Posts

Showing posts from February, 2013

February 28, 1924

Today I am grateful for the blogosphere and the sharing that goes on there. It informs and inspires me.

I am also grateful for my father, his life, his lasting memory.

February 28, 1924 was Dad's birthday. He died on October 23, 1998. During those 74 years, he was a son, brother, husband, uncle, in-law, father, grandfather, farmer, council member, board member and more. He and Mom celebrated 48 years of marriage the year he died. Father to 13, grandfather to 26. He never met the three youngest grandchildren, including my son Sam. He never met his great-grandchildren--22 and counting. But his legacy is lasting.

Dad worked hard his whole life, but also appreciated celebrating holidays, playing cards, visiting relatives, watching sports, reading the newspaper, playing Yahtzee, and much more. The farmer's life is not an easy one, but Dad seemed to strike some sort of balance. I recall fondly his dry sense of humor, his love for ice cream, his striped bib overalls and how he would …

Flat

Today I am grateful for a working washer and dryer and for electricity, something I really do take for granted. I'm also grateful that I don't stay stuck in the muck as long as I used to.

I am feeling a bit uninspired and overly tired. I can point to reasons why, but more importantly, I can just keep moving, in twenty-four hour segments.

This is a poem I wrote over two years ago. It speaks to some of what I am feeling now.

Flat

I feel flat
Not literally
Though that
Is also
My reality

Inner flatness
Stalled out
Spent battery
Out of ink

Tamoxifen-induced
Moodiness?
Perhaps
Post-cancer
Depression?
Maybe
Letdown
After the marathon?
Quite possible

How does one
Fight back
Against the
Flatness?
Bring some
Contour back
To the
Brain waves
And heart strings

Change the
Vantage point
Pick the
Next hill
And start
Walking

LV  11/25/09

Tamoxifen is a medication used in breast cancer treatment. It is an anti-estrogen. Mood swings can be one of the side effects. Heck, I was having mood swings before I started on Tamoxifen.…

And Then There's The Shoveling

Today I am grateful for my physical capabilities and jobs like shoveling snow that I am willing and able to do.

A couple days ago I was talking about sledding, today it is shoveling. I have always liked shoveling snow. I like the exercise, the visible progress, the fresh air, a clear driveway and sidewalk.

In February of 2011, I had the following piece published in the Des Moines Register.


The Philosophy of Shoveling the Driveway Life is a lot like shoveling snow. Expected or unexpected, we get dumped on and have to dig out. That process seems slow—one shovelful at a time—but any faster might be detrimental to our health and the lessons might get lost in the piles. There can be a bright side to a few inches of snow. A new coating on our sidewalks and our world can give us a fresh start, a do-over. Just look outside. Today is a new day. A good attitude to embrace. Our nation is struggling to make an economic turnaround. There are optimistic signs, but too many are still buried in difficu…

Perpetual Dissatisfaction--Lurking Again

Today I am grateful for friends to whom I can reach out and for phones that can connect us across the miles.

I reached out to a couple trusted old friends yesterday because I was struggling with perpetual dissatisfaction. One call went to voice mail, but it was nice to at least leave a message. The second call was brief but enough to pull me out of the muck a bit. The muck of perpetual dissatisfaction. Also known as "the poor mes."

Here is a poem I wrote in December of 2010:

Perpetual Dissatisfaction

What is it
With you
Anyway?

Never enough
Time
Goal progress
Presence
Balance
Never enough

You know
Better
So do
Better

But . . .
I suffer from
Perpetual
Dissatisfaction

Perpetually
Pushing myself
Perpetually
Running out
Of time
In a day
In a week
Perpetually
Carrying a weight
Of dissatisfaction
That often
Gets heavier
But only rarely
Seems to
Get lighter

Perpetual
Dissatisfaction
Be gone

I need
Daily doses
Of gratitude
To sweep it
Aside

LV December 2010

After finding this poem and reading it I realize that I have m…

Sledding Memories

Today I am grateful for the return of some singing birds in the morning and for the earlier sunrises and longer daylight we are noticing.

But that doesn't mean winter is over. In the upper Midwest, March can still pack a lot of winter, so we don't get our hopes up too soon. There are advantages to snow this time of the season though.Temperatures tend to be more bearable and that can entice sledders to come out. Sam and I did a few runs yesterday on a hill we can walk to. It's on the golf course across the street from our house, offering smooth, obstacle-free runs. We discovered that the snow was too deep for a fast ride, but Sam decided that just rolling down the hill was fun too, and I decided that laying there looking at the blue sky was just fine.

A few weeks ago, our local paper carried a story about a toboggan run built in the 1880's down a hill that now is the street that carries you in to our historic downtown area. It was quite the attraction at the time, and …

Post #300: The Great Fullness of Life

Today I am grateful for the great fullness of life that gratitude brings me. I am also grateful for the calm wisdom and motivating words of Brother David Steindl-Rast.

Today is post #300 for me and my blog. Wow! That is a lot of posts in less than eleven months. But I know more firmly now than I did when I started this blog that habitual gratitude is what I need. And I jokingly add that I can't call it "Habitual Gratitude" if I don't practice what I preach. Another shout out to my sister Danita-her use of the term "habitual gratitude" in an email last March gave me a blog name and the push to actually leap into the blogosphere.

If you have been following my blog, you are becoming familiar with the name Brother David Steindl-Rast. You see his words at the top of my posts page:

"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful,  but gratefulness that makes us happy."  These are absolutely some of the most profound words I ha…

Grounding

Today I am grateful for the simple pleasure of a grilled cheese sandwich. I'm also grateful for my co-worker Germ.

Germ is a wonderful spiritual guide for me individually and for our school collectively. We work at a Catholic school but I appreciate that she draws her spiritual tools from many practices and many faiths. She is doing a Lenten series-focusing on a word a week. When I was able to attend last week, the word was grounding. Centeredness. Another way to be present, but more in the physical realm, connecting to earth.

I admit I have spent more time working on mindfulness, clearing my mind so I can be more present. Grounding and mindfulness are definitely related, but Germ helped me see that grounding is really where it all needs to start. She gave us some good practices to try.

Here's one that couldn't be easier, but I have already found effective. She referred to it as "calling your soul home." Simply say your full name, or any names you go by, outloud…

The Simple Things

Today I am grateful for the simple things I noticed yesterday throughout my day. Thanks for the idea Dorothy! And thank you God/Higher Force for those blessings.

I tried to tune in more to the little blessings that fill each day. At least most days for most of us if we but pay attention.

Here are some of the things I made note of yesterday:
*a warm shower
*fresh-smelling soap
*a heated house on a bitterly cold morning
*slippers
*peanut butter and jelly on toast
*pants that fit and flatter
*the day's first cup of coffee
*a comfortable car to commute in
*music on the radio
*ears and eyes that work
*school spirit
*state tournament excitement
*hot tea
*cold water
*homemade spumoni
*old friends
*a comfort level with co-workers
*dinner made by my husband
*BC support group connections
*reading to my son

Start your own list today. Have a good day, just for today.

Happy 82nd!

Image
Today I am grateful for my mom and her continuing health. I am also grateful for perspective-that today is a blessing in and of itself and I need to revel in it. My friend Dorothy reminds me to thank God for the little things.

Today is my mom's 82nd birthday. Happy Birthday! It was nice to be with family to celebrate this weekend. We have tried to get home for Mom's birthdays for the last few years. It seems more important to me-since Dad died, and let's face it, there is a sense of "how many more will she have?"

One of my early posts was called "Parental Wisdom" and is about a line Mom would use with us.Read it here. Today I appreciate spending time with my mom, but she will always be a bit of a mystery to me.

Here is a picture we came across this weekend. It is from Mom and Dad's 25th wedding anniversary in 1975. Dad was 51 and Mom was 44. Look at those smiles!

I do appreciate that my mom and I have some things in common, some things that will f…

Altering Attitudes

Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from Iowa for a gathering for my mom's upcoming birthday. I'm grateful for a run with my niece Katie, hills included, my sister Danita's "scarflets," and for some 8-handed euchre fun. I appreciate seeing my growing family. The youngest in attendance is about 8 months old and Mom will be 82 tomorrow.

There's a perpetual calendar in one of the bedrooms we use at my mom's house. I got it caught up to yesterday's quote and found today's blog post idea at the same time. The quote for February 18 is:

"I can alter my life by altering the attitudes of my mind."

I would credit the author, but it didn't name one.

These words hold a lot of meaning for me. I have come to accept that all I control are my attitudes and actions. I would like to think at times that more than that are in my realm of management, but when it really comes down to it, they aren't. The attitude I bring to any given situation …

Last Go-Round

Today I am grateful for new experiences and old traditions. I am also grateful for my stepdaughter Emily.

Emily is a senior in high school and we are trying to take part in some of the last go-round events for her as her final months of high school wind down. One such event took place last night. She is a member of the pep band and last night they traveled to St. Paul to play for a Minnesota Swarm professional lacrosse game. We went last year and enjoyed it, but the lacrosse crowd is still new to me. The game and the announcer's approach had me both enjoying myself and shaking my head at times. (Brief step up on to my soapbox--why do so many sports have to break out in fights from time to time and why do so so many crowd involvment pieces end up being a little-or a lot-disrespectful to the other team? Where are we headed with this?)

The game was a high-scoring one and the Swarm lost to a team from Calgary 17-16. But those 16 goals meant the crowd got to do the "goal dance&quo…

In this, our only moment.

Today I am grateful for a slower-paced morning, the smell of fresh-brewed coffee, and my health.

I wanted to revisit Dani Shapiro's book Devotion one more time before putting it on the shelf.I hope you'll consider getting it off the shelf and reading it. There is much food for thought she leaves with readers. I thank her for so openly sharing her own "spiritual detective story."

These two paragraphs on p. 139 capture something at the heart of faith--trusting in a source of power beyond ourselves; putting ourselves in God's hands so to speak.

"I had begun to feel--and it was a bitter feeling--that the world could be divided into two kinds of people: those with an awareness of life's inherent fragility and randomness, and those who believed they were exempt. Parenthood had created an even wider gulf between these two categories. I was firmly on the shore of fragility and randomness, and I could barely make out the exempt people dancing across the way. They …

Chocolate and Hearts

Today I am grateful for tools like BSN-breathe, surrender, now-to help me approach my day with more acceptance and willingness. I am also grateful for traditions.

One more post to linger over Valentine's Day just a little longer. My husband Darcy comes through each year with a heart-shaped box of candy for me. My dad always gave my mom a heart-shaped box of candy every Valentine's Day. And then Mom would share that candy with us kids (which means she probably didn't get much herself). I share too.

I always remembered that from my growing up days. I didn't see a lot of affection expressed between my parents, but this gesture seemed like such a sweet and romantic one to me. Dad would sign cards to Mom "Love, Art." I hung on to such gestures because they were few, at least in my memory. I believe my parents had a strong love, they were just of the generation and upbringing where it wasn't expressed outwardly too much. That is a pattern I have definitely bro…

Happy Valentine's Day!

Image
Today I am grateful for the beauty of winter . . . like the weekend snowfall that helped create this fitting Valentine's Day picture:

We put up Valentine's lights in the front of our house each year. More accurately, Darcy puts them up and I enjoy them. Thanks dear!
I am grateful for the love that I have in my life today; faith, family, friends, self.

And for the unconditional love I have most learned from others in recovery from
alcoholism and addiction.

There were a few years in my life, quite a few, when Valentine's Day served as a reminder, and a painful one at that, of what I didn't have-a husband, a family of my own. But the practice of gratitude helped me reach the point where I could frame it positively. I have always been loved by my family of origin and I have never been friend-less. I came to appreciate the love I did have in my life, not the one I felt I was missing. But I did hope to find that missing love. And I did.

I always planned to keep my maiden …

Midlife Crisis

Today I am grateful for all the people and things on my A-Z gratitude list I did while I was exercising. I am also grateful for Oliver and the way he follows me from place to place.

Back to Dani Shapiro's book Devotion. She had me dog-earing numerous pages. These words on p. 123 were noted:

"Who was I, and what did I want for the second half of my life? I mean, I was in the middle of life, the middle of midlife, the middle of a midlife crisis. I had been shaped by choices and decisions, not all of them conscious. I had turned left instead of right; had taken (or not taken) the trip, the flight, the challenge, the chance. Everything I had ever done had led me here-and while here wasn't a bad place at all, it also wasn't enough. Some essential piece of me was missing . . ."

I think many of us have some version of a midlife crisis. It's personal and it's real. When do we know we have survived the crisis? When do we know we have defined our own level of "…

Fits and Starts

Today I am grateful for the ability to read. Talk about something I take for granted. I am also grateful for the mix of hard copy reading material I have-including Runner's World magazine, our weekly paper, and whatever book or two I am reading at any given time.

The book I just got done with is Devotion, a memoir by Dani Shapiro. She has written several novels and another nonfiction work. She was referenced in a blog I follow. That is the blog of Lisa Bonchek Adams (http://lisabadams.com). I have mentioned Lisa before. I don't know her personally, but she is an amazing writer and a metastatic breast cancer patient. So when she suggested Shapiro's book, I followed up.

Devotion is about Shapiro's journey to find faith, to find life's meaning. The book jacket calls it a "spiritual detective story."  I like her approach in the book-102 short chapters. Lots of good stopping points, which is good for someone like me who often falls asleep when I read.

"Fi…

Fulfilling Seasons

Today I am grateful for trusted recipes. Yesterday's recipes included a turkey casserole we all like and cookies I hadn't made in quite a while--jubilee jumbles. I am also grateful to share time in the kitchen with my son.

Here's one more post about teachers and coaches. This one is about my time as a coach. I knew I wanted to be a coach before I pursued being a teacher. I was coaching before I left college. I started out as a Little League softball coach and went on to spend 10 seasons as an assistant varsity and head junior varsity softball coach. I loved playing softball and I thoroughly enjoyed my coaching experience, particularly the six years I coached at South Winneshiek with my friend Bonnie, whom I mentioned in an earlier post.

It sounds cliche to say that those teams felt like family, but we sure did seem to click. I believe that if you have team cohesion and respect, team success often follows. Bonnie worked hard to build those aspects of her teams, and she was …

Sharing Gratitude

Today I am grateful for an early morning run on trails and roads that were relatively safe. That could change as a mix of precipitation and a few inches of snow are expected later today.

I am grateful for the nice audience I had yesterday for my "Habitual Gratitude" talk. I joked with them that an easy audience is kindergartners--show up with a book to read and a smile and they love you. A tougher audience may be seniors in a required social studies class. But I knew right away I was in front of a receptive and kind audience and I appreciated that.

It meant a lot to have Darcy and Sam there and some friends who are part of my support system here.

I gathered myself and said a prayer before I headed to the venue. At that point, there's not much more you can do but wait for your turn. I feel good about how things went, but honestly couldn't tell you a lot about what I said. It just sort of fell out of me. But that's exactly why practice is important.

I was affirmed …

Gathering Gratitude

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to give my first public presentation about gratitude to a local church group. I am grateful for the chance to gather and organize my thoughts about the role of gratitude in my life.

I am also thankful for my sister Zita. It is her birthday today. Happy Birthday and thanks for being you!

I have spent hours in the last weeks preparing for this talk; first in my head, then on paper and in a PowerPoint, and most recently practicing the talk out loud. Commutes to and from work and when I am exercising have been good times to practice.

Practice. Practice gratitude. Habitually.

Putting this talk together has afforded me the opportunity to gather together the wealth of thoughts and feelings I have about gratitude and what it has meant in my life. It is amazing and humbling to me how I got from hating myself and having a pretty negative perception of myself and the world around me, to where I am today. I accept my reflection in the mirror, I have a con…

Coaches

Today I am grateful for a good morning greeting from our dog Oliver and I am grateful for the opportunity to present to others on the topic of gratitude tomorrow.

I also appreciate the many coaches I had in my younger days, and my own coaching experiences.

As I spoke of favorite teachers and a little bit about my own teaching, it was a likely place to end up going to thoughts of the coaches I had over my years involved in competitive sports. Some taught me what to do, others showed me what not to do.

When it came to running and track, I think of Jim and Sara. Jim was also my 8th grade teacher, but was the first to foster a more serious approach to running. We didn't have a track team in 8th grade, but he took the time to write out a training program for me. Sara was my track coach my junior year of high school. I had three different coaches in my four years of high school track. Sara stood out, and ranks as one of my favorite coaches overall, because of her approach. She was alw…

Life's Classrooms

Today I am grateful for the feeling of putting pen to paper, as well as the power behind the keys on my keyboard as words form on my computer screen. I am grateful for the power of writing in my life.

And I thank the many teachers who have taught me in a wide variety of life's classrooms.

Mrs. Becker and Mrs. Walker are just two of many master teachers I have had the opportunity to learn from and work with over the years. I had several college professors. . . at Waldorf College, the University of Northern Iowa, and Buena Vista University. . . that pushed me, that had me looking forward to class, that awed me with their level of knowledge, energy,  and passion, and that were just a little crazy, because that's what it takes. In my ten years of teaching, I worked beside wonderful teachers who showed me the way and who set the standard of excellence high. The last 15 years I have been working as a school counselor, but continue to have the privilege of working with teaching prof…

Master Teachers

Today I am grateful for all of the teachers I have had over the years, both in schools and in life.I am especially grateful for Mrs. Becker and Mrs. Walker.

The last two days I blogged about a little booklet Sam created and how at the end of it, he thanked me for teaching him about life and sports. That got me thinking about some of my own teachers.

Mrs. Becker was my 3rd grade teacher. Prior to that year, I don't recall liking school very much and my siblings tell me I would sometimes have physical complaints and could stay home for a day. (I guess I was playing hooky.) I was shy, insecure, and couldn't keep my "sh" and "ch" sounds straight, among other things. Mrs. Becker was different than the other teachers I had had, and she brought an energy and enthusiasm to teaching that I needed. I don't recall details, but I know I started liking school more. The only specific memory I have was playing bingo in class. But as the year went on, my feelings abou…

Life and Sports

Image
Today I am grateful for my friends in recovery. We hold each other accountable and remind one another of the value of humor along the way. I am also grateful for my progressive lens glasses.

On the last page of Sam's little booklet that I mentioned yesterday is a note to me. It reads:

"But most of all I am thankful for . . . Mom, Because I am thankful for all you've taught me about life and sports. Love, Sam"

It goes both ways buddy. Definitely both ways.

Here is a picture of his work:

This is when I am glad that I save things. I already have several boxes and totes (though they are small or medium-sized) full of Sam's schoolwork and art projects. I tell him, and myself, that we can't save it all. And when he goes through his papers he throws out a fair amount. Maybe the next time we go through some of the older boxes, he, and I, will be willing to part with more "stuff."  But he definitely got this affinity for saving things from me. Not his father…

Artwork

Today I am grateful for the places I have lived and the places I have been able to travel to. My catalog of memories and pictures is full of treasures.

I was thinking about those places after I came across something Sam had made.

Before Christmas, Sam did a little piece of artwork at school when he had some free time. We discovered the little booklet in his backpack days later. He said he forgot to give it to me. We go through his papers every couple weeks and decide what to keep and what to throw. I was intrigued by this colorful 5 x 8 inch booklet because I always like to see what Sam is up to at school, but also because it had "I am thankful . . ." on the front cover.

I added it to my pile of "potential blog material" and it has finally arrived at the top of that pile. (It's a figurative pile as well as a literal one.)

Along with different designs made out of construction paper creating each page in the book, here is what it says page by page:

I am thankful…

Super

Today I am grateful for a good movie to watch in "The Help." I'm also grateful for a chance to talk to my friend Beth and for the prayers I can offer to others. It is all I can do in some cases, but it is something.

Super is a word passing many lips this weekend because of the Super Bowl football game. I am a pro football fan, so I do like the game and I get a little sad knowing the season will then be over. It's the only pro sport I care to watch. I go way back to some Sundays when I was tired and often hungover in my younger days. I would fall asleep on the couch during the first game of the day and then wake up to eat supper and watch the end of the second game. Memories.

But I get a little tired of the hype surrounding one game; the week of pre-game, the commercials, the half-time show, and so on. So how about a little different look at super.

According to Merriam-Webster here are some of the various meanings of super:

1. of high grade or quality, used as a gen…

Review, Re-view

Today I am grateful for the weekend and time to slow down the pace I keep during the week. I am grateful for my family and friends and the unique qualities they all bring to this world and to my life.

I am done reviewing the "17 Points of Clarity" and thought you might like to review the complete list one last time. Which ones stood out for you? Why?

17 Points of Clarity 1.All any of us have is today. 2.For me, fear of the known is less than fear of the unknown. 3.Having to consider my own mortality helps me cherish my life. 4.Gratitude is a good pair of glasses to wear.It makes everything look better. 5.Laughter is always possible. 6.I can live without my breasts.Just don’t take my heart and soul. 7.Endorphins are free and very effective. 8.You can’t beat having a friend by your side. 9.Faith and a pen can trump fear and despair. 10.An open mind allows inspiration in. 11.My body is just a vehicle.The life in it is what counts.But I take care of both. 12.Drink lots of water.Then drink som…

Just For Today (Point #17)

Today I am grateful for the music I love and working ears to hear it with. I am grateful for my eyes, to see the beauty created by nature and humans.

We have arrived at point of clarity #17: "All any of us have is today."

Point #17 is purposefully the same as Point #1. It's that important. Stay present.

I came across this TEDx talk/film by cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg titled "Gratitude." It is a wonderful wrap-up to my "17 Points of Clarity." It is about 10 minutes long and contains amazing time-lapse photography as well as the wonderful voice and words of one of my favorite "gratitude gurus"--Brother David Steindl-Rast. Watch it here.

For now, I will leave you with some of the words spoken by Brother David in the film.

"You think this is just another day in your life. It's not just another day. It's the one day that is given to you, today. It's the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is…