Categories
Happiness Personal Simplicity

How to Know That You Are Loved

I stayed up until sometime after 1am to watch the water. Even with the crest prediction being lowered, I wanted to be cautious. I gave my auntie one last call to let her know that we were okay and headed to bed.

BoomBoomBoomBoomBOOM!

My whole house shook from the banging. I rolled off the bed, landed on the dog, and knocked off my lamp as I staggered to the door.

GET IN THE TRUCK!” Katie’s uncle roared when I finally managed to open it.

“Wha?”

“Damn crazy fool, your house is gonna flood! It’s getting up to 26 feet, now get in the damned truck! Where’s my niece?”

He had apparently stressed his entire shift over the earlier crest predictions and raced to our house the moment his shift was over. It took thirty minutes and a phone call to the police to reassure him that the river was cresting and that we were going to be okay.

It was a hairy thirty minutes. For a time there we thought he was going to forcefully carry us out of the house!

It’s nice to be so loved.

I’ve had friends, neighbors, and relatives calling and visiting since this hit the news. I’ve received messages from near and far. The outpouring of concern and support even in the midst of this pandemic has been amazing.

I find it beautiful, and I am immensely grateful.

Today I am sharing a photograph that was taken as I stood at my front gate this morning. It looks scary but we are one of the lucky ones. Just up the street, cars are partially under water, streets are closed, and houses are surrounded.

So life is good in my tiny Kentucky town. It may still be a bit crazy, but life is still good.

I’m still a bit tired after staying up late, getting awakened, then climbing back out of bed again early this morning to monitor the water, so today will be a day of rest.

Even more importantly, today is a day of gratitude.

No matter how bad things get, there is always something to be thankful for. Those are the blessings that give us the hope that will carry us through.

What are you grateful for today? Please share your stories in the comments below. We will all be thankful together.

Categories
self-improvement Success

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

Categories
Life

The Changing Circle of Friendship

I unfollowed a few old friends last night on Facebook. I had known some of these people since I first moved to this area. I had laughed at their jokes, sat on their porches for chats…some of these people had been regular visitors to my home for years.

But something has changed inside of me these past few months. I found myself taking different routes as I ran my errands to avoid their houses.

I found myself deliberately cutting conversations short.

Then I found myself growing frustrated over their social media posts.

They talk about the same things all the time, I sighed to myself.

While I didn’t unfriend them entirely, I did stop their posts from appearing in my feed. I no longer cared about their most recent breakups or the battles they were waging with their neighbors across the street.

I was tired of watching them brag about their latest purchases one week, only to complain that their electric was shut off the next.

I was frustrated at their constant discussions of poverty. I’m poor too but instead of complaining, I hit the books even harder.

Facebook dinged at me as I finished my task. I glanced at the name and then closed out the page.

I wondered at that as I settled down to read. Was I becoming cold? Was I so driven to succeed that I was deliberately distancing myself from others?

The accusation had been leveled at me recently. I had forgotten how to have ‘fun,’ one friend complained.

I ended up spending a restless night as the puzzle turned in my brain. What was causing this change in behavior?

I’d noticed that I was becoming lonely. I’d noticed that I was sharing less of myself to others around me.

I’d even noticed a growing frustration as I found less and less to talk about with my friends. I found myself actively working to keep them talking to me so that I could avoid facing the fact that I no longer had anything to contribute.

The wee hours of the morning caused me to turn the question on its head:

Was there anyone in my life now that I associate with more?

To my surprise, the answer was yes.

I discuss the stock market and business issues with my neighbor, who happens to be a manager at the store next to mine.

I commiserate over the frustration of trying to juggle work and self-improvement with a friend who is attending college. Like me, she finds herself fighting for the right to improve her life with friends who want her to hang out with them instead.

I find myself cherishing the nights when I get to work with a friend who became a CNA, got a better paying job, and dropped down to working only one night a week at the store.

She plans to aim for a nursing degree now.

I realized that I have more in common with the kid who recently graduated BASIC after joining the Army Reserves, and I look forward to seeing one friend stop in the store after work. She managed to escape her job in fast food to become a preschool instructor.

I’ve even noticed the revival of a friendship that started back in the fourth grade. We chat more now than we have in years.

I recalled reading once that we are a reflection of the five people we spend the most time with. I didn’t think much about it at the time I first encountered the theory; I’d been a frustrated single mother just trying to make ends meet back then so I’d dismissed the notion as nonsense.

Over a decade later I’ve finally realized that there is truth in those words.

As You Change, So Do Your Friends

It is completely normal to change over time, especially if we embark upon a plan of self-improvement. We instinctively gravitate towards others who, just like us, want to change their lives.

This epiphany helped me to realize that I’m not becoming snobbish or jaded.

I’m not spending too much time focusing on my work.

I’m just changing, and with that change I now have less in common with the people from my past.

It is a sign that I am making progress.


Have you noticed your friends changing over time? How does that make you feel? Please share your stories in the comments below.

 

 

 

Categories
Education

The College Path

Last year a friend of mine decided to attend college. He wants to increase his education so that he can get a better paying job. I’ve encouraged him in this endeavor by assisting him with technical difficulties when his computer messed up and by acting as a sounding board when he doubts his ability to continue.

He stopped in at my job the other day filled with news about his latest semester. I listened, happily enraptured at the sheer excitement he displayed. His eyes sparkled, his voice resonated; his whole being reflected a new power and confidence as he shared his journey with me that day.

“You should go to college too,” he finally admonished me. “You’re not dumb yet you’re wasting your life for minimum wage. You can do so much better than that. Just think of the job you could get with a degree!”

I gave him a secret smile. “I might not be in college but I am increasing my education,” I shared. “However, my goal doesn’t require a degree at the moment. If that ever changes, I’ll definitely give it some serious consideration.”

What my friend doesn’t realize is that my goal is a bit different than his. While he wants a better paying job, I simply want financial freedom. I’ve worked out a way to achieve that and started taking definitive steps in that direction. He’d probably be surprised if he discovered that my personal course of study includes college textbooks such as these:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have no issues against going to college; I feel that it is a very laudable goal to have. I’ve even written here that I’d like to graduate college at some point in my lifetime but the fact is that I prefer to achieve my freedom more.

I can do that without an official college education.

I am very thankful of the fact that my friend thinks enough of me to actively encourage me to better myself. While I wish that he understood that I’m already in the process of doing just that (by taking a different path), his concern warmed my heart as I finished my shift that night.

Do you have any friends who care for you enough to encourage you to better yourself? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Life

Laundry Day

Laundry day is always an adventure in this house. Once we decide that it is time to visit the laundromat we wander through the house to locate any stray items that have managed to avoid being placed in our laundry bin. We bag everything up and stick the whole load into our shopping cart along with our washing supplies.

After gathering everything together for a recent trip I looked down to discover that I was wearing one of my favorite shirts. I needed to wash it as well so that I would be able to wear it before my next laundry day. I tugged it off and tossed it into the bag as well.

“Hmm. I should probably wash my bra too,” I told myself. Off came the bra. Since I was already topless I decided that I might as well change my panties and jeans while I was at it. That way all of my dirty laundry would be taken care of.

Standing buck naked in my kitchen I realized that I needed to wear something. I couldn’t go to the laundromat naked! I padded over to my makeshift closet and dug through the remaining items in search of an outfit that I wouldn’t miss wearing until I did laundry again.

Being a minimalist I didn’t have a lot to choose from. I finally selected an outfit, added some panties to the pile, and decided to go braless for the trip. I was just going up the street; if anyone had a problem with my saggy boobs they could kiss my butt–I wanted all of my bras to be clean!

So there I sat at the laundromat wearing a ragged set of sweats, complete with saggy braless boobs just minding my own business when an absolutely gorgeous guy comes in to dry his laundry. He checked me out and to my surprise started flirting with me.

A friend who decided to meet me at the laundromat leaned close. “This’ll teach you not to dress your best,” she teased in a whisper.

I laughed. “That guy would have kittens if he realized that I wandered around buck naked for ten minutes just to choose this outfit!” I retorted out loud. I wanted to see his reaction to that little comment.

Sure enough, his head whipped around. “What?” he chimed in, eyes wide.

“I wandered around my house naked for ten minutes trying to figure out what I could live without until the next laundry day,” I replied. “Don’t tell me you’ve never done it.”

“Your boyfriend must have enjoyed that,” he grinned.

“Don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Oh.” I could see his eyes sparkle with possibilities.

Of course, my friend decided that this was the perfect time to add her own brand of humor to the encounter.

“She always waits till I’m not home to walk around naked!” she huffed with feigned upset.

I watched Mr. Cutie promptly toss me into a box named ‘lesbian’ and dismiss me from his mind.

“Gee, thanks!” I snarked at my friend after he left.

“You’re welcome,” she replied smugly. “The moment he opened his mouth I knew he wasn’t your type anyway.”

I shook my head. Leave it to your friends to tell it like it is.

Still, he was kinda cute.

Do you have a funny story to tell? Please share it in the comments below.

Categories
Housing Simplicity

Crowded House

The other day my friend from Michigan moved her family to this area. Until they get situated with employment and housing they are all staying here.

I must confess that I was concerned about this. Five adults (since Katie is almost 18), two dogs, and two cats living in a 500 square foot one-bedroom house means that we are stacked up like cordwood.

I have learned that it isn’t near as bad as I expected it to be.

For one, we all work together in a spirit of cooperation. While two of the adults have yet to secure employment (one is physically incapable of working), the rest of us are now employed. When schedules match up, my friend insists on driving me to work and picking me up to make my life a bit easier. We come home from work in the evenings to find that the others have prepared meals for the family and tidied up the house.

At night, since I have to keep a somewhat regular sleeping schedule due to my personal health issues (my brain glitches when my sleep schedule is disrupted) I am usually one of the first to go to bed. They move around stealthily that I don’t get disturbed. If one takes a nap in the evenings or is still asleep when I wake up, I give them the same consideration.

We even coordinate bathing schedules so that no one is caught unawares and has to go to the restroom while someone is taking a bath.

This experience has shown me that it truly is possible for a larger number of people to live in harmony in a small home provided you work together. While society tends to frown on such things, living in a small home can not only help families get on their feet after homelessness, it can help them live on less money when needed or desired. Let’s face it: it costs a lot less to live in a small place than it does to live in a big one.

I wanted to share this story because in my books I mentioned that I had reservations about a larger number of people living in really small homes. While I did point out that it has been done in the past, the thought made me nervous. Since then I have learned that it is definitely possible provided that mutual respect and cooperation abound with the family members.

I personally am grateful for the experience.

Have any of you lived in really tight conditions with other people? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Housing

Sardines

A friend of mine and her family is down from Michigan.  They want to move to this area to help me out while I get situated.

They arrived late this evening, so we removed the mattress from the sofa sleeper to make them a bed with. My couch will be a spongy sleep but it works.

When daylight comes I’ll see if I can snap a picture for you. It is wall to wall sleeping in the living room tonight. We are crammed in like sardines! Right now there are five adults  (counting my Katie since she’s almost 18), two dogs, and two cats in this tiny one-bedroom house, and we are doing just fine.

This just goes to show that you don’t need a huge house just in case you have company. If they love you, any space will do.

How did you arrange things for your last overnight visitors? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Personal Writing

An Early Birthday Gift

Kes, who happens to be one of my oldest friends (I’ve known her since the 8th grade), listened to me vent my frustrations about writing with my current limitations. After learning about the workaround I discussed in the previous post, she decided to surprise me with an early birthday present:

A copy of Office 2007.

She found it on eBay for around $20 and is having it shipped to the house. I’m so excited! I was wondering how I would work things out once the free trial ended on my dinosaur.

Once I got the news, I started thinking. My ancient Toshiba runs Windows XP. I bought it in 2006; the very last computer that still had XP that the store stocked. I dual boot it with Ubuntu 16.04 but I kept the XP installation alive to play some old software that no longer works. The XP partition has never been online since it was last wiped. I use SneakerNet (a.k.a. a USB thumb drive) or simple transfers through my Linux install if I need any files from the Internet. This allows me to safely use the older operating system.

Since I don’t really need to go online when I’m writing (the joys of the Internet are rather distracting), I decided to essentially dedicate the XP partition to writing. I plan to install the new copy of Office on it and work to my heart’s content.

In time when my finances straighten up or I manage to repair Katie’s old laptop (it died back when I was completely nonfunctional), I will use it with Linux to go online when I need to but keep this old system as a dedicated writing machine.

So, in short, the Universe worked things out. I have been debating for years about having a computer dedicated to my writing so now I’ve got it. Hopefully it will last for many more years.

Thank you for the gift, Kes!

Categories
Happiness

Friendship

One of the best and simplest things we can cultivate is friendship. I’m not talking about the user and losers who use you and lose you – I’m talking about the ones who celebrate with you and pick you up when you fall down.

These blogs, like a lot of things online are about friendship. We enter into each other’s lives in a way heretofore unknown in our world and have a choice as to whether or not we can benefit from each other.

One way to help each other is called quid pro quo. By viewing each other’s blogs and sharing them with others we not only distribute the wealth and knowledge around, but we help the blogger by helping them maybe earn a penny or two for the time they invest in this online medium.

Another way is to reward the blogger with a simple comment letting them you that you’ve been there and either agreed or disagreed with their statements. A simple smiley can go a long way for a discouraged blogger!

It has taken me a while to realize this simple truth. I would read blog upon blog without a thought of the love being poured into them and quickly move on to the next one.

As I also write for Associated Content, and soon for Demand Studios, it dawned on my how much it meant to me personally when someone made a simple comment on one of my pieces, or on this blog. I have started making a point of promoting the work of other online writers as a “thank you” for generously reading my stuff, and intend to continue that here.

Please, if you read some one’s blog you like, if you read an article or a poem – good or bad – please consider leaving a small mark so that the author knows that you have been there. If you really like it, share it with some of your friends and ask them to comment if it pleases.

We may all be online – we may never meet each other – but that doesn’t mean that we have to pretend that the other does not exist while visiting places online. Can we share the simple wealth of friendship by leaving an occasional comment?

Here in the future I want to promote that friendship by highlighting blogs and pages that you may be interested in. I hope that you will do the same by sharing things you enjoy with those around you as well.