The Growing Self Blogger Award

I am honored to be nominated for the Growing Self Blogger Award by no other than the awards creator- Roda!  It means a lot to me.  I have enjoyed reading Roda’s blog and especially reading about her farm.  Maybe the next time we are in Western Michigan, we will take a side trip and stop by the farm.

What is The Growing Self Blogger Award:

“The Growing Self Blogger Award has been created to acknowledge and celebrate amazing individuals, in the blogging community, who are persevering through life’s challenges not only to GROW as individuals,  but to reach out and help others GROW as well.” ~Roda

How Does It Work:

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog
  • List the rules
  • Thank the individual that nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Describe the award and mention the creator: Roda  – Growingself.blog
  • Nominate up to 5 blogs.  Remember, the purpose of this award is to specifically celebrate those individuals that make a difference in the lives of others.
  • Give 1 reason why you nominated each individual.
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog

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I am honored to nominate the following bloggers:

*I understand that not everyone chooses to be a part of the award nomination process. By nominating the following blogs, I am able to show thanks and appreciation for the joy, knowledge and laughter these individuals have brought to my life. If you choose to take part, that is fantastic! If not, no worries! Just keep writing…

 

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Announcing our giveaway winner

I put all the entries into my super sophisticated, high tech random number generator…
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And the winner is….
Autumn Molnar says:

We are heading to the family cottage for the 4th. So excited to relax on the beach, celebrate the holiday, ride the boat and do water activities with my beautiful 4yr old daughter and her extended family.

Congratulations Autumn!  Sounds like you and the other entrants have some great summer plans.

Please send your contact information to Kerryannmckim at gmail dot com so I can send you your prize.

My first giveaway!

Happy Monday!

A month or two ago when Sheryl Sandberg’s book Option B came out, I bought a second copy with the intention of giving it away to a reader.  This book isn’t just for widows.  And then I put the book on my dining room table and forgot about it.

Recently my blog hit 20,000 pageviews and I have 100 WordPress followers.  So I thought what better way to celebrate than do that giveaway!

This book is applicable to anyone who has had any kind of loss whether it is a loss of a spouse, family member, a divorce or a loss of a job or career.

I am not one for rules so it will be pretty simple.

  1.  Contest is open to residents of U.S. and Canada (excluding Quebec).
  2. To enter, just comment on this blog post and tell me one fun thing you plan to do this summer.
  3. One entry per person.
  4. Any anonymous comments will be deleted.
  5. Family members are not eligible.
  6. Contest ends on Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 11:59 pm EST.
  7. Winner will be announced on the blog on Friday, June 23, 2017 st 8:00 am EST.
  8. Book will be mailed out once it is claimed.

So what fun thing do you plan to do this summer?

An epiphany

There have been two feelings I have had my whole life.

The first feeling of restlessness.  I have always felt that there is a whole world out there to see.  So much history and culture to absorb.  Different people with different routines and traditions.  

I had only left New England seven times before I went to study in England the fall of my junior year in college.  Three of those times had been to Canada (New Brunswick, Quebec City and Montreal), two had been to New York (NYC and Niagara Falls with a side trip to the Canadian side) and one trip to Gettysburg, PA and one trip to Washington D.C.  The flight from Boston to London at the age of 21 was my first time flying on an airplane.  I have since seen more of the U.S. between my involvement in the Young Republican National Federation and my parents purchasing an RV.  I have seen more of the world due to Bryon and my love for cruising.  And I don’t plan on stopping.  I promised Bryon I wouldn’t stop.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do love my small Maine town.  I miss Maine, especially the people and the ocean.  But I always felt like there was more in the world and I wanted to experience it.  Maine did feel so isolated.  The only cities you could travel to easily by car was Boston and Quebec City.  I always wanted to be close to more US cities.  I love Boston (my birthplace) and Quebec City but I love having the option to do weekend trips to other cities.  

I still feel that urge to see the world.  It doesn’t matter if it is a back country road or a big city.  I just love to see new places.  I love historical sites and museums.  I love trying local food.  I love shops.  I love scenery.  I want to see it all.

The second feeling I have had my whole life is that I have always felt like an outsider. That I am on the outside looking in.  I never felt included despite being involved in sports, clubs, and later politics.

This brings me back to high school and college.  I always worried where I fit in.  I wasn’t cool but I wasn’t uncool either.  I wasn’t particularly included but I wasn’t excluded.  I had friends but I wasn’t invited to the cool parties.  Though looking back, I am sure some of that was me.  I didn’t have the wisdom to know how to be as open to friendships.  Being open to friendship is something I only started to do when Bryon got sick.  

I followed my same social patterns in college.  There were two major groups in my college dorms.  The theater/art/music majors sat on the left side of the cafeteria and the athletic and Greeks sat on the right hand side.  There was one row of tables that was right in the middle near the salad bar and an ice cream cart.  I was friends with people on both sides and would sit on either side.  If I was by myself (something that didn’t phase me, especially after studying abroad and going to Paris by myself) and I didn’t see any of my friends, I would just sit in the middle.

When it comes to my writing and purpose, I come back to these two feelings that have plagued me my whole life.  

I have so many ideas for blog posts in my head and no idea where to start. I have so many ideas of what I want to accomplish, but I don’t know how to get there.  Now I have Paul Simon’s Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard stuck in my head.

I think about the concept of having a niche when writing.  What kind of blogger and writer am I?  Trying to find what writing niche reminds me of my high school and college years where I was trying to find the right table to sit at in the cafeteria.  My half-marathon training has been suffering due to my poor time management skills so I am definitely not a running blogger.  I don’t travel enough to be a travel blogger.  I write about life, but I am not a lifestyle blogger.  Trust me, if you could see how messy my living room is, you would know why I don’t post pictures of my house.  I write about death and grief.  It is important for me to share that part of my story as our society has a twisted view on death and grieving and we need to talk about it.  But I don’t want Bryon’s death and grief to define me.  I am still a person who has a lot of living left to do.

I need to make a difference.  I need to help people.  

I need to talk about grief to help widows, especially young widows because the world thinks of widows as being elderly.  

I need to talk about grief to help those who have lost loved ones, not just widows, but anyone who has lost a child, family member or friend.  

I need to talk about rebuilding my life to help those whose life and sense of security  was shattered, whether it was by death, divorce or job loss.  

I need to talk about my struggles in parenting to help those who are single parents.

I need to tell my story of surviving to give hope to those who are struggling to carry on.

I need to talk about the problems in our healthcare system so people can advocate for themselves and their families.

It dawned on me today that instead of worrying where I fit in, I need to just blaze my own trail.  Not just with my writing, but in my life in general.  If I truly want to be open to new people and new experiences, then I shouldn’t be focusing on trying to put place myself in a niche or group.  If I do that, then I inadvertently narrow down who I meet and my opportunities to make a difference.  I have spent my whole life waiting for others to define the path I am to take.  That is silly because no one other than myself can know my true life purpose.  No one else can understand what I hope to get out of life.  If I wait for others to define my path, then I am limiting my potential.  

I need to blaze that trail even if I don’t know where I am going.  Besides being a wife and mother, the other two times I felt accomplished in my life where when I took risks and did something scary.  The first was my semester in the UK and the second was my years in politics.  They were the two times in my life when I felt like I was out experiencing life the most and my experiences were the most rewarding.  I pushed ahead and did things out of my comfort zone.  I didn’t let fear stop me.  I need to remember this as I blaze a trail forward.

Liebster award: discover new blogs!

So back in the beginning of May, my friend Britt nominated me for a Liebster award and I am ashamed to say that I sat on it.  A grief wave hit me hard and I just didn’t do it.  Sorry Britt.  And now Jessica has also nominated me.  So now I am just feeling silly that I never followed through the first time.  So I am going to answer both sets of questions and do two sets of facts.

Jessica’s questions

  1. What is your favourite childhood memory?

          Playing with my cousins at various family parties.

  1. Do you have pets? If yes, what are they?

         I have one black cat named Boehner.

  1. Best way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

          Relaxing while my two year old takes a nap.

  1. Favourite TV show?

          How I Met Your Mother.

  1. Do you dance?

          Not well and usually only when I have been drinking.

  1. You’re going to a deserted island. What three things are you going to take?

         My cell phone, running shoes and a knitting project.

  1. Favourite painter or painting?

         I like ocean landscapes so I would say Winslow Homer or Andrew Wyeth.  I do also            like French Impressionism and enjoy Renoir.

  1. Country or city?

      I truly appreciate both but I would want to live in the country.  It’s my dream to live in an old farmhouse.

  1. What food do you seek out when you’re blue?

Mexican food or coffee ice cream.

  1. Weirdest word you know.

Maybe not weird but my favorite fun word is “parapluie” which is French for “umbrella.”

  1. Is the ‘u’ in colour necessary or just odd?

I find the “u” charming.

Britt’s questions

  1. What inspired you to start blogging?

I wanted to share my story about grief and resilience because I wanted to empower others who may be in a similar position.  I also wanted to tell my story to help people understand what it is like to be a widow and an only parent.

2.What is one piece of advice that you wish someone had given you before starting your blog?

That my readers will always surprise me.  The posts that I think are going to be popular aren’t always the ones my readers want to read.  And other times, posts that I don’t expect to perform well will.

3. What is the most memorable vacation you have ever taken and why?

So many to choose from but I am going to say the time Bryon and I went to Colorado and (a little) Wyoming.  It was in 2010 and all our other trips up until that point had been brief weekend trips that involved political conferences.  That weekend did involve a political conference but we took several extra days and went on some adventures in the Rocky Mountains.

4. What is your go to fuel – Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate or some other glorious provider of energy when needed?

It used to be a Starbucks Venti Iced Americano with an extra shot and cream and sugar.  I have recently given up sugar and am cutting back on dairy so now it’s a Starbucks Venti Cold Brew with coconut milk.

5. What is your favourite social media platform, and why?

Facebook because I am addicted.

6. If you could design your ‘perfect day’ what would it look like?

My perfect day would consist of my two year old daughter letting me sleep in, a house that was already cleaned, my daughter napping and maybe a nearby adventure with friends.

7. In what ways do you inspire yourself to come up with new content?

Usually I write about something emotional that is bothering me.  Don’t know if I would call that inspiration but I am motivated to sort those feelings out through writing.

8. What is the one app on your phone you couldn’t live without?

Facebook

9. What is your favourite band or artist?

Right now I have to say Hall and Oates.

10. What is your favourite childhood memory?

Playing with my cousins at various family functions.

11. Do you have any major blogging goals for 2017? If so, what are they?

Just keep plugging along.

I was supposed to do 11 facts.  I am going to be ambitious and try for 22 since I was nominated twice.

  1. I was born in Boston, MA and lived in the suburbs until I started high school and then I moved to Maine.
  2. My favorite subjects in high school were Social Studies and French.
  3. I rarely eat cereal but when I do, I don’t put milk in it.  The thought of soggy cereal actually grosses me out.  My late husband was appalled when he learned about this.  He called me “un-American”
  4. My first airplane trip was at the age of 21.  I flew from Boston to London to study abroad the fall semester of my junior year.
  5. Before I went to England, I had never been out of the Northeast of the US (with the exception of a few trips to Canada but when you live in Maine, that doesn’t count.)
  6. I am American (see #1) and my ancestry is roughly ¾ Irish and ¼ Acadian with a strain of Native American (MicMac).
  7. I lived in Maine for 8 years before I tried lobster.
  8. I only learned how to properly cook a lobster last fall.  My friend is the wife of a lobsterman and she showed me how.
  9. My parents have a black bear who lives behind their house.  His name is Bob which stands for Big Old Bear.  But Bob isn’t just one bear and he isn’t old.  He is likely the young bear who is kicked out of the den to make room for the new bear cub.
  10. I once ran (unsuccessfully) for State Rep in Maine  in 2006.
  11. My favorite ice cream is coffee oreo.
  12. I totally have a crush on Marco Rubio and am still in mourning that he didn’t win the Republican nomination.
  13. I grew up with dogs and thought cats were pointless.  Then I got a cat and I love him.
  14. I plan on getting a Golden Retriever for my daughter when she’s a little bit older.
  15. When I was a kid, my mother’s medicine of choice for me was Pepto Bismol.  
  16. I bought some Pepto Bismol on a trip to Mexico and it had lumps in it.  I still used it because (duh) heartburn.  And I lived to tell about it.
  17. I might have GERD.  And I know GERD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.  I can say it but I had to google it to spell it.
  18. I once stayed at a youth hostel in Dublin, Ireland and it was infested with bed bugs.  So the phrase “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” makes me itchy.  I am itchy right now.  (And don’t worry, I left them in Ireland)
  19. I have asthma.
  20. I have been to the Easternmost point of the US (West Quoddy Light House, Lubec, ME) and the Southernmost point of the US (Key West, FL)
  21. I watch too many crime shows and they make me paranoid.  
  22. The first movie I ever saw in the movie theater was Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back.  The second movie I ever saw in the movie theater was Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.  The last movie I saw in the movie theater was Fifty Shades Darker and it was the first movie I left in the middle.  It was that bad.

The bloggers I would like to nominate are 

  1. Kathy http://deathanddyingchronicles.com/
  2. Julia https://lacrossewidow.com/
  3. https://firstsbeyondthefirsts.blog/
  4. Emily https://readysetgrieve.wordpress.com/
  5. Erica https://ericaroman.me/
  6. Emily http://justplayinghouse.com/
  7. Megan http://www.blondeisthenewwidow.com/
  8. Roni http://stillhistimesforever.blogspot.com/
  9. Jodi http://extragracerequired.com/
  10. Ella http://ellawallprichard.com/
  11. Nik https://www.niktebbe.com/blog-1

All of these blogs are about grief and most are widows.  I thought that would be fun.  But really it is because I think our society has a strange, almost archaic view on death and grief and it leaves a burden on the grieving to educate the non-grieving.

The questions I am going to ask the nominees (should they choose to accept this nomination) are

  1. What book is on your (proverbial) nightstand?
  2. What is a place you have always wanted to go to but haven’t made it there yet?
  3. What are your hobbies?
  4. In what way has grief changed you?
  5. What is your favorite holiday?  Why?
  6. What is your favorite childhood memory?
  7. If you could give one piece of advice to your high school self, what would it be?
  8. If you were in a new city and you had to choose between going to a professional sports game or a museum, which would you choose?
  9. What was the last concert you attended?
  10. How do you take your coffee?
  11.  We are all geeks in some way or another.  In what way are you a geek?

Thank you for nominating me Britt and Jessica.

Margaritas, guacamole, money and a thunderstorm

Why am I writing about margaritas, guacamole, money and a thunderstorm? Because that is my present.  At least, it was 5 hours ago.  One of my best friends and I went to a favorite Mexican restaurant Ama Cocina tonight.  My daughter came too.  She was, as another friend would say, living her best life possible.  She was double-dipping those chips, grabbing items out of my taco (she prefers the deconstructed taco) and she was running around the table.  I did not approve of her acting like that in a restaurant and I had exhausted all the toys in my bag of tricks so I half jokingly told her I would give her a dollar if she sat still in her seat.  It worked.  I gave her the dollar which she happily took and said “It’s MY money.”  This must be how capitalists are born.

I have never been a person that has been good at being present.  I usually like to stress about the future or dwell on the past and constantly wonder what if.  I missed out on enjoying a lot of life’s precious moments because of this.  But no matter how bad things were, when I looked into the future, it was brighter.  Maybe that represented some sort of escapist hope.

When Bryon got sick, I had no choice but to live in the present.  I didn’t want to think about the future because when I did, I knew that there was a chance he wouldn’t be there or he would have lasting health problems if he was.  I remember stressing out one day because I was concerned that if he recovered, he might never regain his strength and what if he couldn’t storm into a court room?  He would be miserable.  He was such a strong person, mentally and physically.

During Bryon’s five months in the ICU, I didn’t spend much time looking ahead.  There were too many times that he went into shock and too many times where he came close to dying.  Obviously my end goal was for him to get out of the ICU, whether it was a step down unit (we were close a couple of times) or directly to rehab and then home.  But so much could go wrong and he was so sick that for the first time in my life, I had to live day by day.

I remember feeling so overwhelmed at this new reality.  Overnight I had gone from being part of a two person team who took care of a small child to be one person solely responsible for myself, a critically ill husband and a small child.  Bryon took care of so much.  He made sure the bills got paid and had spreadsheets that organized everything.  I knew he scheduled many payments in advance through our bank account but a few weeks into his illness, I finally had to face reality that I needed to figure out which bills had been paid.  Everything was now my responsibility.  I had to call the bank because I didn’t remember my password.  I couldn’t even remember the last time I logged into our bank account.  Then I had to figure out all the passwords.  I know I reset a bunch of them in the process.  I remember telling Bryon that I probably made a mess of the bills but they were paid and if I forgot one, then I am sure that they would find us.

I was overwhelmed.  I had no idea how long Bryon was going to be in the hospital.  Then there was talk that they would send him to Springfield, MA for rehab which is an hour and a half away and I panicked because I needed to be present to view all of his medical care and there would be no way I could do that and keep my daughter’s life as normal as possible here in Albany.  There would be no way I could afford all that gas.  But all that panicking was for nothing because Bryon never made it to rehab.

There were so many times during those months where I didn’t know how I was going to do it.  I couldn’t work so I wasn’t getting paid.   I had no idea how long my present was going to last.  And I had no idea what our future was going to look like.  I started thinking about what modifications that were going to be needed in our house and our lifestyle.  I started looking into specialists in Boston and New York for his conditions.  Not just specialists to get him well, but specialists who could manage any long term effects.  I started wondering if we should move closer to New York to be closer to better healthcare.  Boston would not be an option because Bryon was not admitted in the Massachusetts Bar.  The fact that this lifelong Red Sox fan was willing to move so close to the heart of the Evil Empire shows how dedicated I was to Bryon’s care.  But I spent a long time planning for a future that would never happen.

I somehow survived those months.  My family, friends and even some complete strangers made sure I survived.

Now I am in the future that I couldn’t think about.  My best friend in high school had a favorite quote that said “today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday.”  She had no idea who said it,  she saw it on a calendar somewhere.  A quick google search 20 years later tells me that Dale Carnegie once said that.  Frankly I don’t like thinking about the future because no matter what I envision, Bryon is not there.  Yes, I have my daughter but all I see are moments where Bryon should be there.  I have no long term plan and no long term goals.  I have an idea what I want to do with my life but no clear goals as to how to achieve it.   So when I am sad about the present, I can’t escape into the future.  I try to escape to the past but lately, the days in the hospital have been on the forefront my mind.

So now I live in the present even if it can be painful at times.  I drink a lot of iced coffee and read a lot of books to my daughter.  I spend times with my girls and my Albany family and I see my biological family as often as I can.  I write.  I cook.  I run.  I read.  I travel.  And I will continue to do so until the future I dread so much becomes my present.

Forgiveness

I used to always love to play the SIMS.  It was a computer game where you create simulated people (hence SIMS) and you lived their computer generated reality.  You would make them do different actions.  My favorite thing was created a SIM for various people I know and then laugh at their weird social awkwardness that only a computer simulated person would have and imaging the real human counterparts doing that.  (I.e. “There’s is no way So-and-So would have walked in on me in the bathroom, haha”)  When SIMS interact with each other, a green plus sign or a red negative sign is displayed above the SIMS head.  The green plus sign denotes a positive interaction between SIMS and the red negative sign denotes an interaction gone bad.  Sometimes interactions would be so good or so bad that double plus signs or negative signs show up.

Why am I talking about a silly computer game that I haven’t played in years?  It’s because I have been thinking a lot about human interactions and the positive and negative energy that surrounds those actions.

I like to spend time around people who provide me with warm and fuzzy feelings and lots of positive experiences.  Lots of green plus signs floating around.  Lots of laughter, support and happiness.  I like being around these people.  Usually the positive experiences multiply and the more positive experiences I have, the better I feel.

But what do you do when you have to be around people that are full of negative energy?

The people who shame others to make up for some insecurity that they are feelings?

The people who don’t respect your need for space?

The people who make backhanded compliments so they can insult someone but in a way that the person receiving that insult can’t fight back?

The people who can’t own it when they have wronged people and never apologizes for their wrongdoing?

The people who play victim when you call them out on their behavior?

The people who use you?

Negative energy has always affected me.  I seem to absorb it.  I always let negative comments bother me and then I obsess about them.  I begin to get anxious when anticipating the presence of these people.

I am not calling out specific people.  Even if those people are reading this, they will never own their behaviors or ever apologize.  But all this negative energy is affecting me and it has to go somewhere.  I don’t want it anymore.  It has to be someone else’s burden because I don’t want it to be my burden anymore.  I can’t let it be my burden anymore.   I have had enough happen to me and I still have enough to deal so I am giving the negative energy back.

I have always had a hard time forgiving people because I always equated forgiving with forgetting.  Also, many of the people who wronged me are narcissists who won’t ever own up to the fact that they wronged me and/or the people that I care about.  I always equated forgiving these people as giving them the free pass that they thought they deserved.  What I never understood is that even if they took my act of forgiveness as a free pass, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t do it.  They still did it and even though they may not own up to it, they win because they are living their oblivious false life and I am left wounded and hurt.  If anything, they are cowards because they can’t own up to their own actions.  They should be pitied.

So I am going to attempt to release the negative energy.  I am no longer going to own it.

I am going to forgive people who screwed me over in my political days.  I have faith you learned your lesson because I know I screwed over a few people in my day and I have learned my lesson.  If you haven’t learned your lesson, then I pity you for your lack of character and your lack of wisdom.

I forgive the people who cut me off in traffic and I hope you can forgive me for giving you a certain hand gesture.

I am going to forgive the person who acted like she was my best friend but would drop me whenever a guy came along.  I also forgive this person for not reaching out when Bryon died.  I pity you for your self-centeredness and lack of empathy.

I forgive the people who don’t apologize and try to wait out a person’s anger before finding a way to angle themselves back into my life.  I pity your cowardice.  And remember, forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting and I am not going to allow anyone to treat me this way again.  I may forgive you but I don’t have to you let back into my life.

I forgive anyone who has ever used me.  Overall, I do have had a good life so far but I worked hard and made good life choices and surrounded myself with other people who also worked hard and made good life choices.   I may have even given you advice as to how to attain those goals yourself but I guess it was just easier to use me.  I pity you for your laziness.

I forgive anyone who underestimated my intelligence and think they can wrong me without me knowing.  Surprise!  I am a lot smarter than most people know.  I pity your arrogance.

I forgive anyone who has ever bullied me through the years.  Luckily Bryon has taught me how to identify when it was happening to me.

I forgive the person who made rude comments about my daughter.  You must feel bad about yourself if you have to tear down a two-year-old.  It’s my goal to raise her to have compassion and to have enough confidence in herself that she doesn’t to tear people down, especially not those who are weaker than her.

I forgive the people who criticize my parenting.  I am sure you are the perfect parent but we can’t all parent like you.

I forgive anyone who has spread lies about me.  You spread lies about me because you need to blame someone for your own behavior.

I forgive anyone who has believed lies spread about me.  I forgive you for not asking me for my side of the story before making a judgement.  I forgive you for making me defend my character.  I forgive you for taking things at face value and not searching for the truth.

I forgive the people who weren’t there for Bryon that should have been there for Bryon.  I forgive the people who also weren’t there for our daughter who should have been there for our daughter.  He was fighting for his life and our daughter wasn’t even 2 yet, but I understand that your needs were more important than theirs.

I forgive those people who had no regard to what I was going through when Bryon has in the ICU. I forgive the people who thought their needs came above my own which were already pretty low on the list begin with.  After all, I was busy advocating for my critically ill husband in the ICU and making sure my toddler was taken care of and happy.  I pity you for thinking that the world revolves around you.

I forgive those people who not present when Bryon died that should have been.  I pity you that you put yourself above him and made excuses.  You are going to have to live with that choice for the rest of your life.

And lastly, I forgive myself.  I forgive myself for absorbing the negativity that wasn’t mine.  I forgive myself for not releasing that negativity and letting it affect the positive, supportive relationships that I have.  I forgive myself for letting people bully me, use me and treat me poorly.   From now on, I will remind myself that negative people are the ones with a problem, not me.

The negativity is no longer mine.  It’s not my problem anymore.  I refuse to own the negativity.  It needs to find a new home.  I am going to stick to the people who give me green plus signs.