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Critical Thinking Kindness and Empathy Positive Mindset Self Care

Saying “Good-bye” to the year of fearing everything

Hello, can you hear me? I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be, when we were younger and free. I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet.”

These haunting lyrics from the song “Hello”, by English singer-songwriter Adele, and her producer Greg Kurstin, were originally thought to be about the nostalgia and angst of a failed relationship. But just as quickly as we, the listener, latched on to that narrative, Adele set the record straight and said, “No my friends, the song is simply about reconnecting with my family. I was missing my little boy while I’ve been away making a record across the pond, you know, “Hello from the other side!”  (HuffPost 12/7/2015).”

But we didn’t like Adele’s explanation.  Why? Because we were afraid! “Hello” was OUR SONG!  OURS! A song that spoke directly to the core of an America that found itself crumbling under the weight of divergent opinions on everything from terrorism to gun violence, racism to immigration, religious expression, national symbols, taking a knee, gender equality, gender identity, same sex marital rights and oh yeah, we even came to internet blows that year over whether or not a dress was actually black or white.

God help the individual who was bold enough to post on his social media feed…

“Um, I think the dress is….(drum roll please)… GOLD!”

“GOLD??? GOLD??? DID YOU SAY FREAKING GOLD!!!?”  I’m surprised we didn’t yell a collective, “STONE HIM.  STONE HIM!”  

Poor guy, I think he had to change his identity and move to Siberia.   But no one likes a trouble maker, right?   

“Hmmm…Bet he didn’t even know what Adele’s song was about either!!! What a Loser!”

Forgive them father for they know not what they are doing! Luke 23:34

It’s now been five years since “Hello” and “The Dress” and does it surprise you that all of those issues that permeated our divide that year are still with us in 2020?  That is one thousand-eight hundred and twenty-five days and we are still drowning in a pool of our own inability to compromise on any of it and to compound things, we’ve iced the cake with a polarizing election and a global pandemic called Covid 19!  

No one would believe this isn’t the fictional tale of a James Patterson novel if we weren’t living it. But then again this is the era of “fake news”…maybe it isn’t our reality after all. I mean Hallmark movies are pretty realistic, right?

Still…. fifty years after Lucy Van Pelt explained “Pantophobia” to Charlie Brown and he exclaimed “THAT’S IT!”,  we have emerged an America steeped in fear, unwilling to accept that Adele wrote a song about something important in HER life, not OURS; unwilling to believe a dress can be black and white and gold; and questioning the integrity and patriotism of the M.D. in charge of the COVID 19 response, who kept us safe from AIDS, SARS, Ebola and Zika all because he’s asked us to wear a mask and social distance so we don’t have to spend Christmas with a ventilator.

Yep, Charlie Brown, America is officially now AFRAID OF EVERYTHING when we fear Dr. Fauci!

Afraid to look our neighbor in the eye.  Afraid to accept others who might think differently than ourselves. Afraid of being wrong. Afraid to take risks. Afraid to trust science and data. Afraid to trust people with years of experience and degrees. Afraid to be kind, considerate, empathetic. Afraid to speak out against injustices. Afraid of the immigrant, the stranger, the cop on the beat. Afraid to tone down the rhetoric. Afraid to stand up for what is right. Afraid to lose.

Afraid of admitting we are in over our heads and need help.

God’s Help. Anyone’s help. Anyone??? Hello???

Why?  Because we’ve bought into the narrative we’ve been spoon fed that it’s THOSE PEOPLE who are deplorable. THOSE PEOPLE who are snowflakes. THOSE PEOPLE who are ruining our lives, mine and yours.

THOSE PEOPLE who are plotting, plotting, PLOTTING our demise!!!

Did I mention plotting?!!!

Wow, with all of that plotting going on it’s amazing how we can still find the time to order a gourmet pizza, keep our Twitter feeds fed, watch the entire Netflix catalog, grab the last blow-up Minion from Home Depot to decorate our lawn for Christmas and order a growler from our favorite brew pub to be delivered right to our doorstep.

We are, if nothing else, an America resourceful in our fear.

But our fear is real and palatable and its’ impacting our ability to fix our brokenness because we have lost our ability to trust anyone or anything. We scream all day long, “We want proof” and yet we don’t even know what proof we need.

“I want proof, I tell you. PROOF!”

To quote Robert L. Short from “The Gospel according to Charlie Brown,” “If we require some kind of sign, or “proof” for our belief in God, then we believe, or place our trust, not in God, but in the sign of proof.”

Lucy Van Pelt had it right, We are Blockheads!  Blockheads that require a sign of proof for everything and anything these days in order to not be afraid, not just not afraid of God as Short pointed out, but not afraid of each other.

“Yeah Jesus, that turning water into wine thing is pretty amazing…but…what else you got buddy?” seems to have become our defacto motto.

My God what has happened to us? What has happened to me?

You see, I’m part of the problem. I don’t push a positive narrative enough myself. If I’m honest with you, I cast stones your way much too often.

IF THOSE PEOPLE WOULD CHANGE, THEN….life would….life would what? Go back to normal?

Do I even want the normal that has been our last 5 years? Our last fifty? Oh don’t get me wrong. I love life, my life. But this fear thing that has become the normal American response to anything new and different or challenging of the norms…it’s just not working for me.

Before she died earlier this year, Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, tried to tell America that there was great value in looking at the complex issues that face us from multiple angles. She encouraged us to cultivate friendships, like the one she had with fellow Supreme Court Justice Antonine Scalia, a conservative Republican, with whom she often disagreed, but enjoyed not only a wonderful professional relationship, but her most treasured personal relationship outside of her husband and child.

“We are different, yet, we are one.”

Sweet words, from a sweet lady, but well, Ruth, here we sit, an America divided and full of fear. A fear that has kept me from fully enjoying our life together. Enjoying all that WE had together.    You and me, America.

And the truth is, this being right all the time isn’t what I thought it would be. Especially now, when a pandemic prevents me from seeing your smile, from giving you a hug, from arguing while we pass the turkey and gravy, from welcoming you, the stranger into my life.

I’m hungry for my America again.  I’m hungry for you.

I miss thinking of you as my friend, my neighbor, my relative, the stranger on the street without fear. I miss our connection, our arguments, our making up.

I’m so very tired of thinking of you as THOSE PEOPLE.  I am ashamed of that.

I last blogged back in April.  I had just survived COVID 19 and was coming off 4 years where I beat breast cancer and survived a total of 17 other surgeries. In my blog I pointed out all of the things my COVID 19 experience taught me; the things we needed to do to come together, to heal as a nation, to get through this pandemic challenge with a positive outlook.   I hit send and felt proud of my words.  I meant them, or so I thought.  I was ready to step positively into a pandemic with you.

But one month went by, then two, three, and I found myself wallowing in my own fear, playing the nightly game of spin the dial with cable news jockey’s, and courting internet saviors whose only job it is is to peddle “division” and cater to my anxiety.   

THOSE PEOPLE!  THOSE PEOPLE!  THOSE PEOPLE!!!

I put the blog aside.  I put positivity aside and I began to swallow the Kool-Aid of those intent on making big money off my fear, your fear.  Channel surfing for validation that my way is the ultimate truth.  The gospel according to Anne!

For eight months, I blinded myself to the fact that division, not truth, sells advertising and advertising brings in big money. Big money funds lavish lifestyles and we humans look at this and say, “I want that too!” and we keep consuming it, over and over and over again, until we believe division is our only path forward to the riches we so rightly deserve. Mine, mine…all mine!  

I tried to tell myself that what I was watching, what I was consuming had my best interest at heart. But…

Thou shall have no other God’s before ME! Exodus 20:2

Oh, how easy it is to forget dear Lord and elevate the language of hate when the riches of division are raining down on our heads. How easy it is to succumb to the f’bombs dropping on every crevice of American society, digging ourselves a tunnel into the mountainside of our pride, where sweeping generalizations, about who and what we are, rage like thunder through the vast canyons of our different so that we don’t hear anyone’s cry for help, but our own.

I am guilty of this, I admit it and it saddens me. I know better and I know you know better too. Maybe my excuse is the past four years of health issues has been a lot for me to process. I don’t like division, confrontation, and unpleasantness. I know the joy of being given a new lease on life time and again and I wanted the time to relish that. To wallow in my happy place.

But instead I sat, in my lounge chair gorging on cable fodder, sitting on the sidelines quietly waiting for “someone else” to make the first move.  The humane move.  The “What would Jesus Do” move. 

Know this, my beloved: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19

Still my thoughts, your thoughts, our ideas, our ability to express those ideas in a free and open society can be a hard pill to swallow and I’ve become bitter to a lot of it. Angry, resentful in fact.  I have hated seeing people tear each other apart on social media, especially strangers. I’ve wanted to shout at them,

“I know what it’s like to lay naked, prostrate on a hospital bed, my living or dying at the mercy of a single human who controls my oxygen source and to know with every fiber of my being that we aren’t given an indefinite opportunity to get it right!”

Folks, we only have this merry- go-round to live in the light. To bathe in our possible and to welcome the stranger.

But I forget too. I find myself yelling at the television set, ranting and raving about things that I have no control over. Wasting time depressed in the muck of all I can’t fix and hating every moment of it.  Maybe social media and cable news has made it easier to wrap ourselves in hate and fear.  I don’t know.  But regardless, we humans are still responsible for what we input into the machine and what we filter, myself included, and if I’ve become “woke” to anything this year, it’s that fearing my fellow citizens is not the key to my happiness and certainly isn’t good for my positivity.

For when we put our individual viewpoints into a box and say, “Only open if you agree,” we’ve ignored the very tenants of freedom and the power that the free exchange of ideas has on our ability to move the needle of change and propel our nation forward positively.   Each of us forward positively.

Maybe it’s because it’s hard?  Change is not easy.  Freedom isn’t easy.  Change is messy.  Freedom is messy. And messiness can be ugly at times, very ugly.

But looking at life through different lenses is our privilege for living in a free America and one I no longer want to take for granted.

The reality of life is we don’t ride the teetertotter of this great American freedom experiment by ourselves.  We share our air with each other.  Thus, the importance of masks (but I digress!). 

We need each other to go up and down.   

That’s America.  It takes two.  It takes us!  It takes you and me and he and she and it and they and whatever the heck pronouns you use to make it work. 

It takes all of us.  All 328.2 million of us working together to keep it pumping.  To keep it going across 3000 miles of sea to shining sea.  

So, how to fix it. Maybe it’s not that hard.

It’s time to do as Mark 12:31 says so simply:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I like the sound of that and the challenge in it.

To share our differences so that I open my eyes, my ears to your story, your injustice and pain and heartache, so that I may see the real you, no filter and without fear.

So, this Christmas, as I hang my box of treasured ornaments on my tree, I will think of you.

Some of you are old, wise and careworn; some of you are shiny and new and just beginning your stories.  Some of you are slightly broken, bent, misshapen, but in need of the same love and appreciation that we all crave. Some merely are here, there and everywhere, all searching for their voice, their place in the crowd. But all, equally important to the beauty of my tree.

God has told me to give you a seat at my table and do not fear. I need to listen to God. There is still time in 2020 for me to do that. For even thinking about it, giving up my fear, fills my heart with love and gratitude.

Love for you and gratitude for another chance to get life right.

America,  I love you. And I can’t think of a better Christmas gift to myself then to stop being afraid of you. What better way to salvage the memory of what has been a dismal 2020 then to give it a new and positive purpose!

Who’s ready to join me?

PositivelyAnne

Categories
Positive Mindset

Rejoice and be Glad!

Willis Tower 103 stories above Chicago

One of my favorite verses from the bible is from Psalm 118:24

This is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

In my humble opinion, the implications of this verse are powerful, less in the literally interpretation of creation and more in the subtext of opportunity…human opportunity.

As the sun rises and sets, we are given another chance to get it right.  To appreciate ourselves, our lives and to be joyful and glad for who and what we are.   

Now I’d like to ask you two simple questions and I am going to guess how you might answer them.

Are you glad, You, are you?   YES OR NO?    Do you rejoice in the You that is?  YES or NO?

  • “What do you mean by glad exactly?”  “I mean there are so many levels of gladness from extreme happiness to mild contentment and everything in between, so, can you further define the word “glad” for me?”
  • “What is there to be glad about, my life is in turmoil, period! “
  • “Of course, I’m glad! BUT there are hundreds of things I’m working on, so um, it’s hard to let others see the real me.  I’d rather envision the images of the “me” I want to be.  The perfect “me” I imagine myself to be.  The “me”, I’d be glad to know, not this mess of a person that I see in the mirror before me.  I can’t rejoice until I’m that person.”
  • “It’s selfish to be glad for ourselves when so many others are hurting.”
  • “People who are glad, are fake.  No one is glad.  Everyone is just going through the motions of life.  Anyone who posts “glad” things about themselves, happy pictures, happy stories, IS just catering to the fakeness that is life on this planet.     
  • If we say we are “glad” with ourselves, then we ignore all that is possible for us to be. We become stagnate, unable to move forward, past our own self-importance.

You may find my answers surprising, a bit bold, maybe even brash. Maybe you are even uncomfortable with my cynicism.   Isn’t this a positivity blog????

Well, if any or all of the above answers resonates with you, then I’m doing my job as a positivity blogger because we can’t move forward in our positivity journey until we accept the fact that we live in a world that makes money off the fact that we don’t like ourselves.   Lots and lots of money.  And we are being conditioned to think this way about gladness, about joy, about life because it lines the pockets of the few who don’t care whether we are glad or not as long as the money keeps rolling in.   

We’ve been led to believe that joy and gladness are counter culture to what the world wants for us.   So instead of rejoicing in the day the Lord hath made, we spend our days “oohing and ahhing” over our foibles to the degree that we give power to our own degradation.

We strip ourselves bare of any chance at happiness because it’s cooler to keep our happiness hidden, and more profitable if we are downright miserable.  

Hate of ourselves is a profitable business, it has been for a long time and we, the people, are its’ willing fuel. 

Countless advertising dollars are spent pumping our brains full of round the clock negativity.   Social media sites programmed to “push” our vulnerability to the forefront.   

Seriously, I can tell you it is nothing short of an uphill battle to be a positivity blogger in a world where likes and follows are freely given for negative content and positivity has become a pay per view proposition.

Those of us attempting to stoke the fires of glad tidings are left with the crumbs.  Crumbs that are readily available to multiply, but for which we are conditioned to think ourselves unworthy of the fight.  

Life’s algorithm seems to favor an economy where gladness is a four- letter word.  We are constantly looking in the mirror, both literally and figuratively, impressed not by what is good about ourselves, but by what is flawed. 

Now before I lose you to the doom and gloom, I have a quick fix for all of this.  The answer is simple. 

WE DON’T HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY.   I repeat.   WE DON’T HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY.   For those of you who do not like contractions, here it is again:

WE DO NOT HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY.

Nope, WE DO NOT.   We can choose to be glad for ourselves.  We can choose to post our gladness.  We can choose to promote positivity, in all its forms.  We can choose to say “HELL NO!” to the negativity machine.

But to do that we have to arm ourselves with a new attitude.  An attitude that stops expecting the world to change for us and instead we change ourselves.   

As I stated, we do live in a world where we are rewarded for being negative and that world encourages us to push gladness, true gladness in our human selves, to the back burner.   Now the way this succeeds is it plays into our vulnerability that true gladness in ourselves is all about perfection. 

And guess what people.  None of us is perfect.  Nope, not me, not you, not anyone.  

So, first things first.  Say to yourself: 

I AM NOT PERFECT and THAT IS 100 PERCENT OK.

Simply put, Let Perfection Go!  

O.k., so none of us is perfect. What’s next?

Well now we need to open our eyes to what we like about ourselves internally.   Notice, I’m not talking about physical beauty.  

I hate to burst your ego, but physical beauty is truly subjective and it’s virtually impossible to get consensus on what is physically beautiful and it’s the reason companies and their advertisers, since time immortal, have spent billions of dollars trying to convince us that physical beauty is important because no one can agree on exactly what that benchmark is.   

So, forget your outside and focus on your inner beauty.  Most everyone has something they like about themselves internally.   Are you kind, considerate, compassionate, a quick study, a good listener, a good speaker, a motivator, focused, driven, energetic, positive, creative, romantic, resourceful, thoughtful, gentle, quiet, reserved, introvert, extrovert, comedic, entertaining…you get the idea!

Pick something, one thing.   My inner beauty is my intuition.   I can read a situation, a room, pretty quickly.   I wasn’t always aware I had this skill or aware of how valuable it would be in my life.   When I was an intern in my first job after college, a colleague of mine pointed out the importance of learning how to read the dynamics of a situation before jumping in with both feet to resolve it.  She told me intuition was an important skill.  I quickly realized it was a skill that came naturally to me, intuitively, and it is a skill that has served me well in every aspect of my life.

My intuition has enabled me to see the blessings in almost every situation.  I quickly understand that “drama” in my life can also be the stepping stone to something even better.  Be it tools to help me manage the situation or critical information that keeps me moving forward.   So, I’m less reactive to change and more proactive about looking for the blessings.

So, let your inner beauty have a voice and rejoice in it!

Third, we live in a world where we have access to “the world” in real time.  Anything we want to see and anywhere we want to experience is pretty much at our fingertips.  But, as I stated before, life’s algorithms push us to seek out the negative and feel guilty when we don’t.  

A couple examples:  How many of you spend time looking at all the negative comments about a movie, a concert, a place you want to visit or eat at before you decide to go there?  How many of you stress about all the negative things that can happen when visiting family and friends, instead of focusing on all the joyful possibilities?

Again, the push for us to choose the negative has us automatically second guessing everything.  Maybe the restaurant isn’t as good as we imagine.  Maybe travelling to Europe isn’t as safe as we hope it would be.  Maybe my dream job isn’t going to be so dreamy if what I’m reading on-line is true. Maybe my grandma will be crabby or my cousins boring.

And…maybe you will get cancer or divorced or struck by lightning.   Yep, bad stuff happens to all of us.  That is a fact.   So, rewire yourself to seek out the positive without hesitation.  Don’t let the advertisers, the influencers, the negativity peddlers rob you of your joy.  And forget the guilt.  We can’t predict every negative thing in life.  And to be honest, if we could, life would be boring. 

I recently planned a trip to Chicago with my daughter and when planning for the trip, instead of just entering into the internet search engine, “Things to do in Chicago”, where I was guaranteed to see a plethora of negative feedback, I instead input the following:

“Fun and Positive Only” things to Do in Chicago.

Sounds silly I know, but…

Over 100 different activities popped up, all FUN and AFFORDABLE and there was not a single negative comment on any of the activities! The exciting thing was that these activities led us to discover other positive experiences (impromptu salsa dancing in Millennium Park comes to mind) and all told, it was one of the best vacations I have ever had.

So, my point is this, you can be glad.  You really can.  You can ignore the negative and seek out the positive EVERY SINGLE TIME!    See that movie you want.  Enjoy new restaurants.  Visit family and friends without worry.  

Let the world see the real you…your inner gladness.

Do not hesitate to post to your Facebook or Instagram the fun you are having.  So, what if someone thinks:  

What an ego!  What a self-absorbed narcissist!  What a phony!

Who cares what they think, because you will know the positive truth because you are living it!!!

You are the living embodiment of gladness and what Psalm 118:24 is all about.   

REJOICE.  OWN IT. SHARE IT.  Life is too short not to SHOUT IT TO THE WORLD!

I AM GLAD!!!

PositivelyAnne.com

This is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

All are welcome to like and follow PositivelyAnne. Let me know what brings you joy and gladness? How do you push back on the negative in life?

Categories
Positive Mindset

The Spontaneity Fight

I’ve worked so hard to build a beautiful life for my husband and kids, dedicating myself to creating a home environment that is warm and inviting and welcoming to all. 

I’ve spent years crafting a career that I felt was worthy and purposeful, going above and beyond in my education so that I modeled for my children the benefits of a lifetime invested in continuous learning and self-improvement.  For thirty years, I have been a dedicated volunteer in my church and community, devoted to sharing Jesus message of shalom and inclusion and helping all those in need.    I have cultivated friendships I treasure and enjoyed travel, dining and cultural and sporting experiences with my husband, family and friends.  

It has been a good life, a happy life, a positive life by all accounts that I’ve had a large hand in creating.

But a small, barely detectible, cancer tumor in my right breast forced me to reckon with the fact that no matter how hard I try, I am never going to be 100 percent the architect of my own destiny.

Why?  Because life, by its’ very nature is spontaneous, and we humans spend a whole lot of time trying to figure out ways to sabotage that spontaneity.  Without thinking, we all work tirelessly to reign spontaneity in, so that we can control it, manipulate it for our own purposes, and get angry at it for disrupting our plans.   I am a master at it.

I love to fight with spontaneity.

How dare you trample on my life’s blue print!  It’s my life spontaneity, not yours!!!

In my own defense, it is not that I am closed to spontaneity.  Far from it.  A lot of people tell me I adapt well to changes and can catch a curve ball better than most.  I like “different” and enjoy the mix of planned and unplanned in my life so spontaneity isn’t such a foreign concept.

But that being said, going off-script can still bring on a case of the tummy butterflies.  It sometimes seems unnatural, against the grain of how I was conditioned by this world to view a well-planned, orderly life.

I guess it would be understandable if that logic was applicable only to something as serious as cancer.  But truth be told, despite wanting to embrace the “idea” of spontaneity, I can only take impromptu “go with the flow” for so long before I am rounding up the cattle and putting them back in the pen.   Spontaneity scares the hell out of me because the world doesn’t like it.    No wandering little doggies running roughshod over our master plan.

I am wired by this world to take all of the loose ends of life and create some semblance of order and balance I can comfortably live with.  When the pendulum swings too far out of the norm, I’m anxious.  When the pendulum stops swinging, I’m anxious.  It’s hard to find a happy medium in the spontaneity game when all we do is fight it.

I am not alone in this. Embracing spontaneity sounds great and all, but if social media has anything to say about it, spontaneity is just a buzz word for flaky, unmotivated, undisciplined chaos?

At least that’s what we are force fed to believe.   Oh, not necessarily by our parents or even by anyone related to us, but everything from schools, to employers, to just about every aspect of marketing in this world leads us to believe that success is akin to having our lives planned out, every “I” dotted and “t” crossed, and failure is akin to leaving life up to chance. 

We pack our lives so full of “must do’s” that there is no time for discovery, possibilities, opportunities.  We have forgotten that while spontaneity can bring on such things as cancer, it can also bring the cure, in the form of unexpected blessings, things we never imagined.

Cancer showed up spontaneously one February in my life and I discovered that my constant mapping and remapping of my life plan was not a match for good ol’ spontaneous cancer.  If I was going to beat this disease, oh not physically beat it, the medical professionals were on top of that, but emotionally beat it, I was going to have to rewire my mind to think differently about what it means to be absorbed with controlling my life path and leaving nothing to chance.   

I had to think of spontaneity in new and different ways.  I had to stop fighting it and do two specific things:

Accept that Spontaneity doesn’t just happen without a lot of hard work

While I was going through a boatload of pencil lead crafting my life plan, I never once thought about how spontaneity would fit into my narrative.  The blanks on my calendar made me nervous, less self-important, less everything.  So, I filled them in.  That is why spontaneity requires a lot of hard work.  Hard work because we are hard wired to over plan, over schedule.    Open spaces on a calendar equals vulnerability.  Vulnerability equals the possibility of failure and well, as I said earlier, failure isn’t a popular choice these days.   But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The reality is that spontaneity isn’t calendar driven.  It doesn’t wait around for those days when we have nothing to do.  In fact, more often than not, it shows up when we are at our busiest.

Because the funny thing about spontaneity is that when it doesn’t work out, somehow, someone or something comes into our lives spontaneously to help us through it.    You and I both know it’s true.  The internet knows it’s true and it’s why we all scour and search for those feel good stories everyday where we can click “like” because deep- down we really want to believe.  Maybe that’s a God thing, some sort of divine intervention or better yet, maybe it doesn’t need a label.  But I can tell you people keep coming into my life spontaneously over and over again that make a difference and I’m betting it’s happening to you too!

Getting Real with Spontaneity

I didn’t have to do anything to “get cancer.”  One day I didn’t have it and the next day I did.  It was the reality of my world.  A spontaneous blotch and initially I fought it.

I fought it with everything I had emotionally.  I had unrealistic expectations about spontaneity being only good things, and suddenly waking up one day with cancer fueled my anger and frustration and disappointment in all things impromptu.  For those initial first months, it was like being on a never-ending emotional treadmill and I was losing steam.

Fighting spontaneity took over my life.  I closed myself off from everyone.  Went internal, self- absorbed with my own importance and control.  My behavior was stifling my ability to move forward, to take new paths, and caused me to spend an inordinate amount of time wallowing in my problems and in a lot of ways, gaslighting new opportunities.   

But after a bit, I grew sick of my own self-importance.  I became curious if the pendulum of my life only swung one way. Negative!  My calendar was full, but my life was not.

What if, I opened myself up to being blessed spontaneously in a positive way?  What if, I had no idea in what form or from whom those blessings would come, but I would remain open to it?

It was time to take the boxing gloves off and let spontaneity have its’ way with my life.

As a start, I focused my energy and attention on people, places and things that brought me joy.   I made a conscious effort to not make plans, but be open to plans, spontaneous plans.  I had to push aside the fear that something would go wrong.   I had a lot of blanks on my calendar.

Literally, over-night, so many doors opened for me.   Invitations to do all sorts of things just materialized.  Impromptu fun with friends, trying new restaurants with my hubby, opening the front door to a neighbor with an extra loaf of the best fresh baked bread I’ve ever had.     

On impulse I booked a vacation to Texas, a place my husband and I had never been, to attend HGTV’s, Chip and Joanna Gaines, “Silobration” in Waco.  It turned out to be one of the best unscripted vacations my husband and I have ever had and was a beautiful reminder that one of the things that drew us to each other back in college was our mutual love for unplanned adventure.  Without much thought, I agreed to visit an Indian Mission in Oaks, Oklahoma with an acquaintance from church and this morphed into a beautiful friendship between us that I will always treasure and a new opportunity for me to make a difference in the lives of children half way across the country.

Again, and again, I challenged myself to see both sides of the spontaneity coin.  Bad stuff was going to happen, but good stuff was happening too…a whole lotta good stuff.  I had to keep my heart open and stay out of the boxing ring.

I began to meet people, almost daily, in my cancer journey that inspired me.  People who helped me see the best in me and who seemed overjoyed that I was in their life.  I wrote a poem to my radiation team as a thank you for their kindness and it now hangs on the wall of the radiation center.  I opened up about my cancer with family, friends, my church, not in a Debbie Downer kind of way, but in sharing all of the positive, unplanned things that kept happening to me spontaneously despite my health issues.

It was as if spontaneity was a fuel that was propelling me forward.  Past all of the angst of surgery after surgery.  Past all of the negative side effects and uncomfortable days.  Opportunity after opportunity to be blessed.   

Sunday, Father’s Day, was my three- year anniversary of my bi-lateral mastectomy.  It could have been a depressing day, a reminder of all I had spontaneously lost.   Instead, I went out and played an impromptu game of frisbee golf with my family and damn, my muscles are sore as hell, but I didn’t suck at it.  Not at all.

So, I’ve decided to permanently hang up my boxing gloves and make peace with spontaneity.  It is welcome in my life.

Fribee Golf Fun

The fight is over. 

I have won. You can too!

PositivelyAnne

All Are Welcome to like and follow my blog either here or on Facebook. I also have an Instagram where I post daily positive photo reminders.

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Positive Mindset

“Que Sera, Sera, what will be, will be!”

Dear Doris Day,

I heard that you died today at the age of 97.   A long life by any stretch of the imagination.   

They say you will be cremated, as you wished, without any fanfare.  I’m sorry if I’m intruding on your final wishes, but I can’t let you go like that.

Doris Day, you were an amazing actress, singer and advocate.  You were a complicated woman whose existence deserves to be more than a footnote gracing the pages of a dust covered history book or an inaccurate page in Wikipedia.  You deserve more than an annual birthday celebration on Turner Classic Movies, a birthdate that my daughter proudly shares with you by the way, or the occasional chuckle I get when I’m  in the mood to wear one of my many hats and remember that it was you who taught me how a silly hat could take the stuffiness out of a room full of business suits.

Although we never met, you have been this unwavering role model of positivity in the recesses of my existence for over half my life. 

Why? 

Well, for one thing, you never let tragedy, heartbreak, or disappointments stop you from moving forward.   You were this picture-perfect screen image of the all-American woman and yet, your private life was a complicated series of twists and turns and more than the occasional cliff dive.   You could have shouted from the roof tops how unfair it all was and no one would have blamed you.  Wolves in sheep’s clothing and all of that.   Instead you chose to see the good in people.  Find the blessings, the positive lessons to be learned and without insulting your fans, you enlightened them that “perfect” is not at all what we ultimately should strive for as human beings.

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

You were born Doris Mary Kappelhoff of Cincinatti, but Hollywood changed your name to “Doris Day” after the song “Day after Day” became a hit.  The name Doris Day sounded so much sunnier and happier, less German (remember we were heading into WWII) than Doris Kappelhoff.     I imagine it might have been a relief for you to discard your heritage, after all your father discarded his family for another woman and left your mom to care for you and your brother at a time when divorce was a four-letter word. Then you had to quickly reinvent yourself to the public after a car accident cut short your meteoric rise as part of a dancing duo.  Set-backs, always set-backs.

But just like the song, Que Sera, Sera, and your new name, you took whatever life had to offer you day by day.   The twists and turns and complications a minor roadblock to all life had in store.

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

Doris, you had these twinkly blue eyes that ignited with mischief and knowing, above a spray of freckles that started on one cheekbone, paraded across your nose and landed on the other side of your face.  In an era of glamorous leading ladies, you stood out like a country girl at a picnic.  

I have always had freckles, I can relate.

The movie and television executives didn’t much care for your freckles and would layer pancake make up on your face to try to hide them.  But somehow, some way, those freckles would make an appearance in each and every movie and television program you made, blinking brightly as if to say, “Hey America, this is me!”  ‘

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

My connection to you began when I first heard you sing, “Que Sera Sera.”   I think it was the theme song to your television show, but I might have heard it from one of your movies.  I don’t remember which, but the lyrics always resonated with me.

“When I was just a little girl, I ask my mother what will I be?”   “Will I be pretty, will I be rich, here’s what she said to me.  Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be, the futures not ours to see, Que Sera, Sera…what will be will be.”

I read that you didn’t really like the song.  You thought it a children’s song compared to the other songs you were blessed to sing in your lifetime and figured it would fade quickly if you ignored it.  But over time, the song took on a life of its own.  Representing women, men, all those seeking acceptance.  You understood the song stood for our need as human beings to be loved and wanted and appreciated.  But more than that, you understood that despite your own personal dislike of the tune, the song served as a reminder that the human narrative isn’t necessarily all our own doing.   We can all make a difference.  So, you unselfishly let your musical legacy be defined by this song.

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

Doris, you had this voice that took on a lyric and drew us in. It would start soft as a whisper. Notes melodically floating through air over mind and skin and then building, carefully building until those beautiful notes would be set free to soar magnificently into the great beyond.

But it was how you learned to sing that way that impressed me the most.  At a time when segregation was common place in America, you proudly stated to all that your vocal inspiration was the great African American jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald.   You said Ella had a keen understanding of how to master not only the melody, but create clean, relatable connections to the lyric and that you would practice singing to her over and over to get the nuances of a song just right.

At the time of those comments, it would be thirty years until the Civil Rights Movement, but here you were a white girl from Ohio openly promoting a person of color as their singing inspiration.   America didn’t blink because you didn’t.   

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

In the movies Doris, you were (and are) one of the few actors, man or woman, to show that human beings are multi-dimensional and capable of shape shifting between the silly absurdities of day to day life and corresponding gut punches of chaotic drama.  You also proved that women could hold their own with a man in a script and on-screen.

Never once did I think you were miscast in any of the thirty-nine films you made.  Some I liked better than others, some I can quote every line, but you owned every scene you were in.  

Silly musical comedies that provided a welcome respite from a war weary nation; satirical movies that made fun of gender stereotypes and romance in a way that allowed us to laugh at the absurdity of the mating dance, and powerful dramas that showcased the physical and emotional abuse of women in a way that shed light on the complexities of human relationships. 

Each role you played left a footprint on celluloid that resonates today because you got that life on film wasn’t much different than real life.  Your own life. Our lives.  My life.  We watched you not so much to escape, as to be reminded that if Doris Day can handle all the silly, absurd and horrible crap of life, then so can we!

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.    

You made three iconic movies with Rock Hudson. America believed you as a couple. You even had pet names for each other, Ernie and Eunice. Years after your movie career ended, you invited Rock to be the first guest on your new television show for the Christian Broadcast Network called, “Doris Day’s Friends”. Rock was quietly suffering in silence from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and for which the public had been subjected to endless rumors as to how you could “catch AIDS”. You somehow knew your interview with Rock would be your last time together and on camera, you gave him a big hug and planted a huge kiss on him. A simple and kind gesture friend to friend. But when it became known that Rock had AIDS, the media went nuts.

“Aren’t you afraid of getting AIDS?” the reporters asked.  “Did you swap spit?”

“No, my friend is sick and what he needed from me was kindness and empathy. I gave my dear friend a hug and a kiss, end of story.”  The public response was immediate.  If America’s sweetheart said AIDS was something to fight, not to fear, then so be it.   Funding for research came pouring in, and compassion became the order of the day for victims.

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

Doris, when your small dog was run over by a car, out of your sorrow you were inspired to create the Doris Day Animal League (DDAL)to reduce pain, suffering and cruelty to all animals.   When the DDAL merged in 2006 with the Humane Society of the United States it became the single biggest advocate for animal rights in the nation.

One of your first major national initiatives, that continues to this day, was to create an annual “Spay and Neuter your Pets Day” to prevent shelters filling up with unwanted animals.  You then created one of the first “pet friendly” inn’s in America in Carmel, California that has served as a role model for the integration of humans and people in recreational and entertainment spaces.

I wonder if you ever comprehended how your simple act of compassion for your own pet set a course for this country to appreciate and value all of God’s creatures?

Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be.

Doris, how you lived your life taught me that every individual has the power to be a positive role model.  We must remember that the song each of us sings is of value, but is not something everyone appreciates.  We must cultivate that understanding by modeling empathy and love. We need not fear our different, or the different in others. It’s ok. to disagree, to fight, even to argue, but in a way that promotes dialogue, diversity of opinion and not discord.   

We must invite others to our table.

For in the end, Doris your legacy is that our journey on this planet is going to be paved with a whole lot of “Que Sera, Sera’s” and it is up to each of us as individuals what we do with it.

Thank you for your positive example of a life well lived.

PositivelyAnne

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Positive Mindset

Getting Lost in the Blessings

Snow in May. Idyllwild, CA

Have you ever spent an entire day analyzing the one thing that went wrong, instead of praising the hundreds of little things that went right?   Do you feel like positivity is always something you are constantly chasing, instead of embracing?  

If you answered, “Yes”, then let me reassure you, first and foremost, I’m right there with you and second, you are one hundred percent normal!

This pattern of negative self-absorption we are inclined to embrace seems as natural as breathing, but I am convinced that with dedicated mindfulness to think differently, it doesn’t have to be. For almost three years now, I have been training myself to get lost in the blessings and while it’s been one tough go, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

The journey to recognize I needed to do this was not an easy one and in fact, a bit humbling, because it involved deflating an ego, I didn’t even know I had.

I began to see this aspect of my personality reveal itself during the first few weeks after my cancer diagnosis in early 2016.   I’m a solution minded person.  I don’t like unsolved problems. Resolution without solution, in my world, leaves too many carrots dangling.  It didn’t take long after I started talking to cancer specialists to realize that cancer was not going to be a quick fix and no one, absolutely no one, was going to give me any guarantees.  

Well my solution-oriented mind just wouldn’t accept that.  So before work, after work and into the wee hours of the morning, I would click and scroll my way through negative LALA land (aka, the internet) to find a solution to my health issues that would prove all the experts wrong.   My world didn’t have to change.  Cancer did.  That was all there was to it, period, end of story!

I was going to be the miracle of all miracles. 

I began to feel resentful waiting around for test results.  Didn’t the labs know I had cancer?  Why were my doctors making me wait for things when I could be dying?   How inconsiderate everyone was to keep acting like everything was normal, when my world was crumbling and falling apart.

For weeks, I aggressively gave the front page of my world over to negative thinking.  My outward face to the public was a frozen mask of happiness, but inside I was truly frozen in a wasteland of negative thinking. 

That is until one day, about a week before my surgery to remove my cancer tumor, I had an encounter with a woman standing in front of me in the check-out line at the grocery store that would change my life.

This woman was hard not to notice.  She was very pale, completely bald and her cheeks were distorted like a chipmunk, the rest of her face completely round like the moon. 

She was slowly loading all of her purchases onto the grocery conveyor.  Each peach, one at a time.  Each tomato, one at a time.   The line behind me was two people long.  The look of impatience on their faces was evident.  The woman continued, one potato, two potato, three potato, four.  I’m not trying to be funny, but I literally remember that children’s game popping into my head as she methodically stacked potatoes on the conveyor.   

Was this woman a nut?   Couldn’t she see the line was getting longer?   Hurry it up!  Hurry it up!

I turned around to look behind me again and now there were at least three more people in line.   

I started to ask her if I could help her.   She wobbly loaded a jug of ice tea onto the conveyor, turned to look at me and said:

“Before cancer, I would never have understood the blessing in a peach or a tomato or a banana.   I would come to the grocery store and rush to load my cart, rush home and put it all away and I’m ashamed to admit, sometimes I would forget about the things I had bought, things I absolutely had to have in the moment, until I would find them rotting on the kitchen counter or spoiled in the refrigerator.  You know how it is? But I don’t do that anymore.  Each peach, each tomato, each banana is a blessing to me.   I am lucky I can enjoy these things.  Their different tastes and the smells (I remember she held a peach out for me to sniff), the ability to afford them and share them with my family.  Before cancer I never understood the blessings in being able to pick up a jug of ice tea.   I have bone cancer and the chemo makes me a little loopy, so I count out my fruit and veggies to make sure I have what I need and I am grateful for each thing.  I hate that it makes you and all the others in line uncomfortable.  But I decided it was time to let my ego go…the part of me that had to control everything and just accept the blessings.”

I honestly didn’t know what to say to her.  How did she know what I was feeling inside, what I needed to hear that day, in that very moment?  Was she psychic?  I remember turning and looking at the man behind me and he had tears in his eyes.  He reached over and squeezed my elbow and in almost a whisper he said, “My wife died last year of bone cancer.”  

I blurted out, “I have breast cancer.”   The cashier stood there, a young girl, and she said, “my grandma is doing chemo now.”

The woman reached over to grab my hand.   “Train yourself to look for the blessings.  It’s not easy, but maybe we were all meant to meet today so that we could bless each other.  How cool is that?!”  

It sounds so dramatic, but it really was just a conversation.   Over in a matter of a couple minutes.  But it was a couple minutes of clarity that was life changing for me.

I had to deflate my ego, the thing that was so huge it was blocking my ability to see the blessings in the every day and had been letting my cancer diagnosis control my life.    My ego that had such a tight grip on my happiness that it was pushing negativity to the forefront.   My ego that thought it knew best, knew better, knew more than the doctors and specialists and trained medical professionals who were charged with saving my life.   My ego who sought out internet sites to verify my negativity and verify that “I was right!” 

I had to deflate my ego that said I can fix all things.  I can do it alone.  I don’t need anyone.

But I do. I need the blessings.

My wonderful husband who understands my rollercoaster of emotions better than anyone, and still loves me going on thirty-five years together.   

My two sons and my daughter who get my sense of humor, my quirky love of collecting chicken art and my drive to create, motivate and be the best I can be.  They make me proud to be their mama every day of my life.

My parents, brother, brother and sisters in-law, aunts and uncles and cousins, niece and nephew whose love and support have touched my heart and who have made me hungry and curious to know more about my ancestry.

My diverse group of friends who challenge me to think, to ponder, to wonder, to laugh and have fun.

My animals who have shown me the face of unconditional love.

My Pastors and church family who have inspired me to move my faith from something I practice to something I live.    

My medical team who believe in me, even when I do not believe in myself.

And especially the thousands of strangers I have met along the way, in person and in cyber-space, especially in the last three years, who’s kind words, wisdom, laughter and strength have sustained me in my darkest hours.  Some have become dear friends and I am so very grateful for how they continue to bless my life.

Although I still have my negative days and still carry around a few pounds I’d like to get rid of, both literally and emotionally, the weight of negativity on my shoulders has been lightened. 

The more I train myself to look for the blessings, my burden is less and less each day.   I am happier, grateful and much more positive.   

I hope you try it.   What have you got to lose, except a few pounds of negativity?!

PositivelyAnne

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Positive Mindset

The Pull of Negativity

Do you ever have one of those days where life is cruising along on positive speed and then for some reason, you feel the pull of negativity and just like that, your day has gone from milestone to millstone?

I have a theory about that.   Maybe you will agree or maybe you won’t, but my theory is that we are supposed to have days like that, at least until we learn to think differently.  

The reason has to do with how we are wired as human beings.  We have a hard time unconditionally accepting positive anything without some caveat being attached to it.  For us to truly develop an understanding and appreciation of the joy that positivity can bring into our lives, our imperfect human selves need balance and as such we invite good ol’ negativity to the table time and time again.  

In other words, we need some negative sprinkled into our positive lives in order to continue our positive journey forward. 

That seems rather confusing I know and it’s taken me forever to figure it out, but here is an example that happened to me recently that illustrates what I mean.  

A couple weeks ago, I had a very good day.

I sat down to write about 730am and continued for the next six hours pretty much non-stop.  My hands were literally flying over the keyboard, the flow of the ideas in my head perfectly translating into the words I wanted on the page.  For those of you who write, you know that sometimes the vision of what’s in our head isn’t exactly what translates to paper.   So, when it happens, it is a very good day. 

My back started to ache from being glued to my desk chair for so many hours and although I probably could have continued to write, my positive self knew it was time to get some exercise and keep the positive momentum going. My office window looks directly down onto our garden below and I spied a few weeds sprouting, a couple rouge snails encroaching on my newly planted veggies.   A positive opportunity to check off a couple chores, while making my Fitbit happy.  All good things.  

Two hours and a chipped manicure later, I had won the battle of the weeds and snails and had added another three thousand steps to my Fitbit and decided to reward my positive achievements with a generous glass of wine (emphasis on the generous), a little dish of wasabi trail mix and some quality time with my book club read before my hubby came home from work.

Parking myself on the couch, I dived into Hemingway and the Spanish Civil War, mindlessly reaching for my wine glass and a few Wasabi nibbles every now and then.

“Psssst!” 

Absently I looked up from my book. 

“Pssst!”

It was only me and the cats in the house, but still, I distinctly heard what sounded like someone trying to get my attention.   

I looked across the room at the sixty-inch box of doom and gloom affixed to the wall.  

“Hey girl, heard you had a positive day.  That’s good, really, really good, you’ve got your wine, your wasabi trail mix, your book, but it’s all so positive….”

Is my television set talking to me?   Eyes wide, I grabbed my wine glass and took a big gulp.

“Girl, you worked hard all day.  Productive.  Positive all the way around.  But   deep down you are worried things have been just a little too positive today.  Too smooth, no bumps in the road.  That makes you uncomfortable, right? 

“I’m not worried things have gone too positive today,” I say out loud to the television, “I AM NOT!”

Still my hand started to reach for the remote control, hovering. 

“Turn me on.  You know you want to!  Aren’t you the least bit curious if the Hallmark channel will bring back “When Calls the Heart?”  I mean who would have thought a goodie-goodie like Aunt Becky (aka Lori Loughlin from Full House days) would be capable of buying her daughers way into USC?   C’mon, you know there are probably four or five channels green screened with Ex-Justice Department officials discussing all the days political dirt.   Oooh, how about one of those home improvement channels where you can listen to people whine about not having an open floor plan?  I think one of those commercials for the Humane Society is on…you know the ones that show abused pets as Sarah McLaughlin sings “Arms of the Angel?”  

All that juicy negativity!

I took another huge gulp of wine and choked.

“Pick up the remote…pick up the remote…c’mon you know you want to!”

“I’m reading my book!  I’ve got my wine and my wasabi nuts, why do I need to turn on the television set?”

I didn’t need to.  I had a good day.  A completely positive day!  However, despite the positive vibes still reverberating through my body the pull of negativity was calling me and I pressed the remote button.

Like some mindless idiot, I began flipping, flipping, flipping, between multiple cable news channels looking for some nasty gossip of Aunt Becky and Hallmark; waded through five stations of unemployed justice department officials talking about how everyone hates everyone and was sobbing my eyes out watching a commercial featuring a dog with mange, eyes pleading at me to save it, when my husband walked in the front door.

Has this type of thing ever happened to you?

There you are, ready to immerse yourself in a little “me” time to celebrate the fact that you’ve had a perfectly good day.   Maybe it’s not in your top ten of good days, but on the positivity scale, you have no complaints. You are all set to keep the positivity party going when for some reason you feel the pull to seek the dark side calling.

Sometimes it’s completely understandable.  Your life is cruising along great and then like a trip wire, you get news you have cancer or heart disease, your favorite aunt is dying or your job is being eliminated and just like that, you find yourself stumbling and tumbling into negative territory.     

We’ve all been there and if you haven’t, you might want to think about an Ancestry test to determine if you are a Vulcan, emotionless and related to Spock. 

But fortunately, or unfortunately (depending on your viewpoint), most of us feel and that means we are vulnerable to the negative in these types of situations.

That being said, what about the times when there is no trip wire, no obvious stumbling block for you to overcome in your positive day? Just like the pretty great day I was having before my remote-control trigger finger went in search of everything Darth Vader!!!

Why do we constantly do this to our positive selves?  Why did I do it to myself? 

One possible reason is that our human selves seek out negativity in response to positivity as a result of guilt.  

“Maybe I don’t deserve all of this positivity!”

I know in my own life, I can recall many times I have talked myself into thinking my positive experiences were not all that positive by intentionally picking them apart, looking for the loopholes.  

I also know I’ve gone through phases where I thought that embracing my positive self would somehow makes me less relatable to my family and friends.  That somehow, someway, if I gave all the power to positive thinking, positive behavior and positive living, I’d lose sight of the negative and become self-absorbed and unable to feel empathy towards those going through rough times.

“Oh, there SHE goes again, everything’s perfect in her world all the time!”  

As an introvert, the idea of people thinking this about me literally tore me apart inside.  Even though no one has ever said this to me or implied it of me.

What I’ve basically done is unconsciously instituted a sort of cover for both of these issues by reinforcing my daily positives with negative reinforcements.  In other words, I go searching for something negative to remind me how truly blessed I really am.  That’s why I picked up the remote the other day to seek out something negative.

A negative capstone to my day.

How messed up is that? It’s pretty messed up. BUT I guess it just proves I’m human and not Vulcan.

But you know something, the more I delve into this positivity thing, the more I feel like maybe it’s o.k. if the teeter totter of life isn’t quite balanced.  Maybe I don’t have to go in search of something negative to balance out the good. Maybe life can just be good, period!

Why do Positivity and Negativity have to share the ride?   Up and Down they go.  Up and Down.   Up and Down.

Sometimes I’d like to just go up, up, up and stay there.  How about you?  

It’s something I’m planning on really working on this summer by developing my level of trust and acceptance that if life is going great, then it’s o.k. to be positive and leave it at that.   Total acceptance of the positive. Well at least half acceptance of the positive is a good start. I’ll try!

But until that time, I’ll placate my negative side with a few moments of cable nastiness about Aunt Becky and her demise and then I’ll get back to appreciating my very positive life by drinking my wine, reading my book and …

Oh crap, I think the cat just hacked up a wasabi nut on my carpet.   UGGGH!!!!

Positively Anne

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Positive Mindset

Steps to avoiding the rabbit hole of negativity

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I am convinced that quickest way to slide down the rabbit hole of negativity is to allow yourself to become a complacent participant in life by cutting off your connectivity with others.

Look, I get it, maybe you are going through cancer treatment or other health issues, or you are dealing with an unexpected financial burden, or maybe a break-up, death of a loved one, loss of a job.  All of that sucks!  It does.  It’s not fun, it’s not happy, it’s not joyful, so it’s understandable if you have some days where getting out of bed and facing the world isn’t exactly something you want to do.

So, give yourself permission to take a day or two to pay homage to the stress of your situation.   

The reality of negative situations is that they rarely resolve in a half hour like a television sitcom.    Anyone ever waited weeks for their cancer test results to come back?  I know I have.  What about watching your bank account dwindle and the bills pile up, or sitting in your staff meeting at work and being told that the company is being sold and your job is well, hmmm, sort of secure for now.  I can imagine a sea of hands are being raised right now.

Stress from negative situations is real, you feel it, so it’s important that you acknowledge it. 

Wallow in bed all day, watch some rom coms, eat that pint of Ben and Jerry’s and let yourself cry.   Whatever stress reliever works for you, as long as it’s safe and not causing you or anyone else harm, you are doing yourself a big positivity favor.

You are giving your mind and body the gift of time by acknowledging the truth that your situation is real, painful, uncomfortable and not at all what you had planned for your life. You are acknowledging that the road ahead may be challenging and uncertain and that you are scared.        

You are giving yourself a few valuable days to come to terms with the fact that you are human and the way forward out of the negative abyss is to make peace with your vulnerability, by acknowledging it and then allowing positivity to propel you forward.

But don’t let yourself wallow too long.  Say to yourself,

“ENOUGH! IT’S NOW TIME TO GET MYSELF UP,

PUT MYSELF BACK OUT THERE

AND LIVE MY LIFE!”

And my friends, that is a hard, hard thing.   Why?  Because we humans seem to be hardwired to handle stressful situations not by walking head first into the storm, but by sitting around and analyzing the “what if’s” and the “why me” until the negative of our situation becomes our security blanket.

The funny thing is negativity isn’t a warm and fuzzy thing.   Negativity is sterile and cold and lonely.

Kind of like concrete.  That’s why we feel so weighted down by negative thinking. The tighter we pull the negativity blanket around ourselves, the more we find ourselves feeling isolated, angry, frozen.  Heavy!

So, what can you do to stop being complacent, to feel confident that you can drop the negativity blanket and let positivity do its thing?

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First, it’s important to find good listeners.

You’ve allowed yourself to wallow in your misery for a day or so and now it’s time to get back out there.  But you have a lot on your mind.  A lot that needs sorted out.  A lot you have to say.  A lot you need help working through.   So, it’s time to find a good listener.

That person might be your spouse or partner or another loved one, a teacher, a counselor, a Pastor, a neighbor, a work colleague.  Approach them first with the fact that you are scared and feeling stressed and just need someone to listen.   Be honest, that you aren’t looking for them to solve your situation, only that you need to connect with another human being and share your thoughts.

If your negative journey is more than a quick fix, be prepared to be spend time cultivating multiple listeners.

Look, it’s natural that you may automatically think nothing of purging your soul to your husband, roommate, best friend.   They know you the best, have been with you through thick and thin and always seem a willing ear.  But, it’s important not to let your negative situation blind you to the fact that what you are about to share with your trusted companion, may impact them in an emotionally negative way.  Compassionate people tend to blame themselves for things they can’t control.  Gee, if I had only seen the signs, maybe I could have helped prevent my child’s divorce.  Maybe if I had cooked healthier meals my spouse wouldn’t have gotten cancer.  If I hadn’t insisted on renting that beach house this summer, we would have had a little extra cash to cover my husband’s job loss.

So, as you are purging your soul to your trusted listener, look for the signs that maybe, just maybe, it’s more than they can handle.   Ask them if it’s too much and do not be offended if they tell you it is.   Just thank them for listening and work on cultivating other listeners.   

Around the time I got cancer, my husband, my “go to listener” had to deal with not only my situation, but with the rapidly declining health of his father, who lived 90 miles away.  One of the best decisions I made was to ask others: my older children, my church family and some wonderful women in my friendship circle to help me through my cancer journey so that my husband didn’t have to be the “ears” all the time.   I found these people to be gracious listeners and in fact once that door was open, it was their warmth, support and kindness that not only energized me, but seemed to bring us all closer together, empowering us to listen to each other.  The wonderful thing is the lasting impact of that experience has made me a better listener as well.

I am convinced that there is tremendous holistic healing power in being a good listener, so seek them out and make it a point to be one yourself.          

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Second, it’s important to share your vulnerability.

When negativity strikes, it is so easy to pull the blinds closed and hide.  Don’t tell me you haven’t done it, because I won’t believe you.  We all have.

No one wants to see me like this, I’m imperfect!”

But if we are honest, curling up with that negativity blanket and squirreling ourselves away from human interaction doesn’t make us feel any better.  In fact, I know when I have done this, I find myself feeling really lonely and more depressed than ever.

The truth is, that old devil negativity would like nothing more than to have us all to themselves, alone, and miserable.  To be able to toy with our vulnerable self, day in and day out so that our problems take center stage and push positivity to the back burner.  So, it’s critical that you must cast aside those tendencies and put yourselves out there in all your vulnerable glory.   

Now before you go and argue that you are an introvert and that sharing your negative side with others is impossible, let me share a secret with you. I’m an introvert too!  I am so much more at ease with the written word than the spoken one, so opening myself up to people, especially when I’m going through something negative, isn’t something that comes naturally to me.   I have to tamp down the jitters and just go for it.   But it pays off.

One day I was killing a bit of time browsing the aisles at Marshall’s before a doctor’s appointment that I was dreading.  I was standing there absently looking at a display of hand lotions and thinking,

“God, I am so tired of all of this health business.    Why does my life have to be so hard?”  

Suddenly this woman materialized by my side.  She looked wide eyed and she had two small children’s books in her hands that she held out to me.    She said in a rather frazzled voice, “I have never, ever approached a stranger like this before, but can you please help me?”

I have to admit my first thought wasn’t about helping her, but that maybe she was up to something no good.  But there was something about the anxiety in her eyes that resonated with me and I said, “I see you have two children’s books?”

The woman sighed heavily and said, “Yes, I do and I do not know what to do. We have a new grandchild, our first and I want to send her a book, but I don’t know what to send her.  I am so worried I will make a mistake and disappoint my daughter.  You looked like someone who might be able to help me, so I took a chance on asking you.”

What?  I certainly wasn’t wearing a label that identified me as a mom of three, a former preschool teacher, former preschool director, former Sunday school program coordinator, former youth director.   Although I am all of those things.

So how did she know I could help her?  Truth be told, she didn’t.

What she did do was take a chance on being vulnerable with a stranger.   And in doing so, I had my answer to my question of God.

Life is hard because it’s hard.  But when we share our vulnerability with others, our burden lightens and positivity takes hold.

In the scheme of things, the vulnerability this woman was feeling about picking out the perfect children’s book for her first grandchild, was equal to the vulnerability I was feeling about my doctor’s appointment.

I remember looking at both books and one was clearly for a child much older than a newborn.  I said, “Choose this one…it’s perfect.”  That’s literally all I said.  I didn’t tell her my back story as an educator, I didn’t share anything about me.   I said, “Your grandchild is so lucky to have you” and her face lit up and she said “Thank you, I can breathe again!” and she gave me the biggest hug.

Then without another word, she walked away.

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On the way to my doctor’s appointment, that hug kept playing over and over in my mind. I felt happy, light, joyful.  I could breathe again too.

Whatever your negative burdens right now, make sure to take a little time to acknowledge them.  Find yourself some good listeners who can provide support and comfort and open yourself up to letting others help you through your vulnerable moments.   

PositivelyAnne

Categories
Positive Mindset

Finding “Me” in a Photo

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I have always been fascinated with photography. 

Oh, not in a way that I ever wanted to pursue any sort of career with it.  No, I’ll gladly leave that pursuit to my very talented brother and sister-in-law who have spent decades mastering not only a variety of camera lens and filters to achieve a perfect shot, but also possess a level of chill and patience in waiting for that perfect image, that frankly God didn’t gift to me.

But thanks to some creative folks at Apple, photography novices, like me, can be pretty successful with an I-Phone.  Point, click, edit a bit and post.  Yep, that suits my purposes just fine.   Because photography for me is strictly about appreciating photographic images for their ability to capture a moment that at once appears stagnant, but who’s meaning is a free-flowing, ever-changing story.  A story that can evoke all sorts of emotions in humanity, and can sometimes be powerful enough to change the course of minds, even history.   Including my own.

I’m going to tell you a story of one such photographic image.  It’s an image I took in 2017 on a lonely stretch of beach in Santa Cruz, California called, “Natural Bridges.”     

It was February and my husband and I had taken a drive up to Santa Cruz to spend the week-end with our oldest son. It had been nine months since my bi-lateral mastectomy for breast cancer, two months since I had completed radiation, ten days since I had surgery to control uterine bleeding and one month before my world would once again be turned on its’ end with five consecutive major surgeries having everything to do with my survival,  yet little or nothing to do with breast cancer.     It was a pretty scary time. 

But on this day, I was feeling happy.  The rain had been pretty fierce the day before, but today the sun peaked through the clouds in fits and starts.  Drizzling one moment and then seeming to lift so that the gulls and other sea birds could forage in the surf crashing on the rocks of the beach below.  My son thought it would be fun to show us his favorite spots around Santa Cruz and it was pretty spectacular, despite the drizzle.  Everywhere I looked, the light seemed to change from greys to reds to pink to yellows and back to grey.  Through my phone camera I just couldn’t get enough of the scenery.  It was as if every shot spoke to me somehow.

Our son told us about this special place where the water had worn a hole through a rock outcropping called “Natural Bridges.”  

“Mom, it’s pretty darn cool, a natural bridge, you just have to see this!”, he said.  

To view the bridge, we had a short drive, and then were going to have to walk a little bit through some brush and pretty deep sand and make our way to the floor of the beach below.  It was low tide, so access wasn’t an issue, but my husband and son were  worried the trek down to the shore might be a little much for me, given I was still recovering from surgery.   Maybe so, but I knew my boy and if he said something was special, it was special, and not to be missed.  So without another thought I said I’d be fine and off we went.

And I was fine.  I was totally fine…physically.  But emotionally was something else.

As I picked my way through the brush and sand, I could see this amazing rock outcropping in the distance about 300 yards off shore.    It was about the size of a football field and rose several hundred feet into the air.  Birds of all sorts were perched atop its’ smooth surface, almost like a football team lining up for the kick off.   The ocean was lapping against it’s surface, swirling and whirling, forming foamy bubbles that took on the hues of the changing sky. 

About three-quarters of the way through the outcropping an arched shaped hole had been worn through the rock by the water and the ocean was flowing in and out of it.   It reminded me of the natural bridges I had seen in Lake Powell, Arizona or a kind of imperfect Arc de Triomphe, that is,  if water were to flow through it.   

It was like someone just plopped a bridge in the middle of the sea with this really cool water feature.    

Excited, I picked up the pace and forgetting my recent surgery, I ran down a steep incline of sand so that I could take pictures.   Reaching into my pocket for my phone camera, I looked up and then I froze.

The rock was huge this close up.  Huge.  But all I could see was the hole in its’ center. 

A giant gaping hole! 

The hole, that reminded me of my mastectomy!   The hole, that reminded me of the pain of finding out I had breast cancer!  The hole, that reminded me of the pain of telling my family and friends I had cancer!  The hole, that reminded me of the pain of having to leave a job I loved because of cancer! The hole, that reminded me of the pain, both physical and emotional, that I tried so very hard to hide from everyone before, during and after my cancer surgeries and treatment.  

The hole, that reminded me that cancer took a piece of me.  Left a hole, where now I had some silicone, some fake body parts that for all outward appearances made me look normal, but would never be the real me. 

My new normal was a hole.  Just like the one I was staring at in that rock outcropping and it frightened me. 

Here I was this sturdy rock of positivity for my family and everyone around me and I had a hole in me…a big, ugly, negative hole that no amount of plastic surgery, no amount of anything could fill up.     

I felt empty.  I grieved. 

“Mom, come look at the driftwood over here,” my son said.  

“Just a second,” I replied, and raised my phone.  I pushed the button for the camera and aimed the lens at the rock outcropping. 

Once…Click.  Twice…Click! Three times…Click!

Click, Click, Click, Click, Click…

With each click, I could feel the grief rolling through me. 

In and Out!

In and Out!

In and Out!

Just like the ocean rushing in and out through the hole in that rock.

I’m not sure how many pictures I would have taken of the “Natural Bridge” if my phone battery hadn’t chosen that moment to die. I’d like to think it was God’s divine intervention, but whomever or whatever forces were at work in that moment, a dead battery was enough to snap me out of my grief and go in search of my son and the drift wood.

And except for that one, brief, moment in time at the “Natural Bridge”, everything else about that week-end was amazing and upon returning home, I was anxious to make a photo collage so that I could post to my personal Facebook page a memory of our trip for my husband and for our family and friends to see.   

The shot of the rock outcropping, (there were over 40 photos on my phone of that hole in the rock to choose from), was hard to include.  To look at it made me sad, uncomfortable, and lonely for the me that used to be.  But I put those feelings away and mindlessly popped the photo into an insignificant square of the photo collage, no more powerful or important than any other memory of that trip.

And there that photo stayed until a few weeks ago.

I was looking through my on-line photo albums in search of photos of the ocean I could use for my daily Instagram and there it was, sitting there in cyber space, waiting for me, in all of its “holy” glory.  That “Natural Bridge” in Santa Cruz where I came face to face with all that I had lost, with the hole in my person. 

I expected to feel a rush of negative emotions looking at that photo.  But they didn’t come.   In fact, when I looked at that rock, at the hole in it, at the ocean rushing in and out of it, I felt…well, I guess you could say, I felt happy.   It reminded me of a fun day with my son, but it also reminded me of how far I have come in the past couple of years.

The photos story had changed, because I had changed. 

I mentioned before that soon after our visit to Santa Cruz, I had several unplanned health setbacks.   Five major ones to be exact, with a myriad of other health issues as a result of those five surgeries.   While these setbacks were not pleasant, with each one I made it a point to be more open to the positive, to remember to focus on not what set me back, but what propelled me forward.  The more I did that, I seemed to grow stronger emotionally and fear less all that lay ahead of me.   

It was true that my body was broken, bruised, battered, my energy depleted.  But somehow, someway, no matter how many holes in my person, deep down I felt a burning light, a strength that I didn’t know was possible because time and again the blessings flowed to me, through me, no matter how large the hole in my body. 

In and Out.

In and Out.

In and Out.  

And the more I opened myself up to the possibilities of the “new me”, to the fact that I was always going to have some “holes” in my life,  the more positivity flowed into my darkest recesses, planting seeds of faith and hope and blessing.  

The most amazing thing is that many of these blessings have come from strangers. People I would never have met or opened up to, if not for the fact that I had cancer or any of the other health issues. My life is so much richer for each conversation and there is a gratitude in my heart that kindness is alive and well and abundant in the world.   Do not let anyone tell you different! 

It’s as if this hole in me has become a welcoming portal to all that is possible for my life and I want to shout from the roof tops, “I AM BLESSED!”  

The photo I took of the “Natural Bridge” in 2017 told a story of a woman who was uncertain of her future, feared her destiny and felt she had to battle her demons alone. 

This same photo, viewed in 2019, reveals the story of a woman who has accepted her vulnerability, embraced her imperfectness and is working to conquer her fears one day at a time with a whole lotta help from the world. 

It is now a photo that tells a story of me. 

PositivelyAnne 

I hope you like and follow me here and on Facebook.   I also have an Instagram where I post daily positivity boosts.  Together we can change the world, one positive step at a time!  God bless you all!

Categories
Positive Mindset

Reflecting positively on life’s weeds

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There is good in the weeds!

I truly believe in the healing power of positivity not only to heal us physically and emotionally, but to inspire us to live our lives seeking not what is wrong, but what is right!   

That’s challenging because humans are curious creatures and it is our curiosity that pushes us into negative territory time and time again.

Now I’m not saying human curiosity isn’t a good thing.  If curious humans hadn’t questioned things since the beginning of time, we probably would have been extinct a long time ago. 

But when curiosity becomes synonymous with distrusting everything and everyone we come in contact with, that’s when we need to push our positivity button and say, “Enough!”  

A month ago, after a major rain deluge in San Diego, my daughter texted me that the rain had caused a super bloom of neon yellow flowers to cover the slopes surrounding her home.

“Mom, you have to see this, it’s like the hillside is covered in sunshine,” and then she added, “…of course, they are just weeds, but pretty spectacular weeds at that!”

A few years ago, my reaction to my daughters joy probably would have been to chuckle and remind her that weeds after a bloom look like the kiss of death! 

But I’m not the same person. Positivity has changed me.

I trusted the joy in my daughter’s text and I arranged to meet her the next day to photograph the hillside, hoping to use a photo for my blog.  

Her property is up a steep hill.  Natural terrain on one side, older, aging homes on the other and most with unmanicured yards…or yards in a natural state, depending on your perspective.  

I can state emphatically that a few years ago, my curious mind would have wondered into negative territory worrying about unsavory characters lurking somewhere in all that imperfectness.   

But as I said, I’m not the same person.  Positivity had changed me.

The minute I pulled into the driveway I could see the yellow blooms. They were everywhere. My daughter was there too, her face radiant.   “Mom, isn’t it great?!!!”

Reaching up the slopes to the palm nursery above her house, where little yellow blooms, dancing in the breeze and dappled sunlight.  The greenery below the blooms was thick, yet delicate, and I could imagine fairies and elves living amidst their canopy.

I had brought my camera and some props for my blog post, my old tap shoes, Moe and Joe, and some other things.  I started to set out all the props, but thru my camera lens I saw clearly that Moe and Joe would be just fine among the blooming weeds without the addition of any fanfare.

They were protected.  Safe.  Loved.  Bathed in light.

There was another area of my daughter’s property, where the blooms were reaching down the slope through a chain link fence to an old shed on the adjacent property.

My old curious self would have immediately conjured all sorts of unsavory images about who lived on the property below and I probably would have blown the moment of happiness with my daughter with some negative comment about her safety.

But as I said, I’m not the same person.  Positivity has changed me.

I began to photograph the shed and a thought came to mind that the old shed, sitting in a field of blooms, reminded me of the Wizard of Oz and my old, negative self.   

An old house dropped from the sky into a field of yellow.  And there I am, under the house, my negative-self withering in anger and fear, begging to be let out.

Let me out! Let me out!  Let me out!

But positivity takes over and the image changes.

Faded boards and rusty nails, aged and imperfect like me, welcoming the sunlight of the blooms creeping towards them.  The yellow of the flowers speaking to my soul in all ways positive:  happiness, joy, hope.   Representing all that is good in the past, all that is good now and all that will be good.  Welcoming positivity.

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

It’s not easy to think differently.  To train our curious minds to choose positivity first, especially among the weeds of life.   But I can tell you personally that the reward for doing so is worth every second of the struggle. 

For when we are able to see the good in the weeds, we are able to see the good in ourselves and in others.

Our human curiosity becomes not a tool for divide and conquer, but about a shared love for what is right in our world.    We are empowered by a curiosity that seeks to squeeze out every ounce of value in this short time we have on this planet and that curiosity propels us forward into a land of positive change.

PositivelyAnne

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Categories
Positive Mindset

Faith is not a label, it lives and breathes

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It was Palm Sunday 2004, and my husband and I and our three children were on a tour of Paris, France. Our tour guide asked us if we would like to see the Dimanche des Rameaux” (Sunday of the Branches”) at the Cathedral de Notre Dame, a Holy week celebration of Jesus arrival in Jerusalem.  Our kids, being huge Quasimodo fans, thanks to the 1996 Disney version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, were thrilled.  My husband and I, while extremely excited, were still a bit unsure about putting our family in the middle of such a large gathering, only because the pain of 9/11 was still very fresh and we had already experienced a massive French military presence near our hotel and along the  Champs-Elysees due to the state visit between Queen Elizabeth and French President Jacques Chirac.   But children have a way of putting things in perspective and my little boys request, “I want to see QUAAAASIIMOOOO” sealed the deal.

Safety concerns aside, I silently hoped and prayed that some elfin creature would materialize from the bell tower of Notre Dame singing “Out There” or we were going to have some very disappointed children.   I wondered if Jesus would help me out here.

Palm Sunday itself had started off in typical April in Paris fashion: gray and drizzly!  But as our driver approached Notre Dame, the clouds broke to reveal a powder blue sky. The sun’s rays bouncing off the rose windows in the Cathedral tower reflected a kaleidoscope of colors onto the white robes of the clergy gathered on the steps below. 

Our driver, could not find a place to park, dashing any hopes of us joining in palm procession, but he quickly zipped into a red curbed driveway and rolled down the windows.

“Prenez vite vos photos!”  (Quick, take your pictures!). 

I didn’t think twice and just started snapping pictures.  Through my camera lens, I could see thousands of people, old and young, and somewhere in-between, locked arm in arm, standing in the shadow of this towering testament to gothic architecture and human survival.  Palm branches were waving everywhere.  I mean everywhere.  With my ears, I could hear a cacophony of voices: some angelic sopranos, some altos, tenors and bass, some off-key, literally hundreds of languages singing what I later learned was a hymn called, “The Palm.”   There were people who were not singing on the periphery of the crowds, but they were no less engaged.  Most of them were smiling, their teeth white against a myriad of skin tones, their eyes raised to the heavens in joy, to admire the bell towers or possibly the spire atop, or maybe in hope that the wafting clouds might part further to reveal the Christ they had come to praise.   Some were taking pictures like me. Others were silently holding hands with a loved one, or cuddling a small child.

I looked at my children, at my husband and gone were any thoughts of spying a Disney cartoon character.   For, here was “faith”, not as a label, not even as a building as magnificent as Notre Dame, not as a theological doctrine or a set of rules that I struggled to follow, but rather “faith” in its’ purest form:

Raw, human interaction.  Diversity in all its’ splendor.  A celebration of the human spirit, of all we can be together.   No barriers, no boundaries.

My three-year old son who was hanging out the window, turned to look at me, his tiny hands clapping, “Happy mommy, it’s happy.”    

Quasimodo was forgotten.   “Faith” had taken root instead!

I wanted so badly to get out of the car and walk with my family, arm in arm, towards those crowds outside Notre Dame and all of that “faith, but alas, our driver said we needed to move on and off we went in search of Montmartre and Sacre-Couer and all the other wonders of Paris.

But after we returned to the states, I thought about that moment at Notre Dame.  The cynic in me argued that I was romanticizing things.   Being a Christian and a regular church attendee, it’s natural that I would be excited to see such a diverse group of religious faithful joyously celebrating one of the most sacred aspects of Holy Week, at one of the most famous churches in the world.  

But deep in my heart I knew I had been blessed by what I had seen in a different way.  

And I began to wonder why I had couldn’t live out my life with a “faith” that simple and pure.  No labels, no barriers, no ridiculous expectations or judgements, just pure happiness.

I knew how to do it.  In fact, I think we all know how to do it.   

Terrorist attacks, natural disasters, the death of a child…almost any tragedy, we move together without thinking as one “faith”.   Oh, not the “faith” of a specific religion, but a “faith” that lives and breathes in each other, in humanity and in our very human desire to be the light in the face of darkness.  

Yesterday, as the world watched Notre Dame burn, I once again saw the people gather, this time in the shadow of the flames engulfing their beloved treasure  Their tear stained faces,  reflecting the sorrow of what was lost, but in their eyes was a determination and hope that immediately took me back to that Palm Sunday fifteen years ago.   

It mattered not where they came from.  It mattered not their theology or lack thereof.  It mattered not their income, their gender, their skin color, or any other label we humans assign other humans.   

What mattered were the images of strangers, standing arm in arm, voices raised in song, defiant of the flames, reminding us that even in the face of darkness, happiness is just around the corner.      

I need to make it a priority to not lose “faith” in my fellow human beings.  There is much good there…SO MUCH GOOD!    

Hope is alive. Positivity is stronger than Negativity.  Let it in.  Let it flow.   

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That’s what Jesus would want us to do.   That’s what we should do! 

Happy Easter,

PositivelyAnne

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