"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

Friday, August 31, 2012

Celebrating the Ordinary: Round 2

 
Here is my second installment of "Celebrating the Ordinary" started by Marie at
 
 
Even if I didn't get to it each day, I love the idea and I love the energy it has created in the blogging world.  See AnneMarie's incredible posts, including today's, at
 
http://chemo-brain.blogspot.com/2012_08_01_archive.html

She talks a lot about the synchronicity going on. I believed it even more when I saw Jan's post from today at

http://janhasak.com/blog/?m=201208

That was after I had taken the picture above, but before I posted it and before I saw a similar picture on Jan's post.

These various stones and shells sit on a lamp table near my computer and near where much of my blogging takes place. Some have been bought at special places as I traveled or been given to me by others, while some have been gathered on beaches in California and elsewhere. You can see words on some of the stones. These words are vital to my existence and vital to my happiness and serenity. Faith. Gratitude. Patience.

Too many days I forget to look at this collection, forget to focus on the strength they exude. We all need reminders don't we?  That is what "Celebrating the Ordinary" is all about.

Earlier this evening I heard about the death of a man, Pat, who died of esophageal cancer earlier this week five years after his diagnosis. I knew his wife back in high school. I had followed his story on CarePages. The faith and courage they both showed over these last five years is commendable. He lived longer than his initial diagnosis indicated, but he died at 55. That seems so young to me.  This is a man I never met but have prayed for over the last five years. Because of the strong faith he and his wife shared, you could say their prayers were answered.

Such news always gives me perspective and more reason to celebrate the ordinary.

Thanks for starting this celebration Marie!  All any of us have is today and celebrating the ordinary is a great way to be reminded of our daily good fortune.



One of a Kind

Today I am grateful for time with my son Sam yesterday and for his laughter as we watched a Paranorman matinee. I am also grateful for heat without the humidity.

Back to line 2 of the Ten Things to Always Remember and One Thing to Never Forget quote:

"You're truly one of a kind."

Many random thoughts come to mind as I ponder that line. I guess I'll just let them flow out as they will.

*I used to feel "one of a kind" in a negative-poor Lisa-no one understands my pain kind of
way. That did nothing but compound my self-pity and isolate me.
*Today I feel the "one of a kind" that allows me to appreciate my unique gifts and experiences and how I can share them with others.
*If we all see each other as special and "one of a kind" in our own ways, we will likely be kinder, gentler, and more tolerant of one another. And also see our loved ones for the real gifts they are. With our flaws come our special features too.
*Nature is so awe-inspiring to me because it is all about "one of a kind."  One of a kind sunrises and sunsets, one of a kind blossoms, one of a kind views of rivers, waterfalls, and so much more.

If I keep "one of a kind" in mind today it will be a blessing and I will see others and my surrounding world in a better light. That's my plan. How about you?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Presence as Present

Today I am grateful for time with my sister Aileen on both ends of her recent trip. I am also grateful for discussions on meditation with three different people recently. My meditative practices are more of the "moving meditation" variety, but it all reminds me to slow down and cleanse my thoughts.

And it fits with #1 from yesterday's quote:  Your presence is a present to the world.

This seems particularly important in the harried and hurried world we often find ourselves in. We are plugged in to technology more than we are plugged in to one another. Taking the time to listen and be there for other people like family, friends, and co-workers really is a gift. 

I wrote an essay a couple of years ago that ended up being my first paid and published piece. It was in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in December of 2010 with the title "Slow down, you move too fast" and it fits very well with today's topic, so here it is:


Make Your Presence a Present
            Are you proud of your ability to multitask? Maybe you shouldn’t be. Are you tired of the pace of the world around you? Maybe you should be. The word frenetic comes to mind when I consider the overall condition of our society and the life of the typical parent in America. Too many are harried, hurried, full of stress. There is not enough time in the day and barely enough caffeine to sustain us. 
Who is to blame? Let’s face it—we are. We have forgotten how to say no. Too many wants have become needs and too many wishes are now musts. It would be more understandable if those needs and musts were of more substance. Too often they stem from our competitive society, our greed for material goods, and our increasing inclination to succumb to “But everyone else is doing it.”
I am talking to the adults here, not the children.  We convince ourselves that we are giving our children every advantage by putting them in a multitude of activities and pushing them to do more and to do it better. It has become the new version of keeping up with the Joneses. When did we fall to the lie that we are measured by our children’s success? Success here being measured more by their resume than their character. Young people aren’t necessarily benefiting from this push. They know a level of stress we didn’t at their age. Childhoods are being lost to the competitive and wild ride our culture deems necessary. Worse yet, sons and daughters are losing their parents in the process.
A beautiful quote by Sue Atchley Ebaugh reads: “The greatest gift we can give one another is rapt attention to one another’s existence.”  Multitasking and rapt attention cannot occur simultaneously. Rapt attention isn’t taking place between pick-up from activity A and drop-off for activity B. Though four texts and two voice mails does constitute attention to your child, neither gets you in the same room at the same time. (At least I hope not.) This is what our children, our society need: our rapt attention. Nothing else matters as much.
This holiday season consider making your presence a present to as many people as you can. Less wrapped and more rapt. Give 100 percent of your attention to the person who seeks it at any given moment. Put the cell phone down and look them in the eye.  Push the laundry aside until later. Practice saying no and feel how empowering it is when you free up time for yourself and your loved ones.  Time to play catch in the backyard.  Time to talk over a cup of hot chocolate.  Time to sit in the living room reading together.  Time to make your grandma’s cookie recipe.
If you resent saying yes, try no. If you are exhausted, say a guilt-free “sorry we are unable to attend.”  If you are too busy, ask yourself why?  Is your time going to priorities defined by you or to preconceived notions established by our culture of excess? Set the right kind of example for young people. Show them what healthy balance looks like. I am willing to go out on a limb and say that healthy balance will mean a lot more to them and a successful future than making a certain grade or getting a higher ACT score.
We are in need of a movement back to family basics, to balance and a more sane pace.  The moments we are missing are gone forever. If your to-do list is longer than your gratitude list, consider a rewrite.

 

 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Lost Quote Returns

Today I am grateful for my reading light and a good pile of books to be delving into. Too bad I usually fall asleep after a few paragraphs.

I am also grateful for phone conversations with my friend Jenny and my sisters Zita and Mary Jo. I appreciate being able to spend a few minutes with them and staying in touch.

I came across this quote on a bookmark when I was going through some books I had set aside for a time. It certainly gives me plenty to ponder and many lessons about gratitude:

Ten Things to Always Remember . . . and One Thing to Never Forget

1. Your presence is a present to the world.
2. You're truly one of a kind.
3. Your life can be what you want it to be.
4. Take the days one at a time.
5. Count your blessings, not your troubles.
6. You'll make it through whatever comes along.
7. Within you are so many answers.
8. Have courage.
9. Be strong.
10. Wish upon a star.
And don't ever forget how very special you are.
                                             (Collin McCarty)

As I typed this, it sparked many thoughts on each point. Speaking of delving, tomorrow I will start delving into this quote line by line.  For today, just reading through it a couple times has already slowed me down and calmed me.

The power of the written word. Have a good day!





Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Blogosphere

Today I am grateful for my job and for the variety of people and experiences I encounter there.

I am also grateful for my husband and the level of understanding we share.

This journey into the blogosphere continues to be interesting and inspiring. I wish I had more time to read other people's blogs and comment on them, but I do the best I can. It's a bit of a leap for me to post comments on other blogs, but I push myself to do it. If I want people to post comments on mine, I need to know how it feels and how it works.

I am "meeting" some good people and making some connections through the blogosphere that I wouldn't be making any other way.

Onward and upward!  I would love to hear from any of you out there taking a gander at my ramblings from time to time.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Celebrating the Ordinary

 
As I get more connected in the blogosphere, I come across wonderful ideas, like this one from Marie on her blog Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer (http://journeyingbeyondbreastcancer.com)

Check out her Celebrating the Ordinary posts.

Here is my photo contribution. These are my feet. They are not pretty feet, but they do a great job. They are four weeks away from carrying me to the starting line of marathon #10.  Notice the band-aid on one toe?  That's from a blister I got from the shoes I wore to my nephew's wedding this weekend.

My feet are not perfect, but they are mine. Just like my mastectomy scars. They are part of who I am and they define me. They define me as someone who feels deeply blessed to be alive and running marathons.

Today I celebrate my ordinary feet. I also recall my running mantra at the height of all things cancer. I directed this mantra to any cancer cells in my body:  "I have run hundreds and thousands of miles, millions of steps, I can outrun you little S.O.B.'s!"

Fresh Starts

Today I am grateful for the fresh air coming through the open windows after a warm and humid day yesterday. I'm also grateful for the fresh start to a new day and a new school year.

My nephew and his new wife have a fresh start to their married life. Their wedding day and celebration were very nice. I had a pleasant time with family and friends and even got a few dances in. (Although my husband and I got too tired before a slow song came along for us.)

New students arrive at the school I work at today, to begin a fresh chapter in their educational journey. Some will be nervous, some excited, some plenty of both. It is always a gift to feel all of that energy as a new school year gets underway.

Gratitude affords me a feeling of fresh starts every day. When I am grateful for the little things, they don't get old and stale, they stay new and fresh. It's only when I forget to be thankful that I take things for granted and they start to feel run-of-the-mill.

Give a fresh start to your day. Do an A-Z gratitude list just to freshen up your surroundings.

Have a good day! 

Friday, August 24, 2012

3 x 3 = Appreciating Today

Today I am grateful to have strategies like the one below to help me keep my gratitude practice moving along daily:

My sister Aileen- her safe travels from Alaska, her sense of humor, a walk together

My nephew Dalton and his fiance Megan- the love they share and the exciting anticipation of a life together, a happy event to bring family and freinds together, I was there for his baptism and I get to be there for his wedding tomorrow

Our dog Oliver- how he wins over visitors quickly, his cute little bandannas after a trip to the groomer, the way he sighs when he lays down

3 x 3 = 9 things that already have my gratitude level on the upswing this morning.

Because of that wedding, I will be taking a blog break for a couple days.

Onward!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Voices of Hope: Family and Friends

Today I am grateful for my siblings. They are a diverse group of decent and kind people. I look forward to seeing many of them at my nephew's wedding this weekend.

I am also grateful that Darcy, Sam, and I are part of the DVD project "Voices of Hope: Family and Friends."  The DVD is a follow-up to Voices of Hope which I was in 2 1/2 years ago with 11 other breast cancer survivors. The DVD goes to newly diagnosed women and nearly 6000 copies have been distributed. 

It became clear that a companion piece for the caregivers, family and friends of cancer patients, would be valuable.  Thirty-four subjects were part of interviews in May. The producers and videographer had over 25 hours of footage to work with to create about a 25-minute DVD. This week there have been three rough cut screenings of the DVD to get input and see what final tweaks can be done. I went to two of those screenings.

I don't know how they do it, but the artistry and flow created by the three people who worked with the footage is impressive. I am again proud to be part of such a project. And I am proud of my husband and son and their grace and wisdom.

It brings quite a stream of gratitude too. I am here today to be part of this. Some cancer patients live on only in loved ones' memories. I love my husband and how he helped me through the most difficult times. I love my son and the fact that I am here watching him grow up and play football in pads and helmet.

The DVD is powerful in it's range of emotion and touchy topics like death and sex are handled gracefully. I look forward to the premiere of the final version.

Thanks to the creators and thanks to all who took part! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bitter or Better Part 2

Today I am grateful for my job and the spirited co-workers I have. I am also grateful for sore muscles. They remind me of how grateful I am to be able-bodied.

In my Bitter or Better post a couple days ago, I talked about one of the keys to the power of gratitude. I cannot feel gratitude and self-pity at the same time, so if I choose gratitude, I do much better.

Delving further into the bitter vs. better idea, it's all about appreciating what I do have instead of dwelling on what I don't have. I appreciate the working body I have. I don't dwell on the scars, blemishes and imperfections that keep me from an ideal body. I am just glad to be healthy and whole in the true sense of the word.

That's just one of many examples. Another good one is that practicing gratitude shows me the riches of my five senses and literally and figuratively to "stop and smell the roses."

Wishing I had more or wishing I had something I don't have basically blinds me to what is in front of me. I would miss Oliver's excitement at seeing me, or the pure joy of my son's laughter, or walking in the door of my house and appreciating it all--the door, the house, my son, the dog.  You get the picture.

Bitter or better. Which will it be?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Blinker as Indicator

Today I am grateful to be part of the Voices of Hope DVD project. More on that later in the week.

I am also grateful for acceptance of life on life's terms. At least more acceptance than I used to be able to muster.

A couple weeks ago the right blinker (you might call in a turn signal) on the car my step-daughter Emily drives went out. She was under a time constraint and needed it fixed. I was able to help out and take it to get fixed. It didn't take long at all and I wasn't late for the meeting I had planned that morning. A brief stressor was removed in short order.

Yesterday I was on my way home from work and Emily called. This time the left blinker had gone out and again she was under a time constraint. Could I help her out? 

Well, I could and I did. I appreciate that our "car shop" worked us in quickly too.

When I got that call yesterday, I was running late, tired, had a lot on my mind. But when she called I just chuckled. Two blinkers out in two weeks. There would have been a time my reaction would have been different and unpleasant. I didn't like life on life's terms. I wanted to name the terms.

Slowly I have made progress. Blinkers don't only indicate turns, they indicate turning points of progress in my efforts to grow up. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bitter or Better?

Today I am grateful for the student group I work with at school, and for my co-advisor, the parents, and the good speaker we had last evening at an event.

I am also grateful for the continuing reminders I get about the utter futility of self-pity.

I fell into the trap of resentments, expectations, and fears for a few days last week and that ultimately led to some self-pity. I used to be quite comfortable in self-pity. It's also why I used to like to drink a lot.

Gratitude is the best antidote for self-pity and the best lesson I have learned is that I can't feel sorry for myself and be grateful at the same time. Put a different way, do I want to stay bitter or do I want to feel better?

Today I choose gratitude and feeling better.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

In My Blood

Today I am grateful for a good training run yesterday and for a low-key day before a busy week begins.

Our training run went well. I ran for 4 hours and 15 minutes and covered 20 + miles. I feel ready for the Omaha Marathon. Five weeks from this morning will be marathon morning. Call me crazy, but this is about the time I start getting fired up. I never dread my training runs, and I don't find it hard to get motivated to get out there and start. But I keep my excitement in check until the actual marathon gets closer.

I think many things contribute to the growing excitement:
-training that has gone well and has me feeling prepared
-pleasant memories of previous marathons
-pure gratitude that I am healthy and can run
-more gratitude that Darcy and I do this "hobby" together
-endorphins
-a goal within sight
-the fact that this will be our 10th marathon

I'm even grateful for the sore and achy muscles this morning. They aren't that bad, and a walk with Oliver helped, but they remind me of the journey I took yesterday one step at a time, the sights of our community I got to take in, and the nice weather we enjoyed.

What can I say? Running is in my blood and has been since I started running up and down our farm driveway when I was about 12.  And now marathon running is in my blood. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Book Sale Bonanza

Today I am grateful for the conversation I got to have with my friend Jill yesterday. "Keepin' it real" is what makes our friendship so genuine and so important to me. Thanks Jill!

I am also grateful for the finds I made yesterday at our local library's book sale. I was perusing box after box of non-fiction titles when I found a treasure!  It was a copy of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.  I have read it before, but have already started reading it again.

I also grabbed a copy of Anna Quindlen's Being Perfect. I read it in about fifteen minutes. It's a thought-provoking little book with intriguing pictures and lines like "And eventually being perfect became like carrying a backpack filled with bricks every single day. And oh, how I wanted to lay my burden down . . .If you have been trying to be perfect, too, then perhaps today is the day to put down that backpack before you develop permanent curvature of the spirit."

I don't want curvature of the spine or the spirit. Unburden baby!

Three dollars, two books, and a bonanza of wise words I have already begun to enjoy.

Now we (Darcy and I) are preparing to head out the door on 20-mile run #2 for this marathon training season. I am thankful for 52 degrees. 

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

Friday, August 17, 2012

Music Flashback-The Sweet

Today I am grateful for my job and the many varied people I come into contact with there. I am also grateful for working ears to listen to the music I love.

On my way home from work yesterday, I heard the song "Love is Like Oxygen" by Sweet (a.k.a. The Sweet). As a music lover, especially rock, I loved that song when it came out in 1978. I was 13. I thank my older siblings for turning me on to some good music as I grew up listening to what they were listening to.

Favorite lines:

Love is like oxygen
You get too much, you get too high
Not enough and you're gonna die
Love gets you high

At 13, I wondered what it would feel like to fall in love. At 47, I know that love comes from many sources and takes many forms. I am blessed to love and be loved.

I just had to go to YouTube and listen to the song again. That led me to other Sweet songs. My favorite probably is "Fox on the Run," but "Ballroom Blitz" and "Little Willy" were good ones too. In the age of Wikipedia, I did a little research. There was no MTV in the 1970's and we were just happy to have a radio that got a handful of stations. I only heard the words and music. I rarely saw video footage of singers and musical groups performing, so I didn't know that Sweet was part of the glam rock movement, I just liked their music.

I read further and learned that "Fox on the Run" was about groupies and "Ballroom Blitz" was about the band being driven offstage by a barrage of bottles at a performance. I also found out that lead singer Brian Connolly died at age 51 in 1997 and that chronic alcoholism was a factor in his health issues. Drummer Mick Tucker died in 2002 at age 54, from leukemia.

I know more about Sweet than I ever did before. Everybody has a story and there are always stories behind the stories.

Share your stories today.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

"There's a Lisa"

Today I am grateful for the breeze that kept the bugs off and brought cooler, drier air back. I am also grateful for my hair stylist Lori.


Lori paid me a big compliment yesterday. We were talking about this blog and she went on to say that a few days ago, struck by a moment of gratitude she said to herself  "There's a Lisa." You mean my words have motivated others to think more about gratitude? Wow! Powerful and humbling!

I have moved several times in my adult life and only had one other regular stylist over those years. Tracy was a school friend and I went to her when I lived in the area where I grew up, or was able to get back there regularly. Otherwise I bounced around and went wherever was convenient, including the first couple years we lived here. Then I decided I deserved a stylist of my own that I could go to regularly and get to know and trust. I went to a place I could walk to from where we lived at the time and met Lori. We have both relocated since, and gone through some life changes and challenges, but I am comfortable with her, I trust her, she does a great job, and I enjoy the conversations we have every six weeks or so.

When I started chemo in Sept. of 2008, Lori said when the time came she would come to my house to shave my head. So she did. I really appreciated having that experience in the privacy of my home and just around her and my family. We laughed, pictures and video were taken, and it wasn't traumatic.

"There's a Lisa."  Gratitude shared is gratitude multiplied. Thanks Lori! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Whether You Like It Or Not

Today I am grateful for a run with Darcy as daylight arrived this morning. I am also grateful for the Little Raiders football program and that Sam is excited to be starting practices.

On our run this morning, Darcy and I saw this on the sign outside the church not too far down the road from us:  "God loves you whether you like it or not."  That struck me. God is the constant. I am the one who waffles. There are days and moments I don't feel or act very lovable, but my Higher Power hangs in there until I come back around and feel some grace and worthiness.

I guess the same could be said for gratitude: "Gratitude works whether you like it or not." On those days I am not feeling very blessed or appreciative, I can still take the actions of practicing gratitude. It may not totally remove the crunkiness, but it certainly slows the downward spiral at the least.

It works. It really does.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Staying Present

Today I am grateful for the smell of bacon and for Oliver's wagging tail.

Yesterday's post "Staying Power" leads me to today's "Staying Present."

Part of my challenge when it comes to staying grateful is that when I start to worry, get fearful, or feel overwhelmed, gratitude and thankful contemplation go right out the window. I will be remorseful over something that has already happened and can't be changed. Or I will start to worry about someone I care about or a situation. Or I will start thinking of everything that needs to get done and a feeling of overwhelming busy-ness will come over me. Gratitude doesn't stand much of a chance in such an environment.

So where's the hope?  The hope lies in staying present to this moment. And present runs the gamut of physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

If I can take life one moment at a time, one hour at a time, I don't tend to get behind or ahead of myself. It goes back to that line "By the yard life is hard, but by the inch it's a cinch."

Like gratitude, staying present takes patience and perseverance. It is a worthy pursuit for this day though. I will pause when needed. I will stop to notice the little things. I will say a prayer.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Staying Power

Today I am grateful for a cool and cloudy day yesterday-a nice prelude to fall. It included a pleasant outdoor service and potluck with our church congregation, a bike ride with my son and husband, and a lovely and much-needed nap.

I am also grateful for my sister Aileen and her writing talents.
Following is a poem written by her, which she titled Poem One.

Poem One
Decide today
will be
day of gratitude
will glide blissfully
buoyed by
transformative power
of giving thanks.
Will appreciate everything
including chores
as a gift
and opportunity.

And then
four seconds later
I forget
that it’s all
a blessing
and my brand-new
gratitude ship
sinks faster
than Titanic.

She says it so well. This gratitude practice can be downright challenging. Daily work is needed to provide staying power for the thankful contemplation that helps us see ourselves and our surrounding world in a more positive frame. My default mode for so many years was negativity and self-pity. I had to change my default, and it took time. Some days I can do no better than "act as if" I am grateful. Some days, I may just be going through the motions.

But you know what?  That's okay. The genuine gratitude returns, usually with a fuller force, just to remind me of it's power. Experience is the best teacher. It has shown me that if I ride out the "act as if" days, that sunken ship springs back to the surface and sails on.

Don't give up. Be persistent and diligent.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Last Drunk

Today I am grateful for an early morning walk with Oliver and my tired, sore legs. We all feel better now (Oliver, my legs, and I.)  I am also grateful for my last drunk on August 12, 1989.

That last drunk was not pretty. I don't remember a considerable chunk of it because I blacked out. (Just in case you don't know the difference--passing out means you have fallen asleep, or are so drunk that you are down for the count. In a blackout, you are still awake and taking actions, but you don't recall those actions. Blackouts could accurately be described as alcohol-induced amnesia.) Blackouts are both a blessing and a curse. I was a blackout drinker and that created pure mental torture the next day when I tried to connect the dots. The blessing part is that I don't have recollections of my sick, alcoholic behavior on some of those nights, or just brief glimpses, which was more than enough.

August 12, 1989 was wedding day for my cousin who was marrying my long-time school friend. I knew a lot of people there. Those who didn't know I couldn't handle my alcohol very well knew it by the end of the evening if they witnessed me at all. Some of those who did see me in my full alcoholic mode expressed their concern within the next few weeks, particularly one of my sisters. (Thank you Leonice!) I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was humiliated by my behavior and my inability to control my drinking. I drank a few more times over the next weeks, but never got really drunk like that again.

My last drunk ended up being a blessing in disguise. I don't want to forget that day because I don't want to forget that I have a daily disease that requires daily work to sustain recovery.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A "Fair" Amount of Gratitude

Today I am grateful for wisdom and support in recovery from alcoholism . . . from others walking the same path. I am also grateful for coolness that required a sweatshirt yesterday morning.

And one more thing to be grateful for: The Dakota County Fair. Arguably, this blog effort has enhanced  my level of day-to-day gratitude. That is a really cool thing!  That positive perception thing I mention? It is playing out for me and it did yesterday. I could have been tired and crabby and noticed the downside of an event like a crowded, noisy, smelly fair. Instead, I kept getting hit by little shots of gratitude that added up to a "fair" amount of gratitude.

An older couple walking by holding hands. The tempting smells of food you only find at the fair. Seeing a friend. Witnessing a young boy get off of a midway ride and announce to his family with a big smile on his face "That was awesome!" My son having a buddy to run with. Pleasant co-workers and customers at the 4-H diner. Walking through the dairy barn.

I don't have to look far for things to be grateful for when I am tuned in to thankful contemplation.

Have a good day! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Doctor Is In

Today I am grateful for my doctor and grateful to have both the trip to the dentist and the doctor out of the way for a chunk of time. (I hope at least. I'll take the status quo in these two areas.)

I have had the same doctor since we moved to town 12 years ago. Because of moves and such, that is the longest I have had the same doctor. She also delivered Sam and has been his doctor. After having male doctors, I intentionally looked for a female. I trust her and I am comfortable with her. I hope you all feel that way about your doctor and the others on your "medical team." (By the way, I like my dentist too.)

My doctor knows my history, and she takes time to answer my questions. She played a part in my breast cancer being found when it was. I had a "normal" mammogram in April of 2008. Knowing my family history of BC and discussing that and my dense breast tissue with the radiologist, they recommended an MRI. (MRI's were starting to be used more to screen for breast cancer around that time.)  It was the MRI that found my cancer.

I ponder what may have happened had that cancer gone undetected for another year or more, and it is a scary pondering. I truly appreciate the interest my doctor and a radiologist took in my unqiue set of circumstances.

There are some unpleasant aspects to yearly physicals, but I can more easily keep them in perspective in light of some of the other things I have been through. And I always feel good when I leave, like I am taking care of myself.  There was a time in my life where at least some of my actions were harming me.

Practicing gratitude is another way I take care of myself.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Nitty Gritty Spirituality-Anne Lamott Style

Today I am grateful that Sam and I had good check-ups at the dentist and don't need to go back for six months. I am also grateful for the many spiritual teachers in my life . . . those I know personally and those who reach me through their work. Anne Lamott reaches me through her books.

Her and I have a couple things in common, besides obvious good taste in name selection for our sons. Both sober for over 20 years, and both continually on a quest for spiritual growth and guidance. A spiritual journey isn't meant to be taken alone, at least not all of it. I appreciate that Lamott allows readers along on her journey . . . sometimes she is slogging through the mud and sometimes she is soaring in the majestic blue skies, just like the rest of us. When I laugh outloud at her words, it is because she has captured the human imperfection I am afflicted with and can so relate to.

Here is a line from Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life:

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor."

Perfectionism almost killed me. It led to a level of self-hatred that could only be squelched by alcohol. But then both the perfectionism and self-hatred came back. Until I learned and accepted that I am a worthy person, as is. That took many teachers and a Higher Power I trust today.

And a line from Some Assembly Required:

"Maybe what we say to each other is not so important after all, but just that we are alive together, and present for each other as best as we can be."

That's a reasonable goal for today. Be present as best as I can be.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

August Blooms

Today I am grateful for a walk with my friend yesterday. Our pace was quick and our conversation genuine.

I am also grateful for the writing group that I attended last night. It is the third time I have gone and I hope to continue. I prefer time to myself and prefer to write in solitude, so this is a good way for me to branch out and grow in ways I might otherwise miss.

And this morning I also appreciate the sight that caught my eye when I walked out in our backyard earlier. I was taking down our patio umbrellas in anticipation of some rain. I noticed a stunning and grand blossom in our flower garden. I don't know the name of the flower, but the blossom is a good 6 inches in diameter, light pink on the petals with a deeper red in the center.

When we moved to this house, we were the beneficiaries of the work of a master gardener. She planted beautiful combinations that always seemed to have something blooming and lots of color variety. My husband Darcy has tended the gardens in the years since. Thank you both!

I am guilty of taking this backyard beauty for granted on many days. Today my Higher Power sent me an eye-catching reminder. It IS the little things that matter.

The flower is my new profile picture. (I am grateful I could figure out how to do that from phone to computer to blog . . . in short time and with no frustration.)

I appreciate that it is not perfectly shaped, just like us. But it is still a perfect gift to share this morning. Maybe someone can identify it for me. Have a good day!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Favorite Author: Anne Lamott

Today I am grateful for an early morning run with Darcy and for good reminders of how fortunate I am to be sober, and to have survived my drinking days.

I am also grateful for the work of Anne Lamott. If I could only read books by one author the rest of my life, I would pick Anne Lamott. I am particularly fond of her non-fiction. This includes the following titles:

  • Operating Instructions: A Journal Of My Son’s First Year
  • Bird by Bird : Some Instructions on Writing and Life
  • Traveling Mercies : Some Thoughts on Faith
  • Plan B : Further Thoughts on Faith
  • Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith
  • Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son.


  • I just finished her most recent book (last on the above list) and have read all the others, some more than once. They hit home where it counts most-my heart and soul.

    Anne Lamott says:
    "I try to write the books I would love to come upon, that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness—and that can make me laugh. When I am reading a book like this, I feel rich and profoundly relieved to be in the presence of someone who will share the truth with me, and throw the lights on a little, and I try to write these kinds of books. Books, for me, are medicine."
    This reader says "Mission accomplished Anne!" Thanks!

    I love the honesty, openness, and vulnerabilty in her words. I also love that I often find myself laughing outloud at her humor and genuine nature as I read. As an aspiring writer, I dream of being compared to Anne Lamott. I keep reading and re-reading her books because I always get something out of them, not the least of which is more food for thought and pure enjoyment.

    More on Anne Lamott's nitty gritty spirituality soon. In the meantime, I encourage you to pick up one of her books.

    Monday, August 6, 2012

    A Trip to the Grocery Store

    Today I am grateful for a nice evening for the first of Hastings' August outdoor summer concert series and for the music of the River Valley Band. I appreciate so much about what our community has to offer.

    It bears repeating that gratitude can be found anywhere. ANYWHERE! And sometimes it is the mundane tasks of life, like going to get groceries, that presents an opportunity for what I am dubbing "snowball effect gratitude." It starts small, but with a little push, it keeps growing.

    Following is a list of random aspects of gratitude as I was hit by the snowball on my way home from the grocery store Sunday:

    -a car to take to and from the store and it is in good working condition
    -reading ability to tell what a label or coupon says
    -writing ability to create a list before going
    -physical capability and mobility--to push my own cart, bag my groceries, take them to my car,and unload them at home
    -money to pay the grocery bill
    -coupons at my disposal to save some money
    -sense of taste and smell as I look forward to some of the food I purchased
    -the convenience and variety of what is available
    -enjoying the radio and windows down to and from the store
    -appreciating the streets I have to drive on

    This is why gratitude is so very powerful and so very available. If you see gratitude all around you, the world looks like a better, happier, more welcoming place doesn't it?

    It goes back to what Habitual Gratitude is all about: "Building a better perception of self and surrounding world through the regular practice of gratitude."

    Sunday, August 5, 2012

    In Praise of 4-H

    Today I am grateful for cooler weather. It was pleasant and cool enough that we had a fire in our fire pit last evening. I am also grateful for the 4-H program our son Sam is part of.

    Our county fair, the Dakota County Fair, gets underway on Monday, but Saturday was judging day. Sam took three projects: photography (storm photos), shooting sports/wildlife management (about white-tailed deer), and a self-determined project (a detailed Lego Star Wars display). The participants have to discuss their project with a judge before they are awarded a ribbon. To me, that is one of the best things about the process and gives Sam and other young people good practice in face-to-face communication. Sam ended up being awarded three blue ribbons. I am proud of him and his efforts. He is proud too, and excited for the premium check that will come in the mail in a few weeks.

    If you are a former 4-H member, here's a quick quiz. What do the four H's stand for?

    Head, heart, hands, health. Good use of the first three leads to the fourth, not only for the individual but their families, communities, world. That's the 4-H philosophy in my own words. Sam has grown through his involvement and has enjoyed it. He has made new friends and so have I.

    He plans to continue his involvement, of which the fair is only one of many ways to participate, and I will continue to support him in his efforts.

    Good job Sam! 

    Saturday, August 4, 2012

    A Lap Worth Taking

    Today I am grateful for each 24-hour-period I get. As a recovering alcoholic and breast cancer survivor, I try not to take my days for granted. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver's personality. He is such a gift to our family and that personality is one-of-a-kind.

    Last evening I had the opportunity to do the survivor's lap at the Hastings Bridge to a Cure, our local cancer fundraiser. I joined some of my breast cancer support group buddies for that lap, then my husband and son joined me for the caregivers' lap. It always touches me to take part in events like this. It is a chance to reflect on how deeply blessed I am and to also think about those who have died of cancer and those who are currently in treatment.

    Those were definitely laps worth taking.

    Friday, August 3, 2012

    Mental Exercise

    Today I am grateful for a phone conversation with my friend Deb and also for the clarity that comes with reflection and meditation.

    The webinar I referred to yesterday was titled "Cognitive and Emotional Effects of Breast Cancer Study."  Dr. Shelli Kesler at Stanford led the study and the webinar. You can view the webinar at www.armyofwomen.org. From the home page, look for recent blog updates.

    The study looked at the ongoing effects of cancer treatment in areas such as attention, memory, depression, and anxiety. In the early days and months of cancer treatment, it is overwhelming and it can be hard to concentrate and keep a handle on tough emotions. But what about the months and years after primary treatment, like chemotherapy, takes place? I had 4 rounds of chemo (Taxotere and Cytoxan) from Sept.-Nov. of 2008. It definitely impacted my cognitive function during treatment and I believe for many months after. I felt I knew what people meant when they used the term "chemobrain." One way to describe it is that I felt I wasn't clicking on all cylinders. I was slower with my thoughts and my short-term memory seemed even shorter. I couldn''t find and recall words at times, even basic ones. This seemed to improve, but I also started on Tamoxifen and have been on it for 3 1/2 years. I think this medication has also impacted me cognitively and emotionally but it is manageable. (I am so grateful the side effects I have from Tamoxifen are minimal. I know many women who have uncomfortable side effects.)

    The webinar spent considerable time talking about what cancer patients (and I would argue anyone) can do to alleviate some of the negative impacts of treatment (and aging) on cognitive function. Here are some of the mental exercises that were mentioned: active journaling, hobbies like reading, and social interaction that allows for conversation and discussion. I was glad to see those and I am grateful to say they are all in my repertoire.

    Gratitude is good mental exercise as well. I am doubly blessed when I actively journal my daily gratitude in my personal journal and when I sit down to compose a blog post to share with others.

    Have a good day and don't forget your mental exercise!

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    An Army to Join

    Today I am grateful for the wonderful women in the Hastings Breast Cancer Support Group, both those I am just meeting and those I have known for years now. I am also grateful to be a member of Dr. Susan Love's Army of Women.

    I was listening to a webinar on Tuesday regarding a study that the Army of Women helped recruit for. Here's how the army works: Women can sign up at www.armyofwomen.org to join. Women who have had breast cancer as well as those who have not are needed. You register online through a simple process. When researchers are looking for subjects, a mass email goes out and if you qualify and are interested, you can sign up. It's a volunteer army and you aren't forced to do anything. I have taken part in two studies and they both only required that I take an online survey that took about 20 minutes each time. Other studies may require samples or an office visit.

    The Army of Women is helping to pick up the pace of research. In the study talked about in the webinar Tuesday, it only took 18 days to find enough participants. Prior to the army, it may have taken up to 5 years to get enough participants. That's impressive. There's exciting and fascinating cancer research going on. Let's help it move along.

    The goal is to get a million women to join. They use a catchy "Be one in a million!" slogan.

    Consider joining and encouraging the women you know to join. Tomorrow's post will talk more about that webinar and the study.

    Have a good day, unless you've made other plans.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    Olympic Dreams

    Today I am grateful for a comfortable bed to sleep in and for ceiling fans. I am also grateful I can watch history unfold at the Olympics.

    I have always been a fan of the Olympics and when I was young I dreamed of going to the Olympics. I wanted to go in the 800 meter dash and in softball. (Softball is no longer an Olympic sport.)  I didn't make it to the Olympics but running and softball have been integral in my life. I still run after starting about 35 years ago running up and down our farm driveway. I played softball through college and coached it for over 10 years as well. Along the way, I met many wonderful people and made many good memories. So I guess in ways my dreams did come true.

    I appreciated watching the U.S. women win gold in the team gymnastics competition and to watch Michael Phelps make history with medals 18 and 19. There are plenty of Olympic-themed commercials on if you are watching the coverage. I like the one of Ryan Lochte swimming to London. It's a good analogy for any goal. It doesn't just happen, we have to work at it and work hard.

    That holds true for my practice of gratitude, but it sure feels good when I do the work. Thanks for being there to help keep me motivated.

    Have a good day and do your goal work!