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What if we find out Darth Vader was really just a nice guy, if a bit misunderstood? A man in Tennessee whose father was a Star Wars fan was saddled with the name of the dark lord and seems to have a sense of humor about it.

In other off-beat news, it won’t come as a big surprise that Kafka was a terrible boyfriend, would it? Reading his letters to his fiancée, it seemed he saw everything – even love – in a, well, Kafkaesque light.

I love light-hearted stories like these. But I really love reading stories that start out on the dark side and end up reaffirming my faith in humanity.

A distressed man on the autism spectrum who had attacked his elderly parents was admitted to a Chicago hospital. Instead of sedating or subduing him, the security officers sang to him, calming him down and defusing the situation.

When a teacher saw her 7-year-old student riding his bike on a busy highway, she found out his diabetic father had collapsed at home. When he couldn’t unlock his father’s phone to call 911, he got on his bike to ride five miles to his grandmother’s house. The teacher called for help, and the boy’s father recovered.

Every bad news story starts from a place of pain, doesn’t it? The person involved may be called by different names: gunman, perpetrator, criminal. But it all starts with a “dis.” Disrespect. Feeling disenfranchised. Dismissed. Pain is like a chain letter. Someone feels slighted. They take that pain with them and slight someone else and it spreads like a virus.

The antidote to the “dis” is to not react in kind, but to unpack the pain behind the anger. Will compassion put an end to the cycle of pain? We can only live in hope.

So I bought a frozen pizza that was on sale for less than a dollar. Turned on the oven and put the pizza in to cook. Once it was done, I tried to pull it out of the oven, but it got stuck on the rack. After a struggle  to get it out of the oven, I was really hungry and took a bite. Instantly, I regretted it, as it was still too hot and it burned the roof of my mouth. To boot, it was flavorless, as if I was eating the box it came in. All that work and it tasted like cardboard.

And I thought, how many life experiences are like that?

You twist yourself into contortions for someone else (insert situation here: a peer group, a romantic interest, a potential employer, etc.) and end up looking back on it with regret. They didn’t like you anyway, even after you changed yourself to make them like you. And you didn’t like yourself in that context either. That wasn’t you.

When the past comes at you with all the weapons in its arsenal – shame, guilt, and regret – whip out the shield to fend off all efforts to get under your skin and into your soul: faith. Faith that every day is a clean slate and a chance to start again – on your own terms. Faith that the choices you made in the past were your best efforts at the time, and helped you build an acumen for action going forward. Faith in the fact that life is good and you deserve every good thing it has to offer.

And as for that negative narrator in your head, reminding you of times you’d just as soon forget? Put on your boots, kick it to the curb, and keep moving.

Every so often, a painful memory will pop up, and your brain will go over the experience again. In a way, you’re saying, here’s another reason why that wrong thing was wrong for me.

It’s like watching a re-run of a drama that you hated the first time. Don’t resurrect it and wallow in the pain of it. It didn’t serve you. It ended. Thank God! No, really. Thank God.

For the experience, which you learned from.
For its being over, which relieved you of that particular pain.
For the opportunity of having a better experience going forward.

Now you know what to look for. Knowing what you don’t want helps you to update your checklist for next time.

One way to transition from a thought that brings you down is to look up. Think about the things you’re grateful for.

Try this: break down a blessing to its most minute component. This is the makeshift meditation I use to shift gears:

Thank you water, thank you coffee, thank you kettle, thank you stove, thank you gas, thank you flame, thank you kitchen, thank you home, thank you Lord.

Gratitude. All the way to the top.

So you leave no space for whatever you were sad about to seep back in. You’ll feel silly doing it the first time, but it’s a powerful negativity blocker.

These grace-gifts will gently elbow out the fraught-thoughts bringing you down.

Morning coffee and an attitude of gratitude. A great way to start the day!

A friend is going through a divorce, and I felt for her right away. I’ve been through it, and it’s not easy. I’ve thought about what to say to encourage her, and decided that it wouldn’t help to go into detail about my own saga. It boils down to one thing.

If it didn’t stay, it wasn’t a blessing.

Better days are ahead instead.

A man can leave, taking away the blessing of an intact family.

But my son is a blessing that stayed. My dog (God rest) was a blessing that stayed. My humble/wonderful house is a blessing that stayed. Even my car (despite five recalls, still running – knock wood) is a blessing that stayed.

There’s something else that happens when you go through dark nights of the soul. Once you get to the other side, you really appreciate the good things and kindred spirits that stayed in your life. And you find that those hardships helped you earn your stripes in the boot camp of life.

Peace of mind is a blessing I earned. A positive attitude is a blessing I earned. This unwavering laser focus on what’s beautiful, uplifting, encouraging, magnificent, fantabulous in life. It’s all good. All the time.

I didn’t have it in those tumultuous times during a stormy marriage, or a job that sucked the life out of me, or situations that weren’t good for me.

In days past, I didn’t fully appreciate the simple blessings in life, like a beautiful sunrise. A peaceful home. Food on the table. Restful sleep. Friends you can count on. A cat on the couch.

Take the “no” out of nostalgia and put the “yes” in yesterday. If it brings you down to think of the pain of the past, put it behind you. Let it go. Move forward. Trust that God knows what He’s doing.

There are things that happen in a lifetime, but a good life is built on the good in life.

And no matter that the storms may come. Remind yourself: you don’t live under a dark cloud. You live under the silver lining.

elie-wieselI don’t know about you but I’ve had about enough of 2016. The negativity. The harsh judgements.  The whining and griping.

And I’m not just talking between people at opposite ends of the political spectrum. A close friend brought up politics at Christmas dinner. Because she’s a friend I thought I could speak my mind. “I think the biggest problem is that we don’t listen to each other.”

Honestly, I’m 98% certain that her head spun around in a complete circle. But do you know the really crazy part?  We are both political liberals.  If two people who are on the same end of the spectrum can’t hold a discussion and listen to each other, doesn’t this kind of prove my point?

The negativity needs to end. We need to spend some time spreading light.

And with that in mind, a friend started the Facebook page Inaugurate Light.  As it says in the description:

“Launch is a synonym of inaugurate, and Inaugurate Light is a group of Facebook friends who banded together to launch messages of light and love, comfort and compassion, freedom and equality across social media during the month of January. Regardless of your political opinions or affiliations, it is our hope that at least some of these messages will touch your hearts and open your minds, and that you will also share the message to continue to spread light in these divided, uncertain times.”

Visit there throughout the month of January for positive quotes and memes.  If you feel moved, help us spread the light by sharing posts wherever you are active on social media. I will be sharing things on my Facebook wall  and on Twitter (@SueBEdwards).  If you would like, I can also share things here.

Help us shine a light on all that is good and right in the world. Working together, we can push the darkness back.



“That, plus a token…”

You don’t even need to finish the phrase. It’s clear: whatever you’re selling, I’m not buying, pal.

Now, with tokens phased out, the saying just isn’t quite as catchy.

“That, plus a metro card…” Oof. Kinda clunky.

Old sayings change.

Old ways sometimes need updating.

At the bank, I overheard a man say, “This is my funeral suit. Told my wife this is the outfit I want to be buried in!” Everyone laughed, but I wondered why he’d even be on that wavelength.

Never say this: ”If I didn’t have bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all!”

In truth, you actually have good luck. I call it Providence, but (I’ll update a few old sayings) – you say sweet potato, I say yam.

Just like watching the nightly news – if you judge the world by the headlines, you’d think it’s all going to Hades in a shopping cart! Those acts you hear about on the news are not the norm. That’s why they’re news!

Most people are doing the right thing. We all want harmony in the neighborhood and peace in the world. But…

It only takes one Granny Smith to sour the entire assortment! (Meh. That one needs work.)

It’s the bad apples that get the coverage. God’s still in charge. Not the gangs or the cartels or the syndicates. It really is a family of man. We are all related.

So I say this to you: Befriend your blessings. Don’t just count them. Marinate in them. Meditate on them. It’s the story you tell as you live your own life that seeps into your psyche. It either shores you up or drags you down. Just as you’d encourage a child with praise, it’s important to nurture your own soul by focusing on your blessings.

Forget the school of hard knocks. Matriculate in the University of the Universe’s Favor.

Grace is gentle, like a soft rain misting a rose. Let it fall on you like, well, Babka from Paradise! 🙂 Okay, you’re right, bubbe – the original is still the best choice. Like Manna from Heaven!


Auto-Pilot OptimismSo many times recently, I’ve found myself railing against something. Standing in opposition. Fed up with the ways of the world. Shouting at the anchor on the evening news, “How can these things happen?” as if the stiff guy in a grey suit actually controls the events of our day.

I felt I was reaching a threshold of sorts. A dear friend passed away over the weekend. I had to stop taking a medication that was bolstering my health. The things going on in the political arena have been infuriating.

Bad things happen in life. That’s just a fact. But wonderful, positive, uplifting things are going on at the same time. I decided not just to count my blessings, but to let them know, personally, that I appreciate them.

Tapping my son on the shoulder, I exclaimed, “Blessing!” Cole just nodded, smiled, and went back to his video game. He’s grown accustomed to his mother’s quirks by now.

Following the cat in his stealthy tracks down the hallway, I said, “Blessing!” In standard feline operating procedure, KitKat slow-blinked in my general direction and continued his meandering mosey.

Sometimes, though, it seems it’s hard to find the silver lining.

Garry Marshall passed away recently. He produced one of my favorite sitcoms, the Odd Couple. He also seemed to be a down-to-earth, likeable guy, and it saddened me to hear of his passing.

But soon, I was watching old reruns of his shows, and I felt blessed again. Sorry for the loss, but grateful for the legacy of blessings he left behind.

“It’s nice to be important,” Marshall once said. “It’s more important to be nice.”

So, at least for today, I’m on Auto-Pilot Optimism, and I’ve got only two modes: To Be Blessed, and To Be a Blessing.

And, to you, dear reader, I’ve got just one thing to say: Blessing!

Three Little Words

When I first started out as a Freelance Writer, I carefully kept track of my submissions on I kept all of my folders organized and kept a steady stream of queries in the mailbox with the little flag up.

As responses came in, I’d be sure to make a notation on the tracker – accepted, rejected, follow-up, date submitted, date accepted, name of agent.

All of these things were done right, but there was one thing that I look back on and realize was done wrong. Really, really wrong.

I held onto all of my rejection letters. For a good year or two, I’d put all of my “thanks, but no thanks” letters from agents and publishers into an old briefcase that I stored in my closet.

So, every day, as I got ready for my office job in the morning and went to the closet to get my clothes, I’d look down and see that bag of rejection. My heart would sink.

Still have the day job. Still not a best-selling author. Still not where I want to be.

It took me a while, but eventually I realized that I had to ditch the bag if I wanted to get anywhere as a writer. It was poisoning my soul to see that bag at the start of every day.

Most of the papers were actually form letters or postcards sent by agents summarily dismissing my work with those three dreaded little words:

Not for us.

Sort of the polar opposite of the most famous three-little-words, “I love you.”

As long as I kept track of submissions online, there was no earthly reason to keep rejection letters indefinitely. So they didn’t like that piece. I would try a different agency at another time. I’d define my niche and study the market until I knew where to send the next submission.

Sometimes rejection can seep into your psyche without your realizing it. The best way to keep making progress toward your goal is to replace those three little negative words with ones that shore you up and restore your soul.

I’m here, child.

Call on me.

You are loved.

And take your mind off of the things that bring you down by doing things that bring you up.  Look at flowers. Pat the cat. Hug your kids.

Just three words, but they really pack a punch. And remember: God is good. All the time.

Picture for Karma Post

Today, I noticed a husky trotting around the outside of my house to the fence in the side yard. It took me a second to realize that it was a neighbor’s dog named Karma. Many years ago, whenever he got out of his yard, he would cheerfully bound over to our fence and gaze lovingly at my dog, Sheena. Her tail would wag and they would “play-bow” to each other on opposite sides of the fence. After a few minutes of this sweet interaction, Karma would trot off, heading happily toward home. Sheena would watch him wistfully, never taking her eyes off of him until he was well down the road out of sight.

My Sheena has been gone for four years now, and I have to admit, seeing Karma again brought a tear to my eye. That’s Sheena, in the backyard in the picture, above.

Still, it made me happy that someone else remembers my girldog and thinks of her as fondly as I do, even all these years later. I said to my son, this sounds like the opening line of a novel: that was the morning that Karma came back.

And of course, it made me think of how we remember the people and pets we love after they’re gone. I’ve often felt that I didn’t fully appreciate them while they were here. But in the moment, with all the obligations and family-raising and bills to pay, we did the best we could.

The visit from an old four-legged friend reminded me not to grieve anew every time I think of those I’ve lost, but to remember the warm, fuzzy things: Sheena’s playful spirit and unconditional love (for me and for muffins!)

The way my father used to stand outside the garage of their house when I was coming over for a visit, where I’d pull up my car. I used to think it was his way of chiding, “You’re late!” but it was really his way of saying, “You’re the highlight of our day! Couldn’t wait for you to get here.”

My mother, quoting a favorite funny line from an old sitcom I’d never seen (“Azusa, Anaheim and Cucamonga!”) She’d also ask me every single time I’d visit, “Hey Ruth, have you got gas?” She meant in the car but I’d always punch my stomach and say, “Just a bit of agita, Mom.” She’d pretend to be exasperated with me, but she was smiling.

My cousin, Elaine, who even at our age (well into our “cougar” years) had a crush on actor Jason Momoa, and would send me email updates about his latest projects as if I was his biggest fan. I still wasn’t sure who he was until he had a role on Game of Thrones.

It was a crystal clear spring day when Karma came back. Everything was still and cool. There was no particular seismic shift in the planet. Just a small, sweet poke from Providence to be thankful for the people and pets I’ve loved and lost. Even though I don’t have a photographic memory, today, I was blessed with a photogenic memory. Beautiful times were all I could remember.

114H (1)Any time people see me on a regular basis, I’m limping. Or I’ve got gauze around my arm from an infusion. Or I’m using a cane – sometimes even crutches.

So when they see me, their natural instinct is always to tell me about their own illnesses. Of course, they mean well. They believe that by doing this, they’re showing concern for my well-being. But honestly, I’m not too fond of the fact that I’ve come to symbolize pain to them.

When I think about it, I really don’t know anything meaningful about them. I see the cashier at the store once a week, and I know about her infirmities in great detail. But what of the dream in her heart, perhaps it was to be a dancer in a ballet troupe? Or maybe she wanted to own a little flower shop, selling peonies and zinnias. Why is it that tragedy and turmoil have become the “greatest hits” of our lives, when somebody asks us who we are?

The dream in my own heart is to find a way to embody hope and not pain. I want to become so connected with positivity and encouragement that those I encounter at the mall or the post office don’t have time to tell me their problems.  They’ll be too busy counting off their blessings for me!

I want to tell them to pack all their troubles in an old kit bag.  Then I want them to drop that bag into the sea of forgetfulness. I don’t want them to carry that bag around with them, as if this is the sum total of who they are. Life doesn’t stop at the moment something bad happened, so don’t make those horrible things the point at which you stop living. The path goes on far beyond the pain.

So please, people.  When you see me, don’t mention that I seem more wobbly than usual. Compliment me on my new purple sneakers! Don’t reel off your aches and pains to me. Tell me about your grandkids and your garden. Talk to me about your most cherished dreams, the wonder of a sunset, that beautiful sonata that lights you up when you hear it.

On this day, when we remember those taken from us on that indelible morning thirteen years ago, there’s something we can do in their memory. Don’t dwell on your troubles. Don’t stay stuck in the past. For the sake of those we lost, let’s live.


Have a Mary Little Christmas

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