"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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Taking the Actions

Today I am grateful for the "Valentine Vessel of Gratitude."  Last evening, we read together the items that were in the vessel, further giving that gratitude power by verbalizing it to one another. Then, we emptied the vessel and each put in one item to get us started on this next round of gratitude.

I am also grateful for my friend Jill who will be the recipient of gratitude letter #9 shortly. Jill and I are kindred spirits and she is someone I can share the nitty gritty aspects of life with. Simply put, we get each other. Thanks Jill!

I came across this quote from Brother David Steindl Rast yesterday:

"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy."

Amen Brother David! He has lots to say about gratitude, and one of his books is on my reading pile, so you will be hearing more from him I am sure.

Speaking of books, I appreciate my current read-"Some Assembly Required" by Anne Lamott with her son Sam. I love everything I have read by Anne Lamott and have read several of her books more than once. There will be more from her in upcoming posts as well.

As Brother David says, gratefulness in daily life brings happiness. What are you going to do today to seek happiness via an attitude of gratitude?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and our 14th wedding anniversary!  I am also grateful for the taste of fresh sweet corn. We had our first of the season yesterday.

Darcy and I met in November of 1997 in Okoboji, Iowa at a singles dance. There is a wonderful story to that evening. Some of you have heard it. If you haven't, suffice it to say that we were meant to connect that night and had some extra help to make sure that happened. It was the first singles dance I went to and fate was on my side. As I looked around the room, Darcy quickly caught my eye. He's still catching it.

We met at 32, were engaged within a few months and married less than 9 months after we met. We were older and wiser and it made a difference. Our previous life experiences had helped give us perspective and a stronger sense of priorities.

Meeting Darcy has made a huge difference in the course of my life and I am so very thankful for that.

Our marriage is rock solid and continues to evolve as we continue to evolve. Talk about learning patience and acceptance. Marriage is a good training ground for that. But our love for one another and the life we have together is the constant.

Happy Anniversary dear!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Putting Pen to Paper

Today I am grateful for our safe travels throughout this last week and also for some rain overnight.

I put pen to paper on our drive yesterday and wrote a letter to a friend. I also sent out gratitude letters #7 and #8 in the last couple of weeks. I love putting pen to paper. Although I use a computer and keyboard more now and type the words rather than write them, I still often begin new essays or writing project ideas with pen and paper. It is the natural way for me to begin composing. Even though I create many of these blog posts at the computer, the ideas often start earlier, and I have a little notebook I carry in my purse so I can jot down streams of thought or post ideas that come to me as I go through my day.

I was treated to a pleasant surprise the other day when I discovered that my 10-year-old son had put pen to paper and left me a note in one of my journals. It was absolutely precious and it just makes my heart swell as I think about it or take another look at it. I have left him notes here and there in a bag lunch or such. I discovered that he had kept those notes in his backpack, then he wanted to put them on his bulletin board. Precious. Notes of a few words but with lasting impact.

Putting pen to paper does matter. Is there anyone you want to leave a note for today or send a note to?

Gratitude shared is gratitude multiplied.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Water, Water and More Water

Today I am grateful for a good training run yesterday and for clean, potable water always at my disposal. I am also grateful for a cooling northerly breeze last evening and this morning.

I am fortunate to live where clean drinking water is a given. Many people in the world don't have that benefit. As part of the U.S. faces a drought growing in severity, I also feel blessed that where I live has fared better than many. (I appreciate that the grass and plants in our yard are still holding their own--and I appreciate that for my husband's sake because it means more to him than me.)

But on a more personal note, I can tell you that water consumption is a key to my physical health. I really got serious about drinking enough water when I was pregnant and then breastfeeding. Then becoming a marathon runner put water in a new light as well. I feel better, everything works better, I feel like I am flushing toxins out of my body. I believe it also helps my skin look better.

During my cancer treatment and chemotherapy, I envisioned water helping the chemo drugs do their job. (And talk about flushing out toxins...I felt that water helped the chemo work but also helped alleviate side effects.)

As a recovering alcoholic and ex-drinker, water is now my drink of choice.

The only drawback to my high H20 consumption is frequent trips to the the bathroom.

I can live with that.

More travels await so I will be back blogging either Sunday or Monday.

Have a good day! 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On the Run . . . One Step at a Time

Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver. We had boarded him for three days and we all missed him. It's good to have him home. I am also grateful for family outdoor activities . . . at one point yesterday morning my son and I were sharing mowing duties, my stepdaughter was cleaning the car she drives, and my husband and mother-in-law were pulling weeds and doing some trimming. The only one not outside was Oliver. He had just had a bath, and it was already pretty hot outside for him too.

I am getting this post out early this morning because my husband and I will be running for a few hours and I may not have much energy after that. We are hoping to do about 20 miles. This is our first 20-miler for this marathon training season. We do at least two 20-milers, sometimes three. We are carb-loaded and hydrated and we'll take it one step at a time.

Call me crazy, but I look forward to these long runs. I appreciate the time with my husband and with nature. I also appreciate the mental training along with the physical training. We do the Galloway method on long runs. Roughly every mile we walk for 45 seconds or so. It really saves our legs and gives the micro-tears that naturally develop a chance for a break so they don't turn into major tears or other issues.

For a pretty competitive person, it was at first hard for me to do the run-walk method. It seemed like the easy way out or something. But after trying it on some runs and still having gas in the tank the last few miles, and not being nearly as sore that day or the next, I became a believer. To me, it's about covering the miles. Not the fastest way possible, but the most enjoyable way possible.

One step at a time, I run. One day at a time, I practice gratitude.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Small Kindnesses

Today I am grateful for safe travels and for time with my husband's family. I am also grateful that my stepdaughter did two college visits and now has some information and perspectives to ponder.

Last evening I went to the grocery store and Target. I was tired and just wanted to be done for the day, but I also appreciated getting out by myself. I am an introvert and the travels had left me craving some alone time. At each store, small kindnesses were evident among strangers and I appreciated what I saw. I was the recipient of a cart-hold from a man walking by as I tried to put a 24-pack of bottled water on the bottom rack of the cart. The cart was shifting a bit and he gave it a quick hold as I got the water placed. That's it. A couple seconds and a smile and a thanks from me.

At Target, I just had a couple of items, so I put down that dividing bar for the woman in front of me, then put another one down after my items were placed because there was another shopper behind me. I got a little thanks from each of them. That's it. A couple seconds and a simple gesture.

Small kindnesses. I was on the receiving end in the grocery store, and the giving end at Target. Small kindnesses between strangers, just trying to get their errands run after a full day. I am grateful for those small kindnesses from others, and the opportunity to be the giver too. I think the simple gesture from the man in the grovery store got me thinking and sent me to Target with more patience and awareness of those around me.

Today I will try to practice those small kindnesses at home too. A little act of kindness can go a long way and can also create a ripple effect of gratitude.

Have a good day!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Patience IS a Virtue

Today I am grateful for the opportunities to practice patience that presented themselves in the last couple of days. Patience can be a real challenge for me, so I need the practice. And I'm grateful I got to talk to my friend Jenny for more than a few minutes.

I am also grateful that patience, when practiced, leads to good results and lower blood pressure.

For me, patience and acceptance go hand in hand. The more I have of one, the more I get of the other. Sometimes I start with patience and that leads to acceptance, sometimes it is vice versa.

I will have the opportunity to employ both in the coming days as we do some traveling. This is a road trip, so I will be one of four or five passengers depending on what part of the trip we are on. Hotel stays will also be part of the trip. Sharing close quarters with family members is always interesting.

Patience and acceptance. All I need to do is ask for either, and I get some. That doesn't sound hard, but why is it at times?  Because I am human, and when I am a tired human it is even tougher.

Another tip I have learned when it comes to patience . . . the quieter I am, the easier it comes. I will work to keep my mouth shut in the car and the hotel when opening it might not be advisable.

I'll be taking a break from the blog for a couple of days.  But be patient, I will be back soon.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Short and Sweet

Today I am grateful for rain and a run with Darcy.

Short and sweet post today. It has been a week of both lightness and heaviness. Good news and bad news.

Some of the cherished little joys of late:

*the smell of rain and river on our run
*Ben and Jerry's ice cream
*a phone conversation with my friend Jill
*seeing good friends and sharing recovery support
*the smiles of loved ones

Even in the midst of heaviness, finding things to be thankful for helps me unburden.

Take a minute to list some of your own little joys. Have a good day!

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Prescription for Everyone

Today I am grateful for the house we have. We love it (even though it lacks central air) and I even enjoyed cleaning it yesterday.

I am also grateful for my sisters Aileen and Danita who supplied me with the idea for today's blog post. I am not a doctor, but I feel confident in prescribing the practice of gratitude for anyone and everyone.

My sisters' words of inspiration go something like this: "Take two doses of gratitude and call me in the morning. Be sure to take on a stomach full of humility." Clever. And true.

In a fast-paced society that expects quick fixes and that is full of advertisements for products that are supposed to work wonders, I am skeptical of the messages sent by that whole notion. Of course, there are wonderful medications that help many people who truly need them, and that is a good thing. But many of us could improve our health--physical and other--if we simply started with daily doses of gratitude. Not the quest for more, better, faster; instead the quest to appreciate what we already have.

It's been working in my life for over 15 years. I know many others who will attest to gratitude's effectiveness. (Of course, I forget a dose here and there, but that's why I try to make it a habit, so I don't lose the benefits.)

Better yet, it's free and the side effects are actually desirable.

That stomach full of humility?  How does that sit with you? Humility is often misunderstood and underrated. It is recognizing that I am only part of the whole scheme of my life and the world. It is recognizing that I am the beneficiary of the grace of a Higher Power and the help and support of others. And it is the basis of deep and ongoing gratitude.

Gratitude is good medicine.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Exercise To Ward Off Cancer and Enhance Gratitude

Today I am grateful for the women who come to the monthly meetings of the Hastings Breast Cancer Support Group. Last night we laughed a lot, but the support is always there too when things aren't so funny. The common ground of breast cancer put us all there, our comaraderie keeps us coming back.

I am also grateful to my oncologist for reaffirming what I already know . . . exercise is good for me!

Duh! Of course exercise is good for me. But she said it something like this: Keep exercising because it's one of the best ways to ward off cancer. As if I needed further motivation. Whatever type of exercise you like, I hope your body allows you to participate in it. If you are recovering from cancer treatment, or some other setback, just keep moving. When you feel better, move some more.

I am so thankful that I can exercise and that I remain motivated to do so.

Exercise is also great for enhancing gratitude, and not just because the endorphins elevate mood. The time spent exercising is a great time to incorporate an A-Z gratitude list, an opportunity to notice nature and the changing seasons, a reminder to be thankful you have the capabilities and the means to do whatever activity it is you are doing.

My oncologist once told me another piece of advice: You should stick to a couple desserts...a week. (A week?? How about a day??) I have found it impossible to adhere to that suggestion. There is work yet to be done :-)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Back To My Cancer Apex

Today I am grateful for my oncologist and her nurse. They take the time to answer all of my questions. I am also grateful for a bike ride this morning with my husband Darcy. It was even a little cooler and less humid.

Yesterday was my 6-month check with my oncologist. It also marked four years to the day since a right breast lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy started me on the first of three surgeries to address my cancer. Now that I only go to my cancer center every few months-not the frequent flier I was in the early months and first year after my diagnosis-I am more struck by the variety of emotions that come over me. They are a mix of fear and anxiety, with acceptance and plenty of gratitude thrown in. And a visit to the cancer center always helps bring me back to my priorities. It is a place that gives you real perspective real quickly.

I call the area where my cancer center is my cancer apex. The MRI that found my cancer was done at the hospital across the street. Then my MR-guided biopsy was performed at a radiology facility a few blocks away. After the diagnosis was confirmed, the oncologist who was highly recommended, the one I chose to see and have stayed with, was right in the same area. Cancer apex.

I wonder how many other patients I have sat in the waiting area with over the last four years have since died of cancer. It is a real shot of reality and gratitude to walk out of there after a good check-up and know how very blessed I am.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Game of Golf and the Game of Life

Today I am grateful for recovery support from people who understand me and how my alcoholic mind works.

I am also grateful for the opportunity to play nine holes of golf yesterday with my friend Kelly. It was hot, but we were saved by a breeze. I appreciate the low-key approach--we don't keep score and we don't take it too seriously.

Now there is a good lesson for both the game of golf and the game of life: Don't take yourself too seriously. If all I do is worry and wonder over what has happened and what might happen, I am most likely not enjoying, or even noticing, what IS happening.  If I take myself too seriously, I am not much fun to be around because I am most likely coming up short of my own expectations and I will be a little uptight about it.

Golf is more fun when I accept that I will have some bad shots with the good ones. Life is more fun when I accept that it won't always go my way. But gratitude helps me remember that many things do go my way each and every day. I can walk, talk, drive, work, eat. I have safe places to walk, people to share my words with, a car to drive, a job, and food to eat. Those aren't minor details, but I treat them as such when I take them for granted.

Don't take yourself too seriously, but do take the practice of gratitude seriously.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Generations

Today I am grateful for safe travels for many family members to our reunion this weekend and grateful for the chance to spend time with relatives I don't see often.

I am also grateful for the lessons on acceptance that I received this morning . . . light bulb burned out, unexpected surprise from our dog Oliver (who hasn't left us a smelly surprise like that in a long time), then a chance connection with a friend while out walking Oliver. We were talking about our busy weeks ahead and she said her plan was to "just take it one day at a time."  Thanks for the good reminder Betsy!

The family reunion was my father's side of the family. He was one of seven siblings, and just two of his sisters are still living. But there are 35 first cousins in the second generation and many of us were there this weekend. We took photos by family groupings and by generation and it was touching to see the legacy those seven siblings have. I hadn't seen many of my cousins since the last reunion 5 years ago. We are aging and gaining perspective and sharing more memories. I learn more about my family history every time we gather. There are many laughs, but also the realization of some tough times and tough characters. 

It all gives me an appreciation of those who came before us. It means a lot that the effort is made to organize these events and commit to the time and travel. I especially want to thank the lead organizers, my cousins Kathy, Jean, and Eileen.

It was a good weekend and now I head into my week grateful and planning to take it one hour, one day at a time.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

100 Posts . . . One Post at a Time

Today I am grateful for safe travels for my step-son Arthur and his girlfriend Alyssa, and for the chance to spend some time with them. I am also grateful for the fresh smell of a new morning and a nose that works.

Today is my 100th blog post and I feel pretty good about it! For someone lacking confidence in my technical skills, I am proud of myself for taking the leap of faith into the blogosphere in late March. I know my blog isn't flashy, but I did just change some fonts. (Woohoo!) But the words are what count, and the positive energy created by gratitude expressed in words and actions has brought me to a new level of appreciation in the weeks since I began this blog.

I hope it has helped you too, and given you food for thought. Have you tried some new approaches to gratitude? Have you made a conscious effort to be more grateful for what you do have?  I would love to hear from you about gratitude in action.

One thing I have noticed is that the more I embrace the practice of gratitude in my daily life, the more it enhances my sense of security, calm, and faith. I  have what I need and the support I need . . . just for today. That is enough. And to have enough in a culture that keeps telling us we never have enough is really the key to the power of gratitude.

One post at a time, one day at a time, I continue this journey of self-discovery and this expedition to unearth the treasures right before my eyes.

I will be taking a three day break from "Habitual Gratitude" and be attending a family reunion in Iowa. I encourage you to go back and read previous posts. I did that and was amazed at how what I wrote one day helped me on a different day. Practicing gratitude is not wasted time or energy. Regular practice maintains a good supply of appreciation which maintains my sanity and serenity.

Thanks for joining me in the blogosphere!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Zinger Comes Back Around

Today I am grateful for my counseling colleagues at the school we work at together. We are a diverse group in personality and philosophy, which seems to work for us.

I am also grateful for the soft fur on our dog Oliver and my working sense of touch. It relaxes me just to give him a nice belly or back rub, and he sure seems to like it too. I never understood "A dog is a person's best friend" until I fell in love with Oliver, just hours after meeting him.

As I approach my 100th blog post (today is #99), I need to revisit the zinger I threw out in the first days of this blog (Monday, April 2 to be exact.)  Gratitude is powerful in a multitude of ways, but one of the best things it does is keep self-pity at bay. I  have heard self-pity referred to as "bitter morass."

That sure fits. Something that is harsh and disagreeable, while trapping, hindering or impeding. Why would I have wanted to be stuck in that?  It was all I knew. I beat myself up pretty good for several years with negative self-talk. And when I was thinking and feeling that bitter morass, what people said and did around me got interpreted by a dark and down mind. No wonder I wanted to keep drinking alcohol. It numbed the pain of what was my reality.

The good news is that gratitude can help change a person's reality. Not in the sense that the world changed, but that my way of viewing the world changed. From dark and down to hope and periods of joy.

The zinger is that it is not possible to be grateful and feel sorry for myself at the same time. If I choose gratitude, hope and joy follow. If I choose self-pity, the bitter morass pulls me in further.

Today I choose gratitude.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Amp It Up!

Today I am grateful for the willingness to learn. (Admittedly, some days I am more willing than others.) I am also grateful when I can crank the radio up in the car and enjoy some of my favorite tunes.

Speaking of turning up the volume, gratitude is an amplifier of the highest quality. I like Wikipedia's definition of amplifier: a device for increasing the power of a signal by use of an external energy source. Practicing gratitude regularly has shown me that the power of positive can be increased exponentially. And that reference to an external energy source means I need to look outside myself.

One of my favorite sayings about gratitude, and one worth repeating is: "If I can't have all that I want, let me want all that I have." If I focus on how much I appreciate what and who I do have in my life, it's pretty tough to feel like my higher power is picking on me. Talk about an external energy source! Gratitude helps me see how much I owe to others, particularly God.

(Side note: I use God and higher power interchangeably to refer to the higher force I believe exists beyond the human level. I hope that you have a term you are comfortable with and can also accept the terms I use.)

Gratitude builds on itself. The more ways I notice gratitude throughout my day, the better I handle whatever comes at me. A positive perception of self and the world around me certainly allows me to handle difficulty with more grace than I would if I had a negative, "poor me" mindset.

Go ahead . . . amp it up!  Spread some gratitude today.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Status Check on Valentine Vessel of Gratitude

Today I am grateful for my job and the kids and parents I get to work with. I'm also grateful for my five senses and how they help me enjoy life. They are gifts I too often take for granted.

On June 27, I wrote about "Canned Gratitude" and the Valentine Vessel of Gratitude. We put the vessel out and within a day or two all of us had put something in the vessel, including the kids. We haven't really discussed it further as a family, though my husband did use it to defuse a situation with me and it worked well. Just seeing it there on the counter and knowing that we have looked in there and know what has been written gives it some good ju-ju. I would say we're off to a good start.

It's important for me to share the practice of gratitude with my family. It means so much to me and has helped me so much. I hope to pass that along to my loved ones and to many others.

I also put gratitude letter #6 in the mail.

Daily effort for daily results. Habitual gratitude is working for me. How about you?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Stuff

Today I am grateful for a good long run yesterday morning with my husband Darcy. Our marathon training is coming along well. I am also grateful for a Goodwill here in town for us to donate to.

We were trying to make more room available in one of our bedrooms and of course that led to the trickle down effect . . . our whole upstairs was a bit of a mess for a time. But we were able to accomplish our mission of more space. Everyone pitched in and helped some, except our dog Oliver, who was trying to figure out what was going on and got in the way more than once.

Several bags went to Goodwill, a few things got rearranged, and we were reminded of how much "stuff" we have. We don't like to have a lot of clutter, but apparently we do get stuff for good reason and then forget both-the stuff and the reason we got it.

I hope someone else will put it to good use.

Gratitude goes beyond the stuff to the people we share it with and the places we share it in.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Accept More, Expect Less

Today I am grateful for cooler weather and lower humidity. The northerly breeze feels heavenly after a heat wave. I am also grateful for acceptance of life on life's terms.

"Accept more, expect less" is one of those mantras that I have a love/hate relationship with. I know it is true and helps me; but it can be hard to do. My expectations of self and others can set me up for hard feelings. I have heard expectations referred to as "premeditated resentments."  I really don't need to carry any resentments, especially premeditated ones.

Acceptance, though a tall order at times, really is a key to serenity. I control my attitude and actions. The rest of what goes on around me, including the actions or inaction of others, requires plenty of acceptance.

Enter gratitude. One of the real benefits of practicing gratitude is that I have an easier time accepting my life as it is. Gratitude brings acceptance because it reminds me how fortunate I am. I end up feeling satisfied with what I  have instead of expecting more.

When I have an "attitude of gratitude" I see the big and small gifts in my daily life. My expectations are better kept at bay because I see my life as rich and full, not lacking.

Gratitude brings satisfaction. Guaranteed!  How can I accept more and expect less today?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Better Older than Deader

Today I am grateful for our reliable laptop. I am also grateful for my 47th birthday.

This is my first blog, and this is my first birthday since starting my blog. I pondered whether or not to mention my birthday, but the message of gratitude is just too big to pass up. I have been fond of the saying "Better older than deader" for years. As well as I can remember, I made it up myself a few years ago. Many people seem bothered by birthdays and getting older. I must have said this to someone as a way to cheer them up or get them thinking, and I have kept using it.

The fact that I have had two diseases that kill people has made this an even more meaningful line. I appreciate every birthday I get. My alcoholism could have claimed me before I left my teen years. Running my car off the road or into a tree was a real possibility on many nights. If I don't keep doing daily work for my daily disease, it could still claim me.

Four years ago, I celebrated my 43rd birthday while awaiting a lumpectomy for breast cancer. That was an intensely difficult and emotional time. The first surgery is so telling regarding staging the cancer and determining how promising or grim things look. I was full of fear and wondering how many more birthdays I would have.

As it turned out, my breast cancer was Stage 1 with no evidence of lymph node involvement. There are no guarantees, but I am feeling healthy and energetic four years out. Talk about gratitude!

"Better older than deader" is 100% about gratitude. I have plenty I want to do and many people I want to keep spending time with. When I start feeling that older is not better than deader, then we'll have a different discussion.

Glad to be here. Have a good day! 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Each Day is a Gift Unto Itself

Today I am grateful for ice cream. I love it a little too much, but I don't blackout or drive impaired when I eat it, so that's a step up from what alcohol did for me. I am also grateful that a little 5-year-old autistic boy was found safe after being missing for over 20 hours in this heat. Faith, hope, and community are alive!

Read the good news story using the link below:

Missing Boy Found Safe In Prescott, Wis. « CBS Minnesota

"Each day is a gift unto itself" is a saying on a plaque that my sister gave me. I put it in the window of my office at school to serve as a frequent reminder. I think I am like many others who struggle to stay present in the moment, in the day. There is too much regret for the past, too much worry and fear for the future, and today gets lost between the two. Or too much reliving the glory days of the past or dreaming big dreams for the future; both of which also zap today.

Recovery and the emphasis on one day at a time have really helped me stay more present, helped me take life in more manageable chunks. Gratitude has also helped tremendously in this area. If I focus on daily gifts, it is more likely I will stay in this day.

The family of the 5-year-old lived a nightmare Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday, but it must have been a sweet reunion with their little boy. Every day matters.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July . . . A Great Day for Gratitude

Today I am grateful for the freedom and opportunity I enjoy as an American citizen. I am also grateful for the historical struggles that first brought us that freedom back in the 1770's and 1780's and for the men and women who have worked to maintain that freedom since.

I fear that like many other holidays, this one is losing meaning. We focus on the "fixins" like hot dogs, fireworks, and a day off work, and forget the "main course."  That main course is honoring our independence as a nation, honoring those who have fought and died for that freedom, and not just on battlefields. "Proud to be an American" is not as unifying as it used to be, because we have become more divisive than we used to be. More selfish, less altruistic. It worries me where that may all lead.

So on this 4th of July I choose to focus on appreciating that I can sit in my backyard and feel safe, not living in fear of a bomb raid. I choose to focus on the fact that living in a democratic nation affords me many benefits that I should not take for granted. I can walk into my local polling place for any election and not feel threatened. Do you know how many citizens of the world would 1) like the chance to vote period and 2) be able to do so with no fear for their safety?

Sorry if I sound a little preachy. I think we need reminding. (Plus, that former Social Studies teacher in me lives on.)

I would encourage you to read this thought-provoking essay by Associated Press writer Ted Anthony:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/ap-essay-divided-era-july-4th-16703255

Happy 4th of July! Why are you grateful on this day?



Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It's Not the Heat, It's the Humidity

Today I am grateful for ceiling fans, floor fans, wall AC units, and the electrical power to keep them whirring away in this heat. I am also grateful for the support network I have in recovery.

That's my friend Lori and I in my profile picture. I talked about her in yesterday's post.

You know the old saying "It's not the heat, it's the humidity?" Well, that may be true at times, but right now in the upper Midwest, it's the heat AND the humidity. I will say that if you don't live in a region prone to humidity, it can be a shock to your system at first. Even if you are familiar with it, it still drains the energy right out of a person. Much of the country is sweltering and it sounds like the thermostat will stay on high for at least a few days. I pray for those dealing with storm damage and power outages, and those who have lost loved ones.

Like so many things, the heat becomes relative. We adapt to some degree, no pun intended. (Maybe that's why I'm less irritable today than I was two days ago.) There's an old joke that makes the rounds here in Minnesota:  "There's two seasons in Minnesota; winter and road construction."  That does seem very apropos at times, but right now there's no doubt it's SUMMER. 

I hope people and pets are staying safe and hydrated, and that people heed the dangers this kind of weather can present. We Minnesotans are fond to say on days like this "Just remember this in January."  I guess it's our way of keeping things in perspective and being grateful.

Stay cool and have a good day! 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Bookends

Today I am grateful for new opportunities and old friends. I am also grateful for laughing together as a family. Sometimes our dog Oliver gets us going, but sometimes it's each other.

Yesterday had a set of bookends that ran to extremes. But the emotional extremes belonged to others. I was more a witness to each bookend than a participant.

The morning started at the Warrior Dash in Afton, MN where my friend Lori and her 3 daughters (who are also my cousins) were participating. Lori married my first cousin Brian, but I've known her almost as long as I've known him. If you aren't familiar with the Warrior Dash, it's a very popular race series around the country. It covers a little over three miles and includes 12 various obstacles/challenges. Lori was a late entry, but she finished alongside one daughter about 20 minutes after the first two came in. They all found the experience exhilirating and the smiles on their faces tell me they will be doing more of this. It was fun to see them and the event.

The evening ended at a prayer service for a 2011 alumnus of the school I work at. He died in a tragic accident on Saturday. I went to be of support and witnessed the grief and camaraderie that such difficult times tend to bring out. The prayer leader made sense of the senseless by emphasizing these 2 points: 1) Today, the present moment is so important. Tell the people you love that you do. We never know how many days we get. 2) Stick together. Be there to support one another through this. And somehow, we keep the faith. (Her words were more eloquent than my summation of them.)

Obstacles on a hot and humid race course. Grief-stricken young people in shock over a life cut far too short. Bookends. Reminders to be grateful for what I have today, including the obstacles, because they tend to teach me the most. But most grateful for the people I love and who love me.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cheaper by the Baker's Dozen

Today I am grateful for a good training run with my husband yesterday . . . three hours' worth. I am also grateful for the community I live in and the diversity of services and opportunities it provides.

Back to that large family I grew up in; thirteen of us, nineteen years apart, That means by the time the youngest was born, the oldest was already off in the Army. But I do recall times when all fifteen of us sat at the same table for a meal. In my teen years, my friends sometimes referred to us as the Waltons because we had benches on either side of our long kitchen table. That meant 6 kids on each bench, baby brother in the high chair, and Mom and Dad on each end. And food, plenty of food. We had "assigned" places too. My Mom was always cooking and cleaning and my Dad spent dawn to dusk most days working. And we were often helping.

Such an upbringing helped instill in all of us the importance of working hard, and we all carried that strong work ethic into adulthood. But that can have its drawbacks. I struggled with working too much years ago (I called it workaholism because I was filling the hole I used to fill with alcohol with work instead) and I am not the only one in my family who has done this. I still don't leave dirty dishes in the sink for long and tend to do a load of laundry as soon as the basket gets full. That's not bad in and of itself, but I sometimes try to do too much in a day, or try to complete my "to-do" list before I get to my "want-to-do" list. Then I get frustrated. That is one of my challenges . . . balance. I'll save that for a different post.

I truly believe my parents did the best they could when we were growing up, but let's face it, it's hard to give thirteen kids all the individual attention they need. I have learned to keep it all in perspective and I respect my parents and my siblings. No one has been barred from family gatherings and there are no long-standing feuds. Not all families our size, or any size, can say that.

This large family upbringing has shaped me in so many ways, and I understand that more each year as I "grow up."  Today, I am grateful for my family of origin.