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Showing posts from June, 2013

G.K. Chesterton: Master Essayist

Today I am grateful for the new knowledge my practice of gratitude and this blog open up to me.I am grateful to remain teachable.

I first mentioned G.K. Chesterton in my post from June 9th of this year. You can read that post here. I did a little research and reading to find out more about him. As a writer, I am always curious about other writers and some of the inspiration behind the words. I learned that Chesterton's full name is Gilbert Keith Chesterton. He was British, born in 1874, dying in 1936.

He was a prolific writer across several genres. He wrote nearly 100 books and thousands of essays. He also wrote poetry and was probably best known for the "Father Brown" fiction series, about a priest sleuth. There is even a society called the American Chesterton Society that continues to promote his writing today. On the society's website, they commend his foresight and how he wrote about issues that continue to challenge us: from social injustice to attacks on the fa…

The "Ultimate" Bag

Today I am grateful for a good 4-H camp experience for my son Sam. I am also grateful for my five senses. The last time I checked, they were all in good working order. You may want to check yours. It's a good dose of gratitude right off the bat.

In helping Sam get packed for camp, I decided to let him use a bag that has been mine for a long time. It was almost time to retire the bag. I can't remember when I got it, but it had to be around 25 years ago. I don't remember where I bought it, but it's not a brand name model and it wasn't expensive. The name on the tag is "Ultimate." (Though if you would have asked me about that name all these years I have had it in my possession, I would have had no idea it said that without looking at the bag itself.)

I got my money's worth and then some. It has covered many miles, been packed and unpacked dozens and dozens of times, been put in and taken out of a wide variety of vehicles. It may have even flown a couple …

Escape Clause

Today I am grateful for an early morning bike ride with my husband and a break in the humidity. I am also grateful for a roof over my head and food in the refrigerator, two things so often taken for granted.

This was the quote in my gratitude journal earlier this week:

"If you can't be thankful for what you receive, be thankful for what you escape." (Unknown)

Gratitude's escape clause. Even if you overlook the gifts, and we all do, consider the undesirables that passed you by. That is good fortune at work in your life. The accident you narrowly missed. The poor choice that didn't come back to haunt you. The car repair that was cheap instead of expensive. Making it home safe when others didn't. A house still standing when two doors down a fire destroyed everything.

Even when an undesirable comes along, and they always do, gratitude's escape clause can still be applied. A Stage I cancer diagnosis rather than a Stage IV. The house is gone but no one was hurt…

Overheating But Not Overanalyzing

Today I am grateful for the varied weather we get here and for ceiling and floor fans that work. I am also grateful that two of our three wall unit air conditioners are in working order.

Our house was built in the early 1970's and has hot water heat. I appreciate that because it is not as dry as forced-air heat is. But it means we aren't set up for central air conditioning. I do miss that from our previous home. We make do with the wall units, ceiling fans, and floor fans. When it comes down to it, the days we need AC only add up to a few weeks a year. It has been quite warm and very humid in recent days, but after snow in May, it seemed wrong to complain about it.

We decided it was time to kick the air on though. Guess what? Two of the three units work, but not the one in our bedroom. The bedrooms are on the top floor and bear the brunt of the heat. So. . . we do miss that AC unit. It will take some time to get it fixed/replaced. But I am trying to keep it in perspective. I …

The Burn Barrel

Today I am grateful for conversations yesterday with my stepson Arthur and my friend Sheila. Thanks to you both! I am also grateful for memories of growing up on a farm.

One such memory involves having a burn barrel. I was thinking about it the other day when Sam and I were burning some branches in our fire pit. We always end up with branches down after thunderstorms with any amount of wind, but we have also had some tree-trimming crews in our neighborhood trimming branches near power lines. They are usually pretty good about cleaning up what they cut, but a small pile got left behind, so Sam was sawing that up and we were burning that too.

Growing up, we had a burn barrel in our cow yard, not too far from the house, but through a gate/fence. It was a metal barrel about four to five feet high. Food scraps went to the cats and dogs or on the gardens for fertilizer. Metal and glass were reused whenever there was a use for them. (Think old glass peanut butter or jelly jars.) If not, they…

Go Yankees!

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Today I am grateful for an enjoyable baseball season for my son this year and for cool morning air.

Congrats to the Yankees! Not those Yankees, these Yankees:



This is my son Sam's baseball team last evening after they finished their regular season 15-0. Good job boys and thanks to the coaches for a great season! They lost a game in a weekend tournament, and I think it's good for a team to have a loss to handle and learn from. They have the league's post-season tournament this week, and hopefully will continue to play well.

Sure, it's nice to win, and fun. But what I appreciate about this team and this season is that the coaches seem to have priorities straight; do your best, work hard, improve, support your teammates, show good sportsmanship, believe in yourself.  I also appreciate that the parents are supportive, but from what I witnessed, not too intense. The boys get along well and have fun. I think that has contributed to their success too.

Good job! I am grateful…

Just Being

Today I am grateful for safe travels over the weekend and for a chance to practice "just being."

Just being. Staying present in the moment. Observing. Listening more, talking less. It's not a bad approach to apply in any situation. This weekend it included a shower for my stepson Arthur's fiance Alyssa. I appreciated meeting more of her family and having the chance to spend time with them. It was a pleasant afternoon.

Just being. Just being at the right place at the right time. On our way home yesterday we stopped at a rest area. A handicapped woman fell in the restroom. She had someone else with her, but after assuring us that she was okay, I helped her companion lift her back to the stable grasp of her walker.I appreciated being able-bodied enough to help. I gave thanks for my own mobility.

Just being. Just being flexible when plans change. My son's 4-H camp has had to be delayed a day because of storm damage sustained at the camp. That threw a wrench into som…

Splurge

Today I am grateful for a cool breeze and friends in recovery who teach me what living life a day at a time is all about.

I am thinking of Mark Weber's family today. His funeral is this morning. I am also thinking of those impacted by storms in our area overnight. We were spared this time, almost exactly a year since we had a destructive windstorm go through our community, leaving us without power for a couple days after taking down hundreds of trees.

I treated myself to a pedicure and manicure yesterday. Professionally done. I had never had a pedicure before, and had just one manicure years ago. It always seemed like an unneccesary extravagance, and why spend money on it when I could take care of my own nails? Besides, I was always tough on my hands and feet, with all my activities, so nice nails wouldn't last long anyway. Yesterday was a splurge, but I'm glad I did it. I used money earned from the monthly column I write for our local newspaper.

I am a low-maintenance ga…

What Are You Counting?

Today I am grateful for shade trees on hot days and for enough of a breeze to keep the bugs away. I am grateful for the women in the BC support group I attend, the connections we have made, and the laughter we share.

I am also grateful for what I have learned from practicing gratitude.

This was the quote for yesterday in my gratitude journal:

"Better to lose count while naming your blessings than to lose your blessings by counting your troubles."  (Maltbie Davenport Babcock)

I hadn't seen that quote before, but it hits on one of the best lessons I have learned from practicing gratitude. I can't be grateful and feel sorry for myself at the same time. I'm either in the solution or the problem. Which one do I choose?

From pen to paper in my journal, to typed words on a screen for this blog, to letters, A-Z lists, gratitude walks, and more; gratitude practice helps me count my blessings. When I pause and focus on what I have, what is going well, I "invent" …

Early Losses, Late Grief

Today I am grateful for a beautiful evening last night to enjoy the outdoors. I am also grateful for the work of healing from pain. It brings me to a better place.

Here is an example of that healing from pain. I grew up on a farm and cats were always around. They stayed outside the house, unless you didn't get the back door closed fast enough and one got in for a little bit. But they didn't stay out of my heart. From a young age, I enjoyed the new litters of kittens. That is, if we could find them. Cats, at least our farm cats, are known for going into hiding to give birth and during the early weeks of life for the new batch. Like so many animals, baby kittens are just about the cutest. Once their eyes opened and they got more mobile, we would see them out and about.

I would often name the kittens in a new litter and pick out a favorite. I recall crawling into an old milk cooler (It was the size of a large freezer and it held the 10-gallon cans of milk we filled with each day&…

Soul Awakenings

Today I am grateful for an early morning run with Darcy in the cool air. I am also grateful for ears that can hear--even when they are hearing the somewhat annoying squawking of some crows.

That's the thing about gratitude. If I can put annoying things in perspective by being grateful in a wider sense, then they seem less bothersome.

As I read "Where the Red Fern Grows" I thought about my own experience with animals and pets.

I came across this quote in recent years, since we have had our dog Oliver:

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
(Anatole France)

When I first read the words, I thought how true they are, how I better realized this now that I did indeed love an animal. Oliver has been with us for five years now. He came into our lives in the midst of a difficult time--I was awaiting my first surgery for breast cancer. He was just the distraction we needed. But he is far more than a distraction now, he is part of ou…

"Where the Red Fern Grows"

Today I am grateful for sunshine, time to just sit and watch ball games, and cold water on a hot day.

You may recognize the title of today's post as a classic children's book. It was written by Wilson Rawls in 1961, and is set earlier in the 1900's. It was around before I was. It was one of my favorite books in upper elementary, along with S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders. I recall reading it in 6th grade. I don't remember if we all had to read it, or if I chose to read it, but whatever the reason I read it, I was glad I did. It was about a boy and his coon hounds.

As this school year wound down, the library at the school I work at was discarding some books. Where the Red Fern Grows caught my eye and I picked it up with my 11-year-old son in mind. But then I decided that it would be good for me to read it again myself. So I did. My hope is that Sam will read it this summer too.

Reading it when I was 11 or so, and now reading it at age 47 gave me an interesting perspec…

A Father's Love

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and the great father he is to all three of his children. I am grateful for a nice morning to enjoy some time on our back patio.

I am also grateful for time with Darcy's sister, our brother-in-law and their two daughters. We enjoyed some softball, some catch, a good meal, a train ride and a bunch of laughs.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. A special thought and mention of those fathers who can't be with their children today, to fathers celebrating their first Father's Day, and to those who are facing their first Father's Day without their dad, like Mark Weber's three sons.

My husband Darcy gets an extra special Father's Day wish. It has been a busy year in the lives of all of his children, particularly the two oldest. He has been steady and stable support throughout the year for all three of them. I love and respect many things about Darcy, but high on the list is the father he is. Without sharing too mu…

"Look at the view, young lady. Look at the view."

Today I am grateful for the people who inspire me in big ways and small, people I know personally and ones I only know through their words or actions. I am also grateful for both a "date night" last night and a "date morning" (a.k.a. a training run) with my husband.

I continue to think of the family and friends of Mark Weber and the myriad emotions they must be feeling. I hope it is a comfort to them to know that he touched many lives by the way he lived his.

Here are the final paragraphs of Anna Quindlen's book A Short Guide to a Happy Life that I mentioned two days ago:

"I found one of my best teachers on the boardwalk at Coney Island many years ago. It was December, and I was doing a story about how the homeless suffer in the winter months. He and I sat on the edge of the wooden supports, dangling our feet over the side, and he told me about his schedule, panhandling the boulevard when the summer crowds were gone, sleeping in a church when the temperatu…

R.I.P. Lt. Col. Mark Weber

Today I am grateful for an early morning bike ride with Darcy and a nice walk and conversation with my friend Jenny.

The ending I wanted to share from Anna Quindlen's book will have to wait until tomorrow. Today is about another ending. The end of the life of Lt. Col. Mark Weber. He died of cancer yesterday afternoon, at age 41. May he rest in peace. The pain and suffering he endured over the last three years is over.

I met Mark in January at a book signing for his book "Tell My Sons." I blogged about him and the book back in March. You can read those posts by clicking on the links below:

Suggested Reading: Tell My Sons

Squeeze Some Joy Out

Embrace Your Bufords

Thank you Mark Weber for so much wisdom, grace, and inspiration. In your honor, I will try to squeeze some joy out of today and I will continue to embrace my Bufords with courage.

The post on Mark's Caring Bridge site just hours after he passed away can be found here:

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/markmweber…

Another Favorite Writer: Anna Quindlen

Today I am grateful for early morming sunshine and conversation and a game of catch with my son last evening.

I mentioned Anna Quindlen last August when I came across her book Being Perfect at a book sale at our library. Read that post here. I like Quindlen's writing style and her books. They are quick reads loaded with wisdom. (I haven't read one of her novels yet. I'll add them to my ever-growing reading list.) She is an award-winning columnist and novelist and she's someone I would love to sit down and have coffee with. Her and Anne Lamott. Their genuine humanness shines through their words and I appreciate and respect that. It is what I aspire to in my own writing.

Quindlen started working in the copy room of the New York Times at 18. Her mother died of ovarian cancer when Anna was 19. It changed her life and drove home the importance of living life to the fullest. She helped raise her younger siblings and continued her writing career. She has an extensive resume…

Life's Orientations

Today I am grateful for my son Sam's involvement in 4-H and what he learns and gains from that experience.

I am also grateful for the loud young people who walked past our house at about 4:30 this morning. Grateful because one of them was talking about blackout drinking. I appreciated the reminder that I sure don't miss the torture of blackouts.

The word orientation is on my mind because my stepchildren both just had orientations. Emily got signed up for classes at her post-secondary institution and is now set for classes to start in August.Arthur and his fiance Alyssa both got their first look at their new community of residence for the next couple of years and he attended orientation for his graduate school program.

I am excited for them, excited for the fresh starts they will have, excited for the learning and growing that await them, in the classroom and beyond.

To orient means to become acquainted with the existing environment or situation. To me, it means figuring out …

Gratitudology

Today I am grateful for the way our dog Oliver stretches when he gets up. He reminds me to be flexible. I am also grateful for a little snuggle time with my son Sam this morning. Such times are fewer as he gets older, but still very much cherished.

Hats off to my sister Danita for adding to our gratitude vocabulary. She has given us the term gratitudology.  It is defined as the study of gratitude. Danita also provided the inspiration for this blog's title "Habitual Gratitude." And both Danita and my sister Aileen provide regular email support and wisdom that I truly appreciate. Thanks to you both!

Gratitudology joins our list that already includes gratitudeness, gratituding, gratitudinal adjustment, gratitunity, and gratituderty. Read about how this vocabulary list started and grew here.

I am a student of gratitude, and a willing one at that. Another posthumous thank you to my friend Terrie who gave me my first gratitude journal and encouraged me to start writing about gr…

Post #400: Inspiration, Not Drudgery

Today I am grateful for our dog Oliver and our early morning walks and for a bike ride yesterday that allowed me to pedal out some frustrations.

I am also grateful for this blog and how it has helped me learn more about being grateful. I thank anyone who has ever stopped by to read a post and to those who have left comments. This blog helps me, but I write it to help others too. I hope it has.

In honor of blog post #400 today, I went back to my 100th, 200th, and 300th posts to gather some thoughts.

From post #100, July 12, 2012:
"Practicing gratitude is not wasted time or energy. Regular practice maintains a good supply of appreciation, which maintains my sanity and serenity." (Read the full post here.)

From reflections on post #200, November 10, 2012: "
As a beginning blogger and long-time writer, I continue to appreciate this avenue for my writing passion. It has broadened and deepened my level of gratitude as I have put more thoughts into words and more ideas into ac…

Of Coffee and Stockings

Today I am grateful for a god run with Darcy yesterday and the return of a healthier perspective. I am also grateful for the young people who have touched my life through my job.

I am thinking about coffee and stockings. That is an interesting combination isn't it? My sister sent me a link to this video, which will explain the coffee:

"Life is like coffee."

It's a good reminder of gratitude and basically asks us what our priorities are. Coffee is the priority, not the cup it comes in. Sometimes we get that turned around. In pursuit of the best cup, the coffee gets cold and stale and we end up pouring it out because we didn't take the time to slow down and enjoy it. Who is, what is the coffee in your life? The coffee in my life includes family, friends, recovery, faith, running, writing. People who always want a bigger, better cup have lost sight of what really matters. And if I care too much about what others think of my cup, I  have lost perspective too.The intan…

Calling Up The Reserves

Today I am grateful for time with recovery friends yesterday and some honest discussion about what I need to work on. I am also grateful for the practice of habitual gratitude, for the healthy perspective that it keeps at the ready.

I am tired, drained, spent, tapped out in more ways than one. The school year has just wound down and it was a full one. Although I have less than a full-time position, I work full-time when I am there and it has been a busy year. The piles just keep getting shifted around my office. That feeling of "it will never all get done" zaps a person over time.

A busy month just wound down with graduations, hosting a graduation party after spending a lot of time getting ready for it, baseball games, and other commitments. Most were good and positive things, but still draining.

And there are worries and concerns that lurk, from a variety of sources. They range from financial to health to the well-being of those I care about. Nothing new, just ongoing. You …

Cancer as Catalyst

Today I am grateful for a nap and a chance to read a favorite book from my childhood-"Where the Red Fern Grows."

As I continue to reflect on my cancer diagnosis, I am also grateful to be healthy today, grateful my diagnosis was early stage, grateful that I currently have no evidence of disease. Does that mean I am grateful I got cancer? No, it doesn't. Does it mean cancer changed me in many ways, some good, some difficult? Yes, it does.

"Cancer as gift" is often misconstrued and rightfully so. Life-changing, yes. Gift, no. A gift implies it is something I want, something given in thoughtfulness. That is not cancer. I have read blog posts and comments in the blogosphere about this very topic of "cancer as gift" and it certainly evokes a lot of emotion and discussion. Maybe it is just semantics, but cancer and gift don't seem to fit in the same sentence. That said, I don't know anyone who has had cancer who hasn't been changed by that exper…

Painful Passages

Today I am grateful for a phone conversation with my friend Deb. I am also grateful for the abilities to read, write, and type.

Yesterday I blogged about new passages and the bridge being constructed in our community. Passages come in all forms, and getting from one place to another can be easy at times, painful and difficult at other times.

We have all had painful passages in our lives. It may have been from childhood to our teenage years. It may have been a move from one home to another. It may have been the ending of a relationship. It may have been a job that didn't work out or a business venture that failed. It may have been the death of a loved one or a disbaling accident.

Painful passages cannot be entirely avoided. Arguably, they shouldn't be. Avoidance and denial often create bigger problems. Facing the challenge and taking the tough steps builds character and teaches us how to cope with life. Life will not always be fair and life will not always go the way I want i…

New Passages

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Today I am grateful for the fourth and final commencement of this spring season for me and that it went well last night. I am also grateful for the passages I get to take in life, physical, emotional, and other.

That fourth and final graduation in this last month took place last night at 8th grade graduation at the school where I work. I appreciate the students and parents I have worked with over the last couple of years. These 8th graders are ready to pass on to high school in the fall. The passage through elementary and middle school was challenging for some, smooth sailing for others. But a growing and learning experience for each in their own ways.

Passages. We all make many each day, literally and figuratively. A passage is defined as: the act or process of moving through, under, over, or past something on the way from one place to another. Two significant passages happened to me yesterday on my way to and from work. Yesterday morning I traversed the bridge that has been on my c…

More From Peggy Orenstein

Today I am grateful for the students and parents I work with, and my colleagues. I am also grateful to be a woman comfortable in her own skin-at least most of the time.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Peggy Orenstein's cover story in the New York Times magazine.You can read that post here. I had seen her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter referenced before, so this time I decided to read it. Our local library had a copy and I dove in. I liked her investigative approach and I like her writing style and sense of humor. The content was definitely thought-provoking and unsettling. She was talking about what she calls the "girlie-girl culture" and the harm potentially being done to young girls. What seems innocent at first glance is, in my opinion, sexualizing girls at younger ages. Our culture and the rampant consumerism targeted at young females seems to be telling girls that exterior looks matter more than interior assets. That is Orenstein's concern. I share it.

It is not …

Laughter as Diffuser

Today I am grateful for sunshine yesterday, which has been in short supply lately. I am also grateful for laughter. It diffuses tension, uptightness, and my penchant for taking myself too seriously.

I too often do too much for too long without taking a break. I am especially prone to that at home--where the to-do list is never done, including my writing plans. I have learned to pause, but I still tend to be of the mind that I can't relax until I get such-and-such out of the way. There's plenty of room for improvement for me. Little steps. Progress, not perfection.

I got a good reminder of something else that helps when I am overdoing it--laughter. When someone else's laughter evokes pain or frustration in me, I know I am spiritually sick, that I am in need of some redirecting. Luckily, yesterday I hadn't progressed to that point. I was close though. And then the laughter of my son and husband broke through. Something on TV had them both laughing heartily. It stopped me…

Live and Learn

Today I am grateful for two exciting wins for Sam's baseball team yesterday, and I am grateful that our computer is back up and running. Live and learn.

Live and learn. That's the point isn't it?  Live life fully. Learn along the way, including the tough lessons that come from mistakes or unexpected twists and turns.

Live and learn. Gratitude paves the way for both. In recent days these two quotes were in my gratitude journal:

"Gratitude is like a warm blanket, it wards off the icy chill of discontent."  (C. Beaulieu)

"How happy a person is depends upon the depth of his gratitude."  (John Miller)

I appreciate both quotes, and I see the truth in them. I live the truth in them. At Sam's first game yesterday morning, it was sunny, a bit cool, but pretty comfortable. By his afternoon game, there was a rain delay, a cold wind, and falling temperatures. Welcome to June in Minnesota, right? But we went with it. We didn't bring enough layers, but we did w…

Really Getting That Perspective Now

Today I am grateful for nice weather to start the day and I am grateful for acceptance.

I need a truckload of acceptance on any given day, and need a few truckloads today. I am frustrated about our computer issues and the time it will take to rectify them, as well as expenses that will be involved. But I am more frustrated by the fact that our own lack of actions and knowledge helped create the issues, or allow it to take root. We didn't do enough to protect our computer. We were ignorant, but we're learning.

So there's frustration and there's acceptance. What else can we do? It is what it is and we need to move forward.

Then I think of more tornado fatalities, injured victims, and property destruction in the Oklahoma City area. I think of those dying from Stage IV cancer. And I get perspective back.

Onward. Just for today.