"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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thank God I'm a Country Girl

Today I am grateful for theater candy, "Madagascar 3" and making dinner with my son. I am also grateful for good conversation with my stepdaughter as we drove to and from an appointment.

Speaking of family, let me tell you a little more about mine. I grew up in a large Catholic farm family. That was not unusual in my neck of the woods. I was child #11 and two followed after me. I have seven sisters and five brothers. I know how to share. We shared bedrooms, a big kitchen table, toys, hand-me-downs, chores, games, fights. I didn't get my own bedroom until I was 17.

We lived on a diversified farm . . . the kind you won't hardly find anymore. We had chickens, pigs, dairy cows, and we grew mostly corn, oats, and hay. A large garden provided fresh produce and gunny sacks full of potatoes that went in the storm cellar and lasted for months. I grew up a tomboy and loved being outside helping with farm chores, if I wasn't playing sports.

Speaking of farm chores, one of my favorites was helping my dad make a feed concoction for the pigs that we called "swill."  It was made with dry feed and water and mixed in a big barrel. I liked to stir the stuff. I also liked working in the garden, especially using a one-row plow we could push between rows. I wasn't as big of a fan of butchering chickens, but I do know that "running around like a chicken with your head cut off" is a fitting description.

Speaking of sports, there was always someone to play with and we could practically have our own softball game. (We had to watch the clotheslines though.)

It wasn't all idyllic, but I so appreciate the experience of growing up on a farm.


Friday, June 29, 2012

In Search of....an Address

Today I am grateful to all those who are working so hard to clean up our community after last week's storm and that yesterday's power outage was only an hour in duration. I am also grateful that Facebook helped me reconnect with an old friend.

I have been looking for a couple of people I had wanted to send gratitude letters to, trying to find addresses. One of those people was a key person in my life at a key time in my recovery from alcoholism. She helped me get on track with the right efforts and the right sources of support. My recovery started to blossom, and I owe some of that to her sound advice. It was just what I needed then and I continue to follow through on one of the recommendations to this day. It has led to much growth, learning, and acceptance.

We lost touch after I moved away and I hadn't seen her in several years. My search led me to something I wasn't expecting . . . her obituary. She died in 2009. I had no idea. It really hit me. I had missed her passing and her memorial service. I missed this last chance to thank her again for the help she gave me.

But it also hit me how grateful I was that she had touched my life. Her words of wisdom were just that.

In this search I found her daughter, who had been a friend as well. Social media has given us the chance to reconnect and I am sending this gratitude letter to her in honor of her mother. I wrote it to my deceased friend, and I know she will receive it on some level, just not the earthly one.

Rest in peace Phyl. Thanks for your help at a crucial point in my recovery. I will never forget you.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In Praise of . . . Endorphins

Today my gratitude list was created as I ran in the early morning heat and humidity:

-the beauty of the sun and clouds in combination
-a welcome breeze when I turned a corner
-one of my absolute favorite songs coming on the radio
          (Johnny Nash's version of "I Can See Clearly Now")
-our dog Oliver making a beeline for a squirrel he was never going to catch
-a cooling flow of air up my shirt and across my flat chest
         (The temperature is near 80 degrees and the dew point over 70 degrees.)

And that was all in a little over 30 minutes. I love endorphins and I love what they do for me. Yesterday morning I was feeling irritable and discontented. My son and I went out to do a little "training" and play some catch. It set me back on track and I sweated away the negative feelings and went on to have a good day.

A note about the flat chest. One of the reasons I opted to not have breast reconstruction after surgeries to remove cancer is because I didn't want further surgeries and scarring that could hinder my running. There is an advantage to just donning a shirt and heading out the door on a morning like this. Before cancer, my running bras and I would have had a bit of a tussle. I still miss my breasts at times, but I don't miss that tussle.

Endorphins are free and very effective. Manufacture some for yourself today.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Canned Gratitude

Today I am grateful for the sound of my son and step-daughter's laughter. I am grateful to live in a neighborhood that is not prone to violence and crime.

I am also grateful that our neighborhood is getting cleaned up from last week's storm. There are streets that have a different look and more sky visible than before. There are many uprooted stumps remaining. But they stand as a reminder to how fortunate we were and how much worse it could have been for our community. The downside of the changed views is less shade and destroyed natural beauty.

Gratitude also changes our view of the world, but I haven't come across any downsides to it.

I have another idea, courtesy of a co-worker who told me about it, that I hope to use with my family as a way for all of us to practice and share gratitude. Call it canned gratitude of the good variety. Not the canned gratitude that is expected, forced, less-than-genuine; but the canned gratitude that is spontaneous, accumulates, synergizes. (At least that is what I hope it will do.)

Here's how it works:  Find a can, canister, bowl, box, any container that you think will work. If you are crafty, you could make one. I found one at our local dollar store. (I hope it becomes a value-added piece.) It's got a nice wide opening so we can reach in. Ask your family to put specific examples of what they are grateful for on little pieces of paper and to put it in your "Gratitude Can."  Maybe we'll call ours the "Valentine Vessel of Gratitude."

The beauty of putting gratitude notes in the vessel is that you can always pull one out when you need to.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes with my family's collective attempt to practice gratitude. Have a good day!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Practice. Action. Repeat.

Today I am grateful for familiar faces and laughter in my recovery support network. I am also thankful for a touching gratitude note from a fellow gratitude practitioner. It means a lot to me to receive a note like that.

Gratitude in action leads to positive results. Practice does not make perfect in this realm, or any realm. But practice builds a better perception, and that is worth a lot. Doing this blog has been an ongoing blessing for me. I feel a deeper level of gratitude and appreciation for the many gifts in my life. I have more moments of calm, of peace with life as it is. Gratitude will never take away all my struggles or make me immune to difficult emotions, but it helps smooth out the rough spots. It gives me a better view of the world and of my reflection in the mirror.

Gratitude letters #3 and #4 got written and sent out yesterday. Some of the other practices and actions I try and I encourage others to try:

-A-Z gratitude list
-Top 10 gratitude list
-3 X 3 (or 4 X 4 or other) (See May 30 post)
-Daily gratitude journal
-Gratitude letters
-Gratitude walks

Practice gratitude. Take actions to let your light shine. Find what works, then keep practicing it.

Practice. Action. Repeat.

Thanks for being part of my gratitude network!  Have a good day! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Anniversaries of a Different Kind

Today I am grateful for opportunities to run with my husband, and shorter distances with my son. I appreciate that my husband is forgiving and doesn't hold grudges.

Today I am also especially grateful that my sister Mary Jo is celebrating the two-year anniversary of her surgery for lung cancer. She is also coming up on her six-year mark since being diagnosed with breast cancer. She is doing well and even with setbacks along the way has maintained a positive attitude and tremendous courage.

I know what it feels like to hear you have cancer, and how it rocks your world. I can only imagine what it was like for her to hear that news twice. It was scary enough for those of us who love her. To get through the toughest days she had and to remain upbeat and grateful now is impressive. I am proud of you Mary Jo and so thankful for every good report you get.

Yesterday was also one of those anniversaries of a different kind for my friend Jenny. Her breast cancer diagnosis was delivered four years ago, just weeks after mine. That began a rocky few months for each of us, but it also began an enduring friendship.

Cancer takes too much from too many. We take the silver linings we can get.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Life As A Potluck

Today I am grateful for a full day yesterday . . . the kind of full that leaves me brimming with gratitude, not for one big reason, but for many small ones. I am also grateful that I got to see my friend Jill and other kind souls. I got to play sand volleyball too. We lost the games, but gained some laughs and sand in peculiar places.

We went to our second potluck of the week yesterday and our third of the summer. Potlucks always work out. There's plenty of food and variety. It dawned on me that potlucks can teach us a few things about life:

-Show up with a smile on your face and something to share and things will work out.

-Be willing to try new things.

-But old favorites are always good.

-Pitch in and share the workload.

-My "dish-to-pass" doesn't need to be perfect and neither do I.

-Share your recipes; for good food, but also for happiness and success.

There is wisdom in the simplicity of potlucks. There is wisdom in the simplicity of living life to the fullest one day at a time.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Simple Pleasures

Today I am grateful for time with my family; my mom and two sisters, and for their safe travels. I am also grateful for the simple pleasure of playing euchre. Euchre is a card game that my family has played for generations and we always seem to laugh and enjoy ourselves in the process.

I spent some time sitting on both our front and back patios yesterday while I waited for my family to arrive. Then we spent more time enjoying both areas last evening with my mom and sisters. It was nice just sitting and visiting and the weather was pleasant.

Isn't it funny (or sad) that we don't take the time to enjoy our houses and yards as much as we could on a regular basis?  I guess I should say "I" instead of "we" because maybe many of you already do this. But it is a good gratitude reminder . . .enjoy the simple pleasures each day presents. Enjoy time with family when you have it. Play some euchre.

Have a good day!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Powerlessness

Today I am grateful for a nice picnic and final videotaping session for the Voices of Hope: Family and Friends DVD last evening. I feel fortunate to work with the wonderful group of people who are part of the project.

The idea of powerlessness is one that challenges me on many fronts, but 38 hours without any electricity gave "powerlessness" new meaning.  This concept is one you will hear discussed among people working to recover from alcoholism and other addictions.

When it came to alcohol-my drug of choice-I had no control. Once I started to drink, I could not stop. I never had just one drink. That seemed totally pointless to me. I drank to get drunk and to escape. I craved it and was preoccupied by it when I wasn't drinking, and I lost the power of choice when I was drinking. This aspect is a key to understanding addiction. When I tried to quit drinking on my own, it maybe worked for a few days, weeks, even months, but it never stuck. I always went back to drinking to "prove" I could control it. I had to learn about this idea of powerlessness to realize I needed help. I couldn't quit on my own. I needed a higher force and I needed other people and their wisdom and support.

This week, as we dealt with the power outage, I watched and heard others who were frustrated with the lack of control we had over this situation. I had my moments too, but applying this idea of powerlessness to alcohol has taught me how to use it in other circumstances. Recognizing I can't change a situation allows me to not dump energy into it, but rather to focus on my attitude and actions, two things I do have some power over.

Today, I am grateful to understand that facing powerlessness is actually empowering.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

85 mph

Today I am grateful for the creature comforts that having electricity provides. I am also grateful for the perspective that not having electricity provides.

I appeciate being able to blog again today, after an unplanned two-day break.

Today's post is titled "85 mph" because that is the estimated wind speeds that hit our neighborhood and community shortly after 4:00 a.m. Tues. morning. We lost several big branches in our backyard and the light/shade will be different. But we fared better than many others in the area. We feel fortunate that no injuries have been reported. 

Many trees were entirely uprooted; cars, roofs, windows took hits. I was both saddened by the destruction and in awe of the power of nature.

It was a short-lived and fast-moving storm, but it changed the plans of many people in that brief period of time. The last two days didn't play out like I would have expected them to if you would have asked me on Monday what my plans for the week were. I did gain perspective though; once again reminded of the power of Mother Nature, and once again reminded of what really matters in life.

We have been incovenienced in more ways than one since the storm hit, but we have been given the opportunity to enjoy more quiet and more time together as a family as well. 

Sometimes it takes 85 mph action to remind us to slow down.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Building Bridges

Today I am grateful for a nice Father's Day for my husband yesterday. I am also grateful for good music at my fingertips on YouTube. My recent listen of choice has been "Reflections of My Life" by the Marmalade.

On Saturday we had an opportunity that I really appreciated. A new four-lane bridge is being constructed in our community, spanning the mighty Mississippi and replacing a two-lane bridge that is over 60 years old. We have lived here for 12 years and really enjoy the river views, and are excited to see the new bridge progressing. I cross this bridge on my commute to and from work. It is the busiest two-lane bridge in the state. After the tragic I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007, the replacement timeline for our bridge was moved up. It is well into the second year of the project and the new bridge is taking shape nicely.

Saturday we had the chance, along with dozens of other curious citizens, to hear and see some more specifics about the project, including the impressive undertaking of assembling and then moving the main span from a construction site several hundred yards to it's new home over the river. It is massive and boggles my mind how they will be able to do this, but it was fun to listen to the plan. We will continue to take in the stages of progress and hope to be driving on the new span a year from now.

The bridge discussion got me thinking about the figurative bridges that we build in our lives. Like the literal ones, they take time, plans, patience, and hard work. Gratitude can be a good bridge-builder. Recognizing the things to be grateful for in a relationship can make way for mending it or ending it.Taking time to appreciate our individual gifts and strengths can help us be kinder and gentler with ourselves.

Can gratitude help me build a bridge today?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Today I am especially grateful for the father my husband Darcy is to all three of his children. I am grateful for my father and remembering him today too. I am also grateful for the smell of cinnamon rolls baking.

Within a couple minutes of meeting my husband, I knew being a dad and parenting were very important to him. That has not changed. He is loving, supportive, consistent and unwavering in keeping family a priority. My stepchildren are now 21 and 17 and I have seen how important his presence in their lives has been and continues to be. Our son is 10, and we may not always agree on all aspects of parenting, but we agree on the biggies. He is a blessing in all of our lives.

Thanks Darcy and Happy Father's Day!

I am also thinking about the fathers who, for whatever reason, can't be with their children today. And I am thinking about the men who are new fathers or who are expecting their first child. What a wonderful and exciting (and exhausting!) time. Enjoy it!

Happy Father's Day to all fathers! I hope you have a special day.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Being a Beacon

Today I am grateful for the sound of my son's laughter. It is music to my ears. And for some good consignment store deals found yesterday. I am also grateful that I have beacons in my life.

Discussing letting our own light shine and reading Marianne Williamson's quote reminded me of one of my favorite songs. It is called "You Can't Be a Beacon If Your Light Don't Shine." Donna Fargo sang it and in 1974 it reached #1 on the Billboard Top 100 Country songs. I was 9 in 1974, but I remember that my mom liked Donna Fargo and some of her other songs like "Happiest Girl in the U.S.A." and "Funny Face."  I always liked this particular song though, and as I got older, I realized the profound message it was expressing.

Here are some of the words:

You can't be a beacon
If your light don't shine
There's a little light
In all of us by God's design
But you can't be a beacon
If your light don't shine

How can you ask for truth
When you do not truthful live
How can you ask forgiveness
When you don't forgive

How can you offer vision
Yet walk around blind
No, you can't see a beacon
If it's light don't shine

But it ends with:
You can be a beacon
If you let it shine
You can be a beacon
If you let it shine

I believe we are all called to be beacons. These words are deeply meaningful to me today because through recovery and healing, through regular practice of gratitude, and the humility that accompanies it, I feel my light burning brighter.

Let your light shine. The rest of us need it!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Let Your Light Shine

Today I am grateful for clear skies and chirping birds after a dreary, rainy day yesterday. I am also grateful I get to see some friends today that I haven't seen in awhile.

Below is the quote I referred to at the end of my post yesterday. It really speaks for itself. This quote also found its way into Brene Brown's (www.brenebrown.com) book and when you read it in the context of how we experience shame, as she suggests doing, it is even more powerful.

When I first came across it, the quote was attributed to Nelson Mandela, from his 1994 Inaugural Speech. Though they weren't Mandela's words, his life fits the quote. He let his light shine and helped liberate many others after his own 27 years of imprisonment. The quote belongs to internationally known spiritual author and speaker Marianne Williamson. (www.marianne.com)


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

(Marianne Williamson, in her book A Return to Love)

What a beautiful way to encourage us to be our best today, to recognize how special we each are. Share your humanness. That is how we find common ground, not by judging and comparing. Keep your head up and walk proudly into your day. Have a good one!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

It Takes Strength to Show Weakness

Today I am grateful for the bike ride I took this morning. I felt a resentment starting to build and I was able to pedal it away. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and how he reminds us to be playful and laugh at ourselves.

I mentioned Brene Brown in an early April post. She researches vulnerability and shame and has some truly thought-provoking writing. I finished her book I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy and Power.  She talks about the potential for growth (and more calm and serenity) when we expose and face our vulnerabilities. But in our society, that is a tall order. We have been socialized that showing weakness is just that; weakness. Yet, if we show our strengths, we risk being accused of arrogance and too much ego. Why does it have to be all or nothing?  How about we show our humanness?  Which of course includes both our strengths and our weaknesses. 

We are doing a number on ourselves and one another with all of this perfectionism, comparing our insides to other people's outsides, judging others to help us feel better, and much more. I can't speak for anyone else, but the times of intense personal vulnerability in my life, and facing that vulnerability, have been major learning and growing experiences for me.

Brown uses the term "shame triggers" instead of "acknowledging vulnerability" but they are really the same thing. As long as I am willing to look at what mine are (shame triggers or vulnerabilities) I have a shot at confronting them and moving toward what Brown calls "shame resilience."

It takes strength to show both weakness and strength. Look for a wonderful quote tomorrow that really speaks to this dichotomy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tapping Into an Endless Supply

Today I am grateful for a day at home. They have been hard to come by in recent weeks. I am also grateful for rest. I even slept in until after 6:00. (Yes, that's sleeping in for me.)

As often happens, my good intentions to steadily regard my blessings as I moved through my day yesterday got lost in the shuffle of the day at times. But a couple different times I was able to come back to that place in my mind, that place which allows me to pause and remember "Oh yeah, I really don't have much to complain about and overall the day is going pretty well."

I mentioned the other day that writing down my thoughts helps quiet my mind. It also helps me focus on the right things. Several weeks into this blogging experience, I am more fully realizing the power of sharing gratitude through words and actions. There is an endless supply of gratitude and there is much progress I can make. I am not striving to "figure it out" and be done practicing gratitude because "I get it now."  I am striving to make the practice of gratitude more prominent, more natural in my life. Daily effort for daily dividends.

I wrote and sent off my first gratitude letter to Mrs. Becker yesterday. It was good to gather my thoughts, write them neatly in my own hand, address and seal the envelope, then drop it in the mail.

Any other gratitude letters going out?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thankful Contemplation

Today I am grateful for a marathon baseball game and a nice cool evening in which to enjoy it. To watch a team evolve through a season is fun, especially when they are young. I am also grateful for the words "thankful contemplation."

I love these two words in combination and focus on them often as I try to practice a more grateful frame of mind. It also fits with yesterday's post about quieting the mind. The word "contemplative" has become more common as people search for that peace and quiet in a hectic world. Contemplative, according to Merriam-Webster, simply means given to contemplation. Contemplation has several definitions including:

-a concentration on spiritual things, as a form of private devotion

-considering with attention, study

-the art of regarding steadily

I like all of these definitions, but I especially like the last one; the art of regarding steadily. That is my goal with thankful contemplation. When I regard my life from a framework of gratitude it looks pretty rich and full. When I forget, it starts to look less full, more bleak.

Today I will steadily regard my many blessings. Have a nice day!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Quieting the Mind

Today I am grateful for the healthy communication my husband and I have in our marriage. I am also grateful for some overnight rain and cooler air.

In my recovery from alcoholism, prayer and meditation are important tools. There are two phrases about these actions that I particularly find helpful.  One is "Prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening to God."  The other is "Meditation is quieting the mind and prayer is opening the heart."

I have always found it difficult to quiet my mind. Given free rein, it races to and fro at a fast pace.  It takes real practice for me to be able to pull in the overthinking and overanalyzing. I am happy to report that I am making some progress. That progress is more on the practice of meditation. I have to create opportunities to meditate, be quiet, be still, be open to what may come through.  It might be on my morning run, while walking the dog, or keeping the radio off on my commute. For me, writing down my thoughts can also help quiet them.

Prayer also helps me stop the runaway train in my brain. I pray for others. Family and friends. People with cancer. People struggling with addiction. Those currently facing life challenges. That simple act of praying for others takes me out of my own stream of throught, and that is a good thing, particularly when the stream is muddy with negativity.

How do you quiet your mind?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chance Happenings

Today I am grateful for a nice time with my husband and son yesterday at Target Field for the Twins game. They even won!  It was nice to soak up some sun.

I am grateful too that while I was out running this morning, I crossed paths with my friend Betsy. We were able to walk together for a couple miles and get caught up a bit. It was a nice chance happening.

I observed another chance happening while on my run though, and it was a sad one. I ran to the edge of town and a busy county road. I saw that a deer had been hit and killed. Not an unusual happening around here. I turned around and headed back into town. A few hundred yards away, at the edge of a field and wooded area, I saw what looked to be a fawn. It was standing there alone. It struck me that the fawn's mother may have been the one that had been killed on the road. How sad.

How quickly our circumstances can change. How important it is that we practice gratitude and not take our daily gifts for granted.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Beauty of Conversations

Today I am grateful for a 2-hour run with my husband yesterday afternoon. The heat was a challenge, but it was a good training run for us. I am also grateful we had the time together because it has been a busy time and this allowed us to get caught up a little.

Yesterday was a day of interesting conversations. I talked with two co-workers about two topics near and dear to me. I have known each of these women for some time and we have life experiences that connect us. Then, at a social gathering last night I had several more conversations, some with acquaintances and some with people I had just met. People and life are interesting.

I appreciate the beauty of all of these conversations; from deep to superficial, from brief to lengthier. They provide opportunities for me to listen and learn and interact with my fellow humans.

I worry about the way we communicate today, especially young people. Technology keeps us connected, but the face-to-face conversation is losing ground to texting and phones.  What will that mean for the future of communication?  I don't know.  But I plan to do my part by keeping the face-to-face conversation alive.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Gratitude Letters

Today I am grateful for my Brooks Ariel running shoes. They have been my shoe of choice pretty much since I started marathon training eight years ago. I am also grateful for an afternoon nap yesterday. It helped me have a nicer evening. I get crabby and irritable when tired, so I guess it helped my family too.

I brought up gratitude letters yesterday. It's an idea I read about and want to pursue. I suppose you could email or use some electronic form of writing, but I plan to do hand-written letters. I plan to write several people, telling them how they have made a difference in my life. Ideally, it would be nice to deliver the letter in person, but at least some of mine will be mailed. Even if I have told these people what they mean to me and how they have helped me, putting it in writing from a gratitude perspective is going to make it more meaningful. Heartfelt gratitude shared has a great energy all its own.

When I saw my third grade teacher last weekend, I decided that she would be my first letter recipient. I wasn't a big fan of school prior to my third grade year. She helped change that and really turned me on to learning and believing in myself as a learner and as a growing child. She made it fun and I especially remember getting to play bingo. I can't recall many more specifics, but I remember how I felt and that year was a positive turning point. I went on to have success in school and went into the education field myself. Thanks Mrs. Becker!

Let's hold one another accountable. Who would you write your first gratitude letter to? My goal is to get mine written to Mrs. Becker in the next week.  What's your goal?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

All We Do Is Try

Today I am grateful for my co-workers, students, and parents as we wind down another school year. I have gotten used to the different kinds of energy a school has at different times of the year.

I am also grateful for acceptance. It is something I need daily, but available for the taking if I just ask.

"All we do is try" is the phrase on my mind this morning. I was talking about perfectionism and perpetual dissatisfaction recently. They can be paralyzing if I feel overwhelmed and hopeless. "Why bother?" "Does any of this really matter?"

But trying dispels the hopelessness. Trying means I am taking action and action leads to results. Staying stuck does not lead to results.

The same applies to practicing gratitude. All we do is try.  Some days are better than others. Some days I am feeling the gratitude and some days I am acting as if.  Practicing habitual gratitude keeps me moving in the right direction, and on days I am not moving, at least I am facing the right direction.

What actions will you take today to practice gratitude?  Journal? Top 10 list? Gratitude letter? 3 x 3?Take a gratitude walk?  Whichever you choose, put your heart into it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Even Pink Gorillas Have Stories

Today I am grateful for the writing group I have discovered in my community and for the people I am meeting there.  I am also grateful for my job and my co-worker Julie. We have a good working relationship and mutual respect.

I was on a bike ride yesterday and caught a glimpse of something big and pink in the backyard of a house near the trail. My curiosity led me to bike past the house and I discovered the pink presence was a rather large stuffed animal-a pink gorilla. It was bigger than me. I chuckled to myself and and wondered "What's the story there?"

I appreciated the laugh, but appreciated even more the reminder that everyone has a story and all stories matter. People enjoy telling about their lives and that is where the real inspiration lies. I would rather hear about the extraordinary experiences of ordinary people than get caught up in famous people's messy lives that are plastered all over the media. Give me sincere and genuine any day over the hype and gossip.

Let's honor one another by sharing our own stories and listening to each other's. I'm guessing I wasn't the first one that pink gorilla got a chuckle from.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Perpetual Dissatisfaction

Today I am grateful that I recognize the value of gratitude as antidote to self-pity and perpetual dissatisfaction. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver's little quirks. There is much to love about the little guy.

Gratitude and self-pity aren't compatible. Whichever one I focus on tends to crowd out the other. My default mode used to be self-pity. It has taken daily practice over several years to shift that default to one of gratitude. But I slip back into the self-pity from time to time and Sunday was one of those times. I refer to those periods of self-pity as suffering from "perpetual dissatisfaction." Nothing is good enough and not a soul can make me happy . . . especially me. 

Perfectionism and perpetual dissatisfaction are close friends. The more of one there is around, the more the other gathers too. They are both perfect set-ups for self-pity. In a nutshell, I was feeling sorry for myself because I was playing the victim role in my head. Victim of alcoholism. Victim of breast cancer. Poor me!

Enter gratitude. Not immediately, of course. I like to wallow in my self-pity just long enough to remind myself how dangerous it is. Then, I turn my focus back to how very fortunate I am, how much I have to appreciate in my life in the form of other people, health, life experiences, faith in a higher power, material goods, and much more. And very importantly, I needed to reach out to others and to also put pen to paper to help me back to the gratitude. Self-pity creates a muck and mire I can't get myself out of without assistance.

I'm not a victim. I'm an alcoholic in recovery and a breast cancer patient four years out from diagnosis. No, I can't get drunk to escape. No, I don't have my breasts anymore. But yes, I love life! That is only possible with gratefulness as regular practice.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Keeping It Simple

Today I am grateful for safe travels and for familiar faces I haven't seen in some time.

I am also grateful for two nice compliments in two days. As Mark Twain said "I can live for two months on a good compliment." 

Today I am keeping my post short. I have learned in my recovery from alcoholism that "keeping it simple" can be much more effective than the overthinking and overdoing that I am susceptible to. I am tired and have a busy week ahead. It is okay to give myself a break when and where I can.

That's another beauty of practicing gratitude. It can be kept simple too. Just do it!

Need a push? Do an A-Z gratitude list or look at my post from May 30 for another idea.

Have a good day!

Friday, June 1, 2012

On the Road Again

Today I am grateful that I had our house to myself for an hour last night. It was a treat and it doesn't happen that often. I am also grateful I can pull up YouTube videos of old songs. A recent listen was Terry Jacks' "Seasons in the Sun."  Not exactly an uplifting tune, but I used to know all the words and still remember most of them.

We are on the road again this weekend for my nephew's graduation party, so I won't be posting for a couple of days. Four weekends in a row we have headed to Iowa. I am grateful we are close enough to make some of these events, grateful that my family gets along and doesn't have any rifts that keep people away. Some families aren't able to say that.

I used to be a serious packer and take longer than I needed, worry more than necessary about forgetting something, etc. Now, I keep it short and simple and my husband reminds me that if we had to we could buy something we forgot. The things that don't fit in that category are our medications and we remind each other to bring those.

Worry is wasted energy. Practicing gratitude is not. It creates energy.

If you like what you are reading here, please share with others. Sharing gratitude, no matter what format, is a powerful exchange.