"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." Brother David Steindl-Rast

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence

Today I am grateful for the freedoms I enjoy and for those who help maintain those freedoms. I am also grateful for time to savor cool air, birds in song, and a cup of coffee this morning.

Happy 4th of July! It is also known as Independence Day. I am reminded, however, that July 4, 1776 was simply when our founding fathers declared independence. It took many more years and the Revoltionary War before our nation actually gained our independence.

In ways, we continue to work for that independence and freedom for all. It even seems like we have lost some ground in recent decades. Ground that many fought long and hard to gain.There are concerning signs with growing materialism and entitlement, declining work ethic, racial tensions, and deteriorating interderdependence. It takes interdependence among citizens to maintain independence in a nation.

So a declaration is a good start, but only a start. It takes plenty of work and sacrifice to bring that
declaration to fruition. Am I doing my part? Am I contributing to society in positive ways? Am I following the laws that are there for everyone's safety and security, and for justice? Am I kind and caring to my fellow Americans, both those I interact with regularly and those I may only cross paths with once?

I looked back on my previous 4th of July blog posts and include links to them here for further reading if you are interested:

Happy 4th of July-A Great Day for Gratitude  from 2012.
Freedom Isn't Free  from 2013.
Freedom from . . . Freedom to . . .   from 2014.

I close with a line borrowed from last year's post: "If we want to maintain freedom from . . . we must exercise freedom to . . .  How would you complete those lines? What can you do today?"

Friday, July 3, 2015

Seven Years with Our Oliver

Today I am grateful for a closed mouth and an open mind and heart. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and what he brings to our family.

Oliver arrived in our lives seven years ago today. After a plane ride and a little time lost on a baggage carousel, we met him for the first time and quickly fell in love.

Here is a picture of Oliver that I especially like:



We were just having a little fun with the Twins cap. He's not a big fan of doggy attire or short haircuts. But this captures him in one of his favorite hangout spots in our house. When we first got him, the rule was "not on the furniture." Now, he sits/sleeps anywhere he wants to. Sound familiar?

He has shown us unconditional love and taught us much ever since. Our lives would not be the same without him.

Here is one of my first blog posts from three years ago. It is called "And Then There's Pup" and it tells more about the timing of his arrival. Oliver and my post-cancer self continue to grow and learn together and enjoy one another's company. Thanks pup! 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Continuous Flow

Today I am grateful for ice cream sandwiches and for the daily opportunities I get to write.

The "Word for the Day" on gratefulness.org yesterday was:

"In the continuous flow of blessing our heart finds meaning and rest."
(Brother David Steindl-Rast)

Lately, there have been days and weeks that have seemed like one "pain in the neck" after the other. Case in point, as I started to type this line our dog Oliver proceeded to throw up on our carpet. Minor issue. As many of the things in recent weeks have been. But some have been more significant. Health issues like pneumonia for example. 

I am tired of "one thing after another" and sometimes I want to wallow in a little self-pity, a little rendition of "poor me" that I used to spend so much time mired in. Then the words of Brother David Steindl-Rast show up, both on my blog header and through this recent quote above. 

Life isn't always rosy and peachy. It never will be. I don't always make the best choices in my thoughts. I will continue to be perfectly imperfect. Yet, I handle things so much better than I used to, and that deserves some acknowledgement, a little pat on the back. Then onward we go.

Only by striving to keep a continuous flow of blessing going through my daily practice of gratitude am I able to stay out of the muck. That negative stream of energy-draining, spirit-zapping thoughts that would otherwise pull me in. Oh, I will dabble. But I won't fall in. My heart and soul find enough meaning and rest in mindful presence that I don't get fully immersed in the "poor me, poor us" stuff.

Instead, I seek keen awareness of the blessings in this moment. It's a good start.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Difference Between Cars and Brains

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy's ability to run again after an illness. I am also grateful for the appreciation and calm gained when I am able to keep things in proper perspective.

Yesterday's "pains in the neck" stemmed from vehicle difficulties with my stepdaughter's car. It has reached that point in mileage where issues crop up. It led to an early morning flurry of activity, the kind you wish you wouldn't have to deal with but that require action. All before 7:00 a.m. Yet, everybody got to work or where they needed to get, and the day proceeded.

Everyone was safe. The car issue could have gotten serious and become a danger. It didn't. There is a lot of gratitude in that alone. And if I stay stuck in the frustration of what wasn't going well, I miss what did go well.

Darcy and I shook our heads a little and asked "one more thing, really?"  But we maintained our sense of humor and we kept returning to gratitude. Gratitude for safety. Gratitude to have options. Gratitude that cars can be fixed or replaced.

A pain in the neck, yes. A routine-changer too. Not a life-changer though. Not like when things happen to our bodies that can't be fixed or replaced. Like the dementia that destroys the brains of wonderful, energetic people like my brother-in-law Roger and so many others.

That puts the hassle of car issues in perspective real quickly. And it puts Roger and my sister Danita in my thoughts and prayers each and every day.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Real Pain in the Neck

Today I am grateful for a sense of humor (my own and others') and for perspective gained from things beyond my control (which is the category everything besides my own attitude and actions fall into).

Those things beyond my control can be "a pain in the neck." I had a real pain in the neck the other day. I didn't wake up with it, but I sometimes do. This time it developed by late morning and remained with me throughout the rest of the day. It slowed me down and limited my range of motion. I am sometimes able to rub or massage the stiffness out myself, but usually it takes a good night of sleep, with my neck in the right position, to get some relief. I will also use a hot water bottle, or seek a head/neck rub from my dear husband.

This happens in the same spot in my neck from time to time, on the right side. It is where I carry my stress, my tension. It has become more susceptible to tensing up, and once that happens, it just gets tighter. It's a real pain in the neck caused by things that may be considered the proverbial "pains in the neck."  Or maybe I just slept on it wrong.

Annoyances. Nuisances. Difficulties. All are part of the deal when we live our lives. They can't be avoided entirely. But we can loosen up and lighten up. We can pray, pause, let go, laugh, vent. And today I can appreciate my Higher Power's sense of humor. Maybe the neck pain is on my right side because someone is trying to remind me that too often I try too hard to prove I am right, try too hard to make things happen a certain way.

Circumstances beyond my control led to a later posting time for today's blog entry. They led to frustration, but also gratitude in perspective. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Partly Cloudy

Today I am grateful for a closed mouth when words aren't needed or sought. I am also grateful for a quiet morning with cool air and a slower pace.

This was the view from our front yard on Friday evening:


The picture only captures part of the effect. It was an odd cloud formation, moving and changing quickly. It didn't lead to much other than a little lightning and a few sprinkles, but it grabbed my attention when I stepped outside.

The rest of the weekend brought both clouds and sun and I spent plenty of time out in both watching my son Sam's baseball team. I like sun and blue sky, but I appreciate clouds and shade too. Especially this time of the year when clouds and shade have a cooling effect that midday sun and blue sky definitely don't.

I was considering calling this post "Cloudy With a Chance of Gratitude" but it sounded already familiar. Sure enough, I wrote a post with this title last July. Here is that post from July 10, 2014. With over a thousand posts, themes and ideas recur. But each time I am at a little different place, seeing life from a little different perspective.

I have had some of those figurative clouds hanging over my head lately. Some are created by real fears and worries. Others form when I forget to accept life on life's terms. Reality is that life can't always be sunny. The best we can hope for is often partly cloudy.  But I will take that. Partly cloudy gives me perspective. Partly cloudy also means partly sunny. Partly cloudy can mean less glare and more clarity.

Clouds come and go. Some will dump a storm of emotions on us. Others are high and fluffy and pass by uneventfully. Clouds change the light with which we see our life, teaching us about perspective. Teaching us to look for the good in the light that is currently surrounding us.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Good Dog. Stay.

Today I am grateful for a phone conversation with my friend Jenny and for sunglasses. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and his place in our family.

Good Dog. Stay. That doesn't necessarily describe Oliver. He is inquisitive and wants to be where the action is. That goes over just fine at times, and can be a little challenging at other times. But we love him dearly.

Good Dog. Stay. does describe a book title from Anna Quindlen, one of my favorite writers. It was published in 2007, but I just picked it up last week. It's a quick read and is also full of great dog pictures throughout.

Here are links to a couple of other posts that show my appreciation for Quindlen's work and words:

Another Favorite Writer: Anna Quindlen  from June 13, 2013 and
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake from July 3, 2013

In Good Dog. Stay. Quindlen writes about the life of Beau, their family dog for 15 years. And in typical Quindlen style, she writes about a lot more. She draws several parallels between relationships with other humans and those with our pets. There is much to learn from our pets. And there is much to learn about unconditional love, about taking care of the basics, about napping.

Oliver is an exceptional teacher when I am paying attention. Life is an exceptional teacher when I am mindfully present. That is my goal today.

I will be taking a blog break for a few days. Enjoy the hours and days ahead. That's my plan.