Monday, February 10, 2020

Finding Joy...Part 2

Apparently finding JOY is on my mind lately. In our crazy society, with all the unending stress, it would seem to me that the pursuit of joy is a pretty frequent activity for most of us- just as a matter of survival.  My last blog was on that topic and I still am immersed in a fair amount of stress with the selling of our home and the move to a new home. Granted, it's all very exciting, however, the stress sometimes robs the joy from our life. That's why I am trying to look at the proverbial silver lining and stop having the "What Ifs" from taking over my consciousness. As they say, one day at a time.....I have tried to stop worrying about "What If" they don't complete the house by the deadline? "What if" we have a blizzard on moving day? "What If" my husband or myself gets hurt or sick before the move? get the idea: I could go on and on and my mind frequently does that crazy dance.

So to help quiet those thoughts in my mind and bring back the JOY, I have been doing a combination of things...but it boils down to three main things: Praying, Journaling and Blogging. All of these things work beautifully to restore and maintain my sanity. Sometimes it's hard to find the time to Journal or Blogg, but the awesome thing about prayer is I can do it any time, anywhere and I know God is listening. Very good to know that. God has helped me out of more than one "sticky" situation, and always manages to help me climb out of a deep barrel.

I was also thinking that JOY is not just the absence of pain, it goes beyond that and paves the way for true Happiness. Perhaps all this discussion is just a matter of semantics, but it seems to be the absence of pain, emotional or physical, is COMFORT  not JOY. Comfort is a good thing, no denying there. Think of the wonderful Christmas carol: Tidings of Comfort and Joy. A wonderful blessing. Yet, there is an inner peace that comes with true joy. So how does one find that? Just like Thoreau said: "Happiness is like a Butterfly...the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder." Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes I think I should have majored in Philosophy instead of Journalism...Yikes my brain hurts. In any case, need to take a break from all this "joy seeking" and pack another box for the big move. Thanks for listening.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Finding Joy

I am an avid list maker, to the point of obsession. It helps keep my Bi-Polar brain on track and everyone has to admit, there is a great deal of satisfaction in crossing items off your list upon completion. I always loved this meme about adding "Drink Coffee" on one's to do list. Now I have another item I would like to add to the very top of the list: Find Joy. On the surface, seems like a trivial task and there are days when...we know the ones, when it seems like an insurmountable task. Yet, when you add it to the to do's everyday, it's amazing when you not only cross it off your list, but can add tally marks for the joy you can find in every day life.

Even the seemingly littlest thing can be magnified to a truly Joyful moment in your day, especially when you are actively seeking JOY. Today I saw a black squirrel burrowing in about 5 inches of snow today. His black fur was easy to spot against the new fallen snow and he was so comical to watch because he kept popping up and down. Either burying nuts or seeking some...he was so entertaining to watch. Made me smile, and to me, that is joyful. In the craziness of everyday life, it helps heal us when we look for the joy. It helps diminish the pain and make all the not so pleasant tasks a little more bearable. Finding JOY and recognizing those things that bring us joy help to generate gratitude. Then when we are grateful, it in turn creates JOY. Its cyclical.

Today is the first day of Advent on the Christian calendar.  Advent means "coming" in Latin and as Christians we are preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of the celebration of the birth of Christ.  John the Baptist proclaimed this coming in Mark 1 2-3:  As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.' "
It is also the beginning of the stressful season with all those TO-DO lists that will most likely weave their way into everyone's lives these days.  Things we do to "prepare the way of the Lord.."

Set up for gifts...prepare for Christmas party...bake cookies...plan Christmas meals...set-up guest rooms...write Christmas letter and cards..... (just to name a few)

The holiday season is different for everyone, perhaps everyone's lists have different priorities, but I believe that we could all benefit by adding Find Joy to our lists.
Yet, sometimes as Christians we forget what the beauty of the season is all about: celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Yes, it's obvious....but sometimes we need to bring back the GRATITUDE  for blessings and bring back the JOY. 

I personally find encouragement in seeking joy, it helps make the rough part of our journey more tolerable. So I will try to find the Joy in the every day....even if it is a little squirrel frolicking in the snow.   Julie Etta Smith


Friday, November 15, 2019


Hard to husband and I are moving again after only 3 years in our current location. Wow, it's so exciting, but sometimes I feel like an Army brat. Although military families probably move more frequently than this. Perhaps you could just say I am a glutton for punishment. Moving is a very stressful experience. It would be great if you could take "moving stress" and stuff it in a box, tape it up and shove it into the truck. All neat and tidy and put away...but it's not quite that simple. I have just recovered from a nasty bout of flu, brought on I'm sure by my immune system being compromised by all the stressors in my life- the "move" included. Don't get me wrong, my husband and I love the geographic area we moved to with all the beautiful lakes and woods for the start of our retirement years. However, we are just hoping to change our house that we live in to meet all our needs. My husband is a talented woodworker and the shop he has at our current location is woefully inadequate, not really a "shop" at all. In our new house, he will have a completely unfinished basement to set up an awesome shop, just the way he likes. We will be moving only 20 miles from our current location, and probably won't move until early spring. It's kind of exciting that we are having a house built. Really exciting but LOTS of decisions to be made.

Me stressed? Nah....I've done this so many times before.
According to a study conducted by the United States Census Bureau, the average person will move  11.7 times in their lifetime. Over the course of a lifetime, perhaps 11 times does not seem like too much. Especially when you factor in trips to college and back home every summer, I guess that would count as "moving".  I counted the moves in my lifetime and it already comes to about 21, so I guess that is about double the "average". You think I would get used to it by now, and efficient at the process...maybe, but its still stressful.

Speaking of the stress of moving, to help diminish the stress and help clarify things in my own mind; I am doing my favorite activity: writing. It's a little healthier than drinking, which is a close second for stress reduction. I still pursue the joy of libations, depends on the day. Yet writing still is incredibly therapeutic for here I am at the keyboard again.

In any case, when we moved 3 years ago I blogged about it. I dug out one of my old blogs on the subject that I had written just prior to our move. I discovered that I was incredibly distraught at the time because I had not completed the book based on my Grandmother's diaries. Fear not, after all the craziness of the move, I did settle in and complete the book. My relatives who knew and loved my Grandmother as I do, were pleased that the book is a fitting remembrance of my Grandmother. I am so glad that I was able to accomplish that task for my family. Hopefully, I can continue to pursue my writing and "keep on plugging", I do have another book in the works. I will survive this move as well and perhaps even complete the book "in progress".

 In helping us to cope with the changes in our life, I have found comfort in the observation that change is inevitable and we might as well expect it. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said it best: "Change is the only Constant in Life"  If we know that change is bound to occur, then it's easier to meet the changes with an open mind and a spirit of discovery, instead of cocooning and shutting ourselves to the possibility of new experiences. So here's to dealing with change...wish me luck!  Julie Etta Smith

Monday, July 22, 2019

Body Image-taking a Leap of Faith

Photo by: Aleksander Antonijevic
This morning as I slipped on some exercise pants for my work out at the gym I noticed something that brought a chuckle to my day. On the tag of my pants it said "Danskin".  Most of my exercise clothes are generic or old t-shirts, but I do have a few nice ones. I remember an old commercial for Danskin: "Danskins are for dancing". Now I'm assuming the company meant to inspire anyone to get off the couch and start dancing. Preferably a dance suitable to an accomplished ballerina. And if you wear Danskin clothing you will look like a ballerina with the sculptured muscular legs to go with it. Nothing against Danskin, they are just trying to sell leotards, tights and leggings, but one can't help but get these certain images in your brain about how a healthy body is "supposed" to look. It's my understanding that they changed their slogan to "Danskin's are not just for dance." Also, now it's called "activewear", for just about any and all forms of "active living". Although I will say, I can't see myself going to the grocery store or walking a dog wearing leggings and a tank top. I know, it's been each his own.

 So getting to the chuckle that was brought to my day.... as I slipped on the exercise pants, when I saw the Danskin label I thought of myself as a pretty Portly Ballerina. Now I was being gentle with myself- I didn't say a FAT ballerina; I was so kind to use the euphemism "portly".  Then it brought a smile to my face when I realized what I would look like trying to attempt ballet. Yet, I dressed, went to the gym and felt strangely empowered by being thankful for what my body CAN do, not dwelling on the things I CAN'T do. I also try very hard to focus on what my body can do, not what it looks like. Yes, my legs are fat, my knees hurt....but my legs still work, and my knees bend. Perhaps it takes me longer to climb a flight of stairs than it did a few years back, but by golly I can still do it.
 3 Cheers for Julie.  Yes, I want to stress the importance of being your own cheering section.

Now perhaps I have a biased opinion, because I never took ballet. Yet I hold in high regard the beauty of the art form of dance and am always amazed how an accomplished dancer, ballet and other forms of dance, can discipline their bodies to perform incredible athletic feats. Truly an inspiration. I did however take a one semester course in Jazz Dancing. Oh my gosh. What an incredibly fun class. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but never did get the full routine down pat. As I said previously, not a good dancer. I remember to this day it was to Chaka Khan's "I Feel for you"....great song. Click on this link to hear that good ol' song and I think you will agree, it's very "danceable:  In the class, there were many fancy dance steps and motions, in many different sequences.  Even if I "messed up" several times, it was so great just becoming immersed in the dance and moving your body to the music. Isn't that the point of dancing? That's why I always have music to move me at the gym. Helps motivate me.

So on that playlist from my MP3 player I use at the gym, many of the songs help me to rise above "body image" and work to keep the body I have healthier and happy.   In terms of female body image and empowerment, Meghan Trainor has many songs to inspire. One of my favorite lines is from  "All About that Bass" : several lines encourage loving the body we have: Meghan sings: " Yeah, it's pretty clear, I ain't no size two....I see the magazines working that Photoshop. We know that shit ain't real. Come on now, make it stop...Cause every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top."
Thanks Meghan.
So I guess I can't stress enough, both to myself and to many others bombarded by images of what the perfect body should be. Love and take care of the body you are in because it is the only body you are given. Be good to yourself and thank the Good Lord for the goodness within you.

Julie E. Smith

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Perpetual Student

You would think when I completed my formal education, I would have stopped taking notes and scribbling interesting bits of information on any nearby paper I could get my hands on. Yet, is a habit that I have carried outside the classroom. Granted, usually it's for ideas for my two blogs and/or a potential article I have been "meaning to write."

Although sometimes the note taking is not for quite such a concrete purpose, but rather just to clarify my own random ramblings in my brain. Like many people, it helps me to remember things. This concept of my propensity for frequent note-taking came to mind today at a Weight Watchers meeting. A  fellow meeting attendee inquired, "You're taking notes?" I explained: "Yeah, I know it's weird...but it really helps to remember all the pointers and great ideas that are shared at meetings."
She seemed to think that made sense, or maybe she was just being polite, but it really doesn't worry me. That's just who I am...a journalist and a note taker. I don't trust my memory and it really does help to highlight what I view as important. I have even been known to jot notes on the church bulletin when a particular sermon has inspired me to pursue further discussion or reading. I have generated several blog topics that way...(Thanks Pastor Barry for your inspiration.) So I just keep on taking notes and hopefully keep on learning new things. One can never live long enough on this earth to know everything...there is always something new to learn.

So I keep writing, reading and learning as a perpetual student in a variety of areas of study. Of course I have my favorites, and I doubt I will ever go back to studying Algebra or Trigonometry....Argghhhh...scary thought!! Yet having the opportunity to always learn something new is a blessing.  Albert Einstein expressed this well by saying: "Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it."

My mother is truly an inspiration to me. And to her grandchildren as well. She always finds something new to discuss and to learn about with other people: always ready to embark on new learning adventures.   She is a "newspaper article clipper" and has an uncanny knack for knowing just what the people in her life are interested in. Any article on the National Parks (one of my passions) always finds its way to me. One of my sons is a civil engineer living in Alaska and working to assist with reliable energy sources. You can bet Mom always finds energy development and Alaska articles for him. Well, you get the idea and the list goes on for her finding new information that affects the lives of those she loves. She obtained her undergrad and Masters degree quite some time ago....but the learning just keeps on going.

When I travel and have a brochure in hand, its funny that additional notes always end up on the side margins. I have little tid-bits of information that I know I will forget if I don't jot them down. I own several journals that I take such joy in filling up the pages. Some are used for story ideas, some just for the sheer joy of writing. I know we are still in the peak of summer...but the Back to School sales will be upon us soon. Every August (sometimes even late July) I delight in the crisp, white pages in the spiral notebooks and packets upon packets of pens and pencils. All waiting to be used.  My husband has to keep me away from those aisles in the store...I probably have enough journals, spiral notebooks and pens to last at least five or six years....I better get busy.          
                                                                                       Julie Etta Smith

Monday, May 13, 2019

People or Places...What triggers the Memory most?

My Alma Mater: TRHS- Des Moines,IA
I used to think that is was shallow minded to have many of one's fondest memories be wrapped in  a favorite place or building (one's old high school for example) After all, the building or locale is only an object and not a living breathing organism...shouldn't it be people that we share our lives with that create those treasured memories? Yet, recently I have been revising my thinking on this. I believe it's a mistake to separate the two and think of them as exclusive categories.  They often feed on each other and serve to cement those memories for us. A childhood home, or your old high school, triggers memories, probably both good and bad of your growing up experiences. Which in turn triggers memories of those people who shared events within our childhood. In that respect, the building or place has served it's purpose in connecting us to the people of those particular memories.

Yet, in someways the special building or place can evoke memories that stand alone-devoid of any connections to other people in your life. Perhaps those places serve a purpose in our memory in and of themselves. They help to provide a highly personal collection of memories that is exclusively our own, ours and ours alone. An example I'm thinking of from my child hood is a special place I used to go near my Grandmother's house. I used to "escape" there to be alone with my thoughts and also to reconnect with nature. It was in the nearby woods, close enough to the road so I wouldn't feel lost, but nestled in the trees so I could feel alone. There was a huge slab of stone, quite comfortable to sit upon. I dubbed it my "thinking rock". Whenever we went to visit, I sought it out to have some precious "Me time".

Taking the opportunity to relive and cherish happy times is good for the soul.  Conversely, as a matter of self-preservation, hurtful memories are delegated to the darkest corners of our mind. Sometimes they are frequently meant to stay there, because sometimes they are better suppressed.  We can continue to cope and move forward without them being on the forefront of our consciousness.
"Sometimes,  I guess there just aren't enough rocks"
 Some things can't be "resolved"  other than to just put them on a shelf. Then sometimes the sadness, anger or fear is brought forth and triggered by a specific place. One of the best example of suppressing memories in this manner is beautifully illustrated in the film Forest Gump.  Jenny had come back to visit Forest and as they were strolling came upon her abandoned childhood home. Living in that home with an abusive father, her face clouded over, then turned to anger. She began hurling stones and breaking the last of the remaining window glass. It is one of the most powerful, telling scenes in the whole movie. As she dissolves in tears, Forest comforts her the only way he can by saying: " Sometimes I guess there just aren't enough rocks." Simplistic in nature on the surface, Forest had it spot on by revealing that sometimes in our psyche, injuries can't be healed but only fade to a distant memory.

The discussion about what triggers the memory most, people or places, can be revised very quickly when one finds out that it is not the sense of sight that is the strongest sense for triggering memory. Out of all of our 5 senses, scientists have confirmed that the sense of smell is the strongest for memory recall.  Here is a ranking, that is generally agreed upon in the scientific community, of how our five senses rate in assisting us with our memory recall.
  1. Smell - Certain smells can trigger vivid memories almost instantaneously.
  2. Taste - Taste is closely linked to smell, so it also has a powerful connection to memory, 
  3. Touch -  Textures and certain feelings can bring out old memories.
  4. Sight- Most people consider this the most important sense, however it does not rank high on the list for triggering memory.
  5. Sound - I found this very ironic that sound is the least important sense for recalling memories. Hard to believe when I think of all my favorite music from my high school and college days. Maybe this ranking is different for different people (?)
According to several neuroscientist's theories, memories fad with time to be replaced by more recent memories. Memories that have have deemed worthy of retaining can usually be kept if "re-visited" and brought to the forefront of our thinking. I love to scrapbook family photographs and it's a perfect way for me to keep those memories alive and exercising my brain. Not only is it a good way to recollect events, but serves as a good reference point when random questions arise....."What year did we go to Maine?"

 It's interesting though that memories are frequently revised and embellished, sometimes we only remember what we want to remember. Again it's the old self-preservation of the psyche, wanting to protect one's self. Who can blame you?
 However memories are triggered for you, they are an important part of what defines us as a person and helps to keep us mentally happy and healthy. Whatever form they take: a building, a photograph, the scent of your aunt's favorite casserole, just cherish them and let them be refreshed now and then so they don't become lost in a dusty, remote corner of the psyche. Bring on the nostalgia, it's good for the soul. JES

Friday, April 12, 2019

OMG! Not another acronym!

Long before texting and Facebook acronyms were in vogue, the pervasive use of acronyms in everyday conversations and written communications has been evident.  Think of the very first acronym you probably learned in elementary school, or earlier: the USA (United States of America) Some acronyms of this nature are so pervasive and commonly used, they take on a life of their own and almost become a word in and of themselves. 
Have you had your daily dose of alphabet soup today?

Yet many acronyms are only familiar to certain groups that use them with common shared interests. This frequently streamlines communications and assists in getting your message across…if the people you are conversing with understand what the acronym stands for.  How many times have you found yourself thinking….Oh Kaaaay, well what does that mean? The use of acronyms is very common and almost always found in a group of persons that share the same interest; they all use the same types of languages and phrases to share information about their common interest.
I was recently prompted to write about acronyms because of recent “overuse” of them in many modern conversations: especially pharmaceutical commercials. Oh Gracious! There are so many ailments that have been assigned so many different acronyms that even if you did become ill, how do you know what it is you are dealing with?  Also, how do you know if the recommended medication is for you? Obviously, talk to your doctor first. If you have reason to know what any of these letters stand for, I would imagine you would be discussing this with your medical provider….not pondering the possibilities from network television.  Nevertheless,  it is truly amazing the letters that get thrown out there frequently to confuse the subject matter. Bear in mind, too that you best not be mixing up your letters!   ED (Erectile Dysfunction) is quite different from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), which is different from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  When you hear a commercial on NBC (National Broadcast Corporation) about MBC (Metastatic Breast Cancer) you will know that are talking about breast cancer, not the station affiliate. I heard that commercial several times and I thought they were saying NBC. Closer listening helped me to identify it as MBC.  I’m not making light of the illnesses, I am just saying it gets very confusing throwing all that verbiage around. There are so many more, but here are just a few: MD (Macular Degeneration), COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)….just to name a few.

Video Gamers, both on-line and solo versions, have developed a whole new language today including of course several acronyms for communicating with your fellow gamers. Here are a few that those who play are probably very familiar with: DD (Dungeons and Dragons), GG (Good Game) BG (Bad Game or Battleground, depending on the context), BRB (Be Right Back…even the most dedicated gamer has to take a bathroom break now and then…) DPS (Damage Per Second)

On the topics of sports and leisure, wow….the field of sports seems to even have the pharmaceuticals beat when it comes to the use of acronyms. Some of these are just so automatic; you don’t even think that the NFL stands for the National Football League….you just think NFL. Nevertheless here are a few more to load up your bowl of alphabet soup: AFC(American Football Conference, NFC (National Football Conference) NBA (National Basketball Association), WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association), NHL (National Hockey League) PGA (Professional Golf Association)…..well, you get the idea and I bet you can name a whole lot more.

In the work place, acronyms are very pervasive and definitely serve their purpose.  Every occupation has their own set of acronyms and abbreviations used fluently and frequently. Since I am married to an engineer and have a son who is also an engineer I am “privy” to many of the acronyms used in that field.  Here is just a sampling: ASCE(American Society of Civil Engineers), IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), PMP (Project Management Plan), PE(Professional Engineer), EIT(Engineer in Training), CEM (Certified Energy Manager), PPE(Personal Protection Equipment, safety glasses, etc,)

Sometimes awkward moments, and frequently humorous results, occur when conversations including acronyms are not understood by both parties. True story: a friend of mine was discussing current issues when the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement came up.  My friend was not familiar with that particular acronym and could not understand how the Bureau of Land Management-BLM fit in with that story. Embarrassment followed and a little light of recognition came on. Ohhhhh, that BLM! It is also funny how one extra letter can change the whole meaning: if you recently received a map and directions from your local AAA (American Automobile Association) you can find your way to your AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting.

The texting and Facebook acronyms open up a whole new category of acronyms that are too varied and numerous to include in this blog. Yet, I bet many of us know the frequently used ones, and choose to use our favorites time and again. Right?  LOL!(Laugh Out Loud) So I bid you adieu for now and TTYL(Talk To You Later) JES (not truly an acronym, but I use it a lot: Julie E. Smith)