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Question on Quora:

What should I do that I am bored with my married life?

My answer:

Most married couples hit that point eventually. It’s normal. Understand that right up front.

The next thing you need to understand is that it might not be your married life that you’re bored with. You might just be bored, period. And that is not your spouse’s fault. It’s either a spiritual problem that you need to delve into, or your mind is about to give birth to some creative idea and in the meantime, you’ll feel restless and bored.

What if the latter is the case, that it’s not really the marriage, but you? Find something interesting to do. Something, I mean, that won’t dishonor your spouse or the marriage vows. Start a new hobby. Start a humorous YouTube channel. Declutter the attic or garage.

If the problem really is your married life, see if your spouse will do that interesting thing with you. Or start alternating planning creative dates a couple of times a month. You plan the first date, your spouse plans the next, and so on. I read a book by a romance novelist who did this with her husband of, what, 20–30 years when their marriage had become humdrum, and it took their relationship to a whole new level.

If the problem is the married life, remember that it’s not a problem with your spouse. Or you. It takes two to Tango. The problem is, you have both gotten lazy in keeping some spark in the relationship. A good marriage takes work; a great marriage is like trying to pull a full cement mixer up a steep hill with your bare hands.

But the work is worth it.

You made some promises – serious promises – when you got married. I encourage you not to take the easy way out here, and do what so many people do and make themselves liars, heartbreakers, and family wreckers. Instead, be a person of your word. That takes integrity.

And in this day and age, being a person of integrity takes more hard work than ever.

But the work is worth it.


The Deer And The Heartbroken Vegan

How smart are animals, anyway? If they are smart, should the fact of their intelligent consciousness drive us to veganism?

Here’s my story about a couple of smart deer…with my answer at the end.

While seeing deer alongside the roads where we live should be a fairly common occurrence, it hasn’t been the past few years.

Until the past couple of weeks.

Last week while on the way home from grocery shopping, I had to put on my brakes for a doe streaking across the road. Her fawn was apparently trying to follow her, so since nobody was behind me I slowed way down to give him a chance to run across the road. Instead, he ran beside my car for a few yards, then finally dashed back into the woods that he and his mother had come out of.

Yesterday, I saw two deer again. This time it was on my way to the store, and they were both adults. I had just finished coming around a sharp curve that goes downhill, and except for teenage boys looking for a thrill and to lose their car privileges for the next six months, people drive five to ten miles under the speed limit there. So I was going not quite forty miles per hour when the first deer crossed the road not too far in front of me.

That’s not surprising in and of itself. What surprised me was that the deer did not run across the road. She sauntered. She had to have both heard and seen me coming, but she must’ve been a local and known that at the speed I was driving, she had plenty of time to cross.

Many humans have trouble figuring out that kind of space-time problem. But this deer seemed to have it down pat.

That level of intelligence was enough to set me in a state of awe. But the scenario hadn’t ended. There was one more deer at the side of the road. Now, I don’t know about you, but every other deer I’ve encountered at the side of a road has run away like lightening in the other direction whenever I’ve passed it.

This deer did not. In fact, she didn’t move. She didn’t show any signs of being frightened. So, seeing that nobody was behind me and knowing that chances were small that anybody else would be coming up behind me at that time of day, I slowed to a stop to let her cross.

She stared at me.

I stared at her.

I think I may have even motioned with my hand for her to go across, like she might actually understand the gesture.

And she may have. But she just stood there, waiting. Watching. If she’d been wearing a watch, she might have lifted the leg with the watch wrapped around it as if to say, “Geez, come on, lady. Would you go already? I don’t have all day.”

As it was, I got a different communication from her. I heard her thinking loud and clear, “I don’t trust you.”

She thought that the instant she set foot in the road, I would gun my engine and try to run her down.

You’re laughing, but the fact of the matter broke my heart.

Confession time: I did eat venison one time, years ago before I’d had the revelation that in God’s ideal world, animals – human or not – would not kill other animals. But besides that, I’d never had anything to do with a death of a deer. I’ve never hit a deer with my car or shot one with a gun.

So it bothered me that this deer refused to cross the road in front of my stopped car.

On the other hand, that kind of wisdom is probably why she was still alive. After my encounter with the doe and the fawn, J told me that he’s read that during deer hunting season (which it is now), the deer figure out that not a lot of shooting is going on close to town, so they will migrate as close to towns as they can get until deer hunting season ends.

Tell me deer aren’t smart.

Anyway, I finally took my foot off the brake and accelerate slowly passed the vigilant deer. I guess she crossed the road then. I didn’t see, because I was coming up on another curve that goes uphill so I had to keep my eyes on the road in front of me.

But I wondered off and on all day how the world would be different if people didn’t commit violence against innocent animals. If we would all do our part to make the world as Garden of Eden-like as we could.

Because the answer to the question I asked at the beginning of this post is “yes.” Yes, we should have enough respect for animals as intelligent beings to compel us to become vegans.

Especially those of us who claim to follow the Bible.

I wish the deer long life and happiness.


The Only Thing That Fills The Void

Question on Quora:

How do I stop depending on others for fulfillment when it feels like the only thing that can fill the void?

My answer:

At the risk of being downvoted, I’m going to stick my neck out.

The only thing that can fill the void your feeling is a relationship with your Creator. God. Start seeking. Pray. Ask for God to reveal Himself to you. Once you feel that connection, you’ll feel you have a sense of purpose. That purpose will be to love others and to create good things that help others (I’m not talking about singing on a stage or becoming the next Picasso, but things as simple as creating a better day for somebody by smiling or by handing out encouragement and kindness).

When you have God’s love in your heart, such things will become natural, and you’ll experience true fulfillment.


The Uncomfortable Zone

The question on Quora

“In what ways do you get out of your comfort zone in order to improve your life? Have you ever taught someone how to get out of their comfort zone?”

My answer

I still remember the night that Scott turned to me and said in a snarky tone, “You used to be nice.”

Scott was the manager of the family restaurant where I had been working for a year. He was replying to a sarcastic remark I’d made, and what his statement really meant was, “You used to be a doormat. You used to be afraid to talk back. Heck, you used to be afraid of the little old lady customers that come in here every single night.”

I had grown up painfully shy, and when I first started the job at age sixteen and a half I was terrified to approach the customers. But I needed a job so I could start saving money for college, so I forced myself out of the comfort zone. A year later, I was not only not afraid of talking to strangers anymore, I was boldly talking back to my smart-aleck manager.

When I finally went to college, I chose to attend one where I would have to stay on campus. I’d never been to summer camp or anywhere else that required me to be away from my family for any extended period of time, so that first week among strangers and having to learn a whole new routine was frightening.

But there was no such thing as getting an online degree back then, and I had to go to college to get the teaching degree I thought I wanted. To achieve my goal, I had to get out of my comfort zone.

After graduating, realizing there were few teaching jobs available in my home state, I moved over 900 miles away, into an almost completely different culture. To this other planet called Texas.

To achieve my goal of getting a job in my chosen career, I had to get out of my comfort zone.

Getting married? I’d never had a roommate in my life. Out of my comfort zone, but it was one of the best decisions of my life. Getting pregnant? I was terrified. I don’t recommend that any woman do it for the mere purpose of getting out of her comfort zone, but I’m telling you, it does. As does raising a child.

But the result is that I have learned so much more than I ever would have, had I not had a child.

All of that leads up to the one person I know I have pushed out of his comfort zone: my husband. Early on in our marriage I saw that he really didn’t like his job, so I began scheming and planning different ways to get him out of it. Ultimately, we realized that by a certain year we would have a large enough nest egg that we could retire super-early. But as the day to turn in his resignation grew closer, my husband’s feet grew increasingly colder. But I knew that he wanted out, knew that he’d caught the vision of being able to be the master of his own days. So I kept encouraging him that everything would be all right.

It’s been almost five years since he quit his job, and he’d be the first to tell you that it was one of the best decisions he ever made.

After marrying me, of course.

I have only achieved my goals and been able to grow by leaps and bounds as a person by pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and the above story illustrates only a few of the ways that I have done so.


Early Retirement…Are The Sacrifices Worth It?

The question on Quora

“What’s your take on Early Retirement strategies like frugality and minimalism? Are they worth it?”

My answer

Are they worth it? That depends on your goals in life. If you want to have ten children, for example – like, having a big family has been a dream of yours for a long time – then retiring early will be difficult. Giving up a dream of a large family in order to retire early would probably cause you to live a life of heavy regret.

Not worth it, in my opinion.

However, if your priority is to retire early and you’re wondering whether disciplining yourself to live frugally and simply now – sacrificing your wants – is worth the future reward of financial and time freedom, I think it would be for most people.

My husband and I retired in our early forties and moved, along with our son, to five acres in a rural mountainous area. We achieved this by two things: first, by living debt-free; and second, by living on half of my husband’s take-home pay and saving and investing the rest.

We didn’t enroll our son in a dozen different classes every year (we homeschool, but lived in a city with a great Park and Rec program as well as dozens of opportunities for things like martial arts). We didn’t have cable T.V. We didn’t take expensive vacations. We didn’t eat out. (Though that was more because of my health-nuttiness than anything else, but it did save us money.) We’d purchased a house that was half the cost of what the lender had been willing to loan us. We drove our cars into the ground (I’m still driving my 1997 Honda Civic!). We wore – and still wear – clothes until they wear out. We didn’t go to the mall for fun.

I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

A lot of that will cause many people to raise an eyebrow. To say, “No way! I could never do that! I’ll just work until I’m 70.”

If you really want something, you’ll do what it takes to get it. If you think you can’t, you won’t achieve it – whatever “it” may be.

And since my husband and I were already naturally frugal, taking the extra steps to reach our goal of early retirement wasn’t a big deal.

As a result, my husband no longer has to work at a stressful job (I had quit my teaching job when I was pregnant to stay home with our son). We can go where we want, when we want, because we create our own schedules. Our choice of home is based on where we really want to live, not our need to be close to a job.

We could be spending several thousand dollars more a month than we do. (In large part because we invest according to The Permanent Portfolio – and I highly recommend the book by that title by Craig Rowland.)

What do you think – was living frugally and minimally worth it for us?