When You Know You’re Gonna Have A Good Day

“I woke up this morning and I said, you know, instead of waiting on a good day, waiting around through ups and downs, waiting on something to happen, we’re gonna have a good day.” ~Nappy Roots

I love a fall Saturday filled with activities with my favorite people. To make the day even sunnier, we brought the puppers along for a full day of adventure and socialization. He loves the peoples, and the peoples love him.

Most photogenic member of our family…all six pounds of him

We started the day with a cross-country meet at 9 am. It was a perfect morning for a run. Well, it was a perfect morning for someone to run, just not me. I don’t do that yet. Still, it was just 60 degrees, so Luke knocked 1:16 off his previous race time. After the race we hurried home by 10, and were off again at 11 a.m. so Luke could go to his first college interview of the day downtown at noon.

Finding Luke is like playing Where’s Waldo

While he was interviewing with Whitman College, we got some tasty coffee at Blue Sparrow in the RiNo (River North) section of Denver.

Oat milk vanilla latte…yes, please

Joe, who was in town for just three days, got to spend some quality time with our new little friend. He is threatening to take him back to Washington. I think not. Still, it was a beautiful day for relaxing on a green space while waiting for Luke.

Loki is the most popular member of our family

When Luke finished, we ordered sandwiches from Snarf’s and headed towards his second college interview of the day in Englewood. Luke spent time chatting with a representative from St. Olaf while his immature mother snapped this photo because she is, in all actuality, a 12 year old boy.

I can be a little cheeky sometimes too

Loki got interested in a water feature, until he realized water is wet. He then moved on to being Chief Leaf Inspector, which he preferred greatly. He inspects them with his mouth because that is how puppies operate without the aid of opposable thumbs.

We finally headed for home around 3 p.m. We had invited some of our favorite people on earth to dinner (Joe’s best friend and his parents, who are some of our favorite friends as well), so we had to get cooking. Literally. I set a casual, fall-themed table for 8. It’s nice to be able to hang out with people indoors again.

While Steve and I finished preparing the brisket and baked potatoes, the boys played corn hole. This was quite generous of Luke because he does not like this as much as Joe does. But he acquiesced because he won’t see his sibling again until Thanksgiving.

Brother time

And so we had a pleasant meal with our friends, putting a perfect exclamation point at the end of a long, but fun day. The puppy was worn out, our older dog relished the attention of our guests, the boys cracked each other up, and dinner turned out great.

Sometimes, it’s worth getting up at 6:45 on a Saturday. Life’s what you make of it.

You’ve got only one life to live. You can either make it chickenshit or chicken salad.” ~Cousins (1989) 

The Next Step Is A Doozy

“You don’t need to take all of the steps. Only the next one.”

For thirteen years, we’ve lived with a beautiful, anxious, determined, crazy, personality-plus border collie. We have adored her 95% of the time. The other 5% of the time we were wondering what planet she came from and pondering how to deal with her quirks. Dogs are something else. They are furry animals. Animals. And you let them live in your home and sleep in your bedroom. You buy them food and put them on ropes and walk them around outside. You travel with them. They become part of your people family, but they are still animals at the end of the day. Short-lived animals at that. It took us about ten years to understand our border collie, and now we’re on the precipice of losing our sweet baby girl. It’s been a rewarding (and now heartbreaking) journey.

We’ve never had one day in our home without a dog, so when we learned Ruby is losing kidney function we decided it was time to get a second dog that at some point will become our only dog. This is how Ruby came to us. Buddy was our senior dog who began having seizures and other problems. We saw his suffering and knew he wasn’t long for this world, so we selfishly got a puppy to ease our sadness around his transition. A funny thing happened when Ruby came along, though. Buddy (who Luke said was “on death’s doorstep”) suddenly perked up. He initially wasn’t thrilled to have Ruby around, but soon enough they settled into an arrangement. As time went on, Buddy became a bit more active. He played. It’s as if he saw the new dog and said to us, “Hey, hey, hey. I see what you’re doing here. Not so fast. I’m not done yet.” Luke said Buddy “must have drank from the Holy Grail” because he lived a year beyond the seizure we thought would be his end. I suppose now we are thinking that a new puppy might also give Ruby a new leash on life in her final months.

So today we did a thing. We made a commitment to purchase our next, greatest furry family member. Not a replacement for Ruby, as there will never be another dog like her, but a successor. We will be getting a BHT (black-headed tri-color) Corgi from an AKC breeder in Utah before the end of September. When we pick him up, he will be 8 weeks old. He will have been socialized with his five littermates and the breeder’s children, other dogs and pets, and farm animals. He will be cute but he will not look like the dog he will eventually become. He will be an energetic, active, ball of shedding fluff that will keep us awake at night for a while and keep us on our toes for years. We don’t know who this new family member will be or what role he will fill in our family unit, but we know he will bring new life into our home and shake us up. It’s scary, but it’s also exciting as hell. It’a a big commitment, but our kids are grown and we’re ready to experience some youthful energy again.

So, without further ado, meet our future family member, Loki.

He has a seven on his head, so we’re thinking he will be Loki Seven.

Ted Lasso — Life Coach

Ted dispensing truth bombs

“Success is not about the wins and losses. It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves, on and off the field.” ~Ted Lasso

If it hasn’t been said often enough yet, let me reiterate that Ted Lasso is the best show out there right now. Period. Full stop. I mean, I could stop writing this post right here because that is all that needs to be said. (If you haven’t seen it yet, get yourself Apple TV this instant.) I’m not surprised by the appeal of a show about an over-the-top, optimistic, and genuinely kind American fumbling his way through England and soccer (although the show now has me calling it football). As a global society during a continuing pandemic that leaves us more isolated than we would like, we were all looking for something to connect us. Ted Lasso does that by combining characters from around the globe who teach us that we have more in common than we know. And, yes, at the end of the day it is a feel-good show, but I don’t believe that it is as simple as that.

What makes the characters so relatable is their struggles and their humanity. Take Jamie Tartt, for example. He could have been written as a self-absorbed soccer phenom and nothing else, but the writers have taken care to show us that his drive to be the best, to be the star no matter who he tramples over to do it, comes from being bullied by his father. Consider Rebecca. Her mean girl, initially selfish desire to bring the football club of her cheating ex-husband to an end stemmed from humiliation and a lack of self-esteem brought on by years in an abusive marriage. Even Ted Lasso himself, despite his infectious optimism, is no stranger to emotional pain after learning his own wife doesn’t love him anymore because he is just too much.

What makes the show award-worthy is not its clever dialogue, winsome characters, and perfect casting, but its ability to tackle dark struggles in our human condition with honesty and maturity. At the end of the day, the show is about owning your shit and learning to rise above it. It’s about seeking continual improvement in yourself, your relationships, and your life. It’s about being accountable, apologizing when you are wrong, and working to do better. Ted Lasso is not merely a feel-good vehicle giving us the positivity we crave in what feels like dark times. It’s about learning how to endure the dark times with grace and come out better on the other side.

Ted Lasso isn’t coaching AFC Richmond. He’s coaching us. And like the seats in the show’s intro, Ted Lasso is turning our hearts from cold, hard blue to warm, vital red.

Food For Thought About Volunteerism

We rise by lifting others.” ~Robert Ingersoll

For the past couple weeks, Luke and I have done some volunteering at Food Bank of the Rockies. Luke needs 50 hours of volunteer work to graduate next June. When he and i were sitting down and weighing his options for volunteer opportunities, we decided on the food bank because we wanted to make an impact for people who are struggling with food scarcity, whether it be as a result of the pandemic or homelessness or other unfortunate, unseen circumstances. We are a lucky family because our biggest decisions regarding food are whether to stop at King Soopers or Target for groceries and whether to cook dinner at home or hit up the local food truck. But we aren’t blind. We see the growing homeless situation in Denver and the lines at food pantries since April of last year. So, the Food Bank of the Rockies it was.

Over our three shifts so far, Luke and I have sorted food, loaded and moved pallets for shipments to food pantries, and even prepared school lunches. And we enjoyed it. A lot. We walk in for our 3-hour shift and the next thing we know we are finished. The employees, as well as the other volunteers, have been helpful and kind. There is something about giving back, even in the smallest way, that can make a messed world seem more positive. Like the quote above, my spirit is raised when I do what I can to lift someone else in their time of difficulty. Instead of wringing my hands at the sky over things I can’t control, I can contribute in a positive way. It feels good. Maybe it’s the endorphins from lifting and carrying cases of food but, dang, that warehouse brings me joy and peace of mind.

Turns out you really can’t buy happiness, but you can step up and volunteer to get it.

Treat Your Thoughts Like Clouds

Art credit to @phoebenewyork, photo by Elizabeth Schoettle

A friend posted this artwork to her Instagram this morning. This art piece sums up what I am working to achieve for myself through therapy and meditation. I strive to get to a place where I am able to put space between my thoughts about reality and reality itself. The thing about being a thought-filled introvert is that I spend a lot of time in my brain. My brain, unfortunately, was wired from a young age to view pretty much anything having to do with my appearance, my personality, my choices, and my desires negatively. I am working hard to acknowledge that my thoughts can be like a funhouse mirror, distorting reality and leaving me feeling horrible about myself without sufficient evidence to back up that view. So, the idea of treating my thoughts as clouds, recognizing that they come and go and take shape and lose shape because they are fluid and not at all concrete, is genius.

Like many people, for most of my life I have let my thoughts run away with me without understanding I can control them. When a negative or fearful or self-defeating thought pops into my head, what happens to it depends on my reaction to it. Say I look into a mirror and think, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, you look like hell,” I have a choice how I react to that thought. I can let that thought define me and spend the rest of my day self-conscious and sad, with that thought gaining more weight and getting heavier the more I pay attention to it, so that by the end of the day that cloud says, “Your best days are over. You should just go crawl in a hole where no one has to look at you.” I do have another option, though, which is to do some cloud busting. I can reply to that funhouse thought with a hearty “No one believes that, and neither should you,” and move on with my day unencumbered by that knee-jerk, knuckle-headed self talk.

My attitude towards my thoughts creates the difference between a quiet, sunny day with light cirrus clouds and a tumultuous, dark day punctuated by growing cumulonimbus storm clouds. So my task is to put some air space between myself and my thought clouds and to accept that my thoughts don’t always know what they are saying. Many times my thoughts are way off base. The faster I am able to acknowledge that my negative thoughts are just thoughts and not necessarily reflective of reality, the better job I can do clearing them from my head and making room for better thoughts, creative thoughts, thoughts filled with self-love.

Eventually, I hope to become a more effective cloud buster. I would love to be able to set my thought griefcase down and work on sunnier self-reflections.

Grab Your Monkey Mind By The Tail

Look, Ma! I’m on top of the world!

“Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don’t want.” ~Abraham Hicks

A few months ago, I joined a women’s midlife mindfulness and meditation group in my neighborhood. I had been meaning to get into meditation to rein in my monkey mind for at least the past 8 years and had even started practicing a few times, but I never stuck with it. When I saw the post on our local Facebook page, it was a sign. Now there would be some accountability. Even if I didn’t become a master at meditation, I reasoned, I might acquire more control over my thoughts and keep them from running away from me unnecessarily.

Last night our group met in the shade outside our local community center and discussed the “Don’t-Know Mind.” The don’t-know mind, I learned, is a central concern of Korean Zen, and it’s a representation of our enlightened mind before preconceived ideas, thoughts, judgments, and opinions create needless anxiety and suffering in our lives. Many of us spend our entire lives borrowing trouble that doesn’t yet exist. You have your negative life experiences and memories of bad news and you apply them to events that haven’t occurred yet. It happens all the time, and it’s a waste of precious life energy because we can’t possibly know how things are going to work out before they occur. We humans are not as all-knowing as we like to think we are. How many times have you imagined the worst only to later live a completely or mostly seamless experience? How much time have you wasted catastrophizing for nothing?

I can recount dozens of times I have borrowed trouble when I had no reason to believe an event would end badly. It happened last night. My sons decided yesterday to climb Mt. Bierstadt, one of the 53 peaks in Colorado over 14k feet. This is a well-traveled hike with a well-marked ascent. It is one of the easiest of these climbs. Hordes of people climb this mountain every day in the summer, and you rarely hear anything about it other than the trail was too busy. Still, my 18 and 20 year old sons would be leaving before dawn with a friend, traveling up the interstate into the mountains on little sleep to ascend to 14k feet alone for the first time. Their momma bear was anxious. Although I fell asleep quickly, I woke up with my mind racing and imagining the worst. I pulled out the don’t-know mindset.

You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. You don’t know that there is any reason for concern. What if nothing bad happens? What if there is no traffic at all and they arrive safely? What if they packed the perfect amount of snacks, water, warm clothing, and safety gear? What if all that happens is that they make it to the top to view a cloudless Colorado morning with 360-degree breathtaking views? What if they make a memory together they will cherish forever? What if this gives them the confidence to climb other mountains, both physical and mental? What if they arrive home, beaming with accomplishment, and share photos from their adventure? You don’t know.

I took a few deep breaths, relaxed into the mattress, and fell back asleep, confident that the likelihood things would work out was far greater than the likelihood they would not. I slept so well I didn’t hear them getting ready and I didn’t wake up in time to say goodbye to them. When I finally awoke at 7:10, they were long gone. And when I checked my phone I noticed Joe had already sent a photo of them safely at the trailhead ready to begin their upward journey.

I think the trick is to grab your monkey mind’s tail as soon as you notice it. Once you have it in your grasp, tell that monkey to back off because it doesn’t know what it thinks it knows. The more often you catch that damn monkey, the more practice you have stopping its useless chatter. Eventually, you realize there is no benefit in determining an outcome you don’t want to have and likely won’t experience. You begin find stillness, peace, and positivity can fill the space in your head and give the monkey no room for running and jumping and bouncing around. I’m not there yet, but my monkey catching skills are improving.

The friends you meet along the way

Earworms and Walk Up Songs

Brandon Flowers, bloody rock god

This morning I woke up with an unfortunate, but all too common, affliction. While I slept, unbeknownst to my waking brain, my sleeping brain had planted an earworm. Shaking the tired from my eyes, I sat up and planted my feet on the floor. The earworm began its assault. Come on shake your body, baby, do the conga. I know you can’t control yourself any longer. I groaned and shook my head, hoping to dislodge it from my brain. Come on shake your body, baby, do the conga. I shook it again. I know you can’t control yourself any longer. Damn. This thing was persistent today. I busied myself with the chores of the morning, hoping against all hopes it would dissipate.

I know there are people who love that song. There are people who would be thrilled waking up with that melody and those lyrics churning in their brain. I am not one of those people. While I don’t consider it one of the worst songs I have ever heard (Muskrat Love, Total Eclipse of the Heart, and The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony top my list in that category), I could really do without the conga at 7:30 am on a Tuesday. It was a bit too much before coffee.

Alexa, play Mr. Brightside by The Killers,” I commanded.

The song, however, would not relent. I have so much to do today, though, and I don’t want to do it with that song stuck in my head. I could not wait for it to get bored with itself and fall asleep. Dire and immediate action had to be undertaken. I went straight for the big guns.

“Alexa, play Mr. Brightside by The Killers,” I commanded.

“Playing Mr. Brightside by The Killers on Apple Music,” Alexa complied.

The familiar intro to my favorite song of 2004 began. I closed my eyes, and let it consume me. The battle for supremacy in my brain began. Could Gloria Estefan take out Brandon Flowers? I doubted it. I trust my boy Brandon. He has never failed me in these clutch situations.

I’m coming out of my cage and I’ve been doing just fine. Gotta, gotta be down because I want it all.

I hit the volume plus button (my sons learned early there is only one acceptable volume level for Mr. Brightside and it is MAX) and let the song envelop me. Brandon took control and knocked Gloria and her shaking conga butt back with every beat I nailed on my air drums. I danced around our kitchen, my head bobbing in time, my positive view of the rest of my day expanding. Goodbye, conga! The morning’s unwanted earworm broke apart, replaced by superior matter.

Destiny is calling me. Open up my eager eyes ’cause I’m Mr. Brightside.

Mr. Brightside is my walk up song. If I’m heading up to bat, bases loaded and everyone depending on me to bring my A game, I want that song playing, flowing through my bloodstream, hyping me up and giving me inner strength. Mr. Brightside makes everything better. It just does.

Do yourself a favor today and queue up your walk up song. Play it a few times or a few dozen times on repeat. Dance around with it with reckless abandon or do whatever counts as dancing in your world. Sing the lyrics as loud as you can and don’t worry about how you sound or who can hear you. Enter wholly into the music and let it increase the seratonin levels in your brain. Fully energized, walk up to the next challenge you have to face today, no matter how small, and knock it out of the park. Then run the bases with gusto while the crowd cheers only for you. You are a badass. Don’t forget it.

The Killers raising seratonin levels in Denver

Open A Window

“When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” ~ The Sound of Music

IMG_0932
My little succulent reaching for the light

Throughout the day yesterday, I took sizable mental health breaks from updating myself on the news on television and social media. In between those breaks when I tuned in, however, what I saw and heard hurt my brain. First it was a post by a friend who offered an update from a health care worker reminding us that this virus can be indiscriminate, killing younger people along with the elderly and immunocompromised. Later I came back to see another friend had shared video of crowded beaches in Clearwater, Florida, a sight alarming in itself, but worsened by comments her friends made claiming the story was Fake News. Finally, after my son’s educational, evening presentation on a battle between Julius Caesar’s Roman army and the Gallic army led by Vercingetorix (you really can learn something new every day), I turned on the news and caught a couple minutes with New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio as he discussed the potential need for military intervention to deliver food during the pandemic. The notion of military food drops in New York City sent me over the edge. What fresh hell is this? I started to cry, turned off the television, and began doing the dishes because at least that was something my brain and I could handle.

The news is bad. It is very bad. And it is, sadly and most definitely, going to get unimaginably worse over the coming weeks and months. Death tolls will climb. The world economy will tank. People will lose jobs, and the unemployment rate will rise. Families will find themselves in dire circumstances. Like the virus itself, these negatives will grow exponentially for a while. No part of this is pretty.

I woke up this morning determined to hit reboot on my positive attitude in the face of this global nightmare. I started thinking about the reduction in emissions northern Italy has seen since their country lockdown began. Not the way we planned to cut global emissions, but still that’s a pretty positive side effect of this nightmare scenario. I thought about the way I have seen others reaching out to shop for the elderly and help strangers find child care and offer extra rolls of toilet paper to those unable to find any. We’re starting to remember we’re part of a something bigger. I considered the amount of time together families will have now. Just before my son was getting ready to head to college, for example, I get uninterrupted time at home with him, which is an unimaginable gift. As with all things in life, where there is a yin, there is a yang.

Through this quagmire, the universe will provide us with an opportunity to rise. To do that, though, we are going to slog uphill through mounds of shit. We are currently at the bottom of that hill, mired in muck, and we may be stuck here for a while. It’s overwhelming. So, give yourself permission to cry, to tantrum, to stress, to feel all the feels you are feeling. Those emotions are as important to our future recovery as action is, but perseverate not solely on what is happening but continue to imagine where we might be able to go later because of this experience. Horrible, tragic events have occurred since this rock we live on started growing life, but incredible recoveries have also occurred. Make yourself a promise to look for the good. Wake up and take a few deep breaths. Compose a list of positives. With concentrated intention, recognize and be grateful for the good you can see. Step outside, turn your face towards the sun for a minute and ruminate on its warmth. Not everything is bad, even if it feels that way. We can and will do hard things, my friends. For now, though, put down the unbearable load of the future, go wash some dishes, and open a damn window.

When “You Did It” Isn’t Enough

Today marks my sister’s last treatment. It’s been almost a full year since the day she called and told me she’d found a tumor. I’m an internally positive, intuitive person, so when my sister called that day I had no sense of impending doom. I told her that she would not have to face this alone. I told her I would help in any way I could. And I told her I knew I would see her healthy on the other side of all the shit she was about to endure. I believed it with all my heart.

Less than three weeks later, I was with her in Connecticut as she started her chemotherapy. I was there as she shopped for a wig. I witnessed the beginning of her hair loss. I scheduled the appointment to have her head shaved, and I stood there as her beautiful hair fell. I sat with her when the side effects were piling up, creating new problems in an immune system already under attack, and I did what I could to bring her a measure of peace in the midst of her physical and emotional misery. I never felt it was enough. But I also never had a doubt that, like her high-school-varsity-cheerleading self, she would jump high enough and kick hard enough to send cancer to outer space. I left her five weeks later in the caring hands of our middle sister and returned to my family.

IMG_5144
Sisters

When the six chemo rounds were finished, the tumor in her lymph node was shrunken enough to operate. The post-chemo scans were flawless. I flew again to Connecticut to be there as she underwent a five-plus hour, life-changing surgery. Being the strong-willed Aries she is, she emerged from it like a boss, bouncing back more quickly than most. I stayed another month with her while she was stuck at home, recuperating, unable to work or drive, waiting to get the all clear to resume her life. One cold winter afternoon, while we were in the midst of another binge-watch marathon, the call came in. The removed tissue had been examined with a fine tooth comb. They found nothing. Not a trace. The cancer was gone.

Still, my sister is not one to do things halfway. She continued with the prescribed course of treatment, which meant 25 radiation sessions followed by months of additional immunotherapy treatments. She did this all while dealing with daily shots of blood thinners to combat a clot she developed from her chemo port. She did this all while working full-time at an impressive new job, moving into a new home in a different town, keeping up with her two dogs, and continuing her workouts. She blew my mind, the literal embodiment of how much a human can endure.

Today before she began her last treatment, I sent her the only appropriate thing I could think of. I sent her this song because she didn’t just do it, she fucking did it. As Jason Mraz points out at the beginning of the video clip, you can tell someone you did it and they might not hear that. But if you tell someone you fucking did it, they will probably hear that shit. There are times when swearing is more than just appropriate. It’s imperative.

IMG_0477
Yeah, you did

So, I send this post out today to all of you who have been killing it. To all those of you who have slayed. To those of you who have faced something that seemed insurmountable that you still, perhaps to your surprise, overcame. I send it also to those of you who are starting to think you can’t do it, believing you might not persevere, suspecting it’s all too much for you. Don’t believe a word of the negativity you’re feeding yourself. Keep fighting. March forward. One foot in front of the other. One damn day at a time. And, soon enough, you’ll too be celebrating that you fucking did it.

 

Editor’s note: This is not the first time I have written about this song because I love it that much and sometimes it’s just that appropriate. Those earlier posts can be found here and here.

 

Be Dory In An Ocean Filled With Marlins

What we focus on expands

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Currently focusing on these organic, biodynamic wines in the hope they will expand

I was flipping through my phone yesterday morning when a news story caught my eye. I know you saw it too. The random backfiring of a motorcycle in New York City caused a panic and sent hundreds of people running for cover, fearing they were being fired upon. Last weekend’s mass shootings, added to the unacceptably long list of mass shootings already logged, have us all on edge. We’ve become like soldiers suffering from PTSD, and most of us are suffering from it without having experienced a real-time mass shooting situation. We’re suffering from empathetic PTSD, expecting we are the next victim. We’re on high alert constantly. Everything we see and everything we hear is cause for panic.

We feel unsafe. Understandably so. There have been shootings at schools, churches, malls, restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, and concerts. There is not a location in our nation where you can consider yourself safe from gun violence. Through constant connection to news via our devices and social media, we have been conditioned to anticipate catastrophe.

Like most, I’ve struggled to keep my head on straight despite the barrage of negative news. I’ve worked hard to teach our sons by example that a life lived through fear is no life at all. Our oldest hasn’t been comfortable in a movie theater since the July 2008 shooting in Aurora, Colorado, but we still take him to movies. We have to. Life is filled with risk. How will he learn to live with his discomfort if we give it a foothold? Where do we end up when we allow the possibility of gun violence to stop us from taking full advantage of the freedom our country allows? 

I found this chart to help my sons put things in perspective. The possibility of something bad happening is omnipresent. The probability, however, is not what we think it is.

Gun violence is a leading cause of death in America_BI Graphics
Taken from Skye/Gould Business Insider

 

Yes. You could become the victim of gun violence, but that potential is far less than the potential of falling victim to an accident or a prevalent disease. So, do you hole up in your home, hoping to stay “safe” (whatever that means) or do you live your life? I’m not implying these statistics aren’t alarming. They are. We just need to shift our focus away from catastrophe and onto reality. Heart disease is the most likely scenario for most Americans, but it probably doesn’t stop us from eating foods we shouldn’t or sitting on the couch when we could be getting some exercise. We weigh the overall odds and make a choice. We decide the pleasure of eating the cheese fries is worth the risk of artery damage. We tell ourselves, you gotta live, right? And we are right.

Shit happens. No amount of wishing shit didn’t happen is going to change the fact that it does. Can we do something about gun violence in the United States? I’d like to think so, but while we struggle to climb this Everest-level problem we can make small changes that will positively impact our lives now. We need to stop smothering ourselves in every detail of every depressing news story and turn our minds to what matters, what we can control, and what positivity we can foster. Delete the news apps (or at least silence the constant notification barrage) and withdraw intentionally from the things that make us anxious. It won’t change the reality, but the distance we create might make us sleep a little easier. It’s not about burying our heads in the sand. It’s about choosing to place our energy on positivity in the present rather than borrowing trouble from a future we cannot control.

Finding Nemo was released in 2003, when we had a 2 year old and a newborn. It was the first Pixar DVD we purchased for our sons. I couldn’t tell you precisely how many times I’ve seen it, but it’s a lot. As our sons have grown and started spreading their wings, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on that movie, the constant soundtrack to my sons’ young lives, thinking of poor, anxiety-ridden Marlin who in his fervor to avoid losing his son causes that exact thing. It’s easy to let negative past experiences ruin current positive ones.

I understand why the folks in Times Square started running when they heard the backfire. I probably would have joined them. It was a knee-jerk reaction fomented by 24/7 coverage of our mass shooting nightmares. We’re conditioned to expect the worst. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could consciously choose to return to a time when a motorcycle backfire might cause us to startle, maybe quicken our pulse rate a bit because of the unexpected loud noise, but that is where it would end? Perhaps as a collective we could decide to be less like fearful, negative Marlin and more like glass-is-half-full Dory by engaging in some short-term memory loss. It’s time we stop terrorizing ourselves by focusing on worst case scenarios. If we’re going to focus on something, let’s focus on good and watch it expand.