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I had to agree with the woman standing next to me at the post office.  The line did seem slow.  But I handle boredom about as well as your average toddler.  Fortunately more people were coming in so I could people watch.

One woman was struggling to build a box. I don’t think she’d ever used packing tape before but a man stepped up to give her a hand.

A young man came in and walked to the front of the pick up line. He was wearing a uniform shirt. They handed him a bin of mail.  That’s kind of cool.  City employees get served first.

Before I knew it, they were calling my number.  Back in the car, I noted that 19 minutes had passed and I had been tenth in line.  It hadn’t really been all that slow.  But it could have turned into a painful experience.

This time of year can be stressful enough.  Let’s now make it worse by focusing on the shadow.  Instead, turn to face the Light.

–SueBE

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.

It always cracks me up when people ask me if I’m a glass is half empty person or a glass is half full person.  My answer?  Neither. I’m a functionalist.  “So that’s the glass?  I can work with that.”

I’m not trying to say  that I’m always upbeat because I’m not.  But I do try to work from where I am and how things are.

As I type this, I should be enjoying Pajama Day Part 1.  Pajama Day is a day where I dress down and don’t leave the house.  Ideally I’m home alone.  The boys should be on the road.  But my son got called in to work this morning.  The Jeep isn’t packed.  The things that I want to do?  I’ll get to them.

But here, now, I’m going to have lunch with the boys.  I could fuss and fume.  Or I could enjoy their company.

That is, after all, the glass before me.

–SueBE

I had to laugh when I saw Lori’s post from yesterday.  A friend recently told me that she is doing away with all but the optimists in her life. I was a little nervous because I don’t think of myself as an optimist.  That said, it isn’t the first time someone has used this label for me.

Another time someone told me – I guess I’m just not as optimistic as you.  A room was being flooded from a broken pipe and I was refusing to wade into the room because the water was flowing over a plugged-in window air conditioner.  I don’t remember exactly what I had said that got me labeled an “optimist” but it cracked me up.  I would never in a million years consider myself an optimist.  Cautiously optimistic but not an optimist.

So what am I?  A realist.  I tend to see the light and the darkness and whatever else is there. It is never clear-cut.

I’m a functionalist.  I look for what works and what will move us forward.  I think that’s what tends to get me labeled an optimist.  I’m looking for solutions and I’m an idea person.

But I think this is why Lori, Ruth and I get on so well.  We are thinkers.  Lori calls us not to limit God.  I think of it as don’t put God in a box.  He’s too big for that.  And through Him, so are we, even those of us who are only cautiously optimistic.

–SueBE

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? The difference between the two is often defined by the old “is the glass half full or half empty?” conundrum. Guess what? Turns out it doesn’t matter what you think about the glass. We are all, deep down, optimists, or we wouldn’t be here.

Reading the news can get you down. It does me, anyway. Just scanning the headlines convinces me that the world is a dark, ugly, little place full of small-minded, uneducated people who just want to watch the world burn and toast marshmallows on the flames. But the news doesn’t tell the whole truth. Not that the news is in any way “fake” — a phrase I detest — but simply that it cannot cover the complex entirety of the modern human condition. Even I can spot the better headline: “Man Kills Dozens” will always triumph over “Man Happily Distributes Free Lemonade and Hugs.”

But you turned up this morning for all of this news — bad and good (mostly bad) — didn’t you? You got out of bed. You put on your socks (or omitted them; it’s kind of too hot for socks). You gave your body fuel and opened your front door. Congratulations! You are officially an optimist. And pretty darned brave, to boot.

Do you think it takes more than just showing up to show courage? Maybe. But for any thinking person it’s more than enough. To watch bad things happen and still say, “You know what? I’m going out there anyway” is a testament to human resilience. After being ejected from the Garden of Eden, did Adam and Eve just pack it in and give up? Nope. Even though they’d lost access to unbridled happiness, they went on anyway. This kind of steel is precisely what God knew we would need to function in the world.

So if you’re here today, reading this, and just trying to bumble through life, I salute you. Thank you for continuing to take a chance on the world. Thank you for not giving up or giving in. The world needs you. I need you. Don’t give up. Despite what it says in the news or anywhere else, most of us are just like you. We’re trying. It is the stuff of superheroes, of saints. It is brave.

 

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!

“We all got together and picked a new name for you,” my boss — many years ago — popped her head in my door to tell me. “It’s Virginia.”

“You are aware,” I replied patiently, “that I am a married woman?”

“Oh yes,” she said. “But you just seem so innocent.” It wasn’t a compliment.

Years later, a woman at the hair salon spontaneously burst out with the following: “Your eyes are so innocent looking!” I thanked her, but pondered whether or not I ought to have.

Nowadays, I view things differently. See, I always thought that the goal of any life was to do something — to add something to one’s repertoire that caused sensational good in the world. If I did this thing I was meant to do, I reasoned, I could die in a state of grace.

But maybe it isn’t about adding so much as it is about refusing to subtract. Let me explain. When I was born, my mother wrote me a letter. In it, she noted how much I looked like her — except for my eyes, which held such innocence. She prayed that I would always be this way, untouched by the evils of the world.

Though I like to think of myself as a woman of the world — and certainly I have endured and/or witnessed things that are not easy — I do retain a streak of naiveté. I expect that others will be honest with me because I will be honest with them. I believe that people will not want to do hurtful things, that only hurt people do hurtful things. It always shocks me when I witness someone doing harm purely for the fun of it, or without seeming to care. How can such a person be that way?

I once complained to a superior that I had been promised something by a colleague and was disappointed that he didn’t mean it. Why would he say something he didn’t mean? “Are you stupid?” she asked pointedly. Well, maybe I am. Or maybe I have retained a quality that God (and my dear mother) wanted me to retain: A certain purity. A certain innocence.

Maybe the goal of my life isn’t so much to add but to fail to subtract — to fail to give in to the forces of the world that would turn me jaded and apathetic. Maybe by remaining surprised and hurt by the evil in the world, I am further spurred to reject it for something better. Maybe my eyes aren’t so much innocent, but ever-hopeful.

What quality do you exhibit that should never be quashed? A sense of adventure? The ability to make others laugh? Resilience? Whatever that quality is, don’t lose it. After all, it may be the very thing you were put on this earth to keep.

Didja ever read a headline and think, someone, somewhere is pulling my chain?

Like this article, that nearly sent me into a Sarcasm Spasm. It’s about a study that shows that more people will survive a tsunami if they – wait for it – walk faster.

This fine post said “Lakewood Grocery Store Closes, Disappoints Shoppers.” Well, sure, especially if you’re actually in the store. I guess you’d be stuck there forever, banging on the door to be let out! At least you’ve got Cheetos to live on.

Then there’s this gem: “Big Mistake When Posing as an Officer: Pulling Up Behind the Real Thing.”

It makes me want to commission a study to prove that you’ll live longer if you stop reading ridiculous news headlines about things that everyone already knows!

Some things really are as plain as day, and we usually know the truth when we see it. But once in a while, we still need a reminder.

Fear, lack, uncertainty… these things are tiny blips on the radar screen of your life.

If news headlines were really telling it like it is, the news would be much more encouraging.

Life seems to be spiraling out of control? Headline of Truth: God is Still in Charge and Troubles are Always Temporary.

Feeling down and alone in the world? Headline of Truth: You are Loved Like Nobody’s Business and Have Never Once Walked Alone.

Things didn’t go well today? Headline of Truth: There’s Always Tomorrow, and Guess What? God’s Got Your Back.

This message brought to you by your aunt who always encouraged you to do your best, your friends who would bail you out of jail at midnight on a Monday, and the One who brought you here to this blog today. Godspeed!

A dear family member came by to see me the other day and we had a nice visit. But I noticed that, three or four times during our time together, she was furiously texting.

Some would be offended by someone texting while in their presence, but I’m really not offended.  I just wonder.  Where are they?

I mean, in a sense, they’re not really… anywhere.  They’re not visiting with me.  They’re not in the presence of the friend they’re texting.  It’s almost as if – for that moment, at least – they don’t really exist.  They don’t have a “present” as such, just a kind of in-between.  Not really here, but not there either.

It’s kind of how I feel about turning forty-nine years old.  Yep, today is my birthday, so of course, I’ll be sitting in front of a chocolate cake and chilling all the day long. Diets will be on hiatus, of course.  All other obligations will be on auto-pilot.  It’s going to be a “me day,” for sure!

So I hear tell that “life begins at fifty.” Well… what do I till then? I’ve got a year before life begins?  How am I gonna spend my time, waiting for life to begin? It’s like I’m in limbo!  Life is on hold till next year!  Aah!

Okay, I’m back now.  That’s just a saying, you tell me.  Well thank you.  Life begins right where you are, doesn’t it?

So now that I’ve reached this almost-milestone, part of me wants to say, “yikes!” But the truth is, getting older is a blessing.  Sure, I’d like to have more energy, but I don’t really know that I had that much energy, even in my twenties.  It seemed there was so much to be done.  So much I wanted out of life.  I didn’t realize that I had choices, and that, if I’d looked around me, I really had the whole world in front of me.

It didn’t feel that way.  It felt like I had to go, do, move, get out there, get things done, get on the right track.  It may well have all been pressure I put on myself, but I never felt relaxed and positive.  I felt stressed and my soul felt squashed.

Now that I’m older, and have effectively taken myself out of the “rat race,” I feel so much more hopeful. I get to be myself, knowing God loves me as I am and I don’t have to be anyone but me. My faith is a huge part of that sense of optimism, and I’m grateful to God every day for keeping hold of my hand. It’s been quite a journey, and looking ahead, all I see are blue skies. I’d say I’m ready for the next chapter to begin.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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