Brenda’s Story – Playing the Blame Game

“Yourself to Blame.”

If things go bad for youBrenda's Story - Playing the Blame Game

And make you a bit ashamed

Often you will find out that

You have yourself to blame


Swiftly we ran to mischief

And then the bad luck came

Why do we fault others?

We have ourselves to blame


Whatever happens to us,

Here is what we say

“Had it not been for so-and-so

Things wouldn’t have gone that way.”


And if you are short of friends,

I’ll tell you what to do

Make an examination,

You’ll find the faults in you…


You’re the captain of your ship,

So agree with the same

If you travel downward

You have yourself to blame


Author: Mayme White Miller

Be inspired. Look beyond the blame and let no distract you from your goals, nor convince you otherwise.



Brenda was packing. She’d been at it all morning and had to leave in an hour; but her packing kept being interrupted by sometimes angry, always sad, and sometimes wistful thoughts that swirled through her mind.

She’d found herself sitting on the edge of the bed wondering why Marsha, her best friend from junior high had invited her back to the 40-year class reunion of the class in which she and Marsha would have graduated together had her father not dragged her away from the life she knew to a life that with which she never completely identified. She blamed her father, long dead, for the lifetime of pain that she had suffered because he wanted to start a new business 800 miles away from the town where she and Marsha had lived.

Brenda and Marsha had been Christmas-card and birth-announcement close for the past 45 years. Life had become too busy and too complicated to be any closer than that. She had little desire to see child-hood friends, but Marsha had been so insistent in her invitation and on the phone. “It would be so good to reconnect,” she’d encouraged.

There was an arrival drinks party on Thursday night. She’d need a nice slightly-more-than-casual pants and blouse outfit for that.

Brenda never quite got over blaming her father for his decision; and blaming her mother for being so weak as to let him put everything they owned on the line for his pipe dream. Hardly a day passed that she didn’t spend at least a few minutes in an emotional battle with her father, her mother, or both. Depending on what else was going on in her life, her emotions could range from smoldering hurt to outright rage.

Brenda had never made any real friends in high school and college. The town where they moved was so into Southern heritage and “being part of the right family” and Brenda had neither the heritage nor the family. So she spent a lot of time on the outside looking in.

Every party that she spent standing by the wall watching other kids have fun was the direct result of her father being so mean and stupid as to move the family without considering what it would do to all of them, especially Brenda.

She had no expectations that this reunion would be any different, but Marsha was so persuasive. And Brenda’s kids had thought she should go back home for the weekend, so here she was packing.

Friday’s events included a golf outing, shopping, and an informal dinner in the evening. So she needed to pack daytime casual and something a little dressy for the dinner. Brenda had no interest in the shopping, so when Marsha suggested renting a golf-cart and riding along as others played golf, she’d agreed to do that. Marsha said it would give them lots of time to “catch up.”

Robert had loved golf. Brenda had met Robert in college and married him 4 months out of college. She had no idea why he’d fallen in love with her. She’d never been really happy. She had blamed him secretly for her unhappiness. She didn’t understand why she had felt that way toward him. She was unhappy and it had to be somebody’s fault.  Robert had been totally devoted to her and had provided a good life for her and their son and daughter. He’d also been thoroughly entranced by their grandchildren. That had ended with his heart attack four years ago. So the golf outing with Marsha would be sort of a memorial to Robert, even though she blamed him for leaving her alone.

She’d often wondered why he stayed with her because her kids certainly didn’t. Well it wasn’t that bad, she thought. Both kids lived within an hour, just in different directions. They just didn’t visit her very often. It had always been Robert and Brenda visiting them instead of the other way around. The fact the she was often moody and bitchy (her choice of words) made life hard on her family. As soon as the kids left for college, time together became occasional weekends and holidays.

Robert had always gone to church, but Brenda seldom went. She didn’t think she fit in very well with the church crowd. They’d always gone to church when she was a child and she had lots of friends there. When they’d moved, they had tried church. She still remembered all the faces turning and looking at the weird people from up north as they walked in and took their seats.

That same “outside” feeling persisted throughout high school and college. There were times when she acknowledged that she could have been more friendly; but mostly, they didn’t want her there and she didn’t want to be there; and why did they have to be that away?

Her father’s business venture failed and they lost just about everything but their home. So there wasn’t any money to go back north for college, the out-of-state tuition and travel costs being prohibitive. So she went to an in-state school. It wasn’t too bad, but her shyness and moodiness made it easier for people to have other friends. The frustrating thing was that she had had lots of friends before they moved; and her father destroyed all that; and her mother had let him get away with it.

Robert and Brenda had done okay financially, but the memory of her father’s failure made her worry all the time about going broke. She shared her fears often with Robert and his assurances were never quite enough. She blamed Robert for her worries about money.

She’d told Marsha that she would really like to spend Saturday morning driving around and seeing the town she remembered. Marsha agreed with that and suggested some nice places for lunch. There was a tour of the old school scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

There was a dinner-dance scheduled for Saturday evening and she’d need to pack something dressy for that. She pulled open her lingerie drawer and decided that was absolutely no need to pack anything other than the white utility pieces. She certainly had no black-lace expectations about the dinner-dance.

Marsha met her at the airport about 5:30 and took her to her hotel. The cocktail party was at the hotel so they had a nice time visiting with a lot of old friends. Marsha apparently had prepped everyone about inviting Brenda because not one person asked why she was there since she was not actually part of the graduating class of 1970.

Marsha was twice-divorced and declared that her life was complete with her two daughters, handsome sons-in-law, and the five, delightful grandchildren. She had absolutely no interest in another romantic relationship at this stage of her life, she laughingly shared.

This attitude puzzled Brenda. How could Marsha be so light-hearted and happy considering her history?

Friday was a beautiful day and after lunch Marsha had driven them out to the country club where they arranged for a golf cart to follow the golfing crowd. Brenda was more and more intrigued how Marsha was so happy and jovial with everybody!

After an hour, Brenda steered the cart over to the little bluff overlooking the lake and they found some comfortable park benches and sat down for the talk Brenda had been planning to have all morning.

“How can you be so upbeat with your life: two divorces and everything else?” she asked.

Marsha’s quick reply was, “I just don’t think about it.”

“You don’t think about it! It happened to you, not once, but twice! How can you not think about it? I can’t help but think about the things people have done to me!”

“I have too many blessings to think about,” Marsha replied. “I don’t have time to mess up my life thinking about stuff that will only make me unhappy.”

Brenda didn’t reply, so Marsha asked her, “What do you think about most of the time.”

Thinking for a moment, Brenda answered, “When I’m busy, I think about what I’m doing. But when I have time on my hands, which I have a lot of these days, I tend to think about how my father destroyed my life by moving us away from here; and about how my mother let him do it. I think about Robert dying and leaving me alone. I think about worrying about money so much. I think about my kids not having any time for me anymore.”

“And how does all that thinking make you feel?” Marsha asked.

“It makes me miserable, to tell the truth. I sometimes get so worked up that I have to take a sleeping pill to get to sleep.” As if on a roll, she continued, “It causes me lots of anxiety and stress. I’m such a bitch sometimes that people don’t want to be around me. Then I blame them for being so stuck-up and judgmental. If they only knew how much I’ve suffered in life, they would be more sympathetic.”

“If thinking all those negative thoughts makes you so miserable, to use your word, then why do you think those thoughts?

Brenda shot back, more emotionally than she intended, “Why do I think about the negative thoughts? They’re the history of my life. How can I NOT think them?”

Marsha smiled warmly, “Whenever one of those negative thoughts pops into your mind, you can simply say “I will not think about that.”

Brenda almost shouted, “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard!”

Marsha waited for Brenda to calm down and then said gently, “Let me tell you my story.”

“When my first husband walked out on me for a younger model after twenty-five years of marriage, two children and, at the time three grandchildren, I was furious and I made sure that everybody knew how furious and hurt I was. I was able to calm down after some years and during that time I met husband number two.”

“But every time I saw number one at a family event with yet another bimbo on his arm, I’d get furious all over again blaming him for all my pain.”

“After three years, husband number two told me that he had better things to do with his life than listen to a bitch complain about her first husband; so he left me. And he had the nerve to blame it on me.”

“So I became double trouble as a bitch. My girls stopped coming around, my friends at church deserted me, and I had nothing left but work and misery.”

“My Aunt Annie, since deceased, was in assisted living and I visited her one day. She was sharp as a tack; she just couldn’t walk and take care of herself any longer. I had just gotten off the phone trying to plan something with my daughters and they were using every excuse in the book to avoid being with me. I guess I was wearing my emotions on my sleeve when I walked in Aunt Annie’s door.”

“My ever-direct Aunt Annie nailed me after about five minutes. ‘I’ve known you since I changed your diapers all those years ago and I’ve never seen you this wrought up. Do you want to tell me what’s going on in your life?’”

“So I told her. When I’d finished, she asked me the same question I just asked you, ‘If those thoughts make you unhappy, why do you think them?’”

“I answered exactly the same way you did; ‘How can I not think about them?’”

Aunt Annie shared with me what she called a simple and effective Rule for Peace that she said had served her well for most of her ninety-two years.

She told me that whenever a negative thought pops into my mind, I should say out loud to myself, “I will not think about that.” Then I go ahead with what I’m doing. If the thought pops up again, I should say again, out loud, “I will not think about that.” I can say it softly, but I must say it out load to myself.

She told me that if I was in a social situation where it would be awkward to say it out loud, I could simply use my hand as if covering a cough and say it into my hand, “I will not think about that.”

She told me that I wouldn’t notice much difference at first. But she promised me that if I would dismiss my negative thoughts consistently, it will make all the difference in the world to me emotionally.

She then challenged me to keep a calendar of dismissing my thoughts. I should make a note on the calendar each day of how many times I had said, “I will not think about that.”

She also said that since she got lonely at the home, I should visit or call her at least once a week and tell her the numbers I’d written on my thought calendar.

“Skeptical, I left and had the opportunity to say the phrase in my car leaving the parking lot; and several other times before I got home. I made the notations in my calendar like Aunt Annie suggested.”

“Brenda, I have to tell you that I was amazed to see the numbers on my calendar. By the end of the first week, I was saying the phrase half as often as when I started. And more amazingly, I discovered that I was thinking more positive thoughts, not because I necessarily wanted to, but because I have the emotional peace where I could think about other things.”

“I faithfully reported to Aunt Annie every week but after about four weeks, we didn’t talk about my negative thoughts anymore. Each of my visits was filled with all sorts of stories about my family and the life that Aunt Annie had lived. What joy and peace!”

“When she died three years ago, I felt like I’d lost a dear friend, but more than that, I knew I have been given a priceless gift – the gift of personal peace.”

“Do you see why I wanted so much for you to come to this reunion? I had sensed that you were lacking peace and I wanted to share Aunt Annie’s Rule for Peace with you. I’ll tell you this, if you hadn’t come up here this weekend, I would have invited myself down to see you in a matter of weeks.”

“This is a fact, Brenda, You can experience personal peace in your life and it will make a world of difference to you!”

Marsha reached in her bag and gave me a card with Aunt Annie’s Rule for Peace and challenge on it.

“Brenda, I promise you this works because it worked for me. I predict that before I finish this sentence, you’ll be thinking to yourself, ‘This will never work for me. My problems are too bad.’ That needs to be the first time you say to yourself, ‘I will not think about that.’

At the dinner-dance that night, Brenda felt like a giddy teenager sharing a secret when she discovered how many times she discreetly covered a fake cough and said to herself, “I will not think about that.” She had a great time visiting with childhood friends and even sharing a few dances with some of the guys from the past. Each time she faked the cough, she would glance a Marsha and share a eye-smile.

At the Sunday brunch and later on the way to the airport, she thanked Marsha for caring enough to share Aunt Annie’s Rule for Peace. She truly felt optimism and hope for the first time in forty-five years; and that was a blessing.

The end.

This fictional story introduces a principle that has been around for thousands of years. In addition to the Bible, philosophers like Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, and others have written or spoken about our wonderful capacity to train ourselves not to ruminate on negative thoughts and to minimize the effects of emotional or physical pain in our lives. The danger of ruminating on emotional pain is, in addition to more pain, stress, depression, anxiety, emotional issues, and worse.

Children as well as adults can easily understand the simple Rule for Peace that will work for many negative emotions that result from almost any negative thinking.

 This concept is explained fully in an online eCourse called Finding Personal Peace The course leads you through these life principles and also covers topics like making good decisions, and dealing with serious stuff like death, illness, abuse, and addiction.

The eCourse leads one through a process of turning the habits of negative emotions into the habits of peace and freedom. You can read other short stories on life issues by searching the category, Short Stories, at the right. You can start with the course today and begin to find more personal peace in your life immediately.

All the best.

Copyright 2014 Birmingham, Al USA. All rights reserved.



Mary’s Story – The Pain of Childlessness

Desires of a Barren Woman By Emily Hurd

Mary’s Story – The Pain of ChildlessnessA lifetime longing for life in one’s belly
is not a joyful life.
The most wonderful love can’t fill this void
no matter how hard he may try.
For what sin am I punished,
That I may never enjoy,
clinging to my breast, a blonde haired baby boy?
To know the love of a sweet child,
and the feeling of being whole-
These are the things I’ve always wanted to know.

Mary sat at her dressing table and brushed her hair carefully as she had most nights of her 57 years. She smiled as she looked in the mirror; and, she liked what she saw. She was wearing the nightgown that Joe had given her on their 2nd honeymoon five years ago.

Joe was out walking Gilbert and Sullivan, their adopted mutts. He didn’t know it yet, but when he got home, he was going to get “lucky.”

As she brushed, the mirror carried her back over the years as it often did. But the memories weren’t painful anymore. They were just the building blocks that made her life so special now.

She and Joe had grown up in devoutly Catholic homes just a few blocks apart. They had both gone to the same parochial school; then she had gone to the girl’s high school and Joe had gone to the boy’s high school. They were dear friends all through high school. Their lives were good in those days.

During college, they had dated more seriously and began to plan a future together. They were both going to work for two or three years to build up their nest egg and then start their family. Both wanted lots of kids because that was how they had grown up – big families, with lots of friends around all the time.

Theirs was the first wedding among their college circles; and there were lots more over the next few years. Weddings were always fun and offered such hope for the future for all of them.

Mary kept working after they started trying to have a baby in earnest.

Before long their married friends were expecting their first children. Mary and Joe were excited for them.

Then some of those couples started having their second child. Mary was still excited but a little anxiety started to creep in.

Family dinners were beginning to have the stigma of Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe. She truly loved and enjoyed their nieces and nephews but loving them didn’t fill the growing dread of her being unable to have her own child.

After a few more years, Mary convinced Joe that they should at least get a medical evaluation to see if there was a reason they could not conceive. They did several times; and the results were always the same: no apparent medical or physical reason on the part of the male or female that would prohibit or inhibit conception.

The root of bitterness

Mary found it easier to send regrets to invitations from other couples than it was to feel the pain in her heart as she sat and listened to them chatter on about their children. Oh, they tried to be kind, but it was natural for them to talk about what meant most to them: their children.

Mary and Joe were both advancing with their jobs. Joe was in sales with a well-established regional company and Mary was in human resources with an national company. Money wasn’t an issue but Mary read somewhere that stress could be an issue in conception. She was able to get a 12-month leave of absence to try to relieve the work-related stress.

Unfortunately, she was reminded every time they tried that she had to get pregnant in 12 months; then 11 months; and so on; or she would have to return to work without any a baby to come home to.

It hurt a lot when she was reminded each month that she was not yet pregnant. She took to her bed with a bigger burden of pain than her regular monthly discomfort.

They tried all the infertility treatments that church doctrine allowed with no success. There was a lot of embarrassment and a lot of dignity and money spent in these attempts.

Joe traveled a lot in his job and Mary began to look forward to the nights he would be away. She could be free to cry or scream or curse at all the unfairness they were suffering.

It was getting to the point that seeing a pregnant woman or a woman with her children in the mall would cause her to clinch her jaw and taste the bile rising in her throat.

Drinking and drugs were so repulsive to her that she wasn’t tempted to use them to mask her pain.

Instead, she would take to her bed, curl into a fetal position, and clutch the pain within her as if her womb was aching for the baby it would never carry.

She could get through the weekdays because work was a sufficient distraction. Nights and weekends were awful.

Mary didn’t know who to blame.

Some nights she blamed herself; other nights she blamed Joe. The most painful nights were the ones when she blamed God; her guilt was overwhelming.

Confession didn’t help. The priest would tell her to remain true to God and do the appropriate penance but nothing would ever really take the pain away.

She finally decided that she was never going to bear a child; but that didn’t ease the pain of the loss she felt continuously.

Joe suggested adoption but she had no desire whatsoever to adopt. She wanted a baby to form in her own body, to birth it, and then watch it grow up; something like all their brothers and sisters were enjoying.

They started another round of weddings with nieces and nephews; and another round of pain at the prospects of the newlyweds against the impossibilities in her own life.

Over time, she had lost all desire for Joe and he had reluctantly moved to the bedroom down the hall. She obeyed the church edict in her spousal duties; but the church couldn’t make her enjoy it.

The day came when she told Joe that she had taken a promotion with her company that would require her to move to the home office in the mid-west. She didn’t want Joe to move with her.

Joe was dismayed and explained that he understood her lack of desire for him but he didn’t understand why she wanted a separation. He committed his love to her and reminded her that he had promised twenty years before to stand by her “for better and for worse.”

If she needed to move, he wouldn’t stand in her way, but as far as he was concerned, they were still married.

His commitment to her actually made her feel more guilty, but she didn’t let on. They’d both done a lot of acting over the years, especially Mary.

They explained the separation on her job and the demands of his career; and family and friends accepted it with appropriate sympathy for both Mary and Joe.

Making Changes

Mary got settled in her new apartment and plunged into her new job. She felt a little more peace due to the excitement of making a change. Days were busy but the nights were still filled with more of the same pain and longing.

She still felt the same despair when she saw women with their children. There was a park across from her apartment and most evenings she cried as she sat on her balcony listening to the children laughing and playing in the park; knowing that she would never hear the laughter of her own child.

Professionals had told her years before that she needed medication for her anxiety but she had always refused. She didn’t like having to take pills just to live her life.

There was a church a few blocks from her apartment and she decided to go to Mass one Saturday after she had been there a few months.

She looked forward to the mass and she went early so she could have confession and take the sacraments. The priest listened as she described her anger and pain. Then he said something very strange.

He absolved her and told her that an appropriate penance would be for her to look into Hannah’s Sisters. She could find a brochure in a rack in the narthex.

Mary learned that Hannah’s Sisters was a group for women who were living through emotional pain regardless of the source of the pain.

The original group was for barren women and was named for Hannah, the barren woman who made a vow to give her child to God if he would give her a son. God honored her request and her son, Samuel, lived to become a great prophet and high priest for Israel. You can read Hannah’s story here.

The brochure had contact information. When Mary awoke the next morning after another night of tossing and turning, she decided to call the woman.

She called that evening and they made an appointment to meet for coffee the next day.

Margaret, the Hannah’s Sisters leader, was waiting for Mary. They got their coffee and found a place where they could talk undisturbed.

After exchanging pleasantries, Mary asked her about the group.

Margaret explained that there were only three members at the present time.

Mary asked, “Why are there so few members? Surely there are more women hurting around here than that.”

”Of course, there are,” Margaret replied, “but we don’t keep them around for long.”

“What do you mean!”

“Mary, we’re not a social club. Women don’t use us to provide an on-going social function like so many self-help groups. We want to help women overcome their pain, and when they do that, they can make the appropriate decisions to be reconciled with their families and friends.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Mary said doubtfully.

“Mary, if there were a way that you could be free of your emotional pain in just a few weeks, would you be interested in knowing more about that?”

“Of course,” Mary answered, “but I doubt that’s possible after what I’ve gone through.”

“Mary, we care a whole lot more about where you want to go than about where you’ve been. In fact, we will never ask you about the source of your pain. If you want to learn about a simple and effective way to be free from your pain, whatever is causing it, come by the parish hall tomorrow night at seven o’clock and we’ll explain everything to you.”

The next evening, Mary joined Margaret and three other women on couches in a small room off the parish hall.

After introductions, Margaret explained that every week they review the three Life Principles and share their progress. She explained that they never talk about their problems because dwelling on past hurts always makes the hurt worse.

Most emotional pain is caused by rumination. In many cases, the original cause of the pain occurred far in the past. And if the pain is ongoing and there is no solution to the problem, then ruminating on it can cause more anxiety with inevitably leads to stress, depression and even physical pain.

She explained that the life principles they teach offer an easy way, that anyone can use, to deal with the negative thoughts that cause so much emotional pain.

“You asked yesterday, ‘why so few members?’”, Mary reminded her. “We’ve had over two hundred members over the years; but as they become successful in applying these principles in their lives, they don’t need us any more. So currently, we only have three members; four, if you want to join us.”

Mary nodded and Margaret went on to explain the three principles.

Three Life Principles

Life Principle 1 – Whenever a thought enters your mind that makes you angry, sad, or bitter, you simply say to yourself out loud, “I will not think about that.” When the thought comes back, and it will, you say it again, “I will not think about that.”

“If you prefer, which I do, you can say “I take this thought captive,” because that phrase comes right out of the Bible.

Each time we dismiss a thought, the thought is compelled to go away because that’s the way we are made. We own our thoughts and we do not have to think about anything that hurts us.

Margaret explained that this idea had been around for thousands of years. “We simply do not have to let negative thoughts control our lives,” she said.

She explained that each time we “take a painful thought captive,” we create a little bit of peaceful space in our emotions. As you take more negative thoughts captive, you create more peaceful space.

“The reason this works so well is Life Principle 2.”

Life Principle 2 – When you consistently practice the first principle, negative thoughts will pop up less and less often until you really don’t think about them at all.

She explained that we all have a part of our mind, called the subconscious, which has the role of helping us be happy and content. If our subconscious thinks that we are happy thinking about negative things and getting all worked up all the time, it will keep feeding us those negative thoughts so we can be happy.

But if our subconscious hears us saying “I take this thought captive” consistently, it concludes over time that we don’t really want to think about those things and it will stop sending those negative thoughts to us. It’s like our subconscious blocks those negative thoughts automatically.

Doing this consistently replaces your habits of anger, sadness, or bitterness with a new habit of peace.

Life Principle 3 – Use your habit of peace to make the best decisions for you and your future. She explained that this is true freedom: the freedom to do what we need to do when we need to do it to become the best that we can be.

When we’re not spending all our time thinking about painful things, we have peace. We can use this peaceful time to think about ways to get along better with others, to do the right things, and to reconcile with our loved ones.

Margaret said that she’s sure these principles work because she has shared them with women for over 20 years. She said they all have learned to break their habits of anger, bitterness, victimhood, or whatever and create new habits of peace.

Margaret handed Mary a card. The card had the Three Life Principles on one side and blocks for each day of the week on the back. She explained, “Every time a negative thought pops into your mind, I want you to say out loud to yourself, ‘I will not think about that’ or ‘I take this thought captive.’” If you’re someplace where it would be weird speaking out loud, put your hand over your mouth like you’re covering a cough and say softly, ‘I take this thought captive.’

“Then put a check card in the block every time you dismiss one of your negative thoughts. Each week when we meet, we review how each of you is doing. I predict by the end of four or five weeks, you will be making very few check marks on the card because the Life Principle 2 will be taking effect in your life. The question now is, ‘Will you do this?’”

Mary must have looked a little skeptical because Margaret suggested,”Mary, I suspect that you have a negative thought right now telling you that this stupid idea will never work for you. This is a good place to start taking it captive.”

Each of the women shared her results of taking their thoughts captive for the previous week. Each had fewer negative thoughts that the week before. One girl, who was in her seventh week said this was her second week with no negative thoughts at all.

Still skeptical, Mary said to herself several times driving home and that evening, “I take this thought captive.” Each time, the thought went away briefly.

When the painful thoughts of childlessness barged in like they did every night, Mary took them captive out loud. She was amazed when each thought went away. They came back, like Margaret said they would and she took them captive again. After doing this several more times over the next half hour, Mary dropped off to sleep; the first time in years she had done so without crying.

The weeks passed quickly. Mary made good progress and she was excited as the number of negative thoughts diminished daily.

Mary found she had time to think about Joe and about the fact that she would never have children.

She called Joe one week and asked if she could come home that weekend; she had something to tell him. Joe was definitely puzzled; but he readily agreed to pick her up at the airport on Friday.

After freshening up at their house, Joe took her to her favorite restaurant and they enjoyed a very nice meal. Over dessert and coffee, she explained to Joe what she had been doing at Hannah’s Sisters.

She told Joe that she was at peace with the fact that she would never be a mother. And she then asked Joe to forgive her for all the pain she had caused him over the years. With tears in his eyes, Joe forgave her and asked her to come back home to him.

Her heart was full as Joe paid the check and they walked to the car. For the first time in years, she was actually enjoying being with her husband; and her heart was doubly full that God had given her a faithful husband who had continued to love her in spite of the trouble she had given him.

Out of habit, Joe started down the hall to his room until Mary touched his arm and said, “Joe, will you sleep in our room tonight?”

It took a few weeks to ease out of her position at headquarters and for a spot to open back in the office where in their home town; but the company made it happen for her.

She used that time to talk with Margaret about making Hannah’s Sisters a formal, legal organization that could expand into a number of locations where its alumni were living. Almost without exception, the women who had learned to live without pain were eager to share the Three Life Principles with other women.

She heard the front door open and Gilbert and Sullivan scampered across the living room and kitchen to their beds in the mud room. She heard Joe start down the hall. Joe may be lucky tonight, but Mary dimmed the lights thinking about how lucky and truly blessed she was – she was free of pain after hurting for years and she was helping other women find their freedom, too.

The end.

This fictional story introduces a principle that has been around for thousands of years. In addition to the Bible, philosophers like Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, and others have written or spoken about our wonderful capacity to train ourselves not to ruminate on negative thoughts and to minimize the effects of emotional or physical pain in our lives. The danger of ruminating on emotional pain is, in addition to more pain, stress, depression, anxiety, emotional issues, and worse.

Children as well as adults can easily understand the simple Three Life Principles. The principles work for many negative emotions that result from almost any negative thinking.

 This concept is explained fully in an online eCourse called Finding Personal Peace The course leads you through these life principles and also covers topics like making good decisions, and dealing with serious stuff like death, illness, abuse, and addiction.

The eCourse leads one through a process of turning the habits of negative emotions into the habits of peace and freedom. You can read other short stories on life issues by searching the category, Short Stories, at the right. You can start with the course today and begin to find more personal peace in your life immediately.

All the best.

Copyright 2014 Birmingham, Al USA. All rights reserved.

Blue Christmas

Blue ChristmasChristmas is not the best time of the year for many, many people. Depression or sadness overwhelms many of us, especially during the holiday season. Let’s think about that for a minute.

Elvis Presley recorded a hit song in 1957 named, “Blue Christmas.” It has always been one of my favorite Elvis songs. The premise is two lovers who won’t be together to celebrate Christmas and but there is joy in their lives even though they are apart.

The cuteness of that song is lost for many people because it is all too true with no joy at the end.

How many people this year are in their first Christmas after the loss of a loved one? It too often doesn’t get any easier by the 20th Christmas after and beyond.

Broken or strained relationships cast a blue tint over Christmas fun.

Sometimes it helps to give voice to your blue emotions. So I’m inviting you to share your experiences in our blog. There’s a comment block at the bottom. Please share a bit of your story, especially if you’ve found a way to successfully deal with your own blue Christmas. Let other people learn from our victory.

If I’ve stirred up some blue emotions for you, just tell yourself that you don’t want to think about that. I promise; do that consistently for just a few days and you’ll discover that the blue thoughts don’t pop up as often as before.

To make it easier to grasp, I’ve written an online course called Finding Personal Peace. For Christmas and New Year, it’s free to all who want to know a simple, effective way to deal with most of the negative stuff in their lives.

So, share your story and then I’ll share what I’ve learned with you.

Have a joyous Christmas and a blessed New Year.

Resources you can use

Learn how to simply and effectively deal with your blueness. Learn more at

You can use this eCourse for just about any negative emotion or habit that bothers you in addition to sadness. And you are free to share it with others.

I hope Finding Personal Peace helps you with your sadness as much as it helped me with my anger.

Blue Christmas

Rod Peeks

Thanks for reading our blog today. I invite you to respond in several ways: (1) Comment in the space below if you agree or disagree with what I’ve said. A dialogue could be interesting for all; (2) Share the post with your friends using the buttons below; and (3) sign up to get an email with each new post. There’s a place to do that on the right. Then you won’t have to remember to look for our subsequent posts. Thanks again!

P.S. We’ve written several short stories with some good life lessons. You can check them out by searching by category at the right. My son told me today that Ben’s Story gave him something think about in his life. Thanks.

Blog Carnival – Finding Personal Peace for November 2, 2013

Blog Carnival – Finding Personal Peace for November 2, 2013Welcome to the November 2, 2013 edition of Finding Personal Peace containing 5 interesting articles.

Thanks for visiting our Blog Carnival, Finding Personal Peace. Please review the subjects below and make note of any that interest you. At the bottom of the page, you will find a link that takes you to more information about each post. If you find a post you like, please make a comment to encourage them or even engage in a discussion with them

emotional issues

  • Rod Peeks presents The Art of Being Ben – A Short Story
  • Rod Peeks presents An Answer for Mark – A Short Story
  • Rod Peeks presents Clare’s Choice – A Short Story


  • Bryan Chau presents Baby Bump With A Fist Pump – Hatch 22 – SuccessPenPal | SuccessPenPal


  • Kimberly Raya presents 5 Reasons Why it’s Critical That You Leave Your Narcissistic Partner

To view the articles, Click here or click on Blog Carnival in the tabs at the top. You’ll want to check out these articles and share them in your circle of influence. We’ll be receiving submitted articles and posting them every Sunday. Please share with your friends. Thanks.

Mark’s Story

Mark's StoryA Short Story About a Boy Dealing with Separation

The bell rang and 22 4th graders jumped from their seats and rushed for the exits. Well, actually only 21 jumped and rushed. One of them, Mark, slid out of his desk, walked to his peg for his backpack, then slowly dropped down and sat on his feet in front of his cubby. It has not been a good week for Mark.

As he dug through his cubby looking for what he needed to take home, he heard a familiar voice by the door. It was his used-to-be best friend, Trey, laughing with Robby as they left the room. Trey had told Mark Monday that he didn’t want to be his best friend anymore. Tray said that it wasn’t fun to hang out with him like it used to be.

Then yesterday, Teacher had called his mother in for a conference to explain how Mark was distracted and how his grades were slipping. In fact, she’d told mom that it was getting so bad that he might not pass fourth grade. Mom did a lot of yelling last night, telling him it was all his fault and that he had to straighten up.

Mark followed the other kids out to the cross walk and waited for Miss Ruth to stop traffic. She smiled at him and winked, but he just didn’t feel like smiling back. He was so sad.

Miss Ruth lead all the kids across Fourth Avenue; then the group divided up with some going south toward town and the rest, including Mark, going north up the hill toward Dixon Heights, the neighborhood where Mark lived with his mom.

Mark hung back as the other kids laughed and ran along the sidewalk. It was only seven blocks home: six on Fourth Ave and a block left on Poplar. But he was in no hurry to get there today. Mom had grounded him for a week from TV and video games because of the teacher conference; and with Trey hanging out with Robby, he didn’t have anybody to walk or play with.

He had always walked home from school but up to third grade, his mom had always met him and walked with him. His dad had driven him to school until he left just after Christmas of third grade. Mom had had to go to work to pay the bills so she couldn’t walk with him anymore but she drove him to school in the mornings. Walking home alone okay with Mark, because he was responsible and the neighborhood was safe.

His mom had helped him with several safe houses including Mrs. Blake between Oak and Elm and the store on the corner of the Fourth and Pine. Mrs. Blake always spoke to him and sometimes invited him for cookies and milk on her porch. He hoped she wasn’t out today because he didn’t feel very friendly.

He had held onto his dream that his dad would come back for so long. But when he forgot Mark’s 9th birthday in July and forgot his fourth-grade Christmas, he knew Dad wasn’t coming back. The Christmas and no letters or phone calls had made it clear that he didn’t care about Mark any more.

So why shouldn’t he be sad?

He’d done something to make his dad leave; Trey didn’t want to be friends anymore; his teacher was mad at him; and his mother was freaking out. She’d yelled forever about having to work so hard to pay the bills; and about it being Mark’s fault she had to go to the conference. That would make anybody sad!

As he trudged alone up the hill, all kinds of thoughts filled his head. He’d made his dad mad; but how? Maybe he’d bugged him too much the summer before third grade about going to Disneyworld. Or maybe he’d asked him too many times if he could play baseball in the third-grade spring.

If Dad hadn’t left, everything would be fine; and it was Mark’s fault he left.

He turned left onto Poplar and hoped that Mr. Joe wasn’t out working in his garden. Mr. Joe was retired and lived in the corner house just beyond Mark’s house. They shared a driveway.

Mr. Joe was nice. He always smiled at Mark and let Mark play with his border collie, Mitzi. If they were outside, she would always come over to see Mark. Mark would scratch her ears and let her give him kisses while Mr. Joe asked him about school that day.

Today he didn’t feel like talking with Mr. Joe or even seeing Mitzi so he hoped they weren’t out.

Mark used his key at the back door because Mom didn’t want him unlocking the front door where somebody might see him from the street. He stuffed the key back into his backpack side pocket and tossed the backpack on the floor by the couch. He started toward the TV and then remembered that TV and video games were off limits for a week. What a bummer!

He didn’t have much homework; so he had a snack and then went out to field a tennis ball off the side of the garage. He had done this enough since last summer that his fielding was good enough to make the tryouts for Little League. He’d know his team in three weeks. Baseball was fun but it wasn’t fun enough to get him over being sad today.

He’s just fielded a hard bouncer and made a throw right into the first-baseman circle drawn on the garage wall when Mr. Joe and Mitzi drove into the driveway. It had been Mr. Joe’s idea to draw the first-base and second-base circles on the garage to practice his putouts more realistically.

“Hey, Mark,” Mr. Joe called as Mitzi bounded over with a kiss hanging out the side of her mouth.

Mark waved and sort of smiled which was about the best he could do today.

Mr. Joe noticed and said, “How about me hitting you some grounders? Mitzi will play outfield.”

That sounded good so Mark got the bat from his back porch and handed it to Mr. Joe.

Mark played Mr. Joe’s grounders for about 15 minutes and Mitzi chased the throws to the first-base circle always bringing the ball back to Mr. Joe. But no matter how much Mr. Joe praised his fielding, Mark just couldn’t get very excited.

“Mark, I need a Coke. Want one?”

Without waiting for an answer, Mr. Joe went into his house and came back with two cans of Coke and a water bowl for Mitzi.

Pointing to the steps of his back stoop, Mr. Joe said, “Sit down and tell me what’s going on.”

“Aw nothing” was about the best that Mark could do.

“Where’s your friend, Trey, today? I haven’t seen him this week.”

“We’re not friends anymore,” Mark had to say after stalling over a long sip of Coke.

“That sounds like something worth talking about. None of us has enough friends to waste any.”

So reluctantly Mark started talking about Trey’s saying that he wasn’t fun to be around anymore. And before he knew it, he got to the teacher conference and all the rest of his bad news. He almost cried, but he sucked it up because his dad had always said that men don’t cry.

“So why do you think that you’re so sad that it cost you a friend and you’re not doing well at school?”

This was where it got hard. But Mr. Joe had always asked about what Mark was thinking more than he just wanted to talk about stuff. Mark needed to talk to someone and Mr. Joe was sitting right there asking.

“I’m really sad because my dad left us last winter,” Mark began. “I don’t know why he left and I’ve been thinking a lot and I’ve decided that I must have done something wrong to make him leave.”

“Uh-huh,” was all Mr. Joe said.

Mark had more stuff he needed to say so he continued, “My teacher says I’m distracted, but I just can’t stop thinking about why Dad might have left. Maybe I bugged him too much to do things with me. Maybe I just wasn’t good enough a son to make him want to stay.”

“And I was so sad that Trey doesn’t want to hang out with me any more; and my teacher told Mom that I wasn’t applying myself; and my Mom told me how much I’m letting her down and she’s working so hard; and now I’m grounded; and I can’t do anything right,” Mark blurted out as the tears welled up. “I’m so unhappy, and it’s all my fault. I don’t know what to do!” And the tears burst out.

“I see,” Mr. Joe said softly as he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it to Mark. He waited patiently while Mark pulled himself back together.

When Mark calmed himself down, Mr. Joe began softly. “Well, Mark,” it sounds like you’ve got yourself a real conundrum here.”  Mark laughed softly. Mr. Joe liked to use new words sometimes but Mark had figured out that he did it to help Mark learn more vocabulary. He sometimes used one of the words in his reports at school.

“What does that mean, Mr. Joe?”

“Mark, a conundrum is a difficult problem or question. You’ve been trying to figure out what you did to make everybody unhappy, and that, in turn, is making you very sad, right?”

“Yeah, I guess that’s right,” Mark agreed.

“So are you asking me to help you find the answer, Mark?”

“Yes, sir, I guess I am,” was Mark’s honest response.

“Well, Mark, here’s what I’m thinking. The conundrum is that we don’t know why your dad left. Only he knows that. But from what you tell me, every time you think about it, it makes you sad. Have I got that much right?”

“Yes, sir,” Mark answered absentmindedly scratching Mitzi’s ears when she plopped down next to him on the stoop.

Mr. Joe continued, “And when you get sad, it makes you not so much fun to be around, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And when you think about it a lot at school, it distracts you from your work so your grades are slipping and your mom gets called to a conference, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And when your mom gets called to a conference and told that you might not pass 4th grade, it makes her unhappy and she grounds you to make you work harder, right?”

“Yes, sir,” Mark answered still not sure where Mr. Joe was going with all this because all he had done was repeat what Mark had said.

“Mark, I could tell you what a great boy you are. That would be true.”

“I could tell you that nothing you did made your dad leave, and that would also be true.”

“And, I could tell you that your grades are going to improve and that you and Trey will become friends again; but I don’t know whether that is true.”

“I don’t understand, Mr. Joe.”

“Mark, the problem today is not that your dad left. The problem is that you’re thinking about it so much; and when you think about it, it makes you sad because you can’t find an answer.”

Mark’s look showed Mr. Joe that he was still confused, so he continued.

“Mark, when did your dad leave?”

“In the winter of 3rd grade.”

“That’s over a year ago, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Mark, when did Trey say it wasn’t fun to be your friend anymore?”


“I see. And you were sad on Monday because you were thinking about why your dad left, right?“

“Yes, sir.”

“So your dad left again on Monday, is that what you’re telling me?”

“No, sir. He left a long time ago.”

“So what happened Monday that made you sad?”

“Nothing happened Monday. I was trying to figure out why Dad left.”

“Mark, let me restate that. You were thinking about why your dad left, right?” He made the word thinking a little louder.

“Yes, sir. He didn’t leave again. He had already done that.” Mark was beginning to see a point here.

“So about your grades. You’ve been distracted at school for several weeks, right?”

“Yes. When I signed up for baseball tryouts, I started thinking that my Dad wouldn’t be there for any of my games and I wanted to know why he left. If I knew that, maybe I could get him to come back to watch me play baseball.”

“I see. So he didn’t leave again when you signed up for baseball, did he? He had done that a long time ago and you were just thinking about it again. Have I got that right?”

“Yes, sir that’s right.”

“And your mom is mad because your grades are slipping and she got called off work to go to school. That was not because your dad left again, but because you were distracted thinking about why your dad left and didn’t keep up with your work. Also right?”

“Yes, sir,” Mark responded still not quite sure where they were going.

Then Mr. Joe asked a curious question.

“Mark, if I could show give you an answer for being so sad, would you want that?”

“Yes, sir!” Mark said with more enthusiasm!

“First, can I tell you a story, Mark?” and he continued without waiting for an answer.

“A long time ago, before your Mom and Dad moved next door and before you were born – even before I got Mitzi – I was a very angry person. Some people in our church had hurt my family and I spent years being very angry with them. I would have shouting arguments with them all by myself driving to work or around town. My anger popped up all the time and it was hurting and embarrassing my wife and children. This continued for a long time – long after the people had done what they did to my family.”

“But they weren’t doing it again and again. I was just thinking about it again and again.”

“Then one day, another pastor gave a sermon that told me that I could ‘take my thoughts captive.’ That’s from the Bible.“

“That meant that whenever I had a thought that was going to make me angry, all I had to do was ‘take that thought captive,’ and I wouldn’t get angry.”

“I was getting angry because of my thoughts, not because the people were hurting us again.”

Mr. Joe went on to tell Mark that God made us with a special ability to let us choose what we want to think about. If a thought about something that hurts us, or makes us angry, or afraid, or sad, we can choose not to think about that thought. He explained that a special part of our mind, called our subconscious, has the purpose of helping us do what we like to do.

When our subconscious thinks that we like being sad, it finds thoughts that will help us be sad. When we say out loud, “I take that thought captive” or “I’m not going to think about that,” our subconscious learns how we respond when those thoughts pop up, and it begins to ‘take those thoughts captive’ automatically.

“So in just a short time, I wasn’t nearly as angry as I used to be and I’m still getting better by continuing to take my negative thoughts captive.”

“So what does this story mean for you, Mark?”

“Are you saying that it’s my thinking about Dad leaving that makes me sad all over again?”

“That’s exactly right, Mark. When you try to figure out why he left, you’re making yourself sad just like you were sad when he actually left; and it’s still not getting you the answers you want.”

“There’s another word I like Mark. It’s rumination; and that means thinking about or dwelling on something again and again.”

Mark said out loud, “Rumination. Hmmmm.”

“So if your question, ‘Why did Dad leave, is a conundrum; and you may never get an answer; then the best thing for you is to stop ruminating on it.”

“And the way I do that is to ‘take that thought captive,’ Mark exclaimed!

“Exactly, Mark, that’s a very astute observation you made,” Mr. Joe confirmed with a smile.

“Since you’ve been asking the question for a while, it’s become a habit. So it may take a little time to break that habit.”

“I’ve got a suggestion, Mark. Every time the question about your dad pops into your mind, you say softly to yourself, ‘I take that thought captive.’”

“I promise you the thought will go away every time you take it captive, even if for just a minute. But if it comes back, you take it captive again. Before long it will be coming back less and less often until one day it won’t pop up at all.”

“Here’s a game we can play.”

“Keep a slip of paper in your desk or in your pocket. Whenever you take the thought captive, make a little mark on the paper. Each day when you see Mitzi and me outside, just yell out the number of little marks you’ve made that day.”

“Mark, I can’t give you an answer to why your dad left. But I am giving you a tool you can use for most of the sad thoughts you will have your entire life.”

“By the start of baseball season, I don’t think you’ll be sad anymore. Do you want to try this, Mark?”

Mark agreed and promised to call out the numbers to Mr. Joe whenever he saw him.

The next day he called out, “Seventeen,” and got a smile from Mr. Joe.

The next day he reported, “Fifteen”

The numbers he called out got smaller and smaller and Mr. Joe’s encouragement got happier and louder as the days passed.

Mark didn’t tell Mr. Joe this until later: He figured out that every time his teacher told them to take out their math books, Mark would always think “I hate math.” He started taking that thought captive and before long, he didn’t dread math so much.

His mom told him one day that Teacher had called and told her that Mark’s grades were climbing back to where they had been. Mom was really pleased and made Mark’s favorite dessert for supper.

The day Little League teams were announced; Mark and Trey learned they would be on the same team this year.

As they walked down Mark’s driveway going to baseball practice, Mark saw Mr. Joe and Mitzi in the garden.

He yelled out “Zero, Mr. Joe! Zero! Thank you!”

Trey looked at him kind of funny; then they laughed and ran down the street to the park.

Note to parents:

 This fictional story introduces a principle that has been around for thousands of years. In addition to the Bible, philosophers like Confucius, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, and others have written about our wonderful capacity to train ourselves not to ruminate on negative thoughts. The danger of rumination is stress, depression, anxiety, emotional issues, and worse.

Your children can understand the simple principle that “if I think a lot about something that makes me sad, I can take that thought captive.”

This concept is explained fully in an online eCourse called Finding Personal Peace –

 The eCourse leads one through a process of turning a habit of sadness into a habit of peace.

 The concept works for virtually every negative emotion that results from negative thinking.

This story is fiction and any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

To read other short stories on life issues for kids and teens, click here.

Copyright 2013 Birmingham, Al USA. All rights reserved.

Thanks for reading our blog today. I invite you to respond in several ways: (1) Comment in the space below if you agree or disagree with what I’ve said. A dialogue could be interesting for all; (2) Share the post with your friends using the buttons below; and (3) sign up to get an email with each new post. There’s a place to do that on the right. Then you won’t have to remember to look for our subsequent posts. Thanks again!