"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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Four Sounds

Today I am grateful for my sense of hearing and that one of the things I could hear this morning was a phone conversation with my friend Sheila.

I also tuned in to what I was hearing as Darcy and I took a run earlier today.

There were four sounds I focused on:

1. The birds singing their various songs. I am not a good birder and couldn't identify all that I was hearing, but there were at least five or six different birds we heard. Just like humans have different languages and accents, birds have so many different sounds.

2. The traffic flowing. We were mostly running in a residential area, so it wasn't loud traffic. More the approaching vehicle, the hum of engines and the grind of tires, then the retreating sound as the vehicle moved away. And in the distance, the sound of traffic at highway speed. The traffic sounds are oddly soothing to me. They seem to tell me the day is a normal one with normal activities.

3. The sound of our feet hitting the sidewalk, trails, and roads that we ran on. I could hear Darcy's feet in a different way than I heard and felt my own. Both sounds reminded me of the gratitude I have
that we can both run and that we share this time together.

4. My own breathing. We weren't pushing our pace today, so my breaths in and out were pretty smooth. And a reminder to me of the air that I am freely given and the life it provides.

Four sounds. Plenty of gratitude. What are you hearing today that brings you gratefulness?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Closed Doors, Opened Doors

Today I am grateful for a pleasant walk/run with my friend Sara and nice mornings on our patio with Darcy.

I am on a quote kick this week. If you like these, I get many of them from the "Word for the Day" at gratefulness.org.

Helen Keller has always been an inspiration to me. I wrote about another quote from her in Overcoming Suffering last November. Talk about making the most of life, even with significant limitations. At 19 months old, an illness left her both blind and deaf. She went on to lead a full life, and earn both significant formal and informal educations. She left a wonderful legacy with her activist work for the disadvantaged and wonderful words like the ones below.

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long
 at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us."
(Helen Keller)

She had doors closed. If she would have kept lamenting those closed doors, we wouldn't be where we are today with our culture's view of those who are disabled or lacking key capabilities that most of us take for granted.

Most of us won't go on to leave a mark nationally and internationally like Helen Keller did. Yet, we can each leave our mark on our part of the world and the people in it.

Doors will close that we don't want closed. Doors will close with our help. Either way, emotional weight may keep us stuck staring at the closed door. Look around. Release burdens. Pray. Have faith.
Reach out to others. Find gratitude.

Look again. Chances are you will see an open door. Move forward to it and into this day. Leave your mark.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Boredom

Today I am grateful for my eyesight and the various tones of color in the clouds I am viewing this morning. I am also grateful for butter on toasted bagels.

Another quote today, just five short words:

"Boredom is a lack of attention." 
(Fritz Perls)

Interesting that this quote comes from Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy. Gestalt therapy is the focus on how our current emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are impacting us. In the time it was developed, psychotherapy often focused more on one's past and how it was impacting the person in the present. 

Gestalt therapy doesn't negate the past, but focuses more on present circumstances and how to achieve growth and balance. As I studied various theories in college and graduate school, I liked numerous aspects of Gestalt therapy.

So it isn't surprising that Perls penned this phrase, because paying attention is all about the present and the surrounding environment we find ourselves in. 

I know in today's world it can seem like there is too much to pay attention to, but we choose where we put our focus. We really do. Tune out and dismiss what doesn't matter. Tune in and focus on what does. 

I can honestly say I am rarely if ever bored. I aspire to more balance and calm in my days, but that starts with paying attention here and now. As I do that in this moment, I am hearing a wide variety of sounds around me, near and father away. Sounds are a good thing to tune into.

Which one of your senses is asking you to pay attention now? 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Normal Day

Today I am grateful for our son Sam and the nice meal he prepared for Father's Day. I am also grateful for the way writing helps me clarify my thoughts and feelings.

Here is a quote to consider on this Monday:

"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in the quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow."
(Mary Jean Irion)

I appreciate these words and that regular gratitude practice has taught me more about what this quote really means. Each day is a gift. If I am always in pursuit of better days, I am missing the goodness in today, regardless of what is going on.

None of us knows how many days we will get. We make assumptions. We take things for granted. It often takes a shock, a mishap, a diagnosis, a full-blown tragedy for people to again be reminded of what priorities we have and what really matters most.

Interestingly enough, the woman who wrote the quote above, Mary Jean Irion, has had many people assume her name was spelled Iron, not Irion. Read here for more information about that. 

Today's lessons: Don't assume you know the correct spelling of a person's name. And don't assume today is just a day to get through on your way to a better day.

Make today a better day! 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fathers

Today I am grateful for my own father, Arthur, and for my husband Darcy and the wonderful and present father and grandfather he is.

This day can come loaded with emotions that truly run the gamut. I am thinking especially of my stepson Arthur, and his wife Alyssa, expecting the birth of their first child in late August. My friend Sheila's husband Dave facing his first Father's Day after the death of their daughter Carli. My friend Betsy whose father passed away less than two weeks ago.

Plenty of emotions. Lots of love. Many memories. It all adds up to the blessings and lessons our own fathers brought us, and the other fathers who continue to impact our lives.

A special thank you to Darcy, for helping me be a better parent and stepparent, and for having the courage and heart to break a pattern of fatherhood in his own family. It was a pattern that needed breaking and it has made all of the difference to his children and to me.

My sister Zita posted an old photo of our dad on Facebook yesterday. It reminded me of this photo that I have of him: 


We don't know the year this picture was taken, but we are guessing he was in his late teens or early twenties and it was in the early 1940's.  For most of my memory, my dad wore striped bib overalls as he went about the work of farming. He got dressed up for church, square dancing, and special occasions. But I only remember him wearing button down dress shirts, not collared polos like this one. 

My dad was 41 when I was born, #11 of his 13 children. I think wistfully about the child and young man he was. It is a time that remains mysterious to all children regarding their parents. It makes hearing some of the stories from those earlier days all the more precious.

It has been nearly 19 years since he died, but I still miss you Dad and feel your presence in my life. Thank you!

Happy Father's Day to all dads out there! 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Stopped In My Tracks

Today I am grateful for the soothing sound of running water and for bagels and peanut butter. I am
also grateful when clarity of thoughts and feelings come through.

The other day I was enjoying a slower pace to my morning. Most weekday mornings during the year, I would be well into my workday by 8:30 a.m.  The other day I was just heading out for a run.

I had a certain route I was on, mostly because I was on an errand to take a picture for my other blog Late Bloomer and Slow Learner. As I neared the bridge I wanted to capture a photo of, I was stopped short in my tracks by a train stopped on the railroad tracks. This stretch of track is a short line and rarely has traffic that interferes with our running, biking, or walking.

I took a look at the situation and determined I would be better off taking a detour rather than waiting. First, though, I clicked a couple pictures and started composing a blog post in my head. It wasn't until some time later that I realized what had happened. Duh! Sometimes I have to have things pretty much thrown in my face to notice them.

I was composing the post, thinking how the pictures I had taken would be a nice touch, and how pictures always seem to get more people to look at my blog posts. Then the zinger came through. That very morning, I had written a post titled Swerving and had commended myself for making progress in pausing and tuning into my breath when I needed to slow down during my day.

The Great Spirit in my life gave me a great opportunity to do just that on my run; pause and take some mindful breaths.

Instead, I took pictures, started some thoughts in my head for a post, and danced around a little before taking off on my detour. I lost the moment. I lost the stillness in surrendering and accepting. Granted, I was feeling pretty good anyway; out on a run, hours ahead of me in my day that could be flexible. But I still got caught up in the busyness, in the next task, in the constant stream of ideas and images that fill my head, sometimes to my detriment.

So this post is a confession. A coming clean. A plea for self-forgiveness. An effort to try easier. The pictures I took of the train are still on my phone, but you won't see them here. The post that came out in these paragraphs isn't the one I started in my head the other day, but it is the one meant to be written.

Stopped in my tracks, first by a train, then by a gentle nudge from my Higher Power. Lighten up and slow down Lisa! Some moments of the day should be filled with nothing but a pause.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

41 Years

Today I am grateful for the co-workers, past and present, that I got to see last evening. And I am especially grateful for Colleen, whose retirement we were gathered to celebrate.

Colleen's career at our school spanned 41 years. Forty-one years!  She taught French, built strong peer tutoring and peer listening programs from the ground up, and gave her leadership to our accreditation and school improvement process for many years.

I have a great deal of respect for Colleen and we always worked well together, regardless of the task at hand. She is the real deal as far as a quality educator and a truly genuine person goes. She will be missed, but she so fully deserves the opportunity to embrace retirement. I wish you the best Colleen and hope you fully enjoy the slower pace and more time with family and friends.

A prayer service started out the evening and was titled "41 Years in 5 Words."  Five different people, ranging from past and present co-workers, to former students, to good friends, took turns speaking about Colleen's dedication, caring, fairness, wisdom, and sincerity. They captured the essence of a wonderful contributor. And a most genuine listener.

It is already a rarity to work in the same place for 41 years. It is becoming even less likely all the time. Our school community benefited from Colleen's commitment and we give thanks for each of those years, each of those days, each of those hours.

You have made a difference to me professionally and personally Colleen.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!