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Showing posts from 2013

Fossils

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Today I am grateful to wake up to a new day. I am also grateful for my fossil collection and the hours I spent in my youth searching for them. That makes today's word fossils. Below is a picture of two of the fossils in my small collection. (I am grateful I was able to locate this collection. I hadn't looked at it in years. I knew I had it here but I wasn't sure where. It was in the first place I looked.) They were all found on one particular hillside on the farm in northeast Iowa that I grew up on. It was a hill above the creek in the area where the pigs got to roam. That was when farms had a lot of fence lines, unlike now. So the pigs had their pasture area and the cows had areas of their own. I climbed and crossed many fences and gates in my day. Back to the fossils. If my brief research is accurate, the fossils below are Brachiopods. They are common in Iowa and belong to some sort of sea critter that lived inside this two-hinged protective shell attached to the floor…

Faith

Today I am grateful for a phone conversation with my sister Ann and for spiritual growth that happens when I put daily work into recovery from my daily disease of alcoholism.

That brings me to today's word: faith. There are many definitions for faith. Two that I like are:
-strong belief or trust in someone or something
-belief that is not based on proof

To me, faith is about not feeling alone in facing what can sometimes be a harsh reality. It is about spirituality, not religion. But religious practice can help deepen faith and I know that it does for many people. Faith and spirituality are about relating to a source of power beyond myself. That someone or something some call God or Higher Power, but can go by any name you like. It's about a personal relationship, not an institutional one. When I trust that source of power to help guide my thoughts and actions, that is faith.

These are only my thoughts and opinions, but I can tell you that over 24 years of recovery I have lea…

Expectations

Today I am grateful for a parking spot when we needed one and I am grateful for the warmer weather and sunshine we enjoyed yesterday.

Today's word is expectations. My expectations of myself have gotten me into plenty of trouble over the years. I am the toughest on myself and can push myself relentlessly at times. But I am making progress. I am learning to be kinder and gentler with myself. I am learning to keep my expectations more reasonable and sane.

It starts with me, but I can also be tough on others with my expectations. I wouldn't verbalize the expectations. They were mostly hopes. But when someone didn't come through like I had hoped, or expected, I was disappointed. I am making progress here too, being kinder and gentler with others as well. 

One of my mantras is "expect less, accept more." It bears repeating. And repeating. And repeating.

Healthy expectations keep me motivated. Unhealthy ones exhaust and frustrate me. Yesterday I had an expectation tha…

Endure

Today I am grateful for warmer weather to enjoy for a couple days before it gets really cold again, and for my friends in recovery and the laughter and genuine emotions we share.

Today's word is endure: to last, to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding, to deal with or accept.

I am thinking about my brother-in-law Randy, my sister Zita, their children, and Randy's family as they mourn the loss of Randy's mom Irene, who passed away yesterday. She endured ALS for the last couple of years. Her family endured watching her weaken and worsen. There must be some solace in knowing her suffering is over.

I am thinking about so many others who are enduring current and ongoing pain, suffering, hardship.I feel care and compassion for them and send them positive thoughts and energy. In the process, I send myself reminders of how fortunate I am. I have endured the recovery of bruised ribs and torn muscles for almost a month now, but I am making good progress, and …

Extemporaneous

Today I am grateful for the wisdom others in recovery share with me. I am also grateful for a more relaxed pace during the holiday break.

Today's word is a mouthful: extemporaneous. It is most often defined as a speech (or other action) delivered with little preparation; impromptu. One part of the definition better fits me and what I aspire to-a speech prepared in advance but delivered without notes or text. I don't consider myself a good speaker, but I will concede to improving over the years.

I appreciate the speech class I took in college. I think it was my sophomore year. It was a great class to push me to be more comfortable speaking in front of others. I grew up shy and introverted. Teaching for ten years required public speaking, so I got plenty of practice. I lacked confidence, however, and would sometimes shut my classroom door so those passing by wouldn't hear my attempts to interest my students in the subject of the day.

I appreciate the opportunities I have had…

Death

Today I am grateful for nice enough weather to enjoy our front patio with my husband Darcy yesterday. (That means the temperature was in the 20's. It's all relative) I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and the way he stretches before our morning walks.

Like cancer last week, I am picking a tough word for my last of the "D" words: death.

I am thinking about it after hearing about a man who was a year behind us in high school dying suddenly on Christmas Eve. And thinking about my friend Sheila's brother Chris who died one year ago on New Year's Eve. The two were classmates. Too young. So sudden. So very sad.

I am thinking about my sister's mother-in-law who has ALS. I am thinking of my brother-in-law who has Lewy Body Dementia. I am thinking of Lisa Bonchek Adams and others with late stage cancer.

The reality is we are each a day closer to our own deaths. That may be a scary thought, but it is also an inspiring one in my opinion. Life is precious. This …

Deal

Today I am grateful for family traditions and time together on Christmas Eve with Darcy, Sam, Emily, Oliver and I. I am also grateful for the simple pleasure of playing cards.

That leads to my word of the day: deal. As in deal those cards up! Let's play some 500 or euchre!Those are my favorite games to play at family gatherings. I grew up watching my parents play cards whenever "company" came over or when we went visiting. I learned to play at a young age. Invariably when my family gathers, there will be some card playing.

I appreciate that all you need are people and a deck of cards. Cheap fun! And we often spend plenty of time laughing as we play, though some are more serious than others. Darcy has learned to play over the years and enjoys joining in. Sam is even learning to play now, courtesy of his youth group involvement.

Then there's that other kind of deal. As in "let's make a deal!"  At our church services last night, the sermon was about shari…

Drift

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Today I am grateful for safe travels over the weekend and for the chance to meet two new additions to my growing extended family. I am grateful for the time with my mom, siblings, and their families.

Today's word is drift. It came to me the other morning as I took a walk. Here is what I was treated to, just a few minutes from my mom's house:

Stunning beauty, courtesy of Mother Nature. Pristine snow, artfully decorating trees, against a backdrop of beautiful blue sky. The light snow drifted and landed naturally to create this winter wonderland. I felt deep gratitude for my eyesight and my mobility in that moment. I was reminded of my younger days, when we would get enough snow that we could make tunnels in the drifts. Or when the wind-driven drifts were sturdy enough to bear my weight as I would go exploring across our farm fields. I was also reminded of the other kind of drift; to wander from a set course, move away from. Are there healthy things I am drifting away from and ne…

Coincidence

Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver and his high cuteness factor after a visit to the groomer. I am also grateful for my family, near and far.

Coincidence is today's word. I was subbing at school the other day and saw this at a teacher's desk:

"Listen & Silent have the same letters. Coincidence?"

I had never seen that before. It really struck me. You can't be a good listener if you can't be silent. That applies to conversations with other people. But for me, it also applies to my conversations with my Higher Power. As I meditate, I try to remain silent so I can hear what comes through. It is a skill I struggle with, but I am making progress. Just slowing down and trying to be quiet is a good start.

I am grateful to be someone others feel they can talk to. I like listening. I have learned to be patient in the listening. So many times, we want to jump in and suggest something or offer advice. Often, the other person simply wants a caring ear. They will re…

Cancer

Today I am grateful for my job and for the drug Tamoxifen. I have taken it for nearly five years. It is a proven medication for people with my kind of breast cancer and can help prevent recurrence.

Speaking of cancer, that is the word I have chosenfor today. It isn't an upbeat word, but it does get people's attention, especially after they or someone they care about has been diagnosed with it. There are no gaurantees for any of us who have already had it and fear it returning, or those who are fearful of getting it in the first place. Cancer is wily and remains a mystery. There is no cure. It may seem like progress is being made, and in terms of treatment, it is. More is being learned, but a cure remains elusive. Cancer remains deadly to hundreds of thousands each year.

If you want to read an excellent blog by someone currently looking advanced stage cancer in the eye, read Lisa Bonchek Adam's blog. I have referenced it here before. Here is her latest post. In it, Lisa tal…

Cookies

Today I am grateful to be able to run a little again as I recover from my bruised ribs. I am also grateful to have some patience and acceptance.

Today's word is cookies. I have been doing some holiday baking, specifically two recipes from my Grandma Shindelar. She was my mom's mom and I have very little memory of her. She died when I was 5 years old. I don't have memories to connect me with Grandma, so the recipes are the next best thing. I try to make two of her recipes each year; chocolate star cookies and Christmas cut-outs. My son Sam helps me each year too, though I know that may not always be the case. He helps in shorter spurts these days, but he still anticipates batches of both each year, and I am happy to oblige.

I do enjoy indulging in the cookies myself. Amazing how good flour, butter, sugar, and eggs can taste. Of course, things like peanut butter, chocolate stars, and frosting are nice accents.

But I also enjoy sharing the cookies with others. My co-worker…

Bosom

Today I am grateful for my job and for help from a friend last evening after I forgot my purse and it ended up behind locked doors I had no keys for. Thanks Greg!

Bosom is today's word. I was more intentional about the choice for today because it is the 5th anniversary of my bilateral mastectomies. It sometimes boggles my mind that it has been five years already. It sometimes is hard to remember what it was like to have breasts. But I can beckon memories of my breasts if given time, and such memories are bittersweet.

Check out my blog post from this day one year ago here.

I was not that bosomy. I wore a size 38C bra. And I was never one to flaunt my bosom. If you saw my cleavage, it was either an accident or I was in a swimsuit. I am more at ease, though ease is a relative term, showing someone my mastectomy scars than I would have been showing someone my breasts. I was neither proud of nor ashamed of them. I just wasn't all that confident in my physical features.

Five years …

Brevity

Today I am grateful for phone conversations and text messages to keep me connected with friends and family. I am also grateful for my grandma's chocolate star cookie recipe.

Today's word is brevity. Shortness of duration. Conciseness of expression.

I could use more brevity at times. In my blog posts. In my other writings. Regarding my to-do list.I strive for brevity in my forays into stinking thinking, self-pity, and lack of faith. I can't seem to avoid such forays entirely, but I don't have to wallow in them anymore.

It doesn't take but a few seconds to consider a couple of things to be grateful for each day. That is really all it takes to start changing one's perspective. Daily gratitude practice and daily brevity can be compatible. On some days, there is more to say and that's okay. On other days, short is fine.

If you are feeling at all like I am today, short is good. Both time and energy are limited because of the many directions I am feeling pulled …

Assuage

Today I am grateful for the food, clothing, and shelter that my family and I have. I too often take such things for granted.

Today's word is assuage. It is a word that has always intrigued me, but I don't use it often. That may explain why I have been pronouncing it wrong. To hear the correct pronunciation, click here.

Assuage has these main definitions:
-to lessen the intensity of (something that pains or distresses): ease
-pacify, quiet
-to put an end to by satisfying: appease, quench

The first definition is the one I am most familiar with. I wish I could assuage my sister's pain and grief as her husband slips away with Lewy Body Dementia. I can only be a source of support via phone calls and emails, and I will continue to do so.

That is just one example of how I can try to be a good family member, friend, listener, and in the process possibly help assuage another's pain. (And in my own home, remembering to keep my mouth shut when opening may amplify hurt, not assua…

Amplify

Today I am grateful for extra energy yesterday afternoon and evening to give to holiday preparations like shopping, getting cards and letters out, and making treats. I am also grateful to help at our church today for a special holiday outreach project.

Today's word is amplify: to increase, strengthen, add to. My first recollection of that word growing up is when people would talk about good amplifiers for their stereo systems. I do like my music loud at times, especially when I am alone in my car, or if a certain song hits me at the same time as a certain emotion. The volume amplifies the listening experience for me. I appreciate the technology that now creates great sound in small packages. No more big speakers needed, though they used to double as little table tops.

A funny college memory I recall: During our sophomore year, my roommate Deb had a couple such speakers in our dorm room. I don't remember what she had put on top of one of them, but one evening we were playing Tw…

More Gifts of Words from A-Z: Alone

Today I am grateful for my reading and writing abilities and that I have opportunities to use them daily.

Last year at about this time, I did a series of blog posts on different words from each letter of the alphabet. I called it "The Gift of Words From A-Z." Here is the description I have in my post from November 26, 2012, the day I started my word journey through the alphabet:

I have mentioned a number of times that an A-Z gratitude list is an easy way to think about gratitude when you are on the go. You can do such a list on your commute, a walk, sitting with a cup of morning coffee. You can write it, say it outloud, say it to yourself, say it to someone else. If you haven't tried an A-Z gratitude list, I would encourage you to do so.

I have done this A-Z list enough times that I sometimes get in a rut, saying the same things for certain letters. That's not all bad, because the things I repeat are worth repeating. But in an effort to mix it up a bit, I am ta…

A Lot of Work, A Lot of Joy

Today I am grateful for warm boots and hooded sweatshirts. I am also grateful for laughter, even if it still hurts a little when I laugh.

The phrase that is my post title today was something I heard in the context of a person talking about a new puppy his family had gotten.  "A lot of work, but a lot of joy."  It struck me immediately when he said that . . . isn't that really all of life?  It takes work, but there is plenty of joy?  And I believe the joy is in the work; the day to day strivings to live life, love others, pursue goals, remain healthy, and follow our hearts.

I think first about the work I do in recovery from alcoholism. Sometimes it does seem like work, drudgery, same old, same old. But more often, the work I do opens doors, gives me hope. To be comfortable in my own skin and to wake up with a purpose are joys that recovery brings.

As I thought further, I realized that all the things that matter most to me fit this description of "a lot of work, a lo…

Incremental Improvement

Today I am grateful for my glasses; the old pairs that I can run in but have to take off to read and my newest pair of progressive lenses. I am also grateful for my sight. It needs some assistance, but still works very well.

As my bruised ribs and torn muscles slowly heal and feel better, I am thinking about incremental improvement. Most things that need improving don't happen overnight. But if I can notice and appreciate the improvment by increments, I am given hope. I am given enough to keep me plugging along.

Recovery from alcoholism is about incremental improvement for me. It's about changing my stinking thinking to more sane and positive thinking. I couldn't have imagined 24 years ago that I could feel like I do today-about myself and my life. Patience. Acceptance. Daily work. The improvement continues, sometimes slowly, sometimes in flashes of insight.

Recovery from bilateral mastectomies offered more incremental improvement. I was motivated to keep doing my physica…

Roses and Thorns

Today I am grateful for the exercise bike we have in our basement and that I could use it comfortably this morning. I am also grateful for sensible drivers who share the road with me.

The following was a recent quote in my gratitude journal:
"Some people are always grumbling that roses have thorns; I am thankful that
thorns have roses."  (Alphonse Karr)

Karr was a French writer and journalist who lived in the 1800's, but this quote seems timeless.It's all in how a person looks at things. Perspective. Perception.

If I look for negative, I will find it. But the converse is true as well. If I look for the positive, I will find it too. Where do I prefer to go looking? For the thorns or the roses?

Gratitude practice helps me keep the focus on looking for roses, looking for what is going well, what I can be thankful for in this moment, this day, my present life circumstances. It doesn't mean I naively choose to only look for the positive and deny that things can be to…

Somebody to Love

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and the 16 years over which our relationship has grown and evolved.

Sometimes a wave of gratitude hits me when I wasn't even looking for it. The more I practice gratitude and the more I am aware of the gifts surrounding me, the more this seems to happen out of the blue. Yesterday it happened when I heard a song on the radio in my car. That song was Queen's "Somebody to Love."  Listen to it on YouTube here.

Not only do I appreciate plenty of Queen's music, I appreciated the gratitude this particular song sparked yesterday. I thought of my husband Darcy, how solid our marriage is, how much I love him, how much my life has changed and grown since we met in November of 1997. A wave of gratitude hit.

I met Darcy when I was 32. I hadn't given up on finding the love of my life, but I wasn't holding my breath either. In the weeks or months prior to meeting Darcy, I remember being out for breakfast with my friend Ellie. S…

All Walls Have Doors

Today I am grateful for the community we live in and the many services it has to offer. I am also grateful for the ease of using pictures stored on CDs.

I have one more Seattle Marathon tidbit to blog about. I enjoy reading the signs that people will hold along a marathon route. Seattle didn't have a ton of spectators or signs, but of those I saw, my favorite was a sign around mile 18. It was posted several feet up on a tree trunk and written plainly on a piece of cardboard. No one was near the sign when I saw it. It said "All walls have doors." It really resonated with me at that point in the race. My legs were tired and I knew there were hills ahead.

Running a marathon is as much a psychological undertaking as it is a physical one. Many are familiar with the phrase "hitting the wall" being used to refer to the point in a marathon or other race where the runner encounters serious fatigue. I have hit that wall on long runs, but for me it has been a wall I coul…

Savor

Today I am grateful for a conversation with my friend Jill yesterday and for our dog Oliver and his personality. He makes me smile daily.

I was reminded yesterday, from some of my recovery friends, how simple and yet how important it is to savor the little things as much as the big. Maybe even moreso. The big things to savor don't come along every day. The little things are in ample abundance at all times. Laughter among friends. The beauty of ice crystals on tree branches. Being able to painlessly put one foot in front of the other.

Revel. Relish. Savor. The marathon experience is behind us now for another year. The reveling is winding down. I will continue to relish and savor the big picture: Darcy and I have been able to run and complete 11 full marathons. But I will do more relishing and savoring of the little things: being able to get back to running when my ribs and muscles feel better, being able to get in and out of my own bed without pain, sitting in the recliner enjoyin…

Relish

Today I am grateful for warm blankets on a cold night. I am also grateful for the life of Nelson Mandela and the difference he made, not only in South Africa, but around the world.

It hasn't exactly been a week of relishing our marathon experience and finish, what with exhaustion, busy days at work, a sneeze that was more than a sneeze. But relish can be more than an action. It also happened to be the name of the restaurant in our hotel last weekend: the Relish Burger Bistro in the Westin Seattle.

We enjoyed two meals there, the first on Thanksgiving evening and the second was our post-race meal on Sunday. I relished both meals for different reasons. On Thanksgiving, I was relishing our safe arrival, time with family, and the beginning of our time in downtown Seattle. On Sunday, I was relishing the fact that we had finished marathon #11.

A strong hunger hits me a few hours after completing a marathon. I satisfied that hunger with the same menu item from Thursday. It was a burger…

Lessons in Humility

Today I am grateful for perspective and for my husband Darcy's help.

I was planning to write a post today called "Relish" because it followed nicely after "Revel" from yesterday. Things change. Instead, let's talk about the lessons in humility that I am getting.

After successfully completing the marathon on Sunday and getting some water therapy in the hotel pool and hot tub, I slipped in the shower and hit my left mid-back on the tub. Lesson in humility #1. To do it after running 26.2 miles? Really? I wanted to revel, not be humbled.

I didn't feel intense pain and I could breathe okay, so we proceeded with our day. I could feel some muscle pain in my back and certainly some movements were challenging, but I made it through the flight home the next day, and through two days of work. In fact, it felt pretty good during the day when I was up and moving. It was tougher to get comfortable at night.

All that took a turn for the worse with-of all things-a snee…

Revel

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Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from Seattle and for a pleasant time taking in that city's downtown. I am also grateful for my sister Leonice and sister-in-law Annie, the time we got to spend together, and the kind gestures they extended; like picking us up and taking us back to the airport to name just a couple. Thanks you two!

It was another memorable marathon experience. Marathon #11 successfully completed. The rain held off, the wind was bearable when present, the route was scenic, the hills challenging. We got a street-level view of an impressive city and the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. The 26.2 miles were varied; along water, across an interstate bridge, through scenic trees and vegetation. One step at a time. One mile at a time. Darcy and I spent the first 16 miles together, and then had our individual journeys the last ten miles. It was great to see family out on the course, and the orange slices really hit the spot.
Thanks again!

Approaching the finish,…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am grateful for the insights and peace gained from gratitude practice. I am also grateful for fond memories of family Thanksgiving celebrations growing up and for my mom's dressing.

The quote in my gratitude journal from November 24 seems particularly fitting today:

"Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse."  (Henry Van Dyke)

Follow the impulse. Give thanks. Inward and outward.

Then yesterday I received this in an e-card from A Network for Grateful Living (ANG*L) (www.gratefulness.org) and one of my favorite writers on the topic of gratitude:

"In the continuous flow of blessing, our hearts find meaning and rest."
(Brother David Steindl-Rast)

I would add that my soul and mind also find meaning and rest when I focus on blessings. Brother David also talks about gratefulness as the great fullness of life.

All I know is that when I give f…

Lesson #3: Nature and Humanity are Spectacular

Today I am grateful for recovery wisdom shared by others and I am grateful I am learning to "accept more, expect less."

Lesson #3 from marathon training leads nicely into the official marathon experience itself. That lesson is: Nature and humanity are spectacular.

Running outdoors is a great way to see nature, a city, the changing seasons. I love to run outside and will do that as much of the year as I can. I love being a participant in the ongoing evolution of season to season.I appreciate having running attire for all seasons, and I appreciate the mobility I spoke of yesterday. I love the crisp fall air. I love the first warm, sweaty spring run. I love everything in between, with the exception of the extremes. I will put up with heat and humidity and bitter cold, only because I have to where I live. I guess they do provide the benefit of bringing even fuller appreciation to the beautiful days with perfect running conditions.

I enjoy running solo and being alone with natur…

Lesson #2: Mobility Matters

Today I am grateful for friendly and practical doctors and for the wind at my back for part of my walk with Oliver this morning.

Lesson #2 from marathon training is: mobility matters. It matters a ton. It matters so much, but if you are like me, it is one of those things that I regularly take for granted. I am not just talking about my own body's mobility either. We have two working cars in the garage and money to pay for the gas they need. How many people in this country would consider that a luxury? How many people in this world will never have such mobility?

I live in an urban area that offers buses, taxies, and light rail trains as modes of transportation locally and airplanes as an option for wider travels. If I could only rely on my two feet, my world would shrink. That wouldn't be all bad, but my first thought is how often would I get to see my family-most of whom live 150 miles away and some who live further away? What about Darcy's family? They are 250 miles away…

Lessons of Marathon Training: #1 One Step at a Time

Today I am grateful for a nice weekend, a chance to write more gratitude letters, and a good Thanksgiving meal yesterday. I am also grateful that my husband Darcy is getting over his cold and that we got a training run in over the weekend.

Marathon week is here! We run the Seattle Marathon on December 1. I love the anticipation that builds as the marathon gets closer, and I love the week before the event. It is the best kind of anticipation. I appreciate that we are at this point and able to make this trip. After a very busy year and a couple of setbacks, we are feeling ready to run.

This will be our latest marathon, in terms of the time of year. We usually run our marathons in September or October. But we moved it to later after those setbacks and the the full year we have had. The few exta weeks of training have us feeling more prepared and I am thankful for that.

There are many lessons learned in the months that it takes to train for a marathon. There are many miles and hours of r…

Four Lanes

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Today I am grateful for our Christmas decorations, their variety, the enjoyment we can now get from them, and for the family time yesterday spent putting things up. I am also grateful for bridges, both literal and figurative ones.

I am especially grateful for our new bridge, which now has four lanes open. It's expansive and it's been enjoyable for me to watch the construction progress over the last three years. Like any big project, it took time, patience, and planning. I was just an observer, but after a couple setbacks in the first year of the project-including flooding and a state government shutdown-the contractors actually finished a month ahead of schedule. For that, and the safety of workers and travelers during construction, I am truly grateful.

When it comes to bridges, more lanes seem like a blessing. Compared to the most heavily traveled two-lane bridge in Minnesota we used to have, we now have smooth sailing. But what about in my own life? Too many lanes can be ov…

A Writing 3 x 3

Today I am grateful for quality headphones and YouTube music videos. From Carly Simon to Roberta Flack, I enjoyed the listening last evening as I wound down from the day and the week.

Here's an example of a gratitude practice I would encourage you to try. I call it a 3 x 3. I put three things I am grateful for and three reasons why I am grateful for each. Today I am focusing my 3 x 3 on my writing and what it has brought to my life.

1. I am grateful for this blog.
    a. It has helped deepen and broaden my own level of gratitude.
    b. It gives me a regular channel for my writing energy.
    c. It has made me a better writer.

2. I am grateful for the poetry I have written.
    a. It gave me a healthy outlet in the depths of alcoholic despair.
    b. It was the first type of writing I did consistently.
    c. It lends itself to being shared with others.

3. I am grateful for my first diary at age 11 and every journal since.
    a. They have helped me capture memories that would hav…

Speaking of Five Years . . . Here's to my Friend Sara

Today I am grateful for the lamps in our house. I like the warm light they give off in these longer days of darkness. I am also grateful for my friend Sara and the news she recently shared with me.

I remember the exact date that I met Sara: Saturday, September 27, 2008. I remember it because it was the day I got my head shaved. I was two weeks out from my first chemotherapy treatment, and it was starting to come out plenty steadily. I certainly had mixed feelings about getting my head shaved, but I was trying to keep it in perspective. There are far worse things to lose than hair.

I was feeling pretty vulnerable that day, but it was a nice day and I donned my new pink hat and we went to a fall celebration in our downtown area. They were giving wagon rides to families and so we took one. Darcy, Sam and I were joined on this ride by a woman clearly in a chemo cap, an older woman, and two small children. I noticed the woman in the chemo cap, but didn't say anything to her until the r…

Five Years of BC Support Group

Today I am grateful for the clothes in my closet. My wardrobe isn't extensive, but it is certainly adequate. I am also grateful for the breast cancer support group I attend.

I realized yesterday, as I thought about going to breast cancer support group last night, that it was November of 2008 when I attended my first support group meeting. I was diagnosed in May but didn't decide to try a meeting out until after I had already had two surgeries and four rounds of chemotherapy. I still see some of the same wonderful women at support group, but one woman who really helped me at that first meeting five years ago is someone I haven't seen since. I don't even recall her name.

This woman was just a couple weeks post-surgery after bilateral mastectomies. I was about a month away from having my own double amputation. To see her out and about was heartening. But she also showed us her surgical camisole and the drain pockets. It was good for me to have that visual as I headed int…

Prepared for Friction

Today I am grateful for my job, my co-workers, and the students and parents I work with. I am also grateful for homemade ice cream, courtesy of one of those co-workers. Thanks George!

I am also grateful we were prepared for our 20-mile training run on Saturday. I ran into a friction issue. Friction and running 20 miles are not compatible. Blisters, chafing, and other painful situations can arise. Darcy and I have learned some tricks to reduce the potential for such issues. One of those tricks is a product called "Body Glide." It is an anti-chafing balm. It looks like roll-on deodorant and you can apply it anywhere you tend to have friction.

For some runners, that's their feet. For many men, it's their nipples. Before my bilateral mastectomies, it was my bra lines. I wore two running bras for added support. The straps and under-breast areas were prone to chafing, especially in warmer conditions. Generous application of "glide" was an effective preventive. I…

Home Away From Home

Today I am grateful for the late afternoon run Oliver and I took yesterday in the sun and shadows.I am also grateful for recovery wisdom shared by fellow alcoholics.

Home away from home. I feel like I have two such places. One is my mom's. The other is my mother-in-law's. I appreciate that we are able to visit with each a handful of times each year. And I appreciate that they each have space for us, like to have us there, spoil us a bit, and that I feel comfortable when I am there.

We can spread ourselves and our stuff out. We each have a place to sleep. We know where things are when we need them. That makes for a more relaxing visit. We get spoiled with things like good meals, fresh cinnamon rolls, garden produce, and someone to watch Sam while we run. It's a win-win there because Sam gets to spend time with his grandmothers and they get to spend time with him.

One of the best parts about our homes away from home is that I can truly relax in each. I love our house and I a…

Scenic Sioux Falls

Today I am grateful for safe travels over the weekend and time spent with Darcy's family.

I am also grateful for a good 20-mile training run in Sioux Falls Saturday morning, our last 20-miler before the Seattle Marathon on December 1. We enjoyed the opportunity to run somewhere else besides the streets and trails of our own community. We love our hometown, but appreciate the change of scenery when we can get it. And Sioux Falls is near and dear to us, as we were married there and spent the first two years of our married life there.

I am thankful that Darcy's family lives there, so we get back there a few times a year. The city is booming and ever-changing. The trail system is also a good one, so we knew we could hit the trail for a tour. The running conditions were near-perfect with no wind, overcast skies, and temperatures in the forties as we set out Saturday morning.

We hadn't run this entire stretch of trail that goes around the city for over two years. We got to see t…

Swirl Head

Today I am grateful for early morning quiet and for an opportunity to talk about my spiritual journey with others.

The morning quiet is when I pray for others and reflect on my own life. It's when I write in my gratitude journal and on this blog. It's a time when I can avoid "swirl head." My sister used that term the other day and it brought a smile to my face because I knew EXACTLY what she was talking about. Overthinking. Overanalyzing. Worrying. Fear. Too much to do. Not enough time to do it. Notes all over because I am afraid I will forget something if I don't write it down. Swirl head.

It's been a busy and full week, but a good week. I got to prepare and then give a presentation about resilience and gratitude. I got to ponder my own spiritual journey and then share some of that as part of a panel talking to teenage girls. I got to experience Sam's first two wrestling meets and the organized chaos they appear to be. I got to learn many new things at …

Small Gesture, Big Difference

Today I am grateful for our washing machine and dryer and for the smell of fresh, clean laundry.

I am also grateful for small gestures of human compassion directed my way. Maybe it is just a friendly smile and a hello when I need one. Maybe it is someone letting me go in front of them in line, just when I am in a hurry. Strangers making a difference with a little show of kindness.

Maybe it is my loved ones doing the same sort of things. Taking care of a chore that is usually mine. Going to run an errand so I don't have to. Gently suggesting to me that something can wait until tomorrow. Small gestures that make a big difference in my days. And give me hope.

I was thinking about this because of something I was reading in Archbishop Desmond Tutu's biography. When he was a young boy, living in the separated world of apartheid in South Africa, a simple gesture by a white man made a profound difference in his life. Tutu and his mother were out walking when a white man tipped his ha…

Wrestlemania

Today I am grateful for a car with working heat and for my warm weather gear like coats, hats, and gloves. We have needed them this week.

I am also grateful for the experience that my son Sam is having with wrestling this year. It is the first time he is trying the sport. They had their first meet yesterday and it was away. When I arrived at the school and located the right place, it felt like "wrestlemania" to me after a full day of work. At times, there were three matches going on at once, in a fairly limited space, with lots of wrestlers and coaches moving about and making noise, and a small seating area for spectators. Add to that the fact that this is a sport I don't entirely understand, and my head was spinning.

I observed. I learned. I had brief conversations with people as clueless as I was. And then some conversations with people who gave me a clue. It all helped. I will continue to learn. And I appreciate that one of the people teaching me is Sam himself. He te…

Topic of Discussion

Today I am grateful for my job and the variety of experiences that come with each day I am there.

I am also grateful for the opportunity to speak with parents last evening, with gratitude being a key topic of discussion. I appreciated the opportunity to plan for this presentation, because I learned more myself and further consolidated some of my own thoughts and beliefs on the practice of gratitude.

It was a small group of parents and I am thankful for their willingness to hear me out, try a few things on paper, and to share their own wisdom and insights. I found it all heartening and energizing. I was able to include in my discussion some of the growing reasearch base about the benefits of gratitude practice for adults and young people alike.

The evidence is clear. Regular gratitude practice improves our overall well-being. Physically, our immune systems are strengthened, our blood pressure is lower, and we sleep better, exercise more. Psychologically, we have more positive emotions…

The Words of Desmond Tutu

Today I am grateful for time and conversation with my friend Jenny this weekend, phone calls with sisters, and ongoing writing inspiration.

One of the priests at our church, Frank,  borrowed to me a book by Desmond Tutu. It was written in 2004 and is titled God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time. He thought I might appreciate the book and he was right. Thanks Frank!

I really didn't know a lot about Archbishop Tutu other than he was a key figure in South Africa's peaceful move from apartheid to democracy. His book was a quick read and full of wit and wisdom. God is a key figure in the book of course, but so are we. All of us human beings trying to make our way in the world. The Archbishop's words could be boiled down to "We would all make our way better in the world if we spent our time getting along and supporting one another rather than fighting and being at odds.We are all one family." That can be applied to countries, factions, parishes, families. Any…

Partnership

Today I am grateful for interesting conversation with fellow wedding-goers and for a visit from my stepdaughter Emily.

We attended the wedding of Dena and Paul yesterday. Dena is the daughter of good friends of ours.It was a nice wedding in a nice setting. We enjoyed the church ceremony and felt the happy energy and fellowship next door in the reception hall. It was a pleasant evening and I was glad to be there. Congratulations and best wishes Dena and Paul!

The pastor who performed the service used the word partnership in her sermon. Marriage really is a partnership, a two-way street, a work in progress. That is how I view it anyway. I appreciate the partnership I have with my husband Darcy. I appreciate that we both went into our marriage with enough prior life experience to know that it would take work, compromise, time, and forgiveness to grow in our partnership. We knew it wouldn't always be "a bed of roses." I think that realistic approach is helpful because then y…

A Pair of Scars

Today I am grateful for laughter and pleasant conversations I had with friends yesterday. I am also grateful for a warm blanket, a comfortable couch, and a head massage from my husband Darcy.

Back to those painful reminders. They can be physical, like my fingertip cracks mentioned in my post a couple days ago. They can be emotional ones too. My mastectomy scars were both physically and emotionally painful early on, but I am grateful to say today that on most days I barely think of them. The physical pain healed. The emotional pain was processed. Acceptance arrived.

The two most physically painful aspects of my cancer surgeries were parentheses of pain that happened at the beginning of my first surgery and the end of my third surgery. Prior to my lumpectomy, I had a shot in my right nipple to help prepare for the sentinel node biopsy. A few seconds of intense pain I will never forget. Five months later I had my third surgery, bilateral mastectomies. Twelve days after that surgery, my d…

The Next Generation

Today I am grateful for a phone call from my stepson Arthur and a visit with my niece Katie.

These two fine young people are members of the next generation and they give me hope. Of course I am biased, but the way they live their lives and the ways they are helping others are encouraging to me. Arthur shares a message of the importance of good nutrition in an overall healthy lifestyle. Katie supports and coaches other women in their pursuit to feel and be healthier. Thanks for your work you two. Keep it up!

Arthur called me after receiving a gratitude letter from me. I am touched by the impact one of my actions had on him at a difficult time in both of our lives. He said it continues to inspire him and that touches me deeply.

Katie is visiting before I take her to the airport this morning. I have 25 nieces and nephews on my side of the family. A sadness for me is that I don't know any of them as well as I would like to. But Katie and I have a good connection and I really apprecia…

Painful Reminders

Today I am grateful for a healthier perspective on life and on myself. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and the joy he brings to all of us.

The other day I blogged about joy and pain both being necessary in our lives. They are both unavoidable really. I get why people want to avoid pain, but why would someone want to avoid joy? Good question. I don't think it's that people try to avoid joy as much as they simply miss it because they aren't paying attention, or they are focused on the wrong things and those things swallow up the joy. Gratitude practice helps me uncover and notice the joy.

One of my unavoidable pains this time of the year would be splits and cracks on my fingertips. The dry air and cold weather lead to these nuisances that can also be very painful at times. I have tried various lotions and night treatments, but since I use and wash my hands so much, I haven't found an effective way to totally avoid these cracks and splits. They have, however, beco…

First and Last

Today I am grateful for our local writing group and the chance to share and stretch with others interested in the craft of writing. I am also grateful for my marriage to Darcy.

We had our first snowfall overnight. It wasn't much. The grass is white but the roads and sidewalks stayed clear. Yesterday afternoon, I went for my last run before our first snowfall. I run outside through the winter as much as possible, but I still wanted to appreciate clear roads and trails because for the next few months there are no guarantees what the conditions will be. As I ran, I saw a golfer getting in what was probably his last round of the season on the course we live near.

It got me thinking about first and last. And gratitude. As long as one of my first actions of the day is to give focus to gratitude, and I do that by journaling and blogging, my day gets off to a solid start. My perspective starts out positive and clear, and that helps carry me through to my last task before bed. There may b…

Pain + Joy = Life's Beauty

Today I am grateful for the energy created from taking right actions. I am also grateful for our home and the comforts it offers to us.

This was the quote in my gratitude journal a couple of days ago:

"Taken separately, the experiences of life can work harm and not good. Taken together, they make a pattern of blessing and strength the like of which the world does not know."
(V. Raymond Brown)

Gratitude helps us integrate the painful with the joyful so both become part of what makes us who we are. If I only focused on the painful, gratitude would be a tall order. If I only focused on the joyful and denied the pain, I would never gain full perspective. Life needs both the highs and lows.

I don't go looking for pain. I guess I used to when I was drinking. Actually, I drank to kill the pain I felt. But no one is immune to pain, life challenges, difficult situations. If something difficult happens, I can still apply gratitude however, and that helps me not keep spinning it n…

Pause. Repeat. Back to Basics.

Today I am grateful for the wisdom shared by others in recovery. I am also grateful for a fall breeze and the sound of leaves rustling and skirting across the trail or road.

One of the many benefits of gratitude practice for me is that it reminds me to slow down. Pause. Literally to take a moment. Notice. Be still. Savor. I remain prone and susceptible to overdoing life.I start doing, I find more to do, I add to my to-do list. I get to a certain tipping point and I can't seem to stop myself.

On a good day, I become absorbed in what I am doing and it is a time of mindfulness and presence. On a rough day, I get swallowed up by my own best intentions. I go from mindfulness to mind fullness. I get scattered and frazzled and worry about running out of time. I stop noticing. I stop enjoying. I wear myself out.

Yesterday I was headed for frazzled and frustrated, but I am learning to take the right actions. Pausing is an action. I made a decision to go see some friends and leave my to-d…

Keep Those Letters Coming

Today I am grateful for the chance to talk with others about gratitude and the realization of all that I have learned and continue to learn from practicing it.

I am also grateful to be preparing a presentation for parents that has gratitude and resilience as the key focus areas. There is a growing body of research to back up the effectiveness and healthy rewards of gratitude practice. I know them from experience, but the validation is nice.

For me, practicing gratitude is about taking action. I can't just sit and think about being more grateful. I need to make conscious choices and take true action in order for the real gifts of gratitude practice to come to fruition in my life. Yes, it takes work. But I don't mind it because the dividends paid are endless.

One of the actions I take is to write gratitude letters to people I want to personally thank for the difference they have made in my life. Handwritten and mailed the old-fashioned way. I hadn't written any gratitude le…