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After doing a bit of introspection, I’ve decided that I’m an old soul, but I’m young at heart. I feel like I was born old. I’m 53 now, but I’ve always been a homebody. Don’t like to travel. Really don’t like change (in my pockets or in life). Love cats, knitting, classic movies. Love my son with all my heart, and am always coming at him with positive platitudes. “Always do the right thing, son,” I’ll tell him. I know what you’re thinking: That’s so Mayberry!

At 21, I got sciatica. At 36, I got a macular hole. Around that time, I was diagnosed with MS as well. I got the medical issues that normally occur later in life, earlier than expected.

There’s always something hurting, somewhere in my body. There’s always a bill on the counter I can’t yet afford to pay.

If that’s just how it is, I decided, I’ll work around it. I’ll be in a good mood. Not as good a mood as circumstances allow. You can’t make the situation your supervisor. It doesn’t get to decide how you feel right now, in this moment. You do.

When you set down roots in the place where peace resides, you’re safeguarding your own soul. Until you improve a situation, at least don’t make it worse by focusing on that problem alone. Take your mind off it when you can. Give yourself permission to be okay. And in that positive frame of mind, you might just change things for the better.

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I’d like to nominate a horse named Jenny to run for some elective office.

Why? Here are the top five reasons.

  1. Horses run well.
  2. She’s always been a good “neigh”-bor.
  3. She won’t give you some line of BS. (Because she’s not a bull. She is, however, a horse, so there will be a different kind of “S”. Sorry. Here’s a wetnap for your shoe.)
  4. She’s out standing in the field. Most of the day, chewing on grass.
  5. The other candidates are lame. I’m not suggesting we do to them what is (sadly) done to lame horses. I’m saying, let’s get an actual horse to take the victory lap.

When you feel clenched as you think about a problem, that’s actually the time to stop thinking about that problem. Just for now. I know you’ve got to address it, but right now, you’ve reached the point where you’re not doing yourself any good.

So leave the room. Exhale. Focus on something light and pleasant. Think about Jenny, the horse who takes a walk every day by herself in Frankfurt, Germany. Her owner, now 79, is unable to ride anymore, so he attached this note to her: “My name is Jenny. I didn’t run away. I’m just walking.” Neighbors are used to seeing her and treat her like a celebrity. There’s even one picture of Jenny kissing a baby in a stroller, just like any politician would.

Take your mind off of that problem that’s got you feeling clenched like a fist.

Pivot to something pleasant. Later, or tomorrow, or maybe next week, you’ll come back to the situation, fully refreshed, and a solution will present itself like an unexpected gift.

The psychology behind selfies is fascinating to me.  A woman took a picture of herself grinning widely, almost maniacally, and in the background was noted primatologist, Jane Goodall, looking at her curiously.

I wonder what Goodall would say about this primate’s behavior, posturing as if to say, Look! I discovered Jane Goodall. I hereby claim her accomplishments as my own.

Then there’s the phenomenon of photobombs, illustrated by the Fiji Water Girl, the model paid to promote the product by inserting herself into pictures of celebrities at the Golden Globe Awards. Younger commenters think what she did was cute, but older ones (like me) see it as crass.

Normally, I enjoy a funny meme, but I see this as being in poor taste.  There’s no denying we live in different worlds based on how we look at the world.

Why do people do what they do? Most aren’t doing these things to annoy anyone else, but to enjoy life in their own way. It does seem that everyone is looking into a camera instead of living in the moment. Is it more important to prove to others that you had fun than to actually have fun? What’s wrong with this picture?

Maybe it’s not up to me to figure out what’s wrong with this picture. All I can do is to find what’s right with the picture that I hold of the world. In the meantime, if I see a photobomb or Fiji girl coming at me, I’ll look the other way and keep going.

Would you rather:

🔲Take a lawn chair and sit by a landfill.

Or

✅Sit on the beach by the ocean.

🔲Dangle your feet in a brackish swamp by the sewage plant.

Or

✅Skim stones across a crystal lake on a spring day.

Negativity is corrosive to the soul. If you could see it, smell it, experience it in living color, you’d run for your life. But we can’t see it for the pile of stinking garbage it is, so it seeps and creeps into our minds before we know it.

When I woke up this morning, I felt the weight of three issues on the horizon to do with money, health and my son’s well-being.

Sat for some time with my internal Catastrophe Planning Advisor and he offered this sage word of advice:

Panic! 😨

But it hasn’t happened yet.  So why experience it until it does?

It’s like an installment plan of pain. Act now and you, too, can feel bad before the bad thing happens!

Set of guilt-Ginsu-knives that stab me in the back as I try to improve my life? Nah! You’re not here to offer me a fortune from a Nigerian prince. You’re here to steal my peace and make me focus on the problem instead of a plan.

If you could look these negative, nagging thoughts in the face, you’d see they’re lost little souls filled with fear. Look out! Last time you tried to change your life, it didn’t work out. Just stay in your lane. Sure you’re not happy with the way things are but what if you make it worse?

Feel bad less today. Take worrying off your to-do list. Just nix one dark thought and you’ll feel better. The yesness of life is always present, but you have to stop saying no so much to allow yes to find you.

Listen. So it didn’t work out before. Adjust your approach and try again. Face the problem, make a plan, move ahead. This is not a limited time offer. You can sign up for yesness at any point in your life. Why not today?

The way I’ve come to look at life is that the the sun is always shining somewhere. This approach helps me through the darker days. Even when it rains, I know the flowers are getting nourished, so there’s always a silver lining.

My son and I had to say farewell to our KitKat this week, so our hearts are heavy. The bright side is, he was here. He was loved. He knew he was loved. Kit had been a stray who found a way to trust a kindly lady who really doesn’t trust easily herself. He made himself at home with us, entertaining us with his 3 AM showing of “Stealth NinjaCat Tears Down Hall, Jumps Onto Bed and Sticks the Landing.”

He’d play mediator when he’d see me walk into my son’s room, remembering those mornings when Cole was in school and I had to raise my voice to wake him up. Everything okay here? KitKat would convey, bumping against my legs.

He’d speak, using the geography of various squares in the house like a Meow Map. If he sat on the bathroom rug, he was saying, Who’s up for a back scratching session? 

If he sat on the small washcloth I’d thrown onto the floor to soothe my aching feet (like John McClane in Die Hard, I’d make “fists with my toes”), he was saying, I’m here to comfort you, but also, you’ve put a square on the floor. You must realize all your base are belong to me. It was only six inches across, so my feet and his whole body would be co-existing on that tiny fabric. I have to believe he knew how much it would amuse me.

These little life forms are really a series of small hinges holding the whole structure of the world together, if you think about it. Micro-bursts of blessings that keep us going. We’re going to miss KitKat, but luckily, I’m one of those people who write blog posts about their pets, so I can always look back at those stories and smile.  Just as I wrote about my beloved dog, Sheena, when I lost her, beautiful times are the ones I’ll remember.

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

In years past, when I had extra, I found many creative ways to spend it… on things I didn’t even want or enjoy. I’ve been on three cruises in my life. Yet. I don’t swim, I can’t be in the heat due to my medical issues, and I hate crowds. Complained the whole time. Spent a boatload (see what I did there?) of money. Didn’t like it one bit. Well, the food was good. Overall? I could have, and probably should have, stayed home and socked that money away for a rainy day.

Tell you what’s true: it’s been raining lately. Money’s been tight, but we persevere, and wait/pray for better days to come. We all need certain staples to live on, but sometimes, there’s just not enough to buy some of the basics.

When “enough” returned, I actually said out loud to my son, “This is the best slice of toast I have ever had in my life!” Toast. Just made me do a happy dance. Although I did have other food in the house, I was out of bread and there just wasn’t enough in the budget as medical co-pays and deductibles came up early in the year. When a simple piece of buttered toast finally came back to my plate, I was over the moon!

Tell you what’s true: when I had too much I used too much; still, I wasn’t satisfied. Now when I have just enough, it’s manna. I’m content, though eager (if Someone upstairs is on the line listening) for the next batch of bread from heaven! I feel God’s saying, Do what you can. It gets better, and there’s more than “enough” on the way. Grace is always right on time, and that’s good enough for me.

raysMy memory has always been something of a moving target. I’ve actually thought about leaving my brain to science – while I’m still alive. It won’t do much toward medical progress to take a look at my grey matter under a microscope after I’m gone. No, you’d have to observe me in my natural habitat to see how my mind works (and sometimes doesn’t work) to really get a feel for how I process life and experience the world.

Even in my twenties, I knew my sense of recall left much to be desired, so I signed up for a course called “Improve Your Memory in 30 Days.”

Of course, you can probably see the punchline coming a mile off… Yep, you guessed it. I plum forgot about the class. Not only did I not attend, I actually went out with friends that night, and in the middle of our evening, a tiny light bulb dimly flickered on. “I was supposed to go to a Memory Course tonight. I forgot!” My friends thought it was a joke; we all laughed drunkenly and ordered the next round.

After I became a mother, I heard the term “Mommy Memory,” which implies that the added responsibilities of motherhood also chipped away at our ability to recall things we needed to do. 

Then I found out I had MS, and it, too, impinged upon my cognitive faculties. 

So I decided that you can’t fight city hall.

I can’t be a Great Rememberer (to coin a phrase); instead, I’ll strive to be a Better Forgetter.

This means selectively sifting through memories and choosing to remember only the experiences that enrich, embolden or entertain me.

There isn’t room anymore to hold onto snippets of bygone days that were dark and dreary. There’s only space for what’s bright and beautiful. As I see it, there’s no need to live in a cold, windowless basement when you can sit in the sunroom and soak in the light and warmth.

To tell you the truth, I really don’t give half a hoot about the way we were. It’s all about the here and now, the beauty and the blessings, from this point on, and – thank Heaven! – every day is a fresh start.

Three Little Words

When I first started out as a Freelance Writer, I carefully kept track of my submissions on WritersMarket.com. 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.

As I was making my son some Ramen, we sat in the kitchen and chatted. I told him the story of the first time I ever cooked anything for his father, some twenty-five years ago.

Oh yes. It was Ramen Noodles.

So I told my son that back in the days of yore, I made his Dad the Ramen, poured in the little seasoning packet, and put it into a bowl.  At that time, Ramen wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now, and I had never had it before. I looked at the package. It showed a bowl filled with noodles, but I didn’t see any broth in the picture.

Is this noodles? I asked myself.  I thought it was soup, but based on the picture, maybe it’s just a noodle side dish.

I drained out the liquid.

Serving it to my then-husband, he looked puzzled.  “Something is missing here….” he said, explaining that it usually has broth in it.

My son laughed as I told the story.  Now, back in our time, I finished making his Ramen and poured it into the bowl. I handed him a spoon.

“Something is missing, Ma,” he said, smiling.

I had forgotten to pour in the seasoning packet!  Dagnabbit.

So I admit it.  I often order out or bring home meals from food places in our town. My son will actually get a better meal this way, with all of the ingredients included.

I used to feel guilty about this. But now I see that I’m doing the best that I can with the hand I’ve been dealt. My MS affects my memory and my cognitive abilities. For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled to get my side dishes to be done at the same time as my entrée.  I remember once during a dinner party years ago, forgetting the two-cups-of-water to one-cup-of-rice ratio and reversing it. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t seem to master this skill that is so important in the life of a family.

Cooking, gathering over the meal, savoring tasty dishes.  It just isn’t something I’ve ever been able to do well. Some people who don’t do well with plants have a black thumb.  I guess I’ve got a black oven mitt! I’m sure Martha Stewart would look at my caved-in casserole, shake her head and say, “I’d rather go back to jail than have to eat this! It’s a bad thing.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that everybody has something to deal with. Don’t give yourself a hard time for what you can’t do; focus more fully on your gifts, and give that your all. Do your best to work around shortcomings – black oven mitt and all – and trust that God will take care of the rest. And put the pizza place on speed dial.

During the past month, there were some ups and downs in my life.

  • My car was recalled, and stayed in the repair shop for over a month. 
  • Somebody ran over my mailbox in the middle of the night.
  • The mortgage and maintenance of a house is too much for someone with a disability, so I realized I’ll need to re-locate.
  • After years of separation from my husband, I finally filed divorce papers.

On the other hand:

  • I found an honest auto repair shop.  They treated me like gold and went the extra mile for me. 
  • I got to know the people at the post office – they never sit down, and have to be stared at by a long line of customers awaiting their turn, but still maintain a positive attitude.
  • In my search for a new place to live, I realized that I’m actually kind of a small town person, although I presently live in the hustle and bustle of New Jersey. It made me think I should keep my mind open as God makes a new home available to me.
  • I reluctantly attended a court-mandated session for people getting divorced and realized that, even though my ex moved out years ago and we’ve long since worked out custody and support, I’ve got nothing on paper to document it. Without this session, I’d never have gotten these loose ends wrapped up and finalized once and for all.

So I realized that maybe every cloud does have a silver lining and that God’s grace will always show up on time.  It’s easier to believe this after the fact, of course – while you’re going through it, all you can see is the storm.  But I’ve come to realize that even on a cloudy day, the sun is shining somewhere in the world. I’ve just to got to sit tight till the rays turn my way again.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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