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English: Tibetan endless knot Nederlands: Tibe...

English: Tibetan endless knot Nederlands: Tibetaanse Oneindige knoop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The need for redemption comes from the knowing or thoughtless harm of others, particular harm to those who we gave reason to trust us. It is a human need, a need for forgiveness and more, to feel that we are better than we once were, and deserving of something new.

I have listened, many times, as men (and women) who have done terrible things over the years cry at the price those things have exacted, in family, employment, freedom. They are crying to me because I am there to help, to get the monkey off their backs.

Forty years old, and the child they sired at twenty is now grown, a memory and a faded photograph in the wallet. The dream of music, or art, or craft has long since been subsumed under the daily effort of survival. The accumulated guilt over day to day choices that never thought of the future almost too heavy to bear now.

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Before Foreplay

My Love (Photo credit: Jennuine Captures)

Seventeen years.

When we met, both Husband and I were skinny. Actually, I was slender. He was skinny. And we were dirt poor. And we had one kid, not two. And we had twice as much energy and half as many responsibilities as we do now.

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Plan to Reach Your Dreams


I’m in the business of helping people build happiness, both here and at my day job. An important part of that is to help you reach your dreams. To do that, you need to turn your dreams into goals, and your goals into achieveable objectives.

It’s a whole lot easier than it sounds, and I’m here to help you learn to reach your dreams.

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You Can Control How Assholes Affect Your Day

Cover of "A$hole: How I Got Rich & Happy...

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Yes, you really can. First, we need to distinguish between assholes who want to ruin your day and people capable of doing actual harm to you. I’m talking about trollish behavior, the sort of thing designed to shut down conversations, embarrass you, and change your emotions for the worse, not the sort of thing that can actually hurt you. That’s a different post.

Sample Assholes Who Want to Ruin Your Day:

  • That guy who wolf whistles or shouts insults at you as you’re walking down the street.
  • The one who steps into your personal space in a waiting area and won’t back away.
  • The woman who cuts in front of you in line with her toddler in her arms, daring you to say anything.
  • The store clerk that pretends you don’t exist because you don’t look like that store’s usual customer.

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by request, this is hidden behind the cut now

Read more... ) (it was a pretty pic. Go ahead and look if you want to)

What have you done today to build happiness?  

Starting today, make a commitment to spend five, or ten, or fifteen minutes building happiness by working toward something that matters to you

Too many of us dream of being happy without setting goals that will get us there, or set goals, but don’t do anything to work toward those goals.

I’m too busy.

I don’t have the money this week.

The dog ate my homework.


(and that’s my professional opinion).

Even I can take fifteen minutes to build happiness in my life, working toward that one thing I really want to do

It’s the one instruction I give in therapy that most people are able to follow… and if they aren’t, they are able to give five or ten minutes a day.

If you want to be happy, devote fifteen minutes (or five, or ten) toward it every day.

Every day.

No excuses.

Why not devote fifteen minutes every day for at least one week on any new project that you think might be worthwhile?

Want to diet? Spend fifteen minutes a day documenting your food intake at

build happiness in fifteen minutes

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(A mindfulness meditation exercise. Get comfortable, and begin).

Shh! Close your eyes again, and now wake up slowly. Imagine.

It is the hour before the dawn. There are a few birds chirping.

You hear a car drive by, but only one, and its very quiet, as if it is trying not to wake you.

Someone has brewed coffee. You smile, knowing it will still be hot when you get up.

But not yet. 

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Visualizing mindfulness (366/194 July 12, 2012)

Visualizing mindfulness (366/194 July 12, 2012) (Photo credit: ConnectIrmeli)

What is ‘everyday mindfulness’ and why do it?

Mindfulness is the state of simply being, in the present, with all of your attention in the present.  It is compatible with any spiritual or religious belief, or lack thereof. It’s both simple and difficult, and it has been found by numerous studies to be useful in a variety of situations, including easing chronic pain, depression and anxiety. It doesn’t (necessarily) involve any special equipment, can be done (nearly) anywhere. 

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I used to have a little quote pinned to my cork board at work that said something to the effect that constant activity is the Western idea of laziness. It is impossible for some of us to do nothing. In the interest of not perpetuating a stereotype, I’m making clear that this isn’t true for all Westerners – but for some of us it can be very true.

I literally cannot ‘just’ watch television. I can barely stand to watch movies in the theater, and then only because I consume far too many calories in the process of giving my hands something to do. I can read for hours on end, but only if I completely still my environment – the opposite of how I cope with ‘doing nothing’ in many other situations.

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Back when there was still a chill in the air, I wrote about being married to an HVAC (heating and air conditioning) tech and how despite that, we were still (partially) heating with wood and kerosene.

Now it is summer, in the middle of a massive heatwave, and like many people in the US, we don’t have central air. We do (fortunately) have a couple of window units, but in a 2000+ foot house with very high ceilings, only portions of the house get cool.

We don’t use the kitchen if we can avoid it.

Both boys sleep downstairs on the couch and love seat when they can, as their (temporarily) shared bedroom has no AC.

I’m not actually complaining. Until this generation, most of the US didn’t have central air, and people just dealt with it, like we are. There are still parts of the country where both central air and even window AC units are relatively rare, and this heat wave is getting to those folks. I see it on my Facebook page and my Live Journal, where people unused to crippling heat are having to ‘make do’.

If you can afford a window air conditioning unit, it’s worth the investment. Place it in the room you use most (or if you have two, place one in your bedroom and one in your most used room). Close off that room if you can to keep the cool air in and reduce the cost of running the AC.

Don’t cook. Or, at the very least, don’t bake. Use a grill outdoors, a crock pot, and the microwave for as much as you can, and the stove top when you absolutely must.

Keep your doors and windows shut. Use insulated curtains (or old sheets, or comforters, or newspaper, or cardboard) to keep the sun from beating in on your west and south facing windows.

If you don’t have and can’t afford an air conditioner, get a fan (in many urban areas there are ‘free fan clubs’. Religious organizations also often give out fans in the summer). Place a cooler (or even a bowl) full of ice or ice water in front of the fan, and it will significantly cool the area in front of the fan until the ice melts.

If worst comes to worst (and it might) go to a cooling center. In many towns, this is the Salvation Army. Alternately, lots of public places are cool – museums, movie theaters, malls, libraries – anywhere public where you can sit down out of the heat is a good idea.

The point is that not having central air is not a crisis, even in a heat wave, though not having a way to stay cool at all IS. (Just in case, it’s a good idea to know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke – if you have these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately).

Keep your head and create a ‘micro-climate’ of cool, and you too can have hot fun in the summertime.


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coping with depressionT-Shirt available here

Depression doesn’t go away just because you don’t have the money or resources to treat it. This series is for those of us who are going through a depression, for whatever reason, and either don’t have insurance, don’t have adequate insurance, or don’t have local mental health facilities available to us.

If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, thoughts that you even half take seriously, this is not an article for you. You need to get help right now from a professional. Call 911. Call a mental health hotline. Get help right now. Even if you can’t afford it.

If you’re still here, here’s what I’ve got to say on how to cope with depression when you don’t have access to mental health resources.

I once knew a man who suffered from severe major depression. It was my job to help him cope with that depression, and so of course I asked him how he managed. He looked at me for a long moment before answering me, then said. “Every single morning, no matter what, I put one foot on the floor.”

I wasn’t a green counselor when I heard these words, but they hit me fresh and new, in a way that a graduate education and a lot of continuing education credits, and discussions with colleagues, and all that other jazz didn’t. It was one simple concept that worked for him, that got him through the darkest days.

I listened for another reason. I have had my own issues with depression. In early adulthood I suffered several severe depressions and I still have bouts that I have to wrangle with on occasion (you can usually tell, because one of my coping mechanisms is to write about depression at those times). Like many others who have a lifelong tendency toward depression, I have found ways to cope so that for all but the worst bouts, I can go about my life, get out on the floor, and keep dancing.

Here’s a start: Put one foot on the floor. (I bet you knew I was going to say that).

(if the Abominable Snowman can do it, anyone can)

Every damned day, put one foot on the floor. Do one thing on your goal list. Despite the case of the ‘fuck-its’ that is overwhelming you and making you not care if you live or die.

To stave off the fuck-its (or eff-its, if you prefer):

Apply for one job. Or one financial support.

Do the dishes. Or the laundry.

Keep all your appointments, even if you don’t want to.

Make more appointments.

Get out of the house, even if you don’t want to.

..but that’s just a start. That’s just keeping moving so you don’t fall down. Treading water.

There are people in your life. Some of them will be helpful and some will be not helpful. Some of them you have responsibilities to, and other have responsibilities to you. If you have children, you have responsibilities to them. If you are unable to meet your responsibilities to them, if you need respite, seek out those who have responsibilities to you and ask for their help. If there is no one, find someone to trade time with, another parent of children who needs respite time.

This is still treading water.

When you’re at the fuck-it stage, the only thing to do is to give in or keep going. And you will give in if you think too big. Do just one thing.

Do just one thing.

When you are able, do another.

When you are able, do yet another.

Focus on those things you absolutely must do to keep functioning. Make compromises that keep the function with as little fuss as possible.

Let the kids play video games for the afternoon, but at bedtime ensure that all electronics are out of the bedrooms and tell them to stay in their rooms until morning. They’ll sleep. Really they will.

Eat cereal for dinner, or sandwiches, or something out of a can. Or let someone else cook for you, if you have that luxury.

Shower, change your clothes, and brush your teeth daily, even if you don’t want to.

Get out of bed, even if you don’t want to.

If you absolutely can’t cope with the responsibility of caring for another human being, ask a friend or relative to take the kids overnight, or encourage them to get invited to a friend’s house, or pass the duty off to your partner if you have one.

Take that nap you wanted to take. Have a good cry. And then, before that nap turns into another and another, put one foot on the floor, and do just one more thing.

Part two will begin helping you build coping mechanisms to make each depression shorter and less intense.

Can people with depression build happiness in their lives? Absolutely. They can even do so when there are no resources for professional help.

* Reading through this again after publication and criticism, I realize that in many ways this is a restatement of spoon theory.  If you have never encountered spoon theory, you might want to go read about it. It is helpful in nearly every chronic disease situation).


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Gretchen Rubin has the enviable ability to make her readers want to know her personally. This has been demonstrated both through her blog and her book, The Happiness Project.
I’ve been wanting to read this book since I heard of it a couple of months ago, and once I picked it up and started reading, I was very glad I had.
daisies by countryboy1949 at flickr
The Happiness Project reads almost more as a memoir than a self-help book, which I think is part of its charm. It gives you an intimate portrait of Rubin’s attempts to find deeper and broader happiness within the context of her life, and her ongoing and daily struggles with integrating what she was learning.
Rubin tells a story early in the book about getting a terrible review from a reviewer and, even though she (privately) took it very personally, she composed herself and wrote a calm email in response, thanking him for his feedback. She talks both about how difficult it was to take that step and how wonderful it felt when she did it (and doubly wonderful when she got a gracious response).

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