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Showing posts from March, 2013

Rebirth and Renewal

Today I am grateful for safe travels and for the excitement/hope my stepdaughter Emily has for her post-secondary school choice. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver. He cracks me up when he races around the house shaking himself off after a bath.

Happy Easter! Easter and spring are times of rebirth and renewal. Awakenings come in many different forms. This was a long winter in our neck of the woods. We've had snow cover for four solid months, and it is still hanging on. The rebirth of trees, leaves, and grass are still weeks away. My skin craves sun and fresh air after months of limited exposure.

We traveled south for this trip. Just four hours south. But it was enough to give us a taste of the rebirth of spring that hasn't made it's way this far north yet. Birds were more numerous and more vocal. The snow cover was mostly gone, and the brown earth held the promise of green grass. Friday it warmed into the sixties and we soaked it up, walking in our shirt sleeves around…

Right-Sized Ego

Today I am grateful for yesterday's sunshine and moderate temperatures. In the upper Midwest this time of the year, the 40's are considered moderate and enough cause to roll your windows down, even if only part of the way. I am also grateful for what recovery from alcoholism and the practice of gratitude have taught me about right-sized ego.

Doing this blog has been a lesson in humility. I tried to keep my expectations reasonable when I started "Habitual Gratitude," but my "oversized ego" clamored for more readers, followers, pageviews, comments, more kudos, more validation. I'm not proud of that aspect of my ego, but I'm going for honesty here. After the first weeks and months, I realized that my ego and my expectations were at times taking some of the joy out of blogging. This new action of blogging about gratitude is itself validating enough. I am getting my own kudos via more peace and serenity in my life. That is more than enough.

To the people…

The Leap I Took One Year Ago Today

Today I am grateful for the continuing inspiration and ideas that come to me for this blog, and the many sources--human, divine, and other--that they come from.

I am also grateful that my sister, simply by chance using "habitual gratitude" in an email, gave me the impetus needed to take the leap into the blogosphere with my very first post on March 27, 2012.Thanks Danita!  You can read that post here.

It was a leap of faith I took because I wasn't entirely confident in my technical abilities. I'm still not. My blog isn't too flashy and doesn't have many bells and whistles. But I have learned to add pictures and to be able to change the names of links, like I just did above. It was a leap of faith because I wasn't sure it would be sustainable, that I would have enough ideas and energy to keep it going.

It was my goal to blog as often as possible. You can't call it habitual if it isn't. And I already knew the value of practicing regular gratitude b…

Buried Treasure

Today I am grateful for time and conversation with my friend Jenny. I am also grateful for the writing I have done throughout my life.

When I was preparing my presentation on gratitude for a local church group in early February, I was looking for my first diary. I got it for Christmas when I was 11. I couldn't find it then, but of course a few weeks later I came across it. I found the treasure buried in a box inside of a tote. I had to move a couple other totes to get to this tote. Yes, it was officially buried.

Now it is found and free, and I am enjoying reading a few pages at a time. It was a gift when I first got it and it remains a gift today. I have to laugh at my handwriting-sometimes stilted and sometimes barely legible. And the variations on "Today was an okay day" that I liked to use often.

But that diary was the beginning of my life as a writer. I felt the value of putting pen to paper. I felt the release of emotions coming from my heart and flowing through m…

Embrace Your Bufords

Today I am grateful for Goodwill and the win-win of downsizing for us and helping others. I am also grateful for my brother Morry (Happy Birthday!) and all five of my brothers.

I have one more blog post regarding Tell My Sons. Like me, Mark Weber is a journal-keeper. It helped him pull together his book, a series of letters to his sons, in about six weeks. That is an amazing time period considering many books take years, or at least months, to come to fruition.What a gift all those years of journaling are now to him, to his family, and to all those reading his book. If you already keep journals, I don't have to convince you of their value. If you currently don't keep a journal, but have thought about it, start squeezing some more joy out of life by keeping track of the details and emotions and twists and turns of life.

You may be wondering what the title of today's blog post is all about. When he signed my copy of his book, Mark Weber left me this note: "Embrace your …

Squeeze Some Joy Out

Today I am grateful for my sister Ruth (Happy Birthday!) and all seven of my sisters. I am also grateful for the thriving community I live in.

Back to Tell My Sons. When I went to Mark Weber's book signing, I had to wait in line for about 30 minutes before it was my turn to greet him and get my copy signed. In that time, I started reading his book and was pulled in by these words to his sons in the final paragraph of the preface to the book:

"I hate writing this letter, but I would hate not writing it even more. Nothing can replace the long talks I hoped to have while fishing or driving to some far-off adventure with you, just as I got to do with my dad. But thankfully, I've been blessed with enough time to pass along the most compelling experiences of my life. As sad as the reasons are for writing any of this, let's see if we can squeeze some joy out of it before I have to leave.  Love, Dad"

It is a small dose of what you will find throughout the book-real human …

Suggested Reading: "Tell My Sons"

Today I am grateful for warm sunshine and spring cleaning, and for opportunities to be of service, like helping out at an Easter Bunny breakfast this morning.

I am also grateful that I had the opportunity to go to a book signing at our local library earlier this year. The author is Lt. Col. Mark Weber and his book is Tell My Sons.  He has terminal gastrointestinal cancer and wrote the book to his three young sons. He drew on twenty years of journaling to create a series of letters to his boys. The letters tell stories and impart the wisdom and lessons a father hopes to pass along to his children. He wants his sons to have access to those lessons long after he is gone. Lt. Col. Weber succeeded in his goal, but in the process has reached far more people than his own children.

People react to life-threatening illness in many different ways and with a range of emotions. That is to be expected. The courage and frankness that Weber exemplifies makes this a book that will have you both laugh…

Present Blessings or Past Misfortunes?

Today I am grateful for a working washer and dryer and the fact that I don't mind doing laundry. I am also grateful for the words of others that inspire and motivate me in so many different ways.

My current gratitude journal has daily quotes in it. Yesterday's quote was this one from Charles Dickens:

"Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty, not on your past
misfortunes of which all men have some."

Am I stuck in the past and regrets or am I living in the hope of today? Being stuck in the past is an energy-zapper. It darkens this day. But being aware of my blessings, big and small, brings light and a lightness to my step.

The other thought that comes to my mind when I read this quote is that I am not alone. If I get into the "poor mes" and dwell on how rough I have had it, how no one else could possibly understand, it's just another way to isolate and feel sorry for myself. I don't know about you, but isolating and self-pi…

Keep Listening

Today I am grateful for my job and the people I come in contact with there. I am also grateful for two ears that work.

Yesterday as I tried to listen more intently, I noticed a few things. Listening intently was an effective way of helping me slow down. That is a good thing. I can get wound pretty tight if I don't pause from time to time. I can fall into that trap both at work and at home. Listening is a built-in downshift.

I was reminded of how fortunate I am to have good hearing. There are many people who struggle with hearing, and many more who can't hear. I enjoyed the music I was listening to on my way to work. It included "Carole King: Her Greatest Hits."

As I made the effort to be a better listener, I realized that it helped me better see and more accurately read other people's facial expressions. When we are "too busy" to listen or we are multi-tasking, we not only miss some of the words spoken, we also miss the non-verbals, which are just as im…

Listening With the Ears of Our Hearts

Today I am grateful for the arrival of spring. Even though it doesn't look or feel like it here, it gives me hope. I am also grateful for words.

I have talked about my co-worker Germ and the spiritual guidance she offers many of us, as well as the Lenten series word-of-the-week she is doing during Lent. Here are two posts about two of those words:

Grounding  and  Forgiveness

Lent is winding down already. Because of different schedules and other meeting commitments, I am missing the other word-of-the-week sessions, but Germ shared another one of the words with me: listening.

Listening is so important, so necessary to healthy and trustworthy relating. I worry that our society is losing this skill for many reasons. The way we communicate is less and less about face-to-face communication and more about screens. And our young people are growing up bombarded with information from so many sources that they aren't learning how to give one person, one conversation the time and attention…

A Four Seasons 4 x 4

Today I am grateful for nature and the beauty and awe it provides on a regular basis. I am grateful for the ever-changing natural world, and my realization of the very small part I am in the larger scheme.

To say I am grateful for the local weather today would be a bit of a stretch however. We have fresh snow blowing around and wind chills that are below zero. Doesn't spring arrive this week? I love living where the seasons change, but it does get to be a challenge when the change comes slower than you had hoped for. I spent the first 33 years of my life in Iowa, the next two in South Dakota, and we've been in Minnesota since 2000. This is all I've known . . . from stifling humidity to frigid temperatures.

So it strikes me that today would be a good day to do a 4 x 4 about our wonderful four seasons.

1. WINTER
a. the beauty of fresh snow
b. heat that works
c. no bugs
d. comfy sweathsirts to wear

2. SPRING
a. rebirth and renewal
b. new green grass coming up
c. birds singi…

No Replacement Bulb Needed

Today I am grateful for the home we live in, the rooms that provide our living space and heat in the cold winter months. I am also grateful for this blog and the focus it gives me.

Speaking of our house, in the last couple of weeks I have had to replace four light bulbs in various places. Two of them were within a day of each other. After the first two happened, I was already considering the analogies that come to mind. When the other two happened, I knew I would be blogging about it.

The first was a 3-way bulb in a lamp in our family room. The second was one of our front porch lights. The third was in the basement stairwell. The fourth was a bulb in the lamp that sits near our computer desk, where I am usually doing my blogging and emailing.

I was reminded how dependent we are on electricity to provide light, and reminded of how fortunate I am to live where electricity is available and mostly reliable. I had to go buy one new bulb, but the others I had on hand. More gratitude. A car …

Oh the humanness!

Today I am grateful for a good run and time to myself yesterday afternoon, along with good tunes on my radio. I am also grateful for coffee . . . the smell of it brewing, the taste, the morning it welcomes.

I am grateful for the connections I have with other women in recovery. They help me so much.

Yesterday morning my humanness was in true form. I handled frustration in flawed fashion, like a good human will do from time to time. My son Sam had put himself in a frustrating situation by locking himself out of his iPod. He did this later Friday afternoon, and was upset and frustrated by the predicament. (Though I felt it necessary to remind him of his part a couple more times.) He weathered it pretty well Friday evening and took a break. But Saturday morning, he was itching for a solution, and I was itching to get some stuff done that I had been hoping to get to all week. I was also itching to get my workout in. Too many itches to scratch all at once.

Sam and I are alike in many respec…

Just a Random Day

Today I am grateful for a relaxing evening at home last night and for the way the sunshine comes in our front windows this time of the day.

Yesterday was a day of random happenings and laughter and flukes. In other words, it was a good day. The trouble behind my eyes flared up a little bit . . . at work once, and on my drive home too.But the flare up was short and I turned off the mind-fullness and replaced it with mindfulness.

Here are some of those random happenings:

*I was reminded that one of my best blog followers lives with me. My husband Darcy complimented me on a recent post and printed it out to remind himself of the message.
*I saw tears from two different people for two different reasons. Nothing serious. Just raw human emotion. It was kind of refreshing.
*My stepdaughter Emily had a true "blonde moment" involving her car and the parking brake. We'll just leave it at that. But I got a good laugh just when I needed one.
*Sporadic power outages at my school yes…

A Tool for the Trouble Behind My Eyes

Today I am grateful for eyes that see and ears that hear. I am grateful for a healthier perspective on life via healthier thoughts. That is where gratitude comes in.

I have a serious thinking problem. I think too much, too long, too often, too exhaustively. Then I end up exhausted. Big surprise there. That area behind my eyes, also known as my brain, is the source of much chagrin, much worry, much wasted energy. It drove me to drink and it kept me drinking. It drove me to beat myself up for never being "enough."

I have had to train and re-train this brain to help keep me more sane. Gratitude has been a key player in my re-training program. From self-pity and negativity as my default modes, to more often feeling grateful and accepting life on life's terms. I talk frequently about the tools I use to cultivate gratitude: journaling, A-Z gratitude lists, gratitude letters, 3 x 3, and others.

But I have another tool for the trouble behind my eyes. I call it a "worry box…

The Stuff of Life

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Today I am grateful for a run in the sunshine with Darcy and Oliver. I'm also grateful for my job, even when the day in-day out "stuff" wears me out.

Below is a picture of a couple of souvenirs I brought back from our weekend in Madison. I am a memento-keeper and have boxes and totes full of "stuff."  But it is more than stuff, it is the stuff of life. This stuff tells stories, preserves memories, makes connections, brings gratitude.


"The Fireside" was the name of the dinner theater where we were treated to a wonderful meal and a great production of "Footloose."  I enjoy eating, and especially so when someone else does all the work and I get to be in the company of old friends. I have never gone hungry, truly hungry, in my whole life. I am deeply blessed.

The colorful fan came with my non-alcoholic version of the show's signature drink. I can't remember what they called it and I don't know what was all in it besides ice, strawber…

The Dance of Life

Today I am grateful for Darcy's safe travels home from a business trip and for some time for the two of us to catch up and converse. I am also grateful for perspective and reflection.

I am ever the reflective one. There was much laughter and fun this weekend, but there was also discussion of difficult times, aging, life's challenges. None of us has remained unscathed by life.

Sheila's brother died at 47 on New Year's Eve. Beth's dad died a few weeks later on January 24, my son's 11th birthday. We have lost parents, in-laws, our youth. Cancer has directly and indirectly impacted our group. Our children have had challenges and scares. But yet the dance of life continues.

Our children are growing up and a few in the group are already empty nesters. At 11, I can't believe how quickly Sam's childhood is going. I am both excited and concerned for his teen years. If he and his friends end up doing some of the things my friends and I did in high school, I will…

One Chortle After Another

Today I am grateful for the wisdom shared by others in recovery and for Oliver's ability to remind me to slow down and relax.

This weekend gave me fodder for at least a couple more blog posts, so here goes.

One particularly hilarious situation from the weekend happened when we got on a roll with words that start with "ch."  I don't even remember what got us going, but let me tell you, once the word chortle got thrown in there by Melissa, it was one chortle after another.

Chortle-a snorting, joyful laugh or chuckle. Indeed! And I learned something new when I came home and looked the word up-chortle comes from combining the words snort and chuckle. (It was not the only vocabulary lesson we had this weekend, but I am not allowed to write about some of the others.)

I won't do it justice, and I must protect the innocent, but some of the words that flew around were choices, changes, challenges, cheating, cheetos, Chicago, cheese, Chia, childless, childish, chafing, c…

Old Friends and Open Doors

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Today I am grateful for safe travels for my friends and I to and from our girls' weekend in Madison, WI. I am also grateful that Sam and I could join Emily at her wrestling banquet last night.

As my friend Lori dubbed it, this weekend was "March Madison" for us while some of you were gearing up for that other "March Madness."  Several of us attended our friend Sheila's brother's funeral back in early January and the idea for a weekend getaway was discussed. We were shocked and saddened by Chris' sudden death, and with three of us already having had cancer, I think we were feeling our mortality and that lost sense of security that starts to come with age. (Though a different type of security does come with age-self-security. There was much evidence of that this weekend.)

It came together pretty quickly and seven of us spent two nights together in Madison. The picture below was taken at the Fireside Dinner Theater before we saw a great production of &…

Piggyback

Today I am grateful for rest and a comfortable bed. I am also grateful for my marriage to Darcy.

Yesterday I shared a quote by Albert Einstein. I was reading a little about the great physicist when I came across another quote of his. It is a good piggyback on yesterday's quote.

"A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer lives are based on the labors of other people living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving."  (Albert Einstein, 1930)

Miracles are evident when I consider the people who have helped shape my life, the people who I have crossed paths with that ended up touching me profoundly. From my parents and siblings, to life-saving friends in high school and college, to teammates, athletes I coached, friends in recovery, co-workers, students, their parents, fellow runners, other cancer patients, to my husband, son, stepchildren, and so many more.

But I think Einstein wa…

Somewhere in Between

Today I am grateful for sweat, endorhins, and clarity. I am grateful that I have willingness to continue to learn and grow, and I am grateful for my many teachers and my Higher Power.

Here is a quote from Albert Einstein I came across a few weeks ago. I jotted it down in the "blog notebook" I carry in my purse so I can put an idea on paper before I forget it.

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is."

I tend to be more of a gray area person. I am somewhere in between. But I aspire to look at everything as a miracle. Habitual practice of gratitude has me closer to that than I have ever been. Little miracles like I have an Internet connection. Like when I type, the words come up on the screen. Like fingers that work. You get the idea.

I become humbled. I am surrounded by amazing things, by life in many forms. And there is very little in it all that I can take credit for myself. Very little…

Snow Day!

Today I am grateful for nature's beauty and a bonus snow day yesterday. I am also grateful for open lines of communication with family and friends.

My school rarely has a snow day, nor does my son's. A storm has to be bad enough or timed right.Yesterday it was both. My stepdaughter Emily's school is more likely to close, and they did too. We probably ended up with about 10 inches of snow. We also had a house full, with my stepson Arthur and his fiance Alyssa being here. But that afforded opportunities for family time and conversations that wouldn't have happened if all of our plans hadn't changed.

Sam and I did some shoveling together and then he played in the snow piles for awhile like he used to do.The "kids" had a chance to head to Target and lunch at Subway together. The snow stopped and the roads improved, so Emily and Alyssa headed out for some shopping and bonding time. I got a short nap in. Arthur and I had some conversation about the big events c…

Spinning in Overdrive

Today I am grateful for family time and for Sam's laughter. It warms my heart.

I am also grateful I recognize the danger of spinning in overdrive and have learned to slow down sooner rather than later.

I used to operate in overdrive most of the time. I had lots to do, lots of motivation to do it, and typically lots of energy. But not enough time. Excessive overdrive creates underlying pressure. Pressure builds and it needs to escape. My escape used to be drinking. I would drink to intoxication and let everything go for a few hours. I drank in overdrive too.

I sometimes still miss the escape that alcohol provided, the total abandon that came with it. But it is fleeting. I turn to my healthy escapes now-running, writing, blogging, practicing gratitude. And I catch myself spinning in overdrive sooner than I used to. I guess I am learning to downshift sooner.

Last week was one of those weeks where I was "spinning off the face of the earth."  I knew it would be a full week h…

Anticipation

Today I am grateful for connections with others in recovery from alcoholism. Those connections help me maintain a healthier path. I am also grateful for faith.

The word anticipation is on my mind today. Looking forward. A pleasant expectation.

Anticipation. I often think of the Heinz Ketchup commercial from the 1970's that featured Carly Simon's song titled "Anticipation." Watch it here.

There's anticipation for looming snowstorms . . . and the hope of a snow day. Many times this winter, a storm was talked up a week out, then didn't materialize. The current storm has us in line for a fair amount of snow. It will probably be snowing very soon, if the radar is accurate. What will that mean by tomorrow morning?

I am anticipating a "girls weekend" with several of my friends from high school this coming weekend.

Sam is anticipating a field trip with his classmates, then his spring break, just days away.

At my school, there's plenty of state tourname…

Scattered Pride

Today I am grateful for the healthy pride I have, and what I have learned about unhealthy P.R.I.D.E.

I am also grateful for a phone conversation with my friend Jenny. According to my phone, it lasted all of 18 minutes, but it got us caught up on each other's lives at least some.

As I talked about yesterday, with the hectic days and some exhaustion, I have been feeling a bit scattered. But I like that word scattered today. Scattered gratitude and scattered pride. I'll take scattered pride over shattered pride, though I've known both. We all have.

Pride can be a pitfall, but it isn't entirely bad. The right kind of pride has us feeling good about our efforts and contributions. The wrong kind of pride has us taking too much credit or attempting to exert too much control.

Here's where some of that right kind of pride scatters:

*my husband Darcy and the supportive father he is
*my stepson Arthur as he prepares for his first grad school interview
*his fiance Alyssa as …

Appreciating the Tiredness

Today I am grateful for the physical and emotional exhaustion that tell me I had a full and productive week. I am also grateful for an early run as daylight arrived this morning, Oliver by my side.

It was a busy week at work. They usually are, but this one moreso. It was what I like to call "a good busy." There were a couple of days I wish I would have had a good pedometer to wear. The steps racked up. I have to head back to school this morning for a registration event.

I do not always handle tired very well, however. Just ask my family. I can be a real bear when I get overly tired and then decide to open my mouth. But I have learned to open my mouth and apologize too. I had to do some of that last night. Then I fell asleep early.

Appreciating the tiredness helps me keep it all in perspective. Grateful to have a job to wear me out. Grateful Darcy and I got to a cycling class at the Y together. Grateful to have a family to make a meal for even when I feel all tapped out. Gr…

Forgiveness: A Fresh Start

Today I am grateful for forgiveness. It helps lighten the load and brings renewal. I am also grateful for the wisdom shared with me by others. I have many teachers.

On Wednesday, I was able to attend the third of the Lenten series "word of the week" that I referred to in my post on February 22. You can read that post here.

Forgiveness comes in many shapes and sizes and can be directed at self, others, institutions, God, and on and on. I appreciate that my husband Darcy is quick to forgive and forget when we have an argument. He has helped me get better at that myself. I appreciate that recovery from alcoholism offers me many opportunities to forgive myself. Forgiveness and acceptance go hand in hand.

We had a nice conversation about forgiveness on Wednesday. I was intrigued by it all, but especially by our discussion of being mad at God and how forgiveness can play into our relationship with God.All I know is that God can handle my anger better than I can.

This quote by Mar…