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Mental Morsels With Dr. Cearley

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.

Like what you just read? Check out more at Simple Living. Rich Life.

Why the Good Life Is So Bad

Jamie Cearley, PhDGoodLife_1

"All sunshine makes a desert." Arab proverb

Everyone knows someone who seems to have it all. Yet, many times we don’t really care for these people. Parents in particular seem to have a hard time these days allowing their children to suffer, do without, wait, or experience pain in any form. Ironically, their efforts to spare any discomfort during childhood backfire when the child reaches adulthood unable to cope with the realities of life, resulting in immeasurable pain. Yes, indeed the good life turns out to be pretty unpleasant in the end.

Here’s why:

Like most farms, ours has a large pile of poop.

No, I have not just completely abandoned the topic, stick with me.

The truth is this pile has everything a gardener could dream of. Horse manure, wood shavings, vegetable scraps, chicken manure, egg shells, worms and a host of other wonderful components abound in the pile. You would think we won the lottery by how many friends ask for a scoop of our compost for their gardens. We are as a result, quite proud of the quality of our pile.

One year a volunteer sprout came up on the pile in spring. Curious about what it would become we left it undisturbed. We were careful not to harm the “mystery plant” through the spring and into the summer. Then, we noticed tiny melons! Hooray! These were bound to be the best melons ever grown on earth. By the health of the plant and the beauty of the melons we were expecting them to be pretty tasty.

Still unsure of just what kind of melon they were we called them Poop-a-lopes and anticipated the harvest.

One day a few weeks later my husband scurried into the house carrying a large Poop-a-lope he had picked. Anxious to cut into it he stabbed it with a knife. “Smells like turpentine,” I said. The sliced melons strong scent wafted through the kitchen. “Yeah, but I bet it tastes good,” he replied. He whacked off a bite size piece and handed me the fork. I engulfed the small prize. And then, well, I spit it out. “Yuck! It tastes like turpentine too!” As it turns out the Poop-a-lopes lived up to the name we had given them.

How could this be? The growing environment was so rich, so perfect. The plant was so healthy, green, and vibrant. The melons were perfect in shape, color, and size.

Then it occurred to me, I know a lot of people who are just like these Poop-a-lopes. They grow up in the richest of environments. Everything is available to them in abundance. Constant protection is over their heads. Their lives are perfect; or so it seems. On the outside their perfection is believable. They are beautiful, with radiant personalities, and all the frills to boot. They live in fancy houses, wear trendy clothes, and drive sports cars. Yet, on the inside they smell of clutter, debt, irresponsibility, and stress. They also have some pretty disgusting taste.

So what did we do with the Poop-a-lopes? Well, we put them back on the pile of course. Maybe by the time their seeds germinate again we will have spread the rich compost onto the poor soil in our pasture. There the seeds will find themselves in a more balanced environment. A position where there is struggle to take root, and to find all the nourishment they need to grow. A spot where they will have to work around rocks, combat pests, and even overcome getting trampled on a few times. A place where the good and the bad serve to blend in such a way as to yield that perfect mix which builds strength, character, goodness, and great taste.


“Throw me to the wolves and I will return leading the pack.”

Like what you just read? Check out more at Jamie Cearley. Simple Living, Rich Life.

Why You Need to Put a Boot in What Everyone Else is Doing

“Being different is a revolving door in your life where secure people enter and insecure exit.”–Unknown

Jamie Cearley, PhDAbby got boots, finally.

Recently I went to get new glasses. Abby, a young lady I’m guessing in her late 20s helped me pick them out. She said to me, “I just have to say I love your boots.” I was wearing my cowboy boots. I said, “Thank you.”

She then proceeded to tell me she grew up on a farm in Texas wearing boots. “That’s all we ever wore. It’s who we were. Then after I graduated I moved to Illinois. I started noticing I was the only one wearing boots. I mean nobody wore boots there in the city. So I got rid of all my boots and wore tennis shoes like everyone else. I moved to Alabama about a year and a half ago and started noticing, hey, people wear boots here! I was so excited. It brought back good memories of my life on the farm growing up. I recently bought new boots!”

comfortable boots 

“That’s great. I live on a farm myself and love it.”

Abby smiled. “I love the farm life. It’s funny to me after having a city job for a while how even though farm life was much more physically labor intensive somehow life seemed slower. I loved caring for the animals. I bet you understand.”

“I do understand. I work hard but somehow I am more relaxed, and much less stressed than when I worked at my 'real' job,” I replied.

“I think I know what it is.” She seemed enlightened. “All the animals, chickens, pigs, horses, it doesn’t matter, they are all happy to see you every time you show up! There is gratitude in their eyes and genuine joy in your arrival. Not so much with people.” She shifted her eyes around the store.

“I think you’re on to something there for sure,” I muttered.

“Guess what?”


“About a week and a half ago I bought a truck! I have wanted one for a long time but felt pressured not to have one because I didn’t really have a reason to need a truck.”

“Awesome! Look out there.” I pointed to the parking lot. “See that big Maroon F350?”

“That’s yours! Wow, that’s super!”

“Yep, my husband thinks it’s his but it is really mine.” I laughed. “I have horses, that’s my excuse.”

“Good one,” she said.

I left the store with a bit more bounce in my boot steps that day. As I hit the gas pedal on my truck, I felt a satisfaction in myself for having the courage to be who I was. I also felt remorse for Abby and her lack of will to be weird.

The experience left me wondering why so many of us go through life not wearing, doing, or being who we want to be. We sacrifice ourselves on the altar of peer pressure. Allowing ourselves to mold into people we never sought to be. Seeking to please people who as Abby stated, “Don’t always express gratitude and a genuine desire to see you.”

I’m glad Abby got boots. I hope she jumps out of her truck wearing them wherever she wants, with a swagger in her step.

Whatever your “boots” are in life, what are you waiting for? Got out and get them. Kick up your heels and show the world who they are dealing with.

Like what you just read? Check out more at my website. Simple Living, Rich Life.

Amazing Parallels Between Surviving Your First Horse and Finding a Great Man

Jamie and Poncho

Jamie Cearley, PhDThis is my first horse Poncho. There’s something special between a woman and a horse. Connecting the two is an indescribable draw to their power, beauty and, yes, even their smell. I am getting what I call a therapeutic whiff in this photo. As a result of this bond, more and more women are getting into horses. Some statistics show as many as 90 percent of current horse owners are women. Yet, for many first-time horse owners their dreams turn to nightmares. The fun turns to fear, and the link to these magnificent animals is forever broken. Much the same is true for women and men. But more on men in a minute, horses first, after all, a horse should always precede a man. Warning: this order of priorities may last a lifetime and can be not only dangerous but expensive.

To increase your chances of surviving your first horse follow these tips:

1. Forget about how beautiful he is. Learn some good unbiased observation skills. Keyword, unbiased. Do your best to put aside the “Oh, he is so amazing” and the “Oh my! He smells incredible” and observe humans and their horses interact without bias.

Are they having fun? Or are they frustrated? Horses and humans have the most amazing abilities to frustrate each other. Are they calm and kind? Or are they both wound up so tight you are afraid they might break a spring and both of them fly to the moon? Is the horse responsive or reactionary to its human’s requests? Does the horse have soft eyes? Is he cooperative?

Observe what horses eat, and how much they eat. Take note of the equipment needed to care for a horse; the grooming tools, the tack, the farm. Get a good handle on the true cost of horse ownership. Having enough money to buy a horse does not mean you have enough money to own a horse.

2. Gravitate toward happy horse people. Form a small group of these people with whom you feel comfortable asking questions. Having experienced people who share your approach to horsemanship will prove invaluable. Make sure they are positive and enjoy being with their equine partners.

3. Lease a horse first. Notice this did not say take riding lessons. Riding lessons have their place. Lessons are not the same as owning your own horse. Horses used for riding lessons are so seasoned they often need their vital signs taken. A new horse will challenge your horsemanship skills more than the horse at the lesson barn. Not to mention if 20 percent of what you do with your horse is ride, you are doing great. There’s feeding, grooming, stall cleaning, and a host of other time demanding activities. Leasing a horse provides more responsibility, without all the risk of owning a horse.

4. Seek a relationship with your new horse first. Why? It takes time, humility, and the willingness to slow down to develop a relationship. The relationship with your horse is the altar on which you will lay your life each time you ride. Lay a good solid foundation first and the days ahead will be far more pleasant. Do you have ideas about cantering over the rolling hills on your first ride, or even your 10th ride? If so, it may be you have been watching too many Hollywood movies and not enough horsemanship videos. It is everyone’s dream to canter off over the hills. This is a great dream to have. Try to realize this dream before both you and your horse are ready and it will become a nightmare. You will replay this nightmare over and over again from your hospital bed. The best two words of advice for horse owners are, “Slow down.”

Now, let’s get onto the secondary matter of finding a great man and staying with him.

Curt and our horses

My man and our horses.

1. Forget about how hot he is. Yes, believe it or not we need to dismiss the same notions of “Oh, he is so pretty.” And “Oh my! He smells so good,” as we did with the horse. Basic observation skills need to subvert our innate senses with some common sense. Observe him as he interacts with others. How does he treat his mother, for example? Does he get frustrated? Is he calm, kind, patient and respectful? These clues are far more valuable than beauty and smell for sure. How hot he is should only come into play if he is stacking hay for your horse.

2. Gravitate toward happy couples. Like attracts like and this is likely the type of people you need to be with to find your man, and hey, even if you don’t you will have learned a lot about relationships and had some fun. These are the people you can come to with relationship issues. Ask them the deep hard questions. Let them form a stronghold for you.

3. Lease a man first. Actually I am not sure leasing men is legal; think of this as establishing a friendship first. In other words, “Slow down.” Don’t be quick to get serious and make a long-term commitment. As with riding your horse, in real life most time spent with your man will not be watching movies and snuggling. Most of your time together will be working at some task. You could say most dates today are like riding lessons, a great time but hardly reflective of reality.

4. Seek a relationship first. Why? The relationship with your man is the altar on which you will lay the rest of your life. Lay a rock-solid foundation first and the days ahead will be far more gratifying. Like cantering over the hills too soon, princes and knights in shining armor are dreams. Get hoodwinked on this one and you are in for a real nightmare.

There’s another fascinating parallel between horses and men. Both have the potential to become your worst nightmare or your most intimate friend. Do what is within your power to make it the later. You will never regret the sacrifice.

Curt and Jamie

Me and my man.

Would you like to read more stories like this? Please visit my website for more Mental Morsels with Dr. Cearley. Learning life principles from the farm.

19 Clever Uses for Hay You May Be Missing Out On

Jamie Cearley, PhDHay production is not for wimps. Don’t let this grueling job merely feed animals in winter. Get more from your hay this year by benefiting from one or more of these creative uses.

1. Spare Seating. Grab an old quilt and this hay couch can be made in a matter of minutes with just a few square bales.

spare seating 

2. Babysitter. Something is just plain captivating about hay (below left).

3. Time out. Hay can be used for one of today’s most popular child discipline strategies (below right).

babysitter timeout

4. Photography Prop. Try something besides the “leaning against the old barn” scene for pictures. With hay bales the possibilities are endless. Get creative.

photography prop 

5. Egg cushion. No more cracked eggs! Simply place some loose hay in the bottom of a container.

egg cushion 

6. Hay ride. So this one is a bit more common, yet little can beat a hay ride on a cool fall night.


7. Substitute for gym membership. Save money and lose weight with hay.

gym membership 

8. Hands-on lessons in history. Have youngsters recreate the Egyptian pyramids, or a Native American burial mound. This is a great way to put learning to a purpose.


9. Physics lessons. Hay bales can teach about basic principles of physics such as gravity, and the laws of thermodynamics.

physics lessons 

10. Structural engineering lessons. If there is a future engineer in the family, this is a great place to start. Bigger than Lincoln logs, and more useful than Legos. Not to mention less painful to step on.

structural engineering 

11. Bedding for other animals.

animal bedding 

12. Find a mate. If a girl or boy enjoys just hanging out on a pile of hay and talking for hours, this is a good indication of character.


13. Saddle rack. Cheap and found around every corner.

saddle rack

14. Cat naps. Even the barn cats can benefit from hay.

cat naps

15. Making frightening images of a boss or mother-in-law (below left).

16. Keep children from fighting. It is virtually impossible for two youngsters to fight while pushing a round bale (below right).

frightening images  fighting children

17. Place to park your bicycle.

park the bicycle 

18. Art canvas.

art canvas 

19. Music stage. Set up a nice stage for a fall fest. In just a few minutes this stage can be built and decorated with fall décor. Ready to jam.


20. What is the 20th great use for hay? Please share your ideas.

Would you like to read more stories like this? Please visit my website for more Mental Morsels with Dr. Cearley. Learning life principles from the farm.

How to Let Your Horse Know Who is Boss, and Everyone Else Too

Mental Morsels 

Jamie Cearley, PhDThe horse community can be quite controversial. There is however one thing all horse folks seem to agree on; to be a good horseman you must be a good leader. “You need to show him who is boss” could be the mantra of the horse world. It is not so much this phrase as it is the behavior following on the part of the person intending to be the boss that starts all the fuss.

This divergence is in large part a direct result of the level of leadership skill on the part of the horseman. Where a horseman stands in the following progression of leadership skill will not only determine how they go about showing their horse whose boss but will also directly affect the horses behavior in response. Incidentally, horses tend to be more blatantly honest in their feedback regarding leadership skills than humans.

horse kick 

Listening to a horse's feedback will provide a clear picture of what human friends are feeling about a person’s leadership skills, yet just don’t have the audacity to say to their face.

While each of the tactics below are necessary and useful at times, in general they can be thought of as depicting increasing levels of leadership ability.

Three levels of leadership skill:

1. Tell

Unfortunately, this is as far as most people get; with horses and humans. Everyone loves that boss or parent who has no strategy other than, “because I said so,” right? The truth is, no one likes to be told to do anything.

sassy horses 

Moreover, harmony is never achieved at this level. Why can harmony not be achieved by telling? Because the one being told to perform shoulders no personal responsibility. As a result, opposition and unwillingness predominate. There is no dignity in being told, no positive motivation, no heart nor desire called upon. Fortunately, there is a better way.


2. Ask

Who wouldn’t rather be asked than told? Then why is it so much easier to just tell what is desired than to ask? Simple, because asking is a request and by its very nature leaves an opening for decline. It is the option to decline that is loved on the receiving end and detested by the one asking. Why, because in the mind of the one asking, control has been relinquished, and humans hate losing control. To make giving up this control easier, it helps for the one asking to realize it was never really theirs in the first place. It has been said by horseman of old, if a horse doesn’t do what is asked then it must have been the wrong question or asked at the wrong time.

sassy horse 

A positive response to asking indicates a level of respect and rapport is developing. It is at this level harmony begins to appear, opposition decreases, and willingness increases. The one being asked begins to bear some responsibility. There is dignity in being asked. This is the beginning of a true partnership.

3. Suggest

This is the ultimate in horsemanship and leadership. For many this only happens in dreams where they simply think, “Let’s canter” and off they go. It is at this level of communication that relaxation, harmony and willingness are at their peak.  Here, there is a perfect balance of responsibility on the part of both partners.


To achieve this level of leadership requires a great deal of trust, respect, justice, clear communication and time.

Sometimes in dealing with horses and people alike leaders find it “easier” to simply tell what they would like to happen. However, there are infinite negative consequences to taking this easy way out, both immediate and long term. Taking the time and making the effort to learn to ask, then suggest, is priceless in building relationships with horses and humans. As it is with most good personal traits it takes time and hard work to build them but in the long run it is easier and more pleasant for everyone involved.

I would love to hear your leadership experiences. Please share your comments.

Would you like to read more stories like this? Please visit my website for more Mental Morsels with Dr. Cearley. Learning life principles from the farm.

How to Avoid Making Doodoo and Other Great Tips for Enhancing Life


Jamie Cearley, PhDSo called civilized culture today is so busy doing, doing, doing, in many cases a giant heap of doo-doo is being created.

Americans are so busy doing, they have no time for relationships, for people, for peace and reflection. In a time some have called the communication era where others can be reached in ways never before possible, an entire population is left staring at screens, feeling empty, and utterly void of any substance.

A rural lifestyle can help greatly to alleviate this problem. Folks who care for the land, plants and animals under their stewardship often share a closer relationship not only with the natural world surrounding them, but with the people who are at their side.


Rural people often find it easier to enjoy what most of our culture is starving for, communion. Yes, communion. Not the religious practice, but rather the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings. As has been said, “… the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech, and beyond concept.” – The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton

For those wanting more communion here are four practical tips:

Get away from screens. This includes TV, movies, Internet, Facebook, and phones. Communion takes time and not being distracted with these things will provide the time needed, not to mention limiting these practices will begin to force brain engagement.

Simply sit outdoors. Sure hiking, sports, picnics and such are all good but again, do, do, do, makes doo-doo. Toss into this tip to sit on the ground rather than in a rocking chair, hammock or swing and the experience just might begin to match those of the Lakota Sioux people. As Oglala Lakota Chief Luther Standing Bear said, “It was good for the skin to touch the earth, and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth… the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly. He can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.” In short, the old Lakota could better commune when contacting the ground with his posterior.


Spend time in the presence of an animal. Ever wonder what the difference is between animal lovers and the other kind? Animal lovers recognize people talk too much. They enjoy the communion so easily possible with animals. As Winnie-the-Pooh said, “Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” If no pets are available, try simply listening to the birds, crickets and other critters nearby. All animals have a language, take the time to listen and try to understand. 


Practice hospitality. Wow, now there is an art form rarely found today. Keep it simple. Remember, doo-doo. Just sit around a campfire and roast hot dogs and marshmallows. It is amazing how even the most introverted of people will eventually become comfortable enough around a campfire to begin to share some of their deeper thoughts and feelings about life.


Finally, remember where there is no listening, there is no learning. Where there is no learning, there is no hope. Now turn off this screen and start communing! Wait, first leave your comments and share with your friends so they too can commune.

Would you like to read more stories like this? Please visit my website for more Mental Morsels with Dr. Cearley. Learning life principles from the farm.

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