Is Your Attitude More Important Than the Facts?

The news right now is worse than bleak. A new study has found that almost one third of American 9-month-olds are obese (can a baby be obese?), a nine-year-old girl was killed in the horrible shootings on Saturday in Tucson, Arizona, and I got a Facebook message last week warning me to keep my children away from one of my good friend’s colleagues–and a friend of mine–because he’s purportedly a convicted pedophile (”If you want more information, please call his ex-wife’s lawyer,” the note read).

It's cold and lightless in Ashland these days

It’s cold and lightless in Ashland these days

Out my office window I see frost on the branches under a colorless sky. Ashland is gray and dreary this time of year. We turn the heat down so low at night there are goose bumps on my skin in the morning.

I don’t do very well in winter. When the baby wakes up it’s still pitch black outside. I stumble around the house looking for my glasses and shimmying into my jeans, bumping into furniture and swearing loudly.

Then I’m angry at myself because it will be my fault if the other children wake up, because Leone’s smile is so winsome and innocent, because it’s a fleeting privilege to have this time alone with her but instead of appreciating it I’m mad.

The kids are invariably late getting out the door to bike to school. Even when they’re early or on time, it feels like they’re late. Seven-year-old Etani dawdles with his socks and wants me to put on his shoes. Instead of being glad that he still likes it when I do things for him, I stuff his feet into his sneakers angrily, asking out loud if he will ever grow up.

It’s hard not to want to be somewhere else. Somewhere with warm weather, twelve hours of sunlight, no alarm clocks, no school, and no deadlines.

A few years ago I read a book about positive thinking and wrote down a quote on an index card: “Attitudes are more important than facts,” wisdom attributed to Dr. Karl A. Menninger, an American psychiatrist.

Fact: Ashland is cold and dreary.

Fact: there’s hardly any light this time of year.

Fact: some cat is using the raised beds as a litter box, leaving big hairy turds in the Brussels sprouts.

Fact: the gate was left open and the deer have helped themselves to all our parsley.

But these ridiculously mundane complaints don’t really matter.

I can think of it all differently:

Attitude: it’s so nice that it’s raining because we can snuggle on the couch drinking red tea from South Africa (mine with milk, Etani and Athena’s with honey) and reading Eragon;

Attitude: the wind is bracing and if I force myself to run in the morning the chill wakes me up, the baby in the running stroller doesn’t mind the cold, and the bike ride to school puts color in the kids’ faces;

Attitude: though literally dozens of their classmates are out with a barfy bug my children are healthy;

Attitude: it’s Monday and the beginning of a new week always holds new promise;

Attitude: the Brussels sprouts will survive the cat feces and even if they don’t, who wants to eat Brussels sprouts anyway?

But Etani and Leone don't mind

But 7-year-old Etani and 14-month-old Leone don’t mind

The baby’s new phase is to take off her clothes, walking around the house fat tummy first. Forget healthy. Every time I listen to the news I’m grateful that my kids are alive.

It works. The sky outside my office is no longer ugly and nondescript, it’s open and inviting, clouds scudding across a blue expanse. The kids’ bickering becomes socializing and the cold house a reason to bake bread pudding. James tells me about the 20-year-old aid who courageously ran towards Representative Gabrielle Gifford when he heard the shots, propped her up so she wouldn’t asphyxiate on her own blood, and staunched her wounds with his own hands. There’s still hope that Giffords will pull through.

When my kids are grown, I’ll even miss these dismal winter mornings.

In the meantime, maybe next winter or the winter after that we’ll have the money to vacation somewhere sunny.

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16 thoughts on “Is Your Attitude More Important Than the Facts?”

  1. Nice post. I saw lots of sunshine and blue sky in Ashland yesterday. That wasn’t just my attitude, was it?

    Enjoy your healthy kids. #2 just got the Flu at our house. Sending #1 back into the petri dish.
    .-= anjie´s last blog ..Sick of Sick =-.

  2. I second anjie, very nice post. I also really appreciate winter, though sometimes I side with my kiddles that it would be more fun if it were more often white and snowy down in our valley instead of just in the surrounding mountains.

    I really like the long “nights” when all are together inside and we can do indoor things, like you said reading and snuggling. (I just have to be careful that I don’t just try to do only more work at the computer or on the phone, etc.) I like the image you evoke of snuggling together reading and think I should try that this evening. When it is beautiful outside, I always feel like I and everyone else should be outside! It’s a relief of sorts to have “permission” to have this inside time, both literally and figuratively. 🙂

    Our house thermostat is set between 62 – 64 F during the days, and set to drop as low as 48 F at night, though I’ve never seen it drop that low. I love making oven meals in the late afternoon or evenings and feeling the warmth radiate from the kitchen and dining area when we are together. (My husband, who is always cold, would probably like it if I had an auto-set to make something in the oven in the mornings as well.) It hearkens to the days when families sat around the fire.

    Anyway, I remember too that soon enough the cycle will come around to light nights when the kids can’t and don’t want to go to bed and days that will swelter into the 100’s. I appreciate the seasons…. although if one really could design sunny and 75 F during the days, cool to 50’s at night with any necessary rain occurring only then, I might go along for awhile…. until it got boring !

    Enjoy your day <3

  3. This is so, so timely. I’ve been battling the winter blues. I absolutely detest the cold weather and every time I have to step foot outside, I frown and curse. Then, the other day, I got tired of myself. I realized I need to take a different approach. I try to appreciate that I am able to actually WALK, get outside and breathe in the air. I tell myself there are people everywhere who don’t have that privilege. I tell myself that soon it will be warmer, but I will never get today back. And it seems to be working. But I’ll admit, it does take a LOT of work…
    .-= Sheryl´s last blog ..How Do You View Midlife Read the results of a recent survey =-.

  4. Attitude is everything. I must admit, I’m ready for more sunshine but where I live we’ll be having plenty more cold temps and snow. I do enjoy walking my kids to school in the snow.
    .-= Kristen´s last blog ..DIY- easy heating pad =-.

  5. This is a hard time of year for me too. It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s gloomy and all I want is to go sit on a beach somewhere. Sigh. Just a few minutes ago I gave myself a mental shake and pretty much said the same thing as you – I just need to apply a little positive thought to the situation and focus on what I can be happy about and it will all seem better!

  6. These are all very good points and exercises in perspective. It’s cold as crazy here in CO today, but at least the sun shines … even in winter … here. If I lived somewhere gray, I’d have to be on an antidepressant drip 24/7.

    I hope we feel the gratitude every day, but indeed … at least for most of us, no one we love got shot on Saturday.

  7. I love this post, Jennifer, and I agree with Sheryl that the subject is very timely. Changing your attitude is very powerful. It works.

    There is a wonderful Chinese poem/proverb that starts with the idea that when there is peace (sub: love, patience, tolerance) in the person, there will be peace in the home, then peace in the community… and on and on until it surrounds the entire world.

    When we feel hopeless and powerless, its interesting to think that if everyone changed their attitude, there might be a greater shift collectively than we can imagine.

  8. Is it wrong to admit that I’d eat those Brussels sprouts? I’m just going to think of the cat’s deposit as fertilizer. Another positive attitude adjustment!
    .-= Casey@Good. Food. Stories.´s last blog ..Flour Bakery Pop-Tarts =-.

  9. I do enjoy getting to sleep in a little, and spending more time with my big kids in the summer months but, at the same time it’s nice to be able to focus my attention on the little ones all day, during the school year.
    .-= Eve´s last blog ..Thank goodness Im not fertile! =-.

  10. This is so perfect! It is what I have been thinking of the last few days. I was reading a horribly tragic story if one mom’s struggles with her 3 month old with a brain tumor and I think how blessed I am to have two healthy children that I take for granted all too often. I also just finished reading Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankyl and it really changed my attitude about my problems.

    Check out my blog at
    .-= Jaime´s last blog ..Who else needs adult time =-.

  11. You go on with your positive self, girl! I’ve been trying to retrain my thinking, as well as the language I use. I’m sarcastic and wry, and I often wonder how much the “This sucks” or “I hate it when that happens” statements affects my overall outlook.

    I wish I lived closer. I’d bring you fresh homemade pastries and we could sit in silence and write together.
    .-= Stephanie – Wasabimon´s last blog ..Keeping Carrots =-.

  12. Thank you for your honesty. I thought I was the only one who lost it every. Stinkin. Morning. Ugh. Attitude does help, especially when I can let go of my useless ego.

  13. Thanks for this, Jennifer. Attitude adjustments often mean looking at the situation through your gratitude filter. As that old German proverb says,”She is lucky who thinks herself so!”

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