"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, May 31, 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 introverted. But it was around this age that I started writing . . . poetry and journaling. Thank God! What a difference writing has made in my life.

Blogging is just the latest writing outlet for me. Writing has been my outlet for 35 years. Without it, I very well might have drank myself to death. At times, it was the only healthy outlet I had for the painful emotions I struggled with. It continues to be an outlet for painful emotions when I have them, but it has really become a channel for sharing positive emotions like gratitude, joy, satisfaction. Writing defines me and that is a good thing!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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 tell you my level of gratitude has reached a new high and I have more energy and more calm than I did, even in the face of busy times.

More gratitude practiced, better perception achieved. It works, it really does.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

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 diagnosed.

I went to work for the day and tried to stay close to my phone, but I missed my doctor's first call around noon. Then, I was in meetings until I headed home after 3:30. I called again on my cell and my doctor's nurse took my cell number and said my doctor would call me shortly. She did and I asked her "Should I pull over?"  When she said "You probably should" I knew what the news was going to be. I pulled into a parking lot and was told that I had infiltrating ductal carcinoma as well as DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). 

Diagnosis in. Cancer journey begins.

I will be forever grateful to my own doctor and the radiologist who read my mammogram back in late April of 2008. Knowing my family history, and that I had dense breast tissue, they felt an MRI would be a good recommendation. MRI's were just starting to be used more for breast imaging in high risk women. That MRI is what found the "suspicious area" that was later biopsied and found to be cancer. If my doctor hadn't made that recommendation, I may have gone a year or more before finding out I had breast cancer. Scary thought.

But a known diagnosis is a scary thought of a different kind. What a journey!

I am so grateful that four years later 1) I am here. 2) I am healthy and living life fully.

Did breast cancer change my life?  Undoubtedly! But I still have life and that is what I try to not take for granted. In the four years since my diagnosis, well over 150,000 other women and men in this country have died of breast cancer. Grateful to be here. Trying not to forget that all any of us have is today. Make the most of it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

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 come up in conversation. It strikes me that my dad never seemed bored. He was busy doing something or learning from others via listening, reading, or conversing. And then he would nap in the recliner. He liked to play cards and Yahtzee. He worked hard his whole life, but he also enjoyed visiting with others and the many family events that come with a large family like ours.

My father never got to meet my step-children and my son was born in 2002. It makes me sad that they never knew him, but they know of him. My son would have really enjoyed talking about farm stuff with his grandpa. The kids have had the chance to know my mom and spend time with her. I am so appreciative of that.

Before his casket was closed at his funeral, some family members put in tokens or notes. I put in a Yahtzee score card that we had both happened to use, with a note written on the back. Those were pleasant memories the last years of his life . . . just playing a game at the kitchen table.

Who are you remembering today? How does that bring gratitude?

Friday, May 25, 2012

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. Certainly, there are days I just "act as if" I am grateful. But most days, I find that practicing gratitude is like getting my physical exercise. They both help clear my head and give me more energy. Once I get started, whether it's a three-mile run or a new blog post, I always feel better when I'm done.

There is an endless supply of gratitude I can keep tapping into. I love that. I won't have less gratitude to share tomorrow if I share a lot today. I will have even more tomorrow.
Tomorrow and Sunday, I won't be posting, but I look forward to being back with you Monday.

Today I will look for ways to share gratitude.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

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. Daily.

One of many suggestions from Thanks! is to learn prayers of gratitude. Here is one from Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh:

"Waking up this morning, I see the blue sky.
I join my hands in thanks
for the many wonders of life;
for having twenty-four brand-new hours before me."

What wonderful words to start the day!  Have a good one!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

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 indicating an inverse relationship between gratitude and depression. The more gratitude, the less depression.

I didn't need to see this research or read Emmons' book Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier to believe in the power of gratitude. Experience had already shown me that power time and time again.  But it has been great to read the book and others, and to see more mainstream news articles on the science of gratitude.

It only serves to further inspire me to get the word out to more people. Will you help me?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

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 to do my part as well. I can start by recognizing what peace and security mean to my family and I and how fortunate we are.

I can also take a moment to thank the men and women in our armed forces who keep us protected. Thank our lawmakers who support such protection here and abroad. We may disagree on the details, but I bet we can all agree that as American citizens we are protected in many ways citizens of some other countries aren't able to be.

Today I will appreciate the peace and security around me.

Monday, May 21, 2012

"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 about the DVD and order a copy at www.hastingsbreastcancer.com

Now, videotaping is underway for a second "Voices of Hope" DVD for family, friends, and caregivers. The goal is to provide both DVDs to a newly diagnosed BC patient...one for the patient, one for the family and friends of the patient. My husband, son, and I had our interviews on Friday evening. I am so proud of the two of them, and so impressed with how they articulated their experience as I went through breast cancer surgeries and treatment.

I have such deep gratitude for my husband and his patient and ongoing support during and since my BC journey. I am so grateful our son weathered that time well and can talk about it today.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

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 around to the gratitude. The people I have met and the places I have been make my life what it is today. I am profoundly grateful for that.

Where does memory lane take you today?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

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 little surprises that being in the great outdoors usually offers.

Thanks chalk artist(s)! You reached at least one of us.

Friday, May 18, 2012

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 against our cement back porch and play by myself. Softball became one of my loves, and it also ended up bringing me many wonderful memories and experiences over the years, all of which I am grateful for. I ended up playing softball through college and made some great friends in the process. Being busy with a college sport probably helped slow down my drinking and at least gave me a positive in my life.

Before finishing college, I started coaching. I did one year of Little League and then ten years of high school assistant coaching. I truly enjoyed the coaching experience and smile at the memories and the faces of so many players I can call to mind today.

When I hear "Play Ball!" I think about the gift that the game of softball has been in my life. My hope is that my son feels the same about baseball when he looks back on it as an adult.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

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 showed us what the drain tubes and surgical camisole looked like and it took some of the mystery out. I haven't seen her since, but she helped me that night. That's the power of support groups.

I appreciate the women I have gotten to know in support group and look forward to seeing them. They are good souls and we always manage a few laughs too.

Thanks Hastings Breast Cancer Support Group!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

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 off a hangover and feel the alcohol mixing with the sweat. The sweat cleansed me of the alcohol and the guilt, at least temporarily.

Today, sweat flows more frequently for me than tears, but they both are welcome because they mean I am living, breathing, experiencing life with its ups and downs. As they flow, so does the gratitude.

Sweat, tears or both? Just get rid of the emotions that will fester and weigh you down if you let them hang around. And keep the emotions that are healthy and uplifting.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

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 company."

I think we have it backwards. As I have learned to keep my priorities straight and give my main energy to my top 5, I believe I have become better at my job. I have energy remaining for it, I have less work stress, and I think that makes me more effective at what I do.

What are your priorities?  Are they getting your time and energy?

Monday, May 14, 2012

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 Sam was born healthy and without complications. I will forever cherish that time of my life as an expectant mom, then as a new mom with a precious newborn to take care of.

I hope I am a good parent and teacher to my son and stepchildren, but they also teach me plenty on a regular basis.

Friday, May 11, 2012

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!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

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?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

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" for mixing it up and giving them a break from footfalls. I love that if I feel stress or anger, I can peddle faster and get rid of it sooner.

And I love that helmets are required in my family. There is too much to risk without a helmet on.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

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's a simple prayer I often use when I feel the pace building too fast:  "Slow me down Lord."
Have a good day! 

Monday, May 7, 2012

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 people I don't know, particularly after news of tragedies like tornadoes or fires. I even pray for people who make me uncomfortable or who have upset me. It is a better use of my energy to pray for someone's well-being than to carry resentments and anger.

It all helps me keep a good perspective on my life and on the day ahead. Have a good day!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

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.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

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, chemotherapy, and a lost sense of security. A second disease that kills was taking a shot at me and gratitude was allowing me the strength and calm to proceed.

There is some fear I live with because a relapse of either of these could kill me. But I focus more on faith and daily living. I do what I can to protect myself. (Except I could cut out some unhealthy foods.) It's work, but today I feel worthy of that effort. That wasn't always the case.

I came closer to dying when I was drunk than I did during my cancer ordeal and I hope it stays that way. But having cancer has pushed me to a new level of gratitude and motivation to live life to the fullest. I am further humbled by the lessons of God's grace. Two diseases that kill and I am still full of life. I am deeply blessed. Deeply.

Friday, May 4, 2012

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 are too strong to be broken." I don't remember where I heard it, but I wrote it on a little piece of paper and put it on the mirror in the room I shared with my sister. At 15 I already knew that there was something going on with the way I drank alcohol and what it did to me.

That quote from my teen years and the favorite line from an old Eagles song helped me first recognize the chains I was bound in and then helped me find the key to release them.

Today I am unchained and continuing to emerge. And when I start to get burdened by those real and imaginary chains I can create, I know where to find the key.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"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 "haves" and "have nots" in terms of material things. How about reframing that in a culture of gratitude?  In such a culture, the "haves" are those who appreciate what is already present in their lives. The "have-nots" are those who take for granted their many gifts while in pursuit of more, bigger, better.

Today I will focus on what I already have. I am deeply blessed.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

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)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

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 more padded the mitt, and the better I can catch that curve ball and stay in the game.

And I will end with a favorite line: "Have a good day, unless you've made other plans."