Mental Morsels With Dr. Cearley

Make Kids Great Again: Ignore Them

Jamie Cearley, PhDKids_550x550

Kids have a lousy reputation these days. Some of this standing is unjustified. There are some dandy kids out there. Yet I am afraid many times a bad reputation is warranted.

I don’t have kids. Wait! Before you stop reading; I do remember being one. I always knew I was a big part of my mom’s world. I also knew I was not her whole world. Nor was I even at the top of her list. For this I am forever grateful.

I started to say I have a lot of friends with kids, but that isn’t true. I have some friends with kids but they tend to be parents like my mom. Most others I know with kids are impossible to be friends with because their kids are their entirety. Control of everything they say, do, buy, and everywhere they go belongs to their kids. In short, their kids are their lives, their sole existence; dictating their every move.

I feel sorry for kids who grow up in this environment, thinking the world revolves around them. The future is not bright for such a soul entering adulthood. I also feel sorry for those moms who have become empty shells of their former selves.

Perhaps it is social pressure from our society where so many children are outright neglected driving this focus. Or maybe it is the stigma surrounding “working mothers” who are guilt-ridden for not being “stay-at-home moms.” Those are two paradoxical labels I will for the life of me never come to terms with. Perhaps moms who want to do well are so laden by our culture, their guilt drives them to behave this way. Whatever the reason, excluding those who neglect their children outright, I beg you to pay less attention to your kids.

I learned priceless lessons because my mom wasn’t paying attention.

Here are 11 Worthy Lessons Taught When You Pay Less Attention to Your Kids:

1. Listen when adults are talking; you just might learn something. Being silent can have great benefits.
2. Not everything you do is amazing. My mom kept her praise in reserve. High achievement was an expectation, as was responsibility, and hard work. Praise was held in reserve for those occasions when it would mean the most, not made commonplace. In the adult world, gold stars are a rare prize.
3. The conversation isn’t always about me. Learn how to talk about something besides yourself; maybe even something bigger than yourself. Today’s version of this would include selfies. My mom taught me to live my life, not document it.
4. Eat what you are given. It isn’t easy to cook all those meals, and yes, the meals aren’t about me either. It just may be someone else’s day to have their favorite.
5. How to entertain yourself with nothing. Have some imagination. It isn’t always your show. This skill comes in handy almost daily as an adult.
6. Enjoy the outdoors. That is where my mother thought children belonged. It was not beyond her to send us out in morning and lock the door behind us. I realize our world is not as safe as it used to be, but the principle still applies.
7. Learn how to play. Not to push buttons on a screen but to play indeed. Learn what play feels like.
8. When it is your money, you are tighter with it. If Mom was buying it was a must. If I was buying I was self-sufficient, in need nor want for anything, not even chocolate.
9. Respect others' desire to be alone. Sometimes even moms want to be alone. That’s a desire we would all enjoy honoring.
10. Respect others' space and possessions. We did not have toys all over the house, nor did we have a room full of them. We have gone from the concept of a toy box to a play room. I have seen houses where there are toys in every room from wall to wall and even out into the yard. I can remember having a bicycle. No, wait, it was my sister’s bicycle. I did not have one of my own; not until I was about 12. I remember my dad emphasizing we were not to leave the bicycle outside overnight as this would show lack of appreciation by not caring for it and putting it away out of the weather. I know my future employers and spouse appreciated my having learned this lesson.
11. Respect private space. We did not go into my parents’ bedroom whether they were in there or not. If you did it had better be an emergency. It was their private space. We respected it as such.

I find it fascinating how often our plans backfire on us. Often parents think if they offer a total self-sacrifice for their kids somehow they will turn out better. When in fact total self-sacrifice leads to kids who are totally selfish.

Not having kids means I am not into giving parenting advice. Go ahead and put your comment below anyway, I can take it. Yet, looking from the outside in, I see both healthier moms and kids when the kids are not their mom’s whole world. At least I can say as an adult I am indebted to my mom for all those times she was not paying attention. Thanks, Mom.

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Smackdown Farm Boy vs Disney Prince

Jamie Cearley, PhDSmackdown_FarmBoyvsDisneyPrince

Girls waiting on their prince to arrive, sweep them off their feet to the castle, and live happily ever after: you might want to read this while getting your nails done. Let’s take a closer look at these would-be prizes and how a Farm Boy just might be a better catch.

Charming: Cinderella

First, Prince Harry, better known as Prince Charming, the love interest of Cinderella. We start off thinking this guy is quite suitable marriage material. After all he first meets Cinderella riding her massive Andalusian horse bareback and bridleless in a dress through the woods. Saying nothing of the matter, he is more concerned she is alone. Huge points here. He also confirms everything she says is right in their brief conversation, more points. Besides, this guy rides a black Friesian. Sounds like a done deal right? Oh, but then he takes a major turn for the worse as he develops a type of foot fetish and becomes obsessed with glass slippers.

Farm Boy has all the good qualities of Charming but will bring you boots instead of glass slippers. Life is better in boots and Farm Boy knows it. Glass slippers are impractical for mucking stalls, riding horses, or just about anything else worth doing. I’m giving two points to Farm Boy. One on the probability he likes horses and another knowing he is a boot lover.

Charming=3 Farm Boy=2

Florian: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Next, there is the original Prince. To those who have succumbed to the marketing tactics of Disney’s Princess franchise you might know his name is Prince Florian. For those of us who have lives, he is just The Prince from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This guy is so flaky he falls hopelessly in love with a girl because he hears her singing. He then proceeds with the ostentatious pick up tactic of joining her in song. He must have been like one of those less-than-talented guys on America’s Got No Talent, because rather than impress her, he sends her into a panicked flight to her castle. What does he do? Well, he keeps singing of course. The guy cannot take a hint: Florian zero.

We must give credit to the Prince for persistence, although misguided, and even a little frightening. Farm boy is also persistent but in a far more useful way. He isn’t nigh just for a sing along. Farm boy knows how to stick with it when it matters most. He is beside you for the long haul of life. He may not be able to sing but if he can’t, chances are he won’t try.  Farm boy gets one point for persistence and another for knowing when to quit.

Florian=0 Farm Boy=2     

Aladdin: Aladdin

“This isn’t fair, you keep choosing princes who were goody two shoes to be competitors with real life men. How about Aladdin?” you say. It turns out you are correct in Aladdin being far from noble. He was a thief. One of only two to become princes by marriage, not born into royalty. His problem isn’t so much with his character, although marrying a thief is a definite problem, mind you. His problem is clothing. That’s right, clothing is where Farm Boy whoops this guy. True, we can’t seem to get Aladdin to stop going shirtless, except for donning that teensy purple vest now and then. How many sizes too small is that vest anyway? But there are those poufy pants. Those pants are a problem. A PTO drive shaft is just waiting to suck those bad boys right in making mincemeat of your precious Prince. No points for this guy.

A Farm Boy who’s been stacking hay all summer looks pretty nice with or without a shirt. Add a pair of jeans that fit just right, some cowboy boots to complete the outfit, and he looks pretty hot. To boot, these clothes will keep your Boy safe, and in one piece. Two points here; one for good dress and one for staying healthy.

Aladdin=0 Farm Boy=2  

The Beast: Beauty and the Beast

“The Beast, he’s the one to whoop up on some Farm Boy,” you say. Let’s see, he does somehow seem closer to reality. He’s hairy, has protruding eye brows in dire need of trimming, and hates to bathe. He is also kind and thoughtful when he isn’t having a temper tantrum. But, let’s not forget the curse put upon him in the beginning was because he was arrogant, self-centered, and spoiled. Not exactly marriage material. But wait, if you kiss him he turns into a bald-chested, long-haired, baby-faced wuss, who once again can sing and dance but doesn’t have a job. He remains spoiled as all Princes, and his eyebrows are still out of control. What does a Prince do besides sing and dance? On all accounts, he eats food other people worked to grow, raise, and prepare. He wears clothes he didn’t pay for. In short, Princes are freeloaders. The Beast still gets a point for chest hair. At least in Beast form.

Farm boy is no wuss. At best he line dances, or maybe he is original and does some serious whip dancing, but he nails some hard work. He is no parasite on society.

Beast=1 Farm Boy=2

Eugene: Tangled

Alas, there is Eugene Fitzherbert. From the name it sounds like this guy could be for real. But wait, he thinks Eugene Fitzherbert is an embarrassing name so he goes by Flynn Rider. Sounds sexy, but he is just another thief with charm and good looks to beat. The darling of Rapunzel, this one has facial hair; the first of the Disney Princes to sport such. We are going to give him a point for facial hair. That’s not all, he has a horse! Make that two points. Not just any horse, but Maximus. Max is hands down the best character Disney has ever conjured up. He has more personality than Flynn, and way more brains. While never saying a word, but far from silent, he generates more laughs than you can imagine outsmarting his human. I am certain Maximus had his spots covered for camera and is an Appaloosa.

Farm Boy is proud of his heritage and is happy to wear his family name. Often family farms have passed through many generations. The family name has come to stand as an icon of sorts. That deserves a point. Even if your name is Eugene Fitzherbert.

Eugene=2 Farm Boy=1

Final score: Princes=6 Farm Boys=9

Farm Boys win. Don’t be disappointed. Being a Princess is overrated anyway. Plus, if you are lucky enough to find a good Farm Boy, he just might wake you up with a kiss each morning after all. Life may not be a fairy tale, but it wasn’t going to be anyway. Enjoy a simple, yet rich life with a Farm Boy.

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Why Size Does Not Matter To Your Horse

Jamie Cearley, PhDSize_Cearley

There is a bizarre logic many exhibit when it comes to horses. On the one hand we moan at the weight of our saddles as we hoist them to painful heights. We dread the arrival of the hay trailer. As it lumbers down the driveway to its winter resting place it feels like a funeral procession for the living.

But, the power of the horse is something we horse lovers hold in awe. Their massive muscles flexing as they run and jump gets us excited and wanting to ride.

Then we lose our minds.

Somehow while we struggle to carry a saddle or stack 50 pound bales of hay we think we can out muscle a 1200+ pound prey animal.

My farrier proclaimed our draft cross Loki was less than obedient because he knew I wasn’t strong enough and he could push me around.

This fascinates me for many reasons, not the least of which are these:

1. Loki is by far the largest and strongest horse in our herd of six. His hooves, resting at the ends of his tree trunk legs, are double the size of the others. His buns are like those of a mammoth. Funny thing is, Loki is at the bottom of the herd hierarchy. If size mattered to Loki or the other horses in the herd he would throw his weight around and be king, but that does not happen. Instead he runs at the flick of an ear from any of them, fearing they will have what I call “a cinnamon bun breakfast.”

2. While I may not be Schwarzenegger, I also doubt my farrier or any other human has the physical strength to control Loki. We should not find it surprising an animal capable of pulling a plow or carrying a large man would be less than impressed with human musculature.

3. As if the first two reasons weren’t enough there’s this: Loki responds to flies. Enough said.

So if size doesn’t matter to a horse what does?

Here are 3 attributes that matter to a horse far more than size or strength:

1. Timing. We’ve all heard it said, “Timing is everything.” Nowhere is this truer than in horsemanship. Timing can take on several different forms, all making you a great leader. Timing could be the release of your hands on the lead rope or reins the instant your horse tries what you asked, a small correction with your leg at just the right moment, or asking for a canter transition just as the lead foot is falling. All of these are examples of timing that matters to your horse. Or, it could be as simple as practicing your trailer loading long before your next trip. A timely dismount at the first sign of disaster can be life-saving for both you and your horse. I used to have a sign on my desk that read something like, “Procrastination on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” We all detest leaders with bad timing. In this sense horses are no different.

2. Feel. What is feel to a horse? It is the ability to be in the moment. To have a deep sense of your surroundings. Not only knowing the physical environment but discerning what each herd member is experiencing at any given moment. For the most part, horses are non-verbal. They rely on body language to communicate in silence. You might say they have a sixth sense about them. That sixth sense is feel.

3. Movement of feet. To horses quality leadership often boils down to one simple factor: who moves whose feet first or most. This idea is foreign to humans. As a result many times our horses have an easy time getting us to move our feet. Our first horse Twister was so clever at this game he could have you on the other side of a 6 acre pasture wondering how you got there. I have thought it would be interesting to hook up our GoPro camera on time lapse and film myself performing basic tasks with our horses like grooming, bathing, saddling or even holding our horse for our farrier. Since these are all tasks requiring the horse to stand still I have a feeling I would look like a Mexican Jumping Bean in the resulting video.  

Have you ever seen two horses play the game of nip and duck? If played well both horses plant their feet and engage in somewhat of a sword fight using their heads and necks. The horse who manages to get the other to move his feet first wins that round. Our horses play this game daily, sometimes for hours. We would be fools to think they aren’t engaging in the same game with us, whether we even know we are playing.

The next time someone says you aren’t strong enough or big enough to handle your horse, remember size doesn’t matter to your horse. Focus on those attributes of leadership most important to your horse and bear in mind, even a fly can move a horse.

It isn’t about size. It is about effective leadership.

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Why Life is Better In Boots

Jamie Cearley, PhDBetterInBoots

“If you want to blaze your own trail in life, you’d best be wearing boots.” -Jamie Cearley, PhD

The American Apparel and Footwear Association reports on average, every man, woman and child in the United States purchased 7-1/2 pairs of shoes in 2013. That is one heap load of shoes. We spent more money on shoes than new cars, alcohol, or toys in 2013. This number continues to climb. We are a nation losing our minds and our dollars over shoes.

Our consumer driven economy convinces us we need all kinds of shoes. We need slippers, casual shoes, dress shoes, tennis shoes, and shoes of every color to match our wardrobe. There is a never ending list of new shoes to buy and pile in your closet. The truth is you don’t need all those shoes. Let's face it, most of them feel more like you put on the box than the shoe they are so uncomfortable. Most often they are good for nothing but to produce clutter in your closet. New shoes, like all other material quests for satisfaction, won’t do much to make life better.

Unless those new shoes are boots; then you might be onto something.

Here are 4 types of boots life is better in:

1. Life is better in muck boots. While estimates vary based on height, weight, and gender a vigorous 20 minute stall mucking will burn somewhere in the neighborhood of 160 calories. Chances are you won’t fill a wheelbarrow mucking one stall. Yet, if you did you could push that load for 10 minutes and burn an extra 60 calories. What a fantastic reason to add another horse to your herd or clean a friend's stall as an act of kindness.
2. Life is better in hiking boots. Not much is better for the soul than a trek in the great outdoors. You will burn 500+ calories in an hour long excursion through the hills. What’s more is you just might have a great idea along the way. That’s right; research out of Stanford University indicates there is an increase in creative thinking from walking. Don’t worry; your increased creativity will continue even after you stop walking. So put on some hiking boots, grab your tablet, and head for the hills. Take in some fresh air and wonders of nature, then perch beneath a tree to record your strokes of genius.
3. Life is better in cowboy boots. Many are referring to the young people entering the workforce today as, “generation unprepared.” For many, “I am here, aren’t I?” means they are fulfilling their workplace responsibilities. Young people who have grown up on family farms are many times more experienced with what it means to work. They tend to accept there are jobs to do that are unpleasant. Moreover, sometimes these jobs don’t present themselves at the most convenient times or under the most blissful of circumstances. Yes, those calories burned mucking stalls are often burnt in the wee morning hours, rain or shine. That’s right; the farm kid knows the stalls need mucking even on Christmas morning.
4. Life is better in the boots of someone else. If you don’t have any boots of your own, don’t worry, your life can still be better in boots. How? Another persons boots are perhaps the best boots you can wear. Putting yourself in the shoes of another creates a compassionate heart. As Elvis Presley sang, “Walk a mile in my shoes. Just walk a mile in my shoes. Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse, then walk a mile in my shoes.”

I would not advocate purchasing 7-1/2 pair of shoes or more again this year. However, when you do get another pair, maybe they should be boots. No money for boots; no problem, put on the boots of another. Indeed, life is better in boots.

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Who Says You Can't Be Smart and Country?

Jamie Cearley, PhDCountry_SmartStupid

“To generalize is to be an idiot.” – William Blake

I am growing weary of people generalizing the intelligence of people because they live urban or rural lives.

I have both a PhD and a PHD. For those who don’t understand the acronyms the first is Doctorate of Philosophy. Mine happens to be in the area of biochemistry and molecular genetics. The second is Post Hole Digger, a crude tool with which to dig narrow straight holes. Most think the first requires brains and the second brawn. Truth is, they each require both. Together they have served me well. In fact they complement each other. My degree would be unfinished without brawn. Without brains, my land would look like a mine field from the misguided holes dug.  

In some folks' eyes a PhD in biochemistry and molecular genetics makes me over the top intelligent by default. I have had people say things like, “Well I don’t even know how to talk to you,” when they find out I have this degree. These people don’t know me well. If they did they would know I am an idiot because they have seen some of the things I have done here on the farm.  I once proclaimed my electric fence tester to be the greatest tool ever made. While demonstrating the tool's usefulness to my mother, I held the ground rod firm in one hand. Yes, I can be electrifyingly stupid. I took the opportunity to say, “Have I mentioned lately I have a PhD?” She replied, “Yes you have, but it is difficult to imagine at times like these.” Indeed it is.

My gramps never graduated high school. He could run circles around me in the areas of agriculture, mechanics, and woodworking. Sure I understood a great deal more than him about what made a soy bean a soy bean. I could tell you the most intricate details of its life cycle. Diagram the bean's development from seed to plant. I could give a thesis on how GMO’s are made resistant to herbicides. I could then follow that up with a exposition on the good, bad, and ugly repercussions of doing such.

Gramps didn't know any of this. He knew how to grow countless acres of the suckers; I knew nothing in this regard. 

I can’t make a solid argument for one set of knowledge being more important than the other.

The bottom line is, idiots surround us, and at some point we all will be one ourselves. If for no other reason than none of us know it all. My father warned me of this when I was joining the workforce for the first time. He said, “You will find that for every person who knows what they are doing, there are nine dingledorfs.” What he could have added was, “Most of them are in charge.”

I have had the privilege of experiencing first hand both rural America as well as the ivory palaces of the intelligentsia. I have found both to contain a fair portion of intelligence and foolishness.

There is a world of difference between education and training. Education is not memorizing or scoring high on a test. Education is the process by which an individual learns to think, reason, and thereby problem solve.

“Education is no substitute for intelligence.” -Frank Herbert

We should get worried when people start to think they are so smart, while others are ignorant. When people begin to divide into groups based on what they perceive as intelligence scary stuff happens. This is how the creation of an elite class occurs. This is also how tyrants come to power. This is the motivation of some who seek to control entire groups of people.

Be careful when you catch a whiff of your own brilliance. It just might turn you into a monster if inhaled.

If after reading this you are thinking, "Well I know some stupid people for sure," read this to find out if they are stupid for real. It might surprise you to know who the real stupid is.

As a side note, did you know the process of digging itself can produce quite a life lesson?  

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Why Doesn't My Horse Love Me?

Jamie Cearley, PhDhorselove_01

│”"Know thyself?" If I knew myself, I'd run away.”  — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ann Landers is credited with saying, “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence you are wonderful.” For hard evidence of your awesomeness you need a horse. As it turns out a horse sees you much the same way people see you. The difference is the horse is more honest in his response. All horse people are aware of this at some level. Some of us embrace their raw honesty, others not so much.

As humans, seeing ourselves as we are can be the most difficult and yet the most rewarding of all endeavors.

│ “Those who are brutally honest are seldom so with themselves.”  — Mignon McLaughlin

If you are willing to look into the mirror that is the horse you may not like everything you see. Yet, there is no more pleasant path to self-improvement. If you want a genuine test of your character and emotional wellness, ask a horse.

│ “Basically we are all looking for someone who knows who we are and will break it to us gently.”  — Robert Brault

Here are four types of horse people but only one the horse thinks is worth being with. Take an honest look:

1. The tough guy. This person is hard of heart, not willing to learn, and has no sense of reason. They have the “Show him who is boss” attitude. How do you spot this type? Simple, nothing ever changes for this horseman. They go for years struggling with simple tasks like loading into the trailer, and standing still to mount. They always seem to have time to do it wrong over and over, but are forever too busy to learn how to do it a better way. Could it be they are more proud than busy?

In relations with other humans, this person displays the same behavior and attitude. In this case, rearing its ugly head in the, “Because I said so” form. As humans we all detest this type of leadership because it leaves the follower devoid of any dignity. No one, not even a horse cares to foster a relationship of this kind.

2. The passionate piddler. The piddler dives in full force. Driven foremost by emotion, they have their feelings as the sole gauge of success. They buy a horse because he is beautiful or because he looked at them with a gleam in his eye. Yet, they never consider the long term ramifications of owning a horse. As long as the horse makes them feel good they are in, enamored by his every movement at first, but they lack commitment. When the horse begins to display undesirable behavior their shallowness reveals itself. Fear and frustration take the reins. They spend less and less time with their horse and soon the gleam becomes gloom and they are gone.

Many people choose their spouse in this same fashion. They are good looking, fun, and make you laugh at first. As soon as the road gets a little rocky this relationship founded on emotion begins to crumble. The passionate piddler never succeeds at establishing a long term relationship.

3. The Pack Animal. Like the piddler the pack animal is often excited and generates a lot of activity. The hangup here is the pack animal hauls heaps of emotional baggage with them everywhere they go. This baggage interferes with learning. They can’t seem to figure out where to unload. Seeing the truth works for them until it gets in the way. They always dump the truth to cling to their baggage and continue to lug it into the future.

│ “Truth hurts — not the searching after; the running from!” -John Eyberg

4. The qualified. What qualifies someone as good to be with in a horse’s eye? Several personal traits merit a horses desire to be with you. They have life in perspective. They are humble, committed, and carry no emotional baggage to the barn. They recognize truth because rather than fear truth, they crave it. As a result they are teachable. Noble you might say. They understand they could be wrong but the horse is always right. Now who wouldn’t want to be with this kind of person?

If you are looking for honest feedback on your emotional wellness, simple, just ask a horse. Accepting the response and improving oneself is the hard part.

│ ”No one remains quite what he was when he recognizes himself.” -Thomas Mann

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14 Ways to Combat Consumerism This Christmas

Jamie Cearley, PhDCearley_Christmas

Christmas has become the flagship of consumerism, like it or not. For those of us striving to live a simple rich life this reality has turned Christmas into somewhat of a struggle. We cling to those aspects of Christmas we find endearing, heartwarming, cheerful, and full of meaning. Yet, if we dare to tread off the farm the world bombards us with marketing and the pressure to buy stuff.

Cause this Christmas to be more about presence than presents.

Make use of these 14 ways to combat consumerism:

1. Throw a party. Take the money you saved not buying presents and have a party instead!
2. Buy a plane ticket to be with family or friends. Go yourself or bring them to you. Why mess with mailing gifts for someone to open in your absence? It would be so much more meaningful to have you present to share some hot cocoa and talk for a while.
3. Pick up the phone. If you can’t afford to be there in person give an old friend a call catch up on the times.
4. Take a drive to visit a friend. Pack up the family and go for a day trip, over the river and through the woods.
5. Visit a nursing home or hospital. There is no more sure fire way to make someone’s holiday than this one.
6. Turn off the TV for a week. Doing this will help you see the reality that watching a movie or television program together is not togetherness at all.
7. Put away your phones, tablets, headphones. Disconnect from electronics to connect with each other.
8. Take some vacation days from work. Christmas is a great time to take off from work as the workload is often slower anyway.
9. Engage in a meaningful conversation with someone much older or younger than yourself. This experience yields great wisdom.
10. Play again. Engage in a simple game of tag, hide and seek, or catch with a child.
11. Make something from scratch together. This could be anything from constructing a blanket fort, to baking some cookies, to building a fire.
12. Go for a walk with a friend or family member. Talk along the way about the things you see, hear, and smell. Share the memories they conjure up.
13. Eat a meal together at the table. Again, no electronics at the table, no TV blaring in the background, no distractions allowed. Just eat and talk.
14. Make a video and send it to someone who couldn’t be present. Here is a reprieve to playing with your electronics. Use the video to engage them in your activities and make them feel as though they are there.

Taking some or all these actions is sure to be a win for 2015. Most of them cost little to nothing, yet bring huge rewards. Best of all, when 2016 comes you won’t have to worry with credit card bills, or where to store all the stuff you did not buy!

Make memories this year, not anxiety.

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