Are you grumpy or sweet most of the time? Think about it.

My wise grandma used to tell us that what we are at 40 years of age, we will be twice that at 80 years old. If one is happy and positive at 40, then they will be twice as delightful and secure at 80. However, if they are a grump and negative at 40, then they will probably be unbearable and surly at 80. Most of that is up to ourselves.

Abe Lincoln had many problems with his health, the Civil War decisions, his family’s problems and running the country, yet he said we are about as happy as we make up our minds we are going to be. Wasn’t he wise ... and right?

Life is much too short to go through our years in a foul mood and grouchy and grumpy all the time. Yet, we all know someone who never seems to see the bright side of anything. They seem like such a sourpuss all the time. I often wonder just what happened in their lifetime that made them so unhappy and out of sorts with the world. Don’t you just want to hug them ... or shake them?

I truly feel sorry for people who never say a kind word about anyone or anything. They go through life looking down at the ground, never looking up to see the beauty and joy of each day. People just shun them because they don’t want to stoop to their negative mood. They are almost like a black hole, that sucks us under with them. If we cannot cheer them up, then it is better to stay away from people like that, who drag us down to their level of depression and attitude. They are mad at the whole world.

On the other hand, isn’t it fun and a joy to be around positive, happy people? My friend and I go to the gym almost every weekday morning to work out. We don’t overdo it, but we do something to benefit our health. Where we go is such a happy place. Everyone seems glad to be there and joke and laugh and share their progress. It is not so much for the exercise that we work out but for the atmosphere. I want to continue exercising forever because of the delightful, positive people who go there and work there.

There is so much more to it than getting in shape. It is the people involved who are so encouraging and happy and joyful. We all come with a happy mood and cheer each other in our efforts. We all gain inspiration and joy. The laughter and fun that we share is so important to our well-being. It is encouraging to be around people who are making the most of their lives. They see beauty in everyone and everything. None of us look for negative, so we do not see negative things in life.

I was raised around happy, hard-working people who always saw good in everything. They did not complain, criticize or gripe about their lot in life. They just took one wonderful day at a time and gave it the most that they had. Therefore, every day gave wonderful things back to them. Even in terminal illness, they never complained, but appreciated life one day at a time.

Sad to say but the “down and outers” are the ones we seem to remember instead of the kind, happy, sweet people who smile at everyone and just seem to exude joy as they walk along. The grouches have a little black cloud that hovers over their heads as they shuffle along. What makes some people unhappy while the same set of circumstances allows a happy person to be happy? Can they not see that every cloud has a silver lining? I feel sorry for people who are always sad.

Jim, my late husband, had a wonderful old Marine friend in Blackwell who was taken prisoner by the Japanese at Wake Island during World War II. He was forced to work in the coal mines for years with no outside contact. He went from a strong, healthy Marine to skin and bones. When the war ended he was allowed to leave the prison camp. He returned to the United States, married and raised a beautiful family. Dale was always so upbeat and positive that it was contagious.

Jim asked him once how he could stay so happy after all he has been through. He replied that every day he has is more than he ever dreamed or thought he would have.

I look at the lives that Dale and Jim and others endured, and ask myself, “What right do I ever have to be grouchy when they went through so much and yet were always full of joy?” Sweet or grouchy is a choice we all make. Our attitude affects everything we do in life.

I feel sorry and sad for people who are always sad. Life must be terrible for them, and dark and unrewarding. Don’t we wish we had the magic words that would cheer them?

We have to accept that some people are sweet and some are sour, and there is little one can do to change their basic make-up unless they want to change. Why do some people accept their lot in life with pleasure and another will be bitter? It is all in the way we count our blessings. I guess some recipes are the same ... sweet or sour. Take, for instance, this sweet/sour chicken. It is wonderful and very versatile. You can add cabbage or whatever for your family’s tastes.

Sweet/Sour Chicken

2 chicken breasts, cut into small pieces

¾ cup chopped green pepper

½ cup chopped carrot

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons cooking oil

½ to ¾ cups sugar

½ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoons soy sauce

1½ teaspoon chicken bouillon granules

2 cups cold water, divided

3 tablespoons cornstarch

½ cup broken cashew nut pieces

3 green onions, chopped, optional

Cook chicken in oil until done, but not necessarily browned. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Then cook peppers, carrots and garlic in oil until tender. Add sugar (starting with ½ cup unless you like things real sweet), vinegar, soy sauce, bouillon granules and 1½ cups cold water. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly for one minute. Mix cornstarch with ½ cup cold water and stir into hot mixture. Cook and stir until bubbly. Stir in cooked chicken and cashews. Serve over hot rice and garnish with chopped green onions. Sometimes I stir in chopped celery and cabbage when I am cooking the peppers and carrots.

Send your comments to: Peggy Goodrich, Food for Thought, P.O. Box 1192, Enid, OK 73702.

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Goodrich writes a weekly column for the Enid News & Eagle​. Send your comments to: Peggy Goodrich, Food For Thought, P.O. Box 1192, Enid, OK 73702.

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