It’s the Little Things that make the Biggest Difference

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By Andrea Goto

My glass is usually half-full.  Things will get better.  The sun will come out tomorrow, so on and so forth.  Granted, sometimes it’s an act.

Like yesterday morning when I stood in front of my full-length mirror, poking at my bloated stomach with disgust.

“Do you have a baby in there?” my 6-year-old daughter asked nonchalantly, slurping on a Popsicle.

“No,” I responded, unable to hide my horror.

She shrugged and walked away, “Looks like it.”

Yeah, I’m aware.  But it’s always nice to have confirmation from someone who won’t get a wrinkle for another 20 years.  I spent the rest of my day stealing sideways glances at myself on every reflective surface.  I sucked in my stomach.  I beat myself up for eating leftover Easter candy.  I vowed to workout twice a day (don’t worry, it’ll never happen).

But nothing made me feel better about myself until I decided to feel better about myself.  I looked in the mirror and smiled at my reflection.  At first it was as genuine as a politician, but somehow the simple act of smiling managed to warm my heart—and I swear to you—shrink my stomach.  Usually smiling is a response to something that tickles us.  Sometimes reversing the order works.
When I ran my first marathon in March, there were moments during the race when I felt very, very bad (okay, lots of moments).  And so did everyone else.  I know, because I could see it on their faces. Slack mouths, sad eyes, furrowed foreheads.  By mile 15 we were a quiet, sullen bunch, shuffling along like shackled prisoners.  Lifting our eyes from the pavement to acknowledge cheering from the sidelines would require too much.  Smiling?  Impossible.

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Or maybe not.

Plodding forward with nothing but my thoughts and a heavy dose of lactic acid to keep me company I started to think that maybe smiling—in spite of the fact that my calves were cramping and my lower intestines were barely holding it together—couldn’t really hurt the situation, could it?

At about that moment I heard a guy call out to me over his beer from a lawn chair: “You’re almost there!”  It was a stupid joke.  A terrible lie.  And deeply uncreative.  (When you run a marathon, every third spectator yells this.) While I didn’t think I had the energy to acknowledge him, I did have an overwhelming desire to fold him up in his lawn chair.

Instead, I summoned a tiny reserve of energy tucked away in the recesses of my heart, and smiled.

He practically dropped his red Solo cup.  “Hey!  Mile 15 and you’re still smiling!  Keep it up!”

I did keep it up.  I continued to smile stupidly at every spectator sprinkled along the course.  I felt a little crazy, a little deceitful—and a lot better.

The smile helped.  And it seemed to help others too.  They cheered harder for me.  They believed in my feigned happiness.  Eventually, I started to believe it too.

Sometimes the smallest gestures have the biggest impact.  My legs and my spirit could barely carry me 26.2 miles—my smile had a better go of it.

Andrea Goto swore that she would not let her child watch SpongeBob, take ballet, or consume food with Red Dye #40. Of course, that all changed when her daughter was actually born. Five years later, Andrea blogs about her revised approach to childrearing, which she likes to call Real-World Parenting. Her “technique” is based on commonsense and topped with a big dose of humor. Andrea is a regular contributor to PaulaDeen.com.
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Reader Comments:

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when I'm feelin' down and blue or a little loney..........the sound of my little niece's voice calling me from Texas perks me up and makes me soooooo happy!!!!!!

By Marcia Koslo on May 03, 2012

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My little clone makes me smile. She's so stinkin' sweet and silly. Her heart is so pure and she just is so amazing. I know I'm her mom so I'm supposed to say all of this...but as a person...not just her mom, I can strongly stand behind the same words about her. She's truly God's gift..not just to me, but to the whole world!

By Lisa Christensen on May 03, 2012

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Read the blog, thanks its nice to know someone thinks like me! I have had some really bad days, months even years was going thur life children work etc. .... You know raising children building my business. (hairstylist) had a great support my wonderful husband. Boom! He died in one month from the time he was told he had cancer oh ya shock!!! ...... Ya I now choose to over come all the hurt an sorrow. Cooking has been my healing an comfort. Paula Dean is one of the most inspiring healing people. I read her magazines watched the shows. An could forget all that hurt an sorrow for the moment. Thanks Paula!

By Patricia Williams on May 02, 2012

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Paula Deen
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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 10:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 8:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 4:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm