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Showing posts from May, 2012

Young Authors Conference

Today I am grateful for a fun baseball game to watch last night and the pride in my son and the other players' faces after making good plays and showing teamwork. I am also grateful that writing is part of who I am.

I had the opportunity to attend a Young Authors Conference with my son and others from his school yesterday. There were over 900 elementary and middle school students there with lots of energy, along with adult presenters who were inspiring and informative. They ranged from authors, to screenwriters, to journalists. I appreciate that the adult writers let the young ones know that writing, and achieving your goals, doesn't just happen, it takes work. As the keynote speaker said; it takes patience, endurance, commitment, and passion. I needed to hear that too.

I am glad that my son attended and participated and found it to be a good experience.

Would I have gone to such an event as a 4th grader, like my son did yesterday? I don't know. I was pretty shy and introv…

3 x 3 = Better Perception

Today I am grateful for:

My husband: our marriage, running together, his quirks that make him who he is

My job: my colleagues, student progress over a year, parents who care

My writing: ongoing inspiration, processing emotions, passion for it

That is my example of what I mean by 3 x 3. List three people, places, and/or things that you are grateful for and then list three things about each that you appreciate. Maybe an A-Z gratitude list or a Top 10 list isn't what you feel like today. Try 3 x 3 or 4 x 4 or whatever combination you like.

The key is to practice the gratitude regularly and to give yourself a variety of ways to do that. The subtitle of this blog is: Building a better perception of self and surrounding world through the regular practice of gratitude. My perception was unhealthy, tainted by self-pity and fear, for many years. Gratitude is clearing away the fog, cleaning the glasses, focusing on the gifts instead of the regrets.

After two months of blogging here, I can t…

D-Day: Four Years Ago Today

Today I am grateful for the chance to see my friend Jill last night. She is a spark in my life.  I am also grateful to be a cancer survivor. I am thinking about that on this day especially because it is D-Day.

D-Day? Not THAT D-Day, my d-day. . .cancer diagnosis day, May 29, 2008.  I had a MR-guided biopsy of my right breast on May 27 after a "normal" mammogram, a suspicious MRI, and a "normal" ultrasound in the weeks prior.

I was one sharp edge that day four years ago. I knew on the 28th I probably wouldn't hear anything and I didn't. But I awoke on the 29th knowing that I likely would hear something. (I appreciate that medical professionals know people who have had biopsies want to hear ASAP and they try to make that happen). It could be a huge relief or it could be the start of plenty of uncharted territory. I was hoping for the best, but had prepared myself.  Realistically I knew it could be cancer, especially after two other sisters had already been di…

Remembering Dad

Today I am grateful to those who have given their lives to bring freedom to America and to defend that freedom here and abroad for over two centuries. I am also grateful that I was able to visit my father's grave this weekend.

I am remembering my dad today on Memorial Day. He passed away suddenly on October 23, 1998. It was a shock to our family, but I am grateful he died the way he did. He was a semi-retired 74-year-old farmer out unloading some corn from the fall harvest. He had a heart attack doing what he loved. I am grateful he didn't have a slow decline and the emotional toll of losing his mobility and other abilities. The shock of his sudden death was soothed a little for me because I know it was better for him and the way he had lived. I couldn't see dad fully retired.

My dad had a dry sense of humor and a quick wit that you would miss if you weren't listening. He liked to read the paper, listen to the news, and talk to anyone about anything that happened to c…

An Underlying Paradox

Today I am grateful for the connections I have in my life with family and friends. I am also grateful that it's Friday and we have a holiday weekend ahead.

I want to wrap up the week and my references to the work of Robert Emmons with these words from his book Thanks!

"There is an underlying paradox about gratitude: whereas the evidence is clear that cultivating gratitude, in both our lives and in our attitude toward life, makes us sustainably happier and healthier people, it is still difficult to practice gratitude on a daily basis. Some days it comes naturally; other days, it feels as if we're taking our medicine, doing something that's good for us but that we don't really like. On difficult days, it can be like stepping onto the treadmill when you just want to sink into the couch and turn on the television." (p. 185)

This is one of the reasons I chose to call this blog "Habitual Gratitude."  Healthy habits take work to instill and maintain. Certa…

Sharing Ideas, Cultivating Gratitude

Today I am grateful for the rain overnight and a free watering for our grass and flowers. I am also grateful for the people on my prayer list. They help me get out of myself.

The nice thing about people who believe in and practice gratitude is that they like to share their ideas with others and get more people hooked on it. That's one of the reasons I started this blog. I am thoroughly convinced that gratitude works to expand personal and community wellness. That community may be your family, your workplace, your local gym, your church, or any number of places where people gather. That's another cool thing about gratitude. . . it tends to be a unifier. It brings people together.

I mentioned Robert Emmons' book in my post yesterday; Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. In Emmons' own words "The benefits of gratitude come from the long-term cultivation of the disposition of gratefulness through dedicated practice."

Yes, it takes effort…

The New Science of Gratitude

Today I am grateful for our house. It is big enough to give each resident his/her own space when needed. I am also grateful to have others out there who believe in gratitude like I do.

There is growing evidence, scientific and anecdotal, confirming numerous positive effects of the regular practice of gratitude. Gratitude-based studies were scarce fifteen years ago, but now there is hard data worth considering. Two leading researchers in this area are social psychologists Dr. Robert Emmons at UC-Davis and Dr. Michael McCollough at the University of Miami.

Visit Emmons Lab at UC-Davis at http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/labs/emmons

In an early study by Emmons and McCullough, people were asked to keep a weekly gratitude journal, writing down five things for which they were grateful. After two months, these journalers were happier, more optimistic, had fewer physical complaints, and exercised more. Ongoing research continues to show convincing benefits of gratitude in action. It is also ind…

Taking Peace for Granted

Today I am grateful for the birds singing and the way our dog Oliver splays out on his back at times. It always brings a smile to my face when I see that.

I was out running yesterday and caught a news update on NPR. From a deadly suicide bombing in Yemen to demonstrations at the NATO talks in Chicago, I was vivdly reminded of something I, and many of us in this country, take for granted: peace and security.

I don't worry about where it is safe for me to run or not run. I choose my route on how I am feeling and what I want to see. I don't lay awake at night wondering if I'll need to evacuate my family because of bomb scares. I feel safe driving, walking, biking in my community and surrounding area. That is freedom. That is peace. And I am quite guilty of taking it for granted. 

I live in a free and democratic nation. That doesn't just happen. People fought and worked hard to make that possible over 200 years ago, and people are still working hard to maintain it. I need…

"Voices of Hope"

Today I am grateful for forgiveness and I am grateful for big closets. With a little reorganizing, more space can always be created.

Now, more about "Voices of Hope." In early 2010, I was proud to be part of a DVD project titled "Voices of Hope." A project of the Hastings (MN) Breast Cancer Support Group, the DVD was created to be given to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. What began as a vision to provide DVDs in our metro area became much more. Over 5,000 copies of the DVD have now been distributed across Minnesota, but also many other states and even some other countries. A special feature of the DVD shows the surgery results of ten women. I am one of those ten. That has been a key part of the DVD, giving women facing surgery decisions some idea of what different options can look like when done. It is so humbling and gratifying to be part of this project and to know that it has reached many people and helped them at a difficult time.

You can find out more…

Memory Lane

Today I am grateful for safe travels and a chance to see my friend Deb and her family. I am also grateful for cooler air after a couple of hot days.

(More on the Voices of Hope DVD tomorrow instead of today.)

Deb's youngest daughter is graduating from high school today in the community that Deb and I met when we were college freshman. I have been back there over the years, but it had been awhile. The last time my son had been there he was a baby, now he's 10. So I showed him around the college campus and where Deb and I played softball. It's hard to believe it has been nearly 29 years since we met, that it's been that long since I was in college. Time does fly!

It was nice to see some familiar faces and the old stomping grounds, but there have been many changes too. Years go by, things change, buildings are torn down to make way for new ones. But you can't take away the memories that were created. Memory lane is often a bittersweet journey, but I always come back …

Sound Advice from Chalk Art

Today I am grateful for a good long run on a warm morning, and for the chalk art that inspired me for a few miles. I am also grateful to be part of a DVD project for breast cancer patients and their families titled "Voices of Hope."  More on that tomorrow.

Back to the sound advice offered by the chalk art that covered the trail for a few miles of my run this morning. Someone was busy and offered plenty of encouragement.  "Enjoy the view" reminded me to look at the beautiful overlook of the Mississippi River bluffs. My riverside community has an abundance of natural beauty, but I will sometimes be too deep in thought or too familiar with my path to really notice this particular day and time and the scene it sets.  Thanks for the reminder!

I chuckled as I came to an intersection with a road and the chalk art said "Don't get hit by a car."  Solid advice once again!  Pay attention to your surroundings so you stay safe, but also so you don't miss the l…

Play Ball!

Today I am grateful for my early morning walks with our dog Oliver. They are a nice way to welcome the new day, especially this time of the year when daylight comes earlier. I am also grateful for an exciting and action-packed baseball game last night for my son's team, even though they lost 11-10.

My son and I have been playing ball for years. I taught him the basics and continue to work with him, when he lets me. He's now in his third year of playing organized baseball, and making good strides. I'm glad he's taken an interest in baseball, as I was a softball player and coach for many years. It's a sport I am comfortable with. My hope for him is that he have fun, enjoy the experience, improve, and in the end feel good about his efforts.

I grew up playing softball with my family in our backyard. We had to share the space with clotheslines and apple trees, but we managed pretty well. I loved playing 500 and when no one else wanted to play, I would throw the ball aga…

BC Support Group

Today I am grateful for my breast cancer support group and the wonderful women in it.  I am also grateful for this blog. Today is post #50 and I am learning and growing in gratitude.

I was able to make it to our monthly breast cancer support group meeting last evening after missing last month. I try to go when I can. I am a firm believer in the value of support groups. It can help the newly diagnosed who are full of fear and questions, but it also helps me, almost four years out from my own diagnosis. It is a dose of gratitude every time. I am here and living life fully. Not everyone gets that chance. Lives are cut short by cancer.

I also see it as a responsibility. Women were there for me when I was in those early days. I want to be there for the woman who walks in for the first time. In fact, my first meeting was several months into surgeries and treatment, and about a month before my mastectomies. A woman was there who was just a couple weeks out from mastectomies herself. She sho…

Sweat or Tears?

Today I am grateful for the power of prayer. It helps me let go of fear and worry. I am also grateful for a cool evening and nice sleeping weather.

I'm not much of a crier. I never have been. That's neither good nor bad, it just is. As long as I get difficult, heavy emotions out in ways that don't harm others, property, or myself, I do okay.  A realization struck me the other day. Maybe I'm not much of  a crier because I'm more of a sweater (the action, not the clothing.) 

Admittedly, I grew up not crying much because I thought it meant I was stronger. Wrong! I remember having favorite kittens with each new litter. After losing several of my favorites to untimely deaths-the life of a cat on a farm-I decided I wasn't going to cry about it. The refrain in my head was "Strong people don't cry." Wrong again! Tears are a normal, healthy way to express both grief and joy. But sweat just seems like a better fit for me. In my drinking days, I would run o…

1-5, #6

Today I am grateful for an afternoon nap yesterday. It was needed and involved no guilt. I am also grateful for my recovery connections via email. Reaching out to them helps me start my day centered and asking for God's support, not trying to do it all on my own.

You may be wondering about the title of today's post. Actually, it is a little framed sign that I have on both my desk at work and a place near our computer at home. It is to help remind me of my priorities.

1-5: Faith/recovery, family, friends, running, writing.  #6 My job.

There would have been a time I would have felt guilty even thinking that, much less putting it in writing and displaying it. I think too many in our nation are caught up in the job being too important, too driven to make more money to buy more stuff.  Who suffers? The faith life, family, and friends who miss out because that person doesn't have time. We sanction overworking and commend people who are willing to put in overtime for "the co…

Reflecting on Mother's Day

Today I am grateful for safe travels, time with family, and the chance to see my own Mom on Mother's Day weekend.

I had a nice Mother's Day and besides spending it with my son, I also heard from both of my stepchildren early in the day. It was a fairly low-key day after a busy weekend. I don't set myself up by having big expectations and then being frustrated when they don't happen. Keeping expectations low is a wise approach for most of life as far as I am concerned. It really isn't the one day that matters anyway, it's the day in and day out work and joy of being a mom and stepmom.

I wasn't always sure I would be a mom. At first I wasn't sure I wanted to be one, but by my mid-twenties I did. Then, I wasn't sure I would meet the man I wanted to have a family with, but by my early thirties I did. I am so grateful that pregnancy was a healthy and amazing process for me. I loved being pregnant and the way I felt as things progressed. I am grateful Sa…

Daily Work

Today I am grateful for my stepdaughter Emily's involvement in band and for an enjoyable concert last night. I am also grateful for the upcoming weekend to finish out a busy week.

I do daily work on my recovery from alcoholism and I practice gratitude daily. It takes time and discipline, but experience shows that I approach life more calm and patient if I do that daily work.

If you have been a faithful follower of this blog or if you have read one post, thank you! I have posted for 46 days in a row. That daily work has upped my gratitude a notch, which in turn has helped me better handle what life doles out daily. 

I will be taking a couple days off from posting, but I have left you with plenty of reading material to revisit. Have you started that journal yet?  When is the last time you did an A-Z gratitude list?

I would love to hear from you in the comment section.  Thanks and have a good day!

Letting Go

Today I am grateful for a beautiful evening last night to enjoy my son's baseball game and I am grateful for stain remover--his uniform pants are white. I am also grateful for growing faith.

On my faith journey, I have heard the phrase "Let go and let God."  To me, that means let go of that which is beyond my control; basically other people, places, and things. It also means to place my faith and trust in God, a Higher Force. I'm human and lack power, though at times I think I have more power than I do. My faith tells me there is a force that has the power and it is a good force.

I try to turn it over and proceed with my day, rather than become overburdened by excess baggage I hang on to at my own expense.

How do you lighten your load?  How does gratitude help lighten it?

The Beauty of Biking

Today I am grateful for the cool morning air and the singing birds. I am also grateful for laughter. I have heard it said that "laughter is God's music."  I like that.

You know by now that I am a runner, but when I like to mix up my training, biking tops my list. My newly tuned-up bike is running smoothly and even the hills seem easier. In the town I live in, there are always hills. You can't escape them, but they are surmountable. Sort of like the minor challenges that come our way on a daily basis....no escape, but surmountable. And if we practice with the minor challenges, when the big ones come along it seems we find the strength and energy to proceed. That is when the extra stores of gratitude are put to good use too.

But back to that biking now. I love to feel the speed build up and the cooling breeze created. I love to get a view of my surroundings that neither foot nor vehicle captures in the same way a bike ride does. I love that my legs say "thank you&…

Quiet Time

Today I am grateful for good books and an afternoon nap. I'm also grateful for my job.

Practicing gratitude requires that I slow down long enough to write in my gratitude journal, and to pause long enough to reflect on what I appreciate on this day at this time.

That simple and brief pause is a good start, but I need more quiet time too. I try to give myself some of it each day--early morning prayer, walking the dog, no radio on part of my commute, running, sitting on the patio appreciating nature. The possibilities are numerous.

When I slow down I begin to see more of what I have to be grateful for. When I slow down I remember that today isn't just all about my to-do list, it's also about being present in the moment.

I'm busy, productive, a bit of an overachiever. Daily quiet time is a necessity, otherwise I reach a point I jokingly call "spinning off the face of the earth."  If I get to that point, you can bet I'm not very appreciative anymore.

Here…

Praying for Others

Today I am grateful for the relationships I have with both my stepchildren.  My stepson's birthday is today, as is our dog Oliver's.  I am also grateful for the smell of spring and the arrival of the promise of a new day.

For me, prayer and gratitude go hand in hand. Besides gratitude, another one of my daily practices is to pray for others. I have a mental list of fellow alcoholics/addicts and cancer patients that I pray for. I say a special prayer for friends and family who may be facing a particularly difficult time, approaching a milestone (like high school graduation this time of the year), or who have a doctor appointment or test/scan coming up. 

Praying for others gets me out of myself, and that's a good thing. It also gets the gratitude flowing. Having others to pray for means I have people in my life. And those who are facing difficult challenges serve to remind me how my problems are usually small potatoes compared to what some people are up against.

I pray for…

Living With Purpose

Today I am grateful for my son's baseball opening day and the experience he is having. I am also grateful for the energy to do what needs to be done to keep a household rolling.

Yesterday I spoke of the deep gratitude I have for each day, considering I have two diseases that have taken many from this life. It gives me the drive and inspiration to live my life with purpose and a goal to make a difference while I'm here. Gratitude creates energy and hope. Self-pity and regrets zap energy and diminish hope.

I'm working to spread the word about gratitude because it enriches life.

I have so much I want to do and experience, so many people I enjoy knowing, so many goals to keep persistently reaching for that it will take me decades to get it all done. I hope I am afforded the opportunities and the time. But I only approach it one day, one hour at a time.

Living with purpose means little steps each day, adding up to big steps.

Thanks for being out there and checking out my blog.…

Two Diseases That Kill

Today I am grateful for pizza and ice cream--my favorite comfort foods. I am also grateful for the sense of humor my husband and I bring to our marriage.

I am grateful to be a recovering alcoholic since 1989 and a cancer survivor since 2008.

It was work on recovery from alcoholism that first led me to gratitude journaling and the value in "practicing an attitude of gratitude." I could have died an alcoholic death at a young age; running my car into a tree or bridge abutment. And you wouldn't have known if it was suicide or drunkenness, because both were on my mind at those times. I have witnessed the destruction of lives that addiction causes. I have gone to wakes and funerals for fellow alcoholics who couldn't stay sober. Why do I get to be here?  God's grace.

I had years of gratitude practice when my breast cancer diagnosis came along. Already a firm believer that gratitude works and is always possible, that is how I approached the challenges of surgeries, che…

What's in a Song?

Today I am grateful for ears to hear the music I love and the songs that connect me with specific memories and experiences. Many songs have been part of my journey.

I am also grateful for the messages and messengers who helped me confront my alcoholism.

One such song is the Eagles' "Already Gone."  This song used to be a "drinking song" for me. It was my goal when I went out. I wanted to be "already gone," meaning drunk, wasted, numb. But out of the destructive behavior and an unhealthy twist on that song emerged a line that is one of my absolute favorite lines from any song. That line is: "So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains and we never even know we have the key." It is profoundly simple and was my truth for years. I was chained in a life going down the wrong path and I was stuck on that path.

In fact, when I was 15 years old I came across this phrase: "The chains of alcohol are too weak to be felt until they ar…

"Grabitude" Revisited

Today I am grateful for bananas, my favorite and most convenient fruit. I am also grateful for the unconditional love of our dog Oliver. He truly is always happy to see us.

In one of my first posts, my sister Aileen commented and used the term "grabitude."  It refers to the materialism and greed that seem to be consuming too many people in too many ways these days. We want bigger, better, faster, and more "stuff." But does that make us happy? I don't think so. I think it just leads to pursuit of more stuff and takes us away from what really matters. Does it make us grateful? I don't think so. I think it leads to taking more of what we have for granted, or seeing it as not good enough.

Sure, I like to have nice stuff, but I try to keep it in perspective. I grew up with simplicity and I appreciate that today. Grabitude puts the focus on stuff and takes it off of the best gifts in our lives: people and experiences, love and growth.  We often hear the terms &qu…

Saying Thanks

Today I am grateful to have discovered a writing group in my local community. After seeing a mention of it in the newspaper, I went to my first meeting last night. I am also grateful for the way our dog Oliver is intrigued by the worms on the trail after a rain. He makes me smile often.

Today I am thinking about the simple words "thank you."  I try to use them regularly and I am trying to instill that practice in my son and others. I mostly do that by example, but with my son I will prompt him at times too. I sure appreciate a sincere thank you and so I am guessing that others do too. Simple, free, heartfelt--they can make a difference.

Today I will give out thank yous liberally and sincerely.

To close here is a favorite quote of mine:

"If the only prayer you said your whole life was 'thank you,' that would suffice."
         (Meister Eckhart)

Life's Curve Balls

Today I am grateful for the noisy joy of small children on their way to the park. We live near a park, so we get to witness that joy from time to time. I am also grateful for the birds singing this morning to welcome the new day.

Life has thrown some curve balls my way the last few days. Some have been good, some have been stressful, some have just been. But they are all part of this amazing journey we get to take. Flexibility is highly recommended, as is acceptance. A person is better able to respond to a curve ball when they recognize it and accept it. It's a good reminder of what I can manage and what are unmanageables in my life. Other people's actions, the weather, circumstances at the store; these are all out of my power range. On the other hand, the attitude and actions I choose in response to other people, the weather, and circumstances at the store are definitely in my sphere of influence.

Gratitude is like a catcher's mitt for curve balls. The more gratitude, the…