It Couldn’t Hurt….

Does anyone remember that old chicken soup joke? A lady goes to the doctor to get help for a terrible cold. After checking all her vital signs and going over her medications, the doctor asks her if she has ever tried homemade chicken soup for a cold.

“Chicken soup?” she asked. “How would that help my cold?”

The doctor shrugged and said, “it couldn’t hurt.”

This made me think of other things that couldn’t hurt.

Example: there you are, with the Sunday paper in hand, and the $2.50 to pay for it all ready to go. All you want to do is to go home to your bacon and eggs and coffee, and slowly and luxuriously read the paper from cover to cover.

But ahead of you in line is one of those folks who not only have a ton of stuff to pay for, but they must haggle over a coupon offered at the last minute for <insert piddly little item here>. The cashier has to start all over again, ring everything up again, while the person questions him about her store savings card and does this coupon count toward her points, yadda, yadda, yadda.

You have a choice: 1) stand behind this person, sighing audibly and shifting from one foot to the other, raising your $2.50 up so that the cashier can see how easy it would be to just let you go already.

Or 2) take a deep breath, take a look outside the window to see that the sun is shining brightly over rapidly melting snow. Think of how much better those eggs and bacon will taste when you get home with your paper.

When the cashier throws you an apologetic smile, smile back. It’s an act of kindness to that harried cashier, the ditzy customer with all the questions—but most of all it’s an act of kindness to yourself.

There are so many more truly important things in life that demand our attention. Standing in line with a newspaper just isn’t one of them. Kindness counts, and even if no one acknowledges it or even sees it, it makes YOU feel better. Your blood pressure doesn’t rise, your thoughts don’t turn to murder, and best of all, you took the high road, which is never a bad thing.

Kindness–hey, it couldn’t hurt!

Four Rituals That Will Make You Happier – Part Two

This is the second part of what was sent to me by my amazing teacher, *Noreen McDonald. This article, “Four Rituals That Will Make You Happier (part two)” came from Eric Barker, a neuroscience researcher, and author of “Barking Up the Wrong Tree.” I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

  1. Make that decision

“Ever make a decision and then your brain finally feels at rest? That’s no random occurrence. Brain science shows that making decisions reduces worry and anxiety — as well as helping you solve problems.

Making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals — all three are part of the same neural circuitry and engage the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety. Making decisions also helps overcome striatum activity, which usually pulls you toward negative impulses and routines. Finally, making decisions changes your perception of the world — finding solutions to your problems and calming the limbic system.

But deciding can be hard. I agree. So what kind of decisions should you make? Neuroscience has an answer.

Make a “good enough” decision. Don’t sweat making the absolute 100% best decision. We all know being a perfectionist can be stressful. And brain studies back this up.

Trying to be perfect overwhelms your brain with emotions and makes you feel out of control.

Trying for the best, instead of good enough, brings too much emotional ventromedial prefrontal activity into the decision-making process. In contrast, recognizing that good enough is good enough activates more dorsolateral prefrontal areas, which helps you feel more in control …

As Swarthmore professor Barry Schwartz said in my interview with him: “Good enough is almost always good enough.”

So when you make a decision, your brain feels you have control. And, as I’ve talked about before, a feeling of control reduces stress. But here’s what’s really fascinating: Deciding also boosts pleasure.

Actively choosing caused changes in attention circuits and in how the participants felt about the action, and it increased rewarding dopamine activity.

Want proof? No problem. Let’s talk about cocaine.

You give two rats injections of cocaine. Rat A had to pull a lever first. Rat B didn’t have to do anything. Any difference? Yup: Rat A gets a bigger boost of dopamine.

So they both got the same injections of cocaine at the same time, but rat A had to actively press the lever, and rat B didn’t have to do anything. And you guessed it — rat A released more dopamine in its nucleus accumbens.

So what’s the lesson here? Next time you buy cocaine … whoops, wrong lesson. Point is, when you make a decision on a goal and then achieve it, you feel better than when good stuff just happens by chance.

And this answers the eternal mystery of why dragging your butt to the gym can be so hard.

If you go because you feel you have to or you should, well, it’s not really a voluntary decision. Your brain doesn’t get the pleasure boost. It just feels stress. And that’s no way to build a good exercise habit.

Interestingly, if they are forced to exercise, they don’t get the same benefits, because without choice, the exercise itself is a source of stress.

So make more decisions. Neuroscience researcher Alex Korb sums it up nicely:

We don’t just choose the things we like; we also like the things we choose.

OK, you’re being grateful, labeling negative emotions and making more decisions. Great, but this is feeling kinda lonely for a happiness prescription. Let’s get some other people in here.

What’s something you can do with others that neuroscience says is a path to mucho happiness? And something that’s stupidly simple so you don’t get lazy and skip it? Brain docs have an answer for you.

Have fun with friends.”

  1. Touch people

“No, not indiscriminately; that can get you in a lot of trouble.

But we need to feel love and acceptance from others. When we don’t it’s painful. And I don’t mean “awkward” or “disappointing.” I mean actually painful.

Neuroscientists did a study where people played a ball-tossing video game. The other players tossed the ball to you and you tossed it back to them. Actually, there were no other players; that was all done by the computer program.

But the subjects were told the characters were controlled by real people. So what happened when the “other players” stopped playing nice and didn’t share the ball?

Subjects’ brains responded the same way as if they experienced physical pain. Rejection doesn’t just hurt like a broken heart; your brain feels it like a broken leg.

In fact, as demonstrated in an MRI experiment, social exclusion activates the same circuitry as physical pain … at one point they stopped sharing, only throwing back and forth to each other, ignoring the participant. This small change was enough to elicit feelings of social exclusion, and it activated the anterior cingulate and insula, just like physical pain would.

Relationships are important to your brain’s feeling of happiness. Want to take that to the next level? Touch people.

One of the primary ways to release oxytocin is through touching. Obviously, it’s not always appropriate to touch most people, but small touches like handshakes and pats on the back are usually okay. For people you’re close with, make more of an effort to touch more often.

Touching is incredibly powerful. We just don’t give it enough credit. It makes you more persuasive, increases team performance, improves your flirting … heck, it even boosts math skills.

Touching someone you love actually reduces pain. In fact, when studies were done on married couples, the stronger the marriage, the more powerful the effect.

In addition, holding hands with someone can help comfort you and your brain through painful situations. One fMRI study scanned married women as they were warned that they were about to get a small electric shock. While anticipating the painful shocks, the brain showed a predictable pattern of response in pain and worrying circuits, with activation in the insula, anterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. During a separate scan, the women either held their husbands’ hands or the hand of the experimenter.

When a subject held her husband’s hand, the threat of shock had a smaller effect. The brain showed reduced activation in both the anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — that is, less activity in the pain and worrying circuits. In addition, the stronger the marriage, the lower the discomfort-related insula activity.

So hug someone today. And do not accept little, quick hugs. No, no, no. Tell them your neuroscientist recommended long hugs.

A hug, especially a long one, releases a neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala.

Research shows getting five hugs a day for four weeks increases happiness big time.

Don’t have anyone to hug right now? No? (I’m sorry to hear that. I would give you a hug right now if I could.) But there’s an answer: Neuroscience says you should go get a massage.

The results are fairly clear that massage boosts your serotonin by as much as 30 percent. Massage also decreases stress hormones and raises dopamine levels, which helps you create new good habits … Massage reduces pain because the oxytocin system activates painkilling endorphins. Massage also improves sleep and reduces fatigue by increasing serotonin and dopamine and decreasing the stress hormone cortisol.

So spend time with other people and give some hugs. Sorry, texting is not enough.

When you put people in a stressful situation and then let them visit loved ones or talk to them on the phone, they felt better. What about when they just texted? Their bodies responded the same as if they had no support at all.

Author’s note: I totally approve of texting if you make a hug appointment.

OK, I don’t want to strain your brain with too much info. Let’s round it up and learn the quickest and easiest way to start that upward spiral of neuroscience-inspired happiness.

Sum up: Here’s what brain research says will make you happy:

  • Ask “What am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.
  • Label those negative emotions. Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it.
  • Decide. Go for “good enough” instead of “best decision ever made on Earth.”
  • Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don’t text — touch.

So what’s the simple way to start that upward spiral of happiness?

Just send someone a thank-you email. If you feel awkward about it, you can send them this post to tell them why.

This really can start an upward spiral of happiness in your life. UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb explains:

Everything is interconnected. Gratitude improves sleep. Sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves your mood. Improved mood reduces anxiety, which improves focus and planning. Focus and planning help with decision making. Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives you more to be grateful for, which keeps that loop of the upward spiral going. Enjoyment also makes it more likely you’ll exercise and be social, which, in turn, will make you happier.”

(Thank you, Noreen McDonald, for sending this! Check her out at


Four Rituals That Will Make You Happier – Part One

The following was sent to me by my amazing teacher, *Noreen McDonald. This article came from Eric Barker, a neuroscience researcher, and author of “Barking Up the Wrong Tree.” Since this is a pretty long article, I’m only going to post the first two “rituals” this morning. I’ll post the last two on other day.

I hope you enjoy this and get as much out of it as I did.

“A neuroscience researcher reveals four rituals that will make you happier.

You get all kinds of happiness advice on the internet from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Don’t trust them.

Actually, don’t trust me either. Trust neuroscientists. They study that gray blob in your head all day and have learned a lot about what truly will make you happy.

UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb has some insights that can create an upward spiral of happiness in your life.

Here’s what you and I can learn from the people who really have answers:

  1. The most important question to ask when you feel down

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like your brain wants you to be happy. You may feel guilty or shameful. Why?

Believe it or not, guilt and shame activate the brain’s reward center.

Despite their differences, pride, shame, and guilt all activate similar neural circuits, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens. Interestingly, pride is the most powerful of these emotions at triggering activity in these regions — except in the nucleus accumbens, where guilt and shame win out. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves — they’re activating the brain’s reward center. And you worry a lot, too. Why? In the short term, worrying makes your brain feel a little better — at least you’re doing something about your problems.

In fact, worrying can help calm the limbic system by increasing activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and decreasing activity in the amygdala. That might seem counterintuitive, but it just goes to show that if you’re feeling anxiety, doing something about it — even worrying — is better than doing nothing.

But guilt, shame, and worry are horrible, long-term solutions. So what do neuroscientists say you should do? Ask yourself this question: What am I grateful for?

Yeah, gratitude is awesome … but does it really affect your brain at the biological level? Yup.

You know what the antidepressant Wellbutrin does? Boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine. So does gratitude.

The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Additionally, gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable.

Know what Prozac does? Boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin. So does gratitude.

One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.

I know, sometimes life lands a really mean punch in the gut and it feels like there’s nothing to be grateful for. Guess what?

Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to find anything. It’s the searching that counts.

It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.

And gratitude doesn’t just make your brain happy — it can also create a positive feedback loop in your relationships. So express that gratitude to the people you care about.

But what happens when bad feelings completely overtake you? When you’re really in the dumps and don’t even know how to deal with it? There’s an easy answer: point out the things that upset you.

  1. Label negative feelings

You feel awful. OK, give that awfulness a name. Sad? Anxious? Angry? Boom. It’s that simple. Sound stupid? Your noggin disagrees.

In one MRI study, appropriately titled “Putting Feelings into Words” participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Predictably, each participant’s amygdala activated to the emotions in the picture. But when they were asked to name the emotion, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activated and reduced the emotional amygdala reactivity. In other words, consciously recognizing the emotions reduced their impact.

Suppressing emotions doesn’t work and can backfire on you.

It was discovered that people who tried to suppress a negative emotional experience failed to do so. While they thought they looked fine outwardly, inwardly their limbic system was just as aroused as without suppression, and in some cases, even more aroused. Kevin Ochsner, at Columbia, repeated these findings using an MRI. Trying not to feel something doesn’t work, and in some cases even backfires.

But labeling, on the other hand, makes a big difference.

To reduce arousal, you need to use just a few words to describe an emotion, and ideally use symbolic language, which means using indirect metaphors, metrics, and simplifications of your experience. This requires you to activate your prefrontal cortex, which reduces the arousal in the limbic system. Here’s the bottom line: describe an emotion in just a word or two, and it helps reduce the emotion.

Ancient methods were way ahead of us on this one. Meditation has employed this for centuries. Labeling is a fundamental tool of mindfulness.

In fact, labeling affects the brain so powerfully it works with other people, too. Labeling emotions is one of the primary tools used by FBI hostage negotiators.

Okay, hopefully you’re not reading this and labeling your current emotional state as bored. Maybe you’re not feeling awful but you probably have things going on in your life that are causing you some stress. Here’s a simple way to beat them.   Make decisions to do things you enjoy.”


Why So Grumpy?

“Grumpy” is a state of mind, just like happiness or contentment or joy. It’s a choice to be grumpy, or not to be grumpy. That said, I see an awful lot of people driving or walking or biking or sitting around with a look on their face that would sour milk. I don’t know about you, but when I am grumpy, I feel it on all levels—my face, my brain, my heart, my very soul. It feels awful.

So, how to change out of Grumpy Mode? Depending on your state of mind, this can be easy or hard. Speaking only for myself, there are days when I feel grumpy inside and out. It’s a lot like having a constant stomachache that isn’t painful enough to run to the Emergency Room—it’s just a nagging ache that you get used to over time. If you let let grumpiness take over, you will find that you’ll live with much more unhappiness, and very little joy.

Grumpiness is like a pervasive weed; it soon takes over the lawn, the flowers, the trees and sometimes even your house. It’s something you really have to nip in the bud (no pun intended) before it gets out of hand. So how do we do that? Take it from me, a card-carrying member of the Grumpy von Grumpenstein club, it can be done. Here’s how:

  • No matter how you feel, smile. Smiling has a psycho-physical effect; it’s hard to feel bad while smiling. Best of all, it affects other people, too—there is something about seeing a smiling face that makes you want to smile as well.
  • Say to yourself over and over again, “all is well.” Soon it WILL be.
  • Think of three things (or more) that make you happy.
  • Forgive someone, even if it’s only in your mind.
  • Listen or look at something funny. Personally, I recommend LOL Cats online. Cracks me up every time.

As a person who has experienced grumpiness more times than I’d like to admit, being grumpy has a poor payoff. It’s like *eating a whole cake; it’s wonderful at first, but the misery that follows is definitely not worth it.

*Just so you know, I have never in my life eaten a whole cake. I did however eat a gigantic whoopee pie once while visiting my parents one summer. My mother told me I should split it and just eat one half. Did I listen? Nooooooooooooooooooo! I spent the rest of that day moaning in pain and hearing my mother say, ‘I told you so!” Believe me, the later was the worst of it…



“What Can I Do to Help?”

Anyone who has been in a relationship for a few years or more has run into the EWWBIYWJDTMW (Everything Would Work Better if You Would Just Do Things My Way) barrier. In our minds, the way we do things is the “right” way to do it. Just take for example the unending battle over whether the toilet paper should hang over or under. (My opinion: always under. Here’s why—if you have cats that like to play with toilet paper and you’ve hung it so that it goes over the top, you will come home to an enormous (and useless) pile of toilet paper on the floor with a cat sitting on top of it.)

Years ago when my best friend and I were roommates in our first apartment, we were putting all our combined kitchen ware away. We got into an argument about which cabinet the dishes should go into; left or right of the sink? I argued for the left, she for the right. After barking at each other for a few minutes, we realized that we were only trying to duplicate where dishes were in the houses in which we were raised! My mom put hers on the left side; her mom put hers on the right side.

Realizing this, we both burst into laughter over the absurdity of it all. “We can put our dishes on the stove if we want to!” “We can put our dishes IN the stove if we want to!” And you know what? Today we are still best friends (and now sisters-in-law; we married brothers), and neither of us remember where we put the dang dishes!

So, how do we make peace with each other’s different ways of doing things? Well, talking about the issue is a good start. Trust me, I have had many moments of mass stupidity where I acted like a perfect ass about trivial things. I felt so strongly that I was right and he (the Crankee Yankee) was wrong that I made things worse than better. It took me much too long to realize that it doesn’t matter whose way is right as long as the decision is the best one for everyone.

This is how my parents ran their marriage and their two businesses. If an issue came up that needed addressing, they put their heads together to find a solution. It didn’t really matter who came up with it; what mattered was it was the best solution. These days this harmony what I strive for; a meeting of the minds. Not only does it calm the waters, but it is a gift to each other and the relationship—you have come to this decision in agreement and you can now go forward.

Another thing I’ve learned over time is this phrase: “How can I help?” This is a good way for both parties to feel free to offer ideas and opinions. Here’s one we recently worked through concerning our garden this year. We have eight raised beds, and about half our seedlings are in the ground. We have a rectangular bed on the other side of our driveway that is right beside our neighbor’s fence. We previously grew garlic in it, but we wanted to try corn this year, and that plot seemed perfect.

However, in speaking with the neighbor who owns the fence, she said that she was concerned that the corn, when full-grown, might block her view backing out of her driveway. Good point! So we conceded and will plant the corn in one of the raised beds, and plant sweet potatoes in the rectangular plot. Easy-peasy, done and done.

The art of compromise is only as good as the ears that listen to it! So these days, before I grit my teeth, I say, “How can I help?”

Don’t Fear the Last Item on the Bucket List

What last item, you may ask? Well, it’s the very last thing we all do—we die. However, it doesn’t need to be a scary or fearful thing. As with many things, preparation is everything. I’ll explain.

My mother, knowing that eventually her metastatic breast cancer would end her life, set out to dot every “i” and cross every “t” for Dad and me. She and Dad went over all their paperwork, and made a “final folder” containing such valuable information as:

  • Wills
  • DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) paperwork
  • Burial or cremation (burial) and cemetary plot information
  • Insurance information
  • Biographical information for the obituary. If you like, add that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to <whatever charity you choose>. My mom wanted to have donations made to Hospice or the local animal shelter. Many people donated to both these worthy charities and in this way shared their love for Mom.
  • Caskets (Mom and Dad picked out their own and paid for them up front)
  • Instructions for burial and what the “*last outfit” will be
  • Instructions for funeral services and/or viewing
  • Any information for family members regarding items to be gifted to them

…and so forth. But best of all, we TALKED together about death and dying. Happily, all of us shared the belief that death is just a transition to another way of life, which is our original state–the spirit form. We also believe that we all have lived many lives on Earth, and have connected over time because we are destined to be together. My dad might have been my brother in one life, my grandmother in another life. My mother might have been my child in one life, or my uncle in another life.

All this plus a lot of talking back and forth made death a part of the family, so to speak. We aren’t church-goers–we are more spiritual than religious. However, Mom wanted a service at the new Congregational Church in town, with its fabulous female minister. The first time she met with us, we felt so comfortable with her.

She asked us about what we all wanted in the funeral service, and Mom asked her to sing one song (she has an amazing voice) about angels. When asked what hymns or songs Mom wanted, she chose them all, ending with Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek (‘Heaven, I’m in Heaven!’).” As Mom and Dad were ballroom dancers for over 40 years, this was the perfect choice. And at the funeral, there was a smile on every face.

I have been graced with the opportunity to be with my grandfather just after he died, and with my late mother-in-law, Hazel, when she died. Both times the passing was peaceful; one breath and then no more. The feeling of peace was everywhere. I wasn’t able to be with my mother when she died, but my dad was; this is the way I felt it was meant be. Mom slipped back into her glorious spirit form with no pain, no fear, no dread, and perfect knowledge that she was off to another great adventure.

Here’s the thing: we in this country fear death as the ultimate enemy. No one wants to talk about it, so often people don’t end up planning for it. It’s as if we think that, if we ignore death and all its trappings that it just won’t happen. But when it does, we are like drowning sailors in a stormy sea–we feel we have no lifeboat, no buoy, no helping hand to raise us up.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We could start talking about death much earlier; say your little 5-year old daughter’s beloved dog dies. How do we prepare her for this life-changing event, and talk with her in a way she can understand? We don’t have to candy-coat it, just give her the information she needs at the time. Answer questions truthfully. (Speaking of talking with children; it’s a good idea NOT to get them thinking that sleep = death, that is; ‘Bowser went to sleep and never woke up.’ )

Most of all, while we are alive and living our lives, always, always, ALWAYS speak your love to those around you. Even though you may have people in your life that dismiss ‘all that mushiness,’ say it anyway. It will be heard. While Mom was in Hospice care, a day never went by that she and Dad and I would tell each other, “I love you with all my heart.” Mom’s and Dad’s 60-year marriage was filled with millions and billions of hugs, kisses, declarations of love, kindness, comfort and joy. As the beneficiary of all that love, I too believe that you can’t speak or demonstrate your love enough.

Start talking or at least thinking about the dying process and death.When you make plans for this inevitability, you make life immensely easier for your family. You have the peace of mind knowing that you have done all you can to help your family prepare for and survive your own passing. Plus, you have opened the door to candid conversations about the process of dying. In this way, death becomes less a boogeyman than an an old friend whose loving hand guides you back home.

*Mom had hers all picked out early on. We hung it right in the middle of her closet so that she could see it from her bed; a gorgeous white ruffled linen jacket over a silver tank top, dressy black slacks and her favorite silver eucalyptus pin and earrings Dad gave her years ago. She would look at it and smile, saying, ‘aren’t I going to look snappy?’

We Don’t Have to Carry It Alone – Let the Divine Help

My dad and I talk every day. At 7:30am on the dot, Dad calls me and we chat for a few minutes. We love and value that connection each day, and since Mom died last December, we find that time each morning very comforting.

I have referenced before a book I love called “Outrageous Openness,” or “Letting the Divine Take the Lead,” by Tosha Silver. Both Dad and I have a copy, and it’s one of those books that you can pick up, put your finger on a random page and find help, humor and wisdom. To give you an idea of what this easy-reading book is all about, the fly leaf reads:

“What if the Divine is constantly igniting roadside flares to get our attention? What if there actually is a Supreme Organizing Principle with an unbridled sense of humor? And what if we each have this ardent inner suitor who’s writing us love letters every day that often go unopened?

Whether we know it or not, we all experience the touch of the Divine in our lives every single day. After twenty-five years spent consulting and advising tens of thousands of people from all over the world, Tosha Silver realized that almost all of us have similar concerns: “How do I stop worrying? How can I feel safe? Why do I feel so alone?” And often, “Who am I, really?”

“For the passionately spiritual and the bemusedly skeptical alike, she created Outrageous Openness. This delightful book, filled with wisdom and fresh perspectives, helps create a relaxed, trusting openness in the reader to discover answers to life’s big questions as they spontaneously arise.

At its heart, Outrageous Openness opens the door to a profound truth: by allowing the Divine to lead the way, we can finally put down the heavy load of hopes, fears, and opinions about how things should be. We learn how to be guided to take the right actions at the right time, and to enjoy the spectacular show that is our life.”

I don’t know about you, but despite my best efforts, I have spent an awful amount of time worrying, doubting, fearing, sorrowing and being frustrated. I’ve learned ways to moderate my worries, learned strategies to counteract negativity and so on. But my baser nature keep wanting to reset me to my original worrying self.

So, to show how this book works for me, I tested it: I just opened the book, closed my eyes, and put my finger on a page–page 109, to be exact. In a nutshell this is what it was about: a woman who was very close to her daughter, was terribly worried about her daughter’s first pregnancy. She lay awake at nights worrying about every disaster that could happen; one big worry was that some day her soon-to-be-born granddaughter would grow to hate her grandmother.

Now worry is a force just like any other energy, and you can bet that that tiny little thing was getting all kinds of bad vibes. To quote from the book, Tosha says:

“Because she and her daughter were so bound, I knew the young woman was receiving this energy and worrying even more. And then imagine what the fetus was receiving. The tiny thing is thinking, “Yo, what are you crazy people sending me? I’m just floating here in amniotic happiness. What is up with you all?”

Tosha convinced her client, the soon-to-be grandmother, to send blessings (instead of worries). She later received an email from her which said that the grandmother had created a circle of friends who got on the phone every night to mentally send her daughter light. Long story short, the birth was easy, and the baby was fine.

Now of course that may well have happened without all that light and positive energy. BUT—how can that hurt? Think about it: if we are constantly worrying, we are hurting ourselves; worst of all, we are wasting time. If instead we use that time to concentrate on sending good vibes, it nourishes us and those to whom we send it.

Back to Dad and I and our daily morning chat. We both know we are missing Mom; her voice, her presence, her smile, her wit; her very life force. This morning Dad said that he decided to let the Divine work things out, and he feels better for it. He knows that while Mom’s physical body is gone, her spirit; her very essence, is very much alive and he feels it. I do, too, and it always comforts me.

But what comforts me the most is knowing that all I need do is ask the Divine to just handle things as they should be. That way I don’t have to worry; I know that whatever the outcome is, all will be well. And just to drive the point home (for me as well as you), here’s one example of what happens when you do all you can, hit the wall and ask the Divine to help out–then let it go:

The Crankee Yankee and I were down to one car; his old truck couldn’t pass inspection as so much needed to be done on it. Our car had nearly 300,000 miles on it. Getting a new used car was simply out of the question as money was so tight. I finally stopped worrying about it and mentally sent out this thought out: “If it isn’t asking too much, can we please somehow get at least a dependable car, if not two? I don’t know how it will happen, but I’d really appreciate some help.”

And I let it go and pretty much forgot about it. When Mom went into Hospice care, she and Dad signed over their wonderful 2008 Kia Rondo to us. In the same month, a neighbor bought our old car. Later, the Crankee Yankee’s friend turned over the paperwork to his truck to him, saying that we could ‘pay as we can’ for it (at a very reasonable price, too).

Coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences, but I do believe in positive energy. I do believe that asking for help from the Divine (or whatever/whomever you choose to call it) is there, wanting to help and waiting to help.

Test it out yourself. What could it hurt? And how much could it HELP?


Cold Prevention and a Few Other Nifty Tips

Cold Prevention:

I know I’ve posted this before, but I have kept colds at bay for years with this simple infusion:

  • 5 drops each lemon, peppermint, tea tree and oregano oils into a mug of boiling water. Inhale through your nose three times, then inhale through your mouth three times. WARNING: close your eyes; the steam will make your eyes water. Also, breathe carefully or you will start coughing; it’s pretty powerful. Repeat every hour or two, or when you think of it. The infusion is good for 24 hours. Additionally, taking elderberry zinc lozenges also help to stop colds before they start. At the first sign of a scratchy throat, try both of these to help avoid a cold.

Some Cleaning Tips:

  • White vinegar is a cheap and effective way to clean the nasties out of microwaves. Fill a small bowl with white vinegar, and put it in the microwave for 5 – 10 minutes. The steam will loosen the dried on gunk and makes it easy to clean it off with a sponge. You can also use white vinegar and baking soda as a “sweetener” for stinky kitchen drains: dump a 1/2 cup of baking soda down the sink, then follow with a big splash of white vinegar. You’ll get a mini-volcanic eruption that’s fun to watch and freshens the drain.

How to make your own laundry soap (each ingredient can be found in your local supermarket):

  • 1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap
  • 1/2 cup washing soda
  • 1/2 cup borax powder
  • 2 gallon bucket

Grate the soap and put it in a large pot (if you own a lobster pot, that’s just about the size you’ll need). Add six cups of water and heat until the soap melts. Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it’s dissolved. Removed from heat. Pour four cups of hot water into the 2 gallon bucket. Now add the soap mixture and stir. Now add one gallon plus six cups of water into the bucket and stir. Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel. Use 1/2 cup per load of laundry; it will cost you about a penny a load.

NOTE: The finished soap will not be a solid gel; it will be more of a watery gel that looks sort of like egg noodle soup. Also, the soap is a low-sudsing soap, so if you don’t see actual suds, that’s ok. Suds are NOT what does the cleaning; it’s the ingredients. We have used this for years, and it does a great job. Not only that, but sheets and towels washed in this mix come out fluffy and soft in the dryer.

Easy-Peasy Chicken Broth

The next time you either roast a chicken or buy one already cooked, it’s easy to make a good chicken broth. This broth can be enjoyed by itself or you can add chopped chicken, vegetables, rice or pasta to it for a heartier soup. Here’s how:

  • Strip the meat off the carcass (leave some meat on the bones), and set it aside. Chop it up if you want to add it to the finished soup.
  • Put the carcass into a large pot, and add enough water to just cover it.
  • Add an onion cut in half (skin and all), some garlic cloves (also cut in half with skins on), a couple of carrots cut in half, a few stalks of celery, some black peppercorns, and a generous pinch of salt. Add a few shakes of seasonings: paprika, parsley, thyme, and, if you like the taste; curry powder.

Let it cook (medium heat) down until the carcass is about 2-3″ above the water. Strain this mixture into a new pot, and throw out the bones, vegetables, etc. (I do NOT recommend using the chicken from this mix; it will be pretty played-out and tasteless at this point.) What’s left over is a wonderful chicken broth. Pour it off into a container (a glass bottle is what I use), let it cool, then refrigerate. If it gels after being in the refrigerator, you’ve made a great broth.

You can freeze the broth if you like and use it as is, or add in chopped chicken, onions, carrots, celery, etc. I’ve also added a can of corn and some cilantro to give it a Southwestern taste.

Good luck and have fun!