Sunday, July 14, 2024




The song, "When you are smiling, when you are smiling, the whole world smiles with you." Yes, indeed, that song is exactly right. It not only makes you feel better but everyone that you smile at feels better also. Smiles are contagious. That is but just one of the many superpowers of a smile.

Research from the University of Missouri-Kansas City has shown that there are many benefits of smiling.


  • Smiling can make you look younger. Hey, who doesn't like this idea? It is a perception of how other see you as being younger than you actually are. People with frowns were perceived as older.
  • Smiling can make you look thinner. Sad faces that were flashed on a screen were perceived to be heftier. I found this to be surprising but maybe a mouth turned down in a frown might give the impression that the person is weighted down by unhappiness?
  • Smiling elevates your mood and creates a sense of well-being. Every time you smile dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin are spreading in your brain. In other words, a party started in your brain, so to speak. Join in!
  • Smiling induces more pleasure in the brain than chocolate. I had a little trouble believing this (depending on the chocolate) but British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate. Hmmmm - just reporting what I found in research! 

  • Even a forced smile can lead to a mood boost. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist author, said, "Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." Research subjects directed to place a pencil between their teeth, forcing their lips into a smile, actually felt better. Odd, but true. So it is a good thing to put on a happy face.
  • Smiles can predict fulfillment in marriage. Think about this for a moment. Who wants to live with a grouch? 

  • Smiling can make you seem courteous, likable, and competent. The speculation is that if you look sad and anxious then maybe others are wondering what you are up to. So really, it is good for your business.
  • The span of a person's smile can predict lifespan. A smile can be worth seven extra years according to a Wayne University study. They looked over baseball cards. They discovered that players who didn't smile in their pictures lived an average of only 72.9 years. Players with beaming smiles lived an average of almost 80 years! Hank Aaron was born in 1934 and he passed away in 2021. 

  • Smiling is contagious. It lifts everyone's spirits. The one smiling, as well as those that are smiled at. Just smile!

Sometimes your insides just make you smile.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024



If only we as grown-ups could figure this out. Actually, if we took the time to sit down and think about it, not that much has changed since we were that age. Between sixth and eighth grade a whole lot of 'stuff' is going on in that body and brain. Hormones are out of control which in turn can turn a tween into an unpredictable narcissist; becoming rude and defiant one minute and then turning around and becoming emotionally clingy the next. Trust me, they have long figured out that their parents are not anywhere close to being as cool as Taylor Swift or Stephen Curry, much less their BFF who hangs the moon in their eyes. This leaves many parents wondering where their precious child's body is. What alien has stolen it? Well, that alien is called hormones.

When kids reach puberty, their brain produces hormones that run wild. Teens need our love, support, and advice throughout this traumatic time...even though it seems to be very much unwanted at times by them. We may even ask ourselves, "Are they even listening, much less comprehending?"

As long as we remember the brain's primary growth area is the prefrontal cortex of the frontal lobes which in layman's terms is "the central decision maker" of the brain. This may help guide parents. This is where functions such as decision-making take place. If you have noticed that your tween has become totally disorganized or that they now seek a private area such as a locked box or a drawer, then trace this back to their brain working on the concept of making decisions. It is going through a tremendous "rewiring" process and can be disorienting for the tween and many times exhibits itself as poor decision-making and/or emotional outbursts.

At this age many tweens indulge in risk-taking behavior. Some of the behaviors are more dangerous than others. This is where good communication, especially prior to this age comes into play. They can sometimes hear your voice of what can be too dangerous and what may just be a good time. Let's face it, this is even difficult for many adults. Being around your tween and knowing where they are and who they are with can help all parents know what is going on most of the time. That older saying that was on the 10:00 news, "It is 10:00. Do you know where your children are?" The answer should always be YES.

Yikes! What is going on with all of the physical changes in their bodies? This is the time before it happens, to go ahead and have 'the talk' about all of the physical changes that will be taking place in their bodies. Middle school-age children are so often self-conscious about their body development and have anxieties about how others view them. Let them know that everything is normal. It may help reduce that anxiety.

May tweens want to slurp and eat their way through junk food heaven because of the "pleasure" centers of the brain. This develops before they have the ability to calculate long-term consequences. As the adult, we do have to provide some limits and provide healthy food without depriving some of the pleasures of fries, shakes, candy, etc. This will help teach them the healthy way to eat and not lead to obesity nor feeling deprived from having occasional treats. 

Research has been done that show too much video gaming and social media is not a good thing. There needs to be a limit that is set between parent and child. This seems to be difficult for many parents, as they also seem to be addicted to their cell phones. How many times have you been out to restaurants and observed a whole family not engaging in conversation but instead are on their cell phones. In my opinion this is just so sad. The only other thing that is even more concerning is that it has been proven that if tweens are playing violent video games it affects their thinking ability within their brain. A word of advice is to be sure that their games focus on racing or skills that do not involve violence.

On a very happy note (sorry for that pun) it has been proven in studies that students enrolled in formal instrumental or choral music instruction outperformed their peers in math, especially algebra. The research suggests that musicians process music in the same cortical regions of the brain that tweens process algebra. It did not seem to matter what instrument or whether or not they were in the chorus. It is all about the music!

No matter if we want to believe it or not, there is a gender gap. Brain development happens faster in females than in males. Academic abilities might also vary widely. In girls, language and fine motor skills generally mature first. In fact, probably due to the culture and not the biology, girls are now catching up in math skills. The research on the differences in male and female brains helped to make this happen.

The ability to plan, problem solve, process complex thoughts, do deductive reasoning and process information needs to continue to be strengthened. This can be done through strategic brain-building activities such as checkers, backgammon, chess, and even some tactical thinking video games. This will help improve middle-schoolers' interconnectedness to a variety of problem-solving skills.

When helping your tween develop their minds, don't forget about their muscles. Exercise has a significant positive effect on cognitive development. Students with higher fitness levels get higher grades and usually perform better on tests. Yet, recess and play seems to be the first thing that is cut from school curriculums. This is where parents need to take a stand. If the school is not providing it then after-school programs would be the answer.

A middle-schooler's continually evolving brain requires firm guidance from diligent adults. It needs to be consistent, compassionate, goal-clarifying, and allow the tween to build self-esteem by making intelligent choices. Over-controlling is in the same category as over-indulgent "permissive parents. 
No one ever said raising a child would be easy. There is no book at the bookstore that you can buy that gives you strict guidelines. Probably because raising one child is so totally different from another child. Even siblings in the same family need difficult forms of guidance and develop differently. 


Wednesday, May 29, 2024



This is one of the best ways to look at the inevitable - aging. I have personally never liked the term of aging
gracefully but I suppose there is a trick to it and I do like the way that Emma Thompson frames it. The trick is to make it look good so that everyone looks forward to it. It means to go ahead and accept the number of candles on your birthday cake without trying to look or act younger than you are...SOMETIMES! For others, like me? It comes down to attitude, not what you look like or what activities you can or cannot do but making my own rules by choosing my attitude and approach to change. Everyone is different. We all have unique challenges and strengths.

Just consider the origin of the word "grace". It comes from the Latin term "gratus" which means pleasing. Like many others, I believe one benefit of growing older is that we come to the realization that we don't have to please anyone but ourselves. Therefore, it is important to feel good about ourselves. It is a time to celebrate our accomplishments and the knowledge that we have gained through experience. 

We should not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many. We seem to be surrounded by messages telling us that aging is a negative experience...but growing older is not a bad thing especially when you consider the alternative. In fact, there have been studies that show our overall happiness levels tend to rise with age. One reason might be that we face fewer stressors such as work-related and other relationships as we grow older. Yet many psychologists also speculate that we acquire a more balanced perspective through hard-earned experience.

Our feelings about aging can play a big role in how we approach it. This is one reason why many seniors don't see themselves as "old" at all. From a research study, about 50% of young adults aged 18-29 say they feel their age. But 60% of adult over 65 say they feel younger than their age. Only 3% feel older than their actual age. In contrast, about 25% of people in the 18-25 age group say they feel older than their age. 

The saying you are only as young as you feel may be a good guide to gracefully aging. Our ability to remain open to new experiences and to grow and change may also be a key component to aging with dignity.

Another important fact to remember is that not all changes are bad. Our brains undergo some positive changes with age, such as giving us calmer reactions to negative experiences. We know this is not always true of everyone. The question may be then why do some people remain more open to new experiences as they age than others who seem to be more set in their ways?

Basically, it comes down to whether or not we feel proud of our lives. If we do then we are in a state of ego integrity. This does not mean that we have never made any mistakes but that we feel fulfilled when we look back on the things that we have done. OR if we are bitter about life's disappointments then we may be in a state of despair. These people are fearful of death because they may feel that they haven't done enough with their lives. Depression and anger can set it. 

Simply put: we all age differently. Since we can't control time, aging slowly isn't possible. Those birthdays are going to arrive each year no matter what we do. Some people do seem to look younger than others of the same age. Even when we are told that  "60 is the new 40," there is an assumption that being 40 is better than being 60.

DNA certainly plays a big role in aging but there are strategies for maintaining health and aging gracefully. It is with good nutrition. Limiting processed foods from our diets is a good thing. More fresh fruits and veggies while also limiting red meats and definitely enjoying essential fatty acids such as those found in nuts, seeds, and avocados; all of which support brain health.

Exercise is also advisable. Just 30 minutes a day helps in staying healthy. Walking, yoga, or even chair yoga helps to stretch muscles and increase heart rates. Muscles need to be worked. As the saying goes, "Use them or lose them." 

Let's not forget mental health. It is just as important as physical health. People who socially isolate themselves are lonely and have greater risks of developing cardiac and lung disease, as well as depression and cognitive decline. It is very important to maintain social connections by joining in groups and expanding our social circles. 

Self-care is not selfish. Practices such as yoga, mindfulness, journaling, meditation, prayer, and affirmations all help to reduce stress. Along with picking up new hobbies such as sewing, woodworking, or learning a new instrument. Sleep is also a part of self-care It is a misconception that as we get older that we do not require as much sleep. People over 60 need to sleep for 7 - 9 hours every night. Do I even need to mention the bad habits of smoking or drinking too much. Health care monitoring is crucial. Don't forget those routine check-ups. 

Breaking all of this down simply means that aging gracefully isn't about trying to look like a 20 something. It is about living your best life and having the physical and mental health to enjoy it. Like a bottle of wine, you can just get better with age with the right care. It is more about being health and happy than keeping wrinkles at bay. Surround yourself with people you love and do the things that bring you joy.

Saturday, May 18, 2024



Many times when one thinks about translation when communicating with others, they tend to think about it being another language other than their own. Well, trust me, until I moved from the South to the North, I really never thought too much about it. 

Some of the Southern sayings that I grew up with just continued to slip out of my mouth - just a mouthful of sayings that I seemed to have no control over when I moved to the North. It is like a particular way of getting my point across, even if the other person looked at me as if I were from another planet. These sayings are sometimes known to others usually via the media, unless they knew a Southerner. Let me just go over a few of the ones that I use all the time and grew up with my family and friends using these sayings

Hankering  -  In the summertime, I get a hankering for a tomato sammich meaning that I am in the mood for it. (But only if it is a good home-grown tomato). There is just no other kind to get a hankering for.

Full As A Tick  -  This is not my favorite saying basically because I am not a friend of most bugs, especially ticks. Let me say that after eating that big tomato sammich, my Papaw would say, "I am now full as a tick." 


Bless Your Heart  -  Truly this is a universal word in the South. It can and does have an edge to it. Almost always it is said in a good-natured way, perhaps exaggerated and maybe with a shake of the head? It can also express empathy or judgment, or it can be said in place of a person's true feelings. 

Gimme Some Sugar Every time we pulled up in the driveway of relatives, I jumped out of the car, and 
 went running to the house, my Great-Grandma would say, "Gimme some sugar." She did not mean sweets. She meant a hug and a kiss.


Well, Butter My Backside and Call Me a Biscuit  -  This has nothing to do with biscuits, of course. It is just a long descriptive way to show surprise at something unbelievable that you may never have thought would have happened. (usually positive)! My Mom always used this expression, however, many used the word, 'butt' instead of the backside. She would not allow us to say it any other way. 

A Rooster One Day And a Feather Duster The Next  -  Just a creative way, in my opinion, of saying that we shouldn't crow like a rooster about our wealth and belongs today, because it could all disappear tomorrow.

Plumb  -  Perhaps you may be not just truly and completely tired, but plumb tired. My Papaw said this all the time when he came home from work or finished working all of his grape vines in the backyard.

Three Sheets To The Wind  -  In reality, this saying is a nautical term referring to the sheets that controlled the sails. When the sheets are loose, the ship rocks uncontrollably. In the South, this phrase is the polite way to say someone who has had too many cocktails and is very drunk.

Well, let's just Hold Our Horses. Which of course means to let's just stop here and now. It is definitely self-explanatory, but try to imagine it originating back in the days of stagecoaches - best to slow down. So for now, I will slow down on communicating some of my Southern sayings because I am Fixin' To Take A Little Afternoon Nap.

Sunday, May 12, 2024



Mother's Day is a very emotional day for so many of us. Those of us who have lost our Mom's try to hold on to all of the loving memories that we have of them. The picture above happens to be my Mom and Steve's Mom who seemed to get along famously when they met for the first time at our home. Even though Angela lived in Coventry, England before she passed and my Mom, Joyce, lived in so many places before she passed. From Memphis (born in Raleigh, TN. Then on to San Antonio, TX where I was born. Northern Mississippi, New Orleans, and Houston were also her homes at different times. They also passed away just months apart from one another.

There are times that I want to just pick up the phone and ask her advice on something and to this day - it then dawns on me that I can't do that anymore. I always think of her but on Mother's Day, I think of her even more than usual.

As a Mom myself, I have two wonderful children. They are about 19 months apart. My life was a crazy one for sure with two in diapers at once, yet at different stages in their lives. Definitely not easy but I would not have traded those hectic days for a million dollars.

Their father traveled quite often so it was basically up to me to get them where they needed to be, as well as being the disciplinarian parent. When one was in softball and the other one was in baseball, not to mention all of their other sports and activities, I had to work out how I would accomplish getting them where they needed to be and how to get them picked up. Lucky for me, I had some good friends who helped out. (other parents on the teams or activities that they were involved in)

Twenty years later a divorce happened. My children were off at college - one at Tulane in New Orleans and the other one in Waco at Baylor. We lived as a family in Katy, TX at this time. I had to decide where I wanted to live. My Mom helped me through this whole ordeal and I moved back to Memphis. After all, most of my family lived in this general area. 

After a year or so I met my soulmate. He also had two children; a son and a daughter. They seemed to get along very well when they were together. His son, Thomas actually made the decision to move to Memphis from England. Neither Steve nor I ever wanted to use the words step mother or step father or step son or daughter. All 4 children were OUR children. Both of us knew that we did not want to be called Mom or Dad. They already had that person in their lives. So they just used our first names when addressing us. Interesting enough they always said when introducing us as my Mom or my Dad, just as they did when introducing each other - this is my brother or my sister. It really confused many people about the British accent and the American accent. Too funny!

Family is so special. Being a Grandmother (they call me Lola) is a wonderful privilege. I have a special picture that reveal my blessings.

Sunday, April 28, 2024



When is it a good day to choose to have a good day? Sounds kind of like a silly question? Well, in my mind it is all in how I look at it. The beginning of my day start with waking up. I can choose to wake up cranky or turn the whole mindset around to smiling and just being thankful that I did wake up and I will make it through the day with more good thoughts than bad ones.  After all, in my little world happiness is an inside job. No one should be given the power to take that away from me. Can bad things be going on in my life? YES! The magic is just how I handle it all. 

Taking a moment to think what is happening and how I will respond (not react) to it seems to be the best way to go at handling things going on in my life. Just throwing out examples of certain things that have been going on in my world. I am sure that you may be able to relate, plus add your own situations that you are dealing with. 
*  News from my CPA of a large amount owed to the       IRS 😕
*  Daily meds for my sweet goldendoodle to help her       with incontinence and always wondering if there will     be an accident on the top coverlet or not (thank           goodness for pee-pads strategically placed                   underneath to protect the duvet and mattress)
* Daily arthritic pain in knees that is controlled with       Tylenol and quarterly trips to my doctor for gel shots
* Wanting to go and see movies, plays, concerts etc       and no longer having my soulmate to go with me
I won't bore you with more. We all have such things going on and even more in our lives. I chose to take charge of each of these events going on in my life - each one of which I had no control over happening, however, I did have control of how I was going to handle everything.

I had to deal with my own little world and because I made choices that helped me know that all would be ok. I know within myself what works and even how to 'tweak' it to work possibly even better.

I put a plan in place for next year's taxes. This was my first year of filing as a single person. After Steve passed away it made a huge difference in my taxes for this year. I still was able to file jointly last year for 2022 taxes. However...a bit different for 2023 taxes. Was it a shock? YES! I would be lying if I did not admit that. After the shock wore off, I went into action and I took care of the problem as best that I could. There should not be a shocker tax bill next year now. I took control.

As for my sweet Maggie Mae, she will be on this medicine for life. Two pills a day given 12 hours apart. I have reset my own alarm to give her the meds. It does mean no sleeping in on the weekends. She was so easy to house train. Never had a problem. The first time she had a leakage problem she popped up, turned around and saw it and looked at me in shock. She is so prim, prissy, and proper that it shocked her and she just did not know what to do. After going to her vet, he knew exactly what the problem was and gave me the medicine to try. Glory hallelujah it worked. In the beginning, I did miss a pill a few times. And BOOM! She was a bit upset that it happened. No fussing at her though. More fussing silently at myself for forgetting to give it to her at the right time. On the more positive note, I have become much better at remembering. I MUST set my IPhone alarm. And there you go...two problems solved at once. I set the alarm for when to take my own Arthritis Tylenol and to use the gel to massage on my knees. It all works out. 

My joints have gotten better since I went on my healthy journey to lose weight. Now that I am 4 - 6 sizes smaller, I am sleeping better, moving better, and have the energy to get up and go places. Just that I no longer have Steve to go with. We went everywhere together. We were season ticket holders for the Redbirds, the Grizzlies and Live at the Garden concerts, as well as going to concerts of artists that we loved, and at the community theaters and the Broadway productions brought in to The Orpheum. Plus special times to just go out and have a breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner together with no cooking ourselves. Even though both of us loved to cook together. We would take turns being the head chef and the sous chef. Good times!

I have been working on that problem also. I have a wonderful group of friends that we have nicknamed ourselves The Lunch Bunch to go out for lunches. Also I have set up some lunch dates with my cousin who lives nearby so that we can catch up on our news monthly. Plus, she and I are going to see a play together. But when there is no one to go with, I boldly just buy my ticket and go alone. So far, I have seen Hamlet and Beautiful (the story of Carol King) as a single person. I have gone into Starbucks and Panera to work on some writing alone. My next adventure is to go in alone to have a lunch at a nice restaurant.

This has truly become my motto. I went on my healthy journey and lost all of my weight which has made my self-confidence boost sky high since I lost Steve. It is inspiration to live by. As I was going through the stages of losing my weight and posting my before and after pictures

I was asked what I was doing to lose so much weight and how hard it must have been. Truly, it was not hard. No other program ever worked for me, nor trained me and my mindset into eating healthy and exactly how to eat healthy and still be able to have some things that I totally avoided while on my actual journey. Now I am eating anything that I like and know how to eat like a normal person. I KNOW that I will not gain it back. No more yo-yo diets for me! I have a whole new wardrobe and got rid of the old and never want to see them again. What I was told quite often was that I was an inspiration to others. Me? I did not set out to be. So now, I am considering becoming a Coach for the program. If you or anyone that you know may be interested in finding out more information, you can find me on Facebook under Donna Jo Dillard Miles and let me know. Or leave a comment on this blog with your name and number for me to contact you. I have a wonderful Coach. She told me about the way she lost the weight and connected me to a community where I could see for myself. She, as other coaches are not out to give sale pitches. They are only there to get the information to you if you are interested. That is what made me want to go for it. 

I have learned that one should never say never. You just have to go with the flow and the this is where 'the flow' is taking me now. I see so many friends and acquaintances who took this journey and have continued to keep the weight off for many years. It is easy when you have the tools and the community to help you.