Small victories

Apr 01

One of my longtime favorite quotes was said by Mother Teresa: “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

I had a frustrating weekend with my body continuing to struggle to catch up with my wants. I had to say no to a lot. It — my body — is keeping up with my needs but is leaving me pretty disappointed with regard to my wants. I’m doing a lot of mental work to maintain contentment. I am choosing to be fiercely grateful for even the smallest of things as gratitude is key to my joyful perspective on life.

Contributing to the physical situation is that I coughed hard right before I went to bed on Saturday night, and pulled another muscle in my rib area. This has been happening every two-to-three weeks. For the first forty-eight hours, it is tolerable as long as I don’t cough (or laugh), but walking and talking make me cough, so these repeated ‘injuries’ I keep getting reduce me to a super-sedentary isolated state until it heals. The “lost time” with pulled muscles is something that is really getting to me because it’s not as predictable as the down time from chemo. And at the end of the day, time is my most valuable resource — I want more, not less!

Last night Brad kissed me good night, and then thirty seconds later kissed me goodnight again — just because he wanted to make sure he said “I love you” and that I heard him loudly enough knowing I had a hard weekend. Love helps. His small acts of kindness, service, grace and love are so sweet.

Today after school I took Maren out for an impromptu ice cream date to celebrate her failure. Three weeks ago she was in tears over stress, perfectionism and anxiety, and as part of that conversation I told her, “There is no such thing as perfect. Perfect is not the standard to strive toward. Yes, please try your best. But when your best is not good enough, the goal should be to fail with grace. Fail with flair. Even, fail spectacularly.” Today she found out she failed at something in which she had tried — and tried hard — to succeed. She came home to tell me with a joke on her lips, a shrug on her shoulders, and the moxie to say that she is not a failure even though she failed. I am so proud. Prouder even than over her most stellar accomplishments and proud enough to take her out for an ice cream celebration. Three cheers for failing with grace!

Greta and I are nearly done with her Girl Scout cookie project. We gave away more than two-hundred(!!!) boxes of cookies, and have four more deliveries to make (we’re slow). Thank you notes are done and need to get mailed. (If you purchased online, I’m looking for your mailing address–the online system does not give me contact info for you; please send it to andersonfamilyzoo (at) gmail (dot) com). Greta has been delighted to have had ownership of a family project to spread joy. I don’t know what has impacted her more: the thrill of being a kindness giver (the cookie giveaway), or the thrill of receiving love from the friends, strangers and family who bought the cookies from her. Either way, it’s been thrilling and a boost to her perspective on how she matters in the world.

I have chemo on Thursday, and between now and then I will do a bunch of small things. I’m most looking forward to a date with Brad. I’m least looking forward to an Apple Genius Bar reservation. Small things matter. A great perspective on life is built on small victories.


  1. Julie /

    I love that quote, Mother Teresa and you and that sweet gang of yours.

  2. Dave /

    Praying, praying, praying. 50!

  3. Kim Rourke /

    Fail with flair and grace. I. Love. That!!! Way to go, Maren! And Jen, your small things are pretty GREAT from my perspective! Hugs!

  4. Tiffany Wellinghoff /

    Love you friend!

    • Ice cream for failing. Such beautiful parenting. Taking notes. What a powerful example. ♥️

  5. Michelle smith /

    Praying! Failing at something is hard but we learn so much more from our failures even though it’s so hard ! What you taught her she will never forget . Failure makes us stronger !your family is in my prayers continuously!❤️

  6. /

    I seriously am now going to celebrate when my kids fail well. That’s the best.

  7. Marlayne /

    It truly is the small things that matter ❤️ so many times we are so busy being busy and trying to succeed, we fail to take the time for things that really do matter ? Enjoy your date with your hubby ❤️ and your tender times with your sweet Girlie Girls ??

  8. Lindsay /

    Love how you talked to them at failing…so good!

  9. Bonnie B Jackson /

    Have had you on my heart A Lot…. Cough muscles Heal !! and as one who has struggled with perfectionism myself.. It truly is OK to “fail” at times, it doesn’t define us the experience only makes us stronger? love you all!!

  10. Another Jen /

    I love this so, so much. <3

  11. Cindy Mitchell /

    Jen, just letting you know, your family is so proud of your strength. You are teaching your girls the most graceful way to deal with life and issues.. I am proud of Maren and her holding her head up high.. Your girls will forever remember everything you are telling them..My prayers are with you and pray your pain subside soon.. Sending hugs.