Cumberland Times-News

Maude McDaniel - Living

September 10, 2011

It’s better when you look at the good side

There used to be a a word for this way of thinking, but you don’t hear it much anymore. It’s “Pollyanna” — and it was the name of a literary character who always looked on the good side of things.

People don’t do that much anymore. I hate to admit it, but newspapers are some of the worst offenders in this department. Say a Smith family in Cumberland has a really good day (the kids all got A-pluses and the wage earners got bonuses). Now say another Smith family in Cumberland has a bad day (a wage-earner gets caught stealing out of the company till). You can bet the only Smith family in the news that week will be the one with the bad day, right? That’s why it’s so hard to persuade yourself after reading the newspapers that all’s right with the world. (Generally speaking.) We don’t hear about the good things.

Shouldn’t they be in the newspaper too?

Okay, here you go. Maude to the rescue.

Today we will discuss some good things that come out of bad things.

Every once in a while that old sign comes up on the T-shirt nearest you, “Wrong day. Go back.” Some of us are tempted to interpret that as “Go back to bed.” However, after all these years, I have learned that it means instead “Go back and find the good part.”

For instance, I have been known this year (and other years) to grouch about the neglected trimming of weeds and crabgrass around the young trees on Industrial Boulevard. I’m not sure they ever got the water they needed when they were first planted — certainly far too many of them drooped and died. But, on the other hand, here come Pollyanna, who has discovered, much to her delight, that with neglect comes — chicory!

One of my absolutely favorite weeds, chicory is a blue delight along scrubby, shrubby , bushy, overgrown highway shoulders, but when the landscape is kept too neat, it disappears. By itself it is gorgeous, and combined with Queen Anne’s Lace, as it is some years, (not so much this year, when the chicory jumped the gun) , it is a glorious study in wedgewood.

You should have seen the chicory on Industrial Boulevard for a couple of days this July. Even without the Lace, it was better than an Impressionist painting, because it was real. The ground was knee-deep in blue, as if the sky had fallen between the lanes of the highway!

Then, of all times to be particular, they mowed it down. Seemed to me that they could have waited another day or two to let as many drivers as possible enjoy the experience - but Pollyanna tries not to question such things. She is simply grateful that the chicory happened at all.

The exact opposite of the Pollyanna approach is the heat index/chill factor system, invented in recent years by the weatherpeople. They try to insure that, if you are feeling too hot (in summer) or too cold (in winter) they can make you feel even worse, just by fiddling with figures a little bit. Say, it’s 94 degrees one July day, and you’re sweating at every pore — the idea is, heat-index the thing and call it 98 degrees! (Have you noticed that they never announce a heat index if it’s lower than the current temperature, or a chill factor, if it’s higher?) Feel better? Frankly, I think they have it all mixed up. They should announce the heat index in the winter and the chill factor in the summer. That’s what Pollyanna would do, and everyone would feel a lot better immediately..

My friend Eloise once cleared off a whole rack of toilet paper in the store as she was riding her motorized cart while thinking about something else.. Embarrassing you say? Not for Pollyanna, who notes that Eloise was thus able to pick up as many rolls as she needed right off the floor without getting out of the vehicle.

Have you ever thought how beautiful some pills are? Fish oil capsules pretty much take the cake in beauty, if you don’t choke on them, but all the big and little gel pills are quite lovely, like precious gems. Nothing like enjoying pill time, for Pollyanna.

Finally, I should mention that I wear reading glasses on a string around my neck. Inconvenient? Absolutely! The truth is that I really don’t need them that much, under ordinary circumstance — mostly I can read well without them, except when someone gets carried away with the small print on medicine bottles and such. Why do I keep wearing them, then? You’d be amazed at all the times things fall off my fork or out of my mouth (more and more as I get older - they don’t tell you about that at aging seminars) and LAND ON MY READING GLASSES instead of my clothes! Several times a day they turn into a rescue shelf, and every night when I go to bed I have to be careful when I remove them. (Well, now would I exaggerate?)

Even Rusty has learned to check out my glasses and lick up the day’s take. What does Pollyanna say about all this? “Come on, Maude. Just think about all the cleaning bills you’re saving yourself.”

Pretty often, Pollyanna has a point.

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.

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Maude McDaniel - Living
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