Nice ‘n nasty.

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It was hard to stay “nice”. Sometimes it hurt.

Sarah, her twin had no such qualms, had risen to the top, stepping on whoever dared get in her way. Sometimes Jenny felt like a failure by comparison.

The day had been awful, an argument at home, a put down at the school, nothing was going right. What a birthday!

It slipped out at recess. Her year four pupils had been discussing star signs.

“When’s your birthday, Miss?” an eager voice chimed. Should she lie?

“March 12th.” She hoped they didn’t notice, but they did. Jace caught on right away.

“That’s today! Is it your birthday today?” She nodded. Her eyes moistened as the word caught on and “happy birthday” squeals and songs sped around the playground. it didn’t stop there… Grubby hand written cards appeared, candies wrapped in pages stolen from exercise books and a small bunch of ragged daisies and dandelions appeared on her desk. Best of all was the shy hug from Eisha, the girl that hardly ever spoke.

Back home nestled contentedly with a cup of tea she surveyed her  news feed, predictably full of her sister’s birthday posts, food, wine, luxury presents and false smiles. She grinned into her tea cup. She’d had something better.

“Putting your feet up love?” a voice whispered in her ear. “I managed to get off work early. I felt so bad about this morning. I forgot it was your birthday… thought we could go out, do something.”

“It’s OK, I had the best day ever!”

“Really? I’m so glad… Here … for you.” Embarrassed he thrust a bunch of daffodils into her hands. She knew they were only Tesco, he’d forgotten to take off the label, but to her they were perfect, as all her presents had been.

Start a ripple!

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Sometimes in life, often when down or discouraged, it’s been my privilege, by some strange heavenly device, to catch a glimpse of the fruit of words or actions long forgotten. It has always astounded and encouraged me.  Most have little idea just how far that kind word or deed may travel and what wonderful fruit it may bare in the life of others.

Some tests are more important than others.

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My grandson just surprised us all by getting top marks in his SATs (an 11 year old UK placement test). He has a good mind but has trouble retaining concentration. None of us were expecting he’d do more than scrape by. But it is not of this I wish to speak.
He unexpectedly scored high in another kind of test yesterday. I asked if after school he’d help me get to my allotment and haul the water for me (it’s quite wild and hard to negotiate wearing a surgical boot). We are in the middle of a heat wave and though my allotment friends would water my plot in the circumstances I was not sure how many knew of my accident.
I didn’t know how he’d react. My daughter has a “high flying” job with apple money but little time so tends to pay her kids to do everything. I decided to put him to the test and offer nothing. To my surprise reimbursement was never mentioned, instead he acted the perfect gentlemen lending his arm for the dodgy bits and using his new forming muscle to haul the two big watering cans six times down to the river and back (a 50 yards of windy paths). This whole was exacted without a complaint (that water’s heavy) and total concern encouraging me to rest on the chair during his trips back and forth. Both sweating as we headed for ice-creams (it was over 30 deg. remember) I told him I hadn’t been sure he’d decide to help me. He looked shyly over and said, “of course I’d help you – you’re hurt. You won’t take advantage of that will you?” I assured him I wouldn’t think of it, but I was very happy he’d helped and now the plants wouldn’t die.
He’d passed another kind of test, to my mind an even more important one. I could see, not only was he able to apply his mind when needed, but more importantly he was growing into a caring and compassionate man.
Sometimes in this modern world we can put so much emphasis on IQ and natural abilities, but this kind of test any child can pass and it is, I think, even more important for our planet than SAT scores.

The Big 7 ways to train your brain to be happy

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(Copied from a friend’s face book page. So good I wanted to share it with you all)

“Positive psychology is a new and growing field.
I have sifted through hundreds of studies to find the Big 7 ways to train your brain to be happy. Many of these studies have been discussed in journals, conferences, keynotes, and research reports, but I’ve brought them together for you here.
If you do any of these seven things for two straight weeks, you will feel happier.

So what are the Big 7?
Three Walks + The 20-Minute Replay + Random Acts of Kindness + A Complete Unplug + Hit Flow + 2-Minute Meditations + Five Gratitudes”
– Neil Pasricha
from The Happiness Equation

Let’s take a super quick look at our Big 7 ways to boost our happiness and remember that science says the Happiness Equation STARTS with happiness.

1.Three Walks. Exercise is as effective as Zoloft in reducing depression. Even just three brisk walks can do the trick! Remember that *not* exercising is like taking a depressant and get out there and MOVE YOUR BODY.
2.The 20-Minute Replay. Writing for 20 minutes about a positive experience is a GREAT way to boost your happiness. Scientists call it savoring. Groove the good stuff!
3.Random Acts of Kindness. Did you know that THE fastest, most reliable way to boost your mood is to do something nice for someone else? Yep. Find ways to do something nice!
4.A Complete Unplug. We’ve gotta make waves. Fully on. Fully off. Repeat. Are you training your RECOVERY as much as your “on” phases? Remember that it’s not that we work too hard but that we don’t recover enough. ‪#‎waves
5.Hit Flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi tells us that the optimal state of human experience is found when we are engaged in activities that stretch us such that the challenges match our skills. Too much challenge = anxiety. Too little = boredom. The right match? FLOW. Find it!
6.2-Minute Meditations. Meditation is huge. As we discuss in Meditation 101, you don’t need to be a levitating monk in the Himalayas to experience significant benefits. Even just a couple minutes a day keeps the gremlins away.
7.Five Gratitudes. As Neil says, “If you can be happy with the simple things, then it will be simple to be happy.” Find things to be grateful for and focus on them often. What are YOU grateful for today?
There ya go. The Big 7. Which is your favorite and which one do you want to lean into more?!

 

The white stetson (from May 2014)

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stetson

(Flash fiction inspired by 70’s rock documentary)

It seemed so long ago when life was young and every dream possible, when Hendricks clave the air in wild notes that punctuated the “Stars and Stripes” with Vietnam bombs, when fields of tents orchestrated a new era of peace and love.

She’d been young too, had dared believe the dream. All had faded to ashes. Big business took over, exploited the music and milked the ideals to the last dollar. Yet the letter lay in her hand, white, pristine, unsoiled. Would he be the same she wondered? There was only one way to find out.

Boarding the greyhound bus, she looked back one last time. Was she fooling herself? It was forty years since she last saw him, a shadow in khaki lined up for slaughter. They had led separate lives, made their own concessions as dreams withered.

He’d sent no picture. She’d know him by his white cowboy hat he’d said.

“You’re crazy!” she told herself again as she disembarked clutching the bus tickets he’d sent in clammy fingers. Then she saw it – the wheelchair! Her stomach churned, heart melted at the hat hanging from the back, the white Stetson. Its owner looked up and smiled, waving her over.

“Are you the missy looking for a guy in a cowboy hat?” She nodded.

“He’s helping get my bags…. said I should look out for you.”

She raised her eyes to meet the sparkling ones approaching. Time may fly blowing much away, but some things never changed…

Those “little things”

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lunarbaboon

(Pic. from lunarbaboon)

I’m often amazed at how those “little things” can affect us, the encouragement that lifts our spirits when we are about to quit, the kind words from a stranger that make our day etc.

I used to sometimes help on charity collections for various causes. I’m not good at that kind of stuff (quite shy and introverted). The only thing that worked for me was to just try to make as many folks smile as possible (regardless of contributions). I soon found myself interacting with all kinds of people and was amazed what nice folks there were around.I also found what a difference a few kind words could make to lift someones day.  I even had one guy come back to tell me that he’d been on his way to commit suicide but after talking with me for a while had decided instead to give give his life to some good cause to “make a difference”.

Truly we never know what a smile and a few words may accomplish. I’ve tried since that time to overcome my shyness and leave a trail of smiles behind wherever I go. I don’t always manage it as well as some “naturals” but it feels good when I try.