"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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Xiphoid

Today I am grateful for the interest and joy I find in learning new things. I am also grateful for acceptance of my physical body.

XIPHOID, as in xiphoid process, elicits a variety of thoughts and feelings in me. It is a small, cartilaginous protrusion at the end of human sternums and the sternums of most vertebrates. It joins the sternum and rib cage and also serves as an anchor for the diaphragm. I recall it as a marker used to find the right location for chest compressions in CPR. There's another thing to be grateful for-CPR.

Think of the hundreds of various body parts that make up our complex, intricate, and fascinating skeletal, muscular, and organ systems. It is incredible how it all works together. Even the often forgotten xiphoid process has important roles and deserves our gratitude.

What am I forgetting in my own life that deserves my gratitude today?  I will try to pause from time to time during my day today to consider that question. It promises to be a busy day. All the more reason to pause.

When I think about my own xiphoid process, I also think about it's location on the changed terrain of my chest since my breast cancer diagnosis and surgeries. I repeat what I started the post with today. I am so grateful for acceptance of my body, as is. So grateful for my overall health and energy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Words

Today I am grateful for my fingertips working on the keyboard. I am also grateful for the plethora of words at our disposal.

Writers use WORDS. Singers use words. Everyone uses words. When you stop and think about how languages came to be and how they are translated and passed on, it is really quite amazing. How do I know and understand these words I just typed? There are over 400,000 words in the English language. That will give me plenty to talk about for years to come.

Some thoughts that come to mind, thoughts that only make sense because I have words to describe them, are:

*I am often surprised by what I might latch onto in the flow of writing, or what may come from a stream of inspiration. That is when writing really fires me up-when it just seems to come forth and pick up steam.
*There are always more words to learn. My vocabulary isn't too shabby, but it's certainly got plenty of room for future expansion.
*Words can wound if not chosen carefully, but they can also heal if they are compassionately delivered.
*They can dampen enthusiasm or stoke it. Not just the words themselves, but how they are said if verbalized.
*Words can cause plenty of confusion or they can bring crystal clear clarity. In a day's time, we all probably experience some of both.
*There's a song by the Bee Gees titled "Words."  Listen to it on YouTube here. It was a big hit for the group and was released 47 years ago in January of 1968. I like many Bee Gees songs, but this is one of my favorites.

"It's only words, and words are all I have . . ."  Have a good day, unless you have made other plans.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Writer

Today I am grateful for friends I can confide in. I am grateful for what wonderful ways writing has helped me.

I am a WRITER. I have been a writer since before I was a teen. It is only more recently that I have become a published and paid writer, with a monthly column called "Gratitude Flow" in our local newspaper for two years now. I get paid $30 a column. Prior to that, I had three op-ed pieces on the "Opinion Exchange" in the Minneapolis Star Tribune over a couple of years, and they each paid $100 apiece. (They stopped paying the $100 now, so my 4th piece was unpaid, but I am still so grateful it went in. The payment was just a bonus really.) I am not raking it in, but I am indeed paid and published.

I am also proud of the guest blog posts I have written for "Pink Ribbon Blues" and "Nancy's Point." Of course, the blogosphere makes it possible for anyone with access to the Internet to self-publish, but to have someone else feel my writing is worthy of their blog space means a lot.

Regardless of whether or not I have ever been published or paid, I would still be a writer. I started as a poet and have well over 1500 of them in various notebooks, binders, and cloth-covered journals. I write about gratitude in several ways and I am currently on gratitude journal #11 after beginning with #1 twenty years ago next month. I have kept a journal/diary of my life since I was in high school. I have been writing in a journal to my son since before I became pregnant with him.

I have developed more into an essay writer in recent years. One of the "cancer as catalyst" things that happened to me is that I found a voice that had more to say than a poem could capture. I still write poems and always will. But the once-emerging essayist is fully emerged and fully inspired to keep writing in essays. I have over 900 short essays right here on this blog.

I am committed to writing and also eternally grateful to it. It saved my life in painful times, helping me purge toxic emotions. It gives me focus and purpose today. Onward!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Vertebrae

Today I am grateful for early morning quiet today, a lovely run in the sunshine yesterday, and a nice birthday for Sam.

As I pondered my first "v" word-visceral-a second word came to mind-VERTEBRAE. They are two words that not only share a first letter. They share an important role in the lives of humans. They help us feel deeply, to move and be moved.

I am a physical being, a runner, active, trying not to take my health and physical capabilities for granted. But I must admit I hadn't thought directly about my vertebrae in a long time. A more formal definition of vertebrae goes like this: each of the series of small bones forming the backbone, having several projections for articulation and muscle attachment, and a hole through which the spinal cord passes. There's a reason why we use phrases like "they were the backbone of the team, the family, our business." Our backbone is vitally important and contains vital components of our central nervous system.

Without my actual backbone, this series of vertebra, I would miss so much. The joy of running, putting one foot in front of the other. The sensation of a hug given to or received from someone I care about. Laying down in a warm bed, exhausted after a long day. Getting up out of that same bed, rested and ready to begin a new day. Walking along a trail on an early spring day, enjoying the smell of new grass emerging.  The list is endless. The opportunities for gratefulness are endless.

My figurative backbone keeps me strong and fit in the spiritual, mental, and emotional realms. A series of small actions like prayer on my knees, writing in my gratitude journal, reaching out to others in recovery, pausing in the midst of a busy day, and giving myself quiet time on my commute are all vertebra on the other backbone of my life.

I will protect both sets of vertebrae by honoring the precious and fragile nature of life, by giving thanks for all that is possible because of the amazing human body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Visceral

Today I am grateful for our son Sam on this, his 13th birthday, and for the positive experience wrestling has been for him over the last two years. I am also grateful for normal bloodwork from my recent check-up.

I often use the word bittersweet to describe how I feel on my child's birthday. I am so grateful for his healthy growth and development, for the young man he is growing into. Bittersweet has to do with how quickly the years go by, how rapidly he went from an infant nuzzling with me to this . . . a teenager, taller than both his dad and I, complete with the push for independence and a growly disposition at times.

Bittersweet. But VISCERAL too.

Visceral: relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect; instinctive, deep-down, deep-rooted. Also defined as "coming from strong emotions and not from logic or reason."  That pretty much nails parenthood doesn't it? Visceral for mothers because of the deep-rooted connection that started with conception, was realized through the miracle of birth, and continues every day thereafter. Visceral for fathers because of the instinctive need to protect and provide.

Visceral is more about heart and soul, less about the head. I love my son with all my heart and soul. I wish him the best in his next year, and throughout these pivotal teen years.

And I am deeply grateful to have him in my life; to have the experiences, joys, and challenges of being a mom.

Happy Birthday Sam!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Umpire

Today I am grateful for laughter and humor amidst tense times. I am also grateful for my ability to type, even if I am self-taught and slow.

The word UMPIRE for me conjures up images of softball diamonds, an ump behind the plate and another on the edge of the infield. Softball was the sport I was involved in for the longest time as both a player and a coach. I did a little umpiring myself, but only informally and in a pinch. I preferred to leave that job up to someone else.

But I certainly appreciated the job the umpires did. Though we may have complained at times about inconsistencies in an ump's strike zone and calls we believed they had blown, we usually went about the business of playing or coaching the game and let them go about their business of umpiring. It was rare when we felt umpires may have been pivotal in a game's outcome. In my opinion, the game's outcome was more determined by player mistakes and successes, by missed or seized scoring opportunities, by the way the ball bounced. In other words, the game's outcome was up to the game, not the guy behind the plate.

Allow me to step up on my soapbox briefly. Today it seems part of a growing and concerning trend to "blame" others for losses, defeats, disappointments. I hear more complaints about an umpire or referee's call, about an unfair advantage the other team had, too many "yeah buts" and "if only." Yet, when winning takes place, there's no lack of people wanting to take credit. We can't have it both ways. "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose" is far more than a trite statement. It is a fact of life. A fact that teaches us more if we accept it than if we deny it.

We are imperfect humans. Players will make mistakes. Even good hitters only get a hit one out of three times.  A great play by one team shouldn't become just a "a lucky call." We are imperfect humans. People will say and do things that they later regret. Blame others or circumstances for a personal choice and chances are I won't change behavior. Own up to that faulty personal choice and I am much more likely to change behavior for the positive.

Stepping down off my soapbox now and saying thanks for the mistakes and the losses that have taught me so much over the years.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Undertone

Today I am grateful for exercise and endorphins. I am also grateful for my oncologist.

After a meander back to the letter "Q" it's time to get back on track with a "U" word. An UNDERTONE is an underlying quality or feeling, undercurrent, atmosphere. It is a fitting word for today after I spent time yesterday at the cancer center where I am a patient.

Being over 6 1/2 years out from my diagnosis and just reaching six years on Tamoxifen, it had been a year since I had seen my oncologist. It was a milestone a year ago to be told I didn't need to come back for a year. That year sure went fast, and it was a healthy one. I am so grateful for the days and the health.

I have been with this oncologist since the scary beginning of my time as cancer patient. She is leaving the clinic I am at and I will miss her. I am grateful I was able to see her yesterday and to give her a handwritten thank you. I was surprised to get a hug as my appointment wrapped up. Dr. _________, a sincere thanks to you for your kindness and your professional care.

But back to that undertone. As I drive the few minutes from my workplace to the cancer center, I feel that undercurrent. I also drive nearby the hospital where I had the MRI that initially spotted the cancer in my right breast and the radiology center where I had an MR-guided biopsy that confirmed the suspicious area was indeed cancer. An undertone of fear, of unpleasant memories of waiting and wondering.

Then I walk into the cancer center. Workers, patients, and caretakers are coming and going. It is sometimes easy to spot who is the patient and who is the caregiver, but not always. The atmosphere is thick with a variety of human emotions. I can only accurately pinpoint my own-fear, relief, gratitude, reflecting. There is an undertone of sickness and death, but there is also a competing undertone of hope and life.

Today, I am going to focus on the hope and life.