Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bring on the Boils

I sat alone in my bathroom, my elbow propped up by the cold, white pedestal sink and my hot, feverish forehead resting in the palm of my clammy hand, and I cried. I sobbed actually. I pleaded with God to bless me with regular life problems such as, the struggle to find a new home or job. I asked over and over to escape this perpetual hell I experienced and enter the realm of regular life, even if just for a day. And then I turned towards the toilet and vomited and returned to my bed covered in chill bumps.

My prayer was answered. I recently learned my current home is slated for destruction and plans are already developed for new condos and developments. While the news left me feeling trepidatious and worried at first, I later vowed it would not affect me. Stress is a monster and reeks havoc on my body like nothing else. It lowers my immune system and sends me directly back into that bathroom and worse, sends me town the spiral of depression. Everyone around me buzzed with nervous and complicated energy and I remained centered and calm. I even told my doctor, if I didn't lose and give up over the last thirteen years, I hardly think this recent struggle is the thing to which I will finally succomb. I believed it. I believed all would be well. But, that's the funny things about answered prayers. They aren't always answered in the way I want them answered. Gratitude isn't true gratitude if it is expressed when exactly what I want to occur is what happens. Honest gratitude comes when found, even though the world crashes and catastrophe reigns.

In the Book of Job, from The Bible, Job suffers immeasurable difficulties. He is seen as a righteous man and pegged as only grateful and faithful because his life is so blessed. God decides to test Job's faith. Almost every possession and loved one is taken from him. His wife urges him to turn from God and curse him. Job refuses. And even after everything is taken from him, he is inflicted with boils, and still refuses to denounce God and his love. Instead, Job scrapes away his boils and his faith remains pure despite his struggles. In the end, God returns Job's blessings seven fold and Job lives a very, long, blessed life. He understands God giveth and God taketh away.

I know I am not Job. I know far greater suffering exists in this world than paralysis. I know this, yet sometimes I feel like I just can't take it anymore. These past few weeks, once again, brought me to my knees and landed me back in that bathroom, begging for reprieve. The search for a home is magnified a thousand percent with a physical disability, like mine. And the largest problem is, very few people understand the parameters I must work with and against. Just a few steps or carpet or street parking are words that make all the difference in a home. There are thousands of available homes, but few of them are accessible and manageable for me. And though I quietly searched, so not to aggravate my body, I failed. I failed to find a place to live and I failed not to affect my body. I tried to build a fortress around myself of goodwill and positive energy, but it was quickly torn down and smashed into a million tiny pieces.

And as hard as this is for me to admit, yesterday I broke. After a not so great appointment with my doctor, a new infection, a fever, and several days of illness, I caved, fell prey to my depression and decided this was it, I couldn't take it anymore and I was done. I planned who would take my dog, where my belongings would go, and lastly, how I would go. As I write this, I feel the hot tears streaming down my face and I am full of shame. I broke. I let the myself lose. You see, I had a few months of a glimpse at regular life. I still battled what is left of my cavernous wounds and the care to keep them healthy and progressively healing, but I also woke up everyday without a fever and with a plan to do something other than nurse myself. I cherished every, single moment. I actually started to think, this is it, my life finally has the chance to turn around and I am worthy of a regular life. As the seemingly insurmountable task of the search for a new home grew, I finally fell victim to stress and, ultimately, paid the price of infection. My immune system decreased so rapidly, I picked up an infection. I juggled the infection in my normal fashion, popped several pills, fought off chills, ate very little, and carried on like a soldier. And, as it does every single time, infection won and I, once again, fell to my knees in prayer. I asked why I can't just have a regular life. Why I can't complain about things like the end of a vacation, or the struggle to find a job. Why I can't just have some time to live, just live, and make choices of my own that don't always pertain to my body and its lack of function. Why, why, why.

The answer is not simple. In fact, there really isn't an answer. I know this by now to be true. To live is to suffer. Everyone suffers. Everyone has boils. There are boils in Syria, there are boils in Egypt, there are boils on the streets of America, and in the homes of loving families. There are far too many and unexplained boils in the childrens' cancer wing of the hospital and on children in general. Boils are everywhere. I, like everyone else, don't choose when they inflict me. They metastasize and generate and populate all on their own and there isn't a darn thing I can do about them. The only thing I can do, is recognize them in an other, become more gentle, more kind, and more loving, and learn that life gives and it takes. It is just how it is. My only option is to become softer and more peaceful.

God assumed Job was only grateful because he was so blessed, so everything was taken away from Job and then Job was inflicted with boils. Job did not turn from God, he only persevered and knew he must live whatever life he was given and do so with out anger or resentment. And Job's activism didn't come in the form of protest or fight, his activism came in the form of example. People all over this world suffer and only find peace with death. Is it morbid and a difficult place and circumstance to understand. But the death, that is not my decision. It is out of my hands. I need to let the boils form, and if they take me down or take me out, than so be it. What I need to understand, is there is a force larger and stronger and more powerful than I can even imagine. And I may have had the taste, even if ever so briefly, of a regular, somewhat peaceful life, but I had the taste. And for this I am grateful. I need to take that shred of hope and spread it where I can. I need to reach out and tell another, it is possible, if only for a minute and may be possible in ways far beyond my understanding.

So, I know. I know what it is like when life seems to much to bear. I know what it is like to want to give up. I know what it is like to get a taste of the good and have it regurgitate back up, I know and I understand the pain. I know what it is like to feel like nothing ever goes the way it should or that wishes and prayers are never granted. I know what it is like to have others only expect the worst from me or forget I am a quiet soldier and continue to fight even when I don't want to or if nothing, ever goes my way. But, what I also know, is the feeling the feeling of joy that illuminates the darkest sky, if only for a night, I know that side of pain too. And there is wonder that joyous night, a wonder that cannot be replicated, even if it is, ever so swiftly, taken away. Hope is the seven fold of riches. Love is the seven fold of riches. These are the things that sprout and grow because of the boils. And they don't show up in material form, they show up as strength and empathy and compassion and service.

I choose to focus on the good. I choose to focus on the hope. And I choose to heal the boils of others. My gift, yes gift, of boils has taught me this. And just when I think I may have learned the lesson a million times, the boils return and remind me I still have so much to learn. Life's only purpose is to teach peace, love, faith, and hope and spread all of these, seven fold. Blessings are not mine to decide. I must find the the blaring and bright blessings in my own life. I must use them to help others and be of service to my fellow sisters and brothers. I must cease feeling righteous or entitled. My boils are healed with forgiveness and love and compassion and I take this lesson to act in service of others. I don't deserve a reward for the pain, the reward is seeing others and the world with new and different eyes. I learn to see the boils on others and act as a healer, instead of a hurter. I may feel shame because I wanted to give up or lost my hope or my faith, but, once again, it taught me to see that shame in an other and act with gentle hands and a loving heart. That is my purpose. That is the only purpose. So, bring on the boils.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kelly and Sarah's Favorite Things

In the past week, I attended a family wedding and hosted my sister for nine days. I am exhausted and overwhelmed. After a week of catching up on Real Housewives with my sister, visiting with cousins, and sharing many dinners with our parents, I am ready for my schedule and little, boring life. I tried to stay on my regular routine, but that never seems to work with a visitor. I finally just gave in and took some time off of my routine. Yesterday, however, I jumped back into my regular life and am left feeling somewhat exhausted. I will be back later in the week with the post I worked on, or tried to work on over the last week, but for now I want to share something fun and a few of my favorite things.

One of my favorite past times is to cook. I love to cook. If I could prepare and serve food all day long, I would. I also love to keep house and decorate. For as long as I can remember, when my mind drifts it is always escaping to dinner party ideas, organization techniques, and living room configurations and furniture dreams. One Christmas, I received the Martha Stewart Home Keeping Handbook, and you would have thought I won the lottery. Another Christmas, an iron was the gift that sent me over the edge with excitement. I don't mean to be this way, I just am. I don't have to try to be interested in the proper way to load a dishwasher or iron a shirt, I just am. It's who I am, just ask my old roommate, Joselyn. I assumed my accident might take this love away from me, but the old adage is true, if you let go of something you love and it returns, it is yours forever. Not only did I not lose interest, I found ways to make the loves of my life work and adapt to my new life. I still iron and clean and cook. Funny enough, it's my happy place.

My dear friend, Kelly, celebrated a birthday about a week and a half ago. Because of our busy schedules, we were not able to meet up to celebrate until Sunday evening. Celebrating her birth, was a perfect cap on a fun filled week. We ate frozen berries with hot white chocolate sauce and shared a very special bottle of champagne, and most importantly caught up with each other and shared a lot of laughter. Kelly loves to cook as well. She throws some of the best barbecue parties I've ever attended. One thing we have in common is our love of the Barefoot Contessa. We test and try and discuss her recipes quite often. We talk about Ina as if we know her personally. Last year, I packed a basket full of Kelly's Favorite Things. I made her a mason jar full of Ina's Blue Cheese Dressing, a large bag of caramels, and threw in a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. This year, Kelly requested another Kelly's Favorite Things basket and the frozen berries with hot white chocolate desert. I threw in Kelly's favorite onion dip, chips, and bottle of champagne. I am filled with joy when I cook and even more so when Kelly requests certain items. I love to prepare everything and especially love putting the basket together.  

I thought I would share Kelly's Favorite Things along with a few of my favorite things. I hope to do more posts like this in the future. All of these recipes and links to recipes and other favorites are tried and true and practiced over and over again by me. I hope you enjoy some of them! See you in a few days.

Kelly's Favorite Things basket includes...
Blue Cheese Dressing
Pan Fried Onion Dip
Fleur de Sel Caramels
Kettle Brand Sea Salt Chips
Heirloom Tomatoes from the local farmer's market I attend every single Sunday.

Blue Cheese Dressing
(The Barefoot Contessa, Barefoot Contessa at Home)

1/2 pound Roquefort cheese 
1cup good mayonnaise
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons tarragon wine vinegar

Place the Roquefort cheese, the mayonnaise, heavy cream, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until combined but still chunky.

My notes:
If you can’t find Roquefort, use another good crumbly blue cheese. I couldn’t find it at Whole Foods once and just grabbed a container of the Whole Foods brand danish blue cheese crumbles and the dressing turned out perfectly well. I now use the crumbles because it tasted so good. 
Milk can be substituted for the heavy cream.
And white wine vinegar can be substituted for the tarragon wine vinegar. Actually, I am sure almost any vinegar will work, probably with the exception of balsamic vinegar.
I love to serve this over heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers.

Pan-fried Onion Dip
(Barefoot Contessa, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)

2 large yellow onions (about 3 cups of sliced onions)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
 1/2 cup sour cream
 1/2 cup good mayonnaise

Cut the onions in half, and then slice them in to 1/8-inch-thick half-rounds. (You will have about 3 cups of onions.)
Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan on medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes, until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.
Place the cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings.
Serve at room temperature. I always serve it with Kettle brand Sea Salt chips. Any kind of potato chips will work, as well as fresh vegetables and crackers.

My notes:
Make sure to really caramelize the onions. You want them nice and brown. 
The cream cheese should be really soft--this is very important for blending well.
Once I start eating this dip, I cannot stop. You are warned.

Fleur de sel Caramels
(Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That?)

Vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing it to drape over 2 sides, then brush the paper lightly with oil

In a deep saucepan (6 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches deep), combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar, and corn syrup and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown. Don’t stir--just swirl the pan. Watch carefully, as it can burn quickly at the end!

In the meantime, in a small pot, bring the cream, butter, and 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.

When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful--it will bubble up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees (firm ball) on a candy thermometer. Very carefully (it’s hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm.

When the caramels are cold, pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Cut the square in half. Starting with a long side, roll one piece of the caramel up tightly into an 8-inch-long log. Repeat with the second piece. Sprinkle both logs with fleur de sel, trim the ends, and cut each log in 8 pieces. Cut glassine or parchment paper into 4 x 5-inch pieces and wrap each caramel individually, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator and serve the caramels chilled.

My notes:
I use finely ground sea salt if I can’t find fleur de sel or am out of it.
It is really key to wait until the sugar mixture is a deep golden brown before adding the cream mixture.
I cut the caramels into four logs or more and cut smaller pieces. Cutting it in half makes the pieces too large for my taste.
And use the parchment paper and not wax paper! I used wax paper the first time I made them and it was a nightmare!

A few of my favorite things, that I can't just get enough of right now, are...
Pioneer Woman's Iced Coffee. I wake up thinking about this coffee.
Avocado salad on toast. I eat this almost every day for lunch. It never gets old.
I am very into anything with black beans right now and created a burrito dinner with them. I eat it a few nights a week.
Pioneer Woman's Chicken Tortilla Soup
Gabrielle Bernstein's guided Kundalini Meditations
Kundalini Meditation

Iced Coffee
I found this Iced Coffee one day when I was looking around for recipes. I was tired of spending all of my money at Starbucks. I made it and am how hooked. It seems like a bit of work, but once you gather your materials and get a system, it really doesn't take very long. It pays off too.

Avocado Salad on Toast
My friend Ashlea deserves credit for finding this recipe. She found a recipe for a California Sandwich and then I modified it because I only had some of the items. I eat my modified version constantly and love every bite.

Avocado salad on toast with chive yogurt spread

For the yogurt spread...
A bunch of chopped fresh chives mixed in Greek yogurt ( I don't really measure this, just chop a big bunch and then add Greek yogurt by the spoonful and mix) I like it pretty full of chives, but do it to taste. Then add some salt and pepper to taste.

Avocado Salad
One avocado (chopped in small chunks)
One tomato (I use on the vine and scrape the seeds out and then chop in small chunks)
One cucumber (scrape the seeds)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Juice of one Lime
Whole Grain bread (right now I am really into Salt Rye that I purchase at the farmer's market)

Mix it all together. It will keep in an airtight container for about 2 days. I usually get two days worth of lunch out of one batch.

Then I take two slices of whole grain or fresh bread, toast them lightly, and spread each piece with the chive yogurt and then top with the avocado salad. I like to eat it open face. I also put on more salt and pepper at this point if it needs it. 

Black Bean Burritos
I kind of stopped eating meat. I really didn't mean to, but I fell in love with a few bean recipes and just sort of stopped eating meat. I am trying to slowly reintroduce some meat because I love a Roast Chicken or Beef Stew in the winter months. We will see how the reintroduction works out! I honestly haven't missed it one little bit! 

Black Bean Burritos

2 cans of black beans (I buy the 365 brand organic @ Whole Foods)
about a half pound of shrimp
red pepper
yellow onion
Greek yogurt
**I keep the black beans and shrimp the same every time, but I change around the toppings. You can nix the peppers and onions and do guacamole and pico de gallo or salsa. Or just do diced raw onions and chopped avocado, whatever you prefer. The toppings are endless. 

Taco seasoning: (I usually mix this in a little bowl and add most of it to the beans...just leave a small bit behind to sprinkle on the shrimp)

   1 tablespoon chili powder

   1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
   1/4 teaspoon onion powder
   1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
   1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
   1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
      1 teaspoon kosher salt
      1 teaspoon black pepper

Take the two cans of beans and drain them and pour them into a sauce pan. Then add a bit of water to them. I know this sounds funny but the liquid they sit in is just kind of funky so I like to add a little fresh. Then add homemade taco seasoning to the beans and water. Bring it to a boil, then turn down as low as it can go and stir it now and again just so they don't stick to the bottom. Let it cook on low while you do everything else.

Slice up onions and peppers and saute them in a saute pan with olive oil. Also add a bit of salt and pepper. Cook until tender.
Next, move the vegetables to the side of the pan and toss in the seasoned shrimp and just cook them until they turn pink. It takes 5 minutes at most. You could also put the shrimp on a skewer and grill them. Just make sure to season them first. If I have an extra lime, I add a little lime juice to the shrimp as well.
Heat the tortillas (either in an oven or a skillet or a microwave) They only take about 10 seconds in the microwave and a minute in the oven. You just don't want to heat them too long or they get very crispy.

Fill up the tortillas with everything you like! I use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and a little hot sauce. 

Pioneer Woman's Chicken Tortilla Soup
I made this one day last February and fell in love with it. The problem when I make it is I want to eat it every single night for dinner. It is really just so delicious. It takes some time to make because of the cooking time, but the prep work is very minimal. It makes quite a bit of soup, so if I can't stop myself from eating too much, I always have some leftover to freeze.

Gabrielle Bernstein's Guided Kundalini Meditations
I love this particular mediation. I love all of Gabby's meditations, but this one is my favorite. I do it first thing in the morning and before dinner. I also will do it if I can't stop worrying or stressing about something. It is just fantastic. My sister is working on her PhD in Finance and was struggling with stress one evening and I told her to just try this meditation. She was quite skeptical of it. Later, I received an email that she could not believe the impact the meditation had on her brain. She said it felt like a rock wall in her head finally cracked and fresh air blew through it and emptied her brain of stress. It is my go to meditation. I also love anything like this that can be done sitting down! And it is only three minutes of actual practice...the rest is just instructional.

Kundalini Yoga and Mediation
I love Kundalini right now. This meditation is a bit longer and takes a bit of practice. It works astoundingly well too. I love it.

I hope some of these things become favorites of yours too! I'm off to do two of my very favorite things, walk the dog and go to bed. Have a wonderful evening. 

Peace and much love,

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I Was Wrong About Pollyanna

A prime example of a miracle worker is Pollyanna. The ego knows this, which is why she is constantly invalidated in this culture. She walked into a situation where everyone had been in a nasty mood for years. She chose not to see the nastiness. She had faith in what lay beyond it. She extended her perception beyond what her physical senses revealed to her, to what her heart knew to be true about every human being. It didn't matter how anyone behaved. Pollyanna had faith in the love she knew existed behind anyone's fear, and thus she invoked their love into expression. She exercised the power of forgiveness. Within a short time, everyone was nice and everyone was happy! Whenever someone says to me, "Marianne, you're being a Pollyanna," I think to myself, "If only I were that powerful."
~Marianne Williamson A Return to Love 

I must admit I caught the Royal Baby Watch fever last week. Okay, I didn't catch it, I sought it out, grabbed a hold of it, and didn't let go. I also admit I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to watch the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge marry. And I may also have had a breakfast party to watch the coverage of the wedding. So, naturally, I needed to see the baby hoopla all the way through. And not only did I need to see it, I shared excited emails and texts and phone calls with Kelly, Ashlea, Beth, Meghan, and Bridget for days leading up the birth. I even lured my life saving housekeeper, Krissy, to watch the blessed event along side me. She sat on my ottoman, dust rag in hand, unable to move from the television. We both swore we could see Will and Kate behind those closed doors of the hospital at least an hour before they finally came out. Every time Krissy tried to work again, she heard my call, this is it, I see them, this is it.

I hear a lot of complaints about the Royal Baby Watch. I hear it is a waste of time, a nuisance, a lot of pomp and circumstance over nothing, over something that happens every single day, all over the world. And largely, I see the point of said complaints. It is a lot of fuss over a very common occurrence, birth. But, at the same time, it isn't something that happens every single day. Yes, women birth babies and always have and all kinds of people marry, but what doesn't occur on a regular basis is positive, heart-warming, smile inducing, mood lifting news coverage. For at least the week that preceded the birth of Prince George, the headlines were all about a baby and a new family. The headlines were cheery and filled with positive messages. News casters and pundits didn't argue about politics or guns or right and wrong. Instead, there were moments of jokes, laughter, and agreement. The fights and the painful headlines ceased for a minute, if only for a few hours, they stopped.

Now, it doesn't mean the evil in the world took a breather, we just took a break from the obsession over the bad to focus on the good. People still died, wars still continued, and hearts still broke, but we took a moment to breathe and smile. The headlines were just a bit softer. The massacres, trials, and wars slipped in underneath and to the side. I do not mean to imply these atrocities should go unnoticed, but I do start to wonder about the intense focus put on them. And while the focus can be important, awareness is never underestimated, the problem lies in the obsession with the negative aspects. For example, today's headlines told the story of a man that held three young girls, now women, captive for over a decade and detailed the torture and life of horror he inflicted upon them. In the middle of the article, not the in the headline, there were a few sentences about the victims and their strength, courage, and willingness to persevere and refusal to give up hope. One victim, filled with bravery and light, even stated she forgives her captor because she wants her life back, the life she knew that was once filled with love. Along with this headline, there were stories of blood baths and riots and starvation from all over the world. Those that fight are plastered across the front and are mentioned at the top of the news stories. And there are always the headlines covering what one political party did to upset the other, what one politician said or did or didn't do. And one side thinks it is right and fights to be heard, but always argues it is a good fight because this is the right side. Fights, fights, and more fights. They always there, we don't have to find the words in the article, they are usually the headlines. The world has to stop fighting for a moment. We have to notice the helpers, the lovers, and the peacemakers. We have to see the good. I know I need to.

What if instead of these sensational headlines there were headlines that covered the helpers, the peacemakers, the lovers, and the hopers, the young girls who found freedom against all odds and choose love. I believe we could still tell the same stories, still share the same awareness, but just use a different perspective. A perspective filled with love, forgiveness and hope. This isn't a new idea. This movement, this way of thought has been used many times before with great success. Jesus, and Ghandi, and Martin Luther King Jr. all used this approach and accomplished and still accomplish change that astounds and heals. Efforts to heal through peace and forgiveness and love doesn't mean excusing the wrong, it means looking at it from a different perspective. It means the choice to observe the evil with a new pair of eyes, a healing pair of eyes. One that doesn't need to be right, or bare the correct and mighty arms. It means reconciliation and an ultimate state of healing for everyone and everything. Miracles happen when the combat boots are made of love and the guns shoot forgiveness instead of bullets. This isn't some far out thought, we've seen these miracles happen over and over again all throughout history. Slavery is abolished, captives are set free, and forgiveness is granted and hope endures.

There are quite a few distractions desperately trying to throw me off course right now. I can easily revert to anger and depression and choose fear over love. And I have. There are some moments filled with tears and worry. It isn't easy to admit I fall short some days. It isn't easy to admit I feel like I just can't do it sometimes. But, I do. It may be far less common then it used to be, but it happens. I enlist many solutions to correct my thoughts, but always rejected one, the Pollyanna approach. I used to use it quite often. I refused to look at anything in a negative light and forced a smile. However, until just the other day, when I read Marianne Williamson's book for the umpteenth time, I never quite understood Pollyanna. I thought her story was just one of making lemonade out of lemons. I thought it was the story of agreement and pleasing others and smiling constantly. And over the years, I learned sometimes lemons are just sour and sometimes agreement to the detriment of myself, kills me slowly, a little bit at a time. I see now, I was wrong. The story of Pollyanna isn't a story of changing a situation into something it isn't, it is about seeing the beauty and wonder beneath all of the pain and anger. Pollyanna wasn't a pushover who took anything from anyone. In fact, she only took from people what she wanted to see. Pollyanna only saw what was important and what was helpful to growth and trust and compassion. She only saw what helped her feel more loved, more whole, more full of hope. She saw past the negative stories and made her own headlines. She saw what was best in others because she saw it in herself. Her smile wasn't fake or practiced, it was how she chose to see the world around her.

The headlines of my life are what I choose to write. I can water whichever garden I choose. If I want to sow seeds of despair, I can. If I want to sow seeds of love, I can. All along when I thought I needed to fight, I was really only learning to love myself more. I may have decided I was fighting for myself, for my life, but in reality, I was seeing the good and the worth and the pieces of myself that deserved love, forgiveness, and the chance to live. Sometimes, we do need a little happy. Sometimes we do have choose to see love instead of fear and find our inner Pollyanna. But mostly, we have to write our own headlines and our own stories and not bury the goodness deep down inside where it isn't noticed. Because when we see it in ourselves, we see it in others. Stories of hope, stories of love, they are all addicting, and that's okay. Pollyanna might just know what she is doing.