The positive legacy

Jan 18

The positive legacy

Whilst I was out Christmas shopping this year, I bought two warm/soft/fuzzy/happy hats at Old Navy.  This is somewhat embarassing to admit, as I have an extensive hat collection.  However in my defense, my 2012 chemo was in the spring/summer, and this one is in the winter, so it generates completely different head coverage needs.  I wear hats both indoors and out.  I find on below-freezing days, I need a hat that covers my ears and as much of the nape of my neck as I can tug it down to cover.  I wear vests/jackets/sweaters with stand up fuzzy/warm/fleecy/soft collars to cover where the hat leaves off.  I wear hats as I make dinner, do bath time, fold laundry, and write.  I wash my hats with the same frequency I wash the clothes I wear; they are woven into me during this season.

The above makes me realize a few things.

Gosh, these are the days where I miss my long thick hair.

How are bald men not freezing all the time?

My fashion sensibilities are forever harangued by my functional needs.  Oh well, nothing new there.

Anyway, I bought two fuzzy hats, one purple and one gray.  Maren, who has inherited my passion for soft textures, began borrowing the purple hat often.  It is in her regular rotation for school.  She likes to mix it up with her headwear (as do I) because, “Not every day is a polka dot day, Mom.”  So very true, right?  Meanwhile, the gray matches everything, so it is one that I have in heavy rotation.  Maren always high-fives me when we have on our “matching” hats because, well, when you are six matching is brilliant.

One night this week, I finished tucking Greta into bed and came to say good night to Maren.  She grinned as I came in the room, and said, “Hi Mama.”  She was snuggled in her top bunk, happily reading to herself, wearing the fuzzy purple hat.  It was the first time that she had worn the purple hat inside.

Like me.

I tell you, it was an memorable moment for me.  Here’s my girl, and she’s decided to take the most cliche cancer talisman: the hat, and to redefine it as a cozy, mommy-and-me, bonding comfort item.

Her unconscious choice that night told me some key things:

-She’s resilient and adapting and comfortable with the “side effects” cancer has brought into our home.

-She’s proud of me and wants to be like me.  (Wow, is this ever humbling.)

-She’s not only accepting what comes, but she is reframing it for herself: this is good, this is a way for Mommy and I to connect, I am part of this journey.  Even: Mommy is beautiful, cancer is beautiful, I am beautiful.

I might be extrapolating too much into this scene, but there. is. nothing. better. than seeing, and believing that my children are seeking joy in their circumstances.



Many of you asked me how I stay positive.  The truth is that I look for the positive.  I seek it, I crave it, I thirst for it.  I am so much happier when I am feeling positive than when I am sad.

To be clear, I get that I am allowed to be sad.  Sadness in my situation is totally legit.  However, the weight and burden and tears and lead that comes with thinking about the bad side of all of this doesn’t help me do anything better.  When I think about The Worst, I never, ever feel better.  I always feel, well, sad.

And so I cut my thoughts off.  I’ve told my girlfriends not to ask me questions about The Worst because we all know the answers: it is craptacular.  I don’t wallow.  I don’t spend days in bed, depressed and angry.

I get up and I find the good.  If I can’t find the good, I create it.

In the post office, I watched a man literally cuss out a postal worker.  Seriously.  I mean, who does that?  So when I went up to the shaken clerk, I pulled a gift card from my purse and gave it to her and told her I hoped that my act of kindness would be what she would remember about her day, rather than the outburst of the troubled man before me.  When I’m feeling mediocre, a random act of kindness always pushes the needle into the good column.  Ripples, right?  Ripples are awesome.

I welcome newcomers to the Chemo Room and high-five them.  Chemo, remember, is one of the good guys.  Chemo kills cancer, and we are all big fans of cancer-killing in the Chemo Room.

I do feel like God has given me an anointing of peace and strength to continue to have the will to seek goodness.  But, I am the one who does the work.  It’s work.  It’s a renewed choice many times a day.  It’s hard.

But I never regret stepping out into the light.  And I’ve been dwelling in the light for long enough now that the hard moments are weaker, and the happiness is fuller.

When I don’t have the strength to be positive, I think of my children and my Mama Bear reserves kick in.  Being positive is part of my legacy for them.  I’m planning on living out that legacy for the next 48+ years.  Now, I also think of Maren in her purple hat.  If she can do it, I can do it.



  1. jennifer /

    this is an amazing post. it is so honest and says what I so often feel and cannot so often bring myself to do. Thank you.

  2. Your decision to choose to see the positive because just seeing the negative does not make things better at all. Love this! What a great way to live! I love knowing you and reading your story!

  3. Thanks for this. xo

  4. Marlayne Skeens /

    Jen ~ I often say, if you have to go through it ~ Will I be Happy or crappy ~ You, my Dear have chosen HAPPY 🙂

  5. Katie Smith /

    I love this post Jen! You are amazing! I love your desire to stay positive. I love the way you see the world through your children’s eyes. You are truly connected as a mother to your children and it shines. I am so happy that I met you. You are lovely!

  6. Michelle /

    I love love love this post!!!!!

  7. Michelle /

    I love love love this post!!!!!

  8. Latoya /

    You are an awesome mama!!! Thank you for teaching all of us how to “Do Today Well!” You.Are.Amazing!!!!

  9. Love your honest voice – love how your outlook on cancer is shaping already amazing Maren into such a powerful and beautiful person young person. Your post is a great burst of of positive ness and purple on this cold and white day.

  10. Love this post.

    Thinking about you guys.

  11. When I think of Jen Anderson, I smile…from ear to ear. You never fail to brighten my day with your cheery attitude. I’m going out to buy a couple of gift cards for emergency “sprinkling of kindness”. Lovely. Thanks for the idea. ♥p

  12. kathy swim /

    I couldn’t agree with you more! Why waste a day being sad if you can be happy or positive. Your are wonderful Jen!

  13. Such a wonderful post.
    I think I need a hat.

  14. Gotta to love that Maren girl! She is one smart cookie…after all who doesn’t want to be like you and spread that light and positivity to others? It’s a goal we all should strive for daily. Thanks for inspiring us once again.


  15. Mary Beth /

    Jen, tomorrow I’m preaching on Micah 6:8 (seek justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God) and your example of kindness in the post office is just the kind of act of “chesed” God’s loving kindness that I want to lift up. Thank you for your many acts of faith and hope. I’m praying for you tonight.

  16. Tiffany Green /

    Your positive attitude is a ripple effect that is such a gift to us all. Maren is an extension of that and she is an amazing little girl. Love the picture and what it represents!

  17. jeanne /

    Maren is a beautiful young lady, she looks like you I think. That is what you have to do, concentrate on the positive. It doesn’t do us any good to dwell on the bad. You keep up the positive, wonderful and awesome thoughts because that is what will get you the next 48+ years. Prayers and Hugs to you and your lovely family.

  18. Ginger /

    Jen, You rock!!!!

  19. Lori6NV /

    Just awesome. 🙂

  20. Bonnie J /

    I think one of my main resolutions every year is. … No complaining, find the shiny spot !!! There is reality but there is also the way we look at it; do we react or respond? Responding in kindness IS so much happier and I do believe the way the Lord would have us respond. Jen, your testimony leaves us all a little happier and more content. Have a great day with your family:-)

  21. Maureen /

    Love it. We act out of either love or fear. Thanks for the inspiration.

  22. Karin Eppert /

    I think you look fabulous in hats. Maren too.

  23. Colleen /

    You continue to amaze me! Keep it up, you are doing an amazing job at everything you do!

  24. The positive legacy – love it! I’m sure the postal clerk will always remember your act of kindness. Thanks for writing and helping us all to think about how we live our own lives.

    You are a wonderful person, Jen. Thank you for being you.

  25. Sheila /

    You’ve included such a strong message in this post. I needed it without knowing it before I began to read. I’m in awe of you. Rock on, Mama Bear!