"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

Friday, August 22, 2014

Great! Full

Today I am grateful for my hair stylist Lori and the good job she does with my haircuts as well as the pleasant conversations we have. I am also grateful for the humor and wisdom of Mark Scharenbroich.

Mark was a speaker at my school's workshops yesterday and Lori cut my hair last evening. I got good doses of gratitude from both of them. Lori shared some recent gratitude clarity she had. I heard Mark many years ago when I was teaching in Iowa, but it was a treat to hear him again. I look forward to reading his book Nice Bike. Learn more about Mark at www.NiceBike.com

One of Mark's stories was particularly resonant with me. It is Mark's story and he tells it much better than I ever could, but I can give you the punch line so to speak.

As he addressed a room full of educators, Mark talked about the teachers who had left significant impacts on him. One teacher would always say "Great!" when someone asked how he was doing or how his day was going. Mark wasn't sold on the idea as a teen, but after a certain conversation with this teacher, he picked up the same habit when someone asked him how he is doing.

To this day, he continues to say "Great!"  But here's the part I really love. Mark told us that after he says "Great" out loud, he says "Full" in his own head. Great-full. Grateful.

Bingo. Even when you may not be feeling great or having the best of days, you can always find gratitude if your heart is open. I believe that and I live it.

I try to maintain a positive attitude and I think those who know me would describe me as usually pretty upbeat. We all have our challenges, difficult times, frustrations. Saying "Great!" when you don't exactly feel great or practicing gratitude when you don't exactly feel grateful are not negating the challenges, difficulties, and struggles. To me, they are creating the energy that will allow me to work through the tougher stuff. And then I will feel great-full, a deeper level of gratitude than before.

Gratitude makes all the difference in my life and in each day. Thanks again Lori and Mark!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Building Homes

Today I am grateful for the home we currently live in and how comfortable we feel here. I am also grateful for all the various roofs I have had over my head throughout my life: homes, dorm rooms, apartments.

We are experiencing a housing boom in our community. It seems like a good indication that the economy continues to strengthen. My husband and I enjoy riding our bikes or running through some of the new developments. It is fun to see the progress, the color schemes, the curb appeal. Sure, part of me wishes I could have more house than I have, that our house could have features I would appreciate-like a bigger kitchen and a master bath. But more house also means more to clean and care for, and I don't necessarily want that. I am most appreciative of the rooms our home has. I have never been homeless and our modest home still puts up in the top tier of living arrangements worldwide.

People want bigger houses, more garage stalls, impeccably landscaped yards. But the space a house takes up tells us nothing of the real value in what a home is. The real value is in the love shared, the memories built, the milestones reached. An aesthetically pleasing house may or may not hold an emotionally pleased family. A house that is older, could use some fresh paint and flooring and the like, can still be warmer and cozier and a healthier place to reside.

Sometimes I feel we have become too much about the exteriors and not enough about the interiors . . . both in ourselves and in our homes.  Too much about comparing our insides to other people's outsides . . . both in ourselves and in our homes.

Many can build houses. Building healthy homes takes more heart, soul, and time. Gratitude is a necessary and most helpful tool in this building process.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Inner Jogging

Today I am grateful for regular opportunities to practice self-care and actually doing it. I am also grateful for laughter and the many ways it can brighten a day, a mood, a soul.

I came across this quote recently:

"Laughter is inner jogging." (Norman Cousins)

Heartfelt laughter, with people we know and are comfortable with, can be some of the best kind of laughter. It comes from a joyful place and spreads more joy.

Laughter is also a universal language, like smiles. Laughter can bring a diverse group to common ground or diffuse tension among others.

It is also healthy for us to laugh. Laughter increases oxygen flow and releases endorphins. It helps improve our mood and immune system and relieves stress. It has benefits across all areas of wellness-physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

I like to do plenty of outer jogging (a.k.a. running), but inner jogging is a good exercise to pursue too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Around the Fire

Today I am grateful for my job and the ways it stretches me. I am also grateful for carry-out pizza after a full day.

I want to say thanks to my sister Zita and her husband Randy for hosting a family gathering at their place last week. It worked out nicely and many siblings, in-laws, nieces, nephews, and their families were able to attend. I am also grateful that my family gets along. We are a varied bunch on varied paths in life. We don't always see eye to eye, but we do respect one another and seem to always be able to enjoy one another's company when we get together. That is a gift not every family is blessed with.

As it grew later and darker in the evening, some headed home. But some of us headed to the nice chairs around the fire pit in their yard. They have a welcoming area by a small pond. I found the fire very relaxing. Watching a fire mesmerizes me and naturally soothes my senses.

The conversation and laughter were also pleasant and welcome. Nothing too serious, just good conversation and good laughter. I stayed up later than usual, but the family time and the fire were restful in their own ways.

Thanks to the hosts and thanks to all my family members who all keep making the effort to keep in touch and get together. I wish there was more time to talk with everyone, but we do our best. The time together goes quickly and is treasured more as we get older and our own families grow.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Farm Smells

Today I am grateful for safe travels for family members as we traveled back to our hometown and farm(s). I am especially grateful to my brother Artie for the patience he shows and the opportunities he gives to my son Sam to truly experience farm life.

I am also grateful for farm smells. Yes, all of them.

Farm smells. My husband Darcy and I enjoy going to the county and/or state fair just so we can walk through the livestock barns and smell that combination of smells that can take us right back to our childhoods. Darcy grew up on a crop and livestock farm in South Dakota and I grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa. We moved to a different farm when I was 15, but both farms are still in the family.

One of my favorite smells on the farm came a handful of times each summer-freshly cut hay. Sam and I got to enjoy that aroma on this most recent visit. Here is a picture that may spark memories for some of you and heighten your sense of smell if you have been blessed with farm days similar to mine.

I grew up watching and helping with hay baling. Sam has seen some of the processes before, but he enjoyed soaking it up on this visit. And he got his first taste of helping unload square bales into the barn as he helped his uncle and cousin get a couple loads emptied. I remember cold water never tasted so good as it did after helping unload hay on a hot summer day.

Sure, not all farm smells are kind to the nose, but they are all part of the amazing cycles of growth and life we get to witness. Farm smells, even the unpleasant ones, spark pleasant farm memories for me. For that I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Continual Motivation and Gratitude Catalysts

Today I  am grateful for a primary care physician I trust and feel comfortable with. I am also grateful for time with my sister and that she arrived safely after rental car issues.

I am also grateful for the continual motivation my two diseases give me. Yesterday I wrote about my last drunk. Recovery from alcoholism, in daily chunks, has given me gifts beyond measure. I do the work, but honestly on many days it doesn't feel like work. It is my nourishment in so many ways. It is my direction and guidance. I also have deep appreciation for what some call God, others call Higher Power. (I use either term.) And for the people who support and encourage me in so many ways.

I was practicing gratitude long before my breast cancer diagnosis in May of 2008. That ongoing practice helped me better face and work through the months of fear, unknowns, treatments, and surgeries. I may not mention my BC experience frequently in this blog, but without a doubt it is a source of continual motivation. I get daily reminders when I see my flat chest and take my tamoxifen. Daily reminders of what a blessing it is to be able-bodied and living life fully.

Alcoholism and breast cancer as catalysts. Motivation to stay present, keep active, make healthy choices, appreciate the gift of each day.

Both provide frequent reminders of the precious and fragile nature of life. That realization is a gateway to deeper gratitude.

What provides you continual motivation? What are gratitude catalysts in your life?

I will be taking a blog break and will be back in a few days. Enjoy the day ahead!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Don't Ever Forget

Today I am grateful for the friends who have and continue to bless my life's journey. I am also grateful for the awakenings I get to witness in others.

I was so saddened to hear about the death of Robin Williams. Depression and addiction were part of his struggles. He left a legacy with his work in comedy and acting. What will my legacy be? What am I doing today to keep leaving a positive mark on this world?

Today marks the anniversary of my last drunk: August 12, 1989. Alcoholics in recovery are advised "Don't forget your last drunk." I haven't. I won't.

I won't forget it, but I also don't remember a sizable chunk of that day. Blackouts were a very regular occurrence in my drinking by then. At a wedding, surrounded by many family and friends, I played the drunken cousin/sister/friend part quite well. Only I wasn't acting. I was spiraling downward. I had been for years.

I woke up the next morning, hungover, and took off on a trip to California with a friend. I drank some over the next weeks, but August 12 was my last nasty, down and dirty drunk. Thank God!

Thank God others, like my sister Leonice, also had the courage to confront me about my behavior.Thanks to all of you! Help arrived. I survived. One day at a time today I continue to not only survive but thrive. That is deeply humbling. It is a gift. One I do not take for granted, especially on hearing news like the death of Robin Williams.