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

Sunday, March 31, 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 a lake that was coming back to full life. We even got out our swimsuits. Okay, so it was an indoor pool, but still. We thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful day we were gifted, and it kicked up our spring fever a few notches.

On Friday morning, my husband Darcy and I headed out for a run. We stepped out of our hotel right into the sunrise. Renewal indeed! A new day underway with such beauty and hope. A few minutes into our run, we ran across an overpass spanning an interstate highway. Cars zoomed by in both directions, leaving me a little disoriented. But it also left me with this thought: I wonder how many of those drivers and passengers were thinking about today as a new day? Many were probably on their way to work or travels for the Easter holiday weekend. Were they feeling renewed and refreshed, or stale and stagnant?

Habitual gratitude practice keeps me more on the side of renewed and refreshed than stale and stagnant.

Today is a new day. What do you plan to do with it?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

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 who have commented about my blog, whether it be in person, via email or phone, or on the blog itself, I truly appreciate hearing from you. As a writer, I hope to reach others with my words, and to hear that I have done that is motivation enough to continue even when I am feeling tired or uninspired. Your words truly touch me and are very much appreciated.

Slowly, I have learned to tell my oversized ego to sit down and shut up! I have learned that a right-sized ego is possible with the humility that gratitude naturally brings with it. As my gratitude practice deepened, I gained more awareness of what mindfulness and presence are. I experience them more. At those times, the messages that have been coming through have been simple but profound: "Just keep doing what you're doing." "Be patient with the process." These were clearly messages coming from a source beyond myself. And I have been listening. Just keep blogging, one day at a time.

Blogging has also given me more confidence as a writer. It gave me the courage to pitch an idea for a column on gratitude to our local paper, and now I do a monthly column titled "Gratitude Flow."

My over- and under-sized ego kept me drinking, kept me stuck in many ways. Today, with the help of gratitude, I strive for a right-sized ego.

I will be taking a blog break for a couple of days, planning to be back posting for Easter.

Have a good day!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

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 because I started journaling about it eighteen years ago and I know it works. I wanted to impart that to anybody who happened to read this. Any gratitude practice is good, but I find that the momentum that leads to a better perception of self and surrounding world builds more strongly if it's daily practice. So today's post is post #330. I ended up taking short blog breaks when we were out of town, and also a couple of days when we had a power outage. Sure, I could have done the blog on a mobile device, but I found I appreciated the brief breaks. I still practiced gratitude those days, as I do every day, just not via the blog.

I was able to be persistent because it became an energizer and a positive focus for my writing energies. I have not run out of ideas to write about. I keep a notebook in my purse and jot down ideas  that come to me. I have many unused ideas waiting their turn. There were days where I didn't know for sure what I would write about until I sat down and started typing. There were other times that I planned out several posts around the same idea. Now, I will often begin composing my next post the evening before. I finalize it in the morning and hit publish. I appreciate that I don't get anxious or worried about my next post. I know it will be there. I know the inspiration will come. Certainly, some days the post is low-grade inspiration, but on other days, my fingers fly on the keyboard trying to keep up with my thoughts. And regular readers will see points repeated, but that is because they are worth repeating.

"Habitual Gratitude" has given me gifts I never saw coming and realized only after weeks and months of blogging. It has deepened my own level of gratitude. I feel more peace and calm. I feel more faith and hope. My forays to the dark side are shorter.

It has also given me a regular channel to which I can pour my writing energy. Before I started this blog, I always wanted to write regularly, but I was not always able to make that happen. On too many days, I would end up frustrated because I hadn't been able to honor my desire to write. My day had gotten swallowed up by other commitments. Now, I almost daily give time to this blog and the writer in me is more at peace because of the regular opportunity to compose and share.

Thank you to all who read my words. Thank you to all who inspire me.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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 my pen. They may have been fairly uncomplicated emotions at that age, but they were still mine, and writing helped me sort them out.

I continued to journal after that first diary, and I started writing poems. Dozens of journals and over 1,500 poems later, the writer in me continues to emerge. And I continue to seek the treasure of knowing myself and the surrounding world better, the treasure of self-acceptance. Writing is a key tool for me on those treasure hunts.

A year ago tomorrow, I launched "Habitual Gratitude." That leap into the blogosphere has really helped me as a writer and as a person who practices gratitude. More on that tomorrow.

For today, I will keep my eyes and ears open for other treasures.

Monday, March 25, 2013

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 Bufords with courage."  I didn't look at what he had written until I got out to my car. I was intrigued by the message and assumed that I would come across what Bufords are as I read. It took me some reading, but I eventually discovered that Mark had given the name Buford to the large abdominal wound from his major surgery in August of 2010.I cannot imagine dealing with such a surgery and such lasting complications and ongoing issues as he has had to deal with. But we all have our Bufords-our challenges, our wounds that need care and healing.

What are your Bufords? Are you facing the challenges head-on or avoiding and procrastinating? Weber definitely faces his head-on, and even throws in a sense of humor. How are you caring for yourself and helping the healing progress? Weber has plenty of support from others, but starts with a strong will and spirit all his own. "Embrace your Bufords with courage."

My mastectomy scars are two visible Bufords. I faced them soon after awakening from surgery, much like Mark Weber faced his own changed body in 2010. A less visble Buford in my life was the self-hatred I had in my teens and early twenties, fueled my alcohol. That liquid courage has been replaced with faith and a true courage that stems from healthy relationships with my Higher Power and loved ones. Courage that comes when I use the tools I have been given.

Embrace your Bufords with courage today.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

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 emotions shared through stories and life experience. Real human emotions unmasked and unashamed. Real human emotions that are both scary as hell and joyful as heaven.

Shouldn't we really all be approaching life hoping to "squeeze some joy out before we have to leave?" Aren't we really all dying? But aren't we all living TODAY? What are we waiting for? Today is a good day to go looking for some joy. I hope you find some.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

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 laughing and crying. The best kind of book, in my humble opinion.

You can read much more about Lt. Col. Weber on his Caring Bridge site here
or on the book's website here.

It can be tough to look at our own mortality. And I don't pretend to think I know anything about how Stage IV cancer patients like Mark Weber and Lisa Bonchek Adams http://lisabadams.com
feel, but I do know that my early stage cancer diagnosis nearly five years ago gave me a glimpse at mortality that I hadn't gotten before. I have had two diseases that kill people every single day. You bet I am grateful to be here.You bet I try to see the gifts in each day.

Mark Weber talks about "What do you do when life doesn't go the way you want it to?"  He clearly is moving forward with faith and courage to make the most of the time he has left. After being misdiagnosed several times, he is now 2 1/2 years out from a diagnosis that they told him only gave him months to live.

Here's another one of his lines, heard in an interview he had, when asked "What's your prognosis?" His response was "Live every day."

Already plenty to chew on, but I will continue to blog about Tell My Sons for a couple more days.


Friday, March 22, 2013

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-pity are not healthy for this recovering alcoholic.

I would rather feel part of the stream of life. We've all had our gifts and we've all had our tough times. I am not being picked on. I am experiencing life. That helps me reach out to others when I need to, but also to reach out to others to be of support and service to them.

Today I will look for present blessings and try not to dwell on past misfortunes.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

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 important.

The realization also came that true silence is hard to come by in our electrified and electronic surroundings. Even if it's quiet, there is often a buzz or hum in the background. But the closer it gets to silent, the better the calming effect seems to be. If I can't get complete silence, I'll take what I can get.

In closing, a quote I have always liked regarding listening: "There's a reason why we have two ears and one mouth. We should listen twice as much as we talk."  I will try to employ that today.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

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 they need.

I do what I can to be a good listener and provide a good example of listening to others. Listening is important to my job as a school counselor, and is key as I talk to and work with others in recovery, or maintain friendships and family connections. But it is at home that my listening skills need to be the sharpest. The people nearest and dearest to us deserve our very best. I have had to learn to slow down, put down whatever multi-tasking thing I am doing, and give full attention to the person seeking it. I still need to work on this, but I have a better awareness.

Listening also means tuning in to my Higher Power. This is where mindfulness and staying present come in. And it is also where ego needs to be checked so what my HP is saying can get through.

Two lines I have integrated into my thoughts about listening have come from my school and our practice of praying. Those lines are:

-listen with the ears of your heart
-listen to what silence may teach us

These words  help me remember that the person who needs me to listen needs me to listen with my heart as much as my ears and that silence allows a different type of voice to be heard.

Today I will listen intently.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

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 singing
d. the first day it's warm enough to wear shorts

3. SUMMER
a. the ease of taking Oliver out
b. slip ons and sandals
c. sitting on the patio
d. a cool breeze after a hot day

4. FALL
a. a break just when I get tired of the heat
b. the first cold morning and the way the air smells
c. the stunning fall colors
d. jeans and sweathshirts come back out

If you are new to my blog, 4 x 4 (or any other variation you choose) is a gratitude practice I would encourage you to try. I picked four things and then said four things I was grateful for about each. I ended up with more than sixteen reasons to be thankful. It is an easy way to give focus to gratitude and clearly shows the synergy that can be created when we apply an appreciative attitude to life.

This talk of the changing seasons does bring to mind a couple of Minnesota jokes I might as well pass along:

"There are two seasons in Minnesota: winter and road construction."
"Minnesota state bird = mosquito."

Wherever you are today, appreciate what nature is dishing out.


Monday, March 18, 2013

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 to drive me to a nearby store to purchase the bulb I needed. Changing a bulb is easy. Within seconds, problem solved. (No, I don't have any good "How many ________ does it take to screw in a light bulb?" jokes.)

And a firm reminder that habitual practice of gratitude provides a perpetual source of light and hope. The bulb of gratitude never needs replacing, as long as I keep "fueling" it from the gratitude source always available if I but pay attention.

Lessons from light bulbs. Have a good day!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

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 respects and that includes our tempers and our level of sensitivity. This is where I exhibited my humanness in the form I would rather not admit I have-harsh, selfish, and impatient.He matched me too. My husband had to remind me that "he's 11." And we started to make some progress toward a solution. With computer support, Apple tech support over the phone, and time he eventually got his iPod restored. I left while things were still downloading, so Darcy got in on helping out with the process too.

And what I like to call God's sense of humor came through. I was edgy and frustrated trying to help Sam partly because I had hoped to get a morning workout in too and it wasn't happening. I had planned to exercise indoors because we got a little snow/sleet overnight and some refreezing. I didn't want to risk it outside. As the morning wore on, the temperature warmed enough and I ended up being able to run outside in the afternoon. It was great to be out there in the fresh air and sunshine. I would have missed that if my morning had gone the way I planned it.

As the saying goes: If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him (or Her) your plans.

I appreciate the lessons my son helps teach me.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

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 yesterday morning threw us off for about an hour, and reminded me how dependent we are on electricity and technology. Talk about sporadic. Some classrooms had half of the lights working and half not. I had power to my computer and a lamp I have, but no overhead lights. Those who hoped for an early out were disappointed, but I ended up grateful the day went on as planned because much got done.
*Two of my sisters sent emails that were both witty and of a serious nature. I would say my family is pretty good at pulling off that combination.
*Sam faced a technical difficulty of his own making and weathered it well, relatively speaking.
*We watched the movie "Hoosiers" which is over 25 years old but is a great movie in my opinion.It says a lot about redemption, among other things.

It was an interesting day with these odd little circumstances, but in the end, it was a good day.Gratitude helps me see the good in days, even when the day isn't all good.

Friday, March 15, 2013

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" or "God box." It's a little box my stepdaughter gave me for Christmas one year. I just put little pieces of paper in the box.The crucial part is what I put on the pieces of paper before I put them in the box and "let them go." I write a fear, a concern, a worry, about someone I care about, a situation, or about myself. I sometimes include a prayer as I do this. I need to take such actions to help me let go, to help me "give it to God."

I am grateful for my friend Terry. She gave me my first "worry box."

There is no total cure for the trouble behind my eyes. But I can put the darn thing in pretty solid remission if I keep up my regular practice of gratitude. It's hard to feel sorry for yourself when you are counting your blessings.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Stuff of Life

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, strawberry flavoring, cream, and chocolate. But I do know that it was quite delicious. And I know I appreciated the consideration my non-alcoholic friends showed to this alcoholic while they partook of alcohol. I am deeply blessed to have recovery and support in that recovery.

The program for "Footloose" allowed me to read about the talented cast and crew of this production. The movie "Footloose" was released in February of 1984, our freshmen year of college. I didn't watch the big screen version of this movie with any of the friends I saw the live version with last weekend. I watched it with my Waldorf College softball teammates on our spring break that year. It evokes memories of "hunk" Kevin Bacon as Ren McCormack and Chris Penn as the ever-entertaining Willard Hewitt who is fond of quoting his mother's words of wisdom. It brings to mind a great soundtrack with songs like "Holding Out for a Hero," "Somebody's Eyes," "Let's Hear it for the Boy," "I'm Free," and the title track.

But it also evokes memories of that softball season. The friends I made. The fun we had. The traveling we did. The culmination of the season was making it to the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) national tournament and finishing 4th in the nation. Cherished memories sparked by some of this "stuff" of life.

The "stuff" of my life hasn't cluttered things up, it has offered continuing inspiration. For that, I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

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 be even more worried. We partied. We drank alcohol. We stayed out late and drove too fast. We didn't always make good, healthy decisions. That goes with the territory of teendom I know, but this mom hopes her son makes better choices than she did. I know one thing: I will be paying closer attention than my parents did. That sounds critical, but the reality is they had too many to keep track of and by the time I was a teen, at child #11, they were probably exhausted from worrying about my older siblings. I will never know how many nights they laid awake waiting for everyone to get home.

Speaking of that dance of life, one of the reasons Sheila couldn't join us was her own daughter's dance competition. She was where she needed to be. Life is about such priorities.

What am I doing today to keep the dance of life going? It starts with gratitude for me. When I approach life with appreciation, I see the blessings, I feel the unconditional love, and I want to contribute, I want to serve and share. I want to help others find what is worth dancing over.

The dance of life. Are you joining in?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

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, chance, and choking-which a couple of us nearly did because we were laughing so hard. We really had some cheap fun. My friends also took advantage of the opportunity to check out my prosthetics. In more ways than one. All chuckles aside, I hope it helped the non-breast cancer patients to see what it can all be about to go through that harrowing ordeal and emerge whole in a new way.

And apparently it doesn't matter whether you are pre-teen, teen, young adult, or hitting midlife, it seems that at least some bodily functions will become part of the discussion whenever a group of friends gathers. I guess that speaks to the comfort level we have.

I am grateful for that comfort level. Grateful also for the memories we reminisced about this weekend, and the new memories we created. The world could use more chortling.

Today's inside joke: ramekin.








Monday, March 11, 2013

Old Friends and Open Doors

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 "Footloose." Melissa and Tracy are in front, with me, Faith, Rita, Beth, and Lori in the back. An 8th friend, Linda, was able to join us for a few hours on Saturday and it was great to see her. Some others couldn't make it, including Sheila, but we took turns talking to her on the phone on Saturday evening.

We laughed A LOT! On Saturday night one line heard was "I have been laughing so damn hard I got a headache." A good problem to have I guess. We had adjoining rooms at our hotel and opened the door between the rooms when we arrived and that door pretty much stayed open all weekend. That is symbolic of our friendships. The door has stayed open. I haven't kept in close touch with some of these friends, but we have remained connected. Some of us shared 12 years of school together, some of us just 4 years, but we made lasting memories and long-standing friendships. Thirty years later, this was our first girls' weekend, but we hope to make it an annual event.

We are mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, career women. We are around the age some of our parents were when we were raising some hell in high school. Now that alone brings some solid perspective.

We marveled at how we hadn't really changed all that much, but yet we have changed. Our life experiences and our vocabulary have grown over the years. We are indeed wiser for it all.

Some of our discussions fall under "what was said in Madison stays in Madison." but tomorrow I will share some of what had us chuckling and chortling.

For now, an inside joke for those in attendance:  "Was that a j or a g?"

Thank you to my friends for a fun time and for connecting me to the stream of life that continues to take us all to amazing, scary, exhilirating places.



Friday, March 8, 2013

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 was referring to an even broader human circle. The people who built the house I live in and enjoy. Those who constructed the roads that make my transportation easy and comfortable. The doctors, surgeons, nurses and others who were part of my cancer surgeries and treatment. This list could go on forever.

It is like opening your eyes a little wider and seeing more than you saw before. That is where Einstein's quotes take me. That is where gratitude takes me.

Have a good day! I will be taking a blog break for a couple days. See you next week.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

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. That brings more gratitude. If I can't take credit for it, gratitude allows me to thank the provider . . . whether Internet or Higher.

Look for miracles. They abound in this moment.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

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 coming up in his life-marriage and grad school/internship. Darcy and Arthur headed to the Y to work out together. 

Just quality time together. Nothing major. Nothing fancy. Just time together.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

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 heading into it, so that awareness helped. But I still got overly tired and less than pleasant. Some of the busy-ness had to happen, some of it was self-imposed. But I am making progress in understanding how important balance is in my life.

Spinning doesn't allow me to see the little things. But gratitude helps bring it all in perspective and helps me downshift to a more sane pace so I can see the gifts of the moment.

Monday, March 4, 2013

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 tournament anticipation for our boys' hockey team.

Arthur is anticipating an interview for a graduate program, Alyssa is anticipating her senior art show.They are both anticipating their July wedding.

Emily is anticipating her high school graduation.

We are anticipating the return to daylight savings time and spring too.

When I stay grateful, anticipation is fed regularly. I anticipate my walk with Oliver now will give my legs a stretching and my lungs some fresh air to breathe.

Have a nice day!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

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 she prepares for her senior art exhibit
*my stepdaughter Emily as she works hard to manage two jobs
*my son Sam as he dutifully does his confirmation class and school assignments
*our 4-H group and others as we did our shift of packing meals at Feed My
Starving Children yesterday
*my co-workers as we take pride in our jobs and the school we represent
*school pride as our boys' hockey team heads to the state tournament and our
girls' basketball is one game away from doing the same

I continue to work on not exhibiting P.R.I.D.E. (Pretty Ridiculous Individual Directing Everything.)

I can only direct my attitude and actions. Today I am feeling scattered yes, but quite grateful too.And that gratitude tends to pull the loose ends back together.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

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. Grateful for much-needed rest to also help bring a renewed perspective.

Friday, March 1, 2013

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 Martin Luther King, Jr. is thought-provoking:

"Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on it. It means rather, that the act will no longer remain as a barrier to this relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start."

Forgiveness, giving it and receiving it, truly does create a fresh start. So does the practice of gratitude. Where can I apply each today?