Category Archives: Motivations

Elusive Pleasures: 10 Ways to Feel Better!

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Elusive Pleasures: 10 Ways to Feel Better!

What if you could do some simple brain exercises to get more pleasure in your life? Would you be interested?

What? Exercise my brain? How in the world do I do that?

Good news! For these exercises, you don’t even need to get off the couch! You don’t need to purchase new work-out clothes or shoes. Better yet, there is no gym membership required!

Welcome to the fourth of this five-part series, “Elusive Pleasures.” In this segment, we’ll explore brain exercises to improve our pleasure responses.

As I said before, neuroscientists are our friends! The research they’ve conducted paves the way for us to change the way our brains respond to any challenge. Today we’ll review ten science-backed ways science we can start our internal workout:

1.     Develop new interests and rekindle your interest in activities you left off long ago. New neuronal connections can be super-charged by learning new things. This can be as simple as learning to play an instrument, learning a new language, or learning how to crochet. Any novel task can stimulate new neuronal connections in your brain! Choose a pleasurable, interesting activity, and strengthen the pleasure circuitry in your brain!

painting and drawing tools set
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2.     Read a favorite book aloud with a friend. Yes, reading aloud is different for you, and the process of taking turns hearing the book in your own voice and in your friend’s voice will lay new neuronal connections that enhance the pleasure center in your brain.

couple holding books sitting on bed

Photo by Zun Zun on Pexels.com

 

3.     Add a new aroma to your favorite activities. By adding an enjoyable scent with an enjoyable activity, more areas of your brain will be stimulated with a pleasure signal. The olfactory system is highly associated with emotional responses, so this one’s an easy exercise! It’s as easy as adding a lavender bath bomb to your warm bubbly bath.

aroma basket beautiful flowers blooming

 4.     Try new foods! Yes, it’s true! Learn about new foods, recipes and seasonings. Ask others about their recipes, how they use the foods you’ve never tried, and give it a try yourself. The pleasure circuit in our brain fires wildly when we’re engaged in an activity that sustains life, and eating is high on this list!

 5.     While you’re at it, explore the nutritional benefits of foods that help release dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure. Foods and supplements that increase dopamine include those rich in L-tyrosine, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. Consider drinking tea, seasoning with turmeric with pepper, supplements like Ginkgo Biloba, and others you’ll find on the list on this site: Think Tyrosine.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

anise aroma art bazaar

6.     Consider probiotics. There’s so much talk these days about probiotics. Some research supports the idea that toxins in our gut from “bad bacteria,” (lipopolysaccharides) actually destroy the brain cells that produce dopamine! Probiotics can rebalance the gut’s bacteria, thus preserving our dopamine-producing brain cells so we can enjoy more pleasure.

7.     If you can, engage in a strenuous activity like running for 30 minutes or more. In some people, this releases the body’s natural opioid into the pleasure centers of the brain. This has been known as the “runner’s high.” If you’re not able to engage in strenuous activity, instead do isometric exercises. This involves tightening and relaxing different muscle groups, but not necessarily moving the joints. Hold each contraction five to ten seconds, and do this several times for each muscle group in your body. Include your facial muscles, too! The simple act of smiling (yep, a big, toothy grin) can bring the pleasure response.

woman running wearing gray shirt

Photo by Luka Siemionov on Pexels.com

 

8.     Engage senses you don’t use often, such as stereognosis. This is the ability you have to determine what an object is by its feel. For example, place a few objects in a bag. Choose common objects like a paper clip, a spoon, a few coins and a comb. Now, without looking, place your hand in the bag and identify each object by its feel. That’s stereognosis! Have a friend (or your kids) gather items for your bag, and you gather items for theirs. This simple exercise, though it may seem silly, can create and strengthen neuronal connections and increase your pleasure responses.

9.     Walk into a store, bank or library rather than doing business by machines. Interacting with other human beings rather than machines and recordings strengthens our neuronal connections and pleasure circuits. Take the time to look these people in the eye, ask how they’re doing today, and really listen. Encourage them, compliment them or express your gratitude for the job they’re doing. Your reward? Enhanced neuronal connections and pleasure responses!

 

adult baker breads city

P hoto by Tran on Pexels.com

10.  Last, but certainly not least, is for mature audiences only. If you’re over 18, you can read on:
Read the rest of this entry

Elusive Pleasures: Get the Feeling Back!

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Elusive Pleasures: Get the Feeling Back!

How can we get our brains to release that much-needed pleasure response again?

We’ve looked at how easy it is to lose a good feeling. A simple change in sensation can derail pleasure. (If you’re just joining us, you can read part one of this series by clicking here). We’ve also discovered that our own perceptions and beliefs can contribute to pleasure loss (to review this concept, click here).

Now we’ve come to the good part! The reason you’ve come back, the reason you’re taking precious moments from your busy life to read this little blog:

How to get the feeling back!

happy found on clipart by Word

It really is important to have pleasure.

Lack of pleasure–and effort to find pleasure again–can produce all sorts of behaviors that can make the situation worse than when we started. For example, consider how many marriages fail when a partner looks elsewhere for pleasure. Or consider the astounding statistics of increasing drug and alcohol abuse, of crime, of consumerism and waste. . . of so many poor souls seeking an immediate sense of pleasure in ways that backfire.

The idea that we need to make a new connection isn’t wrong. Making a new connection is essential. But the connections we need to make are in our brains; in our neurons, in our thoughts and beliefs. When changes in sensation (like those sprinkler heads) result in a misfire in the pleasure response, our brains need new associations to restore pleasure. It’s neuroscience, but it’s not that complicated:

One neuron reaches out to shake hands with another.

“Pleased to meet you!”

“Likewise, charmed. Let’s meet here again.”

 

Most of us have heard of Pavlov’s dogs. Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist around the turn of the 20th century, used dogs in his studies of the digestive system. He paired a stimulus (like ringing a bell) with food presentation. Before long, he noted the dogs began to salivate at the mere ringing of the bell, even without the aroma or visual presentation food. The ability to create purposeful connections between the digestive system and the brain became known as “classical conditioning.”

It’s old science now, but still true.

Since then, scientists have discovered much more about brains. We now know that our brains constantly learn–including how to learn better.  We also know that natural chemicals in our brains can make us feel excited, good or pleasantly satisfied.  Perhaps most relevant to our task of restoring pleasure, scientists who study the brain found that

neurons that fire together, wire together.” neuronal connections with blue light from Word clipart

“Neurons that fire together, wire together.” This is a catchy way of saying that pairing one sensation or movement with another, repeatedly, enhances their function. Eventually, activating one automatically

activates the other.

When someone asks you, “What is 1+1?”

You don’t need to think about it. You automatically associate:                     1+1=2

Just as we learned this simple association early in life, we can re-condition our brain to respond to new stimuli with a pleasurable response!

 

Crazy, huh!?!

But true.

Try it! Pick something that always makes you feel good. Maybe it’s an Adam Sandler movie. Maybe it’s a sensual time with your partner. Maybe it’s a big slice of Death by Chocolate cake. Now, add a new sensation or movement while you enjoy this activity every time you do it for the next month or two. For example, bring a certain pillow to place on your lap every time you watch a funny movie. Touch your cheek during times of intimacy. Or, if you’re the chocolate lover, play or hum the same piece of music with each bite.

eating chocolate cake

 

Before long, you’ll find that when you experience the sensation you’ve added to your pleasurable activity, your brain will start sending out that pleasure response! Just picking up that pillow makes you smile. Stroking your cheek in that spot will. . . (um, you know). . . . Your song on the radio will give you the feeling you’ve just had a scrumptious slice of chocolate cake!

So, as it turns out, neuroscientists are our friends! They research methods to enhance new brain cell connections (neuroplasticity). They’ve found that both physical and brain exercises boost neuronal growth.

For this week, along with practicing the pairing we just discussed, add some physical exercise to your daily routine. It needn’t be much; just an extra walk around the block, some light resistance work, or a few extra times up and down the stairs. Do this while you’re thinking pleasurable thoughts, and your brain will have more reason to fire up those neuronal connections.

brain exercises found on Word clipart

In the next installment, we’ll learn more brain exercises we can do to improve our pleasure responses–even if they’re impaired by our own erroneous beliefs. For now, though, you have plenty of things to try. Please join me in a discussion by commenting below.

  • How will you be pairing sensations to restore pleasure?
  • What exercises will you add to your daily routine this week?
  • Have you found new connections that restored your pleasure, now or in the past?

-Joan

“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11, AMPC

Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs

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Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs

 

Last week I wrote about sprinkler heads.

Why would anyone stop to read about sprinkler heads?

Because it’s really about pleasure, and adapting to changes that block pleasure.

Maybe for you, it’s the sound of rain on the roof. Or perhaps you’re drawn to the beach, where the rhythmic splash of the surf and the caress of warm breezes relaxes your soul. Some prefer the mountains, with the scent of pine, and expansive views. Still others are drawn to the city, where light and movement dance all night. Wherever you’ve found yourself prone to relax, forget your stressors and relish the moment, that’s the spot.

That’s the spot I’m writing about.

I’m writing about our brains associating sensations (like the sound of the sprinklers) with pleasure. But then something happens to that spot:

  • The sprinkler heads need replacing, and the new ones make a different sound
  • Construction of a ten-story condominium interrupts your favorite spot at the beach
  • A stuffy nose blocks you from the aroma of pine trees on your mountain hike
  • The building across the street hangs a huge neon sign that blocks your view of the city

And the pleasure is gone.

That’s what I’m writing about!

We all relate to pleasure. We want pleasure. We need pleasure. Without pleasure, life is drudgery.

So how do we find pleasure once it’s gone?

(That’s why you’re reading an article that started out being about sprinklers!)

This five-part series can get you back to pleasure.

Today, I’m going to share with you a little more in depth about an obstacle I’m facing that is more challenging than changing sprinkler heads. It’s an obstacle that has been steadily crimping my pleasure for several years now, and one that I think many of you can relate to:

Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs

Aging. Dang it! I was going to knock around the tennis ball with my husband well into my 70’s. I was going to be that 80-year old still running the 5-K. I was going to dance in sexy high-heels well into my 90’s. I was going to lift bags of potting soil and bend over to tend the garden perhaps to 100.

Something ordinary and un-interesting blocked those pleasures well before their time: aging. In this aging body, they’ve labeled it many things: fibromyalgia (which I called the boogie monster in this article), arthritis, bone spurs, bulging discs and even a non-bony union of the subtalar joint. (Geez!) Whatever they’ve called it, it’s been one thing after another, and it’s left me with a choice between:

getting to do the active things I love           or

check feeling good enough to function in daily responsibilities.

I fought it for a while. When my right shoulder hurt all the time, I taught my left arm to swing the racket. Then my left shoulder hurt. With both shoulders, a hip, low back and ankle hurting, I finally left the tennis court.

gif funny tennis game over aging pleasure
Credit senorgifcom

 

 

Eventually, even less strenuous activities like ballroom dance, yoga, biking, walking and gardening produced more pain than pleasure.

For many people, this is “just part of aging.” They don’t talk much about it. They just don’t do as much as they used to do.

But hold on. . . Does aging have to mean life without pleasure? Is aging a slow process of peeling back the layers of pleasure until, at last, we’re ready to say goodbye to this cruel world?

I stepped back to think on this. Does aging have to equal lack of pleasure?

Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs Be sure to read this second in a five-part series designed to help you restore pleasue after losing it! This is not just for the aging, it is for anyone who is experiencing a loss of pleasure!

(Selah)

If pleasure is associated with sensations and neural connections are involved, and I’ve associated being an active elder with pleasure, can my brain connections be changed?

What is it about my hope of being an active older person that gives me pleasure?

Is the pleasure response from activities like running, playing tennis, dancing, yoga, biking, walking and gardening only from their associated sensations? Is it just from the proprioceptive feedback from pounding of my feet on the pavement? Is it just from the cardiovascular exchanges and the toxic release of sweat rolling down my face as I dart side to side across the clay to reach the yellow ball? Is it just from the visual and vestibular feedback of seeing the same houses as I bike around our neighborhood day after day? Is it just from the tactile and olfactory signals from the gentle breeze on an evening walk, or the texture of the soil between my gloved hands as I plant a new flower in the yard? Certainly those sensory-neuronal connections release chemicals that produce pleasure, but is that the only thing about it that brings pleasure?

Could that pleasure response also come from something I perceived or believed about those activities?

When I think about the pleasure response that comes from the idea of being an accomplished, active senior, it isn’t really so much about the sound, or the scent, or the tactile input, though they each have their value.

What is it, then?

A new question arises in my mind. Could the idea of being active well into my senior years produce a feeling of pride of achievement? Do I find pleasure in being better-than-average? In beating the odds?

Hmmm.

I have to admit I’ve enjoyed that feeling since childhood. As the fourth of six children, affirmation and attention didn’t come easy for me. As a young child, I found affirmation and attention from being the smart one, the honor roll student, the best and the fastest. I could recite the alphabet before my school-aged brother when I was two years old. I could out-spell all of my older siblings by the time I was eight. I did algebra from my brother’s 9th grade textbook when I was ten, and, by the time I was thirteen, I could cook, clean and budget better than my mother (Sorry, mom). No one would call me lazy! I got positive attention from dancing, from taking care of myself, from being up and ready on time. In short, from outshining my sibs.

Hmmmm. Maybe I’ve held an erroneous belief all these years, and didn’t ever notice it.

(Note: Erroneous because pleasure never should have been from feeling better-than-average in the first place, but that is another story!)

My experience with aging is just one example of how loss of pleasure can be related not only to a change in physical ability and sensations, but also to underlying perceptions or beliefs.

Maybe you’ve had to stop and examine yourself, too. Maybe a challenge you faced persisted to the point that you had to look deeper into yourself to question why you struggled to adapt to your loss. Maybe you didn’t even realize you held erroneous perceptions or beliefs, until you had to stop and examine the matter.

Yet, here we are: a change in sensation, a change in some bodily function, a change in something beyond our control, a change that keeps us from achieving that which we believed would make us feel good– and pleasure eludes us.

What can be done? If aging—and its associated decrease in strenuous activities and impressive performance—continues this way (as it likely will), then where can pleasure be found? And what about you? Whatever it is that you’ve been believing but isn’t working out for your pleasure, can it be changed?

How can we get our brains to release that much-needed pleasure response again? Can changing our underlying beliefs help us find pleasure again?

That’s where we’ll pick up next.

(Click here for part 3 in this 5-part series Elusive Pleasures)

In the meantime, I hope you’ll join this conversation by commenting below (in orange, where its says “Leave a comment.” What changes in sensations, or functions, or other losses seem to rob you of the pleasure response in your brain? What underlying perceptions or beliefs have you identified when you more closely examine your childhood associations?

-Joan

“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11, AMPC

 

Elusive Pleasures: Sprinklers in the Garden of Life

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Elusive Pleasures: Sprinklers in the Garden of Life

Comfortably settling into my spot on the back porch for Sunday morning coffee, I notice it.

It doesn’t feel quite right. Something is missing. What is it?

The cushions and pillows cradle and support me as always; the velvety plum-colored pillow fits perfectly on my lap, softly snuggling my hands as they curl around my coffee mug. The coffee is its usual perfect color, aroma and taste as I savor a sip.

I look up. The garden sports more than its usual splendor of blooms. The squirrel, in its ritual leap from the tree to the squirrel-proof bird feeder, cleverly clings to the wire mesh and bounces to get the seeds to fall out. Birds glory in their announcement of another beautiful day. The sprinklers, as timed, emerge for my enjoyment of their rhythmical dance across the lawn.

Yet my usual Sunday-morning-on-the-back-porch-peaceful feeling eludes me. What is it? Read the rest of this entry

How to Write With a Whip

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Ever get caught up in frustration that there’s just not enough time to write?

Between working full time, homemaking, investigating information we need to write, and a few other significant endeavors, like parenting, many aspiring writers feel they’ve been “tied to the whipping post!”

 

(Here you may imagine I inserted a video of the Allman Brothes playing the song, “Whipping Post.” Or, you can go to You Tube yourself, leaving me no copyright issues.)

Tired of feeling whipped? Let’s take that WHIP in hand, turn it around, and get cracking!

First, let’s clearly identify the factors that WHIP us, ie., detract from our writing time:

W is for working! While some writers are fully financed by someone or something, most of us have to work full-time to keep that ever-so-important roof over our heads and food in our bellies! Read the rest of this entry

Doctor’s Recommendation

Status

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Dr. Seuss

(The Lorax)

Compassion: Left and Right

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Marge lay exhausted at the end of a long day, her eyes puffy from too many tears. It has been an emotional day for her. As she lay on the sofa catching a quick break, an ear out for when her son’s trach needs suctioning, she becomes acutely aware that Read the rest of this entry

Dark Chocolate to my Soul

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This slideshow requires JavaScript.

First smile from my baby~

Fingertips at my back~

Purple hued sunsets o’er mountain or sea.

A word fitly spoken~

Laughing toddlers at play~

Secret gifts sent before there’s a plea.

Read the rest of this entry

Happy Wordpress Anniversary (to me)!

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Something from WordPress arrived in my notifications box today!

Borrowed from a website that borrowed from . . .

Borrowed from a website that borrowed from . . .

Excited (in the style of Ralphie, opening his package from the Lil’ Orphan Annie Radio Show), my heart raced. Could it be? Freshly pressed?

The highly coveted Freshly Pressed Award, in my box?

 

imageBut, alas, it was just a little congrats for one year blogging.

 

 

Ditto. . .

Ditto. . .

 

It’s okay, though, WordPress, I do appreciate you remembering our special day. Now that I’m over the initial let-down, I think it was really nice of you. It has been a good year together.

A year ago today, you helped me publish my first blog post. Wading through the countless themes, layouts and options, we put together a pretty good start.

During the year, I learned a few things. I found that there are some excellent people all over the world who participate in WordPress blogging. A few became fast friends, as we enjoyed reading one another’s posts and commenting in supportive dialogue. I have new friends in Scotland, Canada, and across America. I’ve had visitors from nearly every country! All this without annoyance from over 14,000 spammers that Akismet blocked for me.

This is a snapshot of my all-time visits. The list of countries is three times longer than would fit!

This is a snapshot of my all-time visits. The list of countries is three times longer than would fit!

I’ve seen reader interest wane in the face of serious and lengthy posts. I’ve caught a few waves of new likes and follows from brief and light-weight posts. I’ve played with some blog-building strategies suggested by overnight-success bloggers. Oh, and I almost forgot, published 60 posts. Not bad for a full-time professional with a second full-time job (family).

In the beginning, I heard that publishers want new writers who can boast a platform of 10-15,000 followers. “You can build that in a year while you write your book,” one author told me.

It’s been a year. I’ve missed a lot of sleep! I’ve built a platform of a whopping 200-something followers. Few ever comment (come on, people, it’s lonely without conversation!).  I’ve written only about a tenth (if that) of my book. I don’t feel too successful on this one-year anniversary, dear WordPress.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming you. I’m just saying, it isn’t what I thought. Just like in marriage; there is the honeymoon stage, then comes disillusionment. To make a life-long success, couples must get through these phases to real love.

I still hope to finish my book, to live to see it published, and then maybe another after that. Not just for fun, but to make some (albeit small) difference in the world, one that will outlive me.

Whether I’ll need to build a sizable platform or not, I don’t know. What I do know is, I’m not wasting my time here (well, maybe a little!). I’m learning to write better. I’m learning about others, what they see and have to say. I’m learning plenty about what doesn’t work. And, it’s pretty fun.

So, if you want to hang out another year or so, WordPress, I’m game. Do you have an iron, though? I could really use some fresh-pressing; I’m starting to get wrinkled.

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Happy Anniversary!

Joan T. Warren

Faith or Fear: Roots Run Rampant

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Fear has roots with underground runners! Just when I think I’ve pulled the biggest, up crops another branch. I pull it, and off of that one, a myriad others, in all directions.

As a young adult, I realized I was a people-pleaser. I wanted people to like me, to approve of me, and for things to be peaceful, no conflict.

I dug into the matter. “There are weeds in this garden, Lord, help me pull them out by the roots and let your truth replace all the lies I believed!”

“If people get upset, you’re going to get hurt.” Yank. “I will wipe away your tears, bind up your wounds. A tender shoot I will not break.” (Ah).

“It’s all your fault!” Yank. “You were a child when you learned this, it was not your fault. Let me show you instead what is your responsibility now. . .” (Wha?)

“If you’re good, nothing bad will happen, so you must be bad because bad things happened.” Yank. “Bad things happen, regardless; look what happened to my Son.” (Oh).

One root led to another, until, looking up at the garden, it was disheveled. Some roots broke off, leaving tiny pieces and hidden sections that sprouted back up later.

“You’re a mess, you’ll never get this done.” Yank. “Let my Spirit guide you; I will send rain to loosen the soil, then the roots will give more easily. You are already perfect in my eyes, so don’t worry about it so much. As a matter of fact, how about you hand me those gloves and let me be the gardener now?” (Oh, okay).

That was over twenty years ago.

Gradually I got free. Free to say yes or no. Free to confront or let go. Free to choose according to what rang true in my gut instead of whatever others said. Free to live with the consequences, positive and negative, of my own choices. Free to learn and grow as a loved child would.

Fear still crops up, though. Just today I read a blog-friend’s post on fear and realized some new ones to take to the Gardener:

http://holisticwayfarer.com/2014/02/26/what-if-you-werent-afraid/

Without fear, I will be able to achieve my goals, which are huge, by the way. More on that later.

Your turn: fear or faith? What do you see as your biggest victory over something you feared, and how did you find the courage  to achieve it?

Comment and/or post your related link.

Related links:

http://kimberlyharding.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/to-fear-or-not-to-fear-two-images-to-help/#comment-5046

I Feel Cherokee

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My Great-Great Grandmother Elizabeth Sophia Grey. Eastern Tribe. Can you help me find her true identity? She likely changed her last name at least.

My Great-Great Grandmother, Elizabeth Sophia Grey. Eastern Tribe. I believe she changed her last name. Do you know her?

I feel Cherokee.

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Shrouded in secrecy after hiding from Indian Removal in the 1800’s, my 1900’s family seemed unable to pass on important information to support our Cherokee heritage. We can trace all directions but this one.

Though just a small percentage runs through these veins, my Cherokee blood is mighty. I feel it when I look at the sky, when I walk near great waters, when I head toward the mountains, when I read their stories.

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I feel Cherokee.

I feel Cherokee values, these from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation website:

  • Spirituality, which creates a bond among Cherokee people in good times and bad, and is a source of hope.
  • Group harmony in community and kin relationships, and freely sharing and giving time, talent and treasures.
  • Strong individual character, with integrity, honesty, perseverance, courage, respect, trust, honor and humility.
  • Strong connection with the land and commitment to stewardship of the homelands of the Cherokee.
  • Honoring the past by knowing one’s ancestors, identifying with and belonging to the tribe, and living and preserving Cherokee culture.
  • Educating the children by providing values-oriented education and recreation, and by being strong role models for them.
  • Possessing a sense of humor, which can lighten pressure in serious situations and help people make good decisions.
Mary Agnes Grey Burris, my Great Grandmother

Mary Agnes Grey Burris, my Great Grandmother

Not knowing these values were Cherokee, they have been my values–except that I don’t know my ancestors. Not yet.

I want to know my ancestors. As a garden bed needs turning, I  feel the need to dig into the rich soil of those who have gone before.

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I feel Cherokee.

I feel Cherokee land. My husband and I sometimes dream about different places in the world we may like to retire to. When we are finally free of the commitments we have to our present locale, where will we land? Where is home? We could go anywhere.

Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

The land that feels like home, though I wasn’t born or raised there, is the land of the Cherokee. It was their homeland for unknown centuries, until immigrants (whom they largely welcomed and helped) forcibly drove them out of it. Former leaders of our United States misled them, broke promises and cheated them out of their homeland. Now they have reservations. It all used to be theirs.

Winter in Higher Elevations, Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

Winter in Higher Elevations, Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

My daughter moved to their region recently. Nearly every day she posts pictures on Instagram, and expresses her pure joy and love for these mountains. I am moved. I can’t help but click ‘like’ on every photo! We love that land. We want it protected, nourished and cherished. We look forward to knowing and loving the people as well. If you would like to see more of her inspiring photography, you can follow her on Instagram, she is DENESIACHRISTINE.

Wildflowers in Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

Wildflowers in Appalachia by DenesiaChristine

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I feel Cherokee.

I feel Cherokee history and culture. I love the way Cherokees welcomed and worked with settlers. I’m intrigued by their prophetic awareness of the Great Spirit, how they saw peril coming from the new people, yet they embraced them, believing in a greater good in the long run. I endorse their respectful practices regarding hunting, caring for all living things and wasting nothing. I love how their “good medicine” includes healthy relationships.

I have much to learn about and from the Cherokee. As I write my first novel, I will be doing just that. One of the main characters in my upcoming novel is Cherokee. We will explore and learn in and through her character. I hope to learn important information to support my family’s Cherokee heritage for future generations, and to support the Cherokee nation as a whole.

I feel Cherokee. It feels good. I hope you’ll enjoy feeling Cherokee with me.

©Joan  T. Warren

To begin learning more about Cherokee, and Appalachian history,  try these links:

http://www.smokymountainnews.com/news/item/655-at-long-last-cherokee-telling-their-own-story

http://appalachianstudies.org/resources/docs/97whisnant63.html

Excuse me, but, um, They’re Killing People! Part 2

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“. . . writing from heart to heart toward healthy relationships and living, involves both personal lives on a small scale AND global relationships. After all, we are all individual people on this earth, and we are one humanity.”

Welcome back! This is part two in a three-part series. In part one, we learned some background information that is crucial to understanding this portion. Here is a link to part one:

Excuse me, Part 1

After reading Brian McLaren’s articles addressing the need to speak up about extremist Muslims targeting Christians for death, I shared some background with you on my history of personal experience with author and activist Brian McLaren, and initiated this series as a means to personally respond to his suggestions and to invite further discussion and thought on the matter with you, my readers. This series of three posts can serve as a platform where we can begin to speak about the rising tide of religious violence, and engage in meaningful conversation that has the potential, given form and shape by its partakers, to become a profound and guiding philosophy in our present day challenges.

Personally, I had many questions and concerns while reading McLaren’s articles. I hope that in sharing them here, our mutual engagement may advance my own thinking as well as, perhaps, our global consciousness. Here are my responses to part one of Brian’s article:

First, I must say that I agree with Brian’s assertion that the persecution and murder of Christians and other non-Muslims by extremist and terrorist Muslims is appalling. I agree, too, that the lack of reporting, discussing and acting upon these matters is also abhorrent. As Brian explores possible reasons for the relative silence on the matter, he suggests six possible reasons. Here, I review four of the six that, in my view, need further exploration.

First, Brian suggests that people are silent perhaps because we fear being counted as extremists, but that the resultant silence aides and abets extremism and is in itself evil:

“But wrongly and unwisely – many simply remain silent. In so doing, they aid and abet extremism in both Christian and Muslim communities. As Powers stated, quoting Bonhoeffer, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.”

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Bonhoeffer

On this point I struggle.  Read the rest of this entry

Excuse me, but, um, They’re Killing People–Part 1

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Excuse me, but, um, They’re Killing People–Part 1

A Little Background

A friend from the 1970’s is now a well-known writer, activist and speaker. When I first met him, he was probably about twenty years old. He was remarkable, even at that age, in his charisma, warmth, dedication, musical talent and ability to reach out to and relate to nearly anyone in an authentic and meaningful manner. He was the first person I met whose life called me to rethink my oh-so-well-informed-19-year-old-critical-judgment that all Christians are hypocrites.

imageBack then, remember, young people were idealistic. We were peace-loving activists who believed we could change the world. Brian exceeded all the other I’d-like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing-type activists I knew, as he embodied the notion of love and purity, doing his best to live as Jesus would in present day. No pot-smoking, let’s-all-love-each-other-but-I-really-mean-let’s-go-to-bed-sort was he. No, he was idealism at its best, and I loved him for it. I followed. I joined his family’s home church, meeting in an elementary school on Sundays and in their home on Wednesday nights. They meant to create a new testament church, similar to what the apostles in the early church experienced. We met in a circle, facing one another, talking about how we were doing, sharing a Bible verse that we felt encouraged by that week, praying for each other, singing songs together, breaking bread. I pretty much devoured every word, soaking up the lessons and applying them to my life as if they were the cure to all that ailed me. It was really quite wonderful, while it lasted.

Before long, the little church dissipated, dwindling away rapidly once Brian went off to college. It was he who was the main attraction, after all, in that time and place. Yet we who were impacted by those relational meetings remain bonded over time and space, even sharing a Facebook group today. Brian went on to an English degree, then became a pastor, and later a full-time author, activist and speaker.

Several years ago I stumbled upon him again, and found that he has not lost the ability to influence me powerfully. Through exchanging a few emails, reading a few of his books, his blog and Facebook page, Brian again spurs me to go beyond my working definitions in life, and out of my realm of comfort.

imageNot blindly, though: I am not a loyal follower of anyone like I was when I was 20. No, these days I’m more apt to think for myself. I’ve seen enough hypocrisy among Christian leadership to make me reconsider my 19-year-old-wisdom. I’ve met more dysfunctional, toxic and down-right scary folks in churches than anywhere else, and I’ve met some of the most sincere, authentic people-of-little-faith in the most ungodly  places.  So, now, when I read Brian’s writing, I don’t swallow it whole, but I certainly give it thoughtful consideration. Read the rest of this entry

Reaching Out With WordPress

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keyboard and penThe way I figure,

if this conversation

~blogging~

reaches even one person,

then it is worthwhile;

even if that one

is just you

or me.

Heart reaching heart,

relating,

encouraging–

this is life.

Note: The above poem is my offering to a fellow blogger’s event, in which one responds to three words offered and writes whatever one wishes. The three words today were figure, reaching and conversation.

My reflections were also partly inspired by thinking about the value of what I am doing as I spend many hours blogging, reading and following other bloggers. For example, Randall A. Golden’s “The Curse of the Follow Button” helped me solidify my underlying feelings (after putting a lot of work into some pieces and finding them hardly viewed), which in turn helped me get beyond that emerging frustration and transition to acceptance and balance. After all, we don’t want to forget the main reason we’re here as we excitedly make new connections and catch Follow Fever (more to come about that later).

Also included in today’s offering is WordPress’ weekly challenge, to participate in a Blog Event (as above) and incorporate one of WordPress’ extremely-easy-to-access blog features such as using the Media Explorer to  insert a tweet or YouTube video.

Here’s an example:

If you would like to participate in this fun and interesting challenge, follow the links below, where you’ll also find my official event:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/blog-events-listing/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/weekly-writing-challenge-events/comment-page-1/#comment-244525

https://joantwarren.com/2013/09/17/hope-joy-and-chores/

Thanks, and enjoy the process!

©JoanTWarren

Hope, Joy, and. . . Chores? A Blog Event!

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153530199Surfing around WordPress and the blogging communities, one occasionally stumbles upon a pearl of great price. Pearls that delight the soul, engender camaraderie and inspire creative joy! One of the beauties of blogging is sharing these pearls. In that light, this post is a Blog Event, so that we can share pearls of encouragement with one another.

So, here is your challenge: Write about a time when you needed encouragement and then stumbled upon a pearl of great price. Try to stay within the topics hope, joy and/or expressing love in the mundane (i.e., chores). Your comments should include your story (or a link to your story) and a link to the site that you feel is a pearl. The list will grow and we’ll have a read-a-fest that’s sure to encourage!

Here are a few blog posts  that lit me up this week–just click on the orange links to read them:

http://reowr.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/the-treasure/#comment-5059

http://lenarigby.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/oh-afflicted-one/comment-page-1/#comment-3

http://belasbrightideas.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/making-the-bed/

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Shape.com and belasbrightideas.wordpress.com

©JoanTWarren

Pope Francis: A Consumerist’s Confession

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This is not one of my humor pieces.

This is serious:  I have a confession to make.

It is  extremely difficult to admit. I feel ashamed of myself and I want to change, and though I’m not Catholic, Pope Francis has something to do with it.

What are you thinking? Is it akin to what’s-his-name texting naked chest pictures? Lying, cheating, adultery? Plagiarism? Greed, avarice?

Actually, its worse:   Read the rest of this entry

Life, Death and Grains of Sand

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We never know how long we have. We don’t know how long we have with the ones we love. Read the rest of this entry

Leaders, Followers and Fancy Footwork

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Do you aspire to leadership? Are you a leader?

Are you a follower? Do you hope to be a follower?

Leadership is highly valued in our society. Following–not so much. Just as we’d never set out to become a drug addict, we don’t set out in life to become followers. Is this right? Can we all be leaders? Should we all? Is there anything wrong with being a follower? Read the rest of this entry

What does it mean? What does it matter?

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What does it mean to live heart to heart in a shielded world? What does it matter?

Today I passed the television as it played to an empty room. Katie Couric’s show was on, a first for me. She interviewed teens who nearly lost their lives from designer drugs. A young man explained how he got into Molly (ecstasy, MDMA, reportedly in its purest form) and began selling it to support his habit: when he tried it, it made him “feel like telling all his secrets” to someone, and in less than hour with someone he felt a close bond, like he’d known them forever. Wow. Sounds like the drug intensified then satisfied a craving he didn’t even know he had–a craving for intimacy, a craving for authenticity, a craving for feeling open and close to another human being. It’s too bad he needed a drug to give him that, since the side effects are so disastrous.

Living heart to heart is perhaps a bit like Molly, except it is real, throughout, and there are no significant negative side-effects. Living heart to heart is Read the rest of this entry