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This morning, I reached for some clothes to put on and must’ve inadvertently grabbed my cranky pants. Before I knew it, I was grumbling about things that aren’t really problems at all. 

As I started to make breakfast, I thought, Oh great, I’ll make breakfast and then I’ll have to wash the dishes right away so they don’t pile up. It was a problem with a built-in solution. Don’t let them pile up! Wash as you go. It might take longer to make breakfast this way, but I’ll end up in a better frame of mind.

Then I thought, It takes forever for the water to warm up in the morning so I can wash the dishes! But actually, it gave me a moment to adjust the thermostat. It’s chilly today, and I thought, It takes so long for the house to heat up in the morning! But actually, it gave me an excuse to stealthily sneak into my son’s room and abscond with the warm, cozy scarf I knitted “for his birthday,” fully intending to use it for most of the day when he’s at work or school! Please don’t tell.😇

These small annoyances are blessings in disguise. They give us moments to reflect on the things we take for granted. Being able to count on food on the table. Heat in the winter. Hot and cold running water. They’re tiny reminders to reflect on the sustenance and providence we’re blessed to receive every day.

white and black ceramic cup filled with brown liquid on brown wooden suffaceHas this ever happened to you? I woke up this morning thinking about how to unpack issues that have affected my family for years and started mentally running in place:

  • I’ve got to figure this out!
  • C’mon, you must try harder!
  • Maybe I need to get more expert advice?
  • Perhaps I should spend more money on things that might help?

Luckily, I realized I’m not God, and can’t get my arms around the whole world. I can only work on the part of the problem that’s within my control. One part is, don’t get so worked up that you end up standing still.

Relieve yourself of the guilt of not having a magic wand that solves all of life’s problems instantly. Take one thing at a time. Pause. Breathe. Start where you are.

I’ve also found that, if each of us has a piece of a larger puzzle, sharing what we’ve learned can help. Being preachy or judgy doesn’t. Commiserating doesn’t help either, as we seem to only end up “sharing the misery.” Collaborating helps. Saying, “I’ve been in a similar situation, here’s what’s helped for me.” Encouraging helps. Asking, “What can I do to relieve some part of your burden? If you never get a night to yourself and feel stressed, can I watch the kids for you?”

Take care of the people you love by showing up for yourself today. Help yourself the way you’d help that friend who needs a night out. Be good to yourself, and, in that centered place, answers often arrive like manna from Heaven.

An old Yiddish proverb crossed my mind as I read the headlines this morning: “We plan, God laughs.” Every article seemed to be about unexpected events that forced a change of plans.

One was about the fact that coal mines are shutting down across West Virginia, forcing many to find another way to earn a living. A non-profit came up with a novel idea: training former coal miners to become beekeepers. They’ll be provided with equipment, advice, and bees for free or at a low cost. 

Then I read about Ricky Kidd, a man who’d been wrongfully convicted and had spent twenty years in prison. When he was released over the summer, he was reunited with the shelter dog he’d trained while incarcerated. “I felt like that kept the human part of me alive,” he said. “Seven years later I get to catch up with Howie…We have a happy ending.” Kidd is now sharing his story and advocating for others who have been wrongfully convicted.

Change is an inevitable part of life, and it might even end up being a good thing. 

I had to find a way to start over with knitting when I realized I could no longer use needles due to my visual impairment. When I realized I could work on the round-loom instead, it was a chance to “re-loop.” 🧶 Now I can relax while creating comfy scarves for the winter.

So, when a situation changes, re-group.

Re-purpose the challenge into a project.

Re-invent yourself by setting a new goal.

Don’t look back at what you’ve lost; look ahead and ask, “What’s next?”

So I’ve decided that today is “Find the Good” Day. If all goes as planned — and doesn’t it always? 🙂 — I’ll be able to cajole a smile out of even the grumpiest of people around town. I’m determined to find the good in everyone I meet and in every situation. 

This approach was put to the test immediately as I had to wait a long time to see my doctor. My appointment time, 2:30, came and went, as did 3:00 and 3:30. Once I was checked in, though, I realized the wait is long because she takes time to listen to each patient. I had a lot of questions and she spent a long time with me, answering every one of them.

“Find the Good” can be used as you go through the day.

Traffic’s bad on the road today? Great! Another chance to listen to some audio books. 

Sink’s clogged? No biggie. Now you can try out your DIY skills. YouTube has plenty of helpful videos on the subject.

Can’t find those pants you need for work tomorrow? Terrific. It’s a perfect time to organize your closet so you have everything in its place.

Of course, it’s not always easy to find the positive in a negative situation, but if every problem is really a project in disguise, it’s not as much of a burden anymore. 

“Find the Good” Day is another way of saying, find the good day. It’s always there, waiting to be found. Bad news may always make the headlines, but finding the good can become the story of your life.

bowl of vegetable saladsSueBE wrote about having lost weight on a diet, and she did it the right way: sensibly and over time. I did it the wrong way recently, cutting out everything with any fat, sugar, salt — heck, even taste. Ate only fruit and veggies. Sauteed squash with a bit of olive oil and Mrs. Dash turned out great, but other dishes weren’t as tasty, so it was discouraging. I was convinced it would be worth foregoing all foods with flavor when I got on that scale at the doctor’s office. Cut to: I’d gained five pounds! 

So what went wrong? It was a diet of deprivation, and I was focusing only on the numbers, not on how I felt. 

I’ve realized since that draconian approach failed that I really do love fruit and vegetables, just not as the only items on the menu. I’m keeping “heart healthy” and have shifted my focus to sticking with the basics: eating the things that are good for me, along with an occasional thing that just plum tastes good. (Plums are among the things I love, by the way.)

I’ve also gotten into the habit of moving more and sitting less. At a seminar for people with MS, a nutritionist told us this:

“Sitting is the new smoking.”

This means that the adverse effects of a sedentary life-style are on par with the negative impact of smoking on a body. Yikes. Okay, I’m on-board. Now I get up every hour, and if I’m reading a book on the computer, I’ll put it on “read aloud” so I can do some stretches while listening. 

Small steps over time. That’s how to make lasting changes, and stay positive along the way.

CALLEJA (DIARIO DE NAVARRA)

Abel Mutai, an athlete on the verge of winning a race, misjudged where the finish line was and stopped running too early. Another runner, Ivan Fernandez Anaya, could have run past Mutai and won the race; instead, he helped Mutai cross the finish line and came in second.

“He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed.” said Fernandez Anaya. The photo of him helping Mutai across the finish line went viral, garnering praise from all over the world. When asked for a comment, however, his coach voiced his disappointment. “The gesture has made him a better person, but not a better athlete,” Martin Fiz told El Pais. “He has wasted an occasion. Winning always makes you more of an athlete. You have to go out to win.”

In another race, two Olympic runners collided, and, as the race went on, they helped each other carry on to the finish line. Neither runner won the official race, but later, both were given a special commendation for sportsmanship.

Some things are more important than a trophy. Maybe we should change the term, “human race” to “human family.” Life’s not a competition. Don’t listen to the naysayers, even if it’s your own coach. We’re all on the same team. 

This thought occurred to me twice this week: I wonder if I should just throw it out and start over

The first time was when I looked at the plant the vet had sent me when my cat passed away last year. I really like the plant, but sometimes when I look at it, I remember it’s only here because my cat isn’t here anymore. 

Looking at the leaves, now brown around the edges, my brain reminds me: Don’t you have a black thumb?  I really don’t, but that’s what I used to think.

The second time I thought about throwing things away en masse was when I was looking for a notepad and couldn’t find it under all the expired coupons and old receipts in the junk drawer.

Luckily, I realized I shouldn’t toss anything until it had been sorted. Put the things I need in there and throw away or find new homes for the rest of the stuff. Keep the letter opener, tape, and pens. Discard the keys to door locks we don’t even have anymore, pile of pennies, and bent paper clips.

The truth is, the plant just needed pruning. The drawer just needed organizing. Once it was re-organized, I re-named it: the Utility Drawer. There’s not one bit of junk in there anymore. Once I re-framed the way I see that plant, it’s actually a tribute to a sweet creature we’ll always remember fondly. I re-named it: the Blessing Blossom.

Sometimes it just takes a second look to see things in a different light.

tilt shift lens photography of tealight candleWhen I looked online and saw how expensive candles were, I thought, Why not make some candles? How hard could it be? Plus, it might be a fun craft project. So, I looked up “Complete Candle-making Kits” and found one that sounded promising, but when it arrived, it turned out to be just a bag of wax and wicks with no instructions. Now what do I do?

Back to the online search. I found a how-to video and followed its instructions, but instead of a candle, what I ended up with was a royal mess. White wax spilled all over the white counter and hardened, and when I tried to scrape it off, it just made it look even worse. 

Back to the online search again. I found out that the heat of a blow dryer can melt wax that has set onto a surface, and then you can wipe it off with a wet paper towel. 

It was a life lesson for me. False advertising can lead to snafus, especially when you buy things online.

Isn’t it the same way with faith? Some try to sell a bill of goods, promising  that troubles will go away if you take a leap of faith, but true religion adds to your life. Lifts you up. Helps you to be a better person. It doesn’t require blind loyalty. Your whole paycheck. Mind control.

Coming to faith is like that do-it-yourself candle. It can light up your life or make a major mess. Knowing what you’re buying (or buying into) is a life skill worth having.

heart shaped flower arrangementFor some reason, a small, sweet moment crossed my mind this morning. When my son was younger, he had friends over to play video games, and, as I put away the laundry, I realized they were talking about me.

You wouldn’t believe what those kids said about me! Never in my life! Well, it’s not what you think. As it turns out, they weren’t kvetching at all.

One of his friends had asked Cole, “Why is your mom always so nice to us?”

My son called me into his room, amused. “Why ARE you so nice to my friends, Mom?”

The other boy said, “Yeah. Moms aren’t usually like that. What’s up with that?”

“Well, I love my son, and I want him to be happy,” I said. “When he has his friends over, he’s happy. I think it’s good to extend hospitality so you guys feel at home too. It’s nice to show people you care.”

There really is a secret to being in a positive frame of mind all the time, and it’s saying what I actually mean. It keeps me emotionally in balance. 

My motto is: Be truthful but tactful. If it’s not important enough to mention, it’s surely not worth holding a grudge over. Say it, so it doesn’t go on lay-away. Don’t put it into storage so that you can make an appointment in your mind to be mad at someone again later. Speak at the moment an infraction occurs. 

You did this thing. It was inappropriate. Or, You said something that hurt my feelings. Get it off your chest so you don’t harbor it in your heart.

Love your loved ones, starting with yourself. Don’t hurt your heart with hate. Speak your mind. Clear the air. Get past the past and let new blessings in.

person holding camera lensMy son knows when I happen across a spider in the house by the karate-sounding “ke-yai!” noise I emit. The spider is startled by me, too, but I’m sure its perspective is different.

Growing up, Mama Spider taught her son about humans: “Don’t stare honey. I know that’s a face only a mother could love, but God has a purpose for all creatures. Now let’s get out of here before that monstrosity squashes us!”

That seems to be how some religious groups see each other: If you’re not just like us, you’re a threat. The other day, my Lyft driver asked me if I was a Christian. When he went on to say something pejorative about Muslims, I knew we didn’t share the same perspective.

In photography, “perspective” is a term for a visual effect that causes objects to appear smaller as their distance from the viewer increases. In life, if you haven’t gone through a particular experience, it may seem far away and foreign to you.

Your perspective can change based on your status in society and net worth as well. Asked about how young comedians can get their big break, Jerry Seinfeld said, “The good thing about comedy is that anyone who’s talented usually makes it.” It must be spirit-crushing for struggling comics out there to hear their comedy idol make such a statement when they haven’t found success yet. 

The only way to keep your own karma clean is to assume there’s validity in the experience of others. So before you squash that spider — or another human being’s spirit — take a moment to adjust your lens. It might just broaden your perspective.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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