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This picture of a ginger cat is a popular meme, and the caption reads, “How every 50-year-old takes a selfie.” At first I was offended. How dare they! 

But…then I remembered when I got my first smart phone at age 50. I was sitting in my car in the grocery store parking lot, trying to figure out how it worked and took my first (unintentional) selfie after randomly pressing buttons.

That cat’s my spirit animal!🐈

Sometimes there’s a grain of truth to memes, and the concept has become a part of the social vernacular. Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson was asked how she thought she did in a debate recently, and she answered, “I’ll tell you later, when I see the memes.”

Not everything can be boiled down to a meme, but so much of our lives these days is documented, we may all end up in a viral video one day! If so, here’s hoping it’s for something uplifting, like this one of a sanitation worker helping an 88-year-old woman with her trash bin after she had a fall earlier this year, or this one of a man being reunited with family members after ten years apart.

Even if it’s captured on film, you can’t see the whole story behind the shot. If someone seems to be a sourpuss, who knows? Maybe they just can’t figure out how to work their new phone. A kind word, even in the face of a grumpy cat, might turn that frown upside down. 😊

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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.

donuts“A mini-bagel, plain, please,” I said to the clerk at my favorite bagel shop. “Okay, mini-bagel. What-” he replied loudly and stopped himself. “Oh, you want it plain,” he muttered. He’d started to ask what I wanted on the bagel, but realized I’d said I didn’t want anything on it. 

I smiled and said, “Jose, you were like, ‘You want a bagel at the bagel store? What?!? Next you’ll want a donut from the donut shop!’” This sent the clerk and the other customers in the store into hysterics. As I left, I continued my shtick and said, “I’m here all week! Good night!” 

It’s in those small moments that you realize humans have the capacity to connect. It might be for a brief moment, but shared laughter is like a virtual hug. It also helps to get to know the people who will be in your life on a regular basis, like the cashier at the bagel shop or your mail carrier. It often occurs to me that I could never do what my mailman, Calvin, does, just based on the sheer volume of letters and packages he needs to deliver on a daily basis. 

On some blocks in my town, there’s an ordinance that homes may not have mailboxes. This means that letter carriers have to deliver to those houses’ front doors, every day, rain or shine. Winters are the most challenging time for them, as you might imagine. 

All of us have a load to carry and things we’ve got to get done. So when you see the “regulars” in your life during the day, a warm word of encouragement can go a long way.

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.

I was reading a book online and decided to put it on the “Read Aloud” option. A robotic voice named “Microsoft Mike” narrated the text without inflection and, often, incorrectly. When it got to the word “Malignity,” it pronounced it as, “Molly Good-Nighty,” which made me laugh. That sweet name sounds like the antonym of the word’s true definition, which is “malice or malevolence.” 

I was still cackling about “Molly” when I came up to a page break, which looks like this:

*****

And the robot-reader announced in its flat affect: 

“Asterisk-asterisk-asterisk-asterisk-asterisk.” 

It was a book with a heavy theme, so these unintentional comic breaks were actually welcome.

A robot narrator has its limitations, and one of them is that it has no soul. It’s just reading a script as programmed. In real life, it’s hard to stick to a script. Days rarely go as planned. There are detours on the road. Unexpected delays on a project. 

When things get heavy, taking a laugh break might be just the answer. Laughing involves breathing (which we often forget to do fully when stressed), movement and social interaction.

Moments of levity can be the difference between going through the day on auto-pilot and feeling like yourself again.

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 morning I woke up and was so tired, I slid right back into that pocket between sleep and wakefulness. That seems to be the place where I hear sage advice from someone.  (God? My own psyche? Relatives who have passed on?) 

And this time, I heard these words:

Expect the best like a dinner guest and set it a place at the table.

Then someone (my mother? A teacher?) said to me:

What are you punishing yourself for?

And I realized it was both a mildly exasperated, head-shaking statement, as well as existential question.  

So I had to mull it over. What am I punishing myself for? What do any of us give ourselves angst over?

  • Choices you made when you had no choice.
  • Stopgap measures that turned into persistent problems.
  • Mistakes that led to doing penance in perpetuity.

Many of us feel we’re in that pocket in between what we’d envisioned life would be and life as it is actually lived. We may end up making peace with where we are and making do with what we have. But maybe “expecting the best” is the mindset that precedes its arrival. Or perhaps it’s the clarion call your blessings need to hear. 

What if they’re flying overhead right now, waiting for you to tell them where to land? If changing your mind meant changing your life, we’d all set that extra place at the table. That way, when “the best” comes knocking, it will already feel right at home.

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.

Pluto in True Color - High-Res.jpg

Is it possible that everything we’ve been taught is just somebody’s best guess? Even facts can change, like the fact that Pluto is no longer called a planet. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) determined that there are three criteria that define a planet, and Pluto failed one of them: keeping his block tidy. 

“In the end it was decided that to qualify as a planet in orbit around our Sun, a chunk of rock must have been made round by its own gravity; have cleared its neighbourhood of other debris; and not be a satellite of another planetary body,” wrote Jenny Hogan in the Journal Nature.

This change has been controversial, with NASA’s Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, stepping into the fray: “Just so you know, in my view, Pluto is a planet,” he said. “You can write that the NASA Administrator declared Pluto a planet once again. I’m sticking by that, it’s the way I learnt it, and I’m committed to it.”

If experts can’t agree on the truth, what can we ever really know? Even when it comes to eternal truths, religions disagree.

We do know that it’s possible to belong to a religion and still voice questions about its practices, as Lori did recently. 

We also know that it’s possible to value the opinions of your church group but not be swayed by peer pressure, as SueBE wrote about in her last post.

Speaking up when things don’t seem right isn’t just a way to express yourself; it’s another way of honoring the One who created you, the world, and all the stars in the sky.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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