Thinking Out Loud 10/25/18

I know a few people who always seem to be angry about something, their conversations and/or their Facebook posts are an endless stream of rants about one thing or another, and some days I find myself wondering if there is anything in life they are happy about.

While I believe that it is important to take a stand for or against things you feel strongly about, it seems like some folks are just out there looking for yet another issue to take on. Being around them can be very draining, and I have learned to limit my exposure.

This reminds me of a girl I used to know who was always angry. She was angry at God, she was angry at life; she was angry at people she considered to be her enemies, and often angry with her family and friends. Deep down, she was probably more angry with herself than with anyone or anything else.

From her perspective, her often-expressed anger seemed like righteous indignation, but thinking back, it was more of an excuse to complain about everything because she felt so miserable. Very rarely did she follow up on her rants with positive actions to change things for the better. It was a lot of talk with very little walk.

Then one day she took stock of her life and realized that instead of making things better she had made them worse by adding her ever-present negativity to everything. She wasn’t part of the solution, she was part of the problem.

And just like that, she made up her mind to be happy. Happy isn’t about what you are experiencing, it’s the way you decide to approach things. It starts with your attitude. Is everything an obstacle, or is it an opportunity? Is everyone wrong but you, or is it possible that you might be looking at people through dirty glasses?

When this girl started to look for more reasons to feel positive in her own life she began to see more good things in the world around her because she had changed her focus. She began to look for the good in other people too, and she began to look for ways she could make things better.

The world is full of armchair critics, what we need is more encouragers. I gave up being the angry girl several years ago, and my life is so much better because of it. Most of the time I feel hopeful and at peace, and that’s an awesome place to be.

If you find yourself angry at everyone and everything, maybe it’s time to ask yourself what’s really going on inside your head and heart. Maybe it’s time to choose a new attitude.

– JTS –

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Thinking Out Loud 10/24/18

Today my favorite dog rescue, Mac’s Mission in Missouri, posted a series of before, during, and after photos of the grooming session a little female schnauzer received after being rescued from a deplorable situation with a thick coat of dirty and badly matted fur.

I can’t help but think how heavy it must’ve been and how hard for her to move around, how miserable she must’ve felt! And this occurred while living in the care of someone and producing unwanted litters of puppies that were also neglected.

I am trying hard not to pass judgment on the owner that relinquished these dogs, because I really don’t know her situation and I’m sure there are bigger issues involved.

But for the life of me what I don’t understand is how anyone who knew this person could look at her poor little dog and all the nearly-feral puppies and do nothing to help, no kind of assistance or intervention at all.

Recently Mac’s Mission shared another rescue story with us about a dog that was found laying in a ditch along side the road and people drove by for several days and tossed food to it, yet no one bothered to stop and find out why it was still there, if it was sick or injured.

Clearly something was wrong or it would have run off at some point. How did the people tossing food go home and live with their conscience, did they try to convince themselves they were alleviating it’s suffering?

What is wrong with people? Have we become so afraid of offending someone that we can’t find the courage to be a voice for those who have none? Have we become so hard-hearted that we can turn away from a suffering animal and do nothing? It makes me cry!

Thank God, in both of these cases, and in many others like it, once Rochelle at Mac’s Mission was alerted to the situation she initiated plans for rescue and care.

If you encounter a situation like this and don’t know what to do or how to help, PLEASE contact someone who does… don’t just turn away. The survival and well being of these animals depends on YOU!

And if you find yourself with a few of spare dollars now and then, please donate to Mac’s Mission (Mac the Pitbull on Facebook) or to your local rescue group. They do amazing work and they can’t do it without your support!

If you are an Amazon shopper like I am, you can also participate in the Amazon Smile program in which Amazon donates a portion of your purchase money to the charity of your choice. Mac’s Mission is on that list, along with many other good causes. It costs you nothing, and every little bit helps!

-JTS-

Thinking Out Loud 10/18/18

It’s rained here every day this week. Rain is always welcome in West Texas, some years we hardly get any at all. The damp, gray days don’t make me sad, but rather reflective. I tend to spend more time thinking about the person I want to be, and if the things I do are keeping me headed in that direction.

How do you feel when you are texting or having a conversation with someone and they start making snide remarks about someone else? Does it make you uncomfortable, or do you find yourself laughing in agreement and maybe joining in? It sometimes seems so easy to fall into that trap, even if your heart is telling you that it’s not a nice thing to do.

I wonder why we tend to be so critical of others, even people we care about. Does it make me feel better about myself if I point out other people’s weaknesses or imperfections? Maybe mine aren’t quite so bad then, or at least I am in good company.

Or maybe I just like the sense of camaraderie with the person I’m talking to, and talking about other people makes for easy and often humorous conversation.

But every time I say something unkind about someone else I feel a twinge of sadness and disappointment in myself. The little voice inside me asks why I had to say that, it wasn’t necessary.

I remember a quote I once read that said great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, and small minds talk about people. Small-minded is not the kind of person I want to be.

If I want to be thought of and remembered as a kind and compassionate person, I need to take more care of my thoughts and what comes out of my mouth. I need to become less critical. It really isn’t that hard to think of something nice to say, there is no excuse ever to be unkind!

-JTS-

Thinking Out Loud 10/14/18

Our sunny warm day here in West Texas has dropped from 75 degrees to 45 tonite, and the chilly wind reminds us that autumn will soon be drawing to a close.

I love Fall, but the thought of cold gray days to come makes me sad. I know my Midwest family and Northeast friends laugh when I call 40’s cold, we are admittedly spoiled here and more acclimated to heat. We typically get very few snow days, and it usually thaws within a day or so.

I don’t miss the sub-zero cold of my growing up years in South Dakota, and I certainly don’t miss driving on ice covered roads! I do have to admit that I miss the magic of that first big snowfall, and Christmas will never feel like Christmas to me when our landscape is brown and dry and we are outside in sweaters or lightweight jackets. I miss seeing my breath frosty in the air, and hearing the snow crunch underfoot.

Winter, and the approaching holiday season, is not my favorite time of the year for a lot of reasons, some of them personal, memories I’d rather not remember, and family too spread out to gather.

My father passed at the end of December, and my mother passed early in January… funerals on bitter cold days in Dakota, more sad memories. I usually manage to shake off the winter blues about mid-January.

This year I plan to do better, to keep my mind active and stay busy, and to do fun things for family and friends. In other words, to spend less time thinking about myself and more time thinking about others. An attitude adjustment might just be the best Christmas present I could give myself! 🙂

– JTS-

Thinking Out Loud 10/11/18

My daughter’s name is Inshallah. It is an Arabic expression which means “if God so wills”, and is commonly included in Arabic conversation to express the speaker’s wish for a given future event to occur.

I first encountered the word Inshallah in the writings of Kahlil Gibran. It affirms my belief that all things happen according to the will of God. I often include it in my thoughts and prayers, especially when I am hoping for or requesting something. I think it is a mindset we all could benefit from, a reminder that we are not in this alone.

Peaceful mind… peaceful heart… peaceful life, Inshallah.

-JTS-

Thinking Out Loud 10/10/18

I was thinking today about priorities, and how some folks seem to have theirs a little mixed up. I’m sure that could also have been said about me at various times in my life. As you move through life your responsibilities and your priorities change.

When I was young, my priorities were taking care of my kids, maintaining my marriage, and working to keep the bills paid. That last one probably came first more often than not, because it had to. Working wasn’t an option, at least for me. I was raised with a strong work ethic and you kept a job and took care of your financial responsibilities no matter what.

Unfortunately a steady income wasn’t always a priority with my exes, neither was our marriage, sadly. One spouse actually told me on more than one occasion that I was the number three priority in his life, right behind marijuana and making music with the band. Naive as I was, I thought I’d move up in rank with time. In thirteen years I never did.

One thing I’ve learned about successful marriages is that no matter how different you might be from each other, you’ve got to be on the same page when it comes to your priorities and goals in life.

Now that I am retired and my kids are grown and on their own, my priorities are focused on faith, spending time with Papa Bear, taking care of the furkids and house, bettering myself, and reaching out to friends and family with a little encouragement when I can. Note that nowhere in that list do you see fame, fortune, power, image, partying, or acquiring lots of stuff. Those things have little value to me.

I also have little time for people who are loud, self-absorbed, contentious, close-minded, prejudiced, entitled, or morally bankrupt. I prefer to surround my myself with kind, positive people who are trying to be the best they can be and don’t hesitate to reach out to help others. The company you keep matters.

I think it’s important to re-evaluate our priorities now and then, taking an honest look at where, what, and with whom we are spending our time and energy. It is never to late in life to choose a new direction, to become more true to yourself. With each year I am becoming more me, and it feels good!

-JTS-

Thinking Out Loud 10/09/18

Letting go, mentally and emotionally, of things we can’t control has to be one of the most difficult lessons life presents. Letting go means acknowledging that you don’t have control over what is happening, and its super-uncomfortable to feel out of control. This is especially true for people who have been in situations where someone bad held control over their life at some point. That kind of control is scary and dangerous, sometimes even deadly.

But there is another kind of letting go that doesn’t put us at risk for harm, instead it brings us peace. I am talking about “Let Go – Let God”, acknowledging the situations in which we are truly powerless and trusting that God is in control and will work things out in whatever way is ultimately best.

There are some situations in life that we do have control over, and in those cases we need to make good choices, take action, and take responsibility for what happens.

There are other situations that we may not have full control over but we have the ability to affect the outcome by our words or actions, or the choices we make. In those situations we need to do the best we can with what we know to make the right choice and do the right thing.

But we will encounter many situations in life that involve us or people we care about, where there is nothing we can do to affect the outcome. Those are the hardest times, the times that cause us the most stress and worry, the situations that tear at our hearts and keep us awake at night.

What we do when we encounter those kinds of situations makes all the difference. All the worrying will quickly wear us down, but it won’t change anything or make it better. If we dwell on it for long our minds tend to jump to worst case scenarios, and it is easy to let fear overtake us.

I have been in that place of fear and the accompanying hopelessness more times in life than I can count. I have lived my life with a sense of doom, always wondering what would go wrong next, and not realizing that in doing so I was drawing even more negative energy into my life.

I have learned that, for me, the way to reduce the level of fear and anxiety in my life is two fold. The first step is to live life one day at a time, staying focused in the present and dealing with the issues of the day.

I believe that we are given enough strength and courage to get us through the next 24 hours, and then the next 24 after that. Don’t use up your energy and fearful thinking about what the future might hold. More often than not the things we fear most never happen.

The second step sounds simple, but it can be the hardest if you are a control freak like me. Let go, let God!  Relinquish your desperate desire and attempts to control things that are beyond your control, and place your faith in God to take care of those situations in His own way and His own time.

When I finally learned to say “I can’t resolve this God, but I know you love me and I trust you to take care of it,” I found the secret to peace of mind. Lay it down, let it go, let God show you what He can do. I promise you’ll sleep better at night.

-JTS-