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Showing posts from August, 2013

Everybody Has a Story

Today I am grateful for our son Sam and what he teaches me as I try to do my best to love him, support him, and parent him. I am also grateful for a clean and convenient water source just a few feet away from me. How many people in the world don't have that luxury?

Yesterday morning on my commute, another construction vehicle slowed traffic as we crossed the bridge, just as it had a couple days ago. That allowed my eyes and mind to roam a little, and I again noticed the bridge workers. I counted close to thirty who were already at work and doing a variety of things at about 6:30 a.m. It got me thinking about how everyone has a story.

I wondered about each of those workers and what their stories are. How had they come to be part of this bridge construction crew? Do they have families? Are they locals or imports? Do they like their jobs? The questions could go on and on.

Then, at school, I pondered how every student has a story, every co-worker. We each have a life story, but we eac…

Attitude or Circumstance?

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy and the many ways he understands and supports me. I am also grateful for some well-timed meditation and reflection time yesterday.

Today's quote in my gratitude journal is:

"Thankfulness is much more dependent on attitude than circumstance. When you feel the lack of what you don't have, thank God for what you do have." (Jim Stephens)

I would answer the question posed in my blog title with a resounding "attitude!" Our perception of ourselves and the world around us is, I believe, very much shaped by our attitude about it all. My perspective is not chosen for me. I get to choose it. Certainly, circumstances impact my attitude, but they don't drive it. If I am driven only by circumstances, I feel like a victim and I stay stuck in the problem. If I am more driven by an attitude of gratitude, I tend to get unstuck and have energy to focus on solution work.

I admit that I have tried long and hard to control things that …

Roaming Freely

Today I am grateful for a little touch of coolness in the air this morning. It's the first we've had in days. I am also grateful for friends, old and new.

My friend Jenny, who I have blogged about in posts such as this one, also blogs. She calls her blog "Manifesting the Magnificent." That fits nicely with the power of gratitude practice. Magnificent things surround us if we just pay attention. Actively practicing gratitude in and of itself manifests the wonders of life.

In a recent post titled "How do I turn on roaming" Jenny wrote about how roaming, in a broader sense, leads to inspiration, wonder, vision. You can read the post here. She encouraged readers to do some roaming of their own, so I did. I went through my day yesterday with roaming on my mind. I observed. I participated.

Some of my discoveries included:
*A construction vehicle slowed traffic on my commute. Because of that, my eyes could roam a bit more as I drove across a new bridge that is ne…

Treacherous Swamp

Today I am grateful for my job and the new people I will meet, get to know, and work with this school year. I am also grateful for doctors with a sense of humor.

Sunday's post quoted from p. 100 of Anne Lamott's book Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.  Further down on that same page, Lamott writes:

"More than anything, prayer helps me get my sense of humor back. It brings me back to my heart, from the treacherous swamp of my mind."

This is what I call a zinger, and Lamott is so good at delivering them throughout her books. Prayer as a way out of ourselves. Prayer as a ticket back to some level of sanity. My mind can become a treacherous swamp when I go down the paths of worry, anger, fear, regrets, impatience. I get stuck in taking myself and life way too seriously. At times like that, my mind seems to be disconnected from my heart and soul, which means I have also crowded out faith.

But I can pause and pray. I can get on my knees if I choose because it …

Riches or Poverty?

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to others about gratitude last night at our church, and I am grateful for those who were there to listen.

This is today's quote in my gratitude journal:

"Gratitude is riches, complaining is poverty. Instead of complaining about what's wrong, be grateful for what's right." (Zachary Fisher)

Thank you Zachary Fisher for nailing it! It seems to be my nature to dwell on what isn't going right, what I am worried about, what I wish I could control but can't, what I would prefer not to have to deal with. When I do that I get exhausted and I am not paying attention to the daily gifts that surround me.Gratitude practice works if I work at it.

I am deeply blessed. My life is rich. And it has nothing to do with money and stuff. It has everything to do with seeing what's right.

Here are a few things that are right in my life:
*my marriage to Darcy
*being a mom to Sam and a stepmom to Arthur and Emily
*my job
*our d…

Read. Repeat. Pray. Repeat.

Today I am grateful for acceptance and a healthy perspective. Both help me approach challenges with calm. Both are amplified by gratitude practice.

So what about today's blog post title? Read. Repeat. Pray. Repeat. That's what I do with Anne Lamott's books. I read them once, love them, laugh, marvel at the insights I can so relate to, put them down feeling full and blessed. What strikes me the first time I read one of her books will be different the next time I read it. I like books like that.

Months after reading one of Lamott's books, I will pick it back up again, when I need a boost. I just read Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers for the second time. I have blogged about Anne Lamott, my favorite author, numerous times. You can read some of those posts here and here.

In this trip through Help, Thanks, Wow, these words on p. 100 struck me:

"If you're like me, you ask your higher power for help and then cause further need for help by procrastinatin…

Need a Lift?

Today I am grateful for doctors who patiently answer my questions and for good ice cream.

I am also grateful for the lifts I get from others in so many different ways each and every day.

Sometimes we literally need a lift. Circumstances leave us without transportation and we catch a ride with a friend, a family member, or a co-worker. Sometimes we literally need a lift because we are recovering from surgery, a stroke, or a broken limb. We can't get up or stand up on our own.

I saw a couple of recovery friends yesterday who need lifts of the literal kind. It got me thinking about  "need a lift" and the many ways you can look at it.

I often need lifts of the emotional and spiritual variety. And I am very thankful that I have many available to me. Yesterday they included a phone conversation with my friend Jill, time with other recovering people, laughter, reminiscing and going through old toys with my son Sam, and a head and neck rub from my husband Darcy. I am grateful fo…

Standing Still

Today I am grateful for cool morning air and walking Oliver in the coming daylight. I am also grateful for a better awareness of mobility and movement.

Standing still is not something I do much. I need to work on that. Last night I went to pick up Sam from football practice. I watched the last part of practice, standing still, enjoying a beautiful evening, looking at the vista of blue sky and our community's various landmarks. I was both physically and emotionally tired, drained. The school year is gearing up and I had workshops this week. I am adjusting to getting up earlier again. Sam and I had gone to his school to get things taken care of. Darcy and I had gone for a nice bike ride.

By 7:00 last evening, it was nice to just stand there, completely still, and take it all in. Take life in. I am so grateful I am learning how to do that more regularly. Even a few minutes of mindfulness can be rejuvenating, can bring me back closer to balance.

Standing there also brought back a mar…

Bib Overalls and Farm Toys

Today I am grateful for a good cup of coffee and for the women in my breast cancer support group.

I am also grateful for bib overalls and farm toys. Yesterday, a co-worker and I had a brief chat about bib overalls. I shared that my dad always wore striped bib overalls when he was farming (which was most of the time). She shared that she liked the extra pockets available in overalls. That reminded me of one of my dad's favorite games with his grandkids. If they were sitting on his lap and he had his bibs on, he would joke with them that there was a mouse in the front pocket. I recall more laughter than fear from the grandkids. The overalls and the mouse make me smile as I remember my dad.

Sadly, my son Sam never got to meet my dad, never got to sit on his lap, never got to talk about farm stuff with him. They would have enjoyed their time together, I have no doubt. So I have tried to share stories and memories about my dad with Sam, and from an early age he took a strong interest i…

Early Morning Quietude

Today I am grateful for my job and for early morning quietude.

Early morning quietude. I am a morning person. I always have been. I haven't always had early morning quietude however. Growing up, I shared a room with 3 of my sisters for years. Throughout college I always had roommates or housemates.

One of the things I appreciated about living alone before I got married was the quietude, early morning and otherwise. I would get up early and do schoolwork and then go to work. (The life of a teacher.) My apartment was quiet. I didn't have to worry about waking anyone up. I cleaned when I wanted. I ate what I wanted when I wanted. I put stuff where I wanted it, and it was there when I came back to use it. I had craved that time and space to myself my whole life, and I enjoyed it.

I miss it sometimes today. Don't get me wrong. I love being married and having a family. But I still crave time and space to myself. This is where early morning quietude comes in. I am almost always …

Automatic Doors

Today I am grateful for safe travels this weekend and for the fresh start that Emily gets as she begins life after high school.

Fresh starts. One of the many benefits of gratitude practice is that it keeps my life fresh. By trying to stay present in the here and now, by trying to be thankful and appreciative of gifts unearned, my attitude and outlook on life stays fresh and energized.

Today, I am also grateful for automatic doors. Sure, I am grateful for them when my hands are full or when I have a loaded cart to push to the car. But this weekend the gratitude I was feeling regarding automatic doors was a little less obvious. It actually had more to do with the lessons automatic doors can teach us, the insights about life they can remind us of.

The first insight that came to mind is that automatic doors only open if there's movement, action. If I take some steps in the right direction, a door opens. If I stay too far back or stay paralyzed by fear or indecision, nothing much happ…

One Day at a Time, One Step at a Time

Today I am grateful for the opportunities that await my stepdaughter Emily as she heads to DMACC to begin her post-secondary education. I am also grateful for messages of hope from others in addiction/alcoholism recovery.

One day at a time. That is how I hope Emily takes these first days, weeks, and months of her new home, classes, roommates, etc. It is also how I try to live life in recovery. Regretting yesterday's mistakes or worrying about tomorrow's potential problems only serve to waste energy and freeze out any joy today may offer. Only when I stay present, here and now, mindful, do I fully appreciate the fullness of life. Gratefulness. The great fullness of life.

One step at a time. That is how I hope Emily matures and grows into adulthood. Too much too soon and we miss the lessons, the experience. It is also how Darcy and I did a long training run yesterday.One step at a time for about 18 miles. Looking at 18 miles all at once would be discouraging. Looking at 18 miles…

Clouds

Today I am grateful for my husband Darcy's patience with me and a phone conversation with my friend Sheila. I am also grateful for clouds and what they remind us of and teach us.

While we were traveling recently, I was enjoying sitting in the passenger seat as we made our way through part of my home state of Iowa. I was particularly taken by the high, fluffy clouds against the clear blue sky. They beckoned and mesmerized. They were relaxing. They were those kind of clouds.

But there can also be storm clouds, dark and menacing. We know the difference because the color and the light change. Storm clouds aren't relaxing, they are concerning.

Both types of clouds bear watching, but for different reasons.

I have been noticing the clouds in the sky more since that time in the car a few weeks ago. Noticing their majesty, their height, their ever-evolving nature. We have had nice weather and friendly clouds for what seems like weeks.

Life teaches us that the skies won't always be…

A Toothache Revisited

Today I am grateful for the relatively comfortable root canal procedure I had yesterday. I am grateful for my dentist, the assistant, and modern technology.

I am grateful, but it doesn't mean I enjoyed it all that much. I'm just glad it's done. There was a lot of drilling, filing, and digging around in the affected tooth. At least that's what I think was going on judging by the instruments and such that were going in and out of my mouth. I was good and numb and felt no pain, other than a sore jaw at times. For that, I am truly grateful.

This tooth started bothering me last November. I blogged about it in a post titled "Perspective via a Toothache." You can read that post here. It really has only been a minor nuisance since then, but it was only a matter of time before it would need to be dealt with. It's easier to get a root canal done before it gets to that point of  "you can't wait any longer." It was sensitive at times, a little tender in…

Bittersweetness

Today I am grateful for the fountain on our front patio and for smiles-from both people I know and those I don't know and who are just being friendly.

I continue to be grateful for the writing skill of Katie Rosman in her book If You Knew Suzy. (See yesterday's post.)

She beautifully captures the contrast of human emotions that allows us to survive pain and to appreciate joy. She captures it in these words about "bittersweetness."

From pp. 72-73:
"The sweetness of the experience was connected to the bitterness. I couldn't have felt one without the other. It occurred to me that sometimes bittersweetness might be as much as a person can reasonably hope for."

Bittersweet is an intriguing word. It's a real emotion too. It is what I feel every year on my son's birthday. It is what I feel when I consider what I both lost and gained when my breasts were removed.

I so appreciate the healthy growth and development of my son Sam into his own unique person…

Katherine Rosman's Book "If You Knew Suzy"

Today I am grateful for coffee and conversation with friends. I am also grateful for some time to read this summer. I have enjoyed several good books.

One of those books is titled If You Knew Suzy, written by Katherine Rosman (copyright 2010). The book is about Rosman's mother Suzy Rosin who died of lung cancer in 2005. Rosman is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Clearly, she and her sister had a close relationship with their mom, but after Rosin's death, reporter Rosman decided to use her investigative skills and find out more about her mom. I would describe the book as part-memoir-recounting her mother's diagnosis, treatment and death-and part reporting on her findings as she connected with people her mother had connected with during her own life.

It is well worth the read. It is a reminder that we all have mulitple layers, multiple ways of connecting with others. Family is only one. We never know how intricately the web of relationships is woven into our lives. We…

It IS the little things

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to serve others in a simple way-helping provide a meal. I am also grateful I have learned that it truly IS the little things in life that bring joy on a regular basis.

Some of those little things I encountered throughout my day yesterday included:

*cleaning salt and pepper shakers grubby with the fingerprints of my loved ones
*cleaning our toaster and the accompanying crumbs and becoming mindful that we have so much more than crumbs
*freshly cleaned water and food bowls for our dog Oliver, because we love him
*the smell of coffee brewing, knowing Darcy likes the way I make it
*Oliver tearing around the house after his bath
*the sanctity of a church service, whether in English or Spanish
*smiles that carry meaning, no words necessary, no language barrier present
*enjoying seeing new countryside I hadn't seen before
*saying no to overbooking myself

It's that last one that probably had the biggest impact on my day, and laid the groundwork …

On the Dark Side and $20

Today I am grateful for clarity amidst emotional turmoil. I am also grateful for the wisdom and grace others in recovery share with me.

One of those others in recovery used the term "the dark side" in a discussion we were having yesterday. It is a place any and all addicts and alcoholics are familiar with. Any and all humans in fact. Addicts and alcoholics don't have a monopoly on the dark side, but we certainly have our share.

The dark side is why I drank. I could escape from my increasing, deepening darkness for a few hours, but ended up creating still more darkness. Creeping self-pity and more isolation took me further and further from the sources of light in my life. Quitting drinking was the start of the light returning. Ongoing recovery and living life on life's terms brings a steady and reliable flow of light.

I don't want to forget the dark side. It gives me perspective that makes me grateful to be where I am today, surrounded by more light, hope, and fa…

Head, Heart, Hands, Health

Today I am grateful for the very nice weather we enjoyed at our county fair and on a local restaurant patio yesterday. The former offered a cooling breeze after working in the 4-H diner, and the latter afforded a great view of our picturesque community.

Head. Hearts. Hands. Health. Do these sound familiar? If you were ever in 4-H they likely do. They are the four "H"s of 4-H. I appreciate the experiences Sam has had since joining 4-H five years ago.I am proud of his effort on his projects this year. He did a self-determined project on the Battle of Iwo Jima, two photography entries (Lincoln in Springfield and a flag pole on the campus of UNI), and a shooting sports/wildlife management one on pheasants. He earned three blue ribbons and one red. They were his ideas and his creations. Good job Sam!

I also appreciate the working experience Darcy and I had in the 4-H diner, and the fellow
4-H parents and staff we were working with. We learned as we went along and we ended up bei…

Fog, Focus, and Freedom

Today I am grateful for ice cream and the soothing effect it has for me. (You might say that's all in my head. I say "so what, it works for me.")

I am also grateful for the insights that come with regular practice of gratitude and writing.

Fog is still on my mind. When surrounded by fog, I hear sounds I would miss on a clear day. Why is that? One sense is dulled, another is heightened. 

Gratitude can do the same. If things aren't going well in one area of life, I can choose to focus on that and feel sorry for myself, or I can switch my focus to something that is going well, or something I have control over--such as going for a run or writing a blog post. It's a cinch that whatever I choose to focus on will determine my attitude for the near future. Gratitude keeps my focus healthy and more energized.

Yesterday my focus fell on heavy thoughts--regarding my job as well as circumstances people I care about find themselves in.  I tried not to dwell there, but some t…

Running Into the Sun

Today I am grateful for safe travels and time with my family in Iowa. I am also grateful for fresh garden produce and the variety of sights I saw in the last few days.

I also very much appreciate the car conversation my son Sam and I had on our trip.

Those various sights included an early morning run yesterday. I left Mom's house and headed into town around 6:00 a.m. The sun was starting to come up. About a mile down the road, there's a curve that turns to the east. The sunrise I had been enjoying peripherally was now full on "running into the sun."

It was bright. Almost too bright. But I adjusted and appreciated the sun coming across open fields, corn rows, the road I was running on. It's a treat to see the sun rise in farm country.

It was a sharp contrast from the prior morning. Thick fog hid the sunrise and most of the countryside for several hours after the sun came up. It was a bit surreal and atypical for a morning in August. On the one hand, I felt insulat…

"Is this heaven? No it's ______."

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Today I am grateful for a good training run with Darcy yesterday, and energy that would have allowed me to continue, even after 3 hours and 15 minutes. I am also grateful for old movies and new memories.



We created one such new memory last Saturday when we made a stop at "The Field of Dreams" movie site near Dyersville, Iowa. I am almost ashamed to admit, as an Iowa girl myself, that this was my first visit to the site. It was high time to make the stop. It was Darcy's idea before it was mine.The movie was released in 1989, the year I got sober. I like that connection. It was the beginning of my release from alcoholism too.

I liked walking out on the field and walking around the outfield perimeter. I heard the corn rustle in the breeze just like it did in the movie. That is not just any corn in the picture above, that is corn on the edge of "The Field of Dreams." For real. But I wouldn't want to perpetuate the old complaints about Iowa just being cornfield …

Soul Finding

Today I am grateful for my heart and soul, good reading, and good friends.

I appreciated an early morning walk yesterday with my friend Jenny, followed by coffee and conversation with my friend Jill. These two women are kindred spirits to me. We share open and honestly and it's refreshing.

When Jenny and I get together, our conversations tend to bounce from topic to topic and never get finished. I like that. I am always left appreciating our time together and feeling more energized. The same goes for Jill.

The topic of soul came up when Jenny and I were talking. What is soul? Without looking up a dictionary definition, I define soul as one's inner spirit, one's deepest self. Soul comes through in thought, word, and deed. My soul was lost to me in my teens and early twenties, buried in active alcoholism. Recovery and the wonderful teachers I have who show me how to recover have helped me find my soul. Writing during my drinking days protected my soul from being lost foreve…

Lincoln's Eyes

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Today I am grateful for Oliver (our cockapoo) and his presence in our lives, as well as the way he teaches me to stay present in the moment.

I am also grateful that our travels last week allowed us the opportunity to see some historic and tourist attractions. We spent time in Springfield, Illinois and visited the Lincoln Museum and Presidential Library, the family gravesite, his law office, and we got a look at the Lincoln family home in Springfield, though we ran out of time before we got to tour the interior. I looked forward to this opportunity and I wasn't diappointed. (Other than the fact that I could have spent a few more hours looking around and reading details, compared to the rest of the family. They do speed tours compared to me.)

We spent the most time at the Lincoln Museum. It was very well-done with video presentations and a variety of exhibits. I would highly recommend it. As a person who has always enjoyed history and the social sciences, and even spent ten years t…

Normal Schools, Unique Campuses

Today I am grateful for spiritual awakenings that come when I am paying attention and for the sun rising through the trees this morning. I am also grateful for the opportunities we had last week to be on a couple of university campuses.

We enjoyed checking out the campus of Illinois State. My stepson Arthur will soon be starting graduate school there. I love college campuses, the feel they have, and the unique personality each one seems to project. ISU is a large campus, so it was nice to check some of it out on foot. We walked around some, Darcy and I ran on campus one morning, and we drove through it as well. It was quiet at this time of the year, but I could almost imagine the teeming energy that will abound when over 20,000 students start fall classes. Arthur is definitely excited to be a Redbird. I hope he and Alyssa have a positive experience during their time in Normal. (Fun fact: ISU is the oldest public university in Illinois and was first called Illinois State Normal Univers…