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Showing posts from October, 2013

Quitter

Today I am grateful for my sister Danita, on this, her birthday and for the opportunity my son Sam has to try wrestling this season. I am also grateful that I no longer smoke.

The same day I saw the eagles soaring, and in the same area, I also encountered a man who asked me if he could borrow a cigarette. I was happy to say "Sorry, I don't smoke." If I did smoke, I may have given him a cigarette, to help out a fellow smoker. It brought back my deep sense of gratitude for being able to quit smoking myself.

I was never a heavy smoker, but smoked some for about 12 years, from late in high school until I was 30 or so. I started smoking when I was drinking. They went well together in my book. Many times, I would buy a pack of cigarettes when I got drunk, smoke a bunch, then get mad at myself and toss the rest out the car window.

When I quit drinking, I kept smoking. I have known many alcoholics who had a tougher time quitting smoking than drinking, in terms of the physical…

Making a Comeback and Soaring

Today I am grateful for job changes and challenges that stretch me and bring new learning. I am also grateful for the sound of laughter from my husband and son.

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to witness a stunning view of eagles soaring over the Mississippi River just hundreds of yards from me. I was by myself and it was a beautiful blue-sky day. First I saw two eagles, then four. Two of the four quickly went to perch in trees across the river from me. The other two continued to put on a show for a couple more minutes. They are grand creatures and to watch them fly and soar so gracefully was a gift in itself.

I am very grateful that right actions were taken to save the eagles. They have made a comeback and now seeing them in my river town is not all that unusual. (Though seeing four at a time is.)

The eagles needed intervention and help from humans to repair the damage done and the wrong actions that were killing them and making them endangered. Human action first hindered, t…

Getting Out of Self

Today I am grateful for my job and I am grateful for a car with working heat.

I have changed my profile picture again to highlight my sister Danita's creativity and to continue with the color purple for Lewy Body Dementia Awareness Month. Read more about that here.

Yesterday was a day with a range of emotions for me. Nothing big happened or didn't happen. I suspect fluctuating hormones were a factor, as well as some level of tiredness. Anyway, I was a bit cranky and frustrated at one point--a.k.a. feeling sorry for myself. I rested for a short time and that was a reprieve, but not enough to quell the "poor mes." 

I proceeded to make an appetizer for a potluck for a retiree at my school. I cleaned up some squash and put it in the oven for my family's dinner. I texted a recovery friend to see about getting together. I went for a run, taking Oliver for a mile or so, then doing another three miles on my own.

As I ran, I started thinking about how important it is for…

"Help me" and "Thank you"

Today I am grateful for recovery wisdom and honesty shared by others. I am also grateful for sunshine and a family bike ride yesterday.

The quote in my gratitude journal yesterday just happened to be from my favorite writer-Anne Lamott. Here it is:

Here are the two best prayers I know: "Help me, help me, help me" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

There are many ways you can consider these prayers. For me, both prayers are about getting out of myself, right-sizing my ego. Asking for help means I recognize that I can't do it all alone, nor do I need to. It means that I might even realize that my way is not the best way, or even the right way.

Saying thank you reminds me that I can't take all the credit, that others helped me in big ways or small. Thanking others or my Higher Power sends me the message of worthiness as well. I am worthy of the help others have to offer. They are worthy of my help too. We are all flawed and worthy at the same time.

The co…

Perspective Via Frustration

Today I am grateful for two dates with my husband Darcy yesterday. First, a long training run date in the morning. Then, a dinner date in the evening.

Yesterday afternoon I had a run-in with my lack of computer skills. I was attempting to create business cards with my blog information on them. It shouldn't have been too tough. I made some progress, but had far more frustration. And then I got even more frustrated because of the time I had wasted. My husband, sitting in proximity and hearing a little swearing from me, suggested I take a break. Good idea Darcy! Thanks!

I took that break, figuratively took a step away from the computer and literally started thinking about gratitude and perspective. Sure, that little foray into frustration did waste some time, but I also learned a couple things about creating business cards. Sure, that's an hour of my life I won't get back, but I could have been doing far worse things-like drinking.

A little frustration was put back in persp…

Short List, Long Run

Today I am grateful for the comforts of our home, including the working heat as the weather turns colder.

What else am I grateful for this morning?
*fresh coffee
*good running shoes
*my marriage
*comfortable running attire
*a working sense of taste and smell
*ongoing motivation and ideas to keep me blogging
*peanut butter
*air to breathe
*working lungs

If you have never tried a gratitude journal or a gratitude list, I would encourage you to try one.I write down two things I am grateful for each day in my journal. (Some days those may match what I write here on the blog, but many days they are different.) Or start a list on your phone and add to it daily or weekly. Or do an A-Z gratitude list as you commute, walk, or fold laundry.

My husband Darcy and I are off on a long training run this morning. Twenty miles. One step at a time. Gratitude practice. One day at a time.

The Dangers of Social Media

Today I am grateful for students with energy and enthusiasm. I am also grateful for the comfortable recliners in our living room.

I have one more post focusing on the words of Glennon Doyle Melton. She wrote a blog post on September 26th that contained some powerful thoughts on the dangers of social media. She took a 40-day hiatus from all things Internet and then wrote about her insights. Read that post here. The biggest danger among those she discussed, in my opinion, was this one: Social media threatened my only source of real peace and joy, which is gratitude.

Melton's own words as she discussed it in the post referenced above:

Social media threatened my only source of real peace and joy, which is gratitude. All of this posting about my life shoved me out of THE MOMENT, which is where gratitude lives. Choosing to live my life out on social media meant that I was never truly present because as soon as a great moment presented itself to me –I jumped right out of it. My brain sa…

Above + Beyond Cancer

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Today I am grateful for my job and the variety that comes with it. I am also grateful for good energy in the world . . . I will try to create some today and share it with others.

Please take a minute to look at my updated profile picture as I continue to share my sister Danita's purple creations for Lewy Body Dementia Awareness Month. To read more about that, check out Tuesday's post here

The picture below is a self-portrait I took after the half-marathon on Sunday. What an angle! I wanted to share this picture because of the shirt I am wearing. I got the shirt at a tent before the run started. I didn't wear it on the run, but I got chilled after I was done, so I added this new layer. Above + Beyond Cancer is an organization that began and is based in Des Moines. You can read more about them on their website here.



Here is their mission: Founder’s LetterMissionAdvocate DevelopmentParticipant SelectionEventsOur JourneyMillion Dollar MarathonRun Doc Run!W.A. “Bill” Krause Mem…

Honoring Loved Ones

Today I am grateful for a good night of rest and for my eyesight. I am also grateful to honor the memory of my father.

Fifteen years ago today, at age 74, my father died suddenly. A semi-retired farmer, he had a heart attack while helping with the fall harvest. I still vividly remember getting the call from my brother at my job. And the days that followed with the wake and funeral. In ways, it is hard to believe that fifteen years have already passed. I hope Dad would be proud of me and the life I have today. I sure wish Sam could have known his Grandpa. They would have enjoyed talking with one another about farm and other stuff.

It was a shock when Dad died suddenly, but today I appreciate that he went like he did. It would have been so hard for him to continue to decline and be able to do less and less. It would have been so hard for those of us who love him to witness that too.

I try to honor my father today by living life fully, by being a kind and gentle person, like he was.I …

The Color Purple for LBD Awareness

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Today I am grateful for sore muscles to remind me of my physical capabilities. I am also grateful for what my family members teach me as they live their lives--both my own family and my family of origin.

My sister Danita is teaching me about handling a very difficult set of circumstances with dignity and grace. Her husband Roger has Lewy body dementia and the disease is progressing. Roger used to bike and hike for many miles and he used to be witty and sharp in conversations. Though he is still here, this terrible disease has taken her husband away from my sister. The man she is caring for today is not the man she married. Words and phrases like "extremely difficult," "incomprehensible grief," and "heartbreaking" come to my mind when I think about the two of them. And I think about them daily.

Like many people, I had never heard of Lewy body dementia until it struck someone I know. This month is Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) Awareness Month and the color to pr…

26.2 divided by 2 equals 13.1

Today I am grateful for safe travels this weekend, time spent with my stepdaughter Emily, and that she is off to a good start with school and work. I am also grateful for a good half-marathon experience.

This was supposed to have been our marathon weekend this year. But setbacks like surgery and tough training runs amidst a busy and challenging summer changed our plans. The Des Moines Marathon experience became the Des Moines half-marathon experience. Being able to visit Emily was great and we had a nice time. Since we had already paid for the marathon and you don't get refunds, we decided to run the half instead and get a good training run out of it and see some different scenery.

The conditions were ideal and Darcy and I each decided to run on our own. We sometimes start out together and see how it goes. Yesterday, we set out on our own amidst the thousands of runners that were there, with our own goals in mind. I set a goal of finishing under two hours. It had been a while sinc…

Treasure Hunting In Minefields

Today I am grateful for time with friends yesterday and for laughter amidst life's messiness. I am also grateful that I am a writer.

Here are some more words from Glennon Doyle Melton, late in her book Carry On, Warrior:

"So that's why I write--to find the treasures in the suffering. And as I write, my memories change ever so slightly. Reality and writing work together to create my memories, and the final result is that I remember events more beautifully than they actually happened. Or maybe in writing them down, I'm able to see for the first time how beautiful they really were."

"I do not know Zen. I just know gratitude. I am grateful for the beauty in the midst of suffering. I am grateful for the treasure hunt through the minefield of life. Dangerous or not, I don't want out of the minefield. Because truth and beauty, and God are there."  (These are both from p. 228)

I find these words very meaningful as I reflect on my own writing. I don't kn…

Stop Pretending

Today I am grateful for reminders of both my humanness and my worthiness. Recognizing both in myself helps me recognize it in others.

"Life unarmed" is one of Glennon Melton's catch phrases, and it's a good one. It seems that we get so caught up in worrying about what other people think and/or trying to fit some unattainable ideal. We just need to be busy living our lives fully human. That's what Melton is getting at. If we unarm, then others unarm, and we can have genuine discussions about what really matters and we can come together instead of feeling more and more apart.

Consider these words from Carry On, Warrior:

"Because you have listened to and spoken to enough honest parents to understand we're all in this together. And that there is no prize for most composed. So you've decided to stop making parenthood harder by pretending it's not hard." (p. 131)

Now that's what I call truth-telling. We do this dance with parenting, but we …

Action Required

Today I am grateful for my freind Sheila, on this, her birthday. I have known her for 35 of those birthdays and she is a blessing in my life. I am also grateful for the opportunities to practice mindfulness and presence.

I will talk more about the writings of Glennon Doyle Melton, but today I want to talk about the importance of taking actions to practice gratitude. Those actions are what allow me to enjoy mindfulness, the full awareness of the moment I am existing in and what surrounds me in that moment. That can be a tall order for me, but practice has allowed progress.

I can't just think about being grateful. I need to take out my gratitude journal, pick up my pen, open the journal to the right page, write down two things I am grateful for, mention some prayers and special intentions, close the book, put it back where I store it, put the pen back too, and close the door.

I can't just think about my next "Habitual Gratitude" post. I have to sit down, get the compu…

Sacred Pain

Today I am grateful for people to reach out to in recovery. They help me start my day with the right focus. I am also grateful for the early morning quiet.

Here are some more words from Carry On, Warriorby Glennon Doyle Melton:

When her pain is fresh and new, let her have it. Don't try to take it away. Forgive yourself for not having that power. Grief and pain are like joy and peace; they are not things we should try to snatch from each other. They're sacred. They are part of each person's journey. All we can do is offer relief from this fear: "I am all alone." That's the one fear you can alleviate. (p. 49)

I agree. Pain and grief are as sacred as joy and peace. And I believe that without the pain and grief, we don't fully grasp or appreciate what makes joy and peace so wonderful. We can't feel anyone else's pain or grief for them, any more than we can or should try to take it away from them. But that part about not being alone? That we can do some…

"Carry On Warrior" by Glennon Doyle Melton

Today I am grateful for the painful experiences in my life that have taught me valuable lessons. I am also grateful for working heat in our house.

It's time to focus on another writer I mentioned in this recent post. Glennon Doyle Melton is the author of Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed (copyright 2013). She blogs at Momastery. You can listen to her TEDx talk "Lessons from the Mental Hospital" from May, 2013 here.

Melton calls herself a truth-teller and uses many catch phrases like "living outloud" and "we can do hard things." There is much insight and food for thought in what she says. She talks about taking off the various masks of shame that surrounded her bulimia and alcoholism. I try to be a truth-teller with my writing too. Some of it is my own personal truth that I need to hear, but much of it is also the simple truth of our human experience. We are flawed and imperfect and doing the best we can each day. It's nice to share that…

What Keeps the Fire Lit?

Today I am grateful for time to enjoy the wonderful weather yesterday on both our front and back patios. I am also grateful for what I continue to learn about the disease of breast cancer. I feel more empowered with more information.

The other day I wrote about what lit my fire for breast cancer advocacy. What keeps that fire lit? Several things, not the least of which are the two scars where my own breasts used to be. At times, I feel judged for choosing not to have reconstruction, for choosing less surgery, less invasion of my body, less chances for chronic pain, more chances to keep running marathons and to do so comfortably. I have my own story and my own reasons for making the choices I did. Every woman and every man diagnosed with breast cancer has their unique story and their deeply personal reasons for the choices they make. One reason I remain an advocate is my hope that all BC patients feel empowered to make their own decisions and have the right kind of information and know…

Today is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day

Today I am grateful for a good training run with Darcy yesterday. The conditions were ideal as we covered about 18 miles. I am also grateful for the positive experience Sam had with his football team this fall.

Today is the 5th annual Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

Metastatic is not a separate type of cancer, it is what happens to some cancers, including many that start out early-stage. Metastatic cancer is cancer that spreads beyond the initial site to bones, the brain, and other organs. It is the cancer that kills. I refer to breast cancer here, but it can happen with any cancer. Cancer that stays in the breast is not deadly. It only becomes deadly when it spreads to other parts of the body. And that happens in about 30% of the women and men initially diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. It is MBC that kills about 40,000 women and men each year, similar to the death rates of 30 years ago. This is why we need to step up our actions, why the pace of research needs to be …

BC Advocacy: What Lit My Fire

Today I am grateful for the beautiful reds, oranges and yellows of the fall colors surrounding us. I am also grateful to be a morning person.

Yesterday I mentioned that I haven't been as fired up lately to write about aspects of the breast cancer debate. And it is a debate on many fronts. But what initially got me fired up?

*The diagnoses of my sister Zita in 2004 and my sister Mary Jo in 2006 certainly raised my concern and got me reading more and paying more attention.
*That ramped up with my own diagnosis in 2008. You can be only so aware and so concerned when it isn't you. It becomes a whole different ballgame when it is YOU.
*The many conversations I had with my friend Jenny, diagnosed less than a month after I was. Those conversations, our similarities and differences in approach, and the book we wrote together about our experiences really helped me find my voice as an advocate for myself and others.
*Reading Audre Lorde's book The Cancer Journals and her thoughts …

Want to Help the Cause? Join H.O.W. Now!

Today I am grateful for the beauty of fall that we are being treated to. I am also grateful for laughter . . . the sound of other people's, the feel of my own.

Here it is October 11 and I haven't mentioned Breast Cancer Awareness Month at all. I have thought about it. I have read other people's continuing discussion of it. But I just haven't felt compelled to write about it this year. The passion and frustration I feel about pink ribbon culture and things like pinkwashing (selling products known or suspected of causing cancer while also championing the cause of breast cancer--think cosmetic companies as an example) haven't lit my writer's fire lately.

I do have plenty I have already written though, so here is my blog post from Oct. 1, 2012:

Monday, October 1, 2012   Take Action and Join the Count! Here's HOW . . . Today I am grateful for the wonderful breast cancer bloggers I am getting to know in the blogosphere and for what they are teaching me. I am als…

Keep Those Letters Coming

Today I am grateful for pizza. It is one of my favorite foods. I am also grateful for the simple act of letter-writing.

Last night I wrote two letters. I was inspired and energized to write them, so I did. One of them was a gratitude letter. It was my 26th such letter, and the first one I've written since early June. I will look for more opportunities to get such letters out. I would encourage any of you to give it a try. Who is someone who has made a positive difference in your life? Who is someone you would like to thank?Write a letter in your own hand and mail it off the old-fashioned way. Besides, you would be helping me keep the lost art of letter-writing alive and I would appreciate that.

The second letter was to a friend. We've sent some letters back and forth over the last couple years and it had been months since I reached out to her. I had been thinking of her and how she is doing, so now she will know that when the letter arrives.

I wrote a third letter when I got u…

Poisoned or Protected?

Today I am grateful for the sound of leaves beneath my feet or bicycle tires. I am also grateful for the joy and wonder it brings me to be a mom to my son Sam.

I was thinking about antidotes some more yesterday after blogging about my 500th post. I guess my thoughts were an example of antidote multiplication. (Read yesterday's post for reference if needed.) The job of antidotes is to protect us from poisons. Poisons like self-pity, self-hatred, fear, and that nebulous "never good enough" that comes with perfectionism.

My adolescent and young adult mind was especially poisoned by self-pity and self-hatred, and alcohol was an accelerant. My thoughts were killing me as I slowly killed myself with alcohol. My default thinking mode was almost always along the lines of how stupid or ugly I was, or how I should have known better, done better, been better, how much of a misfit I was, why nobody really, truly cared about me . . . ouch.

Stinging poison. Alcohol would stop the st…

Post #500: Antidote Multiplication

Today I am grateful for the ongoing lessons gratitude teaches me. I am also grateful for the consistent outlet for my writing energy that this blog provides.

What began on March 27, 2012 is now at post #500. That both boggles my mind and makes me proud. I began gratitude practice nearly twenty years ago as an antidote to
self-pity. I have found it to be most effective. And I have also found that the supply of this antidote never runs out.

In fact, applying the antidote naturally creates more of the antidote to keep applying. It is antidote multiplication of the best kind. It's a win-win. Gratitude doesn't take anything away from one person to allow another person benefit. Gratitude shared is gratitude multiplied. Gratitude simply recognizes the obvious and reminds us of it.

I am humbled by the role of gratitude in my life. Grace has been defined to me as "the presence of God/a Higher Power in my life." By that definition, gratitude is grace. I am still going stron…

Forward in Life

Today I am grateful for safe travels and for my classmates who were able to make it to our 30-year reunion this weekend.

There was a good turnout. Good conversation. Good company. Good food. Thanks again Tracy and the others who helped plan this. I especially appreciated the name tags. They were actually stickers of us from our senior pictures in the yearbook. They were good for some laughs, especially at the big hair of the '80's, and they were helpful for identification purposes at times as well.

I greeted many people I hadn't seen since our last reunion or longer. I had lengthier conversations with several classmates and/or their spouses. My husband Darcy would even tell you he had a good time too. I especially enjoyed seeing my friend Brenda, who I hadn't seen for 15 years. We had been close in high school and had lost touch over the years. It was nice to reconnect.

I went in to the evening with very few expectations. For such events, and life in general, it work…

Back in Time

Today I am grateful for the physical capability to run and the mental and spiritual rewards I get from it.

Tonight Darcy and I will be attending my 30th class reunion. I appreciate that we are able to make it and I appreciate that my friend and classmate Tracy pulled this together before the opportunity faded away. I marvel at how fast the last thirty years have gone. I marvel at life in general.

I don't know how many people will be there, but I know that I will see some people I haven't seen in years and I will see old friends that I still keep in touch with. I will observe and I will participate, and as always I will reflect like I do before, during, and after such events.

Do I want to look good? Sure. Will all that running help me look good in my jeans? Let's hope. But I am not overly concerned about it. I quit drinking 24 years ago and smoking about 18 years ago. I have aged well in those respects. But more importantly I already know I feel better about myself than I…

Obvious Places-Musings By Steve Foran

Today I am grateful for rain gear to keep me dry and comfortable during another wet football game. I am also grateful for the other bloggers and writers I follow.

Steve Foran is one such person. He creates monthly videos surrounding the topic of gratitude. He's known as "the Gratitude Guy." That's my kind of person. He takes mundane, everyday events and has a way of turning them into insightful two-minute videos that allow us to look at our world a little differently. That's a key when it comes to gratitude. Cut through the clutter of our minds and our daily lives and get to what really matters--the gifts we are surrounded by.

Often, those gifts are obvious and overlooked. Our families. Our homes. Our health. And the list goes on. Gratitude practice has trained me to do less overlooking and more looking right in front of me. But it's a process and a skill I need to practice regularly. Steve talks about it in many of his videos.

Take a look at Steve's lat…

Redeemed by Writing

Today I am grateful for working arms that allow me to reach that itchy area to scratch on my back. I am also grateful for the writing inspiration that came yesterday.

I have a few more thoughts on Domenica Ruta. There is certainly plenty of pain in her writing, but she also has humor and hope. It may seem like slim humor and sparing hope at times, but isn't that sometimes the best we can get?  There is also a redemptive quality to her writing. She moves forward, she leaves the dysfunction of her mother's home and life, she faces her own alcoholism. And all the while she keeps writing.

Writing has saved me. I bet if I could ask Domenica Ruta about it, she might say the same thing.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when she writes about her first recollection of the place writing would have in her life, though she could only do that in hindsight.

She was about 10 years old when she came in from outside, as her eyes adjusted to the scene in front of her, she sees her stepm…

Dominica Ruta's With or Without You

Today I am grateful for my family and friends and the many ways they support and encourage me. I am also grateful for ears to hear with and eyes to read with.

Domenica Ruta's memoir With or Without You (copyright 2013) has been described as "haunting, unforgettable, darkly hilarious, compulsively readable, and redemptive."  It's not a lighthearted read for sure. But it doesn't disappoint. The range of emotions and Ruta's style pulled me in.

When you live with a mother who is an addict and associates with other addicts, you will see bad things and you will more than likely have bad things happen to you. You will not make it out unscathed. The key though is that Ruta made it out. That is what saved her.

Here are a few lines from her book:

Describing her mother:
"But volume was never an accurate herald of my mother's mood; loud was simply the who and the what of her."  "What else do you need to know about this woman before I go on with the st…

Writing from a Place of Pain

Today I am grateful for the fresh air and open windows on my commute yesterday. I am also grateful for our dog Oliver and our morning time together, just the two of us.

I am still catching up from a busy summer, including doing some blog posts about some of the books I read. I already talked about Anna Quindlen and Katherine Rosman. You can read about them here (Katherine Rosman)  and here and here (Anna Quindlen). In the next days I will add Domenica Ruta and Glennon Doyle Melton.  And if you have followed me for a time, you probably already know my favorite author is Anne Lamott.

As I thought about these writers and many others, myself included, what I have often pondered is being confirmed time and again. The best writing, the most genuine and real stuff, often comes from a place of pain. Lamott's self-deprecating humor and spot-on insights stem from childhood pain and her struggles with addiction and loss. Quindlen and Rosman found writing inspiration as they grieved the dea…