Showing posts from April, 2012

My First Gratitude Journal

Today I am grateful for a bike tune-up. It's sure running smoothly now. I am also grateful for faith and prayer in challenging situations.

Here's the story behind how I started journaling about gratitude. My friend Terrie gave me the journal that became my first gratitude journal.  I am now on journal #9.

The journal was a birthday gift from Terrie in July of 1994. I recall Terrie "suggesting" that it would make a good gratitude journal. Terrie was one of my spiritual advisors, those people put in my life to help me to the next level of growth and positive change. When I walked into a room full of people, Terrie was one of those people who stood out. She had a class and confidence about her, and a laugh that I still miss. She had wisdom and grace and she shared it with others.

It took me some time, but by February of 1995, I began that journal. And I began a life-changing practice that I cannot stop talking about BECAUSE IT WORKS!

Terrie died in December, 2003, at ag…

How "Habitual Gratitude" Was Born

Today I am grateful for push-ups, planks, and sit-ups. They are good exercises and require no additional equipment. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and his ability to bring smiles and laughter.

I have been at this blog for 34 straight days now. There will be days I won't be posting, but if I am going to call my blog Habitual Gratitude, I better be habitual in my posting. As we do some traveling in the coming weeks and months, I will likely take a break from my computer. My mom doesn't have Wi-Fi for one thing. I could try it on my phone, but I don't have the patience for that. I also believe that it is a good and wise thing to take a break from technology from time to time.

Gratitude is definitely ingrained in my brain and thought processes now, and blogging about it has only confirmed that. Let me tell you how "Habitual Gratitude" was born. I had been pondering starting a blog for months; doing research on how to start one, throwing around topic ideas, pos…

Staying Out of Dark Places

Today I am grateful for the simple pleasure of mowing the lawn and the feeling of satisfaction when I am done. I am also grateful for my step-children Emily and Arthur and the privilege of watching them grow up.

When I was young, the Simon and Garfunkel song "Sounds of Silence" was one of my favorite songs. The opening line was "Hello darkness my old friend, I've come to talk with you again." Not exactly uplifting, but that was where I was at.  I was introverted, shy, and troubled in my head about many fears and worries. And that was before I added alcohol. It got even darker then.

There were years when I spent more time in the darkness than the light, figuratively speaking. My thoughts were full of self-pity and self-loathing and at times I felt hopeless.

It didn't happen overnight, but slowly I learned how to keep light in my life. Faith is a big part of that, and so is gratitude. Gratitude helps me stay out of the darkness because it keeps self-pity at b…

Practice, Practice

Today I am grateful for the inspiration I have to write, my friends Jenny and Jill and my cousin Julie, the kindness shown to me by many each day, and the sound of my son Sam's laughter.

I jumped into the middle of an A-Z gratitude list this morning. I mentioned this in an earlier post, but it's a great way to do gratitude on the go. And you'll probably surprise yourself at how quickly you can come up with 26 or more. Sure the end of the alphabet gets a little tougher, but I just use the "x" like it sounds....extraordinary, exceptional, and so on.

Habitual gratitude requires practice and more practice. But it is the best work I do every day. It can literally change my perception of my life and the world for the better. That is powerful stuff.

Have you gotten started? What are you waiting for? Give it a try and if you have to on some days, just "act as if" but keep going.

I would love to hear how it's going for you. Having done this blog for over 30 …

Life Saver #2

Today I am grateful for the wonderful smell of lilacs in the spring. If I am running past some lilacs, I have been known to turn around and run past them again to get another dose of aromatherapy.

I am grateful for a letter from my friend Linda. There is still hope for the lost art of letter writing.

Today I am also grateful for Deb, my second life saver. I talked about Life Saver #1, Sheila, in a post last week. These two friends were there for me when I wasn't there for myself.

Deb and I met our freshmen year of college. We played softball together for two years, and we were roommates our sophomore year. My drinking progressed when I got to college and Deb kept an eye on me many nights. She also did something that really got me thinking---she got mad at me for my drinking, in a way that let me know she cared and was concerned, but let me know that my choices were impacting others too.

I remember one time I needed a pair of socks to go with an outfit, but I was saving my money …

The Other Prayer of St. Francis

Today I am grateful for reminders that I am only in charge of my attitude and actions. I am also grateful to be a mom. My son teaches me a lot, even when he is testing me. I am grateful today for the Prayer of St. Francis DeSales.

Most of us have heard of the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi--"Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace..."  The Prayer of St. Francis DeSales is not as well-known.  I work at a Catholic school and prayer is a daily thing. This prayer was read one day last year and it struck me for two reasons: 1) My whole family was educated at St. Francis DeSales School...most of us for 8 years, a few for more. 2) I didn't recall having ever heard the prayer before, which surprised me as an alum of DeSales School. I grabbed a copy and first shared it with my mom, and then with my sisters last fall.  I say it myself most days because I think it is a powerful and comforting prayer.  Better late than never.  It brings me back to gratitude in the present moment w…

All the More Reason

Today I am grateful for conversations yesterday with friends who help me better understand life.  I am also grateful that a fire in our neighborhood didn't hurt anyone and that they got the pets out safely.

It was sad to see the burned out structure of someone's home and belongings, but a reminder of what's really important. How quickly one's day and one's life can change. Sometimes that means real challenges, like those that await this family whose house burned. 

All the more reason to remind ourselves daily of how blessed we are and to not take the people in our lives, our stuff, and each day we are given for granted.

Gratitude is always possible. Make it possible in your life today and share it with others.

Every Day Is Earth Day

Today I am grateful for my marriage and the sense of humor my husband and I share. I am also grateful for words: words that form in my brain and heart and come out on paper and screen.

I know I am a day late for Earth Day 2012, but truly every day is Earth Day. It needs to be if we hope to preserve the planet for future generations. I am grateful the city I reside in makes it easy to recycle. I'm grateful that there is more conscientious packaging and disposal of many of our consumer goods, to better protect the environment.

But today what I am most grateful for when I think about the planet we live on is all of the beauty we get treated to on a daily basis. I loved growing up on a farm and spending lots of time outside. I love living where the seasons change. About the time I get tired of one season, the next is starting to emerge. Admittedly, the cold is getting less pleasant, but you can't beat the awe of a fresh snowfall on the trees.

Even when I doubted God or a Higher Po…

From Runner to Marathoner

Today I am grateful for a movie night and some laughter and lounging to go with it. I'm also grateful for the antibiotics available to help my son Sam get over strep throat.  And I am grateful for the role my niece Katie played in my dream to run a marathon.

In August of 2003, we were at a family function and Katie was there with her fiance Danny.They were set to get married that October, but already had a plan to celebrate their first wedding anniversary:  They were going to run the Chicago Marathon the next October. (I guess you'll have to ask them how and why they came up with that, but I am sure glad they did!) I had been running most of my life, and Darcy and I were running to stay in shape and manage weight. We were thinking about training for a half-marathon. But a full marathon was not on our radar at all. It came up again during the holidays and by early 2004, we were committing to Chicago and starting to train.

When I was 19, the 1984 Summer Olympics were in Los Ang…

The Coming Daylight

Today I am grateful for my job as a school counselor and all the challenges and rewards it brings. No two days are ever the same and that is a blessing too. I am also grateful for the school I have worked at for 12 years now. It is a special place with special people.

I am a morning person. You may have figured that out by many of my blog post times. I have always been a morning person. The quiet and the promise of a new day are motivating to me. I am not a slow waker most days. My husband says I "shoot out of bed."  Not exactly, but I am ready to go. This morning I am ready to head out on a training run of 11-12 miles. I am looking forward to being out there as the light comes to this Saturday in Minnesota. I am looking forward to the songs I may get treated to on my radio as I run, but I will start with some quiet minutes in prayer and meditation first.

In a month, my husband and I plan to run a half-marathon. I've lost count of how many we have done.In September, we p…

A Closet Full

Today I am grateful that finding and restoring my faith is possible daily; starting with small actions like prayer, letting go, writing in my gratitude journal, reaching out to others in emails. I'm also grateful for a phone call from an old friend and for my favorite pair of jeans.

If you are like me, your closet may have more clothes and shoes in it than you need. But you can't beat a favorite pair of jeans or shoes that always feel comfy and fit. I justify a closet full because I buy most of it at consignment stores or when we get a good coupon for Kohl's. My husband Darcy suggested that every time I get a new pair of shoes, that I get rid of a pair. I try to do that. I also take care of my "good clothes" by washing them carefully and only wearing them as long as I need to. Of course, that means my clothes last longer than their trendiness, but I've never really been a trendy dresser. I go for comfort and slenderizing effect when possible.

My favorite pair…

Some Quotes to Ponder

Today I am grateful for a laptop that works consistently. I'm also grateful for the desire to learn. There is so much out there still untapped by my little brain.

In case you are skeptical about gratitude always being possible, maybe these two quotes will give you something to ponder:

"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so let us all be thankful." (Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama)

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances." (Viktor Frankl)

I love both quotes because if I h…

Gratitude Is Like Gravy

Today I am grateful for the rain. We have some catching up to do on precipitation here in the Midwest. I am also grateful for acceptance. It can be a beautiful thing when I am able to practice it.

Interesting blog title today. Here's the story. My husband and I were talking about this blog right after I started it. His comment was "Gratitude is like gravy; it goes with everything." I like that. We laughed about it, but it's true. Gratitude is always possible. If cancer taught me anything, it taught me that. Yeah, it's a bummer to lose your hair to chemo, but there are far worse things to lose than hair. Often after a  difficult time or after tragedy strikes, people will be reminded of gratitude. Why does it take difficulty and tragedy? Because we too often take so much for granted and the reminders need to be strong.

Gratitude need not be complicated, just like gravy need not be complicated. Even with a few lumps, it can still be good--both the gravy and the grat…

Life Saver #1

Today I am grateful to have a doctor I trust and am comfortable with, and I'm grateful she gave me reassurance about my knee.  I am also grateful for the early morning quiet.

I did get that letter sent off to my friend Sheila yesterday. Her and I met when we were freshmen in high school. By the time we left high school, I had a drinking problem. Looking back on those years, I consider Sheila to be one of my life savers. (My second life saver is my college friend Deb.) I was not fun to be around after I had too much to drink. Most of my friends didn't know what to do with me. I probably made them uncomfortable, understandably so. And we were all so young. But Sheila always seemed to know when I needed to talk and when I shouldn't be left alone. I am eternally grateful to her for those times, even though I don't recall many of them because I was blacked out. Some of those nights could have had a much different result if not for Sheila.

Sheila and I have kept in touch all…

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Today I am grateful for sweat; it reminds me of my physical capabilities and it helps flush some toxins out of my body.  I am also grateful for the art of letter writing. I am trying to keep it alive today by writing a letter to my friend Sheila. Sheila and I have been friends for over thirty years and we've got some history together. More on that tomorrow.

I admit that when I say letter writing I usually actually type the letters. My handwriting is rather messy and haphazard. I don't know what it would say about me if it were analyzed. Typing a letter also comes in handy when you want to send a letter to all 7 of your sisters.  Type it once, print it seven times. Then I personalize each one with some of my messy human writing and it's good to go.

I use emailing, texts, and now this blog too, but it's a treat to get something in the mail from a friend or family member when you aren't expecting it. There's also something therapeutic, I believe, about putting pen…

Yard or Inch?

Today I am grateful for the simple pleasure of watching the movie "Cars" with my son Sam. I am also grateful for the wisdom in living life one day at a time.

One day at a time. I call it ODAT for short. This is a mantra you will hear from people working on recovery from alcoholism or other addictions, but I believe it can be immensely helpful for anyone under any circumstances to apply to their daily living. My mom has a little wall print in one of the bathrooms in her house. It has several nice quotes on it, but my favorite among them is: "Life is hard by the yard, but by the inch it's a cinch." That's just a catchy way of saying stay in today, don't take on too much.

I think the fast-paced world we live in today, in ways, makes it harder to stay in today, stay present to the task in front of us. Too many of us are over-booked, over-scheduled, over-committed. In the process, we get resentful, tired, stressed, and feeling a bit defeated. But we have a c…

Life's Tapestry

Today I am grateful for the beautiful picture created this morning when I was out for a run. The sun rays coming though the trees and the early morning fog were spectacular.

I am also grateful for the challenges I have faced in my life. They have taught me the most valuable lessons and shown me what matters most.

Yesterday when I mentioned tapestry, it brought to mind the following poem:

"My life is but a weaving, between my God and me; I do not choose the colors, He worketh steadily. Ofttimes He weaveth sorrow, and I in foolish pride, forget he sees the upper, and I the underside. Not till the loom is silent and shuttles cease to fly, will God unroll the canvas, and explain the reason why.The dark threads are as needful in the skillful weaver's hand, as the threads of gold & silver in the pattern he has planned."  
(Benjamin Malachi Franklin, 1882-1965)

I don't recall when I first heard that, but it has always struck me as poignantly true.

A dark thread in my t…

The Small Things

Today I am grateful for the smell of fresh coffee brewing, my favorite sweatshirt on a cool morning, and our local bakery (dangerously delicious.) I'm also grateful for email connections I make on a regular basis.

Yesterday a co-worker was talking about gratitude and how it's really the small things that matter, that are the most appreciated. In difficult times, that could be cards, well wishes, prayers, meals, a helping hand. On any given day, it can be things like a warm hello and smile from someone, a compliment, or the traffic lights being disproportionately green instead of red on your commute.

Today I will look for the small things that help create the weavings of a beautiful tapestry called life.

I will look for opportunities to give small signs of gratitude to others to weave into their own design.

And Then There's Pup

Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver and my husband's wisdom concerning the timing of when we got Oliver as a puppy.  I am also grateful for laughter. 

In the spring of 2008, we were at a couple events where our son Sam, six at the time, was around other people's dogs and having fun. We had talked about getting a dog, but I had been skeptical. I had been a cat-lover growing up on the farm, but had seen one too many of my favorite kittens come to an untimely death and I was done. Plus, I was used to the animals being outside and didn't want the hassle. But seeing Sam enjoying someone else's pet helped get me a little more willing.

Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer in late May. Darcy had been researching possibilities for a dog and wanted a cockapoo. His family had one when he was growing up and they don't shed. He wanted to move forward with getting a puppy, but now I wasn't sure.  I hadn't had my first surgery yet and we didn't know what kind o…

Acting As If

Today I am grateful for the early morning quiet and time to reflect.  I am also grateful for the prayer and meditation I start my day with.

Practicing an attitude of gratitude daily doesn't mean that I'm always happy. I'm human. Quite human. And it's not the empty "positive thinking" that Barbara Ehrenreich decries in her book Brightsided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America. (An intriguing book if you haven't read it.) There's nothing empty about practicing gratitude. Gratitude builds a comforting and stable structure around us, far from empty.

I admit that there are days all I can do is "act as if" I am grateful. Being tired, rebounding from a disappointment, and being worried about a loved one are all examples of things that might leave me "acting as if." But even on such days, acting as if is better than succumbing to "poor me."

If you don't believe me, try it. That's the beauty of creating and nurtu…

A Tough Take on Gratitude

Today I am grateful for my job and the people I come into contact with there. I am also grateful for heat that works. We need it this morning.

Doesn't it seem at times that there is nothing but bad news coming down the pike? Watching the news can be a real dose of negative. Firefighters killed in the line of duty, young children dying in a boating accident, triple murder in the metro . . . and on and on. In the last couple of weeks I have been touched, though indirectly, by: a death from lung cancer, a man is his mid-twenties killed in a motorcycle crash, and a 5-year-old receiving a very difficult diagnosis. Why?  That becomes a tough question at such times. I have also learned we aren't meant to get an answer to that why, but we are probably meant to learn something.

Maybe that something is perspective. Not at someone else's expense, but through someone else's pain.  We can pray for those impacted, but we usually aren't in a position to offer direct assistance. …

Photographs and Memories

Today I am grateful for upbeat Easter music at church and for the video footage we have of our son Sam and my step-children Arthur and Emily. Those DVD's are true treasure.

"I Am the Bread of Life" reminds me of my dad's funeral, but it also moves me with inspiration every time I hear it, especially on Easter Sunday.

Sam will randomly pull out one of the DVD's we have from when he was little and start watching it.  He did this last night. It quickly pulls me in. Of course, he is the most adorable little guy ever. Last night we were treated to some of his early walking and talking days. I see him on the screen and my heart swells. It also brings back that awe of new parenthood. Don't lose that awe. I wasn't sure I would ever have a child because I wasn't sure I would meet the right man (that's a story for another day). I had Sam when I was 36. I met my step-children when they were 3 and 6, so I have gotten to watch them grow up too. We have many, m…

New Beginnings

Today I am grateful for a walk with Oliver as daylight arrived this Easter morning.  I am grateful for the blue skies and calm that greeted us as we walked.  I am also grateful for my family and friends, who continue to enrich my life in so many ways.

I always think of new beginnings on Easter and during the springtime. There is such hope and promise in new beginnings. Starting this blog has already been a blessing to me.  It was a leap of faith and a step into my own vulnerabilty to get it up and running. I continue to do my written gratitude journal daily. (If it ain't broke, don't fix it.)  But starting this blog and thinking about each day's post has given me more focus on gratitude as I move through my day.

Thank you for being out there to receive my daily words.  Happy Easter!

What did you give up? What did you gain?

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and his propensity to forgive and forget. I am also grateful for his pride in our home/yard and the work he puts into it.  Growing up, I was grateful for my mom's egg and cheese casserole.

Tomorrow is Easter. Lent is almost over. I grew up Catholic and that means I grew up giving up something for Lent. My memory doesn't serve me well, but I recall giving up things like swearing or fighting with my siblings. I have a feeling if it had been tracked, my success rate would not have been very high. I also remember the no meat on Fridays and that we adhered to that year-round. I especially liked it when mom made her egg and cheese casserole. Simple but tasty.

In recent years, I have gone back to the challenge of Lenten sacrifice. I usually give up chocolate and ice cream and use that as a springboard to better eating as I head into marathon training season. This year, I took a different kind of challenge. Let's just say that there is a c…

On Being Vulnerable

Today I am grateful for RICE--rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It's a simple recipe to apply to a sore knee.  I am also grateful for the reminder that I am vulnerable physically and emotionally. That vulnerability keeps me humble and open to learning more and feeling more.

I am glad my knee feels a little better today, and I will continue with RICE.  (I tweaked my knee on a run Wed.)  It concerns me that it could be a problem that would hinder my running, but just for today I will take care of myself and my knee. I won't overdo it and I won't be in denial if it doesn't get better.

I have recently listened to two TED talks by Brene Brown. One was on vulnerabilty, the other was on shame. They are each about 20 minutes long. She is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work and she has some amazing insights.  Check her out at:

She is also an author and thanks to I have two of her books on the way.


Gratitude on the Go

A is for Arthur, my step-son.  B is for banana, my favorite fruit.  C is for my cancer support group, what a wonderful group of women. D is for Darcy, my husband.  E is for Emily, my step-daughter. 

You get the idea. If you want to mix it up, do an A-Z gratitude list. I like to do A-Z lists on runs or when I give myself quiet time on either end of my commute to work. Consider it gratitude on the go, mobile appreciation. I don't usually write down my A-Z list, but you certainly could.

I know others who keep an ongoing list and just add a few items to it each day or whenever they feel like it.  The advantage of writing it down means you can refer back to it if you aren't feeling very grateful and you need a boost.

I write in my gratitude journal in the morning. I find that it helps me start my day more humble and more calm.  It has to be daily for me, because otherwise I get lazy and sloppy and pretty soon I'm not doing the journal anymore and my attitude starts to slip t…

Analogize This

Today I am grateful for the spring cleaning I did yesterday.  Grateful that I have a house to clean, grateful to be physically healthy and capable of the work.  Grateful for our Dyson vaccum. That sucker has pick-up power. :-)

Since I started this blog last week, I have gotten the benefit of thinking more about what I appreciate as I ponder my next post. I was thinking as I cleaned yesterday that there are some analogies to draw between spring cleaning and gratitude.  One is that we often overlook what is right in front of us. With the spring cleaning, that would be dust and cobwebs. With gratitude, it would be things like waking up next to my husband and having food in the fridge.  A second analogy came up as I tackled the windows and removed the winter grime. I got a better view when done.  Bingo!  Practicing gratitude gives me a better view too.

Call It What You Like

Today I am grateful for our house and some time off to do some spring cleaning. I am also grateful for walk and talk time with my friend Jenny.  We walk and talk for hours and still run out of time before we run out of conversation.

Jenny and I were co-workers for several years, acquaintances who had shared a few conversations about writing, yoga, running, and the breast cancer that had touched our families. I had wanted to get to know her better, but didn't expect the vehicle to make that possible would be our own dual breast cancer diagnoses less than a month apart in May and June of 2008.  To literally have someone walking the same path as I was at the same time was one heck of a silver lining in a dark cloud. 

Which brings me to God, Higher Power, The Universe.  Call it what you like, but I believe that there is a greater force at work in our lives and it will be a recurring theme in this blog.  I tend to use the terms God or Higher Power, but I hope you have a term you are c…

Here's the Zinger

Today I am grateful for my son Sam.  He teaches me about acceptance, patience, and unconditional love.  I am also grateful for every game of catch he and I get to play.  Lately it's been baseball.

Today I am delivering the gratitude zinger I referred to in my first post.  I used to be stuck in self-pity.  It was my default mode, how I viewed what was happening in my life.  Poor Lisa. What a drag that was!  And it kept me down, kept me stuck in self-hatred and feeling unworthy. As I started practicing gratitude, I realized I was feeling better and better, and I wasn't so tough on myself, so negative all of the time.  Then it hit me -the zinger-I can't feel sorry for myself and be grateful at the same time. Try it.  It's simply not possible! If I practice gratitude, focus on what is going well in my life, I keep the self-pity at bay and it loses the power it used to have. Gratitude is life-changing indeed.

Negative breeds negative.  Positive breeds positive. Where will I…

I've got 5 and they all work

Today I am grateful for my 5 senses. These ears help me hear the music I love and the laughter of my son Sam. My eyes are adjusting to progressive lenses, but they really appreciate seeing the buds on the trees and the greening of the grass. I love the smell of that first pot of coffee in the morning and will forever love the smell of freshly cut hay on the farm. I love the taste of chocolate and ice cream . . . a little too much :-)   And our cockapoo Oliver loves a tummy rub . . . and I like the feel of his soft fur.

I know that's a lot more than two things I am grateful for today, but I too often take things like my five senses for granted.  The practice of gratitude is crucial to help me appreciate what I have rather than focus on what I don't have that I wish I did.

There's a saying/prayer that goes like this:  "If I can't have all that I want, let me want all that I have."

I am also reminded that although there are certainly things I don't have that…