Monday, November 18, 2013

Don't Let Your Car "Brake" Your Day!

Not very long ago, Larry and I set off on our very first real road trip.    We've made trips before, obviously.    But this one was different because we were going a very long distance in our own car.  No rental car this trip!   It was a trip that ended up putting nearly 4,000 miles on our trusty Camry.     We knew it was going to be a lengthy trip because we planned to be gone for nearly 3 weeks  and required several overnight stays along the way.   

I started planning for this trip some time back in the summer.     I spent a lot of time on the internet scouting out hotel rooms, places we wanted to see along the way and what we could do once we got to our destination---Massachusetts.      Thanks to wonderful hosting by Rich and Rebecca, we got to see parts of Vermont, Massachusetts and New York.    They were our traveling companions for that portion of the trip and made a lot of grand adventures possible!  

Before we could pack our bags, load up the car and head out on this fun trip, Larry was already thinking about preparing our car for the trip.     Fortunately, he didn't wait until the last minute to do that.     A full two weeks before we were to leave he began maintenance and check ups that anyone should think about before taking a road trip.  He replaced belts, hoses, changed the oil and checked fluid levels.  He even gave the ol' buggy a good wash and wax!   Starting ahead of time ultimately saved us a lot of aggravation and potential problems that could have interfered with our plans.  

Larry is a guy who knows a lot about preventive maintenance because he spent the lion's share of his career doing that for Fed Ex.    The vans that he kept running and in service were on a regular maintenance schedule.   But it wasn't just the scheduled maintenance that was important.   The eyes and ears for every day those vans went out on the road came from the drivers who were required to do a pre and post trip inspection.   Before they ever left the building, they were expected to do a walk around for their vehicle.  They looked at it, noted anything that didn't seem right.   They were supposed to make sure the vehicle was ready for service and tell the mechanic if anything seemed amiss.     Then they listened and watched for things while on the road and finally, wrote it all up at the end of the day so the mechanic could check it out with more detail and experienced eyes.   This system works very well for major fleets and is one that you can adopt to make your car last longer and not fail you when you need it to work properly --- which come to think of it is EVERY time you get in it to go somewhere!     

How many times do you just get in your car, crank it up and let 'er roll?    You only pay attention when the noise coming from under the hood is literally screaming at you or it fails to start.      Or you give a passing glance to the dash board and don't make it a habit to note whether there are lights on, other than the gas gauge giving you a nudge that you might need to refuel.   If this is you, then maybe the following suggestions will make your driving experience a bit less of a hassle and more pleasurable.   

Cars today are amazing devices and, like most of the other things in our lives, are run by computers.    They make our cars run more efficiently, keep us safer and, in some of the newest models, have even taken over things like parking and braking to keep us a safe distance from the next vehicle.   When you look under the hood of most cars, the entire engine compartment is filled edge to edge with almost no room for a hand to get in there to repair something that is broken or malfunctioning.   What you need to realize is that even with all those computers and mechanical devices the most important component is YOU.   If you don't heed the warnings, the lights and other ways your car has to tell you that something is wrong (those new sounds!!), you could still end up stranded on the side of the road. 

On a regular basis, you should be looking at your tires, your oil and water.    Unlike the Fed Ex driver, you probably don't need to do this every time you go out, but every couple of weeks is usually sufficient.     When you crank your car, listen to it.    Preferably without the radio or air conditioning on as they can mask important sounds.   Does it sound like it normally does?   Did it take longer to crank than it usually does?   If so, what did it sound like?    Make note of these things because you will need that information if you believe it needs to be checked out by your mechanic.   Don't ignore changes as they are clues to what is going on out of your sight, under the hood.  

Once you get going, does your car move correctly?   Do you notice any unusual vibrations or shimmying as you move along?   When your tires are not aligned properly it can make your car sway as it rolls along.  It might be harder to steer, too, or pull in one direction or the other.   Improper alignment can make your tires wear out faster than they should and can interfere with the comfort of your ride.    If you notice unusual lumpiness as you ride along, it may be that your tire has a serious issue going on that requires a more thorough exam by a mechanic or tire store.     Before we left on our road trip, Larry did a visual examination of our tires and deemed them to be OK.  But to be sure, he took the car in to be aligned and so they could put it on a lift for a better look at the tires.   Imagine his surprise to be told that one of the tires had a serious problem that would have almost certainly caused us a problem after we were under way.     As it was, because he started the check up process WELL AHEAD of our trip, he had plenty of time to replace the tires so we started our adventure with less of a chance that a blown tired would ruin our day and possibly our trip.   

Now about those warning lights and gauges that we depend on to warn us about issues under the hood......On a trip last fall to Apalachicola,  I learned something that I never knew before.   We had been traveling along nicely, enjoying the scenery near Panama City when all of a sudden an amber CHECK ENGINE light came on.   Larry noticed it almost immediately and mentioned it to me.    I was sort of panicked, wondering what it meant and if our trip had just hit a big snag.     I figured he would pull over and stop immediately.    

I was wrong.    He did stop, but it was a little way down the road where we could pull off into a shopping center parking lot.     He got out, did a quick check and then got back in and we continued our trip.     He explained to me that AMBER lights mean one thing, while RED lights are another matter altogether.  This, I never knew!    Amber lights are a way to let you know that something is not right and that it should be checked out.    As a rule, they do NOT mean you need to stop ASAP.     Just make note of the light and, at your earliest convenience , take the car to the shop to find out the source of the problem.

Please note that another thing you can do is take your car to almost any of the national auto parts houses (Auto Zone,  O'Reilly's or Advanced Auto) and they can hook your car up to a laptop computer that can get the code your car's computer is giving and tell you what it means.     Most of those places do not make the repairs but can tell you what needs to be done which will be useful information when you take your car to the repair shop.     

RED LIGHTS.    They are a whole other ball game when it comes to your car's well being.    If you ever see a red light come on, you have to find a way to get off the road and quickly.      Something is really wrong under the hood and that RED LIGHT is giving you the signal it's time to shut things down.    If you ignore it, chances are pretty good that your car is going to simply stop running and you're going to stop anyhow.  If you see a red light, start planning immediately how to safely get to the side of the road or to an exit if you can.   You probably will need road side assistance and possibly a tow truck to get you to a repair shop, but by acting quickly and appropriately, you could save yourself thousands of dollars in repair expenses!   

And speaking of repairs, if you are ever in a situation where you are advised to have an expensive repair done to your car, always think about getting a second opinion.    Ask the first mechanic to write down what the problem is and what they recommend to fix it.    Then find another mechanic, take the car to that person and get another opinion.    Do not tell them what the first mechanic recommended, just what the symptoms are.   When you are being told that an expensive repair is necessary, you surely want to know that it was, indeed, necessary.    So don't be afraid to seek out another opinion when it's your money and your car.    

Finally, one last bit of advice from the resident mechanic here on the Funny Farm:   Try to park in the same place when you arrive back at home.    Why?    Because every now and then (two weeks) you need to move the car a bit ---- back it up, pull it forward, whatever works in your drive way or parking space. Then look where your car was parked.     Is there fluid on the ground?    If so, do you notice any color to it?     Normal air conditioning drips will not be colored and will dry up shortly. Totally normal, by the way.  If you notice color in the drainage, take note of what color it is.   Fluids that your car uses to function come in all colors---red, yellow and green.    Oil leaks will often give off a rainbow effect.    Make a note of the color of the leakage so when you take your car to be checked ----- you ARE going to get that checked, aren't you? ---- you can tell your repair shop service writer (the guy or gal writing up your ticket) what you found had dripped out of your car's engine compartment.  This gives them a starting place to look and will save them time and possibly save you some money.    

Most of us today would be lost without our vehicles.   We depend on them to get us to our jobs, run errands and just take us from here to there!    You can make your car last longer, cost less to maintain and reduce the stress in your life by simply taking the time to maintain your vehicle.   Listen to what it is telling you.    Pay attention to the signals it is giving you.    Then act on them and don't wait until you're stranded to discover you have a problem.    You might even save a lot of money by getting attention where it is needed before something is ruined or has to be replaced.   Moral of this story is: do your due diligence when it comes to your car and it will make your car last longer, cost less and give you less heartache.   You might even have an amazing road trip to tell about!

Happy Motoring!  Happy Trails!



Thursday, August 15, 2013

What's In Our Future and the Future of our Grandchildren?

I wasn't doing anything unusual for a Wednesday afternoon.   I walked into my utility/laundry room and took a load of wet laundry out of the washer and transferred it to the dryer.   I tossed in a fabric softener sheet and after pressing two buttons, the machine sprang to life and began tumbling the clothes inside.   In less than an hour, they were dry, smelling fresh and clean and ready to fold.  But that is not anything too spectacular or out of the norm around here.    I do this no less than 5 or 6 times a week and sometimes more than that.    I would go so far as to say I take these labor saving devices for granted. 

Which brings me to my next thought.    In my grandmother's day, doing laundry was a big deal.  It required a lot of hard labor for the better part of a day and maybe more than that if it was for a large family.    There was water to be heated, sometimes over a fire located outside.    There were washboards and harsh soaps and a woman was lucky if her hands were not sore and red after doing her family's laundry.    I remember my mother telling me that it was very common to wear things more times than just once....understandably so, given the labor intensive methods used to do the laundry.   

As time went on, machines to do the wash and then wring them out before hanging them on a clothes line came to be the norm for many families.    My mother often told of getting an automatic washer, the kind that had a round window in it so you could see the clothes agitate, when I was born.  With a newborn baby and disposable diapers twenty years away, a washing machine was her idea of heaven on earth!   Twenty something years later, when Larry and I moved to Mobile and bought our first house,  we also got a brand new, avocado green, matching set, Kenmore washer and dryer.   I was thrilled, having done laundry next door at my mother's house and hanging the clothes on the outside clothes line for nearly 10 years.

1948 Westinghouse Washer
I mention all these things to say it's an amazing world we live in.   When I consider the world my grandmothers lived in,  I'm know they wouldn't recognize the digitized, computerized world we live in today.   Our cars all have black boxes and computer chips that control everything from communications to parallel parking.  Many of us carry around portable telephones that are capable of calling just about any place on the planet and can instantly connect us to the internet.   A large portion of us conduct our lives via these small boxes including paying bills, buying everything under the sun and communicating with anyone and everyone.    They don't call them "smart phones" for nothing!  

Imaging the difference between the world I live in today and comparing it even to the life I led as a child is like night and day.    We take it all for granted and our day to day existence is impacted  by the things that inhabit our world from the moment we wake up until we nod off at night.    So it is only natural to wonder---what's next?   Will our world continue to change as much as it has in the time I've been alive?   

Well, I say it sure looks like it will!   A few days ago a young man named Elon Musk,  a truly amazing guy with an imagination that must give him some wild dreams, introduced the world to his latest idea.  Musk is famous for founding Tesla Motor Company and a thing called PayPal, that many of us use regularly to make our purchases safely and easily on the internet.  His idea is called a Hyperloop,  a futuristic concept for transporting people via a high speed tube system between Los Angeles and San Francisco.    It takes the notion of high speed rail and pushes it up a notch or two.     On first read of the 57 page document that outlines his concept, one might be tempted to think he is way out on limb and that it's something that far eclipses our ability to execute.    A capsule inside a tube that hurtles people at 700 mph between cities?   Surely this is the stuff of science fiction?   

Elon Musk's Hyperloop


In a word, NO!   It is out of the mind of dreamers like Musk that we got all of the things that currently inhabit our lives.    The first airplanes, automobiles, computers and microwave ovens all had to go through the phases of people thinking they were not serious concepts.    I am sure the first people to actually go airborne in an airplane went aloft with their hearts in their throats.    And so it is with Musk's plan to reinvent how we travel whether it's from one city to another and even to how we will move around the globe....or dare I say it?  Across the galaxy?!   With his plan one might consider that a trip to Australia, currently a 24 hour plus ordeal of planes crisscrossing continents and oceans will be reduced to a few hours in complete comfort and with little or no stress.   We will be able to go there as easily and conveniently as we go to see our Granny  who lives a state or two away from us.   

Gavin at the microscope.
I think it's safe for me to say that the world I live in today is apt to change just as drastically as the world did for my Grandmothers.   We tend to think we live in the epitome of high times and forget that the dreamers and inventors of today are no less curious and imaginative than the Thomas Edisons and Wright Brothers of yesteryear.      The potential and possibilities are endless.

Luci reading & thinking.

So keep your eyes open and pay attention to what's coming.    When my grandchildren look back at how their world has changed, they will view today's best inventions with the same impression we think of the Model T and the washboard and  lye soap.    It will all look so primitive to their eyes.    I hope that the news of Mr. Musk's  plans for the future sparks their imagination, too.      I'd like to think that one of them is thinking right now of something new, unheard of that will change their world in ways we may not be able to fathom.    I sure do hope I live long enough to see their ideas come to life. 

Ben and Brian inventing.

Happy Trails and to my Grandchildren~~~keep on dreaming and thinking of how to change your world!
Marcia AKA Grammy

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Is Your Inner Critic Holding You Back?

In my last post I wrote about being happy.    No doubt about it, finding true happiness often eludes many of us and the ones who do find it may not be fully aware of what combination of things they did to get to that special state of mind.    I think some of the things I discussed last post most definitely figure into the whole process. 

To recap:   Making sure you don't put a lot of stress and difficult images into your mind is a place to start.   Keeping abreast of the news is important but determining how much is enough should be a priority.    Taking time to relax and appreciate the beauty around you is another way to ease your way into a more blissful state of mind.  And no matter what strategy you use takes effort on your part.   Getting to a better place mentally won't come looking for you.    You probably are going to have to initiate that task.  If you figure that out, you'll be ahead of the game!  

But truthfully, those are just a few of the strategies you must employ to figure out what works for you.    I guess what may ride over the whole process is a thing called your inner critic.    Those of you who write or paint or have attempted to do something out of your comfort zone know exactly what I am talking about.   It's that nagging little voice way in the back of your head that whispers all the reasons why you can't do something.    It's the thing that convinces you that you're wasting your time and that you should give up.    Often it does an effective job of shutting you down BEFORE you even begin!

Inner critics sometimes start in our childhood.  I suspect that many of us can point to a specific person who influenced us or discouraged us in ways that may have been subtle but effective ways of shutting down the creative or inventive process.    Perhaps it was a demand for perfection so that nothing you did was ever good enough.    Or even a suggestion that the idea was not really yours or original.     Little cuts here and there that may have eroded your confidence in your own ability may have happened at home or in school.    I have examples in  my own life where an elementary school teacher was directly connected to my math phobia that dogged me all the way through graduate school.  And conversely, I had another elementary teacher who instilled in me pride in being such a fast reader.     So there was a mixed bag from early in my life of feeling really insecure about myself and my proficiency with math,  as well as the boost I got from another teacher regarding my ability to read.   

Some of us have parents who were the source of our insecurities and fears about putting our work on display for judgment by others.    And while most parents had no intention of doing us harm, they may have said or done things unwittingly that ended up making us feel less worthy of praise.    Ironically many times that behavior stems from a real desire to see us succeed and just goes awry in the execution.   

So while we sometimes can easily see where that inner critic came from, it's harder to deal with and figure out how to coexist with that little inner voice that fills in for that parent or teacher who brought you together in the first place.     What can be done when you're sitting at the keyboard or the easel feeling the urge to be "creative"?   What can you do when you're asked to be a speaker at your club or church and your knees immediately begin to shake and go to Jell-O under you?   How about when you're offered a promotion or position of leadership?    How can you stop the negative thoughts from filling you with self doubt?  

First you have to have mechanisms in place to help you when the self doubt creeps in and dominates the thought processes.    My older sister, Charlotte, was a woman of many talents.   She was smart, she could sing, a natural born leader.    There was not much she attempted in her life that she didn't do and do very well.    But she struggled with insecurity and negative self talk about many things.     One of her many talents was her ability to sew.    I don't mean simple projects that you learn in Home Ec.    She took on things like lined suits, prom dresses for her daughter and new drapes for her living room.     Many people looked at her work in complete awe of what she made with her own two hands!  

The problem for Charlotte was that her insecurity made her focus on the glaring flaws that she was sure were  there for all to see.     No matter how many people told her that what she had made was lovely or a great execution of the project, her eyes would zoom to the one spot that she perceived was not quite right.    Eventually, she developed a technique for dealing with this that worked like a charm.    Once she completed a dress or a pair of slacks, she immediately would put the project on a hanger and put it in the closet for a few days.   And she left it there until she was ready to take the new creation out for inspection when she knew she would have a less critical eye.    The time spent letting it hang in the closet served as a buffer for her so that when she looked at it again,  she saw the whole outfit and not just the places she thought weren't right.  

So a strategy for those who struggle with their creations, whether it's a painting or a poem is to put it aside for a few days after it is completed.     Don't think about it, don't evaluate it during that time.    Then after sufficient time has passed, bring it out and look at it with new eyes.    I have done this with things I have written and been surprised to find that I actually like what I find, even if I put it away thinking it was worthless.   

 Another way to deal with inner critics telling you that you're not any good, you have no talent or you're wasting your time is to learn to recognize that it's the voice in your head telling you these things.  No one else.  Are you putting off doing a project?    Are you finding OTHER things to do that take you away from what you intended to do?    Are you putting other priorities to the head of the list of things you want to do so that your special project is still in the mix but just never seems to get done?  Maybe what's going on is that you are hearing that voice but are not recognizing its impact on what you are doing.  The inner critic can and will steer you astray --- if you let it.

Start paying attention to the voice and have a conversation with yourself.    Is what the voice is telling you true?    And even if it is true, does it really matter if what you want to do is important to you?    There comes a time in all of our lives when we have to stand up to inner critics that tell us we're not good enough, not talented enough or that what we want isn't important.     You may have to come to a point where you're willing to banish the inner critic and do what you want anyhow.   

If you are serious about tackling the inner critic in your head, there are many books, websites and self help materials to give you even more strategies to try.    In addition to those resources, you will find that there are professionals who specialize in helping people reach their full potential.   A quick Google search will probably bring you more things than you can read in a month.    The trick is to recognize what's going on in your head and figure how where you need to go from there.   Identifying the problem is a start and how you solve it has many solutions.

As I said in the beginning, a search for happiness is not easy and can be a complex matter.   If you want to succeed in getting to a happier place in your life, it may involve pushing yourself to do or think in new ways.   If you have an inner critic that is holding you back or making things harder for you, it may be time to think about what YOU want and how to get around the obstacles.      Find the courage to face up to them and think about what's waiting for you if you get the nerve to just go for it.    You may be surprised at what you find and what you can do.   

Happy Trails,

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Happy Camper Confesses All....

Well, to be honest, I have been missing in action around here for some time.    No excuses other than time flies and it's easy to put things off or ignore what needs attention.   That in no way means I haven't had things swirling around in my head that should have somehow made it to this page.    So here I am again.   Maybe some of what I'm thinking today will resonate with you.

It's been said by some that I am "the proverbial happy camper".    My inclination is to hunt for the silver lining and I've been known to find some bizarre glimmers of hope even when in a dire situation.    I recall sitting in the waiting room before my first radiation treatment and my sister and I were engaging in a little "gallows humor" by wryly opining that there might be a chance I'd glow in the dark when they got finished with me.     We both laughed at that notion and for a moment we could forget why I was there in the first place.    A moment of levity and humor can help take the sting out of almost anything. 


But the real truth is that I am as subject to dark nights of the soul, endless self-analysis and moments of pure self pity---just like many of you who will read this blog post.    As much as I would like to characterize myself as a happy camper, I know that it takes a lot of effort and tricks on my part to pull myself out of the doldrums and get to that happy place.    It doesn't just happen naturally, although I confess if you do the tricks long enough, they start to become more natural to you.  

I've been thinking about those tricks and methods I use on a regular basis.    What has worked for me? Are there things I do for myself that I think someone else might find useful in their journey to a happier place?   The truth of the matter is we live in a difficult world and we can use all the help we can muster to figure our way through a tangled and Byzantine path.   Indeed, whole books have been written on living a happier life, dealing with adversity and just achieving a sense of peace.   

My intent today is certainly not that grandiose or meant to be a complete guide to that mythical place called happiness.   It is meant to be a starting place for you to begin unraveling the tangled mess to something that works for you.    Not everything I suggest will work, but maybe one little trick, one idea will prod you to take the first step.   

First, I believe it's important to look at what you surround yourself with on a day to day basis.    Do you fill your head with negative information?    Are you saturated with compelling news stories that make you worried and afraid for your personal safety?     Do you spend too much time dwelling on things that you cannot control?    These are not strategies that will take you from misery to happiness.   In fact, they are a guarantee you will get more of the same.    So inventory what you put into your head.     This is not a suggestion to eliminate the nightly news or to never keep up with what's going on around you.     The idea is to take it in measured doses and then stop when you begin to obsess about it or fret too much.   


Second, finding joy in your life takes a bit of effort sometimes and you need to realize that it can be right under your very nose and you will miss it.     If you stay focused on negativity, the good, positive things that are there for the taking will elude you.     Start right in your own backyard.   

Yesterday I was walking through the family room and happened to walk over to the back door.    It is all glass so I was looking out in the backyard not expecting to see much of anything that isn't always there.     I stood there looking for no more than a few seconds when I noticed a flash of red feathers go streaking through the back flower bed.    Moments later I saw that it was two birds who were obviously searching for bugs among the plants.   They put on quite the show as they flitted and swooped among the plants, pecking and hunting for the tiniest morsel of buggy goodness!   I couldn't help myself and literally laughed out loud when I saw them.    It was such a small moment of unexpected joy, but it made my day!  

Third, finding the unexpected nuggets of joy make involve taking you out of your back yard.  Some extra effort may have to be put forth on your part.   I was looking on Facebook the other day when I noticed some photographs posted by my niece while she was visiting in Yosemite National Park.   She and her family were spending a leisurely moment taking in the grandeur of Glacier Point and I must admit the view was breath taking.    It was one of those moments that will stand out in their memory with or without the photographs to refresh their recall of the majesty.    When you travel and observe the beauty of the world around you, that's a fantastic way to lift your spirits and find some inner peace.

But you may be saying to yourself, "I don't have the money or the time to go to Yosemite."   What do you do then?    The eternal pessimist would go into a blue funk (a state my father used to mention) and then wallow there for a while.    If you are determined to not go there, the simple solution is right there in your hometown.    Every place, no matter how dismal or mundane has its places of beauty or historical value.    Do you live near a body of water?    A lake, river or ocean?   For many of us, watching the action of the water is in itself a soothing and calming remedy for a troubled soul.    A few minutes spent in quiet contemplation can help erase a month's worth of misery and turmoil.    How about a trip to the zoo?   Or a botanical garden?     Those are places that typically don't cost much to visit or may even be free.    The thing is you have to put forth the effort to find them and take advantage of what they can do for you and your need to find some respite to quiet your mind.  


A sunny day at Pensacola Beach near Ft. Pickens


I happen to live within a 20 to 30 minute drive of the Gulf of Mexico.    Not only is it a body of water with never ending movement, but it also affords the most fantastic views of sunrise and sunset you could ever imagine.    The icing on that cake is that we have the world's whitest sand on our beaches.    It isn't called SUGAR sand for nothing.    We can take a beach chair, a picnic lunch and my camera and we are privy to a lifestyle that many will never know.    And it only takes a few minutes to get there and a bit of gasoline.    It's worth every penny, too.    Watching eagles and ospreys on their nests and the turtles come to the surface of their little bayou to watch what I am doing is an amazing thing to see.    It reminds you of your place in this world and compels you to be grateful for things available to you, big and small.  That little piece of paradise that is only a few miles from my house is there day and night.   Any time I get too self absorbed and too focused on things that take me down, I can hop in my car and drive to that place that will make those negative things fade away.    


Are you looking at me?   Or am I looking at you?

I guess I could go on with more things like turn off the TV once in a while.   Step away from your computer and give your brain cells a rest.    Put your phone down or better yet, turn it off.    You have voice mail for a reason so if someone calls with something you really need to know, you will get the message.   Just maybe an hour later than they planned for you to get it.   But that hour you spend doing something to restore your sanity, to bring peace and calmness to your soul is far more important than being the first to hear some juicy bit of news.   


The thing is, those opportunities for us to renew and restore our sense of happiness really are there for us to find and use.    But they won't come in search of us.    We have to open our eyes, ears and hearts to find them.   Those lovely cardinals who were dancing among my flowers in my back yard did not issue an invitation for me to watch.    In fact, I am pretty sure they were totally unaware of  my prying eyes.    It was up to me to pause long enough to even realize they were there.    But oh, the reward that was mine for lingering just a moment or two longer at that door to see their light hearted display.  It was just the tonic I needed to make me realize (once more) that the world really is NOT all bad.    For we humans tend to have short memories and we need to be reminded again and again of this fact.  

So I challenge you to look for ways to bring some oomph to your life.   A little bit of joy to make you smile and remember the good things that are a part of your life.    Not every day will be a stellar one.   Not everything that you have to deal with as part of our life story will be easy and without pain.   But to balance out the bad parts, you can and should look for ways to pull yourself back toward the center.   I can't guarantee you will end up as a happy camper, but I can tell you that what you find is worth what effort you put forth to get there.  There is a saying I hear a lot lately:  the definition of insanity is to do the same things over and over and then expect different results.     Maybe what you need is a change of direction, a new plan and then you might get the results you are after.  

Happy Trails,