor self-image or some sort of reversed snobbery, but I could tell that they were very strong, strong enough that I took a break for several weeks in an attempt to sort them.

Where did these emotions come from? What makes them so powerful? And just how much have these emotions influenced me over the years? Would my life be better if I eliminated them?

I decided to find out. As I worked on that room, I allowed my mind to drift, to think and remember as I worked.

I wanted to associate the process of making my corner of the world beautiful with happiness, so I insisted upon tinkering upon it only when in a pleasant mood. I would turn on music that I loved to accompany the task and stop the moment that it felt like drudgery.

To my surprise, I then completed the room in short order.

Another angle, another day.

I have learned something about myself as I completed this project. I didn’t avoid painting and decorating to save money, but because I internalized the impression that it was a bad thing to want to improve your living area.

I am going to rid myself of that notion. In order to do that, I’ve set myself the intention of painting this entire house and organizing it until I consider it beautiful.

Have you ever began a project only to discover that you’ve internalized negative emotions or thoughts about the process? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Amazing Power of Tiny Changes

“If you want the things in your life to change, you’ve got to change the things in your life.”

Kevin Trudeau

The above quote resonated with me when I stumbled upon it several years ago. I’d always told myself that I’d make the big changes to my home and my life after I’d achieved financial freedom but after hearing those words I realized that there were some things that I could change while I waited.

So I did.

I’ve written on this website about some of the changes, about how I’d decided to experiment with the Diderot Effect, to see what it would accomplish. One of the things I allowed myself to do was to spend more money than old me would even consider to acquire the items that I really wanted instead of things that would just get me by.

I’d forgotten about that decision until recently. The changes I’d made were so subtle that they weren’t noticeable. Investing in a higher quality pen instead of using a cheap freebie, buying a large computer monitor when I found one on sale instead of making do with the small one I had, treating myself to a video game that I loved instead of doing without. Even the act of allowing myself to embrace the small television that my daughter had gifted me instead of insisting that I didn’t need it was an action inspired by that quote.

This was why, once the shock of achieving financial freedom wore off, I faced a quandary: what did I want to claim as my reward that I didn’t already have?

If you want the things in your life to change, you’ve got to change the things in your life. If you want a simpler, cleaner home, instead of telling yourself that you’ll do something with the next move or when you can afford the fancy storage system, start cleaning up your house now.

If you have a choice between buying an item now that’s cheap and saving up to buy the one that you really want, save up the money. The act of delaying the purchase not only makes the acquisition more delightful, you get what you want instead of just making do.

This is a big thing, much bigger than I’d realized. Just a series of tiny changes can completely change your life in time and you won’t even notice.

Since I made my initial decision to upgrade the things in my life so many little things have changed that I find it hard to recognize the person I was back when I started. I suspect the same will happen to you if you allow yourself to start making tiny changes as well.

As for the reward I’d promised myself, instead of focusing on acquiring things, I’ve decided to focus upon how I want the home to feel instead. I want a wave of tranquility flow over anyone who enters this home so I am in search of the right paint color and physical arrangement to make it happen.

Even this early in the process, I can already tell a difference.

I’ll share photos once this project looks a bit more finished but to my surprise, we don’t have near as much to do or acquire as I expected thanks to the tiny changes I’ve allowed myself over the years. Never did I dream that such small changes could make such a large difference.

Have you ever looked back on your life and realized that the tiniest changes made the biggest difference? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Mission Accomplished

When we walk away from something, we can gain the distance needed to see. When we walk away from something, we change our perspective in a way that reveals aspects that we’d previously been blinded to.

I’ve been aware of the theory for ages. I’ve rarely seen it work, however, so it’s just been a random bit of knowledge that I’d tucked away in a dark corner of my brain.

And this has been a stressful year. I reached the point where I had to step back, to walk away from almost everything just to maintain my sanity.

That decision allowed me to gain distance from a goal I’ve been tinkering on for close to 30 years…

…a goal that I’ve just discovered that I’ve accomplished.

I don’t know whether to shit or go blind. OMG…I did it. I really, truly did it.

I developed a self-sustaining, perpetually growing passive income. Not only have I managed to develop the Mother Lode of income sourcing, I’ve actually managed to accomplish something that I’d privately given up on.

I did it, folks. I’m free. I’m really, truly financially free.

We’ve shared this journey together for over a decade now. You have followed me through every single one of my zany adventures. You’ve stuck with me through the blood and the sweat and the tears and the countless mess ups I’ve made.

So I feel that I owe it to you to tell you that I finally made it.

I don’t have to worry about needing to acquire a public job during the Covid crisis. Given that 97% of Covid deaths here in Kentucky are people that are my age and older, I’ve been terrified at the thought that I may have to expose myself to that danger just to earn enough money to survive.

I’m free. OMG I’m free.

Do me a favor. Keep this to yourself. I’m telling you this out of obligation because you’ve been there with me for all of these years, but I don’t know if I’m ready for this to get out yet. I need to process this. I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life pursuing this dream, and to finally realize that I’ve accomplished it is a bit much for me to handle at the moment.

I need to think.

Do We Need to Establish Goals?

Around the turn of each year the conversation tends to revolve around the establishment of goals. “What is your New Year’s Resolution?” seems to be the title of scores of new articles that proliferate this time of year.

One major issue I have with this annual deluge is the fact that so very few posts ever discuss the why.

Why should we bother establishing goals? What is their purpose? What makes one goal better than another goal? Is it okay not to set any goals at all? Does it really matter in the end?

Perhaps this is in the forefront of my brain because I have yet to set any personal goals for myself this year. Try as I may none of the ideas I’ve came up with seem appropriate.

I mean, what’s the point in setting goals if we will be dead in just a few short years? What is the point in trying to accomplish anything aside from survival when we are just a miniscule fish in the giant pond of the world?

I’ve thought about that a lot lately. I am just an old woman who started blogging as a form of self-therapy; a woman who skyrocketed to success in the minimalist arena and whose star faded just as rapidly. I am no one in this grand scheme of things, and now that the only purpose I had for my life has been achieved (being the best mother I could be), I am beginning to wonder if I even have the right to search for another path.

The Connection Between Goals and Purpose

It seems to make logical sense to create goals that align with our purpose, so let’s backtrack and start from there. After all, if we create a goal that doesn’t align with our overall purpose, we may not be motivated to follow through or may even sabotage certain aspects of our life.

The Funk & Wagnall’s Desk Standard Dictionary (1939) defines purpose as “to have or place before oneself, as an aim or intent; determine, resolve, or intend; have a fixed design or determination.” (p. 632). In other words, our purpose is something so important to us that it guides our actions throughout life.

Is there anything so important to you that it has (consciously or unconsciously) guided you so far in your life’s journey?

After giving much thought to this, I believe my personal purpose in life is to leave the world a bit better place than it was before I entered it. I may not have had a choice to be born but if I can somehow improve things a tiny little bit, the struggles I have faced will be worth it.

With that in mind, it is safe to say that my purpose has not changed; I still have a desire to make this world a bit better place. Whatever goal I decide upon should reflect that.

Have you ever contemplated your purpose in life? Do you believe that it is important to have a purpose? Is there any point in establishing a purpose or even to set goals?

And is there anything in your life that you would pursue if money were not an object? If you had enough money in your possession to grant you the freedom to never work at a public job again, what would you do with your time?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


It is hypocritical to run a website about buying and living on less while begging your readers to buy your crap so I refuse to do it. That said, I live on the money I receive from book sales, so if you can find it in your heart to pitch in I would be immensely grateful.

I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

The Art of Embracing Change

It is so easy to become stuck in a rut, to do the same things you’ve always done each and every day. Those ruts can be simple ones like grabbing a cup of coffee as soon as you wake up each morning to how you spend your time.

While much has been written about how habits can make us more productive by eliminating decision fatigue, over the years I have discovered that there is a major downside to cultivating long-term habits. These habits cause you to not only resist change but to avoid exploring other options that may be available to you.

When I began this journey after my divorce, my lifestyle was fairly set. I believed that accumulating things was the key to success; that money and possessions were the only things that mattered. That lifestyle was exhausting to me. I worked multiple jobs just to pay the bills and spent any down time I possessed taking care of the stuff I’d acquired for my family.

I didn’t discover success until I changed things up a bit.

  • Instead of paying for cable, I cut the cord and encouraged the kids to watch movies we checked out from the library, purchased inexpensively, or located online.
  • Instead of using credit to buy the things we wanted I actively began to purge the things we owned that provided no benefit to us.
  • I started saving up for larger purchases or doing without instead of buying them on credit.
  • Instead of spending what little time I had free just goofing off, I began to use that time to read and learn.

And it paid off. Our expenses plummeted. It kick-started one of the major steps I used to attain my financial freedom.

But that would not have happened if I had not encouraged myself to explore and experiment with different ways of living my life. I was told that the only way I could become a stay-at-home single mother was to acquire a boyfriend, yet by opening my mind and embracing change, playing with it, I accomplished a dream that those around me believed to be impossible.

Since I left my last public job I’ve realized that I was stuck in another set of ruts. I would work and study. I would only read non-fiction, rarely allowing myself the treat that fiction would provide. I couldn’t even remember the last time I really allowed myself not to feel guilty when I sat down to watch a movie or read a novel.

Video games? Not a chance. Aside from the occasional game of Solitaire, I didn’t even bother.

If I wasn’t working or learning, I was wrong.

I am glad that I finally came to my senses and realized where my habits were leading me. I’ve deliberately began to mix things up now. Instead of a cup of coffee, I’ll drink a glass of water or orange juice in the mornings. Instead of selecting a non-fiction book, I’ll indulge in a novel.

I’m beginning to embrace the change again. It feels uncomfortable and liberating in an odd way but I’ve realized that I’d closed my mind to so many things that I need to mix it up to re-open myself again.

Katie’s Gift

Last year my daughter gifted me with a small television and a Roku device. I didn’t even know how to operate the remote on the silly thing, so I hooked it up to make my daughter believe I appreciated the gift and let it sit unused.

What do I need a stupid television for, I thought. I have a computer. I don’t watch videos, so I’ve no need to bother.

I brainstormed ways to eliminate the device for ages but I hesitated. My daughter gave me the thing for a reason; the least I could do is learn how to use it. Most importantly, I didn’t want to discard the gift for fear of hurting her feelings.

It finally dawned on me how close-minded I had become. I had created a lifestyle for myself that saw no need for a television, yet I understood that the devices could be useful. I reminded myself of how much joy I received during my childhood when I played arcade games and how the old black and white television in my room allowed me to learn about a world far different than the one that surrounded me. Television has changed so much since then…could it be that I was denying myself of something beneficial due to my shuttered mind?

I sat down one evening and forced myself to learn how to operate the thing.

And by doing that, by forcing myself to explore the potential, I opened my mind to a side of the device that I had not known existed.

A couple of button-presses on the remote and I could stream a variety of music from YouTube that I had somehow missed by using the computer. A few clicks and I could watch old shows from my childhood. I’ve yet to find a modern series on the device that interests me but I felt my creativity increasing. I started writing down ideas almost nightly.

When I didn’t feel motivated, I could press a button and pull up a video that would inspire me to jump up, hop on my computer, and write for hours. When I was done, one button would shut the whole thing down so I could go on with my life.

Curious, I decided to take it a bit farther as I began to wonder at the potential benefits of distraction. When a local store offered one of those gadgets that you connect to a television to play the old video games I enjoyed as a child, I allowed myself to indulge. If anything, it would give me an excuse to spend some time playing games with the kid that I could actually comprehend.

The kid now thinks I’ve been possessed by an alien. I’ll write or work on the house a bit, then sit down and play a round of Galaga. Once I’m done, I’ll hop on the computer completely refreshed and madly start typing.

My rut, my close-mindedness had caused me to dismiss the benefits of distraction. Instead of allowing myself to take a break and do something completely unrelated, I would try to power through. I would tell myself that I was being lazy whenever I wasn’t actually working on a project.

Yet it’s that very distraction, that process of allowing myself to cut loose without guilt that has enhanced my creativity.

When I woke up this morning, the only plan I had for the day was to power through my classwork. I worked on it for a while and realized I was getting nowhere. Normally I would have forced myself to keep banging my head against the wall of this latest lesson. This time I played a video game.

Just those few minutes allowed my head to clear enough that the problem was easier when I returned to it. And I would have never discovered that if I had not forced myself to change up my routine by experimenting with a device that I’d previously dismissed.

So look at your habits, folks. How do you spend your day?

If you spend all of your downtime watching movies, try something different. Read a book. Check out a new blog. Imagine a funny story in your head and write it down.

If you’ve not rearranged your home in years, change it up. Place your furniture in a different place. Take some items out and place them in the attic to see if you need them. Take some things out of your attic and use them for a change.

If you’re used to buying a certain item, switch to a different brand or try not using that item at all.

Is there a certain color you love but refuse to wear or decorate your home with? Why not allow yourself to embrace that color?

Why are you depriving yourself of your favorite color anyway? Are you afraid of what people will think?

Life is too short to be stuck in a rut by refusing to experiment. Open up and try something new!

The results may be surprising.

Update

It has been hectic these past few weeks but I wanted to give you an update on my progress.

I have finally reacquired my driver’s license and I may have a vehicle coming my way over the next few months, depending up how the negotiations work out.

I have reached the next phase of correcting my dental issues, so in the next few days I will begin the process of acquiring dentures.

I became a full-time employee at my public job. At that place, full-time is like the Gold Standard. I suspect that the pay will still be garbage, but that is okay. I am taking steps to correct that issue.

College is going well. It is a challenge to work and go to school but due to the fact that I’ve been actively simplifying my life things are becoming easier. I plan to have the broad sweeps complete by the end of the year so that I can spend what little time I have to spare writing a new book.

All of this is leading to the next step of my plan. I don’t know the exact steps I will take yet, but they will become apparent as I move forward. All I know is that I need my teeth and transportation sorted before I begin the next step.

I am exhausted. I have not been sleeping well as of late. Despite the fact that I am deliberately scheduling in ample time for sleep I find myself waking throughout the night. I suspect that my mind is active on my plans.

Over the next three days, I will be working ten-hour shifts. I will write the two papers that are due during my lunch breaks.

Some days I wonder just how in the world I am pulling this off.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I am still here, working in the background. I miss being able to talk to you.

Peace,

Annie

How to Jump Start Your Life

Do you want to change your life but have no idea where to start?

Look around. Think. Ask yourself this one question:

What is the one thing I can do that will provide the most benefit to my life right now?

Everyone has that one thing that they’ve been ignoring, that one thing that would provide massive change if they would just do it.

  • Clean the house.
  • Take a class.
  • Make a decision.
  • End a relationship.
  • Start a relationship.
  • Create a habit.
  • End a habit.

It can be anything. Only you know what that one thing will be. Since everyone is unique, most of us may not even understand if you attempted to explain it, but there is one thing in your life that, if you changed, would massively improve your life as a whole.

I asked myself this question. The answer was so breath-takingly simple I felt as if a huge burden had been lifted just by allowing myself to acknowledge the benefits I would receive by changing one simple habit.

Changing that one thing doesn’t seem like much, but once you become comfortable you can ask yourself that question again and again. Each time you will move closer to the person you want to be.

For today, find a quiet spot. Hide in the bathroom if you need to; you can always soak in the tub for a while to have an excuse to think alone.

And ask yourself the question.

PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING

One semester down; 19 to go.

We can do 19 semesters.

When I shared that fact with my daughter Katie (who is studying for her Bachelor’s in Health Science now), she announced that it sounded so much easier that way. She had been a bit depressed at the fact that she just committed four years of her life to not only working full-time, but studying full-time as well.

Unlike my Katie, I am only capable of going to college on a half-time course load. The thought of taking four years to acquire a two-year degree would be depressing but 19 semesters?

I can do 19 semesters.

To monitor my progress, I decided to take the suggestion of reader Belinda to heart. She used a five-year journal to keep track of her progress as she stopped smoking and sorted some health issues. I decided to follow her lead and use the multi-year journal format to keep track of both my long and short-term goals. With each passing year, I will be able to look back and see how far I’ve come.

It will help me gain perspective when I feel as if I’m not making any progress.

How do you maintain a positive perspective as you work towards your goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.

It is Better to be Toothless and Healthy than to Suffer for Vanity

If anyone ever tells you that working a public job, running an online business, attending college, and getting all of your teeth yanked simultaneously is a good idea, please tell them that they are being incredibly stupid.

I can now say that from experience. I just tried it and it wasn’t fun. I highly advise you to take at least a week off from everything should you decide to get all of your teeth pulled at once, unless you happen to enjoy masochism, that is.

That said, I sincerely hope that the misery is completely behind me. I just looked through the maudlin posts I’ve been publishing and ended up depressing myself.

To summarize what I was trying to explain in my previous posts, living an intentional life is determining what you really want, making sure that it’s something you want and not something that society says you should want, and then living your life accordingly as you give the middle finger to the mindless masses who happen to disagree.

On to the story…

As all of you know, I decided to fix my painful visage once and for all by having every single tooth in my head removed. I decided that my health was far more important than my appearance and made my decision accordingly.

Society would like us to believe that the people who choose to have their teeth removed are all illiterate hicks. We either didn’t take care of our teeth or we destroyed them by using drugs as we showed off the car collection we keep on concrete blocks in our front yards. As a result, those of us who decide that it is best for our health to remove our teeth are stigmatized by society.

Oddly enough, it seems to be the poorest of the poor who hold that belief most often. I’ve had several obviously middle and upper class customers who actually praised my decision to forego immediate dentures, citing the pain they suffered from their personal decision to select vanity over comfort, while my less fortunate customers now sneer at me in disdain or tease me about my condition.

As one so eloquently phrased it, “I’ve got more teeth than you now. Guess you shoulda brushed!”

One of my neighbors decided to come through my line during the height of my misery.

“What happened to your mouth?” she asked with a laugh. “You look funny!”

If I hadn’t felt so bad I would have reached across that counter and slapped her into next week. It was obvious that she was determined to make me feel even more miserable than I already did from the expression in her eyes. It was typical behavior for her but I wasn’t in the mood for her attitude.

“When it comes between choosing between my teeth and my life, I choose my life every time,” I sniffed, outraged that she would attempt to humiliate me in the middle of a rush. “I plan to get dentures once my mouth fully heals.”

“I wish more people were as smart as you,” Mr. Mild Mannered Gentleman chimed in from his place behind her in my line. “Most people would rather poison themselves with rotten teeth than have the courage to accept the inevitable.”

Once my neighbor left with a splutter my defender continued the conversation. “I wish I would have been brave enough to not go with immediate dentures,” he confessed quietly as I scanned his purchases. “Those things are absolutely horrible.” He gave me a glimpse of his beautifully fake smile as he walked away.

For the record, I brushed my teeth faithfully. I flossed and did the other little things I could to take care of them to the best of my ability. Based upon the decade’s worth of posts I’ve written for this blog, I also believe that it is safe to say that I am far from illiterate. While I will own the fact that I’m a hillbilly, I know for a fact that my vocabulary can run circles around the more pompous I’ve encountered1.

But let’s face it, folks. Shit happens. We make a false step and end up scarred for life. We get in an accident and we lose a limb. In my case, I didn’t discover the dangers of soft drinks until my teeth started shattering in my head. It wasn’t common knowledge back when I was a child.

If a limb is gangrened, do we hold on to it or do we get that sucker amputated, attach a prosthesis, and get on with our life? Having your teeth removed is no different in the grand scheme of things.

Society is wrong for stigmatizing people who have made the intelligent decision to choose their health over their smile. What does it matter if your teeth are real or fake, if you have a complete set or not, so long as you are healthy?

It doesn’t matter one bit.

To the person out there in the world who is suffering because you are terrified of what society will think of you if you have your teeth removed: Ignore those idiots. It’s none of their business anyway. If they don’t pay your bills they don’t count and if they don’t like how you look you tell them where to kiss.

If you aren’t comfortable enough to do that you tell them I said where they can kiss. While they’re at it, they might be well-advised to tuck that stuff back in.

Their ignorance is showing and it’s ugly.


  1. For those that are wondering: Yes, I talk rings around them for fun. I find pomposity annoying. 

How Do You Spend Your Time?

“To come but once into the World, and Trifle away our true Enjoyment of it, and of our selves in it, is lamentable indeed.”

William Penn (1706). Some Fruits of Solitude, in reflections and maxims relating to the conduct of human life.

These past few days I’ve had little to do but rest and think. It occurred to me that our lives have gotten so busy that we may not be doing enough thinking. It is only through self-reflection that we can learn and grow; barring that exercise, we run the risk of becoming stagnant.

While theories abound concerning the Afterlife, all that we know for certain is that we only have one life to live. That life, in the grand scheme of things, is woefully short. Therefore, it can only benefit us if we focus upon the things that truly matter. We don’t have enough time to do everything, so it only makes sense that we eliminate the distractions that would cause us to waste this irreplaceable resource.

Consider how you spend your day. How much of your time do you spend engaging in activities that don’t benefit you? Does your quality of life improve when you sit in front of a television, or does that time make you feel inferior because you don’t have the money to buy their suggestions or the skills to live the lives your heroes lead?

If so, then why torture yourself by watching it?

Does it make you feel good to visit Facebook and see the posts of others bragging about their latest meals, purchases, or experiences? Do you feel happy reading the political vitriol that is being shared by your friends?

Does it feel good to wander through a store searching for a particular item, or could a quick online purchase eliminate the need to spend your priceless time hunting for it in a store and then standing in line to purchase it?

The above is just an example of the questions you can ask yourself as you go through your day.

I have been asking myself these very same questions recently. I have discovered a lot about who I am through the asking.

My personal revelations about how I’ve been wasting the priceless resource of my time made me realize that I may not be alone in this situation. Society seems determined to keep our minds so distracted that we don’t stop to consider our actions. It has become verboten to take time away from our lives to contemplate. If we are doing nothing, we are wrong so we fill up every moment with tasks, entertainment, and social media instead.

It makes me wonder if there is a reason why we are discouraged from thinking anymore.

We expend an immense amount of thought about how we spend our money; since our time is irreplaceable, shouldn’t we treat it with even more respect? In the end, while we can always make more money, we are incapable of adding more time to our lifespan.

How do you spend the priceless resource of your time? Are there areas you would like to change? Please continue this conversation in the comments below.

References

Penn, W. (1706). Some Fruits of Solitude, in reflections and maxims relating to the conduct of human life. The seventh edition. T. Sowle: London.

Know Thyself

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.”

Laozi

When you start upon a journey, you must not only know where you are but where you want to go. Otherwise, you wont know which turns to make—or even realize if you have arrived at your destination.

Life is the same way, yet many of us tend to wander aimlessly through it. It is no wonder that we end up feeling lost and dissatisfied.

As you take time for yourself this weekend, contemplate your current situation.

  • Who are you?
  • Are you content with yourself?
  • Is there anything about your current life and circumstances that you would like to change?

Write down your answers in a journal or save them in the comments below.

What Would You Do Today if You Were Scheduled To Die Tomorrow?

“Life, we learn too late, is in the living, in the tissue of every day and hour.”

Carnegie, Dale. (1948). How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever said this: “I can’t wait to achieve….”

We all do this. We spend our present moments focused upon our future in one way or another. We can’t wait to grow up. We can’t wait for the weekend. We count the years until we can take a vacation or retire.

My parents died at 57 and 61, respectively. While I am not a statistician, this made me realize that my personal time on this planet is limited. I may not live long enough to achieve financial freedom again. I may not live until tomorrow even; I could be hit by a truck as I walk to work for all I know.

Many people realize that, like me, they may never achieve their goals. They decide to enjoy life as it comes since nothing is guaranteed aside from our now.

While I may not live to see tomorrow’s sunrise, I live in hope of experiencing many more. While I may not live to achieve financial freedom I choose to live my life as if I will by planning my life and finances accordingly.

Yet I’ve realized that over the past two years I’ve spent the majority of my time working towards that uncertain future. Instead of savoring the life I have today I have kept myself focused upon the steps I want to take to achieve my overall goals. Instead of today, I’ve consistently focused upon my tomorrow, be it my next day off, my next investment, or the next stage of college.

I’ve taken some time off to consider what I really want in my life, focusing on the areas that don’t require money. I asked myself: if I were scheduled to die tomorrow, how would I want to spend my today?

The answer was surprising in its simplicity. If I were to die tomorrow, I would want to spend my today resting, reading, and writing one last blog post to pass on anything I believed might help you as you continue your journey.

I wouldn’t stress over pinching pennies. I wouldn’t constantly search for my next investment. I wouldn’t send every last dime I’d managed to save to my brokerage account. While I wouldn’t spend myself broke, I would allow myself to buy some new music, download an ebook that caught my interest (as opposed to waiting for a physical copy to arrive after I died), then I would stretch out, take a long relaxing breath of thankfulness, and quietly savor my last day on earth as I listened to the new music playing in the background.

That is something I can do right here and now in my current life. All I have to do is shift my focus. I can achieve the life I desire to an immense degree without having to wait and hope for a future that I may not live to see.

This is why I started taking time off each week to relax. This is why I began to eliminate drama from my life.

And this is why I encourage you to do the same.

Goals are a wonderful thing. They keep us alive and moving forward but it’s neither healthy nor productive to sacrifice every moment of your now striving for a future you may not live to attain or complaining that it hasn’t arrived yet.

Today I want you to take a few moments to step back from your entire life. Ask yourself how you would want to spend today if you were scheduled to die tomorrow. Focus upon the things that don’t require money.

Would you want to spend your last day enjoying your family? If so, make arrangements to simplify your schedule so that you can start doing that now.

Would you prefer to spend your last day free of drama? Then begin cutting the major sources of drama from your life.

Would you like to be free of the endless chores that come with caring for a home? While you may not be able to eliminate them entirely, you can begin to pare down your possessions and streamline your routine to eliminate much of the overhead.

Would you like to take one final trip before you leave this life? Start making plans and saving up so that you can take that trip in the foreseeable future.

You can still work towards the future, but you don’t have to sacrifice the entirety of your now to achieve it. I have discovered that, by simply shifting your priorities a bit, that you can live the life you desire to a significant degree immediately.

Take a moment to comment upon how you would want to spend your last day of life below. Share the steps you intend to take now to make that happen. Then share this post with the one friend is sacrificing their now to worry about an uncertain future.

Thank you.

I plan to discuss the specific ways I’ve began to streamline my life in order to spend more time doing the things I enjoy without sacrificing my goals for the future. If there is a particular subject you would like for me to address, leave a comment below.

Beware the Company You Keep

Do not be misled. Bad company ruins character.
(1 Corinthians 15:33, The Bible: An American Translation, 1931).

If you are reading this blog, chances are that you have a goal you are working to achieve. If so, congratulations. It takes a special kind of determination to begin actively pursuing a goal.

Over time you may have noticed that your progress has slowed if not stopped completely. Or perhaps you want to start working on your goal but you have yet to begin.

If this is the case, you may be thinking that the problem is with you. You aren’t dedicated enough or you don’t have enough time. Perhaps you think that you were just born to be a failure.

Before you castigate yourself any further, take a look at the company you keep.

The people we surround ourselves with directly influence who we are and what we are becoming. In fact,

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Jim Rohn.

If your goal is to get in shape but your best friend is a couch potato, guess what is going to happen? Instead of hanging out at the gym doing squats, you’ll end up camping out on the couch with them watching workout videos.

If your goal is to conserve money and build wealth but your friends are perpetually broke spendthrifts, you’ll spend your time at the mall.

If you goal is to declutter your home but your best friend is a hoarder guess what? Your house will never become clean and tidy.

There is a reason for this. Your friends may like the life they lead. They may enjoy doing the things that you no longer want to do. If a clutterbug sees you cleaning your house, for instance, they may take it (consciously or unconsciously) as a judgement against their personal lifestyle choices. So deep down they aren’t going to want you to clean your home. They may not want you to improve your finances, get in shape, or go back to school. While they may encourage you to your face, deep down they want you to fail.

If you fail, they become justified because they never tried. If you fail, you will be just like them. If you fail, they will gain the opportunity to pretend to sympathize with you while they cheer inwardly.

They want you to fail because it will justify their personal failures. They will do whatever it takes to secretly derail your success.

If you have a person like that in your life, run. Unfriend them on Facebook. Block their phone number. Send their emails to the junk folder and avoid them at all costs. I don’t care if you’ve known them since preschool. It doesn’t matter if they promise to always “have your back.” Their secret goal is to keep you down at their level and they will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

I have had to do this two times in my life. Both were friends I’d had since childhood. Many years ago, the first friend decided to go ballistic after I began making some changes to my life. I dealt with their drama for ages as I tried to figure out why my writing business was spluttering.

Within months of eliminating that person from my life, I was earning enough from my writing to quit my day job. I hadn’t even realized that they were sabotaging things until years later but in hindsight the negative comments, the drama they invariably started whenever I began working on a new blog post or a book, and their insistence that I was “working too hard” formed into a barrier that was impossible to overcome until I cut them out of my life.

I recently noticed a similar pattern with another longstanding friendship. The more I worked towards my goals, the more concerned they became. “You need to stop working so hard!” They stated repeatedly. They seemed determined to keep me chatting for hours online to the point where I would have to ignore them when I was working. When I would ignore their texts, they would show up at my job since they were “in the area” around my quitting time. It would take 30 minutes to an hour to escape their litany of complaints.

I tolerated the situation. They were my friend, I reasoned.

But then I pounced upon the opportunity to go to college.

This person immediately began a series of rants concerning the subject. An unrelated rant left me with the distinct impression that they wanted me to cancel my plans to attend college since they weren’t willing or able to go as well.

I thought I was being paranoid but as the evidence continued to mount over the next few weeks I took a few days away from the friendship to clear my head.

The peace I felt was immense. I had not realized how much stress this person was adding to my life until it was gone. The difference was noticeable enough that others began to comment on my change in mood.

That helped me to realize just how unhealthy the friendship had become.

As I considered the person I want to become I realized that this was not a person I would choose to associate with in my future life. Even sadder, I realized that if I were to meet a complete stranger that was exactly like my friend tomorrow that I would want nothing to do with them or their chosen lifestyle.

I realized that the only thing we had in common any more was the time we had known each other.

It is a hard thing to lose a friend; harder still when you have to actively purge them from your life. Even so, as one must prune the diseased branches from a tree so it can flourish, we must prune away our toxic relationships if we want to grow.

Before you go to bed tonight, think about the company you keep. Do you see yourself wanting to associate with them once you reach your goals? Do they show any indications of trying to sabotage your progress through discouragement or distraction?

Do they live the life you want to live, or the life you’re leaving behind?

Do what you have to do.

Much thanks to John Grebe, author of Pray As You Can: Exploring The Diverse Nature of Christian Prayer. His donation of Bibles to my private collection helped immensely as I came to a decision in the situation described above. I received a copy of his book some time ago and I found his thoughts on prayer immensely refreshing.

REFERENCES

Maarten van Doorn. (2018). You Are The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Time With. Retrieved from https://medium.com/the-polymath-project/you-are-the-average-of-the-five-people-you-spend-the-most-time-with-a2ea32d08c72

The Magic of Dreaming

Beep! Beep! Beep!

The alarm clock blares, signaling another day of drudgery. You hit the snooze for as long as you dare, dreading the oncoming day until you finally jump up, catch a shower, and race to work.

You punch in at the time clock only to be greeted by your boss who has a litany of complaints and a hundred things they need you to accomplish ASAP, only to return home so brain dead that the only thing you want to do is scarf down the stale chips in your pantry and crash on the couch.

It never seems to end, does it?

Day by day, you barely have enough energy to survive, much less focus on escaping.

But you know what?

They may have enslaved your body but they can’t stop you from dreaming.

When you collapse into bed each night, imagine that you are laying down in the bed of your dreams. Use the good sheets if you have them and keep them scrupulously clean. Inhale the sweet scent of your pillow and relax because right now, at this moment, you are not a slave. You are free, and you are stretched out in your new life.

Imagine looking around at the tidy bedroom of the life you want. See yourself padding to the kitchen for a glass of milk or a midnight snack. Live your future life each night as you fall asleep.

Wake up a bit earlier each morning, turn on some classical music (classical makes one think of wealth), sit down, and think.

What can you do, right now, that will allow you to live your dream?

Write down the ideas that result from your brainstorming. In time, one of the ideas will click but for now just think.

Take a day off and just relax. Turn off the alarm clock. Cancel your appointments. Turn off the phone and ignore social media. Listen to the music that makes you feel wealthy and walk through your home. Pretend that you’ve made it; you’ve already achieved the life of your dreams.

Does your dream home contain empty take-out boxes scattered all over creation?

If not, then fix it.

Tidy the home of your future while you live in the home of your now.

Once you’re done with your quick clean-up, treat yourself to a long soak in the tub or an indulgent shower. Dress in your nicest comfy clothes and settle into your favorite spot.

For now, at this moment, you are wealthy. You’ve achieved your dream. You don’t have to go to the job. You’ve got food in your belly, clothes on your back, and your time is your own.

How will you spend it?

Perhaps wealthy you would like to research one of the ideas from your earlier brainstorming session? If so, then read a book or watch some videos on the subject. Whatever it is that you see wealthy you doing in a moment of peaceful down-time at home, do it the best that you can.

When you go to bed that night, know that you have lived the life of your dreams for a day. Savor the fact that, despite your current circumstances, they didn’t stop you from resting your body and opening your mind.

It sounds insane but it works. Taking the time to imagine the life you want to lead, to live in it now, where you currently are, will work wonders not only for your mood but for your future progress. It allows you to escape the ruts that you’ve fallen into, clear your head, and take those first tiny steps towards your dreams.

That was how I started down my path. At first, I took long soaks in the tub to hide from the misery of my life. Next, I started cleaning my home while my husband was away, pretending that I was free from my unhappy marriage and getting my life sorted.

In time I dreamed of a life where I could raise my kids without having to work in a public job. I started brainstorming ways to make it happen.

Since I loved to write and help people, I imagined a life where I could sit at home and raise my children in peace while I typed at my computer. I didn’t know how I would make that happen; I simply pretended that I was doing just that whenever I sat down to write a journal entry or whatnot.

Before I knew what hit me I had a successful website and a number of books published. Those books produced enough royalties for me to stop working entirely.

I started it all by dreaming.

I Have a Confession to Make

I had forgotten about those early days when all I could do was dream. I didn’t even realize until recently that those dreams were the first steps I took to create my reality. If not for dreaming about the life I wanted to lead, living it the best I was able in the moments I could, I would have never been inspired to start this website or write my first book.

Now that my kids are grown it is time for another dream. I’m living it now as I write this.

What do you dream?

There is no White Knight Coming to Rescue You

So life sucks. You’re perpetually broke and unattractive enough that all of the “good ones” pass you over for the younger, cuter models. Your only hope of having the good life is when the weight disappears, your flaws are magically fixed, your distant relative leaves you an inheritance, and a complete stranger begs you to accept a job offer that will put you on Easy Street.

Guess what?

It’s never gonna happen.

If you are sitting around waiting for your life to magically change, you are wrong.

There is no White Knight coming to rescue you. If that dude happened to exist, do you actually think that he’d target someone who is doing absolutely nothing to improve their life?

Or would he target someone who is busting their ass to make the changes?

Think about it: which one would you help, if you were in his shoes?

If you truly want to change your life for the better, cut the whining and get to work.

If you’re broke, stop spending so much money.

Chances are, whoever you are waiting on to die will cut you out of their will because they will sense what you’re doing. The rich person you’re trying to hook up with will realize that you’re only after their bank account and ghost you, or that winning lottery ticket will land in the hands of the person in line behind you.

Want to improve your health? Change your diet and exercise more! Doctors can only do so much; they’re more mechanics than anything. Your body has more power over healing itself than they do. Give it the love and attention it deserves, then the magic will happen as it heals itself. You can lose weight without taking the patent medicines being touted. It’s not even that difficult.

Cluttered house? Instead of hoping to score a larger home (which you will promptly fill with even more crap), clean and organize the one you have!

Trust me: helpful mice are not going to do it for you, even if one decided to be nice to some guy in the UK.

Look. I get it. It’s hard to find motivation when you’re living in a pigsty after the electric has been shut off. I know because I’ve been there. I am speaking from experience when I say that the only thing that is going to make you feel better is to get up and start making changes.

So step away from the computer. Take a shower, and do one tiny thing to fix your life.

When you’re done celebrating, pick another.

And another.

Each and every time, congratulate yourself for realizing that the White Knight isn’t coming to rescue you.

The White Knight is you.

The Art of Standing Firm

There comes a time in all of our lives when we have to stand firm in our decisions, when we have to straighten our shoulders and move forward despite opposition from others–and even ourselves.

These decisions can encompass anything. The details don’t matter; what matters is that you maintain your resolution.

The people around you may not understand what you are doing. They may attempt to tease or bully you into changing your mind.

Sometimes the enemy is yourself. You look at the process with dread or simply balk at the thought of focusing upon your goal. You can question the wisdom of your decision or even doubt your ability to follow through, delaying your start as you wait for the stars to align and the perfect moment to arrive.

We are all guilty of this.

I’ve done it personally more times than I can count.

While we cannot change our actions from the past, we can control our actions as we move forward. We can learn from those mistakes, grow stronger, and resolve not to make them again.

Like the oak tree, we too can stand firm. Each time we do, we grow stronger.

What is one decision in your life that you need to stand firm on? Please share your stories in the comments below.

You Can’t Change Your Past

Every so often I encounter someone who shares with me their belief that they cannot be successful.

“I’d love to [insert dream here] but I can’t. My parents were abusive/poor/absent so I’ve got too much of a disadvantage.”

If it’s not some variation of that excuse, they claim that they got married or had kids too soon. Sometimes they’ve even spent time in jail or in mental health/rehab centers.

Many times they tell me that they’re too old to even try.

But you know what?

You can’t change your past but you can refuse to let it limit your future.

I was raised by alcoholics.

I helped my father in his bootlegging crimes.

I turned to alcohol after my father died and didn’t sober up until I discovered I was pregnant.

I had to carry two young children on a three mile journey to the grocery store whenever we needed food because my husband refused to help.

I was committed by that same husband after I made an escape attempt. He told them (among other things) that I’d attempted to kill one of my kids. I was so depressed after that I tried to kill myself.

But you know what? That’s the past.

I can’t change it.

Instead, I placed it behind me the best that I could and moved forward.

I escaped my marriage.

I built my writing business.

I became a stay-at-home single mother in order to raise my youngest child.

I now work to help others learn how to help themselves as I focus on the next step of my journey towards self-improvement.

Excuses are Easy

It would have been easy to throw up my hands and say “I can’t.”

It would have been easy to give in, spread my legs, and find a “good man” to take care of me. Heaven knows that enough of them have knocked on my door and hit on me over the years to establish that.

I could have said that due to the way I was raised that I didn’t have a chance; that I wasn’t raised to amount to anything.

I could have said that I was too scarred from my marriage to even get a job. My husband had me certified insane, after all.

I could have even said that I had my kids too soon and so all of my opportunities had passed.

Hell, I could say that I’m too old to go back to school now. I’m almost 50 so what’s the point?

Fighting is Hard

Every time you make a step forward, you win.

Every time you say “yes, this happened, but so what?” you win.

Every time you ignore the haters you win as well.

And every single time you prove the world wrong you really win.

Is it easy?

Nope.

But winning is worth the effort.

What part of your past do you want to move beyond? Please share your stories in the comments below.