What does Courage really mean?

 

It takes more than running from a fight to make a coward. It can also mean avoiding confrontation of any kind, or avoiding competition at all costs.  It can mean never taking a risk, not speaking your mind, or never improving what you do.

For example, I have always been inclined to avoid competition, mostly because I believed I would always lose and I couldn’t handle defeat. What I never admitted to myself is that it makes me a coward. I kidded myself into thinking I was not a coward because I didn’t get into fights, so how else could I show my bravery?  I conveniently forgot that I never competed, played dirty tricks when I argued, and at the final test of bravery, when mastering my fear would have given me my pilot’s license, I failed there too. Sure, there were other factors, but social anxiety was my downfall.  It’s no excuse, because as a sapient being I should have been able to override it.

I’m not trying to whine here, nor beat myself up, but rather use my experience as an example to help make my point.

Knowing this about myself, where do I go from here, or where does another person go who has the same realization?  After all, modern society encourages cowardice.  How do we turn that around?

First, it’s important to recognize that fear doesn’t have to be in control.

We all have the ability to choose our actions no matter what our emotion is.

Bravery is a habit that can be built.

We can start small, build confidence, and move from there.

This takes practice and failure is not a reason to quit trying.  If we keep trying, embrace our fears and move through them, we can start to win more often, until we win all the time.

There’s good news, though! Cowardice is not a life sentence, we can free ourselves at any time.

 

I’ll finish here with one of my favorite poems.

 

Courage

Courage is the price which life exacts for granting peace.
The soul that knows it not, knows no release
From little things;

Knows not the livid loneliness of fear
Nor mountain heights, where bitter joy you can hear
The sound of wings.

How can life grant us boon of living, compensate,
For dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate
Unless we dare

The soul’s dominion? Each time we make a choice we pay
With courage to behold resistless day
And count it fair.

-Amelia Earhart

Adventures with Etsy

I’d meant to open an Etsy shop for a long time, and finally got around to it. I’ve used eBay before with some success, but I know people who use Etsy and seem to do pretty well.  One friend of mine at least partially replaced his income from a job he previously had, so he didn’t have to go back to work as fast when he was laid off.

I do have my own website for commissions and art prints, but I’ve realized that what I really need is exposure, and I wanted to take advantage of Etsy’s customer base and visibility.   Since Etsy specializes in handmade items and vintage items, it is perfect for me.

First, I love the price of a listing. 20 cents is good, and even if I have to pay that again every time I have to relist, which is every three months, I find it more than reasonable. It’s certainly better than the percentage taken in most places.

Second, I like the flexibility of things I can offer. I can put up a set of 5 cards, an original watercolor painting, and digital downloads of hand drawn maps, vintage jewelry, and a really neat crystal cluster. I see other folks selling all manner of things, everything from home furnishings to vegan deodorant.  I found the listings easy to create and there’s plenty of support for sellers.  Etsy will use some of the money they make to buy Google ads and such, I’ve actually seen traffic to my shop from those.

Third, the interface is nice and clean and it’s easy to find things. That’s important, both for buyers and sellers. Products look good, I don’t find the site too cluttered, and the individual shops have lots of room for personality.  I can put up multiple pictures of a listing, be creative about my descriptions, and have a ball making a cool looking shop.

I’ve only made three sales but they amounted to about fifty dollars.  Now that I’m branching out into adult coloring pages I think I will start selling more.  Some people even sell their books on Etsy!

A few tips:

Try to list a couple of things every week, at least.  That will keep people looking at your site.

Give lots of good description on your listings and take good pictures.

Make sure you fill out all the information on your shop – let people know who you are and why they should buy your products.

If you have any questions or need help or support, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to tell you what I know.

If you want to try Etsy out for free, follow this link to get forty free listings.  No strings attached, you just have to be new to Etsy.

 

 

Your Momma wears Army boots!

 

Well, your Mom might not, but mine did, and I’m proud of it. I wear them too, every time I’m going to be on rough terrain, and in the winter when my sandals just won’t cut it. When my Mom wore Army boots, they were still solid leather construction, black in color.  She has wide feet, and at the time they fit her better than shoes available in normal stores.  They also lasted for years, unlike other junk shoes.  They looked just about like this.  She doesn’t wear them anymore…

…now I do!  My Army boots are desert configuration, with vents on the side, leather and cloth. More comfortable in Arizona, for sure, and very good boots.  I buy them now the same reason why my folks bought them then – because good shoes can be found at military surplus stores, cheaper than most other places, and they last a long time.  A really long time.  I’ve had my pair for about seven years now and they are still in great condition.

I have a funny story about that. When I was little, another kid tried to taunt me by saying “your Mom wears combat boots!”

The problem was, I didn’t even know about the insult!  Since I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it, I fired back with “well yeah? your mom wears high heels!”

Actually I doubt the other kid’s mom did, it wasn’t exactly a high class neighborhood and she probably wore ratty sneakers like everybody else. But MY Mom wore boots, and so did my Dad, actually.  She could hike up a mountain with the best of them.

 

Do you feel grown up?

I think that in this world, there are many people who have never really grown up.  I write, of course, from the perspective of someone living in the US so my view may be skewed.  I see many folks every day who have adult roles and have adult bodies yet still apparently feel, think and act pretty much as they did when they were in high school. I’m not saying they are bad people, in fact many of them are very nice, intelligent, and fun to be around. However, I’ve noticed that I have some traits of a superannuated child.  That really bothers me so I’m trying to overcome them and become a true adult.

Modern child psychology claims that a brain doesn’t fully form until you are at least 25 years old.  One person I talked to recently said 35.  My own study and observation tells me that this can be altered with training and practice. For example, think of the adult roles children were expected to take on even less than a century ago. Think of farm kids taking care of animals or raising their siblings, city kids running small businesses like landscaping or paper delivery. Think back even further to pioneer kids who might run a household at 15, or young boys who might go off to war or a sailing ship at 13 or 14.  Those were not easy times, they were full of hardships. Yet those young people had practice with ever increasing levels or responsibility, from their first chores at the age of five or so, all the way up through full adulthood.

In comparison, look at the kids of today, especially in the United States. Many don’t have much in the way of chores to do, many don’t work a job till high school or later. In certain parts of the US, giving your kids chores can get you reported to Child Protective Services! Then they are expected to take full adult responsibility at eighteen. There is little or no ‘ramp’ up to train them how to be adults.  The poor dears are floundering with no idea what to do. Is it any wonder these kids are “undeveloped” and often fall flat on their faces, moving back in with their parents, or never leaving?

I moved out at eighteen. I’d had a couple of jobs and I’d done chores as a kid, so I had some idea of handling money. But I still made some pretty monumental mistakes. And in this modern world, that seems to discourage even adults from making informed decisions, I am moving toward a true adulthood. The road to adulthood is embracing personal responsibility. That one issue, in particular, is a sticking point, as we are trained out of taking it.  “It’s not my fault!” is the oft repeated refrain.  So I’m looking at my weak points, correcting those, and using the example of famous adults from history to motivate me. I’m practicing the fine art of self restraint and delaying self gratification. That in particular is rather difficult. But I’m trying, because it’s important to do that.
Can you think of ways we could better guide our kids towards a full and flourishing adulthood?

Choosing Colors

 

While this is considered an absolute rule by many artists, especially painters, I consider it more a helpful hint and something to try.

The idea is to use a limited palette of colors to create a unified look. Pick three colors that represent the majority of items in your work, plus black and white, and only use those three colors (and the colors that can be mixed from them) to do the whole piece.

It’s easier than it sounds. For example, a forest painting might be done entirely with a yellow, a deep green, and an umber. Or a seascape might be a deep blue, a deep green, and a purple. In watercolors, usually this means picking three tubes of pigment and just using those. This really does help avoid the problem of the painting looking too busy or garish.  I’m sure we’ve all seen a painting that just uses two many colors!

I’ve been told by an old watercolor painter that this is an absolute rule except in the case of city scenes, but I am not willing to be quite that rigid about it.  Still, choosing two to three colors and using them and their mixtures can make a really nice, unified looking piece.

A High School Class every human needs to take

 

Many young people come out of high school completely unprepared for life. I know I was. My folks did their best but there was so much I didn’t know how to do. I couldn’t balance a checkbook, didn’t know how to write up a proper budget, didn’t know how to add air to car tires, and a whole host of other things. Now, much of this was due to my own disinterest in most things that were useful. So again, I’m really not blaming my folks.  I went to an alternative high school and the type of class I am about to outline is something they could easily have done.

I would call the class “Life Skills.” It would cover all the little things that everyone needs to know, but few remember to teach. Here are some of the subjects it would cover:

Basic cooking and nutrition (it’s not just for Home EC students)

Basic money skills, like how bank accounts work, how checks work, how debit and credit cards work, how a credit score works

Simple automotive maintenance. How to tell when your tires are low, what to do if the check engine light comes on, how to change wipers and washer fluid. Simple stuff.

How to rent an apartment, what to expect when bills are due, reasonable expectation of cost, ways of approaching landlords if you have a problem.

Now, the list could go on and on. But it isn’t difficult to imagine a Life Skills class like this. It could cover a lot of the simple, basic things that make life so much easier – those things we may or may not get from our parents, or that we may not be receptive to when someone tries to teach us. I think our kids would be a lot better prepared for the world with a class like this. It would sure be a heck of a lot more useful than “Global Citizenship” or rot like that.

Would a class like that have been useful to you?

Your Defense against Snake Oil

When you are looking for alternative therapies and treatments, it can be a real pain to tell the scammers from the real deal.  So many people make a living by preying on the unwary. It’s tough to avoid being fooled sometimes, so I wanted to offer a few basic guidelines to help you separate the wheat from the chaff. \
Rule number one: Distrust intangible products.

Rule number two: Distrust all quick cures.

Rule number three: Don’t trust testimonials.

Why do I say not to trust testimonials? Because they create false confidence. It’s hard not to be swayed by reading letter after glowing letter about how that miracle cleanse cure fixed their horrible problems with gas, and their pictures of the parasites they passed. Keep in mind that the letters are faked and those nasty pictures are just mud dipped strings dropped in a toilet. People lie. They lie a lot more when there’s money involved.

In general, be cautious with people treating conditions like cancer, impotence, skin problems, and other things that are difficult or expensive to treat. They prey on people’s fear and they offer false hope in exchange for low, low payments of $49.99 or whatever the case may be. Ultimately, it would be smarter to save that money and spend it on whole foods and healthy living.

As I said in my rules, run away, far away, from anything promising a quick cure. Neither cures nor getting rich happen quickly. Just like success, usually a cure requires work and dedication. Of course, it depends on the condition. You will see this a LOT in the field of weight loss. People will promise anything because they are counting on people being so dazzled with the promise of losing ten pounds a week that they won’t notice what’s going out of their wallets..

If you don’t already believe in them, run away from anything involving crystals, magnets, pyramids, positive vibrations, or light. Run away from anything related to homeopathy.  If you believe in these therapies, that’s your decision – but for pity’s sake, don’t pay much for it! That’s what I meant by people selling intangibles. Homeopathy counts as an intangible because it’s all just distilled water. Look it up, it’s true.

On the other hand, not all natural cures are bunk. Naturapaths, for example, can do amazing things with the right treatments, which can include supplements of various kinds. They have a lot of medical knowledge and use it well.

Speaking of supplements, some of them can really be great. Some of the old reliables are kelp, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, E and A, iron, and good foods like cranberry,  tree nuts and fish. The list is long and doesn’t need to be repeated here.  In general, whole food is better than pills, but liquid vitamins are best if you have to take them. Capsules are better than tablets if you have to absorb something.  Don’t forget that some vitamins and minerals require fat to be absorbed properly.  The best vitamins, minerals, and other supplements have good amounts of research behind them.

For example, you can actually find good evidence that turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, garlic helps with viruses, and peppermint helps with asthma and stomach problems. There’s lots of research on ginger, ginkgo, ginseng – the list goes on.

The more educated you are, and the more you understand the psychology of selling, the better you will do in helping yourself as well as avoiding scams.