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Find Your Marbles!  12 Step Program

Unlike other 12 Step Programs, you don't have to do ours in order, or in its entirety. We believe that if you do just one or two steps, you'll find you will want to do three or four or more. Soon, your marbles will be back where they belong. So pick one - and easy one if you like.

Step One

Simplify, simplify.

As Thoreau put it. Step one is really an overarching step that will carry you through the next eleven. It is the foundation on which we find our marbles and gain inner peace.

 Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.
     - Henry David Thoreau

Simplify your stock portfolio. Simplify your 401K distribution. You will sleep better at night and gain a few marbles at the same time.

Simplify your wardrobe. Do you really need 43 skirts, 52 blouses, 37 dresses, umpteen sweaters, god-knows-how-many belts and sashes, and that mountain of color-coordinated shoes on the floor of your closet? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to just shut the closet door? And don't even get me started on that sock drawer!

Pick just one room to start with. Go ahead, it's easy!

Step Two

Limit your driving.

Drive your car as little as possible, as we at MarbleFree.com have done. I tried to take the bus to work in an attempt to have a relaxing, traffic free experience. But, dag nabbit, after 5 months I lost my marbles waiting at an unshaded bus stop over 45 minutes in 100-degree Sacramento heat for a Sacramento Regional Transit bus. Holy Mackerel, I need to go into another MarbleFree 12-step therapy session after that! And Regional Transit wants to expand the system?!? I say simplify, simplify. Fix the system you have now! Those poor souls who have to ride public transit...I pity them. Maybe the SACRT board can order up another $300,000 to study just how late they can afford to be.

And so, I don't recommend taking the bus in third-world countries or Sacramento. If you want to keep your marbles, I do recommend telecommuting or riding your bike to work if you can. That's what I've done. I ride my bike to work now 8.5 miles each way. I smile every morning as I look back with my Prius parked in the garage. And with gas likely to be going back up, I really enjoy my bike rides. You can do it, too!

Traffic is one of the main stressors in our everyday lives.

Perceived traffic stress is associated with both general health status and depression in multivariate multilevel models, such that persons reporting traffic stress had lower health status and more depressive symptoms... Persons who lived in areas with greater vehicular burden and who reported the most traffic stress also had the lowest health status and greatest depressive symptoms. These findings suggest that traffic stress may represent an important factor that influences the well-being of urban populations, and that studies which examine factors at only one level (either individual level only or ecological level only) may underestimate the effect of the social environment. -  Soc Sci Med. 2004 Jul;59(2):405-14.
       - Gee GC,
Takeuchi DT. Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, 1420 Washington Heights, Room M5224, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029, USA.

Step Three

Turn off your cellphone

Are you addicted to your smart phone? "Turn off your cellphone, daddy!"

Jack Armstrong (ArmstrongAndGettyRadio.com) of the popular radio talk show "Armstrong and Getty" spoke on his show about how it feels when your 2-year old has to tell you to turn off your cellphone so he can get some attention. So they booked a guest to talk about the very real problem of cellphone addiction. Nomophobia is an anxiety when you have no access to mobile technology.

Read a recent article about Nomophobia here. Very interesting and sad.

Why not just leave yours at home or in your glovebox during your commute, for a better life. Take it out only if needed for emergencies. (I promise, people will find you at work or at home within the hour!)

July 1, 2008 marked the first day in California that we needed to use a handsfree device while driving. (Spoiler alert:  It ain't working) But, you don't really need a phone while driving. Just turn off the cell phone and check your messages when you get wherever you are going. Enjoy the quiet, or National Public Radio, or that latest Beatles download. Get off that phone!

Cell Phones Raise Stress Levels
In this study from the olden days (2005), researchers analyzed data from a survey of working couples to determine if increasing spillover between work and home caused by new technology was linked to any changes in psychological distress or family satisfaction over time. The results, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, showed that increasing use of cell phones and pagers was linked to a decrease in family satisfaction and increased stress over a two-year period.


And again, if you are nomophobic, or are serious about really wanting to be safe, regaining your  marbles, and enjoying your drive more, just turn that cellphone off. Pretend you are back in the olden days ... like the 1990's ... and wait till you get home to check your messages.

Step Four

Write or Read one poem a week.


Swing Cushions

The squeak, and then squeaking of unoiled squeaks
Reminds me of porch swing days of my youth.
I remember worn faded swing cushions on muggy buggy days,
Ice cream leaking on toes and swinging away.

Couldn't hide from the world, I'd spend most the day
Swinging lone, watching cloud actors in a sky play.
On the porch again, grandma to wipe up the leaks,
Between squeak, and then squeaking of unoiled squeaks.

              -  A poem by Jerry Grinstead

National Association for Poetry Therapy
Annual Conference April 23-26, 2015

Yes, Poetry Therapy is real and has a dedicated following.
Journal of Poetry Therapy
Volume 16, Number 1/March 2003
Author: Zenobia C. Y. Chan
Abstract: Poetry writing was found to be therapeutic during my doctoral study by relieving stress, promoting self-understanding and filling my emptiness. Twelve poems are selected and categorized into six thematic areas: the sense of loss and social isolation; the persistent studying; the fantasy world; the mother-son relationship; the bodily symptoms; and the omnipresent gaze. The background of the prewriting experience and the functions of each poem are presented. The paper ends by offering some implications for education and calls for the use of poetry writing as a therapeutic aid for graduate students in the process of their study.

As for reading poetry, if you have never read it before, I suggest beginning with a book of great poems to see the many varied styles, and read some of the best poems written. My favorite book of poetry is, The Desk Drawer Anthology, Poems for the American People. Compiled by Alice Roosevelt Longworth and Theodore Roosevelt, 1937. It is out of print, but you can pick up a nice used copy for $20 to $40 online (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or do a Google search). I've been reading that since I was 5 years old ... and I hope to finish it one day! You also can't go wrong with a book of poems by Ted Kooser or Mary Oliver or Robert Frost. Peaceful and easy.

Step Five

Paint one painting a month (Or visit a local art gallery)

Water color, oils, acrylic...it does not matter. Painting can be a way to a more civil life.

I think sculpture and painting have an effect to teach us manners, and abolish hurry.
     - Ralph Waldo Emerson

We, at MarbleFree.com, really like that part about abolishing hurry. That is another key to simplifying your life and reducing your marbles deficit. I can see now why Thoreau and Emerson hung out together.

Abstract 24" x 36", Acrylic on Canvas
-  One to go - by Nancy Roycroft, 2007

One to go

From blue sky morning into darkness.
This dust will never settle;
It chokes the souls of those of us
Who watch in disbelief ó and hope
One still stands.

Cracked and broken against
A blue sky mixing with smoke.
Maybe itís not as bad as it looks.
One is down with dust all around.
One to go.

-  A poem inspired by this painting and 9-11
               by Jerry Grinstead


Step Six

Talk with one stranger or acquaintance each week.

You'll find friends and acquaintances in their yards, on a bench downtown or in the park, seated next to you on a plane, or even in the grocery line. Practice your patience and civility and remember to smile. Civility is becoming a lost social grace. When I was waiting for the tour to begin at the August Schell Brewery in New Ulm Minnesota, I sat with and talked with several elderly ladies and gentlemen who were from that area. I enjoyed asking them about living in Minnesota all their lives and hearing about how much they loved it. I could not imagine living anywhere but California, and they could not imagine living anywhere but Minnesota. We really are all the same ... just different!

Friends and acquaintances

Acquaintances Iíve met on planes are not
Unlike shadows of clouds that pass under me.
There but for a moment; then forgot.
But all the same in their odd familiarity. 

Friends at home and friends away are not
Unlike songs I sing to me.
Here for eternity; never forgot.
And all different in their joyful peculiarity.
              -  A poem written on a plane over Kansas
                            by Jerry Grinstead

Step Seven

Join the Slow Food movement.

What is Slow Food?

Slow Food is the opposite of Fast Food. We all know what Fast Food is. The definition of Slow Food, from their website says it best, "Slow Food is an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment."

Learn more about slow food at from Plate to Planet and Good, Clean and Fair

There are Slow Food chapters all over the country. Recently, an article in the Sacramento Bee gave a great account of the movement here in Sacramento, how it started, and how you can get the benefits of Slow Food. Read the article at the Sacramento Chapter's web site.

Be prepared, though, for an influx of Marbles when you abandon fast food for slow food.

Step Eight

Get a library card.

Wow! They are still free and the library is quiet and has these things called books all over the dang place. And they will even let you borrow them! For Free!! for a few weeks
(who'd a thunk it?).
Or you can read newspapers from all over the country, and magazines too at the library.
Did I mention it is Free?

Step Nine

Read to a child.

Nothing fancy. Anything by Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends or The Giving Tree, for example). A Harry Potter book is fun to read to kids, and you may end up still reading after they fall asleep. And, The Night Before Christmas at the holiday or a Dr. Seuss book any time! The Pokey Little Puppy was one of our favorites when the boys were toddlers.

You not only are relieving stress now, you are laying the groundwork for a less stressful time during your kids' teen years. They will remember your having taken the time to read to them. And I'll bet they still won't let you give that copy of the The Pokey Little Puppy to Goodwill!

Step Ten

Take a walk.

This is a great way to get some exercise and begin practicing Step #6. A walk during your lunch hour can make the afternoon seem like a new day. Keep a pair of walking or running shoes at your desk and listen to National Public Radio while you enjoy the beautiful day. A volksmarch is a great way to socialize while walking.

Got a favorite route? Map it online or, for you nomophobes out there, on your smart phone to see how far you've walked, or create a new route! Here are some example walking sites. Google "walking" and your city name to find more.

http://www.californiavolkssportassociation.org/  - Volksmarching in California



http://walkmn.org/home.htm - Walking in Minnesota

Google "walking" for more links

Step Eleven

Take a vacation...By Yourself!

Sure, we love our significant others, POSSLQs, partners or spouses, girlfriends or boyfriends. But a little time in a new place by yourself where you decide how to spend your time is refreshing. And you should really encourage your significant other to get away and do something they enjoy.

On a trip in May, 2012, to a nephew's graduation in Ohio, I flew into Detroit, drove through Canada to spend a few hours at Niagara Falls. Then headed down to Nazareth, PA to the Martin Guitar factory for a tour. Then on to the Yoengling Brewery (the oldest in the USA) for a tour. I then went to Gettysburg for two days where I rented a bicycle to explore the battlefield. I headed on to Southern Ohio to Goat Run Honey Fork Road to get some pictures for our album of the same name. Yes, I did make it to the graduation and then back home to California.

On a previous business trip to Minneapolis, I took a few extra days, renting a car, and driving to Walnut Grove, on the banks of Plum Creek. I visited a sod house along the way, visited the Laura Ingles Wilder museum, and talked to local people in New Ulm about life in Minnesota. The highlight of my trip was a tour of the August Schell Brewery in New Ulm, the 2nd oldest family-run brewery in the United States. I don't expect I'll ever get back there, so I explored some of that part of the world ... ALL BY MYSELF.

On another business trip to Georgia, I stayed an extra 4 days to see some of that beautiful state. I walked Stone Mountain, walked around Olympic Park, CNN, The Coca Cola Museum in Atlanta, and went to an art festival in Roswell. I had only ridden through there as a child on our family vacations from Ohio to Florida and back.

Step Twelve

Smile, be patient and write a Thank-you note!

Email does NOT count! Get some nice writing paper, sit down, and thank that person for what they've done for you. You'll feel better about yourself, and so will they. Try writing one thank you letter a month. You may just find it habit-forming. Here's a nice article about a study from Kent State University

Thank-you notes can make you happier

If you are depressed and want to feel happier ó fast ó grab a pen and paper.

Thank you for your time!

Visit our
MarbleFree Online Store


For a $5 donation or more, you'll get a laminated MarbleFree Membership card with the 12 steps listed on the back. It is also your certification as a MarbleFree 12-step Therapist! As a Certified MarbleFree Twelve-Step Therapist (CMTST), all you have to do is point people to this web site and the 12-steps!

Thank you!

Official PayPal Seal

If you'd prefer, you can send your donation, and mailing address to:

Jerry Grinstead
6377 Parkcreek Circle
Citrus Heights, CA 95621



I used step number 12 and 6 at the zoo, of all places. A young mother and her 5 year old daughter were watching the monkeys. The child wanted to go from cage to cage watching the monkeys up close. But the young mother had an infant sleeping in the stroller next to the bench we sat on. As she was explaining to her daughter why she could not leave the baby and explore with her, I asked if I might just sit where I was and keep an eye on the stroller while she watched the monkeys with her daughter. My son was asleep in my arms from our own explorations, and I was already sitting on the bench and could not leave. My smile and patience at sitting awhile longer was returned with the smiles of both the mother and her daughter. 15 minutes later, they were back at the bench and planning their next animal visit, with me and my son telling them what we enjoyed most. What a nice day.

  - Kaneeka Brown,
    MarbleFree, in Mobile, AL


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