Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: happiness

Assuming Positive Intent is the Start to More Compassion

Having Compassion quote on a desert background.

“Rather, genuine compassion is based on the rationale that all human beings have an innate desire to be happy and overcome suffering, just like myself.”

The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

Assuming that others have positive (to them) intent, in the same way you do, is the first step to developing compassion.

All human beings? Even people that don’t vote like me or have a different religion? Even people that I think are racist?

Yes, they do. And accepting this and allowing others their space, without infringing on your own, is the way to feel genuine compassion for others. It also leads to happiness, for you and for those around you.

I’m am the worst when it comes to practicing this concept. I know it logically. I’ve written about it. I’ve read about it. I’ve meditated on it. And yet still, I come unglued when I’m faced with the fact that everyone does not think the way I do.

“If you’d only listen to me!” I scream in my head…mostly. “What you are doing does not lead you where you want to go, dumbass!” Dumbass is one of my favorites. I grew up hearing my Grandpa call people a dumbass and loved it. As a kid, it conjured up all kinds of hilarious images. As an adult, it’s even better. Not only is the person stubborn like an ass, but they’re dumb too. Blind, deaf, and mute to the actual world around them, digging all four hooves into the dirt and leaning back with all their weight against getting anything productive done. It’s such an apt name to call people.

I’m guilty of being the biggest dumbass just about every day. Why? Because I honestly believe I know what’s best for everyone around me. It’s obvious that I know more than you do. It’s clear that I’m smarter and more emotionally intelligent. If you’d only listen to me and do what I say, life would be so much easier for us all.

It’s sad that life doesn’t work that way. There are days when I want to scream and lock myself away in a remote cabin, far from the entire world. Just me, my books, my coffee…

Oh, who am I kidding? What’s the fun of living if I don’t get to attempt to control the behavior of others?!

We all do this to some degree. We all think we have the right answers for everyone, or at least we’re headed in the right direction. In all honesty, I wish we could at least know the right answers for our own lives, but that rarely happens too.

If only we could live like the Borg, mentally connected to each other so we could all know how everyone else felt, what everyone else was thinking, without the communication gaps. You know what I think we’d find if we could mind meld with everyone else? We’re all doing the best we can with what we have. We all have our own individual goals, emotional needs, etc. We’re all trying. We all want to be loved unconditionally by someone. We all want tacos for dinner. Once we realize that, nothing else really matters.

I wonder why it’s so hard for us to believe that. Can you imagine a world where everyone around you assumed you had positive intent? What if everyone you met believed that you were making the best choices to meet your own individual needs? And that if for some reason you overstepped another human’s boundaries, they would inform you gently and you’d respond in kind so that you were both comfortable?

Sounds peaceful, doesn’t it? We can start with our own lives with this one thought. Everyone around us, no matter what they are saying or doing, wants to be happy and is trying to relieve their own suffering. Get out of their way.


You can find The Art of Happiness at Thriftbooks. If you read it, let me know what you think!

I posted about this book when I started reading it back in December, New Read: The Art of Happiness

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Why I Get Up in the Morning: Another Gratefulness Post

Why Do I Get Up in the Morning on a snowy background.
That’s mostly melted snow on my windshield but you get the idea!

I haven’t done a gratefulness post in several weeks. It’s not that I haven’t been able to think of any good reason to get up in the morning, though. The last few weeks have been awash with reasons to be happy and joyful. I could just say I’ve been busy, but that’s just an excuse. Maybe I’ve gotten out of the habit? Maybe I just haven’t had a good picture to share? Or maybe I just haven’t had anything exciting enough to share?

I have been busy though and I have gotten out of the habit of writing on certain days. The holiday’s have thrown me off my stride, but I’m slowly getting back on track. I seriously can’t believe that we’re already twenty days into January. My youngest son just reminded me that he’ll be nineteen in less than two months. That can’t be possible. We were just celebrating his 18th a few weeks ago.

I know. It’s cliché to talk about time moving so quickly, but jeepers, people! Stop the planet!

I should probably get to the answer to the question. Why DO I get up in the morning?

I’m grateful to be able to drive up to a mountaintop and watch the storm come in!

The news told me all week that a big storm was coming. We’d get rain, they said, lots of it. And probably snow too! They lied or they were wrong, which leads me to a whole other line of thought. But no matter, I still got to drive up and see the clouds come in.

I got up early, packed some stuff, and headed up the mountain Southwest of us to see if I could get a hike in before it really started to come down. It was beautiful. Standing there on the hillside, the cold air making my nose run. I should have brought my cool Russian hat my son got me last year!

Picture of a dead pinion pine.
Alien Antlers

It was bright and sunny when we started but the clouds started to pour over the hills and into our little canyon as we walked, taking funny pictures and sharing stories about how the plants got there and why this dead tree was laying there…ok, those were my stories, but they were funny and that could have been a giant prehistoric or alien elk antler, you never know.

A few flakes of snow started to blow across the canyon, and I started to get excited. Then it got colder! And by the time we got back to the truck, it was coming down nicely. I mean, those of you that live in places where it really snows all winter probably wouldn’t call this snowfall, but to desert dwellers, any storm is an event. The possibility of rain is nice and when there’s snow in the forecast we get pretty wound up.

Picture of me in the snow.
These are January snowflakes
so I can eat them.

We sat in the truck watching the flakes fall and the wind blow them around in the bed a while. They floated down and melted on my windshield and hood. It was pretty. When they started to pile up on the edges of the windows, I made my exit!

Gratefulness Abounds

We added another thing to be grateful for when we headed down the mountain again into the lower desert for some hot soup to warm our fingers! Mmm…Panera…

If you’re curious where we were, it’s called the Cahuilla Tewanet Scenic Overlook. There are lots of signs to read and the short trail is beautifully maintained. No bathrooms or picnic area, but it’s a nice place to stop for a few minutes.


Oh wow! My last gratefulness post was over a month ago! And it was about being outside too.
Why Do I Get Up in the Morning? Hiking in the Desert

New Read: The Art of Happiness

The Art of Happiness book cover on a desert background.

If there’s a “Art of Happiness,”
I want to practice it!

While culling through the pile of books a friend’s sudden move out of the state left me with, “The Art of Happiness” was one of the first books I picked up. Buddhism has come up in my studies this year quite often, so I’m leaning more into it. This book is not about Buddhism exactly, more about what a trained psychologist got out of meeting and talking with the Dalai Lama, but it should be interesting.

Personally, I’m less interested in the spiritual aspects of Buddhism than the cultural and personal peace aspects, but can you separate them? Christians say you can’t live a life of Christian peace without fully understanding and accepting Jesus as your personal savior, but I’ve found that you can learn a lot about human nature and how to live a good life by deep reading and study of the Bible. I’m sure one could say the same about any religion.

I’m curious to know more about the teachings of Buddhism. The blurb on the back of the book is right, they look so peaceful and happy. I want to know how they got there.


You can find The Art of Happiness at Thriftbooks. If you read it, let me know what you think!

You’ll find posts about my thoughts that were spurred by the reading of this book on the following pages.
Finding Balance in the Study of Eastern and Western Philosophy
Is the Purpose of Life the Pursuit of Happiness?
Assuming Positive Intent is the Start to More Compassion
Healthy Habits Create Strong Roots that Lead to Happiness

“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

Be Your Own Source of Happiness

“Then if happiness can only come from inside you and is the result of your love, you are responsible for your own happiness.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz

We cannot expect others to be the source of our happiness. We should be connecting with others to share the happiness each of us brings with us to the table, like big love potluck!

What if, now…stick with me here…, what if we all developed as whole individuals living together instead of incompletes looking for their missing pieces? What if we believed that everything we needed to survive was born right there inside us and what we were looking for all our lives was people to share it with?

Think of life as a potluck. Sure, I could make and eat my lasagna all by myself. I’d survive. But…what if I brought my lasagna to the party and shared it? And others did the same? Suddenly, I have more than I made myself. Now, I have a salad, some garlic bread, and nice glass of wine as well…and so does everyone else that brought something to the party.

That’s what you do when you live your own life, create your own happiness, joy, and satisfaction. You bring that happy person into all your relationships; share it with them and you both have more than you started with.

But what about that person that didn’t bring anything to the potluck? What do we do with him? We can feed him with our love, for a while. But it won’t work long-term. At some point, those that did bring something will begin to resent being fed off of.

Don’t be that person in life. Put in the work to build your own life, your own happiness, and THEN build relationships to share it.

Two New Books Started This Week – Happiness & Russians!

I’m so excited about my July TBR pile! It’s going to be an amazing reading month!

The nap was apparently much needed, by the way, and when I got back the movie was over. My son commented that “Indiana Jones” is a much more interesting movie when you’re not four years old. “The sign of a great story. You can watch it again and again and get more each time.” Oh, my heart!

I also started reading “A People’s Tragedy – The Russian Revolution” by Orland Figes this week. I’m so intrigued by the era and have been reading and watching a lot about it.

A few years ago, I read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and I’ve been curious about Russian history ever since. I’ve been meaning to read more history but hadn’t found any recommendations until recently.

My youngest and I are watching “Trotsky” on Netflix on his days off work and we keep pausing it and talking. It takes our family so long to watch TV shows and movies!

And then I read a commentary article in the Wall Street Journal recently about the parallels between the Russian Revolution and our current political climate.

And…here I am. It’s all so fascinating.

Sunrise Reminder

The sun tries again.

Our Time is Not Infinite – Go For a Walk

alberto-casetta-REKXJ7JhwiI-unsplash

Photo by Alberto Casetta on Unsplash

Most days, when my husband finishes work, we go for a walk. Sometimes it’s just down to the mailbox and back, a little more than a mile. Other days we feel like we should go farther and make the long loop around our block, about almost three miles. It’s good exercise for us, physically and mentally. Mentally is what I want to emphasize here. There’s nothing else to do but keep walking. We can’t read, check social media, do the dishes, or go out to the yard. We just walk and think which leads to talking.

The longer our walks, the deeper our conversations go, and sometimes there are long stretches of silence as we go along. After a longer bit of silence, my husband will say something like, “I’m thinking about water quality and beer flavor.” I laugh because he knows the quieter it gets, the more I wonder what’s up, and he always tries to make my life easier no matter what we are doing.

Our long walks give us time to think and to explore ideas, talk about the kids, what we’re reading, things that have happened during the day. We always feel closer when we walk often.

It’s just the two of us walking now, but we’ve been walking since the kids were little. When we were home, we’d walk to the park or down the street to Disneyland. We’d walk on our vacations and camping trips, covering miles of trails and RV park roads. When we lived in the city, we’d take our tent trailer out to the desert and camp in the wilderness. We’d take long walks away from camp, as far as little legs would go, take a break and then circle back. The kids always led the way out, BB guns and canteens strapped to their backs, and then dragged behind us on the way back.

Discussions abounded on those walkabouts, even when they were little. We’d talk about what we saw on the trail, what we had to eat, and where we were going next. Sometimes big questions would come up. And we’d have lots of time to think and answer, think again, and ask more questions. There’s just something special about walking together that lends itself to serious connection with your fellow walkers. No matter how mundane the location, you’re on an adventure, a quest. And the time together is never wasted.

I specifically remember one walk when it was just my sons and me out in the desert. We decided to stay an extra couple of days instead of coming home in traffic on Sunday afternoon. My husband worked from home and we had a decent internet connection at camp, so he worked from the trailer while the boys and I played. Early in the morning, he had driven us far back into the hills where the old mines were and left us to spend the day walking back so he could work in peace. We had a backpack of snacks, water, and emergency supplies, and the boys were thrilled to try leading me back to camp.

As we walked, we pointed things out, investigated interesting rock formations, and took pictures of critters we found. They climbed a hill together and planted a “flag” at the top, an old bandana they had in the backpack. We took breaks, sitting in sandy washes in the shade of a large creosote or rock face. And we talked. This one was very special though. This time my eight-year-old son asked me questions about God and we spent most of the walk exchanging ideas. It was incredible.

I’ll never forget it. We caught site of camp when we came to the crest of the hill, four hours of walking and exploring coming to a close, when my son stops and looks at me, “You know mom, you should be a pastor or something. When you talk about God, I feel it. It makes me want to know more.” My heart just about exploded. Unsolicited praise from your children is like nothing else in this world.

Long drives have always had a similar effect on us as long walks, a chance to be quiet and think and to talk in ways we never seem to have when we’re at home. We don’t listen to the radio, but we do listen to music. There are several whole albums we have to hear on every trip over an hour-long, because that’s how you’re supposed to hear them, not in pieces on the radio, so they insist. We hold our thoughts until a break between songs and are sure to hit pause when we have to bring up a subject for general discussion. Drives to amusement parks, homeschool events, and family parties, road trips, and shopping excursions were filled with deep philosophical conversations. Ok, not really! Sometimes they got deep, many times, but usually, it was about something funny they’d seen or what they wanted to do tomorrow. But the more we drove, the deeper the conversations got.

I find myself driving alone more often now and I listen to podcasts instead of albums. I frequently find myself wanting to pause and discuss what I just heard with my family, but they aren’t there. I keep a notebook in the car now so I can write down my ideas for later because I swear I’m forgetting things more now that I have to hold on to an idea longer instead of blurting it out for immediate discussion. I learn and digest information best when I can talk about it out loud with others. Maybe it’s good exercise for me to hold on to it, let it ruminate and then discuss it later. It’s something I do have to work on these days.

Yesterday, my grown son wanted me to go with him to the city to go shopping. He could have gone without me. I had lots of other things to do besides sit in the car for two hours. We had a date though, and I felt like he really needed me to go, to show him I was still here when he needed me. I’m glad I did. My youngest isn’t much of a sharer of feelings and ideas. He’s a private man and keeps his thoughts close. But on this drive, he opened up and I listened. He talked about his first love and breakup, career plans, his college classes, life goals, and religion. I gave my two cents like I did when he was younger, but mostly I listened to my now-grown son show me exactly how smart and mature he has grown to be. I was in awe and I’m proud to have been invited in.

Why am I going on about this? Because conversation is important and to have a good conversation, we need to make space for it in our lives. We didn’t plan on taking long walks and drives with our kids so that they would have the time and space to talk, it just happened. I slowly became aware of what was happening as the kids grew and realized only recently, now that they are grown and moving out into their own lives, how special that time was and still is.

It seems like going for a walk with a friend might be an extravagance. There’s so much housework to do. It may seem like walking around the neighborhood with our loved ones is silly. Driving to a special store or small museum in the next town might feel like a waste of gas. We’ve been there, done that, and we see those people all the time. It’s not about the walk, the place, or the coffee, though. It’s about making a space for conversation to happen. It’s about connecting with people.

We’re all busy. The house is full of distractions. There’s so much at work to do. When we die, or when our loved ones go before us, will be satisfied that the laundry was done or that project was completed? Or will be happy that we got to really know our parents, our children, and our spouses. Will we sigh and say as we die, “Well, at least the kitchen cabinets are clean!” or will be gratified to know that our closest friends really know how we feel?

We can’t force the connection. We can’t tell everyone, “Today we will all talk to each other.” Or simply make a rule, “There are no smartphones or tablets allowed on this drive!” But we can make consistent safe space for our friends and family to reach out and talk. We can plan walks at the park. We can ask if they’d like to go with you. We can make lunch and coffee dates and keep them. And we can spend that time listening, asking questions, telling our stories, and allowing for the connection to happen or not.

It’s up to you. No one gets out of here alive and our time is limited. Spend it wisely.

Or Do They?

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They say, “small things impress small minds,” but I disagree.

It takes a curious mind to notice the small things, to marvel at intricacies, to notice the things everyone else seems to take for granted.

“Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” they say. But the big stuff is made up of the small stuff.

Big things are complicated and difficult to tackle. But if we can straighten out a few of the small things, wouldn’t that change the big thing that it’s a part of?

I think I’ll keep being impressed by the little things; the tiny flowers in the desert, the micro conversations on the way to the grocery store, the cute game my son found that he thought I’d enjoy.

I think I’ll keep doing the small things; washing the dishes, sending a text, touching my husband as I walk by.

All those little things do make up the whole. And when I look back on my whole life, I’ll be able to see the big picture I made with all those tiny dots of color.

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